Minnie and Me

 

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Where were we?

Her name is Minnie. She’s twelve years old and we’ve been together since she rolled off the Toyota dealership showroom floor. I know every inch of her silver full-size body. I like to think the ease with which she handles is because she knows me.

She’s a twelve-year-old hybrid that still gets great gas mileage. She and I, just the two of us, have taken so many fuel-efficient round trips from DC to Boston and back that I could do it with my eyes closed. (Actually, that wouldn’t be a good idea.) Most times we leave at 4am so we miss rush hour traffic on both the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (too early) and the George Washington bridge (too late) and make it to New York City in three and a half hours. Flat. We get behind the fastest car on the New Jersey Turnpike, crank up the tunes and roll. We listen to The Allman Brothers Band’s “Blue Sky” to cruise to as the sun comes up. Then we do some reflecting to Santana’s “Song of the Wind” during the long straight stretches. We use the high energy of Tupac’s “California Love” and Beyonce’s version of Before I Let Go” to get us through to the end. (There are lots of tunes in between.) I’m sure other drivers see my gray braids bouncing and my lips moving to the music as we fly down the highway at I-don’t-want-to-tell you mph and think, “What is up with that old lady!” Whereas all I’m thinking is, “Get out of my way!” We get to Boston by lunchtime if we’re lucky on the Mass Pike. Sometimes we’re not so lucky. We did the trip in a blizzard one year. It took us ten and a half hours, but we made it.

Minnie has her issues. Her last name is McSqueaks because one of her sounds is an intermittent squeak that she refuses to let Keith at Franconia Service Center hear. She usually does it after we drive over any raised surface. I told my grandkids that it’s the way she talks to me. On the rare occasions when they hear it, they always squeal, “What’s she saying, Memu, what’s she saying!” Squealing and squeaking. I have the most interesting car rides.

Another of her sounds is the flapping noise under the bumper on the driver side when we go over sixty. That one is my fault. I used to hit things. A lot. I hit concrete wheel stops regularly. Consequently, the front of Minnie’s undercarriage resembles Swiss cheese. The flapping sound is the bit hanging down as it moves in the wind. I once hit my own moving van. That one cost me termination by my insurance company. It also cost me very expensive coverage with another. I was the DMV’s poster child for how not to drive. I haven’t had any accidents since moving to the DC area. (She looks around for wood to knock on.)

So, Minnie is, justifiably, showing signs of age, wear and tear. But then, so am I. I know the time will come soon for me to think about getting to know another car. It will feel a little like a betrayal, though. My husband bought Minnie for me after he was diagnosed with cancer. He wanted me to have a good reliable car that wouldn’t require much maintenance. Minnie is all of that. I’m grateful for his gift and I appreciate her. I don’t have to think too much about it because I can’t afford another car for at least another year. So, for now, it’s still Minnie and me, two old girls rollin’.

It’s October?

I haven’t posted since the end of May? What happened? Where did the time go? Every time I thought about blogging, something would distract me and turn my attention elsewhere. Sometimes it felt as though I was chasing myself…

Right after the last post my family gathered for a birthday celebration in Miami.

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It was wonderful but it was a lot; a lot of traveling, a lot of money and a lot of family. I’m always shell-shocked for a while after a lot of family.

Then it was back to Boston in June (with a stop in New York City for my birthday) for two weeks having fun keeping the middle little company again until camp started. I also got to meet the teeny little, the newest addition to my extended family. And I enjoyed can’t-beat-it New England seafood with old friends. Blessings all. Still, it was a lot.

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As soon as I returned home I had back to back houseguests visit, the last one for the the 4th of July. See, since I moved to the DMV I’ve had more company than I did in Boston. I get it, Washington DC is a great place to visit. My friends and family have been especially  excited to tour the three year old National Museum of  African American History and Culture. And who doesn’t want to be in the nation’s capital on the the 4th?

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I rounded out the summer with a mini vacay at beautiful Rehoboth Beach in Maryland with my daughter, biggest little and littlest little. Sun, sand, beach food, family and fun.

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Before I knew it it was Labor Day. The whole family gathered in Boston for my son and daughter-in-law’s first anniversary. We had a big barbecue. When I say the whole family, I mean the WHOLE family; offspring, their partners, grandkids, my siblings, nieces and nephews and their kids, their Uber drivers…It was a lot. It was a lot of summer.

Here’s the thing, while I was traveling all over, accommodating family and chasing myself I didn’t notice that I wasn’t balancing the whirlwind with self-care. I was enjoying the people and activities but I was neglecting the other things that feed my soul, like writing. I wasn’t working on the revisions to my novel and I wasn’t blogging. I wasn’t going on the nature walks that allow me to access my poetry muse. I know better. A long time ago I committed to taking responsibility for my procrastination and creative blocks. Yes, my family will always come first but I still have time and energy to devote to writing.  So, the question is why wasn’t I able to stop in the midst of all the hubbub and center myself so I could balance the two? I did it in Tulum. I guess just because I’ve learned some important life lessons over the years doesn’t necessarily mean I can consistently apply them. But I write because I must so here I go again. In the words of Rainer Maria Relki,

“a new beginning is always possible – who should refuse it?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

“One Of These Mornings You’re Gonna Rise Up Singing”*

I haven’t been writing much for the past two months for reasons I hope to blog about soon. Basically, life has gotten in the way. This is a post from a couple of years ago that still makes sense. I’m surprised by how consistent I am. I edited a little and the photos are new.

WE ARE RACING TOWARD SUMMER, AREN’T WE?

It’s feels to me, after such a long and difficult winter, that spring lasted no time at all. April seemed to go by in the blink of an eye and incredibly, we celebrated the unofficial start to summer last weekend with Memorial Day.

When I realized we were quickly coming to summer’s front door, I initially had an anxiety attack thinking of all the springtime activities and chores I haven’t yet gotten done. (As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a list maker.) But then I relaxed and allowed myself to think about the things I have enjoyed this spring, which is a much healthier exercise.

I was fortunate enough to watch the progression of buds to blooms to leaves on the trees and the pushing up of flowering plants from inside the ground to up  toward the sun.

I put the first of this year’s tomato plants and herbs into the garden. While planting the herbs, I held some aside to make some air fresheners, teas and lotions. I naturally have more energy come spring so I’ve been walking in the nature preserve to bird watch and I got to see goslings make their initial appearance at the pond’s edge.  Also, after talking about it ALL winter, I finally got to take the little people to the playground for a game of Hide ‘n Peek Seek. I engaged in each of those activities and enjoyed them completely in the moment as they happened. So if it seems that the springtime flew by, it is only in retrospect.

I hope you enjoyed your spring and that summer will be an equally wonderful set of precious moments for you. I hope you’ll find the recipes below useful. And lastly, I hope you had a great Memorial Day and thanks so much for reading.

*Lyric from “Summertime” by DuBose Heyward from Porgy and Bess

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Baking Soda Air Fresheners

Mason jars
Baking soda
Essential oils, I use lavender, rosemary or lemon
Dried herbs (optional)
Fill the jars to 3/4 with baking soda, leaving a little room on top. Add about 5 or more drops essential oils and stir. Sprinkle on top about a tablespoon of matching herbs to whichever oil you’ve used. (Some people punch holes in the jar lids and screw them on. I never bother, preferring to leave the jars topless.) Shake gently occasionally to reactivate the oils. The lingering aroma will be subtle but fabulously fragrant.

 

DIY Lotion

2 oz Shea Butter
2 oz Vitamin E oil
1 oz Jojoba oil
1 oz Lanolin
1/2 tsp essential oil
All of these measurements are approximate. I find its good to play with the proportions so you get just the right mixture for your skin type. Also, I cut the amount of Lanolin from the original recipe because I don’t care for the smell.

Hello Fear?

 

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Photo by Tyler Lastovich from Pexels

So, last Monday I was the victim of the type of scam called “telephone kidnapping”. Although I’m a news hound, for whatever reason I’d never heard of it before. I don’t want to go into too much detail because this post isn’t about the actual experience. I will say it was incredibly frightening. A person called me from what appeared to be a relative’s phone number and said he’d kill her, blow her brains out if I didn’t do exactly what he told me to do. This relative has a job that made the threat credible enough that, although I suspected it was a scam, I couldn’t chance that it wasn’t. It was thirty minutes of hell, but thank God no one was hurt, and law enforcement is investigating. There’s a link at the bottom of this post to a news story about this scam.

What this post is really about is how it feels to deal with fear and vulnerability in the second half of life. In the last two to three years I’ve noticed that sometimes I’m less confident in my abilities than I used to be. I’ve thought about it, and I don’t really know why. Is it simply because I’m older? Am I being sent the message (by my kids, by the culture) that I’m less capable because I’m older? Up until Monday nothing had happened concretely that pointed to a diminishing of my faculties. I haven’t fallen and had a “I can’t get up” moment. I’ve never believed the IRS was going to issue a warrant for my arrest. But the fact that I was scammed and the fact that it scared me as much as it did, at first, left me shaken and filled with self-doubt. I felt very much like a stupid old woman. I spent the next day comfort eating and cowering in my bedroom. But on Wednesday I came out on the other side.

I realized that I haven’t gotten this far in my life to live it in fear. I have too much faith for that. One of the benefits of being in the second part of life is the sheer bulk of experience. I’ve had enough bad things happen through the years to know that I can overcome, survive and thrive. Ok, the scammer scared the sh** out of me but it’s over. I’m not going to look over my shoulder each time I leave my house. I’m not going to jump each time the phone rings fearing it’s the scammer. I refuse to allow him to become a boogie man under my bed every night when I’m alone or trying to sleep. I’ve toughed it out so far and I’m still here. If I look at myself objectively, without listening to the little voices in my head, I know I’m strong and capable. Age hasn’t changed that. And I’m old enough not to let some weasel lessen the appreciation I have for the very good life I’m blessed with. So since Wednesday I’ve been loving life in joy and gratitude. Thank you, Mr. Scammer Man.

Telephone Kidnapping

 

 

 

 

Traveling

So, I’ve been traveling this week. I’m in Boston right now where I lived for many years before moving to the DMV. I still have people here. This past week has been about celebrating birthdays, births and connecting with kin. Coming back to the place that was my home for so long but is no longer my home is challenging. There is a mixed bagful of memories here. Fortunately, after so many years, the memories evoked are more like my mind’s movies than pains in my heart. And I’ve gotta be real, the weather here is challenging too. It’s kinda cold. I’m not used to it anymore. It feels a little more like spring at home where there are buds on some trees. Not so much in Boston.

 

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Bare as they are, I still love “the triplets”.
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That’s snow. What?!

I’m grateful that I’ve been able to make a little space for writing and reading while still tending to the needs of my family. I can’t work on poetry submissions while I’m away but I can continue working on my new short story, “Perennially”. And I’ve been putting together my next blog post about some changes that come with the second half of life. Hopefully, that will come next week when I’m back home. At night when there are too many of us to all use the wifi, I practice reading as a writer which is wonderful. I borrowed Dr Apelles by David Treuer from the library before I left. It’s an engrossing work that covers territory I know little about which makes it even more interesting. As always, I’m reading my favorite WordPress bloggers.

I’m heading for home soon.  Until I get back, I’ll leave you with a few more photos from Boston.

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There is beauty.
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Had to have the New England clam “chowda”.
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Celebrating her made the trip!

Thanks for joining me on my journey.

This Is What There Is For February

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Once again, it’s the end of the month and I don’t have a thing written for this blog. I have no ideas that I want to share right now or that I haven’t shared already. (It must be a consequence of blogging for eight years.) It’s not that I haven’t been writing. I write almost everyday thanks to the writers Meetup group I started with a friend in November. The members are incredibly smart, talented women. They motivate me to be a better writer and I’m grateful. We read, critique or write together every Saturday morning and then I go home and write. (That is unless life gets in the way.) I’ve finished putting together a collection of poems, a few of which I’ve posted to this blog, I started a new short story and of course I’m still revising that damn novel.

Speaking of novels, I’ve also been reading. I read Small Country, an excellent first novel by Gael Faye, I read Becoming by Michelle Obama and Yeshiva Girl, another great first novel by blogger Rachel Mankowitz. And I’ve been reading some posts written by other wonderful WordPress bloggers. Thanks again Boomie Bol!

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So, because my mind is otherwise occupied at the moment, I’m going to share a piece I wrote a while ago. It’s part of a larger work I posted a poem from a few months ago titled The Only Things Certain. The poem begins the work and this bit ends it. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

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“Whatcha doin’ Mom?”

“Oh hey, son. I didn’t know you were here. I’m trying to finish grading these beds. Aren’t they going to look nice? Just the way I always imagined. Come on down and help me with some muscle work, please.”

“Ok, but you know this is a total waste of time, right? It’s not even your garden anymore, technically.”

“I know baby, but I invested so much of myself in these beds and they’re so close to being terraced just right. The new owners will probably love the way they step down from the fence into the yard. Bring that big bag of soil from up there with you.”

“Or they might tear them out or just let them weed over. Here, let me move the rocks. Did you have to get the most gi-normous ones you could find? These are really heavy and it’s kinda hot our here.”

“I got them over at Hamilton Park. They’re the last picks of my rock relocation program. Ha-ha.”

“You know Mom, a little of that goes a long way. You’ve been making that same joke for years.”

“I know, son. Your father used to think it was funny every time.”

“I’m glad you brought him up. It’s not just the garden. I think you’re having a hard time with all of this. He’s gone but we’ve got the memories. This is just a house.”

“It’s not that hot out. It won’t get really hot for another month, just about the time the hostas pop. I hope they like hostas. There are so many of them in this yard. But the daisies I planted between them died…Oh, and the day lilies! I forgot! I need to thin those before I go. They’ll take over before the new people know it if I don’t. Go get my long handle weeding hoe out of the garage, will you?”

“Mom.”

“Let me do this in peace, ok? Yeah, I’m having a hard time, so kill me. Now go get the hoe. I’ll finish off the rocks.”

“Here’s the hoe. Oh my god. Mom, you’re planting herbs? For real? Are you gonna leave anything for the buyers to do? Where were you hiding those, in the basement?”

“I just want to give them ideas for the beds until the perennials come in. There’s all kinds of good stuff in the lower beds; my irises, Astilbe and Delphiniums, then later, my coneflowers, bee balm and black-eyed susans…”

“Whatever. What’s the saw for?”

“Oh, some of the lilac branches are growing into Doug and Tasha’s yard. See there? I told them I’d cut it back before I go.”

“I’ll do it. Take my shirt. I don’t care what you say, it’s hot out here. I’m not used to the heat anymore.”

“You’ve only been gone for nine months. You kids sure do shake off the past fast. I was saying that to your sister last night. She called in between her scene changes.”

“I don’t know why Doug and Tasha care since they’re moving soon too. Just these two branches, right?”

“What? Who said they’re moving? Where’d you hear that? Help me up.”

“From Doug. I saw him in the driveway before I came back here. He said they’re moving to Houston to be near her family because of the new baby. I guess they didn’t tell you.”

“Nope, I had no idea they were planning to leave. That makes me sad.”

“Why? You won’t even be here!”

“Because baby, the neighborhood that I know, where I brought you all up, isn’t going to be the same. It’s a nice neighborhood with nice families. We were here a long time. I just think it’s so sad.”

“Mom, babies get born so parents move, flowers fade and new flowers replace them. And Mom, loved ones pass away. Things change. C’mon, I’ll grab the soil and let’s get this finished.”

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The Only Things Certain ©2015 Kat Tennermann

And Another Thing About Music

A few of the WordPress bloggers I follow post everyday. That will never be me. I have way too many other daily routines vying for my time like, hair removal, staring into space and Konmaring my house. Speaking of Maria Kondo, y’all know that in a year we won’t remember her, right? It’ll be Maria who? But she won’t care because she’ll be sitting in her joyful L.A. home with her two adorable daughters tranquil in the knowledge that messy people around the world have already paid for their college educations. But this post isn’t about her.

No, I don’t have it in me to blog everyday but fellow blogger Hanspostcard’s Song of the Day has motivated me to write in my journal daily about music. I call it Kat’s Bewildering Morning Song. I realized a couple of months ago that most mornings I wake up with a random song going through my head. And when I say random, I mean random. Why Elmo’s ring bearer song from Maria and Luis’ 1980s Sesame St. wedding? Why? “Don’t drop the ring Elmo, don’t drop the ring…” It’s not the same as ear worm songs because as far as I can tell, nothing prompts it. You’re probably thinking, she’s hearing those songs sometime during the day before and just doesn’t know it. I can guarantee you that I did not hear Oh Come, Oh Come Emanuel at the supermarket yesterday so I don’t understand why it was the soundtrack served up with my breakfast.

I have a theory. What if the random playlist is my brain’s way of choosing songs to dump. What if it’s like, “Ok, you want to remember those Kendrick Lamar lyrics? Well then to make room, Twelfth of Never by Johnny Mathis has to go. So here it is for the last time unless you stubble on the one Pandora station that plays it.”

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It makes sense right? At this age I’ve filled up a lot of my memory. Many times I feel as though I’ve forgotten more than I remember. Sometimes while reading on a subject I want to know about I’ll find myself thinking, wait, did I know this before. Unfortunately, I can’t prove my theory because if my brain is jettisoning songs from my memory, how would I know? I can’t remember what I’ve forgotten. And if I do hear that song on Pandora, will I remember hearing it before or that I’d forgotten it? What did I forget to make room for the Leon Bridges album? Of course there is some music I’ll never forget even if Apple took it from my iTunes.

Right now I’m just waiting to hear what  will come up this morning. Will it be Umbrella by Rhianna or High Hopes by Frank Sinatra. I never know. How about you? Can you stop the music if you want to? When you walk down memory lane do the songs come up or do you have to google the year to remind yourself of what they were? What goes through your heads, musically speaking?

I’d forgotten about this song until I wrote this post.

And thanks for reading.

They’ve Changed

There were a lot of family around here during the holidays. I mean, a lot. My family structure is fluid, the configuration changing rapidly and in interesting combinations. People come and go in different ways, births, deaths, marriages and partnerships, divorces, engagements and estrangements.  Relationships morph. Yup, more changes to process.

I’m one step away from the goings on pretty much these days, an observer to the changes, part of the looking forward from back here thing. It’s primarily my offspring, those grown folks, who have to navigate all the transformations, revisions and modifications to our family relationships. (Although there are other members bringing the drama um…involved too.)

When they were young, I lived and breathed for my kids. I loved and nurtured them with everything I had. When they got older they let me know that they would determine how I could love them. Stay in your lane, Mother. My offspring think they decide the level of my involvement in their lives. They don’t really.

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My involvement fluctuates.  I think about all the stuff they’re dealing with and how they handle it. But I don’t say anything. To them. I mostly keep my mouth shut and do what my mother always advised, I watch and pray. Mostly. I’m trying to understand how to be supportive without making suggestions. I’ve talked to other moms (sorry dads, fewer opportunities to talk to you all) of grown kids about the challenges of older parenting so I know I’m not the only one still trying to figure it out. I wrote a poem a few years back when I realized my son and daughters were adults. If you happen to be a parent to grown people maybe you can relate.

Who Are You?

You think they’re strange now,
wait a few years.
You think those tiny people
who don’t understand anything,
who look to you for everything,
who believe you control it all
are complicated?

Wait until they grow up
and dislike you,
because they are
extensions of you,
an essential you,
themselves, but also you.

When you ask yourself why
you are a parent,
wonder if you created them
so you could give yourself
your own love,

when you cry at both
sweet memories
and present truths
you’ll come to realize
how hard kids really are.

(©2018 Kat Tennermann)

And still, I love them. They are smart, wonderful people. And believe me, they’re good to me. I’m grateful for them every day.

 

Thanks

I haven’t posted a gratitude list since 2013. I can’t believe it’s been that long. I feel like I should post one every year day.  A lot of the time I choose to bitch and moan instead. But today, Christmas Day, I’m sitting by the fire next to one of my favorite people, Nyla, the middle little person. The day has been filled with laughs, cuddles and love of family. I’m blessed. So here is what I’m grateful for today;

I’m still here

I’m here for another Christmas

My family doesn’t mind being with me

I have the resources to provide Christmas dinner

My grandkids are happy even without gifts

My home is warm

My home is safe

I’m at peace.

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From the back of the littlest person’s winter concert program

So that’s what I’m grateful for this Christmas Day. And as fellow blogger Ann Koplow reminds me in her daily posts which always end in gratitude, I’m also grateful for the folks who read this blog. Thank you. I hope your holiday season has been joyful and peaceful and happy new year to you all.

 

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Btw, do you notice I decorated the snake lamp? The grandkids said the face isn’t very jolly. LOL!

Sooner or Later We Have to Face Before

You’re probably aware of the sudden controversy over the lyrics to the song  “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. What’s funny to me is that I thought about the creepiness of the song a couple of years ago.  I also wrote the piece below, which is along the same lines, a few of months ago. I decided not to post it because I didn’t want to upset anyone in this #MeToo moment. But now, I think maybe we can talk about it.

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I was listening to a Larry Graham tune the other day. He’s very talented and he was at the height of his career during my salad days. He was one of the original members of Sly and the Family Stone. He also had his own group for a minute, Graham Central Station, and a successful solo career. Some of you probably remember him for his song, “One in a Million”. (That was played one and a million times at weddings back in the day.) I used to dance to his music and he was one of my faves. A couple of his songs still loop in my head. I was thinking about one of the ones that comes up occasionally in my mind’s playlist. The song is Sooner or Later, from the album of the same name. Graham is a bass player with an beautiful deep, sexy voice. I was enjoying the memory of his voice on that particular song when it hit me that the lyrics sound strange in 2018.  I don’t know why I didn’t notice before. Like a lot of folks, I guess I’m more aware and sensitive these days.

The lyrics start out all right, your basic “I love you” tune. But a while into it, it starts to feel uncomfortable.
“You can’t run away from me. Oh baby, sooner or later I’m gonna make your mine…I know it’s just a matter of time.”
What? Umm…that’s vaguely intimidating. He goes on to say that the girl’s the sweetest in the world and he,
“just can’t let you go. Oh, oh you can’t run away from me.”
Ok, if a woman heard someone say that today it’d be a red flag, right? He starts riffing toward the end,
“You’re gonna be my darlin baby, ain’t no maybe…I’m gonna make you mine forever…”
What does that mean? Will there be ropes and duct tape involved?
“… we’ll be together…Although it might take time I’m gonna make you mine.
C’mon now, that doesn’t sound slightly threatening? Right now, it sounds like he’s planning on stalking.

Obviously, I’m not taking the song too seriously. But when I think of the number of times I sang along to Sooner or Later back then and wished my boyfriend (my husband three years later) would say those things to me, I gotta admit I’m a little embarrassed. I know the song is a product of its time. It was 1982. Tootsie and Victor/Victorious were in theaters so we had at least started to think outside the traditional lines of sex and gender roles but on the other hand Richard Dawson was still kissing the female contestants of Family Feud on the lips. I also know that when I was young, women my age didn’t think so much about the ramifications of men’s attention. We didn’t analyze the positive or negative connotations of that attention. We were more inclined to ask, “Why isn’t he giving me attention?” than “What does his attention mean?” I’m glad young women ask now. And if that questioning means we have to re-examine beloved chestnuts like “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, maybe that’s a good thing. We can think about it while still listening and enjoying.  I’m going to continue listening to Graham’s song cuz I like it. Maybe I just won’t sing along.