Thursday, March 31, 2011

Give Thanks

I've always said that I wouldn't let my work life define me - that my real life begins after five. That's not entirely true. And, although I try to make a distinction, work life does spill into real life.

With the ability to get voicemails forwarded and emails shunted to my iPhone, my work life technically never ends.  The computer in my kitchen is always 'on'. I check my work calendar before I leave for work. I check in when I get home for any west coast emails that arrived after my 'quitting time'. To me, it's not a hardship to do this. It makes me feel better - I'm caught up and I like to be responsive. And, the people I work with know that they can contact me when necessary. 

This is not me!
I'm not this good looking, and
I already said I wash my face before bed

Because I use my iPhone as an alarm clock, I always give my email a last check before I go to sleep (and, of course, I do a quick check of the last moves in any scrabble game). It's one more 'to do' in my list of bedtime rituals.

So... wash and moisturize face. Check. Brush teeth. Check. Email, Scrabble, Set Alarm, Check. Check. Check.  Then, I always say a 'thank you' as I snuggle under my covers. My life with Bill has been so full of good luck and fortune that I am keenly aware of our happy circumstances. I am grateful that I have a warm and comfortable place to lay my head. Maybe it's because my bed is so comfortable (and I don't have that mattress pad with the electric force fields to worry about any more) that I always think these thoughts before I go to sleep. I often wonder why I am so fortunate while the vortex swirls around the rest of the world and so many of my friends and work associates are affected.

Tonight, I will give thanks again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

It's Restaurant week in Buffalo

If I had to name the ten best things about Buffalo, the number one thing I would  list is the fact that we have so many restaurants that are fantastic. People complain about the cold, the unemployment, the crumbling neighborhoods, the politicians - but they NEVER complain about the food. We have that one all sewn up. And this week, for $20.11, you can eat very well at some of Buffalo's premier dining spots.

 The Marvelous Sauce , by Jehan Georges Vibert

When I googled "restaurant week" I was tickled to see that one of the images used to advertise the event  was an absolute favorite painting of mine hanging at the Albright Knox Art Gallery (another one of the top 10 things about Buffalo) and pictured here to the right.

And, because the world is full of serendipitous moments and  coincidences, tonight, at my favorite Buffalo restaurant, one of my dearest friends was explaining to me how she had just started an Art Appreciation class. Today, the teacher took them to the Albright and stood in front of Vibert's picture.  As soon as Nancy said "you know, the one with the cardinal..." I immediately jumped in:  "Marvelous Sauce!" She was so excited that I knew what she was talking about.

Dinner with 5 of my girlfriends was filled with laughter, wine and story telling. We've been together for quite some time, and we like to recall some of our hilarious times together. We're as different as we are the same including our politics, our ages, our marital status, and our employment . If you put us all together you would think we would never get along. But we all treasure the time that we make for each other - I think we all realize that our time with each other is better than 5 mintues with any therapist. By the way, as I was enjoying my time at dinner, Bill was at home preparing the marinade and starting the salads for the poker girls tomorrow. (Tell me again what I did to deserve this???).

It's so easy to say "no, I'm busy " or "I just can't get it together tonight" but these girls always make the extra effort. Our differences, when combined together, is a recipe for love:  A marvelous sauce, indeed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moments to remember

Bill and I met and married in less than a year. I would NEVER recommend that to anyone, especially my own kids, but for us, it worked. We recognized something in each other very quickly in our relationship. What is was, I'm still not sure (HA!) but it was something we couldn't ignore. We met on Dec 20th, were engaged by the end of February and married in November. Pretty swift, eh? Why my parents didn't give me a harder time, I have no idea. I guess they recognized something, too. Come to think of it, they really never interfered with my decisions. I was given a lot of latitude growing up.

Our wedding was officiated by a minister from my childhood in Oakville. Lt. Colonel Jock Anderson was a war hero, a man of God and one of the most lovely men you could meet. He, like my grandfather Nicoll, was Scottish and a Presbyterian minister. He piped us into our reception. He was 73 at the time.  Bill LOVED this part of the reception. He cannot listen to the bagpipes without getting emotional. I understand that to be true of the Scots, but of an Italian/American?  Bill's only job in organizing the wedding was to book the music. The bag pipes didn't count. Colonel Anderson just threw that part in as his contribution.

We left the wedding reception while the party was still going. We took a shuttle to the Toronto airport and boarded a plane to the Caymen Islands. We arrived less than 24 hours after our marriage vows.
I distinctly remember waking up the next morning, turning my head on the pillow to look at Bill soundly sleeping. I panicked. Who is this guy? What did I just do? Where am I? What just happened? I don't know this guy. Am I INSANE?

As soon as Bill woke up and started talking, rapid fire, I quickly forgot my earlier terror. Oh, right... him! I know him! I calmed down.

There are moments in your life that stand apart, on their own. Moments that help define things for you. Certainly, I remember that moment of panic. But, the first defining moment in our married life came shortly after the pillow panic and when we rented a motor scooter. We thought a motor scooter was a great way to get around the island. Being the man, Bill booked it and hopped on the front, gave me my helmet and helped me straddle the back. He backed out of the parking spot directly into a parked car. BOOM! He was simultaneously angry and embarrassed.
"Maybe you should drive this while we're here" he said.
That was the moment that I knew:
This! This is a man I can love.

And it's been like that ever since.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Our bodies, Ourselves

Maybe it's my age, but it seems to me that I know an awful lot of people who are spending time in the hospital.

My friend, Pat, is home recovering from an operation she had last week. Unbelievably, they sent her home THE DAY AFTER the operation. How is that even possible? (Hey Pat! If you're reading - we miss you at cards.) My friend, Tom, has a wife who is facing her second bout with cancer. She's tough as nails, and I know she will stare this mother down. But, really? Once wasn't enough? I have a bunch of 'athletic' type friends who are having knee/hip/shoulder replacement or surgery. My friend Barbara posited this question: What did people do BEFORE they had joint replacement surgery? Were there really thousands of people limping around in pain? Or is this generation just not willing to put up with the inconvenience?

My trainer, Dan, sent me a link to an article which explained that if you are unlucky enough to have a sedentary job, you have basically signed your own death warrant. It doesn't matter if you carve out 30 minutes a day for aerobics, if you spend the rest of your day at desk, your body will rebel. Is this the reason we are having issues with our bodies? We spend too much time on our butts.

My squash partner tonight advised me "Advil before the game and Advil after the game". You know you're going to be sore. (I AM!) I was late getting home for dinner tonight because of the aforementioned game - I had an extra long hot shower and a stint in the sauna where I massaged my calves.

As I lowered myself into my chair at dinner tonight, Bill gave me a look: "DON'T GIVE IN TO YOUR AGE". I don't intend to. I hate to take medication - it goes against the grain. But, tonight I took an Aleve to numb my aches. And a healthy glass of Cotes du Rhone - that helps, too.

I hate getting old if it means that my body is no longer in my corner. I feel betrayed. But, I guess when you're fifty it's just something you have to accept. Bill, at 59.8 years keeps on rocking. He doesn't act his age or complain about his aches and pains. It occurred to me today that he spends very little time sitting down (thereby giving some credence to Dan's article) and has more energy than any person I know. After 25 years with him, I still don't get it. Why has his aging process slowed down? Another Bill mystery and another reason to stick around and see if I can figure him out.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tax time

Yesterday I prepared myself to do taxes. And, today I tackled them. I think they're almost done and it wasn't too bad. My system gets better every year. And, every year Bill and I fight less and less. I think we avoid doing taxes because we know we're going to have a big brouhaha (yes, that's a real word). Now, we're more mature (read : OLD), and we know each other's sore points. So, we try to avoid them and just concentrate on getting the work done.  All in all it was not too taxing. HA!

The smoothness of our efforts might be due to the fact that we heard jazz guitarist Al DiMeola last night. He played at Rockwell Hall at Buffalo State College. If you haven't heard Al, please check him out. He's a virtuoso guitarist and an inventive songwriter. I really enjoyed his 5 piece band -  they had  a lot of momentum and the music they created was rich and deep, soothing and electrifying at the same time. It was a good soul cleansing for me.

The best part was that Al (I feel that I can call him Al since Rockwell Hall has such an intimate feel) spoke to the audience before he began. He introduced everyone in the band, gave a little background, talked about how he couldn't remember the last time he'd been to Buffalo (while about 10 people were yelling from the audience" Artpark" or "the Tralf") and was completely human. It was so refreshing. It really bugs me when "artists" walk onto the stage, play a set, say "GOODNIGHT BUFFALO" and then leave. What is the point? I need to have that little piece of them just to make the concert more meaningful, more memorable and more personal.

It's one of the reasons I like to hear authors when they come to speak. I'm always curious about what they are really like. In the last few years we've had a number of authors come to speak in Buffalo - and I've tried to hear as many as I could. I've formed an opinion about all of them - not based on their writings, but on their stage presence.

My all time favorite author, Ann Patchett, spoke at the Montante Center a couple of years ago. After addressing the crowd for about an hour, I determined that she and I could be best friends. Margaret Atwood? As much as I wanted to love, love, love her (she's Canadian and I've read her since I was a kid), she came across as aloof and slightly pissed off at the audience. Ha Jin had a great sense of humor, despite the fact that his book "Waiting" was one of the most depressing books I've every laid my hands on. Salman Rushdie was hilarious and a little obnoxious and vain (but, my GOD! Padma Lakshmi married him  - he should be full of himself). 

I wonder about those big celebrities and their crazy lifestyles. Do they sit down with their spouses to figure out their taxes in March? I can't imagine them looking at their records and trying to remember what that $65.00 bill at Office Max was for or who they entertained at the Seafood place in May. Maybe tax time is what finally split up Padma and Salman? It could happen. And poor Al can't even remember what city he's played for heaven's sake. I hope he has a business manager who understands him as well as Bill and I understand each other.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Preparing for the Poker Party

This week I'm hosting our poker game. When I sent out a reminder message to find out how many were coming, almost everyone said "yes". I suspect it's because I also told them that Bill was cooking.

He called me from the office today to talk about the menu. He had a bunch of ideas. He loves talking about food as much as cooking and eating it.

This is Bill at a delectable storefront in Rome. Bill
gets excited when he sees good olives and cheeses 

He was anxious to get to Guercio's (a lovely green-grocer on the West side) to pick up the ingredients for the antipasto. Next stop, Premier Wines to stock up on some wine. When I told him there were 11 for dinner, he said "well... 12 including me". I'm not sure if I should tell him that there is a pretty stiff rule that no men are allowed at the dinner table or at the poker table. But, after cooking dinner, I don't think I'll have the heart to set a place for one in the kitchen.

Tonight we ate dinner together in the kitchen amongst piles of tax information. I started to assemble all the data today so we can attack the forms tomorrow. I didn't want  to spread out in the dining room since I've got to set the table for eleven (or twelve) for Thursday's poker night.

I don't think Bill even noticed. He entertained me with the ingredients for the marinade he was going to develop and the giant red olives he had found at Premier.

Now that Bill has the dinner in hand, all I have to do is make sure the bathrooms are clean, the table is set and the wine is chilled. Since he's taken all the pressure off, maybe I'll win a few hands.

Friday, March 25, 2011

You say Goodbye and I say Hello

Emma came to Buffalo for less than 24 hours. She just pulled out of the driveway to venture back to Toronto. I'm lucky that she lives close enough to make a quick trip. But, saying good bye is always so difficult.The hugs are hard and tight and I don't want to release my grip. I'm not a crier, but my tear ducts have been sorely tested since the kids have gone away to university. There is an emptiness in the pit of my stomach that really doesn't get filled until their return.

I remember when I was their age and my dad used to tell me that he hated saying goodbye.He used to say that every goodbye was like "a little death". I also remember thinking at  that time that he was overly melodramatic. And, that he needed to get over himself.

Now I understand him.

How do we all manage through these goodbyes, these separations?   I have a really hard time.  But, living in a community like Buffalo makes it easier. The best part of Buffalo is that you always run into someone you know. Being married to someone as gregarious as Bill has helped me to get to know a lot of people I wouldn't otherwise meet.  And saying 'hello' to others makes me feel part of the community. That's big for a transplanted Canuk.

Last night at the Purse Party, there must have been 400 (mostly) women. I knew a bunch of them. How is that possible? It's Buffalo. When I was lining up to pay my (large) bill, I stood behind a woman who looked very familiar. As she looked my way I told her that I thought I knew her. I asked her where she worked. "I'm a server at Chef's". Of COURSE! She has waited on our birthday lunches a bunch of times. And, she said I looked awfully familiar, too.

Deep Singh the owner of Taste Of India. We were introduced by
our mutual friend Jeffrey Freedman - who also loves this restaurant
Tonight, I called Taste of India for take-out. I know I eat there a lot, but I don't take advantage of their take- out. I recognized the waiter's VOICE on the phone for crying out loud. I knew exactly who he was and HE remembered how I liked having cumin scented white rice: "I will make it for you", he said. The last time I was there for take-out was during Diwali (Festival of lights). I had asked one of the waiters what he was doing to celebrate. He looked bored and replied:  "Nothing .... working I guess". I turned to the other waiter (the one who knows my penchant for cumin and whose voice I recognized on the phone) and asked him the same thing. "I will pray". He turned to his fellow waiter:  "And you should, too, my friend". And then he gave me a lovely smile. That smile told me we were friends.

Unfortunately, because I always run into someone I know, I feel compelled to brush my hair and wear a decent pair of pants (i.e. not my ripped and bleached- stained sweats) when I leave the house. Even when I go to TJ Maxx. The last time I was there I ran into my hairdresser - who gave me the once over - twice.  

And bigger venues? Forget it. It's a given that you'll see someone you know. Ralph Wilson stadium parking lot, Buffalo- Niagara Airport, HSBC arena,  Kleinhans, any fundraiser - you will know someone.

So while Emma and Will are separated from me, I, at least, have the great fortune of having familiar people around me. That emptiness in the pit of my stomach? It's not so empty when I venture out and rub shoulders with the people in the City of Good Neighbors.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Purse Party

Tonight, my friend Nancy and I attended a fund raiser for Everywoman Opportunity Center Inc.   It was held at Salvatore's Italian Gardens. Attending any event at this facility is always a treat. Tonight Salvatore's was vomiting Easter decorations. It was INSANE.

The fund raiser had a  wonderful theme: HANDBAGS. They had a ton of them - used, new,celebrity owned. It was a terrific affair.

They also had free drink coupons. We were given two each. Nancy and I looked over all the purses and had a couple of hors d'oeuvres and  a drink. Then we sat outside the entrance and gave exit interviews to the early departers. As they put their coats on we asked if they had used their their free drink coupons....
Long story short : I drank too much and  walked away with two purses that I had bid on at the height of my inebriation. 

Everywoman Opportunity lived up to its name: It was  totally opportunistic. Women + booze + cute purses= too much money spent.
I'm not unhappy.

The best part? Bill cooked for himself and had enough for me when I returned. His chicken and rice soaked up the gin that had taken up residence in my gut and that had influenced my decision to outbid another lawyer on a super cute Marc Jacobs bag.

I call this a win/win/win situation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Roller coaster

When I first married Bill I had trouble adjusting to his inherent highs and lows. The family dynamic that I had come from was fairly stable. Bill was from a solid, nuclear family but one that rode an emotional roller coaster most of the time. And, they liked it that way.

Much like Bill is addicted to the endorphin kick of hot peppers, I think he needs those extremes in his life. He likes excitement, a challenge and appearing in front of a large audience. I'm told that public speaking is the number one fear inducing activity in human kind... Bill lives for that stuff. He can't wait to teach his buisness law classes at UB. He also loves speed, small private planes, playing in a band and tough opponents in a legal case. He was born to be a litigator - he thrives on conflict.

I have a dim recollection of a college psychology/sociology class which focused on relationships. The professor taught us that there are some relationships that are actually centered on conflict. I believe that Bill's parents thrived on the conflict that they created. And, they did create it for themselves. That was Bill's incubator.

Although Emma protests that she doesn't like the highs and lows of life, I believe she may also live for them. She likes the drama: she was the the front(wo)man in the kid's band even though she said she was shy; she's on a roller derby team in Toronto where the whole idea is to create a 'scene'. The difference with Emma is that she is self-realized. She understands this about herself.

Today she excitedly told me that she won a coffee at Tim Horton's (yes, she, too is addicted). Later that afternoon she called, almost in tears, to tell me that some jerk stole her bike wheel so she was stuck without transport. A half hour later she told me she had a job interview. She was elated. During that last phone call she explained to me that it was karma at work:  you're up, you're down  - you win, you lose.  You just have to find your center.

I remember talking to my friend, Molly in my first years of marriage. I was still having trouble adjusting to the pace of married life with Bill -  as well as the highs and inevitable lows. She had travelled this road herself. She said five simple words: Get off the roller coaster.

It's been the key to success in our marriage. I let Bill enjoy the view as he rides the Crystal Beach Cyclone while I watch and wave (and smile) from the pavement below.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Beware of Old Mothers

Today, the girls at work celebrated the birthday of our friend, Janie. It is our tradition to take the birthday girl out to lunch (restaurant of her choice) and buy a funny card. The birthday girl reads the card and then passes it around. We laugh, we eat lunch and then we usually share 3 or 4 desserts. It's a good time.

We like the funny card part the best. We all try to out do each other on the (a) humor and (b) the appropriateness for the person receiving the card.  Luckily, we all love a good laugh and most have a bawdy sense of humor. We're a good team.

We used to make the birthday girl wear a crown or a party hat. We gave that part up. Today, we decided on a new tradition: we would continue with the birthday card - but no one would sign. Then the birthday girl would have to guess who bought the card. The bonus? That the birthday girl got 8 cards she could reuse! The birthday girl AND the environment wins!

There was another small party at the restaurant today. A family of four. A wee baby in a booster seat, a small boy and a mum and dad. I didn't notice them until the mum went to the ladies room  - they were behind me. The wee baby let out a yelp just as the mum passed our table. I recognized that sound, so well. It was the sound that translates to : "MUMMY! WHY ARE YOU LEAVING ME? I DON'T KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING ! I AM STILL HERE - DID YOU FORGET ME?"  My head swiveled 90 degrees to look at her. I was transported back 20 years. I remember resenting not being able to go to the bathroom without some kind of protest. I used to set up the car-seat in the bathroom when I took a shower so that I wouldn't inflict any more pain on the baby. 

The baby at the restaurant calmed down as soon as her dad distracted her with food. And, even though I appreciated all of the emotional nuances of that instant, I longed for the days when my absence caused such a stir.

My kids tell  me that I'm bordering on inappropriateness with my interest in other people's children. In any type of social setting, I will gravitate to the children. I know they don't know me, and that I can't give them a hug, but I love watching them, giving them a wave or a wink. My kids think this behavior is pathological and that I should seek help. Bill agrees. They may be right.

Last fall, a sweet girl, her brother and mother came knocking at my door to sell girl scout cookies. She was a Brownie and proud of it. After we finished with our transaction, I realized that I didn't want them to leave. I asked the little boy if he'd like to look at the fish in my pond. He was kind of a wild and crazy boy (my favorite kind) who seemed bored with the whole door knocking business. He was carrying a sword (a.k.a. a stick from my driveway). He jumped at the chance to see the backyard.  As  I led them through the gate,  my own children's voices were ringing in my ears. Thank God the Brownie's mother was with these kids or I'd be arrested, I thought. Perhaps this was the first step in becoming that creepy, old lady known throughout the neighborhood:  "Ewww... run past HER house, she may try to EAT you!"

As I left the restaurant today, I stooped to pick up a spoon that the wee baby had dropped. I handed it to the mum and I didn't even look in the baby's face. Bill and the kids would be proud.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Surfing the heat

One of the first things that Bill does when he gets home is to reach for a bottle of hot peppers - pepperoncini to be exact. He cannot go a day without his 'fix' of heat. Apparently, certain foods that are spicy or hot release endorphins in the brain - giving what is more commonly known as a 'runner's high'. So, he gets the benefit without the workout.

When we go to dinner he ALWAYS asks the waiter/waitress to bring a bottle of hot sauce: Frank's, Tabasco, Cholula, whatever they have. If no one is looking and the food hasn't arrived he will sneak a hit of the sauce on the edge of his spoon. He disgusts me when he does that - but I figure I'm with an addict - and  I guess I'm an enabler.

I'm not exactly sure what is coating his stomach, but it must be some kind of humanoid teflon. I can't understand why he hasn't killed himself with the quantity and variety of hot foods he eats.

My dad was in the spice trading business for most of his life. I think his knowledge of the spice world is one of the things that endeared him to Bill. One of dad's stories that Bill is fond of repeating is about the ground pepper you find on the table of restaurants.  Chances are the pepper may not give you the usual kick. Have you ever wondered why?  It isn't because it's been sitting on the tables forever (though that doesn't help) but rather the restaurant bought really cheap pepper consisting of the pepper corn husks (ground up) but with the expensive pepper oil removed. The pepper oil was sold to the highest bidder.  Dad also taught Bill about  Scoville heat units of peppers.  Scoville units measure the heat or capsaicin of peppers. We were both taught that the scotch bonnet pepper was the hottest pepper you could find.

We were misinformed.

Last week when I was stuck waiting for AAA to come and fix my tire, I spent some time at Chow Chocolate.  The lady who ran the place told me all about the artisanal chocolates and I was quite intrigued. After some college girls who were staying at the hostel down the street bought some hum drum milk chocolate (one of them honestly asked for "the closest thing to a Hershey bar" - I thought the proprietor was going to strangle her), I felt I should buy something really exotic.

She pulled out some small chocolates from under what looked like a jewelers cloth - you know the kind of felt material that sometimes covers silverware so it won't tarnish. Anyway she said: "These are killer. If you like hot things - you'll love these". I bought one, just one for Bill. She wrapped it with a lovely bow and told me to tell him to pop it in his mouth. Don't take two bites - down the hatch - at  once. She said it was infused with 'ghost pepper'. Sounded kind of mild. At least it wasn't scotch bonnet.
Unfortunately, I didn't google 'ghost pepper' before I instructed Bill to pop it in his mouth.
He thought he was going to die. A half gallon of frozen yogurt later and he started to come around. We got on line and started researching 'ghost pepper' and we found videos of other clever people eating the pepper itself.

This pepper should be illegal.

Bill was such a good sport about this accident. I don't know how he forgave me.
But, the next evening, when he came home from the office, he reached for the bottle of pepperoncini without flinching. Some things never change.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Does she or doesn't she?

As a brunette, I'm facing a big decision: at what age do I let my hair go gray. I've been coloring my hair since my early 30s. I started going gray before I was twenty. I played around with a blondish color for a while, but it really wasn't me.

Now, at FIFTY, I'm considering my options. But, I'm perplexed about how to do it. Do I just stop the dyeing process and let it grow out? (Ugh!). Do I cut it really short and then let it grow out? (Double ugh!) Do I start to lighten it now - gradually? (Sounds expensive and time consuming). Do I allow one streak at a time like Cruella de Vil and Stacy London of What not to Wear until the whole head is done?

My hairdresser figures I'm about 75% gray. But, he can't tell me if the gray is that lovely color that some women are blessed with ( you know those women who look so smart and chic)  or that gravel color that makes you look like you're a great grandmother. 

I think I need to face the music. Besides, years of Preference by L'oreal has probably accelerated my memory loss or decreased my IQ significantly. How can it NOT affect you?  I cringe every time the concoction is mixed and allowed to seep into my scalp pores.

I thought about wigs. My mother successfully made the switch to wigs when she was young - so her transition was simple. But, she was not "blessed" with the huge forehead that I have. Wigs just don't seem to fit on my head the way they are supposed to.  I LOOK like I'm wearing a wig.

Right now, my long term plan is to suffer through a transition while I'm on an extended vacation - someplace where I don't know anyone and will not care. An  extended vacation (aka retirement) won't be anytime soon - unless it is forced retirement - if you know what I mean.

Bill will not retire. Recently, when we were visiting our financial advisor, she asked Bill about some of his long range goals. Obviously, she asked him at what age he would like to retire. He answered, very emphatically : NEVER!! Why would I retire? I love what I do and I don't intend to slow down".


Jessica turned to me and asked me the same question. I looked at her and did some calculations:  "Maybe another 5 years". Truthfully, I said that as a test for Bill. Let's just say I was glad that there was a table between us. I thought he was going to blow a gasket. FIVE YEARS? Are you F'ing KIDDING??
Yes, I'm kidding. ... sort of.

I'm just not sure if my hair can wait that long.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A pirate's life for me

I have no clue how it started, but it seems I've always had an affinity for pirates. I believe that  I'm probably descended from pirates. There were, after all, quite a few that hailed from Great Britain - the land of my ancestors. Although I do tend to get sea sick, I'm wild about travelling and love to hunt for treasure.  Perhaps, given a long enough period on a schooner, I would acclimate myself to the high seas. (Probably not.)

My pre-occupation with pirates started way before the Pirates of the Caribbean had hit the theatres. Though, I must admit, I did love the first movie and was very appreciative of the way they made the pirates lovable and scary at the same time.
I have proof that I was ahead of the curve:
This is a picture of my children, circa 1994. They were pirates in training and had already adopted fierce attitudes. I believe the first Johnny Depp Pirate movie came out in 2003 - so it was almost a full decade before the rest of the world caught on to the pirate craze. This picture was taken at my friend, Annie's cottage. I suspect she's a descendant as well because she has the same type of spirit it takes to appreciate pirates.

To be clear, I'm not talking about the type of pirates that are cruising the east coast of Africa - those pirates are mere mercenaries who have no idea of the true pirate code - at least the code that is romanticized in my mind.

Nowadays, you can't go anywhere without seeing a reference to pirates. I just saw this advertisement at the Theater of Youth last week. Photo Credit to Gayle Shaw Hutton - thanks Gayle for taking the picture for me.

This kind of thing happens to me all the time. I am a trend setter who never gets any of the credit. Take for example my daughter, Emma.  She was born in 1989. Prior to that date you couldn't find an Emma that wasn't born in the 18th century. It was one of those names that had lost its popularity. By the late 1990s it had become one of the top 100 names in the US. And my Emma got her name in the most unusual way  - I dreamt it. I woke up from the dream ( I have no idea what it was about) and I turned to Bill and told him "If it's a girl, her name HAS to be Emma. E for Elizabeth (me), MM for Mary Margaret (my mum) and A for Antionette (Bill's mom). An honest to God acronym. Bill loved it, of course.

And do you know, that name took off like nobody's business. 

Anyway, back to pirates. There is an  "International Talk like a Pirate day" every year on September 19th. My office indulged me one year, and we celebrated all day. I loved answering the phone: "And how may I assist ye t'day, me fine lass/laddie".  The other great things about pirates - are the jokes! There are a million of them - and most of them are bad: A Pirate's favorite letter? :
(Kind of like Rrrrrrrrrrrrrroll up the rim? - Hey! PS I won a coffee yesterday!)

The picture to your left is me in full pirate regalia. It was on September 19 a couple of years ago at the office. My son's pal, Tommy, got me the coconut head. The head hangs in my office as a reminder of my heritage and it is fitting since I'm often called upon to terminate employees! Tommy, knowing my love of all things pirates, calls me Cap'n instead of Mrs. Savino. He's good like that. Both Tommy and Bill recognize the pirate within me and never make fun of my rather bizarre eccentricity. I think they know that heads would rrrrrrroll if they did. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The orange and the green

I totally forgot to get dressed for St. Patrick's day today. I had to get up early for a breakfast appointment at Pano's (I love Pano's for breakfast) and wasn't thinking about the date on the calendar when I got dressed. So, I was in a black pinstripe suit all day. Our senior administrator draped some green Mardi Gras beads around my neck. I think she was disgusted with me for forgetting. Even Bill remembered to wear green today - although it was buried within his tie.

Because my family is from Northern Ireland, I like to wear ORANGE and green on St. Patrick's day to illustrate my desire for a united nation. I was kicking myself all day that I wasn't able to make my usual statement.  My colleague, Gina Boland Daley (she's a little bit Irish)  showed me a picture of her children all dressed up for school in green. I was delighted to see that her daughter had a lovely green and ORANGE bow in her hair.

We take St. Patrick's Day very seriously in Buffalo. Our parade has been in existence for almost 70 years and it's  held on a Sunday close to March 17.  I never go because of the insane amounts of beer and vomit on the street.  On the 17th of March I like to be off the streets by 6 p.m. to avoid the drinking public.  In Canada, I believe only the province of Newfoundland and Labrador actually have a statutory holiday on March 17.  Believe me, that 's a good thing.  You don't want to go to work with someone drinking Newfoundland Screech.

But, while I was lamenting about my lack of (apparent) Irish sentimentality, something amazing was happening at home. The temperatures soared and my wee pond completely thawed.  When I went out tonight after work to check it out, I witnessed a miracle (pictured). One lone ORANGE koi swimming quite contentedly.

Last fall I spent a significant amount of time trying to catch the fish in the pond to give to Gina's kids (yes, the same family with the wee girl who wore a green and orange bow in her hair today). We were able to catch 3 fish - 2 small orange koi and 1 very large black one.  They took them home to their large aquarium and kept them over the winter. After many weeks of a happy life in the aquarium, the 2 small koi kacked.  The large one, they named Noir, has kept it together and is still hanging in there.

Once the fish were out, the pond was drained and the lines were capped. And, as you know, this winter was brutal with sustained temperatures below freezing for weeks. The small amount of pond water froze and was covered with a ton of snow.

The fact that anything lived through this winter is beyond me.

There is a legend about St. Patrick and it has nothing to do with snakes; rather it has to do with the "lifting" of the Lenten meat fast on March 17.  Apparently, St. Patrick was keeping  a pork roast for  'emergency' eating (?).   He became remorseful about it and threw it into a stream. God sent an angel and the roast was turned into a bunch of fish. Or at least the legend goes something like that. I understand that pork roast is called Saint Patrick's fish in Ireland and is eaten on March 17.

I wonder if Bill threw an old pork roast into the pond? However that fish arrived, I have dubbed today's occurrence the "Miracle of St. Patrick's Day".

Wherever you go and whatever you do,
May the luck of the Irish be there with you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Meme me

My son, Will has been posting various memes for a while. I had no idea what a meme was - and you really have to see one to appreciate the genre - until he started emailing them to me.  It's a photo or image with a 'catchphrase' attached. People who are Will's age will think the fact that I have to explain what a meme is already makes me too old to enjoy them. They just "ARE".  That being said... one of the funniest ones I ever saw was an old joke  (don't you just love the guy in the picture?):

babby courage wolf - Dad says no lunchables put in cart anywayThe first ones that Will ever sent me were Insanity Wolf and Courage Wolf memes. Insanity Wolf is so raw (really, really raw) I cannot post them here. Courage Wolf, for the most part,  employs phrases that are " inspirational"  but in a subversive, hit-man kind of way. At first, I didn't get it. People are encouraged to create their own memes so there are no filters - anything goes, especially with Insanity Wolf. So, it takes a while to figure it out. But, when you hit a good one, it stays with you. One of the best is from Baby Courage Wolf. I still laugh at that when I think of it.
Will said he'd be reading my blog and noticed that I talked a lot about being Canadian. He also said that I wasn't very clear about the differences between Americans and Canadians. It's a subject we dissect quite often. He was happy to report that there was someone in the web world who was generating memes about "Canadians". They were all really positive images and messages. I guess the creator, like a lot of people, view Canadians as benign and harmless sorts.  Will was paging through the Canadian memes and found two that he felt deserved a spot on my blog because of some of my previous references.

He also noticed that I've mentioned Tim Hortons more than enough times. By the way, after a great start with my roll up the rim to win campaign - 2 wins the first week - I have won NOTHING since. I really believe that they heavy load those cups in the beginning of the contest period to hook people. Well, they already hooked me.

Will and I laugh at the same sorts of things. I don't think we are particularly funny ourselves, but we do love a good joke - and appreciate when a joke is well told. I especially love jokes that provide a good visual - maybe that's why I like these memes? 
It always does my heart good when I hear Will laugh  - it is such an appreciative laugh. Those deep belly laughs are as cathartic as a good cry. And he laughs a lot. 

Last night at dinner, Bill made me laugh so hard I had to push away from the table. He's not the best 'canned' joke teller, but he can make me laugh with his stories. He understands what makes me laugh, and it's humor that is guaranteed to bring me out of a funk. When I don't have access to a good meme, at least I can count on Bill to give me a great belly laugh.   

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Drowning in Paper

How many of you are overwhelmed by the amount of paper you must handle each day? (see poll to the right)  I'm not talking about the Newspaper, but rather all the paper that comes in through the mail and onto your desk.  How many circulars from Bed Bath and Beyond touting a 20% discount do I need? I'm never going to open one of those fat blue envelopes filled with coupons. And for crying out loud, Capital ONE, please!!! Stop. with the credit card requests. I also don't need a new roof or an exterminator or a new furnace or "kleen" windows. Straight into the blue bin they go (unless they have a composite envelope with a plastic see through window).

I've already got THREE blue bins for recyclables and one of item is filled with paper each and every week. We live in an electronic age, for heaven's sake. Why do we need to kill so many trees?

I look forward to the mail, but I have to cull 3/4 of it. I have piles of paper on my kitchen counter, and it makes me crazy. I have to devote a portion of my Saturday just to go through the damn paper. Even the bills that I must open also include infomericals and extras.

God knows why I'm getting Vogue every month (Emma?) ( I do rip out and keep the perfume scratch and sniffs, though), and I get a catalog from the Company Store, Williams Sonoma, and Frontgate every other week. I'M AN ONLINE SHOPPER! Don't they know that about me? Where are the marketing people? Why aren't they sharing my demographic with their mail room.

I think I'm getting a little frantic about the paper situation because the 'tax' pile I have has tipped over. I dutifully bought a nice little plastic file container to hold all those "IMPORTANT" papers. Rather than bending over, finding the correct file folder and filing as paper comes in, I merely toss it on top of the container.  Like I said, I'm overwhelmed.

I'm also plagued with decisions about which paper to keep: Should I be keeping my receipts from Tim Hortons'  - is it a necessary business expense? (no - but, good LORD it feels like it.)  That's the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. I hope I have everything. My intention, each year, is to keep everything orderly - but I get so much paper it's hard to take the time and actually care about its placement. Tax time, therefore, turns into quite an ordeal. I have everything, but putting my hands on it is another story.

To top it off, I also have to keep track of my emails at work - electronic paperwork. I tried desperately to sort and file and keep it such a way that I'll be able to retrieve it. And, I keep EVERYTHING. It should be easier - and it is - a little. But, it's still huge task.

Long ago, people didn't keep bits of paper - rather they relied on their memories and their storytelling. Their memories must have been better honed. Modern day (wo)mankind has become lazy : we can write  down things so we don't have to tax our brain with the business of remembering.  Maybe the invention of paper has hampered our brain development - maybe paper has kept us from using the other 90% of our brain?

Bill gets nervous when I seemingly toss items indiscriminately. He's been known to scrawl across envelopes DO NOT THROW OUT.  He knows my filing system is somewhat lacking. Yesterday, I got a note on top of his Ferrari newsletter- PLEASE RENEW and DO NOT THROW OUT. That's one circular that has a special place in this house - a treasured spot :  on the bookshelf in the bathroom.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hit me over the head, why don't you?

Last week when I went away for the weekend, I indulged myself with a pedicure. Let me tell you: a pedicure in Ft. Lauderdale is a HELL of a lot more expensive that one in Buffalo. But, I was at a swanky hotel (at someone else's expense) and my toes needed some paint. So I bit the bullet, and booked an appointment.

The lady who treated my feet was not a classic beauty (and, if you're wondering, her forehead was within normal limits) but she was what I would call "striking". She had freaky red (i.e., dyed a non-human red color) hair and dramatic eye makeup. She was probably about 40 but dressed like she was 20. She was from Uzbekistan. Initially she told me she was from  Russia, but when I pressed her for details she confessed she was from Uzbekistan. She said most people who come into the salon have no idea what she's saying when she says "Uzbekistan" so it's easier if she just says "Russian".

She and I had a crazy conversation. It started off innocently enough : kids, jobs, weather. And, then it veered drastically into dangerously controversial territory. She asked me what I thought about the year 2012. I looked at her very quizzically. "You don't know that the world is ending in 2012?" "No.... " I answered quite naively.

She told me this was what was going to happen: there was going to be a great earthquake and it would shake the four corners of the world. Nuclear reactors would melt down and release toxic radiation. Few would survive and those who did would wish that they didn't. I let this sink in. "So, why do you work here? If there's only a few months to live, what are you doing here?"
"It's better than Uzbekistan, and I've got to eat".
Fair enough.

This was one of those conversation that I thought would quickly fade from memory. I don't think I even told Bill about it, even though it was pretty shocking - it was also insane... until this week, when the news from Japan hit. It may not quite be 2012 but it WAS the end of the world for a great many people. Can you imagine being washed out to sea and NOT thinking it was the end of the world?

I can't get the pictures of the tsunami's destruction out of my head. My dreams are of drowning, and I wake up gasping for breath. I cannot imagine the grief and heartache and utter devastation the affected must feel. And, how do you return to your home if it's destroyed AND contaminated? You don't.

We all try to go on with our days here in this area of the world as we listen in disbelief to what is happening in Japan. And we all worry if it could happen here. Guess what. It could.

As if to drive the point home today I noticed a small  figure in the gutter by my parked car: A body washed ashore. Like I needed another cosmic reminder. YES, It could happen here. Do we need anymore wake up calls?

But Bill tells me that the 2012 thing has something to do with a Mayan calendar that is totally unfounded. 
And, he reminds me about the Y2K craze that never happened. He brings me back from the edge of the abyss. Thank God for him.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

WAR? What is it good for?

My pregnancy with Emma was "high risk" for a bunch of reasons. The good news was that I got to take a year off from law school. The bad news was that I got to spend a lot of my pregnancy in bed. Sounds like a dream, now. But, at the time I was so angry. I was 28 and had A LOT to do. Those weeks in bed taught me a little bit about patience and an awful lot about war.

It was 1989, and Blockbuster had been around for just a few years ( I understand it may be in Chapter 11 bankruptcy now). We had an outlet less than a mile from our house; it had replaced the old Bells Supermarket on Elmwood at Auburn. Blockbuster was a Godsend. Bill would stop every night to pick me up 3 or 4 videos. He rigged up a tape player and placed it atop our bedroom TV set. Since I was missing law school, he figured I could educate myself with some of the old classics that, because of my cohort level, I had missed. Some of the more memorable movies that he chose for me were: Patton, The African Queen, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Manchurian Candidate and The Seven Samurai (especially the Seven Samurai).  I couldn't wait to talk about them with Bill when he got home from work. I remember giving Bill only one stipulation: no musicals. I think Bill must have interpreted that to mean: only manly war movies. We had only been married three years, and I still hadn't figured out Bill's utter preoccupation with all things "war".  His movie choices for me should have been a huge hint. What can I say? I was a bit pre-occupied with a wee baby trying to desperately hold on.

Later, when I was going through some of his memorabilia and framing some of his old pictures, I found a poster from his university days. He was in a jazz trio with Richard Shulman and Bobby Previte and the name of the band: Thermopylae - the famous battle scene between the Spartans (and other Greek city states) and the Persian empire. Yes, 25 years with Bill and I've learned a few things about battles, too.  Who names a jazz trio after a Greek battle ground? Someone who is enamored with war. Someone like Bill.

Today when he turns on the TV, his first choice is always something to do with war. It doesn't matter which war:  Civil, WWI, WWII,  or even old Roman battles.  As long as they talk about airplanes, ships, armaments, troop movements, or they interview old guys who were "on the ground", then the channel flipping will stop. I can't tell you how many times he's seen "Siege at Leningrad".  It's become a joke around here.

The funny thing is that when his dad used to wax on about the war, we would indulge him, but secretly want him to shut up. Even Bill. Especially Bill. When it was that close to home, he didn't want to know.