Sunday, November 18, 2007

November 18, 2007 letter

November 18, 2007


Well, this is a big pain in the butt. I have pictures to share with you but when I tried to load them this time all I got was a string of gobbledegook. Technology hates Franny! What did Franny do to deserve this? If I WERE able to download some photos for you I'd show you the fabulous decor for Mid-Hudson Animal Aid's annual auction, our pedicab ride through Manhattan at night and our family's newest baby, Eli, grinning on the lap of his very favorite great-aunt. POOPY! (This is a general comment about the unavailability of the photos. It is not not a comment on Baby Eli on Franny's lap.)

The cat shelter auction was a huge success. Everybody commented on how easily everything came together. The thing I remember best about the first time I helped with the auction was being barked at: "Don't touch that!" That was from the old coordinator, who shall remain nameless. By contrast, this year Jane Hanley and I worked together as co-coordinators of the event, and she was just a dream. She is so easy to work with, and so organized, and we are both big believers in DELEGATING DUTIES! Everybody did what they were asked to do, and they did it perfectly. It was a fun night, and we made about $12,000. Some of that money is earmarked for a personal project of mine, a special dates reminder calendar. (That's a calendar you use over again every year, to remind you of birthdays and anniversaries.) We auctioned off the rights to have someone's cat be the "cover kitty." A wonderful donor paid $1,000 for that! When the calendar is ready I'll be hitting you all up to buy one. We'll showcase some of the favorite shelter cats for the individual months, I think. I am trying to line up a well-known cat photographer to do the cover for us.

Robert and I had a great time at our friend Ruth's elegant birthday bash. "Doctor Ruth" is the daughter of an honest-to-goodness rocket scientist at NASA. She is also a naturopathic doctor as well as a secretary at Robert's office, and she tells the most amazing stories. Her stories are so amazing, in fact, that some people think she makes them up, but we know they're true. Ruth lived through harrowing experiences around September 11th--her apartment building was right next to the towers--and she has done so many things! For instance, she has been a ballet dancer, a flautist in several orchestras, a computer whiz at Salomon Brothers (a giant investment bank), a fashion designer, a succesful Hollywood screenwriter, a theater manager, a prizewinning sharpshooter, an accomplished horsewoman, and on and on, and she has only now celebrated her fiftieth birthday! (Wouldn't you know it? She looks like she's thirty-five.) Anyway, her parents gave her a lovely gift for her birthday--dinner for twelve good friends aboard a cruise boat--and Robert and I were very pleased she chose to include us!

The boat was to leave the Chelsea Pier in New York City at 7:30, and Robert doesn't get off work in White Plains until 6:00,. so we knew we'd have to hurry. I drove in to work with him, and we managed to get off a little early to take the train to Grand Central Station. Once there, we had only about half an hour to make it to the pier, and found we had a wait of about that long just to get a cab. We stood in line at the taxi stand, where a guy with a pedi-cab (sort of a bicycle rickshaw) swore to us he could get us there in time, even though it was a dang long and fast bike ride. The cost was exorbitant (though well-earned)and we decided to go for it. What fun! The night was brisk and gorgeous, and it was exciting to dodge in and out of traffic, past the brightly-lit theater marquees, looking up at the Empire State Building from the street. I think wherever you live, one tends to acquire the idea that as a local, you should somehow be above being impressed by those things that are "tourist" for your area. But there is something about being in New York City at night. It is a wonderland of sounds and sights, and it was fun to be caught up in it! And nothing is more fun for me than to be caught up in it with my best friend, Robert Lochow.

Our hard-working pedaler got us to the pier in time, and we had a few stressful moments when we realized we had forgotten to bring our invitation, and had no idea which of about five huge party ships we were supposed to embark upon, but we found our way in the nick of time. The "Bateaux" was a beautiful boat, perhaps 120 feet long (says Robert--I'm no good at judging things like that) with a glassed-over dining area, and everything decorated with flowers and little white lights. We met Ruth's parents and her other guests, who included among others, two male ballet dancers, a transgendered mother of two, and a couple named Gary and Dennis, who met Ruth when she was the costume designer for a drag queen production in which one of them performed. (You never would have guessed this, meeting them.) We spent the most time talking to those two guys. They told wild stories about Ruth! They make most of their income now in real estate, but one of them still derives a great deal of income dressing as a woman, selling Tupperware! (We're talking thousands--how come I only made about fifty bucks the whole time I did it?) [Robert replies: Maybe you should've worn one of my suits.]

Anyway, our meal was elegant, and the company fun and fascinating. The boat went around the lower part of Manhatten, under beautiful bridges and past gleaming skyscrapers. All the colors of the lights were reflected on the black water, glinting like jewels. We ended up in front of the Statue of Liberty, where the jazz group performed "God Bless America" and songs of that ilk, while we stood on the deck. Even though I often feel as a country we are failing in the promises made by that icon, it was still a surprisingly stirring experience to be there, looking up at it, while listening to the words of those songs. (Who knows? Maybe someday we'll return to our roots as a place of refuge for the huddled masses, yearning to be free.) Anyway, it was a thrilling, romantic, and beautiful night.

We presented Ruth with the gift we'd scored for her in Connecticut the weekend before--a nearly life-size Belgian dark-chocolate turkey. (We had tried to get her a special German hot chocolate drink mix, but couldn't find it.) The turkey cracked her up. At the end of the evening Gary and Dennis (the real estater and Tupperware kings) drove us back to Grand Central in their incredibly elegant BMW 5 Series with black leather interior (people really do live like that in New York!) past all the lights of 42nd Street. It was a night to remember.

This last weekend, we drove to Maryland for the memorial service for our brother-in-law, Bill MacArthur. It was a sad weekend, because Bill had deserved to have a long life, enjoying his family. But it was also gratifying to have his whole family gather to say good-bye to him, and it was a treat to meet our two newest members, Landon MacArthur (son of Bill's son Josh and his wife Lisa) and baby Elijah Stritter (son of Todd and Christy). I love having babies in the family! (SQUEAL!) I cooed and kissed fat little feet all weekend. Robert and I brought Muffy along to most of the get-togethers, although not the actual memorial service. The simple, dignified service was held in an 18th-century chapel, filled to the rafters with friends. The reception afterward was loving and the food was great. And there was a piper. What more could one ask?

I am all packed and ready to drive to Michigan. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to seeing my Mom on Tuesday evening. She's back at TenderCare. She doesn't have a phone there, so I haven't been able to talk to her, but Tim and Chris are spending lots of time with her. From November 20 to December 3 I'll be at her house (517-655-2609) trying to figure out what to do with all the stuff collected by the Family Hogg over about half a century. Give me a call or come by! I'll put you to work! I'm having Thanksgiving dinner with my sister-in-law Liz and nieces Amanda and Margaret at a restaurant somewhere. I'm looking forward to that. Robert is running back down to Maryland to spend the day with his mother and sister.

I know my Mom is having a hard time adjusting to this big change in her life, no matter what she says, and never mind that it was her own decision to leave Hoggwilde. So please send her a prayer for peace and contentment, and love. And send her a letter. Tim works very near where she is living now, so if you send a letter in care of him, he'll get it to her. Send it to Patty Hogg, c/o Tim Hogg, 6970 Aberdeen Drive, Dimondale, MI 48821.

Everybody, have a great holiday with your loved ones. And write to me! I'll be able to pick up e-mail while I'm in Michigan.

Stay Groovy!


Saturday, November 3, 2007

November 5, 2007 letter

Here's a picture of Mom, taken in June.

Although she put up a brave front recently, making it through a tornado all by herself, Mom has told us she doesn't feel safe being alone in her house. She has also had a continuing slow decline in her ability to get around, even with her handy new wheeled walker. She has told Liz and Tim that she thinks she'd like to go back to TenderCare, where she got so much good care and attention, and made friends.

I talked to Mom for a long time about how she feels about this, knowing how much she loves our old house, filled with so many fun and lively memories, and how hard she fought to be able to come back to it after her original hospitalization. She says she doesn't feel bad. She told me, "I couldn't have had a better life if I had dreamed it," and that she's ready to let some young family take over that dream. She seems to be feeling peaceful about it, although I'm sure she'll have teary moments as the time grows nearer. Tim and Liz are working on getting her back into nursing care. In the meantime, Chris and Tim are spending nights with her, Brenda is helping her, and Liz is dropping by in the mornings and evenings and handling a lot of the paperwork.

Once again, it seems God has given me the great gift of NOT finding me a job, so I have time to take care of this more important one. In order to legally receive unemployment benefits I actually have to be in New York, ready and able to accept a job at any moment, so I will have to go off benefits for a few weeks. That will be difficult. Too bad I'm not the heir of any wealthy, near-death relatives who nobody likes. Perhaps I should start buying lottery tickets? Sigh.

We drove to Maryland last weekend to see Robert's sister Cindy, and to do what we can to help her as she deals with her new widowhood. It has been a rough trip for her. Cindy's daughter Sarah was there, helping her mom figure out her financial situation and providing emotional support. They have planned a lovely-sounding memorial service for Bill, on the 17th. We'll be driving down for that, of course. We also spent time with Robert's mother, Muffy, who seems much more frail to me now. I guess this is the time in our lives when we have to deal with death and illness of parents and spouses and the like. It's just very tough, and there's no way around it.

Our friend Paul visited from the city this weekend. It was overcast and blah-looking outdoors. Paul and Robert went for a long walk and talked books and politics while I spent most of Saturday on a shopping venture. I was looking for things we need for the cat shelter's annual goods and services auction. It's this next Saturday, and I am co-chair. Paul left early Sunday morning. It is always good to visit with him.

Robert and I have been invited to a special party next week, celebrating our friend Ruth's 50th birthday. She is the secretary at Robert's firm who is also a naturopathic doctor. It's going to be a fancy dinner on a big boat that goes around Manhatten at night. Ruth has done many thoughtful things for us and has been a very good friend through tough times, so I had a special birthday peresent in mind for her. I asked Robert to buy it on the Internet for Ruth, but he discovered it can only be purchased directly, in Germany, and in one little shop in Connecticut. Like the incredibly prudent people we are, we decided to try Connecticut first.

After such a drab Saturday, our drive on Sunday was glorious! The sky was bright blue and the hillsides all orange and gold and red. We drove along curving, country roads, past red barns and yellow fields that are criss-crossed with the ancient gray stone fences that are everywhere around here. It was as if we were driving through postcards of New England--we even went through an antique covered bridge! We saw red hawks, a gorgeous ring-necked pheasant and a (sadly, dead) fox--even the animals we saw were in fall colors! We got to Kent, Connecticut, and spent a couple hours discovering art galleries and bookstores. We also discovered that the shop no longer carried the item we were looking for. Dang! So we bought something else. (Sorry, Ruth. You have to wait until your birthday party to find out what it is.)

I was looking forward very much to seeing my friend Bonnie when she was in New York City, but I didn't hear from her in time to make a plan. When she did call, I was busy assisting an electrician who had come to our house to figure out why our fridge outlet stopped working. I was also sick as a dog that day and hoped Bonnie and I would be able to make another plan. It didn't happen. Poop.

Other bits of news of note: My pal Starr Toth, from the mystery writing group I attended when I lived in Detroit, entered an on-line contest for best first chapters, and won second place. But someone from Simon and Schuster read her submission and offered her a contract! I am so pleased! Starr is a really good writer, and perhaps her success will get me off my butt and back to writing things other than this blog! Other good news was an e-mail from a college pal, Ziyad Sha'ar, now living in Lebanon. It's been fun playing catch-up.

Ah well, I must get busy now with my unceasing job hunt and grocery shopping! Write soon!