Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bits and pieces

I mentioned the bluegrass program at Manton School -- here's the link to that story. Their concert is tonight, and after several days of cloudy, unsettled, and blessedly cool weather, it's blue sky with puffy white clouds right now. Hopefully they'll be able to have the concert outdoors so that even the birds will sing the melody!

Three-day weekends throw me off -- bet they do you, too. Even though I work in a home studio, I still pretty much work regular hours Monday-Friday, since that's when I'm likely to reach the people I need to interview. So I do chores on weekends too -- gardening, washing, etc. Mondays are often a catch-up day, and usually not too hectic. This week I had to plunge fully into the week -- although I am writing here instead of writing a story -- but not for long. Too many deadlines.

And the weather! Oh, how I love what we've been having: temps in the cool 70s, if that -- many days in the 60s! Clouds! About half an inch total of rainfall! After spending most of Sunday a week ago cleaning out the winter sweaters and sweats from my closet, I've had to grab long pants and sweatshirts -- and I'm happy to do so. My guest bedroom has clothing stacked on the bed, bedding on the floor (comforters and blankets), and shoes in a big box. It'll get put away eventually.

I've had occasion again to remind myself that I am not my emotions, and to contemplate the inner critic, not so much for me this time, but for my daughter. Throw the little SOB off the bench, I told her! Out the window! He lies~! What we do for a living is not who we are either, although sometimes we get bound up in our work to the point that we become all about work and not about taking care of ourselves, and we lose (temporarily anyway) who we are to what we do. Those few who actually have managed to make a living doing what they love to do are fortunate indeed -- while I do love what I do, there are drawbacks to it, and I've found that so no matter what I've done to earn a paycheck and benefits.

Remember who you are. If you don't know, find out. There are many books and Web sites to help you do just that. Talking to friends and family helps too.

We have new porch covers that shelter two of our sliding doors from the rain and sun, and it's like finding new space! Somehow they define the space better than it was. I'm hoping the hummingbirds will find their feeders -- I've hung them from the beams where we can see them much better than before. I know it'll drive the cats crazy.

Remember to take time every day to say thank you for your blessings...without gratitude, you have very little.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Eight years of marriage; going on 11 together

We celebrated eight years of being married yesterday; we've been together for 10 and a half.

Tony went to work; so did I -- I spent much of the day in Manton writing about their fledgling bluegrass music program. That story will be in Friday's Record Searchlight. It's quite remarkable, and watching these kids play is just a treat.

But we went to dinner together and talked, shared mushy cards, and told each other how lucky we are to have found each other. Nothing unusual on the actual day, but we have a long weekend getaway to the ocean planned soon.

The ocean is very much a part of our story: we met for the first time at the steps to the beach in Pacifica, and by the time we came back up those steps some five hours later, we knew we'd found something very special. After that day we spent as much time together as we could, eventually moving in together, and then marrying in 2000. It was amazing and wonderful, finding each other like that when it was not even what we thought we were looking for. But it was clearly the universe at work, answering long-ago prayers.

Our wedding was a storybook one: we got married on a yacht in SF Bay with about 50 friends and family enjoying the day with us -- food, drink, sunshine, and the ocean. We wrote our own ceremony, my uncle Tom officiated. It completely reflected who we are and how much we love each other. It was wonderful, and we still think it's the coolest wedding we've ever been to.

And it is amazing to us that the last eight years have flown by. We see a lot of change from our wedding photograph -- my hair is completely different, color and style; I've lost a lot of weight. Tony's beard has turned almost entirely white; his hair is grayer too. And he's lost weight. I think that the happiness in our faces is still there, though, perhaps even more deeply.

There is not a day that goes by without both of us telling each other how we treasure the other, how lucky we are to have found each other, and how grateful we are. This relationship -- this man -- is the one I used to dream about having one day, but never really believed that I would. When I got divorced, I knew I would never "settle" for someone. If it wasn't absolutely right, if I could see only possibilities and things I wanted to change about the person or traits that I could "live with," it might be good for some fun, but never for a long-term relationship.

And that's the way I think it ought to be.

That's not to say that you shouldn't compromise. Life, single or coupled, is compromise in most ways. You give, he takes; you take, he gives.

But I believe that you should be completely, totally smitten with another person and have done your due diligence -- given it time to develop, for the initial tingle to have settled down a bit (although never, ever lost~!), seen each other in crisis mode as well as in fun times, before you take the leap into marriage, or even, really, into a committed relationship.

If there are things that still drive you nuts, that you find hard not to resent or snap at, then reconsider. It won't get better.

We have been amazingly fortunate -- or perhaps it's just that we were 50 years old when we met, and a lot more willing to be flexible -- but our personal habits and styles are so similar that we have never had any conflict over toilet seats, toothpaste caps, clutter, or the like. He eats whatever I fix and always tells me how good it was (even ordinary stuff). What's not to love about someone like that? ***glow***

We don't criticize each other, not ever. It's simply not necessary. We talk about everything, even the ice weasly stuff that tends to wake us in the middle of the night. There is no lying, no withholding of information. If we're worried, we talk about it. Sometimes it takes a while for the ice weasels to release it, but it always comes out. And it makes it easier to bear, even the hard stuff, when someone shares the burden, and it makes the night less dark and scary.

Okay, we both tend to be a little co-dependent with the other. We aren't perfect...

We know how fortunate we are. We treasure and tend this relationship to keep it that way. And we are always, eternally grateful to have found each other.

May you be so blessed. Ask for what you want. Sometimes you get it.

P.S. Happy 29th, Brigitte

Friday, May 16, 2008

Weather whinings

I'm working at accepting what is. I really am. I can't change much except my attitude, and that can make a huge difference in how anything is perceived.

But I just GOTTA whine a little about the weather. And then I'll stop. Promise.

It is so friggin' hot, and it's barely mid-May -- still a month away from official summer. We hit 103 degrees yesterday, and the forecast calls for 105 today, 106 tomorrow. It's 11 a.m. and already 97 outside. (And for all you folks in the land of humidity, it's only 16 percent humidity here...I know, you have no concept of humidity that low.)

We went from mild temps in the 70s and low 80s to 100, completely skipping the usual 90s ramp-up, and it makes me wonder what we're in for the rest of this summer. Last year we had one little stretch of 107-112 in early July, and that was pretty much the high for the rest of the summer. I'm concerned that we're going to be in for a very long, hot season, and already CalFire is posting red flag warnings for fire danger.

They inspected a lot, if not all, of Tehama County properties this year for defensible space, and I think everyone in our subdivision was cited for something. We needed to trim tree limbs to 10' of the ground and whack all the grasses down to the ground, and the four-man crew that spent a big chunk of three days doing that just left, leaving the property looking better than it ever has. We also have a nice pile of mulch and a stack of firewood to show for it.

Already we have fires burning -- the first in Tehama County was last week and burned more than 1300 acres before it was contained. It is scary this early in the fire season, which will stretch until Nov. 1 or so, until the first rains.

The land has turned to dry, gold, and crispy, and it is no longer mowable lest a spark ignite a grass fire -- thus the requirement that it be mowed to the ground. We have no lawn, although others irrigate to have green grass, and intend to landscape this summer, but with rock and mulch and native plants that are very drought-resistant. It may take a while, but that's the plan. It should blend in well with the natural landscape, and it makes sense to us.

The garden is getting water, though, and greening very well, although a tomato plant disappeared again. It is probably a gopher. I'm going to have to entice the cats into the garden, I guess, in hopes of eliminating the little thief. He's taking MY food, darn it, and I do love fresh tomatoes.

And that's my whine. I promise not to write another one until it gets over 112.

Monday, May 12, 2008

About mothers

Yesterday was Mother's Day -- the third since mine died -- and I did a lot of thinking about motherhood while I was cleaning out my closet (transitioning from winter to summer), washing and folding clothes, grocery shopping, and generally doing stuff that needed doing -- which I also did most of Saturday, only it was in the garden and cleaning off the front porch and mucking out the kitty houses.

So. Mothers.

Mother's Day really glorifies mothers, don't you think? All those schmaltzy cards, gift ideas, reservations for dinner, etc. -- makes every single mother sound practically like a saint. And come on, folks, you KNOW that's not true.

I'm sure many mothers really do the best they can for their kids, fix good, healthy meals, help them with homework, attend various sports events, always know what's going on with their kids, and so on. I sure tried, and that was with me working full time (where DID I get the energy!)

And I still felt like a failure so many times, like the worst mother in the universe, in history probably. And my kid, probably like yours, pretty much told me that more than once when she was a teenager -- but that's what teenagers do, remember...

But there are some truly awful mothers too, y'know? You read about them in the newspaper, locking their child in a cage, or pimping them out for drugs, or driving them into a lake. Beating them with words and whips. It makes me wonder why they were lucky enough to have children...

And yet the primary person in everyone's memory is mom, no matter how awful. There is a bond that is almost impossible to overcome, even when it is in a person's best interests to do so.

And realizing that, it becomes so important to take care of that relationship between mother and child, to honor it and treasure it and nurture it, even when you told you are the worst mother in the world, even when you FEEL like the worst mother in the world. Even when your kid is driving you crazy, worrying you beyond worry, behaving like no child you could have raised!

That bond lasts beyond death. Ask anyone who has lost their mother. She's right there, whispering in your ear, praising, scolding, loving.

That's what it's about: loving.

I had a long, loving talk with one daughter yesterday, a talk that gave me hope for her and a belief that she is going to be okay. And I heard from another daughter who is slogging through a hard time, step by step, and with more confidence and practicality than I'd have imagined she could have.

It made me feel good that I'm their mom.

And then today, a card came thanking me for listening, and saying how proud my daughter is to call me mom and her best friend. It made me cry. And it makes everything worth it -- all the worry, the fear, the uncertainty, even the times when I felt like the worst mother in the world. Today I felt like the best one.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

From the dentist's chair...

Sort of as the next step after getting my braces off, I went to my regular dentist's office today to get my teeth cleaned.

So what can I say. It wasn't fun. It also wasn't a repeat of the tears-in-my-ears
drool-down-my-chin experience I had last time -- which was almost a year and a half, and yes, I do know I shouldn't go that long, thankyouverymuch.

It never fails: when I walk into any dentist's office -- save that of my orthodontist,weirdly enough -- I am that nine-year-old girl who sat trying with all my heart to focus on the joy of brand new shoes on my feet rather than on the high whirrrrr of the drill and the pain in my mouth and the tears in my eyes while the old dentist drilled and filled a tooth sans novocaine. (It didn't work well.)

And despite the fact that I haven't ever had work done without novocaine since, I feel that fear and dread and pain every single time I go. When I know and like the dentist, I can stifle most of it, although there are always a few moments of feeling sorry for myself.

I went to an endodontist in Indianapolis -- a father-son duo, actually -- for a crown, and had the son do the first root canal. He was kind and very good, and my fear was greatly calmed. Unfortunately, I needed another one a few years later, and the son was on vacation, so I ended up with the father, who proceeded to shame and mock me because I was so apprehensive, and I was too intimidated to get up and walk out. So I had it done by him -- and it wasn't painful: he did use lots of novocaine -- but I was a wreck emotionally, and never went back, and told my dentist to never recommend him to anyone.

Another dentist in Birmingham, Ala., was extremely kind and gentle with me when I began blubbering in the chair before he'd so much as taken a look at my mouth. He and his wonderful staff -- and his nurse was absolutely the best I've ever seen -- did fairly extensive work on me that summer, right before I left there for California. They used nitrous oxide, putting me at ease, but not out of it. I would have been okay, I think, even without it, but it sure helped. I got sick one time after a long session with it, but we were never sure if it was the nitrous or if I had a stomach bug -- I had to ask my ex to come pick me up, and I tossed my cookies several times. (The reason I remember it so well is that later that evening, my ex woke me to tell me that Princess Di had been killed...) That, and the fact that I lived on Wendy's Frosties for the next three days because I was swollen and sore.

I've actually had good dental care throughout my life, and have been personal friends with a couple of my dentists, so I'm not anti-dentist. I'm just afraid of the drill and the noise and the potential pain, and it all goes back to when I was a kid. No matter that I know it won't hurt, that I know they will be kind and caring. I'm still always, inevitably, horribly apprehensive.

Getting teeth cleaned has turned into a far more rigorous process than it used to be, however. Today, for instance, I had to gargle for 30 seconds with a prescription mouthwash before I even opened my mouth. Okay.....I guess I understand that.

The hygenist used topical anesthetic on my gums to help ease the discomfort, and began with an ultrasonic machine on low, which is efficient at flushing out pockets of bacteria around the gums.

Did I mention that for some time now I take the Advil-Tylenol combo an hour before to help ease pain, and usually will also take a low dose of an anti=anxiety medication to help that? Uh huh. And I bring music, preferably fairly loud and lively. Today it was Gustav Holst's The Planets, but I also bring Grateful Dead, Little Feat, and usually some choral music from John Rutter. Symphonies tend to work well too.

So I'm laying back, sunglasses covering my eyes, trying to relax into the medication and the music, and it's working pretty well. And then she hits a pocket. Oh, I know it's there. It's where everything gets stuck and I have to dig it out with floss or a proxi-brush, and it is like picking at a fresh scab.

Well, she dug a new basement on that molar today, and my knuckles were white on the CD player, but I just kept breathing and listening to Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity. It has a lovely section in it that is the basis for the English hymn "I Vow to Thee My Country," which I've written of before, but I never tire of hearing it. It helped.

Only two self-pitying tears escaped into my ears; no drool at all this time. I am grateful. It's been worse. (and all the braces cement is completely off now -- yay!)

I am grateful that my very kind and gentle dentist pronounced my teeth to be in pretty good shape after three years in braces and more than a year since cleaning. I am grateful for my wonderful Oral B electric toothbrush and the great flossing heads, and for those teensy little proxibrushes that clean between teeth and that were a godsend when I was in braces.

I'm grateful for all the work of all the dentists I've had (well, maybe not the cranky endodontist) that have helped me keep my teeth in good shape for all these years.

And I'm really grateful that the next time I am scheduled to sit in a dentist's chair is six months from now when I go back and get it done all over again. It'll be November, cold, rainy. That suits me fine.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Weird, wacky spring in northern California

It's been 90 degrees at times in the past couple of weeks, and yet much of Tehama County had a frost on April 20 (we didn't out here -- five miles from town). The other night, it was downright cold. Today goes back to the 80s, and we won't see anything below 80 for at least 10 days, according to Yahoo weather.

Not good on the health -- lots of snuffling and wondering what to wear, as closets hold both short and long-sleeved shirts, shorts next to sweats, and sandals alongside woolly slippers.

The plants are confused. My tomatoes -- the ones that survived whatever seems to be snacking in the garden -- are either blooming like mad or droopy. A neighbor's, however, are beautiful, tall, and blooming, and I expect to see tiny tomatoes any day.

Speaking of eating....an entire artichoke plant -- the first time I've planted one -- disappeared. Completely. I'm wondering if we have a gourmet gopher, although most of the rest of it seems fine (yeah, missing a couple of pepper plants and at least one tomato). The cats don't nibble the plantlife, but I sure wish they'd get the stupid gopher, if that's what it is. Nothing gets in there except cats, lizards and gophers -- no bunnies. There's an 8-foot fence with critter fencing, and the deer don't get in there either.

Thank you, Tim Heardon, for the shout-out on your blog! That was a delightful surprise.

And speaking of art, try to catch the North Valley Art League 17th juried photo show that opened yesterday at Redding's Carter House Gallery in Caldwell Park. Tony and I were lucky enough to help shuttle photos back and forth as the juror did his picks, and always learn from the experience. Most important this year was to shoot where you are -- photograph things you know in our beautiful north state, but try to see it with a creative eye.

Isn't that always the challenge, in any art form?