HAPPY NEW YEAR!

TODAY’S CELEBRATION!

A new year. A new chance. A new chance in this new year to be and act and create what you want to be. If ever there were a time to wipe the slate clean this is it. To wipe the slate clean and break the old one into little pieces. To take those little pieces and make something new out of them. This is the day for doing it.

Although it was not the thought at the time, John and I jumped into the pool tonight (well, maybe sidled into the pool because it was really cold) for a dip; maybe an unconscious act of washing away the old year, the old ideas, the old prejudices, the old us.

As I look back and review what I’ve written over this past year I see lots of personal happiness but also lots of difficulty with the way the world seems to be going. I am hoping that in 2006 there will continue to be personal happiness but also a more positive path for America and the rest of the world. I encountered a lot of hostility from people who were so angry and so outraged over what they saw as injustice. I wish them peace in this new year.

A new generation of our family starts this year. Little Bruno (project name) should make his appearance in late February. We look forward to his coming with open arms. It is hard to imagine a new little being who could win our hearts like Jon and Sarah have but I’m told that a grandchild is beyond special. On the other hand, John and I are becoming the dinosaurs of our family. I don’t think we ever thought that we would eclipse the role that our own grandparents played. Kind of scary.

So love and hugs to all. Here’s to another happy, loving, thoughtful, purposeful year.

A FABLE : THE STUMP AND TWO DETERMINED MEN

TODAY’S FABLE

Note: For another exciting modern fable, please click through to THE BIRD AND THE FRY.

The Stump and Two Determined Men

Once upon a time there was a palm tree. It was leading a happy palm tree life until one day it caught a disease. This was a terrible wasting disease and as time went on the palm tree became weaker and weaker. Then an even more devastating thing happened. A hurricane named after Fred Flintstone’s wife, Wilma, blew through the yard where the palm tree lived. It shuddered in the wind. Its fronds were torn to shreds. All around it bigger and healthier trees were falling down in the wind. Suddenly, the little palm could take it no more. With a horrible lurch it fell over.

Big men with bigger chainsaws cut up the little palm. All that was left was a stump. This was kind of coincidental because the name of the lady who used to live in the house behind the stump was named Stump. But I digress. Now a tree is a beautiful thing but a stump is not. One day a tall man from California came to stay in the house with the stump. “This is not a beautiful thing,” he thought to himself. “ I must remove this stump and replace it with a lovely new tree.” So the tall man dug around the stump. And dug some more and then some more. This attracted the attention of another man.

The second man said, “You cannot remove this stump. It is too hard.” But as the tall man made progress, the second man was swept up in the enthusiasm of stump removal. Because one true thing is that men like to do hard physical things together using tools. Especially using lots of tools. So the second man brought a pointy shovel, and then two hatchets. Then he sharpened his shovel so it would cut through the roots. Together these two men labored. For hours. “We cannot let the stump win!” they exhorted each other. Finally, with a mighty heave they tore what was left of the palm tree out of the hole. The men had their pictures taken with the stump. There was much jubilation.

The moral of this story is 1) Men are stubborn; 2) Two people working together can get a job done; or 3) It is fun to take pictures of grubby, sweaty men after they have triumphed over a small stump that took them all day to get out of the ground.

SUNNY AND SEVENTIES

TODAY’S HAPPINESS

And by seventies I mean temperature not the age of everyone here in southern Florida. Yay, I am on vacation. I just looked up the word vacation and it means “A period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation, especially one with pay granted to an employee.” Unfortunately, the pay part doesn’t apply but at least that means that during retirement we can vacation anytime we want. In reading back over the definition maybe our retirement is a permanent vacation. Anyway, we are here in Marco Island, Florida ready to devote our time to pleasure, rest or relaxation.

What a difference a year makes! Even though Hurricane Wilma has come through here, our place looks so much better than last year. Through the efforts partly of John and me but mostly because of my sister and her husband, the old family homestead is clean and in good repair. My other brother-on-law came down and cleaned up after the hurricane so we can just unpack our bags and settle down to the hard work of having a good time. Many thanks to all of them.

Last year when I got this blog. It was all about the worrying. The idea was to write down the things I was obsessing about and, like smoke from a fire, they would dissipate. Well, mission accomplished. As the year progressed I wrote more and more about what was interesting me and less about the secret life of my brain. Hopefully this will continue. One good sign, last night I slept solidly for almost 8 hours. Perhaps the proliferation of blogs on the internet means that we are all enjoying better mental health.

BLOGCATION

Marymom.com is taking a few days off to get to the next venue. Hopefully our connection in Marco Island was not disabled by Hurricane Wilma and I’ll be back online in a couple of days.

We had a wonderful Christmas full of great family moments, wonderful gifts, good food and much laughter. I hope your Christmas was special as well.

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY BLOGVERSARY!

CELEBRATIONS

I love the holidays! I like the decorating. And the food. So far we have had only two cooking disasters. Both involved frying food for Hanukkah. Yes, Hanukkah. We are equal opportunity celebrators in our house. Why celebrate only one holiday when you can have two, or three if you count New Year’s?

On to the disasters. I got John a deep fryer as a Hanukkah gift (yes, I know it doesn’t start until Christmas night but I didn’t want it to get upstaged and we’ve always been a little lax about the proper day to celebrate things.) We planned on making fried calamari which is totally not kosher having no fins and scales but pretty yummy and carciofi alla Judea. Well, the artichokes came out oily on the inside and too crispy on the outside. I ended up marinating the rest that we had bought. The calamari was cooked perfectly but tasted terrible. Forget the calamari. If we need a calamari fix we can always go up to Mustard’s. So , yay, Mary, great gift (being sarcastic.) When Jonathan comes over tonight along with Ryan her mom, dad and sister, he will make latkes. Hopefully, this will turn out better.

Tonight is the big Christmas Eve do here. And by big I mean eight people, a record family gathering for us. We have an all hors d’oeuvres dinner. This is an old tradition in my house. Since my parents were all about cocktail hour and nibbles, we always did this for Christmas Eve. My sister, Phyllis, does it too. Except she’s having 50 people. In addition to the latkes, we’ll be having shrimp, croque monsieurs, pigs in blankets, crudites and dip, Sarah’s spicy bean dip with tortilla chips and potstickers, a real international smorgasbord. Also mulled apple cider, wine, beer and soft drinks. The tree will be decorated and we will sing holiday songs. A good time should be had by all.

Tomorrow is my blogversary. One year since Ryan gave me my blog for Christmas. During this past year I have really enjoyed writing my thoughts and I’ve really enjoyed hearing what other peoples’ thoughts are. I know I’ve pissed some people off and amused others. I’ve connected with old friends and hopefully made some new ones. Thank you for coming here and reading this stuff. It’s been a really good mental health exercise for me. A special thank you to Ryan who gave me this page and takes care of it for me.

At the expense of annoying some more people, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!

SLEIGH BELLS

TODAY’S OBSERVATION

“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?” Well, really not so much if you live in California. I was thinking about Christmas and the weather today. Why is Christmas always associated with snow? Here in Northern California, we are often blanketed in a chilly fog around Christmas. When I was growing up in NJ, it was a rare Christmas that had snow. We were too close to the ocean to get much snow. In North Carolina, it could be cold but no snow. In fact, a good portion of the world including the Holy Land doesn’t have snow on Christmas. We seem to be caught in a Northern European postcard when it comes to Christmas.

One December we were in Australia. It was almost summertime. And yet the store windows were sprayed with fake snow and trees were flocked. Representations of urchin carolers were singing with winter caps pulled down over their ears. Those were going to be one bunch of hot kids.

So though I am wrapping presents with snowman paper and sending out Currier and Ives Christmas cards this holiday season, I think that next year I must find decorations with a more California slant. Maybe fog gray paper with the words Merry Christmas barely discernable.

OVER THE TOP

TODAY’S WORRY

A note about my post and the comments of December 17, 2005 – People have some very strongly held feelings about what is reasonable for the current administration to do or not do. I think there must be some middle ground between saying “they should do whatever it takes!” and allowing terrorists to set up camp in the United States. Certainly history has taught us that caving into fear and giving up rights is a slippery slope to start down. Further, I find casting aspersions and name-calling totally uncalled for. I have an opinion. You have an opinion. They are different. You weaken your argument by-out-of- control rhetoric. The end.

SOME AMENDMENTS ARE MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS

TODAY’S WORRY

Are some amendments to the Constitution more important than others? The Fourth Amendment says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” But now there is covert wire-tapping going on.

And the Sixth Amendment says, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial…” But now prisoners are held without being charged.

And the Eight Amendment states, “…nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Yet, we’ve all seen the pictures of humilations visited upon our “detainees.”

Finally, the Second Amendment says, “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Oh, here’s one that our government wants to uphold!

Several years ago there was a traveling exhibit of the Bill of Rights. It was displayed in San Jose. It was something I wanted to see. I went down to the Convention Center and was ushered into a room where the original Bill of Rights was displayed. I was so moved. This, I thought, is what we are all about. This is what makes me so proud to be an American.

There was a bumper sticker that we saw in a parking lot the other day. It said, “If you’re not appalled, you’re not paying attention!” Let’s pay attention before it’s too late.

TEP DOW

TODAY’S WORRY

Do you have sayings that only your family ever uses? You know, the result of some experience that you really just had to be there for? For instance, we used to go to this restaurant in Southborough, Massachusetts called White’s Corner. On Fridays you could get two lobsters for $9.95. Anyhow, on the way out there was a step immediately after you went through the door. It was supposed to say “STEP DOWN” but somebody had taken the S and the N so it said TEP DOW. To this day, whenever there are unexpected steps one of will say, “tep dow.” And one day, Jon, Sarah, and I were watching Saturday Night Live and there was a fake quiz program on. One of the questions was, “Who is the ultimate comedy killer?” After various guesses by the panel, they flashed up a picture and announced that the ultimate comedy killer was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. For some reason that struck us really funny and the Archduke has always been a symbol of comedy gone awry.

And there are so many others – the phantom arm, the mad whistler, the pluperfect (pronounced plup -er -fect.) I think it must be both confusing and annoying to be around us sometimes.

DEATH ROWS

TODAY’S WORRY

I’ve been thinking about how I feel about the death penalty what with the recent plea for clemency and the subsequent execution of Crips co-founder, Stanley “Tookie” Williams. I am really hoping that Governor Schwarzenegger did not decide to go ahead with the execution as a political gesture to the right-wing of the California Republican party. It is also disturbing that conservatives can be so right-to-life on the one hand and so pro-execution on the other. But I am diverging from what I wanted to write about.

I find I am very conflicted on this subject. I realize that every other Western nation has abolished the death penalty and I know that over time some innocent people have been executed. I think the whole concept of the death penalty is repugnant. But, what if it were someone precious to me that got killed? How would I feel then? If someone hurt my kids, I would want to tear them apart with my own hands. That’s not too pacifist.

So, I guess for me the death penalty is wrong in the abstract but less so in the concrete.

CHRISTMAS CLUES

TODAY’S WORRY

As if there isn’t enough to do with getting ready for Christmas, I have a new idea for you. To make package opening more exciting, put a clue to the contents of the package on the tag. This is something I started maybe 10 years ago and it has become a fun, challenging, dreaded part of Christmas at our house.

Now it’s important to be clever. You can’t just say something like “a man’s haberdashery item which he puts around his neck” for a tie. You must come up with something like “Bangkok resident,” or Thai (tie, get it?) Or “gasp, gasp” which of course is a pair of pants. Many years ago, there was a clue “snail gasps” for Jonathan which John inadvertently blurted out “escargot pants!” Of course, the gift was cargo pants.

So years and years of trying to think up new clues for a shirt or a pair of pants. It gets harder and harder as time goes by. Jonathan says we only have to clue for unique gifts now but every time someone gets a gift with no clue, you can see the letdown. In an effort to keep things fresh and interesting, sometimes I use rebuses, sometimes trivia questions about Christmas that you have to solve before you are allowed to open the package. Around here the present opening takes a long time.

Add a little more pressure to your Christmas preparations! Start with a few clues this year and before you know it, everyone will be clamoring for more. It’s really a lot of fun and a great source of angst for the present givers.

Boulevard, San Francisco, CA

Last Thursday for the birthdays, we went to Boulevard Restaurant in San Francisco. And although the traffic was really bad getting into the city, it was worth the trip. We had a great dinner with great service. Here are our choices -

Both George and I started with the sauteed fresh Hudson Valley foie gras with steamed persimmon pudding, persimmon sauternes coulis and red flame and pomegranite relish. Although once again there is a noticeable difference between European and American foie gras, it was melt in your mouth delicious and the steamed pudding was a sweet counterpoint to the foie. He and I also ordered the same entree, the grilled Florida butterfish (escolar.) I’ve had this fish twice before, once in Florida and once in Utah (of all places) and it is a firm white buttery flavored fish. Kind of like Chilean seabass but without the guilt. This was served with butternut squash and fresh porcini mushrooms with an aged balsamic vinegar. Wow, yum. My fish could have been cooked a tad less but it was still great.

John started with the fresh Monterey calmari two ways – pan roasted and stuffed and crispy fried. He says the stuffed calamari was the real star. He followed this with a second appetizer, the char-rare ahi tuna with pan seared foie gras and once again, the aged balsamic vinegar. He said this was perfect.

Karen, who is more of a meat and potatoes kind of girl, chose a salad of hearts of romaine and the wood oven roasted Berkshire pork prime rib chop. Yay, they didn’t overcook the pork! The mashed potatoes with white carrot-parsnip swirl looked especially good and Karen wished there had been more.

Accompanying the first course we had an Alsatian Weibach Riesling, and a Sonoma-Cutrer chardonnay for the main course. John had a glass of pinot noir from Volnay with his main course.

Since it was birthdays celebration, we also had dessert. A huckleberry buckle and a 3 dessert sampler which included a sweet corn ice cream and an intense chocolate thing. The ice cream, I thought, was especially interesting and innovative.

So all in all a delicious over-the-top restaurant experience – worth the hassle and the price.

Table Consensus – A

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE…

TOMORROW’S CELEBRATION

It’s beginning to look a lot like Marymom’s birthday, everywhere you go! Okay, maybe not everywhere YOU go but here in our household the cards are set up on the mantle with care in hopes that great presents (wrapped in not-Chrismas paper) soon will be there.

Having a December birthday is kind of sucky but I try to make the most of it. There are basic guidelines to follow — celebrate for at least a week, receive cards, and all presents must be wrapped in birthday paper. Things are going pretty well so far, I have a few cards already, a celebration with our friends, Karen and George, is set for tomorrow night and a family dinner is planned for Sunday. George has a birthday on December 9 and we have been celebrating “the birthdays” now for almost 30 years. How could we have gotten so old!

When I was born my mom wanted to name me Mary because she liked the name. It scored her really big points with my dad’s Catholic family because December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. But I’ve never been keen on my name. I always wanted a nickname. There seem to be a lot of nicknames for boys that have no relation to their names like Bud, Lefty, Butch or Red. But very few for girls. And really, I’m a righty, not butch and have brown hair.

How old am I? Old enough to remember getting a TV for the first time, skating with skates that you put on your shoes and tightened with a skate key, and remembering “I like Ike” buttons. And although there have been strange saggy things happening to my outside, the inside of me still feels the same as it did a lot of years ago.

BAH, HUMBUG

TODAY’S WORRY

I am totally not understanding the whole brouhaha surrounding the wishing of Happy Holidays. I was taught that one should always be cognizant and considerate of other people’s beliefs and mores. Yes, America is a 75%-80% polyglot of Christian religions but there’s also the 20%+ others. Why not use a little sensitivity?

Bill O’Reilly and others are recommending that shoppers boycott stores that say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. What are they so afraid of? Will their beliefs be undermined by the use of one phrase instead of another? Are the Happy Holidayers planning a coup of the government? It is, after all, overwhelmingly Christian at the national, state and local level.

I always thought that many Christians felt that Christmas was too commercial. Now it seems they’ve totally bought into the commercialization. Perhaps they feel that the whole American economy should be faith-based. Or perhaps that like our Islamist foes, we should head toward re-making our country as a theocracy.

What do I do? Maybe I’m a little more aware of what’s being said since not everyone in our household is a Christmas celebrator. Certainly if I am with friends who celebrate Christmas, I say Merry Christmas. But if I am with a stranger or I am unsure, I always wish them a good holiday season. Isn’t Christmas big and strong enough to place itself under an umbrella of good wishes for all?

THIS AND THAT

TODAY’S WORRY

Here’s a just a few things I’m thinking about.

1. I went to the pharmacy and picked up the prescription for inhalers. Then I actually used them. Guess what? I am at least 75% better today. Resolution for today: must never, never wait so long before using medicine.

2. Really, people, not one job related name? Are you all too busy? On the way to wine country on Tuesday we thought of at least a few more. Jacques, the athlete. Molly, the picture hanger. Che, the buggy driver. Juan, the anemic (I know not a job description but I liked it anyway.) I would have thought you could have at least come up with Denny, the short-order cook.

3. Do you obsess over getting the Christmas presents even? Ever since my kids were little, I always wanted the numbers and money to come out at least close. What does this cause? A spiralling escalation of present buying.

4. I think they ought to create a special award for the pols in Washington this year. The Warren G. Harding Corrupt Government Award. It could be in the shape of a teapot.