?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.


No this isn’t the acronym for ‘artificial intelligence.’ It’s about the Art Institute of Chicago.

I drove from Benton Harbor, MI, to Michigan City, IN, and then trained the rest of the way into Chicago to meet C at the Art Institute and spend time with each other. It was six hours total of travel for three hours together.

And it was absolutely worth it. We saw the special Andy Warhol Exhibit, which is on display until the beginning of January.

Warhol was popular in the sixties, mostly between 1960 and 1968. During that time I was in college, married, and had my first child. So Andy wasn’t so much on my radar. Even though I knew of his Marilyn Monroe and soup can arts, I was busy making pablum and changing diapers.

The exhibit is an excellent retrospective of Warhol’s work and made me realize how he used the current culture of the sixties to make a statement. Soup cans, dollar bills, Jackie O, and the ultra-sized Mao recall that time in our history.

We didn’t even get through the entire exhibit before we needed to catch trains. Still, I came away with a greater appreciation of who Andy Warhol was and is. All because my friend C. had a membership to the AI.

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There’s an entire genre of jigsaw puzzles about doors. Irish doors. Polynesian doors. Country doors.

We like them because the entire puzzle is a collage of doors, maybe five different ones across and three down. It’s like doing fifteen mini-puzzles. Currently, we’re doing “Doors of the World,” although I don’t recognize any of the doors from any place I’ve visited. Maybe they’re imagined, but it doesn’t matter. We hope to finish tonight.

When we did the “Doors of Ireland,” Earl was in his laminating phase, so he took that one to a local printer and paid to have it turned into a plastic placemat. It remains to be seen what becomes of the World’s doors.

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Tomorrow is my monthly Great Book Club (GBC) meeting, and I’m finally settling down to read Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated.

I’ve put it off to the last minute because I know enough about the book to hesitate reading another work of the “Unaware Parents Abuse Children and Think Nothing of It” genre. Consider The Glass Castle, The Poisonwood Bible, and the real-life saga of the Willis Clan. I’m told Educated is worse.

In addition to family sagas of desperation, I’ve read memoirs about Western women who get involved with Middle Eastern men to their disadvantage. Or various religions in our own country that are controlling and abusive when family members wish to leave.

I’ll read Educated, but I’m thinking it’s the last of its genre. At least for a while.

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Date Night

Earl and I went to the movies tonight, a very rare occurrence. We don’t like the same type of movies at all, and neither one of us is particularly accommodating to the other’s taste. He wants John Wayne and shoot-em-up-bang-bang. Or an imitation. Me? I’m into Mr. Rogers and animated bunnies.

But “Ford v. Ferrari” seemed like a good compromise. There were good guys, although they weren’t on horses. They drove race cars. There were bad guys too. I didn’t see Mr. Rogers, but the film itself is wholesome, entertaining, and rather gentle unless you consider the car wrecks. Just don’t consider the wrecks, and it’s a Mr. Rogers’ kind of film. You can take your children to it. No swearing, no nudity, nothing to cringe about.

After the movie, we ate at El Rodeo, a local institution across the road from the theater. We’d eaten there before – maybe three or four times in nineteen years – and always found something to critique. Being Earl, he went with an open mind due to a friend’s recommendation of a certain nacho dish. The skeptic in me said nothing.

Bottom line: Earl loved the nacho thingy, and I found the more mundane beef tacos to be adequate. The chips and salsa were quite good too.  So I suspect we’ll return to El Rodeo more often in the next nineteen years, even if we don’t go to the movies beforehand.

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The Ladies Who Lunch

In 1970, Stephen Sondheim’s musical, “Company,” debuted on Broadway. The plot revolved around the lives of several couples and one single man with girlfriends. Elaine Stritch played Joanne, one of the marrieds, who sings a song that skewers high society ladies who do nothing but lunch, go to shows, have fittings, and maybe once in a while see the inside of a gym. They find this routine exhausting.

I went to lunch with some lady friends today at the local Papa Vino’s. I wouldn’t call any of us high society; none of us showed up weighted down in jewels, white gloves, and a hat. For one thing this is Michigan in November. For another, we are all retired women who had long, stressful careers with little time to practice for a three hour mid-day snack.

But our time together reminded me of Stritch’s performance of “The Ladies Who Lunch.” I watched it again on YouTube and marveled at the cynicism displayed not only in the lyrics but also in the singer’s delivery. I realize it was a performance, but I’m not sure I’d have been as critical as she was.

Recalling this, however, made me enjoy the luncheon I attended even more.

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Rushing By

Five weeks from today is Christmas . . . and we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet.

Thanksgiving is the latest this year that it can ever be, which means the Lenten season and the retail season are both truncated. Merchants, in particular, are worried. Lenten observers probably not so much.

Then there’s you and me. I can’t speak for you, but I’m feeling the rush, even though we know what we’re doing for Thanksgiving. And since it’s not at my house, I’m in good shape. Ordered a flower arrangement for the hostess and began packing my bags for Indianapolis where Earl’s family will gather.

But once we return from Indy, there will be less than four weeks left until Santa arrives; and I’m not even sure what we’re doing for that occasion. Sure we’ll leave cookies and milk for him and carrots for the reindeer. That’s the only given so far.

Because there’s not much time, I’ve decided to do just those things that bring me Christmas joy. They do not include hours of decorating a tree (The last tree we had fell over more than once.), displaying my collection of snowmen, or sending holiday cards. It doesn’t matter what our menu is on December 25. Nor does it matter if there’s gifts. Or snow. In fact, please God, no snow.

My plans include listening to the music of the season and even playing much of it. They include making sure I touch base with everyone who is important to me, whether it’s face to face or via Skype or phone. Maybe stockings on the hearth, because that’s an “Easy.” And church on Christmas Eve. All else is negotiable.

On reflection, perhaps the closeness of Thanksgiving and Christmas is a good thing for paring down all those holiday activities you do but without your heart in them.

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The original MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) was founded in 1861and is best known for its programs in engineering and the physical sciences. Today, admission is extremely competitive.

I belong to a different MIT. It was founded about ten years ago and is best known for the social and emotional support of its members. Admission is not competitive at all; you just need to be a listener and show up on Tuesday mornings at the local supermarket.

In our case, MIT stands for Martin’s Institute of Therapists. Decoded, Martin’s is the local supermarket where we hold our regular Tuesday meetings at 10 AM. It’s an Institute because we say it is. There is no charter or state recognition of our work. And not one of us has a degree in therapy. Still that is what we do.

We are therapists for each other as we navigate retirement, aging, the aging of our spouses, technology, etc. We listen as one or the other talks about disappointments or challenges large and small. We offer advice, mostly born of our own experiences that can enlighten the one who’s struggling.

We enjoy coffee and laughter together, both mostly regular and not diluted. Which is how we handle our “meetings” too. I wonder if the original MIT does any of this.

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So after enduring the prep for my colonoscopy, Earl and I arrived at the outpatient center at the appointed time.

Fast forward two hours. The test was over; I passed with flying colors. Which means I don’t have to do this again for five years.

I went home and slept off the anesthetic. Now for a filet mignon dinner.

There’s nothing else to add.

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Colonoscopy Prep

This is possibly more information than you want to know, but my first colonoscopy was over twenty years ago. I remember it as if it were yesterday, mostly because of the preparation for the procedure. It simply isn’t fun.

You don’t eat anything solid for 24 hours; you drink four liters of a ghastly liquid; and you spend an inordinate amount of time in your bathroom. You feel dehydrated, cold, uncomfortable, and tired. What’s to like?

My husband says the anesthesia for the procedure is the best thing about it, because it insures a great nap. Personally, that’s not enough compensation for me.

You would think that in twenty years some medical advancements would be made. But that’s not the case. However, since I’m having my seventh colonoscopy tomorrow, I can reveal some tips gleaned from experience.

Eat lightly the day before you have to fast. Remember the adage of “Garbage in, garbage out.” Opt for the lemon-lime flavored drink; it is markedly better than the cherry flavored one. Make sure it’s super cold. Use a wine glass for the servings. It seems more tolerable. Also, drink from a straw. Gargle after every “cocktail” to neutralize the taste in your mouth. Leave a really good book in the bathroom.

And when it’s over, especially if the results are good, treat yourself to a special meal. I’m already thinking lobster.

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Gertrude McDonald

My cousin Gertrude McDonald passed away this afternoon. I got an email from her daughter with the news. It gave me pause.

I come from a long line of McDonalds even if the strain was diluted by the time it got to me. Still there is family pride and connection. And Gertrude was a strong part of that, regardless of the fact she “married in.”

Gertrude married Addison, the son of Henry, who was the son of Patrick.. For all practical purposes, Patrick and his wife Johanna were the roots of this branch of a more extended family tree.

The earlier generations of McDonalds lived in upstate New York where, it’s said, they settled because the area reminded them of their homeland: Ireland. If you’ve been to both places, you know exactly what I mean.

I never lived in Lewis County myself, but I visited many times.  And whenever I did, Gertrude and Addison’s home became mine. As it was for my own mother, who returned annually up to the time she died in 1996. The two story house in Lowville, NY, wasn’t fancy, but the front door never met a stranger.

Sometimes we came for family reunions, other times for funerals. In between, Gertrude and her daughters kept in touch. I won’t return for Gertrude’s farewell, but I am so glad I went back this past summer and saw her. It had been several years, but she remembered me.

I’ll always remember her too.

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