Friday, October 31, 2008

Some Creepy Twain for Halloween

"Gray lizards, those heirs of ruin, of sepulchres and desolation, glided in and out among the rocks or lay still and sunned themselves. Where prosperity has reigned, and fallen; where glory has flamed, and gone out; where beauty has dwelt, and passed away; where gladness was, and sorrow is; where the pomp of life has been, and silence and death brood in its high places, there this reptile makes his home, and mocks at human vanity. His coat is the color of ashes: and ashes are the symbol of hopes that have perished, of aspirations that came to nought, of loves that are buried. If he could speak, he would say, Build temples: I will lord it in their ruins; build palaces: I will inhabit them; erect empires: I will inherit them; bury your beautiful: I will watch the worms at their work; and you, who stand here and moralize over me: I will crawl over your corpse at the last."

Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Making History

"Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked, so Obama could run. Obama is running so our children can fly."

I'm taking the girls with me to vote on Tuesday. I want them to remember this day.

I just had a visit with an old friend. Celma is 74 and spends her winters in Florida - she's leaving on Friday to make it down in time to cast her vote in a state that really needs her.

(Photo by Joe Crimings, Des Moines, Iowa)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Charles Laughton, Gregory Peck, Colin Powell, Elizabeth Moss and Aunt Joan

Sometimes, usually when I'm trying to sleep, I wish we had an off switch for our brains. Oh wait, we do. It’s called television. Sunday night, after saying good-bye to Aunt Joan (we had some intense talk about her sister, who was my mother); after Randy took the girls to teeth-brushing, pjs and bed; I sat down to wait for the season finale of Mad Men.

My head was full. I know asking Aunt Joan about her childhood with my mother gives her pain for more reasons than the loss, but I have to ask it.

Here is Bernadette in some stylin' red shoes with her pretty little sister Joan, around the actual time period in which Mad Men is set. Oh my God, that's the Drapers' kitchen!

TV on the couch felt good. Really good. I killed the time before 9:00 with the last two wives of Charles Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII and a good fifteen minutes of Gentlemen’s Agreement. We’re 70 years away from the Laughton film, but his funny, committed, intense performance felt more current than the talky, arch polish of Gregory Peck and Co. in the Best Picture winner from 1947. Laughton as Henry (at least in the 15 minutes I saw) blusters, flirts, bellows, jumps up from the dinner table to join in a wrestling match he is much to old to handle and wails with grief when hearing of his fourth wife's infidelity. I'd heard this guy was good - he's riveting to watch.

Peck's righteous fight against anti-Semitism made me grateful all over again for Colin Powell's commonsense endorsement of Barack Obama on Meet the Press. When Peck's young son, who is living as a Jew while his father researches bigotry, is teased at school, Peck's fiance Kathy (Dorothy McGuire) tries to comfort him by saying, "Oh, darling, it's not true. You're no more Jewish than I am. It's just some horrible mistake."

As Republicans continue to claim or infer that Obama is a Muslim, or less American because of his name, the typical well-meant Democratic response of fervent denial merely feeds the underlying ignorance of the question.

Colin Powell pointed out how inadequate simple denial is, saying,

"He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America. . . Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?"

It's not so much that I need to stop thinking. I just need to get out of my own head for a while.

Once I got to the finale, Elizabeth Moss was wonderful. In every scene she's in, I can't wait to hear what she's going to say next. That "I had your baby and I gave it away" speech was jaw-dropping.

Some good posts:

Don't read this one about Joan if you haven't yet seen the penultimate episode of season two and want to be surprised.

Here's video of the SNL Jon Hamm skits that were so true to the show in their warped way, I was rolling. "It's just like this!" I squeezed out to Randy, between brays of laughter. "This is not making me want to watch," said my advertising husband, who I have been trying to get into the Men for the past two seasons.

Monday, October 27, 2008

"Obscene" News From My Friend Kim

Go see this movie! It is called "Obscene"! (but the movie is not.)
It is playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center at 164 North State Street
TEL 312-846-2600

Scroll down for the schedule. It starts this Fri Oct 31!
(We will be attending the 8pm showing this Friday oct 31.)
Clark and I saw "Obscene" at the 2007 Toronto Film Fest and we have been waiting anxiously for its release. and I am so glad that day is finally here. if you have any interest in literature, art, graphic design, the first amendment, freedom of speech and/or publishing you owe it to yourself to see the film and learn about how Barney Rosset has been a part of your education, even if you didn't know it or know who he is. It is a fun and at times funny documentary about an American living legend, what the Japanese would call a "living national treasure."

...and for those Parkerites out there, the subject is a Parker grad, 1940...and Clark and I got to spend an afternoon with Barney and his wife Astrid in April 2008 while we were in NYC (Truly a highlight in my life) and Barney's first wife, abstract expressionist painter Joan Mitchell, Parker grad '42, has a piece at the Whitney (top floor, next to Jackson Pollack and across the room from Andy Warhol).

FYI: Barney Rosset is written about in an article in The Arts section of Wednesday's New York Times. Francis Parker is also mentioned in a humorous way.

And once you have seen the film, tell your friends. Thanks! and enjoy.

This is the film center schedule: (I am providing the Keith Haring film times, too, because you can get a deal on the double feature.)


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dancing Mormons

The Osmond Brothers groovin' to "Yo-Yo" on the Flip Wilson Show.

The Replacements

Dominic, the Pella window rep with slicked back hair, looked carefully at Nora's bedroom windows and said, "These are the original windows."

The young contractor looked at me and told Dom, "You're not helping." She knows when I hear something like that, I think, "Precious antique!" She also knows when Randy hears something like that, he thinks, "Time for an update."

True, the new windows will be Energy Star efficient, not just for the insulating factor, but the glass itself these days is made to repel damaging rays, blah blah blah, I've stopped listening.

My eyes feel full and I have to go downstairs to check on the girls for a minute. The glass in the windows of our nineteenth century house has pops and ridges and permanent smears that turns the outside view wavy. Our treated views, like the patina on the doorknob and the ornate iron grates over the heating vents, make me think our house has history and character, even if the doorknobs stick and the wide holes in the grates catch pennies, crayons, Polly Pocket shoes and dust.

When they say "They just don't make em like they used to," they must be talking about replacement windows. No longer can you find individual panes of glass fitted inside wood mullions. New windows are typically constructed with one large pane of glass that has a grid fitted over the front or back to give the look of mullions.

It's killing me that we are taking out wood and glass that has served for a hundred years and replacing it with a product that has a mere twenty-year warranty.

Then I read this. And today I saw an old Evanston house with wooden painted storms. Beautiful. I'm not ready for replacements.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Happy October

Mexican sunflower wet with today's rain and what remains of our stand of yellow coneflowers.

°My latest post on Chicago Moms Blog is about the weight parents gain when they have children. It's not what you might think.

°October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. The talented writer and my fellow Chicago Moms blogger Gillian Marchenko is chronically her daughter Polly's birth all month at her blog Pocket Lint. Her story of giving birth in the Ukraine is really great reading.

°These videos from Funny or Die are hilariously literal reworkings of classic '80's videos Take On Me and Tears for Fears' Head over Heels. So funny.

°Use the promotional code HY8BHPR to get $10 off any purchase of $50 or more worth of Leapfrog toys and products before November 15. At the Leapfrog event Sunday for Chicago mom bloggers, Mia was given a Leapster II, sort of like a Gameboy for the younger set. She was engrossed the entire ride home - We've finally found a replacement for the Bugs Bunny cartoons Dad loads on his iPhone for the girls during long car rides.

*Something to remember from William Carlos Williams.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I had the first two chapters of my book workshopped today. I'm still buzzing with the adrenaline rush. Now I'm at home, working quickly while the critiques and great advice are still in my head and while I have a couple of hours before picking up the girls.

It's so amazing to hear someone else read your words. Carol Lachapelle gave loving enunciation to the first pages until an unsupressable cough benched her and then Sue Roupp, who just returned from hearing all these great poets at the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Fest in New Jersey took up the manuscript with lots of dramatic pauses and emphatic inflection. Hearing people read my work gets me so high that it makes me laugh quietly at the backstory, at the obscure and private machinations of my process. It's usually one of the tragic spots where I snicker which reminds me of our artist friend Micki, who would giggle as she described her latest work with taxidermy and sexual aids.

While Carol and Sue were reading, my cell vibrated three times. I had locked the back door because there was a break-in across the street yesterday and I forgot that the babysitter was planning to return home after ballet to grab Mia's lunch and the backpacks. Thank goodness it was a glorious day, with clear skies and cool, not cold temps. Yesterday would have been disastrous. I sent her to the neighbors for the spare set, but there were too many locks, too many keys. "Take them to McDonald's," I told Joanna, giving up. I heard the girls' "Yays!" in the background and I snuck back into the conference room to hear another intimate moment of my past read out loud for the crowd.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog Action Day - Our Neighbors' Desperate Poverty

I worry about the economy. Our retirement and the girls' college tuition bills are years and years away. My worries are in another place. I worry about the current economic crisis because of the corrosive power of fear.

I worry that we will let our economic fears tighten our hold on our wallets, spur us to retreat to our bomb shelters, and harden us to the severe needs of the least of our brothers and sisters.

Haiti is so close to America, only 600 miles from Florida. The island of Hispaniola on which the country lies is also home to the Dominican Republic. The two countries are a study in contrasts. While the Dominican Republic is lush with verdant rain forests and the coastline is rimmed with luxurious resorts, Haiti's forests have been decimated, largely to be burned for charcoal. Most of its arable soil has been eroded away. Learn more in this brief article from National Geographic.

Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere was in a desperate state even before the recent hurricanes.

In the picture above, the woman, Yolen Jeunky, of Port-au-Prince, is collecting not clay bowls, not some form of fuel, but food. The poor of Haiti have been reduced to subsisting on mud mixed with salt and shortening, then dried.

Haiti's life expectancy is a mere 51 years. The mortality of infants less than a year old is 75%.

Don't look away. Please don't be hardened. If you believe in prayer, please offer them, but do not stop there. Partners in Health, led by the visionary doctor Paul Farmer, has established a hospital and medical program in Central Haiti that serves the health and well-being of hundreds of families. PIH's philosophy of "whatever it takes" extends beyond crisis care to long term rebuilding of hopeful and healthy lives. You can find ways to help here.

Please don't be paralyzed with fear of our economic woes. Please don't rationalize away the crisis of our brothers and sisters that is far beyond our own. Please do what you can to help.

Thank you!!!

Click to Give Women Free Mammograms!

Go here and thank you!! Tell ten friends! How easy can it be to help?

Monday, October 13, 2008

I Don't Have Time to Write This

Strange men are coming with sledgehammers to take apart half our house. This is not a bad dream - it says so, right here on the estimate. We need to pack up the beloved toys and stuffed pets and stow them away. Instead of starting this work last weekend, as industrious little ants preparing for winter would have, we grasshoppered away to Omaha for the wedding of the little sprite pictured above.

Here she is now, with her princely groom. My Eleanor walked up to Stephanie, her second cousin, after the ceremony, placed her little hands on the bridal skirt and said, "Excuse me, excuse me! You look like a princess!"

Nearly every corner of downtown Omaha was its own little Hopper painting. Small town? The woman who sat down next to me at the children's museum belonged to the church across town where the ceremony took place.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy Birthday, My Big Girl!

This is Randy's cake from last week, but you get the picture. Just picture less Spidey, more princess. Much much more princess.

Mia's birthday (I write of my party planning here at Chicago Moms Blog) turned out to be a wonderful couple of hours (despite Mom and Dad nearly biting our heads off as the clock ticked down to go time.)

The children loved the water, and splashed, slid and swarmed Randy until their lips were purple and their bodies racked with shivers. Then we hit the party room where three camp counselor-type assistants provided by the Glenview park district had already set up the tables, the food, the balloons, the Bozo Buckets, and the tape-the-tail-on-the-donkey. Sweet! I had no idea how much there was to do until I didn't have to do it. They manned the boom box, hung up the six 8 X 10s of Mia through the ages and knew all kind of party insider stuff like remembering the lighter and reminding the children to keep their hands at their sides when looking at the cake.

Nora had pink and green icing on her finger, then I turned around and she had more on her nose. Her innocent, blinking face. "What?"

So good to see our friends. Randy and I kissed and made up. Mia was tuckered, but happy. And Nora, while Mia opened her presents, sat in a little chair, her hands in her lap and watched, curious and content. Just happy for her sister. "Oh look, Mia!"

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Beautifully Green

_Here's a million dollar green idea!! Mowtown is a completely green lawn care service. Mowtown will bike to your home (if you live on Chicago's north side) towing their push mowers and make your yard beautiful with no noise, no emissions, no muss, no fuss! And they'll help you set up composting and weed your garden too.

_This Sunday morning, October 5th, Chicago will celebrate its boulevards with the first ever Sunday Parkways. Beautiful boulevards from Kedzie and Logan all the way to Woodward and Jackson will be closed to car traffic. From 9am to 1pm the streets will be open to foot traffic, bikes, strollers, skateboards, and scooters for fun, exercise and play!

Through streets will continue to have crossing access, so watch those street signals! Neighborhoods along the way will be having a giant block party with music and dancing and activity stations, including yoga, Mexican folk dancing, children's games and a free awesome CHIC-A-GO-GO dance party in Garfield Park at noon at Madison and Central Park.

The fun continues on October 26, when the boulevards are closed to cars from 24th and California to Lake and Central Park.

More info:

Friday, October 3, 2008


I said to a friend over lunch yesterday, "October is just whipping by!"

I remember these days when I was teaching - once we broke through the August heat to the invigorating cool of September and once I recovered from the nervous insomnia of the night before the first day of school, energy set in. I said "yes!" to everything and everyone - chair a committee? Yes! Be the school's sole speech and debate coach? Absolutely! Take some club to Great America's Spook Fest? Abso-friggin'-lutely!

Even now, when my committee meetings have only three in attendance, two of whom are likely to strip off their clothes to run screaming around the living room in their undies, I feel this capability that wants to fill fill fill the calendar now while we are still full of summer's light, now at the commencement of the great holiday arc. The season is a beautiful pendulum's journey that begins with the start of school, gains speed and momentum with Mia's birthday, then flies through our communal celebrations - the laughter at death, the remembrance of gratitude, the lighting the darkness, and the beginning anew. The pendulum slows as we have yet another cake for Eleanor on January 7 then with my birthday at the end of January, dumps us into the slush pile of lethargy that is Februarymarchapril.

But now is a time crazy with possibility - both wonderful and terrifying. The Cubs AND the Sox in the playoffs? Unbelievable. An elderly hothead and a newbie who can't name a magazine or newspaper may end up leading the nation? Where's my suitcase? A wise and equanimous pair may end up leading the nation? Where are my noisemakers? Our entire economy is in crisis? Vancouver would be a lovely place to live. The $700 billion will be returned to the nation with interest? Pass me an apple, please. The Honeycrisp would be lovely.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Help Chicago Schoolchildren!

One of the great things about Donors Choose is that you don't have to make a huge commitment to make a huge difference. Public school teachers who live in cash-strapped districts are only asking for modest sums to fund wonderful classroom projects.

Click on the "Chicago Moms Blog" link above and choose your own classroom to help!