Dichotomy

Laundry is finished, dinner has been eaten, dishes done.  Too early to start worrying about Monday morning yet; it is the end of a beautiful, packed-full weekend.

It was a weekend full of dichotomies: happiness and sadness, busy-ness and time for reflection, excess and….minimalism.  Let me explain.

My sister and brother in law are starting a brand new adventure, and, while that is their story to tell, it involves getting rid of literally almost everything they own. Everything. And they own a lot, as do we all. As I’ll explain my sources in a minute, the average household has 300,000 items in it – yes, three hundred thousand. They had not moved in 20 years, so I’m pretty sure they had more than that, especially considering my sister has kept every item of clothing, from the 1960’s on, that she has ever bought.  So let’s say they have 500,000 items in their home, and they are getting rid of it all.  What an undertaking! I am so jealous.

Or, I was until she called me up and offered me anything I want to come and get.  Because I have a daughter about to graduate and become all adulty, and a son who is about to move into a new place, we agreed that they could benefit, and start lives with stuff better than the cinder blocks and 2×4’s that all young people should start out with.  So Bruce rented a trailer, and we drove both the truck and my car down to Houston, to help empty the house of some of the 500,000 items.

Here is where the dichotomies start to kick in.  On the way down, I was listening to The Minimalists podcasts.  These guys are the gurus of the Minimalist Movement, and I recommend their podcasts to everyone – they are funny, intelligent, and thought provoking. They are my source for the #300,000 estimate. So I was tooling down the road, listening to all the reasons to get rid of stuff, on my way to pick up stuff. Lots of stuff.

Seeing my sister always, always, always fills me with joy.  We have one of the closest-knit families I know of, and, even though we don’t see each other that often, maybe 3 times a year, it’s usually in the middle, at my brother’s house. So I don’t get to Houston that often, and, every time I go, I am reminded why. Houston sucks. That isn’t being ugly, that’s just the truth. Seeing her and my brother in law this time, as usual, made me so happy, but I was also trying not to cry for a majority of the time, because she is moving far away, and I don’t like it.  I’ll probably see her about as often (gotta love fly miles!), but it’s the knowledge that she isn’t in Texas anymore is what is making me sad, I think. I knew that if I started crying, she would start crying, so I looked up at the sky a lot, to make the tears run back into my head (this was a trick we used when our dad called us into the office when we were in trouble.  He hated it when we cried, so we would look up at the ceiling so the tears wouldn’t run down our faces. He probably had no idea what the hell we were doing, and it didn’t matter – we were in trouble, and he was going to tell us why and how we were going to improve. Immediately).

Bruce rented a 12′ trailer, and, as I looked at the trailer, and looked at all the items I had “claimed” in the name of my kids, I knew it was not going to all fit. And said so, repeatedly and loudly. My husband looked at me with derision in his eye, and said something along the lines of “Hush, woman, you have no idea what you are talking about” (he would NEVER actually say those words. He values his life too much – but I could tell he was thinking it), and proceeded to prove me wrong, which, I’m sure, brought him a tiny bit of joy, as well.  He and my brother in law were BEASTS.  They, in the hot Texas sun, in the cloying Houston humidity, loaded, in the truck interior, the truck bed and the trailer: A refrigerator, a washer and dryer, a baker’s rack, a full rolling toolbox, an antique dresser, a huge wooden bar, 2 bar stools, 2 chain saws, 2 couches, 2 glass-topped tables, a hedge trimmer, a child’s rocking chair, all the lawn ornaments you could possibly want or need, a wind chime that is loud enough and large enough to be used in a church bell tower, a bazillion-foot extension cord on a hose reel (how clever is that?!), and then packed all the nooks and crannies with more essential stuff. Meanwhile, my sister and I loaded my car with an antique lamp and a small cabinet. And we had to rest afterwards.  We did get a few things packed inside (inside the house in the air conditioning, I mean).  At the end of the day, after we had finished loading up, after Goodwill had come and gone, and a friend had come to get the bedroom suite, there was a small dent in the number of items to be culled, and we ate a take out meal and had some adult bevs.  The evening cooled down, and we were able to laugh, and talk, and tell stories on the back patio, as our old, sad bodies all seized up, leaving us almost unable to get up to go set up the air mattresses.  Or that could have been the wine. Hard to tell.

I will say that when I woke up the next morning, I literally had to crawl from the air mattress to the bathroom to find something to hang on to so I could stand up. Getting old is hell.

Sister and I blew up the mattresses, and then, having no more energy, laid down on them “to test them out,” and just talked.  As we often do, talk turned to our parents, and she said something, I wish I could remember what, and then spoke to the heavens “Mom, are you listening??” We cracked up.

The next morning, we rolled out looking like the Clampetts, only needing Granny in a rocking chair on the top of the truck to complete the scene. The drive was a little longer going home, with the load on the trailer and in the cars, and, again, I listened to The Minimalist podcasts.  Having seen all the stuff that was in that house, that had to be sorted through, thrown out, given away, sold, and the remaining packed up, minimalism was sounding better and better – except I was going home with enough stuff to fill our garage, once we got it all unloaded.

My weekend in a nutshell: happy to see my family, sad to see them move. Excited for their new opportunity, wanting everything to stay the same, always. Bruce was right, and I was wrong. Stocking up for the kids, kids nowhere to be found. Listening to about 8 hours of minimalism, spending about 8 hours acquiring a butt-tonnage of possessions.

Finally, one of the pieces I am keeping for myself, at least for a little while. My mom had it hanging outside her back door, then my sister did, and now Bruce has hung it up for me outside of ours. It’s simple, but brings me joy.

I hope you have a grand week, in every way.

On Writing – The Good and The Terribly Bad

** my apologies for the wonky formatting; no idea why or how it is not doing it’s  usual thing.

It has been forever since I have posted – my last post was well before Christmas, and here it is already March Summer in Texas.  No idea why my muses had temporarily abandoned me, I just haven’t had anything to write about.  But I have been reading, a lot.  And I’m trying to assimilate – is that the right word? – the difference between good writing and bad. Assimilate is not the correct word.  I’ll think of the perfect one later.  Anyway, I have read some astonishingly bad stuff, or tried to – I mostly put a book down and walk away if it irritates me too much. Here is an example of really bad, from The First Shot (Lieutenant Kane – Dedicated to Death Series Book 1) by E.H. Reinhard:

“I pulled out my notepad from my suit jacket’s inner pocket and wrote down the husband’s phone number as the captain gave it to me.”

Really? It was crucial to the story that I know he pulled the damned notepad from his suit, jacket’s, inner, pocket?  And that the captain, who was the only other person in the room, so was the only one who could give him the number, needed to be referenced as the purveyor of said number? I got so het up over this sentence, I almost stopped there.  But I persevered.  Until I got to this sentence:

“I left Rick in the lab and took the stairs up to the third floor. I walked to my office, unlocked the door, turned on the lights, and grabbed a seat at my desk. I tossed my keys into the rolling drawer of my desk and glanced over at the wall clock—a couple of minutes past seven thirty.”

Oh.My.God.  This author was sending me into a coma.

Several years ago, I read that, when writing, you give the important bits of the plot more detail, and the less important bits less detail, which, at the time, seemed like a revelation to me (I told my niece-the-creative-writing-major this, and she looked at me with such pity in her eyes, I just cringed), but, apparently, this author had not read the same So You Want To Write A Book book.  I never did find out who the murderer was.

That is a lie. I skipped ahead and read the last few pages.  Spoiler Alert: the police officer did it.  (Like you were going to read it anyway, after these previews. Please.)

On the other  hand, sometimes I come across jewels of writing.  My daughter and I were recently reading the same book on a trip we were taking together. She had recommended it, and I always love her choices in reading. She reads thoughtful, non-fiction books, while I usually read escapist fiction.   Here is a great quote, from No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering  by Clara Bensen.  The book is about the author and her companion’s 3 week vacation in which they took absolutely nothing but her small purse, and just…traveled.  It is a great book.  The writing made us both laugh, smile, point out sections to each other, and, even better, consider.

“Yes, we must dream our big dreams and our secret desires, but dream them lightly. Follow them nimbly. Adapt, flow, and alter course as life lobs unexpected surprises in our direction. There will be occasions that require us to set old dreams down and gather new ones up. For every flourishing period of action and realization, there may also be dry periods that push us into the desert, devoid of direction. As in nature, these cycles are natural—necessary even.”
Now that is beautifully written, and, as we were reading it on the way home from our own vacation (full suitcase, backpack, cpap bag, and large purse, for 4 days away, thank you very much – no wearing one outfit for three weeks for me), especially evocative. I want to write like that. Of course, my impetus is to make people admire me, and tell me how wonderful I am – I run on compliments. It occurs to me that perhaps I am not writing for all the right reasons, and that may be a large part of my dry spell.
Recently, a friend asked me to help her with her cover letter for grad school. She sent me her notes, which were mostly free flowing, and I smugly reorganized them, pepped them up a little, added some frou-frou, and sent her back what I thought was a great cover letter.  Until she emailed me the final draft. She had taken my pitiful attempt and turned it in to a masterpiece.  It was beautiful, succinct, intimate without being maudlin, and, best of all, got her into grad school!  It bore very little resemblance to the paragraphs I had provided; if I squinted my eyes really hard and turned my head sideways, I could almost see a few of the picked-clean bones, but, since I started from what she provided, all I could claim for fame was cutting and pasting. I hate it when my smugness turns around and gives me the finger.
I think I’ve mentioned before that every morning I read The Writer’s Almanac, from Garrison Keillor, of A Prairie Home Companion fame.  I read it over morning coffee, and enjoy it all the more because I know my siblings are reading it at roughly the same time in their homes, with their coffee.  Often we will forward it to each other, with notes like “The poem today reminded me of mom!” or “Wow! I had no idea George II was responsible for us all standing for the Hallelujah Chorus!” and everyone will comment.  I sometimes reference it in my own little daily message I send out to the staff at school.  I had a point here, and now I can’t think of it. Squirrel.  Anyway, here is a recent poem featured that cracked me up.
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
by Tony Hoagland Listen Online

On Friday afternoon David said he was divesting his holdings
in Stephanie dot org.
And Cindy announced she was getting rid of all her Dan-obelia,
and did anyone want a tennis racket or a cardigan?

Alice told Michael that she was transplanting herself
to another brand of potting soil
And Jason composed a 3-chord blues song called
“I Can’t Rake Your Leaves Anymore Mama,”
then insisted on playing it
over his speakerphone to Ellen.

The moon rose up in the western sky
with an expression of complete exhaustion,
like a 38-year old single mother
standing at the edge of the playground. Right at that moment

Betty was extracting coil after coil of Andrew’s
emotional intestines
through a verbal incision she had made in his heart,
and Jane was parachuting into an Ani Difranco concert
wearing a banner saying, Get Lost, Mark Resnick.

That’s how you find out:
out of the blue.
And it hurts, baby, it really hurts,
because breaking up is hard to do.

Isn’t that wonderful?  Especially the “extracting coil after coil of Andrew’s emotional intestines” part.  Ouch.  We have all experienced that pain at some point, but only Mr. Hoagland expressed it so we remember just how excruciating the pain was, and explained it to us.  That right there is good writing, dammit.

And, finally, an author recommendation, someone who does know how to write, and has just written his second, very intense, enthralling novel: D.L. Young. His books are about a future post-secession apocalyptic Texas. Interestingly, the protagonists in both his books are young women. I do try very hard not to gender-type, but I have rarely found a male who writes a woman character as well as he does.  Indigo is his first novel, and his second, Soledad, is just about to come out – I had the privilege of reading it before it’s publishing date, thanks to Important People I Know – my brother-in-law, who is a friend of Mr. Young.    These are books that I became immersed in, and felt the dusty, hot, west Texas wind pummeling me as I read. The house needed cleaning, and I was so tired my eyes felt like they were bleeding, but I had to read to the end. Great books, highly recommend. If I knew how to put a link in here, I would, but I know y’all know how to Amazon.

Find them, buy them. Then thank me, because I’m all about the praise….

Postscript: I typed this entire post with a sticking C key.  Writing is hard.

Post-Post Script: Hah! Assimilate is the correct word! I rock. Go me.

as·sim·i·late
verb
1.take in (information, ideas, or culture) and understand fully.

A New York State of Mind

My mom subscribed to the New Yorker Magazine for my entire life. This girl from Winfield, Kansas, mother of four, read it cover to cover every month. She knew which plays were performing on Broadway, what the critics said about the plays, and which were Tony Award worthy. She read Talk of the Town, every guest essayist, all the cartoons, the poetry, and the book reviews. Heaven help me if I got to the New Yorker first and read the cartoons – the only part I was interested in. And, although in later years she traveled all over the world with my dad, I don’t think she ever made it to New York, other than to pass through La Guardia or Kennedy airports, on her way to adventure.

Which brings me, somewhat obliquely, to a secret I have been keeping for 6 months or so.

In April of this year, in a semi-inebriated state, I wrote a pome (no, not a mispell, an attempt at humor).  It was about my mom, and I thought it was good, so I shared it with my sibs, and, my brother, who is my biggest supporter, fan, encourager of my writing, urged me to submit it somewhere, because he thought is was good, too.  My sisters further cheered me on (at that point, I’m pretty sure we were all a touch inebriated), and The New Yorker was the only magazine that we knew of that accepted unsolicited material.

So I did.  I went to The Google, which sent me to the Poetry Submission website, and I submitted it.  Part of the deal is that you don’t publish it anywhere else. The rest of the deal is that the editors put it in a queue, to be read at their convenience, and, if you check back regularly, you can see where you are in that queue: submitted, up for review, reviewing, reviewed, accepted or denied.  And they were upfront – it would take six months.  They must get a huge amount of poetry submitted, the poor bastards.  Reading it all, every day, poem after poem, some good, some astonishingly bad, would drive any one over the brink. I bet they don’t last long in the job – either they get burnt out, or get brain freeze, cease to function, or they are promoted out of pity or admiration, to review plays and essays by James Joyce or Steve Martin (who is an amazing writer, even if I can’t stand him as an actor).  Or they are sent to The Home For New Yorker Reviewers, to have their diapers changed regularly and their apple sauce spoon fed to them.

The poem I wrote was, ultimately, rejected.  But, strangely, I am ok with that, because I was considered for publication by The New Yorker. How cool is that?? I have to say it again, because it sounds so amazing: I was considered for publication by The New Yorker Magazine. A real-life editor read my poem, and considered putting it in the magazine. Ultimately, of course, he, or she, the rat bastard, decided not to publish, but, STILL.  For six months, I was in a state of…wonder.  I wondered if they, he or she, was reading right then, as I toasted my english muffin, or entered another purchase order, or washed the dishes. (I never wondered while exercising, because that just didn’t happen. And if I was exercising, which I wasn’t, I wasn’t thinking about my poem being published, I was cursing the world for the necessity of exercising, which is so ridiculously unfair)(but I digress. Again.)

So, at the end of October, I received my response, and it was a big ol’ No. I’m okay with that.  At the doctor’s office the other day, there was a months-old New Yorker, and I flipped through it, imagining my poem printed on the slick magazine page, in the New Yorker font, and smiled sadly to myself; what might have been. And how I would have jumped around and yelled “In Your FACE!” to everyone who has ever poo-poo’d my love of writing, imagining my buying 50 copies and sending them all to now-long-dead English Professors, especially that bitch TA my first year of college that GAVE ME A C- on my first paper, I HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL, but also to those who love me and wish me only the best in life. It was a wonderful fantasy, but, alas, not to be.

So, you, my faithful 30 followers, get to read it first (well, after my family)(which makes up a large portion of my readership), and form your own opinions on my poetic abilities.  Just be thankful I am not bombarding you with the poems I wrote when I was sixteen, and Edgar Allen Poe was way too prominent in my life,  or 18, when unrequited love held sway on my pen and ink.  No, wine is the sole source of my artistic abilities at this point in my life, my muse, as it were. Be gentle with your reviews, dear reader, after all, I’ve been reviewed by The New Yorker Magazine…..

Checking In

I thought I was calling

to check up on you

Every evening,

A cheerful end to the day

How are you, Mom?

How was your day?

News of grandchildren, work

good and bad

Turned into life advice,

problems solved,

recipes parsed.

I thought I was calling

to check up on you

But I was calling you

to check up on me.

 

Not one more thing.

I do not need any more hobbies.  I read, I sew, I crochet, I make jewelry, I binge-watch Netflix shows, I meddle in other people’s affairs,  I cook (that is a big fat lie.  I do not cook. Ever. My future grandkids had better have another grandma that bakes cookies for them, because I will not be that grandma.  I’ll be the grandma that takes them to bars).   Goodness, I’m such a Renaissance Woman!

But I digress.

As I said, I do not need any more hobbies.  But when my favorite niece sent me a picture of a fairy garden, I fell in love with it. She had seen it at a Renaissance Fair (How many people do you know that can work Renaissance two (now three) times into a post? Not many, I bet), and on-sent it, suggesting that I should start working on a similar one immediately.  I have some experience with fairy gardens, having spent the better part of last year building an inside landscape for fairies, but this one will be outside, amongst the wisteria vines.  And Bruce is all for it, already figuring out how to mount the various platforms and stages.

fairy-garden

Isn’t it beautiful? The best part of this garden is it’s populated! It has actual fairies in it – lounging  about, sharing fairy gossip, muttering incantations and spells, plotting mysterious adventures.  So my first thought for my garden was that I needed to start making fairies immediately!

fairy-health

My sister had given me this fairy several years ago, and I thought that I could surely model my fairies after her, working with oven-baked clay, sometimes called Fimo or Sculpey clay.  I made a couple of very simple bodies, and they turned out ok, but realized afterwards that I have to clothe them at the same time, before I bake them, so I put those away.  In the meantime, I went to Michaels and spent a lot of money in a frenzy, buying ALL the different colors and kinds of clay, a couple of molds, a tool or two…in short, setting up a new hobby. Which I didn’t need in my life.

One evening I got everything out, and started rolling clay, shaping it into bodies and parts, pants and plants, keeping it fairly simple, but still, I spent the better part of three hours, without a whole lot of product at the end.  I used almost every kind and color of clay at least once, to see what results I would get from each one.  I then carefully placed them on a pan, read the directions carefully from the side of one of the packages, set them in the oven, and wandered off to read and snuggle with animals, pleased with myself and my burgeoning sculpting talents.  About 30 minutes later, the timer dinged and I leapt up, excited about seeing the first denizens of my fairy garden!

fairy-disaster-2

Need a closer look?

fairy-disaster

Anyone have some spare time to fill , but need a starter kit?  I can make you a deal.  As it turns out, I really don’t need another hobby.

 

Willows and Books

In my paradise of a back yard, we have a volunteer weeping willow.  Volunteer because it arrived unnoticed, took root and grew without us (Bruce) planning or planting it.  And the tree is one of my very favorite things.  It’s leaves and branches sway and dance in the slightest Texas breeze, and watching it is more soothing to my soul than even an aquarium.  It is especially beautiful in Spring, when the leaves are just budding out in lime green against the deep azure sky, lovely and graceful.

And The Wind In the Willows is one of my favorite books; Mole and Ratty and Mr. Toad, who, at first glance live in a children’s book, but I re-read this book at least every year, and find just as much joy and laughter in it as an adult.

Which brings us to today’s rant.

Daughter and I were at Cracker Barrel, shopping in the country store, as you do after a much too large breakfast, and she found a book of children’s stories, picking it up because it had wonderful illustrations.  It included The Wind in the Willows, Black Beauty, Treasure Island, and about 5 others.  BUT EACH BOOK WAS ONLY 20 OR SO PAGES.  Literally, The Wind in the Willows started on page 100, and Black Beauty started on page 122. I almost lost my pancakes, I was so horrified.  How can you appreciate Badger’s wisdom, and Mr. Toad’s adventures, in only 20 pages?  How can you cry your soul out over Black Beauty’s horrible mistreatment, holding the story in your heart forever, in only 20 pages?  How can you become a fierce pirate and sail the seven seas in only 20 pages?  This book is a travesty, and, while I abhor censorship in any fashion, feel that this book is certainly at the top of the list, no, the only one ON the list, to be burned.

Ok. Rant over.  Here is a soothing willow for you to view. Carry on.

willow

Postscript:  My squirrel brought her babies around to visit!baby-squirrels

Nature and bugs and stuff

Even thought I was born in Texas, I grew up in Orange County, California.  I learned to drive on the 405 and the 5, shopped occasionally on Rodeo Drive, and, while not a Valley Girl, certainly had no interaction with nature at any time. I once got close to it at a dude ranch, but managed to pretty much avoid it all other times.  My feet, in their 4 inch high Candys, did not touch anything but paved roads and shopping center tile.

But then I moved back to Texas, and fell in love with a small town country boy, boots and all.  No idea what I was thinking.  And, since then, he has opened my eyes and taken me to Places of Nature, both local and international.  I have camped out, I have woken up in a house with cows in the front yard, I have met and had my picture taken with a steer that I would later eat.  On an even more nature-y scale, I have seen whales wave their flukes, and bald eagles fly around like seagulls.

But this post is about smaller bits of nature-y things.  Mainly, squirrels.  A couple of years ago, the trees in our neighborhood finally got big enough that squirrels started visiting, and we fell in love with them.  They are so much fun to watch as they play and chase each other, so we started feeding them. And Bruce built a squirrel house and mounted it on the fence; sure enough, we watched a mom raise 4 babies in it, saw when they poked their heads out the first time, ventured out a little more each day, until finally they all would run up and down the wysteria vines as if our backyard was their personal amusement park.

That family has moved on, and this year, we have one squirrel who visits us daily to eat peanuts. We have gradually moved the peanuts closer and closer to the house, so we can observe her more easily from the comfort of our easy chairs in the air conditioning, because it so so hot, even the squirrel has to flatten out on the cool cement.

flat-squirrel

Yesterday, I didn’t put out the peanuts at the normal time, and got this response:

squirrel-1

and

squirrel-2

The look of outrage at my ineptitude was hilarious.  Except I had weird dreams last night, and feel like I may need to sleep with one eye open from now on.

Oh, and I mentioned bugs in the title, too.  I was amazed on my way to the walmarts yesterday that this fly stayed on my windshield the entire time, at speeds up to 45 mph.  That is one bad-ass fly.

fly

Ain’t nature grand?  As someone once said “It’s so nice out, I believe I’ll leave it out.”

In other words, naptime! Right after I put some more peanuts out.

Postscript:  She brbaby-squirrelsought her babies up!

IMHO

Heaven forbid I don’t have an opinion on something. Anything. Everything.  Every.Little.Thing.  Watching the Olympics? “Well, she didn’t stick that landing – that’s a tenth of a point!”  Want my opinion on the Estonian Triplet runners?  I can’t find Estonia on a map, but I’ll estimate their chances, critique their hair styles, and tell you what they should eat for dinner before the race, all before you can finish your question. We like to watch Ink Masters, so I’m also an expert on tattoos, despite having been in a tattoo parlor only once in my life, and that was to drag both of my much, much older sisters out of it (just last year, btw).   America’s got talent? I’ll tell you who does and and who most definitely doesn’t.

As many who know me will attest, I’ll also be more than happy to let you know what I think you should or should not be doing, what supplements to take, and how each individual can be healthier/happier/more/less/beautiful/smarter.  What essential oils to use.  I can tell you what I think is the best cure your plantar’s fasciitis or posterior acne, if you’ll just ask me.

What I have never understood is why my opinions aren’t as…well, revered is the word I think I’m looking for.  Held in higher esteem. Sought out. Often.  I have so many opinions, and they are all so right. Not that yours are wrong, mind you, but mine are so much righter.

Alas, my kids merely give me that singular look of derision that only offspring can give, my husband laughs and wanders out to the garage, no sign of respect for my valued opinion even lingering in the air as he leaves the room.

I have an opinion about that, too.It hurts. Truly. To my core. Nothing a nap and a glass of wine won’t take care of, though. IMHO.

P.S. You can ask me about my opinion on the presidential candidates. But, believe me, you don’t want to.

I had to blame someone.

I gave up all ambition to accomplish anything today, and went back to bed. And it’s all my sister-in-law’s fault.

You see, my sister-in-law has the soul of a decorator.  Her house is always gorgeous, with just the right touches in the corners; the colors are not just pleasing, but comforting, the pictures hanging on the walls are always straight.  And she is constantly working on it – moving furniture, painting walls, even changing out the pictures, swapping them around to give the visitor a whole new perspective on perfect.

Me? Not so much.  I go for the comfortable look.  Once a picture is hung in our house, usually the day after we move in, it is there to stay until we move out.  I have no eye for color, no awareness of furniture fashion. Mainly, this lack of any decorating sense has served us well; it’s hard to want to bring new stuff into a household full of hairy, shedding beasts (and I include Bruce and myself amongst them).

But because my sister-in-law likes to change up her decor, she often takes pity on me and generously passes on items that no longer fit into her vision.  On my last visit, she asked me if I wanted a practically brand-new bed linens set. Gorgeous, swirling blues and greens, fresh, soothing, lovely.  From Pottery Barn. Even I know that Pottery Barn is THE place for quality home goods. So, since my dogs had recently taken to tearing open the seams of my old bedspread to pull out the stuffing, I greedily clutched the beautiful fabric in my hands and scurried home to re-do my bedroom, imagining a calm oasis in which to relax and lay our heads.  Two things: that was a month ago, and I just decided to attack the project now, so it’s all been sitting in a pile, creating a not-so-calm oasis in which I regularly heard Bruce cussing as he tripped over it. The other thing you need to know is that the bed set I am replacing was also given to me by my sister-in-law, about 10 years ago, and it, too, was a first-class set, including all the necessities, plus curtains. (come to think of it, the cover on my daughter’s bed was Susan’s, too – good lord, I’m the poor relation of which I’ve read in gothic novels!)

So I finally got around to my version of redecorating.  I stripped off old cover and shams, took down matching curtains, and hauled them all away. We shall not discuss what happens to curtains when they have hung for 10 years.  I will just say there were more critters in my house than I realized.  I had gotten around to ordering european pillows, which are square (why?), to fit the new shams,  and thought I would find some pretty curtains when I went to the store to pick up the pillows.  I ordered them from a store I had not shopped at in years and years, and, while I won’t mention the name specifically, it starts with 2 initials and ends with a name that sounds like a coin that is not a nickel, dime, or quarter.

I wandered in at opening, wondering to myself why I never shopped there – gee! look at all the sales! – and went back to the customer service counter to pick up the order.  Only one register was working, one man in his 80’s was working it (I am not exaggerating), and 5 people were in line with returns, pick ups, and purchases.  A sales clerk walked by, looked us over, and turned around and left.  When next she came by, I told her, politely, that I just had a pick up, and I’d be happy to pay for it at another register, if that would be easier.  She grudgingly took my number, and that of another customer’s, and disappeared. For 15 minutes.  About 10 minutes into my wait, I went looking for curtains, thinking I could at least be productive while she took what apparently was her lunch break.  I found some that would do (My sister-in-law would never have settled on something that “would do” – first mistake), and came back to the counter, where the clerk shoved a box only slightly smaller than my car across the floor to me, and said, “Here’s your pillows.” And turned away. I am not often stunned into silence, but I have to admit my mouth was hanging open, and nothing was coming out. I had a brief, internal debate about what my next actions should be, but, because I did not want to go to prison, I merely got back in line and paid for my curtains.  It was hot, and the curtains were on sale, and…I really don’t know what was wrong with me… I never stand meekly by when I have been so stunningly mistreated. But I did.  And then I ripped open the huge box in the middle of the sales floor, took out the three pillows, and stalked out. I’m sure they could sense my displeasure in my posture and stride. And they cared. I’m sure they cared.

When I got home, I scurried excitedly about, stuffing pillows into shams, smoothing covers, twitching the bed skirt into place. Everything looked terrific. For the final touch, I took the curtains out to hang them. And realized I had bought the wrong length. And that I was going to have to go back to the store to return them. In the heat.  To the customer service desk. And interact with those employees. At that store I had sworn to never again grace with my presence.

I couldn’t handle it. I just lost it.  I crawled into bed with two of the hairy beasts (not Bruce), and just gave up.  And blamed my sister-in-law.

Bits and Pieces

Sometimes I forget that I don’t have to write a tirade, or even if I don’t have enough for a longer post, I do have bits and pieces I feel you would all benefit from reading. This is that kind of post –

It is time for me to get back to work, though it has been a wonderful summer. While I could use two more weeks of lounging about and eating bon-bons, I crave the schedule, and, even more, the socialness of work.  Today I got back into the mood by prepping my lunches for the week; as one of my (many) bosses said “Ann eats everything out of jars.”  I do, at school anyway – I put together jars of yogurt and berries, jars of salads, jars of Pho, so I can just grab them and go in the morning.  Sunday mornings are kind of a ritual for me, though obviously not a religious one, as I grocery shop and then cut up veggies, cook up whatever is the protein of the week, generally get ready.  Then I have the rest of the day to relax.

When we were little, I used to dread Sundays; they were long and hot, I had to sit still and be good in church, and every Sunday night we had to fold clothes.  My poor mom – with 4 kids, we had mounds of clothes to fold, and we always did it while watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney.  Now that I am a full-fledged grown-up, I childishly refuse to fold clothes on Sunday nights.

Reading the two paragraphs above, I just realized that I’ve traded one ritual, folding clothes, for another, prepping meals. Insert wide-eyed emoticon here.

Continuing the food theme (so many of my posts do seem to center on food, don’t they?), this year’s cherries have been absolutely the best I have ever eaten.  Big, deep red, firm, and as sweet as sugar.  I keep bringing pounds home, planning on pickling them, and then eating every one before I can get the vinegar out.  Pickled cherries are a Dixon thang – all the sibs love them, and all the in-laws think they are an abomination against man and beast.  If  you are a pickling freak, here is the very easy recipe:

J-9’s Pickled Cherries

  • 1 quart cherries
  • 3 T Salt
  • 2 T sugar
  • White vinegar

Wash cherries, pack into canning jars.  Add salt and sugar to each jar, pour vinegar over.  Store for at least 6 weeks, turning jars over periodically. I like them best refrigerated after the six weeks of sitting.

We did get to go on vacation this year – Bruce and I took an absolutely amazing cruise to Alaska.  It was the first time in several years that we took a real vacation, and we had some trepidation about being in such close quarters for 10 days.  In fact, some people who may or may not be related to me were taking bets on who would return alive. Hah! We both did – just to spite them.  Actually, we got along really well, and made some great friends, and not just with the bartenders.  A couple-and-mother-in-law group took us under their wing and taught us a new card game, Three and Thirteen, which, luckily, can be played while holding onto a frosty Moscow Mule.  Absolutely great people, who don’t know it but probably saved one of us from being pushed out onto an ice floe and sent out to sea.  I won’t make you look at vacation pictures, but here is one such ice floe.  The colors are truly that deep. (I’m having problems getting the picture to show; bear with me.)(Nope, not happening.  More research is needed.)(Screw it.)

IMG_0104

Best of all, I was cool for an entire week, even cold on occasion.  It was glorious.

But I missed my dogs.  Oh, and my kids. Of course I missed my kids.

The hardest part of the cruise, and I say it with shame in my heart, was the days we were without internet connection.  I truly got anxious when I was out of touch with every one, and when I couldn’t google something I needed to know instantly.  My attachment to my phone is ridiculous, and I recognize that, but I can’t let it out of my hand. I’m sure Freud would have something to say about that.

Even as wonderful, necessary, and luxurious as the vacation was, getting home was best – my own shower, my own bed, my own dogs, and, as a neighbor once said, “Two doors between me and everyone.”

Back to work tomorrow!

 

Time To Get Political (Fair Warning)(Also, Religiousity)

Discussions at our house have touched lately on The Transgender Issue. Except I maintain steadfastly that there is no “Issue”, and feel very strongly that individual rights, both to choice, privacy, and inclination, should be left to the individual.  According to the last census count, 1.5 MILLION people in the U.S. identify as transgender; this is no longer an issue of the odd kid down the block who likes to play dress up, and we need to get past that type of thinking.

One of the sub-topics that we have discussed is that of tax money being used to pay for surgery, especially for those who  make the change while they are imprisoned. I don’t resent my tax money paying for that; it’s a necessary surgery to that person, and I don’t think that they see it as “elective’ – it is compulsory. There are worse things they could be doing in prison, as I well know from my research of binge-watching Orange Is The New Black.

What I do resent my tax money being spent on: Congressional hair cuts, subsidies to not grow crops, political junkets to anywhere except Bakersfield, California (the most boring place on earth, no chance of getting into trouble there), pork belly spending, subsidizing ever bigger sports venues, wars fought over mythical weapons of mass destruction, the street barriers in my hometown preventing me from turning left across traffic, and any departmental spending just to spend because if we don’t spend it, next year They will cut the budget.

I resent like hell paying for the guys in jail for 20-to-life over an arrest for a few ounces of weed. If President Obama is going to give out any get-out-of-jail free cards before he leaves office, those should be the people he hand them out to. Or is it to whom he hands them out? Grammar aside, those poor bastards don’t belong in there, and that money, my money, could be better spent elsewhere.

But I digress. My current main beef is with Texas Governor Abbott, who is thrusting himself into the limelight by getting involved in the Fort Worth ISD’s decision to allow people to use the bathroom of their chosen gender. The Superintendent is following federal law, and Governor Abbott does not have a dog in that hunt, as we like to say here in Texas.  I have long advocated unisex bathrooms; when I need to pee, I don’t care who is in the stall next to me, as long as they don’t try to talk to me through the cubicle wall, but are still willing to hand toilet paper under, in an emergency. Why can’t all the bathrooms just be unisex? Problem solved.

No matter what you believe in, surely we can agree that our one job here is to do the best we can with what we’ve got, and be kind, helpful, and courteous to those around us. I sometimes forget, or get off track, and need to be gently reminded, it’s true, but, ultimately, it’s easier to be nice than it is mean. It is less stressful to mind, body, and soul.  So, even if you don’t do it for others, be a good human being for your own sake.

Thanks for listening to me preach. Go out and be nice to someone today. And, as my mom would say, wear a little sparkle.