Category Archives: Looking back

What Do You Want an Afghan for?

When I was in high school, a bunch of friends and I were sitting around and one quietly asked, a little embarrassed, “Does anyone have a napkin?” and we’re not talking about something to wipe food from your mouth. Mishearing the request, another friend answered loudly, “What do you want an afghan for?”

As is the rule with all quality longitudinal friendships, we still joke about that moment. It’s a girl thing, getting surprised by your period, which has unceremoniously snuck up on you. Some of us can studiously count the days all we want and mark our calendars, and our periods laugh at us, sitting at the bar, eyeing us on the overhead TV. And the minute it would be most inconvenient, say, while you’re at a fancy restaurant with white fabric chairs, or giving a presentation at work to mostly men, or in the car on a long trip and miles away from the next exit and any supplies, she laughs evilly while sliding off her stool to come for you. She never comes at home when you are within easy reach of your supplies, or at your friend’s house who would also have supplies, and maybe wine. Oh, no. What fun would that be?

Bitch.

So at some point in your life, as a menstruating woman, you will find yourself asking a friend, coworker, or mere acquaintance if you’re desperate enough, “Do you have a napkin/tampon/pad?”

I can’t remember if I read this on a blog or as part of a novel, but I love this story. The woman is in her late 30s, maybe early 40s and has kids. She carries around tampons in her purse, and at one point they spill out in front of a younger, female coworker, whose eyes get big at the sight of the “super” tampons. You know, because kids, later in life flow. The little girly “light days” ain’t gonna cut it. It’s been so long, that the woman has forgotten there are other types of tampons, and only realizes it though the younger woman’s big eyes.

I can relate. At 53, yes, I still need tampons. Don’t get me started, and yes, I know when — if — this damn thing ever stops, I have other troubles ahead. Maybe whatever those troubles are they don’t cost a small fortune and require a shelf of space. I suppose I can be considered “lucky.” My period no longer plays hide and seek with me; however, she prefers to slide off her bar stool every 24 days like clockwork, which she never seemed to have the time for before.

Bitch.

I’m 53, this is supposed to be getting slower, maybe even skip a month here and there. Ha, ha, ha, she says. What is inconsistent is what happens at day 24, however. Any or all of these things can happen, and it rotates randomly. Leg cramps, backache, migraines; fast, heavy, slow flows, sometimes in the same day; it’s all part of the fun. As a result, both at work and home I have a drawer full/shelf full of 3 kinds of tampons and 2 kinds of pads, and more ibuprofen than a CVS. This has been my life for years now, and like the poor hapless lady in the story, I’ve completely forgotten that periods can present in any other way. That once upon a time, before electricity, I had light, irregular flows, and even skipped a period now and then. I maybe went through a box of one size tampons every 3-4 months.

Until my younger coworker asked apologetically if I had a tampon. Like she might take my last one. “Sure!” I answered enthusiastically as I opened my bottom desk drawer, which as you can see from the picture is chock full. “Oh wow!” she said, eyes big.

tampondrawer

And I saw it through her eyes — like that women in the story. Crap. I already know it’s ridiculous to have my period at my age, but you don’t have to put a fine point on it or remind me nobody has a drawer full of tampons at their desk.

Then she got overwhelmed by the different sizes, “I don’t even know what these all are,” she said, slightly panicked. I thought how could you not know? In the tampon isle there are boxes with all sizes, marketed to us by color and names like “regular,” “super,” “super plus,” and that one grand day they were test marketing “ultra.” I was so happy and excited I bought a box and I never found them again after that. I have a bone to pick with the ever-changing, yet declining helpfulness of the color packaging, but that truly is another blog.

Maybe if your period has a little more civility, you get to have just your one box of one size, tucked away discretely among your note pads and pens and sticky notes.

She grabbed one, I believe is was a super, and ran off. And I was left staring at my drawer. Resupplying it can sometimes feel like musical chairs. Every time I restock, I think maybe it will stop, and then what will I do with all this? (Answer: donate to a woman’s shelter). But she’s sitting on the bar stool laughing at me. She’s not going to pull that trick on me for a long time — Miss every 24 days.

Oh, no, not me. I got my full drawer at work and my full shelf at home. My coworker did come again a few month later, asking for a tampon. She seemed less shocked this time, so that was good.

If my period ever does stop I was thinking I could fill the space with yarn. I make a mean afghan.

Dedicated to my dear friend Ruthy. You know why.

 

 

 

Here’s What We’re Going to Do

My grandmother, who we called Memere (we’re 1/2 French Canadian), would say, after listening to whatever childish request we’d cooked up or if it were a rainy day and we were moping around, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” And some amazing activity would ensue: cooking up cripes (that was our version of crepes), or making a dress for an off-brand Barbie, or figuring out what fun thing to do with a piece of a float that had washed up on the shore of her tiny lake cottage.

She has moved on, but her words came back to me as I have been thinking about the three ballot questions we have in Massachusetts. If you live here, I’m sure you’ve read up, or have been reading the flyers that are inundating your mailbox, or you’re getting phone calls from engaged young enthusiastic people. But you’re still not sure?

Here’s what you’re going to do. And because my Memere’s involved, at least in memory, you know you can trust this:

  1. Ballot Question 1, NO: Do you approve of a law that would limit how many patients could be assigned to each registered nurse in Massachusetts hospitals and certain other health care facilities. The maximum number of patients per registered nurse would vary by type of unit and level of care. No on 1.

I work at a hospital that is consistently ranked in the top 3 in the nation–OK once we went down to #4, but they changed the criteria that year–and we say no. The nurses at my hospital have complete control over how many nurses they need to take care of patients who are always changing and have changing needs. One size does not fit all. Here’s is the chief nurse speaking plainly about it to one of our docs. It’s not a slick advertisement, just an iPhone video of reality.  Our chief nurse says no on 1

2. Ballot Question 2, YES: Do you approve of this proposed law that would create a citizens commission to consider and recommend potential amendments to the United States Constitution to establish that corporations do not have the same Constitutional rights as human beings and that campaign contributions and expenditures may be regulated. Yes on 2.

We’re Massachusetts, and we have lots of smart eggheads who can help clarify this. I know being smart is totally out of fashion right now.  But we can’t help ourselves. Let’s show the rest of the county how it’s done, shall we? They hate us anyway, so what do we have to lose?

3. Ballot Question 3. YES: This one is do you essentially re-approve of a law that has been in existence since 2016? This law already adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement. Such grounds also include race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, disability, and ancestry. A “place of public accommodation, resort or amusement” is defined in existing law as any place that is open to and accepts or solicits the patronage of the general public, such as hotels, stores, restaurants, theaters, sports facilities, and hospitals. “Gender identity” is defined as a person’s sincerely held gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, whether or not it is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth. Yes on 3. 

WTF? Look, whatever feelings you have about people who may be different from you. THIS LAW ALREADY EXISTS. No children, pets, or people’s silly pride had been harmed by this law.

WHY ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THIS? You live in Massachusetts–we’re a bunch of blue snowflakes, deal with it. If you have a problem, there are lots of other states you can be happy in. Buh-bye.

Happy voting people, and please don’t disappoint my Memere!

Image credit: National Monitor

 

 

The Doppelgänger Time Traveler

I apparently have one of those faces that is common, because throughout my life I have had friends and coworkers say randomly to me. “Hey, were you in Somerville (Rockport, Copenhagen, Fiji Islands, etc. ) this weekend? I’m sure I saw you!”

Although I do have a reputation for getting around, I don’t get around quite to that extent. So the answer is always no. When a few people first told me they thought they had seen me, I felt good because the person clearly thought about me in a positive way. If they didn’t like me, they would have just ducked and prayed to their favorite deity that I never saw them.

But as it became a more common occurrence, I just felt bad. I admit to certain ambitions that I am a unique person. Sure, it may have started with a blue dyed rat tail accompanying a short, punky haircut in the 80s, but a girl likes to think she’s different. And I have tried to evolve past that tail and, you know, be substantially different (like say it with a French or British  accent!). I have a different point of view! I see the world differently than all you people who look and think the same!

Yeah, right, dream on, girlie. Apparently I’m on every corner and at every festival.

Fine.

It happened less frequently as I got older. Maybe my doppelgängers preferred to stay home, or I became less likable in general. Even money. But then last year my son went off to college in another state. And when he was home for winter break, he said, “Oh, mom, I saw a girl at school who looked like a younger version of you.”

I was like, son of a bitch, seriously? Not only am I not as different as I thought, now I’m not different across time, space and generations? Cripes.

So there it is, folks. I’m as common as common gets across the country and across generations. But you know what? I am, what I am, and I think I’m still pretty interesting anyway, with or without the blue rat tail.

Photo credit: Celeb dopplegangers.

PS. Kavanaugh, this is not over yet. Far, far from it.

Raise a Glass

There have been many funny episodes in my life that involve alcohol, and a fair number of embarrassing episodes, and I’m not admitting to any pure straight up dumbass ones.  Plus, you have no proof of those — let’s hear it for coming of age before social media! Alcohol has also played a part in two of my prouder achievements.

But before we get to that, we have to go back to a job I had many years ago at the nonprofit Boston Center for Adult Education. You know, adult education, where people in their 20s pretend they’re “expanding their horizons,” with tai chi, or how to make a business plan, or making sushi, but they are really just looking to find other singles. And the joke is always on straight women, because most of the classes are filled with other straight women. Or was that just me? Anywho, this was way after the “Mad Men”/5 martini lunch era and way before start-up beer in the fridge and Foosball tables in the conference room era. Do you see how we Gen-Xers were completely left behind as far as alcohol in the workplace? Well, the BCAE, as we affectionately called it, created my noble desire to leave no alcoholic beverage behind. It used to be housed in an old mansion, so wedding reception rentals provided an income stream. Fortunately for us, our archaic old-ass Puritan Massachusetts laws prohibited the couple from taking any leftover alcohol with them. As a result, we always had a stash of wine and other spirits that were kept in the “wine closet.” That was an actual thing in my workplace. Of course my office supplies were kept in a built-in sock drawer and I worked in what had been the master’s bedroom (the house mrs. slept in the room nearby), but that’s a whole other blog.

All I’m saying is, when you are a Gen-Xer and 30 years old making essentially less than the minimum wage of today, but it’s OK because you are helping people, having wine at work was pretty damn exciting. And so every once in a while the education director would check the wine closet situation on a Friday afternoon and in no time we would have a beautiful spread of wine, cheese, and nibbles, fit for a wedding reception.

I vowed to leave no alcohol behind, so I knew what I had to do at my next job at a health newsletter publisher (remember those? So cute, those print newsletters, aren’t they?) When I got there, there was already a cruise director of sorts who organized movies at lunch and company outings. I didn’t want to step on his toes, so I waited patiently, and when he left, there was a wide open space. Apparently most people don’t like to organize fun at work. Who knew? I started off slowly with “tea time” — with tea in a real teapot and little teacups and cookies and little yummies. Once I had them enjoying that, it was a short leap to “wine time.” That was very cool until we got bought out by another company that seemed to prohibit alcohol in the workplace. Wha?

I say “seemed” because, ever the resourceful employee dedicated to the vision of drinking at work, I carefully scoured the fine print of the employee manual and discovered this fateful phrase: that alcohol was allowed at “company sponsored” events. Score! Just to be on the safe side though we referred to the “company sponsored” events as “tea time.” What can I say, our headquarters HR lady would visit once a quarter and we called her Catbert.

I eventually left the company, and that satellite office closed less than a year later, but a group of us continue the ritual in the more traditional venue of a bar after work. Now we get to call it a drinkfest, a nice name for my favorite work achievement.

My second alcohol-related achievement is that I got my mother to drink with me. Truth be told, this would be the second time her children have persuaded her. I believe my sister had the first honor when she came back from college a beer fan and got my mom on board. Having gone to an all girl high school and trying to be a nun after that before she got too sick to continue, my mom had missed out on a lot of teenage shenanigans. So it was up to us to make sure she made up for it in mid-life.

Fast forward to her recent move to assisted living. The two items in my mom’s fridge right now are beer and prune juice. And I think at age 88, that pretty much covers the bases. When she moved we tried to help her keep her rituals from home, one of which was every Saturday night she had beer and pizza. Her assisted living doesn’t have pizza that consistently, so she stopped drinking, can you imagine? When I told her to drink a beer after dinner on Saturday anyway, she said she doesn’t like to drink alone. Which is funny, because she drank by herself at home, and there weren’t even 100 assisted living neighbors within 20 feet of her, just my dad hanging out in another part of the house.

After couple of weeks of that suggestion being ignored, and she still wasn’t drinking in her apartment, I knew I had to act swiftly and hatched a plan. We FaceTime with each other every Friday night, and I always have wine on Fridays (and Mondays and Tuesdays and…but I digress), so I invited her to drink with me. Sure enough the next week she was hoisting her beer with me. This week she even finished hers before I finished mine. It was a proud moment.

 

In Praise of Things That Are Bad for You

It had been awhile since we’d been together. I had to give you up because, well, you’re just no good for me. But I got to missing you, and of course, the more I tried not to think about you, the more you popped in my mind, unbidden, at awkward times. Worse was when I realized how close you were to my work place. Part of what had helped me avoid you was that you had disappeared from your usual haunts, and that was good. I knew I couldn’t run into you unexpectedly. But there you were, so close. I managed to resist for a good 6 months, but then one day, I couldn’t take it anymore.

I walked into that deli near work and ordered an American sandwich.

Actually, I first asked if they had bologna, an essential ingredient. The counter person had to go to the back room to check. In case you haven’t been paying attention to this food travesty, bologna has been slowly disappearing off of deli menus in the Boston area. Even the cafeteria at the hospital where I work stopped carrying it. I get it. It probably has the same amount of real ingredients as a Twinkie, but also like a Twinkie, it’s soooooooo yummy, in a terrible-for-you-don’t-ask-what’s-in-it-fat-and-salt-heaven kind of way.

He returned to confirm he did have bologna. So I asked for an American sandwich, which is not on the menu, but it’s a good Italian deli, so I know they’d make whatever I wanted. He looked a little puzzled, so I explained it’s an old-fashioned sandwich, the American version of an Italian. And then I felt weird emphasizing “American” to him — he had an Italian accent — and for a second, I thought, oh crap, I hope he doesn’t think I’m emphasizing the American thing because I’m against immigrants and their sandwiches. Really, sir, I just love crap food, this isn’t political at all. Thanks again Cheeto flea for seeping your nonsense into an innocent food transaction.

Don’t let anyone try to tell you it’s ham, turkey, and cheese. That is so wrong, wrong, wrong. Turkey is nothing but an interloper here. I explained it’s made of bologna, ham, and American cheese. Ugh, more emphasis on American! I flashed my most welcoming I-come-from-immigrants-too smile. He nodded and came out from behind the counter and walked into another part of the store, and I lost sight of him. I waited awkwardly, assuming he was doing something related to my sandwich, but when it seemed he’d been gone for several minutes, I worried I really had insulted him. Several people came and went with their sandwiches while I waited, impatient, nervous.

Finally he appeared with a small, beautiful pile of perfectly sliced bologna. He proceeded to make my sandwich with artistic flourish — clearly this man knew sandwiches: extra mayo, yellow mustard, lettuce, tomato, and extra pickles — the heavenly little cubed ones.

I called him my sandwich hero and thanked him for making my day. I’d rather he think I was a sandwich weirdo than a MAGA weirdo.

Back at my desk, I unwrapped the deli paper carefully, gazed upon my long-lost love, and enjoyed every single phosphorus-infused bite.

Praise bologna!

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

I’m still haunted by the 52% of white women who voted for Trump. I’m being lumped in with them, and I don’t like it, but guess what, buttercup? The Black folks are saying, “Welcome to my world of being held responsible for your race.” So, this buttercup is sucking it up.

I wrote the piece about it in the spring of 2017, and at that time, I couldn’t get the actual numbers of white women voters. The few websites that had data said the final numbers were still being calculated. So here it is, well over a year later, and you still cannot Google “How many white women voted for Trump” and get an actual number. News outlets give only repeat that depressing percentage.

This could be white guilt, or perimenopause anger talking, but I need to know the actual number.

Would you rather inherit 75% of someone’s bank account or $50,000? You’d need to know the number in the bank account, right? 75% sounds good until you learn there is $1,000 in the account. That’s why I’m obsessed with this white woman number. Yes, 52% blows me away, makes me angry, depresses the living heck out of me. How many whackadoodles are we dealing with? 1 million? 10 million? 100 million? How big is my problem?

Because no one seems to have the straight up number, Word Girl here had to do math, and that is never a good thing. And I needed the high school math I hated the most– an algebraic word problem.

If 138.8 million people voted in the election, and according to exit polls 37% of those were white women, and (according to every maddening news source) 52% of those women voted for Trump, how many white women pissed me off in 2016? According to my calculations…

trumpvotersblog

26.7 million women are not my friends. OK, so the numbers didn’t make me feel any better (and actually made me feel slightly worse) but defining how deep the hole we’re in is important.

If 22 million white women voted for Hillary, and 94% of Black women voted for her, how many Black women do I have more in common with than the Trump white whackadoodles?

9.1 million.

So, you 22 million white women, I invite you along as I try to educate myself about Black culture. If you went to France, you wouldn’t go knowing no French and asking (in English) for hot dogs and pizza, would you? Well, if you did, you would be known as the really bad stereotypical American tourist and ruin it for the rest of us. Black culture is the same. Black people have enough on their plate without having to teach whites about their culture. We need to do it ourselves. Showing up knowing a little is a sign of respect. Knowing a lot gives you more access. I’m not an expert, just going where my interest and curiosity takes me. Oh, and white men, you are welcome to come along, too, I just used all my math skills on the women, so I couldn’t quantify you. But by all means, hop on board.

Because it’s summer, and I am a big believer in the power of music to connect people, let’s talk about “Motown the Musical.” I saw it in Boston in June, at the end of its North American tour. You can now only see it in London, but it will be at the Shaftesbury Theatre through November 2019, and other parts of the UK, so you’d better get on that. That’s plenty of time to find bargain fares, and I know you want to see Princess Meghan or one of those royal babies anyway, so now you have more reasons to go.

It was on Broadway from March 2013 to January 2015 came back in July 2016, so shame on me for not knowing about it all this time. If you already know the story of Motown, then good for you — you can skip this lesson and post your favorite fact.

Motown gives you the back story to all the music you love/grew up with/heard in a meme/were embarrassed to hear your mother/child singing to. Young Berry Gordy  makes and produces music, but can’t get the white radio stations to play it. They say they don’t play Black music, but he argues that his music belongs to everyone. They won’t budge, so he borrows money to start his own label.

But the story starts before then. As a child, Berry experienced an amazing moment when his childhood hero boxer Joe Louis defeated the German boxing great Max Schmeling in 1938. It’s one of the most famous matches of all time. This occurred at a time when Black boxers were often denied championships, and the Nazi party issued statements that a Black man could not defeat Schmeling. After the fight, Berry recalled, “I saw my mother crying. I saw my father crying. Everyone was so crazy, just going mad.” Berry decided then that he wanted to do something that made people that happy.

And so he did. For the rest of the musical you get to see both the musical genius and just creative people doing their thing — arguing over creative differences, falling in love, falling out of love, working together towards a goal, feeling artistic jealousy, and making incredible music. Through it all is, for many of us, the soundtrack of our lives that wouldn’t exist without Black people. Where would you be without Diana Ross and the Supremes, Michael Jackson, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson?

Don’t take that soundtrack for granted. That music emerged from people constantly having to prove themselves. Dive a little deeper and learn more about where it came from. You love this music, you’ve danced to it, made out to it, laughed and cried to it.

Read some books about Motown, watch some movies.

Taking a deeper dive into the music of Motown is not going to solve racism. But if you are familiar with how the music flourished in spite of racism, how promoting the music in segregated towns was risky and even dangerous, maybe it provides an opportunity to connect or have a conversation. Just remember, no mansplaining, please. Black people still know way more than you do, but it’s a place to start.

I heard that through the grapevine.

Gratitude II

So a little more than a year ago, I wrote a blog post about gratitude to help me counteract all the Cheeto flea nonsense. After a couple of serious blog posts, I’m feeling the need again — we’re still in this mess, perhaps deeper in. So this time I want to declare gratitude for my siblings. It started with a tossed off invitation (when was the last time you were able to get any 5 people together spontaneously?). Then with a bit of luck, flexibility, coordination, and good humor, my 2 sibs, 1 sib-in-law, and I were able to drive up to Maine, stay at an adorable set of cottages on the Maine coast, and meet our brother to hang out and take a tour of his work of art and labor of love, the renovation of a beautiful old house. I won’t say how long the artist has been at it, but This Old House ain’t got nothin’ on him.

As you may recall, this is the brother who is also known as Sir Mark Beocat, the legend of feral cat spaying. You can read his amazing 3-part epic tale here. My sister Julie had an award made to commemorate the cat adventures, and we presented it to him at the end of our tour. Oscars eat your heart out.

We often comment on how different we all are. 4 states, country, city, suburban, and 4 lifestyles. But we generally like each other’s company, at least for several days at a time, can make each other laugh, shake our booty to the songs from the 70s and 80s, and we try hard to not get up into each other’s grill. I’m thankful for that.

It also turns out that we are really good at managing caring for our parents, with a shout out to sister Sharon and her hubby for doing a lot of the heavy lifting, to Julie as a close second, to Mark who fixes anything that needs fixing. I’m the back up, as I am managing the kid.

It’s in our family culture to be overly polite and accommodating, and then have maybe a side of dishing. But here’s the cool thing that happened on the way to middle age. We’ve all become a little more real to each other. Saying more what we really want and need, rather than just going along when it might have been better if we didn’t. And we work hard to hear each other and not judge.

That’s wicked cool. So thanks guys. Let’s keep laughing, grooving, and talking.

As a random aside, we went to the Black and Tan, an Irish Pub in Augusta, which has an extraordinary list of beers — yours truly sampled Hidden Cove Booty. How could I not? I have it on good authority from the men folk, that the photo below, also a form of gratitude,  was in the men’s room to help out those who may have had too much beer. As our brother-in-law said, it’s proof that you don’t buy beer, you only rent it. Cheers!

blackandtan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the his