31 December 2010

An end has a start - 2010

I long ago abandoned the idea of New Year's resolutions, though I always have a long list of long and short term goals in mind. Resolutions sound more like penance: Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, and this is how I'm going to make it good. No. I'm only too well aware of my own deficiencies, and I'd rather address the stuff that I know I need to fix than to have some third party bless me with his/her own action plan. With age, I've learned that one makes goals attainable, or what is the point of setting them? And I don't mean that one should aim low, but I aim for reasonable.

2010 wasn't the gut punch that 2009 turned out to be, but it was far from smooth sailing. Still, I made good on my promise to take back my life and get back on track, even if there were days that it looked more like grim determination than living beautifully. I wasn't raised to be selfish, but this year I reminded myself that a little responsible selfishness--also called taking care of oneself--makes me a happy girl. So, I took a photography workshop that reset an internal (infernal?) machine and opened up a different path to me (beginnings) though it was also a return of sorts to something that I'd long enjoyed. And I went out amongst strangers, which I'm sometimes loath to do.

To that end, I also took off on the concert trail again. Albuquerque, Columbus and Pittsburgh. Each with its own charms and challenges, but mine, all mine. For the most part, hugely satisfying in that regard. And it was a time to meet up with friends and have long, funny conversations that lasted late into the night.

Oh, the year was still rife with anxiety: kid planning for college, kid planning for high school, the employment situation, the depressing reality of California in general. But I've regained the ability to back out of the gloom and into the light. Sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes through nightmares and sleeplessness, but in a better place altogether than last year.

SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT THING I'D LIKE EVERYONE TO CONSIDER DOING IN 2011:

Go do something good, worthy or awesome that you've never done before or haven't done in a long time. Start going for walks (call it "spying on the neighbor's gardening project" if going for a walk sounds too much like exercise); volunteer at your local library or soup kitchen; teach a kid or an adult to read; be creative. I will report on my own endeavor as the year progresses.

BEST BOOK I READ THAT WAS ACTUALLY PUBLISHED IN 2010:

I can only think of one book I read that was published in 2010, but fortunately, it was pretty good: Maggie O'Farrell's The Hand That First Held Mine. I think that I've liked some of her previous works better, but she is someone whose writing I really enjoy. Otherwise, I was pretty much reading Dorothy Dunnett, Alice Thomas Ellis, Margaret Atwood, and after several months, I finally finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

BEST ALBUM I BOUGHT THIS YEAR:

The New Pornographers' Together takes honors this year. I also really liked the Muse stuff I picked up this year, but while I find some of the lyrics quite thoughtful, I find some of the themes hilarious. In a good way. I mean, I don't think they take themselves overly seriously. At least I hope not.

BEST PLACE I STAYED WHEN I WAS AWAY FROM HOME:

Hands down, Fairmont Pittsburgh. Lovely staff, nicely furnished rooms, and for crying out loud, they upgraded me to a suite that would make most apartment dwellers envious.

Hidden Ridge Resort in Banff was perfect when the family was traveling over the summer. We had a large 2-bedroom plus loft condo within walking distance of the downtown area for a quite reasonable price. We also had a kitchen, and everyone was grateful for a couple of Meals by Mommy in the midst of a long driving vacation.

SINGLE MOST BIZARRE MOMENT OF THE YEAR:

Watching my 16-year-old son slalom my car around the Irvine Meadows parking lot on a summer afternoon as he exhibited his new defensive driving skills during his class "graduation" while in the background, Rush was soundchecking on the stage for the evening's concert. It was one of those seriously weird moments in life when multiple facets of my youth and adulthood all collided in the hot summer air. It was odd watching the bemusement on the other parents' faces at all the noise coming from the amphitheater while I was thinking, "Cool!" And of course, we were at the show that night.

BEST CONCERT I SAW THIS YEAR:

Tie!

Rush Time Machine Tour, August 13, Irvine Meadows, Irvine, CA, and August 29, Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH. I enjoy every show, of course, but these two were the best of the four that I saw. At Irvine, watching my 13-year-old daughter air guitar like a mad thing made me laugh out loud, and my 16-year-old son caught one of the t-shirts tossed out by guitarist Alex Lifeson, which made the boy's night. And Columbus was just a blast.

Muse, September 24, Honda Center, Anaheim, CA. Really have come to like their music and the show was one of those unexpected little gems of showmanship that are just so much fun. Not too many bands I'm willing to see more than once, but these guys I'd see again.

THE MOMENT WHEN I FELT MY HEART IMPLODE:

Out in the world, I am generally circumspect. I watch people, and I keep a carefully crafted pleasant expression on my face. I try not to give too much away about what I am thinking or what I am feeling. But there are a few people out there who can catch me off guard, can see what I think I'm keeping close and unrevealed, catch me in that moment when I laugh out loud--in joy, in appreciation, with sheer happiness. And that night, in that brief, single moment of shared laughter, I felt my heart implode. I was brought up to believe I shouldn't take chances, but the leap paid off because I forgot for a moment to disguise myself, and we laughed together. The memory is one of the best of the year.

We none of us know what the future might bring. Last year, I said I intended to live life beautifully, and I approached that goal with a certain unbeautiful determination. In 2011, more beauty, more beginnings, more middles, desirable endings. As I said, this will be the year of fixing and there is a lot in my life that requires that. But I don't feel the need to approach it like an auto mechanic (though I imagine my doctors will be approaching me that way. *sigh*). Here's to beauty; here's to artistry; here's to moments of shared laughter and undisguised happiness.

My wish for everyone is that we come out shining on the other side. Thank you, as always, for spending time with me.

Be safe, be good and remember to eat your black-eyed peas.

...with hope in your hands
and air to breathe


Go listen to some good music: "An End Has a Start" from the album An End Has a Start by Editors.

30 December 2010

The weight of circumstances

We'd planned to go to Sequoia at Thanksgiving but my mother-in-law surprised me by announcing they'd decided to join us for Thanksgiving dinner. My in-laws are in their 80s, and I know our time together is limited. They dote on my children, and I couldn't deny them the opportunity to spend that time with the kids.

(No, I'm not the saint my peers nicknamed me back in Catholic school. I was utterly annoyed that I'd have to cook dinner when I was looking forward to someone else doing the deed, even if I knew it wouldn't be as good as mine. But I can be annoyed and still graciously do the right thing, which is nice, but not exactly saintly.)

I told the kids, who were also disappointed in the change of plans, that we'd go at Christmas instead. Brave words from the woman who 15 years ago today, trapped in the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a 20-month-old (it was so not my idea), swore she'd never travel at the holidays ever again.

And so, the morning of the 27th, we packed up to go. And as I proceeded down the front steps to get in the car, my right knee gave way under my weight, not enough so that I fell, but enough to make me murmur in surprise, "That was weird."

Not weird, though. Just my treacherous body betraying me again.

We generally visit Sequoia during the off-season. As it turns out, Christmas is not the off season. It also turned out that the park has seen a vast accumulation of early snow. Chains were required, not a particular difficulty since we tend to carry chains when we go into the mountains in the winter.

We arrived late Monday, and smiled happily at the snowpack and the Milky Way. While we had dinner at the lodge, we planned for sledding the next day. And that occurred, though not so successfully as we might have liked, given the vast numbers of completely clueless individuals crashing into one another on the hill. As we walked across the snowy field, bemoaning the idiots who were letting their dogs relieve themselves everywhere in the crystalline snow at the bottom of the sledding hill, the muscles in my right leg gave way completely and I fell into 18 inches of powder. I waved off the concerned noises of my family, and got back to my feet, but it didn't escape my notice that the inside of my knee was completely numb.

As the day of departure approached, we'd watched the weather carefully, so we knew to expect some snow Wednesday, and we'd packed accordingly. But nothing prepared us (or anybody else, it appeared) for the 4+ feet of snow that started to fall Tuesday night.

Huge, wet flakes.






































Yes, under there somewhere was our car. For most people staying at Wuksachi, Wednesday afternoon's entertainment was digging their cars out, even though it was still snowing quite heavily. Some of the younger ones, however, just played in the snow while their parents swung shovels and ice scrapers.

After all that excitement (and a good dinner), we retired to our usual National Park lodge evening preoccupation, a rousing game of Hearts.

(We visit national parks with regularity, and have stayed in numerous lodges, from the TV-free Jackson Lake Lodge to the leaning Oregon Caves Chateau to the sadly filthy Glacier Park Lodge. The daughter always brings a pack of playing cards.)

This morning, the temperature was 10F, and the snow cracked ominously under our feet. We pulled out as early as was practical, and slowly made our way down the road. It was a long and difficult drive home.

Despite the circumstances, we made the best of our little holiday.

The year is drawing to a close, and I see quite a lot of fixing in my future. 2011: the year of fixes. The bathroom must be fixed, the front garden must be fixed.

Ominously, I must be fixed.

Not, frankly, what I had in mind.

Go listen to some good music: "Roll the Bones" from the album Roll the Bones by Rush. It's probably a herniated disc...and yeah, I know, a pretty disjointed little tale. I'm trying to keep the words "excruciating" and "painful" out of the mix. Also: long day. Also: very tired. Also: mad as hell that something else is broken. GAH!

24 December 2010

You're a pal and a confidante

LS and I have known each other for a bit over 30 years. We were fast friends in high school, but she moved away our senior year, and somehow, we've managed to stay in touch through time and distance.

Today, we sat next to each other at the restaurant where we had lunch, and we watched our daughters chatter away to each other, only minutes after they'd first met. They are four months apart in age, as are LS and I, and nearly the same age now as their mothers were when we first met.

The talk was animated, the laughter genuine.

"I thought so," LS said softly, with a small smile.

"Yup," I nodded, watching my daughter's bright face.

Go listen to some music: "Thank You for Being a Friend" from the album All This and Heaven Too by Andrew Gold. No, I don't really care for the song, but the sentiment is right, and so is the time period. Ah, the late 1970s...

21 December 2010

Rainy day

It was a sudden whooshing noise. I was going to make a joke that a spaceship was flying over. And really, I thought it was a plane going by.

But it was actually the sound of water. The sound of the water main in front our house failing catastrophically.

The force was so great that the pavement has lifted inches. All in the space of an hour. When I went to investigate the water bubbling up, I smelled natural gas, too.

So I called everyone: the gas company, the water service.

The water guys smelled gas, too. All the way up to the corner, they said.

The backhoe is now here. They are digging out in the pouring rain, and of course, I feel guilty. I feel like I somehow caused this. Even though I know the house has been here for fifty years and the water main probably as long. Even though I know the water guys have been out here numerous times in recent years, doing exactly what they are doing now, in front of other people's houses.

Later:

As it turns out, I won one and I lost one.

The line leading from the water meter to the street shattered. As I'd guessed, it was as old as the house, ancient galvanized piping that belonged to the water service of the city that supplies our house. They were the nicest people, cheerfully slogging through the rain and mud to fix the connection.

The men from the gas company were nice, too, even though it turned out that there was indeed a leak in the gas line, and it was on my side of the meter. The plumber I called out (the same one who visited me two weeks ago) grumbled a bit about being asked to "play in the rain," but ultimately, he was kind and efficient and got the leak fixed in no time. And finally, the second of the gentlemen from the gas company returned of his own volition, only minutes after I'd placed the service call, to restore my gas and check all my appliances. I couldn't thank him enough, and he laughed and said, "I thought to myself, 'that poor lady had enough for one day without having to wait until 8pm to get her gas back.'"

But I assured him that I was grateful for his thoughtfulness.

Yesterday, I had to deal with a single nasty cretin who ruined my entire day. Today, I had a group of the kindest and most professional individuals who brightened my entire week, despite the circumstances, and went a little way to reminding me that there are only two sorts of people in the world. Today, I got the good people.

Go listen to some good music: "Rainy Day" from the album Prospekt's March by Coldplay. All's well that ends well, but gods was it nervewracking 'til the end.

19 December 2010

I'm collecting vinyl

And looking for a neutral subject on which to blog.

(I'm gonna DJ at the end of the world!)

Anyway.

I'm not a mommy blogger, so I know you're not here to read about vomiting kids. (I was lucky. It was just the one, but gods! She was sick. And I was disinfecting the bathroom for days. Okay, 'nough about that.)

I'm not a mommy blogger, so I know you're not here to read about the politics of mommies and schools and school parties. (I was not lucky there. I was not fit for human consumption Friday. I think I probably owe a half dozen people apologies, though I mostly managed to confine myself to looking furious and not actually saying anything. I think. Okay, 'nough about that. But DAMN.)

(She'd like a lover's wings to fly on...)

Anyway.

I don't write about health issues, so I'm going to fail to mention that the muscles in my back are in spasm, and it's hard to sit down. Or lie down. Or stand up.

(I could have kept my head down. I might have kept my mouth shut.)

There. That brings you up to date.

Go listen to some good music: "I'm Gonna DJ" from the album Accelerate by REM. It's all good. Mostly. Okay, the muscle spasms not so much. Been there, done that. Once they went into spasm when I was standing on a roof, so this looks like Easy Street. It, too, will pass. Probably.

Okay, real blog post tomorrow. Maybe.

12 December 2010

The hills are alive

...with the sound of illness.

I suppose it's fitting given the way the rest of the week went (I'm opting to believe that today is the end of last week rather the beginning of next week).

The cat didn't start singing for his breakfast until 6:30 am, which was something, but then I was reawakened an hour later by the sound of the daughter being sick. So far, every half an hour...

And somewhere in the midst of cleaning up and doing laundry and planning for everyone else to go down with the stomach bug in the coming week, I suddenly realized that my throat was really sore. And that I was sneezing rather a lot. And that I had this irritating, raspy cough.

Hurrah.

While I tuck the daughter back into bed and stroke her hair, looking at her pale and unhappy face, I search for perspective. She is a strong and healthy girl with a bad dose of what's probably Norovirus. This is misery, but it's not a child whose already precarious health is being threatened by cholera. Yes, I hate having a runny nose. Yes, cleaning the bathroom every half an hour is a pain, but I have a bathroom to clean.

Still, it's never easy watching one's children get ill. Harder when they're younger, but they seem to return to that young and vulnerable state when they don't feel well. Relentlessly, I run through checklists in my head: fever? headache? rash? disorientation? dehydration? Also indicators for? And I know it's a fool's errand to set myself on this path, but it's how my brain works: what if I miss something crucial?

Possibly one of my more unfortunate tendencies.

Then as I stroke her hair and watch her eyelids flutter closed, I remind myself that I am fortunate that this, too, will pass.

Go listen to some good music: "The Sound of Music" from the album The Sound of Music [Original Soundtrack], music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Even though I want to whine, I don't cut myself a lot of slack with this sort of thing; I know that we're lucky to have a roof over our heads, access to health care and so on. Maybe one of my better tendencies. Still, ugh, I cannot emphasize how much I hate dealing with stomach illness. *shudder*

11 December 2010

Coming out the woodwork...

Like childbirth, one forgets the process of home renovation. There is so much pain before getting to the end result.

Installing the refrigerator was a week long ordeal. The refrigerator came and visited three times before it finally was bolted into its space. Construction was required.

It was ridiculous.

The window installers didn't make it Friday.

"Tomorrow?" the woman in the front office said hopefully yesterday. "Between 11 and 1?"

"Sure," I told her, swiftly calculating. The son was having a passel of classmates over to work on a final project for a class. They were due to arrive between 1 and 2...so the installers should be gone or close to gone.

And I still had to make a shopping run (for ingredients...didn't really have a refrigerator for a week) before assembling the dessert I am supposed to take to a party (yes, assembly required).

I washed up the new fridge and stocked it with what little was left from the week last night.

I went to bed pretty early. I actually slept for the first time in a week.

The spouse was meant to go for a massage at 9:30 in the morning. At 9:15 I ran out the door for a fast shopping trip.

At 9:30, my cell phone began vibrating madly in my pocket while I was perusing chocolate sprinkles in the baking aisle. I gasped loudly in surprise, and the man standing next to me looked at me like I was mad.

"They're here," the spouse said. "The window installers. I need to leave."

I ran for the check out. We'll draw a discreet veil over the wacky people who were in front me.

I got home and shooed the spouse out the door.

The window is in.

The cake is baking.

The pudding is cooling.

Labor, for the moment, is done.

Tomorrow is *sigh* another day.

Go listen to some good music: "Home by the Sea" from the album Genesis by Genesis. I know it's about a haunted house. But aren't all houses at least a little haunted, if only by the ghost of past bad renovations and horrendous contractors? Oh, the stories I could tell. Make your hair stand on end.

09 December 2010

Livin' la vida loca

Last night, I went to pick up the daughter from basketball practice. A fire truck, paramedic van and ambulance sat in the school driveway in the failing light. I ran across the street.

Crazy life? Mine is crazy. In good ways and bad ways.

The crazy, at least yesterday, was not so much in a good way.

The wall finally got patched about 7 pm last night. But not until after I had to call 5 drywallers to see if they'd do it (only 2 returned calls, and now I have to cancel the one who was coming tomorrow because in the end, my neighbor who is a contractor heard about my dire straits and showed up to fix it for me. Item: purchase one very nice bottle of wine for him.).

The son took his laptop to school yesterday for a project and returned home with a virus-laden machine, courtesy of one of his nitwit friends and said person's virus-laden flash drive. That was six hours of repair time.

And the ambulance, fire truck and paramedic van? I ran up to the glass doors of the school and the daughter came into lobby as I arrived. When she saw me, she burst into tears. She and her teammates were practicing when one of the girls tripped and fell, breaking her arm, quite horrifically, in two places. The daughter had never seen displaced bone or deformed, blackening flesh before and while one of the coaches helped the injured girl, the daughter was charged with getting someone to call for outside help.

As she told me this, I patted and soothed, and while we stood there, the injured girl was wheeled out.

"It's ok, L!" she said, and clearly she had been given something to ease her discomfort.

"Hey, look!" I whispered to the daughter. "She really lucked out. She got the cute firefighters!"

And the daughter laughed then because one of the men really was good looking.

And while I said aloud that a broken arm is really small in the overall scheme of things that can go wrong, I held a good thought for N.'s mother, because I know that for mothers, even a stubbed toe can look like disaster when it's your kid. And I know how miserable I'd be if it was my daughter with the broken arm.

Today, the coach commended the daughter for keeping her head in an emergency.

Tomorrow, the refrigerator should be installed. Perhaps the third time will be the charm. Tomorrow, the window that an energetic friend literally pulled out of its frame (the window's fifty years old. I suppose it's not surprising) will be replaced. Next week, I start interviewing men with sledgehammers.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

Though I look like more skimmed milk than mocha, I'll dance next time it rains. I will wear you out. I wear me out.

Life is crazy that way.

Go listen to some music: "Livin' la Vida Loca" from the album Ricky Martin by Ricky Martin. Poor little N. has surgery tomorrow to repair her arm, which really makes my heart ache for her family. My whole family has decided that this week really really really needs to end. Now.

07 December 2010

Believe it

So, I bought a refrigerator. Simple enough, no? NO.

Years ago, we remodeled our kitchen, nice custom cabinets, new appliances (the existing ones dated back to 1979), blah, blah, blah. I wouldn't, however, give up my existing refrigerator because it was only about a year old. I just couldn't see spending a fortune on a new one when the old one had plenty of life in it yet. But being at least somewhat clever, I had the space designed for a built-in. You know, home resale value and all that.

So. Cut to 2009, and the old Maytag begins to very literally fall apart. I nursed it along until now. And found a nice Thermador at a (sort of, but not really because built-ins are freaking expensive) reasonable price.

That was on Saturday.

If I get into the installation question, we'll be here all day. Suffice to say, the salespeople didn't talk to each other about who installs what where. They ended up throwing in a certified installer because they really screwed that one up.

So, it transpires I'm taking delivery on this thing yesterday. That was on Monday.

But! There are three steps leading up to our front door! GAH!

Everyone runs around in circles. Another person, a different dolly and a REAL installer are needed. For crying out loud. I make arrangements to be here this morning to take delivery of the refrigerator, again.

As it turns out, our original salesperson is also an installer. He shows up with refrigerator, special dolly and adjunct red shirt.

"I'm concerned about that pipe for the water line..." he says. To be very fair to him, he is tremendously professional, hugely apologetic and nice as pie.

And it turns out that the refrigerator cannot be installed because the plumber did not correctly install the water line for the space. Even though I have no intention of hooking up the ice maker, the roughed in pipe sticks out too far for the refrigerator to go in.

Just another reason to hate the plumber who worked on my kitchen because he really did screw up everything he touched, and I had to have him back countless times to fix leaks and connections that he didn't do right the first time.

So, here I sit waiting on a new plumber to show up and fix the latest problem.

I'll still be here tomorrow morning, waiting on delivery of the refrigerator. Maybe third time will be the charm.

Somehow, I doubt it.

Update, 1 pm: Just a plumber, huh? Nope, the plumber has come and gone. Now I'm trying to find someone to repair the drywall...

Go listen to some good music: "Believe It" from the album 7 Day Weekend by The CS Angels. No, the song has nothing to do with the post, really, but with other things that are going on. Really, there is always so much going on, and I don't write about 98% of it. And most amusingly, my best friend from high school called while I was in the process of unloading the old refrigerator for the second time this morning, and she and her family are coming to visit at Christmas. Very cool.

06 December 2010

Winter contingency

The son: "What are we doing this weekend?"

Me, groaning: "Really. Busy. Weekend."

The son: "Oh. Well, if I have to go to somebody's house Saturday morning...?"

Me: "?"

The son: "Finals project for History."

Me: "Well, somebody could come over here."

The son, into cellphone that I didn't know he was holding: "Dude. We can do it here. We just need to touch base with the other guys. That ok? Ok, man, talk to you later."

Me: "?"

The son, with some excitement: "...and then we can play on the Xbox when we're done with the project...!"

Me: "Uh, I don't remember saying anything about that."

The son, slightly severely: "Mom. These are the guys who know you play Halo."

Me, incredulously: "You want me to play with you?"

The son: "Rawk!"

Go listen to some music: "Winter Contingency" from the album Halo Reach (Original soundtrack) by Martin O'Donnell and Michael Salvatori. This was the funniest part of my day. I've been quite insanely busy and would rather be anywhere but here. But I have a contingency clause in my contract, though I can't use that option for a bit yet. Enough said?

03 December 2010

It's a world of laughter

We were en route to the optician to replace the son's glasses. He does a superb job of breaking them. Frequently. And he wears contacts most of the time.

I started whistling Muse's "Hysteria." Not that I was feeling particularly hysterical. It's just been running through my head.

(Another story entirely. Not in any way related to Muse.)

The daughter joined in.

The son sighed.

"Just so long as it's not 'Small World,'" he said.

In perfect harmony and with no preliminaries, the daughter and I began to sing loudly in unison:

"It's a small world after all, it's a small world after all, it's a small world after all, it's a small, small world!"

Go listen to some music: "It's a Small World (After All)," written by Richard and Robert Sherman. When I left the studio for another division, my VP told me gravely, "You know they play 'Small World' all day long on the PA, don't you?" As to the other, read the lyrics. No, not "Small World."

01 December 2010

Have we got contact?

Administrative stuff:

This is my blog and it's run by Blogger's TOS and it's governed by my rules.

I have one very big rule:

Play nice.

Spam is not nice. I moderate comments so spam comments never make it on board, and now I'm seeing what looks like spam followers. And evidently, spam followers can email my real followers with spam. That is not nice. So if I think you are a spam follower, you are blocked. Simple as that. If I've blocked you and you are a real person with a real interest in my blog (why?), please email me and I will reinstate you (Rule #2: Play fair). Real people: if you get spam email from anyone listed as following me, please email me and I will block that follower.

Are we all clear on this? Good. Because that brings us to rule #3:

Do not annoy me.

Go listen to some good music: "Contact" by The Police from the album Regatta de Blanc.