Thursday, November 27, 2008

Second Favorite Holiday Has Come ... and Gone

Table set and ready -- food nowhere in sight.

Ah, the food arrives.

That's our favorite foodie, handling the craving knife.

Everyone had plenty to eat.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Red Silk Dress


The bride’s dress featured a very large crème-with-a-touch-of-tea satin bow and long-to-the-floor sashes. It reminded me of one of my high school ball gowns. I leaned close to my mother to speak over the pounding music.

“Her dress reminds me of the one with the huge lavender bow you made me. Do you remember it?”

“Yes. Do you remember we got the idea from a picture in a Kotex ad?”

“Not at all,” I laughed. “Did that bother you?”

“Not much. The one that bothered me was the red silk. Do you remember that dress?”

“Of course. Vividly. I’ve written something about that dress.”

“I thought you looked so cute. Then one of your boyfriends said you looked pregnant in it. I felt awful.”

I watched her face for several distinct seconds and then I knew. “You don’t remember the rest of the story, do you, Mom?”

“Was there a ‘rest of the story’?”

“You took care of that.”

“I’m so glad to hear I did something right. What did I do?”

The noise was way too loud to continue what was going to be a long-ish story.

“Too noisy. I’ll write it for you.”

Here’s the story.

Back story first? Ok. Dresses and outfits, designs, sewing, tailoring. Around such matters my Mom and I bonded without reservation. Most garments started with an occasion – lead in a junior high play, balls and proms, drama and speech contests.

It had to be spring, 1962. Me, 15, turning 16. The dress was more justified than initiated. I always needed an Easter outfit, but that was not the central thrust. It was a bolt of silk that set the thing in motion. Small bouquets of blue and yellow daises on a ground of fire engine red. Maybe a touch intense for a spring Sunday dress, but irresistible.

Yard for yard, the price was high – but she agreed to it.

Then we looked at dress patterns. That year something high waisted was in fashion. Not the Empire line that creates a sleek front panel, but a dirndl-like skirt gathered just below the bust.

Between checking the fit and taking the length for the hem, I didn’t see the finished dress again until Easter morning. Mom brought it to my room and we checked it with the shoes. Standing in front of the mirror, I winced. “Mom, do you think the dress makes me look … fat?”

I didn’t really mean ‘fat’ but I couldn’t say what was on my mind.

“Oh, no. You look adorable!”

Although I left the mirror uneasy, when I couldn’t see the design of the dress, the shimmer and slip of the fabric reassured me. Completely.

Coming out of church a few hours later, David DeTar walked me to my parents’ car. David was more of a friend boy than a boyfriend, but I think that morning we were entertaining the idea of a date. When the conversation flagged, I grabbed the next thought that popped into my head.

“So, how do you like my new dress?”

“It’s cute, nice color,” he offered. Then the zinger. “Makes you look like you’re going to have a baby.”

I swiveled around to see if Mom could hear. Sliding in the car, I asked, “Did you hear what David said? He said I look pregnant in this dress.”

“Mom, can we alter it?” I asked even though I already knew at 15, going on 16, how unforgiving silk is.

“I doubt it,” my mother looked perturbed. I figured she was thinking about how much money we’d spent on this dress I was not going to want to wear. So, in the five block drive from the church to our home, I worked on getting my mind around the situation.

By the time we were home, I could calmly say, “Oh, well, I’m not pregnant and everyone will know that when I don’t get any bigger.”

I hung the dress up and went on with the day and then the week. But late that week, Mom said she wanted to check the fit on something she was sewing. Out came a dress – red silk, shirtwaist bodice, slim skirt, distinct waistline with a self-belt.

I couldn’t see how this dress could have been made from the earlier one, but just to check, I asked, “So, what did you do with the other dress?”

“Oh, I gave it to a young married friend of mine who’s pregnant. She was delighted.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

What is This Thing Called Marriage?

Well over one thousand legal issues change when you change your marital status – just within the realm of the U.S. government. Who knew!

For that matter, why would I know?

Shortly after our early November election, affiliation logos started popping up on Facebook friends’ pages for something called “Overturn Prop 8.”

Just in case this slipped passed you, dear reader, the recent election included a ballot initiative for Californians, calling for the addition of these words to that state’s constitution: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognize in California.” Surprising to many including yours truly, the initiative, referred to as ‘Prop 8,’ was successful.

I have long been a casual supporter of same sex marriage or at least the equivalent. So my inclination was to sign on and add that logo to my Facebook page. But first, I said to myself, perhaps I should think about my position more carefully and try to understand the opposition. That’s just good editorial behavior, right?

I myself regard a marriage as a rather complex contractual relationship between two people, quite apart from any rights and obligations a government attaches to the deal. I know a marriage is a personal, emotional, social and legal relationship; for many, it also involves a religious sacrament.

Two adults marry to create a home, insure companionship, probably establish exclusivity in sexual relations and, likely, make a nest for nurturing offspring. Nowadays, partners may actually discuss how they will divvy up tasks like making a living and making the beds.

And the state recognizes these contracts, giving them a lot of legal support. The state doesn’t require that the two people have children. The state doesn’t even require evidence that the two people wish to or can have children. So, on the face of it, it doesn’t appear that the existence or potential existence of offspring accounts for the state smiling on marrying couples. (Note I said, ‘doesn’t appear.’)

So if we can hold aside the sex and kid issues for a moment, we are talking about two people partnering up to share the adult tasks of making a living and making a home.

Frankly, that’s a pretty good arrangement. It improves the social and financial stability of the partners. Good for both partners, good for the society as a whole.

On the other hand, it would seem that two people could partner up pretty successfully without the legal bonds of marriage.

So, we actually face two questions: Why do same sex couples feel the desire to have their relationships defined legally as marriages? What’s the big deal?

And, then again, why does anyone object?

It’s all about that whole host of legal rights, privileges, responsibilities and obligations that accrue when two people marry. Many of those rights have to do with what the two partners owe each other; many could plausibly be established by a private contract between the partners. Many others, however, involve rights and benefits provided by governments or enforced on third parties for the benefit of the marital partners.

In the second category, for example: a spouse surviving the death of his or her partner has numerous survivorship rights which the spouse who earned the benefit cannot assign to a non-spouse. In the absence of a surviving spouse, the benefit simply disappears. Most pension survivorship benefits operate this way. Similarly, an employer who provides health insurance for employee and spouse must, by law, provide for continuation of coverage for a surviving spouse if the employee passes away.

That’s not the whole story, but it is plenty to explain why any pair-bond, any couple, would want the advantages of legal marriage.

And why does anyone object?

This is trickier to explain and often gets reduced to things that sound like nonsense to many of us: protecting marriage, protecting the concept of marriage. Huh? Occasionally the arguments slip-slide into pronouncements that “Heather has Two Mommies” will become required reading in public school second grade classes everywhere. Oh, please; easily addressed!

Here’s what I think is really going on: many of those rights and privileges were enacted into law to support not marriage per se but to support the bearing and rearing of children. At any one point in time, most adults are married but most are not in the active phase of bearing and rearing children. Politically, you can enact legislation supporting people who bear and rear children a lot easier if you simply attach the support to marriage. (I could even make the argument that, given the opportunity costs associated with raising children, it is fair and reasonable to create rights for potential and actual parents that span a lifetime – but I’d rather finish this post than write a book.)

So, the fact is, as our society works its way through the haystack of legalities associated with marriage, we’ll be forced to do a lot of work! We’ll have to revisit and clarify what responsibilities and benefits correctly arise from the fact that two adults have supported and cared for one another for years and what ones more correctly arise from the fact that a person parented children.

I’m good with that. Let’s go.

[A few of dings I’d like to head off: I do know that marriages are made by states, Federal law currently will not recognize same sex marriages even if a state endorses them, only two states currently allow for same sex marriage and Illinois (my state, where I hear some of my neighbors saying very disparaging things about Californians for supporting Prop 8) cannot even get a bill out of committee if it concerns the legal status of same sex pair bonds.]

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Help Your Local School -- SO Easy!

The other day, a neighbor on my Freecycle listserv told me her kid was collecting these:

She asked everyone to help him collect them. I didn't think I'd find any, but what the hey. Couldn't hurt to check. Pulled the old Cheerios box out of the recycling bin and, whatdaya know, there it was. So I flipped over the Kleenex box on my desk. Bingo again!

Into the kitchen drawers, the pantry -- more and more!

These coupons are worth cash to your local school. Check it out if you have a doubt: Box Tops 4 Education. Then check your cabinets.

Surfing the Blogs Just to See ...

This is amazing. I wish I'd thought to do something like it. Hard to go back and recreate.

Diego Golberg's Arrows of Time

Monday, November 10, 2008

Grandma's Diaries, revisited

Two messages in response to Grandma’s Diaries arrived via email. After checking back with the writers, I am so sharing these!


If you don't want another generation to read about your thoughts and days, writing in a diary and retaining it over the years seems unwise. I suspect Grandmother, if she considered the matter, would have wished for this very thoughtful, scholarly, now adult granddaughter, to inherit and treasure the diaries. And, she would be pleased to know you enjoy them. It's as if she sometimes looks out from those pages and smiles that wistful smile of hers, isn't it?

I suspect she'd be pleased, and perhaps a tad embarrassed, that you're now sharing her days with Julie, Frieda, and Trisha. The Texas girls came and spent whole summer weeks at her house. She might wish you hadn't cited the day when John stormed or was cocky, but then again, she recorded what she saw and left it for you, didn't she?

It's really lovely that you have the diaries and like them so much. These are like late-arriving gifts-- from her to you, and now you to her. Thank you so much for sharing some of it. I loved it.

Thank you,

John Hale

Janet, I loved the pieces you selected from the diaries. Did you know that Semper was Paul and Chockey’s dog? Grandma and Grandpa brought her to us when we moved from an upstairs duplex in Orange to a house. Maybe we couldn’t have her in the duplex?? I was too young to remember her until we moved to the house. From photos I know she was with us in Tucson while Paul was in law school. Thanks for sharing.
Trick or Treat, Frieda

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Off to Atlanta with Another Janet

One day I was trying to figure out some little idiosyncrasy. The total question is complicated and digressive, but in the course of studying the problem, I bounced from tab to tab, often returning to “Everyone” or the public feed.

As I opened the public feed yet again, a message came up from Damnit_Janet. Felt like I’d just slapped myself. I mean, that’s what I mutter when I do something dumb or cannot solve some little puzzle I believe should be easy.

I was mesmerized. I added Damnit_Janet to my ‘Following’ list. I tried to get a Tweet directly to her but that isn’t so easy if the person isn't ‘following’ you.

So, Damnit_Janet’s been entertaining me with her sparky, funny Tweets for days. I just hope if she eventually notices my name on her ‘Followers’ list, she doesn’t just block me out.

(You'd enjoy them, too, but you'll have to go ask the other Janet -- )

Meanwhile, my rl friends are probably at plays or conferences or panel discussions, but my alter-ego is off to Atlanta for the Roller Derby!

Rollin' in Atlanta as we speak

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Playing out the Race Card

To set up a blog in October of 2008 and then let the election of November 4, 2008, pass without comment would be … a bad decision. So!

We are redeemed.

Without question, the biggest stain on, the most troubling hypocrisy of our nation’s history is this: we (or more literally, some of our ancestors) attempted to establish a new nation under the principles of the Enlightenment while compromising to accommodate slavery.

For over two centuries, the resulting contradiction has plagued us. It has distorted our fundamental desire to honor merit. Often, it has made our hopes for a just and free society seem like nothing but nonsense.

Perhaps we could not have established anything without that compromise. Perhaps two centuries of struggle were a historic necessity. Perhaps.

And perhaps we are done.

Barack Obama was not my candidate of choice, for several reasons. None of them concern race. Had Colin Powell agreed to run top or second on either ticket at any point in his career, I would have been as enthusiastic a supporter as Obama’s supporters are now.

But in US elections, regardless of who you favor, when the results are in, the President is your President. And I will be thrilled to call Barack Obama my President, too.

Let us all do everything within our power to make his a successful Presidency.

[And let’s keep working on the gender card, too.]

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Watching the Results

This is the part of elections I like best: the results part.

If you, too, like following the results blow by blow, you might enjoy using this guide:

(You are allowed to ignore the sidebars, etc. That's called "focus.")

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Magritte sky --- and getting our colors on.

Goblins in motion.

Left-overs, anyone? --- plezzz!