Friday, December 31, 2010

Out with the Old: Replacement Year Coming Up

All those Waterford crystal panels on the Times Square ball - is there a replacement part truck parked nearby? What happens if your crystal ball goes out? Pro sports teams have rebuilding years when the age of the starters signals replacements. America needs a couple of rebuilding years, and some replacement parts as well. I need replacement parts. My car needs replacement parts. And some stuff just needs to go. I cleaned up my workroom today and while I still don't have the nerve to toss some items, I was ruthless. Picture frames waiting for me to repaint or fix - out. I'm glad I threw all my old Daytimers out. I thought all those years would contain grist for the writers' mill. Looking at the cancer years recently to find what I was feeling, I was shocked to find nothing. Just appointments and dates. It's been a year of striking contrasts, extreme lows, sharp pain, higher joy, richer peace. I expect the replacement year will offer much the same, and I'm glad to have it. Wishing everyone a pain-free new year. We live in hope.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Beauty Wisdom from My Sister

My youngest sister, the wildest kid in our crew, grew into the adult with most of the common sense. There's a big dose of yin:yang in this dichotomy, which is true for all of us I suppose, but it's black/white for Carol, and taupe/slate for the rest. Carol is a professional cosmetologist, working for a famous intergalacticly huge beauty company. She has eerie color sense, can pick a lipstick shade for you that will be your favorite forever, until you see her again and she recommends another. Mine is MAC Lipglass Viva Glam VI, which I carry in my handbag and paddling survival kit right next to matches. She can match towels to shower curtains without taking the entire bathroom with her to the store. I am incapable of that. (On her instructions I am not allowed to shop without supervision to match anything; or to Cabbage Patch in public either.) We could talk for hours about Carol's many skills and attributes, but this is about sharing her beauty rules and tips. Rule Number One: don't pull, push, scrub - or in any way whatsoever - maul your face. I didn't listen and well, here I am. Rule Number Two: soap is for washing clothes and dishes and small children, not skin. Rule Number Three: petrolatum is a petroleum byproduct and is designed to get you addicted to reapplying. Gee, petroleum companies and addictions? Who knew? Petrolatum is NOT moisturizing, is in fact, drying, and also is noncosmodecious, or some such big word which means it clogs your pores. Rule #4: if alcohol is the second ingredient in anything you're about to pour on your body, it's going to dry your skin. Alcohol is drying. Alcohol + petrolatum is desert. If you're buying products with these two in close proximity on the ingredient list, you're dehydrating yourself into prunedom. These cover the basics. I'm adding stay out of the sun - even if you get through a few decades without evidence of skin damage, overexposure will show up with a vengeance some day. Did you notice Carol has one green eye and one blue eye? Another example of her fabulous color sense.

Sweetgrass Writers 2010

Another year together and apart. Deb is applying blissmonger thought coaching in the further north of Minnesota. We had one last dinner together at Comeback Inn outside in the warmer breezes. We miss seeing Rondi and hearing her latest writing. Today we'll gather at Nancy's house for a welcome sojourn. Geri will bring cake (it's all about the cake!) Pat's bringing turkey stew; unknown whether he bagged the turkey himself yet, and I'm bringing Sweet Retreats dark chocolate. We'll laugh, hug, catch up on the month's reading and writing, and contemplate the coming year. September in Sedona? A spring writers' retreat?

Saturday, December 25, 2010


I'm thinking of a young family, a new mother and father and their infant, and the life that will unfold for them without knowing the awesome impact of the boy's birth, and the blessings, the meaningfulness of his life to millions of people the world over.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Who's Our Mama?

Two interesting anthropology stories this week. An article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences introduces us to 12 members of a Neandertal family who lived in Spain and met a nasty end. And in Nature, DNA study of a little girl's 30,000 year old pinkie bone found in Denisova Cave in Siberia may have discovered a new sister ancestor in our archaic hominin closet. Our family gets more interesting all the time.

Caregiver Christmas

Special holiday wishes and warmth to the caregivers who do magic every day of the year. Caring for seniors, spouses, siblings; performing acts of legerdemain, illusion and zippity do dah mood wrangling, while wondering where the heck you developed this split personality and eye twitch is no small feat. Bless you all, and I wish you a place of sanctuary and comfort and the magical ability to restore yourself on demand. Candles help.

Christmas Eve Eve

December 23 is my favorite date. It's a celebration day I adopted years ago when the holiday was about children, toys, visiting, obligations, shopping, exhaustion. Eve Eve was a night for me - to light a fire and candles, play holiday music, and reflect on the blessings of the year in quiet contemplation. For the decade I hosted a Winter Solstice party (I miss those!) it was a day to clean house literally and figuratively. Today I am grateful for good work I was fortunate to have this year, friends who warm every day, and family. I miss the loved ones who have gone on, but feel the bright light of love and shared memories. Christmas Eve Eve is a day of living now, fully present and blessed.

Diminishing Returns of Apple Love

npr is offering a free download of best new music of 2010 using iTunes. I love npr. I used to love Apple. Since my first IIC I've spent more money on Apple products than clothes. Apple used to be the Madame Curie of innovation. Now Apple is the Marie Antoinette of technology. Apple was creative, elegant and I felt terrific being a user. Since I bought my G5 in 2004, I have spent more money on Apple than clothes and food. Apple stops supporting its own stuff in order to make you buy its new stuff. I bought the G5 with Tiger, and now, several cats down the road, my latest OS purchase at $150 decided it doesn't recognize my $2,000 printer. Forums report that the issue was fixed one cat up the road, and then lost again the next cat. One cat forward, two cats back; the dreaded Microsoft zoo. I downloaded the free music from npr yesterday and had to sign not one, but two iTunes agreements. One reminded me that I only rent from Apple. So does Apple, but Apple owns the turf and the rental is fixed, except to us. It's all about money. It used to be about something else. A business associate tells me that to put an app on iTunes, Apple must first approve it, then take a significant chunk of the sales. Fine. That's a cost of doing business. But Apple also will not share the list of people who downloaded the app with the app creator. That is egregious - beyond the costly upgrades, the abandoned legacy support, the expensive tech support, and the intellectual property usurpation, this surpasses greed. There is a sliding scale of Apple love and now all of it involves money. I wonder what that makes Apple?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Just a Little Off the Top

1973 found me divorced in a new apartment. I didn't have a Christmas tree, and Dad said he was going to top the big pine in the front anyway, so if I'd help, I could have the cut-off piece. I stood on the ground and measured. "How's this?" Dad asked. "Fine!" I hollered back. He chain-sawed it and when the top fell to the ground it was 12 feet tall. "Oops," I said. We laughed until I fell over, sawed off another 8 feet, roped it on top of my car and it went home with me for Christmas. The girth took up most of my apartment, and when I hauled it out after the holiday, I scraped off fragrant needles 3 inches deep. It was grand.

Dad's Homemade Bread

Dad used to make English muffin bread that almost caused a family feud when my sister found some in my refrigerator and she had none. It is hard for Dad to knead dough so he stopped making bread. He bought himself a breadmaker for Christmas. The same guy who won't buy Fritos if they're not on sale, bought 5 flour flavors. He asked me yesterday as he was reading the cookbook that came with the machine "what's glutton?" "Me and cheezy poofs. Why do you want to know?" "This recipe asks for it." Gluten. I was being awfully good up until last week. There are few more appetizing smells than fresh bread, right out of the oven.

The Best Christmas Tree

The best tree is what you imagine it to be. Even a Christmas tree 6.5 inches tall bears all the good wishes for prosperity, joy and blessedness imaginable. Merry Christmas wishes for good will, peace on earth for everyone!

1986: Christmas Tree + Unexpected Guests

Enjoying the tree, music, candlelight and a glass of wine on Christmas Eve Eve, I thought I was losing my eyesight. Blinked and blinked but a moving black cloud got bigger and blacker. I went in the bathroom to look in the mirror - no black cloud. Came back into the family room and the cloud was worse. I could feel the blackness crawling on me. Spooked, I flipped on the light and met the unexpected guests. Flying ants. The beasties had been dormant in the tree and the warmth brought them out to play. I unplugged the lights, held my breath, picked up the tree, ornaments et al, and threw it all in the backyard. aaaiiiieeee!

1964: To Chop A Christmas Tree

I just asked Dad what year the station wagon was the fateful Christmas we tried to chop down our own tree. 1961 Chevy wagon. Scott was a baby in his car bassinet. Susan came along, too. We drove to Milford which was a kajillion miles away then. Dad drove into the hilly farm; heading for the perfect tree we spun out on a ravine edge and had one tire hanging on air. The owner brought his tractor out to pull us out. The tractor broke down. The tree farmer went back for another tractor, pulled the first out, and then us. It was not a lovely ride home. We bought a tree on the way back 4 miles from the house. Dad was still mad when I asked him what year the station wagon was this morning. I can remember trying not to laugh that day long ago, and once more all these Christmases later.

Drop the Knife, A Memoir-in-Song Videos

Missed Jeanne Mackey's debut performance of Drop the Knife, A-Memoir-in-Song on Sunday, November 21 in Ann Arbor. Ms. Mackey celebrated her 60th birthday by composing a musical reflection on turning 60. It was a promise she'd made to herself and I'm glad she kept. Jeanne has several videos of the evening on youtube which is linked here. Don't miss Different by Now, and No Time to Hesitate - but I like Doomed and Land of the Sidhe, too. Musical meditation is good for this holiday week, and reflecting on a life well-lived in music is restorative. Thanks to Ms. Mackey for sharing the musical journey!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blaze's White Feather Christmas Tree

Lucia (Blaze Fury) had a white feather Christmas tree she decorated more than once. The year in memory now was just after Tommy passed. Blaze had his tap shoes mounted for the funeral, and the shoes were under the tree. The rotating light flashed green, blue, red creating the stage lighting they both enjoyed.

Winter Solstice + Total Lunar Eclipse

1554 was the last year for this auspicious event. What a night to be at Stonehenge or Ephesus, Glastonbury Tor, Chichen Itza, Old Sarum, Cahokia Mounds or Pittsburgh, or any place with special juju. Tonight 2:41 am ET, the moon will be visible as a burnished copper disk. For those of us Orthodox Pagans who adore copper, and celebrate the Winter Solstice, this is a once in several lifetimes event. I will be out in the parking lot in my Buzz Lightyear pjs, alpaca kneehis, Sorel boots. I'll be smiling if it's not cloudy, and cranky if it is. For anyone curious what was on TV in 1554, the French were at war, Lady Jane Grey and her consort were beheaded, Sao Paulo, Brazil was founded, Valerius Cordus and Francisco Vasquez de Coronado died. Sir Walter Raleigh and Sakuma Morimasa were born. And there was the previous total lunar eclipse, on December 10 because the Julian Calendar wasn't in common use yet. Enjoy the view, companion earthlings!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What I Love About Being Older

1) I am comfortable lifting ideas and I am happy giving credit - the subject of getting older came up in the comments on Lynne Morgan Spreen's Any Shiny Thing blog.

2) Senior discounts. Restaurants, movies, park passes - none of which I can afford to frequent, but it's still nice to have the potential extra clink in my coin purse.

3) I no longer have to touch up my hair every six minutes. It was a tough job to keep Scandalous Sienna from not playing nice with white roots.

4) Black looks good on me, and red lipstick does, too. I don't have to line my lips any more. This took for-ev-er. And then I worried all day about whether the lipstick had leaked into my lip cracks all the way up to my nostrils.

5) While I have always talked to myself, now everyone just expects it.

6) If somebody honks at me, it's because they know me. That's nice.

7) My family finally believes that my bizarre free spirit is slightly more charming than annoying.

8) No pressure to keep up with my favorite brands, which have all been discontinued anyway by the time I remember what these are, and where to shop for them.

9) The endless search for the perfect lash-lengthening mascara is over. My saggy eyelids droop over my eyelashes, so if my lashes are too long, the black/brown ends up on my forehead. I used to rent a storage locker for all my make-up; now it fits in one little desk drawer. I kept the storage locker for my supplements and meds. I discovered the advantage of jowls, too. There had to be a reason for those, otherwise it's just mean. Jowls are to keep the water out of your eyes when you're shaving your legs in the shower.

Shower Thoughts

1) "Gloucester Wassail" wishes Master all sorts of stuff, and hopes what's left over will pass along to the wassailers. A medieval carol about trickle-down economics.

2) Art needs to be simple. Humans respond to symbols, and symbols are powerful in their simplicity.

3) Is there such a thing as learned incompetence?

4) A hammer doesn't swing itself. Tools are just tools.

5) Society's not a good place to keep humans.

6) Freedom is intimidating.

7) We may be the train but the tracks don't belong to us.

8) Welcome to the decade of the gifted amateur.


I do the most creative thinking in the shower. Yesterday I wondered why and figured out that it's because I'm still. I have nowhere to go, no errands to run, no space to roam around. Plus there's water. Water promotes creativity. Eliminate the option to stand at the bottom of the Huron River for a long time to quietly think, the shower will do. Leaning my head against the shower stall yesterday, trying to get unmad about political hooha, I realized everybody lies. Not just politicians, store clerks, parents and me. It's a human thing. My mom was a crazy person about lying and I have that trait too. It's a dumb trait, doesn't make me happy, rich or alien. I lie. Congresspeople lie. Why make it hard on myself? Unrealistic expectations may lead to success, but it's a damn spikier road. I like this drawing. It will remind me that being human is as good as it gets for humans, and the more breaks we give ourselves, the smoother the journey.

Laura's Door

A winter barn door reveals dreams of summer ponds. Author Laura J. W. Ryan's photograph; and the dream behind the door.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Women Who Weren't Born Yesterday

This morning's internet tunneling took me back to Lear's Magazine - The Magazine For Women Who Weren't Born Yesterday. The Golden Globe nomination news led to The Hollywood Reporter, to Third Age website's story about Helen Mirren receiving the Sherry Lansing Award. Third Age subheads itself as "for the woman who wasn't born yesterday and makes the most of today." Which reminded me of Lear's where the tagline originated. Baby boomer women news and the pictures across the top are Gwyneth Paltrow, some young studly guy, a sidebar picture to support "Today's Hottest Red Heads," and the teaser photo for the Helen Mirren story has been cropped to show her chest and waist. She's decapitated. I loved Lear's Magazine. More clicking this morning led to a 1994 NY Times story about Lear's demise. The writer opined "because there is no other magazine quite like Lear's, it is unclear whether a publication aimed at women over 35 and carrying little or no fashion coverage can be successful." Frances Lear created Lear's Magazine for a particular reader: herself. There are now millions of "herselfs" but there's still no magazine like Lear's. One or two claim to be for the woman over 35, but most of the ads and bits are pointed at women who may not be 35, but will spend a bunch of hundred dollars to look as though. I still miss Lear's Magazine.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow Holds Up Tax Cut Vote

Senate is holding the vote on the tax + more pork + weirdness like legalized internet gambling bill open so members can return to the Capitol. The entire #@%^$ planet knew this vote was coming on Friday, along with the snow. If you or I weren't at our job, snowy asses in seats for this, we'd be looking for work. And we can't fire these birds why???

Turning 10, Turning 60

What do ages 9 and 59 have in common? Bad haircuts. Glasses. That jutty front tooth (even though it was corrected with braces; multiple face surgeries put it right back where it started.) But that's all appearances. I feel like I did when I was 9. I loved to read, ride my bike, run, play with my brothers, swing, draw, build stuff, create and laugh. I still do. I was confident, exuberant, happy to be me. I am again. I slept great then and now. The 50 years in between added wrinkles, mass and experience, but the girl who was 9 is the woman who is 59. I was excited to turn 10. And I'm excited to be 60.


Each December Earth passes through the remains of 3200 Phaeton, an iceless comet. The Geminids meteor shower should be visible falling through the constellation Gemini on Tuesday between midnight and sunrise, from December 12 to 16th. And we get the best view in the Northern Hemisphere with optimum celestial show viewing on Tuesday, December 13. If you can't stay awake that late, check the sky after sunset tonight, or any night until Thursday. This is the warm-up act for the total lunar eclipse coming December 20-21, just in time for the Winter Solstice.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tell My Doctor

"Tell your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms: headache, nausea, muscle weakness, weight gain, sleeplessness, diarrhea, tongue swelling, heart palpitations, anxiety, tremors, fatigue, stomach pain, heart attack, death."

What's Gonna Get Me

If anybody asks "what was it that finally did her in?" nod sagely, and say, "it was twist ties, chewed toothpicks and the ripped-off tops of artificial sweetener all over the house." Yes, ma'am, that's what will get me. And the dog probably, too, for different reasons. I'm not eating the stuff. Yet.

Narcissism, 3rd Chakra and The Fitzgeralds

Read Nancy Milford's "Zelda" last night. Professor Milford wrote this biography of Zelda Fitzgerald as her master's thesis. Published in 1970, it was considered for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. I watched "Tender Is The Night" on TCM, and Robert Osborne discussed the dynamics of the Fitzgeralds' relationship, and mentioned the book as the single account that shed some light on Zelda's creativity and squashed potential, rather than Zelda as merely mentally ill, and poor F. Scott, struggling to maintain. Nancy Milford is a Michigan native and attended University of Michigan, so I got the book from the library. Milford's research is phenomenally well-structured, with plenty of anecdotal accounts of the history and life of the couple. The searing trajectory of F. Scott Fitzgerald + Zelda Sayre is too bright for mortal eyes, like a nova. Destined for greatness with mutual admission, the Fitzgeralds were interchangeably committed to implosion. I can't draw their sad fate, but I drew what I feel is the effect of an overperforming 3rd Chakra. Manipura, "Lustrous Gem" - its issues are personal power, self-esteem, willfullness and energy. Overshadowed is 2nd Chakra with its manifestation of creativity, emotion and relationships. Dimmed as well is 4th Chakra - acceptance, trust, compassion and love. Doubting, jealous, self-absorbed and deeply willful and energetic, the Fitzgeralds careened through the 20s and 30s, clutching for the keys to the kingdom they had imagined, and I wonder how different each life would have been without their fateful connection. Double helix of malfunctioning emotional DNA. Brilliant, creative and doomed.

Narcissism Undisordered

The American Psychiatric Association is considering dropping narcissism from its roster of personality disorders in DSM V, out in 2013. NPR's story reminds us what we read in the gossip columns is not really narcissism. NY Times article explains the rationale behind dropping 5 of 10 listed personality disorders. PsychCentral tells us that clinicians will still do the heavy therapeutic lifting for clinical cases. I believe the American Psychiatric Association will remove the 5 from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders because no one in their crowd can write a prescription to abate, cure, or influence any of the soon-to-be removed. Clinical cynical. Evidence the removal of "homosexuality" as a disorder in 1986. DSM's validity is marginal except to insurance companies, Big Pharma, and government pharmaceutical regulators (Phantom Pharma). Perhaps we'll see fewer prescriptions written off-script to "lessen the symptoms" of borderline personality disorder, narcissism, and the other 3. Remains to be seen how difficult getting a referral and medication assistance will be in 2013 and beyond. Meanwhile Kanye West, Snooki and their professional sports avatars can continue along the yellow brick road of self-acknowledged fabulousness.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Art and Not Art

Reading trails this morning on the internet. There must be a name for this activity, digging behind stories to other stories. Checked 13.7 Cosmos and Culture and found a new post by Stuart Hoffman and followed the thread "Poised Realm," a lovely phrase. Schrodinger's cat makes an appearance, possibly dead, possibly alive, but certainly not dead AND alive as previously supposed. Schrodinger's cat needs a therapist if alive, and a funeral if not. But I love this stuff. Measurement, quantifying, bridging the gap between classical/quantum, science/magic. Aristotle's A and Not A, biocentrism, Global Unified Theory, poor Schrodinger's cat. What is in between dead and not dead? If we had a big enough yardstick and my Dad's enormous calculating wristwatch (how many times a day do you use a cosine function?) we'd all be...more content? Science causes me to feel happy. So does magic. So does a good argument for the existence of [your favorite deity here]. And science is good art, too. Just look at the wave pattern on the other side of the slit experiment. If that isn't art, then it must be science. I'm going to ask Schrodinger's cat.