29 July 2011

Each another's audience

I am sitting in a self-consciously hip hotel, huge windows facing a performance space across the street that is equally glass fronted. It is dark out, rainy, and I have the shades up, the desk lamp on and angled toward the glass, and I watch the people moving about in the opposite building. Then the lights across the street are flashing on and off, on and off, and the small crowd swarms about. I realize belatedly that the lights are the house lights, the small crowd is being called to sit somewhere within.

If any of the crowd were to look across the street and up, they'd easily see me sitting here, tapping away. For all I know, someone did while I was editing and posting the photo that just went up on the photo blog. I like to watch people when I think I'm unobserved. I know others do the same.

Yesterday was A Day. Driving up from Princeton on I-95, something enormous hit the rental's windshield, cracking it from top to bottom. Ten miles later, a white station wagon one lane over suddenly began spinning across four lanes of traffic. Fortunately, everyone on the road at that moment except the driver of the station wagon had his or her game face on, and was able to stop as the station wagon slalomed back and forth and back again, crossing and recrossing the entire breadth of I-95. I'll never know what caused him to lose control of the car--I know it was a him; I could see his slack face as easily as he'd have been able to see me staring white-faced at him over my dash had he turned--and once he'd come to a stop, he took off again, racing on down the freeway.

I was still shaking when I got to the hotel a half-hour later, and the kids were uncharacteristically silent.

Today, yet another school. As the admissions officer gave her spiel, I watched the recent grad who was also presenting examine the audience, not that I was supposed to notice that. I'm sure it's strange for him, too, graduated from student to salesman. The oddest bit of all this for me is that little has changed about the process since I was applying to schools. Really, it's just the parents who have changed along with their approach to parenting (cookbook, recipe. I know I say that alot, but it's what the son and I see daily in his classmates and their parents. The school's college counselor is preaching the same gospel that I am).

I suppose this is where I tell you that I am not the one driving the applications to the Ivies. That's coming 100% from the kid. He's a driven boy and likes what he sees in these places and appreciates the opportunity to pursue a broad education. I'm not really surprised; he has a disproportionate amount of my DNA, and both the spouse and I are products of a very similar educational philosophy. He's spent years watching us and our approach to the world, has absorbed the fact that we never stop learning, never stop challenging ourselves and those around us.

So, I guess we had this coming.

It is a Friday night and I'm sitting at a desk in front of a large window in New Haven, Connecticut. I am watching the city burble along below me: people, cars, the occasional emergency vehicle. I never really lose sight of the fact that I am broadcasting here; that's really the point of the title of this blog: what I send out of the kitchen, and when I'm home, it's literal because that's where my desk is. But I often don't think about it, in much the same way that I fail to notice the people around me on the street, at the mall, at concerts. In the same way that they fail to notice that I, too, am watching.

In the same way that I see that years of my own actions and my love of the educational process may have spoken louder than any of the millions of words I've uttered throughout that time.

Go listen to some good music: "Limelight" from the album Moving Pictures by Rush. Yes, I've been rather one note in my musical leanings lately. And yes, the hotel is self-consciously hip, but it's also comfortable and rather cute. Also, I'd really rather be home with my cat. Finally, don't ever get the impression that I'm patting myself on the back for the way I've raised these kids. I'm following my gut and I'm scared to death.

28 July 2011

Learned my lesson

It's been a succession of cardboard cutout hotels with ghastly continental breakfasts (as a travel veteran, I keep a supply of real food close at hand. Thank god for apples) and dead boring information sessions.

Georgetown and Princeton are winning. The son was positively beaming after visiting both.

And I find myself with slight regret wishing for a do-over. I have the sense that I could have done so much more. But the journey is what it has been. I've done what I could with what I had. If things had gone differently, I wouldn't be here now with my child.

I knew nothing going into the college search. I had no assistance or advice. Neither of my parents had a college education, though both had attended schools. I was mostly on my own in figuring out the process. All I had on my side was a determination to get out.

So I probably seem overbearing to the son. Look for this, I tell him. Listen for that. I worry that I'm doing this right, that I'm doing right by him.

And yet, the weary admissions officers seem to be echoing what I've been telling him for years. They seem as uninterested in the "cookbook" as I have been. They want a person, not a test score. Success comes from within, and I hear so much subtext in their careful choice of words.

In between, there have been battlefields and encampments. I haven't seen much of the Northeast myself, and there is plenty to think about in quiet fields where battles once raged.

Meanwhile, as is often the case when I am away from home, chaos seems to rage elsewhere. The horror in Norway unfolded while the kids and I sat on Georgetown's campus, unthinkable to the three of us who have spent time in Oslo. But madmen are everywhere.

And the carry-on about the debt ceiling debate: Congress and the President are nothing more than a group of boys and girls crapping in their playpens. I am infuriated by this nonsense, this gamesmanship. I've never been big on corporal punishment for children, but I find I want to give them all a sharp slap and an admonishment to damn well grow up now and do the job they were elected to do.

And that's the scary part of this last week. Touring campuses with dead-eyed children playing on their phones while avid parents ask about test scores. This is the rising generation. I know there have to be like-minded people out there somewhere. I see it in some of the college students who are giving the tours. We just have to find them.

Go listen to some good music: "You're No Good" from the album Heart Like a Wheel by Linda Ronstadt. This hotel has a singing toilet...

24 July 2011

You are not me

The son, the daughter and I are in Washington, DC, not exactly rejoicing in a record-breaking heatwave. The spouse is silently smirking at home where it is 30 degrees cooler.

Okay, maybe 25.

In any event, the son was touring Georgetown U. on Friday and the heat index was 115. I've never actually been able to wring water from my clothing when it wasn't raining. I did on Friday.

But Georgetown!

It's a small joke in our house. It was my first choice school when I was looking. But then I found a new first choice school where I was accepted Early Decision, and where I met the spouse. My family was pretty unhappy that I ultimately didn't even apply to Georgetown. That decision changed the course of my life as these things will. And as I pointed out to the kids, they wouldn't exist if I'd gone to another school.

"Or we'd be grievously deformed!" cried the daughter. Not sure where she got that idea...

Anyway, the son really liked Georgetown a lot. I could see the wheels turning as the various presenters spoke, and he appeared very interested in some of their more specialized majors. I'd be happy if he decided to apply there because we've got a good familial support system in the area. Ultimately, it's so important to me that he find the campus where he can see himself.

But again I was struck with the strangeness of my child standing on the same campus where I'd stood at 17...

...in the middle of a record-breaking snowstorm.

Go listen to some good music: "Arlandria" from the album Wasting Light by Foo Fighters.

Sent from my iPhone

20 July 2011

And as we wind on down the road

A few years ago, when I was packing for a trip, I realized with a certain sense of dread that somewhere, at some time, completely unsuspecting, I had become high maintenance.

I've always sort of prided myself on being low maintenance. I go easy on the makeup. My hair will generally fall into some semblance of a bob if I give it a good, or at least a swift, brush. I fail to accessorize. If need be, I can be out the door in five minutes flat. I wouldn't necessarily say five-minutes-out-the-door is a look I want to cultivate, but I'm generally clean and modestly dressed if not particularly color-coordinated.

It must have been one of my concert trips. If it involves an airplane--and they usually do--it's usually a carry-on only ordeal event, and so I have to suffer through the stuffing of my toiletries into a one-quart bag. So, assembled the necessities, and as I assembled, I saw that bottles were multiplying...like rabbits. There was special shampoo and conditioner for my special hair as well as two styling products to make it look the way it was supposed to with a third if there should be rain; two serums for my aging skin, along with eye cream and face cream and night cream and cleanser, and eye anti-puff stuff and a cunning little stick that contained a goo to make my wrinkles look less wrinkly. There was sunscreen and body lotion and hand cream and cuticle cream and deodorant. Makeup primer, foundation, eye liner, mascara, eye shadow, lipstick and a lovely sort of gel that was supposed to make me look as if I was blushing.

Eeeeeeeeew.

It made me wonder what sort of magnet I'd become for those insidious marketing campaigns. Look younger! Be your most beautiful!

What does all that mean except that even I don't believe that I'm good enough as I am?

And so, I did cut back on the routine and all the little bottles and serums and potions. I haven't noticed much difference except that I look a bit older, probably because I am. And still, when I buy something innocuous--moisturizer or cleanser--it invariably comes with a minefield of wonderful little samples of the next glorious cosmetic breakthrough.

And I find myself wondering if I should buy a bottle.

Go listen to some good music: "Stairway to Heaven" from the album Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin.

16 July 2011

Seems to me it's chemistry

TV character 1: "He's got arsenic poisoning!"

TV character 2: "What cures arsenic poisoning?"

The son: "Mom?"

Me: "You'd need a chelating agent. Arsenic is a heavy metal. Something to bind it and flush it out of the system."

TV character 3: "Chelation! You need EDTA."

TV character 4: "????????"

TV character 3: "I don't know! I'm a surgeon, not a chemist!"

The son: "Mom?"

Me: "I don't know! I'm a writer and a mother, not a chemist!"

Go listen to some good music: "Chemistry" from the album Signals by Rush. The show was Torchwood, and I'm definitely paraphrasing the characters' dialogue, but that was the gist of it. Were my kids impressed that I knew about chelation therapy? No.

15 July 2011

It's time the fat cats had a heart attack

Dow Jones chief executive Les Hinton resigns amid News of the World's phone hacking scandal.

Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's News International, resigns. (Finally.)

Perhaps we'll see news that is a paler shade of yellow?

Go listen to some good music: "Uprising" from the album The Resistance by Muse. Biting my tongue, biting my tongue, biting my tongue, and have been for days.

14 July 2011

Like an English rain

I woke far too early this morning--before 5--and by 6, I was ravenous.

So I did what any self-respecting woman short on sleep would do: I fixed myself an enormous breakfast. Scrambled eggs (single whole egg, two egg whites) with mushrooms, bacon, broiled tomato, whole wheat toast, coffee. The smell of bacon woke the son, caused the spouse to hurry through his shower, rousted the daughter early from bed, and had Milton happily rolling all over the floor in anticipation of deliciousness. When a mushroom stem dropped on the floor, Milton pounced on it, kitten-like, and batted it all over the room.

No one (except, possibly, Milton) could believe there was a full-on cooked breakfast on a Thursday.

(It was almost an English breakfast--mushrooms and tomatoes FTW--but I have no truck with baked beans at that hour. When we were in London a few years back, both kids looked at the baked beans in the breakfast buffet with a sort of horror. I refrained from explaining the black pudding, just told them it was something they wouldn't like. This morning, the daughter fussed slightly because I did not make pancakes, and the son asked hopefully if I'd made coffee cake).

As the spouse pulled out of the drive at 7:30, replete and ready for an invigorating day in the field, it began to drizzle. Within fifteen minutes, it was spitting in earnest. By 8:15, the trees were dripping. As I write, an hour later, it is still going at it, and we can hear the water running through the gutters and out the downspouts. This is anomalous. We don't have cool mornings and drizzle in July.

Imagine if I'd made the baked beans.

Go listen to some good music: "The Camera Eye" from the album Moving Pictures by Rush. Sadly, I had no marmalade this morning, so guava jelly had to do. And I'm having the Irish breakfast tea now before I brave the grocery for the third time this week. Tiny update: blogging problems, so I'm pushing this again. And I made shortcakes... Which were good, and I'm still having blog issues.

12 July 2011

No one lives forever

The horoscope today told me very specifically not to get controversial (how do they know?), so I will just point you to The Good Short Life, a very moving opinion piece by Dudley Clendinen.

I will say that I understand what he means. And I will leave it at that.

Go listen to some good music: "No One Lives Forever" from the album Dead Man's Party by Oingo Boingo.

11 July 2011

Picnic suite for flute, guitar and jazz piano trio: I. Rococo

Well, no, I really don't want to cook much when it's hot. I'm not even very interested in eating.

This does not stop my family, of course, and they would happily heat up my kitchen with boiling pots of water and the oven set to 450F. The only thing I can do is forestall them with fast, easy meals.

You can stuff just about anything into a flour tortilla: meat, beans, cheese, vegetables. As kids, we'd melt butter on them, sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top, roll them up and devour. Not that that would make much of a dinner these days, but you get the idea.

By accident, I discovered a filling that everyone really likes: taco-spiced ground turkey. Generally, I avoid making tacos, burritos or chili with ground turkey because it's far too dry when cooked. When using it in meatloaf or burgers, I usually add an aioli or a small amount of other fat to lend some moisture and flavor. In this case, using a little water with the dry seasoning mix really brings up the flavor and moisture without adding any additional fat to the meat.

The jumping off point for the filling is this taco seasoning recipe I found online. All hail Mr. Echols because it really is delicious with a good balance of spices, and it's a far cry from the packaged versions (the spouse grew up with those. I won't use them). I do use less salt because so many processed meats, even fresh ones, contain salt solutions.

And of course, I changed the spice mix. But just a little to reflect the combination of flavors that I like (chipotle!), and it's been a huge success with family. And it's fast. And it's pretty healthy.

Taco-spiced turkey filling

2-1/2 teaspoons chili powder (Regular is good, but I like ground ancho chili, too)
1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 20-oz package of lean ground turkey

Mix the first 10 ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside. Brown turkey, breaking up into crumbles, in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the turkey is cooked, sprinkle spice mixture over the meat and add 1/4-1/3 cup of water. Stir turkey, spices and water together until the turkey is evenly coated, and simmer for 10 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated, stirring occasionally and scraping up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Serve with flour tortillas, grated cheese, chopped onion, shredded lettuce, and lime wedges. Four servings.

Go listen to some good music: "Picnic suite for flute, guitar and jazz piano trio: I. Rococo" from the album Picnic Suite by Claude Bolling, Daniel Humair, Guy Pederson & Jean-Pierre Rampal.

10 July 2011

Rhapsody in blue

The funny thing about Southern California, the Los Angeles area in particular, is that it's not hard to run into famous people. They are everywhere: at McDonald's, the grocery, the beach, a restaurant, outside a hotel. You don't even have to go to a trendy club; I used to see a well-known author at Dupar's quite regularly.

And of course, for years, I worked at Big Entertainment Company, where famous people of all sorts swarmed. Long before I got there, however, I'd developed some hard and fast rules about dealing with such people: those who are working (book signings, record release parties, otherwise engaged in business) are fair game; those who are not working are engaged in their private lives and are to be left alone. It's a system that's worked well for me, though I do speak when spoken to. Usually. If I can make my voice work.

My kids seem to be largely unaffected by the whole celebrity thing for the most part. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that we watch very little television, and they don't listen to any of the music aimed at their generation, so they could, for example, walk past the entire cast of Glee, and never know the difference. I can tell you that the daughter would be out cold if she ever saw David Tennant or Johnny Depp, and the son would have the same reaction to Liv Tyler or Alyson Hannigan. Kids and their crushes (as I said before, the gulf between 14 and 40 is often rather narrow...)!

The TV shows the daughter generally watches revolve around animals, and there are two of which she is quite fond: one about cats and cat breeds, the other about dogs and dog breeds.

And so it transpired that when we were planning the New York trip, the daughter said she wanted to go to the Algonquin Hotel. I was mildly puzzled given that I knew she hadn't read Dorothy Parker.

"Ok," I told her. "But why?"

"Matilda," she said firmly.

"Erm, who is Matilda?" I inquired. I wondered if it was another Eloise, though I didn't know how any character from a children's story could have escaped my notice.

"She is a cat," the daughter replied in her patented matter-of-fact daughter tone. "She works at the Algonquin."

It transpired that the cat TV show had featured a segment on working cats. I used to know several bookstore cats (and a few dogs), but had not heard of one at a hotel. Nonetheless, I promised the daughter we'd have a meal at the Algonquin and lie in wait for Matilda.

(It speaks volumes about the daughter that she wanted to see a cat, and would never have looked twice at any of the human commentators on this show. Then again, a well-known dog trainer with a popular TV show made an appearance in our neighborhood a few summers ago, and our response was to wonder why all the neighbors were out raising a ruckus. We can be low-key to the point of inert.)

On our second day in New York, I looked at my watch and determined we had enough time for lunch at the Algonquin, which happened to be nearby, before we needed to head off to our matinee of Wicked. I hoped the place wouldn't be busy, and it wasn't. We were seated right away, but not before the daughter spied an empty cat bed.

"It was near the door," she hissed at me, quivering with excitement. "Didn't you see it?"

I had to confess that I had not, as I was trying to assure myself that I wasn't dragging a minor into the hotel bar, a much greater concern to me.

After we gave our server our order, I told the daughter that I needed to visit the Ladies, and I would keep an eye out for her cat. The Algonquin lobby is lovely, but quite small, so it was not difficult to spot the large furry bundle curled up on the luggage cart, giving me a very officious fish eye. When I returned to the table, I told the daughter of my find, and she immediately requested directions to the Ladies, and vanished.

Our server, a very lovely man named Chuck, returned to fill our drinks, and he asked if we were visiting New York, and I told him that yes, the trip was a treat to celebrate the daughter's triumph over middle school. He wondered how we'd come to find out about the hotel, and I explained that I was there for the sake of literary history and the daughter was there to see Matilda.

"Ah," he laughed. "Our cat."

The daughter returned, disappointed. Matilda had moved elsewhere in that brief span.

We were enjoying our lunch when finally the daughter squeaked, "Mommy! I saw her!"

Matilda had gone skittering by the chairs in the lobby. The daughter was so intent on her quarry that she forgot her quesadilla.

"Finish your lunch," I told her quietly, "Then you can talk to her."

"Okay," the daughter replied, balancing a forkful while her eyes darted around the room.

A busser came around, and noting the daughter's watchful face, said, "Oh, that's the new Matilda. The old one retired. This one is...rambunctious."

And he told us how the cat had been mysteriously located on the 10th floor of the hotel.

It wasn't long before the daughter could no longer stand the wait. She told me she was full, and looked beseechingly at the spot where she'd last seen the cat. I excused her and settled the check, then collected our belongings. I found the daughter crouched on the floor holding her hand out to a totally disinterested Matilda. Usually, the daughter is a cat magnet, and all the little kitties come running to greet her, here at home, in Norway, in Iceland. Matilda, however, could not be persuaded to so much as look her direction.

After a few moments, the daughter, a bit hurt, gave up on her quest to speak with Matilda, who stalked off toward the bellman's desk.

I turned back as we exited, and Matilda sat down with her back very determinedly turned toward us.

"I'm sorry that she wouldn't play with you," I told the daughter who was wearing a little frown.

"Hmph," she replied, clearly disappointed with her failure to interest a celebrity.

Go listen to some good music: "Rhapsody in Blue" from the album Gershwin--Greatest Hits by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Earl Wild, Pasquale Cardillo. Before anyone gets riled: My children have very good manners with animals that are strangers to them, and the daughter's behaviour with Matilda was impeccable. She would not be allowed to behave otherwise. Also, I do not fault the cat for being a cat. And for the joy of it: I have been going on for weeks now about how nice the Round Table Room's staff was, and how wonderful our server was. The son even commented that "you keep talking about this guy." Chuck was a delight: perfect employee and wonderful raconteur. And I've just discovered he has his own page on the Algonquin's site, and is quite properly a celebrity in his own right.

08 July 2011

Private eyes

I am currently on my high horse, so if you're not in the mood, you can go look at a nice picture of the ocean on When All This Actual Life Played Out. Otherwise, feel free to stick around.

*sigh*

Well, I've started a huge diatribe about social media and my dislike thereof (all of which is aimed at this change that a certain search provider/software company is implenting in its profiles. Because I happen to use a lot of this company's products. And I'm not happy with the direction this is moving. Less happy that I may have to make a blogging platform change because of it...or drop blogging altogether) but I haven't the energy to finish at the moment.

Anyway, although I'm annoyed by all of the above, I'm quite pleased with the outcome of tonight's baseball game. Poor Bourjos hurt himself last night running the bases, and they brought up a young prospect, Mike Trout. We are, of course, laughing...it's all about the fish. First, Tim Salmon, now a young Trout.

"What next?" the spouse wondered. "Minnow? Flounder?"

Anyway, Mr. Trout acquitted himself well, and I've officially gone from being shocked that ball players are my age (well, that was a few years ago) to ballplayers being 2 years older than my son. When did that happen?

And I'm also immensely pleased for said son who produced this like a rabbit out of his hat:


He took four AP courses this past academic year, one of which also counted for IB and he took an additional IB course. He further was the star of one theater production, and had a supporting role in a second, all the while helping to produce each monthly video newsmagazine for the school. In addition to his community service. And somehow finding time to play on the Xbox. While acting as mentor, confidant, friend, and tutor to a wide range of classmates and peers.

And he mows the lawn.

He's polite, well-socialized and people like him.

I have good reason to be proud.

Go listen to some good music: "Private Eyes" from the album Private Eyes by Hall & Oates. For those unfamiliar with the U.S. secondary school system, AP is Advanced Placement and IB is International Baccalaureate. Assuming the son completes all the requirements and does well his senior year, he will receive two diplomas: high school and IB. The AP classes should allow him waivers for some college classes, and he's already accrued college credit for his Calculus class, which was basically taking two years worth of Calculus in one. Sure, there are kids who do more, but I also force mine to have a life and cut him a little slack if he doesn't win a Nobel by 18.

07 July 2011

You know she's never gonna stop moving

For the last six weeks or so, I've been held in thrall. Irrational exuberance. Boundless optimism. Mysterious excitement. Unholy anticipation.

I have a pretty good sense of its source. Sometimes I just know. And it's such a good thing. I haven't been this happy since the world fell apart in the latter part of 2008.

The son and I are currently plotting his trip to visit universities, 600 miles worth of august institutions spanning the coast from Washington, D.C., to New Hampshire, a trek he and I will undertake later in the summer. In the fall, it's likely we will fly to Chicago, and at some point, there will be a run up to northern California. He still seems a bit passive about the whole college bit, which alarms me, but he is pretty adamant about getting out of So Cal, which also alarms me, but mostly because I'm not at a place where I can imagine letting him go. I'm all for the leaving So Cal part.

And I worry about the whole college thing these days. I've been fairly cavalier about encouraging him to aim high, but I don't want to be the one who sets him up for disaster.

(You know, just best that I not continue this particular train of thought. It encompasses people behaving badly, the horrific state of the world, does a university education even have value any more...all otherwise known as the Downward Spiral. And while that's all very valid, it's also highly unproductive.)

So back to that curious sense of joy...I'll be happy to be traveling. But there is so much more percolating along in my busy little brain.

So much possibility.

Go listen to some good music: "Baker Street" from the album City to City by Gerry Rafferty. This song came out when I was a teen, a few years younger than the son is now. One of those loved-it-when-I heard-it pieces. It's a song that continues to make curious and frighteningly appropriate appearances in my life, and I hear it in the strangest places, usually when my life is at a crossroads as I hurtle between frustration and exhiliration. I'm quite partial to the Foo Fighters' cover, but I have the original on vinyl.

06 July 2011

We are young

It's always been interesting to me how the process of high school or college leaves such a meaningful and indelible mark on some people's lives. So many I've known over the years want to return to those times the way others seem to want to return to the womb. I respect their feelings, but I don't understand them, really. Both those epochs as well as graduate school were stepping stones--frequently fun, frequently not--and vitally important to how I got where I continue to go, paths to knowledge, but means for me, not ends in themselves.

Every few months, we get little magazines from our various schools. The spouse generally tosses them aside with a sneer, but I'll glance through them to read about what's what. I always find it a little funny, a little sad, a little puzzling to see how things have changed and stayed the same, how people continue to delineate their experience, how they testify to its import still in their lives. Today, though, I was shocked, once again, to read of the death of a classmate. She was a year older than I am, and was not someone I knew terribly well, and eventually was lost to the mists of time and the natural attrition in acquaintanceships when what you shared--a college--has been left in the past.

Still, the news troubled me. I've lost many friends and former classmates in the last few years, mostly to illness, a few to accident, and it feels as though we are far too young for this. We are in our 40s, what is supposed to be middle age.

A few years ago, we got word from the wife of one of the couples we've known for eons, who've been our friends for years, that her husband had had a major stroke--at the age of 47. He was an active man with no real risk factors, and his life was saved by the fact that he collapsed in a group of people who recognized what was happening and got him medical help immediately. He made a full recovery, for which we were profoundly grateful, but even now, the thought of how close we came to losing him forever sends a little chill down my spine. Their kids are of an age with ours, one a little older, the other a little younger, and I cannot picture their family without him.

I'm no stranger to the cascade failure of the corpus, though I consider myself quite healthy, and I continue to live a very active life. Funnily, I find myself reassuring my doctors sometimes when they look at me, faces lined with concern, as they say, "You're too young..."

Go listen to some music: "Love is a Battlefield" from the album Best Shots by Pat Benatar. Studies are increasingly documenting the rise of the diseases of old age in younger people. Type 2 diabetes and stroke both are becoming increasingly problematic, hitting people as young as their 20s. Good reason to maintain a healthy diet and an appropriately active lifestyle.

05 July 2011

Scatter as they blow away

The night was black. High above me, a tiny aircraft twinkled, light blinking on and off, a moving diamond in the sky, clear and shining on the velvet backdrop.

I felt a tug deep within, the call of summer nights past.

Stars were brighter when I was a child, the night darker. The air was warm and fragrant with flowers, sage, rain and ozone. We ran wild in the dark, kicking up the light desert dust, neighborhood games of hide and seek in full spate, hands smacking against damp arms and backs as It tried to tag those seeking home. Lightning might flicker in the distance, illuminating a mountain ridge, igniting a small fire, tiny flare far away, while the trees tossed in the heavy breeze, a harbinger of a midnight monsoon. Some nights the moon played hide and seek with us, ducking behind a cloud and then dodging out to light our game once again.

Panting laughter accompanied the running feet. At least until the shriek of someone running into a cactus or a tree branch.

Later, we'd sprawl on lawn chairs, ridged plastic digging into our legs and backs, our feet, newly released from shoes, throbbing from contact with stones and stickers. We'd watch meteors fly overhead, try to keep count of the falling stars, our murmurs a soft counterpoint to the noisy insect chorus of buzzes and chirrups. From the trees, the mockingbird offered his insistent song of courtship. On rainy nights, when the toads emerged from their muddy burrows, they'd add their peculiarly goat-like call to the orchestra.

But on the clearest nights, the stars sparkled overhead like a gem-laden necklace, all cool blues and fiery reds, our own display window, finer than any jeweler could even hope to imagine.

Kids would drift off, promises to regroup the next night, resume our game. After the freedom of the open air, the house always felt tiny, restrictive. The incandescent lights seemed somehow false after the night, the air within those walls stale and uninviting. My body yearned after the expanse of outside, opened with a desire for infinity. I was uncontainable. I held worlds, galaxies, within the sphere of my being. Everything was possible in the space of a summer night.

Before I pulled the curtains closed, I watched that tiny diamond move across the sky and I felt something reach down into my center, pulling that child to the surface. My soul unfolded up and out, stretching out for miles, touching everything and everyone I've ever loved.

Go listen to some good music: "Bridge Burning" from the album Wasting Light by Foo Fighters. Sometimes our bridges are burned out from under us. This can be called adulthood, responsibility, circumstance. Those nights were magic, and sometimes still, I feel what I felt then, the prickle that tells me the world is alive and waiting.

04 July 2011

Raising a flag

(Trust me, the song choice has nothing to do with anything. I had no failsafe today...it was all fail.)

I rose early to make pie. Lemon meringue is my father-in-law's favorite. No one ever makes it for him.

You would think, however, that I would stick with the recipe I've used in the past. No. I had to get fancy.

It started with the crust. The crust was a known quantity. The first crust collapsed during baking. The second crust tried, but I was waiting, and salvaged it.

Phew.

So, I made the custard. Not a big thing, really. Not much more difficult than stirring a pudding.

HA!

Worst recipe ever. Not only did the custard not set (made to the letter according to the recipe, which was my first mistake. I never follow recipes verbatim), it had a nasty cornstarch flavor to it. I will admit that the meringue was very good, but I used to make meringue cookies for fun. I don't mind standing there beating egg whites and sugar until everything is all shiny and makes good peaks, which is to say, when the cows come home. Really, a good meringue takes time.

So, after hours of chilling, I went to serve the pie. Nope. It was crust and meringue and lemon soup. Urgh.

So much for that idea.

(But the blueberry cobbler I made was pretty and tasty. So there was that.)

Go listen to some good music: "Failsafe" from the album Challengers by The New P*rnographers.

03 July 2011

Summertime when the weather is hot

...And it has been hot. And humid.

Today, we shopped at the grocery (early), gardened (early) and cooked for tomorrow's festivities. I've made hummus and a huge bowl of southern-style potato salad so far. I harvested lemons from the my Eureka lemon tree and made lemon martinis (bad idea) and juiced more for lemon meringue pie (which I will make tomorrow. Good idea).

The lemon martinis made me way too happy.

I left an enormous bag of lemons on the front walk--the norm around here. When someone has too much produce from the garden, we leave it for anyone who wants it. And in this way, I end up with zucchini and pomegranates and other summer delights. The bag was almost immediately snatched up by one of my neighbors. I would guess that someone is planning to make lemonade.

Or something.

It was hot and humid, and the baseball game played in the background while I cooked and drank martinis. The Angels beat the Dodgers. The Angels have been terrible this year. The Dodgers have been worse. It's hard not to feel sorry for the latter, given the terrible turmoil the team has been forced into.

The son is playing a text-based RPG that I played at his age, on a dumb terminal, without the benefit of walkthroughs. Silly child. It was free in those days.

The daughter came out and chopped celery for the potato salad and ate the green pepper almost as fast as I could cut it. Some green pepper actually did make it into the salad.

Tomorrow is the Fourth, a gala day in the neighborhood. It will be hot. And humid. There will be neighbors and pancakes in the morning, and chaos throughout the rest of the day.

I still have at least 20 lbs of lemons on my lemon tree. That will make a lot of lemon martinis.

Go listen to some music: "In the Summertime" from the album Electronically Tested by Mungo Jerry. The lemon martinis are better than any sort of lemonade...but that's the martinis talking.

01 July 2011

Angels and devils

Well, that was quite the week. One more hurdle.

Because I am tired (and lazy), I will leave you with these with no further ado (or explanation).





Go listen to some music: "Angels and Devils" from the album Express by Love and Rockets. I know the post should more properly be called "Hicks and Devils," but there you have it.