Good humor makes all things possible.
-Charles Schultz-

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
-Shakespeare-The Merchant of Venice-

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Let nothing you dismay

I was making soup out of the turkey's  corpse today when Lottie suddenly started digging at the closed door of the blue bedroom.  She doesn't usually give a fig about doors, in contrast to Joey, who frets about closed off rooms.  Then Chase also started scratching at the door.  What is it, Lassie, Timmy down the well? In light of our recent adventures with wild things, I was a little nervous, but I opened the door, fearing another spider or even a lizard who had grown tired of having a tail and was searching out Lottie's Mobile Tail Reduction Service,  generally headquartered on our porch.  Both cats barged into the room and Lottie dove headfirst under the desk, and  pulled out --what else?--a writhing SNAKE.

I snapped a photo as evidence, although we both look more imposing here.

Why me?  Come on, Fate, you took my stinking job.  Is turning even a tiny SNAKE loose in a small bedroom crowded with furniture, boxes, yet another sorry television and the Christmas bins your belated Christmas gift?  But I was bred with a steely Scottish gene (depicted above).  I am not a screamer or a fainter.  I snatched up the nearest plastic cup and a calendar and scooped up the serpent and flung him out the front door onto the lawn.  I didn't see him land or slither away in the grass, which was a little disconcerting, but the cats turned over everything under twenty pounds in that bedroom and we are all fairly sure I dispatched him. I mean really really sure.

But here's what I want to know: how did an eight inch snake the diameter of a pencil get INTO my house? The windows are all closed  and the doors weatherstripped.  It's a six inch step UP from the garage, although perhaps there might be a tiny gap where a scaly intruder with strong resolve and a wee stepladder could squeeze in. Possibly.  But why?  Is this the same varmint I hosed out of the garage  weeks ago?  Why would a snake  want to visit my garage or, more troubling, my house?  Neither venue represents what I imagine to be a desirable habitat for snakes.

Do spider gangs use snakes as protection? Is my foundation hosting a nest of vipers? [Will I ever have another chance to use the phrase 'a nest of vipers'?]  Will I have to drink myself to sleep forever?

Always something to keep me from my rest.  But anyway, back to the soup.  It turned out yummy because the original turkey was delicious.  A was determined to fix a full Christmas feast and since nobody was getting any gifts from me this year, I felt like I should step up to the stove (the one in my kitchen, a critical element). I brined the turkey (the only way, in my opinion), made sourdough-mushroom-artichoke dressing, pumpkin cheesecake with caramel sauce, potatoes and sweet potatoes, fried onions and pan gravy.  A roasted asparagus and the turkey.  His kids, one kid's boyfriend, and his dad attended and, if you threw out the top and bottom scores, the meal was a solid winner. It was a high point in this rather uneasy holiday.
Here we are serving a delicious Christmas dinner.

I haven't yet put away the Christmas decorations or dismantled the tree.  In a few days I'll go see my grandsons and give them their presents.  When I get back I should probably give some thought to my future, like, can I live on even less money than unemployment insurance? (Hint:  when pigs fly.) I'll go back to worrying about Joey, whose digestive/social problems plague our household.  I may even get better at blogging, like making the caption stop and the text start where I want it to, not like this. Things will return to what passes for everyday life here at the wild animal park.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tis the season

After Thanksgiving we took a quick trip to San Francisco; here's me finding my heart in Union Square.  

We reassembled the shelves in the "library" and I put as many books as I could fit on the shelves, along with the pictures I like best.  One of the raggedy plaid chairs is in the corner by the window, the ideal spot to watch tv, blog, read, and look out the window.  I LOVE THIS ROOM.  It is perfect.  We put two recently acquired slate leather chairs (from a defunct office lobby) in the window bay in my room; although we had to remove two interior doors to get them in there.  Office chairs are not scaled to fit into residential buildings!  Which is funny because my sofa and loveseat are very stout and they came right in.

So remember when I said there was a light at the end of the tunnel?  Well, there was, it was an oncoming train.  I lost [clarification--they took back] my job the week before Thanksgiving.  Aaaack!  But you know what?  Aside from that gruesome  sensation of the floor collapsing under my feet, another sparkly, sunshiny feeling of relief flooded in like the tide.  As the grim reaper HR Manager was explaining why they stopped loving me and were kicking me to the curb, I wanted to shout Yippee! and jump up and dance around.  I suddenly realized how stressful the previous year had been.  Nobody just quits, in this economy, but now I didn't have to.
When life gives you lemons, make thanksgiving dinner

I'm no dope.  I know I face terrible odds and an uncertain job market.  I am unlikely to find the very good wage I earned during eight years as a phlebotomist.   And I seriously miss my coworkers, with whom I spent so much of my life.  But I can't change that.  Somewhere out there, a better job is waiting for me.

This weekend we (actually A.; I kept both feet on the ground near the cellphone so I could shout encouraging things up towards the roof and call the ambulance if he fell off) did two important things.  Saturday, he cleaned out the rain gutters at both houses which was necessary but invisible.  It rained.  Sunday we hung Christmas lights at both houses which was also necessary but -bonus!- beautiful.  It rained.  But it went a long way towards making me feel better about it being Christmastime even though I am unemployed and feeling rather dreary about the future.

As they say; keep calm and carry on.  I'll try!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Measure twice. At least.

I haven't written a post in six weeks because #1 I've been busy, and #2 I haven't been any fun.  Posts are more fun to read when I am fun to be around. In October I went to Chicago where I was a barrel of monkeys, but I was busy, so here we are back at obstacle  number one again.  Lately work has just been one long dark coal mine with no apparent light at the end of the tunnel. Without too many depressing details, lets just say things have a slight possibility of looking up.  I hope.  If nothing else, I have been reminded that I have a good team who are supporting me.

So through a long series of card tricks, I have become the proud owner of shelves.  Lots of shelves.  Two are elegant white laminate commercial display shelves, six feet square, with twenty-five square boxes each.  They are beautiful (and enormous.)  The other two are rough wood, sturdy and homely, and will live in the garage as a workbench and storage area.  I couldn't be happier. Well, turns out, I actually could be a little happier.

One set of white shelves MUST live in the garage.  They replace a few flimsy old Sauder wrecks filled with crap like catfood and potting soil and paint. They really are too lovely to live out there but  as you have read here before, my house is already quite full.  The only way the other set can move in is if  [many many] more items move out, which is a someday goal, so the garage is their new home.

Sam's old lair, the cutest of the three small bedrooms, is just begging to become a library full time and house all the books, the loveseat, and a TV. (There are four TVs in this house, only one of which I purchased.  TVs are like cats; and like cats, some are better than others). The giant white shelf is idling in the living room (it weighs as much as a refrigerator, more or less).  The old PC resigned itself to a trip to the dump a farm.  I am saving up for a Mac, really and truly.  A. and I had planned and measured the final location and at the last minute, decided to measure the doorways and hall, just to make sure.

And now you know WHY I could be a little happier.

The shelves would fit through the door of the gray bedroom, now a spartan guest room.  They would also slide right into the blue bedroom which is filled with miscellaneous items and will eventually be painted the same pale cocoa as the hall bath.  But neither room sings 'I am the perfect library and you want to sit in here all the time!' like the brown bedroom. It has to be that room.

A. is a good sport with a fine imagination and promised that he could disassemble, relocate, and reassemble the shelves in the room where they will live until the end of time.  He recently went on thyroid replacement and has more pep than a water polo team.  My original complement of thyroid provides just enough energy to complain and procrastinate, but he believes this will work.

So that's where things stand.  Highlights: Hauling a truckload of wobbly, puckery home-assembled shelves AND Sam's old captain's bed (which stood on its head for ten years holding up boxes) AND the old hand me down PC to the transfer station. Hosing down the garage floor and displacing a snake, which I had not noticed before because I was covered with spiderwebs and, possibly, spiders ( I have reason to feel vulnerable around vengeful spiders). Flying to Chicago for four days with Lillie and Sam.  We saw Billy Elliott, our favorite movie-turned musical.  We shopped and wandered and had the Best.Time.Ever.  Lillie and I had birthdays.
    Sam and Lillie live in this house in that town

And as soon as we get those shelves moved, I'll report back.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

where there's a will

A friend shared this story with me today: last weekend her son married a lovely girl in a meadow in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The bride had lost her beloved father when she was a teen and was very sad that he would not be able to walk his little girl down the aisle on her wedding day. Her stepfather of ten years had the honor of escorting the bride to meet her new husband at the altar. My friend noticed, as he went by in his tuxedo, that he was wearing a pair of rough brown cowboy boots. She thought it might be about the meadow, but later that day she was told the real reason. Those were the bride's late father's boots. Dad walked her down the aisle after all.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Along came a spider

A few nights ago the cats and I were watching reruns on cable when an incredibly large, blazingly fast spider raced between me and the tv. Far from brave, I am the designated family spider eliminator, as all of my children sob and shrink and run when confronted with even the tiniest, slowest, shyest spider. I have a game plan in place: QUICKLY get between the spider and the hiding place and QUICKLY whack it with something before I overthink the process and miss my opportunity.

But THIS guy was way ahead of me. It took a moment for my misfortune to register and by the time I got to my feet, confused cats spilling onto the floor, he had scuttled under the couch. I never had a chance to pick up a flip flop. Aack! I swept the broom blindly around under there, feeling ridiculous. Did I really think he'd grab on and ride out into the room where I'd have a clear shot at him? I spent the rest of the evening uneasily in the furthest chair, afraid to take my eyes off the couch. I pictured him sneaking around behind the furniture, tiptoeing stealthily up behind me, and droppping gleefully onto my throat. He knew I'd kill him unless he killed me first. I went to bed, miserably aware I might not live until tomorrow.

Then last night, while I was occupied in my bathroom, something horrifying moved in the dim bedroom. Oh yes. The spider was coming to find me. He was inches from the bedside table, and if I didn't get over there quick with a flip flop, he would escape, so help me God, UNDER MY BED. With one second to spare I grabbed the only available weapon, a squirt bottle filled with not-very-deadly rubbing alcohol, vinegar, and the magic killing ingredient, a few drops of dish soap (Hey, it does a good job and it's really cheap). I aimed and pulled the trigger but unfortunately the nozzle was on springtime spray instead of laser blast, so I only dampened him and probably made all eight of his eyes sting, but he had enough steam to stumble blindly around the lamp base and behind the headboard. In a panic--he was getting away--I continued to mist him with bathroom cleaner, but then he disappeared. UNDER MY BED.

Aside from realizing that I need to use the vacuum attachment to suck up the dustbunnies back there, I now know there is a massive, dizzy, desperately angry (but sanitary) spider somewhere under my bed, who may or may not have succumbed to the effects of homemade bathroom cleaner. If I could lift the bed and look, I would. He could kill me tonight. Or not.

I don't think this living alone thing is working out so well.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The teeth post

Well, the deed is done. My old failing bridge, the third incarnation in thirtysix years, is history, and in its place are two thick titanium posts, a pinch of powdered cowbone, and a handful of sutures, mostly covered up with an ill fitting temporary partial denture and decorated with a big fat lip. I've had cuter weeks.

The surgery went as expected, mostly. My surgeon, Dr P, implanted the posts, I dutifully got sick, and now I look dreadful. The bonus (isn't there always a bonus?)is that when I got home and recovered enough to feel around with my tongue, something was very wrong with one of my teeth, an innocent bystander caught too near the drilling and chiseling. A decent crown broke apart--the whole rear surface sheared off, and the bottom corner was gone. As I said, I've had cuter weeks.

I went back to see Dr P, who said the tooth was fine when he left the room, implying that something happened to it while I was sleeping off my anesthesia. He wasn't having any of the old retail adage 'you break it, you buy it'. Since he got all the money I have, now we have a problem. Tomorrow, I go see my reliable longterm dentist, Dr Z, so he can weigh in with his opinion. I may need to wait until January when the new teeth get attached to the posts, so the whole set will match. He also has to do something with the partial, which at this point is so thick my back teeth don't even touch. Soon I will be ready to eat chewy food but am hampered by the shortage of teeth with which to chew. I will also be counting on him to strike some sort of deal with Dr P.

On the homefront, A. replaced the punctured garbage disposer and also defragmented this laptop and struck a peace agreement with the router, so I'm back on the couch where I belong. His meager salary: a batch of cookies and some lunch. I win!

So that is the whiny story of having my teeth pulled, as promised. My nightmare wasn't too far off the mark, but I am still hoping for a happy ending. In the meantime, I really need to have a flatter lip and some mealtime options by Saturday, when I premier my new puffylipped, snaggletoothed look at work.

Postscript: Today, Dr Z took care of the wonky partial, smoothed the ragged crown, and assured me that I would not be charged for the damages. I love Dr Z. I see a light at the end of the tunnel. Its a long way, though, until January.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

And you shall have no pie

A few nights ago a little kitten appeared outside the screen door, peering in, sending indoor cat Joey into a panic. I assumed a neighbor had acquired the kitten and shooed him away, and all was well.

Until the next night. Kitten number one, the leader of the pack, had returned. With his brother and sister. People might get ONE kitten. People do not get THREE kittens. What happens is, I get three kittens that someone with no soul delivered to my neighborhood with no mother, no luggage, and no address. My feline problems were about to escalate.

They were very hungry, of course, and because I couldn't NOT feed them, I fed them, and they were pretty happy about that. Also, they were adorable. There are no nonattractive kittens. Kittens have to be cute to insure the survival of the species. No one really wants cats but because of the impossible sweetness of baby kittens, we enthusiastically bring them home and later, when they are grown and no fun or worse, we have become attached to them and decide they might as well stay for the next ten or twenty years because that's just how horrible it is to take them to the shelter, which is the only way to rid oneself of an otherwise healthy, but no fun, cat.

Well, there are two other ways. One is too gruesome for the average person to contemplate, even someone who really does not care for cats. The coward's way out is to drop them off in someone else's jurisdiction, consoling themselves with the boneheaded notion that SOMEONE ELSE would love to have as many cats as possible and what do you know, here come three more! Lucky! Thus solving their cowardly cat problem.

After I fed the poor little babies and put the old cat-carrier under a tree so they wouldn't get rained upon (of course it just HAD to rain), I had to wait until the humane society shelter and I had overlapping hours. In the meantime, three pairs of big round eyes followed my movements as I came and went inside my cozy home with my previously acquired cats, studiously avoiding looking at them until I couldn't stand it any more and went outside to pet and cuddle them. My cats (grown, minimally fun, not chosen by me but here for life) had absolutely nothing to do with the kittens and only went in and out through the front door or hid in my room. They were terrified. Once when the back door was open Lottie came tearing around from the front porch, jumped wildly over all three and landed inside the house. I wonder if they were worried about being replaced? Not idle fear--these kittens were seriously cute, and my cats left cute somewhere in the misty past.

But I, reluctantly possessing a few shreds of character, hurried home from work, stuffed them unprotesting into the carrier, and delivered them to the grim reaper. I mean the animal shelter. I would love to believe that because they are so darn sweet people will be fighting over who gets to claim them. I know, however, that spring kittens are as numerous as spring pollen and their chances of finding a loving home are very slender. At least, while they await their uncertain fate, they will be together, dry, fed, and ignorant. Kind of like the folks who scattered them in my alley.

Please, please, neuter your pets. If you don't see why this is important, drop off a batch of babies at the shelter and you might change your tune. And now I have to go get the empty dish from the backyard and try to remember a time when my cats were featherweight balls of fluff and mischief. They hope I can.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

how the Grand Canyon was formed

Once upon a time Mrs God noticed a leak under her kitchen sink and pointed it out to her husband, but hey, he was Mr God for heaven's sake (haha!), kinda busy if you hadn't noticed, and he promised to get around to fixing it, and Mrs God said good grief, she'd figure out how to do it herself, but Mr God hadn't made Home Depot yet nor had he made Google or YouTube or AskHow; so the leak just got worse and worse and now people go marvel at the Grand Canyon and as the family lines up for photos in front of the spectacular view, back home water is dripping under their sink.

What do you have to stuff down a garbage disposer to gnaw a hole through the side? I don't know either but my ten-year-old garbage disposer developed an actual hole in the back wall, near the top. It looks like a tiny spot just dissolved, as though acid ate through it or something equally unlikely. Speaking of looking, it is virtually impossible to look at the back side of a garbage disposer. It's pitch dark and also, literally, over my head when I am crammed in there with both a flashlight and a negative outlook.

Recently, I noticed some little puddles under the sink and supposed the water splattering around under there was coming down that mysterious hole where the sprayer hose lives. A while back, feeling very virtuous, I cut up the leftover piece of vinyl flooring from the builder and laid it under all the sinks so it wouldn't die all curled and wasted out in the hot garage. This speck of foresight prevented the scummy disposer drool from ruining the particle board cabinet floor; I wholeheartedly recommend that you also put something under your sinks in case your disposer, in solidarity with mine, gets a hole in it.

Anyway, once I discovered the gruesome little wound and covered it with duct tape (thumbs up on the duct tape, God) while I pondered my options, I watched the Home Depot DIY video and decided that, although I am certain that replacing a disposer that lived ON TOP OF the sink would be well within my plumbing expertise, actually installing one OVER MY HEAD and UNDER THE SINK was pushing my skills, and my biceps, where they will not go.

An extra workday option appeared this week; which I elected to see as a divine nod to buy a disposer. A. bravely volunteered to install it while he is here making sure I don't die after I have my teeth pulled in two weeks. (Naturally I don't anticipate dying, but somebody has to call the coroner lest I end up like that poor woman buried under mountains of refuse in her house for three months while everyone, even her husband, hunted for her. Even those search dogs couldn't find her. But anyway, where was I?) My mom and grandma fixed their own broken crap and built the structures they needed and I appreciate the legacy, but I surrender on this one. I'm sure another chance to wield my homeowner skills will appear next week to test my resolve and prove that each successive generation is indeed weaker and less resourceful than the last.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Dancing on Sunday

I have not read the whole constitution since the eighth grade. I passed the test, so I must have absorbed some of it. Now, I only read the parts that are relevant to whatever issue is at hand. So I am not an expert. Don't start with me, I'm only writing a blog about what I think, not debating constitutional law. I understand there are a lot of ways to interpret what was written then. We don't talk like that anymore, so it's hard to get through.

I have not read the whole bible. I have read parts of the bible, but I am not a scholar by any stretch of the imagination. Obviously, various religions claim the bible insists they conform to this rule or that one, and it is clear to most that there is much disagreement among the faithful. The world would be a much more peaceful place if all the religions of the world agreed. And if you thought the constitution was a tough read, dip into the bible.

I have, however, read US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's decision overturning Proposition 8. I know we tend to vote with our hearts, but I can't understand how Proposition 8 passed. My heart doesn't get it. Apparently the majority of voters felt in their hearts that the marriage of two men or two women is just plain wrong and it didn't matter what the constitution says about that. Maybe it felt icky or dangerous or something. Maybe it threatened their beliefs about their own marriages, or their children's marriages.

My dad used to say, what do you know for sure? In truth, not much. You never know what anyone thinks: If I hear myself saying "He thinks he's the smartest man in the w--" I make myself STOP and start over. "He seems to think he's the smartest man in the world" because I don't know if he thinks that or not. He sure seems to, though.

Voters seemed to think that gays were not constitutionally permitted to marry. Judge Walker looked it up: Oops, that's not in there. Looks like you can get married if you want to. Will this negatively affect the marriages of straight people? How? Will it shrink the pool of eligible bachelors itching to marry me? Not likely. Will it tread on the beliefs of many who interpret the bible to say same-sex couples can't marry? You bet, but now we're not talking about the law anymore.

The bible might tell me not to dance on Sunday, but there's nothing in the constitution that says I can't. Strike up the band.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Culture tantalizes the working poor

Sue,  Pam,  Patrick,  Mom,  Mike and  me at Lithia Park in Ashland, Oregon
So this weekend, all five siblings, my mom, and my lone maternal cousin visiting with his wife (plus numerous supporting cast) gathered at the Shakespeare Festival to see some plays, eat, and visit. Like our annual spring ski trip in Reno, we love to all be together when we can but our homes are all spread around now and it can be a challenge. One by one, retirement is creating more spare time. I am reminded that many families don't get along as well as we do. If they were as lovable as we are, though, they would.

It's a little cumbersome to all eat together but it helps that there is SO MUCH delicious food in Ashland. Highlights for MY palate: chili-lime shrimp; browned butter and sage ravioli, remarkable risotto, tapas including some fabulous ribs, chevre mushroom somethings, a ginger citrus martini, dreamy truffle ice cream...heavens, it was all so good. We walked everywhere we went but unfortunately not nearly far enough to compensate for the triple dose of calories.

One brother and his wife always read and study the plays and are well versed in plotline and characters. I didn't pay enough attention beforehand so Twelfth Night was a little blurry for me but as there was no essay test afterward, nobody cared. I already knew the story of Pride and Prejudice which was laugh out loud funny and romantic if the modern gal in me overlooks the terrible burdens of marriage and class in that era. I wish I could afford to see all the season's plays but as tickets cost a bag of gold I'm lucky to see two.

The last time we had real photos taken was [never mind how long ago] when my eldest sister turned fifty. Lets just say, we ALL had much browner hair then. A photographer met us in gorgeous Lithia Park where even the sorriest subjects cannot help but look much lovelier. Our family all looked just fine going in, so our coordinating blue shirts must have tipped the scales; I think the finished pictures will be wonderful. Plus, our hair matches now. We looked rather like folksingers playing a county fair. A senior bowling team. Aging, but not crumbling.

When I got home last night my laptop had decided to be ON all weekend (it has a penchant for not shutting OFF when told to do so). It was hot as a pistol and refused to connect to the wireless internet. The very patient Charter technical support rep would not walk me through all the steps that Lillie performed last time that happened, but he helpfully told me how to bypass the outlaw router and connect to the Charter modem which I don't even remotely understand except that now (if I want to use it) the laptop has to sit, essentially, on top of the old PC, a few inches from the modem. I can't lounge on the sofa with my laptop in my lap, now sporting a redneck, portable-tv-atop-the-busted-console-tv feel. Before long, someone who knows what to do will stop this jury rigged nonsense, but last night it had that algebra-class, I'm sorry but I can't follow anything you are saying, sensation. I was very grateful that the rep and I will never meet in person. I guess if I had to send letters back and forth like Elizabeth Bennet, this might seem less pathetic.

If there is a way to (that is, for ME to--different issue) post a picture of how adorable we looked this weekend, I will do it. I know you cannot wait.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

lazy is better and here is why

When Lillie was still home we started making smoothies with all the fabulous local strawberries. Then my niece went on some goofy health kick and told everyone about all the raw vegetables she crammed in her blender and I was inspired to started adding some spinach to our smoothies. (If you microwave it briefly, it collapses down into the blender better). Then I added cooked sweet potatoes and carrots. You would think those would taste terribly farmy, but they don't. The strawberries are almost gone from the local scene but I froze up a gallon, and a gallon of cut up peaches, ripe bananas, blackberries a friend picked...Add a little plain yogurt, any kind of juice--heavens, they are so good I eat one every day. If I'm really hungry I'll crack an egg in there.

No, I'll never pass up a steak and mushrooms, and yes, if there is any ice cream I might add a scoop sometimes, but I'm eating 90% more produce than I generally do, and it's so easy I might forget how to cook. Last weekend I was reminded how much fun it is to cook (and eat!) when there is an appreciative crowd present, but there isn't one of those here, so it's just me and the blender. Bowl of Cheerios for breakfast, smoothie for dinner, nom nom. By the time all the good summer fruit is over, maybe I'll be tired of smoothies, but in the meantime, it's all good. Literally. And handy for September when the teeth get pulled and I'm not inclined to bite anything.

Monday, July 26, 2010

old friends, old teeth, new teeth,and paint.

For about five years, about a dozen former childhood friends who remain friends in our second half, have assembled annually to catch up, commiserate, eat, and adore each other. There is no other way to explain it--nor is there any other common denominator except knowing each other from an early age. Some of us met before we were conceived (yes, they win), most met in grade school, with a few add-ons by high school and later, marriage. The bulk were in the music department, but not all. We knew each other when we were simply children. We live all over the place. A few no longer have parents in Redding, and it can be hard to get together.

This summer we could only gather about seven or eight, but it was still great. We did a lot of talking. Saturday night we talked about: Food, children, parents, dementia, song lyrics, wine, the weather, fat, shoes, hair, the official class reunion, marijuana, child abuse, love, teeth, work, the Chronicle, fruit, the Searchlight, feet, the Daisy, vomit, horses, fractures, siblings, bicycles, and then we talked about it the next day, too. It was great. My cup runneth over with love.

Update on my teeth: I have started the arduous process that will end, I hope, with a nice looking smile that will last until I no longer care, or need to chew, or both. The first step is bleaching my dingy lower teeth to match what will be creamy white top teeth (half implants and half bleached resident teeth). This is not a comfortable process but I suspect that extracting three teeth, drilling out the old root canals and installing some cow bone and the bolts to hold the new ones, and dealing with a partial denture for three months, bleaching will feel like a footrub and a glass of white wine. (Red wine cancels my progress, as does coffee, but come on now).

Update on paint: My laundry room looks like a hotel lobby. It matches the adjacent hall. In a fit of creative usefulness I mixed up a sauce of Orange Glo, Scotts Liquid Gold and Old English Scratch Cover and polished the oak cabinets in the laundry room and both bathrooms. For some reason the finish had never adhered well and/or was applied incorrectly, which is odd because the cabinetmaker did a beautiful job otherwise. Anyway my arms were so sore afterwards I could hardly eat my ice cream, so the maple kitchen cabinets will have to wait for another day off.

Today I had to attend a workshop on storytelling (one more thing to do at work--do they know me?) where I learned that good stories have a plot, and also a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Apparently I did not learn anything.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

hello in there

SO Lillie's room is empty, painted, the carpet cleaned. I still plan to paint the inside of the closet and baseboards Friday, but now I am wondering, what should go in that room? Someone at work is marketing her house and might need some space to keep things until it's sold, but that's not a done deal. I was thinking of making it a very sparsely furnished guest room--like Lindsay Lohan's new digs except without a stainless steel toilet.

It's still officially Lillie's room until she is really permanently settled somewhere (yes, I know Chicago is where she's sleeping RIGHT NOW but I want her to feel like she can come home SOMEDAY. Even though there are no jobs in this town, and a job is a prerequisite for living here unless you are retired, which I precludes both me AND Lillie). I could also rent it, but that has all kinds of baggage. Yes, I need the income and yes, a four bedroom house is more than I need just for me, Chase, Lottie and Joey, but I LIKE it here by myself. So far.

Sam's room has the old computer in it (I use the laptop now, also a hand-me-around but better than the PC), many books in a castoff bookcase, an old loveseat, my old oak rocker which Annie wants, and Annie's antique baby dresser which we love too much to get rid of. I painted the walls a tasty taupe when he moved out but the decor ruins the look.

Annie's room has a twin bed, a niece's old crib, my grandmother's desk, my grandson's plastic party kitchen, more books and two tvs, one of which is trash but I can't lift it, and one of which is nearing trash status but I can't lift it, either. It features the ocean blue color Lillie chose when it was her room but I plan to repaint with the bathroom's new latte color if I can get some of the stuff out. Both of those rooms, of course, have a lot of other crap in them, not quite up to "Hoarders: Buried Alive" level but miles from "Designed to Sell".

My room has new chocolate brown paint, although all the furniture still needs a unifying coat of cream paint. This reminds me: The newest thing in there is a particle board filing cabinet with a cloth over it! My bed (which Annie would take if we could get it there) and two lamps are out-of-date brass (purchased early in my long defunct marriage--although the mattress is much newer and wonderfully comfy). The dresser is my ex's childhood possession and too tacky for my replacement to take in the divorce agreement (I got the better deal). One end table is from my college house. The bookshelves and another tiny dresser are decades old. Two armchairs, covered with sheets, win the fossil prize--they graced my former mother in law's bedroom forty years ago. (I actually like them very much except for the ugly orange and gray plaid upholstery, thus the sheets--which also make it look like I will be painting any minute now or worse, that I neglected to remove the sheets after painting a year ago).

Where is this going? I forget if I was seeking decorating advice or moaning that virtually everything in my house is mismatched and OLD, including me. I suppose I would welcome suggestions on what to do with these various rooms. I would also be willing to part with most of it, so make your bids!

In the meantime, I'll keep painting, sorting, and pitching.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nineteen seventy five

...Is when I graduated high school. I'll do the math for you: that was thirty five years ago. With the advent of facebook and, we cannot hide. We get invited, and we have to go. Well, I do because I managed to move back to my hometown, and only recluses or people with far more options than I can beg off. So what now?

I do what everyone else does--try to find a former classmate to go with me so I don't have to sit by myself OR make introductions all night. I have a handful of truly wonderful old friends who have in the past few years gathered annually, including the official reunions; which has been so much fun and also, parenthetically, kept us from having to sit alone at the lunch table--er--banquet table. This year, unfortunately, we were unable to pull together a quorum to attend the reunion. It threatened to be just me. Alone. I imagined crouching in my car identifying carefree classmates as they entered, laughing and yoo-hooing and hugging and confident they picked the right outfit and have cute hair and great shoes. (Actually, though, I remember entering the venue at our 25th reunion and being mystified that someone had invited all our parents; which of course was not the case. And then at our 30th reunion the chairperson [whom I will not identify] scoffed at the notion of photo-nametags. Some of us desperately wrote our names on our shoulders or throats with a Sharpie so people wouldn't avoid saying hello because they had no idea who we were. I am not making that up.)

I pulled out my stash of dresses, all a little dusty on the shoulders, and tried them on. I came up with just two possibilities --they fit, don't make me look too lumpy, and I have shoes that go (I've surrendered to the sorrow of having to wear flats--heels are no longer an option, but that's another post). Then I turned around to see how I would look as I crashed frantically out the exit. What happened to the other side of me? Who's fanny is that? It looked like I had on a full money belt, but I did not. What is that hump on the back of my neck? I thought I was taking some expensive drug to prevent me from becoming Quasimodo. I flapped my arms in horror and recoiled as my heybabies (think offspring of a flying squirrel and a camel) wobbled and shook. I wished it were next week. Next week is my vacation.

The closer it got the more excuses I thought of and the less appealing the idea of witnessing the sad decline of all those formerly vibrant children became. But the fifty dollar ticket won and I went after all. And as soon as I went in, two or three friends whom I was certain would not be there WERE there, and people were cheery and chatty and said I looked young and my newly silver hair was striking. A handful of compliments is great medicine. There were photo nametags. There was not, however, dinner, despite the fifty dollar dinner ticket. There were several tables of tasty finger foods, drinks IF you brought even more money, but no dinner. We went around the tables a few more times to fill up, said our goodbyes, and the reunion was over for five more years.

I'll start saving up.

Monday, June 21, 2010

where the cat lady lives

I have arrived. I am the cat lady. With Lillian's departure to the windy city, the cats and I are the sole occupants of this house. Add a few dozen piles of tight clothes, old magazines, useless electronics and castoff furniture and there you go: the cat lady.

For the last few weeks all I could think about (except my teeth) was getting her out of the state with everything she needs. She left behind everything she doesn't need, some of which she thinks she might possibly want someday, and the rest of which I am free to discard. Enter my first project: discarding things! Some can be dumped and some can be passed along to charity so someone else can bring it home to clutter and clog another house. Someone else's house.

If, after that, I'm still boiling with the urge to jettison unnecessary junk, I personally own about twice as much stuff as I actually need and use. Out it goes! Whee! I can see the spare, organized rooms now, and they are beautiful. Not like a foreclosure with a meth lab in the yard.

The cat lady has a whole list of projects; but let's start with this and see how it goes. I'll try to be done by the end of the summer! Hey-the cat lady works terrible hours and needs to rest and read so don't be critical of my timeline.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hot lava is everywhere

I know why we still have that useless house phone. Same reason as you: I always know where it is. I do not always know where my cell phone is. I try to keep track of it but as everyone knows, cell phones are too small and too slithery and get lost all the time. I know I am not the only person to use the hot lava rule: you can put your phone HERE or THERE but everywhere else is hot lava. My phone is permitted to go in my purse, in a suitable pocket on a garment I am presently wearing, on the bathroom counter, on the coffee table, or in the cup holder in the car. Period.

There is a perpetual series of events in my life that make me certain I am gradually losing my grip on reality. The unreliable whereabouts of my cell phone is one of them. In order to help me maintain a little control, there is a list taped to the door to the garage: Phone, lunch, glasses, nametag [needed to get into my building], coffee, other. I'll bet you have a list, although you may foolishly believe you can have a mental checklist that works just as well. Of course it does not, so write it down. You're welcome.

This morning I patted my pockets and read the list out loud and had everything, so off I went. It is Friday after a terribly busy week, and I knew I was punchy and worn out, but I have a LIST and was confident.

I worked like a stevedore until lunch (late, very hungry by then) and went to check my messages but where was my phone? Hmm...well, I didn't want to waste my rest minutes so never mind. Too busy to rummage around, and by day's end I thought I probably left it in the car. It wasn't there, so I decided that although I was SURE I'd had it when I left in the morning...maybe I imagined it and it was on the bathroom counter. When I got home I looked everywhere and it wasn't there. I decided to go back since it's the weekend. When I arrived at work, everyone else was gone and I had forgotten my nametag (the magnet strip unlocks the door) which lives in the car UNLESS I forget and it hitchhikes into the house, which it apparently did today. I peeked in through the breakroom window in case I had left it on the table which I couldn't have-probably-I couldn't remember now...Essentially out of options, I was pleased to discover the phone hiding between the car door and the driver's seat. Pleased but boneheaded.

Lillie translated: Phone try to be where you look. Phone try to tell you it lost, but Phone on vibrate. That's pretty close to the truth. Half the time I forget to put it on vibrate until it rings when I am working; breaking the rules. I should add "Phone to vibrate" to my garage door list. Anything else is, of course, hot lava.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Canned vs. Fresh

This is a MySpace Blog I wrote a while back that seems appropriate today. I had a consult with the dental-implant doctor today and am overwhelmed with how much the whole project will cost. I have no choice, I need to have my teeth repaired. I am looking for avenues to finance all this but most feel like grave robbing. I just want to rest my head on the table and think about something else. I'm going to go scrub floors, as befits my washerwoman tax bracket. And my plan is to scare up some cheer before I write again (we're going to go see Sex and the City 2 which should help).

Blog Redux (I'll probably pull out a few others at some point):

" So I don't have a lot of regrets about my past. Except: I regret that I chickened out and didn't become a medical technologist. I remember looking at the books I'd need in the university bookstore and believing I couldn't do it; it was too hard. I was an idiot to think that, and I've regretted it ever since. Bad decision based on flimsy facts. I had no idea then what hard was all about..

Financial independence would be so wonderful. Phlebotomists do all right, we get by, but there is no extra money when my car makes dreadful noises or I want to fix up my home or help out my kids. When we were wretchedly poor and lived with my mother and got AFDC and food stamps I had a stomach ache every day. Those days are few and far between now, but there's always a stomach ache crouching around the corner when the car needs big repairs (it does) or I realize there's a few grand in dental work ahead (there is)...ouch, literally.

The love of money may be the root of all evil, but oh man...I wish I were rich. I promise I'd be the least evil rich person you'd ever want to meet. "

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

those greeks had hard jobs too

I like to think of myself as reasonably resilient. I have a challenging job which is hell bent on pounding the life right of me, so it's always a horserace to see who will win each round--sometimes the factory comes out on top, and sometimes, by the skin of my teeth, I triumph. Triumph is probably a little flowery; just ending the week with a pulse is enough. My brain is so tired that I'm surprised I wake up every morning.

An old friend mentioned that he wants to have the meditation-group guy lead a group at his house, by invitation which will keep out people who are, shall we say, counter to the process. Aside from one college why-not attempt at organized meditation, I have no experience with it. The people I know (all both of them) who are brave enough to admit they meditate are the ones who are, you know, the kind of folks who WOULD meditate. Yes. Well. Hmmm. But in my silvery wisdom (I decided about that, too) I wonder if meditation might help. Remember Sisyphus? I don't mean personally, he was in a Greek myth predating even me. Poor Sisyphus, as you recall from school, was condemned forever to push a boulder up a hill only to have it roll down again, over and over. Good old Greek mythology, rife with characters with whom we can identify.

Anyway my point is, if I want to stop pushing the ball up the hill, I need something not currently present in my arsenal of coping skills. I don't know what will happen with this, but I'll let you know. Lillie says the best way to end a story with no real focus is to say, and then I found five dollars. I'll try that: And then I found five dollars!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

knock knock

My house is a mess. I know everybody says that sometimes. We all have a level of messiness that we can live with--for some, NO mess is ok, for others, the zoo's the limit. Do you watch "Hoarders"? Yes you do. I think we like it because we say to ourselves, I am not THAT BAD. But it makes me look around uneasily during the commercials.

In a few weeks, I will be living here alone, which is weird enough. When Lillie moves to Chicago the mess will be all mine. The cats shed but are not otherwise messy, except for the litterbox and their buffet in the kitchen, and I can't point a finger at them. At this point I have tentative ideas about clearing out the clutter, sorting, tossing, painting...I won't have any more time than I do now so it won't happen overnight, but I am excited about the prospect. I imagine how it might look (just like the DIY websites of course). I do not think about how living alone will feel.

Perhaps it's my thoughts that are the messiest rooms in the house.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The better to bite you with

So I'm back in town, working long hours just like I never left. Without too many dreary details, let's just say that I think I may have been unfairly railroaded into working in Sacramento last week. I really did try to put whipped cream and a strawberry on the situation and learn as much as possible while I was there. It was, however, almost impossible not to think about revenge, so I did THINK about it; but I prefer to hope that justice will prevail and not have my fingerprints on it. Anyway--I'm back.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my sprinklers are still puddly and brain-damaged. I have to call the nice sprinkler guy, B, and ask him to come fix them back like new, and find a way to pay him. In the bigger picture, the money I save by releasing my current landscaper (see how I make it sound like I am letting a captive dove fly home to her babies?) can pay for sprinkler repairs. I'm saving the sprinkler-guy call as dessert to the unpleasant taste of telling P (via a nice note and a month's pay) that I don't want him to mow my lawn anymore. I do not enjoy the role of Big Boss. Did anyone see "Up in the Air?" The guy who is a professional firer? That movie gave me an enormous anxiety attack that comes back if I even type the words.

Also back at the ranch are my teeth. No mistake--I love my dentist but he is unfortunately not able, although he likes me just fine, to do my dental work for free. Once upon a time when I was a tiny little child with great big brand new front teeth I crashed my bike face first into the asphalt and broke those teeth. Ever since, I have had some sort of compromise dental situation--fake front teeth--which are in the afternoon of my life, failing. I have had several bridges but that ship has sailed over the horizon. I need dental implants. A wonderful invention, generally very successful, but crushingly expensive. Even with dental insurance, which will throw down a little, even stretching the process over two calendar years, I'll have to pull thousands of dollars out of my hat. Figuratively speaking. There is no money in my hat.

If I thought my job was stressful and being a landowner was uncomfortable, I was right, but nothing keeps me awake like this one. Some survey determined that people would turn down a million dollars before they'd give up a front tooth. Don't you have dental nightmares, too? That your teeth fall out or break off? The frosting on my anxiety cake is that no matter WHAT the doctors have ever promised, I have NEVER awakened from anesthesia without a whole lotta vomiting. I put off every procedure where I have to be "asleep" as long as possible because vomiting is so gruesome. Here are the rungs on the ladder of happiness: Thousands of dollars I do not have; Surgery that PULLS MY FRONT TEETH OUT; and then I get to vomit. And the top step? A denture over the obvious hole for a few months while it heals enough to screw new teeth onto the implanted posts. Say, now there's a picnic!

Sorry for sounding hysterical, and sorry if I gave your nightmares some fresh new ideas. I'll be looking around for something more cheerful to discuss. I think my 35th high school reunion is coming up...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elena, Carly and Joan

This is not a political post, because I like you all the the way you are regardless of your political affiliation. This is a post about hair, including my hair. And little bit about mascara. Oh God, another disclaimer is in order. I like you all the way you are, again, regardless of your stand on mascara. Can we continue?

Today the news is filled with footage of supreme court nominee Elena Kagan. I happen to be kind of excited about the prospect of her becoming a justice but, poor dear, she is going to hear far to much about her eyebrows and eyelashes than about her take on higher court decisions. Call me shallow (go ahead, I'm ready) but if she had groomed brows and maybe a dash of lipstick, as though she were generally too busy to do the whole regimen, but not so personally careless that we wonder if her armpits are hairy, mainstream America would have fewer details to snipe about. We MIGHT subconsciously like her just a little better. As with any focus group; we trust the ones who look a little better put together. Its not just me. Two words: Susan Boyle.

Case in point: Carly Fiorina. I may disagree with her on principle but she looks marvelous; not like an anchorwoman but like she worked her way to the top, which she did, and also has a pedicure, which I bet she does. Also important because I so recently cut my hair short--she has great hair. She probably cut it like that JUST SO I would feel ashamed to disagree with her. I'm not sure what she looks like on a Sunday morning but her TV ads look great; which makes me WISH we had the same values.

My brother said I look like Joan Baez. I honestly admired Joan when she had long stringy folksinger hair and I like her still with cropped gray hair, and I'm sure I look nothing like her but I still didn't mind the comparison. In truth, I probably look more like Judi Dench, or--oh dear--Julie Andrews. Just in case, though, I don't leave the barn without filling in all the blank parts of my face. There's always a focus group out there, or you, or me. Marketing: it works.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thank you, Anna Jarvis

I'm sitting on my couch watching Sam show Lillie around Chicago on the laptop. Googlemaps, we love you. What's cool about that is being able to see their new street, yard, neighborhood, manhole covers, ad infinitum. Six weeks and she's outta this town, on to the adventure that is her future. The cats and I are a little uneasy about that. Well, actually, the cats are untroubled by the prospect of her leaving, indeed about anything on the horizon. Cats have no agenda and anticipate nothing. I, on the other hand, fret about tomorrow and next month and next year. Not to the point of ulcer but enough to awaken me in the night...

Friday I had a leaking sprinkler, or so I thought, but things got better after that. L's nice yard guy arrived and dug down further in the mud than I had, determined the problem originated in the sprinkler's brain on the other side of the house; called HIS sprinkler savvy friend who immediately appeared and established which of the ten-year-old sprinkler brain parts needed replacing. It was like a crime show where the murder and the trial fit into the same one hour episode. Apparently fate started feeling a little guilty about heaping crap on my plate and so L's nice yard guy offered to maintain my lawn for $30 a month instead of $100 which is what I give P to do it. Now I have to break up with P, essentially, which will make me feel like the Ugly American, but hey, I really need that $70. P does a lot of yards and probably makes more than I do, and it's all in cash.

Today is Mothers Day. My mom came which made it acceptable for me, the daughter, to bake the shortcake, whip the cream, and cut up the berries while the kids wandered around with their coffee cups. My gift to myself was a darling pair of Rocketdog zebra print silk flats. I can't moan about payback for long dreadful labors because I got them all out in a few hours each, but that's worth at least a pair of marked-down shoes.

Next week I'll be in Sacramento, living in a hotel without a magnifying mirror. I am far too blind and vain to live without a magnifying mirror. Worse, I also have to be snappy and attentive because they will be trying to teach me things --see previous sentence--so all I can say is this hotel better have internet and room service. Could be worth another pair of shoes.

You don't have to google it. Anna invented Mothers Day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Fix it

Whee, my first post. I wish I had something charming to discuss but I fear that most of my posts will be, primarily, me whining about something. OH, don't pretend you don't whine about things. Yes you do, you're just not writing it down. If your problems are less distressing than mine, you get to feel better (why, you're welcome!) and if mine are less awful than yours, you get to wallow a little more, which we both know is what you were going to do anyway.

Where was I? My sprinklers...remember when it froze so hard in January? I think some of my sprinklers took it on the chin; because first one and then another are in some secretive way, leaking or gushing or being otherwise all f*****d up. Last week I replaced the first leaky one but that didn't help at all. Today (it is Friday of course) there was a serious swamp: evidence of a broken pipe, further down than my shovel could reach [although I didn't go down that far because then what?].

As my followers (all three of you) know, I am reasonably resourceful, thanks to my mother and grandmother who always figured out and solved their own property-owner type problems. But I know when I'm in over my head (figuratively speaking--I only dug down about 6 inches) so I called my friend L to see who fixes HIS sprinklers; called THAT guy, and HE promised to appear tomorrow and diagnose my problems. My sprinkler problems. He knows when he's in over HIS head, too, no doubt.

The whiny subtext in this is, how am I going to pay for this? I earn just about enough to get by but no more. I'm sadly aware that my sprinklers will break and my dental work will crumble and my car would like to--but cannot--last forever. I don't have any generous, but failing, relatives. I can't rob a bank because they have security cameras and I'm kind of self conscious about my hair right now. So tonight, instead of reading a soothing novel, I'm going to look online for information about refinancing my house.

This Sunday is Mothers Day. My son Sam will be in California on business and is driving up for a very quick hit-and-run visit, and then I have to travel out of town (work not pleasure) all next week. I'd whine about living out of a suitcase but that's a whole post of its own, so I'll save that one for later.

I'll let you know what happens; and thanks for joining me here...