December 28, 2008

Wrapping up the Season

Something big happened in the frenzy of the ice storm and the mad holiday rush, and it went completely unnoticed. We passed our six month milestone in New England. I'd intended to commemorate it with a photo montage-- I love those things!-- Instead I'll just say: Shew! In some ways it feels like it's been much, much longer.

This Christmas had a few firsts for me. I think this was the first Christmas I've ever spent without my mom, and (in a completely unrelated way) probably the least ulcer-inducing holiday I've experienced since I was old enough to understand the meaning of family dysfunction.

Also, this was the first time I'd ever attended church on Christmas Eve (well, there was one other time, but it was sort of against my will, and I had to leave after a few minutes because Sweet Potato's Dorothy Barbie kept shouting "There's no place like home!" between the shouts of "Praise Be to God.")
We joined the Unitarian Church at 7 p.m. for the Eve service, including a Christmas pageant in which Sweet Potato played the part of a shepherd at the birth of Christ. Now, why the Unitarians celebrate the birth of Christ is probably a topic that's better left for another post.
Have you heard this joke? I heard it on Prairie Home Companion, so it can't be all that offensive: What do you get when you cross a Unitarian and a Jehovah's Witness? Someone who knocks on your door and doesn't know why.
Back to the pageant: Since Sweet Potato was a shepherd, Buckaroo played the part of her sheep-- sort of like the Joan and John Cusack of the spiritual world. The minister encouraged him to roam freely about the sanctuary during the service, and at one point he stood on the stairs of the altar and just stared out at the congregation from under his fluffy white sheep ears.
I'll have to finish up later. I hear movie music playing in the den.

December 20, 2008

The Many Faces of Snow

The white fluffy stuff is here in earnest. Well, I guess it won't always stay on the fluffy side. Tomorrow, in fact, it's supposed to be heavy and sleety. I didn't know there were so many types of snow; I just know the kind in which I'm happy to play, and the rougher kind I would rather watch from behind a window.

When we returned home from our evacuation jaunt the snow was light, but on top of it was a layer of ice that made one feel as if she were walking in styrofoam. That led to this funny conversation:

R: When I was a boy, and the snow was crunchy like that, I'd make heart shapes and lift them off the ground.
Sweet Potato: Heart shapes?
R: Yeah, the snow is hard enough, so that you can lift the shapes right up.
SP: Not rectangles or squares? Heart shapes?
R (standing a bit taller): I was a sensitive boy.

Last night as we headed down to the FMF's house to fix their computer (have you noticed how the FMF are plural and singular, like deer?) the snow came down in the teeny tiniest flakes that sparkled when they hit the light. It looked like silver glitter falling everywhere.

Today the snow is heavy and feathery, and when the wind hits the fallen snow it creates snow dust. There's probably a more accurate term for it, but I never knew it existed until now. I also didn't know the birds would like to frolic in the falling flakes. They've been out there all day fluttering around the bird seed and teasing each other. It's like watching an illustration from a book of Robert Louis Stevenson poems.

I'm sure there are more types of snow to learn, but that will have to wait because I'm still recovering from this nasty head cold. Sweet Potato ventured out there with Tap Girl, though. They sledded down the hill and then came in for hot chocolate-- an afternoon about which Sweet Potato has been dreaming since we decided to move here. We learned that she needs ski pants and snow boots.

Buckaroo was out there, too, working on snow balls, still trying to re-enact Peter's Snowy Day.

I stayed indoors and made bread in my new bread machine, a late birthday/early-Christmas present from R and his parents. I opened it today, in time for solstice. Tomorrow we'll celebrate the return of the light with home-made bread and summer jam, courtesy of Grammy Flo.

Thank the goddesses for the light-- and may it get the molasses out of its a**!
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December 19, 2008

Jiggety Jig

We all survived the great ice storm of '08. Sounds very dramatic, doesn't it? We stayed three nights with R's parents, basking in the electric light and delighting in the swirl of a toilet flush,
until we finally got word that our little toe of the woods had power again. It's really lucky because some folks will be stumbling through the dark until January.
In the middle of the craziness that is being homeless-- and in-between tummy bug and head cold-- I did really believe that the state was out to drive me away. Now that I'm back in the piney cottage, I'm seeing things in a new light, but I won't touch that pun.
It was so good of R's parents to let us stay with them indefinitely. They chased after Buckaroo so I could sleep off my cold, went to the store to buy me cough syrup and tea, made us dinner, washed our laundry, and brought out the antique toys to entertain the kids. There are a lot of families who had nowhere to stay and had to hit the hotels and shelters. We were fortunate.
Still, there's nothing like being the queen of one's castle, the ruler of one's roost (or co-ruler in this case). I know that it's difficult to live with me. I like my organic food, whole grains, and I read all the labels to make sure there's no high fructose corn syrup-- with the exception of certain treats. I'm noise-sensitive, and the drone of the TV makes me grumpy. The news gives me nightmares. I like to wear my pjs until late in the afternoon, and I don't always clean up my messes the minute I make them.
The miracle is that R lives this way with me, doesn't ever complain, and it is completely opposite of the way his parents live. I want to be clear that I am not in any way dissing R's parents because I know that I'm the oddball in this scenario. The average American watches about 30 hours of TV a week, so I'm clearly not the average American.
Anyway, to get back to my point: It's really hard to live with other people, and this whole ice storm and subsequent evacuation helped me to remember that I am blessed to have a house where I can live in my quirky way.
Who cares if the house is covered in knotty pine and wall-to-wall linoleum? Not me! I can run around naked if I want (although I don't, too chilly). I can eat my Lucky Charms with organic milk for lunch and follow it up with a hokey pokey dance in my fuzzy slippers. Woo hoo!
So, I could be wrong. It could be that Massachusetts really does hate me and is trying to drive me out, but maybe the universe is just trying to remind me to be thankful for what I have-- even if it is about to be buried in two feet of snow. That's OK. We're buying a generator.

December 15, 2008

Outta Dodge


I think Massachusetts hates me. Last winter, while I was watching from my home computer in California, the Massachusans enjoyed the worst snow ever. This summer, the worst rain. Now there's an ice storm that's cut electricity, phones, water, and heat for most of the state for an indefinite amount of time, and no one can remember ever seeing its equal. What do these things have in common? ME.
You know in the horror movie when the happy little family moves into the big, scary house, and the house tries to warn the family that it's not welcome with the evil "Get Out" whisper? I think this weather is the state's equivalent of that whisper.
Monkey Girl and her mama arrived from California on Wednesday and, despite the icy frost, we had excellent book browsing and soup in Peterborough on Thursday. That night everything sparkled in a layer of ice. Ice encased the branches and fences and made a slick sheet over the stones. In fact, Monkey Mama and I both fell on our tushies. Still, it was shockingly beautiful. The next morning the sky was a spectacular, sun-shiney blue.
Then the lights, phone, and water went out, and Monkey Girl got the stomach flu. Luckily we didn't lose heat like so many other families. We all huddled in lightest room (even in the most glorious sunshine our house is a cave) next to the gas stove, reading and knitting, and entertaining the toddlers.
Next Monkey Daddy showed up, and soon it became clear that he also had the stomach bug. Then we all had some form of the malady (except Monkey Mama and Buckaroo who miraculously escaped unscathed), and we had to flush the toilet with lake water because there was no other water to be had. It really did feel like Little House in the Big Woods.
Meanwhile, outside, the tree branches crashed into cars and houses and wiped out power lines.
Sunday rolled around-- after a long Saturday night of projectile vomiting in the dark-- and the monkey family had to go home. We do hope they'll return some day in happier weather and health.
The rest of us hightailed it out of dodge. We drove the hour-ish to R's parents' house and were amazed at how much the roads around our town looked like a war zone, while 20 minutes down the road life seemed to be going on as usual.
Now R is back at work while the kids and I hang out with his parents. Sweet Potato is happy school is canceled for the whole week but dreading the make-up week in summer.

December 9, 2008

Icy Frosty


It's almost 40 degrees out there right now, and hallelujah for that because last night it was 2. That is not a typo. It snows a bit, rains a bit, freezes a bit, melts, and starts all over again. Kind of fascinating stuff.
Everyone is asking how I'm doing, you know, with the cold and everything. So far I'm ok, I guess, because I haven't cried about it once. Before we moved here R's friend (and now our neighbor) said, "You have to find something you love about the winter to get you through it."
So far, I love: Watching the flakes fall (I wonder if this becomes a bore eventually or if it's like watching the sunset/rise).
The icicles, although they do look fairly dangerous. I don't want to end up like Ralphie-- well, it wasn't actually the icicle that got Ralphie, was it? It was the BB gun! Anyway, R took this picture of our icicles a few nights ago.
The sound of snow crunching under my feet.
I've learned that mittens and velcro do not mix. Also, I must remember to wear my gloves even if I think I don't need them. The steering wheel is cold!
Oh, and I can't leave my half-full beverages in the car anymore. Last night I left Buckaroo's magic voo doo water from acupuncture in the car, and by the time I remembered, it was half an ice cube.
Finally, over the summer I was baffled by a Massachusan's ability to leave the car running for an inordinate amount of time, but now I think that it must be a result of living in the cold. If Buckaroo falls asleep in the car I have to leave it running until he wakes up. If I want to dash into the market for a stick of butter while Buckaroo and Sweet Potato wait in the car, same deal. Now I see why the environment is on its last legs.
All in all, I'm surviving-- better than surviving. I'm enjoying the snow and blue skies much more than the never-ending rain and mosquitoes. I keep forgetting, though, that it's not officially winter yet, so I suppose I shouldn't jinx myself.
Now, Sweet Potato has offered me piano lessons for my Christmas gift, and I'm off to play.

December 6, 2008

Mothers, Daughters, Books


The Mother Daughter Book Club (MDBC) by Heather Vogel Frederick takes place in Massachusetts. I want to be clear about that because I told my friend Grateful Mama that the girls in the novel are reading Little Women, and it takes place in Massachusetts. Grateful Mama laughed and laughed and laughed and said that only someone who's not from Massachusetts would point out that Little Women is set in Massachusetts.
Then I said, "No, no, no. I meant that Vogel's book takes place in Massachusetts." Although, if I'm completely honest I didn't remember that Little Women took place here until I read MDBC, so Grateful Mama had every right to hoot at me.
Now that I think about it, it's probably the equivalent of pointing out to a Californian that Steinbeck's novels take place in California. Ok, now I get it.
In any case, Sweet Potato and I just finished reading MDBC, and we liked it very much. It's about four sixth-grade girls who are forced by their mothers to meet once a month to discuss Little Women. The girls are very different and, for the most part, don't like each other.
I told Sweet Potato that I want to read Little Women with her now, and she thought that was a fabulous idea. I also said I want to start a mother-daughter book club, and she did not like that idea at all, which is perfect because neither do the girls in the book.
There's only one problem: I don't know any eleven-year-old girls or their mothers. There's Tap Girl down the road, but she and Sweet Potato have been on shaky footing ever since they voted for opposing candidates in the school's mock presidential election. That would be ideal material for the MDBC, but I'd like to keep our drama contained within the novels. Ah, well. Maybe I'll post a note at the library.
Another Massachusetts story I just read (for my grown-up book club) is Ethan Frome. Boy, was that a downer. I might as well have re-read Jude the Obscure, which I promised myself never, ever to read again. Plus, it was all about the frigid New England winters and how they turn people hard and ugly.
That's ok. We brought home our Christmas tree today (Buckaroo calls it a Santa tree), and now the house smells all piny, which fits perfectly with our decor. I made caramel popcorn, and tomorrow we're going to dig out the ornaments while listening to Stevie Wonder belt out the holiday tunes. Nothing hard and ugly about that.

December 5, 2008

Driving Lessons


Everyone says Massachusetts drivers are the worst in the United States, so when we arrived I was somewhat concerned about what I'd discover on the roads.
So far I can't tell that Mass drivers are much different from Bay Area drivers, but here's one thing: The first week we were here this woman in a purple car tailgated me all the way home-- jiggity jig-- about six miles. I was surprised because, while I'm cautious, I'm no Sunday driver. Sometimes I'm a bit of a Saturday driver-- just get me to the stinken party already.
Then she followed me down the dirt road that leads to the lake and stopped to check her mail the same time I did. So, we're neighbors. I thought she might apologize at the mailbox for her rude driving behavior or at least look at me with sheep eyes, but she said nothing.
I've been harumphing about it ever since. Every time she drives by I think, "There's the purple tailgater!"
Then yesterday it occurred to me that I am quite often tailgated around these parts. I really am not a slow driver. I try to go no faster than six miles above the speed limit because I often have visions of deer and moose leaping out from the dark of the trees, but that doesn't seem unreasonable.
So now I've decided that tailgating is just the way most people drive around here-- maybe it's even on the driver's test. However, I will not be picking up on the habit because my California sensibilities still tell me tailgating is downright rude, but I guess I 'll have to stop all of this harumphing now.

December 4, 2008

Talking to Ghosts


Have you heard of this John Edward guy? I think I saw him on Oprah a million years ago, but lately he's been on my mind.

I've stopped worrying so much about the snow thanks to some serious happy pep-talks from my new New England friends (thanks gals!), so that leaves my brain some room to let the grief back in. Some day my mind will be a tranquil sea of bliss, but not today.

R and I were driving to Turkey Day dinner, and there was a traffic slow down. As we drove closer, we saw the reason: On the side of the road was a giant semi truck flipped on its side with a mountain of dirt plowed against the grill. I think it must have been the first road-side accident I'd seen since I viewed the online newspaper photos of my dad's smashed blue truck. I could feel my throat doing that achey thing.
I took a few deep breaths and let it go.
During turkey dinner my sister-in-law just happened to tell us about her trip to see John Edward talk to ghosts. He doesn't call them ghosts; he calls them people on the other side. I started thinking that maybe I'd like to go see this guy. I told my friend Frog Mama about it yesterday, and she said she absolutely believes Edward is for real, and she knows about this stuff. I guess there's no guarantee that Edward will feel a vibe from anyone I know on the other side, but my dad always was the loudest person in the room.
Frog Mama also said I need to ask my dad to help me get myself to an Edward show. I said I didn't know if my dad would be able to help with that because he never was very responsible. She said, "He is now."
I had never considered the possibility that crossing over would turn a person into his or her best self. That sure would make our relationship less challenging.
Ok, so there's all that stuff coming up for me, and then last night as I was googling around about talking to dead people, I decided to google my dad's name. I do this every so often just to see what's what. The thing is, I must usually google my dad's full name because this time I found something I'd never seen before. It was an ancestry site, and on it were at least ten posts that my dad had written eight years ago. I know the posts were his because he used his real name, and he was posting about our family.
Crazy. I felt like my dad was still alive and sending me letters through cyberspace. You know in The Series of Unfortunate Events when the kids go back to their fire-ravaged home and find a letter from their parents that arrived after they died, and the letter was there all the time, and the kids never knew: that's how I felt.
Plus, the letters contained information about my family that I'd never heard: My papa had a baby brother who died of SIDS; my nana's brother, whom I knew had died when I was a baby, had a wife and a whole gaggle of kids in Texas, and they're still around. My great grandfather had two brothers, one named Mack. I really like the name Mack.
The best part, though, is the idea of my dad researching his ancestry. I love that he was trying to re-connect with his long-lost cousins. It's such a normal, hopeful thing to do. I'm taking it as a sign.