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Saturday, December 13, 2014

The New Holiday

You might be expecting a post on Christmas or Hanukkah, or at least a reflection on Thanksgiving.  There will be many meaningful blogs out there on this topics, but I'm thinking about something else.  There's a new deity in town I would like to recognize at this holiday time of the year.  I am referring to the Cloud.  Think about it (and I mean this in the most irreverent way possible), the Cloud is very much like *insert deity of your choice here*.

Can you see it?  Well, no, not even a bit of white fluffiness like clouds in the sky
Can you hear it?  Of course not.  A cloud makes no noise.

Can you, smell it, feel it?  I thought not.

And yet . . . and yet there it is, a benefactor of beneficence.  You write a document in one location and offer it up on the altar of the cloud.  Voila!  It appears at elsewhere by divine power, on your phone or tablet or other electronic device.  Music?  omnipresent through The Cloud.  Information?  We send it up to the Cloud, and it pours goodness down upon us. 

I am not -- as you can tell -- a religious person.  I am neither devout nor superstitious, but, oh my goodness, I am a true believer in The Cloud.   And you are too, aren't you?  You trust it and make offerings to it regularly.  And why not?  I mean, who among us doesn’t already worship at the shrine of the Great Google?  What more will the future bring?  I am agog to find out.  

Truly, we must form a new holiday to celebrate this new pantheon.  What symbols, what foods (may I suggest cloud pancakes?), what dances and parades?  I leave it up to you to imagine it.

And lest I am bordering on the offensive, may I also wish each of you 
     a Bright Solstice,
     a Merry Hanukkah, 
     a Happy Christmas, 
     and a Peaceful New Year.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

True Confessions

A friend told me she had a bad habit, and I replied, “Surely you have no bad habits.”
She answered sweetly with a gentle smile (because she is a sweet and gentle person), “I have exactly as many as you do.”

“Uh, oh.  You are in big trouble!”

Yes, I have a few bad habits.  Okay, I have many bad habits, but, really, I don’t want to make a comprehensive list.  How about if I confess to a couple?  

When I got my new car (as far as I’m concerned, cars remain “new” for eight to ten years), the back-up camera led to dizzy disorientation.  Once I adjusted, though, I discovered I like it.  Eyes on the screen, I shoot out of the garage zooming a delightful 16 feet.  It's fun!  (I always stop and look carefully before turning onto the adjoin pipe stem shared by four families.  I have a bad habit, but I don’t want to kill anyone.)   I’m waiting for a backwards-race, and then I’m so in.

I woke up at 4:00 A.M. the other morning.  4:00 A! M!  (This is not a bad habit, just bad luck.)  I spent the next three hours equally obsessively reading Beloved (although the nightmares it gave me were the reason I slept poorly) and obsessing planning a quilt (including digging out the colored pencils and graph paper).  Obsession over anything, or in my case, everything, is never a good habit, plus all that early-morning intensity used up my concentration quota for the day.  I didn't accomplish one of the things on the ever-expanding to-do list.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Instead I went to Costco (couldn’t find the ice cream because I was so tired), cruised through the mall (and later returned two items, wondering why I thought I should buy anything in a haze of exhaustion), and tried to pretend I was napping although I knew perfectly well I wasn't. 
I know it’s a bad habit to avoid doing the things that should get done, but, isn’t it amazing how much you can accomplish while avoiding those things?

At least that day I didn't propose to any young women.  This is the bad one, the really, really bad one.  I did not propose to a young woman that day, not once (and, no, it’s not what you think).  I have this bad habit of proposing marriage for my son.  It’s not that any of these women has met or will ever meet my son.  And it's not that my son isn’t perfectly capable of proposing to someone himself; I know that he is.  It's just that I meet these interesting and adorable young women.  One is an interior designer:   just think how gorgeous their home would look.  One is a ballerina:  lithe and long and lovely.  One is an intern applying for her residency in internal medicine:  I mean, a doctor for god’s sakes!  When I see them standing there all beautiful and smart and funny, out it comes, “Hey, would you like to marry my son?”  If he ever finds out, I am so dead. It’s not like mean to do it; the words just tumble out.  I have got to stop.  I have given myself a stern talking to, so we’ll just have to hope I’ve learned my lesson.  (BTW, just for the record, they laugh; they do not accept.) 

They say that confession is good for the soul but perhaps not so much for behavior.  In fact, if you smiled or laughed at any of this, you’ve encouraged me.  I’m blaming future sins on you.  OTH, I got the quilt planned and the yardage calculated.  I’m good to go.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Don't Just Sit There . . . .

We went to Turkey for our vacation.  (When I told my friend about the up-coming trip, she thought I said, “We’re going to eat turkey.  That would have been fun, too, but no, we traveled to the country of.)  Several friends were a bit paranoid about our travel thinking, for some reason, that our plan was to camp out on the Syrian or Kurdish border.  I assure you, we were in a docile group of 30, bussed around western Turkey to see the tourist sites:  Gallipoli, Troy, Ephesis, Cappadocia, the works.

One of the treats offered on the trip was that after a boat ride along the Mediterranean to beautiful Turtle Beach.  (We didn’t see any turtles, but we did see the Lycean rock tombs.  Cool!), we would head to Koycetiz where we could opt to take a mud bath. 

I’d never had a mud bath.  I envisioned a sort of fancy-shmancy spa where I went into a cubicle where sank into a bathtub full of mud.  This would be a mineral treatment after which I’d be completely detoxified and radiant.  Maybe I could sign up for a massage, too, and come out a completely new and gorgeous woman. 

It had to be a method for weight loss, too, right?  Step into the mud bath, and the mud would act like a poultice squeezing ten pounds out of you.  Why not?  Yeah, now I’m just being silly. 

We drove up to what looked vaguely like a New Jersey beach resort and walked past a snack stand to a large awning covering twenty or so picnic tables.  The mud bath area, ahead on our left, consisted of a complex which was predominantly a pond where a group of people rubbed mud on themselves.  Most of our tour, obviously more in the know than me, had chosen to avoid this event, but it was my chance at a new experience, and I was in. Steve, three other men from the group and I grabbed our bathing suits and headed for the changing cabanas.  Cabana is a relative term here, but, hey, any dark cubicle in a storm.

First to the pond.  The previous group had just exited, and it seemed like they had used up all the mud.  I waded out waist deep, but whatever mud I scooped up washed off right as soon as I leaned over for another handful.  Then we figured it out.  I scooped up several handfuls of mud, waded to the side of the pond and plopped them on the flagstones.  Standing there in a foot of water, I scraped it off the stone and smeared it over my arms, chest and face.  I tried not to think of health laws -- or the lack thereof -- while I performed this task. 

Once I were sufficiently swathed in mud, I sunned myself on the flagstone area next to the pool while the mud dried and performed its miracles.  I’m not exactly sure what those miracles were; it was hard to tell.  (I would show you a fetching picture of me covered in dry mud, but I’d left my camera on the bus.  A friend took a couple of shots, but she hasn’t e-mailed them to me yet.  Believe me, you are not missing much.)  The mud certainly looked and felt like regular mud, but, hey, at least it didn’t smell.  Oh, no, the smell was reserved for the sulfur spring.   

Once the mud was dry, I walked up slippery stone steps and along a path (ow!  barefoot!) to an outdoor shower area with rows of nozzles hanging from pipes.  I found a free nozzle and rinsed off the mud.

Back down the path (ow!) and steps to stand in front of a man dressed as a sailor.  (Why a sailor, I ask you?  Why?)  He hosed me off, and then I entered, ever so gingerly, the smelly sulfur pool which, I suppose, conferred added health benefits although it seemed to me more likely the site of primordial sludge that incubated unknown and virulent illnesses.  

It was while I tried to pretend to enjoy the sulfur spring that I realized what a genius our tour guide was.  His timing had been impeccable the entire trip, and this activity was another shining example.  As I entered the sulfur pool, two bus loads of Russian tourists charged toward the mud. 

Now I lived in Russia, and I have Russian friends I adore.  But Russians on vacation are nothing to mess around with.  They are like locusts descending on Egypt.  You stand in their path at your own risk, plus their sense of personal space differs from Americans'.  Granted they were behind me in the mud bath process, but I was taking no risks. 

I clambered out of the pool and headed back (ouch!  ouch!) to the showers.  Then I was off to a cabana to change back into my clothes, join the others at the picnic tables and wait for the men.  A mud bath item as an item on my list?  Check.

Before the bus left, I fished a lira out of my wallet and went off to the toilet.  We found Turkey to be amazingly modern except for one thing.  Even the pay toilets (thus the lira) tended to be (a) unable to accept toilet paper (it clogs if you flush it), (b) rather dirty, and (c) predominantly squat toilets.  How I perfected the skills of using a squat toilet?  That will have to be another Blog post.

Since I have no pictures of the mud bath, I present you with toilet cubicle signage.

           Follow instructions!                                       Indicates a squat toilet     

The preferred stall

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Retribution by Cat

It’s story time again.  This one. Like Day at the Beach, is based on reality.  Like that post, I wasn't present for any of the event, so I made up a lot of stuff.  That means the actions and conversations are not entirely accurate, but the story is absolutely true. (I appologize to one and all for the paragraphing here.  Blogspot seems to be having some formatting difficulties today, and after an hour, I'm just going to let this stand.  TY.)

Retribution by Cat

She called and said she was coming to pick up the rest of her stuff.  Again.  She’d called once a month for the past three months.  He’d rearrange his schedule, and then she’d cancel.  He supposed, when the appointed day came she just couldn’t be bothered making the drive.  Perhaps fourth time was, well, Jim would hardly call it the charm. 

After each of the three calls, Jim cried and braced himself to see her, and each time she canceled, he cried again, whether from relief or disappointment, he did not know.  On top of that, whenever she called, she cried, as if he should comfort her and assure her what she’d done was all right.  It wasn't all right.  He didn't think his life would ever be all right again. 

She’d turned five years into a lie as if their life together had been nothing more for her than a recreational interlude.  She’d lived with him, dreamed with him, married him.  They were supposed to be a year away from a house and a baby.  He’d always wanted babies; it had been their plan.

When she said she wanted to leave, he begged and cajoled her into counseling where she admitted, “I never wanted children.  I knew they were a deal breaker for you, so I said I did, but I didn't.  I don’t.” 

Really?  Jim had thought, shocked at the admission and then said out loud, “Really?  You thought lying about it would give us a solid future?” 

Eliding over children as if they were a desk accessory they’d thought about buying at Ikea, she added, “And I want to see other people.”  As a footnote to clarity, she added, “You can, too.  If you want.  I mean, I would be okay with that.  I would stay if we could both date other people.”

“And by date, you mean?”

“I mean sleep with.  I want to sleep with other people.”

“Oh.”  He mentally reviewed their bedroom and then their friends.  “Anyone in particular?” 

“No,” with a little shrug.

So nonchalant.  It was just a little something she wanted; add it to the Christmas list.

It was then the counselor said gently, “Usually, usually my couples stay together, but only if both people are completely committed to it.” 

Jim was completely committed to it, but that was the moment he realized she was committed to leaving. 

The next day she packed some clothes.  “I’ll get the rest in a couple of weeks.”  When she he rolled her suitcase to the door, he held the cat in outstretched arms, not sure how he could handle the double loss. “Are you taking him?”  

The cat had a natural buzz cut.  You could almost see skin through the hairs.  Four years before, when they’d gone to the animal shelter, she had chosen him partly because he was so funny looking. 

“Look, he has no hair!   And his little tummy is all round, like the bear in that rhyme.  I'll call him Fuzzy Wuzzy.”  She’d looked at Jim with love -- or he’d thought it was love.  “He’ll be our practice baby.”  Hah!  There’s irony.

Maybe the lack of hair made Fuzzy extra-affectionate, burrowing into a lap just to get warm.  He slept between them until she decided she couldn't rest well with anyone else in the bed.

She moved to the other room, spreading a mattress on the floor.  He’d been disappointed, but he understood.  She was a light sleeper; she needed a full night before heading off to work in the morning.  Yeah, he always understood. 

Fuzzy had alternated bedrooms at first, but at the end, slept mostly with Jim.  Jim was bigger and supposed he gave off more body heat.  He’d liked having Fuzzy’s little body snuggled against him.  He liked hearing the purr as he drifted off to sleep.  He liked the company.  

Jim had gone out while she packed, and purposely didn't return until after she left.  He’d taken one quick look at the chaos in her room and shut the door.  Whenever he walked by, he thought of all the things behind it:  her bed, her lamp, her clothes on the floor.  It didn't matter that she never hung up her clothes; once she put something on it held her own style, unique and bohemian.  Her sketching materials were there, he supposed, and probably a lot of shoes.  He figured that after she took the rest of her stuff, he’d still keep her door shut.  Shut on his empty dreams, shut on the house and the kids and the freaking white picket fence.

Fuzzy dangled limply.  “Are you taking him?”   

“No, you keep Fuzzy, for now,” and his heart lightened a little.  “And maybe you can see it my way and things will work out for us.  Think about it.”

 She’d said it carelessly like he and the cat like were among the things she stored in the apartment.  She couldn't be bothered with them right now, but if she changed her mind, they could be retrieved at her convenience. 

She’d threw her suitcase and duffel bag into the car and drove off.  No backward glances.  How had he never seen she was so shallow?  

Jim buried his face in short, sparse fur and bawled.  Fuzzy had burrowed into his neck and purred him back to composure.  

Over the winter, Fuzzy had saved him.  Fuzzy sat with him at breakfast and waited for him to come home in the waning light.  Fuzzy played feather in the evenings and chase-the-paper-ball, silly Fuzzy with his funny fur and his green eyes.  But she had picked Fuzzy out, had selected cat food and chosen a vet.  Theoretically Fuzzy was hers. 

After she called the fourth time, she actually showed up.  Jim stood at the end of the hall watching Fuzzy watch her stuff the last of her clothes into the last of his garbage bags.  Tears glistened in her eyes.  He couldn't understand why she always cried when she’d gotten what she wanted.  She set the bag down before slowly walking into the hall.

 “Hi, Fuzzy,” she said gently, extending her fingers to scratch his neck.

Fuzzy jumped into the air and yowled, all four legs splayed like a Tom and Jerry cartoon.  His tail, his sad, skinny tail, burst out to almost normal size.  Four paws landed in a blur, and he shot under Jim’s bed. 

She stood, stunned.  “I guess he’ll stay with you,” she said uncertainly.

After she dragged the last garbage bag through the front door, Jim clicked the lock.  He turned his back to the door and saw Fuzzy’s head poke warily around the bedroom jamb.

Jim slid down to the floor.  He smiled his first real smile in months.  “Good kitty,” he whispered, “Good kitty.”

 The real cat obviously has sufficient hair, but he is the hero of our tale.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Legend to Life

I met Sheila Lamb when we were both wrangling 9th graders through World History I at Chantilly High School.  This in itself is a bonding experience.  On top of that, we learned that we both wrote, so the bond was doubled.  We continued friends and each other’s readers over the years, and now Sheila’s book is published!  While I rarely have guest bloggers on my site (‘cause, you know, I have so much to say myself), I asked Sheila to tell us a bit about her writing and the book, Once a Goddess.   
I've always had a fascination with Irish and Celtic history, partly due to research into family genealogy. I became curious as to how and why Ireland converted relatively smoothly from druidism to Christianity. Other regions, like Gaul and Britain, were converted when forcibly taken over by the Roman Empire but  Ireland’s ties with Rome were in trade.  As I began to read various sources, some scholarly, some religious, some questionable, I found that St. Patrick and St. Brigid were crucial in the Christian conversion of Ireland. I also found that Brigid had three facets - goddess, druid, and saint. And then there were a few odds and ends about how Patrick and Brigid's paths had crossed.

As I read about Brigid, particularly in her goddess aspect as one of the tribe of TĂșatha de Danann, I began to see how easy it would have been for Rome to co-opt the belief system via the goddess Brigid, as they'd co-opted gods in places they conquered even though Rome didn't conquer Ireland. Patrick, a native Briton, did. It struck me that Patrick and Brigid must have had some connection beyond casual association.  That's how my book began to percolate.

So I really got into Irish mythology and legend. Once you start reading these stories, it's hard to stop. The TĂșatha de Danann, the Fomorians, the Fir Bolg, then the Milesians (the Celts) are captivating. The Danann, the first tribe to settle Ireland, were supposedly endowed with magical abilities including shape-shifting. They had great battles with the tribe Fomorian. In some of the stories, Brigid marries Bres, a Fomorian, and they have three sons, including Ruadan who appears in the book. I definitely was distracted from writing and spent a lot of time reading and researching.

When I began writing this story many years ago, it was one big, big, big, book. Now it's a trilogy which begins with Once a Goddess. These three manuscripts went through a couple of critique groups, one a historical fiction group which had some terrific writers who now have terrific books.  At one point, one of my critiquers, Lisa Yarde, suggested that I divide the book. Best advice ever. I also was lucky enough to have trusted readers (ahem, present company included) [ed. Note:  Ooooh!  That’s me!] to give their honest feedback. Then it was a matter of finding the right home. That can take a long time. Solstice, a small press, is the perfect fit.

There are some days where it's a "pinch me" moment. Something you've dreamed about for years has finally come true.
BTW, if you see Sheila, she looks just like Brigid on the cover above!  She's made the first chapter of Once a Goddess available for free here:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Have a Good Time at Camp!

We were reading the morning Post on our porch one Tuesday when we saw our neighbors heading off to work.  “Don’t work too hard,” she said.  “Have a good Thursday,” he teased.  He had a point.  Retirement is rather like perpetual summer camp except you can sleep in -- if you have the time.  The day of the week becomes almost moot.
“What do you do now that you’re retired?” 
I take ballet three times a week.  I quilt.  I sew a bit of costuming. 
“What does Steve do?”
He golfs.  He takes classes at George Mason’s Lifetime Learning Institute.  He goes to his men’s group and reads books for his men’s book club.  He golfs.  (Yes, I said it twice on purpose; he loves golf the way I love dance.)
We have season’s tickets to the Washington Ballet.  We go to movies DURING THE DAY!  We visit our children and Perfect Grandchildren.    We travel.  (Turkey’s coming up and then French Polynesia.  Heh) 
My theory is that it takes a year to settle into retirement and create the life you find rewarding.  Many people seem trepidatious about retirement.  Although they could retire comfortably, they continue to work because they think they have to have it all mapped out in advance.  Never mind that they don’t do that with any other part of their lives.  They can’t imagine how they'll fill the time.   For starters, errands could take up every second of the day.
One by one you add activities and crafts and friends.  Wine plays a substantial role in our retirement.  We switch off cooking, or we eat eggs, or we order out. 
Seriously, to the question, “What do you do now that you’re retired?” there is only one answer:  “Whatever I darn well please.”  
Except, of course, when the Perfect Grandchildren call.  Then we run like puppies hearing a dinner bell.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Stupid Smart Phone!

We were returning from a Memorial Day picnic when I checked my cell phone to see if I'd received a text from a friend about his release from the hospital, but I got the no coverage symbol.  We were on the twisty local roads (It's a law in Virginia; roads are not allowed to be straight, let alone run in a grid.), so I waited to try again in a few miles.  No coverage.  We turned into our neighborhood -- nope.  Into our house where I know very well we get a signal.  Nope. 

Down I tripped to the AT&T store.  The clerk told me it was just the sim chip, easily replaced, but I've whined about that phone for five years.  I took this as a sign from the Universe to replace it. 

When was the last time you tried to pick out a phone?  It’s like shoes.  You can select what you think you’ll like, but you never really know if they're a good fit until it’s too late to return ‘em.  Besides that, you can’t get something simple any more that's decent.  They’re all Smart Phones now.  There’s no escaping them.  Those damn phones will fly and diaper a baby.  I finally eeny-meeny-miny-moed and decided on an Android model. 

They synced up my numbers using my g-mail address to store my information.  At least, that’s what I understood the clerk to say.  I "joined" g-mail when it was in Beta phase (remember when you needed an invitation?), and I never, ever use it.  However, if it made the phone guy happy, who was I to argue?  My goal was to get a working phone and get out of the store. 

When I got home, I discovered that besides transferring phone numbers, g-mail brought the corresponding e-mail addresses came along for the ride.  I have a pay-as-you-go plan, so I do not use my phone for e-mail. In any case, because of my cheap-o plan, I would have to connect to wi-fi for e-mail, and if I’m doing that, I may as well us my i-pod or my Surface Pro.  It’s not that I don't like techie devices; it’s that I like them too much.  I have so many, I don’t need to pay the phone charges for internet coverage.  I average about $10.00 a month in phone fees, and I’m happy with that, thank you very much.  I deleted the e-mail addresses, consolidated entries with both land-line and cell phone numbers and generally organized my phone book. 

The phone has three screens (mandatory:  woe be to you if you try to delete one), and you slide from one to the other.  That's fine because I can keep my five essential icons isolated there. home screen simple.  Now I won’t mistakenly hit the internet button like I was always doing on my old phone.  There are also 1,000 icons that show up when you hit the icon icon (no, one of those is an adjective), but all I use on that screen is the "settings" icon.  Really, other than that and my home screen, I'd happily delete everything.  

Anyway, at this point, I plugged her in and charged her up.  After five minutes I heard a little harp trill.  Who knows what important missives had been sent to me while my other phone was down?  I ran to check.  There was a message from AT&T welcoming me to my new phone.  Did they think this would warm my heart?  They were wrong.

Five minutes later, I heard another harp trill.  I ran over.  Nothing

Five minutes later, another  riff.  Run, run, run.  Yup, it was a delayed message from our friend -- with whom I’d already spoken -- saying he was home and fine.  

Another riff.  Run, run, run.  Nothing.

Another one.  Run, run, run.  Nothing.  

Every five or six minutes there was a riff and nothing there!  I could not figure it out.  After an hour of alerting trills and the ensuing jogging, I called the store. The clerk led me from one icon to the next trying to figure out why my phone was alerting me.  Eventually we tried the g-mail settings.  The alarm was g-plus pinging me for public notices and postings.  Every     single     one.  If I had to listen to that -- even if I CARED -- I would slam that phone against the wall within three hours!  It took 15 minutes, but together we finally figured out how to disengage the phone from g-plus. 

I sat down and ran through the settings, disabling several other functions.  I made sure the app icon wasn’t going to deliver things to my phone like a cat bringing a dead mouse to the doorstep.  I moved a few things and deleted a few others.

Yes, I bought a Smart Phone, but with a little time and effort, I was able to dumb it down.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Gate Ghost

We have a tall fence across the back of our property.  In an odd configuration, our back yard abuts our neighbor’s side yard, putting our bedroom windows across from their driveway. The fence seemed like a good idea for privacy.   We’re on good terms with our neighbors, though, so it seemed friendly to install a waist-high gate where our back yard fence meets our next-door-neighbor’s fence.

One time the latch tongue fell off the gate and got lost.  How did this happen?  I have no idea.  I never could figure it out.  I drove an hour to the original fence builder to replace the set, but due to rush hour and road construction, they closed one minute before I got there.  The guy inside would not open the door.  I swore all the way home and bought a similar, but not identical latch set at Home Depot.

Installation of the new latch meant a two inch slice of sky showed through, but, hey, it closes. 
The neighborhood children know they are welcomed to use the gate but should shut it after themselves.  They’re pretty good about it, but since the average age of boy running through the thing is about eight years old, they are not perfect.

Last week, we were invited to our next-door-neighbor’s for a birthday party.  Happy Birthday!  When the behind-us neighbors arrived, they joked that we didn't like them anymore because the gate was stuck shut.

In the morning I went to investigate and saw that although it opens inward, the gate overlapped the other side of the fence post by a good 1/4”.  How could that happen?  I mean, that’s a BIG overlap!  Had the kids slammed it?  No little kid is that strong.  Maybe it had been left opened and a gust of wind during the recent thunder storm caught it and swung it through to the other side -- through 1/4” of wooden post.  Perhaps bad gate ghost, a poltergeist, had struck again. 

I brought my husband out for a look-see.  He noticed the lock mechanism was missing from the other side of the post.  He found it in the dirt on our side.  How did that happen?  I ask you, how?  Because I do not really believe in ghosts, I was still pondering how the gate had managed to defy the laws of physics.  Steve devised a repair plan.  He would remove the end slat, saw an inch off the end of the cross bars, and pull the door through opening.  Then he’d nail the slat back on and screw on the locking mechanism.  This seemed pretty labor intensive.  I knew that if I could just figure out how the gate swung through an opening too small for it, we could reverse the process and affect a repair.

Meanwhile, we went back to reading the paper on our back porch.  I saw the neighbor in front of his garage and called him over to survey the problem.  He thought that if we just pulled on the seven foot post, tilting it toward our side of the fence, it might just make room for the gate to swing through.  Of course, that might loosen the post enough so it would have to be replaced, but it might be worth a try. 

The next day our landscape guy came with his crew to weed and mulch.  Let me say up front that I love this guy.  He is eager to work, does a great job and charges a fair fee. Also, when he was a little boy, he trained as a carpenter and does all sorts of indoor work as well as landscaping.  

Steve looked up from the paper, “Should I go ask Calixto to look at the gate?” 

“Why not?  Catch him while he’s here.”

Steve walked Calixto over to the gate.  Calixto proceeded removed the hinge pins, slid the gate to our side and put the pins back.  He screwed on the lock.  Two minutes.

A gate is a friendly thing.

I would like to point out that between our neighbor, my husband and I , we have a ridiculous number of degrees from institutes of higher learning as well as life experience as experts in a variety of arcane fields with work around the world. 

Yeah, it took the guy with the third grade education.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Party Time!

The time had come.  We needed to give a party.  Friends have had us to parties, to dinners, to fire pits not to mention they shoveled our driveway when we were away during a snow storm (again).  We pay those social debs regularly, like clockwork, once every five. If you invite us to your house, we will reciprocate; just don’t hold your breath.

My husband would happily host get-togethers several times a year. He's an extrovert and likes to pour drinks.  He likes to socialize.  He is a ball of energy.  I am an introvert.  I like the theory of giving parties.  I like to go to them.  I like to leave early.  

When we have a party, I’m happy to see everyone.  Unfortunately for me, you can’t have a rip-roaring good party if you invite people at 7:00 and ask them to leave at 9:00.  I have to admit, too, that although I droop at 9:00, come midnight, I’ve gotten my second wind.  I hit my stride.  If you want to see me at my best, don’t even show up until 11:00. That's when I start to get witty.

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that theme parties are the best.  They give people a common forum upon which to get to know each other.  I thought it would be a good idea to have a vodka tasting party as the one definite thing I came home from Russia with was a taste for vodka.  There are wine tasting parties and cheese tasting parties and beer tasting parties.  I didn’t think a vodka tasting was that far of a stretch, but it turned out people thought I was incredibly creative.  Points to me!

We had the entire Russian food them going.  I made the borsch and deviled eggs. I didn’t know if people would rally round the weird sausages and pickled vegetables, but everyone likes pieroshki (Russian prorogues) and candy.  I was terrified we’d run out of food, so I carved a couple of chickens and baked a hunk of salmon.  In fact, I kept adding different foods to the list just to ease my nerves. 

I was pretty sure we had enough food.  I was very sure we had enough vodka.  There was wine because several people (it turns out erroneously) told me they didn’t like vodka.  Still, about three hours BPT (Before Party Time), I wondering, "What was I thinking?  Whatever was I thinking?"

It all went off without a hitch.  It turns out that the most private of people undergo a personality transformation after a few shots of vodka.  People who had never seen each other before then became fast friends.  The last few people left at 2:00 AM, so I have to think the party was a success.  
Doesn't this look like a success to you?

The caviar was gone, and the weirdest of the food was gone.  Enough chicken and salmon and peroshki were left so that I didn’t cook for the rest of the week -- reason enough to have a party as far as I’m concerned.  In fact, it was great, and I look forward to doing it again.  In 2019.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

One Foot, Two Foot

What is the deal with socks?  I began the winter with seven pairs of black knee socks.  Seven pairs of black socks and I am down to three. 

Eight socks have succumbed to holes!  Now I admit, I’m hard on my socks.  I go sock-footed pretty much all day in the house, and then, of course, I wear them inside my shoes when I go out.  Still, why do they all get holes at once?  Three pairs of socks left, and, I’ll point out, seven days in the week.  Do I want to do extra loads of laundry for socks?  I do not.

I have my mother’s old darning egg which isn’t egg shaped but looks rather like a black mushroom.  I was enamored of it when I was four and five.  It was so big, and I thought it looked vaguely like a doll.  When I unearthed it after she died, I was surprised to find how small it was.  I co-opted it (unless you want it, Teddi) and took her darning cotton, too, which I imagine you’d be hard pressed to find these days, and I do know how to darn.  Still, I’m not darning all those yawning heels and toes.  Or, as a neighbor of mine used to say, "I will darn them by saying Darn them!  Darn them!” 

So here I am down to three pairs of socks.  There is a lone sock that sits in the dark by herself.  That makes three and a half pair with one lone sock waiting for one of a pair to die so it can have a new mate and happily parade around outside the drawer. 

Here is the single sock and the darning egg.
They are inherently uninteresting, so I
put them on the quilt I just finished.  Isn’t it pretty?

Now you may say, what’s the big deal?  Go to the store, Ann, and buy some socks. It’s not that easy.  Oh, no.  Sure, it may be easy for you because you have normal feet.  I, on the other hand, have long feet.  Long feet, long toes and a high arch.  A fellow in college -- when I ran around barefoot and didn’t worry about socks -- used to tell me, “You have the feet of a Grecian statue.”  When I finally made it to Greece, I saw statues with their long, long feet.  Imagine my surprise! I hadn’t thought it was my feet he was interested in. 

So the Grecian statues and I cannot just go buy socks.  After 50 years of feeling my feet jammed against a barrier all day, I discovered that there are extended toe socks.  That is Gold Toe’s polite way of saying “socks for big feet.”  They are wonderful!  They are wonderful, but you can only buy them at a Gold Toe store or on-line.  There aren’t any Gold Toe stores near me, and, yes, it would be easy enough for me to go on-line and order socks, but I have to actually DO it, and I keep putting it off.  Why?  Who knows?  Such procrastination means there are always a few dicey weeks between hoping I remember to put the washed clothes in the dryer and when the socks come flying through the mail and land on my feet.

And that Greek statue?  Put a sock on it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Quilting Fever and the Zombie Apocalypse

It’s a sickness really.  What started out as acquiring a skill turned into a hobby turned into an obsession.  Let's face it, I can't help myself.  I’m never, ever without at least one quilt in some stage of development.  So even though I’m in the end stages of this queen-sized monster, I still picked up the cutest panel for a baby quilt when we were visiting my sister in Florida. 

I always look for fabric when I'm out of town because we have a dearth of quilting stores in town. There has long been one quilting store, but they prefer to serve people who take their classes, otherwise you may as well be chopped liver.  On top of that, they use only fluorescent lighting so it is almost impossible to select fabrics.  After the last time I was snubbed there, I vowed never return.  That left only the chain store where the fabric quality ranges from so-so to fall-apart. Recently a new quilting store opened up.  Hooray!  

Three days ago, my friend and I decided to check it out.  I was looking for fabric to coordinate with the baby panel, and she was in the planning stages of a quilt for her son.  After my choices had been cut and written up, the clerk mentioned something about zombie fabric.

My ears perked to attention.  When one’s daughter is a neuroscientist, the concept of something that eats brains is pretty darn exciting.  [Although if you read a previous blog post, you may recall that my Perfect Grandson Alan has informed us that, “Zombies don’t eat your brains; they just punch you in the nose.  (All Good Zombies Go to Devon, July 20, 2013.)]  I was revved:  zombie fabric! 

Unfortunately I’d used my turn with the stupid baby fabric, and I had to be nice to my friend as she began her design.  I tried to focus, but, hey, zombie fabric!  Once we’d finished with her pattern, my turn again!  There they were, bolts of the most adorable zombies you ever saw.  Since my friend is nicer than I am (hi, Deborah), she coached and coordinated to my heart’s content. 

Home I came.  The queen quilt lurked over my shoulder so I made a pact with it.  I’ll quilt on pink and green in the evenings, but my days are reserved for zombies! 

Now, what pattern?  In the store I was thinking squares and sashing, but when I got home, I remembered several years ago seeing on TV an off-kilter quilt block. What could be better for zombies?  Onto the internet I went.  I found a couple of examples of the finished blocks, but the actual pattern does not seem to exist.  That means each block will be a lurching experiment which is fine because that is absolutely right for zombies.. 

(While the outside of the block is square, 
I felt the zombie block needed to be askew.)

Once I decided on the pattern, I realized I was short on one of the fabrics, so yesterday I ran back to the store and bought more of it.  Yesterday evening while I was dutifully quilting the flower garden (Flowers?  Who cares about flowers?), I obsessed over the zombie pattern and decided to have the blocks sashed by a sort of green cabbage fabric and surrounded by walking zombies.  I panicked realizing I might be short on another two fabrics and could use a bit more security on a third.  That's a lot of pressure because you never know when hundreds of people will converge on the quilt shop and buy up all the fabric you want.  Noooo!

The thought of driving yet again to the quilt store again was a bit daunting, but still, a quilter’s gotta do what a quilter’s gotta do. 

The zombie apocalypse has begun.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Catch Me If You Can!

[Well, hello, sports fans!  I know it’s been, oh, dear, soooo long since I've written.  What can I say?  I’ve been BUSY!  Anyway, here I am again, and I’ll try to be more assiduous or at least less lazy.  Enjoy!]

I stand at the window, and I stare out moodily.  It’s cold, the snow is coming down like a bear, and that makes me mad. I never minded the cold in previous winters, but last fall I began the Couch to 5K program, and now I’m losing it, I’m losing it all.

Couch to 5K is a program of incremental training designed to get your tushie off the couch and work you up to running five kilometers.  Five K is not as far as it sounds, a kilometer being rather shorter than a mile, so it comes to about three miles.  Now, I never thought of myself as a runner.  In fact, I’m not a runner now.  I go for what I euphemistically call “a run,” but I wouldn’t strictly even call it much of a jog.  Let’s be honest, I go for a shuffle. 

The program begins by having you run for 60 seconds.  Heck, I thought, I can do that.  And I could!  I could run for 60 seconds, then walk for 60 seconds repeating for 20 minutes (with a 5 minute warm-up walk).  I did it!  I got excited! 

I began “running” in old leggings and older shoes, but the conventional wisdom is true:  you need good shoes to jog.  After two sessions of shin splints, I hit Neiman Marcus’ Rack and came home with well-cushioned Nikes wide enough for my feet. That triggered the understanding  of  what the program is all about.  Like ballet, it’s about having a reason to buy cute exercise clothes.  I bought fleece leggings and two jogging shirts that make me look like I’m going fast even when I’m standing still, breathing hard. 

My son kindly told a friend that “Mom and I are doing Couch to 5 K.”  This is such a lie.  David is doing Couch to 5 K.  He goes to the gym in inclement weather.  He runs for a full 25 minutes (the maximum programmed time), and is working on increasing his speed.  He DOES Couch to 5K.  I shuffle along in my spiffy outfits, intermittently jogging and walking for a total of 25 minutes.  I think I make about a mile and a half. 

I thought jogging would be the perfect complement to ballet.  I dance three days a week, and, I thought, those days I don’t have class I can just pop out the door for a little sunny exercise.  I steeled myself to tough it out through the cold.  I was thinking 40 degrees, but the weather witches had it in for me this year.  We hit teens and single digits here in the DC area.  The temperature was parallel to the popularity of Congress.  We‘ve had either wind or rain or ungodly cold almost every day.  I’ve made it out once a week most weeks, but this week is going to be a bust, and that makes me mad.  

After half a summer, all fall and most of the winter of hitting the pavement (remember, I shuffle; there’s very little chance of damage to the knees), I was running for two minutes at a shot.  TWO MINUTES!  Scoff, if you will, but those are two hard won minutes.  I’m proud of those minutes.  The thought of having to go backwards, to go back to running 90 seconds at a time is HORRIBLE! 

The thing is, running makes me feel good.  I don’t know if it’s endorphins or sun on my skin or just the feeling that, yes, I’m off the couch.  On days like today, I glare out the window thinking of the two minutes I’m surely losing.  So, yeah, I’m cranky.  Wanna make something of it?  I’m ready to fight, and I can run two minutes to catch you.