Show Us What You Can Do, Donald J.

The misfit outsider won the election and the unpopular kids are on top. And they want nothing more than to stick it in everyone’s face.  They can’t believe they’re there. They’re pretty sure they don’t belong there.

But let’s ride this m*&#%er f#^&ing gig Big League!

That’s the current tone of the Trump White House. The leader, Donald J., is flinging himself at executive order after executive order. How can anyone, even as brilliant as this man thinks he is, imagine they are capable of making multiple considered and informed decisions within hours of taking a position? A position where, let’s face it, The Donald is a veritable Intern. But what a prime photo op these signings are. Get the cameras in every few hours and film The Donald doing Big Things. He’s doing Really Big Things.  Doesn’t he look presidential in his dark suit, white shirt, and blue tie doing Really Big Things.

Donald J. has changed his party affiliation with the regularity of the Kardashians introducing a new reality TV show. That he won as a Republican is no accident. Republicans should go in the corner and hang their collective heads in shame for eight years of obstructionism for obstructionism’s sake. You invited a candidate like The Donald. One who planned from the start to work completely outside the standards of a government that’s functioned rather well for over two centuries. Your party earned a candidate like The Donald.

But now we’re all saddled with him. And his team, replete with inexperienced outsiders and angry misfits ready to sell their souls to be an insider–for that elusive illusion of being one of the popular ones.

And oh, but is there no bottom to Donald J.’s egocentricity? How much longer are we going to argue and posture about whom had the most watched inauguration? And is there no end to the depth of deception and duplicity from his band of merry men and women?  Alternative facts? Huh? Voter fraud to the tune of millions when it fits the narrative, but not when there’s talk of investigation? Really?

I understand how this self-designed caricature got elected. People were tired of nothing happening in Washington. The choice became Trump, or don’t vote, and many chose Trump. They took a chance. I so want them not to be wrong. I don’t think Donald J. acts like a bad man. I think he acts like a frightened, needy, and rather bright, child…with possible potential under all that baggage.

So here’s the challenge, Donald J. Trump. You avow you like challenges. Enough with all the playground games and manipulations. This isn’t a school yard. Or a television set.  And you’re not campaigning anymore. You won the presidential election. It’s not about you anymore. It’s about us. All of us. So grow the frick up. Be a man. Be a president. Of these UNITED States of America.

 

 

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Out With the Old? Not so fast…

Yes, it’s a new year, so in with the new…but not without a shout out to some “old” that’s coming with me.

Liquid Fence
If you don’t have gardens, or gardens with animal problems—as in, your yard is their all-day buffet, Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent won’t offer much to you. But surrounded by woods, our yard often gives the impression we keep deer for pets, a veritable Disney land. Which we love. They have been known to stand on the side of the driveway and just watch while we pull our car out and close the garage door, and then they get back to grazing. But we don’t love the fact that over the years, our visitors have eaten large amounts of our landscaping. This largely natural product is about the best there is, keeping our graceful friends from munching our hedges with a mixture that includes “putrescent egg solids” and garlic. I get the concentrate, mix it with water, spray it on, keep my plants, and don’t feel bad at all.

Method Cleaning Products
I’ve loved these natural cleaning products for quite some time,  but after recently trying the 4x HE beach sage laundry detergent, I’m an even bigger fan. I love the clean packaging, the cheery colors, and the scents seal the deal.  Some of my favorites:  grapefruit, cucumber, and beach sage, my new bright turquoise laundry detergent. Happy cleaning!

Rose Lilies1-roselily
This is a personally spectacular find. Over the years of our marriage, my husband has enjoyed giving me lilies—plants and cut flowers, both Asiatic and Oriental varieties. He really likes lilies…but I really don’t. The blooms are too architectural, too stark, too unromantic. Until now. Rose lilies are ruffly, light, softly-scented, and have non-staining pollen. These wonders even have their own Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/Roselilyflowers/  Husband, gift me these ethereal wonders all you want.

Restorative Yoga
Is this a thing?  And where has it been all my adult life? Poses and practice that rely on gravity to create stretching and opening in the muscles and body. Finally, a yoga practice where I don’t end up feeling stiffer, more out of shape, or injured. After 25 minutes, I’m feeling relaxed, youthful, and ready to take on the next several decades!

Good Behavior
Every now and then, I discover a television show that I love so much, I don’t want to talk about it, share it, give an opening to anyone to say a bad word or not love it as much as I do. It’s mine, my secret pleasure. Outlander on Showtime was one such television event. (I can mention it now; it’s hardly a secret.) My 2016 find: TNT’s Good Behavior. I’m addicted. Michelle Dockery. Juan Diego Botto. (And where has he been all my adult life?) Shhhh….

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Wisdom of the Dead

skeletonOctober has been frightening this year. Not because of skeletons guarding doorways, ghosts in the trees, or dismembered body parts sticking out of yards. What’s frightening are the toxic fumes rising from the  cauldron of our election stew.

What would our predecessors think about how we are treating each other, the vitriol and baseness in these election-based exchanges in this civilized twenty-first century? I see banks of the dead, watching, pale and silent. Some I know–my parents are standing in the front–and many I don’t.

This audience of the dead is in agreement. While we the living are so not. They can’t sweat small stuff anymore, or even big stuff. They now understand division better than any of us, divided from earthly companionship, love, and joy.  Yes, They are divided from anger, pain and heartbreak, too, but what they no doubt remember most is harmony, synchronicity, and consideration.

Because if there is a heaven on earth, that’s where it lies.

I wish these dead could speak to us. In their later years, my parents heard the siren call of “the system is rigged.”  They felt that those in power, the “new world order,” were power hungry and evil, out to ruin the rest of us. With the distance of years, I see my parents having this reaction to counter an overwhelming loss of control, of their lives and their bodies. That we are in control is an illusion in the first place, I think, but as we get older, the veil between this illusion and reality gets much thinner. Reality can be hard.

“The system is rigged” resonates as a reaction to humans feeling “I can’t get what I want.” None of us  get exactly what we want, even though we may work diligently toward a particular goal for years. The system is designed that humans will always have challenges, surprises, and shocks; if we are not growing, we are dying. No wonder people build up resistance, fear, and anger to a Sisyphusian nature of existence, rolling a boulder uphill only to see it roll down again. When too much seems out of control, we want someone to blame. Must be the people in charge which means–hey, it’s the  government.

Is this the grown-up version of blaming your parents for your problems? Blame the government, or the wealthy employers, or really both, since they are the “system.” And when our culture broadcasts this on a large scale, what is the effect on the upcoming generations? The system is rigged! Why work or try to get ahead? Overthrow the current system!

The dead groan in unison. Has history not yet convinced us as a species that democracy, for all its difficulties, is one of the better systems there is? Perhaps the best? No, revolution is not the answer. Unless that revolution means taking responsibility, all of us, for the divisive poisonous stew we are swimming in. Human existence, and politics, is a see-saw, a balancing scale; sometimes events tip in favor of you and your beliefs, sometimes the tip is in my favor. What our elders, and those who have gone before would tell us on Halloween, when the veil between the dead and the living is at it’s thinnest of the year, is this: “Grow up. Stop throwing tantrums and trying to get your way. No one consistently gets their way, ever. The human system is rigged to make sure of that. Start sharing toys and figuring out how to play nice.”

Shame on us for acting so selfishly and childishly. That’s what the dead would say. But they can’t talk anymore. They only listen. What wisdom they could offer from the other side of the divide. Divisiveness is hell, they’d say, but hearing each other while you still can, then leaning in toward harmony, not discord, is the closest thing to heaven–on earth.

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The Magic of Buried Banana Peels

azaleasWhy didn’t I stop my elderly and disheveled mother from scooting out to the rose bushes flanking our front door to bury the breakfast banana peels? The short answer would be: she’s my mother. The longer answer would be: she so believed those banana peels would help my roses, she had me half-convinced, too. That was how we rolled, for decades. So firm were her beliefs about any number of  VERY outside of the box things, that I couldn’t unequivocally decide she was wrong.

So I didn’t stop her from rooting around under the rose bushes, even though I was uncomfortable with the activity for a number of reasons.  Foremost was the fact that this woman who was still climbing trees to prune them when she was in her sixties, and showing off her can-can kick in her seventies, was now in her late eighties, post a few strokes and the passing of my father.  She was frail, unsteady on her feet, and had retreated deep inside herself, courtesy of depression and beginning dementia. Second was the fact I wasn’t super supportive of burying any of our garbage a few feet from the front door, especially in daylight, and I wasn’t too sure my neighbors would be, either. And third, while I was open to the fact that the peels might help the roses, I was also concerned that rooting around the rose roots in the dirt among the few remaining strawberry plants that were supposed to be ground cover could be more harmful than helpful to that little front walk ecosystem.

I also didn’t stop her because my mother loved to garden; one of the only joys she had left. It didn’t bring a smile to her face; nothing did at that point. But fussing over plants was about the only place where present-day challenges would fade, and she would lose herself out in my yard, burying banana peels or pulling weeds, or in the house, walking around grooming my houseplants. Gardening was a comfort, one she’d enjoyed as long as I could remember. If I made her come in the house, or stopped her from taking her tipsy weak self up the stairs to complete her houseplant routine, what was a saving her for? If she died gardening, I knew she’d be happy.

My mother has not been in my garden for a number of years, or any garden for that matter, except perhaps a great garden in the sky. If we have any say in what our heaven is, my mother is gardening. My indoor and outdoor plants now survive despite the care, or lack thereof, that I and my husband can give them. Even with her crazy schemes, my mother was a better influence on any garden than I probably will ever be, even with a horticulture degree as one of my credits.

But I did inherit my mother’s curiosity about plants and what makes them grow. So last week, years after those banana peels were laid to rest under my roses, as I researched the answer to the garden legend that peonies need ants to bloom (they don’t), I stumbled upon banana peels under the rose bushes. Roses supposedly like buried banana peels because they increase soil potassium. However, the soil microorganisms breaking down those banana peels have to extract nitrogen from the soil to complete their job, so the soil can end up low in nitrogen along the way, and without even much potassium to show for it. A net negative. Composting the banana peels first is the way to go, followed by spreading compost around the roses.

I may have also inherited impatience from my mother. Who wants to wait for months down the road for the banana peels to be composted, after all that monotonous effort of liming and turning?  Burying banana peels to make your roses bloom is magical, a fairy tale we want to be true. Practical is important, but magic is imperative.

Note to son: the day I shuffle my silver-haired self out to scatter used coffee grounds under the azaleas in your yard, let me be! I’m doing just fine.

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May Day Magic Indeed!

1-FullSizeRenderDoes this look like fun or what?! This art is from the lovely book Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions by Sarah Ban Breathnach, a must have for families wanting to continue some of the delightful seasonal traditions practiced in the Victorian home.

I’m forever  attracted to traditional festivals attached to nature and the seasons.  Add spring flowers and streamers of pastel ribbons, and what’s not to love?  May Day is a natural for me, and dancing the May Pole has happily been checked off my bucket list. While I might have imagined a daytime version of dancing in the woods under the moon in a light muslin shift accompanied by Van Morrison’s Moon Dance, the actual experience of dancing the Maypole was a lovely one nonetheless.  My son’s Waldorf school had built a Maypole in the school yard and the school’s families,  from toddlers to grandparents, gathered in the spring air on a sunny May day to take a turn holding onto one of the ribbons and moving gracefully in a counter-clockwise circle around the pole accompanied by recorder music. Magic indeed. And may I add, my son’s school also added the tradition of serving fresh baked shortcake with fresh strawberries and real whipped cream, an inspired addition if there ever was one.

Another May Day tradition is the creation of May baskets.  Early in the morning, children in the Middle Ages gathered wildflowers to create baskets that they secretly left for friends and neighbors. Tradition said that if they were discovered, they had to run back for a kiss.

How romantic is that!!  Too romantic to be left there, I decided. So this alluring tradition became the seed from which blossomed (at least I like to think so) my contemporary romance, May Day Magic. Single mother Diane enlists the help of her two children to create a May Day basket to deliver to her ailing mother, their grandmother. She’s all thumbs when handsome plant nursery owner Marc joins in to help select the flowers.  Diane has also secretly created May baskets for her children as a surprise they will discover when they return from delivering their grandmother’s basket. But there’s one more surprise coming, this time for Diane. Marc’s got a little May Day magic of his own in mind…

Here’s to enjoying some May Day magic with Marc and Diane, and making a little May Day magic of your own!

May Day Magic on Amazon

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Secrets of the Universe: Unisex Dressing?

secretslogoWhy is it okay for women to wear men’s clothes, but not okay for men to wear women’s clothes? 

I’ve worn men’s clothes for as long as I can remember. I have older brothers, and pulling on their tee-shirt at the beach or their sweatshirt to warm up on an evening was always fine with me. By high school, I was obsessing on when my brother would  hand-me-down his jeans: worn-in Levis to be specific. In my eyes, worn-out guy’s Levi jeans were the ideal wardrobe complement for the men’s construction boots my friends and I were wearing daily, which we paired with lacy fifties-era vintage blouses and Grandma-style button cardigans. Hot we were!

Now we take unisex clothing for granted, yet unisex shopping takes us to fashions designed for men that women also wear. Flannel work shirts, tuxedo shirts and pants, cummerbunds, sleeveless undershirts, always jeans, surf shorts, Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers, combat boots, bomber jackets, and the list goes on…

Levis-501-MonroeWhy doesn’t the unisex pendulum swing the other way? Fashions designed for women that men wear? Guys are making inroads in unisex dressing in the jewelry arena, but that’s about it. Guys wearing ruffles? Eh, not so much in this country. Skirts? No, for the most part, we still think men in skirts is strange. Would you buy a tunic beach cover up for your man? I can’t even conjure this look in my imagination, can you? Men, would you slip on a strappy platform sandal to go with those summer-time shorts? We would think this ridiculous. But why? How fair is that?

And so we come to this week’s Secrets of the Universe question for our panel:  Why is it fine if women wear men’s clothes, but not-so-much if men wear women’s clothes?

B: While I do find this unfair (which is how this landed as a panel question in the first place), I can’t say I’m fantasizing a change. I like wearing men’s clothes. And I like my men wearing men’s clothes, also. But to any men wanting to wear women’s clothes, I support you!

D: Exactly. That is the question. It makes no sense to me. The dominant group will not dress in the subordinate group’s clothing. But the subordinate group can dress in the dominant group’s clothing, and that’s cute. A sexist society.

P: American men are afraid homosexuality is catching. They don’t want to sleep on pink sheets, let alone wear feminine clothes.


R: Ball gowns are designed to highlight certain areas men just don’t have. Metrosexuals are wearing more feminine fashion. Men wear pink. Ruffles just aren’t in right now!

Does this mean that when women completely obliterate those glass ceilings, we will come home from the office to be welcomed by darling men wearing our embroidered ruffly-edged pink silk robes?  Hmmm, this panel author needs to cogitate on that one…

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A Walk in the Park

sleepyhollowpathToday, March 30, is national Take a Walk in the Park Day.

We’d no doubt be better off if this wasn’t an activity that required a national remembrance. I’ve lived almost exclusively on the East Coast and yes, we need reminders to “take a walk in the park.” To “smell the roses.” We are a production-driven culture.

Our son was born and spent his formative early years in western Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh, almost a stone’s throw from the Ohio border. I’m glad he did. Our friends there knew to take walks in the parks, smell the roses, enjoy time with family and friends. Pittsburgh natives consider themselves part of the East Coast. This fascinated me, because in addition to being geographical inaccurate, Pittsburgh does not feel like the East Coast to me; this was one of the biggest, and appreciated, differences.

But back to the East Coast, Massachusetts to be specific, this past weekend. Having enjoyed a family get-together Saturday evening, my husband and I set out on a sunny Easter afternoon to take a walk in the park. Where we live, trails and woods and open space are abundant. We are fortunate to have an incredible national park with miles of trails a few minutes from our home. This was my envisioned destination, but we got to talking, and drove by the turn to the closest entrance to the park. Minutes later, we were driving by picturesque Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, a historic landmark that offers the resting places of Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau, for starters. I suggested we park, and walk there. This wasn’t as strange an idea as it might sound.

When I was younger, cemeteries were to be avoided. Creepy places with possible phenomenon that we didn’t understand and that could be very dangerous. Most of us have formed our ideas of what happens in cemeteries from horror movies. But upon moving to New England, I discovered beautiful cemeteries with woods and trails that connect the cemetery “parks” to the greater network of trails. Some of our dog-parent friends even chose cemeteries as their first destination to exercise with their canine companions off-leash, undisturbed on quiet paths under the trees. With our dog by my side–or not, when she happily raced and cavorted across the lawns–I began to discover the enfolding allure offered by these picturesque cemeteries, laid out along winding paths on landscaped grounds guarded by large tracts populated by wise old trees. A peaceful oasis where we lay our loved ones to rest.

Was it the East Coast in me? Before we’d walked very far, my mind wandered back to a concrete, brass-tacks issue. I observed that we had made no purchase or reservation for a plot of land where we were to be buried. Where did my husband want to be buried?

sleepyhollowAnd just like that, on that sunny Easter afternoon, a day traditionally to rejoice in resurrection and life, I unintentionally disturbed the peace by cracking open the lid on the many unsettling aspects of death. The next ten minutes covered the claustrophobia of being put in a box and buried, the burning hell horror of going up in flames even though ashes were probably preferable to a rotting body, and where did the ashes go then? For all of us who have close loved-ones who have passed away, we’ve come face-to-face with the challenges of plotting this after-death chapter. The exercise can be quite rough. My parents never made any decisions. Their children are still trying to.

And then, my husband and I tabled the discussion for another day, or year, or decade. On what day and date will we have needed to decide? That is, of course, the biggest uncertainty.

And a most convincing reason to take a walk in the park. Often.

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Thank you, MSNBC; Thank you, John Kasich

msnbcI confess to being an MSNBC junkie. My secret pleasure. No one except my husband knows how much time I spend with my MSNBC family.

Like any family, the MSNBC family has its dysfunction, and that’s part of the charm. Chris Matthews currently has a marginally better hold on himself: he’s been letting the people he interviews talk without talking over them, which he does repeatedly, and often at length, until you wonder why this guest is even on the show if we are not going to be able to hear a word he or she is offering.

Can Rachel Maddow truly be as engaged, interested, intelligent, and considerate as she appears to be on air? If there is a serious broadcaster with a more engaging presence, I don’t know who it is. Watching her interviews is a joy.

Brian Williams, not so much. I didn’t watch him in his incarnation before the fall when he was put on leave for elaborating on dangerous and heroic things he never did. I struggle imagining him as the top-rated newscaster he supposedly was. He’s now part of the MSNBC family, and it’s not all smooth. Brian, get over yourself. I’m glad you still have a job, but quit with the condescending lean, the too-cool-for-school sideways smirk, and offer more enthusiasm than the large rock that sits in the woods in my backyard would. And the “uhs”? You’ve landed more in a minute than us broadcasters-in-training landed in our ten minute Agriculture Education presentations back in college (mine was on the benefits of yogurt, a campaign I generously designed for the American Milk Association) on our first time out! I want you to succeed. Learn how to interview, and practice speaking without a trillion “uhs.”

I could go on about the brilliance of Steve Kornacki, and how fun his enthusiasm is to watch, as he crunches and expounds on his numbers in his button-down shirt and crew-neck sweater. About what a dinner companion Chris Hayes would make, able to engage in fascinating conversation on almost any subject we could hit. And the perfect balance Chuck Todd brings to every show he’s a part of. But what spurred me to write about my adopted dysfunctional family on MSNBC was their broadcast of John Kasich’s victory speech on the evening he took Ohio, which gave us nuggets like this:

“And if you are a neighbor, that means the widow who was married for 50 years who no one calls anymore, you want to change the world? You take her to dinner on Saturday night. She’ll wear that dress she hadn’t worn in six months…

“You see what I learned as a boy…is that the spirit of America rests in us…

“Our spirit is in believing that through our efforts in whichever part of the world that we live that we can change the world, that we can carve out a better future, that we can realize that those special gifts that were given to each and every one of us in here are something we can use to heal the world.”

I know, in a way, this has nothing to do with MSNBC, but in a horrifying primary season where candidates have reached new ugly, ugly lows in disparaging each other as individuals and as groups, and then gone lower, MSNBC produced this shining moment with John Kasich. I am grateful.

John Kasich, thank you for being in the world; MSNBC, thank you for sharing him.

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Guns On The Train

secretslogo Does Bernie Sander truly believe that carrying guns and ammo in  luggage on a train is the same as carrying guns and ammo in luggage on a plane? 

One of the first times I watched Bernie Sanders on television as he started down his presidential campaign trail, the subject of guns came up, and Bernie Sanders likened guns checked in baggage on a plane to guns in carry-on baggage on a train.

I had an uncle in Maine who went moose hunting with friends once a season in Canada. I’m surmising they took the train and packed their guns. I understand that there are valid reasons why people travel with guns, but we live in a different world now, a world where ensuring community safety may necessitate infringing on personal privilege. Personally, I’d like to get on a plane without taking off my belt and shoes and watching my purse disappear down a conveyer belt and out of my sight while I’m imprisoned behind the scanner gate. With a dichotomy in solutions for the “gun control problem,” either increasing gun control legislation so getting a gun is exceedingly difficult for all of us, or expanding gun availability and legality so we can all carry a gun and be ready to shoot back, I wanted to hear what The Secrets of the Universe panel had to say.

B: TSA is now using methodologies, like Precheck, to create scenarios where we can keep our shoes on and our socks clean and still maintain the safety of the flights, but I can’t imagine a pre-check methodology that would permit a passenger’s ammo and gun in the main cabin and still maintain the safety of the flight. No guns in the plane, and no guns in the train. Bernie Sanders, you got caught out on this one.

D: I don’t want guns and ammo with me anywhere without my permission and my permission is never granted.

P: I don’t think guns and ammo should be anywhere in public. Bernie Sanders comes from Vermont, a gun-toting state, so he was obligated to his constituency to go there, but I do not think he believes it.

R: Equally bad. Just can’t bring the plane down, but can take everyone down in Baggage Claim. Let me know if people are carrying guns on my train and I’ll drive.

Someone looks silly here: either you, Bernie Sanders, for selling these two scenarios as synonymous, or us because we were expected to jump under that umbrella and agree with you? Uh-huh. Unanimous on this one: No Guns On The Train.

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Answers Are Here: Secrets of the Universe

secretslogoTo conquer the questions that plague me, I am undertaking Secrets of the Universe, a blog series to explore some of life’s greatest conundrums like…is there a certain age beyond which a woman should not wear an unnatural shade of nail polish? Does Bernie Sanders truly believe guns and ammo in your checked luggage on a plane is the same as guns and ammo in the luggage over your head on the train? Should hospitals be nonprofit? Cracker Jacks or Fiddle Faddle?
Courageously stepping forward to take on this weighty task, the members of the Secrets of the Universe Panel (alternatively, The Four Pillars):
B – writer; mother of one favorite son; married to a coach who honorarily adopts honorary sons who play basketball; floral designer.
D – writer; mother of artistic college-aged daughter and son who just left the nest; married to a patron of the arts; organic gardner.
P – writer; mother of a stand-up comedian son; partnered with Ricky Riccardo, a rescued Lhaso Apso; realtor.
R – writer; mother of two musically-inclined college-aged boys; married to The Nicest Man in the World; tour guide.

Need I say more? Stay tuned for the first installment…

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