Thursday, February 28, 2008

Dog Island

My husband and I, along with a friend, own a little shacky house on Dog Island. For those of you who are not aware that there is an island here in North Florida that goes by the name of "Dog" let me assure you that there is.

It's what we call a barrier island and there is no bridge to it and there is nothing on it except for some houses and I doubt that twenty people live there full-time, although perhaps there are. There are no stores, no bars, no restaurants, no place to buy water, bread, or beer on the island. If you run out of those things when you're there you have either do without or get in your boat and cross the bay and go buy them in Carabelle or Lanark Village. There is a grocery store in Carrabelle and there is Mike's at Lanark. You can get most anything in the grocery store and you can get beer, bread, or water at Mike's as well as gas, bait, smoked mullet and sometimes shrimp.

So when you go to Dog Island, you better take everything with you that you might possibly need and that includes your drinking and cooking water because although there is running water in all the houses, it's water of a particularly evil and sulphurous nature that no one in their right mind would drink. It's interesting to shower in it and we tell ourselves that it's good for our skin.

What you WILL find on Dog Island is nature and plenty of it. Birds galore, from the ospreys that we love to watch soar and dive and then rise up with fishes in their talons which they take to their nests to feed their babies, to the pelicans and sand pipers and fussy blue jays and the beautiful egrets which wade in front of the house in the bay, fishing slowly and patiently as the sun goes down. There are gators in the boat basin and I'm sure there are gators on the island. There are water moccasins (I have seen them) and probably other snakes as well.

There are 'coons but no squirrels.

There are pine trees and scrub oaks and sea oats. There are places on the island that are so skinny that you could spit from bay to Gulf. There are beautiful white beaches and there are the tidal flats of the bay. There are swamps and woods and on a two-hour walk you can experience all of those places.

It's sort of magic and it's incredibly beautiful and it's quiet except for the sounds of water and wind and birds and the occasional chug, chug, chugging of a diesel engine as the shrimpers make their way to and from Carrabelle.

We have no TV on Dog Island, but we do have a phone and we have a radio which I use to feed my NPR habit and there's nothing so fun as playing gin on the porch and drinking beer and listening to Prairie Home Companion on a Saturday night.

We watch the sunsets, the man fishes, I write, we walk. We play scrabble, make crazy-good dinners, and rest a lot.

Our house has a mischievous poltergeist or some such imp which loves to move things around or turn lights on and off. It mostly shows up when I'm there alone but it doesn't bother me and I just take it as another of the charms of Dog Island and find myself fussing at it and saying things like, "Would you please leave my library books alone?"

We've gone there with all the kids and their friends and that's been fun and I've been there alone by myself for a week at a time (and when you are alone on Dog Island, you are ALONE) and I've been there with just my daughter once for a week and even though she was a teenager, she contentedly spent her hours knitting and taking pictures and playing with the dogs and taking long walks with me and at night we listened to CDs of David Sedaris and we laughed so hard we cried.

And sometimes just my husband and I go over for a few days and we're leaving tomorrow, just the two of us, for the weekend.

So I need to get my ass to Publix and buy food and water and charcoal and I'll buy too much. I always do. I tend to worry that we'll run out of coffee or flour and so I always buy those things and then when we get there I open the cabinets to find four giant cans of coffee and five bags of flour but better too much than not enough, right?

We'll haul the stuff over there in the boat and unload it and load up the old Jeep we keep parked by the basin and then drive to the house and unload the Jeep and haul all the stuff up the stairs and put it away and open up the house which has been sitting, patiently and crack a beer and go down to the bay and see how much of our property has been eaten by global warming and the rising of the seas or perhaps just wind and time. We'll set up the canvas chairs on the beach so that when sunset comes we can sit and watch as the sky goes through all of its color changes and the sun makes its final decent into the water and the stars start to come out.
Then we'll go inside and put on some music and he'll grill something and I'll chop up and cook something and we'll meet in the living room and dance a little dance and we'll eat and play scrabble and go to bed.

Rinse and repeat for Saturday.

On Sunday we'll wash the sheets and towels and set the house all back in order and pack up our stuff and load it all up to haul back home. We'll lock the house up and close the shutters and curtains and leave the place to the poltergeist who will be bored without us there and of course the weather will be the most perfect it's been all weekend because that's always the way it is on Dog Island.

Just as you're getting comfortable and have slowed down enough to truly enjoy it, it's time to go.

But it's a comfort, just knowing it's there, waiting for us, good Lord willing, the bay don't rise, and the hurricanes don't wash it away.

I'll report in.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Yesterday I spent hours, hours, I tell you, writing up a little blog on things that make me happy. I did this because lately it seems like I've been awfully bitchy and mean and sad and well, we all need a little balance in our lives.

And then in the process of doing some editing I somehow glitched the whole thing away into nothingness and although there was a saved draft, due to my technological ineptness I couldn't retrieve it.

Looking back from the distance of a good night's sleep, I think it was for the best. It's hardly necessary to note that the smell of a baby's head makes me happy or that making soup brings me joy. We all know this by now.

But I think it was a good thing for me to do because quite frankly, I was shocked when I started listing them at how many pleasures I do have in my life. The reason I was shocked is that I'm hardly the sort of person who wakes up every morning with the thought, "Wow! Another day! Another opportunity for growth, fun, and the grand experience which is life!"

No. I wake up every day with a thought that goes more like, "Wow. Another day. Wonder how I'll drag my ass through it."

And believe me, I don't like waking up feeling like this six days out of seven and if I could change that part of my psyche, I would, but I think that our outlook on life is probably so set that we can no more change it than we can change our eye color. It's probably a whole gestalt made up of genetics, early childhood experience and plain old chemicals which of course includes hormones.

History of family depression, crappy childhood experiences, menopause. Add 'em up. Get despair.

But honestly, there ARE an amazing number of things that I get to experience on a daily basis that range from the incredibly prosaic (the soup thing for instance) to the near-holy (libraries) that not only make me happy but bring me actual joy and it did not hurt me one bit to list some of them, even if they never made it as far as the blog because even though a lot of things do really piss me off (did you see that article in the paper about the legislator who is "battling" for the Confederate license plate?), there's an awful lot of goodness in my life and despite my proclivity towards negativity, I need to lighten up and enjoy all this good stuff and pay more attention to it.

Now. Having said all of this, and knowing how much I love birds (yes, they made the list) , could we do something about that damn bird that sits outside my window every morning and proclaims, "You're sweet! You're sweet! You're sweet!"

Because unless he knows something I don't, he's full of shit.

I am not sweet. I am grouchy, mean in the mornings and all my joints ache.

But the library's open, and my computer's working so it's a good day. I need to fill in some ditches (long story) and that definitely doesn't make me happy but having a body strong enough to fill in ditches does, so I'm going to try and concentrate on that. And tomorrow I'll be grateful for Ibuprofen.

Go on. Enjoy what makes you happy. And tell us about it, if you like. Yeah, it's corny, but it's good for the soul.

The picture of the zinnia above was taken in the garden last summer by one of my daughters. So that's sort of a trifecta because zinnias, my children and my garden are definitely all on the list.
Quite possibly, you were too.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Say What?

I forgot to add to that last post that now here in Florida, our public school teachers must address the teaching of evolution by calling it the "theory" of evolution.

This is a compromise between people who believe in science and and people who believe that God created the universe in six days. Or, as I see it, sane people and insane people.

As has been pointed out before, when these non-believers in evolution get a bacterial infection, they should be happy to be prescribed one of the older antibiotics that USED to cure such infections before they...evolved. See how well that works out for them.

It is becoming more and more embarrassing to be a Floridian. I had thought after the election debacle in 2000 that it couldn't get any worse, but circumstances continue to...evolve... making it harder and harder not to hide my head in shame.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Miracles and Madness

Done wallerin'. Yep. I think I am. For now, at least. I could keep on with it, believe me. But I'm CHOOSING not to. Some days you can do this. Some days, as Lopo pointed out, you just can't.

It rained here and when I mean rain, I mean it poured and continued to pour for over sixteen hours. I think this is the most rain we've had in the least amount of time since the last hurricane. My "rain gauge" is my Rubbermaid wheelbarrow and I can't remember the last time the entire bottom was covered in water after a rain. This morning, the whole damn thing was filled up and had overflowed!

Folks, this is huge. There's water in the creek and water in the ponds and water in the ground and I'm can almost hear the oak trees sucking it up through the roots.

And we're supposed to get even more rain tonight.

Bring it on!

Now I'd like to discuss, just the teensiest bit, some of the ways religion has been intersecting with our lives here in America and specifically Tallahassee. Yes, I have been reading that "atheist" book, god Is Not Great but I'm not talking about proof of God or proof of not-god or anything like that. I just want to mention that there was a display at FSU a few days ago which compared abortion to genocide with pictures of fetuses as well as pictures from real, honest-to-God genocide and although I could talk about this for days, Kati Shardl did a real good job of it in yesterday's Democrat and that column can be read here.

I remember when abortion in this country was illegal and I remember the battle that it took to give women the right to make their own decisions about their own bodies and every time something like this happens or another pro-life, Christian Values judge gets appointed to the Supreme Court, my blood runs cold because this slippery slope is steep and getting slipperier.

When these anti-abortion people start showing real concern about fetuses that have graduated to the point of being actual humans who need things like food, shelter, health care, education, and a loving family in a supportive community, I'll start giving their cause more credence. Until then, please shut the fuck up.

On another issue, we here in Florida will be able to vote on November 4th on whether or not to make it a part of our constitution that marriage will be defined as being a union between one man and one woman. I wrote about this when they were still collecting signatures on petitions to get this on the ballot and I predicted then they'd get enough signatures and yes, they did. So. It will soon be possible to ensure that all our now-human-being fetuses are raised in happy little man-woman households where all children should be raised because that's worked out so well for society. I don't understand why it is, but these same people seem to be the biggest anti-abortion folks too when you'd think that they'd allow women who are not in secure and happy little man-woman marriages to abort their unborn children seeing as how they are not going to be raised properly, but I guess what they'd really like is for any sort of sexual behavior to be limited to the lucky people in those man-woman LEGAL marriages and that every one else should abstain and then there would be no unwanted pregnancies.

God would like that and so would they. And to prove this, they don't like the idea of anyone using contraceptives, either.

Why God would give people the desire to have sex when they didn't want that sex to result in babies (or even, God forbid) that sex was between two people of the same sex making it impossible to result in babies is something not addressed in the Bible as far as I know, but we do know that God doesn't like it, even though He did somehow screw up and let it happen. I suppose this is where Satan comes in.

I'm just sick and tired of people who believe in a God I don't being given the power to tell others what to do with their lives, their bodies, and their families and defining for all of us what love is, what families are, and who should and should not be having sex.

Thank-you for listening.

Now let's all quit wallowing, be grateful for the miracle of the rain, and get out and vote.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Some days you just wallow. Like a pig will do in the slops.
I am wallowing despite two amazing celestial events in the last 24 hours: last night's lunar eclipse and today's letting loose of the blessed rain from the sky.
I wallowed through the Tallahassee Democrat this morning whose front page headline promised me that "Mental Patients Break Out," and discovered, upon reading the article that the two patients who "broke out" only made it as far as the roof of the building.
I wallowed even though one of my daughters came out to go shopping with me in Monticello and we went to the new Mexican import shop and then to lunch where we had a fine meal made from fresh and wholesome, local and organic ingredients and the two ladies who own and run the place smiled so pretty the rain almost couldn't bring itself to wet the pavement in front of their cafe.
I quite literally wallowed out into the garden where I should have been wearing my thigh-high rubber boots (if I had any) and picked cabbages and greens to send home with my daughter.
I wallowed into dry clothes and wallowed into a nap.
I am wallowing now.
It is a day in which to wallow.
I am cold and damp and wallowing in my inability to do anything of any importance. To make up my mind about what to do with the rest of my life. I almost applied for a job yesterday online that I got a notice about in the mail, as did every other registered nurse in the tri-county area which would have involved having to know a lot about Medicaid, which believe me, no one does. I know this because I had to help Lynn apply for it when she was ill.
I almost applied today for a job at TMH, despite the fact that I've had no working experience as a nurse for eighteen years and I hate hospitals so much that even driving past one makes me wish I was Catholic so I could cross myself with authority.
And I am wallowing with self-loathing that my little dislikes and prejudices are preventing me from getting out into the world and doing something of importance which would bring in some money. And there is plenty of self-loathing left to wallow in concerning the book I'm working on which is NOT going well and I am wallowing in grief that the book I wrote years ago and which I loved has probably been thrown away by my so-called agent and I'm wallowing in the fact that I don't have the gumption to call the woman and say, "Dude! What up?"
I know what's up and she's not a dude so what's the point?" I ask, as I wallow.
I am wallowing through reading god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens and feeling a little sorry for god or God but that makes me feel ridiculous because, well, dude. Or Dude.
I am wallowing despite the fact that I am probably one of the ten luckiest women on earth and all my children are alive and well and I live in my dream house and it's paid for and it's raining, raining! I tell you and the potatoes are in the ground and the dogwoods are swelling even though it's cold and the azaleas are coming out and the birds are ignoring the rain and cold and eating the seed we've set out for them and my husband's on his way home and I have cabbage from our garden to cook tonight in a stir-fry with shrimp we will eat on brown noodles, dripping with soy sauce and with red peppers the way I like it, sitting in our cozy house.
Tomorrow I won't wallow. I promise.
I will change out of my pig costume, climb out of the slops and turn back into a human again.
I am almost certain.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Letting Go

So I cleaned some of my house today. I really don't enjoy housecleaning at all but then again, I don't enjoy living in squalor and filth either and I do love that feeling of the way a clean house smells good and shines. I may hate the process, but I do love the results.

The hardest part of cleaning, for me, isn't the scrubbing or mopping or sweeping or dusting. No, it's getting rid of the accumulated clutter so that I can sweep and mop and dust and scrub. I'll pick up one of those little bottles of hotel shampoo and think, "Someone could use this."

Well, yes, someone could, but no, no one is ever going to. And then I THROW IT AWAY! And all its little cousins, too, the hair conditioner that doesn't really condition and the hand and body lotion that smells like something you could eat but that wouldn't really be good for you even if it was food. Into the trash bag it all goes and boy, does that feel good.

Other things are harder to throw away and I won't list them here. They probably differ for all of us. But the question is, why do we hang on to these things that aren't enriching our lives one bit and in fact, make our lives more difficult and messy? It's all just useless stuff that is really nothing more than garbage that we don't need and would be better off for having gotten rid of.

I remember once a friend of mine who knew she really didn't have long to live attended the birth of another friend. I was there, working at the Birth Center, and it was a difficult and potentially perilous birth but it all turned out quite well and after the baby was born and everything was fine, my friend was lying on a couch in the dark and I came in and asked her if she was okay.

"I'm fine," she said, even though she was crying. And then she said something I'll never forget. "We all carry around so much garbage. And the damn thing about it is that so much of it isn't even ours to begin with."

She was right. And I think about that when I clean house. That it's not just the stupid things we hang on to that make our lives more difficult and messy than they should be but the stuff we carry around inside that we don't need and perhaps isn't even ours to carry anyway.

I think a lot of this garbage is stuff we were taught as children by perhaps well-meaning adults: the bitter and burnt-out teachers, the preachers and Sunday school teachers, the parents with deep and disturbing issues of their own. They all heaped crap on us we didn't need and wasn't true, and yet that we somehow ended up internalizing and believing as truth.

Things like the belief that we weren't smart enough or pretty enough or that we had no talent for art or that we were supposed to be selfless caretakers or that suffering is noble or that we weren't supposed to act silly or that we weren't supposed to enjoy sex or that we had to put up with horrible evil things that no one on this earth should have to put up with.

Or even that we should eat liver.

I don't know.

But at some point, wouldn't it be grand if we could just recognize that garbage for what it is and see clearly how much of our energy we are wasting by carrying it around and then...just let it go?

What a relief that would be. Far, far greater than the relief that comes with tossing out all those little bottles of shampoo, I can tell you that.

How much easier it would be to let our souls shine if we could rip down and burn the curtains made up of the rotten fabric of guilt and habit and fear that we've cloaked and choked ourselves with our entire lives?

I hope I don't have to wait until I know I'm dying to do that.

Spring is coming on, which is the traditional time to clean and sort and toss.

And just like housecleaning, I doubt that soul-cleaning is a task that ever gets entirely completed but dammit, I'm going to try and get at least one or two rooms cleared out.

I'm going to try and recognize and let go of the things I've been keeping that are holding me back, even if guilt and fear and habit make it hard to do.

Not just let go, but get rid of forever. Make a big old metaphoric burn pile and light the match.
And then get on with my life. My cleaner, shinier, less cluttered life.

My one and only real true life. The one I'm living now.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

What Is Best For the Empty Nest?

When a woman gets pregnant, her body is no longer her own. It is taken over by what some may call "the developing fetus" but which I will call the alien life form. And everything the mother-to-be does or eats or inhales or takes or thinks or does has to be considered with the perspective of what will this do to the baby?
Not to mention the fact that her up-until-now familiar organs will no longer function as they have done for her entire life as the burgeoning life form within her grows and takes over. Her intestinal system will not be the reliable and trouble-free bit of plumbing she has always known. Her bladder will be squeezed and punched and kicked from the inside. Her stomach will be pushed up into her chest and heartburn will become a part of her life experience.
Her entire blood volume will increase by approximately fifty percent, resulting in headaches that cannot be treated because medication can affect the baby.
Her hormones will go off the charts in ways she's never considered, making her do insane things like scream at her beloved husband, weep with despair over Publix commercials, have dreams that would make a Freudian analyst furrow his brow with worry, go out and buy a washing machine, and eat combinations of strange foods she would never consider eating pre-pregnancy.
Ankles swell as will bellies. Belly buttons pop. Stretch marks appear. Tiny fists and butts will be seen through the skin of the belly, punching, rolling, and generally traveling across the plains of the uterine wild west.
Then the baby is born. This requires a complete and utter giving up of any sort of control on the part of the mother as her body contracts and opens, squeezes and pushes and causes her the most unbearable pain she can imagine.
And then, and THEN, folks, the sight and sound and feel of her new baby completely rearrange the mother's heart, soul, and life.
And thus, it has truly begun.
The mother cannot sleep unless the baby is asleep, no matter how weary and psychotically tired she may be. The mother's breasts become engorged with milk that her tender and darling child will drink with lips and gums and a sucking strength that it is impossible to believe could have developed without Olympian training while in the womb. Her hormones will do another complete flip as she transitions from being a pregnant woman to a nursing mother. She will weep at the thought of babies in orphanages. She will weep at the thought that her baby will grow up. She will weep at the thought that her baby will never grow up. She will be overwhelmed, fatigued beyond belief, and hungrier than forty-five billion locusts. She will fall so in love with her child that she will truly believe that her love is stronger and more real than any mother's love in the history of primates. She will also believe that her child is more precious, more special, more beautiful, charming, intelligent, advanced and just plain HOLY than any child ever born, even counting Jesus.
Thank God she feels this way because her schedule, her wardrobe, her privacy, her thoughts and passions and very life will no longer be dictated by her own needs and desires, but by those of her child which would be completely unacceptable if her child weren't more special even than Jesus. And then, if she has more than one, she thinks the same thing about each and every child.
This belief does not completely fade, either, even when the teenaged years begin. This fierce and abiding love hangs on so strongly that the mothers of our species do not do what would seem to be the sensible thing to do and just kick the children out into the snow, but instead, she continues to love them and fret about them and buy them school supplies and pay for therapy.
This goes on until the very last child moves out of the house. And by the time this happens, the mother has quite possibly lived under the dictates of these children for far longer than she did under her own.
Which brings us to the point of this little essay- what happens when those children move out? What happens when they no longer need her to attend to their every need? What happens when a woman can decide what to do with her time, her life, her diet without having to think about what the children might need?
I'm not sure.
Although my fourth and last baby moved out of the house (sort of) six entire months ago, I have just recently realized that I have no idea how to live my life without being needed by a child.
And I'm sort of freaking out.
Throw in menopause and general life changes that are associated with (Oh God!) aging and let me tell you- it gets weird.
Here I am, on a Sunday night, and my husband is away and I am living the dream of a mother-with-small-children, which is to say I can do anything in the entire world I want to. I could eat pancakes for dinner or stay up and drink vodka all night long if I wanted to, or go to bed right this second or paint a picture or write a book or READ a book or watch an R-Rated or an old Bette Davis movie or play Bruce Springsteen really loud or take a bubble bath or, well, I'm about out of ideas.
The thing is- I can do whatever I want, which is what I've been dreaming about for all those years and frankly, I'm not sure what to do.
And why should I know what I want to do? I haven't had that option for thirty-one years.
It's a process. And I'm not getting through it real fast.
But here's what I know- all of life is a process and just as we get used to one situation or circumstance, everything changes. As soon as you gather the knowledge and skills to deal with one thing, that thing changes and you need an entirely new set of skills and knowledge.
Being really good at breastfeeding doesn't help at all when your child brings home a fellow wearing an Insane Clown Posse T-shirt.
Insane Clown Posse?
And learning what to do about that doesn't help when you're all alone on a Sunday night and the world is your oyster and you have no idea where the oyster knife is.
But I'll tell you this- it's exciting. It's not boring. And I never thought I'd live this long.
So I'm not complaining. I'm just saying.
And I'm grateful to have my body and my life back as my own, although this is certainly not the same body that I had when I got pregnant for the first time.
Nor is it the same mind, heart, or soul.
For which I am eternally grateful and owe every bit of thanks to those children.
Whom I will learn to live without needing to take care of every moment of my life.
I think.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Another Day, Another Role

Well, Valentines Day was successfully navigated and no deer heads were mentioned in any context except for when I read my husband my last blog entry. He never reads my blog and I think he's quite happy to pretend that I don't have one. It makes him understandably nervous, and I believe he's afraid I'll start getting all personal and write things about him that would make him look bad to the ones and ones of people who read this.

But I thought it would be sort of romantic to read it to him and so after I got the tuna marinating in the Yucatan Citrus Grilling sauce, I opened the MacBook and read it out loud, him leaning up against the kitchen counter. I was practically in tears before I was through with the whole long thing (where is a good editor when you need one?) and except for occasionally telling one of the dogs to shut up, he was quiet and seemed to appreciate it, although I think he was more interested in the comments people had made so thanks to all of you who took the time to do that.

Then we had a nice grilled tuna and some mashed potatoes and a salad with avocado and I made a salsa of fresh mango, pineapple, red onion, garlic, lime, salt and cilantro for the tuna.

Can I just say yum?

No pretzel salad.

And so, once again, Valentines Day is over and I have to admit that yesterday while I was running around Tallahassee buying things like mangoes and pineapple, it was sort of nice to see people buying flowers and candy and picking out the fattest artichokes and the thickest steaks and it occurred to me that it's not such an awfully bad idea to have one day a year set aside to tell the person you love how you feel about them and to celebrate that together.

Love is a good thing to celebrate. Probably the best thing.

But the hearts and flowers are over for another year and tonight I'll be at the Monticello Opera House, doing the sound effects with my friend Kathleen for what they're calling Live Radio Theater.

I didn't set out to be doing sound effects and thought I'd be reading a part but due to the recent deaths we've experienced here I called the director and told her that I just didn't know when I'd be available for rehearsal but that I'd like to come and help in any way I could. Kathleen said she could use some help with the sound and thing you know, I was on stage trying to make hoof beat sounds with two coconut shell halves in a tray of gravel and making jello at home, not for salad, but to create the sound of a giant amoeba being dumped into a bathtub, which is not as easy as you'd think and we're still sort of hit or miss with that one.

I'm having the time of my life and it turns out that Kathleen and I are the comedic relief and when she waps the hell out of a head of cabbage to recreate the sounds of a good, old-fashioned fist fight and cabbage is flying all over the stage and we're picking it out of our hair, it's pretty funny.

The best, though, is the avalanche which is worth the price of admission, I do believe.

Throw in the two of us making slurp sounds for the amoeba as it eats its victims and well, let's face it- we have no pride and we like it like that.

And my husband is coming to see this performance and again, I have to say that's true love because mainly what I do besides making slurp sounds is open and shut a miniature door to make door-opening-and-shutting sounds, and in-between my opening and shutting I just sit on stage and knit. And Abbott and Costello may have been hysterically funny back in the forties but times have changed. I will say that there's some real talent in the cast and oh yes! I do have a few lines. I get to read "young Dan" whoever he is, and that's fun, too.

So! Life moves on and after tonight I'll be able to add "Foley Artist" to my burgeoning resume and just like all my other skills and talents, it's one that has absolutely no use anywhere in today's job market, but at the Monticello Opera House makes me a pretty important member of the cast which is far more rewarding and fun than you can possibly imagine unless you've been there and done that.

My ex-husband's wife, the other-mother of two of my kids, has just been tapped as the Film Commissioner of the Office of Film and Entertainment which sounds like an extremely important and hopefully well-paying job and one she richly and certainly deserves because she is dedicated, hard-working and smart. Not to mention beautiful. Although she passed up on my offer to be her personal assistant (I pointed out that I can iron, answer e-mail and mix martinis), perhaps she can keep me in mind if the job of Foley Artist ever comes available.

You never know.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentines And Other Follies Of The Human Heart

"Without love, you are nothing."

That was the sign posted on a church marquee that my husband and I saw as were driving home from the airport on Sunday night.

"Good Lord," I said. "As if being alone on Valentine's Day wasn't enough, now churches are telling people that without love they are nothing."
"I don't think they were talking about that sort of love," he said.
"Well, it didn't say what sort of love," I replied. "It just said love. I can see some poor lonely person reading that sign and deciding to just go sit on a railroad track until a train came along to put them out of their misery."
"Huh," he said.

Valentine's Day is a screwy holiday if you ask me. From the earliest days of grade school when the pretty, popular girls got the good Valentines that came in the punch-out Valentine's card kits and I got the stupid dumb ones because I was fat and the teacher's pet, it's been nothing but a soul-sucking disappointment to me.

I've been in love with the man I'm married to for twenty-three years and we never, ever get Valentine's Day right. Last year we decided to just cook something on the grill, have a drink and let that be it. I'm sure I cooked something special to go with whatever was going on the grill (my memory- it's a sad, sad loss) but by the time the grill got cranked up and the meat was done, we'd had too much of the drink and I was in tears and had taken the opportunity to do what I do best, which is to get psychotic.

"There's no more romance in our relationship!" I wailed.

"What?" said my husband, standing there with the platter of high-dollar meat that we surely didn't even need unless you're talking about the fact that it was food and I certainly needed to eat something.

"You used to pursue me. When you met me you were all about the romance. Then you caught me and that was that. That's all you needed to do. Now I'm like one of these," and here I nodded towards one of the many deer-heads on the wall. "Just, a thing."
"What are you talking about?" he asked.

And I had no idea, quite honestly. He doesn't treat me like a thing at all but I suppose that because dinner was late and I'd had one martini too many and he didn't buy me something from Tiffany's, I had determined that I was now nothing more than a dead trophy, stuck on a wall.

And if the truth be known, there is probably nothing any man can do that will proclaim his love for his woman (or a woman for her man or a man for his man or a woman...okay, you know what I'm saying) on one specific day of the year that shows the depths and breadths of his love.

Okay. Maybe if he surprised his love with a trip in a private jet to Paris where he had made reservations at some amazing restaurant and on board was a beautiful new couture dress that fit her perfectly because he knew every inch of her beloved body, along with a small token of his love in the form of platinum and diamonds for her to wear to dinner and bottles of wine and small perfect little bites of the most delicious food on earth to nibble on before they got to dinner and, well, yeah, maybe that would do it.

But short of that, how can anyone come through on Valentine's Day? Because the purpose of the day is supposedly to show the one you love just how MUCH you love them and that can't be done with flowers, candy, dinner reservations or even jewelry, although in my book, jewelry can come close.

Nah. It's not Valentine's Day where we prove our love.

It's every other day of the year when we prove it by earning the money and cleaning the toilets and thanking each other for doing these things. It's coming home every night and it's making dinner every night and it's going together to meet with the wedding caterer for the daughter's wedding. It's saying "I love you" at the end of every phone conversation and it's holding each other's hands during a funeral as tears run down your faces.

It's taking your mother wood for her fireplace and it's saying, "Sure honey, go fishing this weekend." Or hunting or going off to visit a friend or coming to see you in a play.

It's lying down together at the end of every day and saying, "I love you," again because you can't say it too much.

It's being together every minute for ten days and nights on a vacation and then getting back and realizing that you miss him when he goes to work and where is your best friend, your lover, your buddy to play with?

It's standing up in front of friends under a clear blue sky on a beautiful October day and saying "I do," to all sorts of crazy promises that you have no idea what the implications of are and it's creating a family and working insane hours and raising children and going to school plays together and it's having problems and it's staying and doing the hard work and making it better.

It's seeing each other age and not letting that get in the way and it's planning for the future and it's living in the day.

It's shared jokes that go back decades and memories, too, of crazy times and funny times and good times and rotten times and times you wouldn't repeat for all the money in the world and times you keep in your heart in a velvet-lined box and only open up and look at once in a while because they're so beautiful that you don't want to wear them out.

It's changing the oil in the car and it's planting camellias together and it's putting in a spring garden and it's shoveling chicken shit. It's being patient and tolerant and it's using good manners when that's the only thing that'll get you through something. It's acting sillier than you'd ever want your kids to know their parents act and it's being respectful even when you don't understand.

It's not walking out the door when the other one gets psychotic and starts wailing about romance.

It's about putting flax seed in his smoothie so he'll live forever and it's knowing that neither one of us will. It's about listening to his breath and his heartbeat and knowing that one day one of us will be there when the other one's breath and heartbeat cease and it's holding each other closer because of that knowledge.

Love is about all of those things and it's about dreams and reality and fantasy and hope and despair and joy and death and having someone to hold tight to through all of that. It's about someone to share it all with.

And by golly, it may not be true that there is nothing without love but it's knowing that it's easier, it's sweeter, it's a blessing beyond compare to have it.

And even though I know all of this, I know myself and that I will have a small breakdown tomorrow because we haven't planned anything for Valentine's. We haven't made dinner reservations, we haven't planned a get-away, and I seriously doubt any jewelry's been bought.
Which is not to say he hasn't bought me plenty of jewelry over the past two decades. He's bought me enough jewelry for a lifetime.

And he also chose not to take a bulkhead seat on the flight home on Sunday because it would have meant splitting us up on the plane even though he had to sit with his unnaturally long legs wedged into a space barely big enough for a midget's.

And that is LOVE, baby.

So I'll try to remember all of that and leave the deer heads out of it this year.

Because I have love and that is truly something.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tuesday Haiku (Sorry, Jon)

Afternoon rain here
Soup in the pot simmering
Bread rising. All's well.

Monday, February 11, 2008

When Wishes Come True

Long story about the trip and it was a good trip and I'm sure I'll be writing about it soon but of course, life goes on and I'm so far behind with mine.
BUT, I had to relate a small blog-related incident which I swear is one of the strangest things that has ever happened to me.
If you've read the last post you'll know that I was really enjoying the thought of the plethora of Jello salads that would be at the post-funeral meal. I even included a recipe I'd found in a church cookbook for a Jello Pretzel salad and stated that I "desperately" hoped someone would make that salad for the lunch.
So after the service, we all filed out of the "worship" hall at this mega-Baptist church in Allen, Texas for the luncheon portion of the day and there were tables of really fine Texas food- barbeque, ham, macaroni and cheese, casseroles galore, breads, pies, cakes, you-name-it.
There were also salads but only ONE Jello salad and folks, I am here to tell you that it was none other than the Pretzel Salad, same exact recipe (had to be, just had to be) as the one I blogged about last Thursday. In an oblong dish.
I couldn't believe it and it was like maybe there was a God or something except for the fact that no, it didn't taste like it had nuts in it and really, it was not as good as you'd think it would be although it wasn't bad.
One other thing- I wished for a liquor store to be right next to the hotel and there wasn't. In fact, no liquor store in the entire county- it was a DRY county and how do you account for something like that in TEXAS? You could buy beer and wine and buy drinks at restaurants but that was that.
So instead of wishing for pretzel salad I should have gone out and bought a lottery ticket and wished to win with it but of course we can't know these things in advance.
Pretzel salad.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Air Travel and Jello Salad

My husband and I are flying to Texas this weekend for the funeral of his brother-in-law. As you may know, it has been a bad year so far for us when it comes to losing people we love. This funeral will be held in a Baptist church in a town not far from Dallas and we will be flying.

Frankly, I hate air travel, unless I'm traveling somewhere like Cozumel, Mexico but who doesn't? The airlines have determined that we will still pay their outrageous airfares to get from Point A to Point B even though they don't serve food or guarantee that your plane won't sit on the runway for less than ten hours before take-off, and that you'll desperately wish you could detach your legs and stow them under the seat in front of you before the trip is over. Also, it is a proven fact that the terrorists have won because otherwise, why would we let ourselves, like cattle being led to the slaughter, be wanded, frisked, and interrogated before boarding an airplane to fly to a funeral?

You can't wear jewely on a plane because taking it off and putting it in the little dish would hold up the lines and you can't wear shoes that take more than three seconds to take off for the same reason (thanks! Shoe Bomber) and you can't take liquids on the plane that are in anything but one ounce bottles. Or is it eight ounce? I can't keep up. No scissors, no pocket knives, no bombs. Well, you could probably get a bomb through security but those fingernail scissors will definitely be confiscated.

BUT, we will get on that plane at some god-awful early hour on Friday morning and we will fly to Texas and we will rent a car and we will drive to this town where the funeral is and we will stay at the Holiday Inn Express where hopefully, there will be a liquor store right next door.
And we will do this because we loved Ron and we love his wife and we love his sons and that's what you do when someone you love dies.

I have bought a new dress which is so soft and comfy that traveling in it will be like traveling in my nightgown and I'm sure that will help. I am hoping that we won't go through any storms like the one I flew through once where the flight attendant sitting in front of me discretely fingered her rosary, her lips moving silently in prayer while pretending to read as the plane bucked, jumped, dropped, rose and dropped again as we flew through torrential rain and crashing lightening. I also hope I will not suffer a gall-bladder attack like the one I had on the way back from Las Vegas once that was so bad I thought I would surely die, although I never let out so much as a peep. I did turn to my husband and say, "Honey. I think I'm dying."
"Really?" he said.
"Uh-huh," I answered, as sweat beaded on my upper lip.
"Well what should I do?" he asked.
"I don't know," I said in a quiet scream.
"Okay," he said and turned back to the in-flight magazine he was reading.

I lived and we're still married.

So I'm not really looking forward to the trip but I'm sure there will be some good moments with family and I wouldn't not be there for the world.

And another thing I'm sure of is that we'll eat some Jello this weekend because as far as I know, there has never been a Southern church funeral in history where Jello was not present in one form or another with a host of other yummy ingredients of which vodka, sadly, is not one, and labeled as a salad.

I was discussing this with my husband tonight who didn't realize this fact. I don't know why, since he was raised in the South and I'm sure he attended a few funerals. I pointed out to him that almost all salads at Southern funerals have Jello in them. He REALLY didn't believe that, but I got out a wonderful cookbook his aunt gave me that was one her Methodist Church put together and turned to the "salad" section.

There are thirty-six salad recipes in this cookbook and seventeen of those have Jello as an ingredient. There is one with Jello pudding listed as an ingredient but I didn't count that.

I found one that sounded so outrageously good that I decided to copy it here. Read it, weep, and get out your oblong pan. I am desperately hoping someone makes this recipe for the funeral we're attending.

I'll bring my own vodka.

Pretzel Salad

1st layer: 1 and 2/3 cups pretzels, crushed
1 and 1/2 sticks margarine
3 Tbsp. sugar

Mix and bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees

2nd layer: 1- 8 oz. carton Cool Whip
1/2 cup sugar
1- 8 oz. package cream cheese

3rd layer: 1- 6 oz. package strawberry Jello or 2- 3 oz. packages
2 cups water (I presume for making the Jello)
1 package frozen strawberries

Pour the 2nd layer on top of the pretzel mixture, then the 3rd layer of Jello and strawberries.
Pour this in large oblong dish. Keep refrigerated.
It tastes like it has nuts in it.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Comin' On Spring

I just wrote an entire blog about spring coming and coming soon. It was full of redbud and dogwood and bare feet and azaleas and open doors and warm breezes and how it got to 78 degrees here today.

Seventy-eight, y'all.

Oh. Heaven.

It was about the almost-indecent swelling of the Japanese Magnolia blossoms and the hundreds of birds flocking around the feeder and that soon the browns and grays of winter will be replaced with all the colors of new-born green the eye can take in.

It was good.

And then I lost it. I did it. Technical dumbfoolery on my part.

But hell, I think I'll have lots of time to write about the glory of spring when it is actually spring.

What I would like to say, though, is that for a lot of us North Floridians, nothing could make us happier than to have actual proof that spring and all that it promises is surely coming. We're not the hardiest bunch of folks here when it comes to winter. Or, some of us aren't, anyway. We couldn't tolerate a winter in Alaska or perhaps even in North Georgia and that is why we live here, my friends.

Right here where on February 4th, 2008, we thawed out, took off our coats and sweaters and socks and opened up the house.

Some of us had bare toes and happy hearts.

Okay. At least I did. And it's been glorious.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Dog-Related Disaster Averted

The other night I got home from play practice (and there may be a blog here soon about what it looks like when two middle-aged women bend over and slurp together into a microphone to make the sound-effect for a giant amoeba) and had eaten my supper and had just settled down on the couch with my laptop to see what was happening in the world and maybe do a little e-bay search for Coach leather backpacks, vintage, which is sort of a hobby of mine, when the dogs started arguing fiercely about a bone.
I quickly set my laptop down on the coffee table in order to grab my smallest dog, Zeke, before my next-to-the-largest dog, Buster, ate him, but my husband beat me to the quickly-escalating violence and picked up Buster. Unfortunately the dogs were attached via Buster's teeth and Zeke's forearm and as I tried to pry the teeth from the forearm, Zeke dropped like a rock and hit the coffee table, sending a glass of water flying across the table, dumping its contents onto my laptop.
You knew this was coming, right?
And here's what you have to know- my laptop is my baby. I treat it as gently as I would a real baby, always handling it with kid gloves, never leaving it plugged in when I leave the house so that if a storm should magically spring up while I'm gone it won't get its little logic board zapped, and never, ever leaving it near a glass of anything.
This is not my first laptop and I have learned all of these lessons the hard way.
But in the heat of the growls and biting and barking, I just set it down right next to that glass of water and that was all it took for the unintentional water-boarding to occur.
Being as I have four dogs and only one laptop, I immediately grabbed it up, ignoring the smallest dog and raced to the kitchen to get a dry, clean cloth to begin some sort of futile rescue on it. My husband followed me, grabbed the computer and held it upside down and began to shake and pound on it as if delivering a sort of clumsy CPR and Heimlich maneuver to a choking child. I watched in horror, quivering and trembling as water poured out of its precious keyboard, and all I could think was, "Dear Lord, he's killing it."
At that point, I remembered the dog and went to check on him. He appeared to be fine, although he did have a few small puncture wounds in his leg. Big deal. He's always getting beat up by Buster and he's always lived.
My laptop, however, had never had anything poured into it and of course it had gone all-blank-screened by this time. No vital signs at all.
I removed the battery and very gently and with very low heat, attempted to dry it out for about an hour with a blow dryer. My husband and I set it up in front of a fan and a small space heater, put Neosporin on the dog's leg and then we all went to bed, exhausted from the emotional distress of watching a laptop possibly die, knowing we'd done all we could and that only time would tell.
The next morning I was in a state of high anxiety but I waited until I'd read the paper and had some coffee and my husband said the laptop was as dry as it was going to get before I put the battery back in and tried to start it up. With my husband watching anxiously over my shoulder, I held my breath and hit the "on" button and I've never been more thrilled in my life to hear that sweet Mac chime and see it start to boot, just like normal. Before we knew it, everything had sprung to life- my desktop and all the icons- and I ran it through a few tests and tried to type and go online and everything, everything worked. Its magic was intact.
So here's what I'm saying- no matter how careful you are, unforeseen disasters can occur and if you're lucky and these disasters involve water and not something like, oh- rum and coke, and if you have a beautiful little machine like say- a MacBook, a little water down the keyboard won't kill it and you will live to blog again.
And by the way, Zeke is fine and isn't even limping and we've thrown all the bones away.
That's him in the picture above which I took with the nifty camera that comes in the MacBook and which still, as you can see, works fine.