Sunday, January 29, 2012

Bilingual-Curious No More

They (they being old people like Betty White) say that growing old is a time for reflection.  While my aging process has been filled more with pondering the reflection of my rapidly sagging body parts than with reflecting on more productive things, I’ve decided to make a shift and spend some time taking stock of my life’s achievements and lavish myself with some praise.  Now, while I am not a fan of tooting one’s own horn – though I hear that happens more often as one ages and adopts a fiber-filled diet- I’m going to give tooting a try…toot as in sing my own praises, not that fiber-filled kind of toot.  Anyhoo… after some reflection, I’ve determined that of all the things I’ve learned and achieved in my 39 ¾ years, that achievement of which I am most proud- aside from my child as that was no solo effort-…(insert drum roll here) …..(continue drum roll here)….my most awesome achievement has been becoming a bilingual member of our global society and using that power for both good AND evil (like using it for conversation instead of just to ask my son if he farted in a language the general public surrounding us wouldn’t understand). 

I came to this decision last week when the Turk’s college friend came for a visit.  He speaks little to no English which meant that it was time for me to break out my hard-fought second language in a moderately fluent way.  Notice I say moderately fluent – while my Turkish family would argue that I’m pretty much there, I hardly believe that one who speaks generally in the present continuous tense with the vocabulary of a 3rd grader should be considered fluent.  I often get confused between indefinite past tense and simple present tense, but I hear my accent is dashing and my darling hubby has the good sense to stroke my second-language ego at every turn- teşekkular tatlım (that’s a Turkish shout-out to my Boo).   My vocabulary is limited to things I know firsthand – I can explain in beautiful fluency how to make any number of Turkish pastries or how to control a group of unruly 5th graders, but a political discussion or details of a bank transaction are beyond my vocabulary grasp.  But the Turks as a whole are incredibly forgiving and accepting to any foreigner who dares to take on their convoluted language and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

The understanding that I am now officially bilingual instead of just bilingual-curious only actually became clear to me the other night in the presence of our guest as I watched Chelsea Lately in English while partaking in a full Turkish conversation and managed to add my token smart-ass commentary at appropriate times in both languages.  And what smart-ass doesn’t dream of the ability to share their wisdom and wisecracks with two worlds? Perhaps the measure of fluency from hence forth should be when one can master a running smart-ass commentary with accuracy, one is fluent.

I’ve long been in awe of the bilingual.  The fact that a human brain can rapidly switch between two different forms of spoken communication stuns me as I so often get tripped up by tough words like ‘the’ and ‘a’ in English.   Bilinguality is tougher for us old people than for the youth of today whose bilingual lifestyle is basically a given from the time they first catch an episode of Sesame Street or crack open a Dora the Explore book.  39 and ¾ years ago, Cookie Monster didn’t count his cookies in Spanish as well as in English and Dora’s parents hadn’t yet immigrated.  Sure, Maria and Luis lived on Sesame Street but clearly flaunting their bilingual lifestyle was too risqué for Public Television in 1974. In my tiny elementary school in the middle of 1970’s Iowa, we got the one push towards multiculturalism when we were faced with the entrance of a hippie teacher (hairy armpits and all) fresh out of her idealistic education classes.  I believe that was the year we learned to count to 5 in Spanish.   That of course was all undone with the reappearance of an ex-nun 3rd grade teacher who had no time for such nonsense.   In high school I toyed a bit with Spanish but after I was forced to take on Margarita as my Spanish name when I had explicitly requested Conchita, I checked out.  So this grand realization that I had met a lifelong goal without really trying is stunning to me and clearly something to be celebrated.  I’m not delusional, I know I’ll never have the kind of fluency my hubby has in his second language or that I’ll ever be capable of delivering a grand address filled with really big words and correct tenses to the Turkish people when Ron Paul sends me on my Vice-Presidential mission to Istanbul to foster greater love and understanding of America.  But I can certainly hold my own and even had the language skills to give birth in a second language so for an old lady, I’m doing alright.




Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Big Sleep


With the arrival of these Siberian-esque temperatures and mounds of white snowy love, my thoughts turn to hibernation.  No, not the hibernation patterns of the mammals in our direct region but rather my own hibernation patterns.  The way I see it, stuffing myself with each and every one of my culinary desires before taking one colossal wee and bedding down for a few months of uninterrupted snoozing under a mound of fluffy down and grandma’s quilts, only to awake in April to warm temperatures, a world filled with sunshine and an automatic 50 pound weight loss sounds utterly ideal doesn’t it?  

According to NOVA, this is possible but it involves a team of medical professionals, a large tub of ice and appears to be more akin to hypothermia than hibernation.  Submerging this body in ice – sooo, not for me.
Fortunately my search for answers led me to a couple of other nerdy websites and finally, the real answer was afforded to me by the simple dictionary.  According to Merriam Webster, the definition of hibernation is : to pass the winter in a torpid or resting state.  (Torpid means sluggish or lacking in vigor- don’t worry, I had to look it up too.)  Well if that’s the definition – color me there.  I’ve been torpid since somewhere after Christmas Dinner and by the looks of the butt prints in the sofa, I’m not the only one.  I see a torpid Midget sprawled out on the floor under an Elmo blanket, caught up in Sponge Bob right now.

There are a few drawbacks that I can see.  First off, I’d miss Valentine’s day.  Not that I have any great romantic aspirations for the day of love, but I do adore those Conversation Hearts.  I’d hate to miss out on that – Be Mine?  Why yes, yes I will.   And thanks to my fondness for reds and hot pinks in my decorating scheme, I like to pick up leftover candles and the occasional trinkets to add to my livingroom at the post holiday sales.  Then of course I’d sleep right through the arrival of The Big One -sleeping right through one's 40th birthday? – the jury is still out on whether that is a positive or a negative.  I’d also hibernate through the Midget’s big number 4, but if all went according to plan, he’d be hibernating as well and at this age, he’s really not clear on the difference between March 31 and May 31 so I could just pull a fast one and give him a May birthday and he’d be none the wiser.

In light of all the scientific information I found on the internet – and as we all know, if it is on the interweb, it is most certainly true- I have determined that my family and I have been successful in achieving a mild state of hibernation thus far and we shall continue on with that for at least two more months.  We might not be able to full on sleep winter away, but our torpid state feels like it might be enough and this way, we won’t miss Conversation Hearts.  Happy Hibernating!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Oh Snow You Did-n’t


A couple days ago I may have assumed that the ripe old age of 39 ¾ was  too young for one to become a snowbird, but alas, having received my first solicitation from AARP yesterday, I realize that 39 ¾ might not be too young at all.   As soon as I sign off this blog, I intend to start checking out Elder Living Villages in Boca Raton.  I certainly hope I can find a least one with a good day care on premises.  Why the sudden urge to flee to a warmer latitude?  Well, as we all know the geriatric set are not fond of cool temperatures and since I am nearing that age range, I may as well get prepared.  But the main motivation comes from the surly attitude recently displayed by Mother Nature. 

Over the past month or so, Mother Nature has been toying with me – tossing out 40’s and the odd 50 degree day to lull me into the belief that a winter in Iowa really wasn’t going suck profoundly after all.  Having actually grown up in this tundra, I knew better but like all things traumatic – childbirth, Sister Nora, 3rd grade- I had blocked it out of my mind.  Of course I’d have the occasional flashback when the cleaning out the freezer or watching the Winter Olympics, but overall, I’d deemed Iowa winters to be like braces and corrective shoes, something I had to survive as a child and would never need to revisit again.  Clearly, as I sit bundled up in the middle of a cornfield freezing my ass off, I see that I was once again mistaken. 

Winter set in last week and she was as angry as a fat-kid refused seconds on dessert.  My Mediterranean-blooded Turk is taking it harder than myself.  He saw the temperature reading yesterday and was certain something was wrong- “What is dis?  There is only one number?  Something is wrong.  Is dis possible? What is dis?”  I seconded that emotion.  Back in the spring of 1994 I cast aside my longjohns and thermal socks and headed to my new home in Philadelphia.  Yes, they had snow but unlike in Iowa, their snow actually melted before April.  Yes, it was cold there but a single digit was an oddity not a daily reality and even if it was unseasonably cold, there were things like buildings and trees and ground formations to stop the arctic blasts.  Philadelphia had winter but it was like Diet Winter, or Winter Zero- all the taste, none of the pain. 

My withholding of information on the true nature of Iowa winters was the first and only time I have ever ‘lied’ to The Turk.  I knew if I shared too much – came clean about the time it was so cold the dashboard of my first car split in half when I hit a tiny bump,  he would never agree to the move.  The late onset of winter was working to my benefit but now it’s over.   And as winter begins to fully unleash her menopausal rage upon Iowa, I’m realizing that The Turk is not the only one incapable of handling winter.  I might even hate it more.

Every night we listened to the Iowa newscasters complain about the unseasonable temperatures and lack of snow –certain that after years of frozen brain cells they were no longer able to acknowledge the stellar value in the current weather situation.  Now that winter has arrived and 5 of the 7 days on the 7-Day forecast contain little snowflakes, everyone here seems to be far happier.  If this is the reality of our new population, how can we live with such insanity?   It’s time to look towards Boca.

But until we amass the funds for a second home or find our dream timeshare in Boca, I will do my best attempt to be a ‘glass half-full’ kind of gal.   So here are the things I have identified as up sides to this arctic tundra existence that has been thrust upon us – 1. In a few months when I finally shed the multiple layers and rid myself of longjohns for the next season, I’m going to look like I shed at least 15 pounds.  2.  The sheer number of calories burned by shivering should make-up for all lost outdoor walks.  3.  I finally have a regular occasion to wear my adorable white fur hat – the one that my husband said makes me look like a Russian prostitute.  I stand firm in my argument that one cannot look like a hooker if one is wearing wool from chin to toe and a head full of white fur, but just in case he’s right – call me Natasha ‘cause I look fabulous in that hat and I plan to wear it until somewhere in the middle of April.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Life With the Spratts…


Jack Spratt could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean,
And so between the two of them they licked the platter clean.

Those of us who have had the fortune to spend the better portion of our lives on the upside of the height/weight percentiles know about diets.   Scarsdale, Grapefruit, Weight Watchers, Free Soup, Adkins, South Beach, Zone, Blood Type, Fat Flush, 6 Week Body Makeover, Full  Fiber Low Carb, High Carb, No Fat, Low Fat, You on a Diet and Slimfast are just of few of the titles in my repertoire.  My own ability to accurately estimate the calorie count on all things filled with chocolatey wonder or brimming with gooey goodness is almost uncanny.  My research began when I attended my first Weight Watchers meeting in the 2nd grade – true story- and it has continued for the 32 year since.  My husband, on the other hand, up until he wooed me and wed me 6 years ago, was a bean pole.  Now he’s a bean pole with a little love around the middle.  One thing I do understand is that assimilation and acceptance is far easier for those of us with a life-time of chub than for those stricken down later in life.  A fallen bean pole is an unhappy bean pole.

To start the new year off right, The Turk declared that it was time for him to shed his mid-torso love.   And as we nerdy types are wont to do, he began that task by checking out a stack of books on the subject.   It didn’t dawn on him that his curvaious bride might know a thing or two about how to shed the tonnage.  Thought I will admit, I don’t know if I’d make that same leap gauging by my less than taut lower half.  Regardless, each time he’s tried to regale me with a new tidbit of nutritional advice he’s garnered from his library stack, I beat him to the punch, elaborate on the idea and then quote opposing viewpoints from my library of weight reduction gurus.  I’d really dislike me if I were him.

All of this dieting madness got me thinking – perhaps I should set a grand self- improvement goal to achieve before the big one hits in less than 66 short days.   Logically I thought 40 pounds before I turn 40 but that would leave me looking like Karen Carpenter and it’s a known fact that a bit of extra pudge keeps crow’s-feet at bay.   I thought about 40 days of no sugar but then I flashed back to Lent - 1981 and Sister Nora informing me that “Giving up sugar will not bring you closer to Jesus.”   I assume the same is true for sugar and the acceptance of aging.  I settled on aiming to lose 20 pounds before I turn 40 but that may be a tough job as my commitment to the matter seems a bit low and on day two I already toyed with the idea of trading my only child for a fun-sized Butterfinger.  My butt might need it but my heart’s not in it.  If the Mayans are right and the big bang is coming this year, I’m going to be sitting in Purgatory after all is ended, supremely pissed off that I spent the last months of existence void of carbohydrates.

At the end of the day, I kind of feel that a big feat for 40 should be something about turning over a new leaf, not flipping and re-flipping the same damn leaf I’ve had my entire life.  If I’ve  spend the last 30 odd years battling the bulge, maybe turning 40 is the time in life when I finally cast aside Drs Adkins, Oz, Arnot, Scarsdale,  Agatston and all the rest.  Maybe it’s time to Stop The Insanity and cultivate my look as either the excentric larger gal or the adorable hip yet chubby mom instead.  Then again, that could just be the sugar deprived chubby girl inside me talking.  She can be a real pain the ass sometimes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's the Night of the Big Dance and Ron Paul Hasn't Called...


It’s the night of the big dance and he still hasn’t called.  While I understand he’s a busy man, to say I’m not offended would be a blatant lie.   I feel like an ugly girl on prom night, not sure whether to remain in my sweats, or get dolled up on the off chance that the dreamy football captain comes to his senses and drops by to whisk me off to the ball and reveal our forbidden love to all.  I realize that campaigning with a running mate is an unprecedented move but if anybody was going to orchestrate an unprecedented move on the night of the Iowa Caucuses, it should in fact be Ron Paul.  But as of 4:00pm, Ron’s people have yet to ring me up and ask me to jump on board as Ron’s VP for 2012.

Confused?  Let me take a moment to catch you up to speed – You see, as I age and near the Big One in mere weeks, I seem – very much to my own surprise-  to have become conservative and obscenely irrational in my political values and opinions.  I learned this simply by doing what I do during each presidential season - as I watch the various debates, I like to take the last podium on the left and jump in to answer each question before anyone else – I also like to provide loud rebuttals and the occasional hostile tirade.  Even though I was a temporarily displaced new mother, residing abroad, I still held my own in the Democratic Season back in 2008 and Hillary and I had a few quality smack-downs.  Anyhooo…this year by about the second debate I was shocked to find that my responses, rebuttals and occasional hostile tirades were nearly identical to those of Ron Paul.  Of course, logically I found this to mean that I was in fact, morphing into an aging, Republican nutcase.  I also assumed that this was the universe’s way of informing me that I would be the perfect presidential running mate for Señor Paul.  I would rein in his crazy and give him liberal street cred by being not only adorable and charming, but damn hot in glasses. I would be like a rational, non-annoying, intellectual Sarah Palin to his crazy old man ala John McCain.  All of this coupled with the fact that we’d recently re-located to the start of the campaign trail made it seem like our pairing was not only ideal, but kismet.

I determined that it was better for his image to give me top billing Özemet/Paul 2012 and that “Reinin’ in the Crazy” would be an ideal campaign slogan.  I sent numerous Facebook "Shout-outs” to his people and I tracked his whereabouts in Iowa and sent him various messages subconsciously.   As I watched Ron climb in the polls, it only became more and more clear that ours was a relationship that was meant to be.  I thought about how I would dress my Midget on the campaign trail and use his 3 year-old charm to garner more votes – bowtie and blazer on anyone under 3 feet tall is simply A-dorable.  I determined how to use my extensive background in professional theatre and my standing in the gay community to make strides with the Fabulous.  And let us not forget that I am happily married to an immigrant…from a Muslim country at that!...– it just goes without saying those facts alone brings a whole amazing set of demographics to the table on my behalf as well. 
The more the stars revealed the better our union seems, but alas – on the night of big Caucasus dance – the beginning of it all and here I sit – in my sweats with no call from Ron.  I will console myself with the thought that he didn’t need help with the homosexual, immigrant, Muslim or mommy vote this time around and has decided to keep me on the back burner as an ace in his pocket.  Just like the ugly girl knows that prom is not always the right time for the school jock to reveal their relationship either.   

But Ron, know this - I will only wait so long.  Not that I would jump ship and run off with Newt, (I hear he’s a bit handsy on the campaign bus and I’m not down with that) and I have no tolerance for Mitt and his elitist ways…though I won’t lie and tell you John Huntsman hasn’t turned my head a time or two….But I’m  a loyal gal Ron – I’m waiting for you…just say the word.

Özemet/Paul 2012!!!