Monday, December 28, 2009

Wrapping Up

The lights. The music. The decorations. I soak it all in, really trying to feel it this time - not just go through the motions. I make a point of sitting by the tree and play as much Christmas music as I can stand. It’s Bing Crosby and The Three Tenors and whatever’s on the radio. It seems more festive this year and earlier. I’m not sure why but it must be a good thing.

It's easier for me these days. Now that the kids are grown and I don't have to shop for 3 young daughters, 5 growing nephews, 2 sweet nieces, 2 aging parents, 3 step-parents,2 picky sisters, one impossible brother, eleven far flung in-laws.....and a Partridge in a pear tree. Life has pared down the shopping list and this is good. It's a bit simpler now that I don't spend half my time cleaning up after everyone and I really can savor it all.

We get into the spirit and start with the twinkle lights outside. We get the tree sooner than we ever have. Eric, and the two daughters who live nearby, plan to decorate it together after dinner, but there is always the awkwardness leftover from the other lives. We become so aware of what we do NOT have. Eric has no ornaments from his prior life and it seems symbolic to him. The youngest daughters are far away. An old friend is seriously ill. For a little while what we’re missing seems bigger than what we do have. We are so aware of what is lost, what is changed.

We forge ahead and trim the tree which looks beautiful. It feels right. As days pass I continue to layer the house with more decorations. The neon green artificial tree in the kitchen, the napkins and tablecloths. I’ve finally thrown away the Santa toilet seat cover and rug so we’re spared that, but we have mistletoe and reindeer and cranberries in jars. The house looks warm and wonderful and we love it. Until we don’t.

Every year there comes a time that, and I’m never quite sure when it will be, claustrophobia sets in. This year it was on December 27th at precisely 9:57 a.m. I look around and feel crowded and annoyed. The red and green hurts my eyes. All of a sudden, it's ugly. Christmas saturation. I start to un-decorate. Out goes the red tablecloth and plaid napkins. Away goes the little tree. The ornamental cranberries are dumped down the drain. The Santa bobble heads depart from the bathroom. Go away Dasher and Donner - we’re sick of you. I feel a little bad until I remember the Christmas tree left for dead in front of someone’s house that we saw on the afternoon of the 25th. Now that’s efficiency.

Our tree can stay until after New Year’s and we’ll pretend to enjoy it, but really we’re dreaming of the gray light of January and paper white Narcissus in clear vases. We’ll cleanse our visual pallette by using white plates, cool and clean. We’ll take away color and feel the rawness of this dormant time until it’s pink tulips and yellow daffodils and Northern California spring once again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Naughty and Nice

Upon reflection, 2009 has had some real surprises. This is a reader participation blog posting. What person or business has been worthy of you? Who hasn’t? I’ll start with mine and you send me your ideas. Anything short of libel will be posted. Have fun.

Swine Fu Angel
Got vaccines for Eric and me when it was virtually impossible.
Doctors and Nurses at SF General
Yes, we are still grateful to them for saving Eric’s life and all the good work they do every single day under very tough conditions. Carol Raney, for example.
Tyler Florence Store
Holiday Cuisinart catastrophe. Called William Sonoma to ask about part and was told they only can be had online. Undeterred, called the Tyler Florence store and they gave me the number of a place in the City that carries the part. Got it the same day.
Boyle Park Renovation Volunteers
Literally hundreds have participated in the effort. We have already raised over $25,000. Special thanks to web site creator, John Martin ( ), Chris Reiff (pro), Larry Smith, Marie Van Elder, Terrie Coles, David Lee, Julie Chun, Christy Kennett, Beth Koelker and the band, Third Rock. Gratitude also goes to Marin County Supervisors and the Olympic Club for grants.
Lana, Heather and JJ
For great, professional service all year at the tennis club.
Princess Street Starbucks
Nice atmosphere, great service and HOT lattes.
Care Pages
The many people who are thinking good thoughts for Lucy’s friend, Brett Gibbs, who is battling brain cancer.
Blog Helpers
Linda Gordon, Janet Knowlton and Eric have all had contributions.

Comcast Digital “Conversion”
If I’d wanted a mother ship and a bunch of blinking black boxes in my house I would have asked for it. Joys have included waiting in line at the cable store, a forty-five minute telephone installation (Comcast now knows where all the TVs in the house are located), bait and switch programming and several home visits to remedy issues. My appointment this morning is ten to twelve......
Big Brother, I mean Facebook
Somehow all my contacts on Facebook downloaded themselves onto my Blackberry. I noticed this when I got a call from a Facebook friend and her photo showed up as the phone was ringing. I also did a little online window shopping which I then emailed to someone. Each exact item I sent showed up in the sidebar ad on my Facebook page in the same size and color from the specific companies I’d researched. A little creepy.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
Eric recently got stopped for a moving violation (which he’s fighting, of course) and had the irritating discovery that standing in the long line to have your day in court is just the first step in the process. First, a court date is set for several months out. Then you are required to pay your entire fine up front. If you are cleared (fat chance) when you finally get to court they will reimburse you. Can’t wait to see how long that takes.

Friday, December 11, 2009


They say a person can’t be too rich or too thin. They are wrong. The “blonde” bombshell, though shrapnel is still flying, has already proven that Tiger Woods is WAY too rich. He likes kinky sex with trashy cocktail waitress types who are not his wife. I can say that because I used to be a cocktail waitress. We understand the concept of infidelity. What is so hard to fathom is the multi-tasking aspect. Men can’t usually do that very well. He either had help keeping all the affairs straight or golf isn’t his only strength. I’ve lost track, now, of the bimbo count but it seems to be around a golfer’s dozen. And the heartbreak. These poor women coming out in a trail of tears talking about how betrayed they feel. How dare he? How could he be seeing someone else? It’s just so unfair. Hello, spare the sob story. Did you forget that he is MARRIED?

There’s a joke going around the internet saying that the difference between Santa Claus and Tiger Woods is that Santa usually sticks to three Ho’s at a time. He obviously has a problem. A number of problems, really. Now we know that he’s a cheater but it’s shocking to learn how cheap he is. One woman who said she’d been with him for a year and a half and had never gotten so much as a birthday card broke it off because when she asked him for a little financial help, Tiger said no can do. The cad.

I could care less about Tiger the brand. I don’t drink Gatorade and I don’t buy golf apparel. What is so sad is the way he thought his billion dollars really made him above it all. He so obviously lost his bearings when he had enough money to buy whatever he wanted - like the proverbial kid in the candy store. Is this what every guy wants? It makes it seem so. It’s confusing because Tiger wasn’t just going for sex with someone strange. He juggled multiple long-term affairs as well as a wife and family and business and sports career. What man, and I use the term loosely, who can have anything he wants would pick that? It’s too much work. There is obviously something very wrong with his psyche, more than you’d find in a normal way too rich guy.

I feel sorry for Tiger and we haven’t even seen the nude photos of him yet. He is not right inside his head or his heart. No matter what happens in the future, unless he’s a sociopath, he will always feel shame and remorse for the way he’s lived. He didn’t just transgress, to use his word. He lost his soul. He gives men and athletes a bad name. Think O.J. It’s such an unfortunate fall to the lowest common denominator. It’s not, as one commentator put it, that he needs to figure out whether he wants to be married or he wants to be a bachelor. He needs to find the place inside that is worth something. The gift of greatness came with such a price. I hope he can heal the hole in one.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Place Cards and Clothes Pins

Setting the table is my favorite aspect of dinner parties and holiday meals. I remember hearing my mother say how silly she thought it was that my grandmother would set the table so early on the day of a dinner party. I have to restrain myself from setting the table a day or two in advance. It’s spiritual for me when I think about who will be coming over and how much they mean to me. I actually use the heirloom flatware and the cloth napkins and best wine goblets. I use chargers and gold-rimmed dessert plates and the antique rooster glasses. If at all possible, I try to use the iridescent, rainbow-colored Tiffany compote dishes Eric brought with him.

Once all the layers of adornment are complete I pull out the place card bag and begin to sort. For twenty-five years I’ve saved the place cards from every momentous dinner we’ve hosted and some that were a little less then memorable. The rectangular farm table seats eight comfortably, although for some Thanksgivings we’ve created extensions. If you have ever had dinner at our house you probably have a place card already in the bag. It’s rare that I don’t assign seating when we have guests. Digging through the bag is like counting the rings on the family tree. The place cards that match show all of us who have dined together on a particular occasion.

It’s bittersweet to start pulling out names from the past - my friend who died, my friend who’s no longer a friend, my ex-husband. My grandparents, who are long gone, but still so close to my heart, are represented. Some of the place cards were handmade by the girls when they were little and could barely write. I’ve saved turkeys shaped like little fingers and colored with crayons. This year I got out place cards for our daughters who are far away at school and couldn’t be with us.

I’m not just sentimental about place cards. Clothes pins, too. My grandparents wrote each of our names on a wooden clothes pin. When we visited they would attach one to each towel. It was fun to run to the bathroom and find our own towel and it felt so welcoming. When I grew up and had company I did the same. I saved the clothes pins and now have a jar in the bathroom filled with them - nieces, nephews, friends from New York, the French students we hosted one time. Little ghosts from visits past, they’re all there.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

(The Joys of being a Tennis Captain)

It is spring and all is new and possible. Or maybe not. With a slightly pathetic optimism I sign up, yet again - to be tennis captain. The roster swells and players are clamoring for position. “Put me in as many matches as possible. I’ll play with anyone. My schedule is wide open” they say. Looking good so far. We have a team meeting and go over the schedule. There will be twelve matches throughout the season. Six home and six away. Each match fields three doubles teams and two singles positions. We’re short of singles players so I recruit a couple of promising players from the next level down to fill in the empty spots.

The communication is to be via email. I don’t call people. I “group send” all the information anyone could possibly need. I even tell them the time and location of the matches unlike my husband’s captain - a man of few words. When he wants to know availability he sends: "Can U play?” That’s it. When he sends out the lineup he just names the players, not the teams or when and where. I realize I may have spoiled the people on my team. I’ve even been known to send directions to the other clubs, as well as an inspirational quote, but somehow it’s still not enough. I put date, time and location in the SUBJECT HEADING of the email. Immediately I get a response asking if it’s home or away. If I make the mistake of answering that one, the next question follows: what day and time?

It doesn’t take long to notice that the system is breaking down. This particular team consists of quite a few “seasoned” players. Several also play in Super Seniors, which means they are over sixty and some are over seventy. Some of the super seniors are not as tech savvy as I might have hoped. One very good player flat out told me that she doesn’t “do” computers. Another has access to the internet only at the public library, so she checks her email every few days at best. I check mine every few minutes. Hmm. Just a small challenge in communication. I remind myself to call the non-computer user and give plenty of notice to library lady since they happen to be two of the best players.

The season commences and we’re all hopeful, even though the team had two wins and ten losses the year before. Our first match is at the public park we call home. The snack table is lovely but there is a crisis. Parks and Recreation staff has neglected to open the restrooms. You may know how women are about their bathroom time. Near panic ensues, while I make frantic calls to maintenance. After the ladies room is unlocked there is a stream of trips there before we can begin.

As challenging as it is to host a home match, it’s almost impossible to field the away ones. One player has a skin condition and has to be covered from head to toe, including gloves, to shield her from the California sun. Another can’t play in the heat. Some of the away matches are scheduled in the evening when the fading light causes vision problems. Several players don’t want to drive in traffic which makes going north late in the day an impossibility. So far, my scheduling is complicated by sun, heat, traffic and lack of light. Then come the injuries. One knee goes out during the first practice. Another one is demolished in the first match. One of the older players says she’s under doctor’s orders to only play doubles - no singles. Just when I’m out of ideas one of the players (in her late sixties) offered to play singles in an evening, away match battling traffic and bad light. Anything to avoid a default. Bless her.

As the season progresses, I scramble to fill the holes in the lineup, always short at least one singles player. Even though I’ve switched over completely to doubles, which I’m really enjoying, I sacrifice myself, unsuccessfully, a few times for the team. Anything to avoid a default. I put pressure on those playing “up” to fill our singles positions. What do they have to lose? It turns out - a lot. One of our youngest, fastest players loses 0 and 0 in singles to a woman in her seventies. Ouch.

Queries about availability return predictable results. This one will be in Mexico. That one is spending a month in Israel. The other one really doesn’t like anybody very much. Now all of a sudden it seems noone can or will play at all. We are hopeful and I’m trying as hard as I can to bolster morale, but we keep losing.

The day before an important match I get an email from one of the singles players. She says she can’t play because she’s just had her hair Yuko’d so she’s not allowed to sweat or put it in a ponytail or wear a hat. That rules out her playing tennis, but WHAT THE HELL IS YUKO’D HAIR? I don’t really want to know but find out that it’s a Japanese straightening system. Until I have to take myself out of the lineup because of a black widow bite, this is the most ridiculous excuse I have ever heard. Bar none. Once again, one of the oldies but goodies steps forward and says she’ll play singles. Anything to avoid a default. She is almost seventy and her husband who is in his eighties comes out to cheer her on. She plays beautifully, but loses.

Somehow we get through the season. We have three matches that are extremely close but we do not prevail. The few players left standing at the end seemed to have enjoyed the chance to play. My last match makes me want to quit tennis. Again. To avoid a default I play singles and come out so strong that my teammates think I have it in the bag and leave. I play a woman a level down who doesn’t even know all the rules. No problem. After she beats me in the third set tie-breaker she’s so excited and tells me it’s her first win all year. I would rather have a default. After all my thought and inspiration and effort we come away with the same record as the year before - two wins and ten losses, but some of the nicest women I’ve ever met were on my team.