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Talk talk

Eleanor Roosevelt’s wonderful quote about conversations came across my radar again recently, and I’ve been thinking about it since.

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people,” the great woman once said (or, as the journalist in me requires, reportedly said).

Now I would never claim to be a great mind, but gossip is something that not only do I try to avoid, but that wears me out. Bores me and makes me sad.

Yet some people do nothing but talk-talk about people they know – or don’t know. Or, worse, claim someone said something she didn’t. Ugh.

As a frequent victim of both types of gossip throughout my life, I’ve been relieved to be an old gal and have it finally begin to die down.

Or so I thought. Lately it’s been cropping up again.

Please, folks, if you didn’t hear someone say it, maybe he didn’t. If you didn’t see her do it, maybe it didn’t happen. Benefit of a doubt, and all that jazz.

I remember a time in high school when I added a benign comment to something the popular “mean girls” were saying about an innocent victim – haunts me to this day because I didn’t stand up for her, even though I knew they were lying.

OK, PSA over. Just think before you speak, please.

••••••••••••••••••

On to an average discussion about events, occasions in the collective life of the inhabitants of Lollypopland. But, wait: First I have to say how thrilled I am that, today, at least, Little Rock is a city of love and equality for all. Hallelujah! Stand up tall. Arkansas is ahead of the curve on marriage equality in the south.

Congratulations to all my LGBT friends! We know the legal wrangling’s not over, but, still, today is a day to celebrate. Chris Piazza, sir, hats off to you.

And also let me mention how concerned I am for my grandchildren – for all of us – that as the Antarctic ice sheets melt and glaciers in Greenland recede much sooner than expected, only 47 percent of Americans believe humans are contributing to climate change, and 23 percent believe it’s not a real phenomena. (That’s according to Mother Jones in January – could be worse by May, but I don’t want to look. File under “things that keep a grandmother awake at night.”)

•••••••••••••••••••

Tess is quite the happy girl on her 9th birthday.

Tess is quite the happy girl on her 9th birthday.  That’s 3-year-old Zuzu, not Tess’ younger self, behind her.

Now, let me say “Happy birthday!” to our beautiful Tessie, who is 9 today. She had chicken jerky and raw and cooked asparagus in lieu of cake. Yes, asparagus – she loves it, which could be one reason she’s so svelte.

Things have changed drastically for the fam. The youngest grandchild’s allergy blood tests came back, and the little guy is allergic to milk, eggs and peanuts. Baby Epi-pen allergic. “Mom, Lolly and Grammy have to relearn how to cook” allergic.

Maybe Liz and I will be sharing some recipes here.

All-in-all, I feel good about it, though. He’s had such serious allergies and trouble gaining weight. His Uncle Ben had to do two years sans eggs and milk (though not as ingredients, as Silas faces, just not on their own), but after that, Ben could add them back into his diet.

We’re thinking positively. As for his other allergy, dogs, well, we all have dogs, so we’ll be careful and he’ll take allergy medicine. Someday he’ll take allergy shots like Lolly. (I also have an Epi-pen for antibiotic reactions and a sulfite allergy.) We’re an allergic bunch, in general, even the in-laws – the rest of the fam is allergic to cats, but not Si. Go figure.

Yesterday, Mother’s Day, Mother, Cathy, Liz and I did the 50th Quapaw Quarter Spring Tour of Homes together – but neglected to take any photos, sadly. Mother looked beautiful but tiny.

Life in a historic home is often one step forward, two steps back. Zuzu supervises the situation, of course.

Life in a historic home is often one step forward, two steps back. Zuzu supervises the situation, of course.

In addition to volunteering for the tour, John spent part of his day ripping out the outside wall on our historic home to get at the carpenter ant, termite and wood rot damage under my bathtub. That’s also part of living in the Quapaw Quarter – maintenance on old houses is high.

And we’re still not finished renovating. Feels like a circle-back-in-time-warp, in a way.

But that’s an idea for another time.

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What a difference a day makes

The old song is true: What a difference a day makes! The sun comes out, a baby is born, luck takes a turn (we hope for the better), moods lift. But looking back over 365 days can stop you in your tracks – so much to process.

One year ago, Baby Silas was in his first 24 hours.

Newborn Silas, the youngest grandchild, in his first hours.

Newborn Silas, the youngest grandchild, in his first hours.

A year later, he’s running around, dancing, beginning to talk, and recreationally fighting with Sylvia.

Silas the wild child after birthday cake.

Silas the wild child after birthday cake.

Look at that face!

Look at that face!

A year ago Annabelle and Sylvia were straddling the baby/toddler line. Today they’re little girls, chattering up a storm.

Annabelle is 3, Sylvia will be in June. They're maturing at warp speed.

Annabelle is 3, Sylvia will be in June. They’re maturing at warp speed.

Jude continues to grow like a weed – he’s a good big brother, alternating between being protective and being a pest. That’s what brothers are for, I think. Never had one of my own, but from what I’ve seen …

Jude stops from helping the girls on Silas's new birthday slide (courtesy of G-Mom) to pose for Lolly.

Jude stops from helping the girls on Silas’s new birthday slide (courtesy of G-Mom) to pose for Lolly.

Little Luke, at almost a year and a half, is a cuddly clown – he loves to laugh and is quite a flirt. He runs more than walks and knows instinctively how to dial a Fisher-Price retro rotary phone, even though he’s never seen a real rotary phone.

Luke dials someone on Silas's birthday phone. That's Dad in the background – he had a Fisher-Price phone as a toddler, too.

Luke dials someone on Silas’s birthday phone. That’s Dad in the background – he had a Fisher-Price phone as a toddler, too.

A year ago, we were still reeling and angry from Bill’s sudden death; today we can see the signs it was coming, though I’m still angry that he got caught up in and was tortured by the medical-industrial complex in his dwindling days, until we said enough was enough.

Mother was in shock, in poor health and recovering from a back surgery we weren’t sure would hold. A year later, she’s the incredible shrinking dynamo. Her health has worsened but her back has survived two falls and her spirits are good. She’s sold her house in the outback and is downsizing to a smaller home in town with a lake in her backyard.

A year ago I was freelancing – today I’m working my rear off at a fun job that allows me to drop everything when family duty calls.

A day ago I was so tired I thought I might never blog again – it’s almost time to renew my website and I’ve been thinking I’d let it drop – then this morning I woke up with this basically written in my head.

The jury’s still out on continuing, but, again, what a difference a day makes.

Mr. Moonlight

Mr. Moonlight

The Beatles’ “Mr. Moonlight” has been stuck in my head for days, so it wasn’t surprising to see the full moon Saturday evening as I drove east, and the clouds parted briefly to reveal it. The song fits with the melancholy I’ve felt lately – induced, in part, by the continuing deaths of people from my youth.

We’ve reached that time of life, the baby boomers.

But today, when I opened the front door to grab the newspaper, I was caught off-guard by Mr. Moonlight staring me in the face above pink clouds in the early morning light.

That gave things a little perspective. The moon sets on some, the sun rises on others, and life goes on.

Yes, another of Mother’s old friends was in the obituaries again this morning, but yesterday we celebrated little Luke’s first birthday.

We also celebrated my friend Caran’s mother’s life, instead of mourning her passing from it. Alzheimer’s had really already taken her a while back, so the family focused on the Carolyn Curry who was a force to be reckoned with in her day, and people came in droves to celebrate her.

Which helped remind me to celebrate each day, even if I’m tired or crabby or overwrought with to-dos.

Mother’s doing well, the grandkids are divine, my kids are healthy and Marie-Noelle arrives Friday night for a visit! Thursday night, Cathy, Mother and I get to see Willie Nelson at Robinson Auditorium. Life is good, if hectic and crazy.

Life

Ben may be 35 today, but I can still see him at 6 month in my mind.

Ben may be 35 today, but I can still see him at 6 months in my mind.

On Nov. 10, 1978, I understood my purpose in life. It feels wrong to say I gave birth to my son, since he was taken by scheduled C-section, but I gave life to him – and he gave it to me.

Until I held my large, sturdy first-born, life had been a drifty, “whatever” proposition. But once we met, everything became clear. My purpose was in my arms. Motherhood suited me – it doesn’t define me, but it has made me who I am while fulfilling what I was meant to be.

Ben was the golden child – first Cartwright grandson, the boy my father (whom Ben dubbed “Grandbob”) never had, a smart and gorgeous infant. His time in the solo spotlight was short, though; by his first birthday I was heavily pregnant with his baby, as he called his sister.

Ben was just a couple of months away from being a doting big brother in this picture. Olan Miills, of course.

Ben was just a couple of months away from being a doting big brother in this picture. Olan Miills, of course.

By his second birthday, Grandbob was newly diagnosed with terminal cancer, which rocked our world. At Ben’s birthday party, Liz decided to steal the spotlight by standing for the first time – cameras quickly moved from the birthday boy and his cake to the teetery little girl in the petticoat-splayed dress and black-patent shoes.

Ben didn’t mind – he was a lesson in love and he adored his sister.

Liz is a hefty 4 months and Ben 19 months in this, their first "official" portrait together.

Liz is a hefty 4 months and Ben 19 months in this, their first “official” portrait together.

By his third birthday, Grandbob was dying and Mama was distracted and often at the hospital. After the party, Ben loaded his backpack with presents and took them to the cancer ward at Baptist Hospital, where he proudly spread them all over Daddy’s bed, and they discussed and played with each one.

Seems like yesterday in many ways.

Now my baby is a 35-year-old father of two, and his baby, precious Luke, will be 1 on Tuesday.

My purpose has expanded from two gorgeous children to five gorgeous grandkids. Lucky, lucky me.

••••••••••••••••••••••••••

I chose an Avett Brothers’ song to title this piece for two reasons: They sing about life, love, death and family and are one of my favorite bands. That’s reason 1. Reason 2 is that my kids, my friend Julia and I saw them at Verizon Friday night.

These boys have and are something special. If you don’t know them, look them up. I dare you not to be touched by them.

Once upon a time I had a drawerful of ticket stubs from concerts. I ditched or lost them all at some point, which I often regret. This is one I’m keeping.

Avett

My carnival

At first this post was going to be titled “another day,” because when you turn 58, it is just another birthday of many and not that big a deal.

But for my family and friends, that’s just not true. It turned instead into an extended celebration, as usual – my carnival started Friday and lasted through Sunday evening. Actually, it started a few days earlier when the dogs called me to the front door to catch John dragging a large smart TV for the bedroom into the foyer.

“Uh, happy birthday, ” he said. Oops. Great gift, even if Tess, Zuz and I spoiled the surprise.

Friday morning, Mother and I lit out for Springdale to pick up her darling little dog, called “Lollipop” by the rescue folks, but transitioned to “Polly” by Mother to spare confusion, since John and I are Lolly and Pop. Seeing her joy over the little white ball of love was the best gift I could have gotten.

John puts together little Lollipop/Polly's crate while she looks on approvingly. She loves it.

John puts together little Lollipop/Polly’s crate while she looks on approvingly. She loves it.

That evening our friends Julia and Rich came over with gifts and we had an old-fashioned cocktail in Waterford hi-ball glasses (Julia and me) and one beer each for the guys, while we watched the 2-hour Dateline episode featuring the freaky FDLS compound and Warren Jeffs’ arrest. Julia and I are somewhat obsessed with those folks. (So is my daughter-in-law, whom I got addicted with John Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.) The guys made fun of us for our exciting evening, but they ended up watching it too.

Like a train wreck they are. I dare you to look away.

Saturday Jude decreed that Lolly must have cupcakes on her birthday, so Liz got up early and made six heavenly vegan cupcakes, which she and the kids brought over before the Razorback game started. Liz and I also shopped at the South Main Vintage Market, scoring big on two chairs for $10 each and a set of 1950’s painted aluminum small tumblers and a pitcher.

Could’ve been from the year I was born. Close, anyway. And we got a vintage wooden Playskool school bus puzzle thrown in to boot. Sylvia’s obsessed with school busses. (I guess obsessiveness is a family trait.)

Bill Maher ever so kindly came to Arkansas on my birthday (Sept. 14, a day I share with my friends Allison Langston, Ron Wolfe and Paula Putt – and Joey Heatherton, one of John’s and my dad’s dream girls in the ’60’s), so my sister, Cathy, way-back-from-high-school friend, Anita, and I got tickets as soon as they went on sale.

After dinner at Vino’s with John and Paul, we went to Robinson Auditorium, where we were seated in front of my friends Dauphne and Cassandra, so the five of us enjoyed the show together. (Dauphne and I have been bemoaning our busy schedules keeping us from getting together. Coolness.)

Then today was the big family hoorah at Mother’s. Six children (my five grands and Cathy’s one), a new doggie, Rhonda and Mike, and all the family adults made for a big noisy bunch. Mother had a heavenly carrot cake and a whiskey bundt cake with whipped cream. I had too much of each and thought I’d never eat again, but oddly, I find myself getting almost hungry at almost 8 p.m.

So now it’s winding down. I have fabulous and funny cards, nice gifts, fantastic and loving family and friends and good health. Growing old is a breeze, sort of. It’s definitely worth doing, even if in my mind I still look like this:

My

My “official” 18th birthday portrait.

Instead of this:

I guess this is my official 58th birthday portrait. John took it.

I guess this is my official 58th birthday portrait. John took it.

Whatever. I just hope the birthdays keep coming.

I’m now 10 years older than Daddy was when he died of cancer. He’d be so proud of us all.

Typical situation

Even though this is a typical situation, it doesn’t mean I like it – or that I keep doing the same things and – hah, you thought I’d say expecting them to turn out differently. No, that would be insanity, according to Albert Einstein.

I’m old enough to know what I do to myself and to recognize when it’s happening – sometimes I’m just powerless to stop it. Things pile up (mostly books, magazines and dirt on my floors/dust on the blinds/things on my mind that I can’t do anything about). Just when I feel I might blow a fuse, I remember to breathe.

OK, that’s only partially true. Usually I do my whirling dervish act for a bit, as my husband calls it, then pile on a few more things to do, then realize I can’t possibly do it all and decide I’ll think about that tomorrow.

So, tonight, though I have TONS to do work- and otherwise, I decided I’d just blow everything off and do a short blog about coincidences (synchronicities??) and other things.

For one, I want to say “Happy birthday” to my dear friend Rhonda – our birthdays are two days apart and we normally go to lunch on the day between our birthdays, which is tomorrow.

But tomorrow I have to drive Mother to Springdale – I’m dropping everything to drive her up to adopt a little Bichon Frisé, the dog of her dreams, who is named Lollipop, of all things. We figure it was meant to be.

This is Lollipop, who'll be joining our family tomorrow.

This is Lollipop, the little Bichon Frisé mix who’ll be joining our family tomorrow.

Our grandkids’ heads may explode when they meet her Sunday at Grammy’s for my birthday get-together – Lolly and Pop and Lollipop? What?? But Mother’s thrilled and everyone’s thrilled for her.

Cathy and Paul have new adopted babies, too, Oscar and Felix, miniature poodle brothers. Hooray for puppies!

BernadetteMy other burning news is about books. On our recent trip to the Northwest, I tore through Where’d You Go, Bernadette – read it in one day on the way up. It’s set in Seattle and very funny – and dead-on in descriptions of Seattle-ites and places. I’d wanted it last year but made myself wait – I have a ridiculous number of not-read-yet books – then broke down and got it specifically for the trip.

So, of course I went ahead and got Beautiful Ruins, which I also wanted last year. BeautifulRuins It’s also lovely – and, unbeknownst to me beforehand, set partially in Seattle. Meant to be, right?

I finished it on the trip and on the way home started Orange Is the New Black, which I’d wanted to read for quite a while before running into my friend Cary who had just finished it and told me I had to read it.

OrangeI took that as a sign and added it to my trip books. I’m almost through, but life (and Arrested Development) is getting in the way of my reading since we got home. I can’t begin to explain how that book resonates for me – too complicated on too many levels – but if you like to read, read it.

The last book coincidence/whatever has to do with one I had in my youth WatershipDown but let get away and have wanted to reread for quite a while. And since I learned John hasn’t read it, getting him to do so  has been a bit of a mild obsession. (He doesn’t like reading assignments from his former teacher wife, but he usually likes the books I push – I’m a pusher, not a dealer – if he gives in. He’ll love this one.)

Um, John, I ordered a used paperback copy of Watership Down, by the way. Had to. Randomly came up in conversation twice in three days, which, of course, was a sign – AND the first used copy I looked at was sold as a charitable donation for Books for America. A double sign.

You’ll love it. Trust me. And I’ll add it to my to-do stack.

Pictures of Lollipop to come.

What’s going on?

This year started out crazy in January with Mother’s surgery and my step-father’s horrific death. Many days I find myself wondering if this craziness is the new permanent state of affairs and asking “what’s going on?”

At the macro level, sometimes I feel like I’ve landed in Bizarro World.

Remember Bizarro World Superman comics from a simpler time?

Remember Bizarro World Superman comics from a simpler time?

This isn’t even a major election year, but the political climate in our state and in the country just keeps getting worse, something that didn’t seem possible.

Unrest in the world keeps mounting. Rivers and oceans are rising and wildfires are raging. And what’s up with that storm last night? Arkansas is starting to feel like beachfront property weather-wise.

What’s going on? Have we passed the tipping point for things to be righted? Did we learn nothing from Marvin Gaye? The Vietnam War? The non-weapons of mass destruction and the melting polar ice cap?

Sigh. We do what we can in our daily lives and carry on as best we can. But we need to do better. Our grandchildren deserve it.

OK, I just put my soapbox away – I try to keep it out of this blog. But some days it’s tough.

What’s not tough is finding reasons to keep trying to make things better and to focus on the here and now. We have five of them 7 and younger.

Now, on to what’s going on at the micro level.

• John and I have finally become Bluth-heads. For years Ben and Liz told me how good it was, but we just recently started watching the old Arrested Development on Netflix. Yeah, kids, you were right.

Not only that, but we binge watch.

• And I’ve been staying up too late reading, still. We did stop watching The Daily Show and Colbert Report in bed, especially since our first-generation HD television has turned into black-and-white with a shrinking picture. I won’t tell you what I’m reading yet, though I will say after finishing Bruce, I binge-read a bunch of magazines that had stacked up. We’ll talk more books later. And we’ll save movies for another time soon, too.

• The grandkids keep us hopping and happy.

• And we’ve had more major changes in the house of late. Our upstairs floors are in the process of being sanded – we contracted Zaio’s Hardwood Floor Specialties to do the work – and will soon be polyurethaned. Hallelujah! Right now it’s sawdust central, but you can see how it will look from John’s prior handywork in my office.

Still needs baseboards and more coats of paint, but you can tell how it will look.

Still needs baseboards and more coats of paint, but you can tell how it will look.

After the walls were finished (sheetrock and paint) a while back, John's dream of a large mirror to reflect the double-helix stairs became reality.

After the walls were finished (sheetrock and paint) a while back, John’s dream of a large mirror to reflect the double-helix stairs became reality.

A glimpse of what's to come very soon!

A glimpse of what’s to come very soon!

Zuzu models the new floors. You can tell by the ears she's not so sure about her Vanna White skills. (I think she did just fine.)

Zuzu models the new floors. You can tell by the ears she’s not so sure about her Vanna White skills. (I think she did just fine.)

• Once again I’ve gone much longer between posts than intended. Part of that is because I work from home (I blog over at TheBerniceGarden.org, too, a real pleasure), in addition to having a busy life. But part of it is that I seem to be losing some steam. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the crazy year.

Maybe it’s the 58th birthday approaching in September.

Pooh. Anyway, I’ve got lots of things on my Lolly Diaries agenda.

• One last thing that’s going on: My nephew is in jail once again. He’s been a Crisco-coated eel for 16 years, slipping out of tights spots and sliding through cracks in the system. This time no one’s bailed him out and, though no one expects miracles, hope does spring eternal.

We know he belongs there, but it hurts. My heart aches for my sister and the fact that Mother has cried her eyes out makes me want to punch said nephew real hard. He was a loved child. Sometimes things just turn out crazy.

You’d never guess it to look at any of us, which is a good reminder not to judge people or make assumptions. Life is hard for everyone, and you never really know what’s going on.