Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Betty's Performance Review 2012-13

To: Betty White Draper Boop
From: Human Resources

RE: Performance Review

You have been a member of our household for approaching one year now. It's time for us to assess your performance as Pet I. You will be assessed on a five point scale on these criteria:


1-5 scale:
5. exemplary: ready for more responsibility or even another pet
4. very good, worthy of human bragging
3. good: acceptable behavior for a Pet of your experience level
2. needs improvement: lacking in some Pet basics
1. Unacceptable: long-term cage restrictions or a visit from The Dog Whisperer.

Rating: 3
Betty, you have made great strides since coming on board in 2012. Growling at your human dad has diminished significantly, and you have learned to walk on a leash.  You rarely bark. You have made good progress refraining from rolling over and squirming your back into the grass when you perceive something smells good. However, you need to master several of the basic pet skills with more consistency. Those skills include bowel and bladder management, and avoiding unnecessary chewing of human objects,  seeking out, retrieving and chewing every single piece of paper you encounter, and refraining from dining on goose shit and dead birds.

Rating: 2
Your diva-like attitude needs some adjusting. Betty, you are not the alpha bitch of the household. That position is already held by your human mom. While you are mostly enthusiastic when you see your human mom, occasionally there are lapses and lackluster affection when she returns home. Rarely do you show any love to your human dad and often do not even leave the cage when he comes in to see you. Your obstinacy over walking is borderline ridiculous. Your human dad should never have to carry you down the stairs to take you out for a walk. Additionally, it is unacceptable to attempt to run back inside once you are out with him when know you have business to conduct. When you are walking with human mom, you need to keep up the pace and refrain from stopping every two feet to smell, lick, or eat grass and other non-edibles, then shooting her aggravated looks and refusals to move when prompted.

At the dog park or other situations where dogs are included, your social behavior is spotty at best. You are choosy about who you will sniff and sometimes are downright aggressive in your behavior toward larger, alpha male dogs. Betty this makes you look slutty. You will be wise to remember that you have been rescued from a life of canine prostitution.

On a positive note, Betty you have made good progress in allowing your human dad to pet you between 10 and 10:30 p.m. Let's expand on that, Betty.

Rating: 4
It cannot be denied you are adorable. And, while your human mom once described you as the "Heidi Klum of the dog world," recent weight gain has required her to amend that to the "Shelly Winters of the dog world." Your soft, fluffy white and beige fur, your perfectly tousled floppy ears, and your impossibly sad eyes make you irresistible. Your occasional smile is cause for celebration. Your sweet face begging to be let up on the bed, your little paws on human mom's knees when she sits on the commode, and your gorgeous wagging tail running away from your human dad is super loveable.

Overall rating: 3

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Honorable Mention Mom

As Mother's Day approaches I've started seeing a few blogs where moms list what gifts they want to receive from their offspring. One particularly amusing entry on the blog Moms Who Drink and Swear lists the five things she doesn't want. It was this entry that inspired me to conjure up another five things I don't want either. But in thinking about it, I realized there is nothing I would discourage my son from giving me.

So, what would I encourage him to give me? Seeing as he is a recent college graduate and very low on funds, I decided the best Mother's Day gift from him would be hearing a few key words and phrases in a conversation — any conversation be it on Mother's Day or any day.

Here are the top five verbal gifts I'd like to receive (without sarcasm, thank you):

5. "You were right about ______."  That blank could be filled by just about any word(s) from "college" to "drinking 10 cups of coffee a day" to "Game of Thrones." The day he acknowledges my input is the day I will know I've raised an adult.

4. "I made an appointment with Dr. _______." That blank could be filled by any medical professional. Dentist, internist, optometrist, psychiatrist. I'd even accept witch doctor. The day he makes his own appointment to deal with any physical complaint will be the day I know I've raised an adult.

3. "I got a haircut." Yep. Adults do this too.

2. "I accepted your friend request on Facebook." Ensuing dialog should not include the words "but you are on a short leash."

1. "Thanks Mom." Actually, he is very good about this. I'll make this simple for him. My Mother's Day gift need only be this very phrase.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I have become my grandmother

Me in the office on a rainy Tuesday.
I'm one of those people who sets the alarm clock one hour before I really need to be out of bed. I've never been able to pop up and hit the ground running.
During that hour when I'm hitting the snooze button every nine minutes, I think about what I'm going to wear. I don't get out of bed until I have an idea of what I will put on my back.
Today, I got out of bed with no outfit in mind. Annoyed that the weather is dictating I should be in boots, but the calendar saying I should be able to break out the peep-toed pumps, I was uninspired.
With the gray sky peeking through my bedroom blinds and radio reports of rain, I faced my closet and grabbed orange. Then I said oh what the hell, embrace the rainbow. (The results are pictured at left.)
As I dashed out to the car my husband got a glimpse of me.
"Really putting the crazy out there today, huh?" he said chortling.
"What, too colorful? Fuck it. I am colorful and I don't care if people think I'm crazy," I snipped back to him.

Now ensconced in my boring beige office, I go about my day. Part of my job entails editing a newspaper section for people over the age of 50 (we politely avoid the term "seniors"). A story I assigned months ago has been submitted: "It 'girls': Grande dames with individual style are free to be". The subject matter is women of a certain age who embrace fashion: "Fashion for them is not about slavishly following trends but about expressing the supreme comfort they feel in their own skin. Whether their look is bold, eccentric or put together classic, they do not go unnoticed," as our staff writer Ro so eloquently wrote.
I thoroughly enjoy reading this story that goes on to quote a man who has documented the stylish older women of New York City and the world in a blog, a book and a soon-to-be documentary. (Advanced Style is the blog linked here: Advanced Style.)
I loved this quote from a woman, Ari, featured in the book: “I was never fearful of being extraordinarily different,” Lubi says in the book. “I would rather be considered somewhat different and mysterious than ignored.”
Yes. That's what I want to be when I'm old, I think to myself.
My Grandma Cogan with my son in 1990.
(Photo courtesy of Mark Bonne)
I walk over to Ro's desk to tell her how much I enjoyed the story. As I approach her she is already smiling — undoubtedly at my crazy outfit.
Just as I'm telling her how much I liked the story, it dawned on us both: I have become the eccentric woman of a certain age.
"We should use your picture with the story," she says. She took the picture above.
Looking at the photo, I see why my husband called me crazy.
I see that I have become just like my grandmother pictured here at right, in 1990 when she was well into her 80s, rocking a hot pink lion sweatshirt and coordinating neck kerchief.
And I'm just fine with that.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The power of the purse

This photo is the very genesis
of my love of fashion. But that's for another entry.

I've had a long standing love of purses, wallets, suitcases — really just about anything with handles that allows me to tote around my most important possessions and make a fashion statement at the same time. I remember my first purse (picture on the left) but I cannot possibly imagine what the four-year-old me held it that sweet little white handbag.

My love of purses has been handed down from my own mother and her mother. Old purses were often given to my sister and I to play dress up with, and purses were frequently gifted to us — always containing one penny.
"It's bad luck to give anyone an empty purse," my mom informed us.

In moments of boredom, like long car rides or waits at doctor's offices, our mom would sometimes let us go through her purse. The scent of gum and lipstick, the crumpled tissues, the matchbooks emblazoned with restaurant logos and wedding dates, the bright lipsticks, and perhaps best of all, the muffled, mysterious sound of items jostling around the dark interiors could hold my interest more than a Highlights magazine. I especially liked going through her wallet; reading her drivers license and looking at the photos of a younger me, my sister, cousins and my dad, and seeing how much money she had — counting down to the last penny. There was always at least a penny.

But rifling through her purse was strictly by permission only. My own father wouldn't dream of placing a hand on that secret world without express permission.

It seemed to me that carrying a purse was the very essence of womanhood.

Recently my dear friend Teresa lost her beloved grandmother. In a quiet moment, away from the rest of her grieving family, she went through her grandmother's purse. She cataloged the items and shared this amusing list:
  • Two tubes of cherry Chapstick.
  • One half-eaten strawberry nutri-grain bar, in open package, folded over (obviously saving it for later), and one empty nutri-grain wrapper.
  • Three crusty combs — the small kind (with tiny teeth) that old-man barbers use.
  • A snapshot of Opi, but his head isn't in the shot — all you see are the bottoms of his ears, his nose and then the rest of his body. (Why did pick that one to put in her purse!??)
  • A little black case thing with two Happy House business cards in it. (Happy House was an antiques store she owned years ago.)
  • One tube of Revlon lipstick: "Softlit Ruby"
  • One folded up restaurant napkin, two folded up tissues and three used tissues.
  • Two prayer cards of "The Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague.
  • A laminated prayer card: "To St. Raphael the Archangel"
  • Her YMCA pass that expired July 31, 1982 (her photo is fabulous!)
  • One goldfish cracker (yes, one!).
  • A pill that looks like she spit it out of her mouth into her purse.
  • Her wallet, which contains nine bobby pins (no cash!); another little plastic case with seven more Happy House business cards in it; and an old piece of scrap paper with her social security number, her name and address, Mom's work phone number, Mom & Dad's home phone number, Sabrina's phone number (and her old Palatine phone number crossed out) and a really old phone number of mine.
  • A loose stack of note paper, unused, all with strawberries and flowers on each one (undoubtedly purchased at a garage sale for a nickel)
  •  charm embossed on top. It's so tiny that I can't read who it is.
  • And one more little plastic case. This one's jam packed: Grandma's Illinois State ID card; three band-aids; a small sticker from the Pike Brewing Company in Seattle (??); Jacob's sixth-grade school photo; an AA card, with the 12 steps and 12 traditions and serenity prayer on it; a Crystal Lake Motel business card; various other business cards (physical therapy center, day care center and podiatrist); and -- yep, you guessed it -- two more Happy House business cards!

The purse inventory gave Teresa, and those of us she shared this with, an intimate peek into the last days of wonderful, colorful woman.

After Teresa shared this with us, she and our friend Anne made a pact: "I vow to immediately confiscate your purse after you die and go through the contents." I take this oath as seriously as my marriage vows. The contents of my final purse can be analyzed only by my dearest girlfriends.

A woman's purse says so much. It's contents not withstanding, a woman's purse symbolizes a woman's economic power and her ability to provide for her family. Many of us continuously juggle family, jobs, and our own needs. It's difficult for me to imagine the struggle of a woman who has little or no financial means to help "fill her purse."

I just joined a great organization, Mothers & More who is dedicated to helping these women every year with their  Power of a Purse campaign.

A nonprofit organization,  Mothers & More is a 25-year-old organization dedicated to improving the lives of mothers through support, education and advocacy. For five years now they have been running a Power of a Purse program.  Members and chapters donate more than 20,000 purses and thousands of personal items financially disadvantaged women through shelters and other nonprofit organizations.

For the month of April, Mothers & More is running a Writing Contest in celebration of Power of a Purse that is open to both members and non-members. Contestants are invited to share, in 300 words or less, how the mission of Power of a Purse resonates with them through their “purse-onal” story. Mothers & More will publish the top 5 stories on their blog, Mothers' Voices. The top story will be featured on Brain, Child magazine's website.

And the coolest thing (and a shameless plug for me) I've been asked to be one of the judges for the essay contest. 

So, for details on how to enter, the fabulous judges, and a complete list of prizes, please visit the writing contest page here.
To learn more about the campaign, visit Power of a Purse 2013 on Mothers & More’s national website.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Game of Thrones

I just did a shameful thing. I spent 13 hours Easter weekend watching one TV show. I got sucked in by a cable promotion offering me free access to a series of premium shows during a "watchathon."
What started as an innocent way to while away a late Friday hour turned into a mini-obsession that kept me from more productive pursuits like laundry, paying bills, walking the dog, cleaning house, and writing letters to my congressman.

How easy it was to ignore the world around me and plunge into a fantasy world of seven kingdoms, medieval intrigue, visceral sword fights, and brothels of "Game of Thrones." I woke up Monday morning with a TV hangover and vowed to get a grip on reality.

For me, those were 13 hours poorly spent. Not because the TV show wasn't good; it was very good indeed. But because there are so many, many things I should have been watching other than  TV. That message was driven home to me later that Monday.

Recently I've dipped my toe in local politics by helping a dear friend Steve Vasilion who is running for 5th ward alderman (my ward.) It has been an eye-opening experience, and actually kind of like courtly intrigue the closer we get to election day. What has been most surprising to me is the arrogance of our elected officials. How like the kings of a fantasy world they are.
Proposed $120,000 River Walk Arch

Like a good serf, I have been working hard to pay my taxes — which have doubled since I moved to Batavia nine years ago — and pursuing my own creative interests, the lords of the manor have been ripping me and my neighbors off.

While our utility bills crept skyward,  like peasants we adjusted our thermostat, bought energy saver appliances and tried to cut down on our electric use. Meanwhile, our elected masters of coin obligated me and my neighbors to a $250 million coal-fired energy plant deal that has been increasing my utility bill and will continue to do so indefinitely.

While I attended openings and events at the town's local gallery, wishing I had the money to  purchase one of the works of a talented local artist, my city council has been planning on spending more than $120,000 on their own art: a decorative arch, not designed by a local artisan, over a congested and confused street.

While I was at my full-time job, or volunteering at my church, at our town's United Way chapter, my city council was organizing committees to figure out how to spend my money. Committee meetings and hearings I knew little about and don't recall ever being invited to attend.

Monday night, the city council told a few concerned residents that they were too late in their comments and questions about the council's recent folly.  We should have been at the committee meetings and public hearings they said.

Apparently now they want our time AND our money. It's not enough to elect a council to serve the best interest of it's citizens, we now have to watch their every move.

Like a game of thrones.