Friday, December 21, 2007

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!





These are just too cool. This is earlier this morning when I went out to fill the bird feeders after two hours of shoveling snow (and there are a couple more inches since then). Not unlike the pictures from my blog post of last January: http://slcblues.blogspot.com/2007/01/ive-often-relied-on-kindness-of.html#links

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Bing Christmas

I have a Bing Crosby album with no fewer than four versions of Silent Night and two of White Christmas. And by the way, it's not Bing's movie "White Christmas" that is the sentimental favorite; it's his earlier movie "Holiday Inn".

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas Music

Photo: Becky, Christmas 1968

Today I had planned to put up the tree, but instead got the idea that my son and his wife might need a babysitter so they could go shopping. They did, and I ended up sitting instead of putting up the tree. Home again, I began to get that "bah humbug" feeling about the tree and wondered if I would skip it this year. Maybe I wouldn't even get the Christmas music out either. Silly thought. I no sooner thought that thought than I went looking for and pulled out all the Christmas music.

I can't remember how young I was when I started playing and singing Christmas songs. I'm sure I must have been very small as my grandpa Chamberlin had me singing all kinds of things at age three. And through all the ups and downs of my life, Christmas music has been a constant that I never stopped enjoying.

It's about being seven or eight years old and harmonizing with my older sister.

It's about my sister and I as pre-teens singing along at the piano and forcing our younger sisters to join in.

It's about our teen years and singing in Seminaires, double-mixed quartet, countless programs, and my first solo, O Holy Night, with the ward choir.

It's about mom's rule that the Christmas music didn't come out until after Halloween.

It's about my first year married and living in Dover, Delaware, where I bought my first piano for $25 at Spencer's flea market and auction. And with only $6 left between my husband and I until payday, I sat and played my new old piano and hoped not to lose it. An older, somewhat inebriated black man sat down at the bench with me and asked me to play Si-a-lent Night. I played, we both sang. And when he heard my dilemma, he found someone who would deliver my piano to my house for exactly $6. I wish I still had that old piano.

It's playing and singing those old favorite songs to my young children on my second piano (I still have that one).

It's about arranging and directing ward Christmas cantatas.

It's about playing the Sleigh Ride duet with my daughter every year--now on my third and final piano, my much-loved, black Yamaha grand.

I looked through all my old sheet music - I don't know how old some of it is. But it is part of my life and a small thing I do for myself every year. The events of the year do not stop this little annual celebration of mine.

Maybe I will put up that tree.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The kindness of strangers

Just as I was about halfway through with the driveway and ready for a break, up comes a truck with a man, four teen boys, a snowblower and shovels. They hopped out, finished the drive and did the walks in about 15 minutes. They would take no money but were quickly on their way to continue collecting food for a food drive. I tried to take a picture of them, but my camera wouldn't work - maybe it was cold as I had left it in the garage.

Well it was about 15 inches of very wet snow, slushy on the bottom - not the kind you can easily just push off the driveway, requires lifting and tossing. Thank goodness for those kind helpers today!

If this isn't nice, what is . . .

To awaken early on a Saturday morning to find 10 or so inches of new wet snow, and no place in particular you need to go, it just doesn't get lovelier than this. It's days like today that my Pollyanna spirit kicks in. The snow plows have the street cleared. The temp is just above freezing, so the streets should remain in good condition. In an hour or so I'll go out and start clearing the driveway and walks. But for right now I'll curl up with my coffee and crossword puzzle.
Oops, forgot to bring in my patio umbrella.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Lest we think life isn't fair

People love to say life isn't fair. I've said it myself. But truthfully, life hands everyone their fair share of problems to deal with. None of us is special - we just happen to have our own individualized set of problems. But life also gives us tremendous physical and emotional resources to call upon when needed. The key is to do that. I always try to get into what I call my "problem-solving" mode as soon as possible. Someone earlier in my life taught me to do that and it's a lesson well-learned. I try to teach it to my children and grandchildren at every opportunity. Today I'll will deal with a lawyer who has sent me a most unreasonable bill. I will learn something important about my health. And whatever the outcome of those, I will deal with it and continue to make choices and take actions that I believe are best for me. And in the meantime, I will finish work, get the snow tires on the car, get snow tires for Jenn, pick up Brittany, go for my walk, do a little housework. And maybe I'll start putting up some Christmas decorations. And then I'll get a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Shoveling Snow at Last

Only about two or three inches of wet snow, and it was pretty easy to clear, but it was a pleasure to be out in the cold crisp air again. The white layer covering trees, plants, benches -- so pretty. I'm sure the snow would have melted off the walks in the morning, but I cleared them on all three sides of the yard anyway. Maybe later in the winter I'll tire of it, but for now I'm enjoying it.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Full Moon over Antelope Island

If I had a decent camera, maybe I could capture the picture, both stunningly beautiful and yet eerie at the same time. Producing no light of its own, it reflects light coming from the as-yet-unseen sun this morning, bathing the ground in a bluish light and reflecting white patches on the water as it sinks closer to the lake.

I've seen this lovely sight so many times from my living room window. But this morning it is making me think about the complexities of my life and whether I'm making the right choices for the circumstances of my life. I keep thinking the words, "Simplify, simplify."

The house and yard come to mind. Too big. Too much for me to care for alone. And yet, if I move, I would lose this comforting view that gives me peace and strength. At some point I will have to consider another view.

Datiing comes to mind. Why am I dating? What am I looking for in a companion? I don't even know. I don't need to date just for the social aspect--I have girlfriends who offer ample opportunities for outings, activities, dinners, concerts. A male companion adds another dimension both of expectations as well as benefits. Still, I need to figure out what I want and stop just dating for the sake of keeping busy on the weekend.

My work comes to mind. So many people at my age are retiring. I feel somewhat tired of working and perhaps tired of doing such limited work in recent years. I love writing and that's all I do. But I'm finding it easy and not very challenging. And yet retirement and having nothing specific to do every day does not appeal to me. And the job pays the bills and helps provide future financial security. Retiring is not an option right now.

My age comes to mind. In one month I will be 60. Each decade point in my life has represented something of a turning point. Certainly this one is marked by my divorce. But maybe other things too, yet unnoticed. I have been dating men in their upper sixties, and am impressed with the physical and mental strengths they possess. It helps me face the sixties as another decade of potential and accomplishment for myself. Turning 60 gives me thoughts about the end of my life. But statistics say that's still a couple of decades away, barring accident or illness. So the key is for me to stay physically and mentally strong so life will continue to be of worth.

The sky gets lighter, and I can't stop looking, now fuzzy pink above and pale blue below, blending finally into a brownish haze near the horizon--the moon by contrast so sharply in focus, ensconced in that fuzzy purplish area, appearing so confident in a wishy-washy sky. A bit like me.

I've always said I've lived my life without regrets, despite many wrong choices and mistakes. But I've always managed to accept the life I've created for myself and remain optimistic and confident about the future. I still do. Still, I believe things will be changing this next year. I am getting prepared. Simplify, simplify.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

It's all about the memories

Once again it's Turkey day and I'm up to my elbows cooking. For a woman who's thoroughly tired of cooking, this is a real marathon. But I'm taking it slow and easy since we're not eating until the evening. I'm currently between the acini de pepe salad and sauteing the veggies for the stuffing. Jenn was ready to help and even came over yesterday to try, but she is so sick with the flu, I couldn't let her cook. She worries me.

I picked up Brittany after school yesterday and she was so excited so see all the preparations, she offered to help. So after her karate class, she came over and helped me make pies, and cube the bread for stuffing while I made the cranberry sauce. Just a week away from 13 years old, she was able to handle a lot of the pie recipes herself with just a little direction from grandma. I know these occasions are particularly important for grandma and granddaughter. She will remember making pies together and will make pies for her own family some day. And she'll use grandma's recipes as I'll be sure she has them all.

The food will be good, but I know people don't remember the food. They remember the occasion and what we did that was fun and special.

Well, enough break. Back to cooking. John Lennon is on the stereo to keep me company until people start arriving.

MENU:
Turkey
Salmon
Stuffing
Garlic mashed potatoes
Two types of gravy (one for vegetarians)
Candied yams
Homemade cranberry sauce
Acini de pepe fruit salad
Green beans
Homemade dinner rolls

Pumpkin pie
Cream cheese pie w/fruit

Cheese & crackers
Chips and salsa

Drinks: all sorts

UPDATE: Yams and stuffing are done and will go in the oven a half hour before dinner. I don't stuff the turkey as it's vegetarian stuffing. Kitchen is cleaned up first of two times before dinner. Now will start the rolls and get them rising. Then the turkey. Having a glass of wine now and the White Album on the stero. Feeling good about the dinner.

UPDATE2: Rolls are rising (raising?), turkey is roasting, salad is assembled. Now need to set the table and peel potatoes. Checked the football game - Detroit is behind in the 4th quarter. Brittany and I made a run to the store for more milk and flour as I was nearly out. Probably would have been okay, but better to be safe. Dinner's not for a few more hours, so might as well take a little break before tackling the table. Need to add all the extra leafs (leaves?). There will be 8 adults and 2 little ones. I think we have puh-lenty of food!

UPDATE3: Still live blogging the turkey dinner. Turkey is getting done. Needs to brown a little more. Potatoes are sitting in water ready to start cooking - five pounds of lovely little Yukon Golds - much more than we need. Roll dough is punched down and shaped into nice round shapes - 3 dozen+. Too many, I know. Table is set. Kitchen is cleaned up for the second time. Managed to do two crosswords, one cryptoquote, one jumble, and two sudokus in between all the work. Will get the gravies ready to go next. Things will come together fast now. This is when I appreciate my turkey roaster which frees up the oven for rolls, yams and stuffing. Peeling all those potatoes gave me a backache. Think I'll lie down for a few minutes and then off for the last sprint to dinnertime.

UPDATE-LAST: Success. The dinner was just perfect. Well, maybe too much garlic in the garlic potatoes; but at least we had both with and without, so we had a choice. Everyone took home plates and bowls of food, so I'm left with almost no leftovers. The dishwasher is doing its thing now and there are still some bowls and pans stacked in the sink. About 30 more minutes of cleanup remaining and I'll be done. Had fun. Sang some songs with Kevin. Played Scrabble with Jenn and Zach. I think I'll sleep well tonight. It's 9:30 now and it's been a long day. Have to work in the morning. So, I'll finish cleaning up, watch the news, and that will be the end of the turkey day. And this concludes live blogging.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Kindred Spirits

I have always loved reading and from way back had my favorites that I would re-read often. One of those in my adolescence was Anne of Green Gables. I was thinking about that awkward and sometimes ill-fated young girl recently. There are some beautiful lessons in that book that very possibly helped to shape my own views of the world -- including a feeling of optimism in times of difficulty. Though my concepts of a pre- or post-existence to this world are scant, I love her belief in "kindred spirits", people with whom you have an instant connection as if you've know them all your life -- or perhaps in another life. I feel sure there are kindred spirits in my life -- people whom I trust easily, with whom I share unspoken understanding, who give just the right amount of love and comfort when needed without coddling. Some of these kindred spirits go way back. Like my dear friend Celia, whom I've known for over 50 years. Some of these kindred spirits drift into our lives only briefly and drift out again.

I enjoy and appreciate all kinds of people and have very few personal conflicts with individuals. But I am well aware that once in awhile you meet a person who resonates with you somehow, and you feel a certain non-physical (so, therefore, spiritual?) connection with that person.

I read that women are sensitive to the subtle energies emanated by other people simply due to the fact that our bodies are so closely tied to the rhythms of the earth, the tides, the moon, making us more receptive to such energies. Maybe so, I don't know. I only know I have a sense sometimes of something more when I meet someone, and I go back to that kindred spirit idea. I am lucky to have such kindred spirits around me. They lend me strength and courage, comfort and kindness, and a feeliing of never being of alone.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Monday Morning

Well, I managed to finished planting all the bulbs after all. Things are nearly ready for winter now and I can start focusing on indoor projects. Spent a really lovely afternoon yesterday. Old friend, Pat and her husband, Mark, had an elegant wine and cheese at their beautiful home. It was relaxing and nice to have a chance to visit at length with new and old friends.

My body is still on daylight savings time. Just couldn't stay awake after 9 p.m., but woke up much too early. Played some guitar just for fun, and then played piano and finally felt like sleeping again.

I'll be working in the office this week. I have major problems with the new computer and it may require a total reformat of the hard drive. Ugh. Luckily I have everything backed up. Not so sure I'm liking Vista after all.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A near perfect Saturday

Well, after planting exactly 113 bulbs, I picked up ReNae for lunch. As we drove down the hill, a four-point buck crossed in front of us. We stopped and watched him until he wandered out of our view. We had a great lunch at Barbacoa and walked around the 9th and 9th neighborhood before heading home. THEN, I did something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I bought a beautiful, new acoustic guitar from Acoustic Music in Salt Lake. What a great shop and what a wonderful guitar is it. Then I visited the game store and picked up some games I've been wanting. Squeezed in some time to drop off at DI some clothes that are now two and three sizes too large. Recycled the newspapers. Then came home and played my guitar for an hour. My fingertips are numb, but what a pleasure. I was thinking of planting the remaining bulbs before sundown, but it's been a full day. Let's save something for tomorrow. I still have my walk ahead of me.

And could this weather be any better for a day in November?!

Planting Bulbs, Having Hope

Is there anything more hopeful that planting dry little orbs in the cold ground, expecting something really lovely to come of it months later? Today I will put 150 of the little things in the ground - oh, why did I buy so many?! Some new varieties I've never planted before. I remember the lovely color early this spring - until the deer enjoyed them too. So in hopes of a bright, cheerful spring, I'm putting these in the ground now. Spring is a long ways off. We will have winter and snow first--cold, holidays, shoveling the walks, warm firesides, friends and family close by. Life cycles on.

This morning listening to 50's oldies on Sirius radio on TV (sometimes listening is better that watching actual programs). They're playing such good tunes this morning, it's going to be hard to tear myself away and go outside. But those bulbs are not going to get themselves into the ground. Ah.

Update: 10:30 a.m. Finished 100 bulbs. Will save the rest for tomorrow. Heading out now for a little weekend fun.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Good-bye to my friend

Just when you start to feel a little steadier on your feet, life gives you a shove. It was fun having someone special in my life again after years of a truly terrible ordeal. But it wasn't meant to last, or it would have - lasted, that is. That's not to say I don't feel sad to see it end. But I'm smart enough to know that it was a rebound for both of us and there was not enough substance to sustain us. So I'm being pragmatic. But I'll go a little slower the next time around.

There ain't no good guys. There ain't no bad guys. There's only you and me, and we just disagree.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

When the truth is found to be lies

Why do people lie when the truth serves just as well? For some reason I never stop believing people are basically honest -- and then some people continue proving me wrong.

I'm assuming the divorce will, at last, be final this week. The delay has been ridiculous. But this week has been the end of a chapter in many ways. I finally met my ex's new love and we had a long conversation. I actually like this person in spite of myself. Not that I want to interact socially. And clearly my help is still needed to help my ex get back on track. I find myself in a strange situation even more so than in the past. But I will help.

I've neglected the yard too long, and I will return to that place of comfort this week and get it ready for winter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Beatles "Love"

Ron gave me a CD, The Beatles "Love". He knows I love the Beatles, but neither of us knew the background of the CD. So I listened and was completely enthralled. I immediately recognized it was some sort of remix of original recordings and not simply other recordings of the Fab Four songs. Ron had listened first and he commented to me how impressed he was with the "transitions". I thought he was mocking me for an earlier statement I had made wherein I had told him how songs in albums are arranged according to key transitions. But when I then listened, I realized what he meant. Perhaps the loveliest would be Gnik Nus moving into Something. Just try not to get goosebumps.

We went to Las Vegas for a conference last weekend where Ron had to give a presentation. Our stay was so short, there was no time for shows, but I saw that my Beatles album is a Cirque de Soleil show at the Mirage hotel. One day I will see that show, though at over $100 per seat, I'd better start saving now.

Ron left a huge collection of CDs for me to listen to, but I keep going back to Love. It is amazing to hear the mix of bass from one tune with the melody of another -- so apparent to a fan like me who has dissected the Beatles' music and listens to all the individual instruments and voices. It starts out with Because in simple a cappella, showcasing the perfect pitch and harmony of the group. It continues from one tune to the next, with variations not only in the mix of two or more tunes, but adding pauses, or bringing up the volume to accentuate a certain part more.

I finally read the booklet that accompanied the album and learned the idea was conceived by George Harrison and his friend, Guy Laliberte, the founder of Cirque de Soleil and fellow racing fan with George. They selected former Beatles arranger George Martin to produce the music. He brought on board his son, Giles Martin. Apple decided from the start that the music would be only from original recordings. The one exception ended up being an arrangement for strings by George Martin for Harrison's While My Guitar Gently Weeps. And it is truly special, I miss George when I hear it.

The album was finished first and then the Cirque de Soleil acts were developed around it. It is a work of genius, taking those wonderful old Beatles songs and weaving something totally new, fresh and intriguing,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Checking In

Busy is not the word for it. Between family events, work, the yard, and my new favorite friend, I've had no time for blogging. Right now I just want to get the yard ready for winter. I'm getting ready to tackle some indoor projects, but must finish up outside first. Still planting, hope to get more bulbs in in the coming weeks. Still waiting for the leaves to drop. I'll be back.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hurry - these won't last long

I made a trip to Cache Valley via the ever lovely Sardine Canyon on Saturday. At around 8:30 a.m. the canyon was so breathtakingly lovely, I could scarcely keep my eyes on the road. The mountainsides are literally awash in autumn colors.

This was before all the rain, and I don't know what effect that may have had now, but if you want a real autumn treat, take a little drive to Cache Valley. If you're smarter than I, you'll take a camera.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thyme Marches On

Stumbled across a sale of perennials, 3 plants (gallon-size) for $10. I picked up eight woolley thyme and one pink chintz thyme (I think). The pots were so full, they were easily divided into three plugs each. That's 30 starts for $30- excellent! I managed to place them all between my checkerboard-arranged patio tiles that cover part of my back yard. They will do fine there and will fill the blank spots between the tiles. I already have pink chintz elsewhere and just one year of growth can fill each spot. Perhaps eventually I'll remove the tiles and have a complete lawn of thyme, soft lush, low water required, and no mowing. We'll see. For now I'm happy just to have them in the ground.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Working From Home: Part Deux

I like this so far. People are keeping in touch just fine. I am getting a lot done. I am handling rush jobs okay. When I stopped for lunch around 12:30, I walked by my patio doors, and there was a doe just five feet away. She walked down the hill by my deck where she joined the other doe and two fawns eating apples that had fallen from the tree. Working is about working, I know. But it's so much more pleasant when you can enjoy a lovely interlude with wildlife visitors. I will keep the camera handy for future visits. These four are regulars now.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Title: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Author: Lisa See
Rating: *****

This author was recommended to me by two friends -- sisters and avid readers. It seems they actually liked another of the author's books even better, but this is the one I happened to pick up first.

The story itself is intriguing and entertaining indeed, as well as terribly tragic and sad. But I found the back story about the ancient Chinese practice of foot-binding to be fascinating. The story was told from the viewpoint of Chinese women who embraced the concept that their beauty and desireability to a man depended on the successful creation of "golden lilies" feet. The process was described in painful detail.

"As the eldest,I went first, and I was determined to show how brave I could be. Mama washed my feet and rubbed them with alum, to contract the tissue and limit the inevitable secretions of blood and pus. She cut my toenails as short as possible. During this time, my bandages were soaked so that when they dried on my skin, they would tighten even more. Next, Mama took one end of a bandage, placed it on my instep,then pulled it over my four smallest toes to begin the process of rolling them underneath my foot. From here she wrapped the bandage back around my heel. Another loop around the ankle helped to seure and stabilize the first two loops. The idea was to get my toes and heel to meet, creating the cleft, but leaving my big toe to walk on. Mama repeated these steps until the entire bandage was used. Aunt and Grandmother looked over her shoulder the entire time, making sure no wrinkles saw their way into those loops. Finally, Mama sewed the end tightly shut so the bindings would not loosen and I would not be able to work my foot free . . . by now growing daggers of pain were shooting from our feet up our legs."

This takes place when a girl is just six or seven years old. Bones are broken repeatedly and the bindings are adjusted to create the perfect lilies. The story goes on to describe life for the cultured Chinese women, doing embroidery confined most of the time to an upper room, having a husband selected for them, with very limited walking as a result of the foot deformities--and the sometimes tragic results of this practice. Apparently, Chinese men found especially erotic the cleft in the foot formed by the toes being bent back to meet the heel.

Lisa See weaves an entrancing story, beautifully written, with wonderful characters and scenes from Chinese history. Her book is well researched and is said to be quite accurate historically, though the characters themselves are fictional.

Just after I read this book, someone forwarded pictures to me that could very well have been the main character in the book in her later years. I don't know where the pictures are from or who to credit for them, but they speak for themselves.



Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Teleworking

As of today, I'm working from home full-time. A sudden and stunning development. But we are just out of space at the office and teleworking is a good option for some. Writers can certainly work just as well from home. Might get a little lonely, but I do like the environment. And we are connected electronically all day. And just think: no commute, no gas, no driving in snow, no lunch expense, no dress code -- today I worked in shorts and a t-shirt. I still have a small cube for when I need to be in the office for a meeting, etc., but small is fine with me. No problem. This will be a major change. May take a little getting used to.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day

It's the end of summer, time to get the yard ready for winter. Today we drove out to Farmington Bay and watched birds for awhile. Still too early for migrating flocks, but we saw a fabulous great blue heron, pelicans, Canada geese, a white-faced ibis, and a small bird we have tentatively identified as a grebe. The wetlands are peaceful. Hot today, but still so nice walking along the water's edge with someone special.
It's the end of some things and the start of some other things. The future is as uncertain as ever, but the present is lovely and it's enough.

It has taken five games, but I finally beat him at Scrabble. I think he let me win.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Two Bucks

At 7:30 a.m., getting a little watering done in the yard, I'm playing the piano and singing some tunes in between sips of coffee, when I see a deer crossing the street in front of my house. But this was not the doe nor fawns I've been seeing all summer. It was a 3-point buck. It wandered to my neighbor's front yard and joined its 4-point friend. They casually ate apples that had fallen on the ground, and passing drivers seemed not to notice nor even slow down to look. I had enough time to find my camera and batteries to snap a few shots (albeit through a window), but missed the 4-point and only got the two of them as they disappeared over the hill into the gully.

Every time I think about how much work it is to take care of my big yard and house, I am rewarded with some of nature's best surprises--it is all worthwhile.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Oooo, Baby, Baby

Tonight Celia, Pat and I saw Linda Ronstadt on concert at Symphony Hall. We started the evening early at Caffe Molise dining on the patio since the weather was so moderate, a live jazz band playing, great food, a little wine, and wonderful friends and conversation. We had a toast to best friends. It was hard to leave and make our way to the concert, but leave we did. And what a concert it was. She started out with one of my personal favorites, "What's New", from her Nelson Riddle days and then did half of the program from the Great American Songbook era, followed by her rock and roll hits: Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me; Ooo Baby, Baby, and others, ending with Blue Bayou, and an encore with Desperado. It was a perfect evening all the way around.

Tomorrow Celia and I are starting a mosaic project. Off to bed now as we are starting early in the morning.

I have to remember, I stashed some money to buy a new guitar. I miss my old acoustic guitar I gave to my son. I really need one. I wonder if I'll be able to remember the Linda Ronstadt tunes I used to do like Desperado and You're No Good. I have kept that money stashed for over a year in case I needed it for something else, but maybe the time has come to buy the guitar. I feel inspired after that concert.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

SKUNK!

What a lovely evening it started out to be. The sunset was all reds and golds, rain clouds gathered toward the east, occasional flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder. Too nice to spend indoors. Covered patios are made for this weather and I went outside to sit in the coolness of a light rain turned downpour and thought about recent events in my life.

I have met a man who has brought happiness back into my life. He meets my initial criteria of "nice", "intelligent", "playful", but he's so much more. He challenges me, he makes me think, he pampers me without suffocating. Our time spent together is fun and we don't ask much more of it right now. Both are awaiting divorces to be final - we know we're in the rebound zone. But he is in California attending his daughter's wedding, and I must admit I miss the company of my new, dear friend.

I sipped the beverage and looked out at the flashing lightning to the east, the waning sunset to the west, when a movement caught my eye at the edge of the patio. I looked. Just at the edge by the gutter downspout, where the deck meets the patio and the ground drops precipitously away, I thought I saw an animal in the dark. In less than a second I focused clearly on black with dual white stripes. I screamed, I told it to get out of here (I did!)! I gauged the distance from my comfy lounge chair to the back door, triangulated by the distance to the skunk. I hesitated no longer, made a run for the door, and then collapsed on the floor laughing at myself. I turned on the patio lights, but my visitor had gone.

What a lovely night this has been. If this isn't nice, what is!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Balance

Having a social life can interfere with taking care of the loves in my yard. Poor things. I'm taking a day off work today to take care of some neglected yard work. Then it's fun with my new friend this weekend. I'm so used to filling up my time with house and yard work, that I'm having to figure out how to balance all of that now so I can enjoy my new-found social life.

How nice it is to meet someone so nice, so kind, so intelligent. And he tells me he plays a mean game of Scrabble. We'll see about that . . .

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Mailbox Success

It thrills me to solve a problem that I don't necessarily have the skills for. When I took the mailbox off it's wood mount, I discovered more problems. Besides the fact the the wood was too wide, it was also being held in by what looked at first like a very large bolt, but by the time I got it out, turned out to be one of those huge 9-inch spikes we used to build our railroad tie walls. I was using the wrench at first and progress was slow until I noticed there were no threads on the thing. So I pried as far as I could with the claw hammer, and then just pulled and twisted from the top holding on with the wrench. It let loose and came out. With everything disassembled, it was a fairly easy matter to cut a new piece of wood to the proper length (I bought pine so the screws would go in more easily), attach it to the bottom of the mailbox, and then mount the whole thing to the post using the angle brackets I had already mounted to the post. That mailbox is not going anywhere now! Now I think I will go back to the store and get some new letters and numbers to identify the box. Whew it was hot out there. I'm going to cool down first.

The new white curtains I had ordered for my bedroom were delivered Friday, so I think I will hang those up this afternoon. I should mow and trim the lawn, but I may let that go for a couple of days and get more done indoors. There's always so much to do.

I met someone very nice on the internet. Just the right sort of person really. We are just getting acquainted for now. Maybe we will meet for coffee or something. I think I would like that.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Authority Figures

I'm trying to fix the mailbox. The mailman left me a note because it is loose and twists around (the passing schoolchildren have helped it along). So I found some angle brackets and screws and attempted to secure it to the post. However, the box is mounted on a piece of flat wood so hard it might as well be concrete. I could barely make a dent with the drill and screws. The post itself was nice and soft and didn't even require pilot holes. So it's more secure than it was but still wobbly. I put some shims in to stabilize it temporarily and I'll have to go get a new piece of wood to mount it on.

It's funny I am a little afraid of the mailman and his terse note threatening to cease delivery of my mail if the box isn't fixed in one day. He's a sort of authority figure, I guess. One of those people you don't necessarily respect, but realize they have power over a piece of your life and you'd better do what they ask. So I wrote a little note back to him pleading for a day or two to get a permanent fix made, and hopefully the temp fix will be okay until then. So when I finish watering the yard, I'll be off to Home Depot looking for a piece of wood.

The yard has rebounded from the hot, dry weather but has entered the late summer stage early. I tried to catch a hummingbird in this picture but was both too late and too soon. I love seeing the hummingbirds. The Russian Sage and Agastache are now the stars of the show. There will be more and more deadheading to do now and things will start to die down. I still have one more deep purple plant that will bloom a little later if the deer haven't already eaten the buds.

I saw the little fawn again this morning. I watched a long time as she nibbled around the edges of my across-the-street neighbor's lawn. When cars drove past, she'd become alert but would not run away. She is very tame and not very afraid of things that should scare her.

Sometimes I feel that way myself. I find myself trusting and not paying attention to potential dangers, but nevertheless feeling an instinct under the surface that maybe I should run. Ah, I am world weary today. I think a half day in the yard will suffice and then I'll go visit my parents and see if I can help them with their computer.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

I'm nothing if not flexible

Another change in plans. Just as I was ready to get the lawnmower out, here comes a storm. A lot of wind so far and about two drops of rain. Looked at the radar online and it looks like this cell dropped all its water on Tooele and Salt Lake and probably has little left for us -- just dust and wind. Oh well, the mowing will have to wait for another day. I'm going to the bookstore.

Change of Plans

I had planned to mow the lawn, fertilize, and then water this morning. However, the neighbors across the street are apparently having a yard sale and people have already started parking at my curb. Since mowing is a physical feat for me, I certainly don't want an audience. So I guess I'll move that project to this evening. That leaves my morning wide open for any other project I'd like. And even though I can't say it's what I'd like to do, I think I'll tackle the tall weeds on that upper level. It's high tiime.

I did manage to get all the flowers watered already, and startled a little fawn in my back yard. This was a tiny one, still with spots on her back. Oh so cute!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Breathe . . .

As sad as I felt yesterday, I still went outside and planted some new plants and worked around the yard. I have learned that hard physical work does wonders for one's mental health. And I can't allow myself to become depressed. Since I am the one person I depend on the most, I have to take care of myself.

My sister commented on my ability to cope and continue with work, home, and family responsibilities through this ordeal when many may have caved under the distressing and confusing circumstances. I told her part of what kept me going was the thought that this was an opportunity for me to show my adult children how you cope when life hands you a crisis. You don't fall apart, you walk bravely through the fire. Everyone must face difficult times in this life. If my sons and daughter and their spouses have gained strength themselves by watching me, if they are more prepared when they face their own serious trouble, then this effort was well worth it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Words

On a rare occasion, you read or hear something that takes you by surprise and so ruthlessly exposes your private, secret feelings, it literally takes your breath away. For the first time, I came very close to a meltdown at work when I read these words emailed to me by a friend and written by Valerie Hemmingway about her ex- (and now deceased) husband, Gregory (son of Ernest).

"I never had it in my heart to be angry with Greg, except momentarily, for he suffered far more than anyone I have known. So much of life passed him by because he was wallowing in despair, soaring with destructive mania, or discontented with the essence of his being. I remember back to that moment when he first left: the sadness, my feeling of abject failure, augmented by relief. . . . What an unbelievable luxury it was not to worry, not to fear, not to be threatened. In our final year together, life around Greg had become a prolonged nightmare. Now I could savor the simplest of pleasures. The ticking of a clock for comfort, the singing of a bird for joy, the taste of a raspberry fresh from the garden still bathed in dew. It was sheer happiness and it was infinite."

I know. And feel. Exactly. Every word. Exactly. Valerie and I both know. Except in my case the name was not Greg. I'm reluctant to admit the pain is still so strong, so near the surface. I manage to partition my life so well that I almost convince myself that this was not my experience at all. But it was.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Getting a Jump on the Weekend

Mowed the lawn tonight. I had planned to do it in the morning, but that would be tight what with having a hair appointment at 10 a.m. So I waited until a little after 8 and it was actually not bad at all. Temps in the high 80's, but my lawn was about two-thirds in the shade by then and the nearly setting sun was not blazing hot as it is when I usually cut the lawn. Took about 40 minutes, no resting required. Now I'm off to wash the car. This is great to knock off a few things from my To Do list before the weekend has even started. I have a lot of weeding and dead-heading of flowers to do after many hot days followed by rain, with me cowering inside.

It feels so good to be out in the yard again.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Rain, Glorious Rain!

Last night it rained really hard for more than a half hour, and then rained off and on for many hours after that. The ground got such a good soaking. Tonight, it rained for over an hour. It makes me so happy -- free water from the sky! Since I have to water with culinary water, my water bills can be very high, and rain, to me, is just like dollar bills falling from the sky. I've practiced tough love with my yard this year, only watering every other day despite the long dry, hot spell, and have managed to conserve water and save money. Most of my drought tolerant plants have come though well, though a little faded in color and some of the blooms a little smaller. The grass is the worst, getting yellow in spots. But I don't worry about the grass. It's hard to kill grass. But everything is perking up now and I bought three new cone flowers when I was at Smith's. Every time I go to Smith's, I look at the garden shop for a bargin plant or two and then stick them in the ground. They nearly all grow and do just great. I'm not normally much of a shopper -- except when it comes to plants for my yard.

Got the car in to the shop today to get the bearing fixed. The part won't be in until tomorrow, so I'm stuck at home without wheels. But it has been a pleasure watching this lovely rainstorm. What a precious thing is rain.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Trust

It's not whether or not to trust, but knowing WHOM you can trust.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

No time for car repairs

Had the wheels aligned and they said I have a loose bearing. Should be covered under the warranty, so need to take it to the dealer. Ugh. I hate car repairs as I hate being without my car. That was a week ago. How soon do I need to get it in? I don't know. But I'm just too busy. Simone's parents arrived from Brazil and I helped at the airport since S&S don't have enough room in their car. Had a great visit two evenings. Had to drive Steve to work twice as the Olds is kaput, and Simone needed the car. They are trying to find a van. Jeff spent one evening here installing Vista on my new computer. What a pain, I'd rather go back to XP. Picked up Jenn at the airport last night, then we had dinner and went to King's English for the Harry Potter party. Now I have today to get ready for my sisters brunch I'm having tomorrow. The house and yard have been neglected all week, so I'm way behind on my list of things to do. Are you kidding - take my car in to the shop this week?! I hope I can safely put it off for a few more days.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Wildlife

I could just copy and paste the words from my RedStateBlues blog from a year ago (click the "Wildlife" title, above, to link), talking about the visits to my yard by young deer and the hummingbirds. It's de ja vu all over again. Today it was two young deer casually walking through my back yard in the mid-morning. I caught one of them on my cell phone camera, but a little far away. After a day of 104-degree temps, the hummingbirds visited my agastache in the cooler evening. There is no need for hummingbird feeders if you just plant some lovely, water-wise agastache (hyssop). It comes in a variety of colors and looks pretty alongside Russian sage.

Workin' Out

Holy smokes! Mowing the lawn is still tough. I've lost a good bit of weight this summer and I attribute it almost entirely to lawn mowing on that steep hill of mine. I've started walking the stairs at work, too. With four floors in three connected buildings, we do a lot of walking. But I've relied on the elevators more than I should -- even going down one floor. Now that's just plain lazy. When I first started my job, I tried walking up to the 3rd floor every day, but the stairs on my end of the building are very steep and left me breathless at the top. Eventually, I gave up all the stairs just out of laziness, but I've started walking stairs again. One floor is easy, two floors are not bad from the lobby, so next I may just tackle those steep ones again. With some weight off, it is easier for sure.

I'm down two sizes, which is simply amazing to me. I'm not a fan of going to the gym, but my body appreciates a good workout like mowing the lawn, walking stairs, or even just walking for the sheer enjoyment of it. But now I need to take in the seams of some of my clothes. I bought a couple of things in this size, but I won't be here long, and don't want to buy a bunch of clothes that will soon be too big. I already have enough of those.

But, whew, that lawn mowing may be the death of me!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Once

Click the title above to see the trailer. I guess I'm responsible for suggesting this movie and I wonder if the other women enjoyed it as much as I did. We had planned to go to "Heaven", but somehow, we changed our plans. This is a movie about music with a little nearly-a-love-story on the side. The music is generation "Y" and may not please everyone.

One scene I particularly liked took place in a pub with ordinary people singing ballads and Irish tunes. I wish singing was more popular in the U.S. I love to sing, but people just don't do it. Although with this spate of new TV shows all about singing, maybe people will feel more comfortable singing. How great to sit in a pub and sing your favorite old tunes with your friends.

(Spoilers ahead - stop now if you plan to see the move)

The young man makes a living by day repairing vacuum cleaners and at night playing his guitar on the street -- a guitar played so hard and violently, his strumming has broken a hole through the wood. He meets a young women who needs her vacuum repaired and who also happens to play the piano. She doesn't own a piano, but she visits a music store for an hour each day where she is allowed to play. She plays a tune for the young man and he tells her it's lovely, did she write it? No, it's Mendelssohn. Then he plays a tune of his own, and she joins in with harmony and piano. A great sound.

He says to her,"It's in C." "I can see that," she says,looking at the placement of his fingers on the frets. It's 5/4 he says. There's no faking here. Both of these two are real musicians and singers, and while the music they play is not particularly complex, it is very fresh and new and appealing.

The story ends just as a story like this should. I'll not tell the ending. If you like little off-beat films about ordinary, likeable people, you'll enjoy this. I did. It's playing in Salt Lake at the Broadway Theatre.

------------------
July 5, 2007. The evening began with glass of wine and a tour of the charming home of Judy and Sydney in the Sugarhouse area. Words can't describe the impressive artwork throughout, creations of both Sydney and Judy. One of Judy's claims to fame is that she is the creator of the Trix rabbit (wabbit), back in her commercial artist days. Now she specializes in opera posters--my personal favorite was "cats in opera". Sydney, a Brit and a truly accomplished artist in several media and genres, served in WWII and piloted a landing craft on D-Day shuttling troops from ships to the beaches in Normandy. We watched a 20-minute documentary of the 50-year commemoration of D-Day, sprinkled throughout with original photos of the landing. Afterward, we gathered at Mr. Z's for dinner conveniently next door to our theatre.

Parenthood

I watched the Steve Martin classic "Parenthood" tonight on cable -- one of my all-time favorite movies. A cleaned up, no swearing version on WE, it left some of the scenes a bit hacked up, but my favorite was fully intact. It's grandma, near the end of the movie, telling how her late husband had taken her on a roller coaster when she was a young girl. She loved it. She couldn't believe how something could make her feel frightened, excited, and thrilled all at once. Some didn't like it, she said; they liked the merry-go-round. But it just goes round and round - nothing. You just have to love that grandma.

It reminded me of a conversation this morning as we talked about "getting through" this hot period. And I thought, why are we so anxious just to get through it? We'll soon enough to be in the opposite season wishing the same thing. Why not try to enjoy the moment?

Endurance. Enduring till the end. How about enjoying till the end? Enduring implies waiting until things get better. But every day offers something joyful, lovely, heartwarming, or downright funny. All of those describe my second favorite scene in Parenthood, when Rick Moranis sings "Close To You" in his wife's school classroom.

Someone recently said to me, end each day with a smile. Good advice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Still Tired

I thought I would start getting more sleep now things are mostly settled, but if anything, I'm sleeping less - mostly because I'm trying to get so much done every evening. I am resolving tonight to just go to bed no later than 11 whether I have everything done or not.

I've decided not to change my name. I've had this name half of my life, and it is the name I'm known by professionally. And I share this name with my daughter. Besides, none of the other names were right for me either. Too bad I can't be like Cher and have just one name -- Becky!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

It's gonna take some time this time

Reality sinks in. I'm feeling pretty sad, not for myself, but for him - still my husband but almost my ex. He looked so terrible, he's made suh a mess of his life, damaged his health. We've all tried to help him but no-one can. Today I realized something: I may divorce him, but I won't abandon him. When he reaches the point where he's too sick to take care of himself, and all his new 'friends' are long gone, there will be someone who will look after him. In fact, there are quite a few of us who still care about what happens to him. He never really knew who his best friends were. Tomorrow is our anniversary - 28 years.

I'm going to give myself some time to heal. There's plenty of time later for getting on with my life.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What's in a name?

The mediation was a complete success. We settled all issues with very little disagreement. I think the lawyers and mediator felt it was fair, I felt it was fair, but I sense my husband did not agree. But it was as close to a 50/50 split as you could come and still not require either person to write a check to the other.

Now I have decided to change my name. Considering my maiden name, Griffin, but also mom's maiden name Chamberlin, or grandma's maiden name Henderson. I'm asking opinions of family members. I'm sure mom and dad will think it weird. But I don't think I want to go back to my childhood name, I want to go forward to something new.

I have a few days to weigh this decision. I will have this name for the rest of my life, so I must think this through carefully.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The moment we've been waiting for

There's a time in the summer garden when the old blooms are just fading, the recent blooms are coming on strong, and the latest are just beginning. Today, July 1st, is that day. The entire garden is in full color. The agastache, nearly obscured by the Russian sage (which is getting too much water), is drawing in the little hummingbirds. Even in the dim light of sunrise, the blanket flower, bee balm, cone flower, coreopsis, speedwell, are so lovely. Back through the trees you can just make out the stalks of the glorious "garden variety" day lilies, putting on their best show. In the shade of a pine tree, even my newest deep red bee balm, planted after the heat began, is giving us a hint of next year's display.

Sadly, my hybrid day lilies have all been topped by the deer, both blooms and buds. In 28 years in this house, we've never had so much trouble with the deer. But the two new large houses in the gully across the way explain it for me. With the loss of all that lovely scrub oak, the deer seem almost desperate for food. Even without blooms, that day lily bed needs weeding, so off I go.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Everybody's got somebody to lean on

I was looking for some Roy Orbison on YouTube and ran across one of my favorites from the Traveling Wilburys. Isn't this great? When you just feel like crying, Roy Orbison is good company. But somehow, listening to the Wilburys cheers me up. I miss Roy. I miss George Harrison. Yes, that's Dylan and Tom Petty and that other guy whom I can never remember. I always imagine these guys, each wildly succcessful in their own right, getting this little band together just for the fun of it. They look like they are having fun. I didn't like them as well after Roy died. But do so like this album. Never tire of it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLipHoBSbJY

UPDATE: Disregard that last statement. I came back for another listen and discovered this great tune as well without Roy. Note the guitar in the empty rocking chair and the picture of Roy. A bit touching. (Later update, that's actually Roy singing when they show the rocking chair.)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewWyW6lT1HE&NR=1

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Be sure to notice it

In his 1997 book, "Timequake", Kurt Vonnegut says, "My uncle,Alex Vonnegut . . . taught me something very important. He said that when things were really going well we should be sure to notice it. He was talking about simple occasions, not great victories: maybe drinking lemonade on a hot afternoon in the shade, or smelling the aroma of a nearby bakery, or fishing and not caring if we catch anything or not, or hearing somebody all alone playing a piano really well in the house next door.

Uncle Alex urged me to say this out loud during such epiphanies: 'If this isn't nice, what is?'"

As I sat on my deck today in the cool breezes of morning before sunrise, getting some water on my yard, reviewing some legal documents, and drinking coffee, a little brown and white bunny unexpectedly hopped across the road to my neighbor's house across the street, nibbled a little grass there, and then moved on. We don't get bunnies or even wild rabbits here much. If this isn't nice, what is?

I walked around my yard to see all the new things blooming this week, my hybrid day lilies, some black-eyed susans, and my very favorite bee balm looking like little bursts of red fireworks. If this isn't nice, what is?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Things Fall Apart

Maybe it's just me, but things seem to be taking a turn for the worse. My lawyer is out of town and his paralegal not only couldn't find the documents I dropped off two months ago, he couldn't find my file at all. I think I made a very poor choice of lawyers.

Doug officially informed Jeff he had to be out of the townhouse by August 1st, so Jeff and Brittany will probably be moving in with me soon. Doug's verbal promise to sell him the townhouse is all off. So Doug is not just a bad person, he's officially evil now putting his stepson and granddaughter out of their home so his lazy, good-for-nothing niece can move in and live rent free, so he can stop supporting her since he is planning on getting married and setting up a new houshold soon. So many people have to be hurt for his caprices.

I called Doug's old friend Art and told him the situation--even details I share with very few people--and he was shocked. I don't want him to get involved or take sides, but I just wanted to ask some questions about when they were kids growing up together. He was helpful, kind, supportive, and understanding, and I'm so glad I called him. I wish I had done that months ago. Talking with him helped me get some clarity on a couple of issues. Art was Doug's friend first, but he has also been a good friend to me for a lot of years, and I shouldn't have hesitated to call him.

I can see I need to take charge of my legal case and do all I can myself to have my ducks in a row in the next week. I have a feeling things are not going to work out so well financially for me and I am very distressed about it. But I also want this to be ended once and for all. Sleep is elusive these days, so I think I'll vaccuum now and do some laundry. Eventually I'll be tired enough to fall asleep. TGIF in a half hour. I can get through another day of work and then it's the weekend.

I feel so sad. As I said, when I first started this blog:

When the truth is found to be lies
And all the joy within you dies

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Of all the things I've lost in my life, I miss my mind the most

Independence Day soon. Two weeks from today is the day after my mediation. My brain is officially on auto-pilot. I keep looking for documents I need and can't find. I think I already gave them to my lawyer, but surely I kept copies. I was on such a roll yesterday and got through all my responses to interrogs and prod of docs, but finding all the docs, that is becoming the challenge. I had a surprisingly productive day at work today, and even made a list of things to do tonight. I'm getting the watering done but nothing else. Ah well, in two weeks, one way or the other, I hope at least my mental faculties will return

Monday, June 18, 2007

Gophers


I didn't know what gophers looked like until I saw one - this morning. In fact, I didn't know at first what it was. It almost looked like a mouse, but a little bigger and with a funny face. We made eye contact, it looked at me, hesitated for a couple of seconds and then it appeared to dive into the dirt as if it were water. And it struck me, I was looking at one of those little pests that leave piles of sand where they burrow in my yard. I had expected something more like the size of a squirrel, judging from the ambitious burrowing they do. It's amazing to see how fast they can disappear into the ground. This guy will have to die. I do have some gopher bait and will have to use it. They are far to destructive to allow them to stay.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Good Saturday

It was an amazingly productive day. Started early watering, weeding -- the deer did more nibbling last night. Quit weeding when it got hot and then went back to it at 7 p.m. I can't believe how much I got done. Also planted some verbena in little pots for the bakers rack on the patio. Even managed to pay a visit to mom and dad in Ogden.

The picture below is from today. the one above is a week or so ago. The purple speedwell Royal Candle is gorgeous, you can almost see the blanket flower on the right that is also blooming its heart out right now, and the yellow coreopsis on the left. Also Russian Sage and some other things, but I'm excited about that bee balm in center front, it will be blooming soon.

I sprayed deer repellent on everything that's blooming. Hope that little devil goes and eats in someone else's yard tonight.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ratcheting up the stress levels

I have mediation in three weeks. I have more interrogatories and requests for documents to respond to by the end of June. I am noticing a loss of focus, always feeling distracted. Every mental task takes twice the effort. Sleeplessness at night, and then I keep falling asleep during the day. I'm forgetting to make lists that keep me on task. I realize these next three weeks will be about as tough as anything so far.

The other day while channel surfing, I saw this X-wives show. It was mostly silly and maudlin, but the life coach they had said one thing I know to be true: No-one is coming to rescue you.

Even with a lawyer on my side, supportive friends and family, too, I know the person who will ultimately get me through this, is me.

But imagine, if we get things settled on July 3rd, then July 4th truly will be independence day for me!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

Too slow with the camera

The sun was just setting when the dog went a bit crazy. I looked out the window and saw a young deer feasting on the sunflower seeds in my lowest bird feeder. Brazen hussy! In broad evening light, right next to a busy street with cars and noisy motorcycles flying by. She couldn't resist the tasty treat. This was surely the same youngster that ate the tops off of all my pansies a couple of nights ago. I sprayed deer repellent on the remaining blooms, and it seems to have deterred her.

I restrained myself from running outside and scaring her off. She was just doing what deer do. I had my camera right next to me when I got up to look out the windows, but unfortunately didn't take it with me, and didn't want to miss watching the deer - so no picture. Maybe next time. I think this young lady will be back.

The Jane Austen Book Club

Title: The Jane Austen BookClub
Author: Karen Joy Fowler
Rating: **

I love books about book groups. I saw this on best seller lists for some time and watched for it to be out in paperback. I finally picked up the book on the "Buy 2 get 1 free" table at Barnes and Noble. I must say all three books proved to be equally disappointing.

This was a story of a group of women and one man who formed a book group in order to read the complete works of Jane Austen. Now I like Jane Austen just fine for light reading, and as the story unfolded I thought maybe this author was writing a parody with her own one-dimensional characters and slow plot. But as the story progressed, I had the sad realization that what it was was simple mediocre writing. And the last straw was when she confused "affect" and "effect". Pg 160, "Being rich doesn't effect the wanting . . ." No writer worth her salt would do that.

The author tells the story in an omniscient voice most of the time; therefore, able to reveal the thoughts of all her characters. However, once in awhile she disconcertingly drops a little comment directly to the reader. Pg 111, "Some bird had shat on the windshield . . . she drove home while peering around a large continent--Greece maybe or Greenland. Using the water and wipers would only make things worse. None of the driving was freeway, and she had mirrors, so it wasn't really as reckless as it sounded." Sounded? To whom? I was sort of like a corny play where the actor stage-whispers an observation to the audience. And suddenly i am no longer a voyeur on their world, I realize the author is quite aware of my presence.

If you can look past the flaws, this book is fine for light reading, but I recommend checking it out from the library. It's not one you'll want to own. But remember, this is only my opinion as it was on the New York Times bestseller list, so somebody liked it.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The end of the pansies

The dog kept barking all night, but she seemed fine, so I just kept telling her to be quiet and go back to sleep. Now I know what she was barking at: the deer. They finished off all but a few stragglers on my pansies last night. My lovely flower bed is decimated. I should have realized the dog was barking for a reason.

But the deer did not touch a single one of my drought-tolerant perenniels. So today I'll head down to the nursery and get perenniels and plant in amongst my pansies. Some of the pansies will bloom again and some of the perenniels will bloom this year. And next year it will be nothing but perenniels. That's a smart way to go anyway.

While weeding yesterday, I uncovered three volunteer yuccas in an area where I had a yucca garden many years ago. Last year I had one volunteer, but when I transplanted it, it turned completely brown. I'm not sure if it will come back. I'll have to read up on how to transplant yuccas as these three new ones will not survive amongst the myrtle/vinca. Myrtle trumps everything.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

IKEA

Wow! That is great store. My friend, Celia, and I spent a couple of hours there. She had a list, I was just looking and getting ideas. I think my ex will be taking all my furniture in August when he sets up his new household. But that's fine. I agreed to that as I wanted only to keep my piano. Now I'm excited about the old furniture going as I can change the entire style of my house and furnish it just to suit me! I saw so many thing I liked today, but I will want to spend time looking further to get a good cohesive idea of what I want. With lunch and then chatting on her deck, my day with Celia lasted six hours.

Celia and I have known each other since 3rd grade, grew up just a few blocks apart and were best friends all through school. But then as adults we were separated for 30 years. And now that she's back in Utah, we are thrilled to be so close. The amazing thing is how parallel our lives have been all this time. It's almost like we have a little of one another's brains and we think so much alike--loving books, birds, decorating, foreign movies, eclectic restaurants. We have read the same books, followed the same authors, even when we were out of touch for so long. How wonderful it is to have her back her at a time when I really need a friend like her.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Disorganized

What with the weather this week, the dog, and the baby arriving early, my former efficient routine is all upside down. But instead of yard work tomorrow morning, I'm going to IKEA with my friend. She thinks I need to see it. I think so, too. So what am I doing blogging after 11 p.m. Bed. Now.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A social whirl

For the last two days at least. Last night went out with the "Reel Women", my foreign film group, had great Thai food at a restaurant called Paw-something, and then returned to one of the women's homes to watch David Lean's first movie, "Brief Encounter", 1947, with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. A bittersweet post-war romance. My friend Celia organized this group of five, and this is just our third month going, but I think it's proving to be a lot of fun.

Then tonight, I volunteered to babysit Kevin and newborn Brandon to give mom and dad a break and a chance to go out. It was pure pleasure sitting with the kids. The baby has to be one of the best babies I've ever seen. And Kevin is grandma's boy and we have so much fun together.

Poor doggie, I'm a bad dog sitter leaving her alone all day while I'm at work and then evenings too. So tonight I'm giving her extra attention and allowing her to sleep on the red couch which is her favorite not-allowed item of furniture.

Now, I need sleep too.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Hope

After a year of separation and nine months of legal hassles, my lawyer finally called today with proposed dates for mediation. That's the first words of hope I've heard in a very long time. I am nervous and worried as my soon-to-be ex has a real pit bull lawyer and I have a nice old guy. Ex kicked my son out of his townhouse despite a promise of lease to buy, and I fear some dirty tricks up his sleeve to do with my house now. So the fight is probably not over, but I'm looking forward to getting to mediation at last.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Weeding and the 80/20 Rule

A former boss always touted the 80/20 rule, 80 percent of the gain comes from 20 percent of the effort, and 20 percent of the gain takes 80 percent of the effort. Weeding definitely falls under that rule for me. So I focus on the greater gain for the effort and, thus, some weeds are always left. Every single night I force myself to go out in the yard and do at least 15 minutes of weeding. Little by little I'm gaining on them.
Here's my early June low-water garden. In bloom are the blanket flowers, speedwell, dwarf daisies, two types of coreopsis, that red plant (I can't remember its name). About to bloom are the day lilies, agastache (hyssop), pin cushion plants, and lavendar. Later on we'll get the shasta daisies, the Russian sage, and the exquisite bee balm. I planted more agastache, bee balm, and pin cushions last Friday, and they are thriving despite a very hot day today. Finished blooming is the lovely pink chintz thyme.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Wild Kingdom

The raccoons visited last night. I had a garbage bag half full of weeds lying near the deck and they ransacked it hoping for food I'm sure. My neighbor told me last week she saw a pack of them running from my yard a few days earlier. How do you get rid of raccoons?

Bad news, the robins are gone from the nest. Did the raccoons get the babies? There are still many robins hanging around in the yard, but none are going anywhere near that nest.

Walking the dog at 6 a.m. this morning, we surprised a young deer walking through the yard. The little chihuahua growled a bit and the deer bounded off. Then this afternoon while sitting on the patio with the dog, she growled a bit again and sure enough, this time two deer were standing by the apple tree.

And all the usual birds came to visit. They are enjoying the bird baths with fresh water every day.

Nice day overall. Got my windows washed outside and that alone makes me so happy. Edged all around the lawn And fixed the last remaining problem with my sprinkling system. Followed the To Do List and crossed things off. It is satisfying.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

FireDogLake's "Pull Up a Chair"

Christy at FireDogLake has a regular Saturday morning post, "Pull Up a Chair", in which she writes some personal thoughts and invites readers to follow with their own thoughts. The topic is as likely to be a current events issue as new birds visiting the feeders this morning. I formerly enjoyed my Saturday morning 'cuppa' with the fast repartee of witty and erudite commenters. But lately I'm in my yard early and I've been missing this favorite treat. Catching up tonight, I was surprised with a YouTube video of the Beatles doing "Help". That took me back. The Beatles never fail to remind me of that feeling of having my whole life ahead of me - so hopeful, believing all good things would come my way. The words of the song seemed appropriate: Now my life has changed in oh so many ways.

Commenter NZ Expat, now in KS says it better than I can:

As much as I come for political news, though, I need and want narrative and character, so I appreciate knowing that egregious goes to Russia for her passion of saving newborn’s lives. And knowing about TRex’s cats and I don’t mind (too much) waiting for him to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work. And looseheadprop’s daughter’s fierce intelligence, and the legion of students that make music under ETeller’s tuteledge (and all of his amazing life). These wise and funny and caring people are not pundits, but far, far better. (oh, and all the recipes and gardening hints and specific ways in which people walk through their days - it is relevant and real. Observations here come through life, and not through the press releases and what one is “supposed” to think, according to the paymasters. It is quite a comfort to see the level of intelligence on this board and a good antidote to the anti-intellectualism of the White House and the Kansas Board of Education.)

Another Saturday Night

Got work done in the yard, did a little shopping, cared for my granddaughter's dog (staying with me for three weeks while they are on vacation), and spent a little time with the new mom and baby - tended the boys while mom slept and dad ran errands. They are doing very well. The baby is so sweet and so calm and easy - at least so far. I wish this dog was a little more calm. She's frisky and wants to play, but I'm more of a hold and pet the dog kind of person. I'll need to make more effort with her or she will be bored stiff at my house.

And now, bed. I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

It's a Boy!

We have a new baby in the family! Steven and Simone's second son was born this morning three weeks early. But doing very well. 6 lbs. 14 oz. Mom is having some pain as a result of a c-section delivery. I got to hold him when he was just minutes old. What a tiny little miracle. There is nothing more thrilling than the birth of a baby.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Robin Developments

Things are happening at the robin's nest. Papa robin has made an appearance and is bringing food to mom. Then both parents perch on the edge of the nest and peer in at the contents. I'm sure some hatching must be starting although I haven't heard any little peeps yet. The male robin is becoming aggressive towards me. He made a diving pass at me accompanied by loud chirping as I was hoeing weeds in the front yard at least 50 feet away from the nest. I've seen scrub jays do that to cats, but I've never seen a robin threaten a human.

The weeding went well, but I had hoped to get more done today. My list was too ambitious. But I am now exercising an abundance of caution--wearing gloves, watching where I step, stand, sit, where I put my tools and don't carry them with sharp edges facing me. I've become very aware of how reckless I am when working outside. Inside, too. How many times have I just about slipped on the top step going downstairs carrying something large. Now I pause at the top and check where the step is. I know more women my age who have fallen down the stairs. And I keep my cell phone in my pocket, just in case.

More weeding tomorrow. But I am actually making progress. And so many things are starting to bloom. Hot days ahead. I guess I'm through planting for now unless things cool down again.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cache Valley

If Utah is an island in the greater world, Cache Valley is yet an island within an island. A protected valley, lush and green compared to the rest of the Wasatch Front, and an undiscovered gem for many in this state. That is when it comes to a beautiful environment, clean air, and wide open spaces. Politically, Cache Valley is as conservative as they come.

Mom and Dad were born and raised in Cache Valley--Dad in Newton and later in Logan, mom in Logan. We visited the Newton cemetery yesterday. The majority of people planted there are my relatives including my grandmother and grandfather Griffin, and uncle Nolan. But the Griffins, Jenkins, and Christensens--all ancestors of mine--are prominent throughout the tiny cemetery. Dad's farm sits up on the hillside visible from the cemetery -- pretty much visible from anywhere in Newton. There is no culinary water to the land, just a stream. A farmer rents the land and raises crops like safflower or alfalfa. Dad's cousin has a pheasant hunting club that encroaches on the land, and dad allows it. We did see two spectacular rooster pheasants yesterday on our drive. Some developers have offered dad money for the land. One day it will become desirable for homebuilding, but not yet, and dad is not interested in selling. I think he always thought one of the Griffin kids would take over farming the land. He knows now it's not going to happen.

Mom took pictures of each of the headstones, and then we headed for Richmond where we found Lamont and Florence's graves and took more pictures of headstones.

Last stop was Logan cemetery where we had a hard time finding Vera and had to consult the directory. We found her and took one last picture. I found it odd we were taking pictures of headstones, but my parents are getting old and eccentric, and I guess it is important to them for some reason. These were all my dad's immediate family. We didn't make it to the Ogden cemetery where mom's mother and dad are buried. I may take a trip up there tomorrow just to visit those graves. Grandma and Grandpa Chamberlin were two of the most influential and important people in my young life. I was only 10 when grandpa died. Grandma lived to be nearly 80 but had to work hard her entire life to survive. She was truly an example of grace and beauty on the outside, while strong, self-sufficient, and resilient inside.

Some of the happiest times of my childhood were spent in Logan, wandering the safe streets with my sister and cousin, exploring the AC (agricultural college which is now USU) just blocks away from Grandma Griffin's. Even in Ogden we didn't have the freedom we had in Logan. Walking was our preferred mode of transportation. I loved the deep gutters that were always running full with water, featuring little bridges for each driveway so the water could pass under. That cold clear water was great for wading or sailing leaf boats, against our parents' strict rules. I loved the tiny shops we found tucked incongruously mid-block in the middle of residential neighborhoods, and where you could buy groceries and penny candy. I loved the shady parks with the big trees providing a canopy and escape from the heat. Logan was Mayberry RFD and a paradise for kids lucky enough to spend some of their time there.

But Logan has changed and not necessarily for the better. The old neighborhoods are still lovely with the old houses almost untouched, with wide streets, big yards and tall shady trees. But North Logan has adopted a sprawl approach to growth, downtown Logan has terrible traffic congestion, 4th North lacks any sign of its old former beauty, now all alsphalt, concrete and fast food.

Cache Valley resisted growth and change for decades, preferring to remain a quiet, sheltered farming community. But that has changed, and a lack of good planning is allowing development to ruin what was beautiful about that valley. I find it sad that people with such a strong tie to the land have so little respect for their own beautiful environment.

Friday, May 25, 2007

TGIF

I'm getting back to my regular self again. Got a little sleep and I do feel better. I went out and finished weeding the parking strip and got a good start on the upper hill. After being out of commission for a couple of days, it's nice to make some progress again. Everything is looking so pretty in the yard. Tonight a small hawk landed on the light pole by the day lilies and scared all the little birds half to death. But he left without wreaking any havoc.

Tomorrow I'm driving mom and dad to Newton. They are getting too old to drive that far and I know dad in particular wants to go see the family farm. I don't think mom wants to visit the cemeteries, but she's going along anyway. We're having lunch at Maddox on the way home. I'll be home early enough to get some housework done in the afternoon and maybe watch a movie Saturday night. Maybe I'll invite Brittany and Kevin over to spend the night too.

Three day weekend! Yay!!!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Small Wonder

Title: Small Wonder
Author: Barbara Kingsolver
Rating: *****

Barbara Kingsolver is my favorite contemporary author. It’s only appropriate to launch this site with a review of her book. She has a new, non-fiction book out, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.” But I’ll leave that particular review for one of our other contributors, and choose instead for my topic one of her collections of essays, “Small Wonder”.

Many of us came across Kingsolver by way of her fiction, filled with characters and story lines that grabbed you from the first page and stayed with you long after the book ended. Starting with the heart-tugging “The Bean Trees”, I worked my way through all of her fiction. My favorite remains “The Poisonwood Bible”, being a girl who grew up in a rather fanatical religious environment myself. But it was Kingsolver’s collections of essays that gave me a whole new level of appreciation for the depth of her knowledge and work.

On September 25, 2001, following the terrible events of 9-11, Barbara published an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle entitled “And Our Flag Was Still There.” It was intended to be an expression of her own patriotism while at the same time concern about the war toward which we were inevitably headed. Little did she anticipate the furor that would follow her heartfelt and patriotic words.

The backlash from the right-wing punditocracy was fierce. Barbara became a target of the ultra-conservative, pro-war attack machine, accused of being friendly to our enemies and unpatriotic. There was, at the time (understandably), a hysteria across the country, and people were being caught up in the “them and us” scenarios being fed to us by our government. Remember “Wanted Dead or Alive”? Or the deck of “52 Most Wanted”? Barbara even earned the 73rd spot on Bernard Goldberg's list of “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America”. Goldberg says, “In an op-ed she re-tells how she reluctantly let her daughter wear red-white-and-blue after 9/11 because, "the American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia . . . Who are we calling terrorists here?"

Well, that’s not exactly what she said. Her words were both taken out of context, and some words conveniently omitted to make a point. But those who misrepresented her words appear foolish when the full text is read:

"Patriotism seems to be falling to whoever claims it loudest, and we're left struggling to find a definition in a clamor of reaction. This is what I'm hearing: Patriotism opposes the lone representative of democracy who was brave enough to vote her conscience instead of following an angry mob. (Several others have confessed they wanted to vote the same way, but chickened out.) Patriotism threatens free speech with death. It is infuriated by thoughtful hesitation, constructive criticism of our leaders and pleas for peace. It despises people of foreign birth who've spent years learning our culture and contributing their talents to our economy. It has specifically blamed homosexuals, feminists and the American Civil Liberties Union. In other words, the American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, and shoving the Constitution through a paper shredder? Who are we calling terrorists here? Outsiders can destroy airplanes and buildings, but it is only we, the people, who have the power to demolish our own ideals. "

She was right. Some of us recognized it at the time, and more of us see it now – now that it’s well known we were lied into a war of aggression (not pre-emption), a war that had nothing to do with 9-11.

“And Our Flag Was Still There” became the anchor for her new (at the time) book of essays, “Small Wonder.” It is powerful and moving. You must read the entire essay to truly understand the genuine patriotism in her message.

"So we sent her to school in red, white and blue, because it felt to her like something she could do to help people who are hurting. And because my wise husband put a hand on my arm and said, 'You can't let hateful people steal the flag from us.'"

Many of the essays in “Small Wonder” appeared previously in print in other venues, and some were updated to reflect current times and subsequent events. They cover a wide range of topics, some humorous, some serious, but all with an important message. It is a collection well worth reading, and I do highly recommend it.

Also see the Barbara Kingsolver web site.

I'm So Tired, I Haven't Slept a Wink

I'm so tired, my mind is on the blink.
-John Lennon

I think I have been running at full steam for too long now and I need a break. After my finger smashing incident yesterday, I went to bed early and fell asleep quickly, but then woke up many times throughout the night and finally got up to stay at 4 a.m. I kept thinking about what would happen if I was really injured and laid up for awhile. Who would take care of things for me? Who would take care of me? I want everyone to know how independent I am, but I am just one minor accident away from everything going to ruin.

I work hard because I have too. If I don't do it, it won't get done. And it must get done. But I'm not simply tired. I'm exhausted. I don't sleep a lot and I don't sleep well. And small accidents like the one yesterday have been happening to me all week. Maybe it's a wakeup call to be more careful, to slow down, to let some things slide. Maybe I'm not the super woman I think I am.

But I have to be. If I don't do it, it won't get done. But I'm so tired.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ow, ow, ow!

I smashed my finger. I dropped a big rock on it. When pulling weeds in the parking strip, it's easier to get the weeds out by the roots if you move the rocks out of the way. But this one was too big for me, and I didn't have on gloves. It slipped and my finger was smashed between two rocks Ow! :(

I saw immediately I had quite a serious cut, so, being a mom all these years, I knew just what to do. Clean it, pour on some hydrogen peroxide, apply pressure until the bleeding stopped, then bandaid and ice. It still hurts a bit and it's ugly, but I think I'll live. And notice - I'm typing.

I wasn't sure just how serious this was or whether I would need stitches. And the first thing I thought about was "how am I going to type -- or play piano -- or work in my yard?!" And it's my right hand. But I am, in fact, typing. However, I think I'll stop now and let it rest. Remember the "RICE" first aid rule:

Rest
Ice
Compression
Elevation

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Set the Wayback Machine to 1964

Filled up the tank tonight and it was $47!!! After mowing the lawn, I felt like driving around and enjoying the cool evening, but after the cost of that fillup, I decided to save the gas and enjoy the evening on my deck.

I thought about 1964. Larry and Judy and Hank and I would pool our quarters and put gas in Larry's 1958 Ford convertible. Gas was between 24.9 and 29.9. We'd often get just 50 cents or a dollar's worth. Then we'd drive around in the hot summer nights with the top down, Jude and Lar in the front, Hank and I in the back. Sometimes we'd go to the drive-in movie. If we had no money, we'd go park by the North Ogden gravel pits and make out. Or we'd drive up Ogden Canyon and around Pine View Dam, maybe come back over North Ogden Pass. Once we went out to Plain City and Lar showed us what the Ford could do on a long straight country road. That scared Jude and me and we refused to ever do it again. But, the fresh summer air was exhilerating, we were 16, and it was entertainment enough just to drive around with our friends until it was time to go home. We didn't have much money, but we didn't need much--just a dollar's worth of gas.

The price of gas has certainly taken the joy out of joyrides. But it's for the best. It's way past time we started figuring out alternatives.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Avenue Montainge

I took myself out to a movie yesterday. A girl can only work so long in the yard, after all. It was a French movie, "Avenue Montainge", at the Broadway. My friend, Celia, said it was the best movie she has seen this year. And it lived up to her review. It's a story of a handful of separate individuals in Paris, all at turning points, beginnings and endings in their lives, whose paths cross for various reasons. The stories are beautifully interwoven and told both with joy and melancholy, true to the French style.

As I watched the characters in the movie facing the transitions in their lives, I realized how much this reflected my own life at the moment. And I had a bit of a revelation: I can no longer take the skaterbug skim-across-the-surface approach to my feelings about my pending divorce. It's time to deal with my feelings directly and honestly.

There is a lot of pain involved in that, and grief too. And shock. I have learned things about my husband I never knew, and would never have believed before now. What seemed like a happy marriage to me was hell to him and then became hell for us both. I'm only beginning to understand all the reasons why. In the past three years, I reached the point of wanting this divorce on three different occasions, and twice I thought it was important to try to resolve the problems and to get through the tough time together-- "better or worse" and all that. But I finally realized he was only waiting for me to be able to end the marriage, as it had ended for him long before and he was only playing a part to please other people. I never knew the secrets and lies, I never knew how he suffered, though near the end, there was serious depression. Now, he tells people he has never been happier in his life.

That's hard to take.

So I'm wrapped up in my own life now, figuring out what that is and who I am again. I feel sad a lot of the time, but I don't say I "am" sad. "Am"is a state of being, and my state of being is not sad. I also feel happy a lot of the time. I'm starting to realize a sense of freedom. My nature is to find solutions, make things better, be hopeful. I have been treading water for nine months since initiating the legal part of this, and it looks like we have a couple more months before everything is worked out. I don't know why it takes so long or is so difficult.

Some years ago Oprah had a couple of seasons of shows on the theme "Change Your Life." I took to that idea so wholeheartedly and literally, that I was able to start making some significant changes and improvements in my home and myself. I never understood why my husband allowed things to fall into disrepair in our home, why he didn't seem to care. Now I understand better. Little by little I changed every room in the house and then moved on to the outdoors. I quit my job that was sucking the life out of me, and took a job that was easy and allowed me to have a life. I took several classes in Qigong which truly helped me find comfort and internal peace through meditation-type practice. I learned I was harboring a lot of pain within myself and I found a way of letting go of it. It was all preparing me for this time when I would need to take care of the house and yard alone, and would need to find strength within myself like I have never needed before.

Like the characters in the movie, the road divides here for me and I have to choose a path to take. I have been thinking I want to embark on a time of some intense serious writing. Not just blogging, not just writing instruction manuals. But another project that has been on my mind for a long time. I think its time has come. But first I need to get finished with the legal part of this ordeal. I'm taking back my maiden name, for reasons I may or may not explain later. But it's important to me now to change my name. And when the judge says it is final, I will finally be free from this limbo.