Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My Old Man

I treated him to lunch at the Tamarind Tree

..crispy shrimp with sweet potato in lettuce wrap

Crispy rice crepe

Green papaya salad

He wanted me to take a picture of him eating...we both wanted to remember the experience

The day before I shared my City with him...

My favorite coffee shop...

In the City, window washers descend from high, like baby spiders leaving their nest

I wait in the bank lobby, watching my old man, trying to see what others see. Just like any other old man. Except he is my old man.

After post Christmas window shopping we grab lunch in the Market Pub. We sit at the bar because we can. Neither of us is carded :(

Lots to choose from at the vegetable stalls, even though it is winter

We taste hand made cheeses and select a few for him to take home

We buy avocados for our crab Louis (with Market crab) that we will make later at home

And buy mangoes, sweet honey mangoes for dessert

We also saw fabulously interesting exhibits at the SAM on Michelangelo, featuring several of his small sketches and studies for the Sistine Chapel work, and an exhibit of photographs by Imogen Cunningham. That was a really wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

We watched together "Julie and Julia" on Pay Per View. He hadn't seen it before. He was so inspired he picked up "The Art of French Cooking" (J.C.) at the bookstore the next day.

I put him on a plane early this morning. I am glad for the time we had together. I am also worn out and looking forward to alone time when I get home after work.

I have so many mixed feelings about time with my father. I am not sure where it comes from, but it feels like he brings out the worst in me. When I want to be my best.

Thankfully, I don't think he notices this: that I am at my worst.

I try to engage but engaging means being talked to...not with. Eventually I tune out. Fortunately he does not notice. Then I eventually just quiet up. When that gets strenuous I plant a leading topic and he takes off again. I tune out again.

I do not like the competitive feelings that are unleashed in me. A couple of times over the last few days I heard myself thinking "damn it, I want to impress him."

At least I know he loves me. He loves me fully and would do anything for me. He loves all of his children fully and generously. He loves the best way he can. But behind that love is his natural self which is a little (OK, maybe alot) self absorbed and competitive.

I took him to see my office. I like my space, and honestly on a day to day basis am not aware that my office is the second largest in our suite, with lots of windows and nice furniture. It's an impressive space, if I do say so myself. But this doesn't matter...except when my father is involved. And I heard myself for the first time thinking "does he notice that this is a big office with a view?" He noticed. He said "this is a big office." He looked out the window. He said "not much of a view. Too bad you can't see the water." I pointed out where the water view had been when we moved in, before the new building blocked the water view. That little voice in me said "I want him to be impressed, damn it!" (I also told myself to just package that thought and I could examine it later when I do my post father visit decompression...on the calendar for tonight with a bottle of wine.)

We drove around in my mini. Darted in and out of traffic. Found parking in places other cars could not consider. But, like fingers on a chalkboard, I got a blow by blow comparison of his beloved Prius with every feature of my car. I almost had to laugh. Almost. And would have if I hadn't been so steamed.

As if to drive home the point, just as we are pulling into the departures curb at the airport a huge, three story billboard lauding the wonderful newest Prius model shouts down at us. There is no avoiding it. I say "Oh look. There's your car." I look over and he is wearing a look like the cat that just ate the canary. That's how I interpret it, anyway.

And really, why do I care? um, because "I want to impress him." It's sad really when I find myself in a world of focus on office size, or the kind of car I drive, or shame that I don't have a man in my house. This is the bringing out the worst in me that I'm talking about. Why can't I rest in the knowledge that he loves me (he tells me so as I kiss him goodbye at the airport)? Why can't I enjoy his company as much as he enjoys his company? ;-)

I am grateful that he is basically a happy man. He's healthy and active. Nobody believes that he's 82. He's not a complainer. He's independent and pretty fearless. He often sings to himself or whistles. Sometimes he forgets where he is when he is doing this. I exchanged sly smiles with strangers several times this past few days as Dad was happily humming (loudly) away as we waited in lines, or walked along. This is really his essence. The bad feelings part are mine to own, not his.

Despite the difficult feelings, I will miss him when I don't have him anymore. Hopefully that is a long way off.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Years is Highly Over Rated

I think I’ve been looking at this wrong all along: the meaning of New Years. Bodily, it feels like the new year should be like a turning of a corner. Or a flipping of a page. That’s why it seems appropriate to make some big declaration that “as of January 1 I will no longer (fill in the blank).” But, when I really think about it (especially with a glass of wine in my hand), it really is not a new beginning, or a page turn, or even turning a corner. It is a continuum. It’s just one more morning to wake up and see what is in store for us for the very day. At this point in the continuum (yes, honestly, that is how it is spelled. I looked it up!) we do get to put up a new calendar, so it might be a significant blip on the continuum, if one is determined to see it as such, but it doesn’t cause any reversal of time. No real chance for a “do over.” Just a “do better” I guess.

I really wish I could turn off this brain sometimes. Because I think this realizing that there is no real chance for a “do over” is depressing. I want a few do overs. Some really big ones. And some not so big ones. Just ones that would clean things up a bit.

The do betters are really such an unsatisfactory substitute for the do overs. For years I’ve vowed to do better. And not just on New Years. I want to do better all the time. And then I don’t. Don’t do better, that is. I still wake up as my disorganized, self-control lacking, evil thinking, procrastinating, fibbing, exaggerating, unappreciative, disappointed, selfish, self-centered self.

I was reading something the other day (I’ll try to re-find it so I can properly cite it) that caused me pause to think about this whole New Years continuum, etc. “The only purpose of Time is to make it so that everything doesn’t occur at once.” So I curse, yet appreciate this continuum that stretches before me.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

i am running into a new year

by Lucille Clifton

i am running into a new year
and the old years blow back
like a wind
that i catch in my hair
like strong fingers like
all my old promises and
it will be hard to let go
of what i said to myself
about myself
when i was sixteen and
twentysix and thirtysix
even thirtysix but
i am running into a new year
and i beg what i love and
i leave to forgive me


From Cries of the Spirit, an anthology of "more than 300 Poems in Celebration of Women's Spirituality." A Christmas gift to myself from myself.

Family Games

The game was “Smart Ass” which I selected for the after Christmas dinner recovery around the table. Ours is a smart group. Or so we like to think so. Some branches more competitive than others. Others quietly knowing but not entering in until all others have foolishly spoken too soon, giving up their chance to bring in the point, then themselves, with quiet grace give the answer. The three top, in order of success: my brother, his son and then my dad (their father and grandfather respectively). My son, who was raised where shouting and arguing should be avoided at all cost, where it only moved into dangerous territory, is one who quietly sits by until others have duked it out, only entering in when he is absolutely certain he is right and will not risk being wrong. In this game that doesn’t leave much chance for gaining a card. But winning is not everything. Sometimes surviving is more important.

My sister-in-law would have been in that top ranking but she is graceful and leaves to deal with the dishes, giving the rest a chance.

My style is ultimate “Smart Ass.” I shout out the first thing that comes to mind at the first clue. Not a good strategy for winning points, but oh so impressive if one just happens to get lucky and get it right. It’s not about the number of points. For me, it is about the quality of the few points I may get. The quality borne of a clairvoyant knowledge based solely on feeling about what the card is subliminally shouting to me. And, probably more importantly, taking myself out of the question early so that then I can pretend, at the second clue that, “oh yeah, I so know that answer but now can’t participate” just so that you won’t catch on to how comparatively stupid I can feel around these brilliant people. I think my son and I, though employing different strategies, are really quite similar.

Last night, the night following the game, i observed the table dynamics and say to my brother’s family “I bet the only thing that is more rarely heard in your home than “you were right” is “I was wrong.” They laugh and agree. “Those words are never uttered under our roof.” I find it interesting, even admirable, that this seems to work for them. Really well.

My father isn’t so much competitive in games yet still I am a little shocked at how the answers are not coming to him. (remember he came in third so I am not saying he is dull. Just not as sharp as he was a year or two ago) In categories scientific we all look to him for the answer. I can see it is there, right there, in his frontal lobe, but will not make the leap to his tongue. I feel his frustration. It is palatable. He is uncharacteristically quiet. I think rather than sitting back and thinking “these well working brains came from my loins” he is instead lost in his loss. My mind in sympathy completely goes blank on something so obvious it screams. Something like the name of my own brother sitting right across from me. Oh God, I hope nobody noticed. (it keeps me awake later that night). This “Smart Ass” game, so appropriately named for my family, shows me things I don’t want to see.

But last night, the night following the game, as we are all gathered around a different table, in a fine seafood restaurant this time, the subject of “Snuggies” comes up. The question is posed “So, since Snuggies are the fad items of this season, what do you suppose the opposite, the Snuggie rebellion movement, will feature?” My father, without missing a beat, states quite seriously “two corks and a shoestring.”

My nephew and myself spit the mid-sip wine free from our mouths. When I can catch my breath I look at my nephew who, like me, has tears running down his cheeks. I lean forward to look down to the other end of the table to see what my father is doing. Nothing. He is sitting there in complete normalcy, having rendered the rest of the table useless. He got his game back.

Today I send off my seed
And receive my maker
Suspended here with myself
Where all is possibility
I take assessment
And resist the urge to
Bitch slap myself into Idaho

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Morning Latte

Santa was in the latte this morning

Monday, December 21, 2009

Do You See What I See?

Sometimes when I have failed latte art I try to find the face of the Virgin Mary in the foam patterns. Or the face of my savior, Jesus Christ.

This morning, no such luck. At least I don't think so. Though maybe, just maybe about 9:00 on the picture, if you squint and kind of tilt your head to the right.... Or maybe that's a celestial angel sideways, between 9:00 and 3:00... You might have to lie down to see it...

These are not desperate times. Not like the incident when the world was dropping away and I was convinced that the hugely enormous bird shit on my window must certainly contain the image of a savior, any savior, as I was enormously in need. (btw, a savior did arrive, who promptly asked me about my medications when I tried to have her help me diagnose the bird shit for a sign of a friendly face. She just didn't get it. Maybe you don't either. That's a risk I'm willing to take.)

I look for images delivering messages in the clouds. And also in marble patterns. I always have. Ever since I was a little girl. The tub surround in my childhood home had a gold and white swirly marble patterned Formica. Each soaking I would lay back with just my mouth and eyes and nose above the surface, locating each known image: the two wolves; the Indian maiden; the merry-go-round horse; the half elephant/half lioness creature stalking the other wall images. I would look for new images until the water grew cold and I had to give it up. On hot still days I would lay in the yard and will cloud shapes to reveal themselves to me. I'm thinking I'd like to do that again. Soon.

At the rental we were in before my cottage, there was an image of David hidden in the tile square just in front of the bathroom throne. I really wanted to ask if anyone else could see it but I didn't have the nerve. At that time my grip on sanity was tenuous at best. Though I am convinced he would have easily been spotted by anyone else who might be directed to look, I wasn't willing to risk any outside assessment of my sanity. I guess you could say I have toughened up a bit since then. As now I am confessing and not too worried about whether you feel I am nuts or not. I'm taking that risk as I'm betting there is some part in everyone, who sometimes sees messages in things, whether they will openly admit it or not. So now you know: I look for Jesus in my latte foam. Not that I need any proof of His proximity. It just would be a shame not to see anything He might have put in front of me to see.

Where I did see Christ's face this weekend was in the glow of Natalie's smile as she got to participate with the rest of the children in her Church's Christmas service. Her smile was gigantic as she looked out at the audience and then at the children she was next to: almost not believing her good fortune to be part of this precious scene. She was an angel: a messenger from Heaven: "rejoice. God is so good." If this beautiful child of God can beam his love then how can we not receive it? There wasn't a dry eye in our row, and dare I say, in the entire sanctuary. It was just that sweet.

Meanwhile, Sam joined the chorus of Wise Men, taking us to follow the star. He had his parts down well, never missed a beat. Treated his position with the careful responsibility such an important calling is due.

Blessings rained on the congregation as we watched the children remind us of the reason for this season.

But even angels have their moments. Earlier this morning, posing with the mall Santa, Natalie dropped her wings for a moment, and sent Sam flying instead. I understand he really flew. Far. I'm pretty sure it was probably an uncontrolled spasm, rather than a calculated move. However, I'm guessing that Natalie delighted in her little display of power, especially since no brothers were harmed in the making of this photo. She's a gal after my own heart.

I'll continue to look for images in my images and invite you to do the same. Here are a few from my i-phone camera that might just contain something in them for you, even if not necessarily for me. Have fun.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Over It...

Sorry about that last post. I'm over it. Andy has his car back and it is running better than ever.
I just get pissed off that I still get pissed off...OK, so maybe NOT over it. Sigh... On to BETTER things...

This morning I looked at my lit tree and decided it should stay. Every year I am tempted to leave the tree up...year round. One can entertain that thought with a fake tree. No needles to loose. No watering to be done. Could stay there year round. For about two months after I take it down the living room feels naked. I love a Christmas Tree. In my heaven Christmas trees will not be seasonal.
My spiral staircase looks so happy wearing a garland of greens and red berry beads.

Andy helped me decorate as usual. I love this little game we play about his home made ornaments from grade school. He sorts through the ornament box and pulls out the raggedy, abused, falling apart ornaments. He says "I think this is probably past its prime. Should we throw it away?"


And I prop the Styrofoam cup bell that no longer has it's hanging loop or jingle bell onto the limbs where it balances.
And I hang the First Grade heart at eye level in a prominent place where no one can miss it.
He acts all embarrassed and turns away so I can't see his smile. (We will do the same next year, and the next year, and the next year, and however many Christmases we get to have together)
The old sock monkey wears his happy stupid grin. (So do I)

The hand smocked ornament that was a present from my ex-mother in law I got to keep because it is a WSU ornament and my ex does not care about WSU.

I put on a flock of moth eaten white doves that I got in a grab box from some garage sale. I think they are beautiful. Even if they are a bit tathered.

The scuba Santa that Andy and I brought home as a memento of Christmas in Tahiti with my family a few years ago swims onto the tree.

Even the cactus in my messy office knows its Christmas. This poor plant. It thrives on abuse and neglect. It always gives a nice bloom after I rescue it from near death. (any life parallels you'd like to make here?)
I do keep this wreath up in my office year round. It's no longer just a Christmas thing. So maybe you will find the tree in my living room in July. If you apologies. It would be on purpose.