Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On Overload

 Everybody else is doing it.  Why shouldn't I? Everybody is making lists, what's been good, what's been hot, what we can live with, what we can live without.

The year, the decade is about to end, and even the most cock-eyed optimist cannot feel happy. 2009 was too much,  just has every year been since 2000.  We are weighted down with the woes of living: from hungry families, to city budgets, to states in poverty, to a country in fear and at war, to a world in terror and even terrorists at odds with each other.  CNN showed a map of the other side of the world, where Yemen blurs into Somalia, where Somali bleeds into Iran, and then Iraq , and then Israel, and.....

So I find myself going out with a whimper, when I personally have every reason to go out with a bang. The world is too much with me. I am a part of all that I have met, or read, or seen.

Thus, my list added to too many lists
Too much sorrow.
Too many lost loved ones
Too much Facebook
Too much fear
Too much weather
     snowstorms across the country
     too many shovelings of my driveway
     cold, cold in Florida
Too much pontificating, too many pontificants
Too many frustrations
       it took me half an hour and delayed e-mails until I was able to get to my own blogger dashboard.

But wait 'til next year.  If the Bucks beat the Ducks, that will be our omen that things might resolve themselves. There are not enough good people to do it, but we can hold onto hope.

 And, in the meantime, I am going to eat a second piece of candy, or maybe a third. And wait for TBDBL to come marching down Colorado Boulevard, and the really best band in the land, The Ohio State School for the Blind, marching proudly close behind.

Happy New Year, all.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


 That is a real word. I just looked it up on my new Kindle

 I  am also going to be an old fogey, as I broach this complicated subject. (It's complicated is, I think, a new movie out this season.) Why not? Everything is complicated.

Before the Kindle, before the movie, I have spent a lot of thought on what's appropriate. What is for me may well not be for you; thus this will be my take on what I think is appropriate for me.  I stand by the rule of the four worst words in the English language: I think you should.

First off, when I wake up in the morning, I begin to wonder if I have to get dressed. At ninety, I should allow myself to be in a robe, ( a nice robe) all day. It would be very comfortable, but inappropriate, because I enjoy having visitors, and spending too much time on Facebook, and reading the Times on line, and eventually the Dispatch before dinner, the morning paper at 5:30 p.m. The morning paper is robe time.

Then on to what to wear. I truly think that blue jeans are for younger every-bodies; they are also pretty comfortable. Thus I wear them, and chino slacks, and blue button-down shirts as if I were thirty years old again. Not wrong, exactly, but my white hair does not do them justice.

My daughter gave me a pair of old warm up pants that are comfortable, and would be reasonably appropriate but for the fact that they are "Heidi Wear", the couture line of the famous Hollywood Madam. The logo is at the waist, on the front of the pants.  We have customized them by taking the elastic out at the bottom and making them look (almost) like gray flannel tailored slacks, and I have some nice, old, long pullovers so I am not advertising her label!

I find I am temperamentally unequipped to be ninety.  My speedometer is out of sync with my age. There is so much I want to do in a day and my body can't get up to the speed of my mental schedule. Do I have to write a blog every few days? Of course not. Nobody cares that much. Do I think I am Paul Krugman or George Will or any other of the really good columnists I know?  But I just cannot sit and relax (read) until I have x'd off my whole list of "To Dos".

And finally, there are times I would like to adopt the initials that stand for words in e mails and on posts. I know the real words, and have used some of them a time or two in my life.  But a woman of this certain age, actually a lady of this certain age, knows it is completely inappropriate for me to omg and wtf and F*%^#K  all over the internet as the only adjective in the world.

Unless, of course, you are an old lady Carmella Soprano.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Greenes

I'm dreaming of a white Xmas, and an overly decorated Xmas and a sick Xmas, all like the ones I used to know.  I have run the gamut, from 1919 until now, and the so, so various versions are dancing like sugar-free plums in my head.

So some random Yuletide thoughts:

I am especially touched as the local TV news features a message, nightly, from a soldier in Iraq or a Marine in Iran or a military family stationed in Germany. As they send a Christmas greetings to their family, here in Ohio, they each finish their thirty-seconds with "Go Bucks." Why do we mean so much to each other because of a football team?  It seems unbelievable. But those two words have become the essence of my living in this wonderful community.  So merry Christmas, Buckeyes, wherever you are.

I'm remembering the Santa Clauses I have known. Three real Santas,  and the invisible one -and- only who came in the night.

It was around 1930 that the first red suited Jolly St. Nick arrived.  He was the tall, thin boyfriend of a German babysitter who lived with us,  He walked in Christmas morning, bringing my brother and me a Scottie puppy. The most trembly little pooch ever.  In the space, between the legs of a cabinet in our living room,  Dink went, and stayed for all the years he lived with us.

Debby (DG) had her tonsils removed too close to Christmas. She couldn't go down town to Lazarus to see Santa, so Santa came to her. Up the driveway, in a cab. And after that, generation after generation, we all trooped down to the jolly old man with our gift lists. I was still at it with my grandchildren, until only Bob and I lived here.

There was a third appearance  at our house on Bryden Road.  It was a friend in a not-too-convincing red costume, and he ho-ho-ho'd and I think, stopped to have a drink. From the wonders of childhood to the joy of being  fifty.

I have gone the whole nine yards, from stockings on the mantel to trees aglow, angels on the table, the Bexley elementary school choir record on the stereo, from a bow-tied staircase and outdoor lights to an everyday decor (one poinsettia).  I am happy and content. Thinking of the gifts received over these years, a happy marriage, three loving and attentive children, beautiful grandchildren--and even great grandchildren, I know I have been, way out of proportion, blessed.

Peace on earth and Joy to the world.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TLC skin care

I wish my mother, gone now these many years, could know about the attention being lavished on her ninety year old daughter's skin. She could rest in peace, at last.

What I didn't do for my skin was the bane of her existence. In every other way, I know she found me a loving and devoted daughter; she thought (wrongly) that I was perfect inside, but what, oh what, she bemoaned was how bad my outside was becoming.

I showered daily and washed my face, morning and night, with plain, old soap. It was easy and quick, and no one could have been cleaner."Cold cream your face", she would say repeatedly, as she would look at me, glowing, I thought within the love of my family.

We used perfectly good soap, too.  There was something about the smell of Ivory soap that Bob couldn't stand, so I bought Palmolive or any brand o the grocery shelf, preferably on sale. I didn't use any lotion on my skin while I sat in the sun. Pool side or at the beach, my skin was just out there.

After one lovely Thanksgiving dinner full of turkey and gratitude, as we all sat in my brother's living room, my mother looked at me , and by then, my very visible wrinkles and said, "If you don't do something about your skin, I'm not going to let you balance my check book any more! "  What an incentive. There was no one else to do it. At least, no one offered. I remember that evening with such joy.

But now, now when it really doesn't matter, my skin is being cared for with such tenderness that I wish I could tell her about it. My caregivers choose what goes on my skin; at the moment,Oil of Olay Cream Oil intensive body lotion after a shower with Oil of Olay Supreme Cream Oil body wash. This should make the Proctor and Gamble people pretty happy, but not as happy as it would make my mother.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstices, Equinoxes, and the seasons roll

Today is Winter solstice; the path of the sun from north to south comes to a stop before reversing itself. At least, that is what Google says. It means winter is officially here.

Actually, what is happening is that summer is on its way. The days start, minute by minute, to get longer until the Summer Solstice, when the days start to edge toward early darkness. The ancient astrologers and voodoo workers have us all confused. I am more than happy to believe in the established rituals that welcome in the seasons, the Equinoxes that announce Spring in March and Fall in September. But I would like to put a happy face on it.

So, today. know that spring is on its way; forget the reality of the cold, the snow, the ice, the gloom. I want it both ways and I can make it happen with a tap on my keyboard.

We make our own climate. Today, at precisely 17 hour ( 5:00 p.m.) and 47 seconds we start moving toward spring.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The tail of two balloons

On October 16, the riveting episode of the boy trapped, overhead, in a floating balloon was the story of the day. But No! It wasn't the story of my day at all.  That was the day my family, all my most beloved, were here to celebrate my ninetieth birthday.

And celebrate we did, in full Buckeye regalia, in a living room that had become The Ohio State stadium with banners and balloons and Brutus Buckeye, scarlet and gray m'n'ms,  and a cake that was an exact replica of The 'Shoe. The loving thoughtfulness of my children was magical. I have not stopped thinking about it for a single day since then.

 But how did we get from Colorado to Columbus, Ohio in two easy paragraphs? Because, I have a balloon story of my own, about that day, and it's all about love.

I was lucky enough to hear from many people.  Among the lovely surprises was an arrangement of fresh fruits, shaped into flowers, topped by a birthday balloon of shiny gold with Happy birthday written on it, designs and ribbons decorating it.

 It was a gift from three brothers whom I have loved since the day they were born. They are the sons of my life-long friend, Lois, and we have an unshakeable bond.

There is magic at work here. The fruit disappeared in the first twenty-four hours, but the balloon flew to the ceiling of the dining room. And stayed and stayed.

Mysteriously, it moved itself into the hall, floating past three bedroom doors, until it came to rest in my blue room, the room I created for myself nine years ago, and where I now pretty much stay. It is my TV room, my radio room, my computer room and my eating room. Two walls are full of family pictures. This is your life, PHG, like the old TV show.

Up in the corner, above the dictionary stand, two months from its launch, the balloon still sits.   Full of helium and brought here by the wide world of love.

It says everything I need to know about the power of staying connected.  "Its all good," as my son Tim likes to say.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A personal health care debate

I happen to have a great health care provider. I am not saying who or why, just that they are excellent: premiums, benefits, availability--  all any client could ask for. So what is my beef? Even this excellent provider is "tweaking" itself, and I have to wonder why?

After a call from a company I had never heard of, asking if they could come talk to me about my health care, I said "no" until I checked out the provider to see if this was legit.  They assured me that it was, that they were interviewing a random selection of their members about their services,  Another call to set up a date and time. Okay and on my calendar. I was then called to choose another date and I was still being agreeable.

One more call, by a third person, who said the other scheduler was confused. Her interviewer didn't actually work in this area.

Finally,yesterday, we had a sit-down, Ms. X and I. I answered 19 pages of questions, that ranged from the date of my tonsillectomy ( age 5) to the status of my mitral valves. (I have no idea; I think not so good.)

That I spent the time, that somebody (who?) spent the money for what really was a useless exercise, I have no idea.  My gut feeling is that some bureaucrat, somewhere, demanded this be done. When or how the information is transmitted, moved from paper to an electronic system, who, eventually, will use it will remain mysteries.

You think Joe Lieberman is messing up the health care bill? There are a bunch of Joes out there, doing too much, doing nothing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Book Groups R me

 I just plain love reading books. Always have. Always will.  And I just plain love book groups, too.
When I first learned to use the computer, Deege, my daughter, (she was still Debby then) sent me a clipping from the LATimes, about a woman,whose husband was retiring, and they were moving to a new community. The woman knew no one. The article didn't exactly say that the new place of residence was the husband's choice, not hers, but I got the feeling. In her loneliness, she had gone to her computer and found friends all over the world.

She found them through AOL, of all places. AOL was America On Line, in 1983, a free-standing entity and not AOL/Time/Warner. That merger, in 2000 and then the un-merger, this year, has changed the lives of not only its vast numbers of employees and users, but of my GGOBIT book group who met each other there.

AOL had all kinds of ways to meet people. Chat rooms got a bad name for themselves with the inane conversation of teen agers, but to special interest groups there was a path, by which you could narrow down your search. There was AOL Seniornet, with sub-sections. One of those was Arts and Leisure, and there you could refine your search to Book Discussions and Reviews.

That was the birthplace of GGOBIT, Greatest Global Online Bookclub in town.

For years, we were GChap or GoGrandma or  Jenco or Shirlsbt. It mattered not what we looked like, for very few of us had ever met face to face, or what our politics or religion, or where we worked, (or had worked), where we had gone to school, where in the real world we lived.

There were a few clues: when Jo in ABQ became Jo in Tx, we figured that out. GinnySF was kind of obvious. Over the years, we became real friends.

We talked of other things, cabbages and kings, birkies (a shoe choice of many), beans (a disgestive problem for some) but mostly books.

We panicked when we saw the first AOL move. They were eliminating Seniornet forums and sending us to which wasn't the same thing at all.

We tried to change the course of history. If they had listened to us, the whole Time Warner fiasco might never have happened. We would still have a book home in the wild, wild world. As it is, we  maintain our connection by e mailing our GGOBIT list when something important happens in our life.

We did put together a collection of essays.  Twenty memoirs of the "regulars" talking about who they are, how they came to GGOBIT and how the friendships of our first nine years are among our most treasured.

Some of the old friends are gone, but unlike old generals, we cannot, will not fade away.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Anchor A' way ( for news groupies only)

As usual, I fell asleep before the end of Gwen Ifill, on Friday night. Not her fault. It's just something I do. It likely is in my DNA.

 I have been a great fan of Washington Week in Review from it's beginning in 1967. The Duke- Bode years were fabulous, and Gwen is great. I feel a special bond with returning guests,  I remember Cokie Roberts husband was an early regular.

 I especially wanted to be awake at 8:30 on Friday, because I just knew Gwen was going to announce that this was her last night.

And how was I privy to this switch, to come.  Jon Stewart had practically tortured Gwen into admitting that she would soon replace George Stephanopolous on ABC's  Sunday morning This Week.

So where was George headed? This was getting to be very complicated. Diane Sawyer is to be the evening news anchor on ABC to replace Charlie Gibson. George, it seems, is headed for Diane's old spot on the ABC morning show. I never watch morning shows, unless they have a special guest.

Many people get up and turn on the TV before they brush their teeth. My teeth are a high priority for me, because they have served me so well for so many years. I miss the first news of the day, but I know it is right there on my laptop. As the world spins on its axis.

I had made myself comfortable with the old gang. Katie had taken over for Dan, and I do think she is good. But CBS has so un-perked her that I miss that homey charm of The Today show.And then Tom Brokaw  moved on to write wonderful books. And charming, urbane Peter Jennings died.

So PBS, please make the announcement. The suspense is killing me.

 Maybe, just maybe, Gwen is headed to CNN, dressed as Wolf Blitzer.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blogging is hazardous to my health

I am addicted to blogging. Before I open my eyes in the morning, unbidden, a blog subject grabs me,  In truth, sometimes I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and have to reach for the flashlight and note pad, that are beside my bed, to preserve the thought that woke me up. Is this normal? I think not.

I know a really, really good writer who writes one blog a week for CNN. ( You can find him on the CNN home page, I'm sure). I receive it as a link from the author, Bob Greene.) He is an excellent columnist and author, and he can limit himself to writing once a week.  What is the matter with his mother who can't get three steps away from her desktop?

It is a terrible interruption for me to have to go to the bathroom.  I have half- lost interest in eating lunch. The sun shines bright in my living room, but I stay in the north-facing sitting room until I have finally had my say for the day.  My bedroom is aglow with sunshine and. once upon a time, I would take a short nap there, or just have an hour lie down. If I rest depends on finishing my blog.

And I can't start to write until I have read Facebook from top to bottom, news feed and live feed both. They suggest more blog ideas. And so it goes.

So I say to myself: "Hush your mouth, once in a while. You can't be interesting every day.  Let your ideas simmer for awhile, they may be richer, like good chicken soup."

Check in again tomorrow. I have no idea if I can quit cold turkey.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The winter of all our discontents

The dark silhouette of leaf less branches outside my windows could be beautiful... if they were seen against a bright blue sky.  But this is Ohio, and the sky is grey, and the wind is strong. If a last leaf might still have been clinging to the limb, it is far, far away now.

I have been thinking about last leaves for a long time. My friend, Lucile Kirk, once told me, over lunch, that she didn't want to be the last leaf on the tree. That was a few years ago, and now she has left us and, as in winter's past, so have Lois and Harry and Bob and Artie and Leonard and Evelyn. If you are ninety as I am, you can substitute your own list of missing friends.

We were once part of a group of seven couples, who met regularly on Saturday night. Now there are two of us, Artie's widow, Jackie, and I.

Not so long ago, I was a class mate of five or six local members of the CSG class of 1937, who met regularly for lunch. Now, there is Caroline Davis and I. We talk on the phone, and we share many intimacies because we have the trust that comes with an eighty year friendship.

At Wellesley, we were a compatible group of young women, who ate at the same table together for three years. (Yes, we had round tables, and table cloths and waitresses!) Now, Alice and I reach out to each other from Boston to Columbus, and she will say, when we have the "last leaf" conversation, "You remember my friend Muriel, from kindergarten" and I do, even though we have never met. I just know she is still on Alice's branch.

It was just a year ago that I saw my wonderful brother, Al, for the last time. That is hard to bear.

It happens, this time and change. I write this, today, not because I am mourning those who are gone, because, of course, I am. But I am celebrating those who remain, and the newer, younger people who have become dear to me.

 And sometime, sometime, spring will come.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Remember Pearl Harbor

I heard FDR say, on a radio where I was visiting with some friends, " a date which will live in infamy"and in a flash, I knew World War II had begun,  I knew my true love had been drafted the previous January, and his tour of duty was to be for one year. He was now an infantry man with more years staring us in the face. I had no idea of where he was at that moment.

He turned out to be in an elevator in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on leave from Camp Shelby. He took the high road, as always, and joked, "I know Pearl Schwartz, but who is Pearl Harbor"? Then he sent me a telegram, "War or no war, I still love you." I think you paid by the word for a telegraphed message.

 I didn't know that our friend. Leonard York, was actually at Pearl Harbor. He was one of the 1282 wounded that day, and he died many years later of injuries he sustained that day.

I, also, did not know we were part of the "greatest generation".Tom Brokaw had to tell us so, in 1998. At the time, I was hard pressed to believe we were any greater than any other generation. But that was the year my true love died, age 83; and I remembered the details of our lives. We probably were special,  never really talking about that day or those years, but always looking. hopefully, to the future.

So today, I salute us all for our duty to our country, but my eligible grandchildren have no duty to Afghanistan. The way war is waged today is different, but it is still war.

And as FDR also said, "I hate war."

Friday, December 4, 2009

Woe is We

My first thought this morning, before my eyes were really open, hit me right in the blog. If only Obama governed the way he plays basketball, America would, again, be all that it can be.

You know what I'm talking about: that half smile, the joy, the passion, the I-know-exactly-what- I-am- doing, the I'm in charge, get outta my way.  No time for slow deliberations, to pour over every option, devise a strategy.  Just go out there and make a few double-triples (whatever that is) and the game is as good as won.

Can't you see the other team, Achmininajad, Natanyahu, Karzi, and all that bunch, plus Glenn Beck and John McCain and mealy-mouthed Mitch McConnell muttering to themselves, "this guy really knows what he's doing" as they commit foul after foul, time running out, with no chance for them to win

You can think about style and substance. Obama has them in abundance. Style got us JFK. Substance got us Abraham Lincoln. Style and substance gave us FDR, four times.  On the campaign trail, Obama showed us both.  Now, it seems, he is weighted down with the substance and his style is cramped. Even Michelle's smile is beginning to look a little fake.

Come on, try for a few three-pointers, drive hard to the basket, "accidentally" throw an elbow. There are a lot of us cheering for you. Get my blood flowing, which my heart is increasingly unable to do. When you win, we all win. Just put on your Nike's and DO IT.      

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Another landmark, down the tube

Even before my first sip of coffee, I got mad, and sad, and resigned to the speed of the changing world. The City of Columbus wants to sell the Champion Golf Course. The course is too difficult, it is losing money, and zoning would permit single family housing.

In an earlier and happier time, that property was The Winding Hollow Country Club. It opened with a nine hole course in 1921, and it was there I learned to swing a three-wood, my favorite club. Sometime, when I have trouble falling asleep, those nine holes are the "sheep" I count.  I can follow myself from one to nine, envisioning every tree, every little creek, every, every rough.

 The course grew to eighteen holes, designed by Robert Trent Jones, in 1948. Bob, my husband, was Club President , and in his official capacity, we drove Robert Trent to the airport after a meeting. Wanting to be gracious and interested, I asked him when he had first decided to become a golf course architect. The "you idiot" look he gave me--it chilled me to the bone.

Public housing was, eventually, built just north, and above, the long 16th hole, far away from the Clubhouse.  A few times, members were robbed at gun point.  The three-C highway was no longer a prime location. Lock, stock and barrel, a new Winding Hollow was built on Babbitt Road, a better address. Beautiful building, tennis courts, snack bar, all the amenities. And then members began to disappear, for even more desirable places. It morphed into a few other incarnations, and I lost complete interest in what was going on.

So why does this news about the sale of the old WHCC bother me?  I truly did not care;  after Bob served as President, we remained members only until after my brother, Al Harmon, had served his term.

But I feel the ground shifting under me with the loss of each landmark. Change is progress, I know, I know. But could just a few places remain a little longer?  My roots grow deep and wide, at ninety. Please don't pull them out any faster than you have to.  Whoever "you" are.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fair Avenue School

The Columbus Dispatch just announced the closing of nine schools in our public school system. They were well below capacity in number, and most had been rated D by whatever standards they use to judge accomplishment. Children left behind. For all the extra effort of the administration, creative and innovative thinking, the schools are fighting a losing battle. It is sad. Fair Avenue elementary is one of those schools. I believe the news release reported that it was built in 1890.

When I was six years old, I went off to Fair Avenue school-- on foot, holding hands with my six year old best friend, Lois. She lived across the street from me, and she was my cousin, to boot.

 I cannot believe our parents allowed us to walk that far, but this was 1925, and it was completely safe. We walked east two blocks to Morrison, turned to head north to Franklin Park South, and then it was only two blocks east that we arrived at school, no other street to cross. We were scared and thrilled.

As I thought and thought about our journey, I had to turn to Mapquest to be positive that I would not be setting you on a wild goose chase, looking for  two little girls, one with blue eyes, one with brown. But that is exactly where we were for five, wonderful years.

Our principal's name was Miss Hammond, and she always wore purple. To be summoned to her office was the scariest thing in the world. It was in second grade that I made my one and only appearance.  I had gone to the boys' side of the playground during recess.  And I had good reason to go: I wanted to talk to Edward Underwood, a handsome swain whose father was Superintendent of Parks for the City of Columbus and he lived in a house IN the park. He was my very first Prince Charming.

Diversity was never an issue. We were all white, all middle class. But there was one little African-American girl, Annie Ransom. How sad for her,  one-of-a-kind, her dark, pretty little face in a sea of white. She had an autograph book and I wrote. "Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you." And then I went back to stalking Ed Underwood.

In second grade, I also walked across in front of the desks with a pencil in my mouth, lead point first and embarrassed myself, bleeding down my chin.

By fifth grade, our classroom was upstairs. Walking down the wide, wooden stairs, two by two, at days' end, felt, to me, as exalting as changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace.Too much A.A. Milne on my reading list, I guess. And our fifth grade teacher, Miss Schroll, had a broken arm. I wanted one so badly, just to walk down those steps with my arm in a sling.

 At that point, Lois and I moved to Columbus School for Girls.

And CSG was the most phenomenal educational experience I ever had anywhere.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The worst words

In a family conversation, one time, someone said, "I think you should" and I interrupted immediately, by saying, "I think those are the four worst words in the world." I believe they never need to be spoken, even adult to child.

There are much kinder ways to communicate;  I am a Dr. Benjamin Spock graduate who learned, early on, that a parent needs to treat the children with as much respect as house guests. Presuming we are gracious to our guests.

 At this point, someone else chimed in, "I think 'shut up' are the worst of words, and then another nominated "you dirty liar" as their worst.  So if you see the banner on our family tree, know that "I think you should shut up you dirty liar",  stands for the best of us, and judge us accordingly.

 I am sure there are families all over who have had similar discussions, each one with their version of what is unacceptable. They just don't need to tell me that I should like theirs as well as I like mine.