Monthly Archives: January 2009

Shapewear and Tummy Control

Because of the financial melt down starting in September 2008, which effects folks in Newburyport, MA too, I find myself watching the business channel on TV. Believe me this is something new. Five months ago I wouldn’t have been caught dead watching the business channel on my Newburyport Television.

Apparently even the business channel on TV needs to liven things up, and there are gorgeous celebrities. The “hook” on this particular business segment, is how they got to look so spectacular.

They got to look so spectacular because they wear “shapewear.” The business channel can also now show semi unclothed gorgeous females. Sex, business–ever thus.

Having gotten stupid lucky and got the skinny gene, plus doing sit-ups and crunches every night for the last 18 years, not out of virtue, but to avoid massive back pain from years of painting gorgeous paintings, I’ve only accumulated mild midriff-bulge (see earlier entry), and I have obviously been oblivious to “shapewear,” which has been around, I gather, for quite a while.

From what I can make out watching the business TV channel, shapewear came into it’s own around the year 2002. And as I recall that was when former President Bush was at his zenith. I ponder whether this is a coincidence or not.

I’ve had this theory, which will not be completely popular with many readers of the Newburyport Blog, but my theory is that with the first election of President Bush, we as a nation regressed back to the 1950′s. (I’m hoping with our new president, President Obama, that we really and truly are coming out of those dark ages.)

And as I recall, in the 1950′s I watched my mother’s compatriots cram themselves into awful looking girdles, delighted that they looked so slim, despite, what seemed to me to be excruciating agony.

Now I haven’t gone out and test driven a shapewear product, yet, so I have no idea if they even cause excruciating pain or even mild discomfort. And yes, I now realized that almost all of the rest of the world knows about shapewear, tummy control, thigh control, butt control, lots of body stuff control, except moi, since apparently I just came off the planet Pluto last night, where there is no shapewear, tummy control, etc.

But I find it interesting that at the beginning of the 21st century, a form of girdle has come back into fashion. And I wonder, ponder what this says about our culture and society at large.

Newburyport Ice is Us

I look out my window as the sun rises, and sure enough, my ice-phobic neurotic Newburyport nightmare has come about.

All that Newburyport rain at 10:30 last night, has frozen in a flash, and it’s a skating rink out there.

I debate whether it’s too early to call what must be one exhausted Newburyport Department of Public Works (DPW), but decide finally that I will either get a recording, or an exhausted Newburyport DPW person, but what do I have to lose, except an encounter with a totally exasperated and exhausted Newburyport DPW person. I decide to chance it.

I get a downright cheery sounding soul on the other end of the phone, who promises that the sand folks will come once again to our Newburyport neighborhood. I am relieved by this empathic response.

Examining the situation outside as the sun rises, I come to the conclusion that this is not black ice, that is a thin layer of slippery stuff, but instead, that this is gray ice, a thick layer of slippery stuff. My skeptical self doubts that it will melt in the next decade. The sun is barely slivered over the roof tops in my neighborhood, and I have already worked myself up into a total early morning dither.

I tell myself, “What a wuss. There are people without power for days, if not weeks because of really, really bad ice, and I am dithering about grey ice. And this wussiness is from a person, who sort of got to a semi-professional ice skating status. The jumps and twirls weren’t much, but they were still jumps and twirls on ice.”

And I tell myself that I used to literally sail onto the ice (of course I had ice skates on), but I would always pay attention to the fact that I was on ice, slippery stuff, and not somewhere else less slick.

So plan A) is in place. I put on my boots, bought at my favorite Newburyport boot shoe store up near the Newburyport grocery stores, at the other end of our small New England seacoast city. Boots that would make Nanook of the North proud. Pay major attention to where my feet are, scatter salt about hither and yon, and try to remember my former confident and carefree ice skating days.

School Snow Days

I wake up at 4AM. No snow, yet.

At 6:30 sharp, I hear 4 siren blasts signaling no school for the young men and women, children of all sorts, in the Newburyport Public School system. And I imagine all over our small New England seacoast city, mothers and fathers either saying, go back to sleep (and hoping everyone sleeps till about noon), or bundling up all and sundry and getting them to day-care, so that they themselves can begin, what weather forecasters forecast as being the commute from hell.

Parents all over the city wondering to themselves, in a cabin-fever winter, how to get through yet another Newburyport snow day. Children all over Newburyport, MA marveling in delight at yet another opportunity not to go to school, again, not realizing that in the joy of springtime, all those days will, of course, be added on to the Newburyport school calendar. But that reality is way, way in the future, a whole new far off season.

I look out the window and only tiny snow-flakes are falling, accumulation is therefore light. Not until later in the day when the temperature rises will Newburyport, New England be blessed with big fat snow flakes falling and accumulating rapidly. And then I gather we will be blessed by all that snow being soaked with ice and rain, and then dropping temperatures and a frozen white mess.

But for now, a day that promises some good hours of work, before the snow removal thing begins, and the wild dash to remove the fluffy stuff, before the ice and rain starts to fall.

On my walk the other day, I noticed that the light is changing, the way it starts to change in late September, signaling that the days will shortly get shorter. Only this time, it is the reverse.

It gets dark at 5:15 now instead of 4:30, and the sky has that promising pinkish huge at the end of the day.

And I imagine that parents and people all over Newburyport, New England, tell themselves that February is almost here, and that we must surely be on the backside of a long Newburyport, New England winter.

Photoshop Frames for Frogs

As most of you already know, but probably most of you don’t really care, George Cushing of Frog Pond, the political consultant to the Newburyport Blog, is pissed at me because he thinks the “new look” makes him look yucky.

I’m a sucker for frogs who feel sorry for themselves, and actually George has a point, he could look better. Also, in exploring my inner geek, I’m also falling in love with Photoshop all over again. So, I decided (not just for George, but also for my paintings that are on the World Wide Web) to see what I could come up with Photoshop frame-wise, to make him look just a little spiffier.

Placating frogs. Yup, that’s what we do over here at the Newburyport Blog.

Slipping on the Ice

A friend of mine has a wonderful reminder for me when my brain is all aflutter, and the itty-bitty committee up there is whirling around in my head and has me either way far away in the future, or way back in the past. They ask me, “Mary, where are your feet?” And I look down and realize that my feet are right here in the present.

The question, “Mary where are your feet,” is especially apt during this icy Newburyport, New England winter moment that has come upon us. No matter how enthusiastic the shoveling, snow-blowing or plowing, in Newburyport, New England, ice is us.

And as I go for my walk, I take very literally the words, “Mary, where are your feet.” I try and make sure that they are definitely not on the slipper mine-fields of all those icy patches.

I hear more terrible tales of folks slipping on the New England, Newburyport ice, and elsewhere in New England, breaking or spraining stuff, especially the infamous bracing yourself while slipping on the ice and spraining or breaking the non-dominant wrist thing.

You have my condolences. It really and truly is awful.

I did the infamous brace yourself while falling and do major damage to your wrist thing a few winters ago. It’s amazing what I could not do with only one hand. I was flabbergasted how much I took that non-dominant appendage for granted.

A friend of mine who is a wonderful and kind human being, plus a licensed OT (occupational therapist) who nurtures some lucky, lucky children in the Massachusetts public school system, came up with one particular trick. I was told to use my toes. And yes, I sat on the floor, grabbing whatever it was that I would have grabbed with my non-dominant appendage, and grabbed the object in question with my toes. And God bless my friend the OT, the toe grabbing thing actually worked.

And boy have I ever been major careful since that incident. I spot a patch of ice, which seems to be all surrounding these days, and immediately go into the ancient human being shuffling mode. I figure better to go into the ancient human being shuffling mode, than spend a good amount of time again A) in distress and B) sitting on the floor, clutching stuff with my toes.

Single Mothers

Single mothers may not be “in,” but to the mildly self-aware, they are not getting the “kick in the head” that they are normally used to.

I’ve never met a single mother who said that being a single mother was their first choice. As choices go, it always seems to be fairly down on the list.

I’ve also never met a single mother who said that single motherhood was “easy.” In fact, in my experience, single mothers usually rate single motherhood as one of the hardest, if not the hardest thing that they have ever done.

And add to that, from one to ten, a walloping dose of guilt and shame (yes, even in the year 2009). A “ten” coming from the most conservative folks in our society, and “one” often unconsciously from even the most enlightened of progressives.

Single mothers often tell me that in general, it is very hard to hold their heads up in society with a complete sense of pride and dignity.

So, in the “what do we make of this now” category, here we have folks giving tons of credit to the mother of the President of the United State. The mother who was not only divorced once, but twice–a single mom.

So yes, our president appears to be a loving father and husband (a wonderful example). But so many people give credit to whatever “it” is that our new president has, not only to him, but also to enigma of the single mother that raised him (in much more less than receptive to single mother times).

Humble is In

“Humble” is now “in.”

Humility being a foreign entity, at least often in places like New York City and Washington, D.C., and probably LA as well. Although in places like Newburyport, MA, humility is very common (thankfully).

Noticing how the new president, President Obama stands while he’s waiting for whatever. His hands are clasped in front of his waist. In power, how to succeed in being powerful, hands clasped in front of your waist, a big fat “no, no,” and a big waste of time, in the how to succeed in the being powerful body language thing.

Either President Obama is very comfortable in his own skin, or has never been to a how to succeed in business, power coach, or both. But here he is President of the United States of America.

It’s not apparent to me if the major power folks, who have assisted in causing our major financial meltdown, which is now very much trickling down to our small New England city of Newburyport, MA, have gotten the message yet, or in fact ever want to get the message.

I asked a Newburyport friend, who is in finance, what is happening to some of these powerful financial folks. And I was told that their life styles have been dramatically “cut back,” as in one of their many houses may be on the chopping block.

I inquired if “they” could have any clue that maybe they, along with lots and lots of other folks, might feel responsible for what has happened to the United States, the world, as well as our own little spot in the world, Newburyport, MA.

And I was told, no way would it ever occur to them to own up to their role in all of this mess. It’s, “Give me my two extra houses back, now,” as far as I can make out.

We obviously have a long way to go in coming to terms with the whole concept of the “humility” thing. The frogs (see previous post) get it, they want to be selfish and narcissistic (their words, not mine). Maybe we could all begin to acclimate ourselves to this new “in” concept of humble, by practicing standing, while waiting for whatever, with our hands clasped in front of our waists, just like one of the most powerful men on earth, President Obama,

Website Design Outrage

The frogs are outraged.

The frogs are outraged because they think the new “look” of The Newburyport Blog makes them look awful. In fact they think it makes them look “tacky.” (What can I say, they’ve always looked somewhat “tacky,” but believe me, I’m not going to go there.)

I tell the frogs (I haven’t put a photo of the frogs, just incase the new “look” does in fact make them look less than their amphibian sparkling best, just a previous link to their entire frog page, “About George”) that the color scheme is actually pretty close to the old “look.” They are not placated. They tell me that the maroon headlines brought out their eyes (I of course am rolling mine). I tell them they have beady black eyes and the maroon headlines did nothing of the sort.

I also tell them, if I’m going to experiment with designing websites, for goodness sakes, why not start experimenting on one of my own sites, for crying out loud. And that there is always tweaking that can be done, and worstcase scenario I can always change back to the old look. Good grief.

I also tell them that they should pay attention to their new president, who said that it was “time to put away childish things,” and that they are definitely being very childish. That there is a big difference between silly and whiney, and they are definitely being stupid wildly whiney.

And they say, they don’t care, that they would like to be selfish, narcissistic (pretty big word for a frog, have they been studying psych?) frogs and they don’t give a rip what the new president said. And I say, “Guys, depending how you look at it, you are in “good” company, because there appear to be plenty of Wall Street folks who feel exactly the same way.”

Political Problem Solvers

I feel very protective of our new president.

I ask myself if this were true if it had been Senator McCain, and after some mild soul searching, the answer is “yes,” the country being in such a mess. Sarah Palin, if my soul searching is truly legit, not so much.

I even get offended by Jon Stewart, which is very hard to for me to do. I say to the television, because Jon Stewart cannot hear me, “I know you are trying to be ironic, but it’s just not working, at all.” And then I think to myself that irony really must be going out of fashion, if someone like Jon Stewart is having a hard time pulling it off (see early entry).

I’m getting ever more impatient with the fringes of not only the “Right,” but to my growing surprise, equally, if not more so, with the “Left.”

“Give it up all ready,” I say to no one who can actually hear me, “Stop being so stupid, we need to get things done here.”

I so far I am very much taken with this “new” political approach of President Obama’s, i.e. “problem solving.” This definitely works for me.

And as our own Newburyport local race for mayor begins to get going, I am going to look at candidates through the Obama lens. It’s quite a standard to live up to, but tough luck, I think it’s about time that local Newburyport politics also got this “righteous.” In fact I think it’s about time that all politics got this “righteous,” even though we are only two and half days into this new president’s presidency, and I’m assuming here, that the righteous politics stuff is going to continue.

I’m going to look for candidates who listen to different sides, not just out of duty, or worse, not actually even paying attention, but because they are really and truly interested, and think that maybe someone else might come up with a better idea than they would.

I’m looking for candidates who are so confident that they might be willing to surround themselves with people much more intelligent and much more capable than themselves.

I’m looking for candidates who could embrace this new paradigm of governing, hoping against hope that this new paradigm of governing of President Obama’s may actually work. Two and a half days down the road, so far so good.

The Newburyport Library’s Hidden Treasure

I find at the Newburyport Library, which is one of my favorite places in all of Newburyport, and somehow makes paying my property taxes less painful, a small, and what looks like a treasure chest of a section. I decide to keep the “call number” of this treasure chest of a section, a big fat secret, and not to share it with anyone, not even any of the librarians that work at the Newburyport Library in Newburyport, MA.

I impulsively dub this section the, “Everything is going to be all right, really and truly, at least I hope so, ” section of the Newburyport Library, in Newburyport, MA. I spot a book by Stephen Colbert, so I know this finite area contains humorous stuff. Humor being something that I could use a heaping dose of in these scary and uncertain economic times.

And I spot an old friend (my mother used to say, semi rolling her eyes, “Books are our friends”), “Lost in the Cosmos, the Last Self-Help Book,” by Walker Percy, which I snatch from the shelf, as if it might be snatched from my hands, and usher it downstairs to the beautiful granite topped checkout center, before scurrying home with my new found treasure.

And that night I sit down in the comfiest chair possible and start to read, once again, Walker Percy’s “Lost in the Cosmos.”

By page two I no longer smile in anticipation, but begin to frown. By page four I turn back to the copyright page to find out when this book had actually been written–1983, a while ago. By page eight I call it quits.

The book no longer seems like a witty commentary on the society in which we live. It seems bitter, angry and confused about the direction that society is taking. I am beginning to understand a) why “irony” has been getting such a bad name lately and b) why this book has been sitting on the shelf and does not have a long waiting list instead.

I wonder out loud to myself if it could be possible that we as a culture could have actually outgrown an angry 1980′s ironic phase?

And I think about our almost president to be Obama. Over and over again the one thing people seem to agree on, and still seem to agree on, is that here is a man that does not appear to be angry, when in fact, many think he should be.

And last night as I flip through the channels looking for the latest inaugural news, on one of the cable channels I come across someone who says that they think that it is “ironic” that our new president will be inaugurated the day after Martin Luther King Day.

I think to myself that I in fact I do not think that this is “ironic” at all, now that I am coming to the conclusion that it may be possible that “irony” may indeed be going out of fashion.

Instead I think of it as what a wise friend of mine calls “God’s pinky.” Possibly that this “coincidence” could be the god of my understanding indicating that electing the first African American president is a very good thing.

Weddings and Inaugurations

A milestone of sorts. The first one of my friend’s children got married.

I cried through the entire ceremony, and wished for them what a friend of mine once referred to as, “the normal mess of a marriage.” That they would defy the odds, and make it until death do them part.

From what was said, it appeared that there had been discussion about the difficulties of marriage, which was an improvement on my own take–that marriage would be some sort of fairytale, and with no effort on anyone’s part, everyone would live happily ever after, no problemo. Obviously, the issue of realistic expectations had been addressed in a more concrete way.

And as I listen to the folks of Obama Land, the chit chat is that expectations are way too high, for the incoming president, and could we please bring them way, way down.

Although, no matter how much I try to bring my expectations way, way down, as far as Obama Land is concerned, somehow, when I’m not looking, they sneak back up there to a soaring pinnacle.

And I imagine that on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, during the inauguration of our new president that I (along with so much of the nation, and much of the world) will find myself beyond teary.

I really do realize that fairy tales are not possible, although having the first African American president, would have been so improbably not too long ago, that it feels somewhat mythic to me.

My hope as we arrive at Obama Land on Tuesday, is, not only for our new president but for our national as well, to that have wisdom, patience, intelligence, savvy, perseverance and a great big huge heaping dose of the biggest luck that the universe can possibly offer. Realistic? no, but I desperately want much more than the normal mess of politics, and much more than the normal mess of a presidency.

The Early to Mid Twenties Thing

Having talked to various young men and women in their early to mid twenties, in Newburyport and elsewhere, I am beginning to think that the early to mid twenties thing may be as difficult in its own way as the teenage years thing.

I have two wonderful Newburyport neighbors who are somewhere in their late thirties and early forties, closer to, and therefore with better memories of, the age of the twenty age thing than moi.

They tell me that it is a teetering transition time between adulthood and childhood (I naively thought this took place at 18) and it’s best to throw them to the wolves.

My son seems to agree with the throwing to the wolves thing, at least when it comes to the female member of the parenting part. I am all in agreement, with the great hope that the journey to adulthood thing, not only has been set into motion, but is chugging down the adulthood path at some sort of consistent regularity.

However, it is not necessarily easy to have gone intensely down the parenting highway at a good clip for a good couple of decades, get off at a 30 mile an hour thoroughfare, Newburyport or elsewhere, and be able to actually slow down. The brakes get quite a workout. I am, however, more than ready to enjoy the scenery.

Others who are older than my Newburyport neighbors, with children who are in their 30′s and 40′s tell me a different story. They look at me with either a smile or a frown, and tell me, “They never really leave home.”

And at least for me, while my parents were alive, that was indeed true. I might not have actually been present at their actual dwelling or in contact at that actual moment, but there was always a sense of “home,” one that, yes, might have evolved over the years, but still, in whatever shape it took, existed in a very tangible way. And I didn’t comprehend that I had stood on that foundation, with both obliviousness and confidence, until that foundation was no longer there.

Turning Heads in New York City

I was in New York (City) visiting my Dad and had lunch with him at his favorite eating lunch haunt in Mid-Manhattan.

It was one of those gorgeous New York spring days, and I walked back to where my Dad lived. And, as usual, when visiting my father, I was dressed in my “New York best.”

And I found as I walked North, I turned heads.

When my father got home that evening from work (yes, in his eighties, almost to ninety, my father worked, and loved to work), I told him that walking home I had “turned heads.”

He looked at me with that beady, quizzical look of his as if to say “Beany (he used to call me “Beany”), you are a woman of a “certain age,” and women of a certain age simply don’t’ turn heads.”

But I’d say to him, “No, Dad, really.”

When I was down visiting in New York one Christmas, when it was one of those blessed Christmases when it was actually warm outside, my son and I took a cab to his quintessential New York walk-up apartment near 42nd street, to bring back some of the Christmas presents that he had received. And we walked back to where my Dad lived, winding our way though a ridiculously packed Rockefeller Center.

Bakers don’t walk in New York, they stride. And yes, I was dressed up in my New York finest. And my son, who was also striding along side me, would say things like, “Mom, did you see that guy, he was trying to pick you up, and he was half your age!”

He recounted this amazing occurrence to my father when we arrived back at my father’s dwelling. My Dad gave him the same beady, quizzical look. And my son said to him, “No, Poppy, it’s true, really, the guy was half her age.”

When my Dad was ill and dying, I didn’t do any striding around New York City. It was more sort of stumbling blindly. And I noticed something–I sure as hell didn’t turn any heads.

It was as if in my grief, I had become invisible, or if not invisible, then sending out a grief aura, that folks in New York would like to avoid.

I thought of the old saying that goes something like, “When you smile the world smiles with you, when you cry, you cry alone.” (Of course this is not true everywhere, people in other parts of the country actually do respond with empathy to grief.)

And I came up with my own version of the old saying. It goes like this: “When you stride confidently in New York City, no matter how old you are, you turn heads. When you stumble in grief, you become as invisible as the ghost of the loved one that you mourn.”

Newburyport Walking

I walk. That’s what I do. Some people ski. I walk.

I have my Newburyport route, so when it’s time to take a break, I don’t even have to think about it. Set myself on Newburyport walking-autopilot, and off I go.

People ask me, “You walk everyday, how much?”

And I say, “Two miles.”

And invariably they say, “That’s not enough.”

And then I think to myself (I never, ever say it out loud, I’m far, far too polite), “Look at me and look at you. Who’s in better shape. I don’t even have midriff-bulge (yet).”

When I was pregnant, my father announced to me one day, that after my pregnancy, I would get the dreaded midriff-bulge, and that it would never, ever go away.

It’s been a few decades since I last gave birth, and I look into the mirror and go, “Do you have mid-drift-bulge yet? Is this mid-drift bulge?” And after all these years, I’ve decided that my father was wrong. I only have, decades later, a very mild case of the midriff-bulge thing.

Actually, as an entire family, we never got the dreaded obesity gene thing. No, we all eat like birds, and when something goes wrong, we end up not having any appetite, and lose tons of weight, as well as any mild midriff-bulge thing that we might have actually acquired along the way, instead of the other way around.

People, who don’t have this very fortunate gene, always look at us and say things like, “You look so gaunt.”

And I want to say something like (but I never, ever do, I’m far, far too polite), “Don’t you wish sister.” or “Don’t you wish you dope. You have the midriff-bulge gene, and you’re just jealous as all get-out. You’re dying to look gaunt.” (No pun intended.)

But instead, I just smile, and say what a friend of mine calls the “Cheerio prayer.” I say “Oh.”

And then I sometimes, if it’s me that’s been told I look, “So gaunt,” I add, “I guess it’s from those two miles of Newburyport walking.”

Sailing to Obama Land

As I reread the entries on the Newburyport Blog of the last few days, they appear almost “giddy.” Now the Newburyport Blog has been silly at times, but “giddy,” I’m not so sure.

And as I think about this, I think I’m feeling giddy, because as a nation we’ve set sail and are very, very close (like on Tuesday) to Obama Land. (Although, I’m not too happy about the potential Secretary of the Treasury not having paid some of his taxes, I don’t care if it’s a “mistake.” I want my Secretary of the Treasury to have absolutely no hint of indiscretion, much less have the vague possibility of being indiscrete, or just as bad, being just plain old stupid. No, I want Obama Land to come up with a saint for Secretary of the Treasury, and I really don’t care that a human being, whose had that much money and power over the years, could not possibly meet that criteria. I want it anyway. Plus I’d like to have a Secretary of the Treasury during these scary financial time, in place right at the get-go, and, as of this morning, that doesn’t look as if it’s going to happen.)

And I’m glad to see the Land of Bush-Cheney fade further and further into the horizon, hoping that for once that the earth actually is flat, and Bush-Cheney Land falls over the edge, landing somewhere in permanent oblivion.

Oh the relief I feel at the thought of having someone, yes, human and of course mistake prone, like the rest of us human beings, but actually, intelligent, articulate, possibly “centrist” in his approach, thoughtful and it appears calm and possibly even balanced.

Whether all of this could possibly be true, at the moment, I really don’t care. It’s like the beginning of a romance, where no matter how flawed the human being might be, they appear saint like and untainted to their significant other. The reality of actual humanness can sink in later.

They don’t call it a “honeymoon phase” for nothing. I’m so looking forward to my first hundred days, first thousand days even (this guy really needs some major breathing room here) of happy fantasy, that despite all odds, Obama Land will pull off what seems like the near impossible, to restore health, financial and otherwise, happiness and peace to the world. I want my moment, in fact I want a very, very long moment, of being totally out of touch with national and international political reality.

Icicles Are Us

Icicles are supposed to be beautiful, sort of like living chandeliers, but I have a vague remembrance of once being told that as far as Newburyport houses go, icicles are bad, bad, bad.

I’m not sure if this is true, but it actually makes sense to me, so I’ve decided it is true.

This is one of the reasons I use my trusty roof-rake (see previous post), so, among other reasons, I don’t have the dreaded (all though I’m not sure why) Newburyport icicle thing.

I stand out in my Newburyport driveway, look at my Newburyport roof, and despite having used my trusty Newburyport roof-rake, I still have icicles. This is a mystery. But I’ve decided that although slightly menacing and dagger like, they also so sort of do look like drippy little chandeliers about to bring down my roof gutters, so I decide to enjoy them, or as my son would say, “Mom, just forget about it–put it on the shelf.”

On the shelf, the icicle thing goes, that is until I go for my walk. Then I start noticing icicles all over my neighborhood.

And on one house the icicles look as if they are blowing sideways. I’m not kidding, not up and down icicles, but sideways icicles.

I stand in the middle of the road (it’s a rarely traveled, Newburyport one way street road) and examine this ambiguity. “Could it be that this particular Newburyport house is close to the water, and the icicles actual are blowing in the wind,” I think to myself.

But as I walk back to my dwelling, I actually find crooked icicles dangling here and there. And gasp, when I get back to my own house, I notice that I actually have one angled icicle. One angled icicle among many, many long nifty straight ones.

Now this really is inscrutable.

I suppose I could visit the World Wide Web and learn about this icicle mystery one day. But for now, I’ve just decided to take my son’s wise advice, and really and truly put the icicle thing “on the shelf,” and accept this odd icicle anomaly.

Painting and Newburyport Snow Removal

I find that I clear the snow out of my driveway the way I paint. I find this both weird, but at the same time, strangely reassuring.

When it didn’t snow in Newburyport, MA, what seems like every three to four days, and only snowed now and then, or some Newburyport winters not even at all, I never even noticed a pattern of snow driveway removal by moi.

Now when it snows in Newburyport, MA, I’m starting to go into auto pilot.

First I talk to the snow, “What you again?” “What is it this time? A few cute snowflakes mixed it with a dash of drizzly icy rain?” I might say to the stuff that’s falling or already landed.

It’s the first thing I do when I walk into my Newburyport studio in the morning. I talk to my paintings. “How are we do’n today?” “You look a whole lot better than you did last night.” That sort of thing.

The next thing I do is tackle the big snow picture. No details here. Only unlike painting, with snow, I have help. I have count’em, two neighbors with snow-blowers. God bless them.

So, I always hope that my Newburyport neighbors will actually tackle the big snow picture, before I get out there with my trusty shovel.

And then comes the details, just like in painting. I clean up the edges of the driveway, clear a path to the fire hydrant, make sure there is a nifty clearing to the storage shed. Oh, yes, and make sure the top of the car has no snow.

I learned the hard way, during one Newburyport winter from hell, the snow on the top of my car turned to ice, because I figured, who cares it can stay. But it fell forward in a block and dented my hood. Showed me. Now that snow is the first to go. Not going to make that mistake again.

And then the roof-rake. I’m starting to get real obsessive here, just like with my Newburyport paintings. I’ve offered my neighbor the use of my trusty roof-rake, but, their tool of choice is definitely the very efficient snow-blower. And who could possibly blame them.

And then the driveway and I have a major chat. “I want to see pavement,” I say, “No ice, no white stuff, no trampled snow. I want my mail person to have a nice stroll to the mail box, when they deliver the mail. Hear me?” I say this very quietly, so my neighbors don’t hear me talking to my Newburyport driveway.

And then, yes, I get out the dainty, but slightly beaten up broom at the end, just the way I end up using tiny little #000 brushes on my paintings. But I’m not painting gorgeous pictures containing green stuff and warm weather, I’m longing for green stuff and warm weather instead.

Rhododendron Weather Predicting Qualities

I don’t need to turn on the weather channel or peer at my web weather channel bookmark setting on my computer, to know in the morning when it’s New England cold outside.

When I wake up and my hands feel all crinkly and dry, I know it’s one of two thing. A) I’ve developed some mysterious fatal disease over the last 8 hours, or B) the humidity in the house has dropped because it’s freezing outside.

Since so far it has never been A) I usually figure it must be B).

After a few sips of coffee, I shuffle into my studio (where I’m also trying to madly expand Mary Baker Art by obsessively designing websites to be sent out into the world via the World Wide Web) and peer out my window at my trusty outdoor thermometer. And sure enough, it’s B), the wretched thing reads below 10 degrees, and it’s freezing outside.

I also learned to tell whether it was cold outside, without looking at an outdoor thermometer, by my Dad. As a young girl, by father would take me to the dinning room window, point at the loan rhododendron in the small yard next door, and point out that the leaves on the loan rhododendron were not perky, but shriveled and pointing straight down to the ground. Ergo, my father would point out, it was freezing outside and I better “bundle up.” Sure enough he was always right.

I’ve always been fond of rhododendrons. Maybe it’s the vast array of rhododendrons at Maudslay State Park here in Newburyport, that at one point were subjects of lots of paintings by me. Or, it could be the fond memories of my father’s rhododendron weather science predictions. Or it could be multi-determined.

I’ve planted all sorts of rhododendrons in my small Newburyport garden, and I peer at them on winter mornings, trying to guess the New England temperature, before I shuffle in and peer at my trusty outdoor weather thermometer. My rhododendrons, weather predicting wise, are always right on the money.

However, I’ve noticed that rhododendrons, landscaping wise, in Newburyport, Massachusetts, appear to be going out of fashion.

As I keep squeezing yet one more rhododendron plant in my now rhododendron filled small garden, I notice that huge, literally century old, magnificent and stately rhododendron plants are being hacked out of century old High Street magnificent gardens, not to mention lesser century old rhododendrons in “lesser” Newburyport destinations.

So, either I’m out of touch with new landscaping designs (which is highly probable), or the owners of the dwelling in which these gorgeous rhododendrons are being hacked down, don’t know about their weather predicting qualities. Or maybe they do know about their weather predicting qualities, but figure since they now live in the 21st century, they can watch the weather channel instead.

On Frogs and the Once Being Toaded Dilemma

As many long time readers of the Newburyport Blog know, I have a fondness for frogs.

Actually my fondness for frogs developed as a defense against being “Toaded.”

A little background here, because how soon we forget.

There was a time, long, long ago, when Tom Ryan ruled the political Newburyport earth, and had a local political journal called “The Undertoad.” Mr. Ryan had an astounding radar for what drove any particular human being nuts. And if a Newburyport human being crossed a particular Tom Ryan code of ethics, that human being got “Toaded,” i.e. slammed in the Undertoad, and all their particular buttons got wildly pressed.

It was not a pleasant experience for those who entered into the very, very long (and actually it was becoming somewhat distinguished) list of the Newburyport Toaded.

I figured, writing the Newburyport Blog, that it was only a matter of time, before, I too would get Toaded. But Mr. Ryan went on to bigger and better things, like being given the Human Hero Award by the MSPCA-Angell Animal Medical Center, receiving it at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, and headlining the award ceremony with Emmylou Harris. Not a bad gig.

My big defense against getting Toaded–a bunch of stuffed frogs. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, it seems a little out of touch with reality. Oh well.

But the frogs and I had a grand old time (and for goodness sakes we still may). There was a good deal of eye rolling, especially by male readers of the Newburyport Blog, about my beloved frogs. I was told once that no serious reader would read any post that contained green critters, except this person had read all the posts containing green critters. Go figure.

I was also told that because of the frog thing, I was totally whacked. Yes, “No Comment.”

However, it is my experience, that weirdly, the more political power an individual actually had, the more they actually liked my cadre of green things. A sort of interesting frog political Rorschach test.

I was listening to a friend talk about a (national) politician, and they were talking about this person not exactly being a “prince,” but no “frog” either.

And that got me to thinking. Maybe all those readers who didn’t like my frogs, were actually frogs themselves. And no amount of frog kissing would ever turn them into “princes” or bring about some sort of fairy tale ending, like being honored at the Kennedy Center for a humanitarian award and headlining that 21st Annual Animal Hall of Fame dinner with Emmylou Harris.

Ain’t life grand.

Primary Care Physicians and Bye-Bye Doctors

I have a very conscientious GP aka primary care physician, which I gather from looking at the news lately is actually pretty hard to come by these days.

Apparently there’s a vast GP shortage.

I guess to go all the way through medical school and only become a GP could be kind of a letdown. I can’t imagine even going to medical school in the first place, much less spending lots more time and money in medical school, and becoming a specialist, which medical insurance companies now are not so found of paying. Sort of a catch-22 for folks going to medical school, if you ask me.

I don’t like going to specialists, it means something could possibly be wrong. I’d rather just go to a GP.

Once, a while back, I was feeling particularly hypochondriac like, and mentioned an “ailment” to my very conscientious GP. Bad move on my part, let me tell you.

My very conscientious GP tested me for every terrifying thing in the book. You name it, if it was terrifying, we found out whether I had it or not. This could also be called CYA, but I’m not sure. Thankfully, I didn’t have any of the terrifying, life threatening or fatal ailments that I was tested for.

Showed me. Now the when my very conscientious GP asks me if anything is “wrong,” I think about it for a mila-moment and then say, “Nope, everything’s just fine.” I don’t care what possible ailment, that I’ve conjured up in my brain, that I think I might have. No more terrifying tests for me, thank you very much.

And insurance companies should learn from this. Instead of saying, “No, we’re not going to test you for x, y or z.” Take a different approach. A person comes in and complains of burping, you scare the shit out them, and then they never ask for anything ever again. Sort of like dealing with a wayward two year old or difficult teenager. You know, reverse psychology.

But, no, as I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve gotten very, very used to getting missives (if not just down right taking them from granted, anticipating them even), disguised as expensive looking brochures, informing me that, nope, guess what, we said that you were covered for x out of x, y and z, but guess what.. x is now out. Lucky you.

In fact, last week I get a long letter from my medical insurance agency letting me know that, oops, some patients thought that their doctors were part of this insurance company’s insurance plan. But guess what, in 3 long weeks, bye-bye doctors. Got to go find some other folks. Not that this is the medical insurance agency’s fault. Oh no. The doctors want to be paid an actual living wage, and that is too much to ask of the medical insurance agency. You got to give these medical agency people a break, come on.

So I’m hoping that my very competent GP, aka primary care physician doesn’t get deluged with all those patients, betrayed by their greedy doctors, wanting to actually get paid something decent for a visit to the physician, GP, specialist or whatever.

I still like having the option of saying, “Nope, everything’s just fine,” but knowing that if something actual isn’t “just fine,” there is someone out there who will scare the shit out of me, trying to find out what the hell might be going on.