October 30, 2008

A Few Words about the Cold

I fully expected to wake up in the morning and see white powdery blankets shrouding the outdoors. Unfortunately, I can't see anything without my contact lenses, so that's what I thought I saw. Nope, just very lightly frosted rooftops. We had a toasty high of forty today from what I could tell.
The grocery stores here have a big area up front, inside the store, for shopping carts. I realized that they're inside because of the snow. I'm a bit slow sometimes, but I was dashing for the door and thought, "How convenient that I don't have to stand out in the cold to get a cart." Der.
Also, the malls out here have huge indoor play areas, and I think that must be where all of the little ones hang out during the winter. We were told that the snow would bury our swing, so there's certainly no winter swinging in these parts. The mall's ok and all, but I can only take it in small doses, and when I walk out of a mall I have the same feeling I have walking out of a casino-- like I need to hike up a mountain to balance myself out.
Well, tomorrow is Halloween. It's my favorite holiday even though it's no good for my candy addiction. I've been a bit of a Halloweenie this year, though. No decorations, no carved pumpkins. I just bought my first bag of blow pops today because R insisted that we'll get trick-or-treaters, but I can't imagine who that would be-- the raccoons?
Buckaroo, though, wore his skunk costume with pride yesterday. He doesn't even try to pull off the hoodie with ears. I think he's going to take after his mama with his love of the holiday. Plus, he'll never know about the good ol' days when we brought home pillowcases stuffed with candy and trick-or-treated in a balmy 65 degree evening, so he'll think that covering the two-block neighborhood and getting a little frost-bitten on the nose is all part of the tradition-- unless Sweet Potato spills the jellybeans.

October 29, 2008

Snow Update

It sticks!

News Alert: Snow

Buckaroo and I went to a Halloween party with the Mass Mamas, and afterward while Buckaroo was sleeping in the car, and I was gossiping with the other moms outside, I saw some random white flecks floating through the air. My first thought was that someone was burning paper nearby, although I didn't smell smoke. Then in desperation I thought maybe God had dandruff.

Everyone says that if it snows before Halloween we're in for a rough winter. Well, it's almost All Hallow's Eve, and they are just the teeny tiniest flakes, does that still count?

The FMF says I shouldn't worry until I really am trapped indoors and pulling out my hair, so I'm just going to make myself a hot chocolate with Emmett's and watch Lizzie Bennett and Mr. Darcy do their thing until the panic subsides.

Meanwhile, Sweet Potato just burst in the door wearing only a t-shirt, and said, "Brrr! Turn up the heat! I could really use a butter beer about now."

October 28, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

1. Right now I'm sitting in front of the fire. It's a fake propane fire, but it looks real enough, and it feels roasty toastie. I told R that it was a bummer having the wood pellet stove in the basement because I didn't have a place to warm my tushie when I needed to take the chill off. He lit the stove. It smells like burning dust, but that smells like home, like the end of summer.

2. Santa. I know some people opt out of the jolly old elf idea, but I love the guy. Today Buckaroo and I drove down to meet R for lunch and return some frumpy clothes to JJill, and Buckaroo spotted a stuffed Santa ornament. He's been loving up that Santa ever since. He kisses and hugs him, and then plays CRASH with him which means that Santa flies, sleighless, across the room, so Buckaroo can fetch him and love him up all over again.

3. This American Life. I listened to Ira Glass and the boys interview the links in the chain of the mortgage fiasco while driving all the way down 495-- at least I think that's where I was-- and they made me happy even though the topic was bleak. I download the podcast on iTunes these days. So handy.

4. Meeting R for lunch. It's like bonus R time. He's all stressed out about a consulting thingy he's got on Thursday, but I very much enjoyed my Navajo sandwich made with fry bread.

5. There's this feeling I get when I'm driving down the wet narrow roads, and the orange-leafed trees are bending over low over the car. It all feels so comfortable as if I lived here in a past life, and I was always meant to return. It's odd because I am simultaneously incredibly homesick.

6. I love to watch Sweet Potato practice her little hip hop dance. She does this thing where she wiggles her shoulders and sways in a circle. She looks so grown up and little-kid-like at the same time, and it makes both of us laugh. She promises to teach me.

7. Some mornings there's a mist all over everything as if a dragon flew through at night and snorted everywhere, but it looks especially eerie and beautiful over the lake.

8. Cheese. My SF poetry group met every two weeks, and my friend Annie, lovely woman that she is, would supply us with a copious amount of cheese. I miss the group terribly, and I miss the incentive to write a poem every other week, but I've really been fantasizing about that cheese. There's gotta be a place to get a good chevre around here. The goats are everywhere for crying out loud!

9. Chippies, or chipmunks. Today when I pulled up the drive there was a chippy poking his head out of the trunk of the oak in front of the house. I turned off the engine and watched him for a long time until he ran away. I never thought about what a chippy eats, but apparently they do not eat acorns. I wish they did because we have acorns aplenty.

10. Kitchen-Aid mixers. I love them like some people love sports cars, I think. Today I spotted a copper kitchen-aid in the Williams-Sonoma display window. I oggled it for a long time, and then I had to wipe my drool from the glass.
11. I love that so many Cali folks have gone way out of their ways to visit us. Monkey Girl and her parents are coming for a December visit, and I'm so excited to see them it's lifting me out of my post-parental-visit funk.

I guess that was more than a few favorites. I should have titled it "Several of My Favorite Things."

October 27, 2008

Fairy Homes & Skateboard Dreams

You know how I said I didn't want to peek inside the milkweed pods? Well, R had no problem with peeking, and inside he found the coolest looking seeds at the end of all the fluff, all laid flat like peacock feathers.
Also, Sweet Potato earned the role of a weed in the school musical, and she said, "When I said I wanted a non-speaking part, I should have said a non-speaking human part." I said she could pretend to be a milkweed because it's the prettiest weed I've ever seen.
A few nights ago I dreamed I was skateboarding, and it wasn't one of those out-of-control driving dreams where I tried to steer my pillow.
Instead I had my knees bent, zooming through traffic downhill at high speed, and I wasn't afraid at all. I wasn't even worried about falling. In fact I did fall, and it didn't hurt. I think I was able to have this dream (I've never had one like it) because of water skiing. All of those times I tried to ski and couldn't do it I think I was sabotaging myself because I was so afraid to fall.
I haven't quite analyzed the dream yet. Maybe it has something to do with learning to snowboard this winter. The weird thing is that the next day I went to pick up Sweet Potato at school, and the gym class was learning how to skateboard on the blacktop. What? You'd think that would be a sport they'd teach in California. Then, R and I went to the bank to apply for our home equity line, and there was a blond-haired boy in the lobby with a single doll-sized skateboard, no rider. He was zooming it back and forth across the floor. I had that there are no coincidences feeling. Skateboarding signs everywhere, but when is the epiphany going to happen? Does it mean I shouldn't be afraid to fall, ya know, emotionally? Skateboarding: It's not a crime, but is it a sign?
Correction: R does not enjoy leaf blowing, and it is not futile. If we didn't blow the leaves they'd pile up over the house, and we'd all suffocate. R's a hard worker bee.

October 26, 2008

Starting Over

Every morning for the last week, Buckaroo woke up and burst out of the bedroom shouting, "Papa! Papa!" heading straight for the bedroom where my parents were asleep. Even though they were on California time, they didn't seem to mind waking up this way.

I've read that what makes people happy is the anticipation of something new, fun, and exciting happening rather than the event itself, but I don't know about that. I was pretty darn happy while my parents were here. Now I have that first-day-back-to-work feeling, that you get after being away on vacation. It's over. Back to the drudgery. At least I always had that feeling, even when I really liked my job and didn't normally consider it drudge.

With this feeling in my belly, I pulled apart my aubergine scarf and started over, again. Somehow I had managed to add two more stitches (couldn't repeat that if I tried) and it was turning into more of a shawl. I pulled it all out, and Sweet Potato helped me roll the skeins. Last night I knitted anew while R and I watched the first two episodes of Pushing Daisies, weird little show.

Meanwhile, the leaves are coming down fast. There are so many that watching them let go of the trees is kind of like watching snow fall. The day I took this photo was the day my parents arrived. R had just finished blowing the leaves into tidy piles and decided to finally take down the sign announcing his parents as owners of the house.

Today R is out blowing the leaves again. Seems like a futile effort to me, but he enjoys it. I should throw myself back into the routine too, I guess-- finish ripping down the flowered bedroom wallpaper-- but I just want to sit on the couch, knit my scarf, and listen to a book on cd. Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock, teen lit. Comfort reading-- or listening.

When Buckaroo wakes up from his nap he'll probably ask for Papa again because that's his new routine, and I'll say, "Nana and Papa went bye bye. They flew away on a big airplane," and I'll try not to let my voice catch.

October 25, 2008

SSD & Leisure Lee Go Home

I woke at 4 a.m. to say goodbye to my parents, and I can't get back to sleep. The kids are snoozing, the house is silent except for the hum of the heater, and it's a lonely black outside.

We had a good week: Shopped in Peterborough, hiked Mt. Watatic, watched Sweet Potato's hip hop class, played with Buckaroo at the park, planned a summer lake reunion.

I'm struggling to ride the high of the visit instead of hitting the low of the leaving, but I never function well after a dearth of sleep, so I think I'll just make a pot of tea.

R is probably dropping them at the airport as I write this.

Travel easy SSD & Leisure Lee!
xoxo, La Brat

October 20, 2008

Circling Back

I've fallen in love with the burning bush, also known as the euonymus. Yes, that would be the same euonymus that I just dug, ripped, shredded, rooted out of our garden. I love the euonymus shrub, though. I do not love the vine-- also known as winter creeper. I learned that the vine strangles trees. Creep. Too bad it didn't strangle the pine tree I want to chop down and replace with the euonymus shrub. I also learned that those elf shoe pods turned fairy fluff are milkweed. The FMF told me, back in warmer days, that I could take the kids to search for cocoons on the milkweed, but I didn't know what milkweed looked like. Now I do.

Today Buckaroo and I re-visited Cathedral of the Pines with my parents. We each wrote a postcard to be sent to a soldier and threw pennies in the tree of life fountain. Buckaroo especially liked the model airplanes but was upset that he couldn't touch them.

In the afternoon we picked up Sweet Potato from school and mosied on down to Red Apple Farm in Phillipston. It is, by far, the best farm I have visited. Apples, pumpkins, country store, tractors and goats-- something for everyone. It's like the country version of a food court. Poor Buckaroo fell asleep just as we arrived, so he and I stayed behind for the picking, but he did wake up in time to sit on a tractor, and then I had a chance to buy a mountain of fudge. Who's going to eat it all?

Since my parents have been here I've taken a couple of roads I'd never taken before, and they led me to the same familiar places-- newly familiar places. I always think it's slightly miraculous to feel completely lost and then realize that I know exactly where I am. It's a physical epiphany.

Tonight we played the Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader board game (I'm not), and right now Leisure Lee is watching the Patriots game in our den. It's like old times, except in a new place. R and I have never watched a game in this house. Sometimes I wonder if the house misses the old days with R's parents when the floors were mopped and there was always a program on TV. If it does, the house is too polite to mention it.

It's cold here now. Freezing, in fact, but the house is toasty warm. I've even noticed that the temperature indoors has dipped as low as 67, and I didn't shiver like before. Either I'm getting used to the cold or having extra bodies in the house makes the cold tolerable.

SSD & Leisure Lee Visit The Woods

So happy.

October 18, 2008

What Are Fairies Made Of?

I've been eyeballing these oddies for a while. They grow at the end of our long road home, and I pass them every day. For a long time they were just pods shaped like elf shoes, and I wondered what might be in them but wouldn't let myself peek.

The wait was so worth it. They exploded into silky dandelion-like fluff. Sweet Potato said they look like they might turn into fairies.

October 16, 2008

An Artist at Work

In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion regularly repeats some of the more significant lines or quotes that stuck with her during the year after her husband died and her daughter was hospitalized. The line that has stuck with me is, "You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."
I think so much about death-- it hasn't helped that we are creating a will and changing our life insurance policies-- and I'm also thinking about how this is my life now and will be for a long, long time. It will change gradually, I know. Buckaroo's needs will change. He will turn five and go to kindergarten. Sweet Potato will not always demand cookies the minute she walks in the door, dropping her books on the floor. She will not always try to squeeze in two more minutes of reading Harry Potter at the kitchen table before bed time. R will not always work these obnoxiously long hours. Right?

These changes will be gradual, and while it makes me sad to think of the kids growing up, it's also comforting to know that my life will change, too. I've been panicking over this idea that THIS IS IT, that the landscape of my future is all the same dull gray from here on out.

I know it's not true, and I know there will be a time when I'll look back on these days nostalgically. The other night as I was sitting on the dock in the dark wind, I imagined myself as a jigsaw puzzle with some of the pieces put together to create a idyllic scene, some pieces just falling into place, some still unsorted and upside down in the box, and a few lost under the couch.

So this is a piece that's just falling into place: My life is only as dull as I allow it to be. Maybe it sounds hokey, but I'm going to try to think of every day as a surprise, and, yeah, some surprises are better than others.

Also, I need to make time for myself to write or even more of those puzzle pieces are going to be lost under the couch, which is why Buckaroo is going off for a playdate with the FMF tomorrow. I'm going to fling myself into writing and drinking vast quantities of hot chocolate for four hours.
Today, though, was Buckaroo's day to be the artist. He likes to keep the colors separate I noticed, and he doesn't work in grays at all.

A Bit of View

R and I rearranged the furniture a while back so that the kitchen would feel separate from the living room, and while I haven't decided whether or not I like the new arrangement because I have to squeeze my tushie between the couch and kitchen table every time I need a snack, I definitely spend more time on the couch.

I've discovered that if I put a pillow behind my back in one corner, the couch is the comfiest spot for nursing Buckaroo, and I can see the tippy top of a bright red maple through the tiny window in front of me.

At this point there is no room in the house that affords a view of the lake while the viewer is seated, unless one includes the deck as a very chilly room, so until that problem is remedied this might be my favorite spot in the house.

One day the room in the photograph will be gone. R plans to tear down the walls of the bedrooms on either side, putting up one wall in the middle to allow for more space. It's one remodeling plan on a long list.

Anyway, back to my spot on the couch: I think it's a sign of progress. It's not the perfect place, not a place I would create for myself, but it's comfortable. It'll do.

Now, it seems that Elmo requires snow boots and I must attend to his needs.

October 14, 2008

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

This has quickly become Buckaroo's favorite tune, and we sing it in the morning, at nap time, at bed time, while driving through the town, and sometimes just because. There's plenty of singing in our house. Buckaroo's favorite line (one R made up) is "The engine on the bus goes vroom vroom vroom." When we get to that line, we are not allowed to continue. I start on the next verse, and Buckaroo says, "Engine! Engine!" and we repeat.
Today was a difficult day, for no good reason other than R's long hours and my predilection for chocolate chip cookies. I think there's something wrong with me, but that's another post.
So when R finally returned and we had eaten, and Sweet Potato was taking her required nightly shower, and R was reading Buckaroo a story or two, I zipped up my old coat, grabbed a flashlight and went out into the dark windy night. I sat on the dock for a while, watched the winking lights of the houses across the lake and listened to the water slap and glurg against the aluminum dock next to ours.
Then I tried to meditate for the first time, which is really funny-- not meditation itself but the idea of my brain being still-- but I was serious about it. Unfortunately, my first attempt was a complete flop. I kept thinking about what I would write on my blog about my first attempt to meditate. Then I wondered how Elizabeth Gilbert was able to meditate when she obviously must have been deciding what to write in her book. Luckily, I wasn't hard on myself. I just gave up and sat there watching a man in a house across the water pace between his living room and kitchen.
I sat and tried to assess what was bothering me, and I realized that my thoughts are like those wheels on the bus: I miss my friends, I miss my mom, I'm lonely, I'm not unhappy, but am I happy? I should be enjoying autumn, but how long will it last? Maybe I should get a job. Another job, one that requires my presence.
R always poo poos the job idea. My job should be writing, he says, "Write."
My mom, on the other hand, says I'm doing too much. I need to slow down or I'm going to break down. Is it possible to slow down with a toddler? Is it possible to write with a toddler? Sometimes I take my notebook outside with me, in hopes that I might jot a line or two of a poem while he's chasing chipmunks, but usually we just end up singing "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round . . . . "

October 13, 2008

Dreaming the Dead

Last night I was back in the Bay Area, in my little town. I was driving Sweet Potato to meet her grandma, and I decided to stop at my Nana Ivy's house. Now here's what's weird about that: Nana Ivy never lived in the Bay Area and she died a few years back. She was my great grandmother on my dad's side.

I went to her house and everyone was asleep, so I creeped in through the back door. The house was in disrepair; the roof was leaking and the walls needed paint. There were piles of stuff everywhere as if Nana Ivy had been packing or readying for a yard sale.

I walked through the kitchen, living room, and into the back bedroom where I found Nana Ivy, Aunt Donna and Aunt Sue (her daughters) all asleep on a pull-out couch. In real life, Aunt Donna died a few years back, and Aunt Sue is MIA. Nana Pat wasn't there (my grandmother, their sister) because I think my subconscious has finally let her go. My grandfather, Papa James, was there though, asleep in a chair. They all woke up and were happy to see me despite the lateness of the hour.

I was so frazzled I couldn't think straight. I needed to take Sweet Potato to her grandmother, and I needed to explain to Papa James who I was because he has dementia, and my cell phone kept ringing, and I was running out of time.

Then Aunt Donna put her hands on my shoulders and looked down at me, "Let me look at ya for a second," she said. "It's been so long," and she pulled me into a big warm hug that felt like home. It's strange to compare, but in the dream I had the same feeling I have when I nurse Buckaroo; a wave of sleepiness comes over me, and I think there's nowhere I need to be except right here right now.

I didn't wake up sad this time, surprisingly, just a little annoyed that my dad hadn't been there, too.

And on that note, here's a poem that my friend Peter the Reporter emailed me:

The Dead

The dead are always looking down on us, they say.
While we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich,
they are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven
as they row themselves slowly through eternity.
They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,
and when we lie down in a field or on a couch,
drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,
they think we are looking back at them,
which makes them lift their oars and fall silent
and wait, like parents, for us to close our eyes.

Billy Collins

October 12, 2008

Stew-B-Q Extravaganza

Some of my California friends gathered for a potluck today, and I was sad not to be there. I had a very vivid dream about a bright and rambly Victorian in my old little town last night, and I woke up melancholy.

The day improved, though, when we attended our first Stew-B-Q at the home of a friend from the moms' group. A Stew-B-Q is like a barbecue, but instead of bringing ribs and potato salad, everyone brings a crock full of stew. I made squash stew, and it was a hit! Vegetarian, too.

I thought the event was a New England tradition, but the New Englanders seemed to be just as baffled by the idea, so I'm not sure of its origin.

It was a warm day, and we all hung outside with steaming bowls of stew (clam chowder, New Brunswick, Chili, Chicken) while the children rolled up and down the driveway, squealing, in their toy vehicles. Later, they played pin the worm on the apple tree (paper worms, paper tree) and painted pumpkins. Poor Buckaroo doesn't really understand paint yet, but Sweet Potato helped him out. He may take after his mother in the art area.

Buckaroo fell asleep in the car on the way home, about 4:30, and he seems to be out for the night.

The neighbors' granddaughters are visiting this weekend, so Sweet Potato dashed next door as soon as we returned home. They played a mean game of hide-and-seek and then roasted marshmallows for smores. Meanwhile R and I enjoyed the quiet by watching the sunset over the lake from our deck until the chilly drove us indoors. R drank a Harvest Moon ale, and I had hot chocolate with marshmallows. With the exception of the turning leaves, hot chocolate might be the best thing about autumn.

R and I talked a lot about Obo and missing him. I realized that I don't say much about Obo in my blog, but I'm always thinking about the ways things would be different if he were here-- which things he would get excited about and which would make him complain. I know for sure we'd have put out the Halloween decorations by now.

Well, I don't want to end on a downer again. My parents arrive in less than a week, so it's time to create the entertainment itinerary!

October 10, 2008

Mama Got New Shoes

My new friends have been holding out on me. R too, apparently. I was out buying dance shoes for Sweet Potato when I decided to plug "shoe" into the GPS. What came up? The Rockport outlet. At first I thought it might be sending me on another wild goose chase because the GPS woman said we had arrived, and all I could see were trees. But then, just a little bit farther--shoe heaven.

I know, and I was just going on about giving up my wants. Well, this is really more of a need. I have California shoes. They're all open and summery-- clearly not up for the brutal storms ahead, or even the soft, happy storms ahead. Trying to be positive here.

When I told R of my amazing find he said, "Oh, yeah. I used to go there once a year and buy two pairs of shoes, but I forgot about it." Wha?

Also, the sales women were so sweet to Buckaroo and even played peek-a-boo with him while I paid for my purchases. The ladies didn't even seem to mind that he pulled all of the socks from the display. Luckily, he's got cuteness on his side.

R is home in two more hours! Poor guy's been in Republican Hades.

October 8, 2008

Lessons Before Sleeping

My ideal indoor temperature is 71 degrees, but I didn't know this about myself until I moved to The Woods. If the temperature dips as low as 68 my teeth start to chatter. Just a quirky thing about me and my ivories. R has allowed this heat extravagance because he's afraid I'll leave him if I shiver too much. Also, he likes to play with the wood pellet stove.
I'm not missing summer nearly as much as I thought I would. The chilly outdoors is alright with me as long as the sun is shining and the house is toasty.
I am, however, missing my books. I didn't have the gumption to give them all away as I'd originally planned so most of them are packed in boxes in the basement. Unfortunately, we have no bookshelves. We've unpacked the essential books: The dictionary, two baby books, and the entire collection of Harry Potter, but I often find myself wanting to go to my books to look up a poem or a quote. Tonight, for example, I wanted to look up William Stafford's "Traveling Through the Dark" because I have this looping vision of R hitting a moose, and I need to write about it, but I don't know whether anyone can ever write another poem about hitting an animal on the road since Stafford wrote "Traveling."
I know I can usually Google these things, but there's something comforting about a college text in my hands. Hello old friend, I imagine it says.
Last night I made a list of all the things I want. I wrote "desires" at the top because it's a softer word. Bookshelves moved to the number one spot. R said this sounded like a list Sweet Potato might write. I wrote it because I thought a list might calm me down-- I could stop holding it all in my brain-- and because I want to stop wanting. I'm so lucky to be here, alive, in a home full of love and food and books, my three favorite things, I feel greedy ordering a cake pedestal on Ebay.
That must be why, when it was delivered, it turned out to be just big enough for a single cupcake. It was karma-- and my failure to read fine print.
Here's another thing about New England no one ever told me: When the leaves get all red and golden glowy and start to fall the lush foliage dies away, and one can see between the trees so much farther than she was able to see before, across stretches of green meadows and lakes that were hidden in summer-- they're all revealed now, like secrets.

Traveling through the Dark

by William Stafford

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason--
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all--my only swerving--,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.
From The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems by William Stafford. Copyright © 1962, 1998 Graywolf Press

October 7, 2008

One More Thing

My friend dee ann finished the Susan G. Komen walk for cancer-- 60 miles in three days-- and I just lifted this photo off of her blog. It's the back of her t-shirt. She walked in memory of my Nana Pat and didn't even tell me. As Nana would say, how do ya like them apples?

Did I mention that dee ann is coming to visit in November? Yay!

Orangutan Number One

I always pronounce the word or-rang-uh-tang. Why do I pronounce it that way? Is it equivalent to saying fustrated instead of frustrated?

Well, I was frustrated with my first attempt to draw this orangutan because I messed up his hands and feet, and now he looks like he's been juggling fire.

Sweet Potato said, "You know what your problem with art is, Mom? You're an artistic perfectionist."

And then she went on to mock my orangutan extremities. Lovely child.

Here's one more quirky thing I forgot to mention about our new town: When making a phone call, everybody has to dial the area code, even if it's the same. For years, I hear, everyone in town had the same first six digits, so one was required to remember only the last four digits. Gone are the good old days. They've had to introduce a new prefix recently, and now everyone knows who's a newcomer. Well, they all knew that anyway. It's a small town.

We've kept R's parents' number, so we're old school.

October 6, 2008

Mass Uniquities

I think I made that word up-- uniquities-- it's a good one, isn't it?
So here are a few odd things I've noticed:
There are a whole lot of dog grooming salons out here. I thought that was odd, but then I've also met quite a few dog breeders. OK, I guess it's a country thing. I thought my mother-in-law was being facetious when she asked our neighbor if her dog was taking Irish dancing lessons, but the neighbor answered with a straight face that they had to take a break from the dancing lessons for a while.
Here's the sad thing: They sell puppies in the mall out here. I hadn't seen a puppy sold in a store since I was 10. It just wasn't done, at least in the Bay Area. Poor little pooches. I guess the whole puppy mill industry is really ugly, yet booming. We won't be going that route if Buckaroo is ever ready for a four-footed friend.
Oh, and those dog salons-- they're usually in private homes. There doesn't seem to be a rule about mixing up home businesses and residential neighborhoods that there must be in California. Over there they have the homes converted into businesses, like my old dentist office, where I waited in the parlor and had my teeth cleaned is somebody's old bedroom while staring at photos on the mantle.
It's a different kind of thing out here. We'll just be driving along a little neighborhood and see shop signs in the windows-- antique store or hair salon-- but it's still a residence. I haven't overcome my reticence about walking into a stranger's home to buy his stuff, unless it's been Craigslisted.
And the tolls! You probably all know this, but it's new to me. The driver pulls up to the toll booth and doesn't pay. She takes a little tickety thing that tells her how much she's going to pay depending on where she's driving. How one is supposed to divine this information from the tiny chart while driving 65 down the highway is beyond me, but that's how it works. Then the driver stops at the next toll booth and pays the required amount.
Just charge me the four bucks and let me go, I say, but I'm not a commuter.
In other news: R is surviving the Texas heat, and they're predicting thunderstorms for him. He wanted to walk to his training center from the hotel, but there are no sidewalks.
Also, only 12 more days till my mom and step-dad come to visit! So many plans to make.

Two Very Fuzzy Bears

I failed art in 7th grade. That Mrs. Dunevitz had something against me, maybe the fact that I slept through her history class. In any case it scarred me forever.
Here I am, though, overcoming my fear. These are my polar bears in chalk pastel. This was my fifth attempt at them, and the first time I made it past drawing the circles for their bodies. They're a bit too hairy, and it's blowing in all the wrong directions. Who knows, maybe the wind does blow from all different directions in the north pole.

I love polar bears, despite their taste for belugas.

I forgot to mention yesterday that we saw this very cool spider on our way to the birthday party. He looked like a leaf caught between the slats of the picnic table until he crawled out. He seemed to enjoy his photo shoot, but the camera wasn't cooperating.
I'm off to read Snowy Day to Buckaroo and then stew some beef.

October 5, 2008

Birthday Lake

Sweet Potato, Buckaroo, and I attended a birthday party for our neighbor, Curly, who turned three. Buckaroo had much fun hug tackling Curly's dog, Annie. Sweet Potato enjoyed the shrimp tremendously, and I tried not to say too much about politics. On the walk home, I spied the lake, and we all stopped so I could take this picture. I hoped to capture (on camera) a jumping fish, but Buckaroo was impatient to go home.

R did not join us because he's on his way to -- or perhaps just arrived in-- Texas.

Last night I went to a birthday party for another friend, Frog Mama. She turned 42. We all played the game where each of us had the name of a famous person taped on our backs, and we had to ask yes or no questions until we figured out who it was. I had Einstein. He's a tricky fellow.

There was good food, good music, good conversation, and kids running around blowing into recorders and trading baby dolls. I left there with a belly full of cake thinking that I would like to have a birthday party this year.

I always liked to do my birthday big, but until last year I didn't realize that my big birthdays were in response to my dad forgetting my birthday every year. It didn't matter that he forgot, as long as I was surrounded by people who loved me.

So last year when there was no him, no secretly hoping he'd remember, there was nothing, and I didn't want to celebrate nothing. I think, in the end, R wooed me out to dinner.

I thought this year would be the same, especially because I thought I wouldn't have any friends. I have made a friend or two, though, and I think we could squeeze them into our house for a birthday/holiday kick-off. R says we can all hang out in the basement and take turns sawing and drilling things if necessary.

Every year in California my birthday brought the rain, and I'm wondering if in Massachusetts it will bring snow.

In other news, Sweet Potato has joined a hip hop class. That girl can really shake her tail feathers. She must get it from her dad's side of the family.

Quick Note

Buckaroo's first masterpiece
The evil vine I've been battling is called a euonymus. I guess there are different types of euonymus, and R's parents thought they were planting themselves the other kind, the shrubby kind, but they got the vine. Here's a picture of the battleground.

The foreground is what I've looted from the dirt, plus some pine needles that happened to fling themselves there. That's one thing I can say for the euonymus, it didn't mind being in close proximity to the pine tree.

I'd like to chop down that pine tree (I know, and after all my talk of the wicked tree-cutting neighbors; I guess I'm turning into a true Massachusan), but R planted the tree as a wee tike, so it's special. He has no memory of planting the tree, though, and what if we planted a nice ginkgo in its place? That wouldn't be so terrible. Would it? I have nothing in particular against a pine, it's just that nothing grows under a pine-- the one thing I remember from college geology-- and it's smack in front of the house where flowers would be so welcoming.

Well, I'm off to spend some quality time with R before he leaves for Texas this afternoon. It's going to be in the low 80s in Texas all this week. I'm trying not to feel bitter; it's still Texas after all.

October 3, 2008

Garden Therapy

When R's mom began sprucing up the house in The Woods her mother-in-law suggested she plant a shrub in the plot on the north side of the house. She said it would grow tall and beautiful. It did not. Instead, it entrenched itself deep into the soil and around the rock wall surrounding it, only poking up its green leaves every so often in weed-like fashion.

I endeavor daily to remove it.

The job, I'm sure, requires a rototiller, but I do not have one, and I tend toward clumsy, best kept far from sharp blades.

While staking the ground with my trowel, keeping one eye on Buckaroo as he wanders the yard picking up sticks and throwing rocks, I've been thinking a lot about The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. My mom read it just after my dad died and suggested I read it, too, but I didn't have the emotional energy I thought it might require. Magical thinking is the self-deception Didion allows herself after her husband dies suddenly.

For example, "I can't give away these shoes; he'll need them when he comes back."
It's a personal and clinical exploration of grief. I haven't finished it yet.

On Wednesday I took Buckaroo to story time at the library where we listened to "Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?" and he played with the trucks and little kitchen while I browsed. I found Magical Thinking on CD, and I passed by telling myself I still wasn't ready.

Later I went back to the shelf, though, and I thought maybe. Maybe listening to a woman's voice talking about grief wouldn't be so bad. I could always turn it off. Plus, Buckaroo and I always have a long drive ahead of us these days.

Didion talks about the "cool customer," the survivor who appears to be doing OK from the outside, but is perhaps not doing so well on the inside. That was her.
I was thinking about this as I shoveled and yanked and tore at the roots in the dirt. "Is that me?" I asked myself, the cool customer? I did not lose a spouse (although I've started to obsess about R's death lately, but I think of Mr. Bennett's response to his wife's worries: "My dear, don't give way to such gloomy thoughts. Let us hope for better things. Let us flatter ourselves that I may outlive you," and I have to chuckle). Didion said she felt sadness when her parents died but not true grief. It made me wonder if maybe what I'm feeling about my dad's death isn't normal, but then there was nothing about my dad or our relationship that was normal.

I wake up, eat breakfast, change Buckaroo's diaper, make grocery lists, remember to fill the gas tank. I cry a little, but not too much. I've started to listen to the morning news on the radio.

Does this mean I'm OK? Or am I still thinking magically?
I started to compare myself to the soil I was working: The evil plant isn't visible anymore, but the underlayer is nearly impenetrable. How will I plant my bulbs there with so many gnarly roots in the way? What will grow? Is my heart root-bound?

Sweet Potato's great grandmother never grieved. She had one husband institutionalized with schizophrenia and the other die unexpectedly. She lost a daughter to AIDS. She never cried. Later when she became very ill, one doctor told her it was from bottling up all of that grief for so long and that she needed to let it out to be healthy again. I worry about this.

I loaded William Shatner's "That's Me Trying" on to my iPod, and I listen to it repeatedly. It's a monologue/phone call from a dad to his estranged daughter. Hokey, and the dad is still a jerk, but it's the best he can do, and that's where my magical thinking comes in. If my dad were alive he could redeem himself. He could stop drinking, stop using. If my dad were alive there would be time for me to forgive him.

So I keep wondering how he's going to come back. There's so much work to be done.

October 1, 2008

Hello from Autumn

R commented one day, as we were driving through The Woods, that folk out here like to put up the fall and Halloween decorations much earlier than in the Bay Area. It's true. Back there people wait until Oct. 30th to hang witches in windows.

We reasoned that it's probably because it feels like autumn here. No Native American summer for us. The mornings and evenings are crisp and pine scented-- mostly from our spiffy new pellet stove-- the trees are ablaze with color, it's drizzly gray, and the lake is knock-your-trunks-off cold, as R discovered during his end of the season dip this week.

They're still wearing sunscreen in the Golden State.
Here's something I learned about autumn in The Woods: Acorns are dangerous. They don't just fall from the tree; they fling themselves violently, taking out branches and windshields as they go. I have yet to be hit in the head, but I know it's coming. Luckily, like the flame-spurt in the Princess Bride's fire swamp, the acorns give a heads-up by rustling loudly through the leaves on the way down. I just hope all the acorns fall before the leaves do.
You know how spring is for cleaning? Well, apparently autumn is for tearing apart. Yesterday I took the scissors to my browning garden and pulled out the unsightlies, and today I wrestled some deity-forsaken shrub in the garden, but not before I ripped the wall paper from two walls in the bedroom. See before and after photos above. Next, paint!
Don't know if I've mentioned, but the master bedroom is the only room that's not wall-to-wall knotty, except the den which is wall-to-wall fake wood paneling.
If I'm gonna be leashed to a place, it might as well feel like it's mine-- even if that means it's in a constant state of disheveledness. Sometimes a mess must be made-- in this case many, many messes-- before one can arrive at her state of blissful contentedness.
Also, all of the hard work is keeping Buckaroo and me busy while R is away from dark thirty to dark nighty.
**One last note to say that as part of his new job R is required to introduce himself to everyone in the company, learn their names, and what they do. He has 30 days. Good thing he's been taking social cues from Buckaroo.