Thursday, August 30, 2007

Anxieties and deadlines

I woke with free-floating anxiety this morning, and several phone calls and e-mails later, I still have it, actually more of it.

There's not one thing I can do about any of it, either, except just move ahead with my deadlines, which are looming and need my attention -- all of it -- this afternoon.

I'm grateful to have good writing work to do, and stuff that's reasonably interesting and fun to do. I love the challenge of putting the right words with the task, and especially with one of them, it will require that I get out of MY head entirely and into another demographic altogether. That's fun.

Read a really good post by Dianne Sylvan: she says, in essence, that there is no "give" without "take." To make way for new, you give up something already there.

Our recent changes have required us to do that -- actually, every choice we make requires that you examine the new and the old, and choose which you want. When we made the decision to get out of real estate and go back into a "regular" job, we gave up -- or Tony did -- the ability to control his working hours. We gave up being able to work across the room from each other. We believe that what we gain -- not the least of which is health insurance that is less expensive than our previous option -- is worth it, at least for now.

In an e-mail the other day, a nugget of truth was surrounded by a bunch of other stuff. That nugget was "Don't spend major time with minor people."

That's not to belittle anyone as being minor; simply, we have a cast of characters in our individual lives who play major roles -- spouses, children, family members, close friends, boss. And then there are those acquaintances with whom we sit on a committee, the people we see when we're out and about in town but don't know very well, the neighbors three streets over and down the block who we wave to when they ride past. They don't know US; we don't know them.
In our lives, that acquaintance is minor.

Generally, it takes very little to disrupt what is an unusually tranquil existence out here, which means that a ripple can feel much larger than it really is. I think I'm feeling ripples from people who I care about, but ripples which really aren't mine to deal with -- I didn't cause 'em, have little influence over 'em, and while the outcome may affect me, most are not showstoppers. They're potholes, not collapsed bridges.
Did you see the full moon the last couple of nights? The Celtic name is Dispute Moon; the Dakotah Sioux name is Moon when All Things Ripen. It feels ripe, it feels unsettled. I'm glad to be going into September and the countdown to the end of hot days. Yes, I know there's another month or more to go, but the end is in sight, and rain and cool will be here sooner than later. I'm done with summer. (I say that every year about this time.)

Is it going to be an early winter? The acorns are already falling in abundance and the deer are not gaunt this year. The trees have looked distressed for a while with the heat, and I can't think that there will be good color -- it's been so dry.

Did it sprinkle on you yesterday and today? I got a little in town, but not out here. And the humidity is not thrilling me either.


Enjoy your long weekend if you get one.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's all "stuff" -- so why do I keep it?

Just in time for me to start cleaning out the office, getting rid of the old and making way for the new, here is a fabulous article about clutter and reasons we cling to it -- by Christine Kane.

I don't need to tell you that I could think of something in this house for each of the reasons she outlined. There's a tags-still-on-it denim jacket that I bought online (for a very, very low price on clearance) that has never been worn by moi: the pockets don't look right on me, it's a little too big, and it would have cost more to return than it was worth. It's hanging in the spare room closet, waiting for heaven knows who.

I have drawers full of stuff that is homeless: too cute-interesting-clever to pitch, but what am I really going to do with it? Probably pitch it when/if we ever move out of this house while I'm packing boxes....just like I have done in every move I've ever made.

I have books, clothing that is "too good" to throw away or use for rags, miscellaneous household stuff, and knickknacks sitting in the spare room waiting for the garage sale that I *must* schedule with my neighbors for this fall. Sometime. I have boxes of old Kensington mice and trackballs and laptop cases that really need to be discarded or given away (or put in that garage sale).

I'm marginally better about getting rid of magazines, although I hate just throwing them away -- I'd rather pass them onto folks who'd enjoy reading them, and that is what happens with at least a couple of subscriptions. I still have far too many Cooking Lights and Sunsets, however, and the reality is that I won't really go through them and clip articles.

Actually, I have file folders full of clipped articles and recipes from such magazines from those times when I DID go through them. Somewhere.

I will be ruthless this time. I will put things in three piles: pitch, save, give away. And then I really will pitch and give away. Really.

I'll let you know when the garage sale is planned.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The hazy, lazy, crazy dog days of summer

Lots of beginnings this month, but not much resolution in any of them, it seems, and that's not a really comfortable place to be.

Update on daughters: not much to update. Haven't heard from #3 or #2; #1 is staying put for the time being, and I'm trusting that she is okay (later update -- she is). I have to trust they're ALL okay, y'know? Otherwise the ice weasels do a marathon dance contest. Some days are easier than others.

You think that if you love someone enough that it will help them, and that's not necessarily true: thousands and thousands of families who have gone through Alanon, for instance, because they love someone who is destroying themselves through alcohol or drug abuse. I believe love can make a difference -- but ultimately the individual is responsible for his/her behavior and choices. Golly but that is a hard lesson.

Update on kitties: Both new little boys are just thriving outside,and they're about to the point where we will leave them outside at night too. Their personalities have solidified: Snitch is very personable, loves to be held, and purrs with a loud rumble. He darts here and there, and is curious and not hesitant. Squib is still reserved, but more vocal, and talks a lot. He will purr when held, but doesn't seek a lap, preferring to watch from a little distance. He is very busy playing, though, running up trees, attacking the stones and dried leaves, and should make an excellent gopher-getter! Weasley sniffs and occasionally licks; they've yet to all snuggle together, but that's coming. He likes having them. Harry is still pouting and glares at them, but is not aggressive towards them. Cheswick and McMurphy, inside, still aren't happy, but the hissing and wild-eyed behavior has stopped. Everybody likes treats (bribes)...

Update on jobs: We're beginning to settle into a routine now of commuting to Chico and writing at home, and I'm over a major deadline, so am trying to figure out what I need to do next. A top priority is organizing the office and cleaning out the real estate stuff -- but I'm having trouble getting started, maybe because it is a big project. I've got a couple of Arts Council deadlines too, and just need to git'erdone. I've got other assignments, but loose deadlines, so there's not a big rush to work on them -- although I should get started.

And I'd rather read. I'm an Oprah behind, and closing in on the last pages of Kushiel's Scion, plus two or three issues of Newsweek.

It feels like the dog days of summer right now, despite the fact that schools opened just a few days ago and we're headlong into fall and winter planning and event calendars.

And during the dog days, aren't you supposed to just lay back among cool cushions, with tall, icy glasses of lemonade and tea and a few nibblies like nuts and cookies, and relax with books or movies or both? Yeah. That's what I want.

I'll get there. I always do.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Drawing the line

The phone rang last night.

At about 11:45 p.m.

There is nothing good that you're going to hear when the phone rings that late, y'know? I no longer fear that it's about my parents -- both are dead. But I do worry about my daughters when that happens.

And it was Daughter #3, who has made some choices for her life in the last five or so months that have caused us some angst and necessitated our establishing some boundaries.

It was not fun and it was not easy, and we'll talk about it for days. But we cannot help her. At 25, fast approaching 26, she has made conscious choices that have effectively put her future, her very limited resources, and her loyalities in one pot -- and that pot came to a big yelling, screaming boil sometime last night. And we can't help her.

Her call roused us from sleep after a long, exhausting day, which didn't make it easier. And we've expected the wheels to loosen on that particular train for some time, and have talked at length about what to do. Bottom line -- and what Tony told her last night -- she got herself into this situation and she is going to have to figure out how to deal with it. We finally figured out that our well-intentioned efforts to help her extract herself from ugly situations of her own making only enable her to go out and do it again.

She is smart, exceptionally resourceful, is very good at figuring out "the system," and she will be okay -- and that should make it easier to hear -- except that she is our kid, we love her, and we just weep at the obstacles she places in her life journey. Mostly they are her own doing, her own decisions. And we also know that while we can talk until we are hoarse, she will do as she wants and rationalize her decision so that it makes sense to her.

So we're done. Not with loving her: we always will love her and want good things for her. But her choices and her decisions are hers to deal with. Not ours.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fun with the Bunco Babes

I play Bunco once a month with a group of 12-16 other women, mostly in the 50-70 age range. I know there are other Bunco groups in Red Bluff -- in fact, there was a charity event for Bunco sometime this past spring that drew a pretty good crowd.

So just what is Bunco?

It's mindless. Totally and completely mindless.

We eat. We giggle. We throw dice. We snack. We throw more dice. We count. We shriek with laughter when someone gets a Bunco. We eat more. Some of 'em drink wine. Some of 'em don't need to drink wine because they're loopy enough without it.

It is a girlfriends night out for all of us, and that is the real value of the game. It's been around since the late 1800s and there are groups who have been playing together for many years -- through marriages, births, deaths, cancer, grandchildren.

It's the personalities of the women that make it so fun -- that, and the light-up crown and Mardi Gras beads you get to wear when you throw a bunco (three of a kind in the correct number sequence of the round -- that is, you throw 3 ones in the first round of a game.)

There are just lucky people in this world, you know what I mean? They're the ones that win at the casino, always get a doorprize, probably win lottery money if they buy tickets. And we have a couple in our Bunco Babes group. They just always win something -- buncos, money (we each chip in $5 for the kitty, and then we divvy it up at the end of the evening).

There are the cooks: every time we meet at their houses, we eat very well -- all sorts of dips and hors d'oeurves and candies and sweets. Not much storebought anything there.

The queen: well, what can I say. She organized the group two years ago, is a bubbly, outgoing, fun-loving, funny person -- who was a friend of mine in another life too -- and last night she had us laughing hysterically and applauding when she .....

Umm. The first rule of Bunco is that happens at Bunco stays at Bunco.

So I can't tell.

(but one of us has pictures....)

We have women who were teachers, real estate agents, secretaries. We have moms and grandmothers. We have at least one writer (*grin*). We just celebrated when one of us got her pilot's license -- and oohed and ahhed over another's pictures of her first grandchild.

Everyone should have a Bunco group like this: girlfriends who are there for each other, to pat you on the back and say "there, there" when something is wrong, to laugh with over silly things, to cry with you when you hurt. I am grateful for these wonderful, solid women who are my friends.

Oh. Several of the husbands have started meeting during our Bunco nights too -- they're calling it "Manco" -- or "UnBunco." They watch movies where there are lots of loud noises, oftentimes guns, sometimes horses and sheriffs out in the Old West, or guys in fatigues crawling through jungles. They eat pizza and other manly snacks. I dunno if they drink beer too, but they seem to have a good time at Manco. Good for them.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Worry doesn't make anything better

I've been concerned about daughter number 1 in recent days, who is on the verge of making a huge change in what she's doing and where she's living. I believe it is a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say, and have encouraged her to make the changes --

But she's also been struggling with some personal stuff and is, I believe, somewhat fragile -- although I keep hoping that the assertive three-year-old who put her little hands on her hips, glared at me and emphatically directed, "You cook!" is in there someplace and is waiting to come back out.

What has been scary is that she's 2000 miles away and I haven't been able to reach her by phone or e-mail. Like so many others of her generation, she does not have a land line, just a cell phone. And she's been using her work cell phone in recent months, allowing the other to expire, and has just quit her job. Although she has Internet service, her email addy (through a domain name) is no longer valid. Bottom line: she's been unreachable at a time when all these changes require some communication with her dad and me to make them happen.

I've really done a fairly good job of not getting wrapped around the axle for the most part, but as I get tired and the day is at a close, my over-active imagination overpowers my rational self, and boy-howdy, it's off to the races.

I've stifled it enough to sleep soundly, thanks be. And I've been so busy during the day with various writing assignments that I haven't obsessed to the point of paralysis. But I've sure done a lot of talking to the Universe about it.

She's okay. Through my own persistence and the Internet, I managed to find some contact info for a friend she's spending a lot of time with, and sent him a message. I talked with her tonight. I hope communication will get better so that we can make this move happen.

Accepting adult children for who they are is very hard to do sometimes, especially when their behaviors seem to put them at some risk, or they make choices that seem to lead them down the most difficult paths when another appears to be so much more beneficial (okay, okay -- so I think I know what way might at least be easier and better for them -- controlling? Moi???)

I worry. I want my children to be happy, to have enough money to pay their bills and live in a decent place and to have regular, nutritious food, to enjoy life, to have a normal life. I don't want them to allow others to take advantage of them, to spend all their resources caring for some deadbeat guy who will never be in a position to take care of them.

I want them to be okay. I don't want to be afraid when the phone rings at night or early in the morning that I'm going to hear some horrible news. And I have been, justified or not.

The key to dealing with their mistakes and my fears is to let go. I am powerless over people, places, and things, including my daughters. They get to make mistakes, life-changing ones even, and no amount of worry is going to change anything for either of us. I can offer advice (oh, yeah, I do, but I've even cut that waaaayyyy back, believe it or not). We are no longer offering money -- not a good solution, we've found out the painful way. Sometimes we offer help to accomplish a goal -- but we've learned to draw our boundaries too, unfortunately.

But worry: it's about as useless as guilt. Neither of them help. The only person they imact is the worrier -- me -- in lost sleep, increased stress, and time.

I'm appealing to their angels: guard and protect this child. Guide her safely through this maze. Help her find happiness. And grant me serenity. Please. Again.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Snitch and Squib

Two three-month-old kittens are residing in the second bath by night and on the porch by day, much to the dismay of Cheswick and McMurphy, who have pretty much ignored me all day except to hiss.

One -- Snitch -- is a pale golden and very personable. He's active, loves to bat a ball, wants to be held and petted, and will adapt well. Squib, on the other hand, is very reserved, nervous about this whole thing, and prefers to watch what's going on, especially if it's somewhere he can hide. I wish he were a little more like Snitch. He's also a pale ginger, but a little more orange and a little fatter. His eyes are green and smaller than Snitch's.

Weasley seems very mellow about the newcomers and would like, I think, to make friends, but Squib will have none of that. Snitch will sit near Weasley and even sniff a little, if he thinks Weasley's attention is elsewhere, but they're not to the grooming point, although I doubt that'll take long. Harry, of course, just hisses, although even he is very curious.

McMurphy practically came through the door window yesterday when I'd brought them home and was watching them acclimate. He twisted himself into a kitty pretzel to try to see beyond what the window would allow, and I swear, his eyes practically glowed red.

He is not at all happy that he can hear mews from beyond the bathroom door. He hates that we smell of new kitten and both hissed and batted at even his beloved Tony this morning. He spent the day on the floor of the bedroom, looking moodily at the backyard and ignoring everything: food, a visitor, me, Cheswick. He came out when Tony came home and has proceeded to do his usual fawning over his favorite person, but I'm pretty much chopped liver that's been sitting out for three days.

Both of them gave the new scratching pad I'd bought as a peace offering, with fresh catnip even, a cursory sniff and stalked off. Harumpf.

It's been awhile since we had kittens and they are so entertaining and so sweet, and acclimating them takes time and patience. For now, the fence I've rigged will help keep them safe during the day, I think, and the novelty will wear off eventually for the other cats.

They were rescues -- a family had taken in two strays. both pregnant, and they just couldn't keep the kittens. Alas, three-month-plus-old kittens are never the priority adoptions at the pound, and the owner was very happy that I took both. There were two more younger ones, longhairs, and I will not do that again. I hope they find good homes.

So Weasley has some new almost=playmates. Thank you!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Weasley needs some new friends

We're seeking kittens: preferably a little older, but not grown, to live outside and help our 4-year-old ginger manx Weasley to keep the gopher population at bay.

As I mentioned earlier, Weasley and Harry Potter are our surviving outdoor kitties, but Harry is the lone ranger and wanders who knows where during the day, usually coming home in the evening to scarf down cat food and get loved on and petted. Like his namesake, he's independent and just a little unpredictable.

Weasley is an affable polydactyl cat who is very lonely since his other outside friends have died or disappeared. He sticks close to home but loves to hunt around the property and seldom ventures very far. We're set back off the road, which isn't a main one anyway, and there are interesting hollows and trees to explore, as well as a garden (he likes to hang out under big leaves on cool, moist dirt during hot days). He and Harry get along, but Harry is too independent to be a buddy.


We'd like two or three kittens, preferably around 4-6 months old, with short hair only....any color, any sex. We had two long-haired kitties outside -- Hermione and Muggle -- and the burrs and star thistle does terrible things to their fur and skin, and I spent hours combing and brushing and cutting out matted clumps. Never again.

We treat our outside kitties as pets -- they're named, they are neutered or spayed, they get routine vet care and shots, and lots and lots of petting and loving. They have warm, dry houses to sleep in, plenty of good cat food, occasional treats. and fresh water is always available.

Weasley is waiting. Please e-mail me at

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Back to the past

We spent much of our recent trip visiting our past: seeing family in Nashville and Birmingham, friends in Birmingham, and for Tony, a visit to the far distant past in his hometown of Livingston, Tenn., where he'd not set foot since 1977, and with former classmates and even a teacher he hadn't seen in -- oh, golly, we CAN'T be this old -- some 42 years.

It was a return to familiar climates, too, for both of us. I grew up in Springfield, Missouri, too far north to be classified as "southern" and yet Missouri was a border state in "THE WAR" (for Southerners, there was only one important war), so there are traces of Southern culture everywhere.

But it was green, the trees were not blue and scrub oaks but sycamores, maples, pin oaks, maple leaf oaks, pines. In Birmingham, kudzu swathed trees and hillsides in the tangled, large-leaved carpet. We had several thunderstorms and rainstorms throughout the week that freshened the air and didn't make us instantly think of fire danger. Yes, it was humid, moreso than here, but not really oppressive until the last day or so. The heat wasn't excessive. The nights were the soft, warm dark with choirs of frogs and cicadas dueling for loudest volume. It felt very familiar to us both.

Both Tennessee and Alabama have had a drought this year, and it's just been in the last month that rain has relieved it. We were told of recent terrible smoke from Florida wildfires blanketing the Birmingham area and causing asthma attacks by the score, dying lawns and restricted watering in both cities. Summer weather in the south usually includes a brief rainstorm every afternoon, so this was a very different weather pattern. We enjoyed our rains while we were there and the smell of the air after the storms.

We recalled summers of our pasts throughout the week, with sweat that drips down your back, your nose, and dampens your clothing instead of evaporating quickly as it does here. My already straight hair fell limply against my damp neck and forehead, and I remembered again why I almost always had short hair or got permanent waves in the summer. That part I don't miss.

For a few days, Tony was immersed in memories of people long dead, of boyhood in a small town, of high school and college classes and people and buildings and towns and highways that were no longer there, and by the time he came back to the hotel after an afternoon of visiting and talking with former classmates, he had a bit of the deer-in-the-headlights look about him. It's hard to reconcile all at once who you were with who you are, I think. Going back again won't be so difficult -- and we will go back again. It's a beautiful area.... real estate there is incredibly less expensive than anywhere in California, and there are wonderful lakes and rivers there too.

I thought often of my parents as my brother and I talked and laughed and listened to music and went different places, and I'll bet he did too. We ate one of Daddy's favorite meals -- "hotdish" -- which is a baked spaghetti-like casserole with tomatoes, peppers and onions, hamburger, and cheese. We visited the Country Music Hall of Fame which included a few video clips from "Ozark Jubilee," a TV show that originated in Springfield and to which we both remember going as children. That museum is incredible and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

There was more past in Birmingham, but that'll wait for another day.

It is in looking back that we can see how far we have come, how much we have learned about ourselves, and sometimes gain clarity about choices we made then that forever changed our paths. It is good to look back and remember, but gently, kindly, both for our loved ones and ourselves. We are shaped by where we came from, but it is not who we are now.

It was good to come home to this life, this reality, after living in all those memories for a week. I am grateful for the warmth and caring with which we were greeted by every single person we spent time with, and grateful for the love which has surrounded us in this journey through life. It is good to remember that constancy and to celebrate it.

I finished Jennifer Weiner's The Guy Not Taken, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. and started Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey. Plus a bunch of local newspapers! A great reading vacation!