Wednesday, February 15, 2012

talk turkey – idiomatic phrase (Am. English): to seriously discuss a difficult problem with the intention of solving it.

You can always tell when a cowboy is ready to talk turkey. The first thing he does is set his hat on the back of his head. So that he can see his eyes. And there’s a look that says, “I’m willing not to win, if you’re willing not to win.” It’s the moment in a fight where you realize that if, even if you do win, you’ll have lost just as much. And realizing your opponent is in the same spot.

Americans may have invented that phrase. But we sure have lost the ability to do it. I don’t know. Is it that we’ve come to enjoy the fight more than the peace? Have we lost the mental strength to cope with a vision of the world that isn’t just the way we think it ought to be?

And it’s politically and personally both. We have politicians that enjoy saber rattling more than deal brokering. We have relationships that end in because people can’t see their way clear to a truce. Friends, family, marriages. Broken.

So, there’s only two options. One is to live with people who are exactly like you, so that you never have anything to argue about. That doesn’t sound like much of a relationship to me. And it doesn’t sound like the America that I believe in either. Or we learn to talk turkey again.

Monday, February 13, 2012


The death of Whitney Houston pretty much defines the idea of “shocking, but not surprising.” How could you be surprised? The rawness of her damage was visible. From the years of rumors, to the Enquirer pictures of “Whitney’s Crack Den,” to the recovered-yet-not-whole spectacle of Being Bobby Brown, to the voice that was in ruins. She’d give one more loopy interview that denied any current state of addiction, and make you hope against what was only too evident. Whitney just never could get right. And you’d sigh over the loss of such a gift, and add a sad “poor Bobbi Kristina.”

And really, it’s one of those addiction stories you never can quite comprehend. Her wealth gave her the two things that most addicts don’t have: access to the very best medical help and time. If you have a substance abuse problem, you’re really lucky to get 90 days in a decent program. Whitney could have schedule day after day of any and all kinds of help (8:00 am: yoga, 9:00 am: group, 10:00 am: dialectical therapy, 11:00 am: biofeedback, noon: lunch, 1:00 pm Freudian analysis, 2:00 pm: horse therapy . . .). She could have whiled away hours (days, years) in every treatment known to science, religion and Dr. Drew. For as long as she needed it. Hell, the Scientologists would have LOVED to help her. Whatever it takes. She had world enough and time.

And she had every reason. A family that loved her. Fans who loved her. A daughter who needed her. A faith in a higher power. And a talent that was a true gift. Not many people get that kind of a talent. And yes, I’m kind of mad at her for pissing it away. On top of that, she was beautiful. A decent actress, whose magnetism made up for any technical shortcomings. Really, she had everything. When you have everything, have been given everything, is it easy to just not value it?

When Whitney sang, she sounded like a warrior. Shocking that in the end, it doesn’t matter how much armor you have, but how willing you are to fight.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


I’ve waited a bit to say anything about the Paula Deen thing. The fact that she has Type 2 diabetes. I just found the whole situation pretty disturbing.

Full disclosure: I come from a family with weight problems. Like most Americans, really. Not the super-sized weight problems. But the every-day, your doctor wants you to lose some weight kind of problems. The kind that can lead to diabetes. And in some cases, already have. I’ve known this for a lot of years.

I also come from a family that eats not far from the kinds of food that Paula Deen cooks. As a kid, I was completely unaware that it was possible to serve vegetables without butter. Chicken-fried steak is a sacrament. Biscuits and gravy aren’t just for breakfast. In some ways, eating healthy disconnects me from family tradition.

And watching the health problems that my family has gone through also has given me a very clear window into what the consequences can be of “everything is better with butter” lifestyle. For myself, I decided that eating healthier was the better option. Because I’ve also seen what the drug intervention route can do. Too many medications, for too many problems that have one major contributing factor - bad eating habits. I’ve seen older members of my family swallowing handfuls of pills for “my heart, my cholesterol, my sugar.” Doing pretty much everything but cleaning up their diet. And also seeing the number of times that drug interactions have created even worse issues. I can’t do it.

But I also can’t condemn Paula or anyone else for going the other route. Food is a powerful thing. It is nourishment, it is cultural, it is pleasure. And I can’t completely walk away from those foods that are so closely related to my history. A little butter makes life worth living. I just have to balance it with making my life livable.

Monday, February 6, 2012


Okay, so the tv show Smash. I didn’t watch it. I’m trying to decide if I should. I mean really. Given that we’re talking about me, it’s a little on-the-nose, don’t you think? It’s show tunes. It’s not Glee (which I’m so over). It has Angelica Houston (we-re-not-worthy). Contrarily, I’m being chary with my favor.

Really, it’s got 2 things going against it. First, it’s episodic. And I’m just not sure if I’m up for another show to keep up with. Plus, I’ve got what-happens-next burnout. Cliffhanging just has lost some of its appeal.

Second, behind the scenes in musical theater. I really just am not sure I want to know how the sausage gets made. If it’s at all realistic, I don’t want to know how the magic happens. Nothing can quite sweep me away like a musical. I’d just prefer that the Wizard stay behind his curtain.


On the undeniably enticing side is Jack Davenport. Who evidently plays the narcissistic bad boy director. Yumma. At least his voice. To me, his voice is like I’m a Twix cookie and he’s the caramel enrobing machine. Just lay back and be layered in rich, chewy goodness. Don’t know where he’s from, but the accent is killah on top of a really nice voice. Okay, he looks kind of like a junior high science teacher. But if he’d read sonnets to me, I could so get over that.

Is that enough? I mean, he’s not going to be talking the entire show. And if you just fast forward to the moments where your sex bomb of the moment is, shows just really don’t make any sense. Don’t ask me how I know that.

Meh. Probably will just end up flipping a coin.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Well, so far the “Yes” resolution has been my easiest one to keep – ever. Score. So far, the only things I’ve had to give my okey-doke on have been going to see the ballet Dracula in Fort Worth (outside my usual Zone of Entertainment, but not exactly painful) and buying a dress.

Okay, saying yes to the dress is slightly more difficult than it sounds. Not that it was a dress, per se, more the style of it. I picked it up at a flea market and said, “I like it, but I don’t think I’m “that girl.”” Because this dress is definitely a certain kind of person. The cute girl. The quirky girl. The girly girl. And, most particularly, a younger girl. This dress is Zooey Deschanel’s dress. I’m not that girl.

Okay, to be specific about the dress, it’s got a slightly retro look. Light gray muslin top, with puffy cap sleeves and a lace-edged mandarin collar. The skirt is an ever-so-slightly orangey red corduroy, pleated front, offset pockets, knee length. There’s nothing specific about it that makes it age inappropriate*, other than it just reads young. Like 23-ish. A hipster 23-ish.

I really liked the dress. And it was my size. But I doubt that even when I was 23 that I would have attempted this one. I’m not cute, quirky or girly. Add on the mutton-dressed-as-lamb fashion issue that I fear like hardly any other, and I’d probably back on the rack with the slightest touch of wist.

But, I said it out loud. “I like it, but I don’t think I’m “that girl.”” The woman next to me, who was rocking some age appropriate quirk said, “You could be that girl.” And the woman who was selling the dress said, “I’ll let you have it for $10.”

Ooo, boy. So, I was caught. In my self-defined parameters of “Yes.” Within my morals and within the realm of possibility. Dear Reader, I bought it.

And I plan to wear it on February 24th. To the ballet. Two birds. Now I just have to figure out shoes. What would Zooey Deschanel do?

* And just a brief side-note on specific things that make clothing age inappropriate. More specifically still, mini-skirts. Yes, adding a pair of tights can make a slightly short skirt acceptable on a woman over 30. But they aren’t a time machine. At a certain point – no, ma’am. I’m still working on a formula. Like [skirt length – age in years + dark tights = number of inches past your cooch that your hem must be]. I was an English major, though, so I haven’t quite got the numbers right. So for now, if you have any questions, just send me a picture and I’ll tell you whether you’re allowed to go outside.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

It's Jesus. And he brought snacks!

I’m sitting here eating a few saltine crackers as an afternoon snack. Like many people who grew up Protestant, I have a . . . weird relationship with saltines. Don’t get me wrong, I love saltines. I’m enjoying the hell of out my snack. But they will also always be associated in my mind with Communion.

I know some churches have special wafers. And some use honest to God wine. But at the Church of Christ we had crackers and grape juice passed as the “unleavened bread and wine,” this is my body, this is my blood. (Is it any wonder that I love the vampire and zombie stuff? Holy Communion is pretty lurid.) I now know that my church actually used kosher matzo crackers. But to me, it looked like they were passing around saltines. I was a southern WASP. What did I know from Manischewitz?

Of course, my church is one that believes in the “age of reason” and you can’t get baptized, and therefore can’t participate in Communion, until you’re at least an adolescent. So, Communion was one of those things that were definitely “not for kids.” And what do kids love? Crackers and grape juice. Not only do they pass them around, they put them on special fancy Communion plates. And you could hear the snap of the cracker as the person who dragged you to church broke off their bite, and then the redolent tang of grape juice (wine never tastes as good as grape juice smells). Insult. Grievous injury. None for you. Awwwwww. Of course, we’d imitate the ritual on our own. Raiding the pantry for saltines to put on paper, and Hi C to put in Dixie cups snatched from the bathroom. Profane little monkeys. But at church, the plates would be held high, away from any little hands that might be looking for a sacrilegious treat.

Fine. Didn’t want any anyways. I’ll just grow up and buy my own. And so a lifetime of heresy begins.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mini Me

I got to spend the morning baby-sitting my nephew, D. Of all the kids, D is the one most like me. Funnily enough, because he looks just like my brother did at that age, and my brother is my sibling least like me.

There are moments when I’ll just look down at his little two-year old self and see me so clearly reflected. He has Aunt Julie’s sugar jones (sorry, kid). He has my tendency to pick at something until he has it figured out. We both have storm cloud temperaments – the negative emotions are fast and hard, but the sun comes out pretty quickly again. Bossy, of course ("Clap, Dulie, clap! No, like this!"). And if something isn’t working the way he thinks it should, he’ll just whack on it until it does. Don’t know where on earth the kid got that.

It’s funny to look down and see all the little impulses I’ve been operating with for 40-odd years being acted out by a tiny human being. And, of course those 40 years have given me a perspective on those impulses (if I didn’t at least have some insight by now, I’d be in sorry shape). The temptation is to try to give him a life crib sheet. Do this, look at it this way, go that direction. Give the little guy a leg up on all the stuff I’ve figured out. But you can’t do that. First, half of life’s fun is figuring it out. Can’t rob him of that. Second, I think D is just a little bit smarter than I am. He may get to those answers faster than I did. And come up with some better ones too, if I don’t get in his way.

What I can do for him is empathize. I told my Mom, “Poor, D. Nobody is ever going to understand him the way his Aunt Julie does.” But, really, that’s not such a bad thing. At least one person should be able to see things the way you do. I think I would have liked that when I was growing up.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Lizard by Any Other Name

You know, I know that everybody is getting their panties in a bunch about Newt Gingrich and the “open marriage” stuff that’s coming out from his second ex-wife. Personally, the misuse of SuperPAC funds that got him fired from public office 15 years ago would be plenty to take him off the menu for me.

And frankly, I don’t think marital shenanigans are any of the voters’ business. Politics and a wandering eye go together like peas and carrots. Being able to keep one's pants on really doesn’t make me any never mind as to whether a candidate can do the job. I don’t really see any correlation historically between good Presidents and good husbands. So, what goes on between a candidate and any other consenting adult on a planet isn’t really my business.

Except in one very specific arena: if you run on a family values/good Christian/holier than thou platform, live it. If you have an extensive history of running around, shut up about other people’s morals. The ability compartmentalize one’s morals and still preach decency to others smacks of a level of hypocrisy that I would find absolutely disqualifying for any elected office. In fact, I’d say Jesus would be with me on this. Remember that thing about pointing out the speck of dust in other people’s eyes when you’ve got a log in your own?

So, if Newt is able to dismiss his own moral turpitude by saying he and God talked it out, I think he should assume that other people are having their own conversations with God about their failings. And by the way, if you asked God for forgiveness for lying to him in a marriage ceremony, I think he may have said, “Dude, talk to your ex-wife. I’m out of this one.”

You know what, I’ll say one thing for George W. Bush. He talked the conservative Christian line, but he also lived it. The man stuck by his wife. It may not have made him a great President. But at least he wasn’t a hypocrite.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Well, so. I’ve been fumbling. I’m trying to come up with New Year Resolution 2012. Nothing’s really coming. I mean, nothing. I had trouble last year. But I eventually came up with the 5 fruits/vegetables a day thing (pretty successful, by the way, happy with the way it turned out, thumbs up). But this year, the new smell is pretty much off of 2012, and I got nothing.

Usually, that means I’m avoiding something. Like it’s something I know I should do, but don’t really want to. Like the time I gave up TV for Lent (ugh, I still get the willies off of that one). Didn’t want to, hated every minute of it, but it needed to be done. This year, I don’t even think there’s anything I really don’t want to do (e.g, should do).

Obviously, there’s stuff that I should be doing. I’m a mess. There’s always something I should be doing. But I’m not feeling, you know, compelled this year.

So, just to get this off the list, I’m going to steal a page from the book of someone wiser than myself – William Shatner. A friend read his book, and was pretty much surprised about how much she ended up just liking the guy. And one of the big things she was impressed with was his philosophy of saying “yes” to things. Pretty much “yes” to everything. If someone asks him if he wants to do something, he says “yes.” The most compelling reason he has for doing something is that somebody asks him. It’s kind of a Zen way to live your life, no? Accepting what comes to you. Trusting that there is a universal gestalt and that you are offered opportunities for reasons you may not immediately understand. Not rejecting on the basis of the intellectual process of what you do know. Geez, that’s a terrifying.

Not that I could say “yes” to everything. Okay, that’s hedging and I admit it. I don’t have that much trust in the Universe. How about say “yes” to more things? Okay, now I sound like total pussy. That’s it. “Yes” to every opportunity that’s offered. If somebody asks me if I want to do something, I’ll say “okey-dokey, artichokey”. Now I’m worried. How much stuff do I get offered to do? Not that much, right? Surely.

I really don’t know what I’m getting myself into here. And, yes, if you’re wondering if I sometimes just make this stuff up as I go – indeed I do. And here’s where I’m going. To a place of “yes.” One year. What can it hurt? Yeah, I know. Famous last words.

Friday, January 6, 2012

It's a good look

You know, I pretty much disagree with everything on this list. Frankly it’s what I think is an “old fashioned” view of fashion. One that is based on the idea that if you’re fashionable then you’re “correct,” no one can make fun of you. Fear-based fashion. Which is certainly one way to go. Not everyone can or wants to be unique. But if you do – break every one of these rules. With glee.

But you know what I think ages women more than anything? Worrying whether someone else thinks you look alright. Worrying about being “alright.” Uhgh. If you like matchy, matchy jewelry, wear it! Because it’s what you like, you’ll be better at pulling together a matchy, matchy look than anyone else. It’s called “style,” and it belongs to you. But nothing is more retrograde and aging than putting on something that you don’t like or apologizing for something that you do like because it’s not what the world likes.

If what you like is something that would pass without comment, great! Go for it. But if it’s not what you like, if it’s not what you feel good in, if that still small voice inside tells you that you should be wearing harem pants with stilettos, lucky you! Never apologize, never explain. If you like overalls with poet shirts, that’s good too. Be true to yourself. Listen to your own voice. Confidence is your best accessory. Believe it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tough Cookies

Man. It takes some time to get over the holidays. I’m sitting here wanting a cookie sooooo bad.

You know, anywhere between Thanksgiving and New Years, a cookie is totally appropriate. If not obligatory. I mean, it’s the holidays. Have a cookie. Have two. If there’s an assortment, you should probably try to have one of each. Just so you have a basis for comparison. Ginger snap, chocolate cherry chunk or straight up sugar cookie? You need to be able to offer an informed opinion.

But, then January 2. The cookie train comes to an end. Not only are they not as available (blast!), it’s just not appropriate to punctuate every meal with a cookie (oatmeal cookies are breakfast food, right?). So, there’s a grieving process. You just look at your empty hand and think, “Damn, I wish there was a cookie there.”

Well. You just have to be strong. And wait for Valentine’s day.

TIME: Quotes of the Day