Monday, January 30, 2012

The Woman With the Long Gray Braid

You know her, right?

She's at every music festival and craft show on the planet.  She's at the organic grocery store in the hippest urban areas and she's on the farm in the country.  She is a little bit more elusive in the suburbs.

She dances through life - sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively.  She moves slowly and with purpose - even if the purpose is simply recognizing the joy in the moment.

Watch her or don't - she doesn't care.  Join her and she'll make you feel welcomed.

I want to be her when I grow up.

She wears cotton and colors and silver and she only wears shoes when she has to.

She wears a long gray braid.  Maybe two.

Last week, during our visit to Charleston, I noticed her selling handmade bags along Market Street.  I stopped to admire them and she in turn admired the one I was carrying.  When she found out I'd made it, her demeanor implied that she recognized a kindred soul when she saw one.  We chatted for a few moments and when my party moved along she told us to have a nice day - then leaned in and said to me in a manner that was almost conspiratorial, "This is not a funky town."

She thought I belonged in funky town.

I think I do, too, sister.

I'm going to start growing that long gray braid.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Embedded Lessons

My usual morning routine during my week at the beach is to wake up early and watch the sun rise over the ocean. Sometimes that just involves the sky going from dark to light, but more often than not I am rewarded for my early rising ways with a slow, gentle and profoundly beautiful show. I sit on the balcony or in front of the picture window with a cup of coffee, my laptop, and the camera on my phone. I watch in a paradoxical combination of peaceful excitement.

This morning was basically a dark to light morning. There was a little tease of pink that I hoped might turn into a burst of orange, but it did not. It was rather disappointing, as far as sunrises go. I left the drapes open, though. The ocean on a less than gorgeous day is still not such a bad thing to look at.

I'm glad I did.

Because this morning there was a storm.

A storm over the ocean is not as photogenic as a sunrise - at least not when you're limited to the images the camera on a phone can provide - but it is no less captivating. Waves were breaking all the way back to the horizon. It was loud and fast and dark. It was scary and exciting and dynamic.

A metal morning, as opposed to the usual easy listening. 

I like metal.

And then -

And then -

The storm ended.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Just Another Tuesday With Mommakin and Momma of Mommakin

It was the most excellent of adventures; it was the most bogus of journeys.

Mom and I set out today, along with two of her friends, to take a one hour tour of Charleston, SC.  If you are humming a little parody of the Gilligan's Island theme song, well - don't stop.  You're not 100% on track, but it was a three hour tour - I mean - a one hour tour - gone terribly awry.  Plus - it's fun to parody the Gilligan's Island theme song under any circumstances.  Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...

That's Momma of Mommakin on the far right.  <3

Mule-drawn carriage tours are a very popular way for tourists to get a feel for Charleston.  I have never shied away from acting like a tourist when I am one.  We bought our tickets and awaited our carriage.  Kind of like Cinderella, except with mules instead of white stallions.  And that damned fairy godmother must've been sleeping something off when she was supposed to be turning me into the belle of the ball.  Other than that, though - well - other than that it's STILL not that much like Cinderella.  You do get the picture, though, right?

Our carriage arrived and our tour guide was a retired college professor - Hey!  The professor!  Maybe the Gilligan parody has legs! - with a smart sense of humor and a tremendous amount of knowledge abut his city.  These are good traits for a tour guide to have.  He introduced us to the mules who would be pulling our carriage today:  Hit and Run.  These are not fortuitous names.  I'm sure someone thought they were being very clever, but it's honestly just a little bit unnerving.

Not fifteen minutes into our tour, we were making our way down a narrow street with cars parked along one side.  A woman in a van approached us and was clearly not going to let us pass.  We could not back up, so this woman drove around us, passing us on the wrong side.  This forced our professor/skipper/tour guide to pull the mules over far into the left lane.  Farther than they should have been - because when this silly woman passed and we started moving, the top of the carriage snagged on a tree.  Before our noble leader had a chance to correct this, the mules ran scared - bolting, a few mere feet from the next busy intersection.  My mother grabbed my arm and for a slight fraction of a second I saw terror in her eyes.

It WAS scary.

For a fraction of a second.

The professor was skilled at his craft, though, and immediately gained control of the noble beasts.

Not a single person, mule or car was hurt.

Our carriage, though?  Had not fared quite as well.

When it snagged on the tree and the mules bolted, a lot of damage was done to the canopy.  It had been held in place by heavy metal rods, which had actually bent in several places and poked through the fabric.  The rear supports were completely shot.  The folks in the back of the carriage had to hold it up manually to keep it from falling on their heads.  We were in the front.  We were unscathed.  In case you might have been wondering.

The buggy was still functional, so, after a quick call to his employers, our guide informed us sheepishly that we would be embarking upon the ride of shame.  People were snapping pictures and taking video as we rode our ramshackle carriage through the streets of Charleston.  "Damn", our hero said, under his breath, "this is going on YouTube for sure."  I haven't checked, but I'm sure he was right.  I was already pretty sure, in that moment, that it was going on my blog.  He waved at the chuckling passerby exclaiming, "It's a handyman's special!"

He remained poised and continued to indicate points of interest as we took our ride of shame back to the barn - although a distinct tone of humility and self-deprecation had snuck into his voice.

When we returned, the staff first determined that we were all ok. (And weren't going to sue.  Nobody said that, but the implication was there.  Oh yes.  It was there.)  Once it was determined that we were ok and that we were not a litigious mob, he did get a little ribbing.  But it wasn't brutal.  Frankly, I think he might have been a little disappointed if he hadn't.

In an effort to keep everybody happy, we were given a full refund and then were told that if we wanted to, we could take another tour.  

Which we did.  

And it was fun.  

But not nearly as fun as the first one.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Champagne 18

A couple few months back, I stumbled upon a blog wherein a woman mentioned how much she loved Champagne Thursdays.  She said it in passing and it was not really relevant to the content in her post - so I'm not COMPLETELY confident that I knew what she was talking about - but I made some assumptions. Ok, I really only made one assumption.  I assumed that she drank champagne on Thursdays as regularly as we go for Monday Madness at the local pizza parlor.  (In case you're wondering how regular that is, the answer is:  without fail.)

It set me to thinking - how lovely the week could be if each day had something as wonderful as champagne to look forward to.  Martini Mondays, Tequila Tuesdays, Wine-o Wednesdays, Champagne Thursdays (as an homage, of course), Free-Flow Fridays, Sangria Saturdays..... it was all sounding just too magical to be real.

And of course, it was.

In real life there are lessons and appointments and obligations and I'm happy when I can get a dinner scheduled properly, much less a Happy Hour every day.  Cracking open a beer once everyone has done everything they need to do and pajamas have been donned and the next episode of whatever we're obsessed with at the moment has been queued up will have to continue to be good enough.  On fancy nights, we'll share a bottle of wine.  We have a nice collection of fine Ohio wine in the wine cellar (and by wine cellar, I assume that you know I really mean garage).

But I couldn't get those Champagne Thursdays out of my head.  Ok - theme drinking EVERY night might be excessive - but one night a week - maybe that would be doable.

Then I thought about my grocery allowance and what adding a bottle of champagne to it each week would do.

Even if by champagne, you really mean sparkling wine - which, by the way, I do - it's still pretty oppressive if you plan on it every week.

Well, frick.

It was such a good idea.

And in discussing it with Tom, we came to the delightful conclusion:  if not once a week, how about once a month?

Once a month was a reasonable commitment.

"But,"  I said, "we need to really make it happen once a month.  Not just say we'll do it once a month and then let it get away from us."  Because that's the way things go, and we all know it.  There's always something and then - next thing you know - the month is gone.

We decided to choose a day - put it on our perpetual calendars - and allow no exceptions.

We chose the 18th.  

No particular reason.  We sort of liked the way it sounded with champagne.  Champagne 18.

Since we instituted this, we have had some rather fine selections.  We have also had some rather - thrifty selections.  (Can you say Barefoot Bubbly?  I thought you could).  We've had a lot in the middle.  The price of the bottle depends upon a variety of factors.  It's not what's important.

What's important is our ritual.

Sometimes the 18th is a Saturday - sometimes it's a Wednesday.  It occurs all over the week.  Sometimes we turn off the TV and have champagne appropriate snacks, and sometimes we just replace the usual beers with champagne and swig it in our jammies.  Sometimes the 18th is festive and sometimes it is mundane.  Sometimes conversation is frivolous and sometimes it is serious and sometimes it is non-existent (so that we can better follow what's going on on TV).  Yep, the way things shake out on the 18th is a big variable.

But one factor never varies.

It is always greeted with a distinctive *pop*.

Happy 18th.


This post was set to go yesterday, but out of respect for the SOPA blackout, I opted not to post it until today.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A High Maintenance Broad

If you ask me, I'm pretty low-maintenance.  I'm not terribly particular and I have a tendency to go with the flow.  I don't kick up much of a fuss.  When I say I'll be ready in 15 minutes I generally mean it - I'm not a primper.  I don't expect jewelry or any other manner of fanciness for - well, really - anything.  I like people who are who they are and if someone tried to change for me, I would be more horrified than pleased.

I'm easy like Sunday Morning.

That's the very definition of low-maintenance, no?

Well, no.

Turns out I'm high emotional maintenance.

I need a lot of reassurance.  My feelings get hurt at every real and imagined slight.  I need to know where I stand.  Tell me more about my eyes.

I'm not, apparently, always easy to be around.

A high-maintenance frumpy bohemian.  Sounds like an oxymoron.  But it's not.  It's me.  (And you - the one who said, "Not an oxymoron, then, just a regular moron." - you're not even half as clever as you think you are.)

What sort of maintenance do you require?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Welcome Back, Van Halen

I loved Welcome Back Kotter in the 70's.  Like, really loved it.  Tom did, too.  When we had pop culture discussions in our early dating life, it almost always came up.  What a great, great show, we would say.

Imagine our joy when we learned that Nick at Nite would be showing Welcome Back Kotter reruns.  We were dating at the time, and we set the whole weekend aside to crash in front of Tom's TV.  We were practically giddy when the theme song came on - taking us back to that same old place that we'd laughed about.

Less than half way through the first episode, we realized that more than the names had all changed since we'd hung around.  This show was bad.  Really, really bad.  Almost unwatchable.  Scratch that almost - it was unwatchable.  And we were deeply involved in Hercules and Xena at the time, so it's not like we were huge TV snobs or anything.  How could that have happened?  We made it all the way through the pilot, deciding to cut it some slack because pilots are all about character development and are never all that good.  We didn't make it all the way through the next episode.

We both dealt with the sense of delusion this brought on for - well - I'll let you know when it ends.


So Van Halen will be touring this summer.  I have never seen Van Halen live.  I always refer to them (along with Queen and a few select others) as the ones that got away.  But I'll have a chance this summer to make that right.  It's exciting.  Or is it?

I said to Tom, I said, "What if we get all psyched to see Van Halen and we get there and it's like Welcome Back Kotter only Mr. Kotter has had a hip replacement and Vinnie Barbarino is wearing stupid hipster sideburns?"

Tom laughed and added, "And Freddie "Boom-Boom" Washington has been replaced by Gabe and Julie's baby."

He then added, "Sammy Hagar is Beau."

"Right!  Right!"

"Who's on drums?  Epstein or Horshack?"

"Probably Horshack.  Epstein can't tour.  He's got a note."

"Does that make Valerie Bertinelli  Julie?"

"I guess so!  I wonder if Jenny Craig made her modify the recipe for her famous tuna casserole?"

What do you know.  Welcome Back Kotter can still make us laugh.  As long as we don't have to watch it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fridays With Liv

Liv and I have a little tradition.

Usually, I take Lea to school, then come home and do a chore or two, then take Liv to school.  But on Fridays, Liv and I leave as soon as I get back from dropping Lea off and we have donuts.  Always two with sprinkles for her.  It varies for me.  Sometimes I join her in a donut.  Cruellers are my favorite, but I've been known to make a detour into the creme-filled department from time to time. Sometimes I have a breakfast wrap. Today I had a muffin.  Hot chocolate is optional.  Our Friday morning date is not.

Liv is a good kid.  She plays by the rules at home and at school.  She is funny and smart and determined and talented.  I could sing her praises for days. She is not, however, a squeaky wheel.  I have often likened her to the prodigal son's brother.  She works hard.  She always tries to do the right thing. She doesn't get in trouble. 

The squeaky wheel always gets the grease, but the wheel that hums along nicely, just doing it's job, sometimes needs a little grease, too.  What a bonus if, from that grease, a donut emerges.

So we have our donuts on Fridays.  And we talk and we listen.  Sometimes we even squeak.  I look forward to it.  WE look forward to it.  She really talks to me on Friday mornings - sometimes even opening up to me - a true gift from a teenaged girl!

Yep, I look forward to Friday mornings.
I bought Liv a Babycakes donut maker for Christmas.

This morning, when I got back from taking Lea to school, she said, "Are we still gonna go for donuts, even though I have a donut maker now?"

You betcha, Babycakes.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Not The Village Idiot - But Still...

Things have been rough around here this year.  It's been hard to write, even though I tend to be a heart-on-my-sleeve, transparent, therapeutic-type of writer.  That works for some things - and I remain a proponent and fan of it - but some things are just too big for mere words.  Some things feel cheapened by words.  Some things just can't be expressed, no matter how many words one has at ones disposal.

THAT'S the sort of year it's been.

A few folks have said to me recently, "Write more!  We miss your words!"

I've tried.

Every time someone makes a similar request, I try.  

I'm a sucker for flattery, and being asked for words feels a little bit like flattery.  After all - up until this year, I had literary aspirations!  What could be a higher compliment than people hungering for my words?

So I tried.

But it all felt so stupid.

With all of these huge, big, bad things in my life - in my world - how could I write cute little essays about the life of a menopausal fangirl?  (Let me clarify.  I am menopausal and I am a fangirl.  I am not a fan of menopause.  Technically, when one can claim menopausal as an appropriate adjective, perhaps one should consider ditching girl as an appropriate noun.  Hmm.)  And for a few months there - as you know, if you've been paying attention - I couldn't.

A friend and I were chatting about this very thing the other day.  One of the big bad things I'm working through right now is the suicide of a beloved classmate.  All of us who knew her were - are - shocked to our cores.  This couldn't have happened.  This shouldn't have happened.  It is very nearly unbearable.  We find comfort with each other where we can, but it is not enough.  We are all working individually through this collective experience the best way we can.  Some days are worse than others.

So as my friend and I chatted, she kept asking about the writing.  She told me how much our friend who passed had liked my posts.  I knew this.  She'd told me so on many occasions.  But it was nice to hear it from someone else.  "Don't stop", she'd said, "we need to laugh together."  I told her the same things I've already mentioned - everything just feels so trivial and stupid and inane - it's hard to be light when everything feels so heavy.  "Just one thing - every day - that we can laugh about and be thankful for."  I told her that I wasn't much on the whole Pollyanna thing.  I don't want to laugh and be thankful.  I'm sad.  She replied, "Only the village idiot is happy all the time."

That really resonated with me.  Not only because it is undeniably true, but also because - this particular friend really DOES come across as sort of a Pollyanna type.  She's a silver lining kind of gal.  Brian on the cross, whistling about the bright side of life.  I would've never expected a sentiment like that from her, yet there it was.  Only the village idiot is happy all the time.

I am assuredly not the village idiot.

But I don't want to be the village prophet of doom, either.

So, my friend, I offer a compromise:  I will not write a happy little ditty every day.  That is too close to village idiot territory for me.  Also?  I have no desire to be the Bill Keane of the blogosphere. 


I will make a strong, concerted effort to get something positive or funny or entertaining out once a week.  Some weeks it will be small, some weeks larger, some weeks there will be more than one happy post, but ALL weeks I will try very hard for one.  Fair enough? 

So here's what's been running all around in my brain on this cold January morning (and, coincidentally, what would have been the 50th birthday of my friend who won't be here to celebrate it):

It is no secret that I love the sun and feel less than stellar in it's absence.  It's certainly been a recurring theme.  Cold winter mornings are the worst.  My feelings about that have been well documented as well.


As I was getting ready to get the day started, I put a little Heart on the stereo - because my love for them has been almost as well documented as my hatred of cold winter mornings.  The first words to hit my ears were, "The sky was dark this morning, when I raised my head.  I went to the window; darkness was my bane."  Sing it, sister.  Later, in the car, Boston regaled me with "I looked out this morning, and the sun was gone."  Hmmmm - my refusal to bring my music collection out of the 70's seemed to be manifesting itself into a little theme.   No sun.

Driving my youngest to school, though (another activity that has been well documented!) the sun made an appearance.  The sky was pink and lavender and blue and the black, black, blackness of the barren trees silhouetted against it was nothing short of breathtaking.

And I felt something grinchy starting to melt.

The next line to that Heart song, by the way?  "Suddenly a sunbeam - thrilled me to my very heart - it was the prettiest thing I had ever seen."  The next line to the Boston song?  "I turned on some music to start my day."


Bleakness, darkness, sadness - it will always be there.

But so will the sun.

And music.

(Sorry!  Nothing funny today - but maybe a little warmth - maybe a little happy -it's a start.)