What’s Your BEST?

lasagna

One of my favorite movies is “The Way We Were.”  I don’t believe there is a scene in that movie that I dislike.  I love Hubbell (who wouldn’t? It’s Redford for Christ’s sake).  And I adore K-K-K-Katie (have to know this move to get that). Streisand and Redford shoot sparks in each scene.  Their onscreen chemistry is evident from the first time you see Katie watching Hubbell nap while he’s leaning on a bar during a cocktail party. But one scene that stands out in my mind involves Redford as Hubbell and Bradford Dillman as J.J.  They banter back and forth using the topic ‘best’, as in best year. The game ends when Hubbell suggests through the ‘bests’ his love for Katie.

My daughters and I used to play a game similar to this quite often.  When we were traveling by car for instance or when they were sick.  Or just hanging out. Our ‘best’ would be best cookie or best Sesame Street character.  I’m sure everybody has a version of this game.  It’s fun.  And pretty simple.  But it does sometimes reveal things about someone that we never knew.  That is what makes the game interesting.

I don’t know that any of my ‘bests’ would be considered that interesting but I’m willing to find out.  Or, to see if I can get a list going of bests.  That being said, as some of my posts from now on I am going to feature a best.  Be it BEST cookie, BEST year, or BEST selfie.  So, c’mon readers (amazingly I do have a few!) please comment by telling me your bests and tell us why.

My first BEST is going to be food.  That’s right.  Food across the board – doesn’t matter what type. I am a food junkie.  And a lot of my favorites are greasy, fattening, or completely boring.  Keep in mind I am married to a wonderful man from the Midwest.  We have the best foods here.  Some are very healthy but a lot are just really bad for you.  Who cares?  If eaten with discriminate taste buds, bad foods can be good! This favorite food is not sweet – that will come later.  Because believe me, sugar is one of the six food groups (yeah, not five in my book!).

My BEST food is LASAGNA! I love it!  And it is one of about three dishes that I can make.  And do well.  I load it with cheese; ricotta (full not skim), parmesan, gobs of mozzarella. Of course ground beef and hot breakfast sausage and plenty of noodles.  The thing weighs about ten pounds when it is ready for the oven. I like to order lasagna in restaurants but I don’t very often.  After all, it is tremendously fattening and I happen to like my own pretty well anyway.  There’s just something about tomato-y Italian seasoned sauce, all that cheese and really good greasy hamburger and sausage.  What better way to clog your arteries is there?

So, what is your favorite food?  And, what would you like to see as a BEST category for future posts? Meanwhile, get out there and make your own BEST.  After all, that’s what it’s all about, right?

 

Windows

 window blog

Sometimes when I write I am perched upstairs at a desk in our second story home office.  Outside my window I can see quite a distance. And also, in very close view is a – what I think of as beautiful – tree.  It’s not really big or grand, but it has a beautiful shape to it and spreads out across the neighbor’s yard yielding quite a bit of shade.  The tree is just a part of a picture that is calming and tranquil.  And I love it.

When I am in a plane on my way to any place I always want the window seat.  I love looking out at the sky, clouds, and down at the world.  Wondering where the tiny cars are going, who lives in the cul de sacs, farmhouses, and tall apartment buildings.  At night the scene is even more brilliant or dark depending upon if we are over a large city or country.  And as we approach our destination be it home or some great vacation spot it’s with anticipation that I view the world from the tiny window.

When going to visit our youngest daughter in approaching her house and pulling into her driveway; her dog, our grandpup, always thrusts her front paws upon the window sill and she looks out at us.  Prejudiced maybe but she is the cutest dog in the world and although you can’t see it you know her tail is wagging like crazy.

When I was probably about six years old my mom decided that she, my brother, and I would take the train to visit my grandma out of town for a couple of weeks.  My dad took us to the train station and I remember hugging him really hard thinking about how much I would miss him while we were gone.  As the train left the city, my mom, brother, and I saw him through our train seat window.  He had drove to a nearby parking lot at which he knew the route would take us.  Standing outside the car he waved and blew kisses at us as the train went by.  That scene plays out in my mind from time to time when I miss him now.  Once in a while we still drive by that parking lot for whatever reason and I remember the train window and his standing there waving goodbye. And blowing kisses.

My oldest daughter decided to go away to college.  I was delighted for her and we helped her move to the college town as it was only about 100 miles away.  She came back home to stay the weekend after we got all her things placed in her dorm room.  Then Sunday came along and it was time for her to go.  We hugged and I was fine.  She said I’ll see you soon and I was fine.  She got in her car and waved from inside.  Seeing her through the car window waving and driving gave me a pain that felt like a sharp large woodsman’s axe just cut my heart in two.  I wasn’t fine.

Windows are a way to see the world and what’s in it while waiting to participate.  Windows provide a sanctuary though only temporarily.  In looking through windows we can anticipate, dream, or just take it all in.  Windows are like pictures.  They provide a story.  We fill in the blanks.

One more window.  That is the fast food window at my local drive-in restaurant.  I know.  It’s not good for you, chockfull of fat and calories, etc., etc. However, on some given days seeking that smiling face handing me god knows what kind of concoction I ordered (popcorn chicken, jalapeno poppers, fried chicken snack wrap) in a cheery white sack is all I need. That and a clear car windshield window to see out of as I drive home to snack and watch quality TV, The Real Housewives of Whatever from the window of all windows, the television set.

Shopping the Perimeter

Grocery cart

It is a well-known fact that in order to lead a healthy life one must eat fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish.  Okay, maybe some legumes/nuts, certain grains (quinoa is currently having its fifteen minutes), and well, tea – black, green, maybe burnt sienna. 

 In the arena of grocery store shopping those health enthusiasts tell us to shop the perimeter of the store.  There you will find the fresh vegetables and fruits.  You will also find the fish and meat counter where all varieties of protein-laden foods are displayed and easily purchased.

 Oh, but stay away from the middle.  Do not venture into the land of crackers, cookies, chips, and cake mixes.  You will only find decadence and folly there.  And, you will not come out of the place unscathed.  Because you see, you will be forever sullied and will live a life of regret, with chocolate or peanut butter smeared on your face.  Like the mark of the Little Debbie God, or Goddess I suppose.

 Okay, you know where I’m going with this don’t you?  That’s right, a bad analogy.  But that is what I do best, bad analogies.  So, here goes.  Consider life as a grocery store.  Auntie Mame had a much better analogy, “Life is a banquet!”  Right?  So, I am not too far off.

 Besides, grocery store shopping is a great experience.  One of life’s best.  There are so many foods, drinks, people, choices, and paper goods.  Life IS like that.  Full of choices, foods, people, and all kinds of paper; red tape, forms, mail, paper towels. 

 In this grocery store called life you grab your cart, never a basket, because you have so much to load up on.  If life is a banquet I want color from the salad bar, saltiness from the salsa and chips, seasoning from the jerk chicken, and variety from the cheese station.  I must have a bit of sour taste from oil and vinegar and I most definitely want sweet from the desserts.  I dare say I am not going to only shop the perimeter. 

 So, don’t make me choose between cauliflower and gelato.  I know I need balance.  But a balanced diet for me is a balance between the stuff that is good for me and the stuff that is just good.  It’s that way in life.  Auntie Mame also said after “Life is a banquet” this gem; “and most poor suckers are starving to death.”  You won’t starve to death by shopping the perimeter of a store or life for that matter, but you definitely will be missing out.  On ice cream and living.  

 

Books, Books, So Many!

Books

Here is a list of five of my favorite books in the whole wide world.  They are not necessarily the top five (although World According to Garp is actually number one).  But being that I have only a little window of time I had to stick to five.  I will probably write a future blog on five more, then five more, including non-fiction, you know the drill.  Oh, and the reasons I like these books are included, at least some of the reasons:

  1. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte – Jane was a stalwart, level-headed woman.  She knew herself so well.  The story itself is a little convoluted but it also overflows with that kind of drama that makes “Real Housewives” look like Real Boring Housewives.  And all through the tragedies, not-so-good surprises, back-stabbing, and harsh reality of her life, Jane not only survives but becomes a very solid woman.  A woman that is determined to live out her life on her terms.  And in the end she greatly benefits by living that creed.
  2. “The World According to Garp” by John Irving – I first read an excerpt of this book in a magazine for women a long, long time ago. From that I had to read the rest of the story.  I fell in love with it.  But you have to love a book in which the first sentence reads, “Garp’s mother, Jenny Fields, was arrested in Boston in 1942 for wounding a man in a movie theater.”  The rest of the book does not back away from that first sentence.  I felt sheer joy while reading and it never left.  Garp suffered tragedies and Irving was not light-handed in this many-layered saga.  But the varied contrasts and kaleidoscopic roller coaster ride that is this book made me love it and want to pick it up, time and again.
  3. “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell – I know there are a lot of parts of this book that paint way too rosy a picture of the south during the Civil War. Granted, the book and movie depicted a south and the topic of slavery with a wide brushstroke of illusory misrepresentation.  Margaret Mitchell and Hollywood created a fairy-tale like south for the most part.  But the image of war from the movie and the book in which Scarlett has to navigate seriously injured and dead soldiers in the streets of Atlanta speaks volumes about the tragedy of war.  Mitchell and David Selznick gave us a front row seat to the carnage that was the Civil War. The book starts with “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins ere.” Scarlett is charming, charismatic, and fascinating.  Scarlett, to me, is a real bitch. And I liked her.  That’s what makes this book so good.  You still root for her although she is a narcissistic, conniving, deceptive, and sometimes crazy woman.  She can also be truthful to the point of hurting herself and others; she can be guileless, witty, very smart, an astute business woman, and definitely creative (i.e. velvet curtain dress).   At last she figures everything out, her love for Rhett and her love for Tara.  That’s really what it is all about, our hearts and our homes.
  4. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed – I continuously heard great things about this book. But it just didn’t sound that good.  To me a woman hiking anywhere sounded boring.  But finally, curiosity got the best of me and I bought it.  This was a very good read.  At no time was I bored.  The author hiked the Pacific Coast Trail by herself in the 1990’s.  She faced heat, cold, snow, rain, wild animals, water shortage, hunger, and very sore and mangled feet.  That in itself is a story. But the portions of the book in which she goes into her own life situation and reasons for this journey completed this story for me.  Her willingness to go on her journey alone and fight both physical demons and psychological ones made the story.  Basically it’s a story for us all.  We may not hike the PCT but we all have those harsh and scary roads to navigate.  And like Cheryl we sometimes can’t even see the road but eventually we find it again.  Cheryl not only found it she triumphed over it.
  5. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy” by Stieg Larsson – with this last book I am cheating. I actually included three.  Because all three are good.  Lizbeth Salander is one of the best fiction characters I have come across.  She basically has Asperger’s but that does not define her.  And paired with Mikael Blomkvist they both become multi-dimensional characters that explode from the pages.  The plots aren’t bad either.  I usually am not into any type of mystery novels but these had me wanting a huge tattoo of a dragon and booking a trip to Sweden.  Read them.  You will not be sorry.

Okay, that’s it for now.  I’m currently reading Mrs. Dalloway as I just watched The Hours again.  There are so many books and well, pardon me, so few hours.  Also, I noticed fairly obvious pattern; all of these books are centered around very strong female characters.  Imagine that!  Thanks for stopping by!  Good-bye for now, gentle readers!

a fairly obvious pattern; all of these books are centered around very strong female characters.  Imagine that!  Thanks for stopping by!  Good-bye for now, gentle readers!

Flying Forward

Grandma Berry Plane

I’m on the slippery slope side of 60 years old.  Yeah, I can’t believe it either.  So, basically, I have been a part of this crazy beautiful planet for over half a century by a decade.  How did that happen?  No, wait…HOW DID THAT HAPPEN!!!???

There are way too many things on my proverbial bucket list that I still want to do.  So many things that I have not accomplished.  And projects sitting either in a closet, file, or staring me in the face in the corner of our dining room.  Places yet to go, movies to see, books to read, and even books to write!

I only hope that I have the time and wherewithal to continue with these and other quests.  I am quite looking forward to the future.  And I won’t look back. I will not regret.  Period.

In Googling the word ‘regret’ the very first line that comes up is a definition;  “To feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity.”  Damn, that’s harsh. The very word regret is harsh.

I refuse to dwell on “missed opportunities.”  I refuse to feel sad.  I refuse to regret.

Oh, sure I have screwed up a lot of things in my life.  I have caused pain, and all kinds of hurt feelings I’m sure.  To friends, coworkers, acquaintances.  To my family, which is the hardest kind of regret to ignore. I have felt awful, terrible during those times.  It’s as if I was hit below the belt, bent over, and knocked unconscious to the ground. But hopefully at those times I am the type of person that is able to stand back up, dust myself off, and who knows, even learn something about myself that is ugly and unjust. And rip that ugliness out.  Gone.

And then, there are those embarrassing moments that can be regretted. Those awkward and almost funny times when I have said something really stupid or mean and didn’t even realize it until the words were out of my mouth.  We all have those times.  And yes, I regret them. But I don’t REGRET them in such a way that they keep popping up in my mind, haunting my thoughts, and causing me self-condemnation.  That I don’t need.  Gone.

The picture at the top of this post is of my Grandma Berry who I introduced in my very first blog entry for Donuts & Wine.  At the time of the picture I believe her name was Pet Hood instead of Pet Berry as she had not yet married my grandfather (which is another story in itself).  Pet was a very independent woman.  She raised three children basically on her own during the depression.  She was a character, curmudgeon, clown, and sage.  She was gold. 

In this picture Grandma is posed in front of a very old plane.  I believe the picture was taken sometime in the early 1920’s.  My grandma wasn’t a pilot.  I don’t even know if she ever flew in a plane. At the time of the picture planes were a novelty, a futuristic forward-thinking contraption. Grandma always looked forward. That’s why I love this picture.

Grandma had to look forward.  She had three reasons to do so.  But even years later, after her children were long-grown and gone she was still progressive.  She didn’t sit the world on fire but she gave her daughters, her grand-daughters, and her great-granddaughters those powerful character traits that made us want to always look forward.  She always said “there’s a reason your eyes are in the front and on your head.  Use your brain and always look forward, not behind.” 

Regrets?  Perhaps one of only a very few that I have would be that I didn’t get to know her better. I was about twenty years old myself when she died.  But what I do know is she’s there and in my mind she did get on that plane, eyes forward, brain on alert.  She flies along with her daughters and granddaughters.  And we are not looking back.

I Admit… I Am A “Throner”

Game of Thrones

I first met Ned Stark during a crisp fall evening.  He came to me through a television screen full of magic, darkness, and images of castles and forests illuminated by the new moon.  My first taste of Game of Thrones came with a preview of a new exciting series presented by HBO, my go-to world of TV viewing.  As I watched the preview I commented to my husband sitting nearby that I might bypass this one.  The great pay-to-view network that gave me Six Feet Under, Tremé, and True Blood among others may have to do without me for this series.  “I’m not that much into fantasy Dungeons and Dragons cataclysmic stories and fables.  I think I’ll sit this one out.  Or…maybe I’ll watch the first episode and see where it leads.”

I watched the first episode and really, to be honest, wasn’t greatly impressed.  But I liked Ned Stark.  Ned had a confident air and age-old wisdom about him that stuck with me.  He was able to navigate his way through all the calamities that befell men and women in that “other-world” time.  He loved and protected his family but still gave a sword to his youngest daughter.  He could find strength in both women and men.  Ned was beyond prejudices, beyond petty grievances.  He was solid.

So, I continued watching.  I watched the entire first season.  And then, during the last episode of the first season the unthinkable occurred.  Spoiler alert: (and from this point onward) They cut off Ned’s head.  My Ned!  How dare they!! And by “they” I meant the writer of Game of Thrones or Song of Ice and Fire to be literally correct.  I blamed George RR Martin.  And I couldn’t help but get angrier thinking “Who has a name with two letters in the middle anyway?”  Then I blamed the other writers, the ones responsible for the series as well as Mr. Martin.  Then I blamed my darling, HBO.

“I’m not going to watch another nano-second of this damn show,” I told my husband.  “If you want to continue watching it next season go ahead.  But I won’t be there!”

This is one of the ultimatums I have made in my life in which I had to concede to failure.  The second season had me by “Hello.  My name is John Snow.”  Now, John (as he is known in my familiar circles of Throne Game fans) was in the first season.  But he was a might overshadowed by many other things worth mentioning, like the little prince being pushed several 100 feet to the ground by a ruthless (later turned nice-guy) man.  Overshadowed by the king of “another-land ” kidnapping a lovely ex-princess and marrying her.  Oh, and then having the ex-princess, now Queen I suppose , losing said King and becoming sole heir to a kingdom (though small) of her own.

But John Snow comes into his own in the second season, and so it goes into Season 4.   And there I sat, watching Season 4.  Just as I did Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3.  I am now a die-hard Game of Thrones fan.  To this day I don’t like medieval fantasy.  But Game of Thrones isn’t fantasy…not to a real Gamer!

 

 

I Love a Rainy Night

 

Image

Lots of songs have been written about rain.  “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head”, “Here Comes That Rain Again”, even “Rain” by the Beatles.  Everyone loves sunny days but not a lot of people like rainy, cloudy, stormy days.  I do.  I love it when the wind kicks up, the clouds start becoming dark, and the sound of distant thunder begins terrorizing the skies.

 I’m not exactly sure why I like storms.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that although mankind keeps trying to reign in nature it just simply can’t be done.  She always wins.  You plan a picnic it can rain.  You go to a baseball game it can rain. You even just want to grill two hamburgers outside and eat them inside it can rain, hard.  Hard enough to keep you from wanting to stand outside getting soaked and possibly electrocuted.  Hamburgers are delicious but not that good. Not good enough to risk your life based on wanton hunger.

Nature doesn’t care.  Nature is ambiguous.  Kind of like that neighbor that won’t mow his lawn.  It’s really hard to stay angry at someone or something that simply just doesn’t care.  Its a waste of time.  

So go ahead nature.  Make it rain.  You may be uncaring about our important activities or circumstances.  That’s okay.  Because although YOU don’t get angry you can produce such wonderful incredible anger in your downpours, beautiful but deadly lightning strikes, and vicious high-pressure winds that we can only stand in awe and watch.  

This highly energetic show of your strength and power gives us pause.  And helps us realize we don’t stand a chance against you.  We only have a tiny opportunity of luck if we work with you.  For our future’s sake and for the opportunity to witness your grandeur its my hope we find a way to do just that.  If not I wouldn’t want to stand in your way.  I like to watch storms but I certainly don’t want any part in participating in your glory.

Jay Gatsby and the Lawn

photo - Copy

My husband and I just finished mowing the lawn.  Now I know by the end of the summer I will detest this job but right now I love it.  During the spring and early summer months it is sheer bliss to walk behind the mower as it cuts a fresh new path through lush green grass. There’s something about a freshly mowed lawn.  Particularly before the heat and dry conditions take over making the yard look like another world wasteland. 

Right now the lawn resembles Hole Number 13 at the Augusta National.  It’s gorgeous.  No dry patches anywhere.  No evidence of moles, weeds, or random dry leaves.  Just green and luxurious grass.  As I gaze out at this calming and soothing lawn I can’t help but create a vision in my mind. 

I see myself sitting under our apple tree drinking some sort of foo-foo fruity umbrella infested drink.  I have on a grossly huge brimmed yellow hat and a long flowy sundress.  Of course I am bare-footed.  Laughing. Heartily.

Who am I laughing with?  My husband and an assortment of summer people of course, including a Jay Gatsby look-a-like.  My husband is wearing a white suit with a blue polka dot ascot underneath.  Does he look worried about grass stains on his suit? – pshaw!  Our maid servant will take care of that! 

With our assortment of summer people surrounding us we look like a photo shoot from a summer edition of Vanity Fair.  We say things like “Oh, dahhling, have you seen the Portrait (pronounced poh-trit) Gallery?” And “Do you have the name of a good servant for my yacht (pronounced yot with a long ‘o’) .

I am almost transported to this place in my self-created Gatsby imagery when my husband hollers at me from across the yard “Hey hon, looks good.  How about we run to The Burger Shack for a double cheese and rings?”

“Sounds good”, I holler back. “Do they have mint juleps there?”  He looks at me with his normal ‘what the heck are you talking about’ look that I get a lot.  I say ‘Never mind’.  I blow a kiss to Jay as I walk out of the yard and into our car for the best greasy burger this side of the Kentucky Derby.

Little Lies

Lies too

I just heard a story on NPR about fibbing.  The premise had to do with the fact that as we go through our day as humans we are predisposed to tell the truth more during the early hours of our day and then as our day wanes into the late afternoon we begin telling little lies.  The little lies become bigger ones as our day grows old.  I suppose by the time we go to bed some of us are lying in our sleep, literally.

I don’t know if the cause has something to do with our freshness in the morning and how on some days that freshness can evolve into a really stale and rotten day.  I have had plenty of days like that.  I’m sure so have you.  It’s really hard to be optimistic and sunny with that first cup of coffee and yet have that inner knowledge that something may be coming towards you at break neck speed that will totally wreak havoc on your lovely day.   And by the time the clock ticks past noon you simply don’t care.  Or you care too much.  A lie is so easy.  And you’re tired.   

But by the end of the day when you don’t know your left from your right anyway what becomes of your lie?  Do you even remember what you lied about?  Some people almost require a spreadsheet to keep their ‘web of deception’ under control.  That must be so much more tiring than just telling the truth.  

I hope that if after a very hard day or just when I am plain wore out I will have the wherewithal to say  “Hey, that’s it.  I’m done.  I believe it is a good idea for me to keep my mouth shut.”  And that would not be a lie.

I Am Bossy

Bossy 1960

I’m bossy. I was told I was pretty much shaking my finger at the doctor at my birth.  I was hungry and he happened to be the first person I saw.  And so it has continued.  Do I like being called bossy?  I don’t know.

I understand that there is currently a campaign started by Sheryl Sandberg, Founder and Board Chair of Lean In and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook to ban the word bossy.  She has several credible well-known people behind her; Beyonce,  Condoleezza Rice, fashion designer Diane Von Furstenberg, and CNN Foreign Correspondent Christiane Amanpour to name a few.  Even the Girl Scouts are on board.

Ms. Sandberg says that the term bossy is too frequently associated with words such as overbearing, annoying, abrasive and/or pushy.  This ‘label’ continues on through a female’s adulthood.  She hopes the campaign will open a dialogue with parents and teachers to eliminate the use of the word “bossy”, though she concedes this is not really as simple as banning one word.

Thus my mixed emotions.  As a little girl I have to say I enjoyed being called bossy.  It gave me authority.  And the encouragement needed to push my limits. Rebel a little.  It taught me audacity.  I happen to like that.

As a teenager being bossy meant bitchy.  I either had very good male friends that appreciated my bossiness or scared guys away because of it.  But I still used it to my advantage.

As a young mother being bossy came in very handy.  With two daughters I translated “no” into a new language with my stern finger wagging and tone of voice.  They didn’t dare cross me very often.  And in turn, they learned to be quite bossy themselves.

But as I grew older I realized that being bossy involved something more.  Daughters, friends, relatives all understood my demeanor.  Even uncles, nephews, my brother, neighbors’ teen-age sons, and our male pastor/friend appreciated my authoritative ways.   They respected my ideas and me. Many other professional grown men didn’t. 

As I grew older and became a part of the business world things changed. In several ways my acumen and initiative were accepted  I deeply respect and admire several fellow male business associates that I dealt with on a day to day basis.  I know that I likewise respect and admire my husband for his wisdom and fantastic confidence in himself which enables him to live with and share a life with a woman that can be bossy more than once in a while.

But I do feel that many people (not only men) do not appreciate a woman that speaks her mind.  One that takes the reins and doesn’t look back.  There are all kinds of obstacles in the way when you are a woman surrounded by people that will not take instructions or suggestions from you, for no other reason than that you are bossy.

Thus, the mixed emotions.  I enjoy being called bossy but I don’t like the aftermath that the adjective throws my way.  If there were another mindset that the term bossy would project I don’t believe the outcome would be as detrimental as it often can be.

At a point when people automatically admire bossy women (and yes I do think bossy is almost exclusively used referencing a woman) and understand that the term stands for direction, objectivity, guidance, and focus, then and only then maybe the word bossy won’t necessarily have to be banned.  Maybe being bossy will be recognized for what it truly means; leadership.