Sunday, April 30, 2017

About My Voice

On Election Night in November of 2016, I lost my voice. I lost it in two ways. The first way was that, as a Cali voter, I felt disenfranchised. Because of the antiquated Electoral College system, my vote counted for a fraction of the value of the vote of a heaping hayride of inbred good ole boys in Wyoming and Kentucky who put my future and the future of my children and grandchildren in jeopardy with their Paleolithic misperceptions of reality. The election left me devastated. When Michael Moore excoriated us stricken liberals for wallowing in “the seventeen stages of grief” over Hillary losing her chance at the White House, he spoke to me. That was me. He was telling us to get over it, to pick ourselves up and go out and kick some shit. He helped me laugh at myself. Because I was grieving. I’m still grieving. But that’s not a good enough excuse. I have moved forward and found ways to resist, to survive, to hope, and to laugh. I have reclaimed my sense of joy.

Moore’s words were not the main reason I managed to pull myself out of my post-election funk. The biggest thing that set me on the road to recovery was having my children come home over the holidays. They remain so optimistic, so positive, and so funny, that I feel that I can do no less. The biggest reason why I stopped blogging after the election was that I could not find the humor in things. My children swiftly found the humor and they helped me begin to laugh again. Since their visit, with a renewed effort, I have searched for, and found, more humor than I thought possible in these bleak times.

I have had a lot of unexpected laughs. The reenactment of the Bowling Green Massacre at Mar-a-Lago. Waking Frederick Douglass and Luciano Pavarotti from the dead to waterboard them into signing an affidavit stating that they are the fake-president’s BFFs. The ICE hotline the fake-president set up for people to call in and report suspected criminal activity by “illegal aliens,” which has been jammed nonstop by gleeful liberals calling to report questionable activity by space aliens (true fact, not alternative, call 1-855-48-VOICE to report Martian activity). And how about Hasan Minhaj? Don’t you just love him for his words at the White House Correspondents Dinner? If you have not read his jokes yet, go do it. He’s brilliant. Here's the link.

So even though I still feel disenfranchised, even though I continue to grieve, even though I fear that the fake-president will pause long enough from golfing to cause a disaster of apocalyptic proportions, I have found a new voice (with more than a touch of humor in it) as an active member of the Resistance.

The other way that I lost my voice had to do with a personal “dark night of the soul.” In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t published a book in five years. This is not for lack of trying. I have several books on the shelf that don’t seem to interest any publishers. They don’t interest any literary agents. They don’t even interest my cats, who would rather sleep or play with catnip toys. I completed yet another novel in October, and it has joined the tribe of Amy’s unpublished manuscripts. I feel like the world has told me to shut up. And why not? My voice is of little significance in the larger scheme of things. I lost my voice because I wondered why I bother to write. I feel unheard, unread, and simply foolish to think that my words make any difference. So I quit writing. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, I liked being off the hook. I still do. I feel relieved to accept that I, and anything I might deign to say, are not that important to anyone outside my tight little circle. All my life, I have put pressure on myself to produce, to write something that matters. So maybe I can’t do that. I still believe in the power of narrative to change lives, just not my narrative.

What motivated me to consider returning to my blog? It was you. Recently, in the space of a few days, a surprising number of people in my life asked me when I would start blogging again, or went out of their way to tell me how much they enjoyed my blog and how much they miss it. I had no idea that so many people were reading me, that my words matter to them. To you. Thank you for encouraging me to begin again. Maybe I have inspired a smile or a chuckle or a sympathetic nod. Maybe I have, in fact, provided a little insight or lightened your load. It’s not much in the context of the infinite universe, but the infinite universe doesn’t have much bearing on our daily lives. The infinite universe is not very funny. In fact, I’m not sure it’s even infinite since physics is not my strong suit.

My strong suit is writing. I’d like to think I’m also not half bad at humor when the light strikes me in just the right way. So here I am again. I can’t say I will go back to writing every week. But you can find me here on my blog again sporadically, when I have something to say, when I’m feeling up to it, when something makes me laugh and I want to share. Here I am again, flinging my microscopic voice out into the vast reaches of space. It’s just a blip, but it’s my blip. Whoever you are out there, reading my blips, thanks for listening. 

Hasan Minhaj at WHCA Dinner 2017

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Dear loyal readers:
I am suspending my blog for a while. I am committed to writing humor, and I am having difficulty sustaining humorous thoughts right now in light of the current national (planetary really) situation. Thank you so much for reading my words.I hope to have more words for you one day soon.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Cubbie Hubby

The last few weeks have been a heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, couch-jumping, cat-traumatizing, whoop-hollering ride in my house because my husband, Ron, is a lifelong Cubs fan. In case you have not been paying attention, the Cubbies won the World Series on Wednesday for the first time in 108 years, and when they returned to Chicago the city leaders dyed the Chicago River blue to celebrate with the more than six million people who turned up from all over the world to party. (I’m still wondering what toxic chemical was used for the blue color and whether it killed the fish or not.) The statistic-wonks have declared that was the longest “drought” that any sports team has ever experienced in the history of organized sports. I can testify that Ron has gone his entire life cheering unwaveringly for those loser Cubbies until Wednesday, when they finally became the world champions.

Ron likes to watch all kinds of sports, and we have often gotten excited about our favorite teams. But this was perhaps the biggest sports event of Ron’s life. He sat loyally glued to the TV through all the final series leading up to the Cubbies advancing to the Big Show. It looked bleak for his guys when they were losing the series 3-1. But they made a miraculous comeback, winning two games and forcing the series into a seventh game. In a turning point moment in one of those games, Ron’s favorite player (Russell) hit a for-real grand slam home run. While the runners swooped around the bases to home, Ron ran around the invisible bases in our house screaming his head off. Then he jumped on the couch, fell off the couch onto the floor, picked himself up and ran to the front door of the house, opened the door, and hollered at the shrubbery. He promptly lost his voice. The cats cowered in my study, terrified, as they realized that there was indeed something more frightening than the vacuum cleaner.

If Ron had a bad heart, I would have prohibited him from watching game seven. But his heart is good and we watched. The game started out well for our Cubbies and they had a 6-3 lead all the way to the eighth inning. Ron jumped up and down and rubbed his hands together in gleeful anticipation of the imminent win. But then the Cubbies’ pitcher choked (perhaps on a sunflower seed) and let Cleveland catch up so the score went to a 6-6 tie. This was when Ron’s good heart proved its strength. I feared he might start smashing plates on the floor. Instead he screamed at the Cubbies coach to pull the pitcher, but the coach didn’t listen to him. They went into the ninth inning with no change in score and no change in pitcher. Still tied, the game would have to go into extra innings. That was when it started to rain; clearly a sign that the entity in charge of the universe has a sense of humor.

Let me take a break from this saga to note that baseball is not nearly as exciting as this account makes it sound. The final game of this year’s World Series was an anomaly. Trust me. I watched quite a few games with Ron at the end of this season and I can say unequivocally that baseball is one of the most boring sports on the planet. Racing crickets is more entertaining. You can sit for hours watching men chewing all manner of stray objects and spitting residue from these objects onto the ground. It’s disgusting. If you were a space alien watching baseball you would think the point of the sport is to chew and spit. Plus nothing happens for ages in baseball other than players adjusting and readjusting their clothing. Maybe once every hour or so someone will actually do something to indicate that people are still alive out there, like get on base, and then you have to hope they manage to advance and don’t just get stranded. I usually read a book through most of the game. The players must have to cram all that unidentifiable weird stuff into their mouths just to stay awake. My guess is that they are chewing tobacco, wads of gum the approximate size of a grapefruit, sunflower seeds, tree branches, chunks of undercooked brisket, superballs, and used tires. Plus, it’s extremely important for them to look tense. Baseball is a tense game. You need nerves of steel to sit through that much chewing while waiting for something significant to happen. So baseball is largely a sport based on chewing, spitting, adjusting clothing, stressing out, and permanently staining a perfectly good pair of white pants with dirt and grass.

Back to the World Series. So it started to rains as they went into a tenth inning. They covered the field in tarps and announced they would wait it out. Ron could not sit still. He changed the batteries in all the flashlights, cleaned out the refrigerator, defragged his computer, filled out his absentee voter ballot, and disassembled and reassembled the washing machine. Finally, the rain stopped and the game restarted (after a mere 17 minutes). The delay gave the Cubbies a minute to regroup. Their pitcher had a good cry in the dugout, everyone changed their pants, and someone went out and bought a 60-pound bag of sunflower seeds and some birch bark. The seeds and bark were a godsend because no one had brought enough stuff to chew to last for ten innings and, having run out, they were eating their sneakers and belts.

The miraculous Cubbies went back out onto the field and scored two runs while devouring 40 pounds of sunflower seeds. Cleveland was only able to score one run (no one had thought to get them more sunflower seeds), could not catch up, and the Cubbies won the series at the end of the tenth. The team went berserk, of course, sunflower seeds everywhere, and the stadium erupted. At our house, my Cubbie Hubby executed physical maneuvers that I thought he had lost the ability to perform during the Reagan Administration. The cats cowered in the corner. Whooping and hollering, he called Cubbies fans friends on the phone, one after the other, and screamed “hoo-ha” into the receiver and they screamed “hoo-ha” back and then he hung up and called someone else. The adrenalin rush kept him up half the night watching celebrations around the country, first on TV and then live streaming on the computer.

We witnessed history, and it was about as exciting as baseball gets. By the end of the game, the Cubbies had chewed up their sneakers, belts, caps, and the bench in their dugout. I think they should change their name to the Chicago Termites. In fact, all the teams should be renamed after critters that chew. The Cleveland Beavers would be catchy. If I learned one thing about baseball from watching the series with Ron, it’s that you can’t play that game without chewing on something. All due respect to Cleveland for a great series. Go amazing Cubbies!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Picky Eaters

When my children were growing up they were picky eaters. I thought they would outgrow that for the most part. Now that they are grown, the only difference is that they don’t spit the beets at the cat and overturn the plate. They just decline to eat. I have had to create a flowchart to help me keep track of all the food likes and dislikes. Plus I have a fourth person in the mix these days – my daughter-in-law. Every time they all come home and I cook, we have a new adventure. They  know I maintain a running record of their preferences. Last month when I had the whole gang here, and I made ratatouille from the vegetables in my garden, my daughter-in-law said, “I love these capers in the ratatouille” while my daughter, who was spitting the capers out and assembling them in a pile on the edge of her plate, said, “Mom, add capers to my list of do-not-like.”

I constantly run into new eating preference information to file away. I thought my daughter and daughter-in-law loved a particular kind of cracker with soft goat cheese. So I stocked up on these before they came. Then my daughter reminded me that my daughter-in-law loves the crackers but dislikes goat cheese. Meanwhile, my daughter-in-law was looking for the sundried tomatoes. That’s what she likes on the crackers. I had some of those on hand for her. I ran to the computer to bring up my file to note the goat cheese and sundried tomatoes information. I think they should develop a phone app for moms to keep track of what their children like to eat.

My youngest son won’t eat fruit. He says it has something to do with the texture. I find it hard to believe that all fruit has a particular texture he can’t abide. He will eat apples and applesauce and he will eat watermelon but only if it’s perfect. It has to be sweet, not too cucumbery, not mushy but crunchy but not too crunchy – only perfect-crunchy. Is there a tool that measures watermelon perfection? The watermelon spectrometer? He will drink fruit smoothies but he only allows certain card-carrying approved fruits into them. The list changes. I can’t keep up.

My older son is the one who, as a child, asked for a lettuce leaf and after chewing it thoughtfully and spitting it out said, “This will taste like something when I grow up, right Mom?” Apparently it never did. He is not fond of vegetables, but will eat many varieties of them depending upon how they are prepared. Generally if they are slathered in pasta and Alfredo sauce or embedded in lasagna or something like that then he’s fine with them. He does eat Caesar salad, but salad is still not very high on his list. At least he likes fruit, according to the flow chart.

Last month, when all my children were home, my father was here too. While my children maneuver through meals as if crossing a minefield, Dad will hoover-up healthy portions of anything served to him so long as it’s not spicy. It was a relief to know that if I put the salsa on the side, Dad would be happy with whatever I served. It’s the rest of the crew that requires a schematic. How my omnivorous, easy-to-please father produced such a preposterous pack of food-particular grandchildren baffles me.

One thing all of us share in the family is that we love to cook delicious food. (My older son not quite so much, but his wife is into it.) A few days ago my daughter sent us a photo of the chicken rigatoni Alfredo she had made for herself for dinner. I was drooling (and I don’t even eat chicken). Last year she made tortilla soup for the family for dinner for Christmas Eve and the family licked that pot clean. Once, when my youngest son came home for a visit, he made us the most amazing mulligatawny soup. I had never had it before. He has a gourmet palate. That sometimes runs me into trouble. To make a simple cheese sandwich, he scours the refrigerator for tomatoes, lettuce, pepperoncini, avocado, mushrooms, and other ingredients to put on his sandwich. “What, Mom, you don’t have any caviar, fire-roasted red peppers, Thai green curry sauce, or Brazilian Tuscarora cherry-bomb squash blossoms? How do you expect me to make a decent sandwich?”

A couple of my children love mushrooms, but one of them won’t eat them. A couple of my children enjoy kale salad the way I make it, one of them hates kale. There’s a coconut frozen dessert I’m crazy about and most of the children like it too, but one of them hates coconut. One likes cheese in eggs, one doesn’t like cheese in eggs, one likes ketchup with eggs, one likes cream cheese with eggs, one prefers fried eggs on toast, one prefers scrambled eggs, one prefers chicken eggs, one prefers duck eggs, one prefers ibis eggs flown in from Australia and packed in homespun sheep wool blessed by Maori healers. How could breakfast get so complicated?

Now Thanksgiving is on the horizon. Thanksgiving dinner itself is not much of a problem. Everyone loves all the traditional foods, so long as they don’t find any capers, kale, or coconut snuck into them. Who would stuff a turkey with kale, capers, and coconut? (That doesn’t sound like a winning dressing.) We’re fine for Thanksgiving dinner, and our brood will pitch in and do a lot of the cooking with us. It’s the other meals during the weekend that I have to plan out in detail. Leftovers only go one night. Turkey sandwiches require several ingredients beyond turkey, and you can bet my youngest son is going to be searching the refrigerator for ingredients for his turkey sandwich. In a couple of weeks I’ll pull out the flowchart and begin building my schematic. Potatoes is my safe word.