Our recent snowy weather has brought my favorite photographic subject back to the feeder – the elusive red-bellied woodpecker.
© Huffygirl 2016
Here I stand, searching through bins of lingerie looking for my size. This store, which used to be a place I enjoyed, has turned into a (insert sputtering here) nightclub. Store associates with names like Amber and Autumn wearing skimpy tops and lace, flit by, arms overflowing with bras. Fifteen-year-old girls wearing outfits I would never let a daughter of mine leave the house in, shuffle through, with the requisite sleazy boyfriend in tow, pants dragging, seeming a little stunned from being surrounded by so much underwear. I don’t want him here – this is supposed to be MY store.
Long ago, it was my store. Matronly women in black smocks with tape measures around their necks, tut-tutted around, making sure that everyone left with the right-sized bra. They still had pretty (and over-priced) lingerie, but in a more moderate, sensible way. I would leave clutching my pink-striped bag, scented with a light whiff of perfume, feeling special and satisfied, as if I’d just had a pedicure or a night out.
But now, fast-forward to 2015, where clothing, and women’s underthings are a multi-billion dollar industry, fueled by a big corporations and an insatiable appetite for anything sex, and VS is now a lingerie superstore. But, even though I may be the only old fuddy-duddy in the store, I still need a new bra. I stand in line for a fitting room with girls half, no three-quarters my age. “Where is the rest of her outfit?” I wonder. “And how does she walk in those shoes?” The two store clerks are decked out as if for some kind of bedroom espionage: black lacy tops under an array of equipment strapped upon them: big phones, bags of clips, note pads, and tote bags filled with bras slung over their shoulders. At least they still have the tape measures. Sigh.
Finally I stand in the crowded check-out line. I’m wedged in between a girl with purple hair and a bin of orange lip gloss. Orange? Who would wear that? Every single person in the store except me, that’s who. At last I leave with my pink striped bag feeling heavy in my hand, head pounding from the club-beat music and the heavily perfumed air. I don’t think I’m too old. But my values feel that way.
© Huffygirl 2015
Since my son was getting ready to do the grocery shopping, in a moment of desperation I added a hasty scrawl to the bottom of the list: “surprise me with something good and fun.” I was expecting that he’d come home with a candy bar or a box of Oreos.
Instead, he brought me light. Four shimmery little solar lanterns. I pulled out the tag and immediately was surprised with a pretty silvery glow. I tucked the lanterns into the garden, among the emerging hostas and grasses. The little lights were just right, casting a pleasing shimmery circle among the greenery. Suddenly everything seemed new and hopeful again. Sometimes all we need is just a little light.
© Huffygirl 2015
This weekend we set aside a day to honor mothers. While this should be a day where we honor the sacrifices our mother made to give us life, to teach, and to nurture us, instead it often becomes a day for cynics to arise and promote negative ideas about Mother’s Day. Some say that mother’s day denigrates women who do not choose motherhood. Others say it makes those with bad mother’s or unhappy childhoods feel sad and isolated. Still others think that the commercialization of this holiday has ruined it, making all things Mother’s Day cheap and insincere. I could go on.
In the late 1800’s Anna Jarvis espoused a wish to have a day to honor all mothers, and wrote this prayer: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.” Anna appreciated her own mother and recognized the difficulty of the work of mothering, and its contribution to society. She was intelligent enough to know that honoring one group, i.e. mothers, does not defame or lessen the importance of non-mothers and others. She worked tirelessly to have mother’s day established as a national holiday, and it finally was declared so in 1914. Anna later regretted the commercialization of Mother’s Day, but held true to her belief that mothers should be honored.
In this country we have many days set aside to honor different people and things. Some are silly, like National Hat Day, or fun like National Pie Day. Some are serious like Veteran’s Day, and some are overly commercialized, like Valentine’s Day, and yes, Mother’s Day. Should we then not celebrate pie because cake will feel hurt? Are socks insulted on Hat Day? Do non-veterans become offended on Veteran’s Day? The answer to all of these questions is of course, no. In a mature and enlightened society, we should have the common sense to recognize that honoring one group does not insult the opposite group. As a nation, we must not lose sight of the reasons we have chosen to recognize certain ones – for dedication, loyalty, commitment, service. These values matter and deserve to be honored.
This Mother’s Day I will remember my mom for all she did for me, and all mothers for their contribution to society.
© Huffygirl 2015
I recently had the experience of being tortured, not by terrorists, but by that well-known fashion statement, the hospital gown. The hospital gown was originally an open nightshirt, designed for the convenience of nurses and doctors carrying for the bedridden patient. The gown was traditionally worn with the back open to allow for access to the patient; yet modesty was maintained as the patient’s backside was safely covered by the bed.
Today, thanks to our ever-growing plus-sized population, the hospital gown is a now a circus tent with armholes. My gown was made from a thick, sturdy, rough-hewn cotton, akin to the same fabric used for flour sacks in days of old. The size was roughly that which Magic Johnson would wear comfortably, in other words, typical one size fits all. The various closure ties along the back were gnarled into an almost unusable state, as if kittens had been allowed in to “help” fold the hospital laundry. The front sported a slit to allow for EKG leads to be pulled through, but on me this fell in the right spot to be considered a wardrobe-malfunction flap. To top this off, the bed on which I was designated to spend the night was not a bed at all, but a gurney, the kind meant for temporary transport of patients. Instead a nice smooth sheet, the gurney was covered with a rough knit-type material. Add to that the ubiquitous blue pad that is placed underneath all hospital patients, as if it’s expected that all patients will start leaking from every bodily orifice, and you have the bed from the seventh circle of hell.
Here is how I spent that night. Despite my ability to eat and drink normally, the IV was going full-blast, so I found myself getting up to the bathroom at least every two hours. Unfortunately I was unable to coordinate this with the staff who came in to wake me up every two hours, so add sleeplessness to the night from hell. On each occasion of getting up, I first had to scoot to the edge of the gurney while wearing a circus tent and trying to hold my painful side. The rough fabric of the gown combined with the rough texture of the sheet made schooching nearly impossible. Once I managed to get to the edge, I had to make a little jump to get to the ground, as you might imagine one would from a gurney designed for giants. Once upon my feet, I used one hand to hold the IV pole, one to hold the back of the gown shut, one to hold the wardrobe malfunction flap shut, and wait, nobody has that many hands. Once back in the room, I had to repeat this process. When I finally managed to scoot myself back onto the bed, I discovered that I had become mummified in the voluminous folds of the gown. Trying to free myself from the folds wrapped around me was a painful and fruitless endeavor. Near the end of the night I found myself just flopping the upper half of my body across the bed, pulling my legs up enough so they weren’t dragging on the floor, and calling it good enough.
In the morning, after the night of torture was completed, the nurse came in and removed the IV and the blue pad from the bed. I dragged myself into the chair and put on my own cozy, well-fitting jammies, and for the first time since being there, sat comfortably, eating bad food and wondering why hospitals are incapable of making toast. But that is a story for another day.
© Huffygirl 2015
What do these two things have in common? In 1886, Mr. Dorr Eugene Felt invented the Comptometer, the precursor to the modern-day adding machine. Mr. Felt’s invention was so successful that he soon became a millionaire. Felt used part of his riches to build a summer home for his family on the shores of Lake Michigan in southwest Michigan. The beautiful 25-room “cottage” featured stunning architectural details and every modern convenience. Sadly, Mrs. Felt died shortly after the home was completed, and Mr. Felt shortly after that. The home and grounds eventually took on a storied history, being sold to a seminary, then a prison, and finally, the state police, with the beautiful mansion crumbling further and further into ruin. Eventually the building and grounds became unused, vandalized and in disrepair, not unlike Felt’s dreams of happy family summers on the shores of Lake Michigan. Today, restoration groups have restored the mansion to its 1929 splendor. The mansion and grounds are open for tours and receptions.
I first met the Felt Mansion in the summer of 1971, with a group of friends who were having a beach party on the grounds of the then St. Augustine’s Seminary. Though, at the time I didn’t know the mansion existed, as a large school building had been added between the path to the beach and the mansion, obscuring the home from view. I met the mansion again in about 2012 on a trip to Saugatuck to relieve the beach party years, and discovered the mansion by accident looking for my old haunts. The dormitory had been demolished, leaving a clear view of the mansion, then under restoration. I returned to the mansion again last summer to tour the completed restoration.
The structure is now beautifully restored, but modern additions of a catering kitchen and multiple display cases of Felt’s Comptometer caused me to limit my photos to the architectural details and the exterior, capturing the details most in keeping with the original 1929 mansion.
© Huffygirl 2015
It happens every year right before Thanksgiving: my annual spam email from Jane Fish. It’s a group email that “Jane Fish” sends out every year inviting all of us to meet for brunch, aka “turkey day brunch” around Thanksgiving time. Included in the group are Wendy, Wendy’s new boyfriend Brent, Mark Elder, Cheryl Davin, Beth Ide, Corrine Castano, Erin somebody, and me, Dave Barry. We are supposed to meet somewhere in Massachusetts at places that sound really real – The Bolton Street Tavern, the Horseshoe in Hudson, The Old Mill or Black Diamond II. The exchange of emails lasts several weeks and are always the same theme. Jane Fish wants everyone to meet for a turkey day brunch. All the members of the group, except me, Dave Barry chime in. This person can’t meet on Monday but could do Tuesday, someone else wants dinner instead of brunch, could they meet at 6 or 7 PM, can we meet after the holidays, how about skiing instead, and on and on. It sounds overly perfect with little newsy asides – is Keith bringing the baby this year, and unfortunately, Mark’s wife can’t come; someone else has soccer practice, and every one of them can’t wait to see the others. I’ve gotten this email every year now for at least ten years. There are some variations. Sometimes I get it again in the spring, as it seems they may want to meet for brunch around Easter too. Sometimes it ends right after Thanksgiving, but this year the group is still trying to plan that “turkey day brunch” now only a week before Christmas. The whole thing sounds very convincing, although a little too fake and cheery to be real. One’s first instinct upon getting this email is to think “oh no, I should reply right away so they know that they have the wrong email address for Dave Barry.” After all, I wouldn’t want Dave Barry to miss all the fun.
But, every year I resist because I know this email is not about turkey day brunch, but some elaborate phishing scheme. How do I know this? What are the tell-tale signs?
Dear Jane, Mark, Beth, Corrine, Cheryl, Erin and Wendy,
Unfortunately I am unable to meet any of you for brunch, dinner, appetizers, skiing, Christmas mass, or any other event, either before, during or after the holidays. Sadly, I will miss all the updates about everyone’s kids, jobs, ski trips, sporting events and Wendy’s health issues. I will not be able to meet Wendy’s new boyfriend, Brent. I will never know why Mark is flying solo, or why the Old Mill is closed on Mondays. I am hurt by your continual unconcern for the lack of communication from me, and quite frankly, wonder why you still invite me when I never reply.
Looking forward to hearing from all of you next year.
Love, Dave Barry
© Huffygirl 2014
Today the lava is hot, beautiful, deadly. It’s black steamy fingers both scare and fascinate us. Later, it cools and forms mounds of land that become islands and mountains – the land we now call Hawaii.
Haleakalā, which bears more resemblance to the moon than a tropical paradise, shadows over the the beautiful island of Maui. At 10,023 feet, this mountain, the remains of a massive shield volcano, is the highest in Hawaii. Hundreds of visitors a year drive the switchback road to the top to see the beauty of the rock and sand formations, and engage in dangerous activities like biking down the treacherous highway. At this elevation, the weather is chilly and can easily drop into the 30’s by late afternoon. You don’t want to be here unprepared.
© Huffygirl 2014