Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Everyday Prince Charming

A man and a woman, a couple not too much older than I am, were leaving their office. He went to the coat closet and helped her on with her coat. This simple, chivalrous gesture, carried out with obvious caring in his look and manner, was one of the sweetest things I have seen in a long time. Perhaps it's old-fashioned, but some things are classics for a reason. And it still makes me smile thinking about it.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

The conversations we're REALLY having

It's that special time of year, where couples profess their undying love and the singles pretend not to notice. "What? Oh yeah, is THAT why hearts and roses are plastered on every store end-cap?"

Yep, it's Valentine's Day, the ultimate holiday of the haves and have-nots. And nothing says "I heart u" like those chalky, sugary conversation hearts. This year, I decided to start some conversations that are a tad bit more relevant to my brothers and sisters who, like me, are braving the shallow and muddy dating pool of our 30s and 40s. Let's face it folks, it can be pretty damn scary out there.

So, without further adieu, I give you the "reduced for quick sale" holiday cookies:

Sometimes you're not really looking for something lasting. For those moments, the ONS Collection says it all:

Sure, we all have issues from our childhood, but every once in a while, you meet one of these. If they start saying things like, "I lacked male role models," run. The Parental Collection:

We've all been at this for a while, through the wringer, if you will. Embrace your secondhand status with the Salvo Armani Collection:

We all know the herd has been culled. Why lie? Tell it like it is with the Lowered Expectations Collection:

Raise your hand if you have experienced a crazy. You know what I am talking about. The ones who start using the word "we" after meeting for coffee once and start asking when you will want to meet their parents. The Cuckoo Collection captures this phenomenon with aplomb:

Happy Valentine's Day!

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kitchen table breakthroughs

I long ago figured out that the dinnertime conversations my children and I have are not exactly of the "Leave it to Beaver" variety. My eldest was musing the other night about things like LSD and 'shrooms and how he wondered if drugs really could expand your mind, like some people say.

"Maybe that's how people could find a cure for cancer. They get super high and then ..."

Well, maybe, sure. It could end with a cure for cancer. It could also end with screaming and fleeing from the scary clown peeking in the window. To-MAY-to, to-MAH-to.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Farewell friend

He was my next-door neighbor for 12 years, from the first day I bought my house. Everyone else has changed over the years. He stayed put, an aging and fiercely independent widower with no family here in town.

Each spring, I planted an extra basket of petunias and pansies and hung it outside his garage. He always kept it watered. He wasn't overtly social, certainly not the Ned Flanders model of a neighbor, but he was happy to stop and chat about the latest goings-on with his daughter in the Lower 48 or local politics or my job or his health. He watched my children grow up and always had kind words for and about them and about the horde of other kids that now live on our street. He even liked my obnoxious dog and took time to pet her when he went on his forays out to the mailbox. I watched him grow older and I worried, sometimes, about him living alone.

During the winter, if the snow got too deep, I or my teenage son or one of the other neighbors would clear it from in front of the garage. During the winter, he usually only came and went to take the garbage to the dumpster and get the mail. We checked in on him during the holidays. I always sent the kids over with a plate of goodies on Christmas.

And once April and May rolled around, like the rest of the Alaskans, he would emerge from his winter abode into the sunshine. We'd stop to chat in the driveway and he would remark that the kids had grown a lot over the winter.

He won't be meeting me in the driveway this spring. The state troopers stopped by tonight with a familiar and foreboding scenario. Had anyone spoken to him recently? A lone trooper watched the house for a couple of hours. Then the white van arrived. And the gurney. They went into the house and came out carrying a body bag.

It's not that he is gone. He was at least 70 years old. I know his aches and pains had become harder and harder to bear. He and I had talked about aging, and I know that he wanted to die on his own terms, in his own home. Still, I can't help but wonder if we should have checked on him more often, if I could have done something differently.

The spring won't be the same this year. I'm not sure what I will do with that extra flower basket. I'll miss those perfectly prosaic driveway conversations. Each of those moments are, taken alone, of little consequence. Together they form a presence in my life and the life of my family that will be missed. He will be missed. And I hope he knew that before he died.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010


"When I get an e-mail from her, I feel like the back of my head is in a vise."

Raise your hand if you have one of those people in your life.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Recession? Reality?

I just did my taxes and found the entire experience quite depressing. Despite a promotion, I'm pretty sure I didn't even keep up with the increased cost of living this year. I'm one of the lucky ones. At least I still have a job. At least I still have a home.

All that said, I am 15 years into my career and am not sure there will ever come a day when I am not holding my breath until the next paycheck. And if things continue at this rate--skyrocketing health insurance rates, less-than-inflation pay increases, energy costs at triple the national average--it will get worse and worse every year. I find myself wondering how I might cope with the possibility of simply not making ends meet and how I ended up even having to think about something like that in the first place. And I wonder how many other people are out there thinking the same thing.

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