Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Mysteriously, no one every forgot Eddie's name.

Don't you hate when you run into someone at the grocery store and cannot remember her name? You know how you stand there, while she says something chatty, and your mind is saying, "Think, think, think! You know this woman. She is a neighbor. She has three kids and she once brought rice-krispy treats shaped like shamrocks to a Brownie meeting. Think, think, think. You know this!" Meanwhile she chats on about the PTA carnival, remembering to call you by name, using your children's names and even (if she's very good) slipping in your husband's name. Then you feel you are getting closer--it starts with a J. No, maybe a K. Shit. what is her name, and then just as she says your name one more time you give up and say, "See you later," and slink through the grocery store, praying you won't do that weird thing where you manage to run into each other again down every aisle. You may even reconfigure your regular shopping pattern specifically so this won't happen. Don't you hate when that happens?

Later in the day you will remember her name as you are driving around running errands. You will even shout it out, "Debbie! Her name is Debbie!" and you pound the steering wheel and your children will ask you what you are talking about. You will tell them the story and your oldest might even point out the obvious, "Mom, how can you forget your sister's name?"

Well. Okay, maybe I'm not that bad, but pretty damn close. Some will say I am bad at names because I'm self-absorbed. Duh. Some will say it's because I'm getting older and my memory is fading. Again, duh. Some will say almost everyone is bad at this. And that is true enough, except for Mark Walther the principal at my children's school who is so good with names it is somewhat of a savant skill for him.

But for the rest of us, mere mortals, we are not very good at remembering names. That's why I really liked the name badges at the conference we attended last week. They had our names typed fully at the bottom but smack, dab in the middle, in a huge font that even aging eyes could read from a respectable distance, was our first names.

At these conferences you can sit next to someone at lunch and have a really long conversation but then the next day you will see them by the pool and not for the life of you remember their name. We discussed this---Linda from Ireland and I (see I rememberd her name because it was there for me to see the whole time). She said, "I love these name badges because I'm really bad with names. I will remember for years that I met you and you have three children and you live in Chicago but I will forget your name the second we walk out this door. But with this badge I can see you and say ,'Hey Judy' how's it going?" Exactly.

With these name badges I was freed of the task of trying to remember a name. I found that I used this freed-up energy to actually LISTEN to what the person was saying! It was positively exhilirating.
I also liked being called by my name by so many people. It made me feel semi-famous. It was great when the bartender said, "Judy, another gin and tonic" or other conferees would say, "Hey Judy, nice work at the hula hoop contest" or "Judy, you really nailed the Supremes imitation up on stage last night." (It was a really fun conference).

After a few days of this I came up with this brilliant idea--what if everyone had their first name monogrammed on every piece of their clothing!! In big, bold, easy-to-read Arial typeface!!

Think of how much easier life would be. You could see someone at Target--that woman you sort of remember you know from when your kids were in nursery school togheter or is it that you met her at school when you were on that board or maybe your kids played soccer together---and instead of wondering all day long what her name is you could just say it right outloud!

And think of all the other times it would be useful. At a restaurant when the hostess takes your name and it's noisy and you shout your name "Judy!" and they write down "Julie" instead you could just point to your shirt. At Starbucks they'd just look at your name on your shirt and write it on your half decaf/caf, soy, lowfat, extrashot latte cup. Wait--what if we had that order monogrammed on our shirts? And our orders for McDonalds too? No, wait, I'm getting carried away and our shirts would be full of words. I think just our name is good.

I'm sure there are dozens of ways this would improve the quality of life. Not to mention the people who do monogramming--they'd be thrilled with this idea.

Okay, I gotta go--lots of work to be done, shirts to be mongrammed--and I have to find a number for the monogramming lobbyists group.

Friday, April 06, 2007


Warning: If you believe this is a symbol of fine dining--
this article might be about you.

April 6, 2007

Nearly everyone I know, it seems, is suddenly dealing with wacky aging parents. This is no surprise as we ourselves are not exactly spring chickens. Those of us fortunate to still have aging parents are headed into (or are well into) the wacky years.

Now of course, I am not talking about my own parents. No. My own parents are not getting wacky in their old age. And they read this blog regularly.

I am talking, of course, about everyone else's parents. Here are a few stories to illustrate this point:

-Friend A from college: her mother goes out to lunch and finds she has trouble paying the bill. She can't figure out how much it is and she is fumbling with the change. When she gets in the car she can't remember how to buckle her seatbelt. Her lunch friend does the logical thing--reaches over and buckles her up so she can (get this) START DRIVING!!! (well her lunch friend had to do it because she herself has macular degeneration and it wouldn't be safe for her to drive). Blocks later my friend's mother runs a red-light and crashes into another car because as you have no doubt guessed by now--she was having a stroke. On the upside, no one was hurt and she's recovering well. No report on the friend who was helpful enough to buckle her up.

-Friend B a neighbor: her parents live in Florida, God's waiting room. One day dad feels the symptoms of a heart attack coming on so he decides maybe his wife should take him to the hospital. He lets her drive (this is perhaps the first and only time he allows this). They do not call 911--that's for emergencies. They set off to the hospital but he insists they not drive to the closest hospital because that one is "No good" so they drive another hour and half to a better hospital. Miraculously he survives to attend another early bird senior special at the Cracker Barrel.

-Friend of a friend I don't even know but heard about: She goes to visit her mother in St. Louis. Her mother has to go to Steinmart every day (Steinmart, I am told, is like a TJ Maxx--a dishelveled discount department store that offers bargains for those willing to wade through a lot of crap surrounded by crazy people). She goes every day because "You never know what will be new." She yells at the young manager (who does not yet have crazy parents of his own but is starting to recognize the type) because he has the nerve to "move things around every day so I can't find anything." One day the daughter says she does not care to go to Steinmart with her mom. That's okay, mom is going anyway. She asks her daughter --who has lost a lot of weight--"What size are you nowadays? 10 or 12?" "No mother, more like a 4 or 6." "Right, okay a 6 or 8." "No, mom, I just said, a 4 or 6." When she comes home from her daily pilgrimage to Steinmart (even the name of that store makes me want to laugh) her mother has a treat--she has bought her a new wardrobe. Everything is a size 8.

You get the picture. You have parents. They are aging. You have your own collection of wacky stories. Though if you need some general topics to get started here are two: old people and being tight with a dollar or my personal favorite--old people who tell pointless stories in real time.

Speaking of pointless stories--I do have a point to make here--it's that apparently growing old means you grow wacky. I mean we all knew our parents would get older. We all knew their bodies would slow down, and maybe even their memories would fade. But what we didn't bargain on is that they would become different . Organized parents can get disturbingly sloppy. Disorganized parents can become fastidious. Parents who taught us important values can start ignoring them when convenient. Parents who once juggled full-time work and young children without complaint and little sleep are suddenly overwhelmed and "busy" with the overwhelming task of --of what?--being retired?They are always "busy, busy, busy."

Our parents aren't just getting older, frailer, or more forgetful--they're getting wackier and this can be challenging to live with. To quote Coffee Friend 2 who has the great fortune/misfortune of living around the corner from her retired parents, "At least twice a day I want to take my parents by the hair and bash their heads together."

So there you have it. And the worst of it all is that if they're ALL getting wackier we all know the inevitable truth--we will too.

Monday, April 02, 2007


April 2, 2007

Today I venture into the very crowded field of diet advice. As a forty-(soon-to-be)-seven-year-old who weighs as much today as the day she was married, who has never been overweight (except when pregnant--I put 50 pounds on with one kid!) I guess I have as much credibility on the subject as anyone. So here is how I do it.

Wait, first I have a story that will be an analogy for how I approach eating. Actually it's an anology for how I approach a lot of things in life--here goes:

I once took golf lessons from a very zen-like young man named Jeff (no not my husband, an actual golf pro). He was a wonderfully laid-back guy who would answer almost any question or request with a slow, confident, "We could do that."

One day he took me and my three children out to the driving range. He said, "Now hit this first ball as hard as you can," and we all did. Mine sliced crazy and hit me in the ankle, my son's hooked into the woods, my daughter's dribbled off the tee, and the youngest sat down on the green and rolled balls around making them talk as if they were mice (admittedly, she wasn't really into the lesson.)

Then Jeff said, "Now hit the ball as straight as you can." My ball sailed off into the distance as far as I'd ever hit a ball. So did my son's and so did my daughter's. The youngest continued to play mousey.

Jeff had made his point and I have since then seen this truth about life play out in many arenas. In parenting, in careers choices, in caring for our bodies--you will always achieve greater success if you concentrate not on the final result but on pursuing your goal with honesty and good intentions.

Okay, so having said that I will tell you a secret on how I stay fit--I do not diet. Dieting makes people crazy and food-obsessed and it is not what God/Spirit/Mother Earth whatever you want to call it wants you to do. I concentrate on eating nutritiously and the pounds take care of themselves. Every time I make a meal I ask "Is this really the best food I can put in my mouth right now?" (Okay, not EVERY time--but most of the time).

I eat as many vegetables and fruits as I possibly can then I add the other stuff. It turns out that, yes, it is that simple. For a BILLION reasons we are supposed to be eating our veggies--not as medicine or poison or a condiment but great big servings of produce.

I do not start with a hunk of meat or casserole then add a pale, lifeless boiled vegetable. I start with beautiful fresh produce and add wonderful things like olive oil and garlic and make a masterpiece. I am not afraid of oil and butter --I believe in plenty of good fat because it fills you up and keeps you from eating processed crap. Then I might add a little meat or cheese or egg.

I only eat whole foods--not processed and I NEVER eat anything "lite", "lo-fat", or "diet". That is just a bunch of words that mean chemicals. If I want something sweet I add sugar. Not Equal. If I want something sauteed I add butter. Not margarine. If I want a beer I drink a beer. Not Lite. If I want coffee I drink coffee. Not decaf. It's about eating authentic, real food.

So that's my secret. You can join me. You can eat richly, deliciously, and abundantly if you eat this way.

So today, join me in the non-diet life. Make yourself a gorgeous vegetable fritatta with tomatoes, onions, asparagus and red peppers. Then add one egg to hold it all together. Make it two eggs if you're hungry--eggs are good too--pure and whole. Sautee it all in butter.

Eat well and quit worrying about the pounds.

Do it for Jeff. Hit it straight .