Monday, May 26, 2008


Feeling a little mortal lately. Might be due to the fact that I recently spent time with my mother. Her cancer is in remission but her current state of frailty is still a bit of a shock. Or it could have something to do with the fact that the second anniversary of my brother's death is approaching. He was 51 when he died. I'll soon be 51. Feels just a little too close, but not terribly uncomfortable. Maybe it's just a function of aging, but I find myself thinking about how I might be remembered by those I leave behind. Which makes me think that maybe I ought to do something about all of those journals tucked into the filing box under my desk! Which brings us to Beth Nielsen Chapman and her CD Sand and Water. Which brings us to a guilty little pleasure I indulged in when I still had cable TV. I watched reruns of the series Charmed. I loved every minute of that show but didn't admit to anyone that I was a regular viewer. At the end of one episode there was a funeral scene in a cemetery, and an absolutely beautiful song was playing over the scene as the camera panned out and faded to black and the credits. For once I caught the music credit as it displayed ever so fleetingly across the screen. Beth Nielsen Chapman. Singing the title song from Sand and Water. On the strength of that one song, I purchased the CD and I love every single track. She wrote the collection of ten songs in the year-long period following the death of her husband, Ernest, and they reflect the many stages and turns her grief led her through. The following lyrics are toward the end of the song. I can barely listen to them without choking up, I can't imagine how she can sing them so beautifully. What I do know is that when I'm gone, if someone I was close to remembers me with such grace and love, I'll have lived a pretty good life.

all alone I heal this heart of sorrow
all alone I raise this child
flesh and bone, he's just
bursting toward tomorrow
and his laughter fills my world
and wears your smile

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Spam & Coconuts

My ass is tired! Though to be more accurate, my brain is tired. I just spent my first full day trying on a job in the research department. I was so deluged with information, about half of which I'm familiar with, that my brain is more than a little frazzled. I am going back tomorrow for round two and the only thing in sight that is going to save me is the fact that next week I go to summer hours. This means that I shall be deluged with information that I must grasp for five hours per day instead of eight with the bonus of Wednesdays off. The first Wednesday off, however, is the younger son's birthday. And I am having a heck of a time wrangling out of him what he wants. That is, tokens that he desires in a reasonable price range that are also age appropriate. I threatened him with the possibility of finding himself the recipient of Spam. Or a coconut. And the stories that go along with these out of the ordinary gifts nearly made him fall off his chair. He was gasping for air! The Spam gift involves Christmas and his father. From the era when we were married to each other. And I was perplexed and puzzled as to what sort of gift I should present him with. When I asked, in either an overt or sneaky manner, he would reply that he would enjoy getting some Spam, the Hormel variety rather than the internet variety. I don't remember what I got for him that year, I'm sure it was something very nice, but I do remember grocery shopping and in addition to Spam being on sale, I had a coupon as well! Guess what mister uncooperative got in his stocking! The coconut story is particularly funny if you know the people involved, but since you don't, it may fall as flat as a bottle of soda left out opened on the counter overnight. Upon shaking and examining her birthday present one year and hearing a mildly sloshy sound, my friend Sue proclaimed (when pressed for a guess from her husband the giver) that she thought it was a coconut. She truly thought it was bath oil, the very thing she had requested, but didn't want to spoil the surprise. She made a fatal mistake, she thought her husband had listened to her so she guessed the most outrageous sloshy thing she could think of! She opened it. She was right. She was disappointed and her husband was aggravated. There must be some guess of the Magi sort of lesson to be learned at this point but it evades me. All I know is, I've given my son a deadline of this Sunday for a birthday wish list. Because if left to my own devices, he may get Spam and a coconut.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Juniper Jungle

There is a dense jungle of junipers thriving on the east side of my house. The garage side. They were planted to cover up the nasty looking concrete footings that peeped out from under the siding. I think there were five or six plants initially, purchased at a bargain clearance price toward the end of the season twenty years ago. As end of the season garden plants go, these were marginal. More brown than green with the roots grown through the plastic pots they called home. I remember the thought was, hey, if they survive, they were cheap and we won't have to look at that ugly, uneven concrete any more. Or, if they don't survive the winter, they were cheap and next spring we can plant something else. Survive they did. And have grown into a massive, fragrant thicket that small dogs and rabbits can disappear into. I love the wild look and trim back just the most wayward of branches or those that are no longer producing green foliage. The only problem I have with them is when I have to work around them during yard maintenance and get scratched by their unforgiving structure. I have had a tendency in the past to react to the junipers by developing a raised, splotchy rash wherever I have come in contact with them. Perhaps an allergic reaction. Which made me think. Hmmm. Allergy shots. People pay thousands of dollars for allergy shots where they are exposed to small amounts of allergens, not enough to make them sick, but enough to alert their immune system to build up a tolerance to the offending substance so future exposures will be less severe. So I embarked on a plan of drinking gin. Just a few years ago I was introduced to the the lovely summer beverage known as a gin & tonic. But not just any gin, mind you, it must be Bombay Sapphire. With copious amounts of lime for good measure. Gin is derived in part from juniper berries! Every time I drink a gin & tonic I am building up an immunity to the junipers I must frequently deal with in my yard! What a lovely, lovely rationalization. And it seems to be working. Today I was out in the yard for spring cleaning and the first mowing of the season, meaning I had to rake and then mow around and under the juniper jungle. And I have nary a red spot or bump on any exposed skin! I am planning a strict regimen of gin & tonic this summer, for medicinal purposes naturally. Drink up. It's a jungle out there.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Open Houses and Dating Manners

The house next door is for sale. (cute guy!! single!! the list!!) And for the second time in as many weeks, there was an open house there this afternoon. Which explains why my neighbor was out in the yard yesterday. Not merely mowing, mind you, but sweeping the sidewalks and driveway afterwards. I almost went. Just to be nosy and check out the decorating. And to see if there is any updating to justify the exorbitant initial asking price. Which has dropped considerably. And I just know that every second he is out in his yard, the neighbor guy is thinking that I'm an insufferable slob as far as lawn grooming is concerned. That if his house does not sell soon for a price that makes him happy, that it may very well be due to the fact that I engage in casual yard maintenance. There could be other factors as well. I have pink flamingoes in my yard. I have an anatomically correct garden statue named Edgar. But he is quite well behaved and respects the property lines. Yes, the raking and mowing has been somewhat delayed due to cold, damp weather and my inherent tendency toward procrastination. But wouldn't it be wrong, wrong, wrong for me to dupe potential future neighbors (cute guy!! single!! the list!!) into thinking I'm a yard work fanatic who is obsessed with keeping a perfectly manicured yard? Only to find out that in reality I'm nothing more than a casual gardener with a slightly brown thumb? That would be like adopting an uncharacteristic manner involving sweetness, no swearing, excessive cheeriness and a quiet, non-threatening demeanor just to get asked out on a date. Approximately halfway through the evening he would discover that I'm an irreverent pottymouth who laughs too loudly and scares the crap out of a less than stouthearted fellow. Nope. I staunchly refuse to polish and refine my yard upkeep routine or resort to dating manners. I simply would never be able to keep up the ruse long enough. Not even for a cute, single guy who fits my list that might buy the house next door. The way I figure it, people ought to know what they're getting into from the very beginning. That just makes it easier on everyone involved. Especially me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


The younger son has just appeared and informed me that due to his elder brother's cold, mother's day festivities will be slightly delayed. I'm assuming that this is because the elder possesses a driver's license and a car placing the younger at his mercy. That's just fine. I have had coffee, I have had chocolate. I ventured across the street in the forty degree morning and my flannel jammies to fetch the Sunday paper. It's May 11th!! Why are flannel pajamas still necessary?!?! I prefer MomDay rituals out on the deck in the sunshine accompanied by the scent of blooming lilacs. But it's cold, spring has been seriously delayed and the lilacs have barely begun to leaf out, much less bloom. And the deck, which is situated on the south side of the house in a very sheltered corner, is usually pleasant this time of year. Often almost too warm once noon has arrived. But today we are indoors and clad in flannel but at least the rain has stopped. The sky has cleared and the wind has gone down which means one thing. Moving the elder son into his first apartment will take place today! Yesterday was supposed to be moving day but Mother Nature was not cooperating, the rain was torrential and the wind was unrelenting. Moving furniture didn't seem a likely thing to do. Think I'll sit back, finish reading the paper, and contemplate whether I'd rather have an enormous muffin or a caramel roll the size of a dinner plate. I'm allowed this indulgence thanks to MomDay. When such a delicacy is offered with thanks and adoration and consumed with joy, the calories don't count. Only the love does.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tree Poop

A sure sign of spring has just appeared in my driveway. I should say on my driveway. The tree poop has arrived! I have a pair of mature ash trees in the front yard. They seem to leaf out practically overnight, but before those leaves can unfurl, they must shed the tight, brownish casings that envelop them. Leaving, no pun intended, a mass of brown leaf casings piled in the lawn and on the driveway. Tree poop is how we fondly refer to this stuff. Which also means it's time to rake the leaves that I missed last fall, the dead grass, and the tree poop. It is pointless to rake before the trees have pooped unless you simply enjoy the raking process so very much that you want to do it twice. Once suffices for me. I rake the leaves pretty much as I shovel snow. Casually and as needed and as minimally as possible. Unless it snows again before Saturday, raking is what I will be doing. And I am looking forward to it, but not as fondly as I will be looking back on it. Tree poop. Showing up for a limited time only. In my driveway.

Monday, May 5, 2008


Let me just say that I am not a competitive person. For the most part. That is to say, in most respects. There are two areas in which the killer instinct emerges from deep within my warrior aspect and takes over my usually calm demeanor. Backgammon. Which is understandable. Backgammon is a ground (so to speak) acquisition game of strategy, requiring steely nerves and calling your opponent's bluff. Also a little luck involving the rolling of the dice and internally screaming the word "boxcars!!". I have also been known to utter out loud the phrase, baby needs new shoes, although I haven't the foggiest of ideas what that means. I delight in stranding my adversary on the bar and denying him re-entry to play with a completely filled inner table. And while a competitive spirit is an appropriate component when playing a game, it's a little weird when hunting down a prime parking space. Yes, I admit it. I am a competitive parker. I take glee in scoring an excellent parking space no matter what sort of lot I'm in. Grocery store, mall, restaurant, movie theater, it doesn't matter. At the mall, a good parking spot is a sign of good shopping karma...I am sure to locate and procure at bargain prices most if not all items on my list. A good spot in the grocery lot merely means that I will have to lug or push my purchases the shortest possible distance to the car. A great parking spot when in the pursuit of dinner or entertainment ensures my appetites will be satisfied. Parking. A favorite competitive sport I thoroughly enjoy participating in. Sometime I'll have to try playing backgammon in the car. In a very choice parking space.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Love Thy Neighbor

The house next door has a for sale sign in the yard. Again. Not that it's been up for sale often, just recently. The current owners have been there just over a year. My longer term memory remains mostly intact and I recall in the twenty-two years that I've been in this house, there have been four neighbors to the east. When I moved into this house as a newlywed, there was a single man living next door and was there for only a few months. My husband knew him but I don't recall ever officially meeting him. Don't even remember a name. Then Lyle bought the house and lived there for ten or so years. He was a single guy when he moved in, got married before he moved out, and made considerable improvements on the property. He added an attached garage, a sunporch addition with a hot tub, and covered the brown painted exterior with pale yellow vinyl siding. They were good neighbors. Quiet, cooperated on yard projects and snow removal efforts. When they moved out, Larry took up residence. He wasn't there much, he continued to mostly live in Minneapolis. He was CFO of a local company and was next door when he wasn't doing his job at the home office. He didn't like apartments or hotels, he preferred the house as his home away from primary home. One of the first things Larry did was ditch the hot tub from the Lyle era and install a much larger one as well as a sauna-for-two in the sun porch. He also broke out the end of his driveway and had a much gentler angle toward the street poured in its place. Thus eliminating the annoyance of having his Corvette bottom out in the gutter whenever he backed into the street. Since Larry wasn't there all that much, there were often others in residence. For several months a crew of construction workers lived there while they were working on a building expansion for Larry's company. For a while a Spanish speaking family with a couple of small children lived there. That was during the scandal of Larry's company importing a number of workers from its Texas facility to cover an increase in production that couldn't be filled with local labor. Brookings has a perennial problem of not having a large enough labor pool, unemployment is very low and unfortunately many of the jobs that need filling don't pay well enough for families to move here. Then there was the winter that Larry's grown son lived in the house purportedly to attend college classes. Mostly we just noticed that he sat outside smoking. Then, just over a year ago a young married couple moved in. Sad to say, I don't really know them at all. I do know that they have had a baby while living there and have two completely irritating mop-shaped little dogs who bark in the most bothersome triad. Arf-arf-arf, arf-arf-arf in a descending dissonant cacophony that is particularly annoying at six-thirty in the morning. A couple of weeks ago I noticed the realtor's sign in the front yard. And I've been thinking that it would be great fun if a single guy was to move in next door. A cute single heterosexual guy. In my age range. Who, if he can qualify for a mortgage in the current economic downturn, probably has a job! I've often thought that having a boyfriend right next door would be convenient and cozy if things work out. Giving a whole new connotation to love thy neighbor.