Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lists and Lists of Lists

I have lists on the brain. Some are still in there while others have actually been committed to paper. Making them real rather than theoretical. The right half of my brain likes the theoretical lists while the left half of my brain prefers the written down in the real world lists. Or is that the other way around? I have a not very ambitious summer reading list consisting of three books.

Liberty, a novel by Garrison Keillor

Infinite Jest, a novel by David Foster Wallace

The Cosmic Landscape, String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design, nonfiction by Leonard Susskind

I started The Cosmic Landscape a month or so ago and I find it very interesting. But it's not a page-turner, more thought is required. Then, impulsively, for three bucks at Wal-Mart, I picked up Natalie Wood, A Life, by Gavin Lambert. I cannot put this book down. Normally I'm not all that interested in show biz biographies, but the fact that her life ended so young and so tragically, that she was in several movies that I love, and that she was just such an amazing actress from a very young age, I am completely caught up in the telling of her life story. I'll get back to string theory and the other stuff. My entire brain is presently occupied with Natalie.

Day of Rest?

The plants are out of their tiny plastic pots! Most of them are now in bigger plastic pots! Some are in the ground. A few are in a terra cotta pot decorated with bas-relief fishes. A couple are in a plastic pot that is resting in a metal pink flamingo. Begonias, impatiens, petunias, allysum, ferns, ivy, spikes, New Guinea impatiens, geraniums, dianthus, and an ornamental grass I'd never seen before called fiber optic. I am filthy and sweaty and feel an enormous sense of accomplishment. Even though I still need to spend at least as many hours in the yard as I did today to clean up flower beds and weed the perennials. Yes, it is the spring flurry of yard work that will ease into an easy routine of watering and weeding. Watering and less weeding. Watering. Winter. Does anyone care what the iPod list was while I was working? Of course you do! That's why you're here!

Hank Harris -- I and I
Hank Harris -- 15 Minutes
Ingrid Michaelson -- The Way I Am
Ray Price -- For the Good Times
Patsy Cline -- Crazy
Helen Reddy -- You and Me Against the World
Bonnie Raitt -- The Road's My Middle Name
Lyle Lovett -- Nobody Knows Me
Hedwig & The Angry Inch Soundtrack -- Exquisite Corpse
Red Willow Band -- Beautiful Lie
Eagles -- Sunset Grill
Indigo Girls -- Southland in The Springtime
Lyle Lovett w Keb Moe -- Till it Shines
Steely Dan -- FM
Don Henley -- End of the Innocence
Don Henley -- New York Minute
Linda Ronstadt -- Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind
Beth Nielsen Chapman -- Beyond the Blue
America -- Ventura Highway
Linda Ronstadt -- Silver Threads and Golden Needles
Steely Dan -- My Old School
Don Henley -- The Heart of the Matter
Abby SomeOne -- Good Man
Abby SomeOne -- Mrs. Maybe
Indigo Girls -- Watershed
Abby SomeOne -- Diamond
Sheryl Crow -- Favorite Mistake
Police -- Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
Maroon 5 -- Sweetest Goodbye
Sheryl Crow -- Leaving Las Vegas
Eagles -- One of These Nights
Hank Harris -- Water of Life
Bonnie Raitt --Nick of Time
Lyle Lovett -- Closing Time
Elvis Costello w Emmylou Harris -- The Scarlet Tide
Abby SomeOne -- Tip Toe
Dishwalla -- Give
Maroon 5 -- Must Get Out
Elvis Costello -- Indoor Fireworks
Abby SomeOne -- This Love
Red Willow Band -- The Other Man
Hank Harris -- Piece of Light
Aaron Neville -- When Something is Wrong With My Baby
Jimmy Buffett -- Come Monday
Hank Harris -- New Religion
Hank Harris -- The Beast Unwinds
Indigo Girls -- Hammer and a Nail
Bonnie Raitt -- Thing Called Love
Jimmy Buffett -- Cheeseburger in Paradise
Steely Dan -- Hey 19
Susan Tedeschi -- You Need to be With Me
David Sanborn -- St. Louis Blues
Mary Chapin Carpenter -- A Keeper for Every Flame
Hedwig and the Angry Inch Soundtrack -- Wicked Little Town
John Prine w Iris DeMent -- In Spite of Ourselves
Ray Price -- I Won't Mention it Again
Heart -- These Dreams

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Listen to The Quiet...

Cake has been set afire, extinguished, and consumed. Presents have been opened. Cards have been passed around the room and giggled over. One of the cards spoke in the voice of Homer Simpson. Another said the name of a fish in Hawaaian. Eight extra teenagers have shown up, played video games, eaten pizza and gone. The cats have deemed it safe enough to come out of hiding and reclaim their house. Pretty much the same routine as birthday parties in the past, only now the guests arrive and depart in their own cars instead of being dropped off and picked up by moms or dads. Oh, and they eat more. Lots more. I miss making up the little bags of candy and party favors to send home with the departing guests. All I do now is bake a cake, order the pizza, and hang around and act like the resident adult. And after they've gone, I appreciate the quiet.

Friday, May 29, 2009

From 1'8 1/4" to 6'2" and Growing...

The 16yo is, as of just before midnight last night, now the 17yo. He isn't any easier to pry out of bed. It's not likely I'll be able to talk him into cleaning his bathroom today. Although he did not have to be reminded to feed the cats. It would seem that maturity is incrementally acquired and has little to do with attaining a certain calendar age. I don't see his basic wardrobe changing from the jeans, tshirts, and hoodie uniform. But he does seem more concerned about his general state of personal cleanliness and whether he needs to get his hair cut. Happy birthday, my beamish boy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Welcome to My Revelation

Oh. My. It is nothing short of astonishing and revelatory what a big, fat dose of emotional turmoil and stress can bring out in a person. Meaning me. The past two weeks have been a roller coaster of the heart and mind and soul that I am happy to say I have exited. Whew. At some point this evening I came back to center after some pretty erratic behavior, some of it alcohol fueled. It's as if an extra head sporting snakes for hair and gleaming, red eyes has had occasion to sprout from my shoulder and take over for a while. And now that it seems to be out of my system I realize I have learned a few things. That I have some very tolerant, wonderful, supportive friends who have kept me safe and given me comfort. And that includes you, my dear sister. That I'm not nearly as strong or as smart as I thought I was, but yet smart enough and strong enough to survive what has seemed unbearable. My skill set for apologizing has become rapier sharp. I hope to keep the thought forward in my mind that apologies, tears, and forgiveness are healing in a most miraculous way. Now that I've (mostly) finished acting out, I can get down to the heart of the matter I've been avoiding. It would have been so much easier to go directly there instead of distracting myself. I can now get on with the business of mourning the death of my brother.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Lilacs Waited

When I left home over a week ago, the bank of lilacs in the backyard was loaded with tight little purple buds.

They're late this year like everything else this cool and windy spring. But I choose to think they know what joy they bring to me. So they waited to unfurl their fragrant glory until I was home.

I brought some in.

Home Again

What a long, strange journey these last ten days have been. Of measurable distances in miles and immeasurable distances of the heart and spirit. My brother is no longer of this world but he left behind a legacy of love and sweetness and humor that touched so very many lives. He was much loved and leaves a hollow space that will not soon be filled. When someone you love is ripped away in a tragic, brutal, random accident, you are obliged to consider the meaning of your own life. How important it is to feel the sunshine, look up at the stars, dance, laugh, savor everything that is good and to be present in every moment of life. What is particularly sad about Cullen's death is that the accident took another life as well. A young woman named Lara who was only nineteen. I feel for my brother's widow, Pamela, who now goes home to an empty house. A house that holds nearly sixteen years of memories of the life that they shared. Which makes me doubly grateful for the home I returned to last night. For my two sons who joyfully crushed me in a group hug. And for Newton and Einstein who suspiciously sniffed my luggage and shoes before begging for attention. It is good to be home.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Hardest of Goodbyes

There is a frightful shortage of truly good people on this earth. And sadly, today there is one fewer among us. My brother, Cullen, was killed in a car accident this morning. He was one of those people who made me have hope for the world just because he was here. He was kind and generous. Smart and handsome. Funny and talented. He loved his wife and their pets and ballroom dancing. I never heard an ex-girlfriend speak ill of him. I remember laying my cheek against Mom's pregnant belly and feeling him kick from the other side. He's on some other side once again, and I'm so very sad that he is gone. So, I'm going to Atlanta, where he's lived for the last twenty years. To spend some time with others who loved him. To share memories and stories. And give each other comfort and try to fill in the enormous hole he has left behind.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Not for Tender Ears

And speaking of the FCC, go here to hear the fabulous Eric Idle skewer the previous administration for their handling of broadcast issues.

Television Shmelivision

Six and a half years ago, I dropped cable tv. The local cable provider was, and still is, a shitty, greedy, evil company that I no longer wished to give any money to. We were down to the six channels that came in via the antenna in the garage rafters. The major alphabet networks plus Fox and two PBS stations. And when the wind was right and the planets were aligned the CW came in, but not so great, so it really doesn't count. Then February 17th, 2009 rolled around. Digital! Digital, digital, digital, high definition broadcast arrived! Even though I have a newer tv that is capable of displaying the new digital transmission mode, alas, my antenna is too puny to pull in the signal. So now I'm down to two channels, the CBS and NBC affiliates who opted to continue with their analog signals until the new deadline for digital only which rolls around sometime next month. Then, I'm thinking, I'll have nothing! At that point, to get any television at all, I have two choices. I can lock myself into a monthly subscription fee with either a satellite tv service or go back to the evil cable company. Or, I can spend four to five hundred bucks to erect a large and hideous antenna in my yard that maybe will pull in out of the air what I got before the transition. But maybe not, digital tv signals are not nearly as reliable as the old analog style transmission method. Digital doesn't travel long distances as well and is more at the mercy of the wind and weather that can vastly affect the quality of the sound and picture that is received. What really gets me is that I directly support public broadcasting and I can't get that at all! This, ladies and gentlemen, is progress!! I do have high speed internet and can watch most of the programs that I like in HD and often with absolutely no (or limited) commercial interruption. I also have an extensive collection of movies on video and dvd. I can watch what I want, when I want, I just can't park myself in front of the tv and flip channels until I figure out, perhaps hours later, that there really isn't anything I want to watch. I'm thinking that's a pretty good thing. My tv watching by default has become a deliberate and discriminating sort of thing. Leaving time for hobbies, reading, and actual interaction with other humans. I can play with my cats, do things outside. Listen to music and NPR. Speaking just for me, the switch to digital tv is a blessing in disguise. And in a way that was completely unintended by the FCC.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Important Stuff to Remember About Bike Riding

* Remember to downshift before stopping! It is very difficult to get going from a dead stop in 5th gear. It is also somewhat painful and you look like a total idiot.

*Take your camera! I rode past the soccer fields south of town and there were so many gigantic, colorful kites up in the air! Huge, trapezoidal ones and one looked like a dragon, there was a blue fish and an absolutely enormous orange fish kite that was only about ten feet off the ground. Maybe there wasn't enough breeze for a kite the size of a Volkswagon.

*Buy an odometer! I'd like to know how many miles I'm racking up. I became dependent on my bike buddy, Sue, who has one, but these days I'm usually riding alone.

*Walking down the basement steps too soon after biking five or so miles is quite agonizing. I made horrible noises the first three steps down and then clung to the banister the rest of the way. I'm fine now.


There they are. Large and goofy and sweet and full of life. The elder son brought me a raspberry cream muffin this morning. It was lovely. Tonight we grilled burgers and had brownies and ice cream with hot fudge for dessert. I went for a bike ride this morning and took a bubble bath this afternoon. It was a very good day. And I have to thank my sons. It is due to their existence that I hold membership in the Mom club. They are my two very favorite people. I like them a lot.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Shopping Swap

Is it a weakness for shoes? A fondness for shoes? A fetish, perhaps? An obsessional shopping quest rearing its fashionable head? Whatever anyone wants to call it, I've got it. Bad. And like other hunting and gathering quarries, I do like a bargain. I finally tried on this cute little sweater that I bought over a month ago and had serious doubts about the color. And the odd manner in which it bunched up in front around the buttons. And it looked so cute on the hanger! Then it morphed into a hideous knit monster once I donned it. Then there was that questionable shirred-front white tshirt that I had grabbed during the same shopping trip. They both went into a bag along with the receipt. They were about to be returned. And for just a little over a dollar more than the return, I found these adorable sandals! Comfortable as well as cute. And for anyone who cares, that's Cover Girl Boundless Color 522, Pink Prism, on my toes.

Lawn Mowing 101

You will be happy to hear that the first mowing of the lawn has been accomplished today. Anyone who says that mowing is not an aerobic activity has never had to pull the starter 483 times to get the mower going. Yes, I did check the oil and the gas levels prior to attempting startage of the blasted stubborn machine. Yes, I did push that little priming thingy a few dozen times as well. I imagine that I wouldn't be too quick to get moving if I had sat in the garden shed all winter. I am relatively new to lawn mowing, it's only three years since my first time. I grew up doing indoor activities while the male members of the family took care of the yard. After that I either enjoyed apartment living or had a husband who complained vociferously and profusely before, during and after mowing. Leaving me to feel grateful that I didn't have to be responsible for such a horrible, draining and difficult task. When he moved out and I inherited the dreaded mowing of the grass, I wondered if I was up to it! Was I smart enough? Strong enough? It was a piece of cake! I rotate mowing duties with the 16yo, now, like I did with the elder son before he moved out. And much like the laundry list of things I was mildly terrified to take over when I became single three years ago, things my former husband whined and fretted over, I have discovered that I am not only competent at them, I'm pretty darned capable. I even wrote a poem about it.

The Resiliency of The Grass

Three pulls
And the engine leaps to life
Isolated by the noise
And the softness of the turf
I am walled off from the world
Save for the breeze
And the bright green smell
The grass is resilient, patient, alive
She tolerates the sun and weather
Springs back from our footfalls
Creeps stealthily into the garden space
Survives this whirring blade of steel
That keeps her height in check
By midsummer I'll grow weary of this task
Yet remain grateful
That she shrugs off the winter
With such ease and confidence

Monday, May 4, 2009

Potential is an Optimistic Word

This week the unnamed internet dating service has found 658 men who are potential matches for me! I have discovered how I am able to whip through and dismiss most of these guys so quickly. Once I weed out the ones who don't post a photo (c'mon!, you've got to have the balls to at least post one photo!), the ones who have the same name as my former husband (just can't do that) or either of my sons (just a little creepy) and the ones who are ambiguous about marital status, tobacco use or where they actually live, there are eleven guys left. Of those, four of them are fat guys on Harleys, three are looking for love in a 25 mile radius, two of them prefer someone younger than me, even if they are OLDER than me, one is shorter than me (I'm only 5'4"!), and one I emailed last week and it is doubtful that he will respond. On the brighter side, if you want a good laugh, go here!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

First Sunday in May

The dining set is back in the dining room. Colleen and I went out for lunch yesterday. She dropped me off at the bike shop and I rode my new pink bike home! That nearly did me in! So I only went for a four mile ride this morning. Uff-da. Unlike other years just after the first rides of the season, my butt is not sore! I have a bike with a comfy seat! This is a miracle, or at least, a near miracle. No matter how much personal padding one has on one's ass, it is not appropriately distibuted to cushion properly on the average bike seat. And I can personally attest to that. Why do I live between neighbors who are the first on the block to get out and tend to their lawns? It makes my puny efforts in the yard look that much punier by comparison. I do need to do a serious raking job. And one of the flamingoes in the front yard has toppled over. And I think I need to sell the yard swing and put a hammock back between those two trees. La Guera was right. The swing is all cute and everything sitting out there, but it just isn't the same as a hammock. And it seems just wrong to waste perfectly spaced hammock trees. As for the rest of today, there is homework to monitor, laundry to do, a newspaper to read and garlic lime chicken to prepare for dinner. Sunday is the reason I can tolerate Monday. Must be why they're in that order.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The High Road

I found a couple of books during the bedroom remodel. Actually, I found a number of books in the towering piles that teetered on my nightstand. And a little table. And the top of my dresser. A few were relocated to my office. Some others found their way onto the bookshelves in the family room. A shorter stack of books I am intending to read in the near future remains on my nightstand. But there were these two volumes that a friend had lent to me over a year ago. One was a self-help book that by page three had lost me completely that I never picked up again. The other a paperback of a novel I liked so much I knew I would want to read it again at some point, so I bought it in hardcover when I discovered it on a bargain rack. I should explain that this friend was someone very close to me for three years. We supported each other through our divorces, we went on road trips and shopping trips together. I would probably say she was my best friend, although I don't like attaching ranks to friendships. But she was. I say was because I have seen her once in the last year. I still don't know what came between us, I'm still kind of surprised that we don't see each other or even talk anymore. I just know that at some point she stopped taking calls from me. So when I went through all the books that had accumulated in my bedroom over the last three years and sorted them out into piles for where they should go, there were these two left over. I thought about dropping them into the GoodWill-bound bag. But I just left them on the counter in the kitchen and walked past them for over a week. At work, I announced that I had found myself in a moral quandary and told the story of the books. Janet said, I'll tell you should do, but you're not going to like what I have to say. I said, okay, tell me. She continued. Give the books back to her, you know it's the right thing to do, if she's not home, put them in her car or hang them in a bag on her door. Take the high road, she said, and you'll always know you did the right thing. Damn. I knew she was right. So, this afternoon, I drove to her home and rang the doorbell. No answer even though her car was right there. I waited. And rang the bell again. Then I retrieved the plastic shopping bag from my car, placed the books inside, and hung the bag on the doorknob. I got back in my car and gazed at the book-laden bag, bumping gently against the door in the breeze. I half expected the door to swing open. But it remained closed. And that's just fine. Another will open. And a smiling face on the other side, maybe a face I haven't become familiar with as yet, will welcome me in. With any luck, there will be books inside, books that I've never read, but would like to.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Wisdom of Opal Pickles