Saturday, November 29, 2008


I have really struggled all week trying to write this post. I have started and stopped several times. How hard can it be to write a Thanksgiving post? Very, apparently.

The problem I have been having is this: When I think of the things for which I am grateful, my head is filled with an endless stream of things. These things run the gamut and I haven't been able to narrow them down to a few categories it would make sense to discuss together. Well, I could... but only at the expense of other things I feel are equally important. What to do?!

Years ago, I had a writing instructor who very cruelly would make her students practice stream-of-conscience writing exercises. I absolutely hated this because if you tell me to write, I can't. (Or perhaps, won' an unconscious, born-rebel kinda way.) However (and you will never, ever see me say this again), there are times this particular exercise can be helpful. For example, it could be helpful when trying to express a great many things for which one is grateful... Here goes... Please do try to keep up!

I am thankful I will see my kids again tomorrow and that they have had this week with their dad and his family. I am thankful they are maturing into fine young people who will soon be on their own, and that they are still at home. I am thankful I have been able to be at home with them. I am thankful we have a home and that we feel safe in it. I am thankful I have never known starvation, or the terror of waking to the sounds of bombs exploding nearby in the night. I am thankful I have never had to worry about being killed for having been born into the "wrong" tribe. I am thankful that my own life path has been down a route that does not predispose me to understanding the "rationalization" process that occurred in the minds of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai; and I am thankful to have not experienced the kind of carnage they left behind. I am thankful that all I had to do this week was paint and clean and try to make sense of it all. I am thankful to have had a break, and to have been able to re-group and come up with at least a few answers to "where do we go from here?"- at least on a familial basis. I am thankful that I have realized that the things I really want to give my kids for Christmas are experiences. I am thankful for second chances, and for depression-era grandparents who thought ahead for their family. I am thankful for the help I have recieved over the years, and for the opportunities I have had to "pay it forward." I am thankful for the ability to let my children become who they really are rather than trying to fit them in some predetermined slot. I am crazy thankful for my garden and all the wonder and joy it brings into my life. I am thankful my interests are infinite and for the knowledge I shall never run out of things to do. I am thankful for having some truly wonderful friends. I am thankful for the new friends I've discovered on the blogosphere. I am thankful for humor and the ability to find a few laughs in the myriad things that go wrong around me. I am thankful I do not become paranoid I may be the cause of those things going wrong. I am thankful my kids are smart-asses and not dumb-asses. I am thankful my country managed to put someone reasonable and thoughtful into the White House this time around. I am thankful for flannel sheets in winter. I am thankful for snow, and crisp fall days, and the first forsythia of spring. I am thankful I was able to see the Soviet Union while it still was, and that I can tell my kids stories about that trip. I am thankful for cameras. I am thankful my kids have stamps in their passports, and curious hearts. I am thankful I have a great relationship with my kids. I am thankful their dad and I have learned to get along. I am thankful their dad and I live 1100 miles apart. I am thankful for books, and the ability to read, and the ability to write. I am thankful for the times my thoughts come out the way they sounded in my head. I am thankful for the time Teak races gleefully around, like a puppy. I am thankful none of the appliances have crapped out yet. I am thankful that I can appreciate what I have, and what I don't have. And I am thankful for many, many more things...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sunroom Happenings

Wow, I can't believe it is almost time to go get the kids already. I have missed them. A lot! But I have also been very busy at home with the endless list of things that should have already been done. So there hasn't been much to post about this week. You didn't really want to hear about painting the living room, did you? I thought not.

So, just a quick post about the sunroom happenings then... The good news: the cherry tomatoes are delicious. The herbs are doing great. The celery is slow growing, but doing well enough that I can harvest a bit now and then. The potato plant has really taken off, although I think one of the stems is getting too long. The radishes seem to be doing well and I should be able to eat some soon. And the banana tree is doing it's thing, despite being wounded by an airsoft pellet passing through one leaf.

The bad news: All of the beans succumbed. I still don't know exactly what disease they had; but I will toss all their soil as a precaution. And the spinach was no match for the kitties, who figured out how to get the wire cage off it so they could romp (and stomp) in the spinach.

I will be starting more seeds soon. But I have a few things to take care of first. I am finding the cost of heating the sunroom to be prohibitive. So I am considering moving some of the plants into the living room/ dining room, and starting the seedlings in the basement, which is actually staying rather warm. So, while nothing is written in stone as yet, the sunroom garden may become the basement and rest-of-the-house garden. We'll see.

Oh, and the worm bin is coming along beautifully. The worms are slowly working their way through the leaves I had added a little while back. They are just about done with them and have turned them into a beautiful bin of black worm poo that I can't wait to feed to the plants. Go worms!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Garden Pics

From top to bottom:

The cherry tomatoes ripening in the sunroom. There is now one less than in the photo as I ate the first one. Yum!

The rest of the pics are a couple weeks old now. The nasturtium were going strong in the garden, but have now been flattened by frost. I will miss them over the winter. They are such a welcoming sight in the garden.

It's not beautiful, but my first ever garlic bed. I planted two types and the early variety has all sprouted. A neighboring cat has dug in the bed a little since the photo was taken. Bad kitty! Shoo!

And last but not least, a shot of the potato plant in the sunroom. It is MUCH larger now! Go potato, go!

Life As I Know It

Let me just say up front that I have learned to really savor the little things in life. For example, the cherry tomatoes growing in the sunroom have begun to ripen. Fresh, homegrown tomatoes mid-November… this is a tiny joy to be relished. Many people wouldn’t get excited over this; but I do. And here’s why…

Today is Saturday, November 22. But we need to rewind my life a little bit, to the week leading up to Halloween. I was sick that week with a head/chest/fevers type thing. For the first time ever, on Halloween I put the candy bowl on the porch and stayed in so as not to share my ick. The day after Halloween, both my kids came down with the ick, and spent the next few days rather unhappily. By November 4, we were all feeling well enough to stay up to watch the presidential election results and Obama’s speech.

The morning of November 5, however, I awoke feeling as if the world was slipping out from under my feet, first one way, and then another. It was vertigo and I had it bad. Bad enough that for the next few days if I tried to do anything that involved not being flat on my back, I would vomit and then silently wish for a swift death. After about a week of vertigo I was able to get up and do things, which was good because while the children had managed to keep us all alive, the house had been trashed to a truly awe-inspiring and unprecedented degree. Although I had just spent a week wishing I could get out of bed, upon surveying the damage all I wanted was to go back to bed, slip my head under the covers, and never, ever come back out.

But, of course, that is not the responsible thing to do. The responsible thing to do is to start cleaning up the disaster, and so I did. One of my first acts was to gather up the great many wayward papers strewn about the upstairs and haul them to the recycling box downstairs. This should have been a fairly straight-forward chore. I gathered up an armload of papers and headed down the stairs, whereupon I put my foot down on an unidentified something (I suspect a kitty toy) that launched out from under my foot. My foot launched out from under me. The papers launched out of my arms. And my body wump-wump-wumped down the stairs on my tailbone. On my downward journey, my glasses flew off, I whacked an elbow on a stair, and knocked an ankle and my neck out of joint. The papers landed on poor Teak, who had been sleeping at the bottom of the stairs. For two days afterward he eyed me warily and slunk away if I approached him. This episode was on November 13 and afterwards I actually did go back to bed for a couple days. I could get around to feed myself and such; but I couldn’t sit, or carry anything. After a couple days, I felt much improved. Not exactly swell, mind you, but if I chose the right spot and the right position I could actually sit for a bit. Plus, I had to prepare to travel a week later. And first on the list was getting the car to the shop for an oil change and check-up.

My mother and I had a deal. I would follow her to the shop and we’d leave her car to have the window fixed- and when that was done we’d leave my car. So she pulls out of her driveway, and I pull into the road behind her, and I smell the strongest gas smell ever. It was so thick in the air I actually started choking on it in my car, and this with the windows shut. Then I saw it. Gasoline was spraying, no, gushing out the bottom of my mother’s car in front of me. She seemed blissfully unaware. When she stopped at a light I ran up and tapped on her window. She’d had no idea. When the light changed we continued on toward the repair shop, and I whipped out my cell phone and called my dad- who had just flow to the opposite coast and would be away for a month. Now, Dad is the go-to guy in our family. He can fix anything and on the off chance he doesn’t have the right supplies and can’t macgyver something, then at the very least he can tell you what’s wrong and what needs to be done. The conversation went like this:
Dad: “Hey there, what’s up?”
Me: “I’m following Mom to Buddy’s…”
Dad: “Oh good, I’m gl-”
There was silence.
Me: “Dad?”
Dad: “I cannot imagine why that would be happening.”
There was silence. That was not a Dad answer.
Dad: “Are you sure it’s gas?”
Me: “Yes. What I really want to know is, is it safe to continue driving the car to the shop?”
Dad: “I don’t know; but I suggest just getting over there as quickly as possible and seeing what Buddy can tell us.”
Me: “Okay. Thanks.”

So, having received these instructions, I hung up just in time to see my mother pulling into a gas station. She…um…got gas…and we continued on our perilous journey. At the last stop light before the repair shop, she pulled into the turn lane- right next to a car with the driver’s window open. I about had a heart attack. It was cold. Who drives with their window open in the cold unless they are smoking?! Apparently (thankfully) there is one guy in Maryland who drives with his window open in the cold even though he’s not smoking. Nobody blew up. It was great! We made our turn, and Mom ran out of gas just as she pulled up in front of Buddy’s shop. By now I imagine you are wondering why her car was spewing gasoline. The answer is… squirrels. ‘Nough said. A couple days later, my car went to the shop in a peaceful, not-at-all-disturbing way and came home with a clean bill of health. Good car. I love you.

The rest of the week was filled with various mundane trip preparations such as laundry and house cleaning, and less mundane but more annoying things such as marveling over how much one cat can barf and how she can make sure to only do it in the one room that still has carpeting. Plus, my laptop died, the dishwasher and clothing dryer have both started sqealing, and now that I have replaced the toilet that ran constantly, my bathroom sink has decided to run constantly. I replaced all the seals, and it was good for a day and is now worse. I was actually beginning to look forward to leaving the whole damn house behind on Friday. Until Thursday morning when my son (who I initially mistook for my daughter) flew out of his bedroom into the bathroom, followed by the sounds of retching. Are you kidding me?!

Well, vomit or no vomit we were leaving Friday morning. Twice a year the kids go to Minnesota to spend time with their Dad and his family. And fortunately, the vomiting was short lived. Which was good, because come Friday morning I was a little short on patience. It was Teak’s fault. He started barking three hours before my alarm was set to go off, and he wouldn’t shut up until I got up and checked out the entire freaking house. Everything was fine. Everything except that I was awake three freaking hours early and now had a dilemma. My body needs a certain contiguous number of hours of sleep to be functional. So, it would seem reasonable to the uninitiated that I should just go back to bed. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at sleeping for short periods of time- if I wake up early, I’m a bear; and then there’s the possibility that I will simply launch the alarm clock into orbit and not get up. This second possibility seemed like a distinct danger Friday morning, but I went back to bed anyway. After all, I had a long drive ahead of me. And in the end it didn’t matter because the dog started barking again when the alarm went off and he is the one thing I can’t sleep through.

So, I got up. Finished packing. Looked out the window. Wait a minute! Snow? Naturally. We load the car in the snow. Wonder how long I will be driving through the snow. It is very pretty, and really not all that cold. At first. But by Pittsburgh it was a real nuisance and damn cold. And when we hit Ohio, we hit whiteout conditions. It was awful. At times I couldn’t tell where the road stopped. Just before exit 187 I became disoriented by a single flashing light at ground level- until I realized it was a reflection from a blinking tailight on a car nose down in a ditch. We called it in but didn’t dare stop. We drove head on into the storm from our house in eastern Maryland to our meeting point in Indiana. It took 13 hours. We arrived at our hotel just after midnight. I slept until 9, turned the kids over to their dad, and drove 10 hours back home. Half an hour from home, out in the boonies, the only road I knew how to take home from I-83 was closed due to some kind of massive bad thing involving smoke and ambulances. I was “detoured”, sans signage, into the dark, rural night. Fortunately, I was behind a car that guessed well at a couple confusing intersections. I stopped at Mom’s to get Teak. She asked how I liked her paint job. She’d painted the dining room. I looked at the front wall. And the back wall. And back at the front wall.
Me: “Is this from two different cans?”
Mom: “Yup.”
Me: “What, did you run out of the stuff from the living room?”
Mom: “Yup.”
Me: “The back wall looks sort of purple.”
Mom: “Yup. I asked for the same thing as the other can, but it didn’t look anything like it when I opened it.”
Me: “Hmm…”
Mom: “I can live with it.”
Me: “Hmm…”

So I took my dog and we went home. The cats greeted us at the door, and then played coy like they hadn’t really missed us after all. I handed out treats and then got the brilliant idea to check the voice mail. You really shouldn’t do that when you first arrive home from a nerve-wracking trip because a) you might be inundated with quasi-urgent messages when you really just need to relax, b) you might have no messages and realize nobody gives a damn what you just went through, or c) you might discover, as I did, that your phone is disconnected. What fresh hell is this?!?!

I think very hard and decide that yes, I did pay the phone bill. So I turn on the computer and log on to my Verizon account to make sure they received payment. After giving myself a headache trying to decifer the online bill, I conclude that yes, they received payment. Okay, so I guess we need a service call. After more searching through the website I uncover the phone number to call for service. I get a very pleasant automated woman’s voice, although in the end I start wished her plug would be pulled. After a great deal of button pushing and question answering, she tells me she is unable to determine where the problem is, tells me to do some home diagnostics, and to call back tomorrow when I’ve got more to tell her. I curse at the automated woman, who is very sorry, but she didn’t “get that”, and hang up. I look for the box I am supposed to find in order to do the home diagnostics. And then I am sidetracked, into the office, where I discover that the kitties had knocked the office phone reciever off the cradle. Had they been calling for help? Trying to locate me? Or Teak? Inviting friends over? I replace the reciever, wait, and then lift it. There’s the dial tone! Woo hoo! (Diagnose this robo-chick! You couldn’t just tell me to go find the phone that was off the hook? Jeesh!)

And that was the point at which I had had enough. I turned on the television. And sat. Until one of the kitties knocked over the lamp next to the sofa. The kitties scattered. And the dog retreated downstairs where lamps wheren’t flying around. But I just set the lamp back upright and continued watching television. But when the news came on I had to turn it off. I dunno. I just didn’t feel I could stand to listen to any bad news. Because, you know, life as I know it can be rather trying at times. Sometimes I just go through the motions wondering “is this life really even possible?” Seriously, wouldn’t spontaneous combustion be more probable than all this happening at once?

So, remember to savor the little joys and triumphs. If you can do that, rolling with the punches will be a piece of cake. Most days.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Miracle...

That's what it would be if I make my next birthday. I haven't posted in a while and here's why: After almost two weeks of a head/chest/flu-ish type thing, I moved directly into a week and counting of vertigo. Now, vertigo is kind of an up and down thing (ha!). Some days I'm up and around; some days I'm flat on my back praying the world will stop slipping out from under me feet. Yesterday was an up and around day. Actually, I've had several in a row- but yesterday was the one that really tested me. First thing in the morning, I scurried around the upstairs gathering papers to take downstairs to the recycling box. After collecting a sizeable load, I started down the stairs. Part way down, I stepped on some unseen object- I suspect a kitty toy, but the kitties aren't admitting to anything. The unseen object shot out from under my foot. My foot shot out from under me. The papers flew out of my arms, landing on the dog who was sleeping at the bottom of the stairs. And I went wump-wump-wump-wump-wump down the stairs on my tailbone, whacking one elbow against a stair, losing my glasses, and somehow knocking an ankle and my neck out of alignment.

Have you ever seen a big purple moon? No, I haven't either. But I am pretty sure that is what I would see if I could turn my body far enough to see my backside in a mirror.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Did It

My children and I stayed up watching the election returns, and then, Obama’s speech. I cried. They were tears of relief, and more than that, of hope. I am honored to be alive at this moment in our history. I am thankful beyond expression that my children witnessed this moment.

I know that the whole world watched this election with us. And I know that we, the American people, have taken a huge step in the right direction toward regaining the respect of our global neighbors.

For any other politician, the tasks before Barack Obama would seem impossible tasks. But Obama’s life story itself is an “impossible” story, his win an “impossible” win. I have faith (more than I’ve had in a very long time) that if anyone can responsibly, successfully tackle these tasks, Barack Obama can.

And behind this singular, spectacular man… there was the movement. Inspired people from all walks of life, working together to bring the change they believe in. This was the most hopeful movement I have ever witnessed. This movement was a vote for hope. And if we, the people, continue to work together for the changes we believe in it would be hard not to move our country to a better place.

Yes We Can!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

We Vote...And We Wait

So, like an unprecedented number of other Americans, I voted today. I waited in line at my polling place, but not for very long. The man in front of me wore glasses and secured them to his head with a homemade glasses strap that consisted of a rope of various sizes and colors of rubber band. This made me cringe, as I have long-ish hair and would have rubber forever woven to my head if I tried something like that.

The woman behind me in line had a British accent. For a moment I wondered if the world had decided they could no longer trust us with our own elections. And then I wondered what had prompted her to become one of us.

I have voted at the same polling place for years. It has always been staffed by a gaggle of little old ladies and a couple of old men. This year, the usual crew was there- but so were several youngsters, twenty-somethings I would guess. It was really nice to see the new guard. There was also a noticeable increase in the number of younger voters, at least while I was standing there.

I didn't have any trouble with the voting machine. We have touch-screens here. You plug in a credit card type card and then use the touch screen. Then when you finalize your selections (vote) the machine spits out your card and you go deposit it in a box by the exit and pick up your "I Voted" sticker on your way out. Easy peazy.

So I did that- and then true to my word, I went and bought a nice bottle of wine. I picked a Saint M Riesling that I've enjoyed before. And now that polls are starting to close in many of the eastern states, I think it is time to break out the wine and settle into a cozy spot with my cross-stitch.

But, you know, no matter what the results are, I can honestly say that Obama's campaign, and Obama the man, have changed me for the better. And I think he has changed a lot of other people too. I think he re-introduced hope where it was flagging. He set a new tone- perhaps the most gentlemanly campaign in my memory (not perfect, of course, but certainly a breath of fresh air). And you know, I have noticed a change in the way people of color in my community carry themselves and interact with me. This bit by itself is solid gold, in my opinion. I love that Obama makes a point of making time for his family. I love the way he and Michelle interact. The man has raised the bar. 'Bout time.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Jitters

I can hardly believe that I get to go vote tomorrow. It feels like this campaign has run a long, long time. I will be so relieved to get my vote in; although it will be difficult to wait for the results- especially with my daughter bouncing around asking "what are they saying now? any change? when will we know for sure?" over and over again. But I'm not complaining. It is far better for young people to be plugged-in to the political scene that shapes their world than to steep in a materialistic, narcissistic stupor.

Personally, I plan to vote and then go buy a bottle of good wine to enjoy in the evening while feeding the media's latest best guesses to my daughter and working on my cross-stitch project. Due to rheumatoid arthritis, I have not been able to cross-stitch in a long time. But a new baby in the family prompted me to give it a shot again and I have just started stitching a bib. It's a manageable project. I look forward to spending tomorrow evening on an activity I have missed, while taking in my children's election commentary, and a bit of that good wine.