Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Daughter, the Card

(Sound of back door opening)

ME: "Natalie? Where are you?"

HER: "I'm over here."

(sound of back door closing.)

ME: "What are you doing?"

HER: "Giving the kitty an outdoor recess."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday, Monday

It's happened again. Remember this? I couldn't find the other entry, but it happened TWICE, in two short years. Time number three happened last Friday. I cannot believe my coffeepot is broken....AGAIN!!!

Anyway. Finals week this week. I'm studying madly and also, knitting. Too bad I'm not enrolled in a college class called, "Hand-knit hats" because I'd be doing very, very well in it.

Did you take the American History test? It's more fun than a two-hour Swedish massage. Not buying it? It is more fun than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, but it also depends upon your feelings toward history. With that, I take my leave. I gots ta study sum more.

Friday, December 05, 2008

American History

Are you more knowledgeable than the average citizen? After being forwarded one of those ubiquitous internet quizzes, I found this one to be more substantial than most. Instead of discovering whether I was more like a cinnamon raisin bagel or sesame seed, this one is designed to discover how ignorant I am (or am not) to the construct and governance in my own country. More information here.

The quiz contains 33 questions designed to measure knowledge of America’s founding principles, political history, international relations, and market economy. Americans from all age groups, income brackets, and political ideologies fail the test of civic literacy.
  • Americans age 25 to 34 score an average of 46% on the exam; Americans age 65 and over score 46%.

  • Americans earning an annual income between $30,000 and $50,000 score an average of 46%; Americans earning over $100,000 score 55%.

  • Liberals score an average of 49%; conservatives score 48%.

  • Americans who go to church once a week score an average of 48%; Americans who never go to church score 50%.

The average score for all 2,508 Americans taking the following test was 49%; college educators scored 55%.

I know those are a lot of percentages and measures, but here is one more: I personally answered 26 out of 33 correctly — 78.79 %. It's a good thing I am in college, then. Can you do better?

TAKE THE QUIZ

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

There Are Advantages To Being An Adult, and Wisdom is One of Them

Regret is the other. HAHAHAHA! This is not a lament. I want to talk to those of you that are in high school right now. If you are older than that, disregard. You already know what I'm about to say.

My daughter is seven years old with her whole life ahead of her (a condition we all enjoy, actually). It is easy to look at someone so young and see possibilities that somehow didn't show themselves or that we missed when we were young. My wisdom, in advice form, is this:

Go to college when you are young. It doesn't matter that you don't know what you want to study, that you don't have the money, or other excuses. The truth is, college will never be cheaper than it is right now. Scholarships, grants and loans are available. If you want to go to college, don't let anything stand in your way. GO NOW. If you think it's hard now, wait until you are older, with kids, a job, a spouse, a house, pets, what else? Life is full of responsibilities, but make it a bit easier on yourself and don't put off college for tomorrow when you can go today. You won't regret it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Thirty Five

It's not official until 11:06 am, but, I'm thirty five.

Thirty-fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive.

My daughter is walking around in a tank top, long john pants, and ski boots. We may presume she is excited to go skiing. The fashionista wanted pancakes for breakfast, no! Scones! But that will have to wait until tomorrow. It's my birthday and I'll not cook if I want to.

My husband is taking me out for coffee this morning, after the ski bunny is off to school. I wonder if I should wear the big tiara or the small?*

That's all that's happened so far.


*I don't own a tiara, but I'm beginning to wonder why not.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Birthday Eve

Ce soir, j'ai trente-quatre ans. Mon anniversaire c'est 14 novembre.

This is what I did today:

1. Language lessons with OC. It's school before she goes to school. I am a waaaay fun mom.

2. Laundry. Hmm, you would think I would have a more glamourous day planned. Wait! It gets better.

3. Three mile run. Makes me sweaty and smelly, also muscle-y and hungry.

4. Ate breakfast: bagel with butter and honey, lotsa coffee.

5. Studied French.

6. Picked up OC from school.

7. Cooked vegetable rice dish with Swiss chard which turned rice purple. And, it was good.

8. French class.

9. Picked up OC's skis from GI Joe's. Girl is going to have a good season with her own used boots and skis. Mama will have to look away as she flies past trees which look to me as deathtraps, but to her are merely scenery on her way smoking her parents down the hill.

10. Home, to clean up after dinner. (???)

11. Salute to French wine with bottle of red. Excuse me, I mean, rouge.

Bon nuit!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Atomic Cocktail

Autumn is a welcome season when you've got a bee in your bonnet to roast something. I like to bake chicken or roast some beef and vegetables, but who wants to do that in the hot summer?

An added benefit is extra heat in the kitchen. "No, honey, I didn't turn on the heat. It's from the housewife's dream: the oven!"

Pardon me, I've just watched "Atomic Cafe" and I have 1950's-itis. It's a documentary made from film reels of the era put out from different sources. There are government information films, army training films, news reports, interviews....all kinds of things. The decade was that of the American dream, freedom and independence, but it was clouded by the real threat of nuclear attack during the Cold War. No wonder one man advises the public to stock their fallout shelters with tranquilizers! Non-narcotic, if you please, and about 100 for a family of four oughtta do.

Speaking of which, my history paper's due date was pushed back one week. Let's all put on our pearls and have a martini to celebrate, shall we?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One Expensive Book Club

Woe to my savings account: I think I could go to college forever!

I have always loved school. I was the pig-tailed girl who skipped to class, followed the rules for the classroom (except for that bullshit, no-talking one) and got started on homework as soon as I got home in the afternoon. I liked most subjects, except for diagramming sentences, which completely sucked the fun out of the English language.

The ten-year hiatus from college was, in hindsight, regrettable. The costs have only increased and I am not getting any younger. It is hard to find the time to get all of my studying done, with a house, two geriatric cats, a daughter, and a husband.

I heard a wise man say once that if a certain something wonderful had happened any earlier in his life, he knew he wouldn't have been ready for it. That "wise man" was my uncle, and the "certain something wonderful" was meeting his biological brothers for the first time after 50 years of not knowing his brothers existed. He told me that if it had happened any earlier in his life, he would likely have refused the offer to meet them. As it happened, he enjoyed a happy reunion with them and a particularly close relationship with my dad for two years before my dad died.

A little perspective is in order when we go around regretting things we did or did not do. I love the movie "Chasing Amy" because it is a reminder that choices we made in the past do not define us today, but they can stand for where we were at the time. Looking back serves as proof for how far we've progressed. We can leave them in the past and go on to be who we are supposed to be.

I am in college now, and that is what is important. I had a wonderful career as a graphic designer which is not necessarily over. I will go on to be a teacher one day, and I will have the chance to bring all of my experiences and skills together at what I trust to be the exact right time. In the meantime, I get to do something I love to do: read books and discuss them with interesting people. It's a hell of an expensive book club, but I am having a great time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Voulez-vous biore quelque chose?*

My French teacher begins class by asking, What is the date today? (Quel est la date aujourd'huit?) And, What is the day? (Quel est le jour?) I honestly don't know the date most of the time. Day, yes (I am not a pothead), but date as in, number, not necessarily.

I mark time by what is due in each class. Next Monday, for instance, I have a paper due in history class, then I get to go take an economics test. Tomorrow is a day off for Veteran's Day, which is how I know it will be November 11th. Which must mean that today is November 10th. I planned ahead and picked up some non-fiction dvds at the library for OC. Yes, I plan to plunk my kid in front of the tv for a good part of the morning so I can write in uninterrupted silence. So sue me, you litigious recalcitrant! Besides, the non-fiction aspect of the shows will be a learning experience. Neener, neener.

I mentioned that I've been driving more slowly in an effort to conserve gas. I might add that I stay in the right lane. This morning, I was in the right lane and flying down the road a steady, cruise-controlled speed of 59 mph when a car behind me flashed their lights as if to request to pass. I could have understood this and responded if I was in the left lane, but I was on a four-lane highway, squarely in the right, slower-vehicles-only lane.

(pause for emphasis)

There was a truck matching my speed in the left lane, and that truck clearly should have passed post haste. Inappropriate Lightflasher guy should have been doing so to the truck! I avoided road rage because I am all about level-headedness, but I did not adjust my speed. Eventually the truck passed and Inappropriate Lightflasher passed on the left.

When we arrived in Bend, Inappropriate Lightflasher turned into the SHOPPING MALL. I may not know the specific date each and every day, but I do know that Christmas is a good six weeks away. I could not understand the shopping emergency that necessitated such an insistent need to pass, and believe me, I can understand the concept of a shopping emergency with the best of them. I think I AM the best of them when it comes to a therapeutic retail experience. Just, could you get off my back about it? I was SO NOT IN YOUR WAY.

* Oui. Un verre du vin, s'il vous plait.

Friday, November 07, 2008

I Like School

It's an interesting time to be in a macroeconomics class. Even on a Friday afternoon, I want to go even when it's the only class and therefore the only reason I need to drive all the way to Bend (all 15 miles....whew!).

Everyday we listen to a lecture which follows the book, but inevitably the current economic situation comes up. I like having a professor to interpret certain news reports, government policy, because of the way he puts it into historical perspective. Sort of makes up for having to learn some pretty dry, technical material. I don't want to go into more detail here, because I fear stirring up some heartfelt controversy, or devolving into politics - blech - but I did want to mention it. There, I said it. I like economics! Not the current times, but in general.

Tonight is movie night. On deck is "Ice Princess" for OC, and "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" and "Russian Dolls" for moi. The last title is a foreign film, a follow up to the very good "L'auberge Espagnol" (The Spanish Apartment).

There's something about being in college as an adult. You are supposed to be more responsible, to know how to study, to get better grades. I definitely feel this pressure and most of it comes from myself, to myself. School takes up a large amount of time, and I really look forward to downtime now. I am failing at coming up with a neat ending to this post.....so.....have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Quickie

It has snowed. I left history class yesterday and walked out into it.

School is keeping me very busy. I love it, but there is so much to do. The last paper I wrote took forever because I fiddled with the format for so long before finally settling and getting it done.

The weather has me way into creation mode. It's cold, must...make...hats!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Exposition

I am still running a few days a week, but that's been easy with relatively mild weather. I wonder how long it will be before I find enough excuses to stay inside?

Being self-motivated is great, but it won't last. I'll have to find a friend to either run with, or to go on a hike with once a week to break up the routine. I hear Pilot Butte is quite the haul.

I love to run, but I don't love it enough to want to do it every day. There are too many books and movies to read and watch, and it all takes time. I want to stay in shape and fit into my clothes, and I want to be healthy. I also want to improve my Butte-to-Butte times, if you please, but there are no marathon plans in my future.

I went running today, a 26-minute tempo run. Tomorrow, I may hike at Smith Rock in the morning, or maybe go to Pilot Butte in Bend. I may not do either, as I have to get ready to attend a wedding out of town where my husband is in the wedding party, so we have to show up early for the rehearsal dinner. Oh, darn, that means I'll have to get new boots! Life is hard.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

These Are The Things That Row My Boat

My car has this feature to do with gas mileage. You can switch between viewing your current gas mileage, how many miles you have left to drive on the tank of gas, see the last average mpg you achieved, and one other that I can't remember. I usually use the setting to see how many miles I have left on the tank of gas, mostly because it doesn't shift crazily like the setting for current gas mileage. Although that's a fun one, too, because when you let off the gas and coast you can get 99 mpg until the readout shows ----. Score! Now, if only I could coast everywhere I had to go....no more gas price crisis!

I've been experimenting a bit. It might not even work, but I've been driving back and forth to Bend every day and I set my cruise control at about 2,000 rpms. That's usually about 54 - 57 mph. I like to watch the gauge go up as I drive. Last night, after I'd driven up that monster hill to the college, the gauge read 320 miles left on the tank. When I'd reached the parkway, I drove 45 mph until I got out of town and upped it to about 56 mph. I listened to French language cd's and by the time I reached Redmond, the gauge had climbed to 345 miles left on the tank.

I also like to return library books and then go home and log on to my account to see if they've been received.

I know. Fun, right?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bad Times

The Redmond Maui Wowi coffee shop has closed its doors. The Eugene classical music station is having their fundraiser this week and still needs to raise $30,000 by tomorrow evening. Parking at the COCC/OSU-Cascades campus is difficult because enrollment is off the charts. When economic times are hard, people tend to go to school. With all of these indicators, it's easy to see the times are really hard. It's not Great Depression hard, but still.

I listen to the classical music station because it's great music to read by since there is usually not a lot of talking. The exception is during pledge week when the announcers tell us sadly, and somewhat chidingly, that the phone lines are not ringing. I had to call earlier this week after an announcer kept saying this, so I guess it's a strategy that works. He'd play another music selection, then come back on air to talk about how much money they still needed, give the phone numbers, and then sadly report that no phones were ringing. He went on to say that volunteers were not eating the donated pastries because they felt bad that they weren't taking phone calls for pledges. It wasn't a box of homeless kittens, but it made me nearly as sad.

My school schedule is not too tough, except when things coincide. I've had a French quiz and an economics test back to back. Next week (I think) will be our comparative analysis papers in history class. I don't know exactly what that involves, but I'll find out soon enough. I keep waiting for people to point at me and say, "You don't belong in a 400-level class, you mere Associate's Degree-haver!" What is with me?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Or Maybe I'm Good For More Like, Two Posts Per Week

Next month I will have to check a new box, the one that says 35-40. Obviously this means I can't stay up past 10 pm anymore. That would make me too hungry since I eat dinner at 4 pm. Anyway. While I wait for my AARP paperwork to arrive in the mail, please enjoy this video. May you also laugh off your ass.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

This Will Probably Give Away What You Are Getting For Christmas

I have been caught in a knitting frenzy these past couple of weeks. We had a day where the weather was cloudy and, I think, even rainy. That's all it took for me to get the cozy up for winter bug.

I learned to knit about three years ago, and I'm still a beginner. I can do a cable, but I've not done much with more advanced maneuvers. I could be farther along, but I have worked with one particular book in which the instructions were confusing. So confusing for my poor, algebra-filled head to comprehend. After getting stuck for weeks and weeks, I was able to get through my first non-scarf project: a hat for OC. From the same book, I wanted to make a mother's day present for my mom in one of the other hat patterns, but I got stuck. Again. It turned out to be an early September mother's day present by the time I finished.

But now! I have cracked the code of that stupid book. Let's just say a little graphic design goes a long way. For instance CAPITAL LETTERS and bold work wonders when you want to convey information in a comprehensive way. In lieu of either of those fancy tricks, a little line spacing can be wonderfully illuminating in separating lines of instruction for the reader. Or knitter. WHO KNEW???

I'm sick of this sun, sun, sun, hot, hot, hot, all the damn time. Today's clouds are a welcome relief. We might even get rain in the next two days! It is perfect for my latest obsession.

Monday, September 29, 2008

School Days

So, I'm back. I think I needed a little break from the daily blog entries. I'll be good for at least four per week. Hey, not that much happens in my life, folks!

Speaking of back, I'm also back in school. My schedule looks like this:

- French 101
- Economics 202
- History 473

It's going to be a challenge, especially that 400-level class.

Summer went by quickly. In August, my husband FINALLY turned 30 (I am five years older), and so I took him to Ashland and we saw a couple of plays and did some hiking.

Here is us on a beautiful hike up Grizzy Mountain east of Ashland:

Someday we'll look back on this picture and I will ask, "Remember that hot day in southern Oregon when we went on that lovely hike through the woods?" And he will say, "No." That is why I blog.

This is the gorgeous view of the valley on that hot day, as pointed out by the Birthday Boy, Formerly Known as Merriwether Lewis:


The plays we saw were good. "Our Town" wasn't what I expected, was kind of slow, but I'm glad I've seen this classic American play. "Coriolanus" was thrilling and well done. Husband liked it a lot and that was good because it was his birthday present.

Au revoir, mes amis.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Spontaneous Adventure

My husband's middle brother likes to climb mountains. He has climbed most of the mountains in Colorado, and a smattering in New Mexico, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon. Last year, he climbed Mt. McKinley. The year before that it was a part of the Andes in Venezuela, and this summer he was on parts of the Alps. So yeah, serious mountain man. He is visiting us this week and planned to climb Mt. Washington - in the Cascade range - but a thunderstorm proved too dangerous. Instead, he took us to a rock climbing gym in Bend. I didn't climb, but my daughter did. Observe:


She's seven, and she has no fear. I remember the time when I had no fear. I was young, and I climbed trees with abandon, rode a three-wheeler up the face of a very large sand dune at the South Jetty, and screamed with delight at Montezuma's Revenge, the ride, at Knott's Berry Farm.


That's my baby up there! Those long, lean legs used to be chubby thighs upon which I snacked. Oh, she was a delicious baby.

Once I had a child, I fear all kinds of potential accidents: skiing into trees, carnival rides which jump their tracks, Bisphenol-A in water bottles. And that is all well and good. I am a mother, after all. I can't be reckless and for good reason. Now, I love with a kind of recklessness and protect my daughter with all the energy I used to exert on an adrenaline rush. It's nature at work.


I couldn't believe how quickly she took to it, and how high she climbed. After two hours, she was not ready to go home.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summer, So Far

I mentioned more than once that I have pictures, then I post nothing but words, words, words. My camera's memory card filled up and I was forced to download them in order to clear up space to record more precious moments. And now, for your viewing pleasure........

A stepping stone which OC helped me paint...


Colorful...

OC rescued a dragonfly from drowning in our wading pool. The dragonfly needed some time to catch his (or her) breath, and so hung out on the rescuer's hand for about 10 minutes, allowing me to capture the moment in a half dozen shots...


OC explains the dramatic moment of the life-saving operation.


A close-up on our subject.



No wonder my memory card filled so quickly! How many shots of a dragonfly does one need? There are more that weren't posted. But, this is a pretty cool looking dragonfly.

And finally, we get to summer camp. OC spent a week in the Cascades where, among other things, she rode a BMX bike, canoed in a lake, shot a bow and arrow, and rode around on an inflatable banana behind a motorboat. Of course, I don't have photos of any of these activities, but I do have one of her camp counselor.


This is Melanie from New Zealand.

This is us on the way to camp:

Not one to waste time, husband brought his laptop in order to work out his raceway design. OC enjoys a classic Beverly Cleary story.

Not shown: Mommy, recovering from a 7-tequila sunrise hangover from girl's weekend. I'm just not as young as I used to be.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Summer Storm

A thunderstorm is passing through, and I'm listening to booms which are so loud they shake the house. The rain sounds lovely, smells wonderful.

I'm working on fixing a beaded necklace that I had half completed but the design was boring, the length all wrong. Summer has been on fast-forward and it's been a lot of fun, but, it feels good to take it slow for a bit.

We've been to two weeks of tennis lessons, four weeks of swimming lessons, a sleep-away camp in the Cascades, a week of "Alice in Wonderland" with the Missoula Children's theater; we've gone bike riding and running, and now I'm going to keel over. In a good way.

The slowdown will be short-lived: tomorrow we leave for mother/daughter weekend at the beach! I promise, pictures will show up soon. I have lots of 'em.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Of Summer Joys and Things That Crawl

The thing about hanging your wash outside to dry is, it comes back with a few bugs that have caught a free ride when it comes back inside. Yesterday, a pincher bug was sitting on my jewelry case taking a nap before I ferried it to the great outdoors.

I was thinking the other day about this summer, and comparing it to last summer when I realized: I am having a good time. Why, I wondered? I think it comes from knowing more people, feeling more comfortable in this place, and having a backup plan in emergencies. That was probably the hardest thing about moving someplace new and where we didn't know anyone. Who will be your "in case of emergency" contact? What about a babysitter I can trust? Who, outside my immediate household, can I cry in front of? These are important people to have in your life. These are the kinds of people who make you feel like you are a part of something, instead of on the periphery, an outsider.

So, yeah, things are much better this year.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Girlie Show

Last week was too taxing to post more than once. Or twice. Or whatever lame number I managed to eek out of the keyboard before I melted into multiple dentist appointments, calling the jury information number, and packing for both girl's weekend (me) and sleepaway camp (OC).

Woe is me.

I didn't know what to do with myself (watch) when (many) that (episodes) daughter (of) of (Sex) mine (and) went (the) to (City) camp (and) for (stuff) a week. I managed to keep myself busy.

(Also, running at Smith Rock. It was hot, hard, and fun. Ohhh, dirty!)

I have some great pictures from girl's weekend, including bare leg from the hot tub shots, mid-stride bee escapes, and posed group shots. (A little dirty.)

I've not gone away for good, just needed a little blog vacation.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Happy Birthday

My dad's 67th birthday would have been July 4th. I thought about him as I ran the Butte to Butte 10k that morning. It gets a little easier every day to remember.

We were in Eugene, and that was where he went to meet my then-six year old brother, who he would adopt. I remember how he said they went to the duck pond and talked, and Ric was such a sweet little kid, and how he knew he wanted to raise him after meeting him that day.

Things have settled down for me, living here. I am heading back to college in the fall and it feels really good to have a goal. I will accomplish something big with that and by taking control and doing something it makes me feel less lonely and lost. So over feeling those things.

Speaking of things being easier, running 6.2 miles was not so bad. Last year was our first year at it, and it felt hard. This year was a little easier. I shaved 11 minutes off last year's time, and OH was 8 minutes faster. That was pretty cool. Although we are nowhere near superfast runners, who gives a fat frog's fanny?

Oh, and while enjoying a local beer at the Steelhead Brewpub in downtown Eugene, we sat next to Sanya Richards. She was there with her fiance, NY Giants cornerback Aaron Ross. She is beautiful in person. I couldn't stop staring. I didn't know who she was except that she looked like one of the track athletes in town for the Olympic trials at Hayward Field. We went home and I saw her face on the cover of the sports page. The day before, she had won the 400 meter race with a record time of 49.89. She is already the American 400 meter record holder, and she is 23 years old.

This is the closest thing to a celebrity sighting I have had, except for when Charo was in line just ahead of me at LAX customs. I heard Sanya say when she ordered that she doesn't like guacamole or sour cream. OMG!

I wish I had known who she was, I could've gotten an autograph. I didn't want to ask for one without knowing who she was first, because that would've made me look stupid. Instead, I just stared at her until she turned to look at me, then I blogged about her food dislikes. That is way better.

Monday, June 30, 2008

In Summertime, When a Girl's Thoughts Turn To Track and Field

Obviously.

I watched the Olympic trials for track and field on tv Sunday night, held at Eugene's Hayward Field. A man broke the world record for the 100 meter dash - 9.68 seconds! But it won't count for the record books. Apparently there was "too much tailwind". He's going to the Olympics and that is well-deserved. These athletes are amazing, I am completely fascinated.

Since last Saturday's late night post, Sable has pooped in his litterbox and the stray cat howled once before going away. Ha!

I'm coping much better today. I want to say again, I know things are really quite good. These little annoyances are present in everybody's life, that's the way it goes.

On that note, it's in the upper 90's again today, and so I unveil my coping strategy: large pitcher of mojitos! Extra ice, extra mint, extra rum. Bon appetit, mes amis.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Having Much in Common With Camels

Outrageous circumstances catch our attention. Let's say that in one day, a woman's home burns down, she learns she has breast cancer, and someone steals her purse. If she loses her marbles, it's a highly understandable result to a dramatic situation. I am afraid that my own life does not warrant the same sympathy. Despite difficulty keeping my marbles in one basket the circumstances surrounding their rolling away are not dramatic in nature nor sweeping in extent.

No, my marbles are in danger of leaving me for more desirable residence due to a series of small yet constant annoyances all day, every day. The lack of drama is so low that if I ever were to lose my fragile sanity, I can hear people wonder aloud to each other that I seemed normal enough, but it sure didn't take much for her to turn cuckoo.

It could be one of a number of things to finally send me over the edge. The stray cat which arrives promptly at dark each evening to yowl in our yard at perfectly synchronized intervals which coincide with my attempts to fall asleep. He'll be quiet long enough for me to be on the doorstep of dreamland before he starts bellyaching again. Every night, the same thing.

We have three cats of our own. Because they cannot read I will tell you that Dakota is inarguably my favorite. He is my buddy, following me around nearly wherever I go until he gets bored with that. This is great, except when he follows me around wherever I go. Makes me think those statistics about most injuries happening in the home are because home is where we keep our pets.

We have Rum, a very independent cat except for her highly perceptive radar. She can decipher down to the second the moment Dakota loses interest in following me around, and she takes up the endeavor. I don't know what makes these cats think I don't enjoy a moment where I am not giving some living being some attention, but this is what they think.

There is my aged cat, Sable. I love that cat, but I don't like him very much. He has taken to refusing a clean litterbox for the kitchen floor each and every time he eliminates. True, this is not as bad as cleaning the carpet, it's the repetition that's killing me. That, and the fear of stepping in it. My kitchen is far from the homey place to pull up a chair and have a mug of coffee. It's full of land mines, and this has been going on for months.

During the years I worked full time, I dreamed of spending my days home with my daughter. Now that I am so lucky to be home with her, I can't help but wonder what was the big attraction? I kid. Of course I love it, but it is more complicated than that. It's hard and frustrating because kids are these wonderful little bundles of sweetness and love which are wrapped up with demands and needs. That's how they're supposed to be. It's just that sometimes my capacity to give dries up before the day is over.

I love my family, wouldn't trade them for any amount of money. BUT. Sometimes I think I would trade them for a studio apartment in some rainy city with a view. This would be the place where I only have to clean up after myself. I have taken to staying up later in the evenings. The summer is a season which is suited to this activity, but I have ulterior motives. One, I can avoid the stray cat/yowling-at-bedtime routine but the real reason is to have some time where NO ONE NEEDS ANYTHING FROM ME. Good god, I had no idea when I was wearing the fancy white dress that something as simple as time to one's self would become so important to me.

See what I mean? None of these things are terrible, dramatic, or would make anyone think "that woman is in danger of having a fit and possibly needs medication". And yet, there are times when I get SO MAD because of these stupid, annoying things simply because they DO NOT CEASE! My child is a funny, sweet girl who is thoughtful and helpful and completely deserving of more of my time and attention, or possibly a more capable mother. Everything I normally do - the finances, cooking, shopping, cleaning, and gardening is enough, but add to that the gas prices, hot weather, and cat problems, and it's not a question of one thing driving me nutso but rather how it all works together in one day to do it. The straw that broke the camel's back is a saying with particular resonance.

And so, here I sit, blogging away in the blissful quiet of the late evening in my home where everyone else has gone to bed. The stray cat was here, but left after I encouraged his doing so by throwing a coffee pot full of water his direction. Oh no, I spoke too soon. He's back. The washing machine is at work cleaning my running clothes for the morning. Sable may or may not have left a mess in the kitchen, but for now I don't care. Right now, I can do anything I want, and what I want to do is go check on my sleeping daughter, then go to bed and think about what fun things we might do together tomorrow as a happy family. The question I always come back around to is this: How much time do I need to recharge, so that I can be a reasonably happy, well-adjusted person for an entire day? I'll have to get back to you on that.

Friday, June 27, 2008

It Looks Like That Because It Is Like That

Ahhhh, summer. 70 degree temperatures, swimming lessons, stomach flu.

Not long ago, we were going to have a yard sale. We did, in fact, have a yard sale. Quite a large portion of our offerings went to new homes with families who could take better care of them than we could. OH and I spent the day resting between making exhausting sales, because the stomach flu was coming into our lives that day and would stay for the next four days or so.

There's nothing quite as wrong as chicken soup in the summer.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Who Knew Summer Could Be This Obnoxious

Summer as a kid seemed to last forever. As an adult, it is flying by. Just like every other season.

I tried not to overload the schedule, and so OC is only taking tennis lessons and swimming lessons every day, and gymnastics once per week. Ostensibly, this is because I want to "expose her to many activities", but it also could be that I want to "wear her out" so that she sleeps well. Quality parenting strikes again!

The most challenging thing in my life at the moment - thank everything good and holy - is to find time to go running in the morning. Obviously, OC can't go with me, unless she rides her bike. And guess what? Precious doesn't want to ride her bike! If I run, she wants to run, too. I don't blame her, it just makes life more interesting to have this kind of restriction. I've been going while she has her tennis lesson, but I have to fit in a couple of long runs (1 hour +) and the lesson is only an hour.

Believe me, I'm glad I have this problem. It could be worse.

Then there's our yard sale this weekend. I'm not quite ready but whatever, those things are crazy anyway. And guess what! This is the high desert, where there are 488 days of sunshine per year, and it's going to RAIN ON SATURDAY. Hello, irony.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Problems with Obvious Answers are My Specialty

Summer has arrived in the desert. The warm days mean a lot of water for anything you want to stay alive.

From the files of woe is me, the garden hoses are driving me nuts! They all have holes, leaks, or a joint where the hose has been cut and reattached. It's summer, right? Who doesn't want a nice cooling spray on a hot day? It sounds refreshing but what ends up happening is the water splashes onto the dirt and the dirt splatters onto my feet. I end up a dirty, wet mess. I need a new hose.

And finally, from the files of it's official, now I've gone crazy, we're having a yard sale this weekend. I am excited because of all the things that may be sold, but also, it's a lot of work. People will be here, judging my stuff and therefore, judging me.

The amazing part is that I've gotten OC to agree to part with a few things. We haven't finished going through her room yet, and so haven't done the beloved stuffed animals, but the progress has been painless so far. I told her that if she wants that stuffed bunny rabbit from Goody's, she's going to have to thin the herd at home first.

Friday, June 13, 2008

How Quickly the Mighty Fall

It's the first full day of summer vacation, and I'm thinking of calling the babysitter.

Parents of young children have a challenge when it comes to the summer schedule. Older kids can stay home alone, or older siblings can watch the younger ones. Due to incredibly bad planning on my part, neither type of child exists in our household.

In preparation for the 10k I signed up to do again this year, I've got to keep up my running schedule. This is the challenge, to run four times per week while my young child is with me. This year, I'm prepared to reach out even more than I did last year. It doesn't hurt that I know more people now than I did last year.

Other parents are the great resource to parents of only children. God bless 'em.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Novel Idea

Today is the last day of first grade. I remember those last days of school throughout the years. They were exciting, but also a little sad. We lived five miles from town and I knew I wouldn't be seeing my friends for three months. My parents used to wonder why I was always on the phone!

OC had a good year. I'm so glad we switched classrooms, even with all the trouble that came with it. I am happy with her teacher for next year, no surprise. The school didn't want to upset the troublemaker. Sometimes a reputation is a good thing, I suppose.

Here's looking forward to an entire school year at the same school and with the same teacher.

I've been sitting here thinking what OC and I will do this afternoon and I think we'll go to the bookstore. We haven't been there in months, and OC's babysitter has a birthday coming up. She (babysitter) likes to write, so I've been thinking of getting her a book of essays and some kind of reference book, such as a style manual. I like the Elements of Style by Will Strunk.

Party on, dudes.

Monday, June 09, 2008

D-U-N

Math is over! The final was last night. True to form, the test contained a major error on one of the problems, exceptions because of material we didn't cover, and interruptions during the test. The entire class went like that, a sad reality of what was possible from an instructor who obviously knew her material but who lacked organization and focus.

Speaking of focus, mine has been divided for the past few months between math and listening to French language audio cds. I will begin formal French classes in the fall, but I am so old I figured that getting a jump on the language would be a grand idea. Listening to the language is great, but I need to see the words in order to know what I am saying. French in particular is one of those languages with words that do not necessarily look like they sound. Un mystère!

What will I do with my time without homework due and tests to study for? Possibly read one of my dwindling stack of 44 library books. That, to make my mom sigh at my pathetic use of the library when Amazon will ship things! Right to my door!

Actually, I do have work to do. My husband needs to put together marketing packets to send out. Graphic design work will be a welcome change of pace.

Next week, French II! Should I be that excited about it? It's getting hard.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sunshine and Lollipops

I have a math final next Monday. Eek! To counteract, I found out that officially, I do not need any more math to get my degree.

Whee!!!

Today has me back to my glamourous real life. My geriatric kitty cat, Sable, the most beautiful kitty cat in the whole wide world, smells like pee.

I have sympathy for his plight. His eyesight isn't the best, and he has idiopathic neuropathy which means he stumbles around like a frat boy at the end of pledge week. After he pees, he often steps in it.

Because his other faculties have degraded, his sense of smell has taken on bionic properties and he refuses to use the litter box unless it has been treated like a hazmat cleanup site. My bottle of Bac Out is never far out of reach and that does the trick, unless I don't get to it before His Majesty has to go again. He will pee in the box, get out, and minutes later he'll poop on the floor.

I stuck him in the bath tub this morning and wouldn't you know it, he purred. I mean, he was pissed and all, but now he's in my lap, wrapped up in a towel, purring. I think he knows that the bath makes him smell better. Plus, it's further proof that I am his inferior.

What a magical post! I hope your day is pet accident-free.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Boundaries

I found a new one for this blog.

I had a bad day last week, and because of it I had some things to say which I expressed here, publicly. I am not the first blogger to run up against the question, what do I write, and what do I leave out? There is the fact that this is a personal journal, but it is not private. Because of that, I have to respect other people's feelings when it comes to their wishes about what remains private about them.

I will say that I am proud of my husband, he's a hard worker and deserves a lot of recognition for his dedication. He is supportive of me and he cares about his family.

I had a bad day. They come, they go. It's time to move on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No Answers

Thank you for all your comments on the last post. Mom's not a bad writer, huh?

In a "Sex and the City" episode from either the fifth or sixth season, Miranda was told by her law firm partner that she was slacking off at work. They were concerned that she had been late a few times. She said she was committed to her job, it was home that she was failing at.

When Miranda said she was failing at home, I knew exactly what she meant. It was during my brother's illness that I had those feelings of inadequacy about EVERYTHING I was doing. I had a new baby, a full-time job, and a three hour daily commute. I was doing well at absolutely NOTHING.

There was the sense of absolute spiralling out of control when Ric was diagnosed, then spent the next 11 months going from ICU to remission, to death. Time was fleeting during the hours when I worked and my daughter was in daycare, my parents and brother in the hospital, my then-husband unconcerned about changing what we could to make dealing with the family crisis easier. It was awful. I didn't have time for family because I was too busy driving a ridiculous amount of time every day, spending the entire day away from my baby.

I know. It sounded crazy, even while I was living it.

Despite my mom's orders to the contrary, I have guilt related to that time. When I watched that episode, I felt all of it again. What can I do about it now? Nothing. There's no point to feeling guilty, I know, but sometimes I still do feel guilty. And that's the lesson right there. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

When my dad died the year following my brother of the same godawful illness, I was still in the same situation of working, driving, and daycare. But not for long. A month after he died, I moved out and began my new life as a woman who does not want to live far away from family ever again.

Which is probably why my current situation is so questionable.

I'm trying to decide on a college major, but what I really want to do isn't available here. My husband mentions at least once a day how much he wants to have acreage so he can grow things. I am ready to stuff a pillow in his face if he says it one more time. We are here because of HIM. I live where I do not want to live, for him. What does he want from me? I struggle with resentment over living here. There. I've said it. The world may end now.

More messages, it seems, that I do not belong here. I wonder how long this will continue? I wonder how long I will do this to myself?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Echoes

My brother would've been forty years old last Wednesday. Instead, he died from Acute Myeloid Leukemia six years ago.

The following is an essay written by my mom about my brother. She has agreed to let me share it here.


I held my son’s hand when he died that morning in May. His left hand. When I wrapped my own hands around it, his bruised fingers fluttered faintly and I felt his response. “It’s alright to let go now, Ric,” I whispered to him. “Don’t worry. We’ll be alright.” A ghost of a smile flitted across his face. I watched the muscles in his body, tautly held so long against the pain of the leukemia, release their tension. His labored breathing stopped, and I knew he was gone. I wept then, wept and held my son’s hand.

He turned thirty-four years old the day before he died. He had resolved he would not die on his birthday. It was his gift to me, as our birthdays were only days apart. The Gemini sign linked us, and together this day we shared a gift. From our home on the hill, we watched a rainbow dance over a green pasture. Then I saw my son’s face soften as he slowly scanned the room, turning his head to capture every corner. He looked at me, our eyes met, and I knew on a primal, gut level that somehow we would be alright. He grinned his familiar, lopsided grin and said, with a twinkle in his eyes, “There sure are a lot of people in the room, Mom.” Physically, he and I were the only ones there, but I felt what he saw. He would not be going alone when he left us.

* * * * *

I chose my son. He came into my life when he was ten years old. He’d been in protective custody and foster care for six years, and had scars to show from those places. We had three girls who wanted a brother, and since my husband had been adopted, it felt like a natural choice for us.

We fell in love with Ricky the first time we saw him. We knew he would be our son. This boy, with the horror stories to match the scars on his body, now reveled in his adoptive status. He knew he had been chosen. At last he had a real home. His joy was contagious. I felt my heart grow with him.

Two dozen years later, at his funeral, someone – gratefully, I cannot remember who – said to me, “At least he wasn’t your real son.” I was too numb to respond. I knew it was meant to be comforting, but “not my real son?” If he wasn’t real, what was he? Ricky was the son of my heart, as real to me as any child of my flesh. I knew for certain: he was real, and he was my son.

* * * * *

Three weeks earlier, in April, the doctors told us they had exhausted all treatment options. We were still numb from that news when Ric turned to me and asked, “Mom, will you ever be happy again?” I looked him squarely in the face and told him – for we had agreed months before we would be brutally honest with each other during this journey – that I could not see any possibility of being happy again. My son, this wise old soul, turned his distinctive hazel eyes with the golden flecks in them at me and calmly said, “My life won’t count for anything if you aren’t happy.” I had no words, for I could not lie to this boy, this man facing his own mortality far too soon. Happy? I wanted to rant and rave and break something, anything, to release my terror at the idea of life without him.

* * * * *

Life was never dull with Ricky. This lanky young boy with the bowl-cut brown hair delighted in telling me how he tricked his sisters by catching his farts in a metal Band-Aid can and getting the girls to open the lid. I remember when he broke his arm playing football, when he wrecked his bicycle and needed stitches, when his skin turned blue from playing in the cold Oregon surf, all the while insisting he was fine. I remember those times as a teenager when he grew so fast he couldn’t walk without tripping until his coordination skills caught up. The daunting amounts of food he could eat. The fear from learning he might be epileptic, and the relief when the doctor said it had been a mistake. How do you wrap your mind around your child’s terminal diagnosis?

* * * * *

We brought him home to care for him those last weeks. We set up a hospital bed in the living room, and Ric laughed that the bed was standard sized while he was not, and his feet hung over the edge. He laughed when I cried at the unfairness of it, the bureaucratic bungling. He laughed and reminded me of how I had spent hours massaging his feet in the hospital with what I thought was lotion, and one day a nurse asked why I was using liquid soap. He had the cleanest, slipperiest feet of anyone on the oncology ward, and now they were hanging over the end of the too-short bed.

Those weeks surprised me. I thought we would spend long hours talking about weighty matters, but what Ric wanted most was to watch one more NBA season finale. The Portland Trailblazer basketball franchise was only a few years younger than him, and he avidly supported his team. But the games were on satellite, and we only had a network antenna. I asked him, “You want to watch basketball???” “OK, Mom, here’s the deal,” he said, “The games give me something to hope for, and I’ve gotta have hope.” I called the satellite company. A man came and aimed a device at the sky and said there were too many trees and it couldn’t be done. Couldn’t be done? Couldn’t be done? I would cut down every tree on our property so my son would have hope. I had already heard “couldn’t be done” in the worst possible context, and this wasn’t it.
I would make it happen. I called my neighbor, a seventy year old retired logger. He quickly mobilized his heavy equipment: truck, loader, crane, crawler, winches, and chain saws. One sixty-foot tall Douglas fir tree fell, and the ground shook. No signal. He cut down another, then another, tears streaming down his face, until the satellite guy captured a signal and gave a thumbs-up. Ric had his basketball games. He’d felt the ground shake when the mighty trees fell. In his battle for hope, he knew there were other soldiers actively engaged with him.

One afternoon while Ric was resting the telephone rang. I answered it and a man’s voice said, “This is Bill Walton. Could I please speak with Ric?” Speechlessly I handed the phone to Ric. Bill Walton was the tall, red-headed center forward who had led the Trailblazers to their single World Championship against the Philadelphia 76’ers back in the glory days of 1977, when my little boy was nine years old. Bill Walton on my telephone? How had that miracle happened? I watched Ric’s face transform from tension into a loose, ear-splitting grin as he realized he was talking to his idol. Then he was asking me for a paper and pen, and wrote down Bill Walton’s cell phone number. When he hung up, he was still beaming. “Mom, Bill Walton said I could call him anytime, day or night. Bill Walton, Mom!” And my heart sang.

* * * * *

In the early stages of the adoption process, we took Ricky to visit friends. A local television celebrity lived next door, and casually dropped in to say hello. Ricky’s eyes got huge and his mouth dropped wide open. “You’re Ramblin’ Rod!” he shouted. Rod Anders, aka Rambling Rod, sat down with Ricky and told him all about his cartoon show, and invited him to be on it. Ricky told us the next day he would be the best son we could ever, ever have, if we would please, please adopt him. His joy, when we assured him he would be our son, was a tangible thing. It was his trademark. Like the time he laughed so hard on the Zipper ride at the County Fair that he swallowed his gum. When he stumbled across a skunk and got sprayed. The time he was home on a break from college, and my 6’4” son stood facing his 5’10” father, who looked up at him and said, “You’ve grown.” Without missing a beat, Ric poked his Dad in the belly and said, “So have you.” This boy – this man – lived joyfully. He wanted it to be his legacy. He had run his lap of life’s relay race, and was handing his baton to me. “My life won’t count for anything if you are not happy.”

* * * * *

In the hospital, Ric’s visitors had been limited because he could not risk catching an infection or cold. I knew my son had friends, but now I was learning how constant they were in staying connected. In these last weeks exposure no longer mattered, and on good days he held court. We carefully planned those brief hours when he would rally his energy to cheer his friends who came to cheer him. His room was filled with cards and photos, balloon bouquets, and banners scrawled with words and sketches. High school and college friends traveled hundreds of miles for a brief visit with Ric. They told stories, laughed and cried, and laughed.

Someone asked me during those weeks if it wouldn’t be easier to lose a child suddenly, in a car accident, rather than slowly to a devastating illness like leukemia. How do you answer an impossible question? Twenty years earlier I had sat with a friend whose son had died in a car accident the day before he was to leave for college. It was horrible. Are those my only choices? How about (c) never lose a child at all?

Time turned a precious commodity when its boundaries came into sharp focus. Once I had time to kill. Time on my hands. When it was Monday I yearned for Friday. When I was fifteen I longed to be twenty-one. Time had been like an artesian well, always there in abundance, a never-ending source. Now I scrambled to find the controls. Slow it down! Form a reservoir to store it up! Give me back the wasted bits and pieces!

We talked. As the days slipped past there was a point when Ric realized hope would not be enough, and we talked. As he fearlessly faced his own mortality, we talked freely about living, and dying, and what we thought came afterward. “Live your life joyfully, otherwise my life will have counted for nothing,” he said. I promised, even though I had no idea what that meant. I promised, because I still hoped to stop time and keep him with me.

* * * * *

At his funeral we were surprised at how many people attended. We hadn’t known Ric had so many friends. We invited them to share stories, and they showed me another side of my adult son: his loyalty to his friends. The time he walked a girl home after they got off work past midnight, to ensure her safety. She lived four miles away, in a remote area. He delivered her to her family, turned around and walked home. One man said Ric was the only friend he would ever let dance with his wife. Ric never forgot his foster care years, and counseled friends enduring their own tough times. He saved the lives of two people who had talked about suicide. The palpable elements of authenticity and joy, lived out in his own life, spoke to theirs and forever changed them. He had built a solid legacy. It wasn’t just words for him.

* * * * *

One afternoon during that last week, Ric’s girlfriend came to visit, and I slipped away to a mortuary to make plans. It was a surreal experience. He wanted a service that would celebrate his life. I wanted him to live. There was a lag time between his acceptance and mine, but I knew I could not let him down in his dying any more than I could in his living. The mortuary experience somehow brought his heart and mine into alignment.

I sat beside him that last night, holding his hand and talking to him. He was heavily sedated but never alone. My husband and I took turns, grabbing naps and keeping vigil. We were both with him when our well of time ran out. In the process of releasing his remains and preparing for his service, I thought the season of receiving any more gifts from Ric had passed, but I was wrong. His body went through the cremation process four days later, on my birthday. On Memorial Day.

* * * * *

When he was young his sisters called him “Ricky Ticky” and “Ricky Ricardo.” In middle school he shortened his name from “Ricky” to “Rick.” After college he shortened it again to “Ric.” I told him I liked it, but if he made any more changes, his options would be initials only, or lengthening it back to his given name, Richard. “OK, Mom, here’s the deal,” he said, “It’s just a name. I know who I am.”

* * * * *

Ric had been specific about where he wanted his ashes spread: the Oregon coast. Victoria, British Columbia. The San Juan Islands. A year after his death we met with some of his friends in Lincoln City, on the Oregon coast, to begin honoring his wishes. It was late May, cold and windy. There was a dark, heavy, low bank of clouds stretched across the horizon. Each friend had a vial of ashes, and we stood huddled together, quietly talking and waiting. There was speculation that Ric probably had something to do with the fact that the basketball season for the LA Lakers, Portland’s nemesis, was going badly. I checked my watch - 11:22 am. We had come exactly one year from his death. At that instant, a hole opened in the sky and a column of warm, sparkling sunlight descended, only on us, like a spotlight. “Ric’s here,” one of his friends said in a hushed voice. I could see my own awe reflected on the faces of the others. And echoing the cries of the gulls soaring overhead, I heard my son, laughing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Happiness Isn't Happiness Without a Violin-Playing Goat

Last week, I met author Dara Horn when she came to Bend to speak. I read her book, The World to Come, Deschutes County Library's selection for collective reading.

The plot is based on a real event - the heist of a million-dollar Chagall painting - broadened to imagine fictional characters to delve into the question, who would steal a painting from an art museum during a single's cocktail hour? The book contains other real persons and events from history, such as the writer Der Nister and the Russian pogroms, telling the story of art, life and death.

Think about what it means to say, "the world to come". You might think of the afterlife or heaven, depending on your beliefs. Another way to interpret the idea is the world to come in this life, from the decisions we make. Cheating on a test, who to marry, where to live, to go for a walk....all of those things affect our lives in one way or another.

Historical events, fleshed-out characters, and philosophical ideas, all wrapped up into one well-written book. My recommendation for you, should you choose to accept it, is to read The World to Come.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Bees Are Buzzing in the Trees

A lot can change in a month. Observe:

Front path, April 8, 2008...



Front path, May 15th, 2008...



The bees are buzzing in these, our flowering cherry trees. The blossoms only last for a couple of weeks. The constant wind means the petals don't stay long on the branches. When they fall it is like a pink snowstorm.


My dad became a beekeeper after he retired from his career in law enforcement. He called them (bees) his "girls", greeting them when he opened the top of the hive, always carefully replacing the lid so as not to squish any if he could help it.

I tried to catch a honeybee in action, but wasn't successful. Being busy as a bee is a serious kind of busy.



Honeybees are in trouble. When you realize how important they our in the food chain, it is startling to read the hives are dying, and no one knows why.

At one time, my dad was president of the Oregon Beekeepers Association. One of the things he did was work with researchers at Oregon State University to find out the latest information about threats to the health of honeybees. The worst thing at the time was a thing called the varroa mite, which could devastate a hive unless they were treated with medication. Of course, nature being the always-evolving process that it is, the mites could become resistant to the medication over time. This is a serious problem as hives succumb to an insidious pest. Wild honeybees virtually no longer exist. Something like 97% of wild bees have died, so the only reason we have them at all is thanks to beekeepers who work hard to keep them alive and thriving.

Beekeeping is fascinating. From time to time I would suit up and join dad when he smoked the bees to calm them before taking off the lid to work with them. At first, it's unnerving to be so close to all that buzzing, but once you realize they are not after you and could care less about your presence, it's fine. The bees are gentle little things who are focused on gathering nectar and pollen, fanning honey cells, guarding the hive entrance, and feeding the newly hatched young bees. In other words, they've got enough to do without worrying about your scaredy-cat self. Please.

The closest I came to getting a bee in the shot is here. The bee is the blur seen in the lower left-hand corner.



My dad had five years of retirement to enjoy his grandkids, and his bees, before he died suddenly from an infection while being treated for Leukemia. From him, we learned a lot about bees and beekeeping, so when the news reports began about colony collapse disorder we paid attention. This is serious, as it affects everything we eat.

Honeybees are part of the food chain. We wouldn't have fruit, nuts, and crops without their (and other insect's) pollination work. Check out the Haagen Dazs website to learn about the problem and see what you can do to help.

The University of California Davis and Pennsylvania
State University are both researching the problem.

Beekeepers do what they can to keep their hives alive and pollinate for farmers and fruit growers. How long this will last, no one knows.



And so, for my dad, I will do what I can to help the honeybees.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I don't know about you, but I get into ruts. It seems to happen during a long season of unchanged weather. Around here, a sunny day does not necessarily mean a warm day.

In the past week or two, I've gotten out of my routine and went outside to do some gardening. The grass and weeds invaded the flowerbeds and it doesn't look good. I have grand plans to build a rock wall across the front of the house, providing a wind, noise, and animal barrier between us and the street. For now, I must stick to the small projects. Accomplishing one thing inspires me to do more.

I didn't do any work yesterday. For one day, I can sit on the couch and watch "Sex and the City" in the middle of a sunny (but kinda chilly) spring afternoon and not feel guilty. That's my kind of present.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Non-Update Update

Don't feel like writing much. I received an extra writing assignment for a more newsy kind of article, plus my regular column is due next week. I have many ideas started, but nothing finished. Deadline: Monday. *gulp*

I'm off to the library to add to my collection of library books which sit around my house waiting to be read. Hey, at least I can read them if I wanted, because there they are.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Teach Now, Reap Later

OC is playing softball for the first time this spring. There are two games per week come snow, rain or shine, but no practices. She takes one gymnastics class per week for an hour. All of a sudden, we are going somewhere nearly every night. When I imagine if I had more kids, I don't know what I would do. Drink more heavily to numb the cold weather that is spring softball in central Oregon?

Which brings me to ask, what do you do to motivate your kids to do what they're supposed to do? I feel like the town crier, and a redundant one at that with as many times as I have to repeat myself to see any action. "Five o'clock! Time to tidy up!"

I wrote on notecards her chores, bedtime routine, and expectations and posted these on the fridge. The idea is to give her the power to complete what she needs to do each day without being asked multiple times. This way, I am not Taskmaster Mommy. If she chooses not to do them or to leave them incomplete, then we move on to the next paragraph.

I created a smiley-face/frowney-face reward/consequence system. For ten smiley-face stickers earned after completing everything for the morning and one for evening, she pulls a reward out of the reward jar. They are things like, a trip to the ice cream store or baking something special together. The consequence happens after only three frowney-faces, and are things like cleaning something.

What I want to know is, what are you doing to motivate your kids? Does it work? Kids are different and respond to different incentives. So far, this seems to be working. The down side to it is that it's something we have to do every day, twice per day.

The idea I don't like is giving a reward for what should be done normally every day. But then again, this is time to teach good habits.

Unlike SSRI's and a good bottle of wine, won't be necessary to use forever.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Dreams Are For Suckers. Allow Me To Introduce Myself...

There was a time when I had a recurring dream about an ex-boyfriend. Nothing erotic, mind you. In those dreams we would be somewhere together, the location was always changing but there we were, talking. For hours! This was very satisfying because it was something we didn't do, which I always wanted to do. After a dream like that I would wake up feeling fantastic.

Last night, the dream was about my dad, and the house where I grew up. My dad died five years ago, and the house was smashed by a tree two or three years ago. Talk about never being able to go home again.

The worst thing about losing someone you love is that the whole world doesn't stop with you. Jobs still need hours put into them, kids need your attention, bills need to be paid, etc. Everything else happens while you feel as though nothing can ever be accomplished again. Your job? Who cares! Your kid? Well, yes you take care of them as best you can. Bills? Who needs lights and heat when your life was just ripped apart and will never be the same and you can't hardly breathe much less get up, go to work, and write checks to the electric company! Those acts seems so meaningless in the face of human loss.

It's been five years. It's gotten a little easier, day by day, to resume normal activities and deal with the hurt from the loss(es) - my brother died the year previous to my dad's passing - and move forward so it doesn't hurt quite so acutely. Eventually, the hurt is not the first thing to knock you down when you wake up in the morning, but it's still there. It becomes manageable.

And then, one night my stupid brain goes off to LaLa Land then I have to feel as though it happened last week, and I can't even go out for coffee because I can't stop crying (yet) because now I'm thinking about my dad, brother AND grandfather. I think about how I'll never see them again, my husband will never meet them, and my daughter will never know them like I knew them and all of that is really, really hard to swallow.

The attitude I have about death, normally, is that it's not an ending. It's a beginning for another life, whatever that may be. These two successive nights of dreams have challenged my ability to be hopeful about the idea, and instead has sharpened the feeling of loss. Memories are a double-edged sword. On one side is this precious gift that can never be taken away by falling trees or blood cancers. On the other, they are sharp reminders of what was - and will never be again.

I've been okay with that for the last few years, but I'm not okay with that right now. I'm ready to have those dreams of unrequited love where Brad Pitt and my old boyfriend both reject me YET AGAIN, they don't even want to talk to me. Then, they walk off together into the sunset. That would be much more preferable to any other kind of dream, thank you very much.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

SSRI-Induced Dreams and Self-Reproach

In my dream last night, I went to my grandfather's funeral wearing only a bra and underwear. What's more, the open casket was viewed in an underground tunnel. It was already halfway through the service did I realize that it might be a tad bit disrespectful to be at a funeral dressed this way. I didn't mean to be disrespectful at all, especially to my beloved grandfather (who died in 1991, by the way, and to whose funeral I was fully clothed). What happened was, I was completely inept at choosing an outfit, and when I ran out of time, I didn't get dressed at all. It had everything to do with my failures and nothing to do with an outward expression of feeling to my grandfather.

What could it mean? I thought about that this morning as I walked back from taking OC to school. Could it be that I do the most horrendously inappropriate, hurtful things inadvertently, only realizing so after the fact? The results of which hurt others, sometimes irretrievably?

I have really got to pay more attention.

On this same walk back from school - it's only three blocks, but a lot can happen in a short time - I ran into a dad and his 2nd and 3rd grade daughters. They are our neighbors on the next block, and we run into one another quite a bit but we've never gotten our kids together. I don't exactly know why. He's a single dad, and I feel uncomfortable with that. Not in a judgy way, in a man-woman way. I don't know why that would be, but since I do inexplicable things I am considering all possibilities.

Anyway, he was nice enough to ask if OC could join his girls at the park sometime. OC would love that, so I said yes, and said how nice that was to invite her. My little only child will be delighted to play with others.

Two seconds later, a woman I met at a birthday party last week came running by with her jogging stroller to take her daughter to school. We exchanged hellos, and I felt the warm fuzzies that came from realizing I am getting to know people! Other parents, whose kids can play with my kid, and of whom I can ask advice and go for coffee. This is great. As long as I don't mess it up by leaving the house half-dressed. And so I says to myself, "Good luck with that."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Good News, Bad News

The good news: The "Sound of Music" is a great, timeless classic with a great story and full of wonderful songs. We all three watched it this weekend.

The bad news: Every one of those songs playing in a continuous loop in one's head after viewing the movie.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Anachronistic

I found a photo and realized I didn't post it back on St. Patrick's Day.


As you can see, we know how to party.

This was the view from my front door on April 8th.



The flowers are as confused as I am about all this.



It is snowing as I write this.



At least we have each other for warmth on wintery spring days.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I Can Read Your Mind

When is she going to stop talking about her cat, already? Does she have a life outside the feline realm? What about that reference to 78 library books, could that be true? If so, what are some of the titles? Would she be able to recommend anything?

Hi. I know I've talked quite a bit about my cats lately. What can I say, I am a fool for their unconditional love. I do have a life outside of the cats (no I don't), and it's filled with adventure (liar) and celebrities (librarians).

Yesterday morning was an adventure. OC didn't want to go to school, and that is highly irregular for her. She stayed home Wednesday because she felt sick, and I could tell she wasn't feeling well although it was rather nebulous. No vomiting, a slight fever (99 degrees) that lasted a few hours, that's it. She hydrated with water and juice, and ate well all day while soaking in daytime cartoons on PBS and "The Sound of Music". (Hey, every once in a while my Netflix includes titles other people in the family want to see. Get over the shock.) I couldn't see a reason to keep her home again yesterday. But, she was REALLY upset at the thought of going to school. She cried, insisted she was too sick, kept saying "no, I don't want to go, no..." But she had lots of energy and was crawling around on the floor playing, so I decided she had to go. There was no reason to keep her home.

It turned out she had anxiety over the possibility of throwing up at school, and that was what scared her the most. Her teacher assured her she could leave the room to go to the bathroom without asking in an emergency, and that if she felt she couldn't make the bathroom in time that she could use the garbage can. This reassurance seemed to help. I stayed in the classroom for about twenty minutes to make sure she was allright. She stayed at school all day without incident.

Kids!

I really felt for her. I felt like an ogre, taking her to school over her protests. I wondered if there was some other reason she didn't want to go, such as a schoolyard bully. There wasn't. Just some good old-fashioned anxiety, the same kind that mommy has.

Genetics!

I mentioned books. I am absorbed in the fantastic The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. From the back cover:

    Generally considered the first English sensation novel, The Woman in White features the remarkable heroine Marian Halcombe and her sleuthing partner, drawing master Walter Hartright, pitted against the diabolical team of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. A gripping tale of murder, intrigue, madness, and mistaken identity, Collins’s psychological thriller has never been out of print in the 140 years since its publication.

This highly readable classic, the existence of which I only recently discovered, I cannot recommend emphatically enough. If you have read it, please don't tell me how it ends as I am only about halfway through.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my cats want to sleep on a warm lap and I have a book to finish.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chickenlegs Fit for KFC Advertisements

The shininess of my upcoming jury duty may be wearing off. I know it is likely to be less an exciting adventure in civic procedures and more like a mind-numbing sojourn into the dark underbelly of citizenship duty, but what can I say? The offer of free wifi and lunch money buys my enthusiasm. It didn't hurt that I was already enthusiastic about the idea, hence the low incentive threshold.

I am resigned to the fact that my number probably won't get called, that I probably won't be a part of an interesting trial, that I will probably spend a lot of time for it to come to naught. Oh, well. Maybe I will finish one of my 63 library books. At least jury duty will keep me from going to the library and checking out more library books. I have a sickness.

As for Dakota, he is one fantastic-feeling kitten!


There is, however, something embarrassing about having your legs shaved, if you are a cat. Please ignore the lower section of the tote bag hanging from a doorknob which obscures the view. I need photography lessons, or something.


The bandages are from the I.V. In a strange coincidence, the vet outfitted him in the colors representing the Minnesota Vikings. That fits well with a certain someone (husband) football fan in this household, although I'm pretty sure Dakota is oblivious to the fact and cares not.


Sable barely noticed his absence and in fact, enjoyed not having to fight over the daily raw meat nugget. There was sniffing an "Oh! It's you!" moment upon his return because Sable has the memory of a goldfish and we love him for it.


He is healthy and happy, I can only imagine, to be rid of the plaque on his teeth and the fur mats which plagued his undercarriage.


Levels of indifference wax and wane, as if vollied between fluffy heads.




Welcome home, kola bear. We weren't the same without you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Rrrr Jrrr Watches a Movie or Two

I've recently discovered the delicious humor of "30 Rock". Rrrr Jrrr was my shout out to Tina Fey's awesome show. Do you watch that show? If you don't, you must rent season one immediately.

In other movie news, I watched "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio". Wow. I am grateful that I did not have to boil the diapers from 10 children on my stovetop like the main character. What an amazing woman!

My Great-Grandma Squeezie boiled the diapers from six children on a wood-fired stove on their farm in eastern rural (or, rrrr) Washington. My grandma, whose real name was Naomi and stood all of 4' 10" tall, butchered her own chickens and rabbits, and endured an alcoholic husband who beat the entire family. All I can say is, I can't imagine the kind of fortitude it took to survive, year after year. By the time I came along, long after the death of her husband, she was an always-smiling and laughing woman whose favorite thing to do was sew doll clothes. She used to give me all the pennies in her purse.

I imagine she was probably happy to go to the supermarket to buy packages of meat, and maybe most of all, to be WIDOWED! Anyway.

The woman in "Prize Winner" had an alcoholic husband, but what I liked about the movie was how it wasn't all so easy to categorize people as "good" or "bad". Obviously, theirs was a hard life and mostly due to the husband's drinking, but he wasn't so easily just the bad guy. He did horrible things, true; but behind those acts was fear, and because this was portrayed along with his mostly feeble attempts to try, he was also a sympathetic character. Kind of. This made the characters three-dimensional, and so made the movie interesting and real. The woman was not a saint, but she did have amazing fortitude. That's what made the movie so good.

"Twelve Angry Men" is not on my Netflix list, and perhaps this would best be saved after any possible duties of the juror kind?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Rrrr Jrrr....or, The Rural Juror

When I picked up the mail this morning, I tossed it onto the side table without looking at it. It wasn't until this evening when I noticed the envelope addressed to me from the Deschutes County Trial Court Administrator. I knew immediately that my civic dream had come true. I have been summoned for jury duty!!!

I know this is an unusual reaction. Most people groan and hate jury duty as it totally messes up an otherwise perfectly calculated daily schedule, usually involving some kind of work-in-exchange-for-money scheme. Not me. Why? A little math will help to illustrate.

Jurors earn a per diem of $10 for the first three days, $25 per day after that, plus $.20 per mile. THIS IS MORE THAN I EARN AT THE MOMENT. So, as you can see, during my two-week stint, if I need to report every day I have the potential to earn....let's see, $30 for the first three days....$50 for two days plus $125 for the entire second week. That's $195 for two weeks worth of civic duty, not including mileage. Plus, there is free wifi in the jury room, and jurors and would-be jurors are invited to bring their books and laptops!

I can write my column, post to my blog or read one of yours, or, read one of the 78 books checked out from the library in my name. Getting paid to do any of this will be considered my Christmas bonus at this point. Plus, courtroom intrigue!

I realize that I may not be called, much less chosen, or that if I do, it will likely be a small-yet-important case involving stolen tires or overdue library books. I don't care. I've wanted to be called for jury duty for as long as I can remember. Some people are just like this. (Or maybe it's just me.)

Cross your fingers I make the grand jury!

Friday, April 11, 2008

For the Love of Fluffernutters

Kittens. Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. Am I right? I believe I am.

Dakota must suffer numerous nicknames, some of which are Peaches Cheeks, Kola Nut, and Pooky Bear.

I have lived with these two furballs for 14 years. They have lived with me everywhere I have lived since moving out of my parent's house.

Sable sez, I am prettyer than u. Now, pet me now. Tanks!

They are not so much kittens and more 72-year old geriatrics.

Sable got sick last fall. Diarrhea, twice a day, mostly on the carpet. I took him to the vet three times in the last three months of last year. I went through four types of dry food before I found one that he both liked and agreed with his GI tract. I tried different types of wet food and cleaned up a lot of vomit before I found one that he could tolerate. I've given him two different antibiotics twice per day for weeks on end, and vitamin injections once per week. I switched the litter boxes from scoopable litter to shredded newspaper, which must be changed twice (or more) daily, and regularly washed with soap and water.

After a while, I moved their bedding into the kitchen and put up a toddler gate blocking access to the rest of the house (and carpet). I had to put both of them in the kitchen, as it was the only access to food, water and potty boxes.

The range of emotions I have experienced in that time having to do with that cat could furnish a theme park with enough roller coasters to satisfy the most discriminating 7th grader.

I don't know what I would do without those two cats. They have always been there, sometimes to the exclusion of people.


It's been a long haul for us. Sable is eating and pooping normally now, but he has aged a lot since his illness. At many low points points when he was sick, I was ready for him to die and put us all out of our misery. As soon as I had that thought, I felt bad about it. As tired as I became of cleaning up everpresent messes, I still loved him.

Dakota is quite healthy and even runs around a bit after using the litterbox before settling in to his 23-hour nap. He is the most personable of the two. He's the one who wanders around the house looking for me so we can snuggle, or just hang out with me. If I'm reading something, he finds a way to settle down right on top of the book, or in the middle of the newspapers which are spread out on the floor. When I'm sick, he wants to lay down on my stomach by way of letting me know that everything is going to be okay. He is so relaxed. One of my favorite things about him is his chilled out attitude. He is no scaredy-cat.

Sable is a scaredy-cat, but he's so pretty. He's solitary and happy to be on his own, except for a vigorous, once-daily petting and appreciation of his beauty.

I know it is near the end of their lives. In many ways I can't believe they've lived this long. I had a cat in my childhood who lived to be 12, and for some reason I thought these guys would die around the same age.

Yesterday, Dakota went to the vet for a dental cleaning. I had avoided it for two years because the anesthesia was pretty hard on him. However, I noticed one of his teeth had a problem, and I began to imagine a raging infection which would kill him. The vet was fantastic! She assured me of their up-to-date methods and techniques, of the gas anesthesia which is much easier on the system, and how much better he would feel without a toothache. His bloodwork came back very good for a 72-year old, and at this very moment I'm waiting for a phone call to hear how it went.

I'm not ready to lose them. I know it's crazy. After losing people several years ago, I know this is not the same thing. I know they're just stupid cats. The thing is, they are SO NOT just stupid cats. Everybody poops, and everybody dies. Knowing this is one thing, but it still feels bad. It's hard to lose a friend no matter what form those friends take.

I don't know how much longer we have together, so I find myself picking them up more often and, much to their chagrin, kissing their furry heads like it's our last day together. I can't help it.