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Two Pairs of Keds

"One for dress, one for everyday."

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July 2014

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I’m tired of seeing personality tests on Facebook.

First, you have to give them access to your data, which I’m always surprised people are willing to allow. That said, do you really want to know what Disney villain encapsulates you?

Here’s another test that captures my attention: are you introverted, extroverted, an extroverted introvert, or an introverted extrovert?

“A rose by any other name would  smell as sweet.”
William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet

My daughter's husband, Jeff's Don Juan Rose (San Antonio, TX, 2013).
My daughter’s husband, Jeff’s Don Juan Rose (San Antonio, TX, 2013).

It would surprise most people to know that I’m one of the last two – – although I’m not sure which, as I haven’t taken the test.

I can go, go, go, go, go with people. And then, I just shut down. You can talk to Bill. Some nights when I come home, I walk right by and shut myself away for a half hour of reading or a nap. I’m just done.

When cooking, I sometimes use dim lighting, because lights are loud. I like to clean in my pajamas, because it signifies I’m not planning on going anywhere and am committed to the project. And I’ve been ignoring incoming phone calls before you could identify the incoming caller. There are times I just can’t talk.

My curiosity, here, comes from people’s willingness – or need – to be labeled online. I’m this, but not that. I want you to know I’m more like Cruella DeVille, less like Ursula.

It seems we haven’t learned a thing about labeling. We don’t like it when people get it wrong – you’re a bigot, a liar, a cheat.  But give us an opportunity to have some cliche attached – the Game of Thrones character most like you – and we hit “play.”

Not surprisingly, we want to be known, to have people see inside or beyond. Depending on where you meet me, you’ll only know a certain aspect. How can I tell you the whole of who I really am?

These games – the labeling equivalent of speed-dating – are doing us more harm than good. We take them, but who really cares which US President captures our characteristics? This is why I like Humans of New York on Facebook. I’m certainly not unique; it has over 8M likes.

Why is that? Because people are vulnerable, during a snapshot in time, to let a bit of their true selves show.

This is why an extroverted introvert (or is it introverted extrovert?) is writing. In the event of an accounting, I want to be accurate about the sum of my parts, not which Avenger is more like me.

 

 

 

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Creature Comforts

What was your favorite childhood toy? When did you get it? Why?

Our birthdays were relatively modest. You went to a local store, maybe Woolworth’s, and picked out a stuffed animal. One year, for me, it was an Airedale terrier. We played at a farm on weekdays and on weekends, we had the fort my dad built in the back yard. There were bikes and bushes and a field behind the house, between Woodlawn Drive and Babyland, the children’s area of Woodlawn Cemetary. A reservoir was around the corner and a river was a good hike down the way.

Toys, throughout the year, didn’t seem too important.

Christmas was another story. For whatever reason, this particular season made my parents pull out all the stops. We would get the JC Penney and Sears catalog in the mail, heads together, pouring over them and creating gift lists right up to the last minute, when my mother would declare a decision must be made and a letter sent to the North Pole.

I’ve just started researching the gifts we received, wondering if my dim memories make them better than they were or if it truly was the glittering world I recall. My brother and I have many memories of bountiful gifts surrounding our silver-spray tree, lighted by a primary-colored spinning light wheel. Even when my mom made a change to a “decorator” fake tree with coordinated bulbs, the effusive display of toys remained.

I’ve got some photos, below, of some of my favorites. It’s funny to find a thing that has faded, almost past recall, and see its reality. One item like this is the dishwasher.

My dad took me with him to the “Big Toy Box at Sears” when I was eight. We walked all the way through, creating a painstaking inventory of each isle. What were my favorite toys? Why? Did I have a reason for the dollhouse over the Barbies? He took my responses very seriously, because on Christmas morning, December 1968, every item I favored was under the tree: the giant stuffed Snoopy, the vinyl dollhouse with tiny satin chaise lounge and faux velvet-seated dining chairs, and the dishwasher.

In case you’re wondering, I did not even think of the dishwasher as an extension of feminist chores, even though, at that time, I was still hand drying while my mom washed. To me, it was the ability to hook it up to the faucet, whipping water around a plastic dome of tiny plastic plates and cups, that held appeal. Maybe more girls would enjoy appliances if they were presented with the scientific principals, rather than the gender-biased roles assigned to them?

To this day, the joy of my parents on Christmas morning makes me nostalgic, like very little else in my childhood. It was a moment of wonder, of endless possibility, and of family united. You’d think that I would think of this later in the year. It seems that in December, I’m too busy and caught up in the must-do and must-happen and must-see.

Maybe I have this pull because around this time, the Christmas catalog would arrive and the anticipation would begin. Did the toys make everything right? Not by a long shot. But there was a moment, with smiles all around, when creature comforts seemed enough.

[Request for indulgence:  to my friends who do not celebrate Christmas – – it’s not about the holiday. It’s about that time, that perfect magical time, when family is all that it can be. I hope you can find this in your space.]

petite princess dollhouse

CHAISEguestchairsCABINET

JaneWest2HCream2-JW

kozmic kiddlesliddle kiddles

Countdown

Why do I get the Christmas feeling in months that do not hold Christmas?

If you do not celebrate Christmas, I think I can still explain the feeling, because I’m sure you get it at some point in the year. It’s slightly anticipatory, very nostalgic, with a large dose of hope.

I want all the sights, sounds, and smells that come with this. I’m always tempted to watch the movies that my family loves – – how can we laugh at the same lines, year after year? “The little lights aren’t twinkling, Clark,” and “It was an ugly tree, anyway.” Ha ha ha. Ho ho ho.

It’s not that I haven’t seen family and, so, I might miss their presence. It’s not like winter, when I start thinking I can’t stand another moment of cold and hate the bare trees whose leaves, just a few months before, I had enjoyed watching turn gold, orange, and float to the ground.

And I’m not one of those people who starts shopping early, so that I’m wrapped and ribboned by Thanksgiving. I particularly hate Black Friday.

What is it about this time of year?

I’m not even counting the time away. Usually, I like whatever period we’re in, being a season celebrator. Still, it zings through me at odd times, like this morning, and I think, “Not too far. Not too far.”

Whatever it is, I hope that you, too, have something that makes you yearn for it’s arrival. It’s delicious, a feeling that something wonderful is just around the corner, just about to happen.

But not yet. Not yet.

Here’s a link, if you want to bookmark a countdown to Christmas: www.xmasclock.com. And here’s one if you celebrate something else, or look forward to something else. You can make your own: mycountdown.org.

Myself, I’ll just keep waiting for these shivering moments.

 

Wave

There’s a reason waves make such great metaphor.

Waves break. They roll. They wash away from shore and then return.  They can crash or they can brush up on the beach.  Waves can lull you to sleep or inspire you with their energy.

The part of a wave that held my attention this weekend was the space in between. From one peak to another, it was the dip, the bend in the water, that brief period in time between one splash and the next.

There’s no doubt that life rages around us. The headlines are proof, but more subtle is the change in family life, the transition, the rock and roll of time that reminds us we’re often riders of the storm, rather than captain of the ship.

Back in Los Angeles, my then-boyfriend, now husband, could body surf with the best of them. He and his buddy would sight the wave, waiting for the exact time to catch the crest and ride it to the shore. Sometimes there was a little turbulence as they got caught in the scrum at the drop of the wave, when the tide pulls back to the ocean. They would pop up, heads shaking like dogs, smiling like crazy.

I tried this. In retrospect, as a novice the roll was too high for me to safely navigate, but it looked amazing, like you could surf it out forever. You can imagine the outcome. There was, however, an unanticipated twist: the riptide. A ten-foot wave will drop you like a rock, but a strong riptide behind it will not allow you to stand up.

These days, there’s a strong feeling of riptide. I’m not young or naive enough to think I’m in control. But the waves are high and I’m looking for ways to take advantage of that curl in between.

crystal lake w the girls july 25 2014 018crystal lake w the girls july 25 2014 019crystal lake w the girls july 25 2014 012crystal lake w the girls july 25 2014 008crystal lake w the girls july 25 2014 033

 

Simple

Is anything really simple? Enjoying music (but that involves some level of cognition), watching a sunset, listing to the sound of birds. Laughing (but there’s a joke or concept perceived as funny).

Some things seem simple, but they were once complex: tying your shoes, riding a bike, even walking.

I’m due for a new phone, a smart phone, but I’m not sure I’m ready. Are we ever?

Oh, I love technology. I can’t wait to actually see the pictures people send me from their iPhones. And I’m tired of emoticons crashing and rebooting my old Samsung model. But my current cell, which I’ve had for almost three years, has more features than I’ve ever been able to use. What will I do with new?

I had adopted the attitude that you only have to use the features you like and/or need. It’s not that I don’t “get” the rest. I just don’t care to use it. I’m sure that I’ll need some lessons from students and my own kids on how to maximize its use, when I finally make the switch.

Will I be sorry I gave up the simpler one?

My most recent sorority magazine has an article about a 100-year-old time capsule, sent from our dear past Oklahoman sisters, who bought a “share” of the vault, which raised money for a new community organ.  Pristinely saved in butcher paper were crisp programs, old membership lists, even a typewritten poem from 1903, progressive technology in personal correspondence on the farm back then.

For her submission, one women wrote an article called “Is a Return to the Simple Life Possible?” That’s funny. I thought life in 1913 was the simple life.

Actually, that’s not true. It’s been ever thus. What is simple?

Possibly you’ll enjoy this simple recipe for:

Baking Soda Biscuitsbiscuits

2 c.  unbleached flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. salted butter
1/4 c. vinegar
1/2 c. milk or buttermilk
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter. Stir in vinegar and milk until dough is sticky.
Drop-style: spoon onto greased cookie sheet. (Can be dusted with sugar.)
Cut-out-style: lightly dust board and rolling pin. Roll out to 1/2″ thick. Cut out w/ biscuit cutter or greased glass. (Can be basted w/ melted butter.)
Bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about one dozen biscuits.

 

 

 

 

 

In Season*

Cherries are in season here in Michigan.

My cherry tomato plant, a present for Mother’s Day, has fruit and it’s ripening, but not fast enough for me. Soon, there will be sweet corn and peaches. I have to wait, what seems like eternity, for the tomatoes and that chili sauce I mentioned.

Things are either pending, in progress, here, or they’re over: each thing to its season.

We’re in an interesting season with our family.

We have aging parents all around us. You watch them and, as a sorority sister said, you find your bright moments. But it’s not the same as the season of raising kids – waiting for first steps, words, school, watching them grow and gain confidence in their person. You think of things to tell them all of the time – – it’s why you see their eyes roll.

On this side of the fence, you’re watching last moments. You hope you get to see them. You want to be able to say everything you need to say. My mom has taken to kissing us all and saying, “I love you,” bluntly and clearly. There’s no doubt what she wants us to know.

Foods come in and out of season. Seasons rotate the calendar. You are aware, cleanly and sharply, of time passing. I think this is the reason I like living in Michigan, where the seasons are pronounced.

It’s true of me that I enjoy living at all ends of the spectrum – I like experiencing the new. I like listening and looking at the old. I dance to current pop. I cry at historic fiction. I like to follow current celebrities and I like to read biographies of people long gone — the last really good one was Marie Antionette, by Antonia Fraser. I have one about Liz Taylor on deck. But I’m not sure I’m doing as well with the full plate, or the spectrum, that is our parents’ lives.

Dishes come in and out of fashion, too. I’m keeping them here to remember the good times, the early days, the bounty.

Here’s a no-bake cherry cheesecake from my childhood. It used to be made with Thank You Brand pie filling, which I understand has changed to Comstock (not as pretty a name). cherry cheesecake (sharlene w)You’ll like it – it’s easy, delicious, and simple to transport.

No-Bake Cherry Cheesecake
(by Sharlene~W|photo credit to same.)

*With appreciation for Ecclesiastes 3:1.

 

Playlist

My brother posted a flash from the past the other day: The Monkees “I’m a Believer” YouTube video.

This was my first 45 rpm record, ever. On the back was “I’m Not Your Stepping Stone,” which sounded contradictory, at least to a 10 year old girl, so the romantic in me played “I’m a Believer” a bazillion times and left the stone (as it were) unturned.

The two of us, Dave and I, had a steady diet of GE Show & Tell’s slide shows, like Gulliver’s Travels and The Shoemaker and the Elves. You’d pop the 45 on the top, insert a slide strip, and bingo! GE Show n TellYour story and slide made a little home video, right in front of your eyes, that would captivate for hours. Everyone wanted one.

And I loved it, until those Monkees showed up. Then, I couldn’t get enough of AM radio music. You could buy a 45 for under a buck, stack ’em up, and play your heart out. If you had a hi-fi, and we did, you could stack up ten or so. Sure, they would warp, but you didn’t have to keep running over to the record player every three minutes when your “hit” ran out.

My dad had refinished our basement into a “Rec Room,” short for recreation, not wreck, with an odd-lots assortment of tiles that he magically turned into a three-part pattern, across the entire length of the floor. He built a couple of closets with louvered doors and a bar made out of paneling, although my parents didn’t drink. All the really cool cats had a bar, however, and so did we. No booze, but a good place to put on puppet shows.

During slumber parties, we would play Miss America with my dress-up clothes and my mom’s baby-doll pajamas, go go girland our talent, dubiously, was dancing under the recessed lights, in a strange cross between American Bandstand and Laugh In. Who didn’t want to be a go-go girl?

Over a short period of time, that stack of 45s grew. Many times, they were required for my dance recitals, and my mom had to buy them, instead of coming out of my meager allowance. They were, without me knowing it, my earliest playlist.

In college, I was the one that put on the albums at parties. We still couldn’t program a list, so vinyl went on, often sprinkled with beer, and friends would tell me that I had a way with making them flow. Why didn’t I go into radio production?

Today, I use Spotify. It’s easy, free, and I can develop lists, adding and deleting songs to my heart’s content. The other day, looking for some fresher music, I landed on their Today’s Top Hits. I don’t usually go mainstream – I take my tips from friends and my kids. Wow. There’s a lot of crap out there, like Kanye West.

I’m not saying that the Monkees were so amazing. But the sheer amount of unadulterated adultery, sex, partying,  and violence is bewildering. It’s been around forever, but it always seemed to me to be on the fringe – Slow Ride, I Want to Kiss You All Over, Show Me the Way, even Zappa’s legendary Dyna Moe Humm – where you had to search and find…and maybe, not as angry? Okay, maybe not Billy Idol’s White Wedding.

It’s all out there, now, isn’t it? Well, who’s surprised? Little Miss Miley and her Disney studio darlings turned up the heat. Probably someone thought Annette Funicello sold out on Beach Blanket Bingo.

Still, I wonder if you can judge a person by their playlists? Proverbs has a saying:

As men and women think in their hearts, so are they (23.7).

Whether or not you are Christian, Proverbs has been known for its little zingers of wisdom throughout history. If you think it in your heart, is it on your playlist? Maybe I should remove Wiggle.

 

 

Beautiful Ruin

There are so many things that are both beautiful and broken.

We started our excursion plans with disappointment. Sanders Chocolate Factory Tours are only on weekdays, which makes perfect sense from a manufacturing standpoint, but what about for those of us who work then, too? The original choice was gone.

After a rundown of options, we arrived at Belle Isle. (Let me just say, though, that Detroit has a crazy number of things to see and do…and we haven’t even touched the surface with my family. My own kids have not ridden to the top of the RenCen in the external elevator. What were we thinking to deprive them of this thrill?)

We chose Belle Isle because my step-father was awarded a prestigious honor for engineering (I will have to insert that information, here, later – he said he wants it in his funereal documentation – because there are too many letters for me to even count) on the island back in the ’80s. He said it would be a kick (my word) to go back and revisit the scene.

If you don’t know about my fair city, let me tell you that is neglected and poor, but not unloved and without redemption. Crooked politicians can do their damage and city councils can make their poor decisions, but the heart of any community lies with its people. We are the D.

Off we went, following a TomTom that had no need for a picturesque route (take the Lodge in – it’s easier), over MacArthur Bridge, paying $9 for a day pass to use the city park privileges.  This actually was a passport through time, across the river and onto an island elegantly designed in the 1880’s by Frederick Law Olmsted.

The Conservancy started its renovations in 2006, with a second phase beginning in 2009.  This is a wonderful thing; there was a time when they thought to close it (as a city park) and make it standard commercial real estate. The aquarium is now open to the public, even though there are aquarium “booths” that are sponsored by local clubs and organizations.

The conservatory is still lovely.  A wedding was planned on the day we were there, so we enjoyed the ambiance created by such a joyful occasion. A string quartet, a bridal party in a shared room, damp chairs on the lawn outside, and wedding participants arriving under umbrellas, all made a cold space very warm.

But there are derelict buildings scattered about. The tennis club and boat club are not in use. Out-buildings are boarded up and the grass needs a good mowing, with a little landscaping added for good measure.

Still, without this fine-tuning, the island holds her bon vivant air – – families were having reunions under pavilions, all over the park, who showed no signs of dismay over a little drizzle and a few weeds.

In the search for balance, this joie de vivre is something we’re not missing, these day, so much as we’re not able to define and appreciate. Why is it, do you think, that I don’t have English words for these two phrases? The feeling exists. But it’s so hard to describe a beautiful ruin.

Not to put too fine a point on it, “beautiful ruin” includes us all. We simply cannot stay confined to a culture and a language that can only accommodate the new and unbroken. We need to find space for that which is used, lived in, special, and lovely, something that may never be what it was at its zenith, but is, nevertheless, a beautiful ruin.

Belle Isle 006 Belle Isle 007 Belle Isle 009 Belle Isle 013 Belle Isle 014 Belle Isle 020 Belle Isle 021 Belle Isle 022 Belle Isle 034 Belle Isle 036

 

Hello, Hello

We should’ve kept this practice.

As far back as Medieval England, households (which meant, ergo, wives) kept track of their entertaining records. Who liked what dish? Who disliked whom? What was served over the long stay? Who should sleep in what room, for assigning wait staff and for assignations? It’s not like people just stopped by, although in town, people were more likely to share a meal, unless they were simply calling and leaving their card (another decent practice). They were staying for days…weeks…maybe a season. (Breathe.)

You would have years and years of records. This seems intimidating. How would I keep track of which journal held the favorite “receipt,” an old word for our current recipe? Some clever soul came up with the tabbed page and earned eternal gratitude.womensmag23 Later, people published helpful periodicals, providing helpful hints and new recipes.

I like this idea. Why didn’t I start with my early household?

I would, now, have detailed notes: my mom likes Arnold Palmers (she stopped drinking diet pop four years ago…or something like that). Jeff does not eat onions. Lloyd is not a great fan of garlic and does not appreciate ethnic cuisine. My dad, toward the end of his life, could not eat dark greens because of Coumadin.

Entertainments were also recorded. Who likes long walks? Who needs a shopping trip? Are there people who are best not combined? Write it down. Keep track.

Today, I took my weekend menu to Meijers and thought about my plans, pushing my cart, talking to Bill on my cell, sounding crabby, but I wasn’t. I was just thinking it all through.

It’s not exotic, but neither are my guests. Here it is:

Friday Night:
Dinner with Mom, Arny, the Hines (friends they have met), Anne home (my daughter, working at camp this summer). Pizza, salad, fruit (contributed by Julie Hine), lemon sherbet. Light Tiki torches and bonfire. Tiger’s game – get out “D” peanuts and spiced gum drops.

Saturday Morning:
Cereal, yogurt, English muffins.
Saturday Lunch:
Chicken salad on oatmeal bread.
Saturday Afternoon:
Sanders Candy Factory Tour or Eastern Market. Call for tour times. (Mom & Arny prefer the chocolate…didn’t want to do a historical farm or train exhibit. Hm.)  Holly coming (oldest daughter – staying through Sunday).
Saturday Dinner:
Teriyaki pork chops, thai slaw salad, corn bread. Make those brownies in muffin cups and serve w/ ice cream. Tigers are on, again, thank God. Girls will eventually get bored and bail, sequestering themselves in basement.

Sunday Morning:
Pray. Make buttermilk pancakes (you have leftover buttermilk). Church? Hopefully, everyone will get up late enough you don’t have make lunch, too. (See Sunday Afternoon: beans.)
Sunday Late Afternoon:
Start pinto beans early. You’re making chicken fajitas. Herd everyone around for Millpond Concert downtown….you should be there by 6:30p. Take folding chairs and waters. Drop mom off somewhere nearby, so she doesn’t have to walk far. How to pick her up? Ask Bill.

Monday Morning:
Back to yogurts and cereals. You have an 11am meeting at U-M. See guests out by 9:45am. Remember, you will miss them all more after they’ve been gone a while.

Above, you’ll see some lovely lady’s pie crust receipt.  Such meticulous hand-written records – there’s a tremendous amount of care written there. Try writing it down.

 

 

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