Thursday, July 28, 2011

an extraordinary first lady worth remembering.

she called herself an ordinary woman.
a midwesterner, yes.
an almost-professional-dancer, sure.
a lawyer's wife, okay.
but ordinary?

not betty ford.

she was born elizabeth ann bloomer in 1918 in chicago.
she always wanted to be called elizabeth,
but got betty for life.

she moved with her family to michigan at the age of two.
at the age of twelve, she went to her first dance
with the boy who, twelve years later, became her first husband.

in-between, she modeled
& danced.
dance was a lifelong passion for betty,
beginning at eight with lessons,
& culminating at 20, when she spent a winter in new york
under the tutelage of modern dance pioneer
martha graham,
even performing in graham's dance troupe at carnegie hall.

but ultimately, she returned to michigan
& married her old sweetheart, an alcoholic like her father.
three years later, she decided to file for divorce,
but when he went into a coma, she cared for him
for another two years as he recovered.
they finally divorced in 1947.

within months, betty met grand rapids attorney
gerald rudolph ford, jr.
by the time he announced his run for congress,
she was already smitten.
they married in late 1948 &
honeymooned at republican party campaign rallies.
gerry won, & the fords were off to washington.

quipped betty later, "we came to washington
for 2 years & stayed for 28."

the fords had four children within seven years.
betty was hospitalized for a pinched neck nerve,
& began taking prescription painkillers.
gerry kept getting reelected & became house minority leader.

in october 1973, president richard nixon announced gerry
as his vice-presidential nominee for appointment
following spiro agnew's forced resignation.

betty was thrust into the high-profile political wife spotlight.
her first interview was with barbara walters.
walters' first question was about betty's perspective
on roe v. wade, which effectively legalized abortion.

betty's answer?
"i'm delighted, because i'm glad
they have taken abortion out of the backwoods
& put it into the hospitals."

delighted? did i mention gerry was a republican?

regardless of betty's progressive views
& penchant for being honest about them,
her husband became vp.

ten months later,
watergate forced nixon out
& the fords into the white house.

& betty kept on being betty.

she candidly disclosed
she had a nodule in her right breast.
it was malignant. she underwent a radical mastectomy
followed by two years of chemo.

she forthrightly revealed
she slept with her husband "as often as i can."
she straightforwardly said
if she were younger, she'd probably try pot.
& she frankly told the press she "wouldn't be surprised"
if her teenage daughter were to have premarital sex.

more than all that, she continued to
champion liberalized abortion laws,
she lobbied for ratification of the equal rights amendment,
& she promoted putting more women into
policymaking government positions.

by the end of 1975, she was ranked as
the nation's most admired woman.

when gerry lost the presidency to jimmy carter
the following year, his voice failed him,
so betty read the official concession statement
with smiling grace.

the fords moved to california,
where betty tried to fill her empty calendar & nest
with pills & vodka tonics.

in 1978, confronted by her family, betty divulged
her use of alcohol & prescription drugs
had become a dependency.
she entered rehab at long beach naval hospital.
& her experience there led her to found
the betty ford center in rancho mirage.

she authored two memoirs,
received the presidential medal of freedom,
& stayed married to gerry for 58 years until his 2006 death.

betty ford,
recovering addict,
cancer survivor,
& extraordinary first lady for all of thirty months,
died july 8th at the age of 93.

she left behind her sons, mike, steve & jack,
daughter susan, seven grandchildren &
seven more great-grandchildren.

"america had been a nation of shame-faced secrecy
in so many of its domestic affairs.
the 1970s was when that began to change.
betty ford was that transformation's joan of arc."

[rick perlstein, the new york times]

image source: david hume kennerly, betty atop the cabinet room table, her last full day as first lady, 1.19.77.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


44 things about her @ 44.

1. she is perfectly imperfect.

2. today, the life wishes she had @ 22 have all come true.

3. she is happy.

4. she still feels something greater is waiting for her.

5. she is addicted to diet coke.

6. she wishes she had one right here, right now.

7. she is blessed with good eyebrows.

8. she has never had a cavity.

9. she has left the usa only twice.

10. she has never been to mexico.

11. she prefers tex-mex food over authentic mexican cuisine.

12. she thinks pinatas at parties are an invitation for trouble [& possibly trauma].

13. she feels the number 13 is lucky.

14. she lives life sleep-deprived.

15. she has days' worth of reading to catch up on,
not counting books.

16. she loves her blog.

17. she wants to journal consistently.

18. she has tried many, many times. unsuccessfully.

19. she believes people are essentially good &
trying their best.

20. she still can't believe she grew two
beautiful little people with her body.

21. she still isn't sure three dogs is a great idea.

22. she [ironically?] loves being alone.

23. she surrounds herself with words.

24. she works at being gentle with herself.

25. she isn't sure how to teach her children self-compassion.

26. she loves learning how to hula.

27. she wants to make money using her handwriting.

28. she wants to sing with a big band.

29. she wants to take a walking tour of ireland.

30. she wants to learn to speak italian
& go to italy.

31. she drives a happy-mobile.

32. she pays for the person behind her at the mcdonald's
drive-through once a week.

33. she loves turning 44 within two weeks of
our 44th president turning 50.

34. she believes in a higher power.

35. she believes a whole lotta power is within each of us.

36. she fantasizes about living somewhere with
non-extreme weather.

37. she misses lost in space, thirtysomething & mad men.

38. she is still in denial about the
cancellation of "all my children."

39. she has a strange fascination with
creepy true-crime television.

40. she has an odd fixation on bald, gay tv weathermen.

41. she misses her birthmom &
her two dear friends who have gone.

42. she is fairly sure her brain is over 50% song lyrics.

43. she isn't sure about the location of the line
between self-improvement & self-acceptance.

44. she loves her a list.

Monday, July 25, 2011


i don't know much about amy winehouse.

i know she was talented.
i know she was self-destructive.
i know she was 27.

& i know when you google images of her,
even when she doesn't look like a tragic trainwreck,
she doesn't ever look happy.

i guess she looks like
a life of amazing gifts
used to move & connect & change
for the better


i just hope she has peace
wherever she is now.

image source:

Friday, July 15, 2011

four more days.

four more days
until i turn forty-four.

& while today's forty is young
relative to our parents' forty,
our bodies often don't seem to know the difference.

over the past year, my hormonal cycles have
become annoyingly inconsistent.
my silver stragglers have invited many friends
to the party at the crown of my hairline.
& i've put on enough weight —
especially around the mid-section —
to return me to weight watchers
[the day after my birthday, naturally].

going into my mid-forties,
i'm finally beginning to accept the fact that
i. am. aging.

& i'll be honest: it's not awesome.
but it is still better than the alternative.

here's what my girl ms. o knows for sure
about growing older
— mantra-worthy, as ever:

people who lie about their age
are denying the truth & contributing to a sickness
pervading our society — the sickness of
wanting to be what you're not.

denial leads to delusion.

i know for sure that only by owning
who & what you are can you
step into the fullness of life.

every year should teach you something valuable;
whether you get the lesson is up to you.
every year brings you closer to
expressing your whole & healed self.

i celebrate that. honor it. hold it in reverence.
& i'm grateful for every age i'm blessed to become.

image source: pinterest.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

a cabaret chanteuse worth remembering.

i sort of believe in reincarnation.

otherwise, i've got no explanation
for the magnetic draw that the decade of
the 1940s has always held for me.

the style, the movies, & especially
the music.
a decent rendition of "i'll be seeing you"
literally brings tears to my eyes.

the great american songbook — penned by
arlen, berlin, carmichael, ellington, the gershwins,
hart, kern, mercer, porter, rodgers
& their contemporaries —
is my soundtrack of choice.

preferably sung by the amazing ella fitzgerald.
but i also especially enjoy dinah washington, julie london,
peggy lee, judy garland, doris day,
rosemary clooney, bing crosby & that cuckoo frank sinatra.

of course, they're all long gone.
but there's a handful of modern interpreters
doing right by the songbook in my opinion
of extremely high standards for jazz standards —
guys like harry connick, jr. & michael bublé, for sure.

but i've had a harder time finding women
who can hold their own up against the greats.

until mary cleere haran.

touted by the new york times as
"the most literate chanteuse of her generation,"
ms. haran was a witty, musically sophisticated cabaret singer
who spent almost 25 years sustaining
the spirit of the songbook in old-school nightclubs like
the russian tea room, feinstein's, cafe carlyle &
the oak room at the algonquin hotel.

she was known for not only her pure vocal style &
thoughtful lyric interpretations, but also
the upbeat personality & subdued glamour
she reflected on-stage.

a san francisco native, ms. haran came to new york city
during the late 70s, & made her cabaret debut in 1985.
in 1992, she made her recording debut &
released a total of six albums over the next decade.
she also performed on and off broadway,
& had a recurring television role.

in addition to her illustrious performing career,
ms. haran was a respected writer & researcher
who was involved in the production of several PBS specials.

so, by now i'm sure you've noted my use of past tense.
mary cleere haran died last february at the age of 58.

she was taking a break from the big apple, living in florida,
& was hit while riding her bicycle
by a car backing out of a driveway.
she was on life support for two days, but never regained consciousness.

she's survived by her son, jacob, &
six of her seven irish-catholic siblings.

i just discovered the news of her death a few days ago,
& even though it happened five months ago,
i still wanted to honor this inspiring performer
with whom i connected via songs from seventy or so years ago.

maybe our paths will cross a little closer,
mary cleere haran,
the next time around.

image source: mary cleere haran's facebook page.

Monday, July 11, 2011

it is the path off the path

that brings us to God.

for our hearts are just

small birds, waiting.

image source: lovebug122.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

great cogitations.

guy-to-girl translator & vice versa.
great idea, yes?

as is the location of its origin,
the idea swap.

yes, another brilliant way to time-suck on the internet.

the concept is simple:
you submit an idea of 150 characters or fewer [greatness not required],
& trade them with other people's ideas of <150 characters.


some great. some impossible. some silly. some soulful.

you can just keep on clicking & idea-gathering until . . .
well, until you've time-sucked to your satisfaction.
or your self-reproach. or your just plain boredom.

or until you hit a keeper like this:
just make small & steady progress
toward a few clear goals.
make cool stuff.
make things better.


& typing of great ideas, the australians
have had another one [in addition to
huge beers, sexy accents & hugh jackman].

according to gizmag, aussie researchers at
the royal melbourne institute of technology
may have found a way to power laptop computers
by typing on them.

the discovery involves piezoelectric materials -
which can convert mechanical energy into electric power.
research on piezoelectric thin films is fairly new,
but this study's findings on such material's
capacity for turning mechanics into electricity
is promising - & not just for electronics.

“the power of piezoelectrics could be integrated into
running shoes to charge mobile phones
or used to convert blood pressure
into a power source for pacemakers —
essentially creating an everlasting battery,”
says dr. madhu bhaskaran, the study’s co-author.

& for the ipad-ites among us, never fear -
scientists are also exploring ways to
power touchscreen devices through finger-swiping.


image source: the idea swap.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

c'mon. get happy.


this summer, to date, has been less than stellar.

too much work. not enough playtime.
too much extreme heat + humidity. not enough rain.
too much eating. not enough exercising.
too much sibling refereeing. not enough family fun.

all shadowed by worry & stress concerning
some serious first-family health issues.

they even cancelled our fireworks [fire hazard].

to date, this has been a rather big-bummer summer.

so i was happy to see happiness guru gretchen rubin's
recent blog post, want to feel happier by the end of the day?
your menu of options.
[well, i was en route to happy, anyway.]

now, ms. rubin has studied happiness
& the real reasons behind it comprehensively,
so when she offers a checklist of
31-derful research-proven ways to improve your mood
then i'm printing it, sharing it & following it.

& as i head into what may well be the
most difficult week of my summer 2011,
i'm highlighting the ten simplest actions
i can do from the list,
& giving myself ultimate permission to do a couple
whenever the bum threatens to overwhelm:

1. call or email a close friend.

2. add a fun thing to my calendar.

3. spend 15 minutes on the internet reading
about a subject i want to learn more about.

4. give $25 to a worthy cause.

5. do ten jumping jacks/walk around the block/go for a run.

6. tidy up a computer folder.

7. schedule a doctor's appointment i've been postponing.

8. send replies to three e-messages i've been meaning to respond to.

9. toss someone else's litter.

10. blog about what i'm grateful for.

want to print, share or follow the whole list? here you go.
& if you're still not happy, then oprah's got another 25 ways to beat the blues.

image source: going places 2 @

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

name that blog.

notice anything different about my blog, careful readers?
anything new at all?

no, it hasn't lost weight.
no, it hasn't changed its 'do.
no, it hasn't begun posting with greater regularity.
[snap. dang!]

ok. it's not that big of a deal,
so don't feel bad for not noticing.

i changed my blog's explanatory subtitle.

it was: because feminism isn't the f-word.
it is: notions of a suburban feminist.

why the change?

i simply wanted something that more accurately
explained what this blog is.

it is woman-centric.
because i am a woman, &
because what i want this blog to do is connect with women.
so skirting the issues still applies.

but i felt the former subtitle
might have implied a politicism to my content
that definitely emerges from time to time,
but that is not what this blog is all about.

this blog is all about life, work & the world
from the perspective of

a 40something
people pleaser
emotional eater
& control freak

working toward
physical health
financial well-being
a happy nest
consistent creativity
more sleep
less diet coke
respect for mother nature
& yes, equality for women.

so, what do you think?
does notions of a suburban feminist cover it?
got other thoughts?
please feel free to share . . .

& while you're mulling, enjoy
this slice of inspiration pie
a la the feminist majority:

"the idea was never victory and defeat.
the whole idea was,
you should pardon the expression,
equality - that we're actual human beings,
& that was it.
i know it sounds radical,
but that was it."

~ gloria steinem, explaining the concept
of feminism to stephen colbert.

image source: me + instagram.