Riding in the Car, with Dogs

I wanted to share Easter music with you today, but the youtube choices were not appealing.  Besides that, I am not really celebrating Easter this year because I’m spending today in the car, heading back to Colorado.

Yes, we drive from DC to Colorado.  More than once a year.  With dogs.  Or, this spring, with a dog.  Trixie came, but Jeb stayed home with my son.

Jeb will jump in the car with us at any time, but once there, he hunkers down and pants, obviously motion sick. He has never once put his head out the window of a moving vehicle.

Trixie, on the other hand, travels like a pro.  A pro who alternates between looking out the window, sleeping on my lap, and mooching for treats.  In other words, she acts like she does at home, perfectly content and at ease.

Do your pets enjoy being in the car or merely tolerate it?


Aging with Grace

I want to age gracefully.  It’s right there on the top of this page.  So you’d think when I was asked to explain what that means to me, I would have an answer ready.

Wrong.  So, I turned to the word experts at Merriam-Webster‘s for help.  What is grace?

3.  a charming or attractive trait or characteristic

  • a pleasing appearance or effect : charm
  • ease and suppleness of movement or bearing

Audrey Hepburn in Love in the AfternoonToday, in our culture, I think this is how most people define grace.  Who doesn’t wish to be beautiful, to move with ease and suppleness?  Who wouldn’t choose to have charm?

Not me.  I would love to be those things.  When I wrote my tagline above, this is why I said odds are against me.  I’ve always been a klutz.  I’ve always been more socially awkward than charming.  I don’t expect that to change as I age.

Nor do I expect my appearance to become more pleasing with age.

Aging brings change that is difficult to love.  We sag.  We bulge.  We wrinkle.  In our youth-worshiping culture, there is always the temptation to fight these changes.

We diet and exercise to maintain both our health and a youthful appearance.  We squeeze into spanx; push our breasts up with wire and foam, lots of foam; and hide our wrinkles with increasing numbers of cosmetics.

Some of us decide to inject, to tuck, to lift, to implant.  All sorts of cosmetic surgeries are available to help us fight aging.  I’d be lying if I said I never thought about it.

For me, at least right now, fighting my body’s natural aging isn’t my idea of graceful.  I am happy at the age I am.  I don’t mind looking it.  Accepting the changes life brings with good grace, and a sense of humor, will, I think, make me happier in the long run than obsessing over looking younger than I am.

If I want to fight anything, it is these two ideas:  that only youth is beautiful and that a woman’s value lies in her appearance and ability to attract.  These are lies.

2.  approval, favor

  • archaic : mercy, pardon
  • a special favor : privilege
  • disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency
  • a temporary exemption : reprieve

That disposition of kindness and courtesy has always been important to me.  There is no beauty apart from it.   It is the difference between a pretty face and a beautiful person.

This grace is not a privilege of the young.

Random acts of kindness make us feel good, but it’s easier to be kind to an anonymous stranger than it is to be kind to the family and coworkers who drive us mad.  Or the driver in the next lane, the waitress who messed up our order, the clerk who cannot count change.

Grace exudes a sense of caring for everyone she meets.  She sees the value in others, and treats them respectfully.  She doesn’t air every grievance and inconvenience.  She is compassionate, patient, and forgiving.  She doesn’t do kind things; she is kind.  Simply put, she loves.

Audrey Hepburn at her most beautiful.

Audrey Hepburn in Ethiopia with UNICEF, 1988, photo by John Isaac

I want to age gracefully; to become kinder and more loving; to care less about how I look and more about how I see others; to care less about how I am treated and more about how I treat others.

1. Grace:  unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification

  • a virtue coming from God
  • a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace

This one I’ve got covered, by no merit of my own.

I may not mention it frequently, but my faith underlies everything I am, and, hopefully, influences everything I do.  If I have grace in no other form, this one is enough.  Unlike youth or beauty, this grace is mine forever.

What does aging gracefully mean to you?

Generation FabulousThis post is part of the Generation Fabulous bloghop on Aging Gracefully.

The Peanut Butter in the Generational Sandwich

I'm the peanut butter in the sandwich.When these five happened in one day, I had to accept that I am in the sandwich generation.

  1. I helped my daughter with math.
  2. I talked my mom into eating real food before eating her first ice cream treat of the day.
  3. I texted my eldest about where his transcripts might be located.
  4. I discussed internship and work options with my college student son.
  5. I listened to a room full of girls singing along to Taylor Swift while watching NCIS at super volume with my mom.

I’m just visiting my mom right now, but we’d like to have her living with us in a year or so.  These weeks are glimpses of my future.

I’m not sure whether I am the peanut butter or the jelly, but I’m definitely in the middle.  My husband is right there with me, the jelly to my peanut butter or the peanut butter to my jelly.  Whichever it is, I’m glad we’re in this together.

I think we’ll need earplugs.

I’ve Got Rhythm (No, I don’t.)

I never expected to have much influence over my children’s taste in music.

My own is so limited.  I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.  I don’t have rhythm.  There is nothing sophisticated or educated about my preferences.

I’ve never cared what was popular – that American means of identifying oneself with a generation or culture by music passed me by.  When asked to remember a song of my youth, I usually draw a blank.

That is not to say that I don’t like music.  When I lived near DC, there were several radio stations I liked which played classical or jazz, and I often listened to them.

(I never found a radio station I liked in Colorado, so over the past nine years, I’ve stopped listening to music on my own.  Besides, Trixie howls when she hears violins, so classical is out.)

My husband loves music.  All sorts.  He and my younger son enjoy telling each other about new bands they’ve discovered.  They discuss things I don’t even hear in music, can recognize composers and influences.  It’s all over my head.

So imagine my surprise when my guitar playing, music loving son told me how much he appreciated the soundtrack of his childhood.  Not the music he loved to listen to with Dad, but the jazz I so often played in the car or while cooking dinner.

“I didn’t realize what great music I was hearing at the time,” he said, “Now I do.  How did you discover jazz?”

I have no recollection of when, but I’m sure I was just looking for something “appealing,” and classic jazz appealed to me.

(This Sunday Song features Charlie Parker playing his own arrangement of Gershwin’s I’ve Got Rhythm. )

Rape by any other name

Rape by any other name

The Feast of the Gods
by Bellini and Titian

My son and I went to the National Gallery of Art the other day. He’s taking a course on the Renaissance that includes studying its art, and, in his words, “You like art museums more than anyone I know,” so we went together.

We happened upon a tour in progress, so tagged along. The guide was very knowledgeable. We learned quite a bit from him.  I have no idea who he was, but the ladies in the group were talking about buying his book.

When we reached the painting above, The Feast of the Gods, I was struck by his phrasing.

The scene depicted is from Ovid.

The central portion of the narrative is at the far right. Priapus, god of fertility, is lifting the skirt of the sleeping nymph Lotis. In the words of our tour guide, and I would guess Ovid, the “seduction” was interrupted by the braying of the donkey, who woke Lotis in time for her to rebuff Priapus. He then demanded that the donkey be sacrificed to him, and that all future sacrifices be donkeys.

That’s the story. I doubt many people today know it, so why should I care?

I care because there are still people who confuse the idea of seduction with rape. There are people who don’t distinguish between an act of violence and romantic persuasion. There are people who don’t understand the entire concept of consent.

Every time we use a word like seduction instead of rape, when we fail to say, “Ovid called it seduction, but Priapus was attempting to rape this sleeping nymph,” we excuse it, don’t we?

Ugly acts don’t deserve pretty phrases.

Optimist v. Pessimist v. Realist

I’ve always said my husband is a pessimist; he says he is a realist. A couple years ago, I was reading a book which cited a study finding that optimists are more delusional than pessimists. Pessimists have more accurate perceptions of events.

I told my husband that meant we’ve both been right – being a realist and a pessimist are the same thing.

Reading the research, lab studies that tested the subject’s perception of the odds of winning a game, it seemed plausible.

Thinking about my husband and I, it seemed less so.  Although in some things he is more realistic than I am, in others he is not.  In some areas, I am much more perceptive and pragmatic than he is.  In others, he is.

Winston Churchill, Optimist and RealistAnd then, there is Winston Churchill.

Was there a more perceptive and realistic world leader of his era?

Did he delude himself about the threat Hitler posed?  No, he was one of the few voices warning of it for years before the world took notice.

Did he delude himself about the cost of war?  No, blood, sweat, toil, and tears were his promise.

Optimism is not ignorant delusion.  Often it is a pragmatic assessment of the present, choosing to see the best possible outcome, and working like a madman to achieve it.

That might not be an advantage in laboratory games of chance, but in life, I believe it is.

Do you consider yourself an optimist or a pessimist?

Let’s All Be Irish Today

Nothing says Happy St. Patrick’s Day like a Scotsman singing about Irish girls.

As you know, I’m a redhead.  So are my sons.  This makes celebrating St. Patrick’s Day a given for us, as people would assume we’re of Irish descent no matter what.

Why do people associate red hair with Ireland?

According the experts in everything, Wikipedia, the highest concentration of gingers is in Scotland.  Thirteen percent of the population have red hair, and 40% carry the gene for it.  Ireland is second, with 10% of people having the hair, but maybe 46% carry the recessive gene.

In the US, we only make up 2-6% of the population. It makes spotting your kids easy in a crowd.

An Irish BlessingHow do we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?  Not with green beer, or green food.  We celebrate the way we do every holiday:  with small gifts or candy!  I bought the boys shamrock boxers and my girl green fake-keds.

If I was home, I’d coerce my daughter into watching The Quiet Man instead of Star Trek tonight, but since I’m at my mom’s, no coercing will be needed.  She owns the dvd.

In case you don’t recognize it, this Sunday Song is from Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Sean Connery’s best movie ever.  😉 If you watch the dvd, don’t miss the bonus feature about the special effects in this movie.  It is fascinating to see how they achieved those effects pre-CGI.

My Fitness Pal: friend or foe?

Raspberries, ie sugar is delicious.

Dear My Fitness Pal,

It has been two weeks since our relationship began.  I am still not sure you are the sort of Pal I want.

I believe you are well intentioned, but you are making me crazy.  When Karen Irving at After the Kids Leave told me about you, you sounded great.

I figured that even if I don’t lose weight, maybe you could help me improve my health.  Not that my health is bad.  It’s fine.  Losing fifteen would be fantastic, though.

You seemed like you wanted to help.  I don’t think you’re malicious, but….

I cannot do what you want me to do.  It is not possible.

You tell me I need to eat more calories, but you don’t want me to eat more sugar or fat.  I expected scoldings about my cookie and candy habit, so I gave them up.  Now you are being ridiculous about this.   I feel like you want to take all the pleasure out of eating.

I drew you this picture, so you can see how I feel:

Why We Abandon Diets

You’re holding too much against me.  Who knew that fruits and veggies were so sugarful?  And milk?  Plain Greek yogurt has as much sugar as protein.

I used to think everything delicious contains sugar or dairy.  Now I realize that just means that everything delicious contains sugar.

I can’t give up every food I like to eat.  I know sugar is bad, bad, bad, but it is so good, good, good.  I’m not going to stop eating blackberries.  I don’t care how often you highlight my sugar overages in red.

Should we break it off now, or should we give it more time?  I want to think you’re on my side, even if we don’t see eye to eye on the fruit and veggies issue, but I’m not sure.  I’m confused.

I spent the first week forcing myself to eat when I wasn’t hungry, and the second week feeling hungry all the time.  I lost a couple pounds the first week, but as soon as I got my calories near your goal, I gained them back.

You’ve encouraged me to eat more protein.  It was hard the first week, but it’s getting easier.  I thank you for that, but I also wonder if the protein consumption is what is making me feel so much hungrier.  Or am I hungrier because you make me spend so much time thinking about food?

I’m trying to be faithful, but Sugar has been my friend for so long.  Choosing between the two of you is not easy.  So far, I’ve chosen you over candy, but I need to see results to make our relationship worth sustaining.

I’ll let you know at the end of the month.

Your reluctant friend,
Ginger Kay

P.S.  I’m visiting my mom next week, and that is usually one long junk food binge.  If I give that up for you, I expect pounds dropped.  If I don’t, please don’t hate me.

My childhood home

My childhood home, by Levitt & Sons

This was the home of my childhood.*  Stereotypical of mid century suburbia, it was built by Levitt & Sons, in a planned community with matching street names, walking distance schools, and children everywhere.

At about 1500 square feet, it never felt small to us kids, and we certainly knew bigger families than ours living in the same house.

My sister and I shared the room in the front right corner.  In my memory, it was big.  Our matching twin canopy beds and dressers left plenty of floor space for laying out Barbie homes and villages.  Carefully building a house for each Barbie and her family was a day long process for my sister and me, and, once built, we’d leave them up for days on end.

Years later, my husband and I looked at homes in the Levitt community.  Like a nostalgic character in a movie, I was surprised at how small the houses were compared to my memories.  More than that, though, I was struck by how practical these houses were.

There was less redundancy in these homes, no matching living and family rooms.  The family room labeled above was where everyone placed their kitchen table and chairs.  We only used our dining room for holidays and company, but I knew larger families who used theirs regularly.

Not a fan of the McMansions which dominate the housing landscape today, this appeals to me, but I know the original homeowners did not all feel that way.

Many people converted those garages to living space.  Others, like my parents, built an addition off the kitchen. Nobody really wanted their children’s toys strewn about the living room, so these rooms were called playrooms or rec rooms.

They quickly became family rooms, leaving the living room as a show room, and children were still not allowed to leave toys laying about.

When I was eleven, my parents moved to a larger home, a newly constructed traditional colonial style which better suited my mother’s tastes, and, foremost in my mind, allowed my sister and I to have our own bedrooms.

My mom still lives in that house, or, rather, she lives in three of its rooms.  I wish she lived in this more manageable one, but she likes having the extra space when her children and grandchildren come to visit.

Levitt & Sons Rancher, Bowie, Maryland

*The closet configuration in our house was slightly different than in this rendering.  The laundry room was only accessible through the garage, and there was no side door in the garage.  The living room had a fireplace between the two windows, but there was no door or window in the dining room.  Other than those small differences, the floor plan is accurate.  Our house was not brick like the one in the advertisement; brick cost extra.

What was your childhood home like?

Daylight Savings with Dogs

Dogs do not understand daylight savings time.I am not a fan of the whole Daylight Savings Time thing, but this year, I feel like it came not a moment too soon.

Jebediah has been waking me at 6am every morning for the past two weeks.  I don’t feed him until 7am, because he eats twice a day; feeding him early just means he craves dinner early.

It would become a vicious cycle of ever earlier waking if it were left to him, meals creeping from twelve hour intervals to eleven, ten, nine, eight hour intervals.  As if he doesn’t get enough snacks during the day.

So I get up with the dogs at six, then try not to make eye contact while I make them wait an hour for breakfast.

Since dogs don’t understand Daylight Savings Time, that means he’ll stop waking up an hour earlier than he’s allowed to eat.

It’ll only last a month or so.  In the summer, he wakes with the sun.  That’s okay.  I don’t mind getting up at dawn.  I just hate feeling like I’m getting up in the middle of the night – especially those nights that Trixie needs an emergency 3am potty break.

Of course, when we Fall Back, that means Jeb will be waking me at 6am again.  For a week.

What do you think of Daylight Savings Time?  Love it or hate it?