Sunday, August 31, 2008

What Happened to Family Values?

I don’t make a habit of stealing other Bloggers’ material, but Avocado-in-Paradise cited this in a recent post and it is just far too important not to pass on.

Everyone is lauding McCain’s military record and remembering that he was a POW, but no one seems to be recalling that he had a wife at that time, who was trying desperately to survive a near-fatal automobile accident. By the time he came home from Vietnam, she no longer looked like the beauty he had married. So he found another very wealthy beauty 18 years younger and divorced his first wife Carol. I’m somewhat incredulous that Carol still supports him in his campaign after being dumped.

I find it hard to believe that a party which has run on “family values” for as long as I can remember is embracing this man who treated his wife so callously.

Maybe that was part of the motivation for picking Sarah Palin as his running mate. She is so loyal to her family that she even tried to get her sister’s ex-husband fired from his job as an Alaska State Trooper. Now there’s family values in action.

McCain’s choice took most everyone by total surprise. At dinner on Friday night, my friend wondered whether Palin was his choice because no one else would accept. She seems to be short on just about any type of experience a potential President would need, making up for it with her ability to change diapers, which I don’t think is going to impress too many world leaders.

The evangelicals are apparently flocking to the GOP ticket now that they have an advocate. Let’s hope that no Hillary supporter is dumb enough to jump ship and vote for McCain just because he now has a woman as his running mate.

Let the facts speak for themselves about the character of our nominees. So far the Obama-Biden ticket seems to be way out front. Let’s just hope it prevails!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

To have and to hold

Yesterday marked 32 years of my marriage to the same person. That’s over half my life. That’s 10 years longer than I lived with my parents. Our lives are so inextricably intertwined at this point that I can’t imagine ever being with someone else.

The conversation the night before had gone something like this:

B: I haven’t gotten you anything for our anniversary.
D: I haven’t either.
B: Not even a card.
D: Me neither.
B: Let’s just agree on dinner, no cards, no presents, OK?
D: Sure.

So that’s what it was. No pomp and circumstance. Just a quiet dinner with good friends in a small restaurant on Capitol Hill. Pear salad with walnuts and blue cheese, wild boar with crab meat, and the most scrumptious chocolate dessert ever. A bottle of chilled white wine. It was indeed the perfect way to remember how many years we’ve spent together.

We toasted to “another 32" and realized we would all be in our 90's! But then, we just may make it. Who knows?

Friday, August 29, 2008

An Unrelenting Beat

For a musician, there is nothing more humbling than playing with a metronome. It forces you to accept a beat, not letting you slow down or speed up EVER! It just sits there going Click-Click-Click on a constant interval indefinitely.

I have been playing a Brahams sonata for at least 6 months now, so you would think I would know it and be able to execute it at a reasonable given tempo.

What an eye-opener when my friend and teacher Bill suggested that we try it with a metronome this morning. The hard parts sagged. The sections of quarter notes were too fast.

It’s not that you would ever want to play any piece at a constant tempo, but Bill’s point is you can’t think about adding color and interest until you have mastered the art of playing it with a metronome at approximately the performance speed.

The last time through, he turned off the metronome and I luxuriated in those ritards and excited places of acceleration. There’s still work to be done, but I’ve definitely made a lot of progress.

Speaking of not missing a beat and making progress, how about that speech from Barack Obama last night? I must say I’ve become somewhat of a political cynic in the last decade, but last night I could feel a dormant patriotism pulsing through my being as he spoke. He seemed positive and at the same time practical and realistic. He thoroughly trounced the Republicans without resorting to the dirty tactics they have been using. He really made me believe in the change that he has been promising all along as he proceeded to spell out the specifics. As his family joined him after the speech, I found myself hoping this would be the next First Family. For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful for this country; I feel proud to be an American.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Heels and Chili

What do 4" stilettos and a chili half-smoke have in common? A foray into DC with my partners in the quest for style.

Yesterday I polished off Tim Gunn’s style book, filing away many little bits of information as I try to define where it is that I am going with this. I love his practical approach to fashion and shopping which should result in a lean and functional wardrobe if you do it right.

I decided to watch Project Runway last night. Sounds easy enough until you understand I hadn’t the slightest idea how to find the Bravo channel on our TV. I had never even turned the TV on – true confession! Given my husband was at a Nats game, I called my friend KC, who was watching, and she said it was channel 39.

I managed to uncover the remote control, locate the POWER button, and find myself at channel 357, the Democratic National Convention. By channel surfing, I eventually arrived at 2??, which was indeed Project Runway.

Last night’s assignment was to make a dress from components of a Saturn car – things like seat belts, leather upholstery, rubber mats, even headlights. I found the design and construction to be absolutely fascinating. I didn’t like the idea that Heidi Klum kept reiterating: “One of you will be OUT!” I felt badly for the young male designer from Utah, who was in tears after being dropped. But the resulting apparel from car parts was simply amazing!

Today took me and my style girls to Filene’s at National Place, where we shopped and tried on clothes for hours, thanks to a wonderfully broken DC parking meter. I grabbed a pair of stiletto heels just to see what it would be like to be 4" taller. I’m sure I couldn’t have walked 10 feet in those shoes, but they did look fashionable!

We worked up such an appetite shopping that we headed up to Ben’s Chili Bowl for a chili half smoke for lunch. What a taste sensation – slightly charred casing, mustard, onions, and chili using the same recipe for the past 50 years. Talk about comfort food! It doesn’t get much better than this. The staff were helpful and welcoming, giving us souvenirs of our first visit to Ben’s. We will definitely be back again.

As we drove through Dupont Circle on the way home, we plotted a girls-only sleepover at my friend’s daughter’s apartment when she is next out of town. If we were about 40 years younger, we might be dangerous!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Now that my anger is dissipating, I realize how much I miss my zany friend. After all, she was the one who tempted me to crawl out of my well-worn traditional shell and experience life a little more fully.

I miss the mid-week lunches where we luxuriated in comfort food, drank wine, and always shared dessert.

I miss trips to funky places like Takoma Park, where we shopped for beads and just soaked up the hippy culture of the place.

I miss paddling around on the Tidal Basin in the little boats.

I miss looking at the river and occasionally experiencing a profound moment like a pillar of cloud.

I miss common-sense remedies for things that doctors were perplexed about.

I miss watching her take pictures of all the things I would have otherwise overlooked.

I miss learning about physics from someone who can’t even read a math formula, but understands exactly what it means anyway.

I miss having her tell me how to drive in a city I know like the back of my hand.

I even miss talking about all the things we wanted to do together, but never got around to.

Don’t get me wrong. I love all my other friends, who are more or less just like me. But everyone can profit from having a zany friend, who is unlike any other. Maybe it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience you just file away someday to tell your grandchildren about as you pull out a crystal still charged with Reiki.

To Tell or Not to Tell

After being accused of being a gossip, I’ve been thinking a lot about what actually constitutes gossip. I’m convinced it’s a combination of content and intent that brand a story about someone else as gossip.

It would seem a relationship focused solely on two people, what they are thinking about and doing, and ideas would be rather restrictive and boring. That leaves out the rest of the world, in fact.

So for me it comes down to talking about other people only when the intent is not malicious or potentially harmful to those individuals. That, of course, requires judgment on the part of the speaker, which may be flawed for whatever reason.

If knowing something about someone else is giving you a sense of power, then passing it on would probably rightly be called gossiping. How’s that for a rule of thumb?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On a Happier Note

Do you recognize this lovely face? The person who was the life of every DC Blogs happy hour in the early days? The person who could drink everyone in attendance under the table?

DC Cookie was one of the first people to welcome me to DC Blogs. I will never forget that night when I shyly made my entrance into that raucous crowd. Within minutes, I felt like I had known them all my life. Most of those people – Cookie, Kathryn, Rhinestone Cowgirl, Direct Current – are no longer writing a Blog, but have moved on to other things in their lives.

I attended my last happy hour with the express purpose of giving DC Cookie a wedding present, since her special day was fast approaching. We never managed to meet up that night, as I left early and she arrived late. But KassyK passed the present on to Cookie. I remember getting a very gracious thank you for the decorative tile I gave her. Then she was married and soon thereafter moved across the country.

Yesterday I received a neatly addressed letter from Las Vegas. My husband asked “Do we know these people?” as I opened the envelope. Of course I knew who it was the minute I saw the wedding photo. In addition there was a beautifully hand-written note thanking me once again for the tile that adorns her kitchen wall and telling me that her Blogging activity had been replaced by writing letters to her unborn child. DC Cookie is most happily married and is 5 months pregnant.

After a week of personal disappointment, this letter and photo cheered me up as nothing else could have. It was such a perfect reminder of why I love Blogging and the many wonderful friends of all ages I have made along the way.

I hope we can stay in touch as her baby arrives and transforms this couple into a family.

What a nice surprise!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Wanting an Escape Valve

As I drank my cappuccino and watched the man clean the windows this morning at Sidamo, I wished I could figure out how to squeegee away the anger that I am still carrying after last week’s confrontation, no let’s call it assault. I continue to feel like a boiling tea kettle that can’t release its steam.

At one point I remember writing to her, “If I believed everything you are saying about me, I would hate myself.” The accusations ranged from the assertion that I had no personal boundaries to the notion that I should be speaking more in “I” sentences than “we” sentences to the allegation that I was a malicious gossip. None of my other friends have these problems with me, so I have to conclude that they are false charges.

Being accused of anything usually incites one’s ire, but being accused falsely is even worse. And then not to have a chance to even discuss this on the phone or in person seems like sentencing without a day in court.

I woke up today wondering if I could find a way to forgive this person who will never own her own aggression and admit to making a mistake. I even prayed for a path to forgiveness, because I must process this on my own before I can really let it go and just move on. Getting beyond pent-up anger is not so easy.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tempted to Watch

I’m thinking maybe I need to learn to like TV, at least one show a week. I just came from a RAK meeting where everyone was discussing Project Runway and I didn’t have the slightest idea what they were talking about. It sounds like a reality show I might actually be interested in. It's all about design and construction of clothing.

I could probably list on one hand the TV shows I have seen more than once over the past couple of decades. I was a Dallas fan. I watched American Dreams and loved it. We taped Days of Our Lives for several years and then watched it later, fast-forwarding through the commercials. But that’s about it.

It’s interesting that the host of Project Runway is the author of the book on style that Velvet recently suggested. It just came and I’m ready to see what Tim Gunn has to say tomorrow.

The style project is progressing. We spent time in Borders the other day flipping through fashion magazines and taking pictures of what appealed to us. But meanwhile, just as I think I’m finishing my homework, our "consultant" SC adds more to our assignment:

Finally, here are a few other questions you might enjoy contemplating, journalling about and discussing. The invitation here again is not to analyze too much (although some connections and insights and ahas are sure to come)- and focus on having fun and musing and being curious and exploring and discovering.

5 favorite movies/films
5 favorite books
5 favorite characters
5 lives: If you could live 5 lives, what would they be, what would you be doing (this one is just about naming role/occupation/vocation i.e. I'd be a dancer or CIA operative or virtuoso musician, or Olympic Athlete, or work with cars)
People you admire most

Maybe if I get my homework done, I will tune in on Wednesday night to see what everyone is talking about. What do you think of Project Runway? If you watch TV, what is your favorite show?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Grieving After the Fact

I was somewhat dumbfounded yesterday when my only living uncle on my father’s side called to say his wife had died LAST MONTH. Of course I offered my sympathy, but I really wanted to ask why no one had bothered to tell me when it happened.

This is a family that is literally disappearing. Of the 4 brothers, one died in childhood (mowed down on his bicycle by a team of runaway horses) and 2 others including my father have died in the past 10 years, leaving only Rodger still alive. Of the 4 children in my generation, only 2 of us have married and I am the only one with children.

Rodger is 89 years old, still living in his house of the past 50+ years, still mowing his own grass. I asked him how he spends his days. He was happy to tell me he meets up with 6 other old guys every morning for FREE coffee at the Chick-Fil-A. It’s free because he bought a cup for $15 that entitles him to a lifetime of coffee refills. So he drinks his cup of coffee and then takes one home. He and my father shared a depression mentality when it came to spending money.

He collected old typewriters, at one point having several hundred of them. He has a house full of antiques, including 3 pianos that will not be played now that his wife is no longer living.

He said he might like to travel back to Minnesota where the family came from for a visit, but thought it might not be possible because he didn’t have anyone to watch the house. I said, “Rodger, just turn off the water and go. Are you afraid someone’s going to steal a typewriter or two?” He chuckled but will probably not leave home.

His only child, a son who is now 60, runs a health food store in the small town of Friendsville, Maryland, some 7 hours away from where Rodger lives in Hampton, Virginia.

I’m guessing he is really lonely now that his wife is gone and his son is so far away. I’m thinking about going down to see him to spend the day just hearing the remaining stories about this family that is shrinking.

I’m still wondering why no one thought to call me when my aunt died last month.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Moving On

I can think of only two relationships in my lifetime that were constantly threatening to fall apart and which I would have done just about anything to prolong. One was romantic; the other just a friendship.

The romantic interest from decades ago was resolved by the other person, who simply moved on to someone else. It took me a long time to bounce back from that one.

The friendship disintegrated just this week in a volley of heated e-mail messages. I much prefer a face-to-face discussion, but that was not in the cards. I suppose the final sticking point was a difference in values. I had come to like the person that I am and was not willing any longer to try to change.

This friendship has started and stopped more times than I can count. Always before I was willing to simply make amends and wait for it to resume. But this time I became equally angry and ready to get out of a relationship that was no longer supportive.

I miss both of these people who in their own way helped me become who I am. But I have come to realize that relationships that require so much care and tending are not where I need to be.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rediscovering Hair

When Steve Rado’s rock musical Hair came out in 1967, my generation was more than ready for everything it had to say. We were dealing with drugs, the draft, and strong opinions about hair. By the time my friend and I saw it in London, I knew all the words to every song and could sing them with passion.

When I realized that Hair is once again on stage, this time in Central Park, I quickly determined that I must see it. It’s only there through September 14, so I am scrambling to try to pull this off, billing it as perhaps a good way to celebrate our 32nd wedding anniversary, which falls on August 29.

The good news about this performance of Hair is the tickets are free, that is the 900 tickets which are given out daily at 1 PM. Sound easy? Sure until you realize that the 900th ticket was given out yesterday to someone who got in line at 8 AM.

There are ways around this. You can pay people to stand in line to get tickets (around $150 per ticket.) You can make a $165 contribution to Public Theater and get one ticket in return. But it would seem that standing in line for hours for your own ticket is more in keeping with the spirit of Hair.

Then there’s the issue of how to travel to and from New York City. I’m tempted to take the DC2NY bus from Dupont Circle for $50 round trip. Amtrak seems to be upwards of $150, so even though the train would probably be nicer, it costs a lot more.

We pretty much have to spend 2 nights there if we are going to get on line for tickets before the sun comes up and then spend the night after the last song of the show. I hadn’t realized just how expensive hotels in NYC have become in the 5 years since I last visited. Maybe we should just take sleeping bags and camp out in Central Park. That way we would be well positioned to get tickets.

I will definitely figure out how to pull this off, but right now there are just a few loose ends in my plan to see Hair in Central Park.

Bring on your suggestions! And I welcome anyone who wants to join me in taking in one of the greatest rock musicals ever!

Lyrics to Hair

She asks me why
I'm just a hairy guy
I'm hairy noon and night
Hair that's a fright
I'm hairy high and low
Don't ask me why
Don't know
It's not for lack of break
Like the Grateful Dead

Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

Let it fly in the breeze
And get caught in the trees
Give a home to the fleas in my hair
A home for fleas
A hive for bees
A nest for birds
There ain't no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder
Of my...

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

I want it long, straight, curly, fuzzy
Snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty
Oily, greasy, fleecy
Shining, gleaming, streaming
Flaxen, waxen
Knotted, polka-dotted
Twisted, beaded, braided
Powdered, flowered, and confettied
Bangled, tangled, spangled, and spaghettied!

Oh say can you see
My eyes if you can
Then my hair's too short

Down to here
Down to there
Down to where
It stops by itself

They'll be ga ga at the go go
When they see me in my toga
My toga made of blond
Biblical hair

My hair like Jesus wore it
Hallelujah I adore it
Hallelujah Mary loved her son
Why don't my mother love me?

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair


We're going to NYC on September 1 on the DC2NY bus. We're staying in the WooGo Central Park Hotel for $169 a night. I found a student willing to stand in line and get our tickets at $75 apiece. We'll be in NYC until Wednesday, September 3, when we take the NY2DC bus home. I'd love to see anyone who happens to be around then!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In Search of a Style

“What’s your style?” my friend KC asked. To which I responded, “I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t think I have one.” I am working with KC and LR, a couple of neighborhood women, on an interesting new project to give some direction to our wardrobes.

We have a “consultant”, who just happens to be the KC’s multi-talented daughter SC, who lives in Chicago, where she works as a reflexologist, a life coach, a wardrobe consultant, and who is now on Fox News at least once a month talking about personal relationship issues.

SC has agreed to come east to breathe new life into our expiring wardrobes. When the style issue came up, we were meeting over lunch to get our homework assignments. SC has asked each of us to:

– Find pictures of ourselves that we like.
– Find pictures in magazines or on the Internet of clothes we like.
– Write down any statements we heard growing up concerning grooming or clothing choices. For example, KC remembers her mother saying, “All the pretty girls will no longer be pretty at 40,” meaning it was OK not to be so pretty as long as you were smart.
– Make sure we have a well-fitted bra.

I love homework. I came home and immediately started looking for pictures, initially saying I didn’t like any picture ever taken of me. I actually found a handful that I do like.

I flipped through a recent NYT fashion magazine, realizing the only clothes I even remotely identified with were the casual clothes from places like GAP. The high fashion has absolutely no place in my life.

The only thing I remember my mother saying was that I would probably be a late-bloomer like she was, describing the onset of her rather large breasts as happening when she was around 17. My 17th birthday came and went and I realized I apparently missed that gene.

Which leads to the last bit of homework. At 59 I had never been properly fitted for a bra, not until yesterday that is. It was really not the ordeal I had imagined. A very nice girl took measurements and kept bringing me bras to try on. I finally agreed that two of them fit well and were relatively comfortable. I much prefer them to the ones I have recently been wearing.

The three of us 50-somethings are planning a couple of other prep activities before SC hits town in September. We’ll spend some time in Borders flipping through fashion magazines so we have a better idea of what we like. We’ll go to a place like Filene’s and try on clothes for each other to try to figure out in advance what looks good on us and what we like.

SC will spend several hours with each of us, looking at our current wardrobe and asking us questions. She will ultimately give us recommendations for things to get rid of and for future purchases. She will determine our style, finally answering that question that totally eludes me.

In the fall, we’re planning a road trip to Chicago, where SC can take us shopping. I’m already trying to figure out how to compensate this talented young person for spending time with the three of us.

And by the way, she was one of the best babysitters we ever had!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Barbara Barbara Barcelona

Seeing Woody Allen’s new movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona reminded me of my own trip to that city with my friend also named Barbara just after we graduated from college. Ours was a somewhat different story although not without adventure.

In the movie, the two girls early on meet an artist (Javier Bardem) who immediately suggests that the three of them fly to a small city not far from Barcelona for a weekend of sex. “Life is short, dull, full of pain,” he says. Why not seize any opportunity for pleasure?

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is bright, skeptical, cautious, and engaged to be married. Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is more adventurous, but unattached and undirected in life.

The movie chronicles their individual affairs with the artist and the involvement of his crazed ex (Penelope Cruz).

The movie is all about the conflict between security and passion. Woody Allen leads the viewer to believe that happiness is elusive, but that life is actually much richer than one’s personal satisfaction.

Instead of meeting a Bohemian artist, while hitchhiking my friend Barbara and I met a lunatic who tried to kidnap us. As we started to drive up that mountain that looks so beautiful in Woody Allen’s movie, we realized we were doomed, especially as we saw empty baby food jars rolling around on the car floor. When the car slowed to a stop at one point, I yelled “Get out” and we opened the door and jumped out. Not without an effort on his part as he grabbed by friends shirt and tried to rip it off of her. We were terrified as we tried to figure out how to get back to the city. We ended up getting a ride in a park service truck and declared an end to hitchhiking.

The movie makes you think about lost opportunities that are gone forever. I remember one in particular when I was on a trip to Norway with my parents two years later. After breakfast in the home of a lovely family and only an hour before we were to leave for the airport, the son who looked like a Norwegian god suggested we go out in the nearby field and make passionate love. I winced as I declined. Was it because I knew he was engaged to the mother of his child? Was it because I had already become somewhat committed to the man I would marry? I’ll never know. But it’s a scene that has been played out in my head a few times since then. Seizing the moment is something that comes hard for many of us.

I did find myself wondering which of the characters I would have been most like if we had met such an artist in Barcelona.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Traditional Roast

There is nothing more aromatic than coffee as it is being roasted. Yesterday I experienced that firsthand when I attended an Ethiopian coffee ceremony with a friend.

Once a week Sidamo offers a demonstration of how coffee is traditionally prepared in Ethiopia. A woman in her native costume sits on a straw mat in the middle of the shop and roasts the raw coffee beans over an open flame. The beans, which start out almost white, gradually take on the rich coffee color as they are heated. The process produces a sweet-smelling smoke.

After the beans are roasted, the woman begins to heat a container of water over the same fire while she grinds the roasted beans into a fine powder. She then removes the water from the heat and adds the powder, allowing the coffee to “steep” just as we might prepare a pot of tea.

The rich hot coffee is then served to everyone in the shop free of charge in small cups. It has the feel of Turkish coffee without one bit of acidity.

After we were served, my friend tried her hand at roasting coffee. With a little encouragement, she ended up with similarly dark brown beans. The shop owner ground them for her and sent her home with a week’s worth of Ethiopian coffee.

It was extremely interesting to see firsthand just how coffee is transformed from the initial pale beans into the fragrant dark roast we have come to know and love.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Straight from the Crate

This week’s CSA crate was packed with color. There were carrots, beets, corn, little red tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini squash, onions, and peaches.

Opting for a mostly vegetarian dinner, I Googled “carrots beets soup” and came up with this recipe to deliciously blend some of that color.

Carrot, Ginger, and Beet Soup
Serves 4

– 4 medium-size beets, peeled and cut into chunks
– 1 T. olive oil (mine was basil-infused)
– 1 medium-size onion, chopped
– 1 pound carrots, coarsely chopped
– 1 T. minced fresh ginger
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– 6 cups water or vegetable stock (I used half and half)

Heat oil. Saute onion. Add carrots, ginger, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add beets, then water/stock. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Puree soup in batches in blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

A nice shade of red, don’t you think?

It paired well with sliced cold chicken breast served with a lemony sauce. Dessert was a fruit crisp made with white peaches, fresh figs, apricots, and blueberries.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Earning My Keep

For a long time now, maintenance and home improvement has meant hiring someone to do something around our house. I just proved that it’s not always necessary.

I recently noticed that the iron railing on either side of our front stoop was badly rusted. It didn’t seem like such a difficult job, so I decided to do it myself.

First I went to Frager’s, a hardware store where they still know how to do everything and are only too willing to educate their customers. A young guy about 25 years old told me exactly how to tackle this project.

I ended up buying naval jelly, a steel brush, Rustoleum primer, flat black enamel paint, a drop cloth, and 3 brushes. I purposely bought brushes that were cheap enough that I would not feel compelled to clean them and keep them forever.

First I cleaned the cobwebs and other unidentifiable gunk off the railings. Then I applied the naval jelly with a brush to all the visibly rusted areas. After about 10 minutes, I took the steel brush and scraped off the loosened rust. A jet of water from the hose took off any remaining rust and naval jelly.

The next step was to paint Rustoleum primer onto all surfaces. There were a lot of surfaces; every one of those little spindles has 4 sides. I then decided to let the Rustoleum dry overnight.

Today I applied the flat black over the Rustoleum. Just that step took about 3 hours. I was being super careful since it was enamel paint. One of my best ideas was to wear disposable gloves, which did end up full of paint.

I managed to get through this project without kicking over a can of paint or screaming at anyone. The newly painted railings look fresh and clean and ready for a few more years before the process will need to be repeated.

Today’s painting session took a little longer because mid-way through a black lab wandered into the yard looking sort of lost. I stashed the brush and paint while I managed to corral her and put her in the back yard with Jake. She belongs to a neighbor down the street who has yet to come pick her up. So Bella is stretched out on the family room floor and Jake is totally ignoring her. But meanwhile I’m reminded of our sweet departed Dylan every time I look at her.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Old Shoes

“Can you fix the toe on the right shoe?” I asked as I showed Joe the pair of 5-year-old black Eccos which had certainly seen better days. “Hey, I know what those shoes cost. It’s worth a try. Let me see what I can do,” he answered.

I feel about old shoes the same way I feel about old toasters, old blenders, old things that I’m not ready to part with. I just can’t bear to throw out a pair of shoes I like until I know it’s hopeless.

I grew up in a family that got new heels, toe plates, and even half-soles to prolong the life of a pair of shoes that still fit. I can still remember the wonderful smell of shoe polish as I opened the brown paper bags they would come home in.

Today I still take my shoes to old Joe, the big African American guy who has run the Bradlee Shoe Repair store for as long as I can remember. Every time I go in, the pile of shoes behind the counter is a little higher. I sometimes wonder if anyone is coming back for a lot of those old shoes.

True to his word, Joe repaired my Eccos reinforcing the toes and polishing them until they looked close to brand new. There’s a lot of walking left in those old shoes.

Check out this butterfly which was not there for shoe repair, but rather to soak up the afternoon sun on the side of the building.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

From the Mouth of Babes

It seemed almost too good to be true that the beautiful little girl who sang during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies could be blessed with an equally beautiful voice. Now it would appear there were actually two beauties involved in that performance.

The NYT was quick to report the last-minute switch which had Lin Miaoke lip-syncing to Yang Peiyi’s voice during “A Hymn to My Country,” otherwise known as “Ode to the Motherland.”

Apparently little 7-year-old Yang had won the equivalent of a National Idol contest to be allowed to sing during the ceremony. But during the dress rehearsal, a Chinese official decided she was not cute enough and demanded a replacement girl who would better represent China’s image.

Lip-syncing is a commonly used practice for a variety of reasons, but to improve the cuteness index? C’mon. Don’t you think Yang is perfectly cute enough, with her little teeth still growing in?

I’ll bet the Chinese are somewhat embarrassed after a French journalist called them on this deception. But I’m sure they would do it all over again if given the chance. This is a country where world image looms high above thought for the individual. The good of the state is always foremost.

I hope Yang Peiyi has a successful career in the recording industry, if that’s what she’s allowed to pursue. I’m glad the world now knows whose voice they really heard!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Thinking About the Losers

For every person or team who stand on that awards platform and receive gold medals, there are scores of other persons who feel as though they have failed. Human nature is not to be content with just having made it to such an elite competition; instead a person must win to really go down in history. And winning gold is way ahead of silver and bronze.

This whole concept of failure is even more difficult when it’s a team event. Today’s Post reported on the women’s gymnastics event, casting the team captain Alicia Sacramone’s two falls as the reason why the US didn’t win the gold. Another article mentioned that if the US men’s 400 free relay had lost, the third swimmer Cullen Jones (who happened to be African American) would have been held responsible because he lost the lead.

I can vividly remember when my 12-year-old son was swimming in an Eastern Zones meet, he DQ’ed the relay by taking off early. He became the scapegoat, even though a relay start is a shared responsibility between the person coming into the wall and the one taking off.

For each of these persons who has pictured him/herself receiving the award for victory, the bitter knowledge that the medal hangs around someone else’s neck is a reminder that it’s too late this time. For many it will be their only chance.

I love to see the smiles on the faces of the winners. But somehow my heart is more with those who don’t realize their dreams. I feel even sorrier for them if it was a team event and they somehow disappointed their team. I hope we as a country can focus on supporting ALL of the athletes who are working so hard, regardless of whether they win or lose.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And the Answer Is...

Ever since August 1 when I had the small brown dot on my leg removed, I have been on pins and needles every time the phone rang. They had said it might take up to 2 weeks to find out the results of the biopsy.

Whenever I have one of these questionable spots removed, I always ask the doctor what he thinks. Dr. Peck said he honestly did not think it was melanoma, but it still looked a little odd and it had grown by 30% in just 4 months.

Yesterday when I still hadn’t heard, I called his office at Washington Hospital Center and spoke to his assistant who had done the “scoop” biopsy. He told me it seemed to be taking longer than usual to get results back.

I half seriously said to my friend Deborah last night, “God forbid they should lose the brown dot. They would then have to assume the worst and do more surgery.”

But today I got the call. I didn’t even want to hear the details of the pathology report. The word BENIGN was all I needed to know.

A big sigh of relief as I wait for the next questionable brown dot to present itself. With my skin, it is inevitable. But for now, I am just fine.

Monday, August 11, 2008


When I was growing up, one of my mother’s favorite activities was having coffee with a neighbor or two. I always wondered what they talked about as they drank big cups of coffee laden with half-and-half and lots of sugar. But I was usually outside playing with the neighborhood children, so I never really appreciated the value of a cup of coffee with friends.

As a mom who worked outside my house, I never seemed to have the luxury of having a quiet cup of coffee with a friend. Not until now, that is.

The past two Monday mornings I have shared coffee with someone I have meditated with for many years. In those two outings, I have learned a lot more about her than during our many hours of silent meditation together.

We are drawn not to Starbucks, but rather to Sidamo, a small Ethiopian coffee and tea place in the reclaimed H Street Corridor of NE DC. We sit out in the garden area behind, which seems to completely mask the street noise. Today's coffee included a piece of hazelnut biscotti with dark chocolate.

This is the friend who introduced me to the idea of beet greens. As an acupuncturist she is quite knowledgeable of alternative medicine and nutrition. She’s also interested in renewable energy sources. We never fail to find things to talk about.

Although I have greatly reduced my consumption of coffee, I look forward to this cup a week, as much for the conversation as the taste of the rich coffee.

My project for today was to get rid of the 16 bags of books we no longer need. I had originally contemplated giving them to a prison, but then found out the prison takes only paperbacks. A call to the Arlington County Central Library confirmed they would take them all between 8 and 1 when volunteers were present to process them. The books have been delivered, even with a receipt as a charitable contribution.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Trice Is Nice

Hope springs eternal that my husband and I might be able to bike together. You might remember that on several occasions I was bemoaning the fact that he had to ride so much faster than I do. Well, things have changed.

He had become increasingly troubled by neck pain from riding his road bike. After doing some research, he decided to switch to a recumbent tricycle. He rode several different models before deciding on the Trice QNT (quite nice trike? or perhaps quite narrow trek). It gives him the comfort he needs to protect his neck and still allows him to bike.

The good news is he may be going just a little slower, perhaps just enough slower that we can now stay together. We went out for a test ride in the neighborhood this morning and seemed to have generally the same pace. I actually zoomed up the one big hill ahead of him. What a feeling of accomplishment!

Who knows? I may eventually make the switch. For one thing, I would never have to worry about falling over if I forgot to unclip my shoes when I stopped.

I actually went bike shopping earlier in the week, hoping to find a bike as nice as my current one with a step-through frame. I came to find out that only Wonder Woman (Linda Carter) can afford such a bike. She recently bought a custom-made bike from Spokes etc. at the cost of about $6,000. But for now my Specialized Sequoia is just fine, despite the fact that I look like a dork getting on and off it as I lie it on its side.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Can't Beet It

For my entire life I have claimed to dislike beets. But that recently changed when we got them in our CSA crate and I determined to find some good way to prepare them.

They were baby red beets, which I roasted in a 350 degree oven. The skins just slipped off. Then I put them in a mustardy vinaigrette sauce and added baby arugula. Delicious!

I mentioned this to a friend as we talked over coffee last week. She asked if I had cooked the greens from the beets. It had never occurred to me as I threw them in the trash.

A couple of days ago I did a repeat of the beet salad, this time including golden beets as well, after having something similar at Sonoma. I also included ripe local tomatoes. And this time I saved the beet greens.

Last night I fixed the greens while my husband grilled the chicken. This was one of those use-what-you-have-in-the-refrigerator recipes:

Greens from 2 bunches of beets, washed and coarsely chopped
4 small garlic cloves, minced
Medium sweet onion, chopped
4 small carrots, chopped
Lemon olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes

Saute the onion, garlic, and carrots in a small amount of olive oil over moderately high heat for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped greens, a generous splash of Balsamic vinegar, salt, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine ingredients. Cover and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes.

This turned out to be one of our best new discoveries. It was the perfect accompaniment to BBQ chicken.

I am now a confirmed beet lover! But there may be no hope for black-eyed peas or lima beans.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Digital Death and Rebirth

I realized something was seriously wrong with my hand-me-down Canon PowerShot A70 when I tried to take a picture of my “antique” hair dryer the other day. The image looked like abstract art. “Trippy” my friend said.

I am a firm believer in repairing electronic devices when it makes sense, so I took it in to Penn Camera today to get an estimate. The technician immediately diagnosed it as a broken CCD (electronic charging device) and said it would cost a minimum of $150 to repair the old camera.

The spiffy new one he showed me was smaller, lighter weight, cuter, and had a lot more functionality for just $200. So I am now the proud owner of a Nikon Coolpix S550, which comes with a case, a 2-year warranty, and a coupon for free prints every month for a year.

I’m intrigued by the free prints offer. I happened to notice in my library clean-up project that out of 24 photo albums, the last one covers 8 years and has had virtually nothing added in the last couple of years. So I’m wondering if the camera stores are on to this phenomenon and are trying to tempt people to print their pictures once again.

I worry from time to time about the new trail we are blazing for future genealogists that will require them to know how to access our on-line photo libraries and read our e-mail exchanges to accomplish what used to be possible with photo albums, scrapbooks, and hand-written letters.

Those of us who Blog are making it simple for the upcoming genealogists, assuming Blogger is around for the next 100 years or so. Unfortunately there is no easy solution when evolving technology is involved. Maybe life in the present moment is the best we can do.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Law Enforcement Gone Awry

What were they thinking? The police officers who without a warrant recently broke down a door and savagely killed two black labs in the name of drug enforcement? My heart goes out to the Berwyn Heights mayor and his wife who were the victims of this tragedy.

Apparently trained dogs in Arizona had sniffed out the 32 pounds of marijuana in the box addressed to the mayor’s wife. A SWAT team then descended on their house after the package was delivered.

The sheriff’s deputies entered without knocking, tied up the mayor and his mother-in-law, and began shooting, killing 7-year-old Payton first, then shooting 4-year-old Chase as he ran to another room. Later the deputies said they regretted shooting the dogs but that they had felt threatened by them. Come on, black labs? These obviously were not attack dogs!

The unopened package containing the drugs was found after the dogs had already been killed.

That was July 29. Today’s Post reported that two people were arrested in a marijuana-shipping plot that included the box sent to the mayor’s wife as well as at least a half dozen more sent to other unsuspecting addressees.

It’s still a little sketchy as to how this supposed to work. But the plan seems to have been that one deliveryman would drop off the package and a second man would come by shortly thereafter and retrieve it.

What I find most appalling is that not only have the Sheriff and the PG Police failed to apologize, but they continue to defend the actions of the morons who carried out this misguided raid and fail to remove all blame from the mayor and his wife.

It’s very scary to think that one moment you could be petting your dog in your house and minding your own business and the next you could be tied up and your dog could be bleeding at your feet. What in the world has this world come to when things like this can happen?

Meanwhile there is absolutely no way anyone could compensate this couple for the loss of their two family pets. I am incredibly sad for them. I’m glad I don’t live in PG County, where the Police often seem to think they can take the law into their own hands.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Recovering Space

I don’t really consider myself a neat-freak at all. I do like things to be organized, but I can obviously go for years without bothering to make it happen. Like the book project, which was long overdue.

When I was speaking to my daughter this morning, she paid me the supreme compliment when she said, “I have come to realize that not everyone’s basement is a collection of labeled boxes like ours is.” My family have always given me a hard time for keeping things from my childhood, resulting in a box for Grade 7, Grade 11, various and sundry dolls with their clothes, etc.

Of course I am bothered right now by the fact that I can’t find the box of high school and college yearbooks that I know exists somewhere. I went to put my 1967 yearbook away and simply can’t find the box.

I just spent 20 minutes sorting through 200+ give-away books looking for Schumacher’s “Small Is Beautiful,” which I remembered throwing in the pile. It eventually emerged to go back on the shelf. How could I ever think of giving away such a classic?

I decided to part with the globe which has teetered on the edge of the bookshelf for 20 years. Lots of the countries have changed and I haven’t had the need to consult it for many, many years. Is that a mistake? Should I keep the old globe (and its accompanying instruction booklet)?

The good news is there is now unused space on the bookshelves for books yet to come into our possession. I managed to find a boatload of good books I haven’t yet read. I have a feeling of satisfaction much greater than that of cleaning out the refrigerator. For the moment at least, all the books are accounted for, properly grouped, and in order. I have a stack of returns for friends who have probably long forgotten about the loaners. Should be good for the next 20 years. But maybe in between I will dust the top shelves...

Meanwhile, I must bag up the give-aways and look for people who are just dying to read things like “A Natural Method of Dog Training,” “A Second Course in Calculus,” and “Still Life with Woodpecker.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Attacking the Library

I need a plan for this sea of books my room has become. Earlier in the week I went around the house pulling out books that had been squirreled away and were certainly not being read. But it is quite clear there are way too many books for the existing shelf space. I badly need a plan for this project before it spirals out of control.

The real question (much as with wardrobe pruning) boils down to “What do you really need access to? What are you likely to want to pull off the shelf in the next 5 years?”

I can venture to say it will likely not be Calculus and Analytic Geometry or Playtraining Your Puppy (which may never again happen) or Bible Stories for Jewish Children (it’s too late for my children and too early for grandchildren) or Spock’s Baby and Child Care. So if they come off the shelf, do they get donated somewhere, land in the trash can, or get boxed up and put in the attic?

Then on to novels, the most numerous of the many books. Do you keep the ones you read and liked or move them on to someone else to read and like?

What about travel books? Do you keep Europe from $70 a Day now that it’s at least $100? Most travel books are dated the month after they are published. My guess is we will probably buy a new travel guide for any upcoming trip.

We have a considerable number of books on sex which I have never read including, a set of 6 CD’s entitled “Enlightened Sex.” Do you suppose it is not too late to become enlightened?

I came across 5 books borrowed from 5 different people. Some I’ve read. Some I’ve yet to read. Do I sheepishly offer them back to those who loaned them or just assume they have forgotten about them and/or don’t have room on their bookshelves for them either?

I’m really interested in doing this right this time, instead of taking the Band-aid approach I have always used that manages to get rid of just enough to accommodate what won’t fit otherwise.

This project should keep me occupied for the next day or two. I can’t wait to see the result!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Friend or Foe?

Here I sit with a dark wound the size of a big pencil eraser on my upper thigh where the mole with the dot used to be and a question mark in my mind about what that little dark spot represented. In 10 days or so I will know.

Twenty-five years ago, when I had my first pass with skin cancer, I would have been freaking out while I waited for the results, constantly preoccupied by what I might learn. But today I am amazingly carefree about the whole process.

When Dr. Peck first noticed the mole with the dot in March, he told me to watch it and come back if I noticed any change. He wanted to see me in 3 months one way or the other.

It’s like watching a flower unfold to keep your eye on a 2.5 millimeter dot and notice any change. Once on our trip to Italy I thought I saw a change, but what was I to do thousands of miles away? When I got back and tried to make an appointment, his receptionist told me August 1 was the first available.

So on August 1 he measured it at 3.5 millimeters. He still is not sure, but decided to err on the side of caution, so he had his assistant do a “scoop”, which is much like it sounds except it’s a scalpel instead of a spoon.

The little dot is now in someone’s lab being sliced and diced or whatever they do to determine if it’s friend or foe.

The hope is always that if it’s not benign, it is totally contained, in which case the course of action is a follow-up surgery that takes out an even bigger piece of skin and then sews up the resulting eye-shaped hole with a bunch of sutures. It’s not terribly painful or even confining after it’s over. And that has always been the end for me until the next suspicious dot attracts someone’s attention.

This seems a rather laid-back approach to melanoma, which can most certainly kill you if it metastasises. But once you have been down this road 4 times, it’s no longer so scary.

I’m grateful for doctors who see things I would otherwise miss. I am confident they will always do the right thing.

But meanwhile I wait for the answer about the little brown dot.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Pursuing the Perfect Pie

My lifelong search for good pizza in the DC area continued today. I found a place in Crystal City through Chow Hound, usually a reliable source. Great recommendations, started by the guy who designed the cafeteria at the American Indian Museum. Perfect, I thought.

I should have known as I saw the first pizza that the crust was not good. But instead we waited at least a half hour for our pizza. There seemed to be no way to get a knife and fork and I don’t do so well NYC-style eating my pizza. The toppings seemed to slide right off the too-thick crust into a pool on the plate. But the real kicker was the dark hair that appeared in my husband’s first slice. We made a hurried exit never to return.

Given we were both more than hungry, we headed to Clarendon to Sette Bello, a place that has good food in general. We had delicious gazpacho while we waited for our pizza. As it turns out, the Neapolitan pizza was a rival to the best pizza we had in Italy. The crust was thin but raised on the edges with little burned places. Everything stayed in place when it was cut. Served with fresh Parmesan and hot peppers. Just the way I like it.

I will definitely go back to Sette Bello to enjoy first-rate pizza. So much for Chow Hound.

Do you have a favorite pizza place?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Above Average Arugula

The locally known organic wild arugula is one of the best additions Whole Foods has made recently. Then I read a little further to discover that locally known salad greens actually come from Maine. And I wonder whether they really wanted me to read it as “locally grown”.

I’m sure it’s incredibly hard to package fresh greens in a way they can travel well. So many of the plastic containers of salad greens contain a soggy area that just didn’t make it. But not these locally known organic Maine greens. It’s as though they are straight out of the garden earlier in the day. I wonder how they do it and still bear the organic label.

And that word “wild” – doesn’t that usually mean uncultivated? The picture on the container shows a field that looks quite planted to me.

I contend it was the combination of the words “locally”, “organic”, and “wild” that got me to buy this product, and oh yes, the fact that I had run out of salad greens at home. It didn’t seem to matter that “known” was not “grown” and “wild” meant something other than what I think it should mean.

Fortunately I am willing to forgive their marketing strategy because the product recommends itself. But I’m a little disappointed to fall for something that borders on false advertizing.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Relics of the Past

As I looked at the clock with hands on my 1985 Volvo wagon dashboard, I realized just how much has changed in my world. I wondered if they even teach elementary school children to “tell” time any longer, or do they simply need to know what the digital numbers on the LED mean?

Clocks with hands are one of the many things that are becoming obsolete. How about phones with rotary dials? Our son once confessed that he didn’t know how to call us from swim practice because the phone had this strange round thing on the front. Yikes!

But what else either has become or is becoming obsolete?

– TV antennas that had to be mounted on your roof if you wanted to receive more than the (only in our case) local channel.
– Rabbit ears that sat on top of your TV if didn’t have the luxury of an antenna.
– Drive-in theaters that included a lot more than movie-watching.
– Parking meters that gave you 12 minutes for a penny.
– Batteries to which you had to add water.
– Reel-to-reel tape recorders.
– Beta videos; VHS videos.
– Cassette tapes.
– Cameras that needed film.
– Upright hair dryers.
– Hair rollers.
– Home perms.
– Coffee percolators.
– Clotheslines for drying clothes outside.
– Liquid starch for dress shirts.
– Charcoal briquettes.
– Glass bottles of soda.
– Paper maps.

What else can you think of? Our world is constantly evolving. With every new invention, something older must go!