A Slice of Life in Charlestown – Volume 2: Death, Debts Forgiven, and Fitting Rooms

Two years ago today my father died. There are times in life where you remember exactly where you are at a pivotal moment. I was at work, chatting with my dear friend and colleague, Suzana. My dad had been declining and we knew the end of his life was drawing closer. Still, no matter how much you expect it, you never really expect it. That thin line between life and death; between heaven and earth. It’s a mystery.

I remember him today. It’s a beautiful day here in Charlestown, and he would love where we live. It is Boston at its prettiest in our neighborhood, with gas lamps that shine their light day and night, and neighbors who say hello to each other.

So I remember my dad today and I pause in gratefulness for his life and legacy.

Debts Forgiven

I am always on the lookout for a good story. There are plenty out there, but unfortunately we don’t always hear them. But on Wednesday I heard a great story on forgiven debt.

Evidently a group of churches in Chicago have decided to help almost 6000 people pay their medical debts. The total cost? Around 5.3 million dollars. ⠀ ⠀

In the next few days, each person will receive a letter in the mail with information on the payment and these words “⁣may you have a beautiful, wonderful holiday. Your debt has been forgiven. Enjoy Thanksgiving.”⠀ ⠀

I grow weary of bad news and cruelty, of incompetent leadership and lies at high and low levels of government. I grow weary of petty meanness – in others, yes – but in myself even more. Then I hear a story like this, and I know it does not stand alone. I know there are other churches and other people doing work that matters, living out their faith in actions big and small. And I am convinced that these small acts matter in big ways. These small acts make a difference, and we may never really know of their true impact. ⠀ ⠀ ⠀

One of the ministers from one of the churches involved in the debt relief effort said this about the decision: ⁣”Well, I began to cry because I knew what it would mean for – it was exactly 5,888 people. I’ll never forget that number. I knew what this would mean for them, that it was a new start for people.”⠀ ⠀ ⠀

A new start. Your debt is forgiven. What amazing words those are! The link to the full story is here. You’ll be glad you listened.⠀

Warning: You Are Entering the Fitting Room!

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the more I believe that fitting rooms need a warning sign. A warning sign that says “The mirror may reflect things that surprise, shock or astound you! Please refrain from sudden outbursts!”

Here’s the back story: We head off to a family wedding in Florida today. I love weddings, I love family, and I love palm trees so I’m looking forward to it.

In thinking through what I would wear, I realized I’d like to look a little firmer. You know that thing called gravity? It creeps around and through you in the oddest ways!

I had limited time, but I was armed and ready – or so I thought. I picked up a few things from the rack of undergarments and headed toward the aptly called “fitting room.” Five minutes later, busy with Lycra and straps, I caught sight of this stranger in the mirror! I shrieked! “By God, who is that? Who is in my fitting room and what is she wearing?” Thankfully the store was short-staffed, so no one came to my aid, because the moment after I screamed I realized that the chubby, wrinkled person in the mirror was me.

How did I get to be HER?

What? How could this be? How could the beautiful, lithe, me who I thought I was be Her of the Stretch Marks and Muffin Top? I gasped in horror. Where is the me who I thought I was?

While those of us who are of a certain age have our own challenges, any female who has reached the age of being able to go to the fitting room alone knows the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” that are part of the shopping experience. Too often we women drag along men, expecting them to  make a potentially self-esteem damaging experience easier. It rarely happens and I can’t count how many couples I have watched in the same scenario.  It goes something like this:

She: You don’t like it. (in flat tones) He: I didn’t say I didn’t like it. (in defensive tones) She: But I can tell – you didn’t say anything. If you had liked it you would have said something. He: It’s not whether I like it, it’s whether you like it. She: But I need an opinion. He: Look, I don’t know women’s clothing. I guess I like it. Maybe you need something that doesn’t have stripes. She: I knew you thought I looked fat(in an accusing and hurt tone, eyes welling up). He: I did not say that. She: Let’s just go.

It’s a set-up for failure of both parties. We are desperately looking for words of  affirmation and have a completely unrealistic expectation of what those will sound like. 

But back to my experience looking for undergarments. As I laughed at the stranger in the mirror, I thought about our bodies and our souls. How one can be revived daily, and one is daily losing something. What if I spent as much time on my soul as my body? There is so much to think about in that statement. But I’m not going to unpack it here and now. I’m going to leave you with the vision of me screaming at the me in the mirror. “By God, who is she and what is she wearing?” The person in the mirror started laughing, and strangely – so did I.

Routines & Nesting

We are settling into something of a routine here. Though there are boxes in our cellar, this has become a good place to call home and nest for awhile, and we are loving the neighborhood and this little red house. We have begun family dinners with my daughter, son-in-law, and nephew and we have already had a couple of overnight guests. This is a true joy for us. The neighborhood provides beautiful walks, sunrises, and sunsets in a truly historic area of the city. What a gift!

Kurdistan is close to our hearts but far from our bodies and in moments of honesty we confess to each other how difficult that is. We pray and talk about our friends and Kurdistan all the time, and we are with them in spirit during this difficult time of history.

If you’d like to read more on the Kurds, this is an excellent site: The Time of the Kurds.

I began this post with death, and I will end it with the same by leaving you with a quote from the highly acclaimed novel – Laurus.

“⁣Each of us repeats Adam’s journey and acknowledges, with the loss of innocence, that he is mortal. Weep and pray, O Arseny. And do not fear death, for death is not just the bitterness of parting. It is also the joy of liberation.”

Laurus

Spice Your Monday With All the Wrinkled Ladies

I’m breaking away from my usual Monday morning contemplation and bringing you something with a bit more holiday spirit. In the United States today is a Federal Holiday – evidently we have a few dead presidents that had birthdays during these months and this is our way to celebrate them. I’m all for it if it means a 3-day weekend.

And in the spirit of the holiday I wanted to post a response to Beyoncé’s Super Bowl appearance. I’d venture very few women can relate to her super sexy over the top show – and I won’t even get into how oblivious the Super Bowl planners are to kids in the audience and parents who want their kids to have  a little G rated fun.

But the video below? I’m pretty sure you’ll love this parody of “All the Single Ladies” from Anita Renfroe. Take a look at “All the Wrinkled Ladies” and see what you think.

“Marlboro Man” and Other Names Bloggers Call Those They Love

In a year and a half of blogging I’ve realized something….I have broken an unspoken rule of the trade – I have not given those I love clever pseudonyms while writing about them!

The most famous one that comes to mind is Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman – the successful “High Heels to Tractor Wheels” woman who garnered a full feature story in the New Yorker, a book deal, and a spot on Food Network. She calls her husband “Marlboro Man”. Why? I guess he looks like one.

It was somewhat embarrassing to suddenly realize this. To try to correct this situation, I decided to take a look at the creative names other bloggers have chosen. The list is not exhaustive by any means but I’ve chosen some of my favorites.

There’s Renée at Lessons from Teachers and Twits with a son called Tech Support.I love this! It’s clear this child is a partner in her blogging world.

There’s MJ Monaghan who writes about MLB – My Lovely Bride (Presumably this is his wife!)

On to Stacy at Slowing the Racing Mind – she has a couple of names: The Huz (husband) The Girl, and The Boy. Simple but it works well.

Ironic mom has twins – twins that she calls Thing 1 and Thing 2, reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. Ironic Mom also has a famous sense of humour and a book deal (which is amazing and fun and cool all at the same time!)

On we go to Simple Life of a Country Man’s Wife – she keeps to the theme by calling her love “The Country Man”.

And Missindeedy? She has Sweetboy. Littlesundog who blogs at Day by Day the Farm Girl Way goes simple with the initials “FD” and Ann Voskamp, famous from her One Thousand Gifts has “The Farmer”.

These pseudonyms protect those we love; they allow bloggers to write personal content without bringing their families into a place that could be uncomfortable. It is also a clever way to personalize or ‘brand’ your blog,

But the idea brings up a deeper issue:what we choose to share and not share online through the medium of blogging. We know readers connect to personal content — blogging is about a relationship and relationships grow when we feel like we know someone, can relate with them in their conflicts, joys, laughter and tears. Blogging can be as complex as any other relationship. But our real-life flesh and blood is an even more important (and complex) relationship.

The idea that we would hurt someone who shares our dinner table and DNA is not fun and could have long-term ramifications.

In no way have I worked this through….I haven’t even thought up the pseudonyms yet and it’s a little late. But I am beginning the conversation.

What I would love to know is this:

Do you blog and if so what do you call those people in your life who you love, write about, and want to protect? If you don’t blog, what do you think of the names people give their “others”? For both bloggers and non-bloggers – what are, or should be, the rules of writing about those we love?

On Translation and Translators

Readers of Communicating Across Boundaries know about communicating across cultural boundaries. They know what it’s like when it goes well….and they know what it’s like when it goes not so well.

So today is Saturday and time for a light-hearted look at cross cultural communication gone wrong. Very.Wrong.

Enjoy this clip from a show in the UK! I laughed until I cried. I hope you’ll enjoy the humor and no offense intended! Have a great day!

Welcome to the new readers from this past week. I have heard from so many of you about Saudade and flying before walking and all those things that go into this nomadic life. Your stories resonate so deeply – think about joining in the project So.Many.Stories. If you have a story that you want to tell but can’t write, let’s talk!

Visiting Communicating Across Boundaries for the first time? Check out the About page for more information! Feel free to visit these posts to get a picture of what Communicating Across Boundaries is all about!

“What’s Mom Doing in My Mirror?!”

I sleepily walked into the bathroom, tired from an Easter weekend filled with chocolate and relatives. “What’s Mom doing in my mirror?” I wondered aloud as I stared with heavy, sleep-filled eyes at the image staring back at me. I half smiled and Mom gave a little smile back. Ahhh! Nice!

I backed up and Mom moved away from the mirror…I moved forward and she did the same. And with that motion I realized with a shock that the young 26-year-old I once was was replaced with a version that was recognizable only as my Mom.

And I love my Mom. She is lovely. She has aged with grace and beauty. She is also 32 years older than me, so to see myself 32 years older than I had imagined was a big surprise.

I was relaying this to a friend and she began to nod her head and laugh. “Yes!” She said. “I know exactly what you mean!” She was recently in a store and had to show her license to validate her identity. The teenager behind the counter looked at the license, looked at her, and gasped aloud “What happened to you?!” He wasn’t old enough to have the tact to hide his shock.

Aging comes with its humorous moments and that is a gift. A gift because much dignity is lost as I go from being that young cute thing to being described as that “Older or middle-aged woman”.  A gift because laughter is so incredibly healing in this journey called aging as mirrors reflect back mothers or strangers, and even doctors can’t stall the inevitable.

So I waved goodbye to my Mom and told her I’d see her in the reflection of the car window. Not surprisingly, she waved back!

Have you seen your mom or dad in your reflection recently? Do tell! We need each other in this process!

“Don’t Be So Defeatist, Dear” and Other Quotes from the Downton Dowager

My love affair with Downton Abbey began during the Patriots/Broncos NFL playoffs game in January of this year. Our friends introduced us and so smitten were we that we moved back and forth between the first episode and the massacre that was the football game.

It took ten minutes of Thomas’s scowl, O’Brien’s bitterness and caustic tongue, Mary’s arrogance, and Anna’s integrity to fall in love. But what sealed the deal was Violet the Dowager, Countess of Grantham (called Lady Grantham by most) played by the legendary Maggie Smith. She commanded every scene she was in and had more “quotable quotes” in one episode than most American TV shows have in an entire year.

As the football went down the field, usually in the hands of the Patriots, Downton Abbey entered our lives with its upstairs/downstairs story line and quotes that beg for memorization.

So here are some of my favorites, gleaned not only from the memorable night when the show came into our lives, but from all the episodes that have charmed us since that time.

Mrs Crawley: “What should we call each other?”

Lady Grantham: “Well, we could always start with Mrs Crawley and Lady Grantham.”

Cora: “Are we to be friends then?”

Lady Grantham: “We are allies, my dear, which can be a good deal more effective.”

Lady Grantham: “It always happens. When you give these little people power it goes to their heads like strong drink!”

“Why does everyday involve a fight with an American?”

“Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.”

Lady Grantham: “Oh my dears. Is it really true? I can’t believe it. Last night he looked so well. Of course it would happen to a foreigner. It’s typical.”

Lady Mary:  “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Lady Grantham:  “I’m not being ridiculous. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house – especially somebody they didn’t even know.”

Lady Mary: “Sybil is entitled to her opinions.”

Lady Grantham: “No. She isn’t until she is married, then her husband will tell her what her opinions are.”

There are so many more, but I’ll let the YouTube video give you true entertainment and end with my favorite:

“Don’t be so defeatist, dear! It’s very middle class!” 

For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of falling in love with this show, I hope after reading you are interested in at least a dinner date. I guarantee you’ll want more! Happy Friday and to repeat the Dowager’s words: “What is a weekEND?”

“My Name is Nwabudike and I am from Nigeria….”

Perhaps you’ve received an email like this: 

“My name is Nwabudike and I am from Nigeria. Please I would like you to keep this proposal as a top-secret and delete it if you are not interested and get back to me if you are interested for details as regards to the transfer of $24,500,000 to you. this money initially belongs to a client who died and had no next of kin in his account-opening package.”

Or like this: 

I am Mrs. Isabel Jose from Spain married to Mr. Joe Armstrong from Sierra Leone for eleven years now, we have three kids … I have a business proposal which I believe that will be a very Good opportunity for both of us so I decided to contact you on this business opportunity in our bank, the business is this I discovered an abandoned sum of 10.500m US dollars (Ten million five hundred thousand united states dollars) in our safety deposit vault that belongs to one of our foreign customer. Who died along with his entire family on 15th April 2005 in a ghastly motor accident along Valencia express way.

Or maybe an email with a more friendly and familiar tone, like this: 

Dear friend
I am Dr Raymond Chien Independent Non-executive Director of Hang Seng Bank Hong Kong I have a business transaction of $44.5 million USD to share with you,If interested contact me for more details via my personal email

We’ve all received them. They come from Nigeria and Spain; Kenya and China. They have a name, a promise of more money than most of us could ever dream of, and often a tragedy thrown in for good measure. They are the famous internet business proposals that we know are false. We laugh at them. We “tsk, tsk” at them. We hit delete. But how many of us have secretly thought, just once, that maybe, just maybe we could outsmart the sender. Maybe we could turn the tables on them and receive something for nothing?

A clever playwright in Chicago did just this with an internet business proposal. In 2009, Steve Gadlin received an email from a Kenyan gentleman. The email was an offer to purchase a play that a Mister Victor Gido had written. The price? $30,000. Thus began an email correspondence that one can guess went to and fro until ultimately Mr. Gadlin purchased an original play for $50.

Here’s how it happened:Mr. Gadlin took the most impossible plot line ever developed in the history of man and asked Mr. Gido to write the play. The plot line was this: “A Millionaire  named Quack Quack Quimby has forgotten the true meaning of the Jewish Holiday Tu Bishvat. His daughter goes to great lengths to remind him of its meaning and make him happy once again”. The result?  The result was “The Nairobi Project“.

I heard of this play through my son and daughter in law, Lauren. Lauren, an actor in Chicago, played the role of one of Mr. Quimby’s daughter’s, Avital. Much to my disappointment, I never saw the play but the idea is outrageously funny and clever. The business proposal ultimately entertained audiences in Chicago by providing an unusual and completely original play at the cost of a mere $50.

There are critics who claim that Mr. Gadlin is exploiting our Kenyan friend. To this accusation Mr. Gadlin brings up a fair argument – just who was exploiting who? One can assume that this was not the first email that Mr. Gido had sent to solicit customers for his writing skills.  Mr. Gadlin paid a man who willingly jumped at the opportunity (in fact, suggested the idea himself) a mutually agreed upon fee. In return Mr. Gido received name recognition for a play that was put up in Chicago, a major city of the United States and described as “America’s most flourishing independent theater hub” For an aspiring playwright this is amazing.  How many people wait for years to get their big break – to have their plays noticed by producers?

An anonymous ‘someone’ is behind every one of these internet proposals. They are not created out of thin air. Someone writes them, casting a net out into a world-wide pool of potentially desperate takers. So what if most of us delete them? All they need is one and the anonymous someone walks away happy while the desperate kick themselves as they go through the nightmare of trying to replenish their now empty bank accounts

So next time you get one of those emails, take a look! If Mr. Gadlin could turn it into a real-live money-making opportunity, there may be some hope!

What are some of the business proposals you’ve received via email? Share your favorites in the comment section! 

Why Kids Need Icecream for Dinner

Mango icecream
Image via Wikipedia

Trust you to begin on the football field and end with a strong message about the presence of God.” This comment came from one of my readers on my Monday post. It’s true. It’s part of my soul I guess. I write through my “faith lens”.  This spills into other areas of life and my family rolls their collective eyes at what they call my “Marilyn” questions. Questions about life and faith and redemption. Those questions that seem tangential but to me are critically important!

But today I realize that these past couple weeks of blogging have held some heavy feelings, strong defenses and a lot of passion. And frankly, sometimes we need a break. So today is light and fluffy. In that spirit I offer you 3 simple  reasons why kids need ice cream for dinner.

  • Excitement
  • Bonding
  • Memories

Excitement ~

The excitement that a child feels when they realize that they are getting ice cream with 6 different choices for toppings for dinner knows no bounds. It’s so unexpected. It’s so what life should be. Expecting vegetables, chicken,rice or potatoes and suddenly finding out that these are replaced by creamy, cold, sweet ice cream.  It helps to teach children that life holds amazing surprises in unexpected places.

Bonding~

How many parents and kids bond over spinach? Brussels sprouts? Broccoli? See – they don’t. There’s nothing to talk about over these vegetables, but the atmosphere changes when ice cream is served for dinner. It’s a perfect segue to talking about what really matters in life. Suddenly there are all kinds of conversation possibilities. Life is full of vegetables, but how often is it full of ice cream?

Memories~

Memories of ice cream for dinner? Priceless. These are the moments that Master Card commercials are made for. Moments of pure joy, mouths full, brain freezes, sticky fingers, yummy flavors – these are what yield the “Do you remember when….” memories of the future.

In the world of parenting where we are constantly assaulted by without and within with the rules, the do’s, the don’ts, the worry, the control issues, the mirror held up to our tired faces that too often shouts at us “You’re not the fairest in the land! Snow White – that beauty over in the woods is a way better parent!”  – it is in this world that we need ice cream for dinner.  Maybe not for the kids, but most certainly for us!

Readers – what are your thoughts on or memories of ice cream for dinner? It’s a Friday and we need your stories! Share in the comment section.

Rest in Peace Missing Socks!

Blue sock
My Facebook status said it all:

It’s that time of year again! Time for all the socks with no mates to go be with Jesus! RIP little ones

Seriously people! What’s with socks? The response to my status was overwhelming! Throughout the shoe and sock wearing world (which I recognize is not everywhere and I envy those places where there are no socks or shoes…oh bliss!) it is the cry of the land. Where do these socks go? In what universe do they live? On what planet do they reside?

It’s an economic as well as a social problem and it has to be a conspiracy of the sock industry. There is NO way this many socks can disappear! No way. Every year I end up throwing up my hands in despair. There seems to be no option other than to send these majorly mismatched socks, willingly, to be with Jesus.

And socks are not cheap. It’s a little like going to the dentist, no one goes buys socks because they want them – they buy them because they need them. I’ve rarely seen a coupon for socks, instead I see a “Buy 3 get one free….” Great. Spend $51.00 for three packs of men’s crew socks so I can get one free? No thanks, I’ll just head over to jewelry and see what $51.00 can buy there!

So it’s a Saturday morning, and I’m organizing and sending those socks off. They’ve had a good, though sometimes short, life. RIP little ones!

What do you do with socks with no mates? How have you solved this problem? My friend Pari used the sock dilemma as inspiration for a poem. You can find it here: Lost Socks by Pari Ali. I eagerly await your solutions! 

And She’s 52!

Middle-aged Kangxi Emperor, age about 40-50.
A Middle-Aged Emperor! Image via Wikipedia

She is me. Today I am 52. 52-year-old bones, skin and teeth. 52-year-old joints, muscles and eyes. 52-year-old toenails, fingernails and hearing. I can just see younger readers dying right now thinking “Good God! Turn her off! Shut her up! Turn down the volume! It’s too much! She sounds so…so….so…decrepit old!”

But let’s take a look at another perspective – I woke up to birthday wishes from across the globe. Before I even had breakfast I had wishes from Finland, Kuwait,Mongolia,Afghanistan,China, Egypt, the Philipines, the United  Kingdom and all over the U.S.  I’ve had 52 years to love and learn. 52 years of watching the miracle of life. 52 years of loving to talk and learning to listen. 52 years experience with conflict resolution management. 52 years of music and stories. 52 years of food from all over the world. 52 years of travel to countries and continents. 52 years of watching sorrow turn to joy. 52 years of learning more about hope, more about people, more about life. 52 years of loving and being loved. And 52 years of God. Looking at the whole picture, I have an amazing résumé!

So at 52 what do I want? I want to take those understandably undesirable things about growing older and sprinkle them with a good dose of humor, joy, and grace and see what comes out of the oven. And….I still want young hair. (is that wrong of me?) Happy Birthday to Me!

PS – Let it be publicly know that I hope I am NOT middle-aged! I do not fancy living until I’m 104.

Bloggers Note: I’ve done a couple of posts on aging – today I’m giving myself a day off  of sorts but feel free to take a look at these!

“Yes Dr. Walker…Of Course I Floss!”

If you polled a group of people and asked them if they lie to their dentist I think you would get a 100% response rate of “Yes!” The minute I walk into the dentist’s office my moral compass changes and anything is allowed.

When was the last time you had a check up?

Oh, I think it was last year some time

Oh, really? We don’t have it on record

Pause.

OH…that’s funny! I could have sworn it was last year….maybe I went to that other dentist”  ….And then the dreaded question that you know will come:

Now” pause “Do you floss regularly?

Yes Dr. Walker….Of course I floss” And then the dentist looks and knows I’m lying.

Silence. The silence holds all the condemnation that can possibly fit in a single room. As my brother once said “If dentists were priests or pastors, churches would be empty” Imagine the first thing a pastor or priest says to you every week “Did you sin?” And the minute you open your mouth, he/she knows you’re lying.

There is a fear and dread about going to the dentist held by women, men, and children world-wide. No matter how much you’ve brushed and flossed, it’s never going to be good enough! Plus there’s always something we are worried about. The dull ache coming from the wisdom tooth; the spot that bleeds every time we brush; the dread that we have to finally get that crown completed – the temporary one having lasted five years longer than was planned.

And then I think about my brothers’ statement and I wonder about the church “Is that how the church is perceived? As a place where nothing you do is good enough? Where there is a dread and fear? Where condemnation hangs heavy like the silence in a dentist’s office?” And I know that the Church, made of imperfect people, sometimes fails miserably.

I had a visit to my dentist last week. I have grudgingly begun to trust (dare I say even like?) this man. He is practical, clear. and laid back. He accepts me where I’m at and takes it from there, with the gentle challenge “Perhaps you could try this. When you’re ready we could talk about that…”  And I realize that had I stopped going my teeth would be hurting and I would not be healthy.  So can churches be given another chance as well?  To get it right, develop a relationship and gently challenge?

Many people feel like they’ve given the Church that chance, and the Church has failed them repeatedly. I know becaus I used to be one.

Like the dentist, I continued going back. I’m gradually learning and growing; slowly trusting this entity that Christ loves so deeply.

It’s not easy, but neither is going to the dentist and the outcome is ultimately more serious. My journey with the Church has not been easy, but I have learned to honor the struggle and trust the author of the journey.

Dr. Walker was good preparation for a much more important journey. 

You can read more on my journey with the church here.

Blogger’s Note: Remember the Book Giveaway! Invite your friends and family to read and comment or leave a comment yourself! All will be entered into a random drawing for the give away of three of my favorite books! 

Fried Cerebellum and a Master’s Degree

I have mentioned before that my daughter, Annie, is finishing up a Master’s Degree at the American University of Cairo. She defends her thesis on Monday and I wish I was in Cairo. I want to be making cookies and tea to soothe both her cerebellum and her soul as she prepares for the grueling presentation of facts and narrative supporting her thesis statement.

Since I can’t offer that, I sent her the next best thing: a story about Graduate School Barbie (TM). Graduate School Barbie helped me realize that everything I have heard from my daughter for the past three years is real, accurate, and worse than she has described. I knew about the propensity for tears and the different sort of eye ducts, but my daughter never told me that she would have fried cerebellum or that the lining of her stomach would dissolve from the surplus of digestive juices produced by anxiety. I had to discover it from Graduate School Barbie. This Barbie, with her prematurely graying hair, wrinkles, and  sallow skin, is quite a Barbie. Barbie haters may even wish for the real Barbie back, instead of one with grey cells. There are two types of Grad school Barbies and Annie would most relate with Delusional Masters Barbie (TM). We’ll see if she’s willing to move forward and model herself after PhD Masochist Barbie (TM) – I’m secretly hoping that honor will be for my niece and her mom to navigate.

I discovered Graduate School Barbie through the blog Ceej and Em. This blogger suggests Grad School Barbie would make an excellent Christmas gift. Here’s this teaser from the post:

Every Graduate School Barbie comes with these fun-filled features guaranteed to delight and entertain for hours: Grad School Barbie comes out of the box with a big grin on her face that turns into a frown after 2 weeks or her first advisor meeting (whichever comes first). Read more here! You will be so glad you did! 

If you have any friends in graduate school, please send them the blog post from Ceej and Em today! It will make everything a bit easier for them to know that a special Barbie was designed with them in mind.

As for my daughter – I am so proud of her fried cerebellum, her overactive tear ducts, and her tenacity. Day after day of putting fingers to keyboard and typing out one word at a time; reviewing the manuscript for one more look at her citations; existing on coffee and adrenaline; and producing a thesis all while going through the upheaval in Cairo is remarkable. She has endured sleepless nights from gunshots and fires in the street, she has been housebound some days, and unable to get to her house on others because of rioting in the streets and she has done it all without her mom. Evidence of how little I am needed? I like to think it’s evidence of her tough spirit!

So join me by drinking a glass of Proseco, (or sparkling cider!) as I celebrate her fried cerebellum and a well-earned Masters Degree.

A Happy Weekend to all!

A Weekend Challenge – Literally or Dramatically?

Some time ago, as we were sitting around the dinner table, one of our kids used the word ‘literally’ in a sentence. My husband looked at her and said “Don’t you mean ‘dramatically’? Why don’t you use the word ‘dramatically’ instead?

And that is your weekend challenge. Every time someone uses the word “literally” around you, ask them to repeat the statement inserting the word “dramatically”.

We know there is an overuse of the word and we are probably all guilty! With this challenge we get a chance to see just how guilty we (and others) are and have some fun. In the middle of the sentence when your teenager says to you “I am literally not going out in public with you again if you do that” calmly look them in the eye and say “I wonder if you could repeat that sentence using the word ‘dramatically’ instead of literally”. They will literally look at you like you have two heads.

I’ve listed some examples to give you a head start:

“I literally fell off my chair laughing!”

“I literally died when I heard that”

“I literally wet my pants laughing!”

“I will literally kill you”

“It was literally the best day of my life”

What have you literally done or not done? What has your child literally done? I am literally going to love getting feedback in the comment section. Write what you heard and then substitute it for dramatically. It will make things so much more fun. Literally.

Perfecting the Bostonian Stink Eye

There’s nothing quite like a Monday morning. Determined to press forward with a good attitude, despite limited sleep and still longing for the comfort that is my pillow, I decide I will conquer the Monday morning blues. And then, I step off the subway and I am greeted by none other than the high heels and designer knockoff suit worn by someone adept at doling out the Boston Stink Eye!

Tour books of the Boston area are generally missing an important section – that of explaining the Boston stink eye. While old buildings, history, beautiful parks, and glimpses of Betsy Ross are part of the Boston experience, it will be the odd visitor that doesn’t also experience what I call the stink eye. To be sure, other places may have this, but they certainly haven’t perfected it the way the Bostonian has.

To explain the stink eye, I would love a video clip. There is, in fact, an online dictionary entry (not limiting the eye to Boston) that describes it this way: “a facial expression of disgust, disdain, or disapproval” but I’d like to expand on that limited definition.  It’s a particular look and it comes in two ways. One is when the eyes of someone are staring right at you, but through you, as though you don’t exist. You are, in a moment, reduced to an ant that can be squished. The second is more obvious – the eyes begin at your feet and slowly travel up your body with disdain, stopping to make eye contact, curl the lips and go back down the body again. It is not pretty. While both types hurt, the latter has the ability to fluster more and sometimes reduces the recipient to tears.

For a long time I thought it was me. That somehow I had that peculiar ability to bring out mockery or disdain. I questioned what I was doing wrong and wondered how I could keep up with the unspoken rules of Boston. And then I realized something big. It isn’t me! It’s part of Boston. Along with the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, New England Clam Chowder, coastal beauty, Paul Revere, the North End, and the State House – it’s as much a part of Boston as those more lovely and picturesque things.

So what to do with the stink eye? Passers through can cope because their focus is on other things, but for those of us that move here and, like damn Yankees, stay, it is a more difficult dilemma. The old saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans” or “If you can’t beat them, join them”  and there you have it. I have learned with the best of them and I now know how to give a good old self-esteem reducing Boston stink eye.  Scary, isn’t it? I never thought I would stoop to this, but it’s survival of the fittest and fit I have become.

The good news about all this is that I never, ever use this on tourists and visitors. I reserve it for the Bostonian. The more Bostonian they seem, the better my stink-eye. Critics may condemn, but only until they have experienced this for themselves. After that we’ll talk.

We will not subjugate to the naked – Learning to speak Ch’ing.lish

There is a new play opening on Broadway that should appeal to any of us who have struggled with communication and language skills while traveling, living and working in other countries. The play is called “Chinglish” and tells the story of a businessman from America who is attempting to set up a business and make his fortune in the city of Guiyang in southwest China.

So what is Chinglish? How well do you speak Chinglish? Take a look at the following phrases seen on signs and see if you can interpret what they mean before watching the video!

  1. The siren Lies
  2. Be mindful of the juicy surfaces!
  3. We will not subjugate to the naked!
  4. The fowl can’t eat!
  5. Penetration will be dealt with painfully!

Today and as you go through the weekend, think about communication in all it’s wonder – the humor, the challenges, the ways we communicate. And if you get a chance, learn to speak a little Chinglish!

Readers – here is a weekend challenge! Guess the meaning of the following three phrases and put them in the comment section. On Monday – I’ll post the answers! 

  1. Beware of Missing Foot!
  2. Chicken Rude and Unreasonable (seen on a menu)
  3. Execution in Progress!

(Attention readers! See the second video clip or the bottom of the post for the answers!)

  1. False Alarm!
  2. Slippery when wet!
  3. No shirt, no shoes, no service!
  4. Don’t feed the birds!
  5. Trespassers will be prosecuted!

If God Was Like Your Cell Phone Service

Welcome to God’s Network.

By the way, your bill of $177.64 is now due, press one if you would like to make a payment.

If you speak English please stay on the line. Si usted habla español por favor, pulse dos. Press three now for a choice of all other languages.

Please choose from the following options:

If you think you may want one of our hot new devices, text “hot new device” to G.O.D.

To activate your life press one.

To change your life press two.

To report problems with your life press three.

To report a loss or damage to your life press four.

To report problems, loss, or damage to the life of someone you care about press five.

To complain about the service you are receiving press six.

To complain about other people in your life, and what you would like Me to do about it, press seven.

For anything else please stay on the line, your waiting time will be ten minutes.

I’m sorry, that option is not valid. Please try again.

Thank you for calling God’s network. If you would stay on the line after your call is complete we would like you to answer a few questions for our customer satisfaction survey.

And all I can say after this week is I am so glad that God is not like Sprint!

Bathing Suits vs. Middle Age

Bathing Suit 1920’s – Oh Baby!

Summer has a myriad of delights. Cold watermelon and soft-serve ice cream; walks on the beach and picnics in parks; hot summer nights with dinner on the porch; fans whirring above my head; sandals and bare feet; the list could go on forever.

For “Women of a Certain Age” one of the things that is not a delight is pulling out the bathing suit. As readers saw in my post “Affirmation in the Dressing Room” working through the process of normal clothes shopping is difficult. Putting myself in the position of wriggling into the lycra fabric of modern-day bathing suits, with someone overseeing the process via remote so I won’t steal the suit, could put me into a therapists office for some time.  And why would I want to steal a bathing suit that is making tears come down my cheeks as I dream of the body I think I once had…..

But turns out, there are a lot of us out there with the same struggle and so I give you today’s post as an offering of sorts. An offering to all of us who struggle with the inevitable agony of defeat that purchasing a bathing suit brings. It is not written by me but I will forever thank the “Middle-age woman, unknown!” 

The Bathing Suit (by a middle-age woman unknown)

When I was a child in the 1950s, the bathing suit for the mature figure was-boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered. They were built to hold back and uplift, and they did a good job.

Today’s stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a figure carved from a potato chip.

The mature woman has a choice, she can either go up front to the maternity department and try on a floral suit with a skirt, coming away looking like a hippopotamus that escaped from Disney‘s Fantasia, or she can wander around every run-of-the-mill department store trying to make a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent rubber bands.

What choice did I have? I wandered around, made my sensible choice and entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room. The first thing I noticed was the extraordinary tensile strength of the stretch material. The Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to launch small rockets from a slingshot, which gives the added bonus that if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you would be protected from shark attacks. Any shark taking a swipe at your passing midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.

I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder strap in place I gasped in horror, my boobs had disappeared!

Eventually, I found one boob cowering under my left armpit. It took a while to find the other. At last I located it flattened beside my seventh rib.

The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups. The mature woman is meant to wear her boobs spread across her chest like a speed bump. I realigned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a full view assessment.

The bathing suit fitted all right, but unfortunately it only fitted those bits of me willing to stay inside it. The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom and sides. I looked like a lump of Playdoh wearing undersized cling wrap.

As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from, the prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtain, “Oh, there you are,” she said, admiring the bathing suit.

I replied that I wasn’t so sure and asked what else she had to show me.

I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of masking tape, and a floral two-piece that gave the appearance of an oversized napkin in a serving ring. I struggled into a pair of leopard-skin bathers with ragged frills and came out looking like Tarzan’s Jane, pregnant with triplets and having a rough day.

I tried on a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in mourning.

I tried on a bright pink pair with such a high cut leg I thought I would have to wax my eyebrows to wear them.

Finally, I found a suit that fitted, it was a two-piece affair with a shorts-style bottom and a loose blouse-type top. It was cheap, comfortable, and bulge-friendly, so I bought it. My ridiculous search had a successful outcome, I figured.

When I got it home, I found a label that read, “Material might become transparent in water.”

So, if you happen to be on the beach or near any other body of water this year and I’m there too, I’ll be the one in cut-off jeans and a T-shirt!

Used with permission courtesy of T.McCracken

Goodbye Chin – Hello Gravity!

If the mirror didn’t tell me, the picture did – I need to say goodbye to my chin as I knew it.  Oh I still have one, actually several, and therein is the problem. Gravity and age are winning the fight they have fought and won through the ages. It’s funny, I don’t look at younger women and long for their legs, or hair – I want their chins. They are so firm, so wrinkle free, so young!

Years ago when I still had no idea what it was like to not have a chin I saw a movie with Goldie Hawn as the star. The only thing I remember about that movie is the part of the mother-in-law sitting on a silk comforter, eyes covered by cream and flapping a fan of sorts against the bottom of her chin.  I didn’t get it at the time but now? Now I try to grab whatever I can when no one is looking and pat the bottom of my chin upward, hoping with a strange sort of hope that this action will prevent the inevitable.

As I wistfully ponder pictures and memories when I had a chin I see my life in a succession of events. There was the scowl on my face in the picture when I was 3 and had a chubby little chin. Then 10, where wanting to be like some Pakistani teenage girls who I admired, I attached fake braids to my shorter, less thick locks and my chin is held high, unaware of the awkwardness of my stage of life and thoroughly convinced of my beauty. 15 and 16 saw me as a teen with a defiant chin – quite defiant at times with photos from the past sometimes showing the defiance and sometimes disguising it behind a sweet smile.

At my wedding my chin and eyes are raised toward my ‘husband to be’ as I “thereto pledged him my troth” saying vows that my 24-year-old self could not keep on her own. A picture of a birthing room and there I am with my first-born, my chin touching her soft head in a moment of pure joy – subsequent babies and more moments of joy through the years show slow aging but youth still shining out of that chin.

And now I am saying goodbye to that chin and hello to a new one. A chin that doubles when I laugh and sags a wee bit (or more) in my profile. But even as I say goodbye to the chin, I am saying hello to an upcoming wedding of my son and the love of his life. (They have young and remarkably beautiful chins). I no longer face insecurity with a career, instead being fully established in a job that allows me to use creative gifts that I didn’t  know I had when I had that young chin. I have a husband who loves my chin and sister-in-laws and friends with whom I can laugh about lost chins, the aging process, and lots of other lost and sagging things.

And as I say goodbye to the former chin, I know in the depths of my heart that though “outwardly my body may be wasting away, (decaying, aging, losing a chin) inwardly I am being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16 – paraphrased) and I can only imagine how amazing a heavenly chin will look.