Words….Witticisms…Whimsy…Whatever!

Yeah, you read that right – 100th!

Holy crap, Grandma, that’s amazing. As are you.

It’s remarkable for anyone to hit 100. But my grandma is remarkable in many ways. For a long time I’m not sure I recognized it – she was just my grandma. I knew she wasn’t a stereotypical grandmother – there was no knitting going on, or wearing frilly aprons in her kitchen. The only apron I ever remember seeing her wear said, “BITCH BITCH BITCH” on it. That’s my grandma.

If you live around here, it’s highly likely you’ve crossed paths with her at some point. She’s been working for Fort Wayne Community Schools as a teacher and administrator and consultant for more than 50 years. She’s been a columnist for The News-Sentinel for decades. She’s been very active in the Jewish community, the arts community, the community community. She was the first woman to do a lot of things. She’s received many impressive accolades along the way.

Of course, she has made some poor decisions over the years. She did go to Ohio State.

But she’s also just my grandma. 🙂

Just my grandma?

Hey, Grandma! Happy birthday!favorite

This seems like a good opportunity to reminisce. Maybe say thank you for some things. Maybe apologize for some things. Like the time when I was, I don’t know, maybe 8-ish, and I was lying on the floor in the den on Old Mill and you were tickling the crap out of me. A lot. I was kind of thrashing around laughing. And I elbowed you in the mouth. Hard. It was absolutely, totally, 100% your fault, and yet I still feel bad. Sorry about that.

Thank you for taking me to my first Broadway show. (Pirates of Penzance – I know you know, that’s for everyone else.) We share a love of theater, and you have continued to help me feed my habit. You paid for my ticket to see Miss Saigon years ago when I lived in Michigan and it was coming to Detroit. And on my last trip to NYC you sent me with some extra money so I could pick up tickets to see a second show. (Kinky Boots, it was incredible, thank you!)

Of course, we also went to the Stratford Festival together for my Bat Mitzvah present, and saw some Shakespeare and some Gilbert & Sullivan, but it’s not the theater that I remember most about that trip. Nope, it’s the paddle boat you rented for Lisa and me to tool around Lake Victoria in. It was an hourly rental, and Lisa and I wanted to make sure you got your money’s worth. We didn’t want to upset you by coming back too soon and wasting it. In the meantime, we had disappeared, and you thought we’d drowned. Oops. Sorry about that, too.

We’ve definitely done some good traveling together. You took me to your favorite city, florenceFlorence. Don’t worry, it’s your birthday, I’m not going to tell that story again. But I could mention how you almost sold me to an African man. Or when we saw wee little Sylvester Stallone eating in the same restaurant we were at. Or hahahahahhahah, I forgot about this till right now, how about the lunch where you thought you were ordering something sensible like a salad and it ended up being a gigantic ice cream sundae. HAHAHAHAHAHAH. I’m sitting on my couch laughing by myself right now…I just woke the dog. We both love art, too, and there was a lot of it on that trip. The David, which blew me away with how enormous it is. The Sistine Chapel. The Medici Chapel.

I’m sure this was true when I was younger also, but I’ve become very aware over the last few years of how you’re one of my biggest cheerleaders. You go out of your way to let me know after you’ve talked to someone who has said something nice about me. You post comments to let me know you’ve read each and every blog post, here and on Beth & Wendy, even when my posts are silly. Or you call to discuss if it’s something topical. You save clippings when I’m in the newspaper, and then years later you give them to me. I have one on my desk right now that you gave me a few weeks ago, from about 8 years back. I can’t remember why this little profile was in the paper, but in it I talk about how my parents and my grandmother have been strong role models for me, particularly in the area of community service. Yes, yes you have.

Aww, and as I’m sitting at my desk writing this (up against my deadline, because I’m a procrastinator and your birthday is tomorrow), one of my favorite people just commented on Facebook (in response to Kevin’s great article about you in the News-Sentinel) that I “get my passion for life, the arts, and writing honestly!” I sure do. 🙂 (Do you do this too? Are you deadline motivated?)

I love that you have been a mom to my mother, even after Mom and Dad got divorced. Not every family can navigate that. Thank you for making it so. ♥

Speaking of divorce, after my own, my Christmas traditions changed. I love my new Christmas, going to the movies and dinner with you and Dad on Christmas Eve, and then another movie (this one adding in Kron) on Christmas Day before dinner at Rachel’s. Considering it’s not even our holiday, it’s one of my favorites. 🙂

Any 45-year-old would be fortunate to have a living grandparent still; my other three were all gone by the time I was 19. But I’m extra-lucky to have YOU as my grandmother. When my family was in France visiting Lisa during her semester abroad, I remember seeing kids playing soccer in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and thinking how crazy it was that they could go about their normal lives like that, and not just stand in awe thinking, “Holy cow, that’s the Eiffel Tower.” But now I find myself thinking maybe that’s what I’ve done, taking you for granted as “just my grandma.” Doesn’t everyone have a barrier-breaking, ceiling-shattering, tough-talking, community-shaping, change-making grandmother?

You set the bar so high for the rest of us, in so many ways – including longevity! 🙂 As I strive to live up to the example you’ve set, I’m happy you’re still here to encourage me, and talk things over, and tell me stories.

My favorite experience with you though, my very favorite, is when you get started laughing. You know what I’m talking about. I remember you and Dad and I had lunch after Eula Black’s funeral. I have absolutely no idea what we were talking about – I think it had something to do with pencils, which doesn’t really sound that funny. But it must’ve been, because I remember the three of us cackle-laughing in the middle of…Cosmo’s? Somewhere. Laughing till I can’t breathe, with my grandma. It doesn’t get better than that.

I am sure that as soon as I stop writing, I will remember something else I wanted to say. That’s ok, I’ll just call you. 🙂

Happy birthday, Grandma. You’re wonderful, and I love you, and I’m so glad you’re my grandma.

convertible-selfie-with-grandma

 

Catharsis

I woke up this morning feeling sick and exhausted and more hopeless than I’ve ever felt in my life. I was surprised by the waking up part, since I felt like I’d never slept. And when I did sleep, I was dreaming about Electoral College tallies. My head hurt, my heart was heavy, and the only reason I got out of bed was because I had a haircut appointment. I spent the better part of the day wandering around like a zombie.

I am a mild political junkie and I love Election Day and participating in the process. If you are Facebook friends with me, you might have noticed my ebullient posting yesterday, until things got grim in the evening. I was giddy when I went to vote, and felt optimistic all day that Hillary was going to win. I called my grandma to talk about whether she ever thought she’d get to see a woman president.  I was hearing from friends throughout the day, checking in to share excitement or see how I was holding up with the waiting, and I was feeling the happy glow of camaraderie. And then in the evening, I started hearing from friends filled with anxiety and confusion. What was happening? How was this happening? What are we going to do?

I have been emotionally invested in elections before. I was depressed when Gore lost to Bush, which seems ridiculous now. I was moved to tears when President Obama won both times. But nothing before has affected me like this election. I’ve never cried off and on all day because my candidate lost. And misery loves company, but it’s grueling to scan my Facebook feed and see how many of us are heartbroken and truly scared about our future.

My despair is very distinctly twofold.

I am ill that Trump was elected. I can barely bring myself to type his name. I hold the office of president in high regard. I respect the office even when I don’t like the individual. But I can’t bring myself to put his name next to that title. (I think I’m solidly in denial at the moment.)

I could rattle off a litany of people I’m scared for, but it’s easier to say just assume that if you’re not a straight white Christian man, I share your anxiety, and I will fight for you. I will fight for you.

But separate from my terror over the bigotry, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and on and on, is my heartbreak that Hillary lost.

When my sister and I were little, we had a book called “Girls Can Be Anything” by Norma Klein. It was about how girls can be, well, anything: doctors, pilots, judges, EVEN President of United States.

Except that book is a big fat lie. I had it when I was a child and I’m 45 and a woman has yet to serve in the highest leadership role. I knew I wanted it, but I didn’t know how badly I wanted it. I am self-employed and I live in a little bubble and I don’t have to deal with a lot of sexism in my everyday life, but I witness it horribly in my friends’ professional lives. And we have men controlling the majority of the governing and even though not all men are sexist, we need women representing us. If you think it doesn’t matter, you’re wrong. It matters. It matters. It matters so much. We need women representing us and we need women showing girls that women CAN be fucking anything, EVEN PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. And when it started becoming clear last night that Hillary was going to lose, I cried. Because the most qualified candidate maybe ever lost to a narcissistic incompetent lying bigot. What do we have to do to get a woman elected??

And I feel so sad for my mom and my grandma. They are strong, badass women who have shown me that women CAN do anything and have done all sorts of hard things to make things better for me and women following along behind me. I was so excited for them to see a woman be elected president. I thought we were poised for a huge leap forward, and instead we took about 25 steps backwards.

I should be filled with rage. I’m so confused that I’m not. Instead I’m consumed with sadness, except when I’m completely numb. For weeks I’ve been clicking “angry” on most political posts, but today I can only click “sad”. And I kind of wish I was overwhelmingly angry, because it can be motivating.  You can channel anger into something positive. Sadness weighs you down and makes it hard to move forward.

This morning I cried and cried and cried. And pretty much anytime I talked to another human, I cried some more, and fortunately everyone I crossed paths with this morning knew where I was coming from.  I wanted to call my grandma, but I had to wait until I could hold it together, and when I did, she told me she hadn’t wanted to talk to me because she didn’t want to make me feel worse, because she knew. And then she told me stories I hadn’t heard before, like about when she got the Temple to recognize women as full-fledged voting members in their own right, not as wives of members.

I’ve been pretty lost today, and the only thing that has made sense has been connecting with people. So you might’ve gotten a message from me just telling you that you matter to me, much like I got messages from several of you asking how I’m doing. I’m profoundly grateful for that, especially for those of you saying it’s ok to lick our wounds for a day or so, but then we need to pick ourselves up and get back to it. And for those of you saying you don’t know what the answer is, but we need to do something, so let’s talk about what that might be.  She is right, we are definitely stronger together.

I hope we’re wrong. I hope things aren’t as grim as they feel. I hope I get actual sleep tonight and I hope I feel better tomorrow than I did today.  So somehow in the face of my own crushing hopelessness, I still hope.

And because I know this makes everything a little less bleak, here’s a picture of my dog. Goodnight, friends. Get some rest. I love you.

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Impotent

Oh man. I haven’t blogged in a while. Excuse me while I unload my brain for a few minutes.

I’m having such a hard time articulating how I feel, but I FEEL like I need to get it out. Like I need to say something. Like silence isn’t an option. But I’m so overwhelmed and exhausted by the world that not only don’t I know what to say, I don’t even know what to focus on. Just a few days ago my dad commented about how there are so many terrorist attacks by ISIS happening around the world that you can’t give them their due attention and shock and dismay. That it’s becoming literally a daily occurrence. And then Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police and I determinedly avoided watching the graphic video of it actually happening. I’m horrified enough, I don’t need to see it, can’t see it. And then Thursday morning, after successfully avoiding the video the day before, I turned on the Today Show when I woke up, and before I even had my glasses on or was really paying attention, I heard them talking about it, about a black man being shot and killed by police, and I thought, “Please don’t let them play the video,” but they did, and I still didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t see, but the audio wasn’t making sense and then they said something about Minneapolis and that didn’t make sense either because Alton Sterling was in Baton Rouge, but of course they weren’t talking about that, they were talking about Philando Castile. And all I could think was, “Now this is a daily occurrence too?” And I can’t take it, I can’t take it anymore, and I’m not even the person who should most be at a breaking point. I’m a white woman, the opposite of a black man if humans have opposites, which of course we don’t. But really we should all be at a breaking point. From everything. We should still be mourning for Orlando and fighting for a commonsense conversation about guns and gun violence and instead that is old news because so many other terrible things have already happened and who can even remember. I’m angry and I’m tired and my heart hurts and a crazy, terrifying person is running for president and there are too many problems and no solutions. I’ve said this in conversation to people kind of as a joke, but I’m not really joking anymore. You know how in a slightly futuristic, post-apocalyptic movie they start with some voiceover about how civilization as we know it ended? Right before the machines took over or the aliens arrived or the government fell and everything was chaos and bad? That’s what I feel like we’re living in. And everything is so broken that I don’t know how it can ever be righted. And it’s terrifying. And I’m glad I don’t have kids, because I wouldn’t want them to live in a world where a sexist egotistical lying hypocritical bigot is a viable candidate for president. Yep. I thought Trump was the next Hitler, but apparently he’s Mr. Hart from Nine to Five. AND WHILE I’VE BEEN WRITING THIS, THERE WAS A MOTHERFUCKING SHOOTING AT A BLACK LIVES MATTER EVENT IN DALLAS. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW? Guns are not the answer. Violence is not the answer. Trying to eliminate someone with whom you disagree is not the answer. Reports say two police officers were shot. Make that three. Four. MSNBC can’t keep up. One of them has died.

I don’t know what to do. I literally don’t know what, as a human who wants the world to be a better place, who wants this madness and violence to end, to do. What can I do? What can any of us do? I’m legitimately asking – I would love to hear suggestions. I’m pretty sure posting on Facebook isn’t the answer (although I feel that silence is becoming complicity and I don’t know what to do about that feeling either). Black lives matter. I am a straight ally for the LGBT community. I believe in gun control. I support a woman’s right to reproductive choice and freedom. I want to see an end to rape culture. All of these movements and causes are under constant assault and have endless need. They are all very important to me. But I’m only one person. I only have so much to give, and I feel splintered and impotent. I just looked up “impotent” in the dictionary, as I often do when I’m writing and I want to make sure I have the correct nuance I’m going for. The second definition is “utterly unable.” Yep, nailed it.

Utterly unable.

And the crawl at the bottom of the screen beneath the horrible story unfolding in Dallas is filled with deaths and injuries in various bombings around the world.

And the number of deaths in Dallas keeps going up.

I need to go to bed. I woke up to horrific, heartbreaking, soul-wearying news. And I’m going to bed to completely different horrific, heartbreaking, soul-wearying news. Who can take this anymore?

A moment to celebrate

Oh Powerful Gods of Automobiles, tonight as we rejoice in the miracle of no longer having to make monthly sacrifices to The Keepers of the Money, we ask for you to smile upon beloved Optimus Prime with serendipity and benevolence. Keep her safe from accidents and dings, unexpected clunks and unidentified noises, and bestow good karma (car-ma?) upon the one who has cared for her steadfastly and performed all routine maintenance on a timely basis. Protect us from costly repairs and unforeseen expenses, and we shall revel in the glory of top-down days, the wind in our hair (or fur) and 6-speed manual transmission.

And let us say, varooooom!

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime

Top down, bitchez!

(And now a moment to exult in the resurrection…of my blog!)

Today is the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Don’t worry, I didn’t know that either, but a couple of friends posted about it on Facebook, including one who posted a link to the Gordon Lightfoot song, which I have always loved in some morbid way. So after I listened to that, I went looking to see if my Gordon Lightfoot cd had made it into my iTunes library at some point, which it had. Gordon is easy to listen to. If you like one of his songs, you probably would like them all, which is a nice way of saying there is a certain sameness to his music. And that made me think about when I first got it.

A million years ago, back when I was married, Mike & I took a vacation in South Haven, renting a little cottage type thing right on Lake Michigan. We spent time on the beach of course, but also making day trips to all the fun surrounding communities. We were in Holland one afternoon checking out their cute downtown, and we discovered a shop having a going out of business sale. It was late in the game – they were down to selling fixtures. In fact, now that I think about it, that’s where I got the big white crate that we used for a TV stand for a while and now serves as my nightstand by my bed. They also had a stack of CDs from their in-store music, which were selling for a buck apiece, back in the day when people still bought CDs. They had some Christmas music, some county, and a Gordon Lightfoot greatest hits collection. I think I might’ve bought the entire stack for five or ten dollars.

Later in the week, we had a rainy afternoon so we spent it inside reading and playing cards and listening to music, including our new-to-us Gordon Lightfoot album. After a while Mike said, “Didn’t we already hear this song?” Pause, cock head, consider. “Nope, I don’t think so.” We returned to our respective books. Twenty or thirty minutes passed, when Mike exclaimed, “Ok look, this is THE SAME SONG!” At which point we discovered why yes, we had accidentally hit the repeat button, and it had been playing the same track over and over again. Which surely we would have noticed sooner had we not been engrossed in whatever we were reading. But did I mention the sameness?

Apparently the other problem I have is forgetting that his name isn’t Edmund Fitzgerald, since I just googled that instead of Gordon Lightfoot when I was trying to find you the link for the song I’m going to share, which is NOT “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. Instead, I’m going to share “Song for a Winter’s Night”. Are you familiar with the Sarah McLachlan version? Did you know it was a cover of this one? I didn’t, until my friend Mikem pointed it out. Could it be more different? I don’t think so. (Because hers sounds NOTHING like a Gordon Lightfoot song, and his, naturally, sounds like every other Gordon Lightfoot song.)

Here you go. Enjoy! 🙂

I am a big fan of Halloween. In fact, it is my favorite holiday. Why my favorite, you ask? Because it’s all about playing dress up and eating candy, and you don’t have to go to church/synagogue/etc., and there are no family obligations. (No offense, family.) And its accent color is purple, which coincidentally is my accent color as well. I decorate my house with sparkly-creepy things. I have a costume closet. Some years I throw parties. I am completely envious of my friends with Halloween birthdays – I would rock that shit. And I am always home for trick-or-treaters.

As part of the trick-or-treating social contract let me assure you that I more than hold up my end of the deal. I dress up. Some years it’s just my glow-in-the-dark “COSTUME” t-shirt and my sparkly horns, but that totally counts. My porch light is always on. I never run out of treats. I never give out shitty candy. (True, I don’t always give out candy, but when I do it’s the good stuff. Fun size, but brand-name. None of those foul orange & black wrapped peanut butter things in Wonkaland!) Some years (like this one) I do give out pencils instead of candy, but that is not lame. They are FUN pencils, and as we will discuss later, they are legit treats.

In exchange I have a few rules that I propose we implement. I think most people are abiding by these already, but every year there are some blatant offenders, so clearly we need to spell things out. I do give treats to everyone, even the lame-os, but I would like to have the option to banish someone from my porch, treatless, for not living up to the agreed upon expectations.

Let’s start with a fundamental reminder: I do not owe you anything. I choose to participate, but this should be fun for both of us. If you abuse the situation too much, it might take the fun out of it for me. I noticed there weren’t very many porch lights on along my street; maybe too many people have lost the fun already. Here’s your chance to save Halloween!

Rule one: You. Must. Say “trick-or-treat”. You may not just stand there and stare at me until I put treats in your bag. It’s ok if someone needs to prompt you, or if your big brother says it for the both of you. If you do not, I will stand there and stare back at you.

Rule two: Say thank you. Tons and tons and tons of kids do, which is awesome. Even if you think my pencils are stupid (which they are not), say thank you. It could be worse, I could be giving out those little two-packs of Sweetarts. Also, chaperoning parents, I think it’s awesome when you say thanks too. It’s not mandatory, but it’s a lovely touch to acknowledge that we’ve shelled out some bucks and set aside some time to do something nice for your kid.

Rule three: You have to wear something that could be considered a costume. Or even just elements of a costume. Put on a funny hat and a weird jacket – I don’t have to be able to identify what you’re dressed up as, just that you tried. Hint: I’ll probably give you extra treats if you have an awesome costume. If your costume is covered up with a coat and other weather-appropriate garb, I am totally understanding of that – no worries. But if you have made zero effort and you’re just wearing a hoodie and jeans, you aren’t trick-or-treating, you’re going door to door begging. If you can’t be bothered to put on SOMETHING resembling a costume, you shouldn’t be out there. Have some pride, some creativity, don’t be lame. I don’t care if teenagers who are kind of too old to trick-or-treat come around as long as they put in good faith effort. Also, side note, because this rule really is for the older kids, make eye contact. I don’t care if you’re an awkward teen. Look me in the eye when you say thank you. It won’t kill you, I promise!

Rule four: Parents, we are moving on to you now. This is something I’ve noticed more and more of the last few years, and it bothers me more than anything else in this list. Quit taking your baby trick-or-treating. I’m not a parent, but I’m guessing that if the kid can’t walk and the kid can’t talk, the kid shouldn’t be eating candy either. You’re not fooling anyone, you’re using your baby to get free candy for yourself. I’m sure you’re excited for Baby’s First Halloween. Go ahead, buy an overpriced costume. Take a billion pictures. Go “trick-or-treating” at the grandparents’ houses. Get some candy to have at home. But don’t drag your baby all over the neighborhood under the guise that this experience is somehow for her.

Rule five: Don’t carry a bag for a baby in a stroller (see rule four), or the sick kid at home, or anyone not present. Trick-or-treating is definitely a “you must be present to win” situation. Being sick on Halloween is the worst. Parents should definitely do something to make up for it. But that’s your job, not mine. Share the candy collected. Buy candy. But the second bag smacks of fake.

Rule six: And parents, you again. Don’t carry your own bag. I give you props for being honest about your intentions, and if someone offers you something, awesome, take it. But trick-or-treating alongside your kids? Seriously?

Geez…reviewing this, it kind of seems like parents are the ones fucking it up the most, doesn’t it? The kids actually do pretty awesome for the most part. Don’t freak out and get all defensive now, I’m not talking about all parents.

The pencil treats were actually a pretty good gauge of who should and shouldn’t be trick-or-treating. The really little kids totally didn’t get it, and mostly seemed to be eyeballing me to see where the actual candy was. The big kids gave mumbled thank yous. But the kids in the middle, six to twelvish, were full of “cool, pencils!” True story. Glad they liked them, too, because I have enough for probably three more Halloweens. 😀

So what do you think about the rules? Can we all get on board with this? Did I miss anything? I’m happy to add to the list before the implementation phase.

And because it IS my favorite holiday and I don’t want to sound like a big grump, let’s end on a high note, with one of my Halloween traditions: the sharing of the Muppets!

The Muppets: Cårven Der Pümpkîn

Of all the kinds of asshole there are in the world, I have decided that the worst kind are the fucking crazy kind.

Tonight my dad and I had just set off for a bike ride, enjoying the unseasonably cool July weather. The local trail system goes right past his neighborhood, so we jumped on and headed off, riding through a nearby park ready to cruise toward downtown. We had to cross a major road, but they have done a pretty decent job trying to make the crossing as safe as possible. The light was red when we got there. We waited for the walk signal, and then set off in the crosswalk. Unfortunately, the jackwagon in the monster truck also waiting at the light decided not to yield the right of way, and came alarmingly close to running me down in his impatience to turn the corner. I shouted and stopped; he stopped. When I realized it was safe to cross, I started up again. As he turned behind us, he yelled at us. The car behind him yelled at us also. When the driver of the truck yelled “fuck you” at us, my dad yelled it back. We had the right of way, asshole.

What happened next was truly frightening. Mr. Crazy Asshole drove across a four-lane road, off the road, across the grass, to cut us off on the trail, where he got out of his truck and approached my dad (who was ahead of me) yelling profanities. Are you fucking kidding me? I don’t remember what he called my dad…an old fucker, maybe? So, yeah, nice job respecting your elders (or just other humans). He definitely called me a fucking cunt. That’s an unspeakable word in my world, so to casually toss that off at a stranger, I’m thinking you have some issues. And perhaps the most insane part was one of the things he screamed at us was that it had been a mistake and what did we want him to do about it now? Um…how about not go completely insane and threaten us? At some point he decided he’d accomplished whatever he set out to do and got back in his truck and drove off.

I’ve had people yell at me on my bike before, but never anything like this. I just don’t understand why people get so angry at the mere presence of bicycles. We weren’t even riding IN the road, just wanted to cross it to ride on the goddamn trail. And unbelievably, when we were riding home and crossing at that same intersection, the oncoming turning car did yield the right of way (thank you, person!) and the car behind her leaned on the horn. What. The. Actual. Fuck. Fortunately everything in between was uneventful and fun.

I told some friends about it when I got home and one shared that she carries pepper spray when she rides. That’s really not my style, but neither is getting verbally assaulted by nutbags.

And I will say this: adrenaline makes me pedal fast.

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