Saturday, December 26, 2009

Preparing for the new year using Twitter

The following is a "tweet" posted this morning:


marwilliamson
For 2010: Have a talk with your Higher Self; what 1 thing do you know in your heart you should give up, and what 1 thing should you do?

Do you use Twitter?  I have a mild interest (or curiosity) regarding social media.  Pasted above is am intriguing tweet I just received from internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson

I instantly knew what the one thing I should give up is.  My eating habits have been appalling.  I really don't wish to try to get away with it any longer.  I could go on and on about the issue of getting away with it, about how I am and how I'm not, but that's irrelevant.  What is relevant is that I'm not OK with my eating habits.  I want to change.  I've indulged long enough.

The answer to the other question, the one about what I should do, was also on the tip of my tongue.  The Child is now in Middle School.  He won't be with me much longer.  People have warned me since he was born that he'd grow up fast.  

In truth, the days are long but the years fly by.  

In my talk with my Higher Self,  I will have to admit that I've spoiled The Child pretty seriously.  It was not what I planned; I planned to be The Perfect Parent.  I read all of the parenting books which were in line with my philosophy.  I took parenting classes before he was even born.  I hired, at great expense, the best babysitters available in the area.  Daycare was unacceptable; The Child had to have one-on-one interaction with creative and intelligent sitters.

I have been engrossed in my job throughout his life.  I felt guilty about focusing so much on work.  When The Child was 2, I asked The Child's father to move out of my house.  I did not feel guilty about that, but I felt competitive.  Durings visits, the father plied the child with hitherto denied candy and toys.  I had to compete.  I broke my parenting rules; I became indulgent.  It was also at this time that I started hiring sitters because the father was no longer babysitting.  The guilt over hiring others to be with The Child coupled with the competition with Disney Dad caused me to become The Over-Indulging Parent.

I had abandoned my own Parenting Plan. 

The Child will be with me for a few more years.  The days will be long, but the years will fly by.  During those long days, I owe it to the Child to be mindful of my words and actions.  I am molding a human being.  I can do it consciously and responsibly, or I can instead respond to the guilt and competition. 

How about you?  Do you know what your answers would be?




Friday, December 25, 2009

A very happy holiday

The Child wanted a new computer for Christmas this year.  I said yes......under one condition: you build it yourself.

He's in 6th grade.  Most parents don't require children of that age to build computers.  But I know this child.  He needs a challenge and he's motivated.

So I asked him to choose the components for his computer online.  He did, and I sent his list to a friend who is an engineer.  He's built a few computers himself.  He approved the list, surprised that it had originated from a child.

The parts arrived early.  The Child wasted no time.

There were a few moments of frustration.  I kept telling him to read the manuals which had come with each component.  (He learned to read in Kindergarden on such technical manuals.)  By golly, he did read them, and before long, the fan was running.

The monitor wasn't getting a signal, though, and he seemed truly stuck.  I told him to load the computer into the car, and I drove him to the local computer repair store.  The geek/owner seemed shocked by The Child building a computer , especially such a powerful one, and after getting over his shock he seemed glad to offer his expertise.  He saw a disconnected cable which solved the problem when connected.  That was easy!

Within minutes the computer was up and running, and The Child was installing Windows 7.  Now he's happliy playing games on it, just like any other child his age.



Merry Christmas!  May you take the steps to make your dreams come true.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

So much for lightening up......

Censorship is the suppression of speech or deletion of communicative material which may be considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or inconvenient.  Mention the word "censorship" and you're likely to encounter an automatic reaction of self-righteous indignation.

There are many types of censorship, with the main categories being moral, military, political, religious and corporate. But many of us automatically associate the word "censorship" with unthinkable control such as by a Communist regime. Here is a photographic example of censorship in Russia in the year 1940::


 Nikolai Yezhov, the young man strolling with Stalin was shot in 1940. He was edited out from a photo by Soviet censors. Such retouching was a common occurrence during Stalin's reign.

I think it's time for us all to update our understanding of censorship.  In reality, censorship is part of everyday life.  It's just that usually it's self-administered.  How many times have you felt like saying something cruel but instead you chose to bite your tongue?  Did you ever become so enraged that you felt like throwing something or hitting a person, barely stopping short?  That's censorship. Those of us who don't exercise censorship usually end up in prison, real or virtual. 

Sometimes censorship is absolutely called for at the workplace.  Sometimes it's in the best interests of the organization as a whole for individuals to exercise self-restraint, which is a euphemism for censorship.

Why does this seem to be such a foreign concept?  A little self-restraint of pen and tongue can make the world a better place.  Whoops- that would be censorship, wouldn't it?  Heaven forbid.
 








Whirlingbetty lightens up for the holidays

A friend sent me this via email.  I laughed so much that I wanted to share it with my blog readers!      

Hugs,
Betty


Be sure and read story at bottom.





 

http://images.quickblogcast.com/3/9/3/5/1/225556-215393/x_mas.jpg?a=46


"Good news is that I truly outdid myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take my fake man down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever.
 Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55-year-old lady grabbed the 75-pound ladder, almost killed herself putting it against my house, and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was only one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."






Sunday, November 29, 2009

Transitional Thanksgiving


Surely on some level, I feared that the Child had outgrown the one tradition, the only tradition that our two-member family ever had, the one time each year when I could say to myself that I was an OK mother. The parenting books all seem to agree that traditions are the key ingredients to a successful family; those traditions create fond memories for decades to come.

It was challenging for me to come up with a family tradition in the first place.  My imagination just couldn't wrap itself around the concept.  The family from which I emerged was not a good model, to say the least.  The only tradition I recall from that family was the one where I end up alone in my room, crying, for hours on end.

The Child always liked to be in water, so eventually, after seeing numerous ads for waterparks on the Disney channel, a light bulb went off in my head.  I don't like being out in the sun, and several new indoor waterparks were springing up across the U.S.  Hmmmm....maybe a trip to an indoor waterpark might be a good idea.....

In my usual style, I spent several days researching indoor waterparks.  I read thousands of reviews, both professional and parent-generated.  The city we live in has a couple of indoor waterparks, but for anyone willing to drive for an hour, one of the biggest and best in the country beckons.

Three Thanksgivings ago, The Child and I experienced our very first tradition with a trip to the huge indoor waterpark an hour away.  We were both very impressed- awestruck, really.  The enormous lobby, several stories high, was decorated to the nines with the waterpark theme and Christmas lights to boot.  The gift shop was the size of Walmart, with clothing, toys, books, food, movies, you name it.  When I spied the Starbucks, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

Our room was just as impressive as the lodge itself- it was spacious, clean (practically brand new), tastefully decorated and even had a microwave and refrigerator.  (The Child is impressed by microwaves since I believe the raditation is dangerous and don't own one myself.)

The waterpark itself, located inside the enormous lodge, was stunning.  The Child happily entertained himself there for hours while I spent most of my time listening to my iPod and reading.  When he felt like drying off for a while, there was a captivating magical quest which required participants to run throughout the lodge searching for clues. The game arcade was the icing on the cake.

The only disappointment was that time passed too quickly.  Check-in was 4pm, followed by check-out at 11am - a time schedule typical of most lodging these days.  We frequently talked about our next visit throughout the year, and our second visit was highly anticipated and enjoyed.

This year, I could tell that the Child's level of anticipation was not the same, but I attributed that change to the fact that he's now in Middle School (6th grade).  Middle School tends to change people.  But he didn't even want to swim this year.  He half-heartedly played a few games in the arcade, and then just wanted to watch a movie and play a little Nintendo in our room.  Time passed slowly.  I fought back tears on the long drive home.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

reality check


I am curious about something.  I want to know if it's typical for adults to become profoundly sad when reminded of their childhood.

Today I heard a hymn that I used to hear in the Episcopal church of my childhood.  (Religion was not a big part of my life either then or now, but I attended church often enough to be able to identify music I heard there.)  My eyes filled with tears- I couldn't function for a few minutes.  (Luckily I wasn't driving- I probably would have crashed the car.)

Is this normal behavior?  Of course, everyone's story is different.  The characteristics of my story which may be causing this are many.  For one thing, I haven't lived in or near my hometown since I was 17.  The family I knew as a child has disintegrated- most of the key people have died, except for my brother and sister who both live far from home.  Only my father remains in my hometown, yet he married into a new family and barely acknowledges his "old" family.

My childhood was not a particularly happy one, although I was an idealistic child and somehow I knew how to make the best of things, and I always knew I'd leave after high school.  I was shy and lonely, reading books all the time.  My family never did fun things- my parents were unhappily married, and my brother and sister, who were teens by the time I was born, resented me.  What's to miss about that childhood?!

Well, as always, I have a theory.  The family may not have been outstanding, but it was the only security I've ever known.  We lived in the same house for all of those years.  My parents got up at the same time every morning and went to bed the same time each night.  There were no surprises.  I always knew what to expect when I came home from school- if my mother was at work, then Gram would be there.  Dinner (we called it "supper") was at 5pm each night come hell or high water.  My mother's cooking sucked, but at least it was consistently bad.  And no matter what she served for the meal, whether I ate it or not, there was always dessert- usually ice cream.  Every Sunday I was given a McDonald's Happy Meal for dinner.

We didn't have a huge extended family, but I knew a few relatives who lived nearby.  Gram was my favorite person of all time, but I was also fond of another older relative, Marion, from my mother's side.  I never knew what appealed to me about Marion, because we had nothing in common, but I just liked her.  I was terribly quiet, even around relatives, so I was sure she didn't know.  I was thrilled when one day my mother told me that she had told Marion that I liked her, and Marion had said, "Yes, I know she does."  How did she know?

 It was not Family of the Year, but it was stable- as I said, it was the only stability I've ever known.  I work in a very unstable field, and my schedule is erratic.  I can't even have a regular bedtime schedule, because I sometimes work late at night and sometimes early in the morning.  I can't sign up for anything regular, like classes or clubs, because of my work schedule.

Besides being stable, my childhood was the only time of my life during which I was surrounded by people who had to care about me no matter what.  That's what "family" is, right?  Now, I do have a child, but he'd happily throw me to the wolves if I so much as tell him he has to go to bed!

My child will not look back at his childhood the way I do mine.  He has no family- he only has a mother- that's all.  The only stability I've been able to offer is the constant knowledge that he's cared about, and that he has a house and food and electronics.  Maybe he'll be able to look back and remember the house on the park with views like the one above, the ill-behaved Chihuahua who constantly wanted to fetch, and the fretting mother who did the best she could.  I'm not sure if his eyes will fill with tears when he hears a song from childhood......

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The goal of the week


I'm thrilled to have a relatively light work week.  I'm working on organizing the house.  Why does it seem that, despite the countless hours I've devoted to organizing, I'm never finished?  I suspect that my method is flawed.  Part of the problem is that I'm organizing for two- myself and the Child.  And I am unable to identify many of his possessions.  How can I organize what I can't identify?  (I'm talking about vaious assorted power chords, computer-related items, parts to game systems- enough electronic paraphenalia that I could open a Radio Shack.)  I've told him he has to participate, but it's like pulling teeth.....

I dislike going through old things.  I define "old" as anything unused during the past year or longer.  Unfortunately, I'm finding some things that I've never even looked at since we moved here 8 years ago.  Old things depress me; therefore, I have a hard time dealing with them.  I remember one time when a friend of mine came over and just walked into my closet and started telling me what to get rid of.  She ever loaded the rejects into her SUV and took them to the Salvation Army.  The funny thing is, I think she herself  is a hoarder.  She couldn't help herself, but she was phenomenal at helping me.

Oprah has had hoarders on her show recently.  I used to think I was a hoarder, but now I realize I'm just a bad housekeeper.  I really don't want to keep things, and I'm not an avid shopper like most hoarders are.  And my house doesn't look as bad as the disaster zones hoarders live in.

My problem is twofold.  First, I have no help- any cleaning or straightening up is done by me alone.  Secondly, I seem to have an ususual ability to block out the mess, to narrow my focus to whatever I'm doing, totally oblivious to my surroundings.  I guess bad housekeepers have to have that ability- otherwise, they'd get their act together.

My mother used to have her own mother and my father helping her keep the house in order.  Gram was obsessive- she'd get down on her hands and knees and straighten out each tassel on the rug with a clothespin.  Oh, I'd LOVE to have her around!  My dishes would always be clean, the sofa cover would always be in place, the food would be put away, the laundry would be done, she'd prepare meals, take out the trash, vacuum, sweep, dust and provide psychological counseling and babysitting.

It doesn't seem fair.  My mother had 2 other adults helping her on a daily basis, and she did not work outside the home during most of her adult life.  I work fulltime and have no help whatsoever- no relatives within 600 miles (not that they'd necessarily help!).  Is this a sign of the times or am I just unlucky in this regard?

I really want to reach the point where I can honestly say that my house is organized.  I wonder if that's doable.  If it is, then the next hurdle will be maintenance.......well, that's another story.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

tough times

This is the view from my living room window.  A year ago, a senior citizen's rec center would have been visible in the upper left quadrant.  I had mixed feelings about the city closing and demolishing the building; I think it made me feel less lonely Monday through Friday during business hours if I happened to be home.  I had gotten to know the people who worked and attended classes there.  But the building was unsightly and its demise improved the scenery.

The big news in bettyworld is that The Child has what presents itself as H1N1; I couldn't get him in to see the doctor because everybody who sneezes now rushes in to be checked, making slots unavailable for those who really do have swine flu. His fever has been 102.6. He has all the flu symptoms- the medical pros say that it's too early in the season for seasonal flu- it's undoubtedly H1N1.

It sucks to be a single parent at a time like this. The stress level is through the roof- I have to decide on a minute to minute basis whether or not to call 911. And sometimes my thinking lacks clarity. What bothered me most, especially during the interminable day yesterday, is that nobody even knows when I'm going through a crisis. (Most of the time, I'm mercifully unaware of this phenomenon since I'm not in crisis.)

I've been around long enough to know that if the chips were really down- if I really needed help from another human being- there would surely be somebody there to help. I don't know this from experience; I know it from logic.

Part of this is timing. If this happened many years ago, I could have called my mother, and she would have taken the next flight to come here. I was always OK when she was alive.

And maybe, if this had happened during the 2 month window between my mother's death and my father's marriage to his mistress, he would have cared, although that's dicey. And maybe if this had happened before my sister's cancer diagnosis, she would have helped, if only via phone from Boston.

But during the years since The Child came into my life, it's been at times lonely. Usually I don't think about it- I don't have time to! The friends from my previous life slipped away, understandably.

Of course, everyone has nagging issues.  I used to be the type who would lay out my problems to anyone who would bid me the time of day.  Maybe that was healthy in a way, but I came to believe that there was a better way to deal with my problems.  So I pretty much stopped talking after The Child entered my life, and it wasn't just because I wanted to.  It was because the people were no longer around.  Now, on the rare occasions when I actually get to spend time with another adult, I don't dare talk about my problems!  I can't risk being branded as one who dumps problems.  Back in the olden days, pre-child, I could get away with it.

Now I cannot.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Changes

It has been a time of change, not just from summer to fall but from elementary school to middle school for The Child and me. He left a wonderful, unusual school where students respected individuality and bullying was nearly nonexistent.

So it's obvious where I'm going with this already, I suppose. The Child has accepted The New School fairly well, but- here goes- I CAN'T STAND IT!

The New School represents everything I balk at! It represents conventional, unexamined thinking. It represents the herd mentality- everybody is the same and should therefore think/act/dress/drive/desire the same. The teachers and administrators are so uptight that I can barely stand to be in the building with them. The students are NOT allowed to speak during lunch!!! WHAT, please explain this to me, WHAT is the POINT of squelching middle school aged students to that extent?

Now normally, I would just figure out a way to accept the new situation. I have a bit more difficulty in this case because I'm the one who brought this about! The Child could have stayed at the Old School, which is a K-8. But noooooooooo. He wanted to go to The New School, even after I explained the differences and took him to see the school during teaching hours.

Bullying. Now we know what bullying is. It happens when The Child gets off his school bus! The foul-intentioned kids sitting at the back of the bus have bullied The Child and me every single time he has gotten off that bus. I automatically shut down when I'm in a situation like that, but it seems to me that they are criticizing The Child's hair. And once, when I followed the bus in my car, a nasty boy in the back gestured in a way that sickened me (largely because he attends the same school as my son).

Yesterday I couldn't take it anymore. As the bus driver pulled away, I ran after the bus to tell him about those kids in the back bullying my son. The driver listened and said he was aware of the problem, and then as I walked away, the bus sat there for a long time. Then it moved a few yards and stopped again, for an even longer time.

I fear that the kids who were obviously being reprimanded will punish The Child at school, where I won't be around to protect him.

There's more. The Child is smart- he's in the Gifted and Talented program and he has skipped a grade in math. There is a course at this God-forsaken school called "College Prep." Well, The Child's grade in College Prep is D-!!!!! He has never had a grade anywhere near that level before, so of course I questioned him about it. He said the teacher, who is intimidating, did not clearly explain what papers he wanted turned in. The Child failed to turn in all the papers he wanted even though he had all of them right there in the room, and that's why he was given a D-. Infuriated, I wrote an email to the teacher, carefully expressing my dismay that such an appalling grade was given as a result of a problem with paper shuffling! The teacher never responded to my email.

My blood boils as I write this, and I cry every time I think of the Old School. This is the price I pay for allowing The Child to make his own choices.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

another birthday


Yesterday was my birthday. For some elusive reason, I decided to have a party, which in retrospect seems highly egotistical. Well, my stab at self-glorification certainly backfired.

First, some background. I was never one of the popular girls. I was no cheerleader. I was the dunce of gym class, wanted for nobody's team. Other than gym class, I was a geek, but fortunately, nobody made fun of me because I was ever aware of my goal of behaving in an innocuous fashion so as to fail to draw attention.

More accurately, I was innocuous until I discovered the wonders of alcohol. Liquored up, I could be the star of any party. That went on until I realized that I had a problem with alcohol and I stopped drinking. Rewind to innocuous.

Ever since my mother died, my birthdays have fallen by the wayside, unnoticed. My father, who has immersed himself in the family of his current wife, doesn't even mail a card or spring for a long distance phone call. Doesn't it make sense for someone in my situation to plan a birthday bash? It sure beats wallowing in misery for the 24 hours marking the date of my birth.

I spent every free moment during the past week cleaning my house for the party. I was on my hands and knees scrubbing forgotten corners with a toothbrush. I even cleaned the walls and ceiling, wondering how it is that dust can collect in such places. Seriously- where does it come from?

Then, the day before the party, I started cooking. Mind you, I'm no chef. I need a detailed map to find my way around the kitchen. I attempted to produce homemade gnocchi (delicate Italian potato dumplings). Something went terribly wrong, and the dough totally stuck to my hands, and eventually to my arms, face, hair and clothing. I stood there in my kitchen in tears, not knowing how to proceed, not wanting to even think about any plan B, never wanting to cook again for the rest of my god-forsaken life.

I looked like the Pillsbury dough boy, covered with a gooey potatoey mess (which I still haven't managed to completely remove from my hair). I was afraid to shower it off, for fear of clogging the plumbing. I went outdoors and hosed myself, to the amusement of the neighbors and passersby.

Hours later, I had finally put together a concoction defying recognition. This is why I had to start cooking the day before. I know myself well enough to be able to anticipate kitchen disasters. It turned out to be a casserole-looking thing, so I shoved it into my refrigerator intending to cook it just before the party.

Over the past couple of weeks I had spent a good deal of time analyzing this upcoming party. I had no wine glasses, so I bought a set. In case some people wanted water or soft drinks, I bought one of those colorful plastic beverage tubs to be filled with a large bag of ice from the gas station the next day. My house is small- too small for comfortable partying, so I decided to hold the party outdoors, and made arrangements to borrow extra lawn furniture. I neither cook nor eat meat, so I found a gourmet grocery where I could purchase high quality pre-made meatballs to add to the concoction.

Just in case the concoction proved to be inedible, I added tortellini to the menu- a double batch to ensure that I wouldn't run out of food. Everybody except me seems to eat bread with Italian food, so I found frozen garlic bread that looked somewhat appropriate. I had to write out an hour by hour timeline for the day of the party so that I would have a fighting chance of pulling off this party. Oh, and did I mention that I baked my own birthday cake? Not wanting anyone to feel obligated to bring a birthday gift, I didn't tell any of the guests that it was my birthday, and I made sure the cake didn't look birthday-ish.

The big day arrived, with rain. The interior of my small, ill-designed house would be the setting whether I liked it or not. The phone rang, and while I tried to untangle myself from tortellini, my favorite party guest left a phone message stating that he had been called out of town and couldn't attend. I still had some tears left even after the previous day's events, and I indulged in another crying spell.

The first guest arrived 3 minutes early, and I was not amused. My kitchen is the worst feature of my ill-designed house- it lacks space for more than one person at a time. I shooed her out of the kitchen and into the ill-designed living room, explaining that cooking required more concentration than I was in possession of.

But it was too late- things had started to fall apart, as I lost track of what had to be in the oven for how long. I managed to start a fire on the stove. I asked my early arrival to take over the kitchen before I ruined the entire production, and I just stood near the door, dazed, as people showed up.

After a few minutes I regained consciousness and took over the kitchen again. While everyone was eating, I cut the cake and started the dishes. I was too overwhelmed to think about eating myself.

Not one person took a bottle of water or a can of soft drink of the huge plastic tub with the 33 pound bag of ice in it. They all drank wine. I had told people that we'd go for a walk in the park or play Pictionary after eating; we did neither, with thunderstorms raging and Pictionary forgotten. When I finally went into the living room to attempt to converse with guests after the meal, I was too exhausted to be conscious of what I was saying, and I said things I later regretted- gossipy things having to do with work.

The guests left as soon as the lightening let up enough so that they could run to their cars, arms laden with leftovers which I begged them to take. As I entered the kitchen to resume the endless task of cleaning up, I noticed that the floor was flooded. (I noticed because I slipped and fell.) The huge plastic tub which was intended to hold ice and drinks during parties apparently had a hole in it. All 33 pounds of ice, now in liquid form, seeped into the floorboards of the ill-designed kitchen.

I'm not sure what line of thinking led me to believe that throwing myself a secret birthday party would be in any way enjoyable by me. It was a lot of work and even more stress. It consumed the day completely, not to mention the preceding days. That's what I mean when I say it backfired. Ironic, eh?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

climbing mountains

I know people who do things like mountain climbing and hang gliding for adventure. I know people who have jumped out of airplanes. I know people with pilot's licenses. I know people who move overseas, having mastered 8 languages. I know people who have started businesses, thereby creating their own livelihoods. I know people who have adopted troubled children whom nobody else wanted. And when I think of these things, I feel limited. I feel as though I haven't really lived my life- I've just sat on the edge, dipping my toe in now and then, admiring all the swimmers and divers.

This morning I sat outside with my pen and notebook. I wrote about this and came to realize that I did climb mountains. One of them was named "be the first in your family to attend college." One was "make a conscious decision to become a single parent." One was "choose a career in a highly competitive field, where the financial rewards will never match the sacrifices, dedication and training required." One was named "against all odds, get yourself out of the small town and dysfunctional family you were born into." And there's one which I keep on climbing periodically: "Establish yourself as an independent, self-supporting, capable individual."

It's not important for others to know of my mountain climbing prowess. But it's critical that I know.

Friday, August 07, 2009

can't let go of blogging

I have toyed with the idea of quitting blogging. I've been at it since 2005, and lately it has seemed as though my blogging phase has run its course. For some reason, though, I am not ready to let it go.

It has been disappointing to me that some of my former readers have dropped away. Blogging has at times reminded me of high school, when I fretted over not being popular. My blog has never been popular; however, I have enjoyed a small loyal following.

One of my favorite bloggers has quit. Certainly I have been influenced by her decision- for one thing, it's depressing to have her not be a part of my "small loyal following."

Another favorite blogger of mine quit a couple of years ago. I never fully recovered from losing her virtual friendship. It's amazing how attached I have become to my blogging community. Like neighbors, you can't bank on them being there forever.

Which reminds me- my next door neighbor died last week. He was more of a father to me than my bio dad. He cared about me, he worried about me, he cut my bushes, he loaned me tools, he fixed my bike, he gave me tomatoes, he tried to be a father figure to The Child, he went to court after The Child's father pushed him in my driveway (making it easier for me to prevail in the custody battle), he took care of the fallen tree in my front yard, he rushed my dying dog to the animal hospital.

How do you sat goodbye? I remember the day 2 weeks ago when he stood in his driveway, holding onto his garbage container because the bone cancer had made him so weak, while we talked. I remember saying goodbye to him that day, not knowing it would be the last time.

Every time my doorbell rings, I think it's him. He was always checking on me.

Thursday, August 06, 2009


My sister was told a few short months ago that her tongue cancer was gone. The radiation and chemo had worked, apparently.

Then, a couple of weeks ago came the devastating news that it had returned, and the tumor on her tongue was so fast-growing that surgery was scheduled immediately.

This would be no ordinary surgery- it was scheduled to last 12 hours! It took place Tuesday.

A few days prior, my sister had noticed a suspicious lump on the other side of her tongue. At the outset of her surgery, that new lump was biopsied, and found to be cancerous.

The team of surgeons had to adjust their plan. Instead of removing one tumor, they'd be removing two. Instead of taking a skin graft from her arm, they'd have to take tissue and fat from her thigh, for the purpose of tongue re-construction.

The surgery lasted an unbelievable 14 hours. I was unable to travel across the country to be there, so I rely on reports from my brother.

He describes how shocking it is to see the incision circling her neck like a choker necklace. They did that to remove lymph nodes.

Her face is swollen and there are tubes- 24, he says, sticking out of her, connecting her to various machines. She has a tracheotomy and a food tube.

The staff warned the family members that if she got out of bed at all, she would be unable to walk. Yet the morning after surgery, she reportedly walked up and down the hallway, hauling the machinery with her.

Who knew that my sister had that sort of determination? She has never been challenged like this before, of course- nothing compares to this.

She can't speak, but apparently she is writing with amazing eloquence. Surpassing all expectations, she is the superstar of the cancer ward.

She is displaying a strength hitherto unknown, which we never would have known she had, which she would have never known she had.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

betty is not whirlin' right now

I'd like to be, but I'm not. It seems that there's no pleasing me. When I have a lot going on at work, I just want relief- the more, the better. Yet when I actually do have a lighter schedule, I seem lost. Currently my workload is temporarily lighter than usual, yet I deeply resent each extra burden, such as a dentist's appointment, that makes its way into my sparse schedule. Today I came undone over the prospect of attending a 4th of July party, to the point where I ended up not going. What sense does that make?

During the springtime this year, I was enthusiastic about pruning and getting things in order outdoors. I was glad to live here, despite my strong preference for a walkable urban neighborhood. Now, early in the summer season, I am pretty much over this place. The weeds have had their way, and by now the poison ivy to which I am so allergic has popped up all over the place so that it is no longer safe for me to do any yard work. I resent the fact that the roof needs repair and rain now leaks into the living room. This property is small, and there's no place to go to escape the ennui. The weather is increasingly hot and humid. With my central air on its last legs, I barely use it, not wanting to face the bill for replacement, and have had resultant sleepless nights.

My former discipline, flimsy though it was, has gone out the window. Some days I do force an early, half-hearted jog just because I feel even worse if I don't. Other than that, though, I'm just lost, trudging through the hot, unbearable ghost town of my days, hardly even glancing back at the heyday in the rearview mirror.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Are you guilty of this?




Today I read an article on the onion.com about a young man who admits to a surprising policy during visits with his family:



95 Percent Of Opinions Withheld On Visit To Family


KALAMAZOO, MI–A full 95 percent of the opinions held by Justin Wilmot, 26, were kept to himself Sunday during a Father's Day visit with his family.

Wilmot holds his tongue while his sister and mother discuss their mutual excitement about Legally Blonde 2.

"No one in my family really gets my worldview, so I find it easier just to smile and nod and agree with everything," Wilmot said Monday. "When I'm with them, I tend to be a lot quieter than when I'm hanging out with friends."

Wilmot, who grew up in Kalamazoo and now lives in Chicago, described the visit as "seven hours of self-censorship."

"We're totally not on the same wavelength at all," Wilmot said. "I'm not just talking about dangerous subjects like politics or religion, but pretty much everything they bring up–the shows they watch, the things they buy, the people they know. So if someone says Daddy Day Care was hilarious, I may be thinking, 'I can't believe Eddie Murphy was once respected as a subversive comic genius,' but I sure as hell don't say it."

Among the subjects Wilmot declined to weigh in on during the weekend get-together: new Tropical Sprite, Survivor, the selfishness of childless couples, Iraq, golf, AM talk radio, and his brother-in-law's fantastic idea for a calling-card side business.

Wilmot said he used to voice his opinions, but has long since given up.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++



Does that seem shocking to you? Not to me, and you can imagine why. Yes, whirling betty is guilty of the same. I am not particularly proud of it, but I learned several years ago that being true to myself is not worth it during family visits.

When my mother was alive, I was quite assertive. She always deferred to me. After she died, everything changed.

The family dissipated. My father married his longtime mistress and she was the complete opposite of my mother. She deferred to no one- least of all me!

When I went to visit my father in the house I was raised in, the presence of his new wife turned the house into a prison for me, even though I had lived there a lot longer than she had. I was only allowed to enter the bedroom I was assigned to (which, of course, was NOT the bedroom which had always been mine- it was my brother's and I had never liked it) and the downstairs.

HOWEVER, I was only allowed to be in the downstairs portion of the house WITH supervision! I kid you not. The bitch whom my father married was convinced that I was going to rob them if left unattended- yes, ROB them- even though my criminal history is nonexistent- nope, not even a speeding ticket can be attributed to whirlingbetty.

I had to make a decision. Either I had to eliminate my father from my life or I had to figure out a way to tolerate the insanity which he married. I decided that my visits would be infrequent and short. I would visit once every 3 years, and for only two days. They never visit me.

For two days every three years, I can squelch myself. I do not share their views on politics or gun control or homosexuality or race discrimination. I do not care to hear about how superior my father's wife and her adult children are to me and my siblings and my deceased mother. But I made the decision that I will spend two days every three years biting my tongue and visiting.

I'm glad I'm not the only one.

Friday, June 05, 2009

End of an Era


Today The Child graduated from 5th grade and elementary school. Many thoughts swirled through my head as I reminisced about his school career and then dredged up ancient memories of my own schooling.

We were lucky that The Child was able to attend this particular elementary school. A gem within a huge urban school district, this highly sought-after school is populated by students who have won the citywide lottery. It's an alternative school, which basically means that the individual is honored. Because acceptance is paramount, there is no such thing as bullying here.

Before he started Kindergarten, I was a wreck, thoroughly convinced that there was no way that my son would survive even a day of Kindergarten. I wrote a letter to the principal of this school, expressing my concerns. To my shock, she called me and invited me to bring The Child in a few days before school started to meet with her and his teacher. This was the beginning of the support and acceptance that was offered to me by this school. As a single mother with no family or support, this meant the world to me.

It was still traumatic for The Child to start school, even after the generous preparation from the principal and teacher. All-day Kindergarten was too much for him. But thank heavens he was in that particular school, where his lessons could be learned in a caring and conscious environment.

One morning I dropped him off in his Kindergarten classroom, and just before I rushed off to work, I became aware of a problem brewing. One of his classmates, one who indulged in the alteration of facts to suit his agenda, was becoming enraged because The Child was in after-school latchkey and he wasn't. The Troublemaker was telling the teacher that The Child had been taunting him and telling him lies about latchkey, of all things. (Hard though it is to imagine, The Troublemaker was actually upset that he wasn't in latchkey.)

I knew what had been going on between the two boys because The Child had been diligent about telling me EVERYTHING. When I arrived at work, I called the principal of the school to tell her what was going on, and I was so worked up that I was shaking as I informed her that the teacher was preparing to send The Child to detention over a problem that had been fabricated by The Troublemaker.

In any other school The Child would have been sent to detention and been reprimanded, whether he deserved it or not. At this school, the principal made a beeline to the Kindergarten room, where she intervened and took the two boys to her office. Using top-notch problem-solving techniques, she heard each boy's version of events. In a fit of brilliance, she called The Troublemaker's big brother into her office to check out the facts as presented by The Troublemaker, and sure enough, Big Brother exposed the fabrication.

One of the things I loved about this school was its bookstore. Families and teachers donated their used books, and the books were then sold to students at prices ranging from a penny to a dollar, and the proceeds were used for school projects. I volunteered at the bookstore, and really enjoyed being in charge one afternoon each week. I met lots of students that way, and enjoyed watching the children embark upon a lifelong love affair with books.

Today I was much more distraught than the Child was over the end of our relationship with this school. I console myself with the reminder that the relationship may be over, but the lessons learned, by both The Child and his mother, are everlasting.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

from Dorothy Parker

Indian Summer
by Dorothy Parker


In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!


I recently happened upon this poem by Dorothy Parker. I suppose it's sad to say that it resonated with me, even though I certainly hope that I haven't yet entered the Indian Summer of my life.

Beginning in high school, I was definitely guilty of that chameleon-like behavior which Dorothy describes so laconically. I kept it up until The Child came along, and at that point I seem to have taken on Ms. Parker's Indian Summer attitude.

I have a theory which resulted from my awareness of that phenomenon: maybe my former "lad-pleasing" behavior was actually inspired, unbeknownst to me, by a biological urge to reproduce. Once that happened, I was allowed to be myself and let the chips (or lads) fall as they may.

I have always preferred to do my own thing, although, admittedly, there are those rare occasions when it would be nice to have a companion. When the Child grows up and flies the coop, there will be a void.

Maybe then I'll have to revert to my youthful ways.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of shots from my walk in the park today:


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What would YOU have done?


Can you see that white flower in the middle of the above photo? It's an iris- one of the star bloomers at this time of year. Until a few minutes ago, that single iris was surrounded by many others.

Here's what happened: I happened to be looking out of my living room window into the park on which my house is situated. That's when I saw a woman walk up to the flower bed of irises and bend down. I thought she was just getting a closer look, until I realized that she was actually picking the flowers! There were no people around, and she certainly didn't know that I was watching from inside my house.

As she walked toward the parking lot with her booty, I debated whether I should let it go or confront her. The decision was made as I found myself standing a few feet from her car, saying (in a voice loud enough to be heard but not yelling), "I think that what you just did is illegal."

She mumbled a dismissive "yeah" without looking at me and proceeded to enter her car.

Not quite ready to let it go, I added, "Not only that, but it's not fair to your fellow man."

No response, and she drove off.

I've been around long enough to usually have a sense of whether I've done the right thing or not. In this case, I'm unsure. As the sole witness to this woman's indiscretion, was I morally obligated to let her know that she was seen and judged? Or was it none of my business? Was I standing up for the taxpayers of this city whose money paid for those flowers? Was I upholding the law? Was I speaking on behalf of the many people who enjoy this park and its flowers? Or was I just using her weak moment to try to boost myself into a morally superior position?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Thank you, mother


for all the "square" meals you prepared
for the huge roast you made just for me when you found out I was anemic
for taking me to see the New York City Ballet
for the treats you put in my bag lunches
for all of the term papers you typed (and re-typed)
for making it possible for me to explore my interests
for the horse-drawn carriage rides around Central Park
for teaching me how to "mother" on the day my puppy was bitten by a bee
for doing the best you could to show a defiant daughter how to snare a boy
for making lime slush for every holiday meal because it was my favorite
for providing a good example of "moderation in all things"
for not being jealous those times when I preferred to spend time with your mother
for providing a constant example of the saying "you catch more bees with honey"
for allowing me to be myself, even though "myself" was foreign to you in many ways
for inadvertently teaching me by example to not let a man run my life
for the fresh baked cookies you mailed to me at summer camp
for taking me to Saratoga for that concert I just had to attend
for planning all those picnic lunches for the two of us
for allowing me more freedom than most parents would have
for believing in me beyond reason

Monday, May 04, 2009

parenting



Today I realized that good parenting requires a fertile imagination. It's so easy to be bogged down with the challenges of everyday life, especially for single parents, and especially in today's economy.

Yesterday, for example, I kept asking The Child all day long what he'd like to do. I was hoping for the art museum, zoo or science museum. He had other ideas- he wanted to spend the day on the computer. I had things to do, so I waited. And waited.

Finally sometime late in the afternoon he that he wanted to go to Cinnabon for a cinnamon roll. By this time, I was tired, hungry, frustrated and upset about something that was going on at work. I drove him across town to Cinnabon, griping the whole way. By the time we arrived, he was miserable and I was guilty.

I tried to apologize and smooth things over, explaining the things that were bothering me so that he'd know it wasn't about him. I asked if he wanted to go anywhere else, but he just wanted to return home.

This morning he cried before we left for his school bus stop. He strongly dislikes school, and didn't want to go. I tried to be on my best behavior, asking if there was anything I could do to brighten his morning- short of letting him stay home, that is.

When I returned home after his bus roared off, I sat on the patio feeding peanuts to the squirrels and chipmunks. I wished The Child could have been there with me, because I wanted to talk to him about the reason I do this.

Then something very rare happened: I had a good idea. I ran into the house to get a pen and paper, and I wrote The Child a letter, saying what I would have said had he been there.

This accomplished two things: I communicated my beliefs to him, and I provided him with a writing example. Although The Child is an excellent reader, he has never really enjoyed writing- a common problem among boys.

I am curious about any parenting breakthroughs or pearls of wisdom you all may have to offer- on any aspect of parenting at all- not related specifically to the incident described here. I just want to hear about any examples you have of parenting successes! Those of you who don't have a child are invited to weigh in- you certainly don't have to be a parent to have parenting ideas or theories.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

spring day musings


It occurred to me that I may not be that much different from my "tween-aged" son. I am always accusing him of not talking enough- of not disclosing his every innermost thought.


Then I remembered that annoying tendency we all have of ourselves possessing the traits for which we criticize others.

Well, I used to talk. When my mother was alive I spoke to her often, with full disclosure of every last aspect of my life, pretty much. And I saw a counselor until a year ago- obviously I talked to her.

I think I've done enough talking during my life. Even though I haven't talked much lately about anything more serious than the next cold front, I seem to be about as mentally healthy as I've ever been.

Is it possible that talking is over-rated?

Yesterday I nearly crashed the car when The Child started telling me, from the back seat, about a book his 5th grade class has been reading. First of all, he was actually initiating conversation, and secondly, this is a child who has done nothing but whine and complain about school since his first day of kindergarten. With complete sincerity, he told me he can't wait to read this book's sequel. (Mind you, this was no super hero book or anything like that- it was historic, written about the Civil War era.) This is the same child who has consistently resisted any and all attempts by me to get him to read books at home. (He couldn't even be bribed with rewards of video games!)

It's always been a mystery how he even learned to read. He resisted my efforts to teach him at home, and I know beyond doubt that he has rarely paid attention to his teachers in school. His kindergarten teacher had told me that he showed up at school one day suddenly and inexplicably knowing how to read at a fairly advanced level. He was soon thereafter placed in the Gifted and Talented program, where he remains to this day.

Unlike his mother, The Child has definitely not fulfilled his talking quota for his age. Yesterday's sudden bout of talking may have been an isolated and historic event.


There was much yardwork to be done this weekend. See the clippings on the ground? This city has stopped free collection of yard waste. I refuse to pay for it- I am already paying very high property taxes and I file city income taxes as well. I just found out that not all city residents file city taxes! Why? Seriously, why? Well, I'll be damned if I'm turning over yet more of my heard-earned money to this city which is constantly cutting back services to its residents.

So I have to figure out what to do with my massive amounts of yard waste. I've been hauling it into the woods near my house at night. Of course, I have to come up with an explanation of my clandestine activities for The Child.

"Why do you do this in the middle of the night if there's nothing wrong with it?"

Good question. I've always quoted football great Woody Hayes, "Nothin' good ever happens after 10 pm." So of course The Child, who grew up hearing that, wants to know why I haul yard waste into the city-owned woods after 10pm.

Some things are hard to explain gracefully and effectively, especially when the explainer feels inexplicable guilt. In nature, "yard waste" is naturally recycled. No city-owned trucks are required for nature's cycle of life. My yard waste is helping the city's woods grow, right?

So why do I insist on doing it in the dark of night, glancing back furtively over my shoulder for possible witnesses to my indescretion, while The Child, shaking his head in disbelief, acts as my lookout?

Monday, April 13, 2009

blink

In the blink of an eye, everything changes.

Some background is necessary. The Child used to spend time with his father whenever the father wanted to see him. I allowed this to keep the peace and to allow The Child to know his father. I was under no legal obligation to allow visitation, and to this day the father has never paid me a dime of child support.

Two and a half years ago the father's behavior finally became so outrageous as to be unlawful. I told the father he'd have to go to court to get permission to see The Child again. After a drawn out court battle, the father's lawsuit against me was dropped. This was one year ago.

The ensuing year has been the most peaceful since The Child was born. Gone was the unbearable stress of dealing with a controlling bully (the father).

This morning I was sitting at my computer desk, gazing out my window. I blinked, thinking my eyes were deceiving me. Who should appear in front of my house but the father. However, he was not presenting himself as a bully- he was crying and gesturing through the window.

I stepped outside into the chilly drizzle, afraid to let him into my house. He held a folded newspaper, and pointed to an obituary. I glanced at it and recognized the name of his other son.

I asked what happened, and he said his estranged son had been a college student. He died of an overdose. Of what? Heroin.

"I can't let this happen to The Child," he sobbed. "I can't let him grow up not knowing me." His other son had not seen the father since he was 2 years old.

"I'm a changed man."

I didn't have time to stay and talk further, but I said maybe he could meet The Child and me for dinner this week at a restaurant. He said his live-in girlfriend would come too.


************************************************************************************


What am I thinking right now? Well, for starters, I wish I had wallowed in my past year of freedom, really relishing it. I was aware of my wonderful freedom, but did I enjoy it enough?--- because it's gone now. Too bad I was experiencing a period of absolute hell at work over the past year, including a lengthy period of unemployment.

Who am I to question whether or not the father is truly a changed man? I am my child's advocate, that's who.

Everything changes in the blink of an eye.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter scenes


Last night the Easter Bunny, a.k.a. whirlingbetty, prepared the basket and hid it behind the sofa the way her own mother had done many years ago.



Shortly after dawn on this Easter morning, The Child attempts to suppress his enthusiasm, embarrassed by his continuing belief in the Easter Bunny. Children his age are easily embarrassed.

This is the view today looking out of my front door into the park. To most people, today was still quite chilly, but to me, it's been such a nasty winter that I thought the day was great. I even sat outside reading the newspaper and feeding the squirrels and chipmunks. They deserve to celebrate Easter too.

The daffodils are still going strong. This is my favorite variety.


Later, an unconventional Easter meal of pasta was being prepared at a friend's house. Don't you love the house decor?


Happy Easter to all, and to all a good night.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

from Dorothy Parker

Indian Summer
by Dorothy Parker


In youth, it was a way I had
To do my best to please,
And change, with every passing lad,
To suit his theories.

But now I know the things I know,
And do the things I do;
And if you do not like me so,
To hell, my love, with you!


I recently happened upon this poem by Dorothy Parker. I suppose it's sad to say that it resonated with me, even though I certainly hope that I haven't yet entered the Indian Summer of my life.

Beginning in high school, I was definitely guilty of that chameleon-like behavior which Dorothy describes so laconically. I kept it up until The Child came along, and at that point I seem to have taken on Ms. Parker's Indian Summer attitude.

I have a theory which resulted from my awareness of that phenomenon: maybe my former "lad-pleasing" behavior was actually inspired, unbeknownst to me, by a biological urge to reproduce. Once that happened, I was allowed to be myself and let the chips (or lads) fall as they may.

I have always preferred to do my own thing, although, admittedly, there are those rare occasions when it would be nice to have a companion. When the Child grows up and flies the coop, there will be a void.

Maybe then I'll have to revert to my youthful ways.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of shots from my walk in the park today:


Friday, April 03, 2009

Strength and Healing for Binghamton NY


My brother called me from San Francisco midday today to inform me that our hometown of Binghamton, NY was dominating CNN. Since the call I've been riveted to CNN, watching the horrific scenes from "home".

How unbelievable that the latest episode in our country's spate of senseless shootings has placed Binghamton NY on the map for the first time ever. The American Civic Association in Binghamton helps immigrants in the area with citizenship, resettlement and family reunification. The shootings took place in a neighborhood of homes and small businesses in downtown Binghamton, a city of about 47,000 residents.

The Binghamton area was the home to Endicott-Johnson shoe company and the birthplace of IBM, which between them employed tens of thousands of workers before the shoe company closed a decade ago and IBM downsized in recent years. My father worked at IBM; my aunt and uncle worked at the shoes factory. Early news reports stated that the gunman had recently been fired from IBM, although the investigation is still in its early stages. The gunman's house was in Johnson City, the village adjacent to Binghamton. Johnson City is where I grew up. The high school under lockdown which CNN kept referring to was Binghamton Central, where as a teen I rehearsed with the Binghamton Youth Symphony. The 4 critically wounded victims are being treated at Lourdes Hospital, where my mother worked, and at Wilson Medical Center which is 2 blocks from the house I grew up in.


Under different circumstances, I would have been delighted to see familiar sights from home being broadcast over the media. I have been homesick for a long time- I miss the rolling hills which CNN showed in the background today. I miss the ethnic flavor of the place. I miss the diversity. I miss the east coast feel. I miss the accent- mine is fading.

But most of all, I'm shocked. CNN just announced that until today, Binghamton had only one homicide during the past year! It had been rated one of the safest places in the U.S. Can you imagine how the city is reeling!?

April showers



This is what the park outside of my house looks like today. The drizzle is not offensive as a downpour might be; it's a very light April shower- the kind that brings May flowers.

It's been a very pleasant spring, in stark contrast to the brutal ice-filled winter we just endured. It was so bad that my next door neighbors made the decision to sell their house and move to Florida. There were quite a few days this past winter when driving was outrageously dangerous. I have a problem with that, although I'm basically a tolerant individual.

Spring's renewal has inspired me to take inventory of my life. I happened to spy a copy of a book that I found really helpful a few years ago: Life Strategies by Phil McGraw. The book spelled out the importance of looking at each aspect of one's life and determining where the shortfalls lie. I made major changes after reading that book- hopefully they were wise ones.

Using the technique outlined in the book, I re-evaluated my life. Most areas are OK, with 2 areas standing out as needing improvement. One is clutter control. I'm so much better than I used to be, but I still have the problem of being too quick to let things go. And the other has to do with eating.



This photo illustrates my primary problem right now. Ever since leaving home for college, I've developed a habit of improper use of food. Instead of nourishment, its use in my life seems to be distraction, comfort, pleasure and numbing.

It seems like an addiction- the drug is food. Sometimes I control it to one degree or another- sometimes the best I can do is starve myself for a few days between binges. And I actually do experience an occasional period of "normal" eating, usually not for long.

I can't explain why the problem didn't surface until I moved away from home. I remember once when I was about 8 years old, I was alone in the house and I took a package of Chips Ahoy cookies into my bedroom to eat while I was reading a book. That was my first binge. At age 8, I was revolted afterwords, disgusted by my gluttony. I did not want to be fat- I vowed never to do it again.

And I didn't- not until college. That's where I was at my worst. I used to buy huge bags of candy to eat while I was studying. I'd scarf down ice cream by the half gallon. I'd eat entire cheesecakes. I didn't become obese because I also ran everyday, as I still do.

I have been to various types of counselors, ranging from a psychiatrist (who thought I was fine) to a social worker most recently. None of them focused on the eating thing, and when I brought it up, they offered no insight as to why it was going on or how it might be dealt with. I guess I do it to escape from life, which I apparently find scary. Lots of people escape in one way or another- it's not exactly uncommon.

Right now I am thinking of a friend of mine who had a hard time quitting smoking. When he finally did quit, he replaced the habit with long-distance running. I suppose I too would benefit from finding a replacement habit. An exercise addiction is not in the cards for me, in fact it's fairly amazing that I've been able to keep jogging for all these years, so I'm going to have to come up with something which would be suitable for me which is healthy or at least not damaging.

Maybe I should become a workaholic.

Do you have any suggestions? I really don't want to live on Peanut Butter Eggs and potato chips.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Urban Planning 101


This is what it looks like from the outside, as viewed from a pedestrian bridge over the street. It's a humongous shopping mall, smack dab in the center of downtown.

When it first opened 20 years ago, it delighted locals as well as out-of-towners who traveled great distances to shop here. Upscale stores such as Marshall Fields, Jacobson's and Macy's were among the hundreds of retailers. There was no shortage of food and entertainment, thanks to the many restaurants, the amphitheater in the center and the connected concert hall/movie theater. It was the place to be, no question.



What went wrong, then?



This grand shopping destination officially closed permanently on March 5, 2009, a mere 20 years after its auspicious opening.



Well, whirlingbetty is no city planner, but it doesn't take one to figure out what went wrong. Surely a 1,200,000 square foot 3 level shopping center in the center of a major U.S. city's downtown was intended to last longer than 20 years!

This mall opened in 1989. It was innovative, being an urban mall in contrast to the far more common suburban variety. It was upscale and exciting.

Here's the problem: in 1997, a brand new mall opened on the northwest side of this same city, unbelievably by the SAME developers who had built the downtown mall! Even an amateur urban planner sees what's coming.

Another suburban mall was opened on the northeast side of the city two years later. The impact on the downtown mall was dramatic by this time.

The fatal blow came in 2001 when when yet another mall opened on the north end of the city. This trifecta of brand new mega malls on the outskirts of town made it impossible for shoppers to justify driving all the way downtown to shop, especially knowing they'd have to pay to park there! Besides, most of the population lives in the suburbs anyway, as this city grows to look more and more like a giant, ever-expanding doughnut with a gaping, empty hole in its center.

City Planning 101: If you want to draw people downtown, the first rule is to exercise restraint on development in the suburbs! There was nothing inherently wrong with the downtown mall; it was a gem. What was wrong was the uncontrolled, unchecked competition allowed to spring up in the ever-expanding suburbs.

The city government did nothing to discourage re-location of residents, businesses, services and retail to the suburbs. We are left with a declining, decaying downtown. What good is a city with a rotten core?


These two shoppers, made of cement, are the last to grace the halls of the former downtown shopping mecca. What a loss; what a waste.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Monet's garden


I spied this image of a Monet painting while perusing blogs today. This is one that I'm not familiar with, but I find it most appealing.
I've always wanted to have my own garden like Monet's at Giverny. I suppose it's no wonder, then, that I ended up living on a park which features views like this one:


The similarities are remarkable, don't you think? Granted, the park isn't my own personal paradise like Monet's garden was for him, but I also don't have to tend the garden or pay the gardeners, except through with same tax dollars that every city resident pays.

I regularly see artists set up here in the park with easels like Monet's. They seem to be using "en plain air" techniques which Monet advocated.

Very early in the morning and after sunset, the garden is devoid of visitors, and I pretend it's mine.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A perspective


Here's a thought to ponder: Life is supposed to be fun. Imagine the possibility that before you were born, you said, "I'll go forth and choose. I'll look at the data, and I'll say, yes to this, and yes to this, and yes to this, and I'll paint a picture of the things that I want, and I'll vibrate about them, because that's what I'm giving my attention to. And the Universe will respond to my vibration. And then I'll stand in a new place where a whole new batch of yeses are available, and I'll say yes to this, and yes to this, and yes to this." You did not say, "I'll go forth and struggle into joy", because from your Nonphysical Perspective you know it is vibrationally not possible. You cannot struggle to joy. Struggle and joy are not on the same channel. You joy your way to joy. You laugh your way to success. It is through your joy that good things come.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

spring is here


Can you detect the faint hint of green in the bushes on the left, and red in the bushes on the right? The subtleties of spring are becoming bolder by the minute. The closeup below shows promising buds and new growth.


Over the past couple of months I've allowed the house to fall into a state of alarming disarray. Something had to be done! I wouldn't go so far as to say I've been "spring cleaning", but at least I've been straightening up the house to the point where I can invite people inside again.


The crocus is the quintessential harbinger of spring. Crocuses abound around my house.


Below is a miniature daffodil, about 1/4 the size of a regular daffodil. (The regular ones bloom later, in April.) Each spring I am reminded of my dear friend Wini who died of breast cancer several years ago when the daffodils were in full bloom.


I have not been spending any money lately. Last summer was rough; my employer had shut down the business for several months, and during that time my car broke down 5 times and the plumbing in my house went bad. Repairs for those unfortunate events cost thousands of dollars. Financial recovery will take a long time.

However, I was perusing the ad from Target in Sunday's newspaper and I spied a fun, whirlingbetty-looking welcome mat for $9.99. Here it is:



Now that my schedule has lightened up a bit, I am heaving a huge sigh of relief and getting back to the things I've neglected, like blogging. I have resumed my fair weather practice of sitting outside on the patio in front of my house, feeding the animals and reading.


Happy Spring!