Sunday, July 30, 2006

One part weekend, two parts Lab

These two happy nutcases kept company with me all weekend. We spent time at the park, we took walks, we went to the Daily Grind and hung out on the patio where they allowed a few lucky members of the general public to pet their heads, and today we went over to his house for a couple hours in the pool. A couple hours in which they filled in frenzied and competitive pursuit of the tennis ball. Until they were too wiped out to care anymore. I imagine that right now he is as she is: sound asleep. And snoring.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Birds of a feather flock to irony

Yesterday, my office hosted a mandatory lunch meeting on Pandemic Preparedness: Bird Flu (H5N1). A portion of the presentation concerned being sure that the chicken, turkey or duck you eat is cooked at high enough temperature to eradicate the disease.

For lunch, we were served Fried Chicken.

It takes 7-10 days for symptoms to show if you've been exposed to the Bird Flu.

When a young co-worker brought a baby hummingbird into the office later that afternoon after finding it on the sidewalk too young to fly, many of us stood around it, ooing and ahing over how cute and colorful its tiny self was. The bird quietly sat in her hand, turning its head to the side and back, opening it's long and slender beak. Then the HR Manager said, I keep thinking it's looking at us saying Bird Flu, Bird Flu.

That turned out to be a room-clearer faster than hearing, Your bonus checks are on your desks.

28, 29, 30, 31, 1 ... update on August 6th

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Party crashers

I hadn't thought to invite her. Or him, for that matter. It wasn't that I was being exclusive, but it just was not something I would have considered. And if I had considered it, it's not as if they ever check their email.

Internet, meet Max and Kate. That's Max on the left and Kate to the right. They arrived late and crashed the party last night, made themselves at home in the shirts and hands of a couple friends, and gave all the girls big wet sloppy kisses. Surprise!


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Christmas in July (national ice cream month)

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Today is my birthday. I was going to buy myself a new purse of the Coach variety, but I decided instead to give myself a gift that won't last nearly as long but will be appreciated a hundred times more than a nice looking burden I have to throw over my shoulder everywhere I go.

In a few minutes, I'll be at Urban Retreat where I'll be accepting my gift from me: a full hour massage followed by lunch in the garden with a robe on my body and not much on my mind, followed by a Spa Pedicure and then a Spa Manicure.

And then I'm going to go home and take a nap.

Because I can.

Tonight I'm going out with my American friends to drink French champagne (which should be redundant but isn't) and order dinner from an English menu where chips means fries and pudding is not found under Desserts.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Older and wiser

Sitting across from her, I know her, know the sparkle in her eyes, the movements of her hands, the way her hair falls across her brow. I've recognized her beauty since she was 21. I've known our friendship like a ribbon in my hair. But her grief is her own. Lucy had been her best friend, pal, furry confidant for 17 years. Last night I wanted to spend time with her, wrap my heart around her sadness. Be there for her, talk about Lucy memories.

It was that. But more.

We took it as something between a launching pad and an anchor. Like a hammock between two steadfast points, we settled in. We lit the candles for Lucy and Thunder, as we said we would. All across the country, flames flickering at 9:00.

We talk around the flames. We harbor faith, suffer arguments, stand tall. We recognize what led us to our steadfast ways, and we spend much of the night bleeding for others, arguing on behalf of friends we're not sure can argue for themselves. I hang on to memory; she clings to faith. It's hard to defend our friends, hard to carve out the soft spot in our hearts, put it on the table and say, This is what I've come to know, versus, It shouldn't matter if it's unconditional.

I'm tired of unconditional. I've come to believe that love is and should be with conditions. At least a few.

I'm tired of playing martyr to saints who will never gain wings. Is there something to be said for believing in what people say? Or are we to spend our time reading the fine print of behavior written between the lines of promises?

We sit like two Xs and Os on a tic-tac-toe board. It's not about strategy, it's about expressing the lessons. Same people, same story told, different lessons drawn. We've known the cast of characters as long as we've known each other. Neither is handicapped; neither is blind.

At the moment, both seem to hang on a thin fiber of belief. The truth is that the fiber I hang to is thinner than the one she grips.

Her arguments float across the space between. I listen, interrupt, argue my point. I remember that the reason why I'm with her tonight is to comfort her, love her over the loss of Lucy. It hits me that perhaps I'm here is to be near the lessons she has to give.

It will be midnight soon, but I won't pass through the change in time without wisdom. Or at least without the question.

What I want tomorrow is to be strong enough, giving enough, patient enough. What I want tomorrow is to me a bit more like this example I admire. Strong. Graceful. Forgiving. Understanding. Patient. Self-sacrificing. Loving. She is these things.

She might think, tomorrow when she comes to join our friends in celebration of my birthday, that she will give me a gift. She'll have no idea that the gift was given tonight. In her hand and in her voice, I was re-acquainted with a piece of myself I'd forgotten.

And to think I had come over to provide solace to her.

Keeping a upward curve in my stiff upper lip

As I sat on my couch last night, soaking in the surroundings of my familiar, I spread the past several weeks out through the living room and settled on one word: flexibility. We are forever in transition -- continually moving, changing direction, doing differently than we imagined. When we stop and analyze the past or what lies ahead, we know that if anything is required of us, it is to be flexible. Flexible to bend without breaking, to see the chaos and not fall down under it. It's my responsibility to myself, and duty to my family, to move and bend without creating a rift, or breaking my spirit.

For me, however far I move in any direction, I have to return. In other words, I can bend, but I have to bend back. Regain my strength, take my time. I'm wired that way, can go and go and go, but there comes a time when I have to stop and be still for a time. And I have to be flexible enough to know when and where. When is now, where is here.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

By the end of tonight

It's a band she wants to see. Tonight, in Austin. She approached me cautiously yesterday, I don't think you'll let me, but can I go to Austin tomorrow to see By the end of tonight?

Of course what I responded with was: What's that?

She gushed that it was a band she likes, and Saturday night was the last night Josh the guitarist would be playing with them. There are plenty of arguments that won't sway me but this one I understood. The desire to see a band's last live show with its founding members, I understand heart and soul.

I think for a minute. I don't see why not. You are old enough.

She lights up, Really?

Where are you staying?

Um, I don't know.

I tell her to figure that out and let me know.

She calls me while I'm at dinner with friends, I spoke with [her friend] and she said we can stay in a hotel, someplace inexpensive, by the hour.

Um, no. Cat, never stay in a place that has hourly rates.

I give her the reasons.


This morning, I reserved and paid for a room at a Days Inn near where the concert will be. There was a form to be faxed back and forth, my permission for her to use my credit card, acknowledging that she's under 21, etc. She is to bring a copy of the credit card and my drivers license with her to show when she checks in. I hand her the paperwork and she looks at me and thanks me so much, punctuating it with an excited and unsolicited hug.

This kid, this bright, kind, beautiful young woman soon to be 20 is currently on her first road trip. It's a page her own to fill and remember. As I write this, I'm filled with excitement for her, for this experience of freedom I know she's having.

Still, she is a teenager. Absentminded at times, easily distracted. When I hand over the piece of paper with my financial and driving identity, I tell her that if she loses it, I will sell her into the black market for teenage prostitution and then she'll really understand what hourly motel rates are all about.

Friday, July 21, 2006

My hurricane breezes through briefly

When I reached to open the window last night, I saw it was unlocked. Still. That was a while ago, when he made his exit and I took the stairs. No one but the yardman any wiser.

This morning he texts, Hey sweet, my thoughts are over there with you. Hug and XXX

Hug and XXX indeed.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

When she's bad

When I got home last night, my niece and I had the following conversation:

Her: Cheyenne ate a loaf of bread. She pulled it off the counter.

Me: Did you scold her?

Her: No, I couldn't.

Me: What do you mean you couldn't? You have to scold her.

Her: But she's so cute when she's bad.

With evidence

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

And on the sixth day, there was a post

Cue me poking my head out from behind this screen, Hello?

I have not been here lately. Here, not as in here on this screen, but here. Of my normal, in my head, in my heart, in my inspiration.

Sometimes I think that when Dad died, it was so life-changing for me that in a way, I changed shapes and can't fit back into the shape of the life I had before he passed. It's not that I don't feel whole, it's that I don't always recognize this new life or myself in it. Still, I think that perhaps it's best that you get no warning, perhaps it's best that one day someone is suddenly gone, or your mother suddenly switches roles with you and you and your brother become the parents overnight. Because if you were told or warned, you might run screaming for the hills. Instead, you dig your heels in deep and get to work.

At lunch Sunday my friend said to me, You seem like you're okay with everything. That's so good, but are you processing?

Something about being in your 40's makes conversation like this not only acceptable, but comprehensible. Immediately I replied that of course I was processing. And as I took a sip of my drink, I thought, Well, no, I'm not processing. What the heck does that mean? Processing what into what?

And that's when that stupid light bulb went off - That's why you're not writing lately. You're not processing. You have no idea what you feel.

Then the me that wears the boots around, well, me, stood up and put a stop to that bunk. I know what I feel and I don't need to process it into something else because it is what it is. I'm just not sure it makes for interesting reading. So, you know, it's hard taking care of my mother. It's hard to see her so frail and oh-so-dependent. Hard to juggle schedules, be home by 8:00. It's hard to argue with my brother. Hard to come to work and fear I smell like soiled linens and baby powder. I could continue the next 50 sentences with It's hard and fill in the words. But I can't stand complainers or the whole Woe is me stuff. Life is hard. So what? Keep an eye out for the soft spots and get on with yourself.

She looked at me last night, her eyes childlike and sad but shining.

I miss your father.

I was sitting on his side of their bed. I took her hand, I miss him too, Mom.

I've never been sick without him here to take care of me. It's so hard.

Fifty-five years and she's lost without him. That's hard. But she looked so beautiful telling me that she missed him. My eyes took a picture of her. It's a moment captured, like catching a glimpse of fireflies on the hill.

Life simplifies at times like these. Shapes become square, round, triangle. There's no such thing as an octagon. If you're tired, you sleep. If you're hungry, you eat. If you need to work through the weekend, you do so. No second thoughts, no questions asked. It's what you do. The very back-to-basics nature of that is what makes me so okay. It is what it is.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

In the evening this song remains the same

When you have to work late and you don't mind but you're dragging a bit cause it's been a long day and you've not taken a break, if at about 5:30 the woman across the hall from you turns the volume way up on a Led Zeppelin song, and then turns it up higher on the following Led Zeppelin song, and you find yourself feeling good because the music has given you a jolt of energy and you can get your project finished no problem, and the next song is Kashmir, and you squint your eyes and imagine sitting on a hill at a Zeppelin concert you never went to with a bunch of cool hippies you never hung out with and smoking pot you never smoked, and you start to focus on your work with a clarity you've not been able to reach all day because it's perfect that the music normally outside the realm of proper office music is actually music of choice for this group today and perfect enough and loud enough to get you through the next few hours because now that you're imagining yourself in a hillside crowd rocking to the music of a concert you were too young to attend in the first place, you are really able to focus and get your work done.

But that's just me.

Little Brown Spaz


Monday, July 10, 2006

A white star 'neath a full moon might be poetic but it also means the emergency rooms are busier than ever

Was there a memo? Did I miss the call? Was there a text, or a podcast?

Because the world has started spinning backwards and everything I know has become something I don't recognize, and that includes my own visage. I got no warning, no yield sign, no notice of a dangerous current that might turn into a rip tide, no notification that the lifeguard was not on duty and I was therefore swimming at my own risk.

Could it possibly be that Chicken Little was right?

Goosey Poosey, Cocky Locky, Henny Penny and even that sly old Foxy Woxy will no doubt be visiting me soon. Who knows, Elvis and Jim Morrison might make an appearance as well. I'll be ready for them all, wearing my new jacket and happy to serve them afternoon tea while we sit within my padded walls.

Because it's safe there.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Taking Casual Friday to my own version of comfortable

The very same pair of brown leather sandals that I bought two years ago and wear like second skin in the summertime, the pair that sits in my garage and gathers dust in the wintertime, the pair that got saturated with salt water and covered with sand just last weekend, the pair that I hosed off and left to dry in the sun on the back porch, that's the pair that are on my feet today because it's Casual Friday and in addition to jeans, I can wear whatever pair of shoes I feel like wearing.

My Grandmother used to tell me that we cannot feel love for inanimate objects. That may be true, but what I feel for these sandals is darn close.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Half of one; six dozen of the other

If I had only known in advance that in her mind these days the word cherry means I want a tissue. Then I wouldn' t have gone to the fridge and brought her a cherry. The face she made told me what she thought about my presenting her with a piece of fruit when all the while she wanted to blow her nose.

She didn't think much of it, that's for sure.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Surfside Beach is a one stoplight town on the Texas coast. At the main intersection sit a couple surf shops, a restaurant and a convenience store with one gas pump. Dow Chemical looms ominous on the western horizon. It's a strip of land between the beach and the Intercoastal Canal, a two-lane road slicing through the middle. A strip of land with rows of houses on stilts, peeling paint, paved streets covered with sand, and distant squawking seagulls. It's sun-baked, salty and humid. Everything is either for sale, for rent, or forgotten.

Rope Intersection Color

Over the long weekend, it was less sun-baked and more rain-drenched. When it wasn't raining, it was threatening to do so. But I was much more interested in the concept of relaxing than I was in tanning, so as it turned out, I was quite content to be in a cabin on the beach in the pouring rain. With family, friends and dogs. And air-conditioning. And mosquito spray. And plenty of dry towels.

Abby Rhett Puppy
Blur Heron Dow Spoonbill

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Nothing touches me in the same way as the flag does, gracefully swaying on the breeze, reminding me of those who have stood in defense of it, saluted before it and lain beneath it, all in the honor of our country, and the freedom once sought and gained. Happy Independence Day.