Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bad moon rising. Or something.

Best commentary I've seen on Michael Jackson: A Dismembered Soul.

Farrah Fawcett: A Life in Pictures.

Ed McMahon: A Salute to the King of Sidekicks.

Friends of ours, and this really sucks!

So there you have it. Let's hope next week is better.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The zen of the matriarch under stress

We meant to go to Lake Arrowhead on the Friday before Father's Day, but the universe said no in the form of errands which had to be completed before we could leave, and time being intractable, and energy having limits. So we decided to go Saturday morning. Again, the universe didn't seem to be crazy about the idea, but we persevered.

With organizing and packing and people milling around in the house while I ran from task to task as fast as I could, which wasn't nearly fast enough, I began to feel pretty ragged and unenthusiastic. Minutes before we left, I remembered that I needed to bring some basil from the garden for the pasta salad I had planned for dinner. Everybody was either already in a vehicle (there were two cars making the trip), or standing outside a vehicle trying to hammer one more piece of luggage into place. I took a pair of Cutco kitchen scissors and headed out across the lawn towards the garden.

I was in a mood. I hadn't had enough sleep, I'd had a stubborn headache for three days, and my stomach was a little shaky. Instead of looking forward to spending the weekend with my family, I was wishing they'd leave me so I could spend the weekend in silence, alone, reading books and watching America's Next Top Model reruns on the Oxygen channel. This clearly wouldn't do, so as I tromped through the drizzle I tried to get myself into a better place. Just stay in the moment, I told myself. You have this day to enjoy and you should start now. Look at how happy this little bit of rain is making the yard. Look at the baby sycamore, how big it's gotten in only two years. Look at the garden - wow, the peppers are loaded! And look at those tomatoes ripening so early! And the basil's gorgeous! Mmm, I'll take this bunch right here...snip...ah, smells good...snip...snip...

OUCH. I cut my finger. I cut my god-damned finger with the scissors! OW! I'm bleeding on the basil!


(The weekend worked out just fine, although I never did achieve any sort of Zen state about it.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Middle Kid graduated from high school in June of 1997, on a day a lot like today is shaping up to be - overcast, drizzly, with maybe some actual rain to come later on. Our graduation ceremonies are always held on the football field in the evening, so rain truly puts a damper on things. The picture of MK snapped as he accepted his diploma shows him in a green gown with big wet splotches on the arms and shoulders. What it doesn't show is what was going on in the bleachers.

We were all there - my husband and my two daughters. We all had umbrellas, but because the bleachers were crowded we could only put two of them up. My husband crouched under his umbrella with Youngest Daughter. He was holding a video camera and once he got it pointed in the right direction, he just sat still and watched. I sat with Eldest Daughter under her umbrella. She and I both had flash cameras.

It was raining pretty steadily, but the ceremony went ahead as scheduled. ED is our best photographic documentor of family events, and she was completely in the zone that night. She snapped every important step in the ceremony: the procession into the stadium, each speaker, my son walking across the stage, receiving his diploma, and returning to his seat. Each time she lifted her camera she tilted the umbrella towards me. The top of the umbrella would dump its load of rainwater over my head, a mini cold shower cascading through my hair, over my face, and onto my shoulders. I would close my eyes and gasp and wipe my face and say, "Uh, Honey?" But it was noisy and she was caught up in the spectacle on the field.

Now, if you follow this through to its logical conclusion, you'll see that I not only got thoroughly soaked, I also missed every moment worth a photograph in the entire ceremony. At the end of the evening, ED turned to me, blinked, and said, "Oh, my gosh! What happened to you?"

Fortunately, my husband's video was comprehensive. I saw everything at home, after I'd toweled my hair dry and downed a stiff drink.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Three things that cracked me up

I can see my family rolling their eyes. "Here come the stories," they're saying, and they're right.

Biggest baddest dog:

One night last spring, my husband and I took Roxy for a walk after dinner. Roxy has matured so she's pretty easy to walk, if you don't mind letting her range all around you so she can smell the pee-mail and leave messages of her own. (If you're one of those who needs your dog to stay at heel, forget it. Roxy ain't there, and she ain't never gonna be there, unless she gets too old to sniff and pee.) So we were mostly ignoring the dog and talking, maybe hurrying a little as we came into the home stretch because we didn't want to miss whatever was coming up at the eight o'clock hour on tv.

As we reached the last corner before our house we saw a stray dog standing on the sidewalk, a skinny yellow lab mix with a collar but no leash/owner attached. Roxy seemed skittish, so we kept our eyes on it. It backed away a bit warily as we crossed the street towards it, which made me think it wasn't aggressive, but suddenly it snarled and lunged at Roxy. My husband jumped between Roxy and the stray, stretched himself to a couple of inches taller than I ever knew he could, and lunged right back at that dog, barking in a deep (and yes, scary) voice. The stray did one of those cartoon leaps - straight up, with a spin in mid-air - and ran off down the street yipping with the volume turned all the way up. It eventually turned and ran into what we presumed to be its own backyard. We could still hear it yipping when we reached our front door.

And that's why we call my husband 'Dog.' Heh.

Things that go bump in the night:

To understand this story, you have to know a little bit about the layout of our house. We are situated on a hill with our backyard a full story lower than the front, so street level, to us, is the second floor. That's where the living and dining rooms, kitchen, and family room are located. The bedrooms and bathrooms are on the first floor, with the master bedroom directly beneath the family room.

This happened before the kids were married, on one of DiL's visits from Ireland. On the night in question, my husband and I had gone to bed but the kids were upstairs watching a movie. We could hear the tv faintly, and now and then the kids moving around or talking a little. Then we started hearing this very pronounced, rhythmic, bumping sound. We both became very tense. My husband said, What is that? I said, I don't know. We listened some more. The sound didn't stop.

My husband said, What the hell is that? I said, I don't know. We sat up. Are they-? he said, and I said, No way. They wouldn't. Go find out, he said. I'm not going up there, I said, but of course, I was already getting out of bed. I put on a robe and walked out into the hall and stood at the bottom of the stairs.

Dave? I said. The noise stopped. There was a moment of silence.


Um. We heard a noise.

Another silence. Oh. Sorry.

Okay. Going back to bed.


I got back in bed. Less than sixty seconds later, the noise started again - pretty much the same, though maybe a little faster now. My husband said, Oh, my God. What are they doing? I said, I don't know. He said, Make them stop!

So I crawled back out of bed and went to the bottom of the stairs. Dave?

Silence. What?

What is that noise?

Long silence. Then I heard what sounded like someone getting up, some footsteps, and my son appeared at the top of the stairs with a dish towel dangling from one hand. I spilled an orange soda, he said sheepishly. And I'm trying to scrub it out of the carpet.

Caring for cats:

My eldest daughter is the product of my first marriage. When my (current) husband and I were married, we moved to California. Every summer my daughter would fly back to Iowa to spend six weeks with her dad. The first year, she left us a note (which I still have in an envelope somewhere.) She had just turned seven. Here's what it said:

How to take care of the cats

1 Feed them
2 Pet them
3 Do not swing them by the neck
4 Pay good and lots attention to them

Good advice. We've pretty much followed it ever since, and none of our cats has run off.