Are You Listening? 

Great!  Because we have a couple of things to say on the subject.  The subject of listening, that is.

As I think about listening, the following saying comes to mind: “A friend is someone who asks the second question.” 

The Mister’s somewhat irritating but favorite quote is: “The Good Lord gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” 

A third voice comes from Murial Wilkins, a Harvard-trained career-consultant.  In a recent podcast, she said: “Stop talking.  Listen carefully and ask questions about the other person.  Listening is the biggest and most underused skill that helps drive empathy and a lot of other things as well.”  She’s addressing the workforce in that podcast but her words are widely applicable.

And last, but not least, is Kelsey Grammer, from the sitcom Frasier.    He’s widely remembered in his role of Dr. Frasier Crane, a radio talk-show psychologist.  In the show, he always answers his callers by saying, simply: “I’m listening.” 

And it is just that simple.  We’re given so many opportunities to listen.  To listen with curiosity and interest. To connect. To ask the second question. Why, then, does it seem to be so hard, for so many?

Oh, My!   Seriously??

The young women above were, respectively, on the covers of The New York Times Style Magazine last week and Vanity Fair this month. I’m so relieved my mother wasn’t around to see them.  She always taught me to cross my legs when I sat.  Or at least my ankles.  It was only proper and ladylike, she said.

The poses they assumed are obviously intended to be provocative and attention-grabbing.  I’m the first to admit I looked twice.  Perhaps more than twice.  And, I wondered:  Is this “womanspreading”?  Like manspreading but wider?    

If I were to suggest that the look is demeaning, I’d be very wrong. It is, most likely, empowering. After all, we say, if men can sit/pose like that, so can we.

But since we know that women nearly always do everything better than men, why bother with such unbecoming and in-your-face poses?  In my humble, if not slightly feminist, opinion, women should simply embrace their beauty, their brains and their remarkable selves. 

So, let’s just leave the so-called power poses to the men.  They probably need them more than we do.

Fourteen Years.

It’s been fourteen years since we started our dystonia journey.  Fourteen years since the toes began to curl, clutch and claw.  Fourteen years since we began to seek answers.  Fourteen years without any.

The Mister has been the soul of serious and considered research.  We’ve met and talked with doctors and lay persons from this country and others.  We’ve put the foot through more tests than it ever wanted and fed it more medicine than it could handle.  All to no avail.  We had little reason to be optimistic.

Until now.

We recently met with doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  Thoughtful, considered, and smart docs.  They were the beginning of a possible solution. The beginning of outside-the-box thinking.

Three weeks ago, we went to Atlanta to meet with the “Dystonia” guru at Emory Medical Center.  We’d waited months to see him. 

After his Fellow, a young neurologist studying under him, touched, watched and evaluated the foot, the Big Cheese finally came in the room.  He sat down and quickly stated the following: “The medical community can’t fix this.  Stop going to white coats.  They can’t help you.  The cure…and I think there is one….is within.”

That sounds harsh but it really isn’t.  He’s saying simply that the foot won’t respond to intrusive hypodermics, physical therapy, drugs, hypnosis, or surgery.  In fact, the Mister and I had plotted a potential path to wellness on our own.  We just hadn’t realized how effective it might be until our recent trips.

The foot’s mother is now low-dosing Ketamine, a psychedelic drug, designed to open closed pathways in the neural system.  It is, simply, that simple. 

Or so we hope. We are not glib. But there’s reason for hope.  We see it every day.  Little stumbles are turning into small steps.  Those small steps allow a peek into a normal world. And, they may, someday, enable a walk with The Mister. 

My fingers…and toes….are crossed.

Role Models.

I’ve had many through the years.  Surprisingly, and happily, two new ones have just arrived.  And in the space of one week!  How cool is that?

They are Jamie Lee Curtis and Michael Cera.  Why?  Well, read on, please.

Jamie Lee Curtis is no stranger to most of us.  She’s glamorous, a great actress, so very, very  Hollywood.

Clearly, along the way in her career, she had “work” done.  Lots of it.  She felt she had to do it to keep up her sexy looks and get roles.  We recently saw her in an episode of The Bear (on Hulu and highly recommended).  She is now seriously wrinkled and gave a performance like no other.  She decided that all those chemicals were no good for her health and she’s embraced her age and her inner beauty.  She’ll be nominated for an Emmy for the performance.  And, it wouldn’t have been the same without the wrinkles.   You go, girl!  I like the way you think.  And I like the way you look.

Michael Cera is new to me and may be to others, as well. He’s an actor and, by his own definition, may be one of the only Millennials without a smartphone.  He refers to himself as a conscientious phone objector.  He watches his smartphone-using peers and his children, all of whom spend hours on their phones, faces buried in their devices, and fears the world is getting very lonely.  I share his concerns.

Obviously, there are middle grounds in both situations.  However, I like knowing that there are people out there, with strong voices, who give at least a little credence to my random thoughts.

Barbie: The Movie. Take Two.

We did indeed go to the Barbie movie last Sunday. Just as planned. There were only six people in the theater, including us. There wasn’t so much as a whiff of popcorn to upset The Mister’s tummy and the reclining chairs were wonderful.  Nap inducing, I might add.  The temperature was perfect.  We quickly and comfortably settled in. Things were looking good.

 We could hardly wait for the Previews of Coming Attractions.  Perhaps we’d even get a glimpse of Tom Cruise in his new block buster movie.  Instead, we were bombarded by 30 minutes of loud, mind-blowing ads and a lame Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes cartoon. We were neither amused nor entertained.

Finally, it was time for the movie. We were primed, pumped and ready to go.  Before too long, it became clear that neither of us was going to understand the movie or its message.  Is it our age, we wondered?  I never had a Barbie doll so perhaps that was the problem.  Maybe subtitles would help. We struggled to understand and enjoy but kept falling short.  Confusion reigned.

About an hour or so into the movie, The Mister whispered three little words into my ear: “Junior Bacon Cheeseburger.”  “When?” I asked.  “Now,” he said.  And we were gone. Poof!  Just like that.

We’ve talked a lot about the movie since then, read more about it, chatted with those who loved it and heard from others who, like us, left early.   Alas, we remain confused. 

Sometimes that’s just life. Or, to invoke the Looney Tunes people: “That’s All, Folks.”

Barbie: The Movie

All the hoopla has raised questions for us.

Do we go to the movie?

And, if we go, will we actually see the movie?

Answers:

We’re definitely going to the movie.  Whether we actually see the movie it is another matter. Entirely.

We’ve not been to the movies in well over a decade.  The Mister is violently allergic to the merest whiff of popcorn.  Once upon a time, we would buy tickets, sit down and within minutes, we would, out of dire necessity, be outta there. As fast as we could go.  We eventually learned our lesson and stopped all that.

But, we’ve decided to chance it once again in order to see Barbie which we hear is worth the gamble.

If you’re reading this little blog on Sunday morning, send good wishes, please. Our reserved seats are at 11:15 am today.  We’re hoping that church will keep at least some people off the streets and that the theater won’t be packed at that time of day.

Since it’s been so long, much of this is new to us.  We didn’t know you could buy tickets on-line or in advance.  We didn’t know you could reserve seats.  We didn’t know that there were big, reclining seats in the theater. We didn’t know there were no tickets booths in the front with people standing in line, waiting to get in. We didn’t know you could get a hamburger or a glass of wine.

But this is good.  It’s a learning experience.  The experience may be very, very brief and the lesson we learn may be the one we already know, but we’re giving it our best shot.

Migration.

We don’t migrate but we know many who do.  Friends seek cooler climes in summer and warmer ones in winter.  Just like birds.  The difference is that our migrations are optional. The birds’ migrations?   Their very lives depend on it.

Our migrators can expect to find their other homes intact when they arrive.  Perhaps their fridges have been stocked and the grass mowed.  It is, hopefully, an easy transition.

That’s not always the case for our fine feathered friends, including the beautiful and statuesque Osprey.  There are several Osprey couples who, happily and annually, make Hilton Head their summer home. We know where their nests are (they’re hard to miss) and we watch for their safe return in early summer.  We know when they’ve had babies (fledglings) and we affectionately give them names.

But, where growth and development reign, as it does here, those nests are no match for a chain saw.

Thus, down went Ozzie and Harriet’s four-year old nest last week.  Just in time for their return with their fledgling in tow.  The tree supporting the nest was determined to be in the way of yet another new development.

The Osprey will build another nest.  It’s what they do.  But for a bit, we mourn their loss and the loss of all the other trees that went down with theirs. 

Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh My!

From The Wizard of Oz, of course. 

Apparently, the words are meant to express awe and apprehension regarding the presence, combination or abundance of three particular things.

So, how about Splinters, Zits and Whiteheads. Oh My!.

They, too, express awe and apprehension and they all scream for extraction.

Splinters are easy.  A sharp needle, alcohol for sterilizing, a magnifying glass and Voila!   Done and dusted!

Zits cry out for a good squeeze. Ideally a little gunk will pop right out and all will be well.  Just like that!

Then then are those whiteheads!   They’re a little more challenging.   And, from my perspective, a lot more fun.

Imagine my pleasure when I saw not one, but two whiteheads on my face recently.  I’d just been to the dermatologist for a skin-check and she gave them a name which was alien but I knew what they were and what I needed to do.  Fond memories of adolescence were wafting in the air.

I waited a day or two with the hope/possibility that they’d fatten up a bit.  The Fourth of July seemed an apt day to “operate.”  Bombs bursting in air so forth.  With needle, alcohol and my reading glasses in hand, I went to the mirror.

Now, imagine my despair when I found that they had disappeared.  They simply weren’t there.  All gone.  But not by my hand. Age did that.  They didn’t have the oils necessary for survival and growth.  They dried up and went away.  All by themselves. 

I am momentarily bereft.  I accept your sympathy but it really doesn’t ease the disappointment. Perhaps a good Samaritan will proffer and splinter or two to bring a sliver of joy into my life.  That would be “awe”some.

This Blog Isn’t My Fault.

It’s Google’s fault.  I asked it a simple question and it sent me down a rabbit hole.  This is the result.

The words “the center does not hold” recently caught my attention.  To better understand their intent, I turned, of course, to Google.

The first reference was to William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming” written in 1919 in which he says: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”  Well, that’s a little dark, I said to myself.

Joan Didion refers to the phrase in her book “Slouching Toward Bethlehem.” She says: “when the center disintegrates, we attempt to grasp it, if just for a little longer, seeking personal communication, contact and meaning.”   Yes, I certainly get that. 

Harry Turtledove, author and war chronicler, wrote that when the center doesn’t hold, we dissolve into “social upheaval, alternate history and cutthroat politics.”  I think he’s right.

Julia Reed, journalist and author, adds that when the center doesn’t hold “common sense does not prevail.”   Dire words, indeed, from a Southern humorist.

And then there’s Elyn Sak’s book “The Center Cannot Hold” which is a treatise on her dark journey through schizophrenia.  Such tough reading, I could barely finish it.

But the reason I had difficulty finishing it had nothing to do with her disease and its evolution.  In fact, the author survives and goes on to be accomplished in many areas.  It’s a happy ending for her and the reader.

No, the reason I struggled was because the people around her, her doctors, professors, family and friends, never fully saw it coming.  They never saw the global storm that threatened to destroy her completely.  They prescribed hospital care, too many drugs, obscure programs and piecemeal curatives.  They missed the big picture and they almost waited too long. 

It begs the question.  Can our country’s center hold if we turn our heads and ignore its value, its fragility and meaning?  It all feels so tenuous right now.  What if we wait too long? 

The Fourth of July

Except for its importance in our history, I could do nicely without the Fourth of July holiday.

We are expecting over 100,000 visitors in and out of our airport this weekend.  In addition, untold numbers of cars, vans and pick-up trucks will also come here to celebrate.  All headed to our beaches, our restaurants, our grocery stores.  All of them travelling on the one and only road in town.  It’s a lot to deal with.  We, as residents, have learned to stay home during the Fourth.

That doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate here in our little community.  American flags abound and we are honored to fly our very own, given to us many years ago by a soldier on his return from Afghanistan.

But the real fun for us comes on the morning of the Fourth when all the community’s golf carts (and there are many) are decorated to the nth degree.  They line up and parade through the ‘hood.  We sit at the base our driveway and cheer them on as they pass us by.

It’s probably worth noting that we don’t just sit idly at the base of our driveway.   We sit, proudly, in the oldest golf cart of the community.  We also own the loudest fog horn in the entire world which enables us to enthusiastically express our appreciation and admiration for all the clever decorations.

It’s safe to say that we can become quite annoying.  Small children and their parents cower in shock and surprise from the loud and frequent blare of the horn.  They cover their ears.  They glower at us with scorn. Some have been known to veer off the parade route in apparent alarm.  We don’t care.

All those families have creatively and imaginatively decorated their carts for the parade.  What fun would it be without an appreciative audience?   And that’s exactly where we come in!  We are the music, the cheerleaders and the spectators, all wrapped up in one.  That fog horn may be loud, obnoxious and tacky but it gets the job done. 

We once again look forward to the Fourth of July, here in our little ‘hood.   Just as we always have. Beep, Beep!

A Phatal Attraction.

That would be me and my IPhone.   I don’t like the thing and it knows it. It is, after all, a smart phone.  But life these days demands that we have a uniquely intimate relationship with our phones.  We’re meant to be phriends, if not lovers. 

I phind there to be a certain phrenetism between one’s phone and one’s self.  Maybe it’s a phigment of my imagination but it seems the slightest ring, ping, vibration or shudder requires and receives immediate attention.  Nothing gets in the way of a phast and speedy response.

I watch others with their phones.  They know what to do and how to do it. They keep their phones in their phaces and their phingers at the ready. They are phacile and competent in their mastery.  They don’t phlail and phumble as I do.  It’s phrustrating for me to be so phar behind the curve.

But I am undeterred.

And so it is, even with great phear and trepidation, that I’m giving the relationship another chance.  There are concerns, of course.  Will my pheeble attempts continue to be phutile, will I remain phorlorn in my phailure or will I be phortunate enough to phinally conquer the ph…ing thing?

It’s Just Wrong.

The top female pickleball player in the US is 16 years old.   As the old saying goes: “There oughtta be a law.”

She shouldn’t be allowed to buy a pickleball racquet, let alone set foot on a court.  She’s way too young.

Doesn’t she know that pickleball’s a sport for older folk who fiercely play the game, knowing that they’ll be in an orthopedist’s office sooner rather than later?   Perhaps headed to surgery.  Pickleball is an orthopedist’s dream.  A clever writer recently posited that every time a new pickleball court is built, an orthopedist buys a new boat.

I didn’t have wait very long to understand this firsthand.  The Mister came home after his second (beginner’s) lesson and mentioned, idly, that his Achilles tendon felt a bit “stretched.” Maybe even a tad sore.

And that was that.

One more pickleball racquet went to the second-hand store.

And one more wife was spared the (now legendary) unpleasantness of pickleball “fall”-out.

It’s Spartina Time!

Are you ready???? 

Do you have your entry ticket to the Spartina Warehouse Sale?

Are your travel plans mapped out and is your parking spot staked out?

Is your protective gear in order?  Your helmet, your metatarsal shoes, your shin guards?

You’ll need all the above and more to survive.  Remember that 6,000 equally bargain-crazed women are after the same stuff you are.

The annual Spartina Warehouse Sale is a strategic mission.  It’s not for newbies or innocents who may have just recently caught wind of it.  This is The Big Time.

I shopped at Filene’s Basement in Boston many years ago.   To me, Filene’s was the epitome of the rough and tumble world of wild-women-seeking-bargains, but it’s child’s play compared to the Spartina sale.  Or so I’ve heard.   

Oh wait!  You’ve never heard of Spartina?  Well, you must not be from around here.  Pardon my assumption.

In short, Spartina put Lily Pulitzer and Vera Bradley into a Waring blender.  They added some tabasco sauce and a healthy splash of vodka. And Voila!  A much-needed update to popular but slightly aging looks.  They’re brilliant marketers and designers of handbags and women’s apparel.

They also graciously donate the proceeds from the Warehouse ticket sales to local charities.  Last year, they raised and donated $30,000.  And for that, we applaud them.  The Big Sale is not my cup of tea but many, many have a grand time and get great stuff at great prices.  So, carry on, Spartina.  I’m with you in spirit, but my body is staying home where it belongs.

The Kingston Trio.

Oh, how we loved The Kingston Trio.  They were doing their thing and singing their songs during a very happy period in our lives. 

Way back when the children were little, we’d tuck them into bed, pour ourselves a scotch and soda, put a Kingston Trio album on the record player and mellow out. 

I now have friends who’ve never even heard of The Kingston Trio!   They’re too young!   And while I’m grateful to have those young friends, I feel a need introduce them to, and remind others of a particular song from the Trio’s era.  It’s titled the Merry Little Minuet.

Here are the lyrics.  There’s also link below to listen and sing along, should you wish.

They’re rioting in Africa. They’re starving in Spain.
There’s hurricanes in Florida and Texas needs rain.

The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans. The Germans hate the Poles.

Italians hate Yugoslavs. South Africans hate the Dutch.
And I don’t like anybody very much!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom shaped cloud.

And we know for certain that some lovely day
Someone will set the spark off and we will all be blown away.

They’re rioting in Africa. There’s strife in Iran.
What nature doesn’t do to us will be done by our fellow man.

Those words were written over 65 years ago!  If we changed some names and places, they could be written for today.  And they would be just as appropriate.  History has once again repeated itself.  Just as it always does.

Here’s the link to listen to the song – here.

The Skin-Check

We all do it regularly in this part of the country.  We live where the sun shines more than it doesn’t and it pays to get a skin scan every year.  We’ve both escaped needles and knives to date but one never knows what’s lurking on one’s body until one sees the dermatologist.

We had our appointments recently but before I could say thank you and pay the bill, the dermatologist morphed into a plastic surgeon and whipped out a list of “opportunities.” They included several pricey adjustments to my face.

She told me that my bone structure was okay but could stand a tweak or two.  My skin appeared clear and strong but nothing a little Botox couldn’t improve.  My lips, while still vaguely there, could certainly be enhanced.  Oh, and just think of all the beautiful colors you can put on those new lips!   What fun you’ll have!

Your eyelids are an issue, of course.  You’d see so much better if they weren’t always at half-mast.  Your cheek bones are nice but when those bags under your eyes are gone, they’ll be just that much more prominent.  Trust me on this one! You’re gonna love it!

And then, there is, of course, the matter of your neck.

In other words, Darling, there’s so much we can do.  When would you like to start?  Time’s a wastin’ and nothing’s going to get prettier by itself.  Sign here, please.   They’ll take your deposit at the desk.

Image courtesy of The New Yorker