30 April 2009

Day after day (the show must go on)

Last night, I was exhausted but decided today I'd be able to write a well-thought-out, possibly heartfelt post on...something. Of course, I was awakened just before 6 a.m. by the sound of the daughter being sick. Nothing says "I love you, Mommy" like having to clean a bathroom before one even gets a cup of coffee.

So, that was how my day began.

(She's fine. It's a run-of-the-mill stomach bug, and she's been clamoring for food since 7 a.m. Which means she's gotten clear fluids, to her disgust.)

The spouse called this morning and wanted to know if I was taking the daughter to the doctor. Are you kidding? No fever, no other symptoms, no way. I had to talk to the pediatrician yesterday about a new prescription for the son's allergy meds, and waited 20 minutes just to get a receptionist. There have been no confirmed cases of flu in our county (two probable, however), but plenty of confirmed cases of hysteria.

All month I've been planning to do a post on preparedness, because--wouldn't you just know it?--April is Earthquake Preparedness Month. And yes, it is corny. But I'm a very big fan of preparedness. You, (yes, I am looking at *you*) need to be prepared for anything.

Name the disaster anything you want: Katrina, wildfire, pandemic, earthquake. In the wake of any large-scale problem, whether courtesy of illness or Mother Nature or human behavior, you need to be prepared to take care of yourself. It's not that the government doesn't want to help you out, but the resources may be unavailable or stretched too thinly. So it's very much up to you to see to the protection of you and your family.

I could go on. And on. And on. But I'm going to make it easy on all of us. Particularly since this is more or less the second time this week I've written this sort of post.

Here are appropriate links:

Earthquake preparedness, courtesy of the LA Fire Department.

Pandemic flu preparedness, by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Wildfire preparedness, by the Orange County Fire Authority. Contains a lot of common sense information, but other agencies may have prepared their own area-specific information.

Emergency Preparedness and Response for Natural Disasters & Severe Weather, by the CDC, which has additional information on other specific hazards here.

No one wants to think about this stuff, I know. But the day the ice storm hits, the week you lose electrical power for four days, the moment you don't want to set foot outdoors because everyone is ill, you will be so glad that you did.

Go listen to some good music: "Day After Day (the Show Must Go On)" from the album I Robot by The Alan Parsons Project. The spouse and I have both worked for a company that deals with investigating a wide variety of disasters, so we see the aftermath constantly. It's galvanizing, to say the least.

27 April 2009

Water Music, Ste II & III in D/G: 2. Alla Hornpipe

Washington, D.C.
April 2009

There are a lot of really lovely water features throughout the Mall, many of which commemorate different people or services. Just moments after taking this photo, we were ambling along Constitution Ave. back toward the hotel, and while waiting to cross at a traffic light, heard the unmistakable sound of Handel's Water Music. Played on the steel drum. A steel drum. It was one of those gloriously unexpected moments that happen in life when you're really lucky.

Go listen to some good music: "Water Music, Suites II & III in D/G: 2. Alla Hornpipe" from the album Handel: Water Music by The English Concert & Trevor Pinnock.

26 April 2009


Hooray! One more thing for us all to worry about!

So, let's draw from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:


In large, friendly letters.

Here are some useful links:

CDC's What's New on the Swine Flu Site

Lots of information about what's going on with less hysteria than the media.

Planning ahead (and honestly, this is a really good time to plan ahead):

Flu planning checklist

And for the bottom-line, common sense thought of the night:

Wash your hands! Often and with enthusiasm. Twenty seconds minimum. WITH SOAP!


With love from the blogger who does read MMWR for fun, god help us.

Go listen to some music: "42" from the album Viva La Vida by Coldplay. Yeah, I know the lyrics are morbid. But according to The Hitchhiker's Guide, 42 is the answer to everything. And while I'm aiming for lighthearted here, this post is very serious.

23 April 2009

(There'll be a) Hot time in the old town tonight

The Tucson newspaper is abuzz with the fact that the University of Arizona stadium will host a concert sometime soon, the first concert to be held in the stadium since August 27, 1977.

I was at that 1977 concert, which was headlined by Fleetwood Mac, which makes me feel a bit old, even if I was younger than the son at the time.

It was so hot that day (tends to be in Tucson in August), and my mother made my brother (younger!) and his friend DC (also younger) go with me. Though four or five bands played, the Mac was definitely the highlight. So much so that when the spouse asked if I wanted to see them this tour, I declined--rare is the band I'll see more than once.

Nonetheless, a very fun evening. If I remember correctly, the Tucson recording of one of the songs Fleetwood Mac did that night ended up on a live album at a later date.

The Angels game is, of course, on in the background. If you follow baseball at all, you probably have some idea of what the team has been dealing with this season, particularly with regard to the pitching staff. But tonight the cameras just caught a moment of pure hilarity: Vlad Guerrero carefully dropping sunflower seeds on the unsuspecting cap of Darren Oliver, who remained blissfully unaware as he talked to (I think) Joe Saunders. And then Vlad went back to eating his sunflower seeds with a tiny smirk as the camera zoomed in on the top of Mr. Oliver's head. It was a little chuckle we needed.

Heh, Figgy just laid down a perfect bunt; Matthews and Kendrick score...

Go listen to some music: "(There'll Be a) Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight" from the album Auld Lang Syne by Guy Lombardo.

22 April 2009

Us and them

This morning I pulled into the grocery parking lot, and after locking my car was approached by a woman carrying a small paper bag with a string handle, the sort Starbucks would give you to carry a couple of muffins. She was clean and dressed in business attire--a nice pair of slacks and a silky sort of blouse--but her skin was weatherbeaten and her short-cropped hair was just a little too bright.

"Excuse..." she began and then started to hack, the deep, wrenching cough of a long-time heavy smoker, and I could smell the cigarettes on her. I waited politely until she stopped.

"I lost my purse," she began again, looking up at the sky, as if reading the words on a teleprompter above my head, "and my fare to work--bus and train--is five dollars. Can you spare it?"

"I'm sorry," I replied, "but I don't have any cash with me."

Which is generally true these days. I've been approached by some rough-looking people a couple of times in recent months, so when I leave the house on my own, I no longer wear jewelry, and I carry nothing but what I need to for my trip.

"Yeah, yeah," she said, flapping a hand at me in disgust, as she stalked away, "None of you people carry cash any more."

You people?

I deconstruct stories, conversations, occurrences, the words others use.

You people.

I drive a 12-year-old Camry. The sort that was described at its release by the car magazines as "plain vanilla." It suits me fine, in part because I am in possession of an excess of personality and do not require additional from my car. But mostly, because it runs, it's reliable, it does precisely what I need it to do. Standing there in the parking lot, I was still wearing the clothes that I threw on this morning at 6:30 to take the son to the bus stop: the faded red t-shirt that I was wearing yesterday and a pair of denim shorts. The much-reviled Birkenstocks. My grooming routine had gone so far as brushing my hair, and I hope to god I'd brushed my teeth.

You people.

I know what it is to be poor. I know what it is to touch bottom and to force yourself back to the surface, to learn how not to drown even if you aren't exactly swimming. I know about survival and one hundred one ways to cook beans. I know the language of struggling to make ends meet, the terror that you may not succeed in doing so. My story is evident in my innate toughness and my ability to take care of myself, but it's not clear from how I look or how I behave.

Her story was written in her attitude, her words and her smell. I could create a dozen scenarios for her, and at least one would be correct. But I don't choose to do that, to walk the path that she did in dismissing me as "you people."

Be very careful what you assume.

Go listen to some good music: "Us and Them" from the album Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.

20 April 2009

It's what you need

Tonight, I wanted to write about the tyranny of the blank page, the possibility of the blank page, the raging heat, the odd/wonderful/wretched bits of the D.C. trip, and the daughter's object of desire (the White House).

But suddenly I can't stop yawning.

(Not so surprising when I was awakened at 1 a.m. by what sounded like the cat wrestling shampoo bottles in the kids' bathroom, but actually turned out to be something the size of a small elephant in the attic. The cat, all innocence, was cowering in abject terror in the hallway. Will have to set traps in the attic, which is an occasional necessity.)

So instead, I will tell you that I made the most wonderful tzatziki for dinner tonight (along with gyro, hummus and tabouli), and while I don't entirely remember what I did, it was something like this:

1 c. non-fat plain yogurt (I like Straus Family Creamery)
3/4 c. kirby cucumber, grated and drained
4 large cloves of garlic, run through a garlic press
1/4 tsp. dried dill
1 T. lemon juice
Kosher salt to taste
Ground pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a bowl, and chill for two hours.

This is not so thick as a lot of tzatziki because I didn't drain the yogurt, but it was a nice consistency for the gyro sandwiches.

Go listen to some good music: "It's What You Need" from the album Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) by Cloud Cult. This album was a birthday gift, and one of my favorite albums of 2008.

19 April 2009

Strawberry swing

I grow strawberries in my kitchen windowbox. Other things, too: basil, peppermint, sage, cilantro when I remember to plant it (note to self: plant some!). The strawberries, however, are always happily successful, and one year, sent runners down into the flower bed below where the offshoots are blooming even now (and the fruit pretty much ends up slug food).

When I got back from D.C., the largest of the berries had turned a deep and lovely red, the first ripe berry of the season. This variety is Seascape, which I've been growing for several years.

And here we have Chandler, a June-bearing variety (yes, I know it's mid-April. Welcome to California):

I really need to get to work on the back beds. I'm way behind on prepping and planting, but I'll probably need to wait a few days. We're suddenly up in the mid-90sF, a mini-heatwave that is not an uncommon mid-spring occurrence. Temperatures should be back in the 60sF later in the week.

Did I mention I'm on a chicken kick again? I've never actually gotten any, though I've considered it for years. Increasingly looking like a good idea, not that I have time to be a lady farmer.

Of course, when did that ever stop me?

Go listen to some good music: "Strawberry Swing" from the album Viva La Vida by Coldplay.

18 April 2009

Feeling gravity's pull

The salient points:

Stayed at: the Willard. Yes, the Willard. If you don't know the Willard, you should.

Best view: from my hotel window: the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington House.

Hands down best moment: 1) my 50-year-old cousin M. shrieking, "YAY!" and jumping up and down like a 5-year-old when we arrived for Easter dinner. 2) The daughter nearly leaping out of her seat as we made the final approach into National at sunset and she caught sight of all the monuments and the Capitol lit up for the night.

Best quote: 1) "You look like them," the spouse marveled, as I stalked down Pennsylvania Avenue at quitting time. True, but my trench coat is a rich ruby red rather than grey, taupe or black. 2) "You look just like her!" the son said when T. brought out the Janis Joplin album, and that was before the son heard the story.

Best weather: Freezing rain all day Wednesday followed by a picture-perfect spring day in the 70sF on Thursday.

Uncomfortable moment: Weird, poorly performed presentation at Ford Theatre on April 14. I thought we were just getting an NPS ranger talk. Would have preferred it.

Running joke: Department of Agriculture and Tulips. Tulips everywhere.

Biggest disappointment: After talking up the Hall of the First Ladies at the newly reopened Smithsonian Museum of American History, I discovered they now only have about 10 dresses on display. Out of chronological order and displayed with artifacts from different first ladies. It was poorly curated and made no logical sense. In fact, that could be said for all the exhibits I visited there. And bizarrely, through the entire war section, the Revolutionary War bit was beautifully done, while all the other wars lacked explanation and context.

Funniest, pure Washington moment: the man stationed at the end of our hallway one morning, complete with earpiece, pretending to read the newspaper. His counterpart the following morning was completely thrown when we all laughed and said, "Good morning."

Odd moment of epiphany: Arlington National Cemetery. I've never been there to sight see, I've only been there for funerals. Two of my grandparents, my aunt, my older brother and other family members are buried there. Seeing the typical tourist chawing it down as just another consumable was really distressing. I am a fourth generation Washingtonian, which is not something I really think about, but it hit with tornadic force right about then. Also when both M. and T. asked me at separate times when I was "moving home." Meaning the District.

Moment of pure luck: walk-up tickets for the Capitol tour. Which was also the WTF moment, although I knew about it before I got there. I remember when "walk up" meant walking up all those stairs and in the front door.

And it was all, inescapably, home.

Go listen to some good music: "Feeling Gravity's Pull" from the album Fables of the Reconstruction by REM. I know this doesn't exactly do the trip justice. I'm still in post-travel shock.

17 April 2009

The river

Washington, D.C.
April 2009

I am too tired for words, so today, you get a picture.

Yesterday was beautiful, a perfect mid-Atlantic spring day.

And it was fine.

Go listen to some good music: "The River" from the album Home Free by Dan Fogelberg.

12 April 2009

Easter parade

This is a rerun of last year's Easter post. I've never done this before but what's not to love about chocolate-hazed nausea and Charlton Heston?

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.

10 April 2009

When all this actual life played out...

Not quite 15 years ago, I was at the wedding of my dear friend LS. Just going had been something of a bold maneuver, as I was a new mother of four months, and left the son with his father while I took off for New Hampshire. Moreover, we'd just returned from my brother's wedding, so I'd just come back from two weeks of driving to and from Oklahoma only to fly out to Boston.

(And you thought last year was an anomaly.)

The wedding was lovely and during the reception, I looked up to see an older woman advancing on me. She greeted me by name, asked if I remembered her, and the look on her face told me that it was important that I remember her.

She looked familiar but I couldn't put a name to her. As she recounted conversations we'd had, and I faked remembrance, I wanted to sink into the ground in sadness and embarrassment. Clearly the time we'd spent together was so meaningful to her, and where the hell on earth was I?

Of course, it never occurred to me to put some of it down to post-pregnancy brain, emergency surgery, caring for an infant with severe jaundice at home 24/7 thanks to the cheapskate policies of our insurance company and the fact that I'd gotten my first full night of sleep in months only the night before. Even now, it doesn't occur to me to put some of it down to those stresses because the memory of my fraudulent good cheer in those moments as I scrambled to remember still distresses me no end.

Naturally, her name came to me in a little, as did the memory of her visit to Tucson to see LS years earlier, and later in the evening we shared a real conversation and laughter, and all was well.

But that moment, racking my brains, was terrible.

Moments in time, those little mental movie stills that we carry with us--and hopefully remember. I've learned to stop time, to take the picture, to hold the moment.

And so it was today, when I suddenly held the moment of a year ago, of staring at the desk in front of me, plastic handset of the hotel phone pressed against my ear, hungry and tired, undecided as to whether to order a salad or a steak. The room service lady made the decision for me.

"You will have the steak," she said briskly, but not unkindly, "because you need strength, and because you need to relax, I will also send you a glass of red wine."

She was so decisive that I burst into laughter.

I had a hard time convincing myself to make that trip to San Juan, in much the same way that I've had a hard time convincing myself that this trip to D.C. is a good idea. But a memory strikes--sunlight on the Potomac, kissing a midshipman on a warm summer night, T. telling me I look like Janis Joplin and my subsequent threats of grievous bodily harm to his person--and I'm almost seduced into believing that it will be fine.

(Once, I called T. from a phone on a table at a buffet in Las Vegas. It was 3 am his time. "WHY?" he wailed. "Because you said I looked like Janis Joplin when we were 14," I told him. "Are you ever going to forget that?" he groaned. "No," I replied.)

And M. has sent me emails proclaiming "AWESOME!!!!!" Her enthusiasm is infectious, and I haven't seen her since we were both in Germany at the same time, after having run into her out of the blue in Northern Arizona, after she attended my wedding in California. And there was the moment she handed me a large coffee cake as I set out to drive to Bavaria.

"Why?" I asked, grateful but mystified.

"You might get hungry," she replied.

My family, my friends, are everywhere. And so I profess that my home is everywhere. Yet...

Last April, it was convenient to play stranger in a strange land. Now, I am ostensibly going "home," or as much home as anywhere, as much home as a city name on a birth certificate and an address where I lived the early part of my life can make it.

Go listen to some good music: "Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands" from the album A Hundred Million Suns by Snow Patrol.

09 April 2009

Suddenly, you were gone

I simply don't have words to express how much this breaks my heart.

Nick Adenhart, 1986-2009.

Deepest sympathy to his family and teammates.

Go listen to some good music: "Afterimage" from the album Grace Under Pressure by Rush.

08 April 2009

Don't call us

I started out this morning in a remarkably good mood. Just so you know that.

At 6pm, on the dot, I had the macaroni and cheese in the oven, though I still needed to clean up all the mess that goes into making the macaroni and cheese (I am not talking about stuff out of a box here). For reasons that I can't exactly explain, I've had a yen to make hot cross buns (a sweet roll that is traditional for the end of Lent, and involves fruit and icing and stuff), so I set to putting together the dough to get it into the refrigerator.

(Let me also admit here and now that this is my mothers HCB recipe and I've never made it before.)

So I was fiddling with yeast and milk and butter and currants and flour, and I couldn't seem to hold on to anything, so flour was flying all over and the milk and butter mixture was spilled on the counter, and there were currants everywhere, and before I knew it, my hands were completely covered in sticky dough.

And naturally, the phone rang.

"I can't answer the phone," I yelled. "Someone pick it up."

I was assuming that it was one of the kids' friends who are usually calling with homework questions all afternoon.

As I was trying to disengage myself from the batter, the daughter appeared with the phone, looking worried.

"They say they need to speak to you," she told me.

Somehow, I maneuvered the phone to my shoulder, and with no small degree of irritation said, "Hello?"

It was my bank. They wanted to speak with me about the transaction I made on Monday.

My heart suddenly ratcheted completely out of control. "I didn't make a transaction on Monday."

The lady on the other end was flustered. Evidently, this was not on her script. They wanted to ask me about customer service. It was a survey.

My mind was racing along now, too, though far less erratically than my heart. I realized that the spouse was at the bank over the weekend and the transaction probably posted Monday, and just as I was about to begin screaming at this woman for calling at dinner time, I registered something else.

This was not a young woman. This was, in fact, a considerably older woman. She sounded nervous. She sounded like Muriel on Courage the Cowardly Dog.

Would I be willing to answer some questions, she asked hopefully.

Still speaking with an edge to my voice, I explained I was up to my elbows in dough, but if she'll wait until I wash my hands, I'd talk. She laughed, still nervous, but said, oh yes, of course, and I was assailed with a vision of a grey-haired old woman in a flowered dress sitting in a wing chair with an antimacassar behind her head. Somewhere in there with all the collectible spoons, there was probably a cat, asleep, possibly blending into the faded draperies behind it.

I washed my hands.

I picked up the phone.

I was very civil.

At the end, she asked what the bank could do to make me feel like a valued customer.

"Don't call me at dinner time!" I exclaimed, but I was laughing.

She was laughing, too, and apologetic.

It's not that I have a special place in my heart for old ladies; I've met plenty of really mean old battle axes. But the lack of confidence in this woman's voice, the awareness that she was asking questions at a really inconvenient time, the fact that she was willing to wait until I'd gotten the dough off my hands told me that something else was up.

Or maybe I just have a good imagination.

The countdown is on. The next couple of days are going to be nuts.

The empty pink leather satchel is watching me balefully.

Go listen to some music: "Don't Call Us, We'll Call You" from the album Don't Call Us, We'll Call You by Sugarloaf.

06 April 2009

Let's root, root, root for the home team

Through the infinite generosity of the (cable) powers that be--otherwise known as free preview of this, that and the other package--I had almost everyone's season opener on today at some point in the background while I worked.

At the moment, of course, Angels and Oakland.

Girl can't help it. I love this game.

Update: Shut out. Angels 3-0. Nice homer, Kendrick (the daughter long ago named one of her Joes for Kendrick). We all sort of agreed that we don't miss Frankie Rodriguez and The Nervous Save. But he did a nice job today for the Mets.

Go sing a good song: "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" lyrics by Jack Norworth, music by Albert Von Tilzer.

05 April 2009

Appalachian Spring: Variations on a Shaker Hymn

Today dawned clear and warm, unlike so much of the country, where it dawned snowy. Even though it hit 82F today, it'll drop back down into the 60s by Tuesday.

I woke early, but evidently, I fell right back to sleep because the next time I looked at the clock, it was 8:45. And I promptly dragged myself out of bed because I'd promised R. I'd go for a walk with her this morning before she headed off for her mother/daughter week in Palm Springs. R. tends to dislike change, so I took her off down the channel trail where she'd never been before and all she could do was marvel that this was so close to home.

Once I got back, I did some weeding and fussing around the garden. Dressed in a long-sleeved black tee and sweatpants, it was a bit warm, but before I knew it, I found myself digging a hole to plant the new lilac I'd bought, and then suddenly, I was in the back 40, pulling more weeds and yanking out a particularly pernicious thing that is the size of a small tree, as well as pruning rose bushes and admiring my four avocados (which I sincerely believe will never ripen. I mean, the tree's blooming again, kids).

I have a terrible tendency to just throw myself into working in the garden. Fortunately, I was already wearing sunscreen because I was too lazy to go back into the house and get my hat (shade! I reasoned. I was working in the shade). And my really dirty gardening secret, the one that should be on PostSecret? Gloves. I have a half dozen pairs of gardening gloves--leather, rose-proof, waterproof--and frequently fail to wear even one. So I dig, gleefully, destroying my nails, embedding dirt in every available crevice in my hands, creating calluses that would please any farmer. And since we don't have just any old dirt, since we have utterly foul, cold, stinking clay, the tips of my fingers tend to be stained an unrelenting brown when I start rootling around, green where I've grabbed a really juicy weed.

So right now, my hands look reasonably disgusting, and are in severe need of the nail file. They've already been thoroughly subjected to the nail brush.

Did I mention the splinters and thorns? One of my rose bushes has thorns every millimeter, and a cane from it could easily be used for home defense. Something else back there is covered in tiny thorns. I found them all while I was trying to wash my hair, post-rootling. And after my shower, spent the better part of a half hour digging with needles and yanking with tweezers.


Welcome, spring.

Tomorrow, regular season baseball begins. Angels did well in spring training, didn't always look impressive in the exhibition games. Par for the course. Pundits are predicting they won't go to the playoffs, but I don't find myself terribly worried. They'll do what they do. Pitching rotation is something of a disaster, Vlad looks happy (new for 2009!), and there is the question of the new closer. I guess we wait and see.

Go listen to some beautiful music: "Appalachian Spring: VII. Doppio Movimento: Variations on a Shaker Hymn" by the Los Angeles Philharmonic & Zubin Mehta from the album Copland. I'd planned a jaunt to Camden Yards when I head east, but of course, of course! Orioles are away while I'm back there. And yeah, the Nationals are in town...but... It *is* a gift to be simple. I lack that gift.

04 April 2009

The speed of love

Milton came into my life a small, thin and terrified half-kitten in August 2001. He is still terrified--birds, strangers, loud noises, the doorbell, all are ready to pounce on him with their many horrors--and he only truly relaxes when he knows where I am. If I sit down, he stretches out luxuriously in my lap and falls into deep, dream-filled sleep. He lets me stroke his soft belly and I can play him like an accordion while he howls for his dinner (this is a nightly event because, you know, he's never been fed in his entire life. Ever. Which is why he needs to steal Brussels sprouts or tomato from people's plates. Have I ever mentioned the sinfully expensive prescription cat food I've been feeding him for seven years because he has damaged kidneys?).

Every night, he holds vigil outside my bedroom door.

Well, I am his catnip dealer.

Milton is a guy, so too much kissing, fondling, petting is out of the question. I can count the number of times he's kissed me (seven), a quick little sandpaper tongue, always on the inside of my wrist. My late sweet Doodle would have happily spent hours washing me, and was known to try to pin my wayward head down with a chiding paw, a bit of claw if I insisted on trying to escape. I was just an oversized kitten in her view. But Milton is happier to show affection by gnawing on my bare toes at odd moments, or leaping at me from the shadows to try to nip my knee. That's his version of love, along with descending into oblivion in my lap. For him, love is trust. And gnawing. And food.

Love comes at odd moments and in strange, unexpected ways. Perhaps the lesson of this little furball (who at this moment is pacing back and forth, winding his body around my feet under my desk, vocalizing madly for his dinner, occasionally emitting the saddest little sound--because he's never been fed in his entire life, you know) is simply that the possibility of love is right around the corner, arrives the moment you least expect it, in the most unlikely package.

Go listen to some great music: "The Speed of Love" from the album Counterparts by Rush. The inspiration for this post is here, and I do, you know. Whether I've actually said it, not been able to say it, or have not yet had the opportunity to say it, my heart goes out to you.

03 April 2009

I read the news today

I've been fiddling with this post since lunch time, and it's gone absolutely nowhere. It's a given that I write every day, whether the result is publishable or not. To be fair, sometimes stuff is work related but still writing. That counts as much in my book as the postable stuff. As do the notes I keep in little notebooks, assuming what I've written is coherent and not just random scrawl and ideas.

Lately, finding postable material has been difficult, in part because of my own state of mind and the state of the world--how tired am I of saying that?--in part because the current routine of my life is not worth documenting publicly. (But I had the son laughing so hard he was crying tonight when I opined that the reason his knee surgery took over three hours was because it took them two hours to shave all the hair off his leg. We cannot figure out what Neanderthal ancestor is responsible for all of this child's body hair).

Then I thought about it a bit and decided why not a work-in-progress post? I'm always talking about process, so why not just let the process show for once?

(Mostly because I'm a perfectionist and I like perfect posts. I love that moment when I've been writing and suddenly it all comes together, suddenly it all makes sense. But little makes sense these days, days when I have to worry that the teens who stop me on the street mean mischief or that the wild-eyed man in the grocery is going to start shooting. Also, I tend to adjust the tone so they sound a little more hopeful than I've felt lately.)

I should blog the moment I get up in the morning because my day tends to degenerate from there. By lunch time, I have learned that people have been murdered in Binghamton, or two people were killed in the town where I used to live, at an intersection through which I drove or walked just about every day, often with my very small children in tow, or in a stroller, for 10 years. We all talked about the danger of that road.

The world. It leaves me angry. It leaves me weary.

But enough about that.

CL and I had fun last night at Book Soup. The store was pretty packed, and Heather told some funny stories, and read a bit from her new book. Then she signed all those books. She's so nice, and had far more patience than I ever would have at that stage in pregnancy. But then I was one of those people who had 24/7 morning sickness for six months, and only felt well in my seventh month of pregnancy (and with the son, spent it running around Central and South America) before degenerating back into an anemic, exhausted and starving wreck for the remainder. Oh, with carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands! With the daughter, I wasn't allowed to do anything from the 8th week on, which was great fun with a 2-1/2 year old boy on hand. It's no wonder we only have the two.

Driving down Sunset, CL and I traded stories of our younger selves. The Strip brings on that disconnect, a gap between past and present me. Younger me never cared if people looked or talked, rarely noticed. But last night I watched people watch, faces impassive, thinking "is that someone?" I'm frequently recognized, though not for who I am. I have doppelgangers everywhere: a tennis player (who, oddly, shared my name before I married and changed it), a cellist with the National Symphony. At a party one evening, a man I'd never seen ran up to me, threw his arms around me and yelled, "Peggy!" I thought it was some bizarre joke until he realized his mistake and apologized profusely.

The girl who used to visit clubs on the Strip never noticed, didn't care. Last night, I felt, acutely, my status as well-heeled, middle-aged So Cal female. I didn't like it.

Now I've got a week to prepare myself for my trip back to D.C. Who goes there? Last time, I was the same girl who traversed Sunset with friends, laughing, dancing at clubs. Now? Isn't that the question.

Someone in the audience asked Heather what she'd say to the younger self who started blogging years ago. Heather made the comment that she's not necessarily proud of the person she used to be and all I could think was 'Lady, alot of us would like to smack around our younger selves, and that's called growing up.' But in growing up, I've also learned to bear my younger self less ill will and I've allowed myself to admit that she had some pretty good qualities, too.

It hasn't escaped my notice that the same weekend last year, I was laying ghosts to rest. I am not setting out to accomplish anything this time, except perhaps for forward motion.

And that's what fiddling looks like. Not pretty (she laughs). Not all the bits are there: life as a symphony had already been removed, along with how mid-April last year I barreled straight into the scherzo. I liked that though, and oh dear God, is scherzo apt.

Go listen to some good music: "A Day in the Life" from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles.