Dec 09 is…

December 2009 is promising to be an interesting month. I’m taking Kisa to the island for Christmas (his first winter visit ever – we’ve already consulted L.L. Bean twice). Doctors are weighing in on serious subjects (yours and mine) and I await every word with caught breath. It’s not always about me, but the waiting is just the same.
For books it is a simple month:

  • Tiepolo’s Hound by Derek Walcott in honor of December being the best time to visit the Caribbean.
  • Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle in honor of Iowa becoming a state (Boyle was part of the Iowa Writers Workshop. He was also born on December 2nd).
  • Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling in honor of Native American literature month.
  • Wonderboys by Michael Chabon in honor of Pennsylvania becoming a state.
  • Walls Came Tumbling Down by Babs Deal in honor of Alabama becoming a state.

I don’t think I have any nonfiction for the month. Strictly imaginary but oddly enough, nothing about Christmas this year. For LibraryThing’s Early Review program I found out I am supposed to receive Then Came the Evening a first book by Brian Hart. I snuck a peek at some Library Journal / Amazon reviews and this promises to be a heartbreaking story.

Too Good to Keep

I don’t care what anyone says. Summer officially started this weekend. To hell with the calendar. I’m ignoring the meteorologists, too. Summer wasn’t summer until the sun came out for more than an hour. For the first time in weeks I was able to weed the garden and the walk without dodging raindrops. I finally took up those giant prehistoric looks growths growing along side the driveway. I tackled the ground cover problem, too. Redistributing the gravel that has slid down the hill. This is Hilltop, after all. I moved rocks until my sun-bared arms ached. It felt good. I got in the pool for the second time this season and actually took a few strokes for the first time. Maybe I’ll learn to swim for real. It felt amazing. We got more of the back of the house painted. The gutter guys came. Progress is progressing.
Inspired by the weather I decided on a grill dinner. Pork marinated in lime, garlic, cilantro, and cumin. But, that wasn’t the best part of the mean meal. The salsa/salad was. Try this for yourself – play with the ingredients and measurements:

  • chickpeas
  • black beans
  • grape tomatoes
  • grilled corn
  • red onion
  • avocado
  • jalapeno
  • cilantro
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • champagne vinegar
  • sea salt
  • tri-colored fresh cracked pepper

Throw everything into a big bowl and let marinate for a few hours. Any ingredient can be left out or substituted for something else. Think about it – red beans instead of black, how about rice? Vidalia instead of red onion, scotch bonnet instead of jalapeno, red wine vinegar instead of champagne…these switches aren’t a stretch, but the options are limitless. Then, to really blow your mind, there is texture. Mince everything small and you have a blended salsa, puree it and you have a killer sauce for grilled chicken. Leave it super chunky and sprinkle it with tortilla chips and you have a great side salad. Add lettuce and grilled beef (sliced paper thin) and there’s a whole meal. I love meals like this.

This weekend felt like a holiday. We worked around the house and enjoyed the sun. Grilled on the deck and savored sweet cherries for dessert. Danced around the living room to Coldplay drums. Later, from our living room window we paused a movie to take in the second fireworks display of the holiday. Bedtime brought a book to bed with me. But, before long my eyes grew too heavy. Sleep came easy. A perfect ending to a perfect day to good to keep.

Chocolate for Cheaper

“Chocolate for cheaper” is what my husband sang when we drove away from just making a huge deal. We were both happy, giddy even, to have found exactly what we were looking for – for less. Don’t you just love a bargain and the way it makes you feel when you score one?
Let me put the reverse lights on – several weeks ago we went on a hunt to find furniture. We couldn’t remember exact colors so we played it safe and just searched for style. What we would like to sit on, lay on, jump on, make out on, even sulk behind if need be. Some style that would fit our lifestyle. After a full several days of sitting, laying, testing, and deciding we thought we knew what we liked. Finally we moved in and could decide on color as well: chocolate. Something rich, something dark. Everything was coming together until we visited Rayless and Flan-again. We liked the sales woman. I will say that. Donny and Marie couldn’t have been more helpful. She bent over backwards to help us…until the manager stepped in. “Can’t get that style in that color. Never mind what the tag says. It’s another $100 to get that color. It’s brown sugar or nothing. The brown sugar is the only thing on sale. Get it in another color and you pay full price in addition to changing the color and that’s another $100, remember?  No ifs ands or buts. That is it.” With heads hanging low and exhaustion nipping at our heels, we took the defeated road home.
Three days later Kisa says to me, “I think I solved our problems. Get in the truck.” So, off to LazyGirl we went. As soon as we were in the door we asked, “Do you have this style? In this color? For this price?” Yes. Yes. Follow me. No. Cheaper. Weaving through the aisles of couches and recliners we stopped short. Made the sales woman turn around. “What? What do you mean cheaper?” When she was done explaining we exclaimed, “that’s $700 cheaper than Rayless!” We know, she said with a smile. Are you still interested?

Like children playing hooky from school we ordered the furniture. Feeling like we got away with something we signed on the dotted line before the numbers could change. We hurried through the paperwork thinking it was too good to be true. We waited for the admittance We Made a Mistake. None came.

“We got chocolate for cheaper. We got chocolate for cheaper!” my husband sang as we drove home. Yes, we did.

Icing the Wings

 Take me home

We don’t know when we will close. How silly is that? The biggest purchase of my entire life and I don’t know when it will happen. I knew there was trouble last Thursday when kisa said there was a “miscommunication” with the seller’s lawyer. Whatever that means. Unprofessional moment #1. It was hard to go to bed not knowing the plan for the next day. No idea of the walk-through; no idea of the closing. But, I had a good idea it wouldn’t happen at all. A feeling of helplessness was mounting and all I wanted to do was vent – to cry on someone’s shoulder. I’m at the point where I just want to be done with this whole thing. Anticipation is giving way to frustration.

Friday comes and goes. Kisa and I are at the mall. Anxiety is creeping in and people are starting to look stranger and stranger. I couldn’t admit to being okay. We try to stay busy to stay focused. I’m buying candles to light the gloom: gardenia, tea & honey, cedar & pine, and HomeSweetHome (as if!). When we get home every time the phone rings I retell the story and it gets funnier and funnier. It all comes down to a bad boob job. Suddenly, I’m making breast jokes like a guy.

Finally, it’s Sunday and we are back where we started. It’s Thursday night in reverse. We don’t know when we are closing. We don’t know anything. It’s as if we are on a plane, sitting on the tarmac. We are about to embark on a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime vacation. There’s nervous energy in the air. We are excited. We’ve planned for weeks. But, we’re not moving. Minutes turn into hours and there is no explanation for the delay. The idea of going anywhere seems slim, yet we do not understand why. The captain comes on and to say there has been a miscommunication with the tower. Whatever that means. All we know is that we aren’t embarking on that fabulous vacation. We’re stuck looking at the airport terminal. Our bags are packed – have been for days. Yet we cannot move.

Drums or Bust

slip drums
When I was in the 6th grade I was in love with my first drummer. Roger from Duran Duran. Short dark hair, impish smile, skinny ties, but best of all, drummer for one of England’s fastest rising bands. When it came time to profess favorites I took too long and Roger, Nick & Simon all were scooped up faster than yelling “shot gun!” or “dibs!” and I was left with either John or Andy. John, with his oh so 80s stylish locks, tight leather pants and sultry eyes was the obvious (and only) choice. Like memorizing the multiplication table, when anyone asks even today, John Taylor the guitarist, is still my automatic favorite. Sorry, Roger. But, that was the end of picking guitars over drums.
1982. Stewart Copeland. He reined for three years.
1985. Phil Collins.
1986. When I was 17 I fell in love with bad boy Tommy Lee from Motley Crue. Couldn’t admit it to a soul. In the basement we called the Vortex I drooled over the ‘Home Sweet Home’ video and dreamed of the day I would see him perform live, maybe ever upside down over my head. I dared to fantasize about getting drumsticks tattooed somewhere dangerous. The only deterrent was the worry of hiring a really bad artist. I all I had to do was picture explaining to lovers, “those aren’t dueling penises!” while fending off the bad jokes; the word “banging” having a whole new meaning. Never mind.
1990. Mickey Hart.
1993. Neal Peart. Ah, Neal. Had to give him up because Geddy’s voice gave me the heebee geebees (still does).
1995. Carter Beauford.
2000. Alison Miller. I worried about the lesbian implications of confessing a female drummer was rocking my world, but I couldn’t help loving the way she rocked out Natalie’s otherwise sweet songs. Even the way she never closes her mouth had a certain appeal. Then I started seeing unsigned bands…
2002. Gregory Nash until I discovered BubbleGum.
2005. J.J. Johnson.
2007. Steve Jordan.
2008. Mickey Hart. Again. Okay, he was never really off the list.

So, here it is January 2009 and I already know my favorite drummer for the year and for life. Kisa! I don’t exactly know when it happened but, suddenly he’s become banger extraordinaire. It started with the Rock Band drum kit but sometime after that it became an obsession. For Christmas I got him a new pedal – some metal contraption that looks like the real deal.  No, scratch that. He says it IS the real deal. After that installation, every song is played on ‘hard’ and the “points” have been doubled. Just wait until the cymbals come in! Rock on.

It’s All Eggs


Eggs. The word I use to sum up “half of one kind, six of another.” Eggs. Means makes no difference to me. One way or another it doesn’t matter. It’s the answer to ‘where do you want to go for dinner’ when the craving for something obvious isn’t there. Eggs. It’s my verbal shrug.

This weekend we found two houses and in my mind they are all about the eggs. In answer to which one I like more – I would definitely say they are eggs. Penny has glitz and glamour; “pimped out” as my realtor would say. Instant hot water in the kitchen. Fireplace. Deck. Pool. Surround sound. Granite. Cathedral ceilings. His and hers in everywhere. Appletree has a clean slate and lots of potential; “vanilla” as my realtor would say. White walls. Not a drop of color anywhere. Naked rooms. Empty kitchen. But, side by side Penny and Appletree are eggs. Almost same size. Almost same style. Almost same type of neighborhood. Almost the same price. Almost the same stubborn sellers. Lots of almosts. So, one is scrambled with herb cheese and chives served with crispy bacon and the other is poached with salt and pepper served in a dainty white cup with a side of dry toast. One is bring nothing but your attitude, the other is if ya got it, flaunt it – bring it all.

We went back and forth, forth and back. Trying to decide which eggs to order. Where would our appetites take us? Have we exhausted the menu and this was all that’s left? Neither of us thought so. That wasn’t the right attitude to take. These were good eggs. Worth their weight. We want to order both. See what happens.

So we shall. Try one. Then the other. See who satisfies this house-hungry appetite.

Project Hunger Walk One

Project Hunger Walk One – No Laughing Matter.

Gone are the days I can hitch a ride without feeling selfstupid. I hate inconveniencing anyone. I hate relying on anyone. Carpooling with kisa is completely different. We both end up in the same place each night. When it’s all said and done he’s always going my way anyway.
This night was different. She needed me to get her to the gym and I needed her to drive me there. Worked out perfectly that we could work out together. Truth be told, I’m more out of practice than out of shape when it comes to being in a gym. Signing in, finding an empty locker, scanning the cardio equipment for something not in use and a little less than out of order and never mind finding two together.
She got the treadmill in front of me and I ignored the people to the right and left. Or tried to. What is it about treadmills so close together? Like bald tires on black ice my eyes kept sliding over to the chick chugging along beside me. She wasn’t running…yet. But, she was cruising. To avoid further jealousies I busied myself with starting my workout. At first glance I couldn’t figure out my machine. It’s like reading a book in French for hours and then trying to read German. Everything looks nothing short of hieroglyphics. My treadmill at home is completely different than the machine I was now trying to decipher. Sensing complete ridiculousness I pressed “quick on” and started moving.
Speaking of silly, it felt completely stupid not to run. It took everything I had not to crank up the speed to at least a casual jog, an offhand trot. Walking seemed…well…slow. So slow! Out of boredom I pretended I was walking in my grandparents’ day. Ten miles. In the snow. Uphill. Both ways. Then, slowly, I started to feel shinsplints. My ankles started to ache. I wasn’t making fun of not running anymore. This was actually going to take some work. Suddenly this walking thing was no laughing matter.

So, seriously: 2.2 miles/35 minutes. So it begins.

And So It Begins…Again

Every once in a while an opportunity comes along that seems almost too perfect to pass up. They are the moments that grab you by all the attention you have; so much so that you can’t look away.

I was on Face trying to save face. Normally, as my sister can tell you, I fly under the radar on FB. If she catches me “on” she considers it just that…catching me. Then she chats. Most of the time I don’t mind. It’s early morning and no one will notice. But, as a rule I don’t spend more than a minute looking at my own face. I say a few things to other faces and I’m outta there. But, back to the other night. I allowed myself to be “caught” by four different people (none of them being my sister, go figure)…for almost two hours.
When I was finally let go I came away committed. And with that commitment came the profound understanding that not only was I back on the TrainingForSomethingBig bandwagon, but that I was actually happy about it. And what’s more – I was looking forward to every little thing about it.

So, here’s the deal. We are walking for Project Bread. 20 miles. May 3, 2009. You read that right. Walking. 20 miles. I have kisa on the brain when I think about running anything more than five. I see his stern face and his No.Remember.Your.Knee look. It’s a look of concern. It’s a look of caring. But, it’s also an I’ll Kick Your Azz look. He was the one who had to put up with me directly after The Fall.

Duly noted. So we walk.

Meditation Monday

My sister gave me a book on awareness. At this current moment the book is nowhere near me and I’m too lazy to get it. So, I won’t be telling you the title at this time. But, I’ve added it to my January list of books to read and I will be “reviewing” it in my half-azzed manner.

What got me thinking is the idea of mind over matter. December was an awful month because I let it be. My car was in the shop no less than five times. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be such a big deal. Kisa and I carpool all the time, but it sucked something out of me. A sense of independence was lost. I lost sensibility, too – trying to make plans without transportation was just plan stupid.
We “lost” three houses. Since we never really had them, technically, I’m overreacting. I’m making a big deal out of this real estate game. I’m letting my emotions get the better of me whenever the houses get away. I guess I make it emotional because it seems like we have been losing for so long.  
We lost two friends. That we did. When N died all I could focus on was 49 was too young to die. Her kids are teenagers – at that perfect age when mom just starts to become human, possibly even a friend. I couldn’t get to the point of relief that she was no longer suffering, no longer fighting a decade long battle. When T died all I could focus on was how stupid it is to be alive. Senseless and stupid. I’m angry because I’m selfish.
Death has had me mean. When someone blurted out “he’s just going to die anyway” I wanted to agree, I wanted to say, “I think you’re right” but I couldn’t . You don’t wish death on someone just because the statistics say it’s time. What is time to someone 22, 49 or 92?

December was an awful month for work, too. I vow to give reviews in November next year. To plan better. To direct better. The whining will stop. The whimpering will stop. I had a chance to talk to my boss one on one. He said the sign of a good leader is recognizing exhaustion; knowing when you are dangerously close to your breaking point and need a break. He ordered me to take the entire vacation off and do something a little less “urgent” with the time. It was the best advice someone could give me. He doesn’t need to know I didn’t refuse work from somewhere else!

So now I’ve meditated on most of what bothered me in December. Most of it was out of my control, but I let it get to me just the same. In the process I learned a valuable lesson. Let go. I didn’t send Christmas cards to people who have never sent me one. I’ve given my last gift to someone who never has the decency to say thank you. I’ve let go of superficial signs of sentiment. It’s time to pay attention to what really matters.

Just Have to Say

So. Merry belated Christmas and all that happy hoohaw. I had one of those “nice” times. Eating lots of great food, watching one child open gift after gift after gift after gift…and did I mention the gifts? Well, you get the point. It seemed silly after a while. We left four hours later for a little while. I thought I would nap or run or something. Instead kisa made me open gifts. Knives and money – Lamson Goodnow knives and JJill gift cards. I’m not sophisticated enough for Jill, but I love their stuff just the same. I amsophisticated enough for the chef knives, though! Those, I do know how to use! Cannot. Simply, cannot wait to dice my way through some unsuspecting innocent vegetable. Funny, how I was just talking about knife skills at the staff lunch….weird. Anyway, back to the day. After trying to find graves in the snow we went back for more great food and…you guessed it…one child opening more and more gifts. Somehow she kept track of every bitty baby and barking furbie puppy. Four going on fourteen they all said.

Later still. Tried to call mom. Didn’t go all that well. Why am I the one holding the bag of guilt when I wasn’t the only one who went away? Every sentence was torturous and drawn out. Pulling answers from her mouth was worse than the proverbial teeth. Everything felt battle ready and weary. Long periods of silence on either end. Nothing to say. Nothing to make it better. Sorry I asked. Sorry I couldn’t say anything except Sorry I couldn’t be there.

Later still. Tried to find a friend. Found I was too late. Sighed and went to bed.

Too distracted to send cards this year. Each one went out as a reply instead of a greeting. Lame. I still don’t know what is causing this delayed reaction in me. I need to get over this Don’t Care attitude before 2009. Someone else claimed the new year for themselves. Yet, I say you have to share it with me. I just have to say you better.

Destination Procrastination

What is it about this time of year that makes me move slower than molasses, feel heavier than heartache? Something is weighing me down and I haven’t found the fortitude to figure it out. What comes across as apathy is closer to personal panic. I had missed dinner with a friend by minutes and exhaustion still hasn’t allowed me to catch up with anything since.
We went to this company dinner last night, kisa and I – one of those coat and tie, heels and finery things. A nod to the powers that be, a thanks for the employment kind of thing. Before going we fussed over what to wear. Boot won out over heels. Black won out over red. We ate, chatted, and left. Just like that. It took longer to pick out clothes than it did to attend. I felt fat. I had nothing to say, nothing charming to hold anyones attention with. I’m not reading Twilight. I’m not a Harry Potter groupie and I don’t have kids to tuck in at night. Nothing to bitch about unless you count houses. It’s too bad they don’t seat people by interest. I felt like I could have started with the soup, slipped out during the salad, missed the main course, and upon rejoining everyone during dessert, not missed a thing; nor been missed myself. Like the movie kisa was watching. I left during the gangster bloody beating, talked to my mother for nearly two hours, and when I returned the movie was still in progress only this time the gangster was getting arrested. Like I couldn’t have predicted that. I didn’t miss a thing.
Somehow, somewhere along the way I pressed pause. I feel as though I am suspended from my life. Hanging inches above what I want to be doing; where I want to be. I’m sure it’s a mild melancholy of some sort. Kinda sorta maybe?

Snarling Day

I should have been listening to Sean Rowe’s Wrong Side of the Bed because that was me yesterday. I think I said it more than thrice, this thing is bigger than a bed – I got up on the wrong side of life yesterday. Where, on this map of negative, do I start? If I had written this in the midst of my mindless rage I would have ranted incoherently. I barely remember the phone conversation I had with one of my oldest friends. I felt out of control, swerving off sanity and veering into trouble, dangerously close to a nervous breakdown lane. Choking back tears I couldn’t find clarity. A real crack up.

Work has never had me as frustrated as now. People breaking down, barely held together with kind words and calls to 911. Complaints about the heat are followed by silence when something was finally done. When the head of maintenance asked for feedback it was all I could do but shrug. No news is good news, I guess. I won’t share the new complaints. Why bring his day down to my level?

There’s more. My car. My future. My family. It seems to be all about me, myself and moi these days. I think when you sink this low it’s hard to see anything but what hurts.

Angst in an Update

We heard back. Did we ever. This whole process reminds me of war. Something akin to a clunky medieval war with ineffectual weapons and a horrible lack of communication. You lob something at me. I stare at it as it smolders harmlessly at my feet. In return I chuck something back at you; something as equally harmless and ineffective. The whole process is teeth-grittingly, frustratingly unproductive. It all feels ridiculous and stupid. You want way too much for your house. $21,000 over what every other professional thinks it’s worth. As much as I love what you have to offer I’m not about to offer you that much. Not nearly. When it came down to this war of numbers I wanted to hurl something more dangerous at you, something with the bite of  “final offer” because really, it’s no big deal to me if we walk away. It aint no big thing. But, my knight in shining armor wants to storm the gates. Wants to see what you are made of, one tiny ineffective barb at a time.
So, we counter like kids – our offer coming through as a game of tin can telephone – hollow and sounding all wrong. And we wait for your tin can reply.

Christmas Spirit in a Cookie

c is for cookie

Typically, baking is not my bag. Hand me a jalpeno and I’m a much happier girl. Pie plates, measuring spoons, and proofing are just words I can’t be bothered with. Call it the Christmas spirit (or just plain crazy), but this year is just a little different. It all started with a resourceful review and a rug remnant. There are some people in my work life who have just gone above and beyond to keep my sanity. I owe them something – nothing short of my soul – for making my life just a little easier. So, I decided to bake cookies. Everyone loves a cookie, right? Never one to take the easy road I decided against plain old chocolate chip and ended up with:

  • mint chocolate chunk (2 dozen)
  • peanut butter chocolate chunk (2 dozen)
  • butterscotch (1 dozen)
  • butterscotch with almonds (1 dozen)
  • oatmeal with tuaca soaked raisins (2 dozen)
  • cinnamon chocolate chunk (2 dozen)…and finally…
  • plain old chocolate chip (2 dozen)

Luckily, I had really good company for this cookie quest – otherwise I would have gone insane. She and kisa sampled as I went, making sure my baking was on par with yummy. I could have easily gotten off track with the measuring with all the gabbing we needed to do! Here’s a teaser for an upcoming blog – I started the cookie quest on Saturday night because Sunday was another house hunting day. We were to visit the twin of the house I fell in love with in August! More on that later!

But, for now let me say I’m still not a baker. But, I have to admit – there was something very warm and homey about the smell of cookies baking in the oven; there was something very simple and childlike about being able to lick the big wooden spoon caked with dough; there was something very comforting and personal about creating something from scratch to say thank you.

Happiness is a fresh baked mint chocolate chip chunk cookie.

Bread and Jam

Bread & Jam

I love it when a plan comes together. Things you don’t intend to happen just do and for the better. I didn’t intend for the Sean night to be just Kisa and I but I’m glad it turned out that way. We haven’t been to see a show, just the two of us, in a really, really long time. We took the opportunity to prowl around a new town scoping out the real estate it had to offer. I didn’t intend to see a twin of my first “dream house” but there it was, in the same town on the same street. They are mirror images of one another…including the price. I dared to dream for just a minute about having a second chance at a first house.
I didn’t intend for us to stop in Albany for dinner. I mentioned a place, said I had no idea where it was or even what it was really called. Kisa pointed in Tom’s direction and said, “ask him.” Tom knew the place and even how to get there (or should that be the other way around because how to get there is a given?) and so we went. Better blog about bombing Bombers later…
I didn’t intend for us to sit front row for Sean’s show. I was hoping for a quiet corner, something with candles and coffee. Instead, we found a couch with cinnamon sweet cider and a chocolate brownie to split. Sean, as usual, was amazing. I’m never, ever disappointed after seeing a show. Here’s the setlist:

  • Bluegrass Baby
  • Night (awesome, awesome tune)
  • Into the Mystic
  • Surprise (new album song) 
  • The Blues (?)
  • Tomorrow Loves a Long Time
  • Draw the Line
  • Black Lightning

Set break

  • Old Black Dodge
  • Trademark of Fools (still an old favorite)
  • Wrong Side of the Bed (new album song)
  • Jonathan (new album song – still one of my favs)
  • Wet (new album song)
  • Everybody’s Talking
  • Check It Out
  • American (new album song)
  • Alone (old fav – almost didn’t think I was going to hear it!)