Wednesday, July 21, 2010


My childhood swing was so simplistic, so very elemental in design, that at first glance it was almost insulting to kids who'd frequented playgrounds and fancy backyard sets. Merely a huge, long strand of woven white synthetic-fiber rope about as thick as a peeled banana, hanging from a tree that happened to perch on the top of a downward slope—that's all it was. There wasn't even a seat, just a large, hand-tied loop at the bottom. To sit in that loop for long was painful; when sporting bare summer legs, one had to keep the rope placed securely underneath the seat of one's shorts or risk severe rope-burn.

Many of my friends looked utterly unimpressed when I'd hurry them out to the swing. "Come on, we'll play on the rope swing!" I'd holler. They'd survey the boring thing with undisguised ennui. And then? I'd show them the ropes, so to speak. I'd do a few practice swings out over that steep precipice, demonstrating the wonders of the rope, how a running start was essential; I'd hurl myself into space and spin madly, all while dangling over the small, grassy cliff that ended in our garden far below. Then, my friend would be hooked. She had to try it. All children did, boys too—family friends, neighbor kids, every one was eager to give the swing a "whirl" after witnessing the awesome acrobatic possibilities hidden therein.

You see, it wasn't just a frontwards/backwards swing. Because of the tree's strategic location by that hillside, and because of the length of the rope and my father's safely hanging it far from the tree base, the arc of the swing covered a huge amount of space. A determined child could start on one side of the tree, some distance from the trunk, and then swing out and away from the hillside's edge before landing clear on the other side of the tree. (That poor tree. It's still there today, and it seems to be making a comeback, but for years the thing looked pitiful and sickly, its roots exposed by hundreds of footsteps pounding across, a permanent scar in the large branch that held the knotted rope through my youth and beyond. Talk about a giving tree...)

At one point, a looooooooong time ago, I distinctly recall managing eight spins as I flew from one side of the tree to the other. That was only after I'd bashed into the tree many times, of course; sticking the landing was quite challenging, especially since the ground was roughed up and uneven and you were usually coming out of dizzying rotation as you attempted to find the earth unseen with your feet.

I couldn't tell you the hours I spent under that tree. What memories: spinning on the swing, lazily riding it out over the garden, climbing the tree, falling out of the tree, watching my sisters try stunts, watching one sister fall gracelessly into the garden when the rope gave way one day without notice... Ah, such fun—especially when injuries are involved. (No worries: my sis and I both came out of our experiences without a broken bone or internal bleeding.)

I learn, more and more, that commonplace pleasures are the finest; the joys they bring are irreplaceable. I'll never remember playing a computer game with the same fondness that I recall hanging onto that rope and flinging my body around the shady boundaries of that old maple. Swinging ropes, Play-doh, crayons, sandboxes, blocks, and the more grown-up versions of those pastimes will always rule in my world.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Can you handle the truth?

OK, I've been tiptoeing around a lot of issues on this blog. I said in the beginning that it wouldn't be that kind of blog. But it's becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the messy stuff of late. And, in fairness, I warned you recently that I'd be stepping out of the closet soon.

Here goes:

I think Obama is a joke. I have never felt so unrepresented by an American president in my life. It has nothing to do with his color; it has everything to do with his unspoken agenda, his lies about his supposed Christianity, his habitual favoritism to all things socialist, and his general lack of life and work experience. He is a figurehead, a pretty front-man for a party that longs to rule things inadequately and expensively.

I could turn this into a serious bashing post, but so many others have done it better than I could that I will hold my tongue.

However, I will include these links for your horror and edification:

Regarding the Gulf oil spill disaster, go here.

If you want to feel ill about potential taxes, go here and here.

If you want to question why he pushed his radical Christian minister in our faces, go here.

And if you are still thinking that he has a clue about what this country needs. please go back to "Go." Do not collect $200. Reread everything that is available to you—NOT in the mainstream media, his pandering accomplices, but in the real, gritty, hardcore media of honest people. Please join me in being horrified about NASA's new mission, as explained here.

My fellow Americans, I beseech you: see what is before you. FRAUD. CHICANERY. DOOM.

I continue my prayer that God will have mercy on this country. I ask you to join me. Remember how our great country began here.

The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have a problem...right? It's not too late to reclaim this place. Damage is done—but it's been done before.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A priorities

You'd think I'd know by now to stop uttering "I'll never (fill in blank here)" because history keeps proving that the minute those words leave my mouth, I've pretty much sealed my doom: the very thing I've just sworn off is guaranteed to come to pass.

The latest example? Well, after a lifetime of mocking the easy-care common house dress, of poking fun at that humble housewife staple in all its simple glory, I'm suddenly the proud owner of just such an item.

It's not really a house dress. It's quite cute. I bought it because I was looking for a new summer robe and it fit the bill perfectly. Now, I bought it at KMart, not Macy's or Nordstrom or any of those more respected shops. But it was, after all, in the sleepwear department. (Although, in all fairness, there is no house dress department.) And the tag didn't say House Dress; it said Shift. So, it's not actually a house dress at all. It snaps up the front (I know, I know, snaps—does anyone use those anymore???) and it has polka dots and a little pan collar and it's kind of darling.

But in the recesses of my mind, I know it's a house dress. The baggy, undefined waist that frees me from sucking in the tummy, the big patch pockets in front, the snaps, and—a sure sign—the 50% cotton, 50% polyester blend all point me very clearly in the direction of the house dress.

In truth, I've decided to embrace the entire movement. I might even wear it outside to get the paper. Or to feed to birds. I haven't yet, but why not? It's sort of a strange blend of dress and robe; other people step outside in their fuzzy, belted post-bath gear and think nothing of it, so why not my fun, forgiving little dress of sorts? The scary thing is that I can foresee this sort of fashion faux pas becoming a regular part of my wardrobe in a few years. It's part of the natural progression, you see. First my high heels went by the wayside, then any shoes with laces, then my pants with real waistbands, then the shirts that required tucking... All that's left, really, is my final descent into one-piece, shapeless muumuus that either zip or snap (buttons will be far too much work by then).

If I get to that point, I suppose I'll need to acquire a truckload of cats, and perhaps a whole lot of mothballs. I'm not there yet, but it's good to have a plan, you know?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Be true to the red, white, and blue

Go American!

In light of Independence Day's nearness, I set aside a couple of other topics to address a more important and timely one: giving kudos to American companies that perform admirably with consistency.

I've limited my few suggestions to American-owned, American-based companies selling tangible items of high quality; I've also found through experience that the help desk representatives for said companies speak English as their primary language—always a nice touch.

The list is not quite as long as I'd hoped it would be. (Perhaps you can help me expand it? I know there are more!)

Here, in no particular order, are some of my faves:

Okabashi and oka b Shoes
If you've seen me, then you've seen these shoes. I wear them almost exclusively in spring and summer. They are plastic, which sounds gross and weird, but they are ergonomically designed for comfort and they are dishwasher-washable. I highly recommend them, especially to people with any foot issues. Best of all? Made in the good ol' US of A, in Georgia. You can even send them back when they become too worn so they can be melted down and incorporated into new footwear. How's that for reduce and reuse, eh?!

Lands End
This company has delivered every time I've ordered. They offer lots of cute, comfortable, classically styled clothing, shoes, coats, bags, outdoor gear, etc. Their kids' stuff is excellent. Their sizing is accurate. Their return process is simple and reasonable. And telephone help is top-notch. I know that much of what they sell is not made in the United States... but that's the only beef I have with them.

Burt's Bees Skincare
These guys make lots of really nice, harmless products for even overly sensitive types like me. Their creams are great, balms are better, and their stuff seems to last a reasonable length of time so the prices, albeit high, aren't ridiculous. I've never had a reaction to anything they've made, and I can't say that about plenty of other, more over-priced skincare companies.

All-Clad Cookware
I love my All-Clad. I wouldn't trade it. Even before Emeril embraced the brand, my family became well-versed in its superiority thanks to a handy "connection" via my sister's in-laws. Treated right, it will last a lifetime. It's heavy, it's professional quality, it cooks and bakes food beautifully, and it was dreamed up and continues to be created within 40 minutes of my home. What more could I ask for?

Celestial Seasonings Tea
Celestial Seasonings have so many great tea varieties, and their packaging is beautifully, intelligently decorated to boot. They offer frequent coupons, even going so far as to occasionally hide coupons in their boxes of product, and they make a point of explaining their business practices: to conserve paper and packaging, as well as to trade for and buy tea-related items for fair prices and from legal, above-board sellers who take steps to leave no footprint.

Penzeys Spices
A former colleague turned me on to Penzeys when I got married, and I never looked back. If you love creating magic in the kitchen, then you must become a Penzeys convert. The company opened a store here in the 'Burgh a few years back, then happily moved it even closer to my home; if you want a fragrant, fabulous field trip, let me know. Their mail order service, which was their backbone for years, is superb; carefully packaged orders, extras like nutmeg and bay leaves tucked in around the scrumptious-smelling jars... a class act. They even have their own magazine, and I do a happy little dance on the days when their newest catalog arrives—usually with a coupon for a free item on the front cover.

There are others I could mention, but I'm not as familiar with them; these companies I've mentioned above are regulars in my home, and I feel confident about recommending them.

I urge you to shop American when you can, and especially to reward American companies with word-of-mouth advertising and additional business when they've exceeded your expectations. And, I ask that you share positive or other feedback on these or other American companies here for edification of any other visitors. Let me know about any great companies I missed, please! Thanks!

And Happy 4th, America! Maybe it's not too late to save our country from the idealistic, frothing libs!