Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Objective, PURGE!

My friend, Aileen posted on Facebook that she had taken 6 bags of her clothes to Goodwill. I felt inspired to do the same thing but was really reluctant to get started. Especially on Memorial Day weekend when the weather was so gorgeous.  I do, periodically make trips to Goodwill but it's usually 2 or 3 bags at a time - and the bulk of it usually involves kids clothes. However, my secret weapon was home this long weekend: EMMA SAVINO  - organizer and purger extraordinaire.

We started in my closet, moved to the spare bedroom closet overflow, up to the attic cedar closet, down to the basement cedar closet, on to the basement coat closet and then two random clothes racks in the laundry room.

I have lived in this house for 19 years. That's a lot of time to accumulate clothes - and when you get deals like I do at Marshall's, you tend to overbuy. Not that I hadn't worn every item that I donated, and some items were VERY well loved. But, when it's time, it's time. And, Emma makes such a FACE, that I was compelled, yes compelled, to toss more items than I would have if I were alone. Actually, if I were alone, I wouldn't have attempted this feat at all.

She held the large green bag wide open, looked askance at me the whole time and made some very choice comments about my taste. How many turtlenecks do you really need? When was the last time you WORE that? Pleats and double breasted suits really don't work on my 'mature body'.  We even tackled my underwear drawer! You'll be happy to know that the unwanted undies went directly into the trash can.

Hey! I'm not the same woman I was 19 years ago. My pelvis has widened and my color choices have narrowed. Whereas I was never afraid of color when I was younger (witness a vibrant orange formal gown with matching bolero jacket), now I never stray from black/grey/white/brown/navy.

Putting the 'garb' in 'garbage'
So, we piled the bags in the dining room and surveyed the purge. 11 bags of clothes, 2 bags of shoes and purses. All mine.

I share my closet with Bill. It's a pretty big space. I tackled the floor with the vacuum cleaner. I'm not sure that floor has ever BEEN vacuumed. The dust was so thick, I had to take frequent breaks just to sneeze and blow my nose. I ended up burning out the motor in the vac! Honestly! In fact, I had to send Will to Target on Memorial day to buy a new one. 

 After my bedroom closet was cleared out and vacuumed, Bill caught the bug and started in on his side of the closet. I couldn't believe it. We have a wee TV in the closet, so he turned on one of the proliferate war movies this weekend - called "OBJECTIVE, BURMA!" and started to sort through miscellaneous items that had migrated to his closet. True, he didn't purge clothing, but he did clear out what my mother would designate as "crap". He was masterful.

I'm not proud of what I have accumulated, but I am excited that I broke through a barrier this weekend. Thanks to Emma I feel light and airy. And, I made a quick lunch time trip to Marshall's today to start all over!

Saturday, May 28, 2011


I was at a wedding ceremony today; the daughter of a co-worker got married.  A beautiful woman (the bride and the co-worker!). I met my work pals and we all sat in the back to watch the ceremony. Quite by chance, we got to sit behind a row of 10 year old girls - one cuter than the next. The bride is a teacher and she had invited her class to attend the church ceremony. I engaged some of the girls in conversation then, remembering my own children's warnings, sat back and zipped my lip. My kids tell me that I shouldn't speak to small children:

"You are a stalker of kids - quit it! It's creepy!".

However, these girls seemed more than happy to talk to me. Maybe in a group they felt safer talking to a creeper like me.

Anyway.... as always, I sat back and compared the whole thing to my own wedding. The flowers, the dresses, the choice of music, the number of attendants, the elaborateness of the hair- dos, in other words, the bride's attention to detail.

I was fairly relaxed about details of my own wedding. I remember driving to the church with my dad, looking down at my hands and thinking ... "hmm, maybe I should have painted my nails...."
I did however, spend a lot of time on the choice of flowers. That seemed more important to me at the time.

So, the major thing I always wait for at a wedding ceremony: the volume of the voices of the bride and groom when they recite their vows.
When Colonel Anderson turned to Bill to recite his vows, Bill spoke with such force and fury that the entire congregation broke into laughter.

I, William... (like he was the bloody King of England!). Peals of laughter. He had to wait for everyone to hush so he could continue.

Try following that! I waited for my turn and did my best at (1) being heard and (2) trying to appear demure (something of which I have never been accused). I think everyone could hear me - but, by then nobody cared. Bill had spoken for the both of us.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Roll reversal

Something amazing happened at work today. There was no announcement about it - it just... appeared

As I've mentioned, I work in an old mansion on Delaware Avenue. It's a beautiful place to work. One of the perqs of the environment, is that the first floor ladies room is roomy and well appointed. There is a wide sink, a separate single toilet and a large mirror. You enter it through a small sitting area with a closet and another large mirror. It's not like the  usual institutional bathroom you might find in a regular office. It's a small sanctuary - more like a bathroom in your own home. And, because I've worked there for over 20 years, I do regard the place like my home.

Because of my feeling for the place, it drives me CRAZY when the women inhabitants miss the garbage can when they toss their towels out. How could they NOT see that they've missed. Just because we have someone on staff who is assigned to cleaning the bathroom is NO reason to behave badly.

But, what really gets me steamed is when the last person who uses the bathroom does not change the toilet roll. Granted, our dispensers are not like the kind you have at home. We have the type where you have to rip off the cardboard roll in order to expose the chrome bar that holds the roll. Once the cardboard is removed, all you have to do is to squeeze the lever, which then releases it from the sides, so you can easily insert the new roll. It's a couple of simple, SIMPLE steps.

If I go in there when the roll is not replaced, I want to scream. These are women I work with everyday. The same women (supposedly) who refuse to bend over to pick up their dropped hand towel. What is that about? Into a sanctuary, away from public view, you are magically granted permission to  act like a selfish pig?

Ask the ladies who work most closely with me. This is a pet peeve of mine. I have even taught the newer members of our staff how the whole squeeze mechanism works. That's how crazed I am about this situation.

But, today... hope was installed.

I entered the bathroom this morning and noticed a new mechanism. A double roll Georgia Pacific. I regarded this with absolute joy. I immediately thought my angst would be abated. But, my euphoria left quickly. True, it would take twice as long for the toilet paper to run out, but this new mechanism looked even trickier to refill.
So, I've decided something tonight. Since this is a new installation, I'm going to take this opportunity to (1) learn how to change the roll  and then (2) I'm going to post a 'how to' right above the dispenser. Tacky? Yes! But since this so new, maybe I'll be forgiven.

Then no one will have an excuse not to change the roll.

And, here's the kicker. At my own house, the guy who changes the roll and gets NUTS if there is only a little paper left on the roll - so the next person has to change it - is Bill. He has been known to get out his felt tip pen and write caustic remarks on the cardboard roll.

I guess its just another reason why we are so well suited.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Friends Forever

Facebook is responsible for my high school buddy turning up at my door last night!

My sweet pal from high school found me on Facebook and contacted me. As luck would have it, she was planning a trip and was flying out of the Buffalo airport.  A lot of Canadians use the Buffalo airport for its convenience to the border and its relative ease. Peggy and I instant messaged and emailed on Facebook -  then talked on the phone so we could plan the overnight stay.

When Peggy walked into the house it was like we were two magnets. I put my arms around her and squeezed and she did the same. We pulled apart just long enough to look at each others faces, breathed, smiled and hugged some more. OMIGOD! I had missed Peggy!!  We were cheerleaders together and chemistry lab partners. We stayed over at each others house and had an incredible bond. I even babysat her younger brother. She did a year abroad in Grade 13 and I was miserable without her! Then, we went to different universities and lost touch...

How could SO much time pass without a visit? We didn't figure the actual amount of time that had passed but, today I figured out it was THIRTY years. THIRTY YEARS!!  And, Peggy looked and acted exactly the same way she did THIRTY years ago. She does the same split -second thing with her face when she's telling a story and looking for a reaction from you: She looks at you intently, frowns a little and then opens her eyes wide. For those of you who know Peggy - you know exactly what I mean.

I haven't had the benefit of staying within the same area where I grew up. And, neither had Peggy. She had moved all over the globe - part of the reason why we had lost touch, I guess. I do envy those people who have maintained life long friendships. It just wasn't possible for me. But, I can attest to the fact that it is possible to pick up where you left off. Peggy and I are determined to stay in touch - we are the same people we were 30 years ago. Much better looking now, though! HA!

Anyway, Bill and the kids made it all happen. Will, the master guacamole maker, made a big batch for us while we sucked down beers and gabbed in the living room. Bill and Emma transformed the kitchen into a Mexican cantina and served up fajitas  - complete with home made black bean salsa. Even our surrogate son, Tommy, assisted with the dinner (and the clean up - THANKS Tommy) in order to give me and Peggy maximum time together - sitting as close together on the couch as we could so we could pour over my old yearbook. Peggy wrote a whole page and a half in my yearbook in 1977 and part of what she wrote was: Remember best friends leave, but they always return (don't forget). Smart girl at 16.

I couldn't find my stupid camera this morning. We had forgotten, in our reverie, to take pictures last night. So, Peggy fished out her camera from her luggage and Bill took a shot of us in the driveway (before I left for work.) I hope Peggy sends it to me - so I can do some side by side shots in another blog.
In the meantime, here's a shot of us from 1977:
Anyway, here's to old friendships. I hope you have a wonderful time in Las Vegas, Peggy! Hurry home so we can plan our next visit together.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Together again

Will and Emma are home for the summer and tonight marked the first night that we all ate together as our "four person" family. Because of our varying schedules it was easier for us if we ate out, so we all met at Wasabi.

Once we sat down the cacophony began. And Wasabi patrons aren't really all that boisterous  - so, we kind of stood out. Sapporos and Saki didn't help our high energy levels. I had to take a few deep breaths because, at times, I couldn't get a word in edgewise. We were all bursting with information and stories and no one wanted to come up for air.

Christmas dinner with my mother at the helm
I had a lot of questions to ask about schedules and work and logistical issues. I tried to be polite,  but it's sink or swim when it comes to holding  your own during dinner time conversations with the Savinos. If you don't insist on being heard, no one will inquire if you have something to say. Except if you're my mother  - she pulls rank and we defer to her. Let me tell you, she uses it to her advantage. Especially if she has a particularly good story or if she knows something that we don't know.  She's brutal when she has the upper hand. But, she wasn't there tonight and it was a free for all.

Breakfast in Santorini
Emma and I were so keyed up, that we actually ordered the wrong things. The waiter, who was very sweet and accommodating took my (wrong) appetizer back (no charge) and told me later that the kitchen staff devoured it. Emma ate her entree anyway because it was too much trouble and too embarrassing to explain that she had meant to order teriyaki but instead ordered 'tempura'. Kind of different.

Maybe by the end of the summer we will run out of things to say at dinner. But, for now, excitement reigns and it's fabulous to all be back together again.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Where YOU from?

What is it with Italians? No sooner do they learn my last name, they ask me where my people are from.
"Umm...Canada?" Wrong answer.
"Oh! Scotland."
"Huh? Your name is Savino -  you're Italian. Napolitano?"

"No, I married an Italian." Blank look. 
"But, my children are Italian", I say engagingly. Big smile.

I was at a cocktail party last night, talking to a couple of Italian people. One of them had kept the original spelling of his name and was obviously Italian; the other had had his name anglicized at Ellis Island.

So, I started the conversation:  "So, you're Italian," I said. Where are you from?"

"Sicily!" the anglicized one said proudly.
"Whereabouts?"  I have learned it is best to pin Italians down.
"Canicatti! You know it?"

"No kidding! My husband's family is from Licata  - east of Agrigento." 

Swimming in the Meditrranean near Licata
After 25 years I have figured out how to interact with Buffalo Italians. Ninety percent of them can give you the name of their ancestral home. Luckily, I have a general idea of the layout of Sicily and can name most of the provinces of Italy. Bill has been a good teacher. Plus, we drove through Italy. Twice.  From Venice to Messina by car; across the Scylla and Charybdis by ferry; and on to Sicily. Great trip. I highly recommend it  - even if you're not lucky enough to be Italian. Although, I must admit Bill and I did almost divorce when we couldn't find our way out of Ravanusa. I swear we made the same left turn three times. And we just couldn't figure out where we were headed. Both of us, stubborn mules, refused to admit we had no idea where we were. Sparks were flying that day, I assure you! I am usually at the wheel when we drive. I need the control more than Bill - and he is a much better navigator. But, somehow, that day, our roles broke down and we turned into a couple of morons. I can't remember how we found our way out  - but it might have been one of the kids that figured it out.

Dinner al fresco at the Adoninnos

One of the best things about being married to an Italian and going to Italy is that, chances are, you have relatives living there. And, Bill has the absolute nicest bunch of people you ever want to meet. Generous, loving, welcoming - and that doesn't even cover it. The Adonninos of Licata are wonderful - I was so happy that we had the opportunity to meet them and live in their town for a while. They knew right away that I wasn't a real Italian. They kept asking me to sit down  - they thought I was sick because my skin tone was so pale.

After that trip, I was anxious to share my love of Italy with others. I turned into that person who asked "Italian? Where are you from" and I was proud to tell people that my kids were Italian.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's May

Just like clockwork, I started sneezing on May 1st. I wondered if I was getting sick even though I felt tiptop. Then it hit me. It's May. Tra la, it's May, the lusty month of Maaayyy! (I had a part in the chorus of our high school production of Camelot and that ridiculous song still inhabits my memory banks. I wish I could shake it loose to make room for something more useful and less annoying.)

It's allergy season, and it's right on time. Bill has loaded up on Kleenex boxes, and there is one in every room in the house. I have resurrected my linen/cotton handkerchiefs and stuffed them in my purses. My eye drops and nasal spray are also in my purse. Zyrtec is in my coat pocket, and my Neti pot is getting its usual work out.  It seems that the flowering trees are way more flowery this year. There is one in particular that my son, Will, loves. Since he is not home to enjoy it, I've been sending him periodic pictures of its emergence. Different angles, different times of the day. Here it is on the left.

May also marks the also the official christening of the Cattaragus creek, deep in the heart of the Zoar Valley. Bill and a crew of crazy canoeists and kayakers ventured out again this year to test their skills against the category 3 whitewater. I admit, I've been a part of that fine team of canoeist other years, and, while it is a superb way to spend a spring afternoon, I just wasn't feeling it this year.

Besides, my Kleenex would have been soaked before we'd left Burt's Landing.

Since they invariably dump their canoes somewhere along the way, few cell phones are taken on board. Bill always takes a disposable camera - so there is a record, but the photos are usually of poor quality because of the nature of the camera. The lack of cell phones means that those of us left behind, are in a constant state of worry. People do die on this run, and there are countless injuries, hypothermic reactions and broken paddles. I try to keep myself very busy on the days that Bill goes on these canoe trips.
But, I finally got the call that all was well- everyone survived, everyone dumped and everyone felt great. I know that feeling of exhaustion and exhilaration. It's the best. But, this year I chose to miss it.

Bill refuses to wimp out - he will go no matter what. He is the definition of indefatigable.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

To all the Mothers

Mother's day started very early for us today. About 4:00 this morning Emma woke us to tell us that her car window had been smashed and that the contents of her car had been stolen. She was really upset. Luckily, I was experiencing a hot flash at the time so had to get out of bed to strip off my clothes. We all stumbled down stairs and had a 'brew up' - chamomile tea.  And, we told each other stories of similar bad luck stories. By 5:00 a.m. we all felt better and went back to bed. Bill had the best hard luck story of us all. It involved having no money, some thievery, a junker of a car, a long trip to Indiana and a giant bottle of red wine vinegar. In comparison, Emma felt blessed.

I was still hot flashing, so once we got into bed Bill took advantage and snuggled up for a few minutes to get warm.

When I finally did start my day at 10:30 a.m. I decided to protein load - made some eggs and coffee and began my laundry and tidying day in earnest.  But, not before I called my own sweet mother in Florida. She regaled me with a few of her stories including the fact that she had purchased new phones from her favorite 'little person' at Radio Shack. She's developed a relationship with the sales guy there who she thinks is superb. She even called head office to tell them how helpful he is. She knows that she is a complete idiot when it comes to electronics, and he is always patient and sets her up with what she needs.

My Emma finally awoke after noon and I made her the same breakfast -even though it was Mother's Day, it was Emma that needed the mothering today.

Bill went grocery shopping for the week's food and for the Sunday sauce. It's a gift I ask for every year.  He and Emma are making dinner right now while I write this blog.

Will called from Massachusetts and sent a hilarious picture of himself studying. I've included it here. The caption "this is what you made - happy Mother's Day." He also indulged me with a request I've had all year: There is a live web cam at his school which is pointed at the same quad that he lives on. I've been asking him to go in front of the camera and wave to me all year. Because I'm such a sap, periodically I will look at the scene on the web cam just to feel a tiny bit closer to Will   - and to check the state of the tree blossoming and the weather conditions. So, today he came close to the camera and talked to me on the phone. It was cool. Thanks, Will.

Best of all, it didn't rain. The sun was out and I aired out some comforters. What a beautiful day in the north east.

I end this blog with the smell of red sauce, Dexter Gordon on the jazz station, Emma and Bill talking and drinking red wine. You can see in the corner of the picture a snippet of some lovely flowers that were delivered yesterday, too.

Life is good. Let's raise our glass. Here's to Mother's Day - however you spent it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The (evil) iPad 2

Technology has a hold over me.

Last Saturday, yes LAST Saturday, I was strangely productive. I ran errands, gardened, cleaned parts of the house that don't usually get cleaned (for example the vent over the stove), did laundry, even ventured out to the Walden Galleria Mall - a place I abhor. I had convinced myself that I "needed" an iPad . My friend, Lisa had shown me her iPad last month and, ever since, I had the bug to buy one. She advised me to wait for the iPad 2 because it had the camera. So, I stood in line, talked to the (non-commissioned) sales guy and hooked up with my own iPad with a pink cover.

I've been playing with it ever since.

I had convinced myself that I could even blog on the go with it. Or even from bed! But, somehow the keyboard and the functionality has left me cold. I cannot blog successfully on it. I tried again last night and lost half my post. At 10:30 p.m. last night I thought - SCREW THIS. Back to my PC. Which meant I had to get out of bed. And, of course, I didn't.

Other than the blogging issue, the  iPad is incredibly cool. I can play scrabble without using my reading glasses and its mapping abilities saved our collective ass when we had to find a pharmacy in Albany. That's a long story.

But the best part is that no one has to buy me a mother's day gift. I bought it for myself. And, I'm delighted.

OK, so the real reason that I'm talking about all this is that the iPad has become a huge excuse for me skipping blogging for the past week. True, I did do some travelling last week. But, what occupied me in the evening was discovering the iPad's tricks. I totally neglected to write. Laziness and sloth had again settled in.
However, I think that I have now satisfied myself, the newness has worn off,  and I can go back to blogging at night.

So, please forgive me. Bill already has.