Saturday, May 30, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
But I have agreed to do something in the dating world that I am OK with and am actually looking forward too, with only minor degrees of anxiety…so far. This is a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” event that my friend Linda is organizing. This is how the invitation reads:
Please join me for a "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Party" on Saturday, May 30, at 5:25 P.M. You probably know that at a guess who's coming to dinner party, who will be at your party will remain a mystery until all the guests arrive. After the dinner we'll all meet up at one home for dessert. We'll be cooking the dinner together and sharing in the cleanup. The goal of this party is to help you get connected with other singles. So come and meet someone new and it could be the beginning of a lasting friendship!
The guest list of 88 is divided up into 11 groups of eight: four each single men and single women. They meet at the home of a participant who has volunteered to host. The host decides the menu, splits needed ingredients into seven and sends the list to the organizer. Two days before the event, the organizer sends each participant directions to the host’s home and the list of what they are to bring. When they get there, everyone gets involved in the cooking, the meal is shared and then everybody goes to one place where dessert and company is shared with all the participants.
This is what I like about this concept: though everyone involved will be single, nobody is matched up. There is an involved activity which alleviates the discomfort of figuring out what to talk about. And you can find out a lot about other people by how they work together on a project.
I have to tell you that when I called my friend I said I’d participate under the condition that we could do it at my house (maybe there’s a control thing going on but I feel a lot less anxious just having the hosting to concentrate on) and that, when splitting up the participants, she doesn’t send any dweebs to my party! That wasn’t nice, but since I’m not doing much on the dating scene I might as well do what I can to help the odds.
When I was married, for New Years Eve Mark and I often hosted dinner at our house and I organized it so that our friends all participated in the cooking, making various courses in small teams. It was always fun and a good way to pass the hours until midnight. So this event hit a fond note with me. I’m planning a Thai meal. The menu will be MIANG KAM (otherwise known as “Weird Tidbits Wrapped in a Leaf”), pork satay with peanut sauce, beef mint salad and red chicken curry on rice. (Thanks Nikki for the loan of the rice cooker) Somebody will be bringing Thai beer. The Satay and curry recipes are in my cookbook. The other two recipes come from a wonderful local Thai cooking expert, Pranee, who teaches great classes and does market tours. Info on her classes and some of her recipes can be found on her blog, which is here. My blog piece about my experience with her in the Chinese medicine shop is here.
Unfortunately my kitchen ceiling is opened up at the moment and won’t be fixed until when I’m gone on my trip. But the yard is beautiful and, if the weather is good, the patio will be irresistible. Eight is pretty cozy in my little house but I guess that way everyone has to interact at all times. And if somebody has major OCD problems with the open kitchen ceiling, it’s best we ferret that out right away! OCD and I would not be a good match.
Monday, May 25, 2009
My sister, on the other hand, had nice long hair with a little wave to it. I was envious. But the worst time was when we went to Hawaii. I think I was about in third grade. In preparation for the trip my mom had taken me to get the pixie cut cleaned up and when the hair dresser finished up and spun me around in the chair so I could see in the mirror tears flowed out of my eyes. I was raised to express gratitude no matter what so I nodded when the hairdresser asked if I liked it, but as soon as I got in the car I sobbed. It seemed like I sobbed for three days. I was embarrassed to go out in public and I was sure that people in Hawaii would mistake me for a brother instead of a sister. My mother assured me that there was no way I would be mistaken for a boy since my swimsuit had ruffles on it (I still remember the suits my sister and I got. They were two piece, blue and white, tie on top and a little bit of a skirt with the bottom piece. I thought they were stunning. Until I got my hair cut. I was sure that, with my flat chest and boy’s haircut that I would be mistaken for a cross dresser). But when in Hawaii, we were having so much fun and seeing such interesting things that I had forgotten about my questionable looks. Until Hanalei. We three kids were out in the surf, singing “Puff the Magic Dragon” (because he lived by the Sea and frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Hanalei) when a big group of teenagers came bounding through. The leader of the group, a tan blond toothpaste model looking boy, said to me, in a voice so all the others could hear “How’s it going, young man?” And they all laughed. It took me about 35 years to get my hair cut really short again. And I think I’m still traumatized.
Then, when I was in high school, the popular look was curly, curly hair (if you didn’t have naturally beautiful long straight hair). I went in for a permanent that I paid for with my own hard earned savings. I had never had more than a home perm before but my mother knew from giving me those that my hair took the perm solution very rapidly because it was so fine. She told the beautician this when she dropped me off. The beautician got the perm in and then got on a long phone call. I could feel the solution burning my scalp but, other than trying to get the woman’s attention with pleading eyes, I didn’t say anything. When she finally came to take it out, as she was washing it out I could see a little bit of startle in her eyes. Still she didn’t say anything. She took a long time doing stuff with it before she spun me around. It was hideous. Fried. I looked like I had put my finger in a light socket. She asked me how I liked it and I said it was fine. Then when I got home Mom looked at me, put me in the car and drove me back down where she made them do their best to correct the problem. It was only partially successful. I had enough self esteem issues in High School without this complication. My expectations for my hair have been pretty low since.
When Andy was in elementary school and playing on a soccer team, I got what I thought was a pretty decent haircut, considering it was my hair. The next day, as I was cheering Andy along from the sidelines, the mother of one of his good friends, and a woman I considered to have quite a bit of natural class, said to me “Oh I love your hair. It’s got that wonderful messed up look that’s so in.” She was serious. I was devastated.
Being a woman means that you have bad hair stories. I don’t think there’s any way around it. The women whose wavy hair I admire say they always wanted straight hair. Those like me, with straight hair, always wish for curls. My friends who lost their hair through cancer treatment just wanted hair. Loosing a good hairdresser feels somewhat worse than fighting with a good friend. So, if you are suffering from a bad haircut (no names will be mentioned here) just remember, at least you were born a girl and you don’t have to worry about going bald. It will grow back, and as my Mom said, though all of the three events mentioned above “at least it will grow back.” I know. That didn’t help me either. At the time.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
As I was sitting there I watched a group of about seven women, around my age, rendezvousing. They were laughing and finishing each other’s sentences and behaving with great fond familiarity. A very profound sense came over me as I thought about the gathering of my very good friends that will take place on my deck this evening.
Five years ago, when I was at the near lowest of my low, when I was starting my life over and not having much energy to do so, I would force myself to walk to Tully’s. Fighting overwhelming anxiety about being in public without knowing my new identity, I tried to stay there as long as I could so that I could get used to being in public. One day, as I sat in a chair, pretending to read, trying not to make eye contact with anyone, my attention was drawn to a group of women around a big table. They, like the group I saw this morning, were laughing, and chatting and also behaving with great fond familiarity. My heart ached. I wondered if I’d ever have that again. I so wanted to be around that table, or have one similar of my own. But it didn’t seem like it would ever be possible. And now, four years later, I am blessed with good friends. Friends who know me and like me anyway. Friends who can finish my sentences, and I theirs. My heart refilled.
This is something I wrote from that time.
I set out on my walk trying to convince myself that I won’t care if anybody looks disdainfully at me with my blue nylon sweats too snug across my thighs. “Fuck ‘em if I’m not beautiful enough.” I may not be the fittest, but at least I’m doing something. Let’s see, have my cell phone tucked into my pocket, on the off chance anybody will call to check in. MP 3 player all charged up, set to go. Ear pieces tucked in under my red USA Rowing baseball cap. Maybe they will think I am an old retired USA rower. Ha. Got my Tully’s card, just in case I am feeling confident enough to duck into the coffee shop at the end of my walk to reward myself for my sprint of self care.
I head out past my north neighbor. The other single mother in my neighborhood of beautiful families. I don’t know her well. Just enough to know she is single, has grown daughters in college and a friendly golden lab named Toby. Toby greets me happily from the window, fogging up the otherwise clean glass in front of him. It is cold this morning. Not raining for the moment, but the smell of worms predominant. Worms and wet bark on the well kept beds of my neighbors’ lawns. Turning left at the end of my block, the sound of the freeway, just out of sight reminds me to turn on the MP3 player. This I tell myself will make this a tolerable adventure. I randomly scroll through the play list, through Mingus, YES, Jackson Brown, U2 until an R.E.M. tune catches me. Everybody Hurts will do for the moment. I am feeling mournful in my pain and it seems to resonate some kind of mantra that powers me forward….”hold on, hold on, hold on.”
I look at the empty school grounds and almost hear the ghost laughter of children chasing each other and assault of teasing that surely took place there earlier in the week. I little blip in me wishes to be back on a school yard at seven when my biggest concern was would I be able to hold my own in the crowd of jump ropers so much more coordinated and pretty than I. Suddenly I am at the top of the hill, unaware of the leg after leg after leg motion it took to propel me up here. My heart rate is up, but my breath still comes easily. OK, I am not in as bad shape as I easily believe.
Left, down the ridge road that separates the waterfront dwelling billionaires from the lowly estate millionaires on the other side of the road. I still am a little surprised that I live amongst these beautiful people, in my adequate but dated 1950’s rental tear down. I wonder if those who drive by in their Mercedes, Beemer SUVs and Lexuses have a clue how out of place this frumpy once upon a time housewife is on this street. In the distance, coming ever closer are two young women, mothers and wives with a different series of worries and complaints, approach, engrossed in conversation. They are laughing, enjoying the fresh air and time out with a girlfriend. I am enjoying “Black Water” in my ears, and acting brave and nonchalant as we near, then pass, each other, Exchange a friendly hello as we pass. “…..take my hand, hand, take me by the hand, pretty mama, dance with your Daddy all night long.” I used to walk with my neighbor, Andrea, in the old neighborhood. I had my wonderful black lab on a leash, and I miss her terribly. My ex got the dog. I got our son. I fought hard for that exchange. But my son won’t go out for a walk with me, he is seventeen. And so I miss my dog. Nobody got Andrea.
I walk past a lawn where a woman is focused on her driveway bed, planting what appear to be pansies, winter pansies, around her mailbox post. Though lost in her chore she looks up just in time to see me and greets me with a friendly hello. I shyly return the exchange. I had beautiful gardens at the old house. Twenty years of clearing and weeding and planting. Perennials were my favorite. Hardy plants that would re-arrive every spring, bigger and stronger than the year before. Kelly across the street, also had a weakness for perennials. And Mrs. Harris across the street, from England, obvious by her accent, and her beautiful “English Garden.” Kelly and Mrs. Harris and I. We would divide up our plants and share. It was wonderful to be able to give. And receive. I called my experimental garden next to the back side fence the “Darwin Garden.” Survival of the fittest. That’s where the special purchases from Wells Medina nursery went. Plants with names like calendula, agapanthus, alstromeria, sedum autumn joy, and digitalis. I like saying these names as much as the flowers themselves. I grew up in a climate and place where geraniums and petunias (and very hearty vegetables) were about all that people grew. Here, in western Washington, the moisture allows such beautiful plants to thrive. The last time I went by my old house where my ex now resides, my newest perennial bed, in the front yard, looked like a war zone. Weeds more prominent than the spider’s wart (such a beautiful flower for such an ugly name) and star gazer lilies that I had so lovingly tended to. The English lilac bush flourishing with its neglect, spilling out over the parking strip in front. My gardens once were every bit as beautiful as the ones I now pass. I tell myself, when I get home I will weed the front bed at my rental and reward myself with a trip to Wells Medina Nursery. But my heart is not in it. Even while telling myself this is what I will do I know it is not.
At the far side of the golf course I turn left and propel myself down the hill to the sound of Diana Krall “I can’t give you anything but love.” The dog park is off to my right and there are a handful of bundled up people tossing tennis balls for their enthusiastic companions. There are some men there and I think if I had a dog this would be a good place to meet men. If I were so inclined. I have the thought: “I like life without a man. Life is much less complicated.” But I would like a dog. A dog would be a perfect companion. Something happy to see me as I walk through the door (I am always happy to see my son at home, but his greeting of “what’s for dinner and when will we eat?” does not compare to the greeting of a loyal lab.) A dog is so blatant in his or her guilt, that there is no second guessing if he or she has been up to no good.
On the final stretch, now along a busier road, more of a mix of cars and people than the pretentious neighborhood I have been through, and in which I now live. I am no longer self conscientious. The fresh air, the music, the knowledge that I am not just sitting at home on the couch on my ass with the computer, has boosted my spirits. I must make a decision about the coffee shop or home. What the hell. Coffee shop. A warm drink will taste good. And I will see my friends the baristas who know me and are always happy to see me. Nearly like coming home to a loving dog. In fact, as I approach the shop, there is a beautiful golden lab out front, tied to the dog bar by the window, a stainless steel bowl of water placed out front for the dogs of the coffee shop. He turns his head away from supervision of his mothermaster inside to respond to my greeting. Tail thumping, faint whine of happiness, I pat him on the head and tell him how beautiful he is. Then into the shop. It is busy on this weekend morning. A few loners sitting in the comfortable chairs by the fire. Reading the paper, doing a crossword. But most of the tables are filled with groups of two to five. Friends laughing, sharing. A group of about seven women, all well kept and dressed, lean into each other and talk and laugh, several conversations at once. I tell myself “they are not laughing at me.”. I long to be at that table with them. With friends to share laughter with. But I think much of their conversation is about things I can no longer relate to. About vacation plans and irritation with their spouses.
When I get to the counter Stacia smiles and asks how I am and if I’ve been for a walk. My replies: “Good”. “”Yes”. “The usual?” she asks. “You got it.” It’s nice to be known, even if the only thing she knows about me is my coffee drink. We can’t visit long as there is a line behind me. So I wait against the wall where the drinks come out. Not wishing to take up space here this morning, I take my drink and head towards the door, back to home. I cross by a table where the man who once accused me of having an “engaging life” is sitting. He asks me to laugh for him before I go. By reflex I do and say something like “I guess you got it.” [Here in the same coffee shop, one morning, a weekday morning, I was engrossed in writing on my laptop. Out of the corner of my eye this older gentleman came by and stopped. He said “excuse me. I just want to tell you that you have an engaging life.” I look at him perplexed. Not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. He says “I was in here the other day and you were with some friends and I heard this beautiful laugh. It was you. You have an engaging life.” You see he had a bit of a southern drawl. It’s funny. In the midst of my self consciousness, acutely aware of my aloneness, he reminded me that I did have friends. (The week before I had run into two good friends from a different life who happened to have been in my neighborhood coffee shop. We must have laughed and shared things.) I had forgotten that when I was absorbed in my loneliness at the end of my walk].
So I leave the coffee shop, coffee in one hand, head pat to the loyal, still waiting, dog, and power on towards home. Don McLean’s Starry Night is playing [yes I am embarrassed to type that. Someone on web chat was talking about his Starry Night and I needed to buy it to take me back to memories of a mournful small town teenager. At Barnes and Noble I accepted the offer of a gift receipt to give the illusion that I was buying this sappy music for a friend. The clerk even took the price tag off for me.] “Now I understand. What you tried to say to me…. For they could not love you But still your love was true. And when no hope was left inside On that starry, starry night You took your life as lovers often do But I could have told you Vincent This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you….How I suffered for my sanity…” .And heading home with my coffee, a thought of an engaging life, I realize that I have found it. It is my sanity. I suffered for it. It may not be pretty, not beautiful. But it’s an engaging laugh. It’s the friendship in the baristas. It’s the real life of living with a seventeen year old boy and a garden that I can tend to. Or not. It is not a Darwin’s garden but a Darwin’s life. Survival of the fittest. And I have survived.
Friday, May 22, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
The three most prevalent “prepared food” dinners that we had as children were fishsticks, Swanson chicken pot pies and KRAFT macaroni and cheese. My mother worked half to full time at the University and still we always managed to have a sit down dinner with all the food groups every night. And this was before microwaves. As a working mother I remember asking her how she did it. She asked if I remembered that we had a lot of casseroles. I think we had a lot of different combinations of ground beef (half a side of beef in the freezer always had lots of ground beef to use up) and Campbells cream of mushroom soup.
We didn’t have those prepared food dinners often, mostly we had them when my parents went out. They had a busy social life, including book clubs (individually, not as a couple), dad had some fly-tying or fly-fishing groups, and they had the bridge club.
My sister Julie and I share different memories of our parents’ bridge group. They met quite frequently – about three tables worth (six couples) and would rotate hosting homes. We loved the regularly occurring evenings when we (the Harwood children) would be left to the house on our own – where we could fight uncorrected, and fend for ourselves – with the dinner possibility of getting Swanson’s Chicken Pot Pies (the best option), KRAFT macaroni and cheese from a box, or fish sticks (the worst option). And while those evenings were fun (getting to stay up late) and educational (I remember my brother instructing us on the proper procedure to light farts) my fonder memories are from the evenings when the bridge club met at our house.
The bridge group was comprised of local businessmen (including the town’s two optometrists and the undertaker) and university connections (the head of financial aid – a Mrs. – and the director of the physical plant). A wife of one of the optometrists was the personal assistant to the university President. This was a nice mix – not just university related (where both my parents worked) as so much of the rest of our life was.
My sister remembers that hosting bridge night meant we got the rare treat of having pop in the house. And she remembers the special treat of licking up the crumbs from the bottom of the bowl of the dry roasted peanuts.
I know the liquor flowed freely: people were happy, but I don’t remember any of it getting out of hand.
There were those beautiful pastel and black layered licorice squares that looked like petit fores and came in the “bridge mix.” I wished I had liked licorice because I so wanted to taste the beauty of these elegant treats. But I didn’t like black licorice so could not enjoy, even though I snuck one each time and tried it.
Once, when I was quite small, I snuck out of bed during a bridge group night at our house, flannel nightie clad, sat in the hallway listening to the adults and thought to myself “when I grow up I will use big words too.” Their conversations sounded so intelligent and witty. They were having a good time. Then, a few years later, when I was just starting to read chapter books, there was a bridge club night at our house when I had a fresh batch of chapter books from the library. I so wanted to impress these bridge playing adults. I left the bedroom door just slightly ajar…it was strategically located, as anyone using the bathroom would have to pass it. I read and read into the night, finishing three, then four, then all of my newly checked out chapter books. And not one adult popped their head in to express their admiration of my reading skills and dedication to it. I was disappointed. But I did get a lot of reading done.
I was fascinated by the bridge group meeting on the top floor of the town’s funeral parlor in the quarters of the director and his wife who were bridge group members. When this director passed a major milestone, perhaps his 60th birthday, the other bridge group members dressed in black clothes, clutching a rose and lay out on benches and lawns along the route this man walked every morning. As he got to them they rose up, zombie faced and started shadowing him on his walk. By the time he got through town he had quite a funeral procession following him. I wasn’t living in town anymore when this happened and only heard about it secondhand so it might not be completely accurate but it’s a good story none the less.
The ladies of the bridge group circulated a large football jersey with the following message in big words: “I’d rather be 50 than pregnant.” They each got a turn with the shirt when they turned 50. My mother was living out of the country when she turned 50 but the bridge group threw her a party anyway. They found an inflatable doll, a wig like my mother’s hair, and one of the optomotrists provided glasses just like Mom’s, put the jersey and these other things on the inflated doll and had a party, sending pictures to my mom to make sure she knew she wasn’t forgotten.
The bridge group holds a special place in my memory from a very young age. It reminds me of a simpler time when adults seemed so mysterious and I couldn’t wait to grow up to be like them. I don’t play bridge now, though that seems like that might be a fun thing to take up with the right group of people. And I am sure that I really am not as mature and clever as they seemed at the time. The words I use don’t seem big to me now. I still enjoy reading chapter books but I don’t imagine that that could impress anyone. I know for sure I don’t like black licorice so I don’t try those bridge mix treats. In fact I’m not sure if they still make them. I find it hard to believe that the bridge group members at the time I first remember those get-togethers were even younger than I am now when I think about how old, I’ll say “mature,” they seemed at the time.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I want to mend him
But I am shut out.
Mother bird instincts kick in
Regurgitating my own sustenance
To force into his screaming beak
You will fly again
But come into the nest
Where we can practice singing
One baby bird hop at a time
Mending you is mending me
My Bird, it hurts. I know.
You push but pull me back to close
Afraid of fully flight to free
Desiring approval yet fighting advice
As seeds I plant to turning ears
Defiantly resisting what you sense as stricture
I want to let go but only so much
As on your legs you yearn to run
And in your wheels you leave my clutch
One of us will leave before the other
I hope it is me as I the mother
Could not endure a life without
My bird who flies away now
Yet otherwise if it were me
Who lost my bird
It would save my one the pain of loss
Which I would never want for you
As I could no longer fight to protect
My baby bird from felines and weather
And pain from loss
How did you push your little one out of the nest? I realize it was a necessity, for survival, for your baby. But if feels like it’s a necessity for MY survival to keep him here with me. He was my reason for setting out each morning to find and bring home nourishment to help him grow. Each day as I returned he proudly showed me what progress he had made while I was off in the world providing for us. His downy soft features slowly leave as sleek and, unbelievably, more beautiful he becomes each day. His warm fuzzy coat is replacing itself with sharp and prickly pin feathers as he evolves into the form that will assure his survival outside our nest. I am proud and frightened at once. I want to spare him the harsh realities of survival. He is the only one that survived my egg laying season. He is my hope. My pain. My love. Mother bird, how do we give our children wings and survive? I hear your beautiful song. I want my song to be beautiful too. Clearly sounds of pain and pride, of laughter. Of love. That is our song.
The apple stands alone
All that it needs to be complete
A package of flavor, health, snappiness
Makes me wonder about the Granny for whom this apple was named.
Bet she was spry, clever, industrious
Surrounded by a fresh glowing green aura
A granny anyone would be proud to name and claim
Fresh tongued and crispy witted
Salt of the Earth
(with a little pepper too)
Monday, May 18, 2009
Everything I Need to Know I’m Learning From my Garden
This weekend the weather was gorgeous. It’s so much easier to get up on weekends at 5:30 when the sun shines through the window and the birds begin their symphony. Much easier than on weekdays. Go figure. I didn’t blog over the weekend because I was pooped. And sore. I worked on my yard. I didn’t have my I-pod on. I was listening to my brain instead. I couldn’t help it: I got philosophical about working with the garden as a metaphor for life.
As I was ripping out all the Lily Turf I had installed with the landscaping project it brought up frustration with myself. When I saw the plans the landscape consultant had come up with my gut reaction to the grasses was “hm. This isn’t really what I would have come up with. Ornamental grasses are not what comes to mind for an English Cottage Garden.” But I didn’t say anything then. Then when the installation happened I was disappointed. I looked at those grasses and I thought “I don’t like these” as I said to the landscaper “this is beautiful. I’m so happy. Thank you!”
The grasses looked especially bad after this winter. The shorter/smaller ones in the back yard were all dead (the ones in the front survived…I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad). I called the landscaper to report this. She said that this was a very harsh winter and several species did not survive and that while they didn’t replace plants for weather reasons she could get me replacements at cost and we could plant them together (i.e. she would have to pay her crew if they replanted them). That night I just ripped out all the dead ones and didn’t follow up with her. Because honestly, why would I replace them with more of the same that I didn’t like in the first place.
So last weekend I gave a hair cut to all the remaining Lily Turf to see if that would help them look better after their winter mange. The whole time I was clipping I knew that it wouldn’t help. I would not like the plants for my garden: not even with a Jean Juarez styling! I was kicking myself: about the plants, but also about the way I live my life. I hold back on my opinions. I don’t always trust my opinions. Which is stupid: they are my opinions. Opinions are not right or wrong. So why do I defer to others on what is “good for me”? Why do I have such a hard time saying “this is what I want” with any conviction?
On the other hand, I am a fixer. This weekend I started taking the Lily Turf out. What got me going was a trip to Flower World in Maltby. I had never been before but had heard great things about it from my friends who love to garden. So I decided to take a road trip to check it out. I was going to buy a new carpet rose to put in the corner of the bank that was looking a little empty since I took out the small decorative grass there that had died. Well, Flower World was like being at an all you can eat buffet and filling your plate so full that you can’t even consider the dessert bar which looks too good to be true. I had a cart full of shrubbery and perennials, enough to fill the back of the Mini (seats down) without even making it to the rose house. I selected shrubs with interesting color and leaf shape. I chose perennials that I missed from my old house (like fox glove and delphinium and stargazer lilies) and ones that reminded me of the village garden tour I went on in England a few years ago. I found the perennial geraniums that I loved there but had not been able to find here (they are not at all like the bright red, large waxy leafed annuals that are more common here). When I got home I placed them in their pots where I would plant them in the morning.
In the morning I rose early, before it got too hot, and after a nice walk with the dogs (I watched Mia for the weekend as well) I started planting. As I removed one Lily Turf after another to make way for the new plantings I began to see how much improved the overall garden looked with less Lily Turf. Pretty soon I just dug them all up and left them on a pile on the lower patio. It got to the point where I just didn’t want any of them there even if a new planting wasn’t going in.
And the analogies I made with my life are that:
-It’s hard to give up something without having something else to replace it. But once you finally start purging it feels so good, and then you just want to go there completely. In the end you end up with something much nicer than you had known possible. As in, it took me a long time to get up enough nerve to walk away from my former life, something that hadn’t seemed right for a very long time; after I had tried to convince myself that it was tolerable, and then trying to prune and fix up while knowing all along it would never be good for me. I finally got on to new and better things. Now I didn’t necessarily have great things at the time to replace what I was walking away from. It might have been easier if I had taken a lover to fill the empty spaces. At least in the short run.
-And weeding is something that doesn’t sound fun to do, like cleaning up one’s life. But the actual act of doing it is not near as bad as thinking about it. And the sense of gratification you get when doing it is actually good.
-Planting beautiful things, or trying new plants out to see what might survive, maybe going back to some old favorites that gave you satisfaction in the past: that’s a fun adventure.
-And as long as gardening makes you happy you don’t need to do it for anyone else but yourself. Though it’s OK to get a second opinion, as long as you do what’s best for you in the long run. And when people admire your garden it just feels really, really good, even if you primarily do it to please yourself.
-That it’s OK to make mistakes. It’s just plants. Try some new ones. If they survive they were meant to be. If they survive and you don’t end up liking them anyway, they don’t have to stay. You can rip them up and give them away. Or send them to the compost. A Darwin’s Garden (survival of the fittest) is a healthy garden.
-Some bugs are OK. Like lady bugs who eat bad bugs. And worms that aren’t too pretty but help with the soil. And if you have to resort to chemical means to keep things healthy then so be it. You aren’t a terrible person because you decide you need to use chemicals though consulting with a Master Gardener is a good idea. Just be careful how you use them.
-There’s a nice balance between order and variety. Too much of one and not enough of the other isn’t as nice as the sweet spot for the satisfying garden that has both.
-Consider many aspects for a pleasing result: color; scent; texture; contrast are all key considerations. If you focus on just one thing it doesn’t seem right in the end.
-Safety is a consideration: remove obstacles (like slippery, rotten stairs) that are likely to hurt you or anybody else who visits the garden.
-If a cat poops in your garden, hunt that cat down and kill it (or at least do all you can to discourage the cat from entering your garden). If you find cat poop where you are trying to work, take the shovel and fling it into the neighbors neglected yard.
-If your neighbor’s yard has gone to hell try to screen it and vigilantly keep up the weeding on the property line. On the other hand, it does have the affect of exaggerating how nice your own yard looks in contrast.
-Watering the garden may get monotonous but you can have the satisfaction of knowing that your efforts are keeping things alive. Don’t trust entirely that plans for watering in your absence will be carried out, but don’t let that fear of loss keep you from having your own adventures away from the garden. Realize anything lost can be replanted and will come back another year.
-Weeding is very important. The weeds grow three times as fast as the plants you are trying to nurture. That’s why they are considered weeds. It’s easier to keep up with the weeds if you make it a practice to do it regularly.
I could go on and on….and I guess I have. But really, it’s like the whole time I’m gardening I’m drawing parallels to what I’m doing in the garden and life. I’m not sure if this is better than listening to the I-pod. It’s certainly deeper and a little more “in the moment.” Hopefully at the end of the season I’ll be able to show you my beautiful garden (and life!)
Friday, May 15, 2009
Made brave by the beer already under my belt, I flirted with the ruddy bartender, hinting at the tip earning properties of multiple olives in my martini. Smitten with my own success, I savored each bite of my three-olive based dinner, trying to ignore the throat burning and mind numbing properties of the drink. Now this is what I call dinner…I’m just saying…
Wikipedia lists among the common connotations for brown: nature; earth; soil; skin; classicism; ancient philosophy; knowledge; maple leaf; chocolate; caramel and peace. I always thought peace was blue. Or, at the very least, green. I imagine a brown peace is only tentative or temporary. Complete peace is translucent: free of even color. The step beyond blue, or green. Brown peace is a heavier peace. One rooted in the muck and mud of the earth. Perhaps a peace borne of tolerance, rather than freedom.
Brown was the color of my husband’s thick hair, until it too turned prematurely white. His beautiful deep brown eyes surrounded by even thicker black/brown eyelashes, he got from his mother. Brown is now the color of betrayal and anguish. Brown is coming to peace with that. Brown is my tolerance and I embrace it. Brown is the thickening of skin that protects and mutes and is more real than black. It is not black and white for me. Brown and creamy white: that fits me better in almost all things.
Brown smells like chocolate. And mud. Earth. Nuts. And skin. Nothing synthetic smells like brown. Brown smells comfortable, like leather and tea bags. Brown is the suburbs. Or the forest. Not the green and yellow of the country, nor the black and red of the city.
Brown whispers to me in dreams, when the dreams are neither terror driven, nor untethered. Brown holds me and still lets me see. Brown is James Brown singing I Feel Good (I Got You) and it makes me smile because I Feel Good surrounded by brown. Brown is the color of wet wood and in the scent released from that wet wood. Brown is the undergrowth in the forest before the recent rain has forced growth. Brown is never rock hard: there is always some give when you hit it.
Brown is a paper bag filled with mystery; a package delivery company with good looking men in shorts; the color a banana shouldn’t turn; a recluse spider, poisonous and creepy; the nose of the boys that will break the glass ceiling.
One of the coolest things about brown is its chameleon like skills of appearing to change color based on what surrounds it. For example
The brown and orange disks of color are objectively identical, in identical gray surrounds, in this image; their perceived color categories depend on what white they are compared to. (Picture from Wikipedia)
Try to notice everything (and I mean everything including things and smells and textures and nouns as well as verbs) that are brown around you today.
Brown is not a story or poem yet. Just an idea. It’s too hard to pin down.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
When I had my yard redone last year, first and foremost on the planting plan was to have a scented garden. Jasmine (my home already had a large, well established bush on the front fence), gardenias, honeysuckle, sarcacocha ruscafolia (I don’t know about the spelling but isn’t that a fun one to say?), hyacinths and lilacs. The landscaper put in three lilac bushes. It didn’t dawn on me to specify the color of the lilacs desired. My favorites are the ones with darker reddish purple buds that open to a lighter, um…”lilac” color.
When the yard was all finished, all the little plants snuggled in with hopes of a flourishing future, I happened to ask what color the lilacs were that had been planted. They were pink. A light pink. The landscaper could tell by the way my face fell that that wasn’t what I had wanted. She did her best to convince me that these would be beautiful. And they hadn’t been able to find purple ones at that time. And that these were really healthy, nice looking bushes. I granted her that: they looked like they would be good bushes. But what’s the point of having a lilac bush if the flowers aren’t lilac in color? I told her I’d give it a season and would try to love them.
It didn’t work. The flowers didn’t look like lilacs to me. And (perhaps it was my imagination) they didn’t have the sweet smell of lilacs. So at the end of the summer I called the landscaper and told her that I really wanted lilac colored lilacs. I plan to have years with my garden. Each year it will get more and more shaped into the garden I always wanted. I put my sweat and soul into it. So I express what I want (this is a new skill I am learning). I want lilacs: the ones that smell sweet, remind me of my grandmother and delight me. I asked her to keep her eyes open. No rush (it was fall at the time after all). But please find some good replacements.
The replacement lilacs were put in within a few months. The new bushes were good looking. And this last week they provided me with my first bounty. Not yet full enough to cut armloads to share with friends, but for the first year they are showing good potential. When I harvest I like to leave a bounty on the bush as well. But I got enough for a lovely bouquet, supplemented with a variety of greens (and plums and yellows) from other garden bushes, some blue coral bells and a few white narcissuses. When I came home from work last night the lilac bouquet greeted me first with its scent, and second with its beauty. That’s what I’m talking about. I am content.
You brought them to me
A fist full of promises
Grandmother smiled from heaven
Scent me a message
Monday, May 11, 2009
Of course your prayers and God’s wonderful ways have shown up too. I’m not sure if I’ll get this communicated entirely right, but I believe the person at Children’s who agreed to do this assessment has told Jill that they have never done an assessment on someone as young as Natalie (or maybe as young and as greatly affected by CP as Natalie) and that it was highly unusual that they agreed to do it for Natalie on Friday. This woman told Jill that when the request came in front of her she was ready to just pass it over because of age, etc. But then she remembered Jill and Natalie from an assessment she did when Natalie was very young. I want to say under a year, but I’m not fully certain on that. If so, it was six or so years ago and surely this woman has seen hundreds, if not thousands of clients since that time, so it is huge that this woman remembered these two. The woman told Jill that something very strong was compelling her to do Natalie’s assessment. That she wasn’t entirely sure why it felt like she had to do it…just that she did. I call that a “God thing."
So let’s continue to pray that the request moves forward, that God will intervene and cause the insurance company to allow this wonderful young lady to have a voice, and that the needed funds will be provided.
Now this topic is not about me but it writing about it has brought me great joy and more understanding about why I write. I understand that the first message was passed along to many relatives and friends and friends of relatives and friends of friends. One group of readers opened up their wallets and donated money to go towards the computer. This is one of those occasions where God uses our gifts to do his work and maybe my writing is worth more than just the therapy I get from spewing my thoughts. The story was written because I am just so smitten with Natalie’s story, love her mom as fiercely as a good friend can, and want the world to know this little girl who has so much to say but, so far, no voice with which to say it
While the main reason for his being home this weekend was for a job interview (I’m not kidding myself that it was for Mother’s Day) we had a good times. He helped around the house between job interviews, doing homework, getting together with friends and attending to other family obligations (i.e. with the exes). We had a fun trip to Viet Wah market in Chinatown where we got fixings for a good dinner Saturday night when we dined with friends on the patio (yay, first official outdoor meal of the season). He had gone out earlier on Saturday to pick up a Mother’s day gift and card and surprised me with it before dinner. A lovely bamboo bowl, porcelain chopsticks and small Asian sauce plates (and a few Asian beers…I don’t want to know how he bought those since he isn’t quite 21 yet) which we used with dinner that night. We had a great time prepping in the kitchen and talking about the kitchen equipment and other furnishings he might need for next school year when he is moving out of the dorm and into a cottage near campus with a few other classmates. He also successfully beat out several other students for a paid job next year with the campus radio station where he currently has a weekly show. He’ll be supporting some of his room and board and is excited to do so. He’s liking some independence.
This summer he will be living at my place, working outside the home (hopefully), and doing some porch painting for me. It’s kind of nice to have someone who asks me when I get home from work (and genuinely cares) how my day was and what I did when I get home from work. It almost makes up for the monotony of having to think about meals and keeping the kitchen stocked. When home he actually does much of the dinner cooking. It’s just the “What are we having for dinner?” question that I have happily gotten used to not having to answer. We are heading off to a week together in Scotland mid-June, just after he’s out of school and before I head on to Italy for the big birthday celebration. I am really looking forward to this time together. We haven’t travelled much to fun places, just the two of us anyway, so this will be a new adventure.
So, being a mother and celebrating that is great. The bittersweet part is the fact that I no longer have my own mother around to honor on Mother’s Day. She’s been gone now for over 17 years. She will always be 59 years old to me, which means I’m only ten years younger than her now. How strange is that? How much stranger will it be when I am older than her? No roadmap to follow. It makes me too sad to write much about it here. I always miss her but Mother’s Day is an exceptionally tough one in this regard. The best gift she gave to me is my sister and through her I am able to keep my mother always present. God bless you Mom. Happy Mother’s Day from my heart to yours and to my wonderful sister.
PS: I meant to blog on May 7th a special birthday wish for my sister. My birthday greetings to her included: “… Happy Birthday my most precious sister. Alright, so I used to be miffed when you got a present on MY birthday, but now I realize that the bestest gift I ever got was YOU! I love you and can't wait to spend a whole week with you soon. It never matters where or when we get together. Every time is a gift. I love you HUGE….”
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Do you believe in love? Not the mother child, sister to sister, dear, dear friend, love of God kind of loves. But romantic, lifetime partner kind of love? I do believe in it because I have seen it. RARELY. There are very few couples that I know that share the kind of love that gives me hope, or even makes me want to be in relationship. And so, while sometimes I long for being in a committed relationship, most of the time I’m just relieved I am not!
I do however love to hear about when true romance happens and so today I am cautiously grinning. But here is a story I can tell. The fact that the story came from one of my boy crushes (see here) probably makes it all the more romantic. When I went to buy my Mini we spent a lot of time at the dealership. And R, my most wonderful salesman, mentioned that the dealership was closing down early the next day because a wedding was going to be held in the dealership. That’s right: a wedding in the dealership. He went on to explain that the couple getting married met in the waiting room of the service department. They had both brought their Mini’s in for annual service. Got to talking in the waiting room. Things went well and eventually they were engaged. And so they held their wedding at the Mini dealership. The thought of that just makes me smile. Hope it makes you smile too.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Over the last few years her world of communication was forwarded when she gained the ability to answer yes or no questions by following with her eyes her choice: no ( a closed left hand of the petitioner moving to the left) or yes (a hand with a Y in sign language moved to the right). That has been the extent of her ability to communicate. Several months ago Jill began working out an alphabet with her where she looked at different parts of Jill's body for a letter (L was leg, f was forehead, etc.) Natalie spelled full sentences right off the bat. She even told on her father and delighted in spelling a word she wasn't supposed to. Everyone knew she was sharp but at six years old to be able to spell the way she was...well it just said a lot. But this kind of spelling is laborious, not always easy to do and limited to just those people who know the alphabet and can spend time with her learning how to read her queues. In other words, it was pretty limited and frustrating. So these were her only forms of communication along with facial queues: a smile or a pout. Natalie is the living definition of what it means to be “trapped in one’s body.” Much like a stroke victim who is aware but can’t communicate. That is Natalie’s world. Her family, who loves and delights in her, live with the frustration of trying to figure out what Natalie is expressing. And the frustration that Natalie lives with of having things to say but no way to say them…well I cannot imagine it what that’s like for her.
Last Thursday, Jill, and her father Larry opened up the box containing the leased computer that will give Natalie her voice. This week is a trial, with an appointment on Friday at Children’s Hospital to determine the effectiveness of this tool for Natalie. The result of which will determine when insurance will help cover a bulk of the cost of this very expensive equipment (Over $20,000). What is a voice worth? This is like on of those American Express commercials: “A pound of butter: three dollars. A country club membership: then thousand dollars. The voice of a child: priceless.
Natalie is learning to move her eyes around the computer screen that, after calibrated, can detect where she is looking and what she is choosing. Then it puts the words together and she looks at a certain place and a voice strings together the words and phrases she has selected. OK, I was brave when doing this with her in person, but writing about it is making me cry. It’s overwhelming to know what this will mean to Natalie. To her mother and grandparents. To her brother. To the people whose lives she will touch. Her first sentences were “I want water.” Though she doesn’t drink orally, Jill provides water. And they smile at each other. Because, even though it’s a demand, it’s a message. And it is heard. When I was little I was fascinated with the story of Helen Keller (in fact I bought a book of her story to share with Natalie). Helen’s first communicated word was water.
Pray that the session on Friday goes well and the decision is to go ahead and get a computer covered for Natalie. Even with insurance coverage there will still be a balance to pay on a computer. Let’s use the power of prayer to reveal sources for that balance (grants, doners, etc.) to help give Natalie a voice.
PS I will post a picture I have of Natalie with her screen just as soon as I can get it off my camera. In the meantime, this is a picture of Natalie playing dress up with me. What a character!