Saturday, April 30, 2005

The list

The tables at the diner are pushed close together to make as much room as possible for more patrons. I sit on a booth seat at a table for two, in a line of five tables for two. To my right is a woman holding her half of silence with her I assume husband because they are both wearing rings. To my left is a young boy of about seven years. He is not at all interested in being at the diner anymore and his mother is pretty much exasperated with his collapsing and sitting up and leaning on her and whining. She is breathing slowly, working on her patience. Sitting across from me is my friend Georgi. She's full of conversation from the minute I sit down, starting off with grey hair.

"Why is it," she asks me, "that men look distinguished when they start to go grey?" She moves her eyes but not her head towards the silent husband to her left.

"Not sure, Georgi," I say. Going grey isn't something I spend my time pondering. I am so blond that I figure I'll just go clear rather than grey because grey would actually be more color than I have right now.

"Well, when I get there, it's one of the things I'm going to ask him."

She goes into a story about a natural dye she's found "under ten dollars, less than ten minutes and I do it at home. Perfect." Although I hear her, I've been snagged by her comment. Gets where? Ask who? And then I realize that she means heaven and God. And I smile because conversation with her is refreshing. She's forever slipping in gems like that and it never fails to make me happy.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Defined today - I am

a daughter, sister, aunt, godmother
not a mother
not a wife
not very patient with some people
very patient with others
and losing patience with a few
very weary of promises
searching for solutions
wondering where the past three months have gone
wondering if I'm qualified for any of this
nervous every time my phone rings
still holding on to some wishes I'm not ready to make
frustrated, desperate, worried, stressed
wearing pink and black
recently manicured and pedicured
wondering what's for lunch
laughing that spell check just suggested "Pedigreed" in lieu of "Pedicured"

What's in a name?

Inspired - influenced; having the intellect or emotions moved
Work - these words
of - necessary preposition, but you knew that
Self-Indulgence - to gratify one's taste or desire

That should somewhat explain the name of this blog. External inspiration pushing the internal need to write.

I believe that all blogs are self-indulgent, but think of the environment and all the trees we're saving by not feverishly penning our thoughts in journal after journal. In the end, all that self-indulgence makes us an environmentally generous lot.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

There's a splinter in my eye and it reads react

I am TIRED. I am having one heck of a time leading my life. I think I'm in charge but that is a joke. Simple stuff like fulfilling my goals for the day, following a simple plan of certain items on the agenda. Not happening. I keep getting side-swiped. While I know that I am not a target - no one is aiming at me and it is not personal - I feel like a doormatt, a backboard, a spittoon. Given what I have in my mind and experiences, I still cannot come up with a single realistic solution. Is it possible to find a solution for them that will also give a solution to myself? I'm not sure. And not being sure? That is hell. I mean it. *sigh*

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

With a nod to James Taylor

Tonight was a breath of fresh air (I know, I know, it's cliche - but it's true all the same). When you are grieving, you accept that you are in that dark place but there are times when you want out of it. It doesn't feel good, wanting to escape, but you do want to nonetheless. Right, who am I talking about, you? No, me. There are times when I am so tired and so worn down by the weight of missing my father and longing and wishing and hoping for everything to be different, or at least to have five more minutes and if not that I'll take five seconds.

Every now and then there are people and conversations that - for a moment - take me away from that missing and desperation. Tonight was that way. Tonight was dinner with two friends, and the conversation political. Tonight was about the Pope and President Bush and, well, entirely different conversations than I've had lately. Which is good, I'll take it. But at the same time, there is an energy expense to these conversations and I put forth that energy so that I can join in all the due passion and opinion. And it feels good to argue (debate) something that is not emotional. But it's energy spent and that is from a supply that I don't really have. I'm drained. And vulnerable.

When this evening was over, I got into my car and remembered like a punch in the stomach that I am alone. As soon as I shut the door, I was aware of it in that way that silence is sometimes louder than sound. My world settled gently but painfully around me. I sat in the car tonight and looked at a photograph of my father. He's wearing his red sport coat, holding a glass of wine, looking right into the camera with his beautiful blue eyes. And a tear dropped from my eye. It was time to go home. Time to return to what I am struggling to accept is now my familiar, which is a world without his presence, but one all about when he was once present. I turned the key in the ignition and the radio gave me this:

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again.

Yeah, I always thought that I'd see him again.

Inches apart, yet miles and miles away

You can go to sleep one night and wake up the next day and have your entire life as you know it be different. Or a series of nights. Three months could be a night. Three years could be a night. If you noticed. Does she notice? I have no idea. But if she doesn't notice, then time has not passed and she's more or less stuck. Things may have changed, but time has not passed and time itself takes on a completely different meaning when one no longer acknowledges it. She's not concerned, allowing one day to float into the next, unrecognized or unnoticed, and one week into the next. The blur of weeks into a month, one month into another. She no longer needs this system of day and date, of schedule or organization. It seems that she's holding onto the present real tight, and the past, but not tomorrow, or the next day or anything beyond. As long as she sits in that throne and holds on, everything is okay. Where is she? I have no idea. What is she thinking? I don't know that either. But I do know that the world she lives in and the world we see her living in are two very different places. We send her plenty of invitations to come out but she will not. And for us she's hung a Do Not Disturb sign on her life. And it's not only a request but also advice. As if the hornet hung the same on its nest. Approach with caution.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

This seat is taken

Two weeks ago I was here at the cabin writing about how two weeks from then, I'd be in Paris. It didn't work out that way. The result of having to postpone the trip left me with this weekend open, and well, here I am back at the cabin. And happy to be here.

Being at the cabin is like spending time with my father. If I could. I feel him here, see him here, see results of his work and his heart and his dreams here. This place is saturated with him and that's perfect. I have 20 years of memories here. I recall him at every spot. In the kitchen preparing his oysters, on the porch admiring the land, at the bar preparing his martini, downstairs in his workshop, outside setting out the sprinklers, taking the golf cart out for a 'cocktail cruise' with Mom, preparing the rods to go fishing, cooking the fish from the day's catch. And sitting in his chair at the dining table. So many dinners I had beside him at the table. So many mornings we sat across from each other, drinking our coffee and reading the newspaper while everyone else was sleeping. I'd look up at him sitting across from me and smile at him because those quiet morning hours we shared were so precious to me, the time that I had with him before the house came to life with the family and conversation. I look at that chair now and though it is empty, his was such a presence that I feel him there. I miss him so much it chokes my heart and yet when I look at this chair, I can breathe again. How I wish he was sitting in it right now. How I do wish that.

And I miss you

Morning walk

IMG_0089 IMG_0090 IMG_0092 IMG_0093

It's a nice mile walk around the island. This morning's surprise cool temperature and breeze made it all the nicer. The Cottonwood and Sycamore trees are fully loaded with their new green leaves and the wind blowing through them sounds like a distant crowd clapping. It's a treat to hear. But the best part, the very best part, is making this little walk around the island in my pajamas.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Because that's what she said

Sharon [from outside on the porch to me in the kitchen]: Alison, do you have a pencil?

Me: There's one right here but you have to sharpen it. [Then looking at Eddie] Eddie, will you sharpen it, please? I don't think there's a sharpener, but you can use a knife.

Eddie: Wait, I think I have a pencil in my backpack.

So, Eddie goes upstairs and looks for a pencil and Sharon comes inside and is looking around the cabin for a pencil but in odd places, places that a pencil would never be, say, in the area beneath the stairs where toys and puzzles are kept. And I'm looking at her with a look on my face that reveals that my mind is saying what the heck are you looking there for?

Sharon: Did you look on the clipboard I brought down, I think I have a pencil on that.

Me [admittedly a bit flustered]: Well, why did you ask me for a pencil then?

Sharon: I don't need a pencil, I thought you did. I'm looking for a tennis ball.

I'm not at all sure how that happened but I am quite sure that I'm sitting here right now with my own little preview of what life will be like when my hearing goes out. I think it just might have its moments of amusement. And as far as inventory goes, we do have pencils. And tennis balls.

This is it

This is it!

You have to love small town Texas.

Returning the favor

I received a comment on this site yesterday from a woman named Rachel [thank you Rachel, I appreciate your compassion]. Rachel wrote that she understood the difficulty of trying to keep a family together, especially when it was the one you were born into and not the one you created. Although I understood what she was saying, that was something else for me to read. Because I was not born into this family, I was adopted into it. Being adopted is at the very top of the list of things that I am grateful for, and have been for manymanymany years. And I have felt that I am the luckiest girl in the world to be adopted by the two amazing people I call Mom and Dad. It's a huge topic, adoption is, but for me and my experience, I can say that it's a bit like a marriage. There are two-way promises. I've always looked at the "in sickness and in health" part of marriage vows as vows that also are between adoptive parent and child. Once you make it, you do not break it.

Lord knows that I put my parents through some interesting, if not extremely troublesome times. I shaved my head, and dyed orange what hair was left remaining - and still insisted on joining them at the head table at the oh-so-conservative country club. I lied not only to avoid any repercussions I might receive from telling the truth, but also when it was simply convenient. I wrecked cars, stole their credit cards, hid less than stellar report cards as well as the bills of the credit cards I stole. I experimented with my sexuality. I experimented with drugs when their entire (and very expensive) plan for me was one that they hoped would avoid just that. And that's glossing over it. Trust me, I really was trouble. For years. We had our fights, be sure of that, but they loved me and guided me through the time. And over time I mended my ways and I grew up. They did a good job.

So now Mom's being trouble, so to speak. She's not shaving her head or hiding bills but she could wreck her car, and she is not being responsible. The role of parent and child have reversed a bit. It's challenging, and the specifics are different, but it's really no different, is it? It's a lifetime promise. Every day I think about it and I realize that the details are unique, but the challenge to be there is not. I believe that it is my turn. I do believe that. Mom and Dad must have been so sick of me, so exasperated. They had to have wanted to quit. Had to have. But they did not. And neither will I. I hope and pray that I do as good a job with Mom as my parents did with me. That I can be wise and patient, loving, guiding, tolerant, understanding. If ever there was a time in my life (so far) that I needed to benefit from my father's teachings and their life-long patience with me, it is now.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


That brown face. Those golden eyes. That ever-twitching nose. Those soft ears. That greying beard. Hers is a face that never ceases to bring a smile to my own face. See how close she is to the camera in this picture? What she usually does after she puts her face this close to mine is blow out her nose, or sneeze on me. Nice. I think it amuses her, I do.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Periods, commas and answered prayers

On my drive to the office, or anywhere just outside my neighborhood really, I pass several churches. One of the churches has a sign in the side lawn and a different message is written on it each week with those interchangeable plastic letters. I hadn't noticed this week's message before today, though I've passed by it several times. Today it might as well have been written in neon with a sign above it of blinking yellow light bulbs in the outline of an arrow saying "Alison, read this." The church sign said, "Never place a period where God has placed a comma."

Now, let me tell you that that sign could have said, "Alison, do not put a period where I have put a comma." And that's because I spent a long time last night in prayer. I prayed out loud and I had a lot to say and ask and believe and be reminded of. I prayed for her, for him, for them, for me, for guidance. And I rolled it upwards. And this morning in that sign, I received an answer and in my very own language. In the US, the punctuation mark used to end a sentence is a period; but in the UK, that punctuation mark is called a full stop. Makes sense. A comma though, a comma is a pause, a mark of separation between clauses. So, with that in mind, what the sign said to me is "Do not stop where God has placed a pause."

What's my answer? It's not quitting time, no matter how tired I am. I'm battle weary, yes, but that's the time to call upon my real strength, my courage, the bravery my father so often told me to have. I do not know the answers but I am reminded that they sometimes do not come to us all neat and pre-packaged in the form of knowedge or lessons learned. The answers aren't out there in neat bundles awaiting us to find them like Easter Eggs tucked in the grass. We have to live the questions. Day by day, bit by bit. Over time the answers will form and we will find resolution and solution. This is life.

Last night, when talking to my brother on the phone, he said that earlier in the evening he was reminded of, and it felt good to hear, "This too shall pass.” And that's the truth, it will. What I need is this time of pause and reflection, a time to gather my strength and focus. A time of prayer. This is not a time for me to throw my hands up in the air in exasperation, not a time to turn away, and not a time to think of myself. There’s a reason why it’s said that the darkest hour is before the light. It's okay to pause; it's not okay to stop.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

On the battlefield

Although I do not serve in the military, I do feel that I am a soldier of sorts. I am a soldier in my family. I am one of three soldiers in my family who try to keep the peace, keep health, keep progress, keep sanity. Keep? We work for it. And oftentimes, it is at the expense of our own. It is hard work. And when combined with the whole dynamic of family, and all the emotion of the loss of my father, this work also is expensive to us. It’s expensive in stress and sleep.

We want to do the right thing, say the right thing, and be the right people. We keep a watch on what is going on and we strive for harmony within the family. We work to keep my niece and nephew focused on their school, on their futures, on their in-home behavior and chores, on making good decisions. We try to help them with their grief. We try to inspire them, be positive, and help them through the very difficult things that they face in their home life. We struggle for time, understanding, patience. We strive to put some order in their lives.

We work with my mother, though it’s a challenge of such magnitude that what most often results is us developing our skills at keeping our mouths shut. We worry. We grapple with so many emotions and concerns, it’s near impossible to organize our conversations. Her age, her approach to grief, her depression, her drinking, her memory, her health, her diet, her refusal to get anything at all done. We are worried sick about all of it. And we divide our days and find time and step in and get so much done for her. We grocery shop, make phone calls, encourage, ask questions, clean her house, cook dinner, keep company, take to lunch or dinner. We try to nudge her into a life rather than an existence. And we try not to piss her off because she doesn’t welcome any of this. Not only does she not welcome it, she doesn’t think it necessary. We are stepping onto her turf and that’s threatening to her, very threatening. Her attitude and the way she lives her life are threatening to us. And emotionally devastating. There’s anger, sadness, confusion, frustration, exasperation, and desperation. Her footprints are all over our love for her. We grab at ideas and work through them and inevitably hit a block. Namely, her. What to do, what to do?

What we do is soldier forward every day. Our enemy is a powerful combination of circumstance and illness and stubbornness. It’s a battle we never knew we’d be facing; we would have enlisted but in all honesty we were drafted. So each and every day, we keep a look out. We remove obstacles. We pray.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Heavenly smells


Growing and blooming all along my fence. In a word, yummy!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

One moment of my morning

Green leaves
Originally uploaded by withoneel.
I have brought a digital camera into my life. Just to see what the fuss is about. And I can tell you that the fuss - at least for me - will be all about the immediacy of the image. I took this photo this morning, hooked the camera to computer and here it is. I know that's light years behind most people's digital know-how, but for me, it's no different than finally giving up typing envelopes on the typewriter and using the printer instead. In other words, it's about time, but better late than never. So, armed with my little Canon Power Shot, while with the dogs at the park this morning and chatting with my sister-in-law on the phone, I looked all around me and thought how beautiful the leaves were, and I realized that I can take a picture. So I did.


One of the first lessons we learn regarding manners is the one-two combination of saying please and following it with thank you. It’s an early lesson – right when the vocabulary starts and the reaching begins. Of course, that’s just the language of it all. The meaning, the meat behind the words, that comes later. Gratitude is more than saying thank you, it’s expressing the appreciation that you feel.

There is someone in my life who should know this, and at one time must have known this. But she no longer does. No longer recognizes and no longer expresses. And that hurts. It may sound like something trivial to write about, as if I’m whining because I have not heard thank you when I wanted to. But that’s not it. With recognition and appreciation, with just that, we can do so much. It’s fuel for us to continue. It makes us feel that we belong, that we have value. Without it, the gestures become work, the attitude resentment. What slays me is not so much that gratitude isn’t expressed, but my efforts are not recognized. And not only mine. A certain someone is doling out a lot of pain with failure to recognize what many of us do for her. I want to remind her of the basics: Say please, and say thank you. Isn't that what you taught me, way back when?

Friday, April 15, 2005

And do you promise...

Today would have been my parents’ 55th wedding anniversary. Consider this: they were married the year the credit card was introduced; three years before DNA was discovered. Think about the year they got married:

- the first organ transplant took place
- the first Peanuts cartoon strip was printed
- the Korean War began
- Senator Joseph McCarthy began the Communist Witch Hunt
- Truman was President

They had their whole life together ahead of them, their promises to each other, their dreams, their future spread out before them wide and waiting for them to inscribe their lives upon it.

I have a laminated pressing from the April 16, 1950, edition of the New York Herald Tribune. The wedding at Christ Church, Staten Island, her from Dongan Hills, him of Union City. Their marriage got all sorts of press, my favorite heading "Union City Man’s Bride" above a stunning photo of my mother, the same photo that hangs in my hallway. She carried a cascade of Eucharist lilies and stephanotis. I do not even know what stephanotis is. I will find out. There are articles of her bridal shower, articles of his marrying her, her marrying him. All news and celebration. All promise and joy.

Twelve years before I was born.

It’s difficult to imagine your parents’ lives, difficult to imagine that they had a life before you. Because you lose your point of reference. At my own age, I’ve known them all my life. And yet they had their life and their lives together, long before me. Such a partnership I cannot really imagine, though I lived with it. I remember one particularly difficult time in the book of our family – I think that all three children were being out of line - I mouthed off at something to my mother, and my father told me in no uncertain terms that it was not acceptable to talk to her that way, not only because she was my mother, but because she was his wife. And they were a team. They loved us, but they were a team, and we their children were not to cross either one. He drew the line there and I saw it and respected it from that day on. What he said was cross me, but not her. I admire that, and haven't forgotten it.

I asked my mother once, just after a post-college break-up, how she did it, how she managed to be and stay married, what her secret was. She smile at me and thought a while before answering. She told me that while she was sure that I expected her and wanted her to say it was all about their love for each other, that she couldn’t say it was that. What she did say was that while you can’t have it without love, in fact the reason why they kept their marriage alive was due to respect. Obviously, I’ve not forgotten that either.

They were (and are) so different, those two. He of the sea and the fields, of interest in all walks of life; her of tennis and art, volunteerism and social placing. Both valued education and both possessing business minds admired by others, both successful in their own right. Together they were partners. He saw her dreams and met them, she accommodated his.

Great strength existed in their marriage. Agreements and sacrifices that I’m aware of, and many, many more that they kept to themselves. Theirs was a partnership indeed. He once told me that she was the greatest business asset he could have ever married. It wasn’t always great – not even near – or even always good. But it was theirs and theirs alone. They got married and they promised. And they kept their promises. He didn’t walk, neither did she. I’ve seen more than a few times when either could have and no one would have blamed them. I’ve seen times when their marriage was as fragile as a hummingbird’s wings – but I never doubted because beneath those wings was a structure of steel. I’ve witnessed the partnership tested but never the love or the vows.

Their marriage reached past space, past time, past existence. Which is why I’m thinking tonight, Happy Anniversary to the two people who made me different in an all too common world of divorce. And I say thank you for staying together when you didn’t have to, maybe even at times didn’t want to. But you did. And what a lesson that is.

On their anniversary, I always used to send them each a card and thank them. Today, she’ll get roses. Not for the 55th but for the 54 that went beforehand. Troubled times not forgotten, God blessed their union. And God blessed us, their children, by allowing us to witness such a pairing. We are cooking at their house this evening. We will all miss him tonight, but no one as much as she.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Secretariat's ruby red slippers

From a Jay Leno on-the-street interview, when asked what state the KENTUCKY Derby was in, the woman-on-the-street gave him a fairly good doe-in-the-headlights-look and said [are you ready for this?] "Kansas?" And he looked at her as if to say OHMYGODAREYOUKIDDING ME, and then she said, "Well, isn't Kansas in Kentucky?"

I don't know, I was stunned and that brought the laughter. That's obviously why the clip was shown. But if Kansas is the state since that was the question, then what does that make Kentucky, a country?

Monday, April 11, 2005

They call the wind Mariah

I've been pretty fixated on the wind lately. I listen for it. I watch the leaves shimmer in it. I enjoyed it this weekend, moving through the open doors of the cabin. I am fond of its less powerful self, the breeze, as well, but whichever it may be, I take solace in it. And tonight I've been wondering why I feel such connection to something I cannot see but nonetheless makes me feel and see the results of its presence. In my mind, the wind makes things move forward. It brings change, it serves a purpose. That symbolism is at the core of my fixation. Change is inevitable. It must be allowed, and also endured. We cannot know what will happen, so we often do not understand. And what we don't understand and can't see, we are forgivably afraid of. Eventually though, we do find that we fit in with the results. What it requires is patience. And the time it takes for patience is the time necessary for us to prepare for what is to come, and to allow what is to come.

There's no wrap-up I have in mind to this. It's just my thoughts. And in particular, it's thoughts that I want to share with my brother and sister-in-law. They are struggling right now. To them, I say this: let the winds blow, we cannot control them. And I also say this: I love you.

Seriously now

I want to write about something, the wind to be specific, but before I do, I want to say that one of my favorite things in the entire world happened this evening. And the smile that erupted from me was not unlike the fizzing coca-cola bubbling over and down the edges of the glass. After dinner with my niece and nephew, we went to CVS for an assortment of things -- a birthday card, Arizona iced-tea by the gallon, my prescriptions. As I was sorting out insurance information at the prescription counter, from across several aisles, I heard laughter. Hers and his. Instantly I recognized it as theirs, and because it was theirs, it belonged to me. The pharmacist asked me a question and I couldn't be bothered. I held up my hand to her and all I could say was, "I'm sorry, hold on a sec, that laughter belongs to me." And I smiled at her. And she smiled back. We both listened. I have no idea what they were laughing about but to hear it from across the store, to recognize it as the laughter of two young people I so love and cherish, it was to experience exactly why people say that laughter is like bells ringing in the distance. It was holy and serene and life affirming. Just a moment overheard, but that peaceful and that perfect.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Slip sliding away

It's still the weekend, technically, but really Sunday night is more about Monday than it is about its relationship to Saturday or the weekend. For me it has been the best of weekends, including tonight, the slide into the week. I'm standing here in my kitchen and I'm thinking about it and appreciating it. I appreciate my friend Sharon, and I appreciate Oak trees and sunrises and a high wind roaring through the leaves of the Sycamore trees. I'm appreciating the walks with the dogs, and good meals, the work done, lightbulbs replaced and fixtures renewed, tree branches trimmed, pictures categorized, house-cleaning. And the two naps that I got to have!!! (yes, three exclamation points - naps are rare and I got to have one Saturday and Sunday) And I appreciate the time spent with the kids and my mother when we got to Houston, and that Sharon knew how to make breadsticks since Catherine wanted them with her veggie lasagna, and both the kids were thrilled that it could be done with - whoa - bread. And lastly, I appreciate dinner. Mexican food, a couple Margaritas, and being home by 8:00.

Just a nice one all the way around. Let Sunday slip into Monday, I'm ready.

They know not what they do

Things they understand:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • No
  • Come here
  • Treatie
  • Fetch it up
  • Are you hungry?
Things we wish they understood, know they do not, and yet still have the nerve to say out loud to them anyway:
  • Get out of there
  • Don't get dirty
  • Don't leave the porch
  • We're tired of throwing the ball now; give it a rest
  • Go to sleep
  • Oh no, it's way too early to get up
  • Don't pee in the house (that one is for Dad's dog)
  • There are plenty of balls and toys around, you don't need that exact one that's in the armadillo hole
  • Cows are our friends
  • Cow poop is not food
  • When you're looking for your ball, look under the couch
  • This thing that you have about being over-protective, it's okay at 5:00 in the evening but really not so okay at 5:00 in the morning
  • When you drink water, there's no need to push your entire face in the bowl and then walk around the kitchen dripping everywhere
  • Leave that O'Possum alone

Saturday, April 09, 2005

For these things I thank thee

The good:

  • Tom Petty & the Heart Breakers on the CD player
  • Fantastic breeze moving through the house
  • Artichokes steaming on the stove
  • Halibut and Red Snapper for dinner - Sharon is getting busy on prepping it all right now
  • Wind chimes fixed
  • Kitchen lighting replaced, repaired and cleaned
  • Lawn watered
  • All three dogs ate dinner tonight and not a one threw up
  • My brother and sister-in-law have returned from Hawaii and I've spoken with them and it was good to hear their voices and know they are home. I missed them.
  • Spoke with Mom and my niece - all is well in Houston
  • Having extra clothes at the cabin. Because sometimes the dogs drop the darn tennis ball into the armadillo hole beneath the stairs and they cannot get it so I have to crawl under the stairs and put my entire arm down that hole (eeeuwwwwww!) and retrieve it since we cannot find another ball and all three of them are whining all about it. And let me tell you, when you get down under there and put your arm down in it, you get dirty. Extra clothes are a good thing.
  • We have perfectly allotted our champagne and wine for this trip
  • The baby pool on the porch that the dogs keep jumping into and turning about in and cooling off in -- it cost $5.00 last summer and that's as almost free as you can get. It means that they don't have to have baths tonight. Tomorrow before we get on the road though, well, that's a different story.

The bad:

  • That armadillo hole, for one
  • We have not perfectly allotted our cigarettes for this trip. I say we but the truth is that I did not.

The ugly:

  • Tomorrow is Sunday, which means we'll have to leave.


  • Very nice when the scales are so lopsided toward the good side. *grin*

Places everyone

Two weeks from today, I'll be in Paris. Today, I am at the cabin. When I am in Paris, I will think to myself, two weeks ago, I was at the cabin writing about being here. None of this means anything at all, except that it will happen.

This morning is fantastically typical of a Springtime morning at the cabin. The doors and windows are open. The house seems to breathe the breeze in and out. Birds are chattering above here and there, the occasional blackbird shattering the music with a squawk. The sun is warm and filtering through the trees. Everything is soft and gentle, like a fond memory.

There are five of us here: My friend Sharon and me, her dog, my dog and my Dad's dog. The dogs are in the house, in the yard, up and down the stairs, out the back door, running down the porch, in the side door, through the house, and out again. Happy. Very happy. And Sharon and I -- not as happy since the dogs woke us at 6:30 -- we have fallen into our typical routines. Hers of a project and mine of the computer. Her project is fixing the bamboo windchime that I bought for my father. When we arrived last night, the whole thing was on the ground, the twine apparently not able to survive the sun and a few rains. She's got the fishing line out now, the thickest I've seen. I sit at the bar, laptop before me, coffee and ashtray to my left, recording it all. Typical stuff, comfortable stuff.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Peace be with you

My dinner partner last night has been through it, meaning that she’s lost her Mother and she possesses the unique and un-enviable knowledge of what I’m going through. I remember it, when she lost her mother; I was there and I remember feeling that it was something I knew I would face one day. And I remember feeling foreign, looking through a window at a scene that would one day be my own but not that day. It comes around. I haven’t seen her since my father’s service but she’s kept in touch, leaving me long and personal messages about her thoughts, her caring, her wondering but also her allowing that I did not have to return her call. Simply, she put forth that when I was ready, she’d be there. I saved her messages and listened to them again and again, there was so much comfort for me in her words.

Our conversation last night went straight to my heart, because I’ve been teetering with hope again, have reacquainted myself with it. Because I believe in hope. Even when it’s dark in my world and I feel alone and, well, hopeless, I still know that hope is there and it’s my choice to embrace it or follow it. I want hope, and it’s my choice. Totally up to me.

She reminded me of this last night because while I’ve been understandably wrapped up in the loss, dynamics and responsibilities of my own world, the world has of course continued to spin in all of our lives. And for her, a nine-year relationship came to an end, to her surprise. Well, perhaps not an end, but it is going through enough to threaten the foundation of her world because it took such a hard turn and she's left to evaluate every single thing. And that’s shattering. I’ve known her for years, sometimes closely and sometimes at a distance. But sitting across from her last night, although we never spoke of it, I learned that we both believe in the value of peace of mind. Serenity, happiness, peace of mind, hope. Related feelings. We both believe that it’s a reasonable goal, and that we are responsible for it, not any other person, here or gone. It doesn’t happen; we have to work for it. It’s not handed to us, we have to go in search of it. For me, on a small but powerful level, it’s pausing to feel a soft breeze, or to warm myself in a spot of sun. But it’s also larger. It’s allowing the differences between each other, parent-to-child or lover-to-lover. Really accepting our approaches to life, grief, sadness, happiness, struggles, goals, self-definition, hardships, and gifts. I think that through the years and through these life-changing surprises that we did not want, we both have realized that we have to release ourselves from the hold that fear has on us, we cannot focus on how things did not go as we wanted or assumed they would, but rather let God guide us and let peace seep into us. Give up the resistance and embrace acceptance.

In spite of everything, I know just how lucky I am. I am lucky to have my family and my friends. I am lucky to have one-on-one, very compassionate nights like last night. Because it doesn’t always happen that way – when two people have two very real needs to speak and be heard and understood and loved, and they both manage to give and get that, that’s a good connection, a good night. And, speaking for myself, it feels good to be able to get AND to give. Because I can do that. I can listen and love and care and focus on another’s life. I can do it. And my goodness, I say that it feels good to do it. It feels very good.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Speaking freely, but lost the language

Stranger walking past me in office building hallway: Hello
Me: How

And of course I just cringed. What was that about? There are so many options, Hello, Hi, Good Morning, or even a silent nod would have been acceptable, and yet what came from my mouth was "How." What's that, me practicing the Native American Indian tongue learned in elementary school? Where did my brain go when all it had to do was say Hello? *Sigh*

Chocolate on the outside, nuts on the inside - oh yeah, she's my crazy girl


Today's count

Ten things that bring a smile this morning:

1. Waking up before my alarm clock
2. Watching the sun rise
3. Seeing the bright green leaves glow in the sunshine
4. Feeling on my skin the cool temperature outside
5. Reading today's paper – because Thursday has the Preview and Neighborhood sections
6. Remembering that I packed today’s lunch last night, so I don’t have to think about it this morning
7. Seeing the Mexican Heather and Confederate Jasmine along my fence, robust and healthy and smelling divine
8. Enjoying the perfect cup of coffee that I somehow managed to make
9. Looking forward to having dinner with a dear friend this evening
10. Thinking about how tomorrow I’ll be heading to the cabin for the weekend
10. Thinking about how tomorrow I’ll be heading to the cabin for the weekend*

* The last one warrants repeating since it brings a particularly grand smile to my face. That and the use of color!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

I've been looking so long at these pictures of you

There are thousands, millions, of words written about photographs. Words and photographs have a fairly strong marriage I’d say, though both can certainly stand independent, requiring the reader or the viewer to complete the... I’m tempted to say picture or sentence here but instead will say story.

Monday night I began the task of organizing and categorizing my father’s photographs. Photographic documentation of a life. And hefty evidence of the way standard photograph sizes have changed over the years. Sometime in the mid-70s, for instance, they stopped being square. I have 4” x 4” boxes filled with square black and whites; 3” x 3” color photos; Polaroids, etc. and many, many envelopes, filled with 3” x 5” and 4” x 6” photos. This collection is for the most part grouped into several enormous cardboard boxes of certain time periods, say snaps of his childhood, or early in his marriage to Mom, or family trips, Christmases and other family events that bring out the camera, and then hunting and fishing photos throughout.

The particular box I started going through last night was heavily populated with boat and fishing images. Except for the large cardboard envelope that held my parents’ wedding and honeymoon images, as well as newspaper clippings regarding their nuptials, clippings I've never seen before. And black & white photos of my parents ice-skating, and of my mother hunting with my father – both taken when they were in their 20s, long before we came along. Both looking very much like LL Bean ads from time gone by.

My father wanted to organize these images – along with boxes and boxes of slides in slide carousels - together with me. Possibly put them on video, or at least transfer them to CDs. It was to be our project, but it was a project we never started. So when I started it Monday, I realized that I have a certain handicap by doing this task alone. There’s so much there to learn and there’s no way to get the answers. Who is that? Where is this? What year was that? What’s the story behind this photo? Um, why are you wearing your hat like that? It’s the million words behind the photographs, it’s the stories I can't have.

Monday, April 04, 2005

If he only knew what he was getting into

Seven weeks - First ball Seven weeks - Day 2 Seven weeks - Da3y On meeting her future beau
She'll be five in October but these were taken December 2000. They all make me smile but I'm particularly fond of the one on the far right. This is when she and Isaac first met. Isaac is a strappingly handsome Yellow Lab, and her number one beau. He may have had one up on her on the day this picture was taken, but it was sadly short-lived. In their adult life, she is his worst nightmare. But he plays Forest to her Jenny. You'd never guess from this photo that she'd grow up and be the absolute boss of him. Rarely does she cut him any slack; equally rarely does he lose patience with her. He doesn't get ruffled that he's never able to return the ball that he outran her to retrieve - no, he tolerates her snapping at him or throwing herself against him to make him drop it. He's so familiar with her antics that, accepting of his defeat, he sees her coming and he'll drop it immediately to avoid the confrontation. Same goes for the pool, though sometimes he raises his gigantic paw and tries to push her away from him, or swims in circles. No matter to her, she just climbs on top of him. But they also cuddle together on his bed, I swear they do. And they sleep with their heads on each other. And he saved her life once. Yes, theirs is a special bond, one we can't understand. Sort of like a canine sadomasochistic relationship, something only they can fully appreciate.


The sad sad tale of Cheyenne's tail

The girl pretty much has it made. Translate that into I spoil her rotten, and she goes just about everywhere with me. And this weekend she went to my parents' with me, she spent the night out with me and she spent the day at a friend's house with me. But that could be any given weekend, really.

What marks this weekend as a bit different is that this one was her first real sampling of the upcoming Summer. What do you do in the summer? You swim. And did she ever get to swim. On Saturday at my parents' house, and on Sunday at friends. Big weekend for her. Now, bless her, she's suffering from her tail. It's limp, and that's an odd sight. It's not jutting outward or wagging back and forth or thumping against the walls, table, floor. It's not happy to greet me. Instead, her tail is hanging down, straight down, and very still. She will not sit down. And she was in obvious pain when I ran my hands down her tail this morning.

A couple years ago, I flipped out when this happened and I had her at the emergency vet before you could say this will cost you $400.00 and they won't have a clue what's wrong with her. But today, due to my friends at the AKC, I have gained valuable knowledge. 1) it has a name: Cold Water Tail; 2) it's a fairly common occurrence in sporting dogs; and 3) it's described to me as a painful but benign affliction following swimming in cold water. Not much is known about it other than x-rays tend to confirm swollen muscles at the base of the tail, and that the recovery time is 2-3 days before the tail is in full wagging, swinging, thumping force again.

I feel so bad for her that I want to buy her stuffed animals and ice cream on the way home. I won't, but I want to. She'll get Greenies though, you can count on that.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The weekend

Taking care of my mother's car
Taking care of the family's grocery shopping
Lunch with my nephew
Laughter with my friends
More laughter with friends
Basketball (N.C.!)
Tossing the ball in the pool for the dogs
Good music
Lots of time spent outside
More laughter with friends
Good food
One good movie
and this Sunday night, one sleepy me, one sleepy dog and one early hour bedtime.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Take away

Note to restaurant manager at Willie's Ice House: I'm thinking that rather than leaning against the railing and lazily observing my friend and me move two solid wood tables together, and not doing so with ease I might add -- while we both give you looks that say Hello! Do you think you could get off your duff and help us here? -- and then finally ambling over to join our effort just as we've accomplished our goal and casually pushing in a single chair while asking us how many this afternoon? well, I'm thinking that is simply not good management. Although the food was good, it was this that we discussed at lunch. And on the drive back to the office.

Hello April!

Oh I’m so glad that you’re here. I’ve been waiting for you. You are my favorite, you know. Well, you and October. For similar reasons, but different seasons. Your winds awoke me this morning, eager at my windows. You have to be different, don’t you? Right from the start, you have separated yourself from March, your temperature dropping but your winds jostling all the leaves and blowing the pollen about. Still I’m so happy to see you, to be in your first day. You are the forgiving month, the releasing month, the month that flirts and plays and flies a kite. You are the month of change. You coax the flowers, tickle the bees, make the leaves dance. You intoxicate me with your perfumed air. You invite me outside again. Picnics and evening walks. Yes, evening walks, because Sunday morning, Daylight Savings Time begins and walking at night in the light will again be an option. I care not for that hour of sleep lost, it’s an easy trade for the hours of daylight in the evenings. You are not the cruelest month, no, you send invitations to us: get outside, ride your bike, put your hands in the earth, plant, roller skate, sit on your porch with a book. You send invitations for change. Come walk in my light and my warm air, come let me heal you for I am the month of change. Put your cares on my winds. Release your troubles and be free once again. April, you remind me that however sad things are, Spring reaffirms life. There will be sadness, but we do know that joy is there. I watch you closely and over and over I see you say "Live!"