Reunion

As many of many of you know today was the lunch date with my sister. We hadn’t seen each other in 24 years. Basically, half our lives, almost the entirety of our adult lives. Actually now that I think on it I missed a big chunk of her teenage years too, but that’s a different thing. The sister I thought of when I thought of her (which was as seldom as possible) was the impeccably groomed young matron with the impeccably groomed children and the spotless apartment, and the surly dickhead husband whose smirky face I ached to whack flat with a cast iron frying pan. I wanted to do this long before he married my little sister, btw. Once upon a time her future husband was part of a gang of high school cool dudes, way out of my league cool dudes, who’d miraculously shown up at my 15th birthday party toting gifts (board games, mittens, drugstore cologne and dusting powder sets), 6-packs of beer, and discretely smoked bomber joints, and Surly punched my birthday cake. Just drove a big old fist hole into it for no other reason than the joy of doing something obnoxious and absurdly mean. For the record- Surly is dead, and has been for 10 years and I am not the least bit sorry.

Anyway, the sister in my mind’s eye was that one from our 20s, the younger version of our mother- snobbish, stupid, scornful, and possessed of some dark magic which enabled them to reduce me to frustrated, humiliated, bitter tears with a few choice barbs and a titter of the most humorless mocking laughter outside of cartoon movie villainesses. Tack onto that a lifetime of resentment over the absurd favoritism showered upon my little sister by every goddamn relative on any and every side and configuration of family and you don’t have to wonder why I had a wicked case of anxiety diarrhea ever since she showed up three days ago via FB messenger.

Why arrange a lunch then? Why see her at all if she made me so umruik? Hadn’t I just spent the past decade clearing my life of unhappiness and tsoris? Was I meshugeh? * (For the Yiddish impaired- anxious, trouble/hassle, crazy.) Why? Why do lemmings go off cliffs into the sea? Why do perms come back into style every 20 years? Why do people watch Uwe Boll movies? Sometimes you’re just driven to do something painful and stupid.

So. I set up a lunch date at my favorite diner. My ‘Cheers’ if you will, a place where not everybody knows my name but without me having to ask they do bring my coffee with a wee pitcher of real milk and not those horrible little creamer thingies. Safely on my turf, you dig? Yesterday between emergency trips to the toilet I stimmed, begged for reassurance from friends, and I planned my outfit. Mick, once he got over his amazement about the way his usually preternaturally chill wife was flapping her hands and literally spinning in circles, was a brick. He listened, he soothed, he petted my head until I could be still. Along with possible versions of The Outfit I totted up all the ways my life was good nowadays. Elder son estranged but could still account for his solidly successful life- wife, friends, good business, real estate, no cavities. Younger son is GREAT! Getting educated, he’s employed, no drugs/booze/bad credit. He doesn’t have any cavities either. Nor traffic tickets. He and I go to the movies together once a month and enjoy all kinds of geeky cinephile trivia. I like my job and can honestly say there’s not a single person there who thinks ill of me. I’m proud of my burgeoning bee haven. And friends! On every single continent in the whole world except Antarctica but I have a couple friends who’ve been there so it totally counts. Mick? What wasn’t there to say about that besotted Irishman of mine? My adorable and adoring husband who makes me laugh and makes me feel safe and who tells me every single day by word and deed how much he loves me? Fuh. I had a lock on this.

gingham scarf

To top it off I woke to a day this morning where the weather broke my way and I could wear my version of armor- a soft swingy cotton black sweater, black leggings, and tall black boots. Topped with a B&W gingham scarf, my favorite chunky hoop earrings, hematite beads on one wrist and my loaded Pandora on the other. Add to that a recent spiky haircut and my new specs- Ray-Ban Clubmasters – favored eyeglasses of such varied folk as Col Sanders, Lewis Skolnick, and Malcolm X.

malcolmx

I was ready.

Well? What the hell happened? Come on , LA! After a build up like that…jeeze!

What happened was I got there first. Secured a quiet booth. Accepted the coffee with real milk brought by the waitress and nicely warned her that either this was going to be a quick turnover or an absurdly long rental of a good table during her busiest hours. She held up “No problem” hands and left.

After what felt like half an eternity but in real time was 7 minutes I saw my sister. She looked but didn’t see me so I had to raise my voice and wave. She rushed over, bent and gave me a long grippy hug, which I returned. Then she sat on her side of the booth and the assessment began. I’d forgotten how dark and olive her skin was. And that she’d had her front teeth bonded a long, long time ago obliterating the family diastema. But her eyes! I knew those eyes. They were also my eyes. The deep green, slanted cat’s eyes every single person on our Da’s side had. Brown skin, olive, pink like me. We have gapped front teeth and those amazing green eyes. I looked at my/her eyes staring out from that distantly familiar yet stranger’s face. Then I widened my focus to take in the whole woman across from me and suddenly- like a switch being flipped- I wasn’t afraid anymore.

Was she different? Yeah, some. A lot, actually. Not so much physically, but emotionally. Her choices had led her down a path far tougher than mine had been. And her happiness and contentment were still up for grabs.

I’m not judging, just noticing. For reals.

We talked. Honestly, she did 85% of the talking. I listened, asked questions, and injected the occasional anecdote about my life. Occasionally I’d bump into one of those places- something she said or some remark of mine that fell flat for lack of understanding or context, but some thing that formerly would have made me cringe and bleed.

Not today! Nor do I think ever again.

Why? Because I am loved. Finally. Fully. Unconditionally. Mick, at the foremost. Sebastian, my startlingly successful ‘problem child’. But also you guys. My tribe. My real family. Not accidents of DNA, no, we belong together because we get it and each other. Readers, naturalists, artists, writers, hippies, philosophers, explorers, science pioneers, fantasy geeks, farmers, cos-players, librarians, lefties, dog rescuers, cat lovers, spoonies, grammar nerds, travelers, all the folk who’ve ever felt ‘other-ed’ for believing in kindness, decency, and the necessity of showing up to do Good Things.

You are my people. During that long time when I’d done without biological family because I simply couldn’t deal with the way they mashed my face into my ‘otherness’ anymore and rejected who I was because why? I somehow made them feel dumb? Shallow? Scared? Whatever. I absented myself and found you.

So, no. My sister didn’t scare me today. Nor intimidate me or make me feel like Lee-Lee the Weirdo.

Will I see her again? Yeah. But not often nor with any obligation. I did find out she has the family photographs and I’d really like to get some of them. As it is aside from three measly pictures you’d think I sprang forth fully grown there’s so little evidence I existed before my 18th birthday. She doesn’t know what happened to most of my portfolios or clippings. More’s the pity, I bet you guys would get some good giggles off me in my snazzy 70s duds posing as Fun Girl! Or me as the enthusiastic eater of pudding and soup. As it is…

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Free at last! ~LA

 

I Finally Get To GO!

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Only 54 years. It only took 54 years for the circumstance of my life to align so I finally, finally get to go. I’m not blaming anyone (except myself) but let’s just say the people in my life, mostly those I married and those I manufactured in my uterus, made things hella tough to put my traveling hat on and beat feet down the holiday highway. I could tally up all the dumbass sacrifice, all the ways I prioritized everyone and everything else first, but that’s all behind me now because…I AM FINALLY GOING!!!!

Where? England, possibly with an overnight (or two!) in Paris.

When? July.

How long? 9 or 10 days depending on when the best deal for my flights are.

Who’s going? This is the best part…just me.

ME! MY time! MY priorities! MY schedule! Mine! Allllllll mine!

Do I sound like a jerk? A selfish twat? Good. Because I can tell you exactly when the last time I had more than a few hours to myself was – Aug 12-13, 1994. I went to Seaside on the bus. Aside from a sleep in my damp somewhat musty motel room I spent that 37 hours on the beach sunning and thinking and being at ease. Okay, there was also that one Christmas right after the ex and I split up that he took the kids and went to Texas with them just to be a dick, but being abandoned on Christmas just for spite is hardly happy jolly stuff, you know? And anyway I still had to care for the pets and the house and field phone calls from Mike’s clients. Whee.

This adventure though is all kinds of wonderful. And it’s not entirely a solo gig. I am going to visit my friend, Anna, and enjoy her hospitality until she’s more than ready to boot my ass back to America to have her life and her sofa back.

When you tell people you’re taking a trip their most common response is to ask what you plan to DO. And here’s the funny part, I don’t know. I have a list but not a plan. Obviously as it gets closer to time Anna and I will cobble together a rough idea of what and where, especially if there are things requiring reservations and/or pre-payment, but mostly I just want to be with my friend and walk and talk. Some years ago she spent five days here and we never even made it out of the yard.

For certain there are things I want to see but the idea of some kind of frantic rabbit race bloody itinerary where all we do is rush from thing to thing so’s not to ‘waste’ my time over there…yuck. Not for me, thanks. But this doesn’t mean I’m one of those ‘off the beaten path, hang with the natives’ snobs who’s too cool for typical sightseeing and guided tours. Far from it, in fact most of the stuff I’d like to take in is really tacky and I’m not embarrassed about that. I’ve led dozens of friends and relatives around the schlockiest, most touristy parts of NYC and never minded a bit. Top of the Empire State building? Sure. Rockefeller Center? No prob. Time’s Square? Step right over here. Barneys, Macys, Saks 5th Ave, Bloomingdales? You want to stand outside the ‘Today Show’ window? See ‘Phantom’ or ‘Cats’? Hey, I’m your girl. I totally understand.

So to that end here’s a list. A by-no-means complete or prioritized list of …

Stuff I’d Like To See Or Do In England.

Buckingham Palace. Not a tour or anything fancy, I’d just like to see it from the outside. With the Victoria Memorial, please.

Lunch at a pub. Actually there’s several things about pubs- cool pub signs with terrific names like ‘The Buttered Bum’ or ‘Alfie’s Poodle’, watching a darts game in person or a footie match on TV with a partisan cheering crowd, petting the pub dog or cat, buying a round and (briefly) listening to bullshit stories from the old coots, trying a shandy. No Guinness, thanks, I don’t care for dark beer.

Beach huts. Stone strands. Stripey canvas chairs. Brighton Pier. Donkey rides. And whatever the hell a knickerbocker glory is. Luckily Anna lives near-ish the sea. She used to be closer but has moved somewhere a bit more conventional but whatever, she’ll be a grand tour guide to all things about the British seaside and its amusements. I plan on spending LOTS of time in Brighton and having Anna show me the weirdness and artsy joy.

English gardens. In mid-July I expect England to turn out a spectacular floral face. Window boxes, allotments full of veg, hedgerows, tumbles and masses of flowers, sweeping meadows, neatly almost fanatically clipped public gardens. Bring it, England. Wow me with your botanical excess.

High tea. I’d like to go somewhere swank and have one of those fancy teas with little crust-less sandwiches and scones with jam and clotted cream. Tea in a silver or china pot. Wee decorated pastries. All doled out by an obsequious server on a starched linen-clad table so posh I feel awkward without pearls, a boarding school accent, and a really ugly hat.

London things. A ride in a black taxi cab. Another ride, this one on a double-decker bus. The Gherkin. King’s Cross and Platform 9 3/4. The Shard. The Millennial Bridge. Big Ben. Parliament. Tower Bridge. Piccadilly Circus. Hyde Park. Nelson’s Column. Trafalgar Square and Charing Cross- I know almost all the bookstores are gone but I’d like to see it anyhow. Dorkiest of all I’d like to get a picture on the Abbey Road crosswalk.

Beatles_-_Abbey_Road

In a perfect world I’d like to go north and visit Si, Tracey, and the kids. And Lisa and Martin in Crewe. And Lou Stonehill and have a good cry, raise a glass, or both about our beloved Sarah. North again to Liverpool and a trip to The Cavern Club. And Sheffield to get some kitchen knives bought from the source. Northward still and see Liza and Bert in Glasgow. And while in Scotland do a bunch of Harry Potter fangirl stuff. But there’s only so much time and money. To day nothing of trying to ship/carry KNIVES back to The States.

I’m back and forth about doing the paid tour at Highclere Castle. Is it better to leave ‘Downton Abbey’ as it is? A PBS dream? Or visit the real thing and forever after have the tactile, full daylight knowledge but lose the illusion of the Crawley family and their staff as they are on screen? I tend toward the latter.

LA, what about museums? What about Shakespeare? Kings? Queens? The Magna (fricken) Carta? What about Hampton Court and the Elgin Marbles?

Feh.

Look, scholarly knowledge is good. So is understanding and preserving history. It’s important. But I am just a chick on a trip. Trust me, with everything I’ve done with and for my kids I’ve given tithe to the future and then some. Enough for me and every single person I share DNA with. For now I am completely entitled to a trip to see my friend and check out a bunch of things I’ve only seen in movies and read about in books. Things that might (probably) not exist anymore.

This is a real place.

Green Knowe house

I was 8 when my grandmother gave me three of the six ‘Green Knowe’ books. I’ve since gotten all of them in several different editions. But, again, like Highclere, seeing the actual place will definitely change the magic of the place in my mind. Do I risk it or is my time better spent on a bench overlooking the sea drinking bad coffee from a paper cup having a hilarious enlightening soul-satisfying convo with my friend?

See how it goes?

And on subjects not quite so weighty but almost equally valid…what of the weather? Rain isn’t enough to stop me entirely but it definitely puts a crimp in days planned to spend outdoors. If I set a horribly inflexible schedule there I’d be standing in some miserable queue getting soaked and then trudging around ‘not wasting’ my visit but chilled to the bone picking my sodden underpants out of my ass crack and enjoying/learning NOTHING. Better I spent the afternoon in a used book shop or tucked up on Anna’s couch with a cuppa and no guilt whatsoever.

Most of the stuff I’d like to do on my trip is sensory rather than concrete. Anecdotal than actual.

For instance I’d be delighted when faced with my outsized enthusiasm a couple of Brits elbowed each other, rolled their eyes, and smirked, “American.” With all the patronizing attitude allowed by law.

I want someone in a market stall to call me ‘Ducks’, as in “Whot’s yours then, ducks?”

I want curry. I don’t know if I will even like curry, but I want it.

I DO know I like fish and chips. And I am very much looking forward to having the real deal.

I want a full English breakfast. Beans on toast sounds disgusting, as does blood pudding, but isn’t that the point? To be challenged and amazed to like something unexpected?

Spotted DICK? Bwahahaha! Okay, sure.

Honestly? England you can keep your mushy peas. Been there. Done that. Not interested in trying again.

Nando’s? Yes, please. I am always up for fried chicken.

Harrods? Perhaps for tea, but mostly for the novelty of going to a department store which refuses entry if you’re not dressed nicely enough. No jeans. Ever. Plus Alex’s ‘diaper bag’ was actually a tote bag from Harrods. A gift from the ex-MIL on one of her many, many travels. Replacing that tote would be nice after all these years.

 

Look. I learned about England the same way most of the world learns about the USA, most especially about New York, from books and movies. Sometimes TV shows. So what I want to see and what I’d like to experience in England this summer is based on media. Books, TV, movies. My actual wants are few, perhaps even spurious, desires fostered by an author’s idea of England.

First and foremost that after so many starved and promise-broken years…I get to go!

YAY!!!!!!!!!!

 

Much love, ~LA

 

No Guarantees

Here I am after several weeks of being in the dumps – some about my deteriorating health, some financial, but mostly just the state of the nation and the world. The Germans with their love of jamming all the words together to make one huge word would call my angsty gloom…panicshamefurydisgustwearysorrowloathing. And they’d be correct.

I thought and thought about what I could do. What I could REALLY do. Besides my standard barrage of mail, which I did slack off on for a week or so because I got that hopeless about everything but took up again and became a regular contributor to Senator Gillibrand’s reelection fund too. I don’t worry about Chuck Schumer, the guy has his face in front of every and any camera pointed toward him, even dental x-ray cameras, plus he’s too well-connected to sweat reelection. However, the 2016 elections taught me to be very vigilant if there’s a woman in a position of influence and power and there’s even the vaguest possibility some schmuck who has nothing going for him except a penis and an ego might want to take her out. Even here in the liberal stronghold of New York it’s not paranoid to be cautious and prepared. Not after Trump. Nuh uh. So along with my endorsement and money if Senator Gillibrand’s campaign needs door-to-door hucksters or phone monkeys or envelope stuffers I am so there. But that’s for later, what could I do NOW?

I finally hit on it.

bee garden

A bee meadow. Sanctuary. A place for bees to be.

It will take a few years to bring it to full bloom. But even this year I can make a grand start. To that end I have researched what kinds of flowers I need to encourage and what other helps I can put in the bees’ haven.

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That is a bee waterer. Bees can and do drink at bird baths but it’s a risky thing. They are often knocked in and drown or chased away by aggressive birds. A small shallow dish filled with marbles or rocks that provide the bees with a sturdy landing place and the water isn’t too deep makes for an ideal bee water station. I’ve got my dishes picked out, a couple even fit in the crooks of trees, and plenty of rocks and marbles. I am looking forward to making filling the bee water one of the things I do before work. Could anything be nicer? Out in the morning with my watering can walking the paths and just being with my friends the trees, seeing the flowers come up, and hopefully as the season progresses seeing the bees doing their thing?

This I can do.

I’ve looked into getting a bee box. Not for the honey, though I wouldn’t mind making a wax harvest once a year or so (who doesn’t love beeswax candles?), the bee box would be for the bees to live in relatively unmolested. But I think to be a decent host to a new colony of bees I’d best have their food source doing well first.

So. A bee place.

Mick has his part of the lawn downhill over the leach field and along the street-edge property line. I think traditional lawns are gross. Big, toxic dumps of fertilizers, insect poisons, and weed killers (thanks, Monsanto!) meticulously groomed by ugly noisy polluting machines run mostly by undocumented workers being ripped off by bosses who pay below minimum wage and dare their easily deported workers to call someone and complain. Feh on lawns.

But, y’all know Mick. The man thrives on tidiness. So I bought him a rechargeable electric mower and let him go nuts on the crab-grassy parts of the lawn visible from the road. But up the hill, beneath and between the trees, and in the wild places where feral grapes grow and the not-forgotten but definitely neglected botanical crossbreeds originally bred by Marie my house’s first occupant have gone amok, that part of the yard is mine. I do not say ‘lawn’. This is the yard. A 2+ acre parcel where thousands of daffodils run riot, where hybrid trees produce hearty nuts and fruits once thought they might be of use to the War Department, a place where clover and hen grass and Job’s tears and lilacs can knock you down with olfactory joy. And this year I am extending the springtime bacchanalia into summer and even fall with the planting of more flowers, and more, and then some more.

One of my literary crushes Cynthia Heimel pointed out in her turn as the fictitious Answer Lady, NOBODY can fix everything but everybody can fix SOMETHING. It’s true! She chose to rescue a particular breed of dog. I am offering up a place for bees.

Will my bee sanctuary solve everything? Tsk! Of course not. But it’s something. My bee place under the once-disciplined-now-wild-and-relaxed trees is MY stand. My own, small (perhaps ultimately dopey and futile) way to give back. I am making the effort to do A Thing.

Maybe that’s all any of us can do.

Go. Say hello to your neighbor. Sign a petition. Donate money/clothes/time/expertise. Smile. Run for office. Give a homeless person a lunch. Adopt a stray- feline, canine, human, it matters not. Water some bees. Plant some trees. Help somebody pass a test.

I believe in you. I know every single person who reads this blog post can Do A Thing.

If not for those you help, then do it for you. Do it as a bulwark against the rising darkness. Spit in the eye of those who (wearily/gleefully) claim decency lost. Think of Randy Quaid in ‘Independence Day’.

 

Sometimes that’s all there is.

 

 

Sometimes the Germans bomb Pearl Harbor.

 

But we can ALL do A Thing.

Really.

 

Find yours and get back to me. Much love, ~LA

Learnt

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So recently my darling Hil (unable to do links at the mo’) was talking about her adventures in home repairs and being handy. I was startled when she spoke of her growing up years and how few DIY skills she’d learned as a youngin. Shocking because having met Hil’s folks and visited their home it was love at first sight for me. And to think there would be anything deficient about growing up in the ivy-covered brick fairytale house of my dreams owned by the parents I’d assumed I’d been stolen from because they were EXACTLY what I always wished mine were- brilliant, erudite, liberal, socially engaged, artistic…well, it was odd.

Odder still was realizing that I HAD been taught the skill set that Hil said she hadn’t gotten.

Oddest of all? The one who’d taught me was my mother.

Yes, THAT mother. The heretofore bane, enemy, and windmill I’d forever set my lance against- my horrible mother.

Over the past decade or so I’d made my peace with my mother’s memory. In that I stopped feeling so terribly ripped off and abused. I’d let go of my hurt and resentment and had actually gotten around to feeling a little bad for her over the stunted life she’d chosen to lead. But grateful to her? Not a fucking chance.

It seems though I do owe her. As a moral compass and protector of my physical and emotional self, um, no. But as a combo of Suze Orman, Heloise, and Bob Vila? She did a damn fine job teaching me a myriad of life skills and it’s about time I acknowledged that.

My mother was a veritable fount of practical knowledge. She taught me how to fix, tend, clean, mend, set up, break down, move, balance, shop, save, cook (a little), all manner of hacks on how to maintain a home, how to manage my finances, and how to groom myself and curate a wardrobe…gads, I see now she never stopped teaching me. The same thing I do with my own kids. Who knew?

At the time and for all these years afterward I scorned my dippy addict shallow callow mother’s teachings as the product of a control freak who was all about how things LOOKED but who had nothing to say or give about how things felt or what they meant.

All true, but this does not mean that everything she taught me is without merit. In this I was dead wrong and say sorry.

My mother taught me a lot. More than that, what she taught me was transferable. Expandable. I’ve applied what she taught me in a myriad of ways in areas she’d never even known existed, but that doesn’t make my debt of gratitude any less. Magellan circumnavigated the globe and his contribution to science and geography doesn’t change  just because we now have satellites.

I know for certain she kept hoping a man would show up and relieve her of having to do most of this stuff. Her whole existence was bent around catching and holding a man. (She was terrible at this, btw. My mother was a shmuck and a doormat and encouraged me and my sisters to be the same. She never stopped hoping Prince Charming would drop by and stay forever.) In the meantime (and even during, the men she ‘caught’ were users, lazy man-babies, and two of them were pedophiles) my mother persevered. Also for certain she taught me most of this because she didn’t want to do it any more and was grooming me to be the ‘wife’. In this my mom was successful. By 9 years old I did the laundry, the food shopping, most of the cooking, I cleaned house, balanced her checkbook, wrote checks and mailed the bills, made doctors’ appointments, bought stamps and mailed packages, dropped off and picked up prescriptions and her dry cleaning, minded my younger sister, stayed home from school to wait for the super/phone guy/carpet cleaner, and 6-10 times a month went to my own job as a child model.

By 12 I could change her car’s oil, negotiate with a landlord, file taxes, register myself and Gidget for school, use a rented steam cleaner, change a flat, and use that same tire iron to protect my sister from pedophile #2.

This is not a list saying, “Oh poor me!” I’m saying that by the time I left home I had a practical skills set that has served me well. And I have my mother to thank. Because of her I know how to save a sweater from a nasty pulled thread. (Snag the pull with a bobby pin and pull the protruding thread back inside the sweater). I know how to fold a fitted sheet. (Tuck each elastic pocket corner neatly inside each other. Smooth lopsided rectangle into tidy rectangle. Fold in thirds.) Long before the grocery stores put it on the shelf tags my mother taught me how to figure out the unit price of things. The equation to figure out the cost per ounce isn’t difficult. Ditto the equation of cost per use. Don’t know that one? Let me explain. A sparkly sassy party dress was originally $120 and is marked down to $50. A classic camel’s hair coat is $500 at full retail. You’d think you’re getting the bargain with the party dress, right? Pay attention! You wear the party dress twice. Even at clearance price that dress is $25 per use! Now the coat. A good camel’s hair coat in a classic cut will last 20 years. $500 / 20= $25. Let’s say you wear that coat 40 times a year. That’s .62 per wearing. 62 cents vs $25. The coat is the far better bargain despite the initial outlay.

M y mom taught me that.

She taught me how to find a wall stud by knocking the walls and using a magnet. She taught me to use a molly and wall anchors when hanging pictures and heavy stuff. And what of the walls? My mom always negotiated our rent for our apartments by offering our place as the model apartment. We had gorgeous furniture and kept our place spotless. In exchange for letting prospective tenants into our place we were allowed to paint the walls and ceilings much more flattering colors than ‘apartment’ white. Thus our places had cocoa beige ceilings and wall colors appropriate to our décor. I always scoffed at this bullshit when we moved (which was often) but ultimately I leaned how to tape and use a cardboard edger, and understand the importance of flattering lighting.

I could go on for pages. My point today is that there is no perfect. Parents? I truly believe most do their best. They pass on what they know and make an effort to pass along what they WISHED they’d been taught and instead learned by hard experience. Parents teach their children what they thought they’d been gypped out of and what they hope their own kids get to have.

Alex will never acknowledge the base level lessons he learned about economics, car maintenance, cooking, banking, grooming, or real estate, God, why would he? He hates and rejects me far harder than I ever did my own mother who left me to fend myself against actual pedophiles who raped and sodomized me. But whatever. Alex has his arguments and issues. Perhaps when I am dead and safely gone he might forgive me as I have my own mother. Besides, I DO have a kid who loves and appreciates me and I am slobberingly grateful for him. My life isn’t a complete waste of experience and knowledge. Sebastian has his shit, absolutely. But when he looks at me he sees a mom who tried. Sebastian is on Team Mick. And Team Mom.

In any case this post’s point is about gratitude. My unexpected gratitude for the practical knowledge my mother passed on to me. How to polish floors. How to set a table. How to scuff the soles so you don’t slip in a new pair of shoes. Why an evening bag is smaller than a daytime bag. How to mine a clearance rack. The proper wording in a thank you note and a resume. How to iron a shirt and register a car. How to use a hammer, a drill, and carbon paper. How to lay tile and how to switch collars on your coat for any/every occasion. My silly mother taught me to stand up straight and how to make pretty good coffee.

No lie, my mother’s priorities and morals sucked. To use a cliché, she knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing. But what I failed to value was all the gut level skills she taught me. Even though I choose not to, thanks to her I know how to make hospital corners.

waystomakebed-hospitalcornerhowto

 

Sometimes a little can be enough. Much love, ~LA

Store Stories

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After being just one droplet in a flood of Lisas for most of my life I am amused by the herd of Tylers at the store. By my count there’s at least 10 of them, I’ve probably missed a few as I don’t know the evening and overnight crews very well. There’s a bunch of Jasons too. But there’s a broad range of variant spellings. Jasen, Jaisen, Jaysen, Jayson, Jasohn, and Jaycen. I’ve always loathed my name for its trendiness (of its time) and lack of personal identity for me but at least I never had to tell anyone how to spell it! To give a kid a common name and gussy it up with a bizarre spelling is beyond dumb. It doesn’t make your kid unique and special, it makes your kid the butt of impatient eye-rolls and a lifetime of patiently going, “No, it’s ‘j-a-y-CEE-e-n’. Yes, I know that’s not how Jason is usually spelled. Yes, I’m sure that’s the correct spelling. No, my mother wasn’t 15 when she had me or on drugs, she just thought it was cool.” Heck, even if you ARE 15 or on drugs, do your kid a favor- if you want your kid to have a unique name then give him one but do NOT choose a common name and lade him with a dopey spelling. Name your kid ‘Pennyfeather’ or ‘Winthrop’. Go for it. But if you like ‘Jacob’?  Fine, but as is. Changing it to ‘Jaykobb’ will just make your kid’s life miserable. Trust me.

I am sad to report that one of my favorite seniors is losing ground at an exponential rate. He was the first customer to directly compliment me to management, but I enjoyed him for his own self too. Bright, funny, always pleasant. Now he’s accompanied to the store by an aide or female relative. My friend looks and smells bad and he’s pretty vague about where he is and why he’s there. It’s shocking how quickly this came on. Until a couple months ago Mr Anthony was sharp as a tack and had a way of giving compliments like handing you a bouquet of flowering weeds and making them seem like roses.

On an up note there’s a regular mother-son duo who come on Tuesdays (it’s senior discount day) and I’ve been greeting them for years now. The mother nods and returns my greeting but the son (late 20s) is definitely on the spectrum. Tidy grooming but ALWAYS the same outfit. Elbows held in close, no eye contact, flinches when addressed directly. I say my hello but move on quickly so as not to distress the son. Well! Yesterday he approached and asked a question! How cool is this? For certain he looked over my left shoulder, but he spoke to me. Listened while I answered and then thanked me. Made my day, I tell you what. I was so proud of him. And quite pleased to be included in his cadre of safe people to talk to.

I was gassing with the produce guys yesterday. The only female member of their crew has been named Employee of the Month. She’s one of my favorite people so I’m glad for her. But it seems that aside from having your picture hung over the time clock and a mention in the monthly newsletter there aren’t any perks. So I was saying if I were ever chosen as Employee of the Month that I’d wear a crown. They cracked up. For the whole month? Yup. More laughter. “You know, LA, I believe you would.” Damn straight. My chances of winning are almost zero- my department is at a remove from the rest of the store, my manager doesn’t like me, and while popular I’m just not the Employee of the Month type. Still, I would totally rock a crown.

Though while on the subject of good employees, I should’ve garnered four, possibly five, stars this month. Stars are awarded when a customer calls 1-800-Shoprite {1 (800) 746-7748} and says nice things about you. The problem is once a customer goes to the bother of calling the store or the department to deliver a compliment they rarely feel the need to call the corporate number too. But that’s where shit gets real. That’s where performance rewards accrue. Stars, gift cards, even raises. So while it’s always sweet and gratifying when a customer goes to the trouble of calling the store or collaring a manager to praise my help, to be truly effective they have to say something to corporate. Remember that if you want to do a mitzvah for a retail employee who went the extra mile- call the 1-800 number.

It’s weird. On a meta level I feel low and sort of embarrassed by what I do for a living. The time clock, the name tag, the stupid advertisement on the back of my nasty polyester work shirt. But this is only when I allow what others might think into my assessment. It’s vanity and minding a value system I don’t follow. Of course I respect and honor occupations that require years of study and advanced degrees and a great deal of personal sacrifice, but when it comes down to it work is work and how we value and reward it is pretty fricken arbitrary. Is my making sure a customer has their preferred brand of raisin bread really so less meaningful than a CFO who lays off 300 workers? Or closes a factory? Or okays a toxic waste dump? Yet that CFO earns millions and I make $10.15 an hour. Which has more value? Polluting the groundwater or buttery, cinnamon-y raisin toast?

Yeah, I vote in favor of toast too.

So on a personal and practical level I like what I do. I help the busy parents. I make sure the non-mobile senior citizen has their stuff. I provide wholesome nursery school snacks and decent dinners for exhausted commuters. And on the sales floor I welcome and give directions and make much of the babies. There’s no shame in what I do. Is an advanced degree necessary? Nope. But this doesn’t mean my job is unskilled. Not a lot of skill required to pull the exact thing off the shelf, but when substitutions are necessary that’s when my experience as a cook, a mom, and a thrifty shopper comes to the fore. My billables hold the corporate record for most successful subs and most up sales. I like being good at what I do.

pleasure-in-the-jobs-puts-perfection-in-the-work_-aristotle

Yup, thanks, Aristotle.

 

Much love, ~LA

 

The Kids Are Alright

Millennials. Boy oh boy, how people love to complain about millennials.

Not me. I think they’re a pretty good bunch. And not just because I have one living in my house. I am very fond of that one but he does not have to represent his entire generation, I work with several dozen young folk who do not remember when the year began with 19__ and across the board they are pleasant to be with now and give me much hope about the future. (If we have one.)

Of course their fads and folkways seem strange and a little dopey to me, but I also remember that when I was 20 I had a lavender hairdo that looked trimmed by a weed-whacker and including the septum piercing had enough metal attached to my head that on clear nights I could stand in the backyard and pull in the AM pop station from Kuala Lumpur.  They’ll get past their “Look at me, look how cool and strange I am!” stage. We all did. Be kind, people. They are having fun and learning to be who they are. This takes time and a few strange turns along the way. Don’t believe me? Go find a picture of yourself at 21 and get back to me.

Mostly I am sick to death of the arrogant Boomers sniffing about how ‘kids these days are…’ lazy, unmotivated, moochers, blah, blah, blah.

Much of the complaining about millennials is stuff which isn’t of their making. They didn’t spoil themselves. They didn’t make the shitty economy and the wretched reality of part-time service jobs that pay minimum wage for-freaking-ever. They didn’t bloat college tuition by 800%. That’s right, Sebastian pays 800 times per credit hour than what I did for the same basic gut-level requirement courses at the same type of community college that I went to. Yet what he earns per hour is only 3 times what I made. The crappy tiny apartment Mike and I had was $75 a month plus a $40 utility bill. Even if my kid could find a scummy little apartment to share with a roommate or two the going rate in the shittiest towns in the scariest random-gunfire dead-junkies-in-your-stairwell neighborhoods is upwards of $1,400 a month plus utilities.

DO THE MATH.

In 1982 it was possible to find and buy a beater for around $600. Not a beauty and you might have keep the trunk wired shut with twist-ties, but it ran and got you to school and work and once a week you dumped $10 in the tank and it was all good. Your insurance might be another $18 a month. Again this was do-able on $3.50 an hour. These days a 15 year old Toyota with 190K on the odometer is a treasure and it will cost about $6,000. To plate and insure it is another $1,700. Gas is still cheap enough at $2.85. Sebastian works 25 hours a week (the most he’s allowed per company policy) at $9.75 per hour.

DO THE MATH.

These young people were handed the lousiest financial prospects since the Great Depression and instead of whining and twiddling each other’s dirty toes at love-ins and burning down campus buildings and faffing around on guitars like the Boomers did over their sad, sad lives of plenty and entitlement the millennials are working. Most have 2 or 3 jobs. They live at home? Yeah? Where else are they supposed to go? Humans have always lived in multi-generational groups. At least until the end of WWII. What was old is new again and I do not mind having my son around. And we are one more major illness/injury from having MIL come live with us too.

The millennials are creating new ways to communicate. While us oldies are grumbling about the kids and their stupid phones those kids are making friends worldwide. They are helping each other make dreams come true with Go Fund Me campaigns and micro-lending. They are launching careers on YouTube and Instagram. Pretty clever if you ask me.

And more than anything? The millennials are kind. So much of the cruelly restrictive race, gender and sexuality ‘norms’ of the past are just gone. While the previous generations are frightened and clutch onto stereotypes and truly stupid rules for the way things ‘should be’ the young people I know are cool.

 

 

We might have sung this and maybe even thought we believed it, but today’s youngins really do. Gender fluid, feminists- male and female, race isn’t ignored- it’s explored and celebrated and embraced. I adore my work friends and respect the hell out of their respect for each other.

Are the millennials perfect? Of course not. Who is? However, for a generation raised with participation trophies, school shootings, locked indoors, tested into mind numbed rigidity, padded, antibactirialized, and then handed a warming planet, a broken government, and the most miserly bleak economic future imaginable and told to go do something about it, feh, they are doing their best. And to be honest better than most of us would if we’d been given this mess.

I mean it, the kids are alright.

 

Much love, ~LA

Flu Meme

Here is a random list of questions!


1. Do you like blue cheese?
I think bleu cheese is one of those things foodies have convinced themselves is delicious. You know, like steak tartare and those punishingly sour red wines that can remove grease spots off the garage floor. No, I do not like bleu cheese. Blech..

2. Have you ever smoked cigarettes?
Yes, I smoked for almost 40 years. I quit two years ago. I do not feel substantially better in any way except financially. I put on 40 pounds, though this is also tied up with menopause. As unhealthy as smoking was it was also my major stress reducer and creativity booster. During The Purge I also stopped drinking, using products with aspartame and/or caffeine, and gave up any expectation that life will ever, ever be fun again. I now medicate with two different anti-depressants and Wise white cheddar popcorn.

3. Do you own a gun?
No. If I did I would not be writing this. I might be a fat boring person whose inner life is akin to the steady hum of the refrigerator, but a gun would have made it fatally easy to off myself during the more dramatic parts of my life. I am grateful I do not own a gun.


4. What flavor Kool- Aid?
Red.


5. Do you get nervous before a doctor appointment?
No. I told you, I am on a Very Even Keel these days and it takes something a hella lot scarier than a stethoscope to get me twizzed.


6. What do you think of hot dogs?
I adore hot dogs! Only good hot dogs though. Kosher, natural casing…yum!


7. Favorite Christmas movie?
A Charlie Brown Christmas.


8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Screwdrivers. That’s what I’d prefer. What I actually drink is coffee/hot tea and down my meds with a tall glass of water.


9. Can you do a push up?
Yes ma’am, I surely can. Of course even with my arms fully extended my boobs are still touching the floor. So clapping push-ups are out. No room, I’d just be slamming my tits together like fleshy click-clacks.


10. What’s your favorite piece of jewelry?
I have several pieces that do not leave my bod except during surgeries- my pentacle, my wedding and engagement rings, a black sapphire eternity ring on my left thumb, a wide silver band on my right index finger and a delicate garnet heart right on my right ring finger. Really the only décor that changes are my earrings. Current fave- slim white gold hoops Mick gave me for New Year’s about 7 years ago.


11. Do you have a favorite hobby?
It used to be reading encyclopedias, nowadays I just watch documentaries. Last night I watched one about the history of gingerbread. Though I think a few of the recipes were actually pfeffernusse pretending to be gingerbread.


12. Do you have A.D.D?
No. I am easily distracted and often interrupt myself to go start something else while still in the middle of something, but this is more to having an undisciplined mind. True A.D.D. is painful and sometimes debilitating.


13. Do you wear glasses?
Yes, I do. Part-time since 6th grade. Full-time since 32. Bifocals at 36. Now at the Blinky the Mole stage where I put my glasses on to make a bathroom run in the dark.


14. Who was your childhood idol?
Barbie. Don’t mock. Barbie is a badass.


15. Name 3 thoughts at this moment…
– I wish my nose worked.
– I’m hungry.
– I would give my left arm to have Chinese food delivery. Hell, even pizza would be great.


16. Name three drinks you regularly drink.
Sprite. Turkey Hill Cherry Pomegranate Iced Tea. Water. Lots of water.

17. Current worries?
Trumpocalypse – this was Craige’s answer and it’s a good’un, though I am actually more concerned about the GOP House and Senate. Their campaign of terror to do away with EVRYTHING that helps people is fucking scary and maddening. Why? What do they gain from wiping out health care, Planned Parenthood, Social Security, Medicare, environmental protections, and civil rights? Seriously. What is the end game?


18. Current hate?
See above. Give me 15 minutes alone with Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and a Louisville Slugger.


19. Favorite place to be?
Bookstores.


20. How do you bring in the new year? 

Struggling to stay awake until midnight. Kisses all around, then bed.

 21. Where would you like to go?
Everywhere!


22. Name 6 people that will complete this.
Help yourself.


23. Do you own slippers?
Yes but get frustrated with them so I’m usually barefoot.


24. What color shirt are you in?
White long sleeve t-shirt. Grey leggings. Socks. Sneakers. Pastel plaid fuzzy bathrobe. Pashmina around my shoulders like a shawl. Our furnace quit yesterday and we are staying warm with our plethora of space heaters and blankies. I also have a hot water bottle in my lap. We can get the furnace looked at tomorrow when it’s not ‘an emergency weekend’ call. $$$$$$


25. Do you like sleeping in satin sheets?
NO! I loathe slippery fabrics. For a number of years we had a waterbed and it was nearly impossible to find cotton sheets for it. It was either scratchy poly-blends that pilled up immediately or that horrible fake ‘satin’ shit. GAH! Same goes for clothing. I wear cotton, cotton and more cotton. My work shirt irks me to death and it’s the first thing I take off when I get home, even before my shoes.


26. Can you whistle?
No, but my Da could and when I was really little we’d watch ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ together and he’d whistle along with the theme and I’d pretend to whistle too.


27. Where are you now?
In my chilly office at my desk festooned with medicine packets, empty tea mugs, and boogery tissues.


28. Would you be a pirate?
No. I’m a big fan of order. Not tidiness, but everyone behaving in an orderly way. Respect for each other. Stealing other people’s stuff is Not Nice.


29. What song do you sing in the shower? ‘
‘Some Enchanted Evening’ or a medley of songs from ‘Oliver!’


30. Favorite sports team?
I don’t care enough about sports to follow any of them but for solidarity’s sake I will say the NY Liberty. Go WNBA!


31. Favorite food?
At the moment it’s soup dumplings. Ask another day and get a different answer.


32. What’s in your pocket?
A box of Cepacol lozenges. Mad props to the Cepacol people, these things really work.


33. The last thing that made you laugh? .
Probably some animal video on FB. Cat fails. Dogs on trampolines. Something like that.


34. What’s your favorite animal?
Roseate spoonbills. They’re not skittery like most birds, they walk like bosses. 


35. Worst injury? .
Broken heart. Too many times to count. Kind of a bummer, but it’s the truth.


36. How many TVs in your house? .
Two. A big herky old school big screen TV in the living room. Wolf uses it for gaming and watching Netflix. And a much smaller old school TV in my bedroom where I feast my eyes on BBC America nature docs and ‘Mysteries at the Museum’ on Travel channel.

Thanks, Craige for the meme. It’s been a lovely diversion today as I snort, snuffle, and tilt my Tamiflu lance at this wretched flu.

Stay well, my lovelies, ~LA