Thursday, October 29, 2009
That's the best possible form of getaway, for me. The kind that comes back with me a newborn fluffy bird which spreads its wings in relief and warmth and recognition of home.
While I was gone I received a real estate call on the dread batphone, a referral from my favorite independent bookstore owners. The Bookmine in Cottage Grove doesn't have a web site, but it does have a small organic plant nursery and several comfy couches. It doesn't have seven levels covering one city block, but it does have a corner filled with vintage Little People for my little people to play with while I read. It doesn't have air conditioning or flourescent lights or many other modern conveniences... but it does "have" Gail and Birdie, sisters I've known my entire life who have run the bookstore nearly as long as I've been alive.
So when Gail sends me someone who wants to talk about moving to our area, I consider it an introduction to a possible friend. Even on vacation, I'll take that call.
I met a writer and her writer partner on that call. I learned about their dreams and hopes for a second home on small acreage with a big garden and room for a big table on which the two of them write but not enough room for a lot of visitors.
That part made me laugh.
Anyway I just want to say that even though I'm still working real estate I found my rose-colored glasses again. Certainly the financing woes and the sheer incompetence of many in the field and the agonies of buyers and sellers at huge financial turning points ... surely those things will rear their ugly heads. But just as surely I am a person at peace. I brought it home with me and I don't plan to let this particular bird fly too far.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
No problem, says I to myself.
I called my husband at work after brewing a half-pot with the last of the beans. I asked him not to pick up coffee beans but to bring home a few scoops of coffee from the office. Just to get me through until I go to town.
Fantastic! Three pots' worth of grounds came home in a zipper lock bag. (Did my husband re-use this bag? I never would have thought so, but....)
This morning I scooped out enough for a delicious pot of coffee. Filter. Water. On button. Pour my cream and sugar in the cup and anticipate the morning. (Read: tap foot impatiently for first cup to brew.) It's taking too long. Open the lid to check on progress. I do this every morning it seems. Compulsive much?
The grounds were satisfyingly steamy and damp, the coffee dripping into the pot with an aroma I like to think I detected early was... different. Not that I'm a coffee snob (snork). So I opened the lid again for further inspection. And what did I spy? First I thought that offending little lump to be an unground coffee bean.
However. It proved to be a piece of dog kibble. Unmistakable.
Coffee snob signing out, people. Whilst drinking tea and making my grocery list.
It's a good year to be thankful. Come to think of it, when is it ever a bad time to be thankful?
Man, that dog likes to jump at falling leaves. Every year I take dozens of pictures of him leaping in the air like a fool after leaves as they drift down. The girls enjoy helping him out with his game. When there are no leaves falling, he settes for bubbles. But the leaves are clearly preferable.
Monday, October 26, 2009
I honestly don't know how those pioneer women -- the women I admire so much -- perservered through so many trials and personal hardships with none of the comforts we take for granted.
Maybe that's why the Sabbath concept was so important to them: plan ahead, bake enough bread and get all the laundry done, because on the day of rest you won't be working. At all.
Friday, October 23, 2009
She drove over the curb, people. She flashed me the special finger known in my house as "Tall Man" from the Thumbkin family. Also gracing that hand was a visible CZ from 35 miles per hour.
Her other hand was busy holding a bejeweled cell phone to her ear. I'm not sure but maybe she was steering with her knee? My shocked self took in her license plate frame as she zoomed away: "Spoiled Rotten Princess."
I drive a Suburban: Red, nine-passenger, flex-fuel-but-still-not-sexy, tows the horse trailer and hauls the feed and keeps my kids safe. My wedding ring took my husband saving an entire summer job's earnings between his sophomore and junior years at a public university. (That worked out okay for him, though, since I worked as a reporter to help pay tuition for the next three years.)
So spoiled rotten princesses may cut me off in traffic. They may assume my loaded Suburban defines me. (And in my neck of the granola, owning an SUV is enough to have you run out of greentown.)
Stereotyping goes both ways, I guess. She may have been a very late-for-court spoiled rotten princess. She may have been hurrying to deliver Costco goods to a relief plane for all I know. I shouldn't judge her by the self-spinning chrome hubcaps on her wheels any more than she should have judged me too slow to follow and too old to fight back in an alley.
I shouldn't judge.
But I'm at the Sylvia Beach Hotel for a four-day, three-night getaway because my family truly does spoil me... rotten.
I've spent the past couple of days writing, reading and drinking tea while the fog alternates with driving rain. Just perfect weather for a bookworm in the West Coast's best Luddite hotel: no phones, no television, no internet, no problem.
Yesterday I read Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve. Beautiful but a little disturbing; just the way I like Shreve. The day before, Northanger Abbey by of course Jane Austen. There's nothing like a little Jane on a rainy day. Today I'm sitting by the fire in the Newport Public Library, where they don't mind if you steal their wifi. Really. I asked. Because I'm not so spoiled as to fail to ask permission.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
We have two bathrooms and four girls.
About six years ago it was really difficult to get my daughter Madeleine to dress herself. Or to wear clothes at all. In fact, one Kindergarten morning found me in a most memorable embarrassing moment when M opened the front door (big, big no-no for a 5-year-old in our house) to the pastor who lived across the road (nice man) wearing nothing but her Dora underpants (if you are in trouble for opening the door at all, how much trouble are you in for opening it while nearly nekked?).
None of that is the embarrassing part.
The embarrassing part is that I was chasing her down the stairs, wielding her day's outfit like a sword and shield, shrieking in my very best impersonation of a fishwife that she would get dressed right now, little miss, right now, and OH HOLY TOLEDO YOU DID NOT OPEN THAT DOOR Miss Madeleine you had better close-it-right-now!
So in our former house in a small town near here, we had the kind of staircase I am sure you have seen in movies. It was a turn-of-the-century grand dame house whose stairs landed graciously in the foyer like a prom date disembarking a limousine.
Me, I landed much less gracefully at the bottom of the stairs, still seeing red over Madeleine's refusal to get dressed for school, demanding that she shut the door. My assumption (and we all know how assumptions usually turn out) was that she had opened it just to irk me, or worse, to run outside to exercise her right to move to a nudist colony.
I was wrong. As you or any other less-freaked-out mommy would have probably already guessed, she had merely answered the doorbell.
All of this I figured out when my nice pastor neighbor leaned his head in to announce that he would close the door.
Imagine my horror. Just sit with it for a minute. Too painful? Then look at this beautiful field instead:
I was just thinking about that.
Anyway I was thinking back to that morning this morning when I was tempted to hurry the girls along in their braiding and primping and sweater selection and oh-my-word-now-we-have-earrings-to-change-to-match-the-sweater extravaganza.
By the way, we visited the pumpkin patch last week.
It was beautiful.
And the girls were too. (Not that Madeleine or Sarah would sit still long enough for a picture. At least I still have Laura and Grace as semi-willing subjects.)
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
This got me thinking about romanticizing the make-do, the degage'. I think I'm pretty good at this, if I do say so myself. Sometimes I can even perform this gymnastic feat of positive thinking on the fly, turning a Mother Hubbard moment into an opportunity to make bread, as it were.
Living in a boxcar = cozy, not impoverished.
Canning tomatoes = healthy, frugal, not too-broke-for-Trader-Joe's.
During the contemplation of my marriage vows seventeen years ago I obsessed a little. (Shocking, I know. OCD Girl overthought her vows? Nah.) The focus of my freak-out had nothing to do with the "love and cherish" part nor even the "obey" part ('cause it wasn't in there; again with the shocking).) Nope. I wasn't your garden-variety bride with stars in her eyes: I spent a good deal of time dwelling on the "worse" part.
You know. "For better or worse."
I just thought that if I could know the worse, see it coming, I could plan better.
At the time I was a cub reporter at a weekly paper. Just graduated and happy to be working in my field, interviewing small-town heroes and notable folk. At the back of my mind all that summer: What is their worst? What will be mine?
Sometimes you think you can see people's "worse" written on their lives. Sometimes you're convinced they've had no experience with the second half of that commitment phrase, dwelling in the "better" for all the world to see.
Given a little more life experience I suspect that those apparently better people may have the worst secrets of all. Given a little more living I have more compassion, less fear. More belief and less anxiety. (Erm, I still have anxiety. Don't get me wrong.)
And all the "worse" that I wanted so badly to predict and plan for? Turns out that there is no preparing for the disappointments and heartbreaks of life. Or maybe there's only character, built through the valleys and nurtured at the high points.
In 1997 my husband and I had our first miscarriage. It broke my heart and my innocence about life and in some ways I've been gluing it all back together ever since. There may be a watershed moment like that in your life: The one where you realize that you can survive the unthinkable. A sick child. A lost relationship, car accident, natural disaster, financial devastation.
We've had other times of sadness, times that necessitated leaning on the "better" in order to make it through the gloom. I keep a little journal (one of many that prove my dorkiness; different journals for different purposes) of worries and their outcomes. I learned to write these things down from a mentor who walked with me during a sad time. She told me to clean my house right to left, top to bottom. Routine will sustain you through a lot. She told me to faithfully write down my worst fears and to check back later to see how they turned out.
Turns out we have had to face the illness of a child. Turns out we have had to face some "worse" moments. Turns out we had usually enough strength to see them for what they were: low points between high.
Maybe the vows ought to be changed. For better and worse. For boxcar and mansion. For five-star hotels and camping in the wilderness. And it seems to me everyone, not just the married people, should make these vows: vows to perservere through life and to make lemonade.
Sometimes a lot of lemonade.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
She wouldn't stop climbing the railing so she had to sit down. Look how happy she was about that. And while we're checking out that time-out moment, let's consider my children's wardrobes. If there were any more stripes someone might've mistaken them for a short chain gang on the run. Barb once told me that she liked to dress her children (when they were younger) in a manner approaching clownish. I replied that I completely understood, that my kids do that all on their own. Remembering of course who buys their clothes, I am hesitant to lay blame.
Laura finally got over not being able to swim in the frigid water when later that day Daddy let her sit on a life-sized Clydesdale built out of barbed wire. Notice my six-foot-tall husband not even visible behind the horse. That's his hand holding the happy Danger Girl in place for a photo.
It was a cold, cold October day up the Columbia Gorge. Our stated mission was to visit a rescue center for Maine Coon cats, and maybe to come home with one.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
The forecast calls for storms next week. But that's next week, and in true Scarlett O'Hara fashion we'll just worry about that... tomorrow.
Ooh! Guess what we're doing today? Go ahead and guess. You'll NEVER GUESS.
We're driving up the Columbia Gorge to see if there's a rescue kitty waiting to come home with us!
We have heard rumors ("rumor" is my word for October) that there are Maine Coon kittens at a special shelter there. In fact my husband has been corresponding with one of the staff about a certain cat, huge and furry and orange and not such a kitten anymore.
So we're going to go meet him and see if he's our family.
Meanwhile, on the three-hour drive, we'll just likely pass a few fall displays of color and possibly a couple of photo ops. Hurray for the country drive on a cold clear day in October! Three cheers for the cooler packed with roast beef sandwiches and thermoses (Thermi? I crack myself up.) of soup! Best of all it's family time.
It's a hardscrabble life but somebody's gotta live it.
Friday, October 9, 2009
All the lavender you see in these photos is my very own beloved lavender hedge. The plants are probably 40 years old and super fragrant.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Madeleine and Sarah were upstairs practicing clarinet and flute. Grace was using every possible medium from the craft box in creation of a card for Daddy. Laura was playing with her bead track toy on the bathroom floor. How did this happen? A moment of (near) solitude and (absolute) relaxation in the midst of a crazy busy week? It just happened.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
But just in case? This greenhouse, cute as a bug and Earth-friendly as all get-out, would surely fit in the southeast corner of my garden.
How many fairies would it take to deliver that, do you suppose?
(Just your everyday side note: Do you think anyone likely noticed me as I trespassed my big red Suburban onto these nice (completely unknown to me) people's front drive to steal a photo of their newly delivered beauty? I'm not sure because I sped away quick-like when their big (huge) dog came charging out.)
Friday, October 2, 2009
The weather has mercy. Or a sense of humor. I don't want to stretch this personification too far, but I'm feeling rather grateful to Mother Nature for this week of intermittent sun and rain in the Pacific Northwest. Had we faced October with less sunshine and more mud I can't say how well I might have done with the stresses -- non-weather-related -- I faced. Or not.
Stress in itself is an interesting word. Quite possibly the word has become less meaningful as the stressors proliferate in our modern lives.
Sort of like the word "awesome" that inspires and describes no awe, "stress" doesn't seem to carry strong enough connotations of being pushed, bent, pulled beyond one's limits. Stress is just omnipresent and thus diluted or accepted as the norm. Peace, or a state of not being affected by stress, is the anomaly. It becomes remarkable to be without anxiety.
When I think about stress I think about metal and its stress points. I think about steel and how hot it must get before it bends without melting altogether into a puddle of liquid.
That's the alloy point I'm seeking. The one where I'm stressed enough to be flexible but not broken.
So I'm grateful for the gentle weather transition in the midst of this season.
The fields around us are all greening up again for fall. At first it looks a little like a tapestry that's half-woven as the green perforates huge stretches of fallen gold and brown grass.
The girls and I festooned the front porch with six 75-pound pumpkins and a half-dozen sunflower heads that are bigger and heavier than most of the sugar pumpkins I save for the oven.
Birds subsequently have been busy on our front porch to the extent that we'll have to re-think the sunflowers as decoration.
Fruit leather is the hit of the party just about every day. It couldn't be easier with my schmancy new dehydrator (thanks, Mom!). The only bummer about it is that we are using up all the homemade applesauce I canned. One quart of applesauce with a few frozen berries added in the blender, spread on special trays and dried for about six hours, makes three huge rolls of delicious, sugar-free fruit leather. This equals about 12 generous servings. Which my children can mow through in significantly less time than it takes to make more.
However. It does keep them quiet when it's raining too much to send them outside but I must take a phone call. No doubt dealing with one of those stressors.