Monthly Archives: June 2012

gratitude at the center of the universe

i have had a third dental surgery in less than as many weeks.  the trouble indicator on my car says “low tire”.  i spent yesterday filling a storage facility with all manner of furniture, boxes, musical instruments and paintings.  only to discover that there’s three overflowing closets in the house that i’m just a little unsure about.  my son broke up with his girlfriend and is considering making his way back home–just as home is being packed up and given over to a new owner.

what to do?  what to do?  what to do?

i don’t have an automatic thank you note generator like the presidents of the united states. but i do write a lot of thank you notes. i don’t send them all because some people who are so very good to me would probably get a little creeped out.

you might think that your day is something that happens to you.  the boss man tells you what to do.  your body parts either work or they don’t work.  people do and say things that are sometimes funny, sometimes loving, sometimes utterly irrational.

but i think life is something we can create.  and i guess i think of creation as including thank you’s.  even if the only thing you can say thank you to is the sun for rising in the east, that’s at least one thing that takes you outside of the controlled box and into the pilot’s seat.  sometimes i can’t think of anything except sun and coffee to be thankful for.  that’s all right.  but today i have a lot of things to be thankful for.  including my dentist.  and i will write him a thank you note.  i might toss that thank you note–which will encompass nancy his receptionist and laura his assistant–but i will write it and remember them.  i feel better already!

in 14 days, the presser home will become someone else’s home.  i am happy for the young couple who have purchased this place.  i am excited and just a titch worried about what happens next.  but i took a bike ride on saturday.  i ended up in phillo, illinois which claims as its village motto to be the “center of the universe”.  i wonder if NASA knows about this.  the center of the universe encompasses slightly under a square mile and has a population of 1,400.  its streets are named for presidents and i respect a town that doesn’t forget millard p. fillmore.

some of the people i have met this year have talked about “safe” places and “safe” people.  particularly the people with agoraphobia, post traumatic stress disorder or just general “damn this world is a lot more chaotic and strange than i think i can handle”. . . i think phillo taught me that the center of the universe, and the safest spot in the universe are always with me. . . . unless there are particular circumstances. . . .

facebook nation’s baby steps towards democracy

my nation has 900,000,000 citizens and, as near as i can tell, they can all fit in my laptop.  my nation has its own form of money, a movie about its beginnings* and a handsome prince and princess.

prince mark zuckerberg and bride priscilla chan honeymooned in italy just after the much anticipated facebook i.p.o. insta-millionaires were gravely disappointed as the share price opened at $42 and has plunged to $27. but every great nation has initial problems.


this past month, facebook held an election on proposed privacy amendments.  i don’t know about you, but i figure i have no privacy on facebook. but some students in ireland disagree with that notion and filed a complaint with the irish data protection commission which is in charge of regulating facebook in europe.  the students claimed “hey, that picture of me drunk on the couch that my ex-girlfriend posted and then i made her take it down, that’s my privacy we’re talking about!”

on may 23, 2005 tom cruise declared his love for katie holmes as he trampolined on a couch on the oprah show. i’m sure HE’D like to say he owns that and then he would burn it. tom is known for being very reserved, secretive, almost like a scientologist. oh, right, he IS a scientologist.


so facebook held a vote on amendments to its privacy policies.  the amendments allow for what items are automatically public on facebook, what items facebook owns (anything you post) and what happens when you deactivate your account (facebook keeps all of it in perpetuity).  the data is important because it allows for facebook to target advertising.  and get revenue.  which might help that stock price slide. i’ve seen a lot of posts complaining about privacy and facebook policies.  if i had known about a chance to vote on this, i would have.

three hundred and fifty thousand people voted, just four percent, and overwhelmingly they were opposed to the privacy amendments. the company had said that it would consider the vote binding if more than 30% of its users voted.


*the social network chronicled the brave prince mark battling to free people everywhere so that they can connect.  and actually, i believe that is exactly what mark zuckerberg actually intends.  as he has been quoted as saying, “we don’t build services to make money–we make money so we can build better services!”


this venus in transit

venus in transit is one of the rarest astronomical events in the afternoon sky.  it is when the planet venus passes between the sun and the earth, a tiny little black dot crossing a gi-normous pulsing star that we call sun.  the event occurs twice within an eight year period and then not again for between one hundred and five and one hundred and twenty one years.  the last transit was in 2004.  the next will be in 2117.  i persuaded my facebook friend john d. lafond to watch the transit–sadly, john’s wife was working and will have to wait for the next one!

it was an odd “happening” at field outside the parkland observatory four hours from my home.  a row of telescopes, a crowd of people, some jimi hendrix playing from a car in the parking lot.  there should have been drugs.  there were, however, some tie dye t-shirts so it was all good.

don’t look at the sun directly! this friend made her own reflective telescope for the viewing. there were a number of homemade telescopes for this event.


i liked how for a few moments, everybody stopped worrying about their job, their children, money, the upcoming elections, the just past elections, the kardashians, whether they remembered to turn off the coffee maker when they got home, and whether their life has meaning.  instead, something completely outside of themselves, something eternal, something that puts all of this in perspective captivated every person in the field.  the transit of venus is six hours from the first little blip on the side of the sun to the other–but the parking lot at parkland observatory was pretty much emptied within two.  the transitory worries returned.  how i’m going to pack up everything in my house? where i will travel to next?  and really–did i turn off the coffee maker?

the telescope fell apart within minutes and i advised using a bigger box for the next transit of venus. and more tape.  i don’t think she has to get started right away at this project!


i have known john since junior high school, and his wife alice since they married.  john and i keep in touch on facebook by playing scrabble.  he always beats me.  he also always beats his brother jerry.  jerry told him that the reason john always wins is because jerry himself is a deist and believes that God creates the universe and then lets it unfold without His hand.  john believes in an active God who is always with us.  jerry offered to hand deliver a note of thanks to the Pope if he won a game of scrabble with john.  i’m still putting my money on john.

and then this venus remembered there’s still more transit to come–miles to travel, planes to catch, gas stations to pull into, and facebook friends to meet!

thin and writing a best selling book that will make me happy, financially secure and . . . thin!

ninety percent of american women want it.  ten percent are probably deluding themselves.  what do women want?  to be thin.


thin is a $60 billion industry.  diet pills, exercise programs you can do in your home, health clubs, liposection, rubber band surgery.  and yet thin is more elusive than ever.  is it carbs? is it processed foods?  is it big gulp soda pops?  because mayor bloomberg of new york is banning new yorkers from buying big gulps.

what if the new yorker wants a diet coke big gulp? what if the new yorker is an underweight supermodel who really needs the calories? what if the new yorker is a constitutional scholar who believes that commerce can’t be regulated in this manner?

so thin is what every woman wants.  i want it too.  but why do i diet and fail and diet again?  is it that i lack willpower?

willpower is a funny thing.  if you really really want something you don’t stop for an “i need some willpower”.   if you’re being chased by werewolves in the forest at night, you don’t think “i need some willpower to keep with my running program!”  and if your kid is trapped under a car’s tires, you don’t have a problem with willpower.  you just DO, LIFT, RUN or die trying.

so you gotta ask yourself:  why do i want to be thin?  because something about being thin isn’t attractive enough to change myself.  so i should think about why i want to be thin.  i want to be thin because i want to be attractive but i think i like cupcakes more.  so why waste time and energy worrying about thin?  enjoy the cupcake.  on the other hand, maybe there’s an obstacle that has to do with the unexpected consequences of being thin.  for some women, this can be remembering how uncle bertram made everyone so uncomfortable commenting on one’s pert figure.  maybe it’s worry that a change in one’s appearance might make one think about a marriage that was founded on “settling”.  whatever makes a woman (or a man) unconsciously decide that “thin” isn’t worth it is so personal.

and then i think of another goal:  to write a book that really matters to people.  i want to write about my year of meeting facebook friends.  it was an extraordinary, magical, terrifying, exciting time.  why am i stalled at chapter three?

when i was a kid i used to write stories.  two or three pages of hopelessly romantic, strained, achingly girlish exposition.  my adoptive mother mrs. patrick wondered why i couldn’t get behind the statement “there will always be a need for engineers so if i go to college i’m majoring in engineering” . . . so i was forbidden from writing stories–a policy mrs. patrick thought would get me all fired up about metallurgical or chemical engineering for sure.

but it didn’t.  i just learned to hide my stories.  under mattresses.  under drawers.  even under the carpeting in my bedroom.  and if i was out with mr. patrick doing errands and returned home to see my bedroom lights on, i knew i was in for it.  the drill was to find her sitting on my bed with a cup of coffee and a cigarette–and my latest opus.

“just what the hell is this?”  was generally the question.  then i’d explain it was a story.

“about what?”

what do all girls like to write about? romance, adventure, handsome princes, pretty dresses, fancy parties, the crumbling of the european union, and unicorns. one of these things is not actually true.


and then the second part of the drill:  i had to read the story aloud to mrs. patrick, who would drag off her cigarette and stare off into space until she heard something confusing.  “what the hell does that mean?”  she’d asked.

i became very attention to plot development.  and decided that grammar doesn’t matter in an oral presentation.  and that i’m terrified of people picking apart my writing.

and maybe that’s why i stall.

i’m going to test out that theory.  i’m also going to figure out why a cupcake means more to me than thin.  i’m fifty one.  it’s taken me this long to figure out that there’s a question i need the answer to–

twenty three days before this homeless winnetka matron starts selling streetwise. . .

packing up a quarter century of my life.  my ex-husband’s life.  the lives of my sons joseph and eastman.  and my stepchildren david and elisabeth.  the sighs–oh, that’s the second grade workshop project that eastman made me!  the delights–now i know where the hell the cheese grater ended up!  and the self-reproach–really, did i need four sets of dessert plates when i’m an eat the ice cream right out of the container girl?

and what exactly were seventeen of these doing behind the speakers in eastman’s bedroom?


life follows us.  and we decide how we mold our experiences.  i can be worried and scared about being twenty three days away from the closing on the house.  i can be excited because i am being given something that not a lot of people my age have–freedom to do exactly as i please untethered by the weight of responsibility to family or real estate.  i can course up and down through the emotional double helix while packing one set of teacups for my stepdaughter elisabeth.

is there something you’re enduring that you’re not too happy with?  what if you turned it upside down and looked at it as a blessing?  i’m not asking you to change your mind about it.  just two or three moments of thinking “i’m really happy that. . . .”  i’m not convinced i’m all that good at it–and my balloons are still stuck to the telephone wires.