Like Me!

I'm grateful you like me.

I’m grateful.

Some things never change.  One of them is the importance of “Likes” on my Facebook author’s page.  If you haven’t already clicked “Like,” I’d be grateful if you would do so.

FROM THE ARCHIVE:

Time to “Like” me again. I know, I know—it’s ridiculous, but it matters in the wonderful webbie world. Why? Because search engines keep track of these things, so the more popular a site is on the web, the easier it is to find on Google, Yahoo, Chrome and other search engines. Heather Havrilesky’s very funny essay, “How to Contact the Author” in September 8’s New Yorker takes this business of “liking” to its extreme and is definitely worth reading.

Here’s a personal example of why “Likes” are useful: I get an unsolicited weekly report from Facebook about how I’m doing by its system’s standards. Say I acquired a new “Like” last week but none this week. My score will be (in red type) “-100% Likes.” I know this information is (until now) between only the reporting program and me, but it is just as dispiriting as a “sedentary” daily report from Fitbit.

So if you haven’t already, please:
1. Subscribe to this blog and ask a friend, roommate, spouse—anyone–to sign up, too. So far I have resisted signing up my cat, but who knows? CatmanDeux may be subscribers one of these days.
2. “Like” the blog and “Like” my author’s page on Facebook.

And thank you. I’m grateful.

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TIME AND FRIENDS

From the archive:

Pinkish flower

Nobody sees a flower, really; it is so small.
We haven’t time, and to see takes time–
like to have a friend takes time.

Georgia O’Keeffe

In the past two weeks I have spent time with old friends and it has been wonderful. One was Vivien, my first best friend; we met in Kindergarten 67 years ago and continued our friendship despite starting families, changing jobs and the distance between us (she lives in Switzerland). There was a lot to catch up on and even more to laugh about. I also spent time visiting a friend who was vacationing in Arizona. Bill and I met Joy and her husband, Larry, on a trip to the Galapagos ten years ago. We all got along so well that we took many trips in different parts of the world after that, then last summer Larry was killed by a falling tree and our concept of time changed.

Many of us view time in two contradictory ways. One is that we think we have all the time in the world to do this, go there, learn that. The other is that we feel pressed for time, so much so that we don’t stop to read a book, call a friend or “see a flower.” Not long before he died, Larry told his wife, in a different context, that “we need to ratchet up our hellos and goodbyes.” Nine months later, I think of that as a reminder to treat my friendships as I do my garden–that is, take the time tend to them.

Photo by Tavin Dotson courtesy of Unsplash.

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FOOD FADS: PLEASE, NO MORE KALE

From the Archive:

Kale in its uncooked state.

Last week I read that one of the best foods to prevent dementia is kale.  Oh my.  Kale has long been on my list of dreaded greens.  Food Fads come and go. One that has lasted way too long, in my opinion, is kale.The omnipresence of kale reminds me of a scene from Forrest Gump in which Bubba lists the many ways shrimp can be prepared:

“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”

The same could be said about the many forms kale takes: braised kale, roasted kale, kale chips, kale soup, raw kale, kale frittata—and let’s not forget kale juice. Enough already!

Food fads can help us recall past decades. Who can forget the wine-and-cheese period of the 1970’s? Or the Cajun blackened redfish of the 80’s? (I can almost feel my hair springing into a giant perm.) In the 90’s I made several unsuccessful attempts at baking molten chocolate cake. Since 2010, we’ve seen cupcakes and macarons gain favor as desserts, and comfort food is popular now to, well, comfort us. Even that harkens back to food fads of the 1950’s: mac and cheese, dumplings, slow-cooked stews.

I have another candidate for food oblivion that will have to wait for another time: “gluten-free.” Don’t get me started. I’ll be satisfied for now if the next time I go to a restaurant, kale is not on the menu.

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FEAR AND HAPPINESS

I took this photo of school kids on a field trip in Hanoi.
I just love the little girl in pink on the far right, jumping for joy.

“What I Fear Most” is the homework (tarea) essay in my Spanish Conversation Group this week. I have been brooding about this for a few days and realize that I try not to think about my fears.  Focusing on fear doesn’t make it go away, though if you spend much time talking about your fears, your friends are likely to take a hike.

Franklin D. Roosevelt told a worried nation in his 1933 Inaugural Address, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  That is largely true, though fear of losing one’s job may cause a person to avoid challenging the boss, even when (s)he is clearly wrong.   The rest of Roosevelt’s sentence:  “the only thing we have to fear is….nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  (Congress, take heed.)  Dwelling on fears is not helpful but doing something to eliminate them is a different matter.

Recognizing moments of happiness is useful for staving off fears.  A few mornings ago (1) I had just finished a phone chat with my daughter and (2) settled into a Donna Leon mystery when (3) my cat curled up next to me and (4) a heavy rain began pounding against the windows. I suddenly realized how happy all those things together made me.  This month’s Proust Questionnaire (the last page of every Vanity Fair magazine issue) features Pedro Almodóvar, the Spanish director of Pain and Glory and many, many other great films.  Asked, “When and where were you happiest?” he replied: “The first time I went to a samba school in Rio de Janeiro.  The whole neighborhood was rehearsing in plain clothes the numbers they’d perform during the Carnaval.”  It’s hard to top a moment of happiness like that.

Have a Happy Week!

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SORRY, MARIE KONDO!

What was I thinking?

Well, Marie Kondo, I’ll tell you what I was thinking:  “Hey!  This could come in handy!”  Did these weird items  meet your basic criteria—that is, did they “spark joy” in me?  Yes, as a matter of fact they did!

The cat hair remover sparked joy immediately and continues to do so.  I have shown it to anyone who doesn’t want to hurt my feelings, and they seem impressed when I open the little receptacle and display all the cat hair the rollers pick up.

No one has witnessed me using the cleaning slippers because I’m too embarrassed to put them on when anyone’s here.  However, they spark a considerable amount of joy when I skate in them across the wooden floors.  It’s a private joy.  I’m not sure they work much better than bare feet but the Velcroed-on soles make a satisfying crunch at the slightest movement.

Joy wasn’t the only thing these odd items sparked, Marie.  They also sparked shame.  What was I thinking when I ordered them?  I can’t even remember what web site I used, though I was likely looking for one more way to remove cat hair wherever it gathers (everywhere).

Marie Kondo, here’s a different angle.  I ordered online because I don’t like shopping, even if I knew where I could buy Microfiber Cleaning Slippers.  One could argue that I am not adding to air pollution and traffic jams because I didn’t drive anywhere to buy them.  On the other hand, our UPS guy, Victor (yes, yes—we are on a first-name basis) drives a big delivery van that probably causes more environmental problems than my Subaru. 

And Marie, despite all my decluttering efforts, here we go again:  more clutter. As I continue to go through the boxes of belongings we “inherited” from our parents’ houses, I think about my children doing the same with our stuff.  Aside from what I know they would say (“Why would anyone buy this?”), I don’t want to burden them.  And that raises the subject of Swedish Death Cleaning.  It’s not aimed at the young, as Kondo’s method seems to be, but rather at those of us who have begun to realize we won’t live forever.  That is a subject for another time. 

Have a good week!

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Poem: A writer’s lament during the holidays — Musings, Magic, San Miguel and More

Note: This hilarious “poem” is by my friend Robert Hawkins, who perfectly captures what I go through in the days before I post my weekly blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Alexis

That moment when you realize the offbeat lead to a blog post that you have been struggling with since Thanksgiving isn’t really the lead to a blog post, but an offbeat poem that celebrates the particular insanity that grips us between Halloween and Boxing Day. I say this, fully cognizant of the fact that I […]

via Poem: A writer’s lament during the holidays — Musings, Magic, San Miguel and More

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EMINENT VS. IMMINENT

With the news of the past week even more scary and depressing than what has become normal, I find myself focusing on what I know much more about than the very complicated crisis in the Middle East:  the English language.  Words matter.  Thus, when I can bear to watch the news, I find myself yelling at the President—not my usual “Are you out of your mind?”—but rather:  “The word is ‘imminent,’ not ‘eminent.’”    [NOTE: Not that I am certain anything was “imminent,” but I’m darn sure eminence is not involved.]

Definitions from the Oxford Dictionary 
Imminent:  adjective; about to happen (ex:  “They were in imminent danger of being swept away.”)

Eminent:  adjective (of a person) famous and respected within a particular sphere or profession (ex: “ one of the world’s most eminent statisticians.”)

Words matter.  Isn’t it eminently reasonable to expect our elected officials to speak proper English?  Is it too much to ask that our pumpkin-hued leader know the difference between “origins” and “oranges?” and “eminent” and “imminent?”  Or is it simply less frightening to focus on the words rather than the actions.

Have a linguistically correct week!

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RESOLUTIONS 2020 AND OTHER B.S.

Fireworks

 Every New Year, I make resolutions that I seldom keep.  This year the resolution I hope will succeed is to stop swearing.  The problem is, I enjoy swearing.  It’s a small and satisfying way to let off steam.  I would like to think it doesn’t hurt anyone, but judging from the expressions on some people’s faces when I throw a colorful cuss word into an otherwise polite sentence, it is clear that I am wrong.  The shocked expression I see may partly be due to the discrepancy between how I look (quite respectable) and how I can sound (salty).  But if those same listeners believe that 70+ women don’t swear like sailors (at least in private), they haven’t met my friends. 

The second of my two resolutions is to eat a healthier diet.  My husband is the chef of the house and he makes wonderful, healthy meals.  However, over the years, a pound here, a pound there…we all know how that goes.  On January 2, I happened to read an article in National Geographic about a village in Sardinia with an extraordinarily large group of men who are 100 years old or more.  Dan Buettner, on whose  book, The Blue Zones,  the article was based, reports that the men live in a hill town (which requires daily exercise by virtue of its topography) and eat a diet primarily consisting of corn, beans, vegetables and bread prepared by the women of the village.  The women rise before dawn, stoke wood fires and prepare the hot breakfasts the men gather later to eat at communal tables.  These male centenarians’ long lives are attributed to their diet, lifestyle, and—wait for it—“Sardinian women have a reputation for taking on the stress of household responsibilities.  For the men, less stress may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease…’I do the work, admits Tonino, hooking Giovanna around the waist, “my ragazza [wife] does the worrying.’” 

I feel a swearing fit coming on.

Photo by carson arias via Unsplash

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A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS IN MARION

From the archive….December 2015.  (I think it’s time for A Child’s Christmas in Oakland.)

Last week, I published a copy of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”  Now, Kamiko is back in Marion for Christmas, asking me if we can play all the games we did last year (games of which I have no memory), put the gingerbread house together RIGHT NOW and–although it’s midnight and all the adults are exhausted–play a quick game of charades before she sleeps.  So here is a reprise of  last December’s “A Child’s Christmas in Marion.”  Whatever holiday you do or do not celebrate this time of year, I hope you get some time off to enjoy yourself and I wish all of us a kinder, more peaceful 2016.

With apologies to Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”

Sippican Harbor

 One Christmas was…like another in those years around the sea-town corner.

 Male Cardinal in his Petticoat

Birds the color of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shaped hills

Church_

 It seemed that all the churches boomed for joy.

Miko and Lily

 Cats in their fur-abouts watched the fires.

There are always uncles at Christmas.  The same uncles.

There are always uncles at Christmas.  The same uncles.

FullSizeRender-2

Auntie laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year.

...and then I slept.

Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight…I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill….I got into bed.  I said some words to the close and holy darkness and then  I slept.

Merry Christmas 2014

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2015

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NO MALARKEY!

“No Malarkey!” and no fear, Dear Reader, that this week’s blog is political.  Instead, Joe Biden’s new campaign slogan got me thinking about how much words matter.  If a candidate is looking for young voters, “No Malarkey” is a slogan that isn’t going to grab anyone under, say, the age of 60.  

Words Matter!

Look at it this way:  if you want to come off as the bees’ knees rather than a fuddy duddy, lose the fusty slogan.  “Malarkey” is old hat and reinforces the notion that you’re a geezer.  And by the way, Joe, only an eejit would suggest families sit around listening to a record player together in the evening–but at least you didn’t call it a Victrola.

I spend a lot of time figuring out “keywords” for my blogs—short words or phrases that will draw readers in.  They are the search engine equivalent of campaign slogans. I can check my blog’s weekly statistics to see how many people have visited the site based on the blog’s title.  (No surprise that anything containing the word “Cats” is a sure winner.) I wonder what keyword test “No Malarkey” passed.

I did have a lot of fun researching old-fashioned slang. Here are a few more doozies that I came up with that I couldn’t manage to work into the narrative but think you will enjoy:

Gobbledy gook (double-talk); nincompoop (dopey person); codger (another word for geezer); beauty parlor (hair salon); floozie (“cheap” woman); mortified (embarrassed to death).  Most of these words are insulting, which might lead one to put on a puss face (pout).  Coincidentally, this screed may lead some to think I am a Holy Joe (self-righteous person).

Have a good week!

Photo by Brett Jordan via Unsplash.

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