?`s and ANNEswers

Ten minutes to write. Less time to read.

Spelling 101

So . . . what do the words ‘rapporteur,’ ‘vicissitude,’ and ‘tantamount’ have in common?

Nothing really, except they have all been the Word of the Day in the past week.  It’s something I subscribe to online to enrich my vocabulary.  Or to demonstrate how little I truly know.

In the beginning, I knew most of the words that showed up in my email box; but as the months and years passed something happened.  Either Word of the Day figured out that I should have more difficult challenges or I’m becoming less erudite.

This all reminds me of taking Spelling in grade school. Each Monday, the class received a new list of twenty words to learn.  On Tuesday we had to define them; on Wednesday we had to use them in a sentence; on Thursday we had a practice test. If you passed, you didn’t have to take the real one on Friday.  Then the next week, we started over.

But none of the words was as difficult as the three I’ve listed here. Which means I still need to keep learning. For the record, ‘rapporteur’ is some who prepares reports and records. A reporter, if you will. A ‘vicissitude’ is something over which we have no control but changes things. I suppose that if your fiancé has a heart attack the day before your wedding, that’s a really huge vicissitude. And ‘tantamount’ means ‘equivalent.’ So this blog is tantamount to a memory about grade school spelling.

Except I probably would have had to take the Friday exam.

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Hair . . . Not the Musical

Four years ago I decided I wanted long hair once again.  It had been twenty years or more since my last experience. Which means that in the intervening years I’d reached that age where long hair on women isn’t particularly flattering.

Still . . . the itch was there. And so on a road trip to Yellowstone Park in 2012 I decided to let my hair down, so to speak.  And today, I have hair that is below my shoulders, all one length, and the goal I’d strived for.  I wanted hair that I could pin up on top of my head, wear as a ponytail, and even braid. Four years of judicious appointments at my local salon with Angie have achieved this.  (Actually, I’d have gotten there soon if it hadn’t been for Angie, but that’s another blog.)

In fact, now my hair is too long. Left alone, it falls in my face. Pulled back, it’s looks left over. And piled on my head isn’t as attractive as I’d remembered.

So . . . the itch has been scratched.  Don’t be surprise if I show up at our next get-together with a new style.

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Strange Bedfellows

Every two weeks I’m met with a basket of ironing. Earl does the laundry, but I’m in charge of removing wrinkles that the dryer doesn’t catch. Believe me, I understand it’s a self-imposed basket. And, today while tackling it, I came to a fashion conclusion.

Most of my clothes belong to two categories that are at the opposite ends of the style bell curve. There is the Talbot’s collection and the Walmart collection.

While ironing away, I asked myself what is it about these two brands that appeals to me?  One is certainly higher fashion and more pricey than the other. One is forty minutes down the road and the other only half a mile. One sends me fancy emails with discount coupons; the other waits for me to show up.

But what appeals to me most is that both stores offer clothing that fits. I don’t know about you, but my opinion of women’s clothing is that sizes are all over the board.  In fact, Chico’s seems to have developed its own sizing just for its patrons.

This makes it difficult for someone – like me – who feels the need to try on everything she purchases. So when I find a brand that works, I stick with it. Which all goes to show that, despite advertising to the contrary, when the shoe fits wear it.  It doesn’t really matter where the shoe came from.

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I’m doing my best to avoid television reruns of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center buildings.  I don’t want to watch the films another time as they’re already seared in my consciousness.  I understand that this is a national catharsis, but I’m already catharsed.

Instead, I’m focusing on my son Kevin’s birthday. He and I claimed September 11 long before planes toppled buildings. And he’s not the only one. My dearest friend Carol also shares the birthday date.  I’ve made sure to let each of them know I remember.

In fact, I roamed through my blog archives and saw that eleven years ago I wrote on the same subject.  Rather than re-invent the wheel – or the blog – I ask you to visit this link. And wish everyone with a connection to this date – -whether through birth or death – your support.

Please visit http://annebrandt.com/10min/tenminute/911/

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Staying Connected

Today I took the local commuter train to Chicago to have lunch with the professor who was my advisor when I was working on my Master’s thesis.  I graduated from Lake Forest College’s M/LS program almost twenty years ago, so that tells you how long we’ve been friends.  She is still at the college, while I have dabbled in this and that. We’ve both kept busy, which means we don’t get together often. But when we do, we pick up where we left off.

We have decided that Pegasus in Greektown is part of this tradition. It’s a manageable distance from our respective train stations, and the food is to our liking. Today we dined on saganaki, spanakopita, and grilled calamari. Aphrodite and Hera never ate better.

We had only two hours to catch up before train schedules and other commitments dictated we start to return home. But in that time we covered what’s happened to the M/LS program over time, what our extended families are doing, her work as part of Lake Forest’s preservation committee and my work trying to convince people to give gentle reads a chance. As time ran out, we moved to religion and politics, saving the most problematic for last.

Obviously, we hardly did any of these topics justice; but as she was boarding her train, I said: “Let’s not wait so long to catch up. Why can’t we chat on the phone?” Her eyes lit up. She hugged me in agreement and hustled to the train.

I know it’s old fashioned these days, but we are both of the age where it could work.

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Latest Obsession

I live in the undeclared Farm Stand Center of Michigan, maybe even of the entire Midwest.  From asparagus in late spring to pumpkins in late fall, fresh produce is only a corncob’s throw away.  And the farmer on duty understands when you ask if the corn was picked this morning.

This summer’s passion, however, isn’t local corn or local peaches or squash of all kinds. No, this season it is tomatoes. No matter what farm stand I visit those red, juicy globes call to me; and I’ve taken  more than my fair share home after my gardener friend told me about tomato sandwiches.

All you need is really good bread, preferably with a crusty exterior, a chewy interior, and no preservatives. Slather the bread with mayo and sliced tomatoes topped with salt and pepper, and you have a feast. But the real trick, my friend insisted, is to use tomatoes from a farm stand because they ripened on the vine and were probably picked the same morning as the corn.

Tomato sandwiches are delicious; I’ve had one regularly for a light lunch these past few weeks. Sometimes I add fresh basil and other times chive. Sometimes I eat them open-faced and other times I double the bread. Even after I learned our Supreme Court officially declared the tomato a vegetable in 1893 (when, in reality, it’s actually a fruit), I didn’t let that diminish my enthusiasm.  After all, Farm Stand season is short and I need to boost my vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and vitamin K before it’s over.

P.S.  If you are dying to know about the Supreme Court’s tomato decision, visithttp://www.businessinsider.com/supreme-court-tomato-is-vegetable-2013-12

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Labor Day

Today is Labor Day, the national holiday that, according to Wikipedia, “honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country.” Canada celebrates on the same day that we do, but many other countries still recognize International Workers’ Day on May 1 as their holiday.

It’s ironic that this day acknowledges “workers” by having all federal offices, banks, and many corporations closed so they can stay home from their work places. But then, our country has never missed an opportunity for a three-day weekend; and this is the last one of the summer. Tomorrow lifeguard stations and beaches will be empty as workers return to their jobs and students return to their classrooms.

What am I doing to celebrate the unofficial end of summer?  Actually, I’m working.  No I’m not tilling fields or taking a place on an assembly line or creating new computer code. But I am handling our personal finances, working on a master marketing plan for my new publishing company, and reducing the emails in my in-box to a manageable number.

Because these activities don’t care about a holiday.

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To follow up on yesterday’s blog, I’m studying the condo rules and regulations where I live to be up-to-speed on what is and is not allowable in terms of “personalizing” the outdoor space around our respective homes.

Truth be told, I’ve taken liberties to the fullest in the firm conviction that my tastes in flowers and flower beds is beyond reproach.  However, the condo docs say I am in violation of the following restrictions:

I have trellises; not sure they’re allowed. We have attached sensor lights to our gutters and a keyless garage door entry to our wall.  Currently neither is allowed. We have one birdbath; not allowed. One yard art animal named “Rusty” given to Earl by his daughter.  Not allowed. There are almost 30 pots with flowers; not one is allowed. We’ve carpeted the patio. Don’t know if this is acceptable. Planted perennials: rose bushes, daisies, black eyed Susans, Easter lilies. Only annuals are allowed. And, yes, my garden hose is buried in the mulch to make for easier use.  It’s supposed to be hiding in our garage.

The next meeting of our committee is two days from now.  At our home.  I haven’t decided if I should resign from the committee or offer myself up as an example of someone who will comply with the new regulations.  Any recommendation may be sent to anne@annebrandt.com.

Till then, I’ll enjoy this wonderful summer of flowers, made especially poignant because it could be my last.

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Condo Living

We all know one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. This is one reason garage sales proliferate. Why resale shops endure. But when you live in a condo community, this adage becomes problematic.

Usually the master condo documents lay out in detail what the owners can and cannot do to the exteriors of their homes. This is because in such a development the exterior is considered common property.

The thing is that in a single family dwelling, I can claim that inflatable airplanes are yard art; and no neighbors can dispute me. It doesn’t matter if my neighbor likes the planes or not. But in a condo development, the rules and regulations lay out what residents are allowed to do to personalize the outside of their dwellings.

Many condo residents come from single family homes and are not used to the idea that they can do whatever they want on the inside of their living quarters while being restricted on the outside. In addition, sales agents – eager to make a sale – are not always forthcoming about such restrictions. And often condo associations don’t even follow the rules they’ve created, letting homeowners do what they want until the property looks like a carnival of windsocks, bird feeders, artificial flowers, metal sculptures, and strobe lights.

Which is why I am currently on a committee in the condo development where I live to determine what is trash and what is treasure in terms of the outside appearance of the various units. Since we’ve had restrictions in place from the beginning – restrictions that have all but been ignored – we’re in the unenviable position of being persona non grata before this is over.

That’s Latin for “chump.” It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it before our development looks like Coney Island on steroids.

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Richard Russo

The Olympic Games are over. One recent political cartoon expressed my sentiments about that: It said, “For two weeks we saw the best of the best. For the next two months we have the worst of the worst.” And this wasn’t referring to other sporting events either.

So I have buried my head in books. It’s easy to do when one of your favorite authors has a new one, and it’s a sequel to one of his you haven’t read yet. I’m taking about Richard Russo’s Everybody’s Fool, recently released as a follow up to Nobody’s Fool, published in 1993 and made into a movie starring Paul Neuman shortly thereafter. I haven’t seen the movie, but I know that Neuman was the perfect choice to play Donald Sullivan.

Russo’s books are dense and the real time story usually takes a week or so in the lives of his characters who inhabit a down-on-its-luck upstate New York town. Along the way you learn the back story of every significant character, every building in the town, and every historical event. If Russo’s town were Samuel Johnson, he would be its Boswell.

Each book is approximately five hundred pages, as are others in the Russo collection. Empire Falls, which won the Pulitzer, and Bridge of Sighs come to mind. Other of his works are shorter; but, honestly, they don’t compare in the nitty-gritty category. They’re good, but not the stuff that ignoring the presidential election is made of.

Richard Russo’s longer works definitely are. In fact, sometimes I had to work hard to remember who is running. Donald Sullivan deserves kudos for that.

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