Saturday, August 28, 2010


The leaves are turning. There is that nip in the air. Yes, fall would be a wonderful season if it weren’t for sports. Good grief, the amount of time my family spends on putting together fake football teams amounts to hundreds of man hours that could be devoted to much more worthwhile pursuits like reducing our carbon footprints.

A lot of time is spent deciding who will be in the Fantasy “League.” The league has to have a “commissioner.” I think this year, my husband received illegal campaign funds for his election, but despite it, he lost his bid. After that, there is much discussion about all the players--Carson, Peyton, Terrell, and all those other huge guys. I get to listen in on the arguments about who is in top form, who is most likely to get in trouble, and who is a thug. Then there is the “Draft.” Apparently, drafting a fantasy team requires a day long party with lots of beer and snacks. These parties get very loud, and I have no idea what anyone in the room is talking about.

Once everyone has his/her “team,” then there is a lot of worrying. Will Brett get hurt? Will the Manning brothers have funny commercials this year? Will there be some sort of social commitment that will cause anyone to miss a game on TV? Will we run out of guacamole?

As the season wears on, and Sunday nights (or is it Mondays? I am not really sure) fill up with endless games and constant texting back and forth, teeth gnashing, and shouting, I become a little more hostile to the whole thing. I try to watch the games, and I do know a first down from a field goal, but all this brouhaha about throwing around a pigskin just escapes me. And why anyone would want to sit in a cold stadium with face paint on, waving towels or cardboard signs is beyond my imagination.

At our house, the game comes on, and my husband grabs a beer, his cell phone, and the remote. He spends the first fifteen minutes of the game trying to get the “multiscreen” option on our TV to work, so that he can watch more than one game at once. When that ultimately fails, he sits intently, staring at the screen and changing channels. He moves from game to game and back again, grunting, texting his fellow “fantasizers,” and standing up once in awhile to shout something rude at the referee.

Thank God I have a Kindle. I think it will get me through football season and beyond. I have downloaded a large list of books, along with some word games and the New York Times. It even has a “search”option, in which I can Google things like “calling an audible,” “Hail Mary,” and “onside kick.”

This year, my husband bought us all tickets to go to see the Bengals. On December 26!

Look for me, my lawn chair, and my Kindle in the ladies room…

Saturday, August 21, 2010


I successfully raised two daughters. At least, in my view, they grew up just fine. They are both lovely looking, they have good table manners, they know how to run meetings, and they both have managed to snag equally adorable young men.

We had a discussion about this very thing the last time both girls were home. I have to admit that I was shocked at what they revealed: my girls think that had I had a son, he would have turned out “all wrong.”

By “all wrong,” they explained, I would have encouraged a myriad of behaviors that are frowned upon by the masculine gender. According to the girls, a son born into the Campbell family would begin by playing dolls, move on to acting out plays in the driveway, most likely write poems during adolescence, and abhor sports. “But that sounds like a GIRL,” I told them. “EXACTLY,” they replied.

Apparently, as a mother, I was quite a pansy. I thought ALL mothers read “The Secret Garden” out loud to their kids. And telling children that mud pies are unsanitary is the truth, isn’t it? Although I do remember one particular visit when MY mother, as a houseguest, remarked that “Your girls don’t seem to get very dirty, do they?”

Come on! I was a good old American Mom! I let the girls play outside every day! They could stay out as long as they wanted, as long as they had on number 30 sunscreen, bug spray with DEET, and protective gear such as bike helmets, elbow padding, and shin guards. And by the way, despite protection, both girls managed to break at least two bones each during their childhoods.

The girls went on to say that the Campbell son would have also been “all wrong,” in his leisure pursuits. This boy, let’s call him “Ian,” which is what I would have named him, would have been teased about his name by boys named Bob and Chip. He would have grown up going to theatre camp in the summer, entering poetry contests, being the editor of the school newspaper, and playing bridge. Of course, I have no idea how to play bridge, but the girls assure me that “Ian” would know how.

Poor “Ian.” He would not have many friends. He would be tall and knobby, like his father. And good grief, it wouldn’t be ALL my fault: he would most likely play THE ACCORDION in the basement with his Dad. Consensus further states that “Ian”would have a gap between his front teeth (both my children received the blessings of orthodontics, so I am mystified) and would not attract girls.

It is a great relief to me that I had the appropriate children. Evidently, I am just not cut out to nurture males. I do admit that I am baffled by the results of testosterone: huge shoes, mouth guards of all sizes and colors, Old Spice, and fisticuffs. And I do enjoy “inside voices.” “The Secret Garden” was a WONDERFUL story. Oh, my gosh, it’s true. If I had had sons, they would have all been contestants on “Project Runway.”


Saturday, August 14, 2010


According to the New York Times, Stan and Priti Cox, of Salina, Kansas, are very happy living without air conditioning. Apparently the Coxes haven’t turned on their air conditioners since 1977. The article in the Times refers to Mr. Cox as an agricultural scientist who is concerned with the effects that air conditioners have on global warming.

I applaud the Coxes. I worry about global warming. But as a menopausal and slightly grumpy person, it is obvious to me that the Coxes are either saints, secretly living with friends with AC, or lying. I read the article about them twice. They offer some tips for living in the heat, such as using fans, wearing little, and sitting very, very still.

My husband and I had a long discussion about the Coxes. My husband, who professes a lifelong love for things tropical, has always advocated “sitting still” when things heat up. For me, “sitting still” is boring, ridiculously ineffective in stopping perspiration, and counterproductive. But my husband argues that if you stay very quiet, the heat becomes bearable.

So what do people like the Coxes do while being “still?” Do they have interesting discussions? Do they plan their menus for the coming week? Do they watch TV? Do their shirts stick to their backs? Or are they wearing their underwear? I asked my husband what he would recommend as activities for people who want to turn off their central air in order to save the planet.

“Well, they could read books.”

“Not everybody enjoys reading. And after awhile, reading can get boring.”

“Well, then, they could do Sudokus or something.”

“Ok. You are telling me that Sudoku and reading are what people all over the United States should do when it’s hot? So President Obama, policemen, doctors, and everybody else that gets things accomplished in the world should just read and solve Sodoku puzzles?”

“Well, people doing Sudoku don’t start wars and things.”

“Oh, so now you are telling me that if we all turned off our AC units, that we would have world peace?”

“It’s possible. And I might try my hand at creating some Sudoku puzzles, myself.”

That gave me pause. The Coxes just might be the harbingers of a new world order. If global warming continues, it might lead to a time in which we all wear very little, do even less, and enjoy a life of reading and puzzle solving, in a gentle and pacific environment.


Sunday, August 8, 2010


The response has been startling. I have talked to many of my friends about what their houses mean to them. My women friends have fierce ideas about house and home. It seems to me that women view houses from three perspectives: the DREAM, the HEADQUARTERS, and the HAVEN. In order to incorporate the wonderful thoughts of my friends, I have chosen one fictional representative of each perspective:

Women who don’t have houses of their own dream of them. Some women never achieve their fondest hope for a home for their families. Some are too poor, some too young, and some too unlucky. Among those women I know who dream of owning a home of their own is one I call Deb. Deb comes from a poor family. She grew up in an Appalachian region where work was scarce, men who earned good money were scarcer, and the most one could hope for in life was a double wide trailer and a paycheck. Deb dreams of someday having a real house made of brick. She thinks about it while mopping counters at the coffee shop where she hustles tips. In her mind, the ultimate, shining possession would be that brick house with a front porch.

Marty is a go-getter. She had her own business for years. She made quite a bit of money, and then got married to a good guy who wanted kids. With three active boys under the age of 12 and a baby on the way, Marty organizes her life within an INCH. Her house is “activity central,” and she has everything under control. Each child has a locker in the mudroom. There are baskets in each bedroom labeled “Schoolbooks,” “Soft Toys,” “Toys With Little Pieces,” and “Pieces of Little Toys.” There is a calendar of events posted on the refrigerator. Marty and the kids are ever loading themselves, other people’s children, and mounds of sporting equipment into the car and driving away. If you asked Marty what color her powder room is painted, she would most likely hazard a vague guess.

Beth is retired from working. Her children are raised, and she is satisfied with the result. She now has all sorts of time on her hands that was never there before. One day, Beth looked around and sized up her home. Like a whirlwind, Beth began to make changes. She cleaned out the attic, and gave the children their toys and books back. She got rid of all the camping equipment in the basement. She threw away the items that she thought she might put into a garage sale someday. She painted rooms. She rearranged, and even bought a brand new and comfortable sofa for the family room. She went antiquing. And she washed the windows. Then she twirled around, looked at everything with great satisfaction, and settled down to enjoy the lovely surroundings she had created. With no time pressures and the rest of her life before her, she was filled with delight and the realization that now she didn’t need to go someplace else for a “vacation.” Her house was her haven. Beth and I have a lot of girlfriends just like us.

I have had the dream, presided very efficiently at headquarters, but now I hurry back to the haven of the home I have always wanted. Thank you, all my friends, for helping me write this one!

Thursday, August 5, 2010


It seems to me that some women wear their houses the way some men drive their cars. Success means a Ferrari or a McMansion. For other women, houses are havens. Some women just live in theirs. Artists drape and shape their homes. Women. Houses. I am obsessed with the idea of how we look at the places where we live.

I asked a bunch of my friends to characterize their “dream house.” What resulted ranged from cottage to villa. There were reveries about French doors, Agas, book lined rooms, and swimming pools. The more I talked with my friends, the more I wanted to write about women and their relationships with their houses.

When I was growing up, my mother subscribed to quite a few “decorating” magazines. I have no idea why, because we lived in a modest house, with green walls, matching green wall to wall carpeting, and a furniture arrangement that remained static for the entire time my parents lived in the house. Mom had good taste, but I never perceived her as a student of interior design. I, on the other hand, read all the decorating magazines from cover to cover each month, and developed a sense of “my own style” from reading them.

Part of my obsession with homes and their interiors comes from a deep sense of insecurity that I felt as a child. The currents of my life always seemed treacherous, and I clung to the idea of home as haven. I chose as my favorites books about safety within the walls. I loved the idea of Beatrix Potter, cozily creating her characters in the nursery, staying at home long after adulthood. Louisa May Alcott invented Jo and her sisters living such a delightful and soul satisfying life of “genteel poverty” in their lovely but shabby shuttered New England saltbox. “Anne of Green Gables” was my favorite and most re-read book. Anne Shirley and her beloved home and family soothed my fractious young soul.

At nights when sleep eluded me, I chose a location, and then chose a house to live in there. In my mind’s eye, I first created the outside, and then furnished it inside. I then inhabited the home with whatever family suited it, and finally moved on to appropriate pets. I can recommend this activity highly. It is totally absorbing and completely satisfying.

I am going to share with you one of my house fantasies, and then for the next few weeks, some of the fantasies of some of my favorite women. These fictional women are also my creations, but laced liberally with the ideas and imaginings of my actual women friends.

MOLLY. She’s me! In actuality, I have two cherished house dreams. These two homes have been with me for at least forty years. They were created by the eight year old me, after lights out, when sleep eluded me. To avoid reader boredom, I will share my first house here, and save house two for later:

My urban fantasy revolves around a beautiful apartment in a big city, preferably New York, because I don’t speak French. This dwelling would be very high up. The exterior of the building would be old stone, and the architecture would most certainly include a gargoyle or two. This apartment would be for me and one little dog and two cats. No husband visible in this fantasy, for I am living by myself, it seems. The apartment would be on the corner of the building, so that I could have a large front terrace as well as a smaller terrace off the kitchen. The front terrace would have lovely leaded glass French doors opening onto it from the living room. This “”big” terrace would have high walls so that my cats and dog could scamper about safely.

Usually at this point in the fantasy, I would have to pause to name the cats and choose the dog. Two Siamese, “Parsnip,” and “Coyote.” The dog. Hummm. Yes, a Scottie, “Magnus.” In order to design the terraces, the pets would have to be present and accounted for.

Terraces. Brick herringbone. Large trees in pots. Areas of grass for Magnus to do his business. Beautiful table and chairs. Pillows. I think orange and dark red. Perennials in pots. Room for a Christmas tree in the front terrace. Kitchen terrace would be narrow, and full of different sized pots for herbs, tomatoes, zinnias, and a tiny shed for my gardening equipment. A tiny table for drinking coffee and reading the paper would be essential.

Inside, the only important rooms are the living room and the kitchen. Of course there would be a library, but those tend to take care of themselves with the books and the ladder thingy that rolls. In the living room would be a large wood burning fireplace. I picture some sort of antique mantel, deep enough for the paintings I would lean against it and the daubs and orbs I would put up there as well.

I don’t worry too much about furniture. It would be plentiful, tasteful, and comfortable. I see more in colors: there would be greens and blues, with tiny bits of pink. Persian rugs, of course. Antiques, probably not valuable ones.

Going this far in the dream house usually gets me to sleep. I look forward to finishing the project the next night, populating the house with friends, family, and my fictional reason to be living there in the first place.

Yes, it did the trick once again! I am sleepy. So next time? I’ll flesh things out a bit more. In the meantime, if my blog host is gracious enough to let you, leave me a comment with your ideas of the perfect abode!

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