Weighing In: My Body of Work

Celery Again

You’ve seen it.  The groom takes a piece of wedding cake and smashes it into the perfectly made up face of his bride.  This is the message:  Ladies will not eat unless they are force fed.

Stop fast-forwarding past the commercials, and you’ll see men scarfing pizza, chicken wings, all manner of delicious cuisine.  Women in commercials are mostly eating yogurt with teeny tiny spoons.  Finger licking, lip smacking, satisfied tummy rubbing?  That is for guys only.

I was recently at a ladies’ luncheon.  You know what was served, right?  Chicken salad on a croissant, with a side of field greens, that salad that tastes like it arrived at your plate directly from the dirt.  And it’s dressed with a squeeze of lemon and angel tears.

I was ladylike in my manner of consumption.  I cut the croissant in 4 bite-size pieces, and took 3 bites out of each piece, blotting my mouth before sipping my saccharine-sweetened iced tea.  I ate my field greens with gusto, because ladies can.  When I threw in my fork, you could have blown the crumbs off my plate and used it, unwashed, for tomorrow’s luncheon.

It was then that I examined the plates of the seven other ladies at my table.  One woman’s plate was, as seen with the naked eye, completely untouched.  A few other women had scraped the filling from their croissants, leaving those buttery, flakey puffs of lusciousness on their plates.  Another woman was eating just the seepage around the croissant, and another consumed the ends, leaving the juicy elbow of the sandwich on her plate.  Most of the women had consumed every leaf of the swamp grass salad.

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The Ghost of Christmas Past

christmas_110006500-012814-intI suppose it’s not fair that I blame my mother for ruining that Christmas.  I must have been eight or nine, old enough not to “believe” anymore, old enough to understand that whatever my mother bought would be hidden somewhere in the house. I was just being a normal kid, curious, with hope in my heart.

But if my mother had been a normal mom, she would have hidden that doll better.  In fairness, it couldn’t have been easy to hide a three-foot baby doll, with the size and proportions of a real child so it could be dressed in toddler clothes.

But really, Mom, in the bathroom cupboard barely covered by the stiff, gray bath towels?  I was sorry right away that I had found it, and I learned what happens to delight when surprise is erased.  About the dread of faking surprise on Christmas Eve  when we opened our gifts.

Maybe that Christmas was also the one when my mother used needles as fine as toothpicks to knit Barbie Doll clothes.  It is only now, remembering those clothes, that it occurs to me that my mother must have waited until I went to bed to knit them so they would be a surprise, buta2162a27c67eb106d2a75a4825ec96ce I remember that I was surprised, and disappointed, that I didn’t get the slutty black strapless sequin dress I saw at Woolworths, the one that came with the microphone.

But, oh, the anticipation of opening those presents on Christmas Eve afternoon when Dad finally got home from his foundry’s Christmas party.  No matter what was in those packages, it was more than what I had.   We weren’t poor, but middle class kids just didn’t have much.

My mother often made me something. The Christmas I was sixteen, Mom  made me a grey fur-trimmed maxi-coat that had a Dr. Zhivago hood going on, and it closed with metal frogs.  It never fit exactly right, because of course Mom had to sew it when I wasn’t around, but I loved it and felt very sexy and sophisticated when I wore it to Rick’s uncle’s Christmas dinner.

After I opened my gifts with my parents and brother, we headed to my grandparents’ two doors down.  First we had our mock turtle soup dinner, and once all of the dishes were washed and the tables were set for Christmas breakfast – this took forever, it seemed – the door to the family room was opened to reveal the bounty of a very generous Santa.  You had christmas-gift-vector-decorative-template-with-bows-gift-boxes-pine-branche_mjfgr1v__lto sidle in to find a seat; the entire center of the room was mounded with packages.

Most gifts you received in those days were surprises, but not too surprising.  You might ask for a sweater, but you never know what color or pattern you’d get.  Or earrings, but you didn’t know if they’d be silver or gold, studs or dangles.

Back then, you rarely returned gifts, unless they were damaged or the wrong size.  You loved the gift because you loved the giver, and you always made an effort to use the gifts in their presence.

My crazy–in-mostly-a-good-way aunt really didn’t care about your wish lists.  She bought what fancied her, like the year she bought all the adult children gingham nightshirts.  My dad and his siblings and their spouses with the ankle-length nightshirts on.  Wish I could find that picture.

My grandmother had an algorithm for determining her budget for each gift—a certain amount for children and their spouses, another for her grandchildren, and the smallest amount for her great-grandchildren. She would always buy a gift from your wish list, but  if the gift did not cost the budgeted amount, you might find a pair of stockings or knee socks or two dollar bills in the box to make up the difference.

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We Don’t Talk Anymore


So, we’re on a road trip.  We’ve spent five days in the car together.  Fortunately, we have a Bill Bryson audiobook, and there are plenty of weather changes and road construction to lubricate our conversation.

We (that would be I) decide to stop for a nice dinner at Smoke and Porter, a restaurant that’s a half-step above Applebee’s.  After I criticize where he chooses to park, we unfold ourselves and get out of the car and perform our synchronized choreography of stretching frozen joints.

He looks at me and says, “Uh, are we going to …”

“Talk?” I shake my head and wave my paperback novel at him.

Talk?  Whatever could we talk about.  We’ve been together for 47 years.  There is not one damn thing left unsaid.  If it hadn’t been that monsoon that swelled up over the highway that afternoon, we probably wouldn’t have said a thing to each other all day.

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Don’t Be a Turkey:  No Politics at Thanksgiving


Maybe we should just skip Thanksgiving this year.  Given the political climate, is it prudent to gather a diverse group of people around a dining table where a carving knife plays such a prominent role?

And there are so many soft, creamy foods—pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce—that would be perfect vehicles for arsenic.

Corn bread and biscuits can be repurposed as projectiles.

Even the Thanksgiving lingo is fraught with ambiguity.  “Turkey” is poultry to be consumed or an insult to be dished out.  Take “stuffing,” which can be a toothsome, fat-laden side dish or it can be mean an aggressive way of filling a relative’s mouth with a sock.

And the before-meal grace?  What a landmine!

Dear God, we are so grateful that you have delivered to us a man who will make our floundering nation great again!


Heavenly Father, We thank you for this bounty and humbly ask for your guidance in removing the dark stain of Satan from the Oval Office.

Don’t want to foul/fowl up Thanksgiving? Ban politics.funny-turkey-in-hat-vector_myq7xm_l

There are always the usual social lubricants we can fall back on:

  • The weather, how it’s hotter or colder this year than last or the blizzard back in ought two.
  • The tip you learned on FB about how to change your life with Ziploc baggies.
  • The speed trap in Elmwood Place.
  • The merits of white vs. dark meat.
  • The year Junior ate three pieces of pie and threw up in the dog dish.
  • And howsabout those Bengals?

Here are some ideas for spicing up, without burning down, the Thanksgiving table:

  • Pass around baskets of random snapshots from the past and remember the good old days. Laugh about the 70s bell bottoms, the 80s hairstyles. Linger over those of Grandma and the old farm house.
  • Tell the youngsters the stupid things you’ve done. Like the time you spent $14 trying to win a teddy bear at the fair.  Kids love to hear how the old folks messed up, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll learn from our mistakes.
  • Tell stories about loved ones who are no longer at the table. How Great Grandma Seilkop made butter and sugar sandwiches for hobos during the Depression.  How Grandpa Gil financially supported the Cherokee Nation.  How Uncle Lou fought in the Battle of the Bulge.happy-turkey-holding-a-usa-flag_qkdnqz_l

Look people.  You would probably give a kidney to anyone at your Thanksgiving table without a second thought.  You played together when you were kids and sat on your aunties’ laps without any discussion of politics.  This is not the time to lean into difference.

Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton lead our families.  We are in charge of our own families.  We look to our elders to remind us of our values and priorities; we look to our children for hope; we look to our hosts for their generosity and hospitality.  We are all Americans, lucky us, and there is no room for hate at our table.

Strong families help make America great.  Strong families and pie.  Lots of pie.



When Dinner is Performance Art and Requires a Hat

You found what in the cake?  Homage to an Indifferent Cook, My Mom

Norwegian Dinner:  It Begins With a Saw

Ten Things I’ve Learned as a 64-Year Survivor of Christmas


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Write Me In: 15 Reasons I Should Be Your President


  1. I will never wear sleeveless outfits, not to the State of the Union Address, not to the Easter Egg Roll, not to the Fourth of July picnic. I will wear pantsuits with long jackets covering my elasticized waist bands.  I will make modest, illusory, and seasonally appropriate clothing fashionable again.
  2. I taught middle schoolers for 30 years, so I know how to make childish people get along. Even deplorable people.
  3. I will not go grey. Even if I serve two terms.  A campaign promise I can keep.
  4. You can see my tax returns. Nothing will surprise you: Two teachers’ pensions.  Deductions for prescriptions and ice bags and Tylenol.   Donations of nightgowns and lamps and sweatshirts to Goodwill.   Checks here and there to St. Jude Hospital, the Cancer Society, and The Food Bank. Yes there were losses and depreciations in our lives this year, but nothing we could claim.  Loopless, we are.
  5. I will commit no sins of the flesh. Just ask my husband.
  6. I think America IS great AND we have important work to do.
  7. I have no blood coming out of my wherever; I’m just ornery all the time.
  8. It will be easy for the Secret Service to keep track of me. I’m slow.
  9. I have no idea how to tweet.
  10. Yes, you can see my medical records. You can see that I am at a healthy weight for my 7’10”    That I have the usual old person ailments:  hypertension, cholesterol, and a little too much candy in my blood stream.  That I take the three medications most women my age take: Lipitor, Lisinopril, and the one that will keep me from losing my shit when Congress won’t play nice.
  11. I am up three times a night peeing anyway, so I will take that 3:00 AM call.
  12. I don’t golf.
  13. You are welcome to read my emails, ones setting up lunches, ones requesting my children’s Christmas lists, ones with meatloaf and cheesecake recipes. And, by all means, look for my lost emails, because there are at least 22,000 I can’t find.   Find the receipt for that doohickie I bought from Etsy that I want to return.  And bring your experts in to crack the code of my passwords, because I’d really like to order something from the Zappos again.
  14. If I lose, it will be because more people liked another candidate better.
  15. I am not nasty. (And neither is “She.”)img_3062

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A Horse is Not a Dog

A Christmas Story Made in America

Degrees of Separation:  The Antidote to Empathy




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My Fitbit Impressed My Friends, Cleaned My House, and Saved My Marriage


My daughter knows my aversion to movement.  Really, I am a pet rock.  Except for brief runs (well, walks, to be honest) to the fridge and john, I could be a wax figure in Madame Tussaud’s Museum.

So it came as some surprise when I received a Fitbit from my daughter who felt compelled, all the way from Oslo, Norway, to send this fancy pants pedometer for her manatee-of-a-mother.

When I got online to set up my Fitbit (“It takes literally three minutes,” my daughter lied) I saw that mine was one of the basic models that costs $150.  I can’t believe my daughter spent $150 on a gift so totally wrong for me.  At least she didn’t buy one of the more deluxe models which checks your heart rate and makes iced tea.IMG_2918

Mine is in a serviceable black vinyl band. It tells the time and the date.   It works like a pedometer, measuring steps, but oh so much more.  In addition to counting steps, it determines how many miles I’ve walked and calories I’ve burned and stairs I’ve climbed–all totally useless features for me–but my Fitbit will also measure and assess the quality of my sleep.  Now those are stats I can get into.

Because my daughter spent so much money on this thingie, I felt obligated to strap it on (like I do my feedbag).  She told me it would change my life, which it has in so many ways.

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Sugar ‘n Spice: A Diner That’s Nice

about-us-outside (1)

“We make our syrup in house,” said Sugar ‘n Spice owner Steven Frankel. “Here’s the recipe:  sugar, water, sugar, more sugar, some brown sugar, maple flavoring, sugar, and some more sugar.  We cook it till it’s almost booze, then back it up.”  My friend Teri ate spoonfuls of it when her whispy pancake was gone.

When I was a kid, I knew without asking that we wouldn’t eat at Sugar and Spice Restaurant.  I don’t imagine I saw this restaurant that often, as we were from Finneytown and Sugar ‘n Spice was in the Paddock Hills area of Avondale.

Maybe I saw it on the way to Great Grandma Meinking’s house, or when we went on our annual trip to the Cincinnati Zoo.  Perhaps when we had doctor appointments on Burnet Avenue.  But how could a little girl not remember a bubble gum colored eatery that looked like it came from the pages of The Gingerbread House?

I knew my family wouldn’t eat there, mostly because we almost never ate anywhere but at our house.  Boring cottage ham or meatloaf off Melmac plates.  And to drink?  Milk, always milk.

But sometimes Mootsie and Grandpa Gil took me out to lunch after church, usually to McIntosh’s on Reading Road or Century Inn Tavern in Woodlawn.  Neither of these places was far from St. Matthew United Church of Christ, but Sugar ‘n Spice wasn’t either.  It seems Sugar ‘n Spice just wasn’t a restaurant our family would frequent.

When I was a little girl, Avondale was 60% Jewish.  The homes on tree-lined streets were mansions by the standards of the day.  But by 1967, when I was invited for lunch by a girl in my acting class to her Avondale home near Sugar ‘n Spice, my mother was worried about driving me there, maybe because of her poor sense of direction, but maybe something else.  Maybe because by then Avondale was a predominantly black neighborhood.

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Sandy Lingo

Life itself is the proper binge.  - Julia Child

A writing friend said that when she reads my writing, she always wants a second helping.



Second Helping Subjects