31 March 2008


Looking forward.

Looking for adventure (or whatever comes my way).

Looking out of the kitchen.

Go listen to some good music: "ephemeral (this is no heaven)" from the album ...undone by The Lucy Show.

30 March 2008


Travel. Arrival.
Years of an inch and a step
Toward a source

I was in my 20s when my father died April 11, 1990. Few of my contemporaries had lost a parent, so I had a sense of being out of time as we waited out the final four months of his life. There was no one I knew to confide in, no one who had any sense of what I was living with. I was too young to be planning a parent's funeral, but there it was, and as usual, I did what needed to be done.

For the most part, my father was a father in the biological sense only. Yes, he lived in the same house, but he made it abundantly clear that we his children were not really welcome in his life, and he had as little to do with us as humanly possible. I have a few really happy memories of time spent with him, including sitting with him watching baseball games when I was very young, and the occasional times he regaled us with stories of his earlier life. By the time I was about 10, the pleasant moments ended and he became a complete stranger.

I'm certainly not the first person to have grown up with emotionally disengaged and troubled parents, and it's a fact that is only a footnote in my life. I am fortunate to have a very strong will not only to survive but to succeed, and I am blessed with a beautiful family of my own. I am not concerned with redressing old wrongs, only in making sure that old wrongs aren't perpetuated.

I've largely made peace with my past, though hot button issues can still anger and distress me. But for reasons I don't fully understand, this time of year continues to disturb me, 18 years after my father's death. It may simply be that all of the issues surrounding closing out the remnants of his life and trying to schedule his funeral were so difficult--he died on the Wednesday before Easter and because of the rules governing funeral Masses during Holy Week, we had to wait until Easter Monday to bury him--that the stress has become blood memory. Whatever the case, this time of year, I become antsy and churlish, and I really just want to disappear for a bit.

Which is what I've decided to do this year: disappear for a bit. I've been provided with the perfect excuse to be absent, and I grabbed it, to the dismay of my family. They don't really know why it's important to me to be gone at this particular time and I'm not sure the kids would understand anyway; they see it as a bit of selfish indulgence on my part, and it is in a number of ways. But I'm rarely selfish, and I answer the call of responsibility far more frequently than I cater to myself. This year, however, I have put my foot down: I'm going to reclaim this time as my own, and erase the vestiges that have darkened it for 18 years. I'm going to reset the emotional clock to mean something other than grief, something closer to joy.

Because 18 years is long enough.

I'm coming to you
I'll be there in time

Go listen to some good music: "Pilgrimage" from the album Days of Open Hand by Suzanne Vega.

29 March 2008

Hot lunch jam

I have never understood the LA Metro area's fascination with In-N-Out Burger. I've eaten there twice and both times, had the rankest hamburgers ever. One of them wasn't even cooked, and went in the garbage after one bite.

Generally speaking, I prefer to make my own burgers. At least I know where the meat came from and I know it didn't come from here.

But once in awhile, I really want a chili cheeseburger. Hello, Tommy's. In college and before we moved behind the Orange Curtain, the spouse and I would visit the Eagle Rock outpost, or sometimes venture down to the original Original shack on Rampart and Beverly. Fortunately, they've got a couple of restaurants down this way, and just opened the closest one yet. Tomorrow may be a chili cheeseburger day.

Go listen to some music: "Hot Lunch Jam" from the album Fame (Soundtrack from the Original Motion Picture).

28 March 2008

Book of days

I've been on a major kick rereading some of my favorite books and authors this year. Right now, I'm reading Shirley Jackson for the umpteenth time. Her best known work is, of course, the horrifying short story "The Lottery," but her range was significantly wider. Her ability to evoke so much with so few words was utterly phenomenal.

Among my favorites (in no order):


The Haunting of Hill House
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Life Among the Savages (a memoir of Jackson's family life)

Short stories:

The Lottery (of course!)
The Tooth
The Daemon Lover
Like Mother Used to Make
Pillar of Salt
Come to the Fair
Lovers Meeting
Mrs. Melville Makes a Purchase
An Ordinary Day, with Peanuts
The Summer People
A Visit
The Rock
The Bus

(Hey, just be glad that I decided on this rather than black mats and the Clovis people. I've only got three more days of this, at which point I'll probably quit blogging forever.)

Go listen to some good music: "Book of Days" from the album Shepherd Moons by Enya.

27 March 2008

Feed me to the lions

1 teen + 1 'tween + 1 mall x 8 hours (squared)


1 headache of massive proportions

and a strong and unyielding desire to hide under my bed for two weeks.

Go listen to some music: "Feed Me to the Lions" from the album Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam & the Ants.

26 March 2008

Santa Anna's retreat/kitchen gal

What to do with that leftover Easter Ham:

1. Baked rice with pepper and ham (the children: "Whatever.")

2. Ham and noodle casserole ("No.")

3. Ham and spinach souffle ("What's a souffle? Oh. No.")

4. Parslied ham in aspic ("What's aspic? Ewwwwww.")

5. Ham baked in milk ("Yuck!")

6. Ham loaf ("Nuh-uh.")

7. Ham mousse Alexandria ("?????")

8. Ham with red-eye gravy ("Can we stop talking about this now?")

9. Ham casserole country style ("I can't hear you!")

Last night, I just fried slices and served it with rice and spinach.
Tonight, though, I'll resort to #10, a variation on the Linsen Suppe (Lentil Soup) recipe posted on the German Embassy's website:

Omit bacon, and cook vegetables in olive or canola oil as directed. Add one cup of diced ham to soup about 15 minutes before it finishes cooking. Return to simmer and continue cooking until ham is heated through and lentils are done.

Bon appetit!

Go listen to some good music: "Santa Anna's Retreat/Kitchen Gal" from the album The Sparrow Quartet by Abigail Washburn.

25 March 2008

Gold dust

"Wait," the son bellowed last night. "You're going where? When? How many times?"

The truth is that he knew. My travel plans are never a secret, especially not when the whole family can hear me laughing on the phone at 6 am with friends. But the son conveniently forgets anything in my world that does not revolve around him.

"She's running out the dooooooooooooooorrrrrr..." the spouse sang.

"Shut up," I told him.

It does all seem more immediate, of course, as I am preparing to run out the door a number of times over the next two months.

"Just as long as you come back," the spouse said primly.

"How many times have I done this?" I huffed. "There's never been any question of not returning."

Well, except for that one time in 2004 when I fell asleep in the departure lounge in Toronto. Fortunately, one of the boarding calls finally woke me up.

"Why?" asked the son, growing increasingly red-faced. "Why do you do this?"

"Just be glad she's not leaving to go cook in the Klondike," the spouse told him philosophically.

"What?" the son and daughter shrieked in unison.

As the story goes, near the end of the 1890s, my great-grandmother packed up her youngest child--my grandfather--and took off for the Klondike. I'm not sure exactly where she ended up--I've heard Alaska, too--but she hired herself out as a cook during the gold rush. With a little boy in tow.

That takes some nerve.

But she'd already shown nerve. She packed in her life in New England--she was from an old and respected family--and moved to the Dakota Territory. Then she left her home in the Black Hills, left her husband, left her eldest daughter, a girl of about 17, in charge of the housekeeping. Visiting the Black Hills a few years ago, I had to wonder about why she did it.

I'll bet she was bored. I'll bet she was ready to see some more of the world, to see how things worked and what they looked like. Perhaps she wanted to seek her fortune in a very literal sense.

Then again, she had nine kids. Two is sometimes enough to send me to the Klondike.

She would have been just a few years older than I am now when she set out to have an adventure 110 years ago.

We know she came back, too. She died in South Dakota in her early 60s. In my great-grandfather's biography--he was a political mover and shaker--she doesn't warrant much mention. Her name, that she was from a prominent family, dates of marriage, her death, the children she bore him.

I know that I would be irked if my life were reduced to an honorable mention.

"What about the one in the picture?" the spouse asked. "The one next to the campfire?"

"Oh, my grandmother," I told him.

"You should see this picture. If it weren't for the clothes, I'd have thought it was your mother," the spouse told the son and daughter. He turned to me, "she was married to...?"

"The grandfather who went to the Klondike."

"Of course."

"She got kicked out of nursing school," I told them. "For bobbing her hair. And possibly for smoking. Maybe for carousing with my grandfather."

"We're doomed," murmured the son.

"Then there's the other side of your mother's family...," said the spouse.

"Ssssh!" I told him.

"I just hope I got some of it, too," the son said.

Go listen to some good music: "Gold Dust" from the album Scarlet's Walk by Tori Amos.

24 March 2008

Blue Monday

What to do with a teen and 'tween during spring break:

"MOM! I'm bored!"

"Can I buy more Legos?"

1. Go shopping for clothes. *sob*

2. Go to the park because the daughter still wants to play Poohsticks. It's worth mentioning that the park does not have a river. It has a trickle of irrigation runoff with a tiny footbridge.

3. Cook something interesting. Preferably with chocolate.

4. Go to the movies. U2 3-D? (The Other Boleyn Girl is rated PG-13?????? I seem to remember the book being fairly graphic.)

5. Start the son's physical therapy. *sigh*

6. Make the son re-do the board for the science fair. (Prepare for war.)

7. Pack. (Run away!)

Go listen to some good music: "Blue Monday" by New Order from the album The Wedding Singer .

23 March 2008

Easter parade

My mother is a very devout Catholic, and saw it as her mission to raise a passel of the same. With me, she clearly failed. I left the Church at 15 after an argument on Good Friday with the priest who was hearing my confession. It was actually a small thing--Fr. J. didn't doubt my contrition, he just didn't like the formula I was using to discuss my sins and told me so--but it was the last straw for a bright kid who was questioning everything at that point and was tired of being treated like a second-class citizen because of her gender. I didn't exactly tell him to go to hell--I was only 15 after all--but telling him I didn't need him as the middle man in my confession, that I could just talk it over with God without him, was probably worse.

My mother was suitably outraged by this, of course, as she was suitably outraged by my refusal to be married in the Church and by my failure to have the kids baptized. She combats my lapsed state as best she can, sending rosaries blessed by the Pope and holy cards and children's Bibles and medals, but she's fighting her way up Everest there. I am comforted in the knowledge that every night when she prays for the conversion of China, she is also praying for the conversion of me, and that China and I are thwarting her with equal vigor.

For all her devotion, however, she was naughty on one count, and that was allowing us to go to Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday so we didn't have to go on Easter Sunday morning. The really religious ones will tell you that the vigil simply doesn't count. We knew better, though, because Easter morning was time for the real sunrise service: a trip to the mountains, the church of the great outdoors.

Our parents would drag us out of bed while it was still dark, and pack us in the car with our Easter baskets, coolers full of food, toys and blankets. The candy orgy would start in the FuryIII station wagon as soon as we could pull our eyelids open, and usually we were all on the verge of illness by the time we got to Gates Pass. Generally, we'd hit the Ironwood picnic area just as the sun was rising; in those days, it opened at 6 am, and by 6:15, my mother had a fire going in the brick grill, and bacon sizzling in a pan. Sometimes friends would join us, and there would be kids running and yelling, fueled by sugar and high spirits, everywhere. We'd break off into groups to hike the mountains, hoping to find a cave or a Gila Monster, and to avoid getting stuck by cholla. My brother was a champion at falling into cactus.

Those mornings were invariably clear and blue, saguaro blooming white against the cerulean of the sky if it was late enough in the spring. It was cold in the purple shadows cast by the mountains, warm in full sun, giving way to downright hot as the day progressed. It was even hot the April Sunday in which we'd seen snow on both Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The air smelled clean, full of the scent of warm rock and sage and wildflowers.

Periodically, we'd return to the picnic tables in the ramada to get more chocolate eggs or to see if the potato salad had made an appearance yet. Around mid-day, the grownups would start grilling hamburgers and hot dogs, but the kids, stuffed full of junk would take a bite or two of lunch and head back to the hills, to sit in the shade of a large rock or look at the wildflowers. Around 4, we'd be stuffed back into the car, full to explosion, exhausted from too much sun and too much running. We'd roll out of the car when we got home, and were shepherded off to be bathed, where cactus needles would be removed, and scrapes and cuts would be bandaged. Someone would turn on the The Ten Commandments. I still associate the voices of Edward G. Robinson and Charlton Heston with chocolate-hazed nausea.

Those idylls didn't last, of course; the best moments from childhood don't. But I wanted my own children to experience something of what the desert is like on an Easter morning: the clarity, the smell, the contrast. So we arranged a couple of years ago to go to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum for Easter Brunch. It was uncrowded and we had breakfast, which was nice, but we had the museum largely to ourselves for the morning.

"Remember the woodpeckers in the cactus?" the daughter asked this morning over a breakfast of chocolate, hard boiled eggs, muffins and more chocolate.

"Remember the baby coyotes?" the son asked.

"Remember the javelina?"

"The hummingbirds?"

"The mouse in the aviary?"

"Can we do it again?"

"Remember the flowers?"

I remember.

Go listen to some good music: "Easter Parade" performed by Fred Astaire and Judy Garland from the album That's Entertainment.

22 March 2008

O Fortuna

One of the most disheartening things to come from trying to do NaBloPoMo this month has been working on a blog post or two for several hours only to reread it and think, "what the heck am I talking about?" or worse, "I really don't want to post that."

It may be that I'm suffering from an acute case of increased self-consciousness. It may be that the internal editor has ratchetted everything up a notch.

It may be that I am intensely bored with myself.

It's true that for the moment, my mind is very much taken up with other matters, things that really aren't bloggable or aren't bloggable yet.

It's also true that while I'm irrationally cheerful and pleased with the state of the weather and the happiness lodged inside my own head, I'm struggling with responding to the state of the world, the sickening violence that seems to pervade everything, and the insanity that is the current economic situation.


Chocolate bunny
Foil-wrapped chocolate eggs
Robin's eggs (malted milk chocolate balls)
Hard boiled eggs
Jelly beans

Because quandries always go down better with something sweet.

Go listen to some good music: "O Fortuna" from the album Orff: Carmina Burana by the London Symphony Orchestra and Richard Hickox. You can listen to "O Fortuna" and other selections from Carmina Burana here.

21 March 2008

Flight of the bumble-bee

It's something I've only seen rarely.

This time I heard them first.

The birds were yelling and flapping and carrying on. Usually they don't react that violently to my walking down the street. Then I heard the low hum, growing louder, moving closer, becoming a ferocious buzz.

Bees were swarming over my head. A couple of hundred it appeared.

There is a hive in the trunk of an old tree down the street. We watch the bees buzz in and out. They are fairly docile, interested only in doing what bees do. They become a little more active when it's hot, occasionally smacking one of us in the head as we walk by, though it's lack of attention on someone's part, not aggression on anyone's.

The swarm buzzed wildly around in a circle for a moment as I watched, moving toward the ficus and pine trees in the backyard.

Time to start gardening.

Go listen to some music: "Flight of the Bumble Bee" from the album Itzhak Perlman's Greatest Hits by Itzhak Perlman.

20 March 2008

We're desperate

Pretty young woman: "Are you finding what you need?"

Me: "Uh."

PYW: "?"

Me: "Well. I need some jeans. That fit."

PYW, looking at the jeans I am wearing: "Oh. What size do you wear?"

Me: "No clue."

PYW, looking at the jeans I've pulled off the rack: "Well, you're not that big!"

Me: "?"

PYW: "Ok, how big are your hips?"

I tell her my hip and waist size, adding: "AND! I can't wear anything low-rise."

PYW, scoffs: "Yes, you can."

Me: "CAN'T! I'm long-waisted; low-rise are obscene, mid-rise are low-rise, high-rise are mid-rise."

PYW shakes head, and grabs handfuls of denim off the rack. "Now, dressing room. These" waves a pair of jeans around "are going to look really tight. Trust me, they stretch."

Me: *sigh*

In dressing room.

Me: "Holy &%!#."

PYW: "What?"

Me: "You weren't kidding about tight."

PYW, severely: "Let me see."

I open the door.

PYW: "Those look great!"

Me, turning to look at my rear end in the mirror: "NO! It looks like I've got the QE2 back there!"

PYW, rolling eyes: "They are going to stretch. Trust me."

Me: "There is not enough stretch in anything to cover THAT."

PYW: "I am not going to let you leave here in anything that's inappropriate."

Me, looking again in the mirror where "inappropriate" is stamped all over my behind.

PYW: "They are long, though. You weren't kidding. All your height is in your body."

Me: "!!!"

PYW, cheerfully: "I'm going to call Alterations. They'll hem them free."

Me: "But..."

PYW: "They'll stretch."

Me, severely to the jeans: "You do know you will spend your entire existence in the closet, right?"

Go listen to some good music: "We're Desperate" from the album Wild Gift by X.

19 March 2008

Smells like teen spirit

Good bananas gone bad make banana bread.

Bad bananas gone moosh go in the garbage.

And there is your kitchen wisdom for the day.

I have already attended the daughter's spelling bee this morning (she ended in 4th place, having bumbled "especially" in her Nyquil-driven haze), and the exercise bike is calling--nay, screeching--my name. So is the coffee pot, actually.

Unfortunately, so is the need to shop for clothing. If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that shopping is not my favorite activity, with shopping for clothing possibly my least favorite type of shopping.

However, the children have once again grown out of everything they own (as the daughter trotted down the hall this morning, I noticed her brand new uniform trousers are suddenly 2 inches too short). On St. Patrick's Day, the son appeared in a green t-shirt that fit recently but is suddenly both too short and too tight. Both of them need dress clothes, and I'll have to bite the bullet and take the recalcitrant teenager out to a men's store to be fitted for his first real suit. It's unavoidable. But in the long run, it will probably be more pleasurable than trying to get the daughter into a dress.

If shopping for the kids is bad, though, shopping for myself is untenable. I made a pact with the devil and promised to get rid of my own ill-fitting wardrobe. In exchange for what, I'm not sure. I tend to keep my clothes if there is any possibility of wearing them at all, even if it's just when I'm gardening, and even though certain items date back to approximately 6 weeks after I last gave birth, they have drawstring waists, and I just keep them cinched tight. Voila...the pajama pants that never go away.

A couple of days ago, I was poking in a desultory fashion through some online retailer's stock of shirts.

"Can you buy something that's not black?" the son snarked at me while I was debating over a black t-shirt and a coral t-shirt.

"I don't always wear black," I replied with slightly justifiable outrage, adding the black tee to my shopping basket.

"You do, too. Everything you own is black."

"I'm wearing a red shirt as we speak. And white. I have white shirts."

"Well, almost everything is black. How many black sweaters do you have?"

"A lot. And a green one. And a blue one. And even, RED!"

"And black jeans. You're always wearing black jeans."

"I wear blue jeans, too."

"Just, you know, get something different."

My son, the fashion maven. As if he wears anything more exciting than a t-shirt and jeans when he's not in uniform.

"AND," he turned for his parting shot, "can you please stop listening to the same three songs over and over!"

"NO!" I yelled at his retreating back, turning the music up. "I LIKE those songs."

And I added an incredibly cute black cashmere cropped cardigan sweater to my shopping bag.

There's always room for one more black sweater.

Go listen to some music: "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from the album Nevermind by Nirvana.

18 March 2008

I believe

A balmy 46F this morning when I set off down the channel trail.

I have the worst case of spring fever...and I'm not just talking allergies, though I am certainly sneezing more than usual.

My family, well acquainted with the vagaries of my mood, have watched with trepidation and amusement. Not that they haven't been afflicted with their own bouts of light-heartedness.

I am talking about being joyously absent-minded. I stand in the middle of the room and can't remember what I'd decided to do 30 seconds before, but it doesn't bother me. Because I'm watching the pink petals sail off the plum tree outside the window.

I am talking about standing at a stop light and actually counting the number of times that I push the button for the WALK signal...and then stopping when I get to 26, wondering what it is exactly that I am doing.

I am talking about going out to walk. I know I can't run, as much as I want to, so I content myself with taking flying leaps on and off curbs. And throwing in a skip or two when no one is looking.

I am talking about the fact that everyone I encountered this morning looked happy. We all grinned and waved at each other. I laughed (when I was fairly sure that no one was listening) at nothing in particular.

The planes glinted in the bright morning light as they flew over my head. I dislike flying. I dislike flying intensely, and sometimes cannot believe that I can talk myself onto an airplane 5 or 6 or more times during a year. A week or two ago, I was looking at the planes with a certain dread, knowing the time is drawing near. But this morning, the thought of getting on a plane was appealing. Because the journey is part of the fun, what lies in the middle is so worth it, and I come home changed, but better.

The spouse, who is wise to my ways (but professes that I am still capable of surprising him), made a disturbed noise last night when he saw me reading the website for the main airport in Moscow, Sheremetyevo.

"They're not..." he started.

"No!" I replied, "and it wouldn't matter, because I don't think I ever need to see Moscow again."

"Oh thank god," he breathed.

I am insatiable when it comes to seeing the world. I am positively greedy for knowledge, and always have been. I learn languages, I go and I won't stay put. I have to walk about cities; I have to look at the people. I need to see what is there.

When I was 10, maybe 11, I remember being crammed into a little utility closet with my classmates to watch a slide show about Leonardo da Vinci.

"Leonardo wrote in his diary that he knew there would not be time enough in his life to learn everything he wanted to know," intoned the narrator.

All I remember is a sinking feeling of horror at that thought. Not enough time?

Last night, the son and I were having another heart-to-heart, and he was bemoaning all the stuff that he needs to do before spring break, and how he just wanted it be over with.

I only really had to bide my time once, and that was my senior year of high school, when I could not wait to be away from that little desert town and out into the world. It's really the only time I've engaged in a countdown when the countdown itself was the only thing I could think about.

"You know," I told the boy, "I'm here at the middle part of my life, and I don't want to count down the days ever again. I want every day to count."

I loved the way his eyes lit up at that idea.

Ultimately, there may not be enough time to know everything or to see everything or to do everything. But I have no plan to let that stop me; it never has. And I'll get on the planes and I'll see what there is to see, everywhere there is something to see. And others will question why I do what I do, but I'll laugh (when they aren't listening) and I'll skip (when they aren't watching), and the ones who understand will laugh with me, and won't hold it against me if I skip (or dance, or just have a whole lot of fun). Not every day is a huge gesture; the small things, like a little boy in the grocery store yelling with glee, "Grandpa, look! STRAWBERRIES!", have value too.

And sorrow comes amidst the joy, but it teaches as well, often the lessons I most need to learn and least want to endure. While I took joy today from watching the petals scatter on the breeze, that simple thing is always a reminder of standing in Arlington National Cemetery a long ago spring day, my high heels sinking into the damp hillside during my grandmother's interment, while across the river, the cherry blossoms began to open for the annual festival. My older cousin smiled at me across the flowers massed on her casket, as I stood there with my mother, more cousins, my aunts and uncles, and I was sure in the knowledge that even though I'm the different one, they still take me as their own. I am the one who never stops asking questions, who is always moving, who WILL argue and WILL NOT do as she's told, but I also have Kathryn's eyes and our grandmother's long limbs and long-fingered hands. In the equation of our individual days and our entwined lives, that counts for something too.

Go listen to some music: "I Believe" from the album Life's Rich Pageant by REM.

17 March 2008

Green eyes

Well, here we are. The day everyone is supposed to get their Irish on.

Given that my heritage is more than a little Irish, my only nod to the day is to bake soda bread.

And to thank my Celtic ancestors for the green eyes they bestowed upon me (I guarantee I didn't get 'em from the Prussian side). It's the ultimate pinch protection.

Go listen to some music: "Green Eyes" from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay.

16 March 2008

Stuck in the middle with you

Just a few exemplars from my delightful collection of refrigerator magnets.

(Idea lifted from fussy.org. See more of Anne Taintor's fun stuff here. "An Attitude is a Terrible Thing to Waste" is calling my name.)

Go listen to some music: "Stuck in the Middle With You" from the album Pure 70s by Stealers Wheel.

15 March 2008

Weird science

This is dinner with scientists:

The spouse, pulling out what looks like a hunk of grey rock: "Look at this. Now what do you think it is?"

JK: "Hmmmm. Like a fossil, maybe...?"

DCK: "It looks like a hoof."

JK: "Or the vertebrae of something."

DCK, turning it over in her hand: "It's basalt. I think it's carved."

The spouse: "Really. You think?"

DCK: "Yeah. It's too uniform. Let me get my hand lens..."

Me: "You DO NOT have a hand lens in your purse."

DCK, looking surprised: "Of course I do."

JK: "I have TWO hand lenses."

I raise an eyebrow at him.

JK: "But they're both in my office."

Me, shaking my head: "Dude, if you don't have one in your purse..."

Go listen to some good music: "Weird Science" from the album Dead Man's Party by Oingo Boingo.

14 March 2008


Yesterday, the son announced that he has, indeed, been invited to the county science fair. The spouse and I sighed, and resigned ourselves to two more days lost sometime in the next month. I know we are supposed to be thrilled because it's not like he was invited to the county juvenile detention center or anything. I'm thinking novena to ensure that he doesn't make it to state? No, that would get me into all sorts of karmic trouble, and he'd end up at nationals. The horror.

In sorting out the calendar for April, the spouse said, "I know I have to do this the first weekend and you are gone here and here, so I'm going out to the field there." This means that April is basically full. And it was full before we knew about the next round of science fair.

And I am going to be gone there and there in April. I am thrilled! Unless science fair falls on one of the theres. Then I'm going to be guilty (but still gone).

The daughter started complaining of a sore throat last night, and got me up at 4am for more Tylenol. She insisted she was going to school this morning, and then was promptly sick when she sat down to breakfast. Think British English sick rather than American English sick. So, she's in bed at the moment, and there goes the list of errands I was running today. And she's just appeared and demanded to sit on my lap. The nerve!

("Mom!" she's shrieking, watching me type this in real time. "MOOOO-OOOOO-OOOOM!")

Right now, in a doctor's office, the spouse and the son are being dressed down because the surgeon gave the spouse a prescription for the son's PT 4 weeks ago, and somehow 4 weeks disappeared, and the son hasn't gotten to PT yet. I have no words for the enormous burden of guilt that instills in my heart. Well, actually I have two words: science fair.

Is it any wonder I've had a headache for the last four days?

And the email that just appeared in my inbox says: "oscillatory deus hygiene clay catastrophic."

I couldn't agree more.

Go listen to some good music: "Hydra" from the album Hydra by Toto.

13 March 2008

All the things that go to make heaven and earth

Really, I'm very tired of this whole list thing. It is not spurring my creativity.

But my mind is off romping elsewhere, anyway. So we'll let it romp on its own and not bother it this morning.

The weather has been lovely but is about to switch gears. The temperatures are dropping and it's going to start raining again on Saturday. This would be because I'm having a dinner party, and planned to grill meat and vegetables for a taco bar.


Homemade hummus with wheat pita
Homemade guacamole with chips


Grilled marinated skirt steak
Grilled marinated chicken breast
Melange of roasted bell peppers, purple onions and chiles (sounds so much better than what it really is: fajita vegetables!)

Composed green salad

Fresh tortillas
Shredded cheese
Fresh salsa

Beer, Malvasia Bianca, soda, juice and milk

Dessert to be provided by one of the guests

Dessert chocolate and coffee

And to continue the food theme (lists within lists...), since I turned down the invite to Easter brunch, I get to cook *that*. Mimosas. Ham, of course. Hard-boiled eggs and chocolate bunnies... I still have a week to work it out.

Last night, while I was cooking dinner (grilled bratwurst, potatoes fried with onions, Brussels sprouts--a celebratory dinner requested by the spouse, who celebrated even more because he was excused from the Brussels sprouts), the spouse was flipping through a catalog.

"I'm going to buy you this," he announced, holding up a picture of a woman's black trench coat.

"Why?" I asked, perplexed.

"Because you'd look mysterious in it. Especially in lipstick and with that look."

"What look?"

"That look you get."

How informative.

The daughter piped up: "Mommy's not mysterious."

"That's what you think," the spouse said with feeling.

"I know everything about you, don't I?" she asked me.

"Well, no," I admitted.

"I don't? Don't you tell me everything? Why don't you tell me everything?"

"Look, kiddo, life is like a collection of stories. The stories get told over time, and come out when they're supposed to."

She couldn't quite seem to make the connection that stories need context or they just become lists of events. It disturbed her more that maybe I was withholding information.

I don't always behave the way people would expect me to, I'll admit. I don't mean that I behave badly (at least not usually), but I don't like to behave awkwardly. I don't do small talk well, and usually avoid that in favor of a couple of polite words and a smile before I move on. I suppose this is what is construed as mysterious, though it really isn't. In a relaxed situation, I'm as much a chatterbox as anyone, and if the time is right, or if asked to do so, I will usually give up the stories.

As long as they don't sound too much like a list.

Go listen to some good music: "All the Things That Go To Make Heaven and Earth" from the album Challengers by The New P****graphers. Hey, that's a hot button word! Go read about that band here.

12 March 2008

The cat came back

The email said: "...Dead Cat ticket? What are you talking about?"

Actually, I did mention it before, but to save you having to read through the entire post about the house the spouse called the Half-Million Dollar Tarpaper Shack, here's the relevant bit:

I believe in upholding community standards, but I also like personal privacy. To that end, I am a political creature, for sure, but because I don't want to be pigeonholed, I don't belong to a political party, which sent the older folks in Affluent Suburb, Southern California, bonkers. She's not a Democrat! She's not a Republican! She's not Independent! They marveled over my designation in the voter roster: declines to state. "Communist," whispered one old geezer.

(Most assuredly not. Nor am I Green or Libertarian. I vote every election without the benefit of anyone's advice. When I am angry, I write in the cat. When I am very angry, I write in the dead cat).

My beloved calico, Doodle, was a write-in candidate for a number of elections. And when she passed on, I didn't see any reason that she should stop running for president, or governor, or mayor, or city council furperson. Milton presents a rather more difficult sell as a candidate given his illicit love affair with the dog. Sounds like a true politician, doesn't he?

Okay, I really need to go mow the lawn.

Go listen to some music: "The Cat Came Back" from the album Whaddya Think of That? by Laurie Berkner. Apparently, the Muppets did a version, too.

Broadway hotel

1. Go get on the exercise bike.

2. Eliot Spitzer looks like a poorly-designed and badly-constructed Muppet.

3. Go get on the exercise bike. NOW.

4. I didn't know that Hillary Clinton was such a comedienne. The whole suggestion of a Hillary-Barack ticket with Hillary as president was the most hilarious idea that's come out of the primaries yet. I'm glad that Obama had the guts to say, "uh, honey, I'm the one who's winning this contest..." Well, not like that, of course.

5. Exercise BIKE.

6. They let Muppets be superdelegates? Tell ya, I get closer to voting the Dead Cat ticket every day.


8. Alright, I'm going, I'm going.

Go listen to some good music: "Broadway Hotel" from the album Year of the Cat by Al Stewart. *meow!*

11 March 2008

The eagle and the hawk

After the complete horror and aggravation that was my trip to Whole Foods this morning (2-1/2 hours to get to the store, go through the store--which is less store than it is food court--and drive home from the store), I went for a walk.

It was about 75F, and breezy. Utterly beautiful, and I could smell

Pink jasmine
Orange blossom
The earliest pittosporum

The air was so warm and heavy with scent it was absolutely intoxicating.

It's been wonderful to open the windows again.

After I returned home, I heard a redtail hawk somewhere in the vicinity of the backyard. It sounds as though mating season is in full swing.

While I was up near the hills, I looked for the western bluebirds, but have seen no sign of them yet this spring.

Already the black phoebes have reclaimed their nest over the garbage cans, and we discovered another pair built a nest over a drain pipe above the daughter's window on the opposite side of the house. A towhee has been hopping about in the camellia under the kitchen window, which drives Milton into an ecstasy of desire and terror (I've never seen a cat who is more terrified of birds. He was also suitably disturbed by the monarch butterfly that would flit very provocatively around the window yesterday). The dopey doves are scrabbling around in the dust and talking to each other, and the mockingbirds are establishing territory. A bit violently.

The goofy finches have been around, too, of course, though my window attacker hasn't returned yet. He really frightens the cat.

The parrots, as always, make their flyover at 7 am, squawking away, and the return journey around 6 pm, squawking away.

I haven't seen the scrub jays. But they may be boycotting since I removed the feeder after I found a very large and happy rat in it.

I miss my bike rides down the San Diego Creek trail (currently closed for construction). There I used to see

Cliff swallows
Barn swallows
Egrets (Great and Snowy)
Great blue heron
Cinnamon teals
Mud hens

After I turned off San Diego Creek, and had to ride up the street for awhile, I was able to reconnect with the Peters Canyon Wash trail. There I've seen

A very shy little green heron
A white-faced ibis - once
Red-winged blackbirds
More ducks and swallows

About a year ago, a friend sent me this link to the bald eagle cam at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. We watched in fascination as the eagles raised three young. This year, the pair have had some set backs, but it looks like they still have time to lay a new clutch of eggs.

And now, I need to go invent something for dinner. It will likely involve a bird.

Go listen to some good music: "The Eagle and the Hawk" from the album Greatest Hits by John Denver.

10 March 2008

Sometimes you can't make it on your own

Why I need to go grocery shopping:

1. My grocery list is officially as long as my arm.

2. I have long arms.

3. I am defrosting salmon for dinner.

4. The salmon was the last thing in the freezer.

5. Except for the ice, but that wouldn't go too far as dinner.

6. I used the last two eggs in an omelette for lunch.

7. There wasn't anything else to eat for lunch.

8. Well, except for the greatly reviled can of mushroom soup.

9. Which was left over from making the even more reviled Green Bean Casserole.

10. Milton was hoping I'd open the last can of tuna, but I'm saving that for an earthquake.

11. Or the last Friday of Lent.

Tomorrow is another day.

Go listen to some good music: "Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own" from the album How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb by U2.

09 March 2008

Sheep may safely graze

But the chickens better run for the hills.

1. Chicken broth
2. Leeks
3. Orzo
4. Asparagus
5. Cannellini
6. Snow peas
7. Baby spinach
8. Parmesan cheese
9. Salt and pepper

Recipe for Spring Green Minestrone.

Mushroom-Smothered Chicken Breasts with Rice

2.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp. garlic-infused olive oil
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 lb. white mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
Salt and pepper
Jasmine rice, prepared to package directions.

Heat oven to 400F. Rinse and dry chicken breasts. Place in glass 13 x 9 baking pan. Drizzle olive oil over chicken, and then pour wine over chicken. Cover chicken evenly with sliced mushrooms; sprinkle with thyme and rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for about 25 minutes (155F on instant-read thermometer). Uncover and bake for another 5-10 minutes until mushrooms are slightly dry and the chicken is done (160F on an instant-read thermometer). Serve with rice and pan juices.

Go listen to some good music: "Sheep May Safely Graze" by Johann Sebastian Bach from the album Baroque Brass by The Canadian Brass.

08 March 2008

Save me

Every few years, I have to have an incredibly stupid accident. They are incredibly stupid because they are my own fault, usually perpetrated in a moment of unthinking and single-minded activity. Luckily, they haven't yet been life-threatening, just painful and excruciatingly embarrassing to own up to, especially when I'm trying to explain what I did to the person taking the x-ray. This is one area in my life where I don't ever seem to learn from my mistakes, which partly explains the quantities of crutches, ACE bandages, and other medical appliances I own. I am perpetually in a hurry, so I run half way down a flight of stairs, and fall down the other half. Give me a moving sidewalk in an airport and I'll trip over it, five minutes after I stumbled over the jetway getting off the plane. But these aren't my greatest hits. Nope, those happen when I'm single-mindedly pursuing something to the exclusion of all else, including common sense.

1. Objects in the view finder are closer than they appear: I was framing up a great photo for the yearbook during a football game, squatting on the sidelines. I got my second concussion when the player I was photographing and the three guys who tackled him landed on top of me. (I got my first concussion in a biking accident, courtesy of my brother, through no fault of my own, so it's not counted here).

2. If the power's out, stay in bed: In the midst of a raging thunderstorm, I whacked my foot on a large, inert and very heavy wooden box, breaking three toes. The day before I graduated from college. Hiking around the amphitheatre where graduation was held in high heels was a true pleasure.

3. Watch where you're going! We still don't know how I missed the step in the garage. The doctor who looked at my ankle recoiled in horror, exclaiming, "Well, THAT'S broken." It actually wasn't, but the tech who scanned it looked at the mess of shredded muscle and torn ligaments and said, "You're going to wish it was." He wasn't kidding.

I could continue, but this morning's accident report will explain why I'm not.

4. Replace those unsafe household appliances: This morning, I was hooking up a new mouse on the son's computer, and seeing all the dust on the back of the tower, decided I should really vacuum it. I have a Hoover Windtunnel upright. It weighs a ton, and is incredibly unstable should one be so foolhardy as to use the hose attachment. It falls over with very little provocation, damaging furniture as well as landing on my foot on more than one occasion. The Wise Woman would have replaced it years ago, and reported the damned thing to the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Wise is not something to which I've ever laid claim, so I keep using it. I did promise I'd get rid of it as soon as I used up all the bags, and the last one is in there right now.

So, there I am vacuuming the back of the tower, and I feel the hose slacken in my hand, and here comes the vacuum. It missed my head, and I'm grateful for that. But it was going straight for the tower, and I did what any idiot who doesn't want to replace a computer does: threw my hand out to stop it.

Neither my hand nor my wrist appear to be broken, just nicely bruised. I can type, though the pain is still shooting down to my pinkie and up to my elbow. As I sat there on the son's bedroom floor a few hours ago, dazedly cradling my right arm, the daughter, who witnessed the whole fiasco (and hopefully learned something useful like "replace those unsafe household appliances!"), finally ventured timidly, "Should I call 911?"

I looked at my blackened fifth metacarpal, and the rapidly expanding purple patch on the outer edge of my wrist, and I had to laugh.

I am planning a suitable demise for that vacuum cleaner. Even if it did provide blog fodder.

Go listen to some music: "Save Me" from the album Tripping Into Divine by Dexter Freebish.

07 March 2008

Black mirror

Black mood:

1. I spent an entire day writing.

2. I have nothing to post.

3. I need to work. Pent up energy is threatening to explode.

4. I am not sad, nor am I angry. But my frustration is reaching critical levels.

5. I have been dreaming that I am lost. In airports, in cities I've never seen. This tells me more than I wish to know about how I'm approaching the coming months, more than my waking thought processes want to acknowledge.

Go listen to some music: "Black Mirror" from the album Neon Bible by Arcade Fire.

06 March 2008

Day late, dollar short

So, the doorbell rings, and there's R. with her two helldogs.

1. It's Thursday, and I've been taking out the garbage. In my pajamas.

2. It's Thursday, and I'm trying to finish drinking my coffee while I half-heartedly contemplate weight lifting and walking.

3. I'm still in my pajamas: Cotton Old Navy pj bottoms that are (count them) three sizes too big. And a cotton Old Navy tee that is three sizes too big.

4. My pj bottoms are peach. My tee shirt is pink.

5. Color me embarrassed.

6. "Get dressed!" yells R. "Let's go for a walk! Then we can go eat dim sum."

7. I groan.

8. "Did I wake you up?" she asks over the yapping of her dogs.

9. "No."

10. It's 9:08 am.

I'd better go throw some clothes on.


Go listen to some music: "Day Late, Dollar Short" from the album ...Go Down Swinging! by The Acro-Brats.

05 March 2008

All in my mind

Movies I've seen this year:

1. Juno: funny the way that Little Miss Sunshine was funny, but brilliant because of it's honesty and willingness to discuss issues that make people squirm.

2. Michael Clayton: there is so much I want to say about this movie, so much I have said to people who worked with me, so much I can't say here (now there's a list I won't put up: all the confidentiality agreements I've signed...)

3. Stardust: wanted to see this when it was in theaters but I was traveling too much. While it wasn't faithful to the letter of the book, it was faithful to the spirit, and I liked it.

4. Notes on a Scandal: I have a great fondness for Judi Dench. I've enjoyed her in Room with a View, Mrs. Brown, Shakespeare in Love,and Chocolat; she makes a brutally perfect M in the James Bond films (especially in Casino Royale); but her turn as a psychotic teacher in this film was unreal. And Cate Blanchett was by equal measure, ethereal, vulnerable and repulsive.

5. Lives of Others: incredibly affecting story, which managed to be black comedy and heart breaking at the same time. Again, a movie about which I could say so much, but I haven't figured out how to put it in a context that would make sense to anyone but me.

Books I've read this year:

1. Away by Amy Bloom. I'm not sure how I felt about this story, which followed the fortunes of a young woman who survived a pogrom. It was slight, and the chapters felt like...ahem...blog posts. I liked that the stories of the minor characters were resolved every step of the way, and it ended satisfyingly.

2. Ali and Nino by Kurban Said. I'm currently reading this and it's a bit odd. Apparently, the story was originally published in Vienna in 1937, and it follows the romance of a Muslim boy and Christian girl in Baku just before World War I. The story of the authorship is interesting though, because it appears to be a collaboration between an Austrian baroness and Jewish journalist. The storytelling is a bit stilted, but that could be a function of the translation.

TV shows I'm actually watching:

1. Lost: I find this show just too much fun. Lost its way last season (no pun intended), but I really like the direction it's gone this one.

2. Jericho: the spouse and I were both taken with this show from the start. Last season, it really suffered from poor writing, though the story was compelling. I'm glad that CBS at least committed to finishing it out with an abbreviated 1/2 season, which has actually been much tighter than most of what was offered last season.

3. Torchwood: good, silly, sci-fi fun.

Go listen to some good music: "All in My Mind" from the album Express by Love & Rockets.

04 March 2008

The Four Seasons "Spring": I. Allegro

Yesterday, in the garden. A warm, breezy 75 F.

1. Lemons and sweet pea bush

2. Alstroemeria

3. Purple-leaf plum

4. Purple Spanish lavender

5. A pretty weed--oxalis--with a pleased bee

6. White Spanish lavender with another happy bee

Click on photos to enlarge.

Go listen to some beautiful music: Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons, RV 269 'Spring': I. Allegro" from the album Sir Neville Marriner: a Celebration by The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and Neville Marriner.

03 March 2008

Up on the catwalk

We survived the birthday celebration.

The bad news first:

1. It took us an hour and a half to drive to Pasadena on a Sunday afternoon. A little Caltrans surprise landed us wandering around Pomona and Chino for 20 minutes, which didn't improve anyone's mood.

2. The food. I hadn't expected much, to be honest. These "five-star" restaurants, in my experience, always tend to be a disappointment. My baby greens salad was drowning in a far-too acidic vinaigrette and was garnished with unripe pears and enormous chunks of gooey, indefinable cheese. Um...yuck. The T-bone steak I shared with the spouse was a bit fibrous and rather flavorless. The side dish of mushroom caps was completely unseasoned (oh, for the old Raymond Restaurant's starter of button mushrooms, garlic and parmesan), though the gratin the spouse ordered was quite good. I didn't taste it, but the creamed spinach looked mostly like cream with a few strands of spinach floating in it. The wine list was unexciting and a bit down market, and I'm not exactly a connoisseur.

3. The spouse's 25-year-old nephew was raucously, sloppily, and embarrassingly drunk. While this doesn't surprise me, it does disappoint me. But my kids at least learned a good lesson about how they don't want to present themselves to the world.

4. The sister-in-law was performing her own dog-and-pony show trying to hijack the proceedings by constantly pointing out her eldest's pregnancy. She has a history of this sort of behavior, but I keep hoping that at 50-whatever she is, she'll learn a little decorum.

5. The youngest of that contingent spent the entire meal texting.

So, let's have the good news:

1. I have a well-documented ability to verbally eviscerate those who raise my ire. This isn't a talent that I revel in, though it's come in handy occasionally. The good news is that I succeeded in rising to the occasion, was both pleasant and civil, and didn't bite any heads off. Even when politics came up. ("You seem surprised," the spouse said last night when I pointed this out. "I AM," I replied.)

2. The restaurant was nice though the food was disappointing, and the service was both friendly and attentive.

3. I genuinely like my father-in-law (and my mother-in-law, too), and I'm truly grateful that they've reached their advanced ages in pretty good health and that we are able to spend the time with them that we do.

4. It took us under an hour to get home.

5. The birthday cake came from the wonderful bakery where the spouse and I got our wedding cake, so it was good!

Go listen to some music: "Up On the Catwalk" from the album Glittering Prize by Simple Minds.

02 March 2008

Jukebox hero

The spouse, the daughter and I have a Rock Band band (hours of fun for the whole family!) currently touring the world. We've completed the Endless Setlist (and that was hours of fun for the whole family) and have about 500,000 fans (or at least we did until tonight...another story), and trust me, there will never, EVER be any video of us on You Tube.

Anyway, some songs are really fun to sing, and some make me wail, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" when they pop up on the screen.

Rock Band songs I don't like to sing (in no special order):

1. Say It Ain't So: consistently score high on it, but...gack.

2. Creep: see above.

3. Main Offender: lyrics are utterly inane.

4. The Hand That Feeds: would be a great song if the second half weren't so darned boring.

5. Train Kept A-rolling: more inanity.

6. Sabotage: spare me. SPARE ME.

7. Mississippi Queen: I think I dislike it because I can't sing it.

8. Run to the Hills: I'm torn between inane and banal.

9. Wave of Mutilation: I have an unfortunate tendency to sing my own version of this song (because my version is better than their version) and it always messes up my bandmates because they're laughing. Actually, this happens with a few songs, including Sabotage and Highway Star.

10. Detroit Rock City: I've never been a huge Kiss fan, so...meh. Somehow it reminds me of the horrible movies we had to watch in Driver Training class. Anyone for Red Asphalt (I had no idea it had been remade so many times!), or Mechanized Death?

11. Welcome Home: this song is just plain creepy in a very unpleasant way. And about half the lyrics sound like something that's been run through Babelfish.

Go listen to some music: "Jukebox Hero" from the album 4 by Foreigner.

01 March 2008


What do you get the octogenarian who has everything?

1. "Goop Sandwich" survival kit, comprising

  • Wonder Bread
  • Goop (his term for Miracle Whip Salad Dressing)
  • Bonus! Can of Spam

2. Bottle of the best Scotch money can buy to wash it all down.

3. Alka-Seltzer

(this may be an evolving list. After laughing himself silly over the above, the spouse cried, "Alka-Seltzer! You have to add Alka-Seltzer!")

Go listen to some music: "Wonderbread" from the album Wonderbread by Brian Ward.