Monthly Archives: January 2011

f2fb #28 brings strange consequences

tom evans is a member, as i am, of the winnetka northfield rotary club.  he marks out his office at the caribou coffee every morning along with three other regulars.  he does something related to health benefits and, after he lost his position at northwestern university here in chicago, he took a job at loras college in dubuque.  he spent the weekdays in iowa and then drove home for the weekend–but always managed to be in the “office” on saturday and sunday mornings when i came in for coffee.

you know how you ALWAYS know when one of your friends sells avon or amway or is doing a walkathon for irritable bowel syndrome?  oddly, i didn’t find out that tom is a reliv representative until very recently.  and yet, it is something he’s very passionate about. so there are now three cans of powdered formula that are in my kitchen right now–the “classic”, the “innergize” and the “fiberstore”.  i’m to take a little of each, put it in a glass and stir it up with water.  tom said i could use vodka instead but didn’t recommend it.

theodore kalagaris (the dude who devised the reliv system) was told by his parents to “be ashamed to die before you score a victory for mankind” and he devoted himself to serving others, mostly through medicine.  i wish i were as selfless.  and i wish i weren’t so shameless that when tom described the variety of medical woes that could be fixed with reliv i didn’t really focus until he got to weight loss.  if i am five pounds lighter at the end of the month–well, let’s just say i’m ready for filming the infomercial!!!

in other news, after the face to facebook concert tomorrow night by mc kato (yes, you’re invited! just email me for details if you don’t remember) i swing out of chicago and begin an arduous journey to . . . warm, sunny florida.  nobody said this job was going to be easy!

my father justin is there and my half sister casey is coming down as well.  it’s a little unnerving because it will be the first time i have gone to see him since. .. . ever.

f2fb rough times

two weeks ago, i came to the kankakee-bourbonnaise-bradley area to visit with eric and heather who are facebook friends of mine.  eric is friends with some of the people i went to college with (although he never went to north central with me) and he has played online scrabble with me a lot.  i won’t do mafia wars, sorority sisters, or farmville with him–he’s way too good.  heather is his wife.  she and i had lunch at the target two weeks ago and for some reason eric and i couldn’t get our schedules coordinated.

yesterday, i came back to kankakee to see eric (f2fb #27) but in the intervening two weeks, tragedy had struck the couple once again–heather had been fired from target.  being fired is no fun because you feel like a failure.  but it’s also no fun because there’s a lot of work to be done to guarantee food on the table and your health insurance covered.  their car had been repo-ed so me coming down was actually an unintentional blessing.

the first place the three of us visited was the food pantry.  people who needed food congregated in the lobby of the church of the nazarene.  eric got a slip of paper with the number 65 on it.  the food, mostly canned goods and dried pasta, was laid out on conference tables.  a woman started calling out the numbers, beginning with the number one.  we looked at the food available, at the people surrounding us.  eric suggested that i take heather to the grocery store to get the fresh food that they’d need for the week and i was really happy to do that.  when heather and i returned, the pantry was helping the fifty fifth person.  eric said he was going to turn in his number.  i was puzzled, but he explained that since you can’t use this particular food pantry more than once every two months, the paltry selection wasn’t worth it.  he’d rather reserve his option to come to the pantry next month.  as we left, an older gentleman was loading up his car with items he had gotten from the nazarene food pantry.  eric helped him by sharing information about other food pantries in the area and their schedules.

i have had rough times in my life, but nothing such as this since i left college.  i will be checking in with eric and heather a lot this year, and not just in a facebook way.  although, of course, facebook has helped make it possible for me and the couple to contact each other.

in other news, be careful driving in the kankakee-bourbonnaise-bradley area.  the residents seem to take it as a point of pride to never look in the direction they are driving.  i believe they think to do so would suggest weakness.  they all own pick up trucks and are truly astonished when other vehicles present themselves in their path.  i am a wary driver.

f2fb ann silberman and the facebook art nouveau

there are people who are spiritually evolved and then there are people like me.  not evolved.  when i met with ann silberman yesterday i was hungry for the spiritual. .. . but when she said she wanted to color, i said “uh, what??”

ann has everything–she looks and talks exactly like what kathleen turner would look like if kathleen turner’s life hadn’t had a few wrong turns.  she has three wonderful children, the oldest of which is an indigo (which is a term i have never heard before but let’s just say genius doesn’t even begin to describe leah) and ann has business in new york, hollywood, all the glamorous places.  ann and peter have been married for twenty seven years and when annsays she’s totally in love with her husband, you want to smack her.  . . . until you realize that she’s absolutely telling the truth.  she’ll tell you bluntly that sometimes her aura is so outsized that it bumps up against people.

you can’t envy ann all this, you can only adore her and feel that every color in the room, every scent in the air is deeper because of her.  she has been a life coach and spiritual healer and i’d like her to do some of that for me, but she decided that i needed to do some coloring instead.

so, coloring.  ann sometimes likes to buy djeco brand coloring kits.  yesterday, she showed me the atelier art nouveau design kit with a series a prints by elene usdin.

i used to get into all sorts of trouble in kindergarten because my coloring was all over the place.  and i’d bet ann was the same way.  but she taught me yesterday that sometimes it’s nice to stay inside the lines.  when you want to.

next up:  road trip!  and i have my wallet this time. . . .

max, a milestone and mc kato

i met with face to facebook friend #25 max henderson today.  i first met max when he and joseph were four years old.  they quickly became best friends.  his father colvin developed mesothelioma when joseph and max were in fifth grade.  on the day that colvin passed, max came over for a playdate with joseph and we planted hostas in the front yard.  i became a rotarian because colvin, seeing what was ahead, asked me to join the club.  i promised him i would never resign.

max and i talked about some serious issues, in part because max is doing a class in comparative religions and he is required to interview a catholic.  i’m not a great catholic, in fact i would rank myself as pretty awful.  but i converted to catholicism because stephen wanted to convert from judaism to catholicism and it was important to me that the family all be the same religion.  joseph, eastman, stephen and i were all baptized in the same mass by father mark.  he later left the priesthood and i’ve often wondered why and what he’s doing now.

max is somebody who makes me pretty relaxed.  i’m glad he’s majoring in psychology because i think he’d be better at it than at being an assassin.

now, a milestone!  i have booked my first airline ticket of my adult life.  i used expedia.  i’m heading for tallahassee, but i’m hoping to see face to facebook friends in palm harbor, huntsville, savannah and atlanta.  i am fifty years old and have never figured out how to buy a plane ticket!

to celebrate that milestone and to kick off the world tour to follow, the rapper mc kato has agreed to give a free, private concert in my home on tuesday.  email me for details.  if you’re reading this, you’re invited!!!

“bistro!” and how to open a champagne bottle like a cossack

gretchen miller neuman’s love affair with wine began when she was fifteen on a field trip to france.  she developed into an oenophile although that didn’t prevent her from enjoying the bottle of cold duck her grandparents gave her for her sweet sixteen birthday!

gretchen manages good grapes in winnetka where one can get a fantastic bottle of something.  whenever i’ve gone in, she’s offered me a sample and we’ve sat down to talk.   mosty about raising kids.  she has two, i have two, and we have pretty much come to the conclusion that one is always giving you trouble and the other is doing okay, but they switch positions all the time so that it’s a little like a seesaw.  but i have never seen gretchen outside the store until yesterday evening.

gretchen wanted to demonstrate how the russian soldiers reacted when they stormed through france (i couldn’t tell you which war but i’m assuming after napolean sort of lost interest in taking over moscow, deciding it was way too cold and josephine was out with other guys in paris).  they were pretty keen on that champagne. . . .

in order to do it up right, you should probably yell “bistro” while whacking the cork because bistro means “fast” or “hurry” which is what russians would say when they wanted their food in a little more timely fashion than the french would allow.  now i know where the word “bistro” comes from.  it’s fast food for france.

gretchen and her family have gone through their difficulties, just like all of us.  and it’s made her reconsider her original career as an urban planner.  she now sells wine, but she also uses that urban planning background to make maps of the american vitacultural areas.  you might ask what is a vitawhateveryoujustcalledit area–it’s a place where there are wineyards.  when this girl develops an app for this, we’re all going on a road trip with gretchen!  she’s a resilient woman who has taken what she’s learned, what she loves and what she’s good at–and it’s coming together in an interesting career for her!

here’s how i did on my tutorial with a cheap bottle of the bubbly stuff and a sciabola del sommelier (aka a saber)

somehow i don’t think i’ll be doing this at the next dinner party i host!  too alarming!  but a lot of fun!


January 27

since that post, i’ve had some questions about how to saber your champagne bottle.  i’ll try to be concise:

1.  hold the bottle with your thumb in the indentation at the bottom of the bottle at a forty five degree angle.  point the bottle towards a pretty fair expanse and yell “fore!”

2.  slide the blade from the middle of the bottle down the stem in a long, steady, forceful manner.  you’re not hitting it, you’re sliding it.

3.  do as i say not as i did:  don’t act so surprised when you’re a success.  assume the air of one who is bored by life, because then you will feel most french!  yelling “bistro!” is always good because nobody except us knows why you’re doing it, so somebody’s bound to ask you to expound.

4.  pour generously.  then repeat as necessary!

face to facebook challenge–i’m going to win ten thousand dollars!

i’m having a wonderful time meeting friends from my facebook profile.  janie rah rah gibson has the most impossibly glamorous profile picture EVER!!!  and she met me at a luncheon today where i tried to palm off northfield and winnetka history books on unsuspecting diners.  after the luncheon, she and i talked about how i’m going to win ten thousand dollars finding a bride for an actuarial sweetpea:

janie was impossibly  chic, in a vintage sweater dress she stole from her mother’s closet.  i hadn’t realized it was through children’s theater that janie met my two sons.  we talked about friendship . . . 

janie explained something i had never understood:  that when two galpals announce they are engaged or married to each other, it’s sometimes a signal that they are not attached.  also, that there’s a hierarchy of relationships:  going out, really going out, announcing it on facebook, and then i guess there’s marriage after that. . . . i’ve never changed my relationship status and don’t think i would unless it were legal in all fifty states.  as for it’s complicated, that apparently is what you say when you’re about to break up. . .

her mother has an interesting idea about how friendship works.  i thought about this.  there are friends i don’t see for months at a time but i know it’s tight and there’s no apologies for absences.  i know there are friends who are every day and it don’t matter.  i have some friends that are from when i was in high school, some from when i was raising my children, and some i’ve only recently met.

i really like janie’s perspective, except i also think i want to lose forty pounds and steal clothes from her mother’s closet.  also, i’m going to find a bride for tom.  i want that ten thousand dollars!

a special thanks to kaveh, madeleine, connie, chief lustig, janie, charlie, gina, kevin, sean, libby, bill and paddy!

next up:  i open a bottle of champagne with a sabre under the instruction of a sommelier-ette!

face to facebook family friends–

so oprah announces today that she has a half sister that she never knew about–when she was nine, her mother gave birth and immediately put the baby up for adoption.  patricia, oprah’s half sister, bounced around some foster homes before being adopted at age seven.  the reunion of half-sisters is enough to get the tears flowing, but what’s going to happen after the cameras are turned off?

i always knew i had been adopted by the patricks–i even have memory of going on “home visits” with a social worker before the papers were signed.  i hired a private detective when i was twenty four in order to find my natural family.  i was studying to take the bar exam and i thought he was one of the most inept detectives because every week i’d ask him about his progress and he would confess that he wasn’t getting any further along in the process.  on the night i was finished with the two day exam, he called me and told me that he had found my father two months before.  he hadn’t wanted me to be distracted from studying for the bar so he had kept it a secret from me.

“you’re the granddaughter of a very famous writer,”  he said.

i thought james michener.  as it happens, it was fritz leiber, which drew a “who?” from me.  fritz was a science fiction and fantasy writer.  his son justin is a writer and philosophy professor.  justin is my father and came to visit me within the week.  i went down to houston, where he lived with his wife and newly born daughter, for thanksgiving.   i believe it was something of a shock to both justin and his wife.  my sister casey is an actress in new york.  justin and casey are both my facebook friends.

i met my mother aleta a few months after meeting justin, but that situation was less congenial–she was a public defender in washington, d.c, and not making enough money to get by.  she asked for assistance right from the start and at one point when i didn’t come through she cut off relations.  i have no idea where she is now.  i met her sister (from whom she was estranged at the time) and blanche was very sweet to me–until the day their mother (my grandmother) made contact with me.  the three sisters–blanche, aleta, and michelle–have no relationship with my grandmother alyce.  alyce is now in a nursing home in seaford, delaware and i have some facebook friends to visit when i go there this spring.

good luck to oprah and her sister patricia.  they have to make a decision about whether they want to have a family relationship or whether they are going to be friends who happen to share some genetic material.  somehow i don’t think they’re going to walk away from each other.

in other news, i met facebook friends #21 bruce burdick and #22 paulibus shumann yesterday at a go bears! party–facebook friend #20 charles seymour was having a bad hair day and it turns out he’s thought every day was a bad hair day.  here’s what happened when they went outside for a few minutes during half time.  instead of mourning the poor bears, they talked hair.  what’s fun about them is that these three guys have been friends since they were in nursery school.

my defriended facebook friend

when i first joined facebook, there were three status choices:  single, married, it’s complicated.  i was separated from stephen and i picked single because it seemed the most sensible.  i didn’t know you had an option to not have a status.  and when more choices were offered, i didn’t know how to change my status.  it was easier to just get divorced.  . . .

when stephen joined facebook, it seemed the civilized thing to do to friend each other.  but that didn’t work out at all.  deeply uncivilized, we made an agreement:

stephen and i were married for over twenty years.  he was married before to carole smith, who lives about six blocks away from my house.  she’s my facebook friend.  occasionally carole, her partner, elisabeth, elisabeth’s husband, grace (she of the fishnets), joseph, eastman and i will get together for holidays.  i think it’s very important for joseph and eastman to have good relationships with stephen’s children — david and elisabeth — from the marriage to carole.  a good enough relationship so that when i’m dead, they’ll have somebody to call to bail them out of the pokey.

next:  a dinner party with three (!) facebook friends including a curious story of a facebook obsession.

connie yonan, f2fb#17, saving the world one hundred butterflies at a time!

the day connie yonan decides to become a hostess for qvc, i want to be her agent.  because fifteeen percent of connie yonan’s enthusiasm is quite enough to keep me in pretty dresses and champagn.

part of her charm is that she has found something she is completely passionate about.  watch her talk about it herself:

the passion she brings to raising butterflies translates into every aspect of what she does:  she’s on a fundraising board of the winnetka community house with me and every time she discusses a new project, her eyes light up, her voice rises just a bit, the smiles are quick and bright.  i have known connie for nearly ten years and i’m not sure i’ve ever seen her feeling down. . . . i want to learn her secret, but i don’t think i want to raise butterflies.

okay, mike castagna, i promise!

mike castagna, facebook friend #3, has devised an ingenius map which is just the sort that indiana jones would carry in his back pocket.  it has thumb tacks and every thumb tack represents a facebook friend.  fortunately, the thumb tacks are imaginary.

and now i have  a problem that is the opposite of defriending–i’ve sworn a blood oath to mike that i won’t add on any new facebook friends, except of course for steve gondorcin my ups guy because he sends all the care packages to reggie, joseph and eastman.  and of course lorraine hara yolles who has been so sweet to invite me to her home for parties.  in winnetka, most people don’t invite single, divorced or widowed women into their homes.  it’s considered bad luck.  so if lorraine and steve are so nice to me, how can i not say yes when they want to be my friend?

my two best friends of my life are not on facebook and, in fact, are dead.  dick and vivian eastman were in their mid sixties when they met the teenager me.  they shared their family with me, which is the greatest gift of friendship.  they both passed within the last several years and i still miss them.

when the grant family says that paige can travel with me on some of my face to facebook trips, they are sharing their most important treasure.  and i’m very grateful.   if anybody else wants to travel with me on any of the legs of the journey, the sign up sheets are posted now. . . .