Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Pauly-P

Today would have been my dad's 81st birthday. He and I were almost exactly 30 years apart. He was fond of telling me that the older the parent, the smarter the child. I took that under advisement.

I adored my dad. It wasn't hard since he was my biggest fan, too. He used to say that he became a member of the "Women's Lib" movement the day I was born. He told me I could do anything I put my mind to. Powerful stuff for a young girl! He taught me how to hammer a nail, wallpaper a room, tell a joke, paint a baseboard, fix a fence, plant vegetables, estimate due dates of pregnant ewes (that involved crouching low and cocking your head to one side),  and drive a tractor. He also taught me the rules of hockey, to appreciate the many shades of green on a single leaf, to breathe deeply and remember the smells of nature, the power of a Shakespearean sonnet, and to always ask for the order at the end of a sales call.  In high school he would discuss my English papers with me until late into the night. We spent a lot of time together talking and debating. He tried to teach me to paint, but, alas, I had zero talent - my brother inherited all the artistic genes. He spent a lot of time with Kevin, too. 

One of the best lessons Dad taught me was not to be afraid of bullies. Although the subject of bullying is au courant, it is truly an ancient topic. I vividly recall the bully on our street: his name was Tommy and he had a little brother named Nicky. I have no idea what kind of horrors Nicky had to endure living with an evil brother, but 3 doors up from them, I was living in fear. My dad told me that I was smart and that I should  use my head when dealing with Tommy... so I did. The last time that Tommy ever bothered me was the day he wouldn't let me pass him on the sidewalk. He held out his arms wide, legs akimbo, and dared me to go past him to get to my house. I remembered my dad's words: I backed up, bent forward at the waist and ran full force with my head into his gut. Tommy never bothered me again. I'm still not afraid of bullies (and, yes they're still around even in my cohort), but now I use my head the way my dad originally intended! 

I had the good fortune of moving back in with my parents after I finished  university. It wasn't a difficult decision - I had no money and I loved being with my parents. It gave me a chance to interact with them as adults. And, I learned to appreciate what it was that the two of them had - a mutual respect and admiration and a deep, abiding love. I still view that time with them (all to myself) as a gift.

My dad and Bill had a tempestuous relationship. It's not surprising - they were very similar.  I knew that I would end up marrying someone like my dad because I loved him so much. Luckily, I found my version of my dad all wrapped in a feisty lawyer from Niagara Falls.

Dad died too soon;  he was only 73. He was plagued by melancholia in his later years. He searched for contentment his whole life and, even though most people would have thought he'd found it, it remained elusive to him. In the end, I think he just 'gave up the ghost' and succumbed to his head problems. He felt things deeply, reacted irrationally and sometimes blew his cork, and would often say outrageous things to strangers just to get a reaction! He was a passionate man to say the least.

But, he taught me how to love unconditionally - by example. I was so lucky to have him as my father. I miss him to this day.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Autumn Leaves - Part Deux

Will is home!! I don't know why he got to come home so early from school, but he is here almost a full week ahead of his cronies.
After a few bear hugs from me (and some eye rolling from him), I put him to work almost immediately.

Those leaves never did get done by my well intentioned husband. He (conveniently?) came down with a cold and has been nursing his throat, etc. for a few days. Which, come to think of it,  didn't stop him from staying out late for a Texas Hold 'Em tournament a couple of nights ago (he came away with the trophy). He completely lost his voice after that night.

Back to the leaves.

A few hours of raking (yes, all those piles are from our house)
Will and I tackled those suckers like seasoned professionals. In about 5 minutes we had a system down that would rival anyone on our block - maybe even any landscaping service. And, we didn't use a leaf blower.  I cannot believe how we motored through all the debris with sheer brawn and determination.

In terms of working in the garden, Will has always been my 'go to' guy. He was the first one to come outside with me during the October storm (Buffalonians will remember October 2006 for a long time) to shake the snow off the Chinese Red Maple leaves, thereby preventing all the branches from snapping. Later, he hauled limbs from the back yard to the front in order to clear out all the fallen trees. He was 14 and indispensable to me. Come to think of it, Bill was in bed with a cold that week, too!

Emma and I spend time in the garden  - drinking coffee and beer and gin (not always at the same time), sunning and reading - but we don't tend to work together. I'm not saying that she doesn't help around the house. She is an incredibly hard worker and keeps things from getting too cluttered or crazed. She has been my life-safer at cleaning out and tossing so many times.

I guess she's my inside man - and Will is my outside man.

And Bill is ... well... in the words of Judy Garland, Ethel Merman, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald (to name just a few) - "I got my man, who can ask for anything more."

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Something's up

Last night I got home rather late. Usually, I am very aware of my surroundings when I pull into my driveway - but the late hour, my aching muscles and tired brain rendered me completely unobservant.  I made a beeline for the door - and subsequently to bed. It had been a tough day.

Had I opened my eyes, I would have noticed some heavy equipment in the neighbor's yard - adjacent to our driveway. Today, in the light of day, and with 8 hours of sleep under my belt, I saw this:

(Notice - my neighbor has not raked HIS leaves, either!)

Bill had not said anything about the equipment when he came in last night (after me) either. Not that I would expect him to notice anything. He had been out to his "Men's Book Club" (read "eating and drinking with the boys club"). Curiously, the "book club" doesn't meet in a salon or a library or even a member's home. No, they meet in a drinking establishment. Last night it was "Mother's."

So... he did not notice this ORANGE behemoth in the neighbor's yard.

Nor did he notice this other piece of equipment located just beyond our garage:

OK, here's the funny part. 

This morning, after I had taken notice of the equipment and snapped these photos, I got into my car and started to pull out of the driveway. Just as I started to back out, Bill ambled out of the front door. He came over to my car, motioned for me to put down the window and said "good morning". We hadn't spoken yet since I had to be at an early morning meeting - I got ready silently so I wouldn't wake him. We chatted about logistics of the day and said good bye. I purposely watched him go back into the house.

Do you know he never even GLANCED at the heavy equipment next door?

I still can't figure him out. It'll be 25 years I've been married to this man (next week) and I cannot fathom how he couldn't notice!! If anyone out there wants to reply with a reason why these neighborhood intruders don't even REGISTER with Bill, please educate me.

I await your responses.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Autumn Leaves

The first rendition I ever heard of "Autumn Leaves" was by Barbra Streisand from her album "Je m'appelle Barbra" . I was just a kid - maybe 7 or 8 years old. I remember staring at the album cover and thinking how odd Streisand looked.  And, what was with those nails?!

We had a "hi-fi" that was a major piece of furniture in the living room. You'd lift the lid, look down onto the controls and place the record onto the turntable. As soon as I learned how to pick up the stylus/ arm and carefully place the needle on the groove of the LP (without scratching) I was allowed to use it. I would sit on the couch and listen to my parent's albums for hours.... staring at the album cover, flipping it to the back, and reading the sleeve for more information.

I know this scene was repeated by kids all over North America.


Even today I can clearly recall Herb Albert's whip cream laden babe (scandalous at the time), the Carpenters sitting side by side uncomfortably on a rock ( I couldn't figure out why Karen didn't line her dress), and a crazy calypso album (Yellow Bird was my dad's favorite song after a trip to Nassau).  After I had learned the words, I would get an uncooked piece of spaghetti, put it to my mouth like a microphone, and belt out the tunes on the records. That high fi created a sound stage for me. I really thought I could mimic Barbra perfectly on 'Free Again'. Lucky Lucky ME AGAIN!!!
Wow, the memory of that embarrasses me to this day.

When Fall comes and the leaves whip down the streets, I can't help but hear Barbra (and my 7 year old voice) in my head.

Last night, Bill and I went for a quick walk through the neighborhood. Most of our neighbors had already moved their leaves to the curb. I had not completed this task yet. Even though the weather this weekend was perfect, I just didn't have the time to rake. Yes, I have a blower that my friend Randy gave me, but I HATE the noise. It's absolutely deafening and I think a huge intrusion into the lives of my neighbors. So, I rake.
But, not this weekend.

As we approached our house, I said to Bill, "Man! Look at those leaves".
"Don't you pay someone to take care of them?" Bill queried.
I looked at him. This is a typical Bill remark. He doesn't take care of any household related items (except cooking and groceries) and is virtually blind to anything that occurs in and around the house (this includes rearranging furniture, anything in the garden, water lines, heating ducts, downspouts, flooding, major repairs.. you get the picture).
"No, Bill - I rake the leaves", I responded.
"Do you want me to do them?" he asked. "I could stay home tomorrow and go in at 10:00 a.m."
I laughed.
If you think you can rake all those leaves by 10 a.m. -  go for it!

As I backed out of the driveway this morning, I noticed that the leaves were still there.

Automatically, the record needle in my brain found the groove line where Barbra belted out "But, I miss you most of all, my darling.... when autumn leaves start to fall".

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

To Sir (Bill) with Love

 I remember when I was in high school I  took one of those 'career tests' - I believe it was called the Kuder Preference Test. The results indicated that I should either be a lawyer, an actor or a teacher. Being rebellious, I chose to study biology after high school.  Those four years of university may have got me slightly off track, but I firmly believe that I had to get it out of my system. It was important for me to prove that I could study the sciences and do well. 

Of course, today I am a lawyer, and I spend a  portion of my time teaching our managers - albeit over the phone using WebEx, but teaching nonetheless. Dr. Kuder was right - I really enjoy practicing law and teaching.  Not so sure about the acting part, though.

Bill has been teaching for eons - I think over 30 years in the management school at University of Buffalo and a bunch of years at UB's Law School. He's masterful. For one thing, he knows the material cold. For another he's got memory that rivals anyone I know. But, mostly it's his depth and breadth of knowledge that makes him special. And, the students can tell right away that he's 'one of a kind'.

Teaching at night presents unique problems - mostly having to do with keeping the students engaged and awake. It's important to keep the lecture lively. I started teaching a evening class to some Human Resource professionals last night at Empire State College. It's kind of involved as to why I'm teaching this, but I'm really glad that I had the opportunity.

As I drove to class, I started wrestling with self doubt. Did I make enough notes to myself; did I cover the chapter thoroughly; should I have prepared more questions?  So, as I drove down the 33 I called Bill - because I  knew he would PUMP ME UP! And he did. He gave me the necessary pep talk and made me feel better. He should probably teach other husbands how to do that. I am so lucky that he's ALWAYS in my corner. ALWAYS!

I was fairly confident about the material but I didn't have a good grasp of how long it would take me to get through it. Between my fast talking and my underestimation, we finished 40 minutes early. I don't think the class had a problem with that. 

I'm ashamed to admit that I enjoyed teaching the class. I liked being 'on stage' and I loved when I could make the students laugh.  Come to think of it, maybe Kuder was three for three.