I WILL NOT BE A BALLERINA (OR A COWBOY) – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was a girl, my mother took me to the ballet. She didn’t take me to the typical “first ballet” for kids — Nutcracker Suite — which mommies take their little girls to see. Instead, she took me to the New York City Ballet Company, while Balanchine was still its choreographer.

It was magic. Extreme magic. I left the theater sure I’d found my future. All I needed were a few lessons, a pair of those cool ballet slippers and I could leap and twirl on my tiptoes, just like the stars at the ballet.

I had not accounted for the klutz factor. I was young and sure that wanting it badly enough would make it happen.

Sadly, I had no talent for dance. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I had a go at ballet, tap, jazz — even belly dancing. All had the same results, yet somehow,  I survived the disappointment.

I was simultaneously coping with the realization I was not going to become a cowboy, either.

For one thing, I wasn’t a boy. For a second thing, I was living in New York, didn’t own a horse, wasn’t likely to ever own a horse and pretending the fence rail was a horse was not going work out long-term.

For anyone who likes dance … even if you don’t … check out the  delicious parody of classical ballet from the original Disney “Fantasia.” No matter how many times I see it, it always makes me laugh. You have to love hippos in tutus.

SHOP TILL YOU DROP – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I love shopping when I’m looking for something specific. It’s like a treasure hunt. My pulse quickens and all my senses go on high alert. I’m like an animal stalking prey. Will I find it down the next aisle? Or around the next corner? The perfect short-sleeved top in a bright summer color with a round or V neckline. Or the earrings that will go perfectly with my turquoise and white print dress.

Why do we get such a rush when we find some item to buy that meets the needs of the moment? Why do we get such a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when we buy it and take it home? Why do we get so excited when we take it out and use it or wear it for the first time?

The endorphin rush I get from shopping must have physiological and evolutionary roots. It’s such a common phenomenon among humans. Maybe it’s like the primeval drive of the hunter or gatherer to provide for his family. Maybe we are programmed to enjoy the search for the necessities of life. Then, by extension, we end up thrilled by the search for amenities and even frivolities as well.

People can even get addicted to shopping – online shopping, QVC television shopping, all kinds of shopping. Most people can control their shopping urges. I have actually been on a long shopping hiatus. These days I only shop at the supermarket, the hardware store and the pet store.

I’m at a point in my life when I really don’t need much. I have enough clothes and too much jewelry. Also a house full of books. After two years of decorating, my house won’t need anything decorative for years. My only recent purchase was a new Cuisinart to replace the old one that broke.

So I satisfy my shopping needs by shopping with friends. I get the thrill of the hunt with none of the guilt from spending too much money. Or the angst of deciding what to buy and whether or not to actually buy it. It’s also fun figuring out what someone else will like. It adds an intellectual element to the game.

I went clothes shopping with a friend today. I’d forgotten how intense and focused I get when I shop. I was thrilled when my friend said I have a good eye and that I’m a great shopper. What a compliment! I felt elated!

Now that I’ve got my shopping fix, I can go back to suppressing my shopping urges. At least until I can find another friend who has to go to a wedding!

SHARING YOUR WORLD – IT’S BEEN QUITE THE WEEK! – Marilyn Armstrong

Sharing My World: What A Week!

What household chore do you absolutely enjoy doing? (can be indoor or outdoor)

I don’t really enjoy household chores. I get a certain satisfaction from getting stuff done, but enjoying it? Not really. I’m just glad when it’s finished. Probably the best I can do with this is feeling pleased that something which needed doing got done. I won’t have to worry about it at least, not until the next time it needs doing.

Back when I had a spine that bent, I used to enjoy gardening, but these days, it’s more work and less fun. I still love the flowers, though. Even though it hurts.

Create a sentence with the words “neon green” and train.”

The neon green train roared across the Providence-Worcester bridge in Uxbridge.

Everyone stared, rubbed their eyes, then — being New Englanders — said “Well, that was different” and moved on. You can’t surprise people in this region. We’ve seen it all.

Other than your cell phone what can you always be found with?

A camera. Actually, you may not find the cell phone (though it’s usually somewhere in my purse, but not turned on), but there are cameras everywhere.

A bench full of cameras

If I’m in the house, computers too. I have too many cameras and I love them all. Each one is unique and special in its own way.

What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week? 

Garry finally got to talk to the doctor who is going to do his cochlear implant and now things are moving forward. I think sometime before summer ends, the surgery. It’s kind of a miracle because it will be the first time in his life that Garry will be able to truly hear.

Then the long process of tuning up and learning the sounds and waiting for his brain to make it sound “normal.” Apparently, at some point for no known reason, your brain will turn the mechanical sounds you get from the implant and make them sound normal, like they used to sound when you could hear.

Why does it happen? No one knows, though many people have made good guesses. The brain is an amazing tool.

AWKWARD CAN BE CUTE IN A KLUTZY WAY, RIGHT? – Marilyn Armstrong

Awkward?
Photo: Garry Armstrong

Me walking anywhere. More like limping. Me, trying to clamber into the bathtub and hoping, praying, I’m not going to fall down in the process.  Awkward is anytime I have to go upstairs. Worse, slowly and awkwardly going down. I rarely fear falling upward, but I’m always sure I’m going to fall down.

My days of grace have wandered far into the distance. Not that I was ever really graceful, even way back in the days of youth. I always felt like my feet were about to get tangled together and down I’d go. About the most graceful I ever felt was on horseback!

Now, I’m glad if I can get anywhere and not fall on my face doing it! Some of us are just born that way.

I LIKE BASEBALL – Marilyn Armstrong

I enjoy baseball. I used to enjoy it because Garry is such a passionate fan of the sport, I was either going to learn to like it, or spend half the year having no one to talk to because there was a game on television.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Gradually, I got to really like the game for its own sake. Its complexity. The slow, careful way it unfolds. The subtleties of how the ball is thrown, how the pitcher finds the seams and throws so the ball dips or rises. How it is caught and by whom. The way the field is set up, depending on who is hitting. All those decisions about running and stealing.

Errors.

Was it a mental or physical error? What other sport takes the time to figure out whether the subject thought wrongly or just did the wrong thing? Imagine a football announcer discussing whether that hit was a mental or physical error? No one talks “mental” in football, despite the enormous complexity of the game. Baseball is relatively simple compared to football.

Garry and Harvey Leonard, famed meteorologist, sharing old Dodger baseball memories

Stop and think about all the things that must go through the mind of the quarterback and his team to make a play. It is — sorry for the pun — mind-boggling.

The point is, I like baseball and I sort of like football, though I’m less familiar with its finer points than baseball. Football makes me say “OUCH! That really had to hurt!” while watching. I’m amazed anyone has a brain after it gets whacked during the game.

Gate D – Fenway Park

People who don’t like sports don’t get it. They don’t see the point. Why bother? It’s just a bunch of guys running around a square before when a ball gets whacked by a batter.

Can you whack that ball? If you can do it regularly, you can get paid as much as $250 million for — I’m not sure — maybe 10 years? Does whatever you do pay that well? So, however dumb you may think it is, if they would pay you that much money, you think you might run around the bases? Yeah, I think so too.

So now we get do why is it dumber to play baseball then do something else? Is working in a bank smarter? For that matter, is writing manuals for software inherently more intelligent — or is it just something I do well enough to get paid?

Mostly, what we do for a living depends on what we are good at. It’s nice when it’s something thoughtful where you can make a difference, whatever that means these days. But most of us just do the best we can with whatever talents we have. Maybe it makes a difference — sometimes — and then again, maybe it doesn’t.

So why is running around during a ball game sillier than sitting in front of a computer writing code for computer games? What is the difference except that ball players make a lot more money (because it’s easier to find a coder than a pitcher or a guy who can hit 50 home runs)?

So much of what we do in life is pretty dumb. We don’t do what we do to be smart. We do it because it earns our living and we need a paycheck. We do it because it’s enjoyable. It makes us smile, laugh, cheer and feel good about something that isn’t politics or money. Our life is not on the line. It’s just fun.

If you are one of the intensely annoying people who despises sports because they are stupid, ask yourself a question: What do you do in your life which is so much smarter? And how well do you get paid to do it?

Who is smarter, really?

THE NEW POLITICAL MORALITY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I read an article in the Washington Post on Sunday, May 12, by Marc Fisher, that piqued my interest. It was titled “The shape of the sex scandal has shifted. What does it take to kill a political career these days?”

The premise was simple. Plain old adultery used to be enough to tank a politician’s career. Today, not so much. The Gold Standard today for a career ending scandal has to involve violence, lack of consent, under age and possibly criminality.

I think I’m okay with this moral evolution. I never thought that politicians’ consensual sex lives should be a political issue. That was the purview of the overly moralistic, puritanical religious fundamentalists and others who view sex itself as something dirty and unsavory. I’m more interested in politicians’ positions on ‘moral’ issues like helping the poor, the sick and the victims of injustice and inequality.

‘Conservatives’ always seem to define morality in terms of sexual behavior. They also seem to be obsessed with the trappings of sex, like birth control and abortions. I always felt it was immoral to force women to get pregnant when they didn’t want to, or force them into celibacy to avoid an unwanted pregnancy. Not only is that immoral, it’s also highly unrealistic and impractical. Sex is here to stay. Deal with it.

But today’s morality is taking a different turn. It focuses on the issues of the Me Too Movement – abuse, abuse of power, and consent. I have to admit that I didn’t realize how many women are harassed and taken advantage of, particularly in the workplace, where they have little, if no leverage. But given the prevalence of these abuses, I like where the emphasis is today. It’s on women’s consent and on their control over their own bodies. It also recognizes the verbal abuse, harassment and intimidation that women are subjected to, clearly without their consent.

Many high-powered men have been guilty of actual crimes against women. Bill Cosby has finally been convicted of drugging and sexually assaulting women. Other criminal behaviors that have been recently alleged are spousal abuse (Rob Porter), abuse of power and possibly rape (Harvey Weinstein) and physical assault (Governor Eric Greitens and former NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman).

Harvey Weinstein

Morality now is more in the realm of actual morality, not just sexuality itself as immorality. Hopefully this moral shift means that most Americans are prepared to give consensual, albeit extra-marital sex, a pass in their celebrities and politicians. It is usually a private matter between spouses. Or it should be.

The exception is when the perpetrator’s behavior reveals more about him than just promiscuity. For example, when Trump used to brag about his extra-marital affairs and flaunt them in the media, to the humiliation of his wife. Or in his Billy Bush tape when he reveled in the celebrity status that gave him the power to do whatever he wanted to women, sexually. Then there was Rudy Giuliani, who openly cheated on his wife and then informed her that he was asking for a divorce on national television.

Women are now, finally empowered to speak out and be believed about the abuses they suffer at the hands of men. Particularly men who are in positions of power over them. Up to now, the reality for most women was that they were afraid to report harassment, abuse or worse. If they did, they were unlikely to be believed over the denials of the more ‘powerful’ men they were accusing. That in itself is amoral. Morality, as well as justice and equality, will be taking a big step forward if women are encouraged to come forward more now and are believed when they do.

So maybe this new, politically correct morality will be a good thing for the country. At least for its women.

I DREAM OF LILAC TIME – Marilyn Armstrong

Flower of the Day – Lilac Time

Lilacs are my favorite flower.

Possibly, it is also my favorite scent. It all started with when Owen was born. May 7th in the middle of lilac season.

Back in the olden golden days, you were allowed to bring flowers into dreary hospital rooms and for the few days in the hospital — I think back then it was three or four — my room was absolutely full of lilacs.

Lilacs at the top of the tree

They were blooming and everyone went outside and cut them into huge bouquets.

Of course, you can’t do that anymore. There might be a bug on a branch or someone might be allergic and  hospital rooms can’t be cheery or hospitable. They have to be barren and easy to clean.

I ought to mention that the previous song was the top song of 1928 and was a big seller for many other performers, too. I know music has changed, but I don’t know any other songs about lilacs, so this one will have to do.

Despite this, I do love lilacs and I am glad we have a huge lilac tree. It would be nice if it were a little smaller and I could see the lilacs without a super zoom lens.

Closeup lilacs

I planted some miniature Korean lilacs when we first moved here and they were doing pretty well, but I think the past three or four winters just killed them off. That and having oak tree branches, which are often the size of ordinary trees, fall on them. I could find no sign of them at all this spring.

Our badly damaged old lilac tree is blooming and I thought you might enjoy looking at them. I wish I could include how wonderful they smell, but that’s not available yet in WordPress.