Friday, August 24, 2012

goodbye tea set, hello boy band

You might know from my last post that I have been sick.  While I was lying around on the couch feeling sorry for my achy old self, Olivia did a lot of “cleaning.”  Since she is not a child to stay focused on any one thing for very long, I should have been suspicious, or at least curious, about the sustained attention she devoted to her task.  But really, I couldn’t be bothered to lift my throbbing head. 

What was she up to?  Well, you know how kids grow so suddenly?  At the end of summer, you discover their sneakers have shrunk and their long pants have an unexpected capri quality to them? 

That's what we're talking about.  When I finally rose from my stupor last week, I discovered something unexpected sitting out in the hall: 


While I had convalesced, Olivia had combed through her room and winnowed out the trappings of her early years. Having collected her childhood, she then cast it off and left it, like a too small sweatshirt, lying forlorn and bedraggled on the floor outside her bedroom door. 

When I ventured by, I found a haphazard bin of figures: pollies, barbies, horses and littlest pets.  None of these creatures had seen the light of day for at least a couple of years, but suddenly, their presence under the bed had become intolerable, so they'd been extracted and summarily rejected.  Two bins of Legos, rendered useless.  A train set:  history.  A defunct pottery wheel and an old bag of clay:  trash. 

She even rolled her doll crib right into the hall and set it adrift in the world with the dolls still sitting politely along the rail.  They looked so expectant when I passed, as if waiting for tea that will never be served.  I told them, "Look chickies, the party's over."  I pointed to the miniature cups and saucers posed delicately in their basket nearby.  I showed them the small dresser of doll clothes we painted to match Olivia’s room so many years ago, and I explained how it doubled as the traveling trunk that would dutifully follow them en route to the attic. 

With a sardonic roll of my eye, I noted to myself that we probably wouldn't see that trunk again until I, egad, became a grandmother.  I thought I heard a snicker from the crib, but when I looked, the dolls just stared back: silent. 

I want to say this purging took me by surprise. 

But it didn’t. 

And it shouldn’t. 

But still. 

Freed from the past, Olivia looks intently forward, in “One Direction.”   Yes, that is what fills the cracks and crevices so recently left empty by childhood: bad tween music.  And don’t forget the paraphernalia that comes with all that sentimental crooning: posters slapped on the wall, I ♥ Harry Styles (really? like “I ♥ hairy styles?") written in bubble letters on the outside of notebooks, and lists of One Direction “fun facts” compiled and catalogued for emergency reference.

Must we trade tea sets for boy bands? 

Yes, yes, we must. 

How is it that moving through these milestones can be so exciting, curious, and yet, painful?  We're so happy to put away the diaper pail, but we're hard-pressed to let go of the baby.  We want a few hours to ourselves, but then we spend them worrying about how Junior's getting along in circle time.  We're so proud when little angel first rides a two-wheeler, but then we tremble with fear as she wobbles away on the sidewalk.

Parents.  We are first-rate nut jobs!

I never even cared much for those dolls, and you know I hated the pollies and Barbies.  (Although, I admit Olivia taught me a thing or two about subversive play when she cut off all her Barbies' hair and dressed them in cut up old socks that she decroated with markers).   Still, after nearly banning them from the house, now I want to have a pang as they go back out the door?

And does this mean I'll shed a sentimental tear when the One Direction posters come down in a year or so? 

For god's sake, I hope not.  I need to get a grip!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

a leech, a tick and a VP pick

Deer Tick
Image from

Apparently, I contracted Lyme Disease several weeks ago.  Not lucky enough to get the early warning of a bulls-eye bite, I had to wait for the “flu-like” symptoms that would announce my fate with a vengeance.  Consequently, I’ve spent the last week in a feverish stupor, suffering from headaches, body aches, and a few delusional nightmares.

I dreamt about canning a too-big batch of tomatoes, riding a too-intense rollercoaster, and swimming in a too-cold ocean.  The worst however: I dreamt that Romney named too-conservative Paul Ryan to be his running mate in November [but really, who did I expect, Barney Frank?]

Romney and Ryan: Laughing their way to the bank?
image from

Ranting and raving in my bed, I saw TANF, food stamps and housing assistance slashed, I saw social security dissolved like sugar in Wall Street’s morning coffee, and I saw Medicaid, Medicare, Obamacare…and hell, why not any care, eradicated. 

I drank lots of fluids, rested dutifully, took Motrin, then Tylenol, then Vicodin, but the fever, the headaches and the nightmares continued.  I dreamt that Ryan opposed gays in the military, gays in marriage, perhaps gays in general?  

I felt a slipping of time.  In my delirium I mumbled, “what decade is it?”  Steve admonished that I should rest, but I only fell deeper into the grip of troubling hallucinations:  Ryan voting against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  Ryan opposing abortion rights, even for rape and incest victims.  Ryan supporting personhood legislation that would equate abortion and some forms of birth control with murder.  The crazy go-back-in-time train kept on rolling, as if Ozzy Osbourne himself were manning the engine.

In my nightmare, where a man of such backward views could stand to win such a prominent political office, my concern for lost decades turned more grave.  “What century is it?” I implored, as Steve held a glass of water to my dried and cracking lips.

Could it be 1812?  Was it possible my antique bed wasn't an antique at all?  Completely disoriented, I looked around wildly. Would Ryan bring his callous 19th Century views to my bedside and recommend they bleed me with leeches?  Plunge me into a tub of icy water?  Let me die of this bacterial infection?

image from

Just when I thought I would lose my mind with worry, the fever broke.  With relief, I saw that I do not (yet) live in 1812 with Paul Ryan.  Instead, I live in the 21st Century with Barack Obama.  I know we have our troubles, but I like this place where women and gays have increasing (and not decreasing) rights; where the supreme court upheld Obamacare; where the elderly receive built-in financial and medical benefits; where TANF dollars and food stamps help hardworking families stay in their homes; and yes, where we have antibiotics. 

Note: Although some aspects of the week’s events have been a teensy bit overdramatized, I really do have Lyme Disease, I really have spent a feverish week in bed, and yes, I'm sorry, but Mitt Romney really did choose Paul Ryan over Barney Frank for his running mate.  To avoid these nuisances in your own life: check regularly for ticks, beware of lengthy unexplained “flu-like” symptoms, and keep us in the 21st Century: vote Obama/Biden 2012!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


In 1972, Olga Korbut turned an international eye to the world of women's gymnastics while sporting a bad case of bed head and a blah, ill-fitting leo.

She looked like a rumpled kid practicing her craft in the gym.

As she should have.

Four years later, another little girl took the world by storm.  She charmed us with her shy smile and her perfect routines. 

When Mary Lou Retton hit the scene in 1984, she drew attention for her powerhouse performances and her girlish grin.  Even with her eye makeup in this studio appearance, the producers capitalized on strength, patriotism and joie de vivre, not sex. 

photo credit: The Indy Tribune

Times changed quickly after that.  The 1996 team, including stars Dominique Dawes and Kerri Strug, look more produced in their satiny outfits and glossy lips.

Although they still look girlish, the sexify ball had begun to roll.  These gymnasts plucked their eyebrows and traded the national uniform for costumes that varied from event to event. 

Dominique Dawes completing her floor routine in 1996

Fast forward to 2008 where Nastia Liukin gives us pink and sparkly sequins.  Really?  No red, white and blue on the gold medal podium?

Compare Nastia, who wore at least three different costumes during her 2008 events, to Nadia who not only wore the same leotard in every 1976 appearance, but had the gall to bring it back for the next Olympics in 1980.  Clearly, we didn't watch Nadia for her outfits.

If you're going to wear a fancy sparkly costume, then you better go for the make up too, right? We could easily put these polished head shots of Nastia and Shawn on top of evening dresses.  While the makeup may be reasonable for prom night, is it really the look of athletes who just medaled in the Olympics?


Which brings us to 2012.

Jordyn Wieber - USA

McKayla Maroney - USA

Aliya Mustafina - Russia

Phrases like "girlish grin" and "prom queen" no longer come to mind.  If the eye makeup isn't enough, we have glam shots like this rather grotesque NBC representation to make us squirm and perhaps, vomit.

Is this the 2012 gymnastics team or a glitzy club ad for the night's erotic entertainment?

I know lots of folks have complained about NBC's Olympic coverage for reasons of timing. I give them a fail for their willingness to throw young female athletes under the sexify bus in their rush to get to the ratings parade. 


Monday, August 6, 2012

on your honor

I spent the week at Lake Canandagua in New York.  It's a beautiful and quiet place. 

misty morning on the lake

In fact, if I had thousands of readers, I wouldn't dare mention it for fear of ruining the serenity of the place. 

moon over the mountain

But really, since there aren't too many of you, you should go. 

cattails on the marshy end

We go to unplug and check out.  We fish, sit, swim, sit, kayak, sit...You get the picture. 

gareth lounging on the kayak

One thing I get to do on this vacation is ride my bike. 

On one of my rides, I came across a little roadside stand selling garlic. 

Just garlic.  Oh, and one bunch of beets.  I didn't take a picture (darn).

There wasn't an attendant.  Just a handwritten sign that said "Garlic $2.00" and a little metal box with a slit in the top where I was expected to put my money. 

I put my money in the box and took my container of garlic, feeling a mix of pride for having paid and paranoia that someone might think I hadn't.  In fact, I wanted to look around to see if anyone had taken note as I put the correct number of dollars in the box, but I also worried that if I did look around, a person watching might find that suspicious, as if I were planning to steal something. 

I live in a big metropolitan area.  I'm clearly not used to being trusted. 

I discovered that I really liked it. 

This, apparently, is not uncommon.  I remembered a story I heard on NPR about honor system vegetable stands.  They explained that it's a win-win.  The farmer gets to stay in the field, practicing his trade instead of babysitting his customers. We get a good feeling from being trusted while we also get something delicious that we wanted. 

I agree.  Win-Win.  And win.

As I rode my bike past other stands, I felt lifted, happy that I proved to be the kind of person who wouldn't pilfer pints of pretty blueberries from hardworking farmers.  These farmers gave me that good feeling, and for that, I wanted all the more to prove worthy--and to buy their produce. 

Blueberries like these go for $5.00 a pint at the markets where I live.  Could we put them out on the corner and expect to collect? 

blueberries for $3.50/pint

A psychologist in the NPR story claims that 25% of people are honest, 25% are mostly honest, 25% are dishonest, and 25% are erratic.  That's 75% of us that at least have a shot at doing the right thing.  I think those are pretty good odds.  Although I guess it still means that eventually, someone's going to take the blueberries.

In a small community, where you regularly run into the farmer buying eye-hooks and picture hangers in the hardware store, and your kids go to school together, I bet the odds are even better that you wouldn't slip an extra zucchini into your bag--or run off with the cash box for that matter.  In a larger community, however, I imagine feelings of anonymity might make it easier to cheat your neighbor out of a turnip or two. 

But I believe even us big city folks can be trusted too, if you give us a chance.  I'm thinking my friend Jay should try this to remedy his tomato emergency (and the many other vegetable related emergencies he has coming down the pike). 

For the record, the stands I passed didn't have the air of emergency about them.  This one only had a few cucumbers for sale when I went by.  The whole garden even lay in the background, asking to be pillaged--or perhaps just hoping to be admired.

7 cukes for sale

all organic produce 
cukes $.50   3 for $1.40
zucchini $.75 each

For me, a tourist, I felt privileged to move through this rural world where neighbors share produce with trust and goodwill.  

I took my garlic, slid my $2.00 into the little metal box, and hopped back on my bike, feeling a tall, worthy, and grateful member of the 75%.