Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New series

I'm working on a new series over at Seeking Wisdom, Craving Grace.

It's about what I believe. In fact, it's called, What I Believe. Snappy title that, eh?

Anyway, it seemed more appropriate to post it there than here, so I might not be around here much for a little while... but you are always welcome to visit there!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hope is an ethereal green mist

Today is a sunny, windy, cold day.

I guess we have reverted to a more normal March.

The cherry blossoms on my little Japanese cherry tree are budding. The temperature is supposed to get down into the twenties these next few nights. I hope the cold doesn't kill the flowers.

Yesterday I was driving and I could see the fine green mist of newly budding leaves on many of the trees along the highway. It isn't the most beautiful time of year. Autumn colors are more dashing by far. But there is just so much hope and promise in spring, so much beauty and warmth yet to come.

My neck still hurts, but not as much.

The massage therapist left me a message on Saturday. I called her back as soon as I found it, and left her a message. I haven't heard from her since. Sigh. Phones. Not my forte. Do you think communication is a chore? I do.

I guess I don't have much of anything to say here, although it was burning on my heart to write about the misty leaves.

They are there, and God-willing they won't get frost-bitten.

Usually I hate titling things, but today the title is the best part of the post. Maybe I'm burned out. I wrote on my other blogs today.

A post here.

And a (very short) post here.

And I composed a new page at a tab here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bad back

Today's list was

  1. Clean bathrooms
  2. Bake cherry almond bars
  3. Walk dogs
  4. Buy eggs, and some fish to cook for dinner

It was going to be a fairly easy, fairly fun day. I actually like cleaning bathrooms because it usually involves minimal decision making. You shine the porcelain, throw out the empty bottles of stuff, change the towels and you're basically done.

However, somewhere along the line, my neck went out.


So I am stuck in the recliner, taking pain meds and applying heat. Except, the hot rice bag I was using started to hurt me because of its shape and weight, so I switched it for a light, summer scarf. The pain meds--along with the pain they failed to handle and a bunch of tea and vitamins --upset my stomach. I wondered if I were going to vomit until about 1:45 p.m. when I forced down a sandwich.

My neck muscles are so hyper-sensitive, chewing and swallowing that sandwich was excruciating. Another excruciating moment was this morning after my shower when I was applying moisturizer to my face. Pushing the moisturizer back onto my face with my fingertips was an incredible strain on my neck and upper back. Needless to say, I am not wearing any makeup.

For a long time all I could do was sit here in my recliner, staring at the striped wallpaper and obsessing over the dirty toilets I am not cleaning. Then I fell asleep a little bit.

I wish the massage therapist would call me back. She will call when the worst of the pain has passed. I know because this is my life and I've been living it long enough to figure out how these things work. Anyhow, I am probably too sore to get any worth out a massage today. How's that for looking on the bright side?

Staring at the wallpaper stripes gave me time to think and to get annoyed with Piper who would not stop licking his paws. I don't want to take him to the vet again. I spoke sharply to him and told him to knock it off, and it reminded me of how cross I used to get with my children when they were little and Shawn was on a business trip and my back went out. That used to happen quite often, and I am sad that it did.

Now I have my netbook in my lap. I am a poor typist ordinarily, but I am particularly bad on this little guy. Even so, I am thankful to have something I can do. Piper has stopped licking his paws and is sleeping next to me, breathing hard. Jon is roasting coffee beans in the kitchen. It has been a long time, maybe even a year, since my back has done this, and for that I am thankful. It used to happen every 4-6 weeks.

Life is not so bad.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring... or summer?

The daffodils are in full bloom now. Amazing. I was perusing my blog entries from a year ago, and I realized that back then I was visiting potential graduate schools with Shannon, braving treacherous weather to travel hither and yon.

Things are so different now. It's no wonder I am off-kilter. What a year of transitions. Just one year. Phew.

Speaking of being off-kilter, today I was running some errands in 80 degrees of sunny loveliness, driving the rusty old van around with the windows down, smelling the freshness of awakening plant life. I hit the Dollar Store (that's a great place to buy note-cards and dish soap) and then headed up to the drugstore.

I've been parking at the outer-reaches of parking lots. I almost always do this anyway, for multiple reasons (exercise, safety, etc.), but today I was deeply enjoying my summery walks. As I headed up toward the drugstore from the back of the parking lot, I noticed a little old man, a grisly one, standing outside the store on the sidewalk in the shade. And speaking of shade, he looked a little shady. You know that sort of pale, alcoholic look some people get? His clothes were faded and his face covered in stubbly whiskers. He walked back and forth, nervously, jerkily. I thought he made a motion to me with his hand, but I averted my eyes and continued on toward the entrance to the store.

Then he made another motion with his hand. I did not know if it was meant for me, because I was certainly doing my best not to look at him. I was now close enough to perceive that he definitely looked seedy and I hoped he was not going to try to panhandle me. Suddenly he lurched in front of me with his arms out. "Excuse me ma'am!" he hollered, "But only men can go in there!"

Without looking at him I said, "No. I can go in there." And I reached for the door. As I did, he screamed--literally screamed--with crazy laughter. Adrenaline-laced fear surged through my body and I moved faster, grabbing the door and propelling myself through.

Cool air-conditioning and familiar drugstore smells of soap, toothpaste, shampoo and hard candy encompassed me. I took a breath. I found what I needed and paid the cashier, who was in a cheerful mood to match the weather.

The man was gone when I stepped back outside.

I was relieved.

And confused. What was I supposed to have done in that situation? Had I been unkind? Lacking compassion? Rude? I never know what I am supposed to do when such things happen.

I walked the length of the parking lot to my car. All was quiet and peaceful. The sun gleamed bright. Out on the road, cars drove methodically past, stopping at the red light, starting when it turned green. The blinking sign at the jewelry store told the community that it was now 83 degrees. I climbed into my familiar old van and thought, "Why? Why is he in my world? Why did he have to come into my world?"

And I felt my sin, but I had no idea what to do about it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Vernal Equinox

Tra la la la!

Today is the Vernal Equinox. The first day of spring...

Today marks the beginning of MY MOST FAVORITE QUARTER OF THE YEAR!!!

Today is the first day in approximately six months when there will *not* be more dark hours than light hours! They will be exactly EQUAL (hence the term Equinox).

Today there will be TWELVE hours of sunlight followed by twelve hours of darkness...

And best of all, tomorrow there will be a bit MORE THAN TWELVE hours of sunlight followed by a bit less than twelve hours of darkness. And this trend will increase and increase and increase until...


which is...

THE SUMMER SOLSTICE!!! The summer solstice is the longest, brightest day of the year. Perhaps I will have a party and celebrate it with flowers and fountains and fresh fruit.

This year the summer solstice will be June 20th. Once again, that comes before the end of the accursed NYS school year, but what can you do?

Monday, March 19, 2012

First Day of Spring

Tomorrow is the first day of spring.

We've had such a mild winter! Only two snowstorms, I think. And yesterday it was over 80 degrees! Central New York just doesn't do this.

But I'll take it!

It's going to be a long end of the school year, I fear. Warm weather and long, bright evenings after the Daylight Savings Time switch never bode well for homework and other academic pursuits. Usually the struggle to keep the kids going until the end of school starts in May, though...

My daffodils are budding. The robins have been chirping and busily scouting out nesting sites. The sun shines warm on the asphalt driveway, the road, the grass (which could use a good raking) and the prickly weeds sprouting in our winter-compressed mulch. How does the winter compress mulch when there's hardly any snow?

Yesterday I walked about five miles in an old pair of flip-flops. Now I have a little blister, but I flooded it with a special oil I make from calendula, lavender, tea tree and evening primrose oil. If anything can heal it up, this will.

There is so much sun before the leaves grow.

I love leaves. Leaves are my favorite scenery. When we moved into this house, the very first month we were here, we planted trees outside the windows so I could look out and see them. Oh, how I have enjoyed the birch outside the front living room windows. The maple that shades my west-facing kitchen window has been a lifesaver at dinnertime on many summer evenings.

The leaves are not out yet, but it feels as though they will be soon.

The air feels like coastal North Carolina, warm, kind of humid, fragrant.

There is such a connection the first time in spring when you go for a drive with the windows down and hear everything clear, not muffled by winter protection.

I love the sun. I love longer days. I love leaves and flowers, birdsong and the shouts of happy children outdoors in the afternoons.

We need to get our screens rinsed and replaced on the windows so we can open up to all this glory around us.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ten reasons why I do not like cleaning

(1) No matter how hard I try to sweep or vacuum before I apply moisture to the situation, I always end up chasing nasty wet dustballs around, those ones that are virtually impossible to wipe up.

(2) There is no end to hairs in the bathrooms. No end. Often, I feel as though I could keep trying to pick up "that last hair" until eternity. And if, by some miracle I actually get all the hairs removed at some point, another hair is sure to drop from my head before I exit the room.

(3) The cleaning product that cleans my showers gives me a wicked headache.

(4) If I use a different, less toxic cleaner on my shower, my neck goes out from the scrubbing action.

(5) There is almost always a hole in my rubber gloves.

(6) Even when there is not a hole in my rubber gloves, I get water and cleaning solution inside my gloves. It runs in the back end. Because I am inept.

(7) I always hurt myself. Usually this involves the vacuum and my shins, but it can take many forms. I also lose a lot of fingernails (mind you, these are not manicured fingernails).

(8) I damage things because I am clumsy. Usually this involves the canister vacuum and walls that the canister runs into and dents while I am working at the other end of the hose. However, yesterday I had an entirely new damage experience. I was trying to wipe down the baseboards in the tiny (2'x5' I figure) half-bath downstairs, and as I ran the sponge along the woodwork, my finger caught on the wallpaper and pulled it loose. R-i-i-i-i-p went the wallpaper and the hope in my heart.

(9) My buckets spill, my vacuum cord comes unplugged, my back hurts, I sneeze or gag or get headaches from the different smells, my hands get chapped, I bump my head (mostly around low cupboards), and no matter how many times I run the vacuum over this carpet, there are spots that never look clean.

(10) And pretty much as soon as I am finished, it all needs to be done over again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Giving up

I am really bad at cleaning.

Really, really bad.

A failure.

My house has not been cleaned in probably a month. Last week I went out and bought a Swiffer Wet Jet even though it goes against everything I believe in:

1. It requires its own expensive and probably-not-pet-safe-despite-what-they-say cleaning fluid.
2. It requires expensive disposable cleaning pads.
3. (and I didn't even know this until after I got it home...) It requires four AA batteries. I hate anything that requires batteries.

Anyhow, I bought it. I thought that maybe if I bought this thing, maybe just maybe I would clean my kitchen floor. I did a little work on the kitchen floor the day I brought it home. However, it was raining that day, so I was unable to put the rugs out on the deck and do a really good job.

Today DJ was going hiking. He got his hiking boots out of the garage because that is where they have lived since last fall when he went on a particularly muddy explore one day... and neglected ever to clean them off. He put them on and walked through my kitchen, and loads of dried mud crumbled from his soles and skittered across my pergo.

So then he swept, and I vacuumed, and later (after spending approximately 90 minutes trying to make the appropriate decisions while cleaning out two bathroom drawers, because this is how lame I am), I shook the kitchen rugs out on the deck and got out the Swiffer Wet Jet to try to finish the kitchen floor.

And I could not find the box of expensive, disposable cleaning pads that I bought to stick to the bottom of this thing so I could use it.

Seriously. I could spend another hour searching for this product and feeling overwhelmed and discouraged and guilty.

Or I could blog a little and then go read my library book, The Help, and dream about having some.

(Which is in direct opposition to the message of the book, I'm pretty sure, but right now--I'm not very far, so no spoilers please--I am totally mind-melding with Celia Rae.) This option promises guilt, too, although probably not overwhelmedness and discouragement, at least for a little while.

Bet you're really wondering what I'm a-gonna do next.

Bet whatever it is, I'm a-gonna feel guilty.

Monday, March 5, 2012

David's Recital

I cannot find my kitchen.

So, instead of looking for it, I am writing on my blog. Go ahead. Judge me.

The recital was last night. It started at 8 p.m. and it was supposed to be over at 9, but it went nearly until 9:30. Those who love saxophone were happy. Those who may not love saxophone were gracious. As always, David played beautifully. He played really hard pieces, but he was kind to choose more melodic, accessible hard pieces than usual. For me?

I thought the program (programme?) was unusually lovely.

We've had a very mild winter, but yesterday was blustery, snowy and cold. The snow was off-and-on, but by late, it was mostly on, and the roads were a mess. My heart warmed delightfully at the support of our dear friends who braved the slush and the late hour on a Sunday evening to come. I was worried that the event would be poorly attended because we have no family in the area, but our friends really rallied for us, and I am so grateful. For many of them, it was--in one way or another--quite a sacrifice.

DJ played the soprano saxophone.

And he played his alto sax.

And he finished on his tenor.

I can't quite describe the emotive wellings in my heart... the blowzy blizzard outside, the clear sweet notes of soprano saxophone altissimo, the rippling piano parts like streams flowing over stones and driftwood, the serious faces listening in the dark, the yellow light spilling over my son in a double-breasted navy blue suit that reminds me of 1920's London, the blond piano accompanist from Norway who talks and looks like a Minnesotan (ha!), the smile on DJ's face as he hopped up the stairs with his tenor sax, ready to kill his last number, a transcribed Chris Potter jazz solo.

I wished I hadn't worn my white blazer. As I tried to listen, take photos, and organize the food, I didn't exactly blend into the background. Shawn sat in the balcony and videotaped.

The reception. Oh the reception. Oh my.

It is a high ceilinged room with lots of windows, sort of in a turret so the windows face all directions. David's was the third recital of the day, so the surfaces of things were a trifle iffy, but the previous people were taking out the garbage when we arrived. I had some white plastic table covers, for which I was truly grateful.

These concerts are free to the public, so homeless people come in and take as much food as they can load up, and I could never quite relax about where I had set my purse or my camera.

These bag ladies and bag men camp out in the building, wash up in the restrooms, come to the recital (they actually do attend the music!!) and then swarm the food afterwards. This rather sickened DJ and I don't think he ended up eating anything. It did not bother Jon, not too much, and at the end he felt good about having been able to share some good healthy food with the less fortunate. He said, "Surprisingly, they did not go much for the desserts, but one guy went over and got one of your homemade oatmeal-walnut-chocolate chip-coconut bars, and he sat down and ate it... and then he smiled."

I have to admit, I was gratified that last night the bag people were sucking down fresh strawberries, broccoli flowerettes and whole wheat crackers with red pepper hummus. For the most part, they tried to use the tongs, and they did not actually paw through the food, but at certain points they did give up and just start grabbing with fleshy fingers. At the end, I offered one bag lady the tail end of the cracker and cheese platter, and she took it. "Are you the mother?" she asked. "It was a lovely concert." Then she said, "There was something in those sandwiches that I don't usually get. My eyes are bad... I was wondering what it was?" I told her they were roast beef, turkey, ham and chicken salad. She said, "Oh, it must have been chicken salad. I thought it tasted kind of funny. I don't eat any meat or chicken. I eat tuna, though. I eat tuna salad." I just stood there wondering, "Did a bag lady just tell me to bring tuna salad for her next year?" Not likely going to happen. Just saying.

You know what is really hilarious? I had a bin there to collect the returnable bottles and cans, but at the end of the night, it was nearly empty. I thought perhaps we had not gone through many beverages. But we had! When I peeked in the cooler, they were nearly gone. So the homeless people must have gathered up the returnable containers as fast as they could and stashed them away. Or maybe they found the cooler and pilfered unopened containers before we had a chance to replenish the serving area. Maybe they did both. One disheveled fellow came over and asked me if I had an extra bag because his was ripping, so I gave him a bunch of my folded up Wegman's bags. I am such a soft touch. That man told Shawn, "The kid who played the saxophone today was really amazing." I suppose it is better for their souls that they listen to DJ play than that they watch cable.

Such juxtaposition: Intricate classical music, red velvet seats, white roses, a lavish spread of food, and learned professors. Scruffy people dressed in layers of filthy clothing, dragging around torn plastic bags stuffed with what looks like garbage but is treasure to them. Under her arm, one lady had a large, disposable (well, meant to be disposable) plastic salad bowl from Wegman's, with a lid, and she kept slipping things into it. All together in one room... people we know and love, friends of David's, respected professors, and a few strangers.

So now I need to rewash these leftover vegetables, because I am not rich enough to throw them away. I will probably make a lot of them into soup. Poor Jonathan. Jonathan doesn't like soup.

It was an amazing and memorable night. I couldn't fall asleep until well after 2 a.m., once I finally got to bed. There was so much to think about. My mind keeps replaying visions of huge snowflakes drifting through black sky outside the many windows of room 308.

But now, I suppose, I really need to go and try to find my kitchen.