Friday, October 31, 2008


My brother and I on the steps of my grandmother's house in the Bronx. I was four years old, he was three. Apparently, Casper was very popular that year and my individuality in creating Halloween costumes had not yet been realized.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Emulating The Brazilian Bombshell

This one was in 1993. I went as Carmen Miranda. That's me on the far right.

I was FABULOUS! I worked at a resort hotel and every year before I'd go out, I'd stop by the hotel to show off my costume to my co-workers. I had guests at the hotel stopping me in the lobby to take pictures with me. This costume was one of my biggest hits!

I made my entire costume from scratch, without a pattern. My brother helped me with the hat, which was we made out of wire lath fashioned into a huge cone, which I then covered in fabric to match my costume, before my brother took his screw gun to the plastic fruit, which was screwed to the wire to hold it on. I finished it off by hot gluing grapes and flowers to the rest of the hat. The hat must have weighed 15 pounds; I felt like a Vegas showgirl trying to keep it on my head!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Out Cattin' On Halloween

I'm short on content this week as I've been busy driving and haven't had time to flesh out any of my post ideas into actual words, so for the next three days I will post past Halloween pictures. This one is from 1995 I think - when my friend and I went to a party as cats. I'm the one on the left!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

U.S. Route 287

Springfield, Colorado. The lone man sitting at the end of this row of tables epitomizes the entire southeastern corner of this state, and the only thing worse than actually having to be in this town, was eating at this restaurant.

Monday, October 27, 2008

We Are THAT Good

Eddie and I do the crossword puzzle every day. Not only are we good enough to do it in pen, we kick it up a notch and do it in red pen!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Race To The Head

I don't know what it is with me and bathrooms lately, but I couldn't pass this one up; literally, I had to go. But seriously, look at this seat! (photo taken before I peed!) This was taken at the Hot Rod Cafe in Post Falls, Idaho.

I've been to themed restaurants before, but I've never seen it taken this far in the restroom area. The only other place that has themed restrooms that fit the concept of the restaurant is
Buca di Beppo. And although they have plain toilet seats, the entire restaurant makes me feel like I'm at my grandmother's house!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dormers Of Sweetgrass

Taken at the Sweetgrass, Montana / Coutts, Alberta border crossing, going into Canada.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Weird And Random

Hedon from Highway Hags tagged me, wanting to know all my deep dark secrets. Well, the weird things about me, anyway. I have to say, it was very hard for me to come up with these - I even contemplated asking those who know me what my quirks were. I decided against that though, because I didn't want this to turn into "150 Weird And Random Facts About Me".

And of course, with taggings come rules. Crap. So, here are the rules if you were one of the lucky ones to have been tagged:

1. Link to Highway Hags and list the rules on your blog. (Do you see that link up there?? Done.)
2. Share seven facts about yourselves on your blog — some random and some weird. (Read on, people.)
3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their name as well as links to their blog. (I got your seven right here.)
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. (Oh crap, this is the part everyone hates.)

So now that I've laid out all the rules, let random weirdness begin:

1. I LOVE movie previews. If I am not in the theater early enough to get a seat in my favorite area (top center), I get very cranky. And if the choice were available, I would probably pay the $9.50 movie price to sit through an hour and a half of previews and skip the movie altogether.

2. I eat all the cheese off my first slice of pizza. Always. Typically, I will order two slices of pizza. Ever since I was a kid, I would rake all the cheese off the first slice and eat it with a fork, then I’d eat the slice itself, plain. My second slice I eat normally, cheese and all. And my favorite type of pizza is just plain cheese, New York style.

3. I have a flat spot on my left ass cheek. Yeah, probably too much information, but hey – it’s supposed to be weird and random, right? I don’t know how this happened or where it came from, but the bottom curve of my left cheek is not a curve at all. It’s just flat. And if you were here, I’d let you feel it. Or, I might just grab your hand and MAKE you feel it. It’s sort of like when someone has a flat spot on their head – except I could put pants over mine. (Hey – if Hedon could write about HER ass , I can write about mine.)

4. I sometimes find myself holding my breath for no reason at all and then only realize I’m doing it when I gasp for air. It’s sort of like when someone has sleep apnea and stops breathing in their sleep. Except I’m awake. When I am conscious of it, I realize that it usually happens when I’m doing something – like holding my breath as I drive over a rough road (only breathing when I read the other side) or if I’m writing a post for my blog or typing an email, I hold my breath until I’m finished with my thought or when I'm putting on makeup. That last one might be kind of normal, but I shouldn't be gasping for air while I'm weilding the mascara wand. Definitely weird.

5. I love outdoor stores like Cabela’s, Outdoor World and Bass Pro Shops, but I hate the actual outdoors. I love all the outside stuff available – compact cooking items, little port-a-potties, screened in huts, picnic tables and products, outdoor hanging lights and best of all, the clothes. Capri pants that zip into shorts, hiking shoes that are cute and sturdy, shirts that whisk away sweat, soft bulky sweaters and thick warm socks, hats that repel water and fold up to put in your pocket, backpacks with thousands of compartments, kayaks, fishing poles, walking sticks, compasses, binoculars…. Oh my God, I can go on with the list of things I want to buy but that I would have absolutely no use for.

6. When I drive (especially through remote areas) I always think that one of these days, I’m going to see a dead body. I imagine that as I scan the sides of the roads, looking for deer and armadillos, I’m going to see a hand. Or someone’s head sticking out of the sand, like you see in the movies. I mean, until you drive all over this country, through every nook and cranny, you can’t even know the places one can dump a body and I bet I haven’t even come across some of the best places yet. The first one, probably on the tip of every truckers tongue has got to be Nevada, especially along US-50, once dubbed the
”loneliest road in America” But border towns near Laredo and Del Rio, Texas are good, the deep woods of Northern Maine and probably anyplace in North and South Dakota. Hell, up there, you could probably leave someone right on the side of an interstate and it would be days before someone drove by them.

7. I imagine myself choking on something while I’m driving (and Ed is asleep) and because he sleeps like a corpse, I will veer off the road never having the chance to have been heimlichtized by him. And I will die or be maimed not from a legitimate accident, but because I had something in my mouth. The things I see myself choking on?

Bobby pins: when I put them in my mouth before securing my hair with them, I visualize the bobby pin getting wedged sideways in my throat.
Fire balls: Those hot, cinnamon orbs one buys at Cracker Barrel; because they are so hot, I suck in air to cool off my mouth while holding it between my teeth and imagine my sucking in air too forcefully and the candy just flying back into my throat.

Cereal: I often snack on dry Cheerios, Fruit Loops or Cocoa Puffs when I drive. I imagine the taking in too many Loops or Puffs and because they’re dry, they don’t go all the way down.

I would be able to holler to Ed for help, so I’d just hack away until I couldn’t breathe anymore. I know, it sounds so morbid, but whenever I think of doing this, I think there is a very good reason parents always worry that little kids will get something stuck in their throat. Except I’m 41 and should know better. But obviously don't.

OK, I think that's sufficiently weird enough; unless there are other people out there who look for dead bodies on the roadside. Anyone? I don’t know that anyone I tag will actually participate, since I don’t know all of them really well to ask such a thing of them, but I’m gonna do it anyway, doggone it. (That’s my Sarah Palin reference) Say it ain’t so, Joe.

Those Who Shall Now Be Tagged are:

1. My best friend
Vicki. I know she will very likely NOT be participating in this, but I’ll try and put some pressure on her to do it. She’s definitely got MORE than seven weird things to say about herself.

2. Sheila at
Ma Vie Folle, who I just found through another blog and instantly loved because the in first post I read of hers, she used a variation of the word “fuck” like 8 times!

3. Don over at
Louise's Daughter. Don and Cheryl are one fabulous couple; they are smart, kind and uber creative! And the best part about their blog? Pictures of their gorgeous granddaughter Maya!!

4. Michelle of
Bleeding Espresso. I always love finding out new things about her. Stop by her blog for some great writing, great photos of Calabria, Italy (and the pooches!) and great recipes in her What’s Cooking Wednesday posts.

5. Gi-Gi from
Gi-Gi Roxx. A female, solo truck driver who posts some great stories about her life on the road. The thing I love about reading her blog is that most of her posts are long. I know some people don’t like to read long posts, but I find her very interesting and I love hearing what she writes about as she travels the country alone, offering a different perspective since she doesn't drive team with a partner like I do.

6. Paul of The Clue By Four. Love the name of that blog and love WTF Wednesday – best name yet for a dedicated blog posting day!

7. Heather J. of
A Lifetime Of Books. I’m not sure if she’ll actually do this challenge since her blog is mainly book review related, but even if she doesn’t participate, you should go check out her posts – especially if you like to read. She’s got some GREAT information there.

If you play along, thanks!! You make me look good. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Apparently, The Only Time I Lean To The Right Is In My Sleep And Unwillingly

It's been a while since I've unveiled one of the Original Palm Sketches By Salena, but now seems to be the perfect time to do so since last night we had a repeat of the very day I drew the following sketches.

Ed was tired and pulled over to rest for the night. I was already asleep. If he doesn't wake me up with all the noise he makes while getting ready for bed, he is sure to wake me me in some other manner. Last night it was because he parked like this:

It's not noticeable if you're already asleep and I vaguely remember waking and him saying something like, "We're parked on a slight incline." I am sure I mumbled "okay" and went back to sleep, but sometime in the middle of the night I noticed myself scooting my body up toward the head of the bed. My feet kept hitting the other wall, which never happens since I am shorter than the bunk, and I immediately stirred because I hate when my feet touch anything while I'm sleeping.

A few hours later, the same thing; scooting my body up. I was snuggled up against Ed's back and I noticed that rather than spooning him with his butt in the crook of my crotch area (for lack of better description), his butt was now grazing my belly. WTF? H
e seemed to be staying in one place (how, I don't know) but I repeatedly found myself practically crawling back up, one little scooch at a time.

When I got up this morning to drive (leaving Ed sleeping), the incline of the truck caused me to lose my balance. I was a half awake and forgot about the lean, and since I wasn't holding on to anything, I wound up falling right on my ass.

This second picture is what I look like while sleeping (and yes, I sleep just like that, sans any clothing save undies, and with a frown on my face): What is not accurate about this picture (that I drew, no less) are the perky breasts (mine do not stand up like that while sleeping), the pert ass (mine does not hold my body up buoyantly) and the flat stomach (although, it is a lot flatter when I'm lying down - right girls?). But my hair does look like that while I'm snoozing and I do have very slender arms.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Proud To Be A Liberal American

Two different dictionary definitions of the word "Liberal" and also entries from a thesaurus:

Pronunciation: \ˈli-b(ə-)rəl\
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin liberalis suitable for a freeman, generous, from liber free; perhaps akin to Old English lēodan to grow, Greek eleutheros free
Date: 14th century

1. a: of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts
b: archaic : of or befitting a man of free birth
2. a: marked by generosity : openhanded
b: given or provided in a generous and openhanded way
c: ample , full
3. obsolete : lacking moral restraint : licentious
4. not literal or strict : loose
5. broad-minded ; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms
6. a: of, favoring, or based upon the principles of liberalism
b: capitalized: of or constituting a political party advocating or associated with the principles of political liberalism; especially : of or constituting a political party in the United Kingdom associated with ideals of individual especially economic freedom, greater individual participation in government, and constitutional, political, and administrative reforms designed to secure these objectives

synonyms: liberal , generous , bountiful , munificent (mean giving or given freely and unstintingly), liberal (suggests openhandedness in the giver and largeness in the thing or amount given), generous (stresses warmhearted readiness to give more than size or importance of the gift), bountiful (suggests lavish, unremitting giving or providing)


1. open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values : they have more liberal views toward marriage and divorce than some people.
2. favorable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms : liberal citizenship laws.
3. (in a political context) favoring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform
4. (of a person) giving generously
ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from Latin liberalis, from liber "free (man)." The original sense was [suitable for a free man,] hence [suitable for a gentleman] (one not tied to a trade), surviving in liberal arts.

1. the values of a liberal society tolerant, unprejudiced, unbigoted, broad-minded, open-minded, enlightened; permissive, free, free and easy, easygoing, libertarian, indulgent, lenient. antonym narrow-minded, bigoted.
2. a liberal social agenda progressive, advanced, modern, forward-looking, forward-thinking, progressivist, enlightened, reformist, radical. antonym reactionary, conservative.
5. a liberal coating of paint abundant, copious, ample, plentiful, generous, lavish, luxuriant, profuse, considerable, prolific, rich; literary plenteous. antonym scant.
6. they were liberal with their cash generous, openhanded, unsparing, unstinting, ungrudging, lavish, free, munificent, bountiful, beneficent, benevolent, bighearted, philanthropic, charitable, altruistic, unselfish; literary bounteous. antonym careful, miserly.

A friend sent me the following article and I think it made some very good points. Hmmm....perhaps something to think about for all those who "love" freedom, huh?

Dear Republicans: Liberal Is America. Deal With It.

by Michael Seitzman

Dear Republicans,

We've allowed you to use the word liberal as an insult for way too long. We've decided to take that word back. Liberals founded this country, designed it, built it, and saved it. We can no longer allow you to encourage the hypocritical, hate-mongering, war-loving, color-hating, bottom-feeding, gun-fetishizing, intellect-detesting, hold-us-back, right-wing fascist, pseudo-Americans to take over your party and hold our country hostage.

You talk about how the terrorists "hate us for our freedom," yet every time you encourage these people to spit hate and fear from their frothing mouths, you only prove that you're the ones who hate us for our freedom. When you allow them free reign over your party, you only provide the world with a real reason to hate us. You've spent eight years shutting down, shutting out, and shutting up every single thing that makes this country great and, frankly, we've had enough.

You talk about the party of Lincoln, yet your candidates now seethe the kind of filth that caused the very divided nation that Lincoln saved. You call our leaders "liberals" as an insult, though liberalism happens to be at the heart of the very Constitution you claim to defend.

By definition, liberals are more "American" than any of the thugs you're giving voice to at your rallies. Where do you think the root of the word "liberal" comes from? Lib-er-ty. Liberals believe in individual liberties. And what does liberty mean? Freedom. So, exactly which freedoms are you so worried we're taking from you?

Freedom of speech? The hate coming from your campaign? Protected by liberals.

Freedom of the press? You love your Fox News? Sean Hannity? Bill O'Reilly? You'll be shocked to know that even if that terrorist Obama became President, those disgraceful thugs stay on the air. I might not like it, but that's liberalism for ya.

Freedom of religion? Liberal.

Freedom to assemble? Liberal.

Freedom to own a gun? You guessed it. Liberal.

Private property? Liberal.

Free Markets? Yup, liberal.

Ironically, it's LIBERAL VALUES that allow you to gather your hate rallies under the auspices of democracy. It's LIBERAL VALUES that allow you to vote for Senator Magoo and Governor Wile-E-Coyote. It's LIBERAL VALUES that tolerate that putrid venom that the worst of you are spewing, as your leaders smile smugly in the hope that some unbridled rage could save their empty campaign. It's even LIBERAL VALUES that allow you to question other Americans patriotism and even our very humanity, as you insult your country and all it stands for.

Well, we have news for you. You can stomp your feet, spit your poison, cry, lie, sigh or die, but it won't change the fact that eight years ago a robbery occurred and a country was stolen from its rightful owners. But now there's a new sheriff in town. And he's taking it back.

The Liberals

Monday, October 20, 2008

Seniors Maintain Law And Order By Way Of A Fluke Discovery

I don't have any photos for this post, but Oh Lord, how I wish I did.

How. I. Wish.

Let me tell you the story...

So, I'm driving in California, talking to my step-father on the phone about politics. He's 87, so I figure having lived through many elections, a depression, being one of five boys born to Italian immigrant parents, having fought in a World War, owned a business, experienced marriage, paid his fair share of taxes, fathered three children but helped to raise five, he might just have some wisdom to impart.

The most I got out of him was that all politicians are liars and crooks, that neither side is right nor do they do anything for the people, it's all about the money, he is both proud and ashamed of certain aspects of America and its history and really overall, had no enlightened view of anything. But that's not the story I want to tell; that's just setting the scene.

OK, so I'm talking to him about all this when I hear my mother's voice in the background interrupting. I'm immediately a little annoyed and tell him to ask her to wait a minute, that we're not done. But then he said, "I have to go. Your mother has to call 911."

I said, "What?? Wait. Why are you calling 911? What happened? Is she okay?"

He said, "No, no, she's okay. I gotta go. She said someone crashed their car in our yard."

What?? He's not making any sense. "OK, well call me back!" I said and hung up the phone.

While waiting for them to call back I phoned my brother who lives just a few miles away and said, "Hey, it's me. Don't get nervous, they're both fine, but I don't know what the deal is. Mommy said someone crashed a car in their yard. Can you go over and see what happened?" He said he would go see what the problem was and then hung up the phone.

It's not that I don't trust my parents to handle the situation on their own, but how can I say this so you'll understand? Um....well...the fact can I put this...hmmm....okay, I guess I'll just say it; I don't trust my parents to handle the situation on their own. If anyone knows my mother, even from reading about her here, you will know that she has a very active imagination and watches WAY too much Law & Order. This car-crashing-in-the-yard incident can very likely become a debacle.

A few minutes later, my phone rang. It was my mother, speaking fast. "There's a lady in the yard in her car. She drove in and went in the ditch, you know the dirt bank where Eddie parks the truck?  She drove right over it. Her car is stuck. When I went out, I saw her car, it's a Lexus, in the ditch with the doors open. I saw a leg. Oh! I have to go, Michael's here. I'll call you back." 

My brother had arrived to assess the situation. Thank God, a cool head on the scene.



Still waiting.

The phone finally rang. It was my mother again. "So what happened??" I said.

"Well, we were in the family room watching a movie and I thought I heard a noise, like a car pulling in and I even said to Frank 'Who's here now??' but since I didn't hear a door slam and no one came to the door, I figured I was just hearing things, so we went back to watching the movie, The Guns of Navarone, such a good movie you know. We just love it. Gregory Peck is so good. Anyway, I must have dozed off during the movie because then you called and woke me up. Well, since you wanted to talk to Frank, I figured I'd go and get the mail, which I never do, Frank always gets the mail. So I'm walking out of the back porch and as I get to the end of the path, I think I see a car. But the car is in the ditch. So I stop and squint, adjusting my eyes a little you know since my eyesight isn't that great, and I'm looking real hard at the car and I'm sure I see a leg. A woman's leg. So I move forward a little and look closer and now I know that I definitely see a leg. In the backseat of the car. And all the doors are open. It's a Lexus and it's in the ditch, and the woman is not moving. That's when I ran back in to call 911."

"So what happened?" I said.

"Well, I called 911 and they said they were sending an officer over and I told them I wasn't going out to the car and they said I shouldn't that I should stay right in the house. Well, that's when Michael pulled in and leave it to you, being hundreds of miles away and taking charge of the situation to call your brother and tell him what was going on. For a minute I wondered how he could possibly know about it because I didn't remember calling him and then I realized I was talking to you and you must have...."

"Yeah, yeah, Mom. I called Michael. I didn't want you two freaking out about the car in your yard, I know how you are, and I figured it would be good for him to be there to talk to the police when they came."

"Well, let me go out and see what's going on now, I see Michael talking to the officer. I'll call you back."

I heard back from my brother first, getting the whole scoop when he called me on his way home. He explained that the woman was stinking drunk. Didn't even know where she was. She had no shoes on, reeked of alcohol and had a bottle of Vodka in the back seat. She didn't know what she was saying to the cop. He asked her what she was doing and she said she was taking her father to the doctor. When the cop asked her where her father was, she slurred, "I don't know." When he asked her where her shoes were, she slurred, "I don't know". When asked if she knew where she was, she slurred, "I don't knoooow." When asked if she lived in the area, she said she didn't know (she actually did live in the area, a few streets away). The cop gave her a breathalyzer test and she blew a 3.8.  The legal limit in Arizona is 0.8 and the officer said his machine only went up to 4. She was totally blitzed.

My brother's concerns were for his children, who often play in my mother's driveway. Her driveway area off the side of the house is quite large (we can get our semi in there) and she's on a cul-de-sac, so the only traffic that's ever in there are the people who live there - only four houses. My first thought was about my step-father.  At 87, his hearing isn't as good as it once was and he barely pays attention to anything but the task he's doing. So if he's on a mission to get the mail, a flying saucer could land in the yard and he probably wouldn't even turn around at the whirring sound of its hover system. He shuffles out to get the mail and comes back in. A drunk careening into our driveway could have easily taken him out.

My mother, on the other hand, had completely different concerns. And this is where watching too much Law & Order comes into play. Her take on the situation was this, as she told it to me:

"Well, when I first saw the car with the woman's leg sticking out, I went right back in the house and told Frank. I figured that since it was a Lexus, someone must have stolen the car, maybe a drug dealer or something, and kidnapped the woman. Then they drove the car here to my house and crashed it in the yard to create a distraction so that when I opened my door to go out and look at what caused the commotion, they could come in and rob the house."

What. The. Fuck???

"OK, Mom, so you're telling me that you think a thief crashed a stranger's car in your yard so he could steal stuff from your house?"

"Well, it could happen," she said.

"OK, so he kidnaps this woman, only because she has a Lexus, and then what?  Gets her drunk? Or is she already drunk when he hijacked her car? Alright, so whatever, he hijacks her car and asks her (the drunk woman) to drive to your house and careen over the dirt bank in your driveway to make it appear to be an accident. Then he takes the woman out of the front seat of the car and puts her in the back seat of the car with her Vodka bottle?

Then, he opens both doors to create a distraction for anyone who might come upon the crash scene, and he lays in wait for you to open the door to come out and see what happened so he could sneak into your house and what, steal your Tupperware collection?

C'mon, Ma. Seriously? I mean, if this were at all true, and he ditched the car on purpose, he essentially has no getaway vehicle. What do you think he plans to do, run through the desert carrying your big screen TV??"

"Well, it could happen," she said again.

"Mom. This does NOT happen."

"Well, she was driving a Lexus," she said.

"Mom. She drove her Lexus into your wash.  I don't think she was planning a speedy getaway. And if you didn't go get the mail, which you usually don't, she could have been there all night."

"Oh, that's so true." my mother said.  "And Michael was angry that I didn't go see if the lady was alright, but when I told Frank that there was a leg sticking out of the car, he said, 'Fuck her. Call 911 and let them figure it out. You don't know if she's crazy or something, or if there is anyone else in the car with her. It could be dangerous.' and so that's what I did. Even the 911 operator said I did the right thing, that you never know what could happen and that I did the right thing going back in the house. I figured if she was dead, she was dead. And if she was hurt, there was nothing I could do to help anyway except to call 911. I just couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the car. What a fluke that I went out for the mail."

Yes, what a fluke. So the story ends with the woman being carted off to jail and a tow-truck being sent to haul her car out of the driveway. The police asked if my parents wanted to press charges, which they did not, since the only thing the woman did was push some rocks around and dig her tires into the dirt. I mean, no one even stole anything. No sinister plan to run off with the TV, no attempted robbery, no cryptic phone calls from drug cartel associates. How un-Law & Orderish.

Of course I wouldn't want anything like that to ever happen, even though I don't believe it could with all the precautions my suspicious mother (who thinks she's on a CSI task force most of the time) takes. And what the evil-doers do not know (but will now, if they are reading this) is that both my mother and my step-father have a special mixture of end-of-life crazy and real-life-Italian-mafia-stories to reference, that any ruffians would have little chance of getting out of there unscathed, let alone alive.

Next time you hear the "dun dun" of the Law & Order show, pay close attention to the storyline, the ones they rip from the headlines - if it's about a lady who drove her Lexus into a ditch to steal Tupperware, you'll know you heard it here first.

Dun Dun.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Farming The Wind

Three bladed wind turbines on a wind farm in Palm Springs, California.

Stay current (Ha! Get it? Stay current? Current. Wind. Wind current? Ha! I slay me.) on everything wind by clicking

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Not So Different, Are We?

I read this on another blog and found it to be very interesting. It's from the Washington Post, written by Mohja Kahf, the author of the novel, "The Girl In The Tangerine Scarf".


Spare Me the Sermon On Muslim Women
By Mohja Kahf
Sunday, October 5, 2008

Crimson chiffon, silver lamé or green silk: Which scarf to wear today? My veil collection is 64 scarves and growing. The scarves hang four or five to a row on a rack in my closet, and elation fills me when I open the door to this beautiful array. Last week, I chose a particularly nice scarf to slip on for the Eid al-Fitr festivities marking the end of the month of Ramadan.

It irks me that I even have to say this: Being a Muslim woman is a joyful thing.

My first neighbor in Arkansas borrowed my Quran and returned it, saying, “I’m glad I’m not a Muslim woman.” Excuse me, but a woman with Saint Paul in her religious heritage has no place feeling superior to a Muslim woman, as far as woman-affirming principles are concerned. Maybe no worse, if I listen to Christian feminists, but certainly no better.

Blessings abound for me as a Muslim woman: The freshness of ablution is mine, and the daily meditation zone of five prayers that involve graceful, yoga-like movements, performed in prayer attire. Prayer scarves are a chapter in themselves, cool and comforting as bedsheets. They lie folded in the velveteen prayer rug when not in use: two lightweight muslin pieces, the long drapey headcover and the roomy gathered skirt. I fling open the top piece, and it billows like summer laundry, a lace-edged meadow. I slip into the bottom piece to cover my legs for prayer time because I am wearing shorts around the house today.

These create a tent of tranquility. The serene spirit sent from God is called by a feminine name, “sakinah,” in the Quran, and I understand why some Muslim women like to wear their prayer clothes for more than prayer, to take that sakinah into the world with them. I, too, wear a (smaller) version of the veil when I go out. What a loss it would be for me not to have in my life this alternating structure, of covering outdoors and uncovering indoors. I take pleasure in preparing a clean, folded set for a houseguest, the way home-decor mavens lay elegant plump towels around a bathroom to give it a relaxing feel.

Tassled turquoise cotton and flowered peach crepe flutter as I pull out a black-and-ivory striped headscarf for the day. When I was 22 and balked at buying a $30 paisley scarf, my best friend told me, “I never scrimp on scarves. If people are going to make a big deal of it, it may as well look good.”

I embraced that principle, too, even when I was a scratch-poor graduate student. Today I sort my scarves, always looking to replace the frayed ones and to find missing colors, my collection shrinking and expanding, dynamic, bright: The blue-and-yellow daisy print is good with jeans, the incandescent purple voile for a night on the town, the gray houndstooth solidly professional, the white chambray anytime.

As beautiful as veils are, they are not the best part of being a Muslim woman — and many Muslim women in Islamic countries don’t veil. The central blessing of Islam to women is that it affirms their spiritual equality with men, a principle stated over and over in the Quran, on a plane believers hold to be untouched by the social or legalistic “women in Islam” concerns raised by other parts of the Scripture, in verses parsed endlessly by patriarchal interpreters as well as Muslim feminists and used by Islamophobes to “prove” Islam’s sexism. This is how most believing Muslim women experience God: as the Friend who is beyond gender, not as the Father, not as the Son, not inhabiting a male form, or any form.

And the reasons for being a joyful Muslim woman go beyond the spiritual. Marriage is a contract in Islam, not a sacrament. The prenup is not some new invention; it’s the standard Muslim format. I can put whatever I want in it, but Muslims never get credit for that. Or for having mahr, the bridegift that goes from the man to the woman — not to her family, but to her, for her own private use. A mahr has to have significant value — a year’s salary, say. And if patriarchal customs have overridden Islam and whittled away this blessing in many Muslim locales, it’s still there, available, in the law. Hey, I got mine (cash, partly deferred because my husband was broke when we married; like a loan to him, owed to me whenever I want to claim it) — and I was married in Saudi Arabia, a country whose personal-status laws are drawn from the most conservative end of the Muslim spectrum.

I had to sign my name indicating my consent, or the marriage contract would not have been valid under Saudi Islamic law. And, of course, I chose whom to marry. Every Muslim girl in the conservative circle of my youth chose her husband. We just did it our way, a conservative Muslim way, and we did it without this nonsensical Western custom of teenage dating. My friends Salma and Magda chose at 16 and 17: Salma to marry boy-next-door Muhammad, with whom she grew up, and Magda to marry a doctor 10 years her senior who came courting from half a world away. Both sisters have careers, one as a counselor, one as a school principal, and both are still vibrantly married and vibrantly Muslim, their kids now in college.

I held out until I was 18, making my parents beat back suitors at the door until I was good and ready. And here I am, still married to the guy I finally let in the door, 22 years (some of them not even dysfunctional) later. My cousin, on the other hand, broke off a marriage she contracted (but did not consummate) at 16 and chose another man. Another childhood friend, Zeynab, chose four times and is looking for Mr. Fifth. Her serial monogamy is nothing new or radical; she didn’t pick up the idea from reading Cosmo or from the “liberating” influence of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It’s simply what a lot of women in early Muslim history did, in 7th- and 8th-century Arabia.

And would you guess that we’ve also been freer to divorce and remarry than Christian women have been for most of history? In medieval times, when Christian authorities were against divorce and remarriage, this was seen as another Islamic abomination. Now that divorce and remarriage are popular in the West, Muslims don’t get credit for having had that flexibility all along. We just can’t win with the Muslim-haters.

Here’s another one: Medieval Christianity excoriated Islam for being orgiastic, which seems to mean that Muslims didn’t lay a guilt trip on hot sex (at least within what were deemed licit relationships). Now that hot sex is all the rage in the post-sexual revolution West, you’d think Muslims would get some credit for the pro-sex attitude of Islam — but no. The older stereotype has been turned on its head, and in the new one, we’re the prudes. Listen, we’re the only monotheistic faith I know with an actual legal rule that the wife has a right to orgasm.

Of course, I’m still putting in my time struggling for a more woman-affirming interpretation of Islam and in criticizing Muslim misogyny (which at times is almost as bad as American misogyny), but let me take a moment to celebrate some of the good stuff. Under Islamic law, custody of minor children always goes first to the mother. The Quran doesn’t blame Eve. Literacy for women is highly encouraged by the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad. Breast-feeding is a woman’s choice and a means for her to create family ties independent of male lineage, as nursing creates legally recognized family relationships under Islamic law. Rapists are punishable by death in Islamic law (and yes, an atavistic part of me applauds that death penalty), which they certainly are not in any Western legal code. Birth control allowed in Islamic law? Check. Masturbation? Let’s just say former surgeon general Joycelyn Elders’s permissive stance on that practice is not unknown among classical and modern Muslim jurists. Abortion? Again, allowances exist — even Muslims seem not to remember that.

It’s easy to forget that Muslims are not inherently more sexist than folks in other religions. Muslim societies may lag behind on some issues that women in certain economically advanced, non-Muslim societies have resolved after much effort, but on other issues, Muslim women’s options run about the same as those of women all over the world. And in some areas of life, Muslim women are better equipped by their faith tradition for autonomy and dignity.

There are “givens” that I take for granted as a Muslim woman that women of other faiths had to struggle to gain. For example, it took European and American women centuries to catch up to Islamic law on a woman’s fully equal right to own property. And it’s not an airy abstraction; it’s a right Muslim women have practiced, even in Saudi Arabia, where women own businesses, donate land for schools and endow trusts, just as they did in 14th-century Egypt, 9th-century Iraq and anywhere else Islamic law has been in effect.

Khadija was the boss of her husband, our beloved Prophet Muhammad, hiring him during her fourth widowhood to run caravans for her successful business; he caught her eye, and she proposed marriage to him. Fatima is the revered mother figure of Shiite Islam, our lady of compassion, possessed of a rich emotional trove for us. Her daughter Zainab is the classic figure of high moral protest, the Muslim Antigone, shaking her fist at the corrupt caliph who killed her brother, her tomb a shrine of comfort for millions of the pious. Saints, queens, poets, scribes and scholars adorn the history of Muslim womanhood.

In modern times, Muslim women have been heads of state five times in Muslim-majority countries, elected democratically by popular vote (in Bangladesh twice and also in Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan). And I’m not saying that a woman president is necessarily a women’s president, but how many times has a woman been president of the United States?

Yet even all that gorgeous history pales when I open my closet door for the evening’s pick: teal georgette, pink-and-beige plaid, creamy fringed wool or ice-blue organza? God, why would anyone assume I would want to give up such beauty? I love being a Muslim woman. And I’m always looking for my next great polka-dot scarf.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Flash Flood

Humble, Texas. The rain came down so hard and so fast, visiblity was limited, roads closed and cars got stranded in the middle of mini-lakes of water.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Secret Lies With The Twinkies

Someone recently said to me, "Whatever you're doing to look so good..keep it up! Bottle it and sell it! You go girl!"

How can you not like when someone says something that makes you puff up and feel so good? When their words breathe air into your little ego airbag? Sometimes, I am self-deprecating and say something like, "Oh, please. You should see me in the morning" or revert to Yiddish when someone compliments me on what I'm wearing by saying, "This old schmata?"

For the most part I usually just say "thank you" to whoever has been nice enough to compliment me and often do it quickly because it can be embarrassing if they gush. But, being a fairly complimentary person myself (for example, just the other day I walked up to a young girl in the grocery store to rave over her fabulous haircolor - when I walked away, she was beaming ear to ear!), I can understand how people just like to say nice things sometimes.

It lifts my spirits when I am able to make someone else feel good about themselves and I typically like to tell the truth, even if it's not always the most popular route. If someone is really down in the dumps and can't handle the truth they're seeking at that particular moment, I'll just put on my cheerleading skirt and get out the pom-poms. There will always be a time at a later date where I can probably let them know what I think; including telling them their boyfriend is an ass, their job is sucking the life out of them or their mother is sort of a bitch.

The thing I have trouble with regarding this particular compliment, where someone wants me to bottle and sell my secrets for looking so good, is that I can't think of anything to say back. I want to give an answer which within my words, holds a special magical procedure, but usually, all I can think to do is laugh. Not at them, but at the thought of my holding some deep dark secret.

I mean, can I honestly tell them things like the following?

1. That I wash my face with whatever soap is on the sink and don't use a special cleanser. This revelation was met by shock when I worked for Estee Lauder and the regional manager asked me what I used to "cleanse" my face with. When I told her, "Soap. Whatever is on the counter - bar soap, hand soap, dish soap. Doesn't matter to me" I thought she was going to have a heart attack. Then she wanted to know what I used to "moisturize" with. Moisturize?? This woman just couldn't get past the fact that I didn't "care" for my skin. On occassion I'll use a cleanser in a tube or something I read about in a magazine, but typically, it's still just plain 'ol soap that I clean my face with.

I didn't have the heart to tell her that I looked the way I did because I ate
Twinkies and drank Diet Coke. Yes, my body reveals the very fact that I do partake in junk food, hence the fuller figure, but I think the whole reason I don't have any wrinkles is because I'm so plump. Nice, plump, moist, juicy skin. Like a turkey. Even my size four sister-in-law wants to know how I do it.

2. That my creamy complection doesn't come from drinking "tons of water" like the supermodels claim to do. I'm lucky if I can get through a large mug of hot tea without having to pee; it leaves my body as quickly as it goes in.

3. That I don't drink or smoke, which really helps with not having lines around my mouth. Those lines come from sucking on a cigarette, and too many late nights out drinking can leave you permanently looking like something the cat dragged in.

4. That I don't sit in the sun and tan my skin like shoe leather. Since I'm not frying it, I think it helps with the elasticity, keeping its shape instead of making me look like a biker chick wearing a leather vest. Although when you look close at her, you realize she's not wearing a vest; it's just her face.

5. That I don't get a lick of exercise. Well, unless you count walking around the mall and taking mini "hikes" to get photos. My iPod gets more use when I'm lying on my bed daydreaming, rather than inspiring me to cruise around the local high school track. Again, this is directly reflected in my figure, but I can only work on it a little at a time. If it were up to Vicki, she'd be running behind me with a whip. Baby steps, chica, baby steps.

6. That I just have good genes? My mother is virtually unwrinkled at 66 years of age and my Aunt Jennie, who is approaching the century mark, has skin like a baby's bottom.

So I guess the point I'm trying to make here is that I can't "bottle" anything. Believe me, I'm as much an entrepreneur in my mind as Hedon was in real life when she was eleven. If I could make money from it, I'd be hawking my secret on every street corner.

The only thing I can tell you to do is eat Twinkies, drink a Latte, have a slice of pizza, get out of the great outdoors and go inside to watch a movie or some TV, sit in a bookstore for a few hours eating scones, stay up till 3 am, sleep till noon and when you get up wash your face with Palmolive.

This will likely not work for everyone. If you want to drink and smoke, tan your hide, flood your body with water, cut out carbs, eat organically and exercise until you pull a muscle, go for it. Whatever works for you.

But for me? Right now, this is working. And the next time someone asks me how I still look so good at 41 years old (or whatever age I may be at the time) and tells me I should bottle it, I'm going to look right back at 'em and say...

"As soon as I can figure out how to shove a slice of pizza, a Twinkie and a latte into that little hole..."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Palm In The Dirty South

This palm tree was in a shopping center, lit from below. The moon was in the sky right behind it, but as usual, I'm never very successful at getting a real crisp picture of the moon, so just trust me when I say it looked cool.

And yeah, um, this tree has no yellow in it. Deal.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Is There Enough Yellow In THIS One For Ya?

Fall colors in Western New York. This is not a great shot, as I didn't have a chance to pick a particular ridge or spot to stop and take a picture of, but it's the best I could do from a moving truck going down the highway.

I wanted to try to glimpse at least some of the colors, but I don't think this really does it much justice. Be prepared to see more fall color shots this week!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Eddie Helps The Economy Friday

Ed texted me from inside the store to ask me if I wanted anything. I did. Water.

When he got back to the truck, he handed me my favorite brand of water, Fiji. Not that I think it tastes ANY different than any other water, and as one of our favorite comedians says, it isn't more watery, it doesn't have a water "kick" to it, it's just water. But I like it because it comes in that beautiful square bottle. Yes, that marketing trick worked on me.

I was on the phone with my mother at the time and when I said to him, "Oh! My favorite! Thanks baby!", my mother wanted to know what he bought me.

"The outrageously expensive
Fiji water." I said. I did not tell her that he could have bought six gallons of water for the price he paid for my one bottle.

"Yeah" said Ed, "And as I was standing in line to buy your Fiji water, I was reading the headlines of the stock market crashing and our economy going down the toilet."

Hmmm. Are you saying I should drink TAP water????

** kidding - I drink from the tap all the time. Oh, and public water fountains too.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Bridge To Everywhere

Allegany County, Maryland. Boy, I'd love to live in that house on the hill. If you enlarge the picture, you can see that they have their own little covered bridge!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


A little burst of fall color to bring us into my favorite season. Cold is just around the corner. Yay!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

You Can't Hide From The Eyes Of A Truck Driver

I've mentioned in the past how we can see what goes on in the cars of unsuspecting drivers.

In this case, this woman was actually on her laptop WHILE driving, IN traffic.

It's no wonder we see so many accidents.

Monday, October 06, 2008

I Almost Married This Man

This is my best friend Vicki's husband, Anthony. Someday, I'll tell you the story on how I came to be the best friend and not the wife.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


(click to enlarge)

Most of you are familiar with tabbed browsing, right? Well take a look at my tabs.

When I looked at my screen today, I found it quite revealing seeing the tab for "How To Lose Weight" sandwiched between "Cookery Schools in Italy" and "Culinary Vacations".

Hmmmm.....maybe I'm just reading between the tabs, but there might be a hidden reason here why the the 'ol diet is so ungodly hard to stay on.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Monarch Of Style

Me, up front in the frilly pink bathing cap, and behind me, my brother (the one who looks like a little Mexican kid), my mother and my father.

This picture was taken in the mid-seventies at
Alberta Lodge, a vacation spot in Greene County in Upstate New York, somewhere between Cairo and Freehold. My grandparents would get a cabin here every year and we'd often join them for a weekend or if we were lucky, longer.

Days were filled with playing horseshoes and Bocce, swimming in the pool and lounging on the patio and nights would find us walking the grounds and listening to live music after dining in the large, open dining hall with the rest of the guests. The entertainment was primarily geared toward the adults, but it was fun for our grandparents to show us off. One time, I even sang to entertain the crowd! Nearby was the Catskill Game Farm, which would often be part of our trip; we'd hit it on our way home, marking the end of our visit.

Looking at this photo, and I'm sure you'll agree, there can now be no doubt as to the fashionista I once was. Look at that cute little purple bikini! Paired with my grandmother's bathing cap, I am a statement.

Esther Williams, eat your heart out.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

The Clubhouse Girls

Gerri, Garnett and Vicki sip a chilled concoction on their last day at the pool. They have formed a "club" in the back yard of one of the girls which actually takes place in a clubhouse. Primarily done to have some girl time away from the husbands and kids; sort of sounds like our teenage years when no boys were allowed. We wised up by allowing the boys to hang out with us, but I am a big believer in girl time to this day. And that still means No Boys Allowed.

Sometimes they watch things like Lipstick Jungle and sometimes they just bitch about their husbands, but every time includes drinks and laughter!

I'm an honorary member of The Clubhouse Girls but have yet to pop in and see the new digs. I am like a roving reporter if you will, keeping in touch with the home base from out here on the road.

I can't wait to join them for real, but I'm really hoping wearing a bikini isn't a pre-requisite, because I'm SO not ready for that yet!