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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Every Picture Tells a Story (Don't It?)

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.    

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

This weeks topic came from Moma Rock, who asked us to share some photos and talk about why they are important to us.  I struggled this week, only because I don't have a lot of photos available in digital format, and the bulk of my non-digital pictures are stowed away in a large Rubbermaid container . . .  somewhere . . . .  I warned the others they may get nothing more than an assortment of goofy cat photos, which are plentiful on my phone.  I almost skipped the picture part to muse about why I'm so terrible at organizing my photos blah blah blah, but I thought I'd look through the ones I could access and work with those.  If you've been my FB friend for awhile, you've likely seen all or most of these, but here are a few fan favorites:

Our Happy Place.

There is no place on Earth that Michelle, my Sister in Bon Jovi, and I would rather be than at a Bon Jovi concert.  This pic was taken in October of 2013, the last time we saw the boys.  We've lost count as to how many times we've seen the band; we only know that the concerts aren't the same if we aren't together.

Hollywood Nights.

I lived in L.A. in my mid-20s because, well, why not?  This photo was taken at my 25th birthday party, held at a Thai-restaurant-turned-rock-club on Hollywood Boulevard.  I'm with Wild 'n Free Sweet Johnny D., a good new friend then and a good old friend now, a "few" years later.  (Like his Facebook page!!)

A Most Unlikely Location.

Two summers ago, we made a trip to Iowa to attend the State Fair.  We detoured in Fairfield, a town known -- surprisingly -- for its focus on meditation.  Two times a day, almost the entire town heads to a central location to meditate, and people from around the world head to Fairfield to train in meditation.  After seeing an Oprah episode about Fairfield, I wanted to check it out.  I took the photo in a burst of irony, but, really I find it inspiring:  a tower of power in a field of corn.

Dad meets Richie.  

This photo comes with an awesome story.  My Dad, a former Chicago Police sergeant and lifelong Chicagoan, hated Mayor Daley II.  Hate hate hated him.  He was the Mayor's biggest non-fan, and he was quite outspoken about his feelings.  (I don't think he was much of a fan of Mayor Daley I, either.)  

My Dad is also a Korean War veteran, and he and his veterans' group were active in the 60th anniversary service held at Chicago's Daley Plaza in July of 2011.  A luncheon followed the service, and in an amusing twist of fate, my Dad was to be seated at the Mayor's table.  My Mom and my sister and I held our collective breath:  could Dad make it through lunch without decking Richie -- or at least telling him off?  

After the luncheon, I stopped by my parents' house for a debriefing.  Dad was all smiles.  Dad?  LOVED Mayor Daley.  In one short lunch, Mayor Daley managed to charm my father, no easy task.  The Mayor treated my father with respect and spoke to him as a peer -- and it didn't hurt that they share a birthday.

A Leap of Faith.

Sure, I appear to be lounging in a wonderful wooded setting, doing a whole bunch of nothing.  But, in reality, I was sitting with fifteen other writers in author Wade Rouse's backyard near Saugatuck, Michigan, participating in a three-day writing workshop.  I came to the workshop nervous and fearful; after all, Wade would be critiquing a chunk of my work, and I'd be reading aloud to the entire group.  I left more confident and with a new circle of writing friends, people I now can't imagine not knowing.  

An Afternoon in Fairfield, Iowa.

This picture just cracks me up.  During our stop in Fairfield, in the town center, we found a gazebo and these statues, which just begged for company.  The 10 (then just shy of 9) thoroughly enjoyed her visit with her new pals.  I laugh every time I look at this photo, and we've enlarged it to hang at home (if I can only find where I put it ... ).

Perhaps one day I will organize my photos, or at least figure out why I haven't yet done so.  Otherwise, next time, be prepared for the best cat photo array ever.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Once Upon a Time (Not So Long Ago) . . .

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.   

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week, I asked my fellow bloggers whether there is such a thing as a happy ending (and not the dirty kind).  After a little bit of snickering, here’s my take:

                  In high school, I read the book The Natural by Bernard Malamud.  Odds are you know the story of The Natural not because you read the fabulous novel but because you saw the movie starring Robert Redford as the bat-wielding protagonist, Roy Hobbs.  In your mind, you’re picturing a smiling, blond Redford running the bases as the overhead park lights burst like so many fireworks, the crowd cheering, Redford’s Hobbs crossing the plate a hero.

                  Um, yeah . . . no.

                  I read the book version of The Natural long before I saw the movie.  More accurately, I devoured the book.  I could not put the damn thing down.  When the movie came out, I couldn’t wait to see it.  I loved the book; I’d have to love the movie, right?


                  I hated the movie.  Hate.  Hate.  Hated it.

                  And I didn’t hate the movie just because of that old-school “the book is always better” reason, the one that seemed to explain the destruction of other favorites like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (I’m looking at you, John Cusack) or A Civil Action.  The film version of The Natural is actually well done.  It’s decently acted and beautifully set.  My problem was the ending.  The damn movie people changed the ending.  They ruined it.  They made it happy.  

                  Malamud’s Hobbs is not a hero.  He’s actually kind of a jerk.  The title of the book is meant to be ironic.  The ending of the book isn’t happy, nor should it have been written to be so.  It’s a tragedy written in the vein of the mythical Fisher King, a baseball pennant the Holy Grail.  Myths usually don’t end well, and a happy ending would have ruined the book.  For me, it ruined the movie.  Some stories aren’t meant to end well.  Some stories simply cannot end well.

                  My favorite book in the entire Universe is The Great Gatsby.  It cannot be argued that Fitzgeralds novel ends happily.  But it ends correctly.  There could be no happy ending for Gatsby; he wanted too much from too many.  Had Gatsby ended up with Daisy, he would still have been unable to relinquish the demons that haunted him.  He’d never have felt worthy, and he could never, ever erase Daisy’s time with Tom.  The book ends as it should, which is likely why it remains a classic, loved by generations, loved by me.

                  I don’t know that I believe in happy endings, mostly because endings are almost always inherently sad.  What would a happy ending look like?  For a couple in love – the most commonly cited example of a happy ending – doesn’t one person almost always die before the other, even if they live to a ripe old age?  And even if the couple somehow dies together, let’s say in an accident, is it really right to describe that as “happy”?  Is that the proverbial walk into the sunset?  Did Romeo and Juliet, then, have a happy ending?

                  I believe we search for happy endings simply because we so strongly fear the end – of anything, really.  We dream of “ . . . and they lived happily ever after” because it doesn’t force us to think what happens after that.  I’ve never thought of life to be so neatly packaged.  And, clearly, forcing such an ending feels unnatural to me (no pun intended). 
                  However, I do believe we can find the happy in an ending.  Recently, I attended the funeral for a woman who was like family to me.  She was half of one of those “happily ever after” couples, two people madly in love and completely devoted.  She’d met her husband at a wedding; they’d married six months later and they remained married for more than fifty years.  When he died in 2002, her children grieved their father and worried after their mother; the parents had been so close, the kids feared she wouldn’t last long without him.  A few short years later, the mother was diagnosed with dementia.  The first person she forgot was her beloved husband.  When showed photos, she’d ask, “Who’s that?”  Her kids were devastated – at first.  But then they began to see this new loss – this new ending – as a bit of a blessing.  Their mother’s illness had brought a kindness of sorts in that it cut short her grieving from more than a decade to just a few years.  The youngest daughter would come to call it a gift. 

                  Perhaps whether an ending is happy is, like much else in life, a matter of perspective.  To me, a happy ending is a true ending.  It flows from the circumstances.  It isn’t forced or fake.  It isn’t Gatsby and Daisy walking hand in hand across the pier, and it isn’t Roy Hobbs saving the day thanks to the pen of a Hollywood screenwriter.  A happy ending is what we make it, in the end. 


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Ain't No Hayley Mills

I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers.  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.   

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
Merryland Girl asked us to swap lives with one of our other bloggers.  I was assigned Froggie, whose real name is Tracey.  We were asked to either talk about living a day as the other person, or the other person living a day in our shoes.  Here’s my take:
                  I met Tracey last summer.  We’d both signed up for Wade Rouse’s “Chapter Two” writing retreat to be held in June in Saugatuck, Michigan.  We stumbled into each other online and then, once we realized we both lived in or near Chicago, we decided to meet in person before the retreat.  Tracey and I had a long, conversation-filled lunch at the Macy’s food court, and we headed to Michigan a few weeks later feeling comforted we’d know at least one other person.  (Funny enough, the first person I saw when I got to Michigan was Tracey.  I was standing in the middle of Douglas, Saugatuck’s companion town, looking at the street map, trying to figure out where I was, and she pulled up in her car, also turned around.)

                  In the six months since that trip, Tracey and I have kept in regular touch, mainly through texts and messages and some through this blog group, which Tracey invited me to join last fall.  Even though we live a mere handful of miles apart, thanks to conflicting schedules, other commitments, and some unbelievably nasty weather, we’ve only met up one more time, again for lunch. 

                  Though I call Tracey “friend,” I can’t say I know her all that well, making this assignment a bit of a challenge.  Tracey and I could have “discussed” the assignment, giving each other hints about our days, but that seemed like cheating.  I could guess how Tracey would handle a day in my life, but because my life is not super exciting, I’d have written lines like, “Tracey was painfully bored schlepping the kids to school,” and “Tracey debated between watching DVRd episodes of Amish Mafia or lint rolling cat fur off of her clothes.”  We’re not talking rocket science here.  This isn’t Real Housewives of Chicago.  It isn’t even community newspaper-worthy.  My life is unremarkable – to me, anyway.  It may be quite different from Tracey’s, but it’s fairly prosaic. 

                  Of course, I could have tried to write about a day in Tracey’s life, or what I know of it.  In my opinion, Tracey’s life is much more exciting than mine.  She’s single, which to me means wild and free.  She goes to the symphony and to operas.  She eats dinner out with friends and attends shabbos at friends’ houses.  Tracey works and works out.  She runs!  Meaning my description of my day in her life would have involved repeated use of the phrase “am so tired . . . ”.  (But hell if I wouldn’t have rocked taking care of Tracey’s cat.)

                  Even though I couldn’t think of an interesting way to pull off a Freaky Friday with Tracey, this week’s topic got me thinking about relationships, specifically, friendships.  I’ve been blessed with many remarkably good, strong, and long-lasting friendships in my life, some of which go back more than forty years.  I’ve also been lucky in making new friends as I’ve grown older – including my friendship with Tracey.  Through Tracey, I’ve met the other two bloggers – Melissa and Sara – both of whom I consider friends and whom I’m getting to know slowly and well. 

                  Each friendship I have is unique.  No surprise there.  But all share some commonalities.  Within each, there are inside jokes, those moments we can relive with just a couple of words or maybe even the slight lift of an eyebrow.  Tracey is included in this.  For example, I can say to Tracey, “Laura and the bear!” and she will know exactly what I mean – even if you don’t.  Only my high school friend, Hollie, knows why I call her “Spud,” and only I know why she calls me “Munch.”  I don’t think either of my friends Cynthia or Mariah will ever see a snow plow and not think of me.  On the flip side, there are pieces of myself I share with most or all of my friends:  my sense of humor, my hatred of winter, my love of Bon Jovi.  If you know me even a little, you most likely know these things.  How much of the rest I reveal varies by person:  who it is, how we met, what we have in common, how much I trust the person, how much time we’ve spent together.  This is how it should be because, obviously, no one can know anyone else completely, nor would anyone want to.  But what fascinates me is what we choose to share and with whom, and what they take away.

                  A few years ago, a dear friend of mine from law school passed away.  Alison died young, too young, and her passing shook me and our shared friends.  Her death came shortly before our ten-year law school reunion, and we decided to write a tribute to her to be included in the celebration materials.  We took an interesting approach:  four of us wrote our separate memories and thoughts (three friends and Alison’s husband), and I wove it into one piece.  Simply put, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever written – not just because I felt sad, but because our four sets of impressions and memories were so, so different.  I remembered Alison as thoughtful and kind, unpretentious and fun.  I noted how she couldn’t keep the part in her hair straight, ever.  The other two law school friends recalled specific events they’d attended with Alison and focused on her senses of humor and adventure.  Alison’s husband met her after law school, and he talked more about her as a mother and as a brave fighter.  We were all describing the same person, but we all carried her in our hearts in a different way because, to each of us, she’d been a slightly different person.  And, yet, she was still totally, completely Alison. 

                  A year from now, I might stand a better chance at figuring out how Tracey would live a day in my life, or vice versa.  Maybe.  Our friendship will continue to unfold at its own pace, with each of us only revealing the cards we want the other to see, and with the other honing in on some pieces more than others.  But regardless of what else I come to learn, I am fairly certain that I will still think of Tracey as smart and organized, as funny and supportive.  I am sure I will still think of Tracey as a friend.