Sunday, November 28, 2010


How do you sum up a person's life?

My grandmother died Saturday night - peacefully, in her sleep, surrounded by family - after a couple of years of major health problems and some months of off-and-on dementia.

I am fairly certain she would not want me to sit around the house and mope, but I'm at the point where I'm just unsure of what to do with myself. So I've been sitting and thinking.

You know the expression that it's all in the details? It's the details about Grammy that run through my mind.

The fact that 20+ years after I bought her a teddy bear - you remember the Care Bears Grams bear? - it was still on her dresser.

The weird and wacky gifts that she found in the Avon holiday catalog and mercifully stopped sending a few years ago. I remember a hat with attached earmuffs and a wrap-around-your-face-scarf which made for some fun Christmas pictures.

Her key lime pie, which was just a dream to look at and eat. I could have eaten that every day and not gotten sick of it.

Her determination to be out in her garden, despite her arthritis and partial blindness. "I go out every day," she told me, "even if it hurts."

Her conspiratorial tone when she told me to go spend a Nordstrom gift card that she had gotten for my dad's ex-wife before they had separated.

"Now you don't need to worry about fibbing - just go to Nordstrom and tell them you're S-!"

Her lifelong depression, which most people (myself included) just took as needless worrying, until we knew better. Hers was a generation that still largely suffers mental illness in silence.

Her beautifully painted ceramic dolls and figurines, which she could have sold for top dollar had she cared to do so.

Her surviving breast cancer without one complaint.

Her secret smoking in the bathroom for 40 years! Which, by the way, she denied all along.

Her ability to be strong and go on with life after her son, my uncle Bill, died of a rare kind of cancer in his 30s.

Her anger when the far-right tried to determine who was "Christian" and who was not.
She was a pastor's wife, after all.

She underlined the words in some of the religious cards she sent, which we all thought was kind of odd.

She sent me $75 for my 30th birthday - I was unemployed and I felt terrible about cashing it, but my dad said they would be insulted if I didn't.

"I know what it's like to be poor," she told me.
I tried to explain that we weren't poor but she insisted that I spend the money.
"You go out and do something nice."

I feel bad that she would not let me visit over the past few years, postponing it until "I feel better." Pride runs in the family. How much better did she think it was going to get?

It is hard for me to understand the communication style - or lack of it - in her generation. My immediate family is always telling each other we love each other, we don't hide things and for better or worse, we always know where we stand. If a spaceship hit me tomorrow, everyone in my circle of family and friends would know I care about them.

Grammy could only really tell me how much she appreciated my dad; she told him she appreciated me.

Growing up in the dustbowl in the depression, being married to a WWII veteran who suffered PTSD before it was a diagnosis, I know she did the best she could in what was surely at times a difficult existence.

How to close? I admire her strength. I didn't realize until today that I got mine from her.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's a major award!

Brownie points if you get that reference...

Thanks to SeƱorita for this award!

Here's the scoop:

1. Thank the person that gave it to me. (Done!)

2. Tell everyone 7 things about me that you probably don't know.

3. Nominate other people for the award.

So I can't remember who got tagged for this, and therefore I am tagging anyone who reads this and wants to participate.

Here goes:

1. When I was in high school, I got two completely random offers to be a back-up girl singer in a band. Both men who offered were way older than me and both of them said, "We're looking for girls who look like you." I said no fucking way.

2. I changed my last name in college and my middle name a year after that.

3. I used to eat steak with butter on it, chain smoke and binge drink. Somehow, I ended up allergic to cigarette smoke, a vegetarian, and a non-drinker.

4. I don't like plain chocolate. It has to be filled with something, mixed with something, or on top of something (e.g. a sundae.)

5. My exes include a retired police chief, a New York City Council candidate, and a press secretary for a Republican member of Congress.

6. Favorite quote ever, from my late friend Ward: "Relationships are difficult, with people. As opposed to plants."

7. I once worked with someone who lost his virginity in a Kentucky Fried Chicken. OK, that wasn't *exclusively* about me, but it made you laugh, didn't it? (And it's true!)

PS If you didn't figure out the reference for the title of this post, here's a hint:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The pleasure of being an adult during the holidays

No, you perverts, this post isn't about that.

I was talking to one of the volunteers at work the other day and we both agreed that one of the things we enjoyed most about adulthood was getting to choose who we spent the holidays with.

Or rather, not spending holidays with people we didn't like.

Who as a kid didn't dread having arrive at your house for a holiday dinner (or worse, for several days) the irritating friends of your parents or relatives? Their whiny children? The old cranky relatives? The old bitches who made you wait for dessert just because they were full? The people who wouldn't let you eat until they finished a really, really long prayer? The people who told you that you were ungrateful if you were salivating over the pumpkin pie but didn't want to eat the mushy green beans?

Are you with me?

I am happy because as an adult (or someone who poses as one), I will have people I like at my Thanksgiving dinner. We will eat dessert whenever we damn well feel like it and there will be no nasty, mushy green beans. We will swear, we will laugh, and we will be grateful that we don't have to spend the day with people who annoy us or make us unhappy.

For that, I am most grateful!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Condoms, part 2

You remember that holiday gift bag project for the homeless, where one of my colleagues got condoms donated?

One of her coworkers who did not know about the project was out for a week, and he got back to find 2,000 condoms and several hundred HIV testing kits on his desk.

"What the hell happened while I was gone?"

Meanwhile, my accidental e-mail was mentioned at a board meeting.

"RK e-mailed me and told me she needed to talk to me about condoms!"

I am pretty sure I turned about as red as a lobster after I found that out...luckily they all laughed their asses off.

Hope you have lots of laughs in your weekend!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Patience is a virtue

...that I do not have much of.

I like what Ambrose Bierce said: "It is a form of despair disguised as a virtue."

Actually, someone recently said that I have patience "for those who deserve it."

I like to think so.

My problem is when there are people in my life who definitely don't deserve it, but I try to give it to them anyhow (even when I want to stick it to them) because they are in the extended circle of my life, by way of being connected to people I care about.

There are people I would love to never, ever see again. OK, maybe once every 10 years or so. That would be enough.

So the way I see it, it tries my patience enough having to see them more often than that, and being nice to them is even more difficult, since they are being shitheads to me.

See, I was raised to believe that the following things were part of the social contract:*

1. Manners
2. Not being a complete greedy bastardly pig.

There are people related to people I care about who seem to have completely missed out on this lesson, and, well...they are trying my patience!

Just cross your fingers for me. It's hard for me to keep my mouth shut but I am trying to keep the peace and not go off on the people who are pissing me off.

How do you stay patient?

*My friend K says part of the social contract also means you must wear pants in public. I agree.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Putting the "happy" back in "holidays"

At work, we are partnering with a local business to get together several hundred (we hope) holiday gift bags for people living in homeless shelters who also have mental illness. We had planned on putting in personal care items, socks, a small gift, and a warm item of clothing, like a scarf or gloves.

The other day I got a phone call from a colleague.

Her: "J is putting condoms in all of the holiday bags."
Me: "Bwahahaha!"
Her: "I'm serious!"

Me, to my boss: "Does this strike you as a little weird?"
My boss: "People need condoms!"

I was unaware of the fact that people living on the street have disproportionately high rates of hepatitis C, HIV and other STDs. So I got the OK from our contact at the business and a local county health department is donating condoms.

One of my volunteers: "I'm not sure how people are going to feel about that."
Me: "They don't have to use our condoms."

To get the OK, I had to e-mail one of our volunteers. I accidentally hit "send" before I finished, so the e-mail said, "I need to talk to you about condoms."

She called a few minutes later and said, "Um, WHAT??????????"
And then we both laughed our asses off.

Then yesterday I realized that one of my coworkers hadn't been in on all of these conversations and had just been overhearing the references to condoms.

Me: "Did anyone tell you about the condoms?"
Him: "No."
Me: "Well we're putting them in the holiday gift bags. Boss is fine with it."
Another pause, a hint of sarcasm.
Him: "Thank you for telling me."

Later in the day I got an e-mail that I bet none of you have ever (or could have ever) gotten at work:

"Hey, we are happy to help and can hook you up with condoms!"

This was from the county mental health department...

I wrote the colleague whose idea this was. She wrote back, "Merry Christmas to all!"

And I wrote back, "And to all a good night!"

Monday, November 08, 2010

My beef with Victoria's Secret

Open message to Victoria's Secret: you have customers who aren't flat.

I hate to be so crass but those of us with 38Cs need love, too.

Or rather, we need bras.

So I have a few questions spurred from a recent visit to one of your stores.

1. Why do you make entire lines of bras that don't come in my size?

2. When you do carry my size, why is it in the very bottom drawer, mere inches from the floor? Those of us who fall into this category have more to expose by bending over, don't you think?

3. Why do you advertise bras that "add two cup sizes"? You talk about a secret waiting to be exposed...

4. On that note, why not create a bra that reduces two cup sizes? Perhaps then I'll stop having quite as many men talk to my tits?

5. When you send out coupons, why not "a free pair of lacey/naughty underwear," rather than a coupon for a free pair of boring cotton granny panties?

Just asking.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

What you really need to know how to say

While visiting the family, I helped one of my brothers (the one who is 14 going on 40) with his Spanish homework.

He pulled no punches when we started. "My book," he informed me, "sucks."

Unfortunately I think many language instruction books fall into that category. When my dad and I visited Japan in 1999, our tour guide told us that when she began studying English, the first sentence her English textbook offered was, "The boy is holding a pencil."

(OK perverts, you get the point.)

My brother's homework assignment included sentences such as these gems:

"The employee sits at a desk."

"The hospital is full of patients."

And my favorite:

"Who drives a car with lights? The police."

I told him, "You're right. Your book does suck."

One of my favorite teachers in high school got me a book of Spanish slang when I graduated.

"Now I don't want you to get the wrong idea," she said. "But I also don't want you to get in trouble in conversation!"

I wish I could find that had helpful translations, especially when it came to textbook Spanish words that worked in some countries, but were extremely naughty in others.

Examples from this book that I will never, ever, in a million years forget:

What you want to say: "Where can I catch the bus?"
How it sounds to native speakers:"Where can I fuck the bus?"

What you want to say (don't ask me why you would)
: "The policeman hit him with his stick."
How it sounds to native speakers: "The policeman hit him with his dick."

So back to my brother's homework. None of these are phrases he's going to need to use if he is on his own in Mexico, Spain, Central or South America, etc. So I made him a cheat sheet with the important stuff, which included:

"Where is the bathroom?"

"Hi beautiful, are you traveling alone?"

"Are you treating?"

And, probably the most important,

"Do you sell comic books in English?"

Monday, November 01, 2010

Good day, sunshine!

Forgive me if I'm not in blogland for a few days while I'm down here in California visiting my family. Though my parents live right in the heart of Silicon Valley, there is only one computer for several people and I'm kind of enjoying not sitting at a desk anyhow.

Last night we took my little sister trick-or-treating. She went as Cleopatra, but made sure to tell my dad that, "Unlike her, I'm NOT going to commit suicide!"

Me: "And where did you learn about that?"
My sister: "In the Scholastic Reader."

Yikes! The most serious thing I remember reading in that periodical was an ad for a Berenstein Bears book...

And in other news, we are congratulating my stepmom, who just received her first CEO offer! Yahoo! So long glass ceiling, hello sunshine...

Yep, that's right. It's sunny and in the 70s here. When I left Portland it was 44 and foggy. I'm due for a little unreality so I'll visit you all as soon as I get back...