Running Free

Running Free

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sock Crisis

There is a conspiracy going on in my house. It has been going on for years and while I have patiently tried to humor the offending culprits, I have reached a point of complete exasperation.

The varmints have been hiding in pant legs, somewhere deep inside the bowels of the washing machine, inside pillow covers and in a host of other places that when I try and provide my DH and DS with matching mates, well, it is less than plausible.

I am referring to socks - those colorful or not so colorful bits of cloth as the case may be that are designed to be worn on feet and with shoes.

It’s not like they live in a prison or anything. I mean, they have it pretty good - for socks. They are kept fresh and clean and get to keep a step in time with the likes of aforementioned loved ones. I painstakingly put them in the washing machine together and yet, somehow, through some as yet undefined trick of the hand they poof- come out bedraggled and single.

Single socked I scratch my head and search high and low – one of these days I am going to take the washer apart and find a nest of matchless mates having a martini party in there- I just know it.

They are having a laughable time at my expense – Woody Allen could have a field day making a goofball comedy about the lady who went loopy over lost mates….I can see it now.
My most recent humiliation by these varmints came when I went to drop off my DH’s shirts at the dry cleaners this morning. I have a big blue laundry bag in which I place all of the items for the dry cleaners to help separate them from the basic wash and dry variety that yours truly attempts to handle. Key word being “attempts.” We have managed to turn quite a few pairs of tidy whities into a lovely shade of blush over the years. That however, is a story for another day.
Speaking of tidy whities, I was pulling the items out of said laundry bag and laying them on the counter for the clerk to count when plop! There on the counter was something that did not belong on the counter. Neither did it belong in the dry cleaning bag. It belonged in the lingerie bag. Those socks – I just know they had something to do with my- ahem- undergarment (the pretty blue La Perla one) lying on the counter for all to see.

Well, I scooped it up before you could say “What time is it” in Portuguese – which I haven’t a clue how to say.

The socks have taken to hiding not only themselves but have brought in the tidy whities and undergarments; in fact there is an entire Mafia connection plotting its next move- no pun intended -while I lament the unwieldy tribulations of being the lost sock mom.

…to be continued…Monk where are you when I need you???

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Housewife of Orange County

Maybe it is because I live in southern California and have become a victim of the reality/fiction show, “The Real Housewives of Orange County” that magazines espousing magical cures for wrinkles and aging intrigue me. The most recent one to cross my post box was titled Body & Beyond and featured thirty pages of advertisements (that was the whole publication actually) filled with great metaphors and similes not to mention plain marketing 101 such as the following, “A beautiful nu image for the nu year.” Interesting that when one is beautiful and healthy that spelling suddenly doesn’t seem to matter as much.

Looking through these pages I cannot help but chuckle, “Look ten years younger on your first visit!” Wow, sign me up, ten years- does that have a direct correlation so if I make two visits I will look twenty years younger?! How does one achieve such magic anyway? The advertisement promises that celebrities loving this treatment include “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” Wow…

I, like the women featured in the “The Real Housewives of Orange County”, can lay claim to being that- a housewife. But I am not sure exactly what is meant by the qualifier ‘Real’- does that mean I am fake? False? In any case, unlike the women in the program, I cannot lay claim to having any resemblance of a life to theirs. Okay, I will admit I live in a gated community nestled at the foot of a range of mountains, but my house is not 5,000 square feet- not of course that there is anything wrong with a 5,000 square foot house- a bit more dust and cleaning to be sure…but hey.

I cease to understand how these woman – who are all amazingly dressed albeit in what appears to me to be the same outfit in different shades (chartreuse, sherbet, camellia, lavender, celery, burnished gold, siena, etc.) episode to episode. But this could my background in retail rearing its impish head -maybe the recession is even hitting the ladies living the high and mighty wave of excess.

If one wants to witness the backlash of women pulling and pushing each other apart like tangled bits of taffy, then this is the show. They do not stop in their relentless self deprecation of how woeful bits and pieces of their exacting lives are. Money and looks aside, these women have very little else.

It would seem that their ability to find happiness resides in their ability to poke and scratch at each other’s eyes- like feral cats marking territory. It is really quite fascinating to observe. On one recent episode one gal, who is engaged to a man old enough to be her father (unfortunately suffering from cancer ) and rich enough to keep her nicely clothed for years to come, shared her concerns about taking care of herself – should something happen. She and he are still just that a she and a he- not a Mr. and Mrs. We will call her Blond Beauty.

She is pretty with tresses of wheat colored hair and a great figure capped with a winning smile. We join this young lady as she is having lunch with her new best friends (BFFs) – another blonde who iwe shall refer to as Alpha Mom and a brunette who used to be a playboy bunny – years ago. We will call her Alpha Gal.

There is another brunette, let’s call her Moon Doggie, who is a major sports and workout hound and she provides a bit of controversy by disputing the claims of the Alpha Mom and Alpha Gal.
The engaged young woman is bemoaning the fact that because she is not yet married that the fiancĂ©’s children from previous marriages will be in line for any inheritance. Alpha Mom and Alpha Gal vehemently yelp: get a prenuptial, or power of attorney, or beneficiary – something in a legal document form to which this young and beautiful lass can hold should the unthinkable happen.

This conversation seems to erupt into a full throttle roar when Moon Doggies tries to explain while waving her jewel encrusted fingers that there is more to life than money. I happen agree with her. But I wonder if it is easier to spout such a statement as one looks at the rocks of diamonds and rubies sparkling on fingers dancing in the California sunshine. Just a thought.
Moon Doggie tries to make her case by recommending that Blond Beauty just try and stay the course and help her man through the chemotherapy etc. Well, Alpha Mom goes for the jugular. Her super tight skin grimaces in a surreal way and perhaps the camera crew could do a better job of trying to portray her with a better angle. I won’t bother describing it- let’s just say it’s not pretty.

I could go on…I will admit that I just cannot pull myself away from this insipid show..and as I sit here looking at page 9 of Body & Beyond magazine espousing that the Glamour Den will save me $100 on my first full head extension. I find myself scratching my recently trimmed locks.
I seem to recall having a cosmetology Barbie doll when I was about ten years old. I believe you could actually pull her hair to make it grow – is that what this is? But hey, the Glamour Den is my one stop for luxurious hair….

I am still trying to grasp the ‘real’ meaning behind “Real Housewives of Orange County.” What does that make me? Maybe I won’t answer that question…

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dogs and Children

Dogs and children.

These two life elements have somehow, for years, managed to find their way to me. Perhaps it is my smell, or the way I walk; perhaps it is the fact that I hum and talk to birds and insist that four legged and two legged creatures share with others. I am not sure. But it is a phenomenon that has caused some great chuckling around our house recently.

I can, for example, tell you with great certainty that if there is a pair of chocolate covered, mud splayed little hands in the vicinity of the mall, the post office, the bank, the grocery store, the dentist, the coffee shop, - they will find me- even if they don’t know me. I become the rail banister of out and about, with little runny noses and juice stained mouths somehow sharing their artistic creations with me wherever and whenever. I am the human magnet – for messy hands and messier mouths.

As a result, I usually can be found with a tissue in a pocket to help me remove said detritus after such experiences. Now, keep in mind, it is not as if I go seeking these types of mystical encounters. I do not stand in a doorway yelling “Yoo hoo, all little children who have just had a snack or finished making mud pies, come and give me a hug…”

As a matter of fact, I don’t think I do anything except maybe the fateful mistake of eye contact or a smile. Maybe that is it. In any case, I am beginning to do research on the relationship of dogs and children and middle aged moms (a shiver just ran down my spine at those two – excuse me three words…eeesh…who would have every thunk…who is that face in the mirror...) I stray from my story…

Take for example this past weekend. My DH (Dear Husband) and DS (Dear Son) decided it was time for a family constitutional – another word for a walk along our neighborhood three mile hiking trail. It is a nice easy stroll through a platoon of Eucalyptus trees – home to a motley collection of crows, sparrows and parrots. Each of these feathered creatures is in constant competition with its brethren for the loudest, shrillest, most awe-inspiring ‘song.’

The afternoon sky had turned to a soft shade of lavender and the sun was a soft butter yellow, sleepy and warm. We were walking along- the three of us, DH and I and DS on his scooter when from the opposite direction came a golden retriever puppy. His tail was wagging and he was sniffing everything in sight. As he came closer there was an audible groan from my walking companions.

I turned and saw the look of resignation on my DH’s face and a look of incredulousness on that of my DS. For they had been subjected to too many moment s of “Mom moments’ prone to happen especially on walks.

You see, I love animals – well, I suppose I should caveat that with I like most and have a healthy respect for others. The black widow spider who was attempting to make a nest for her babies in our garage had to be relocated. I did apologize to her that it really wasn’t personal, but that well, spiders of her elegance belonged elsewhere- far beyond the steps of our modest home. So I gingerly swept her up and placed her in the back yard behind a palm tree- hopefully she has found a liking for her new residence.

But I digress. If there is a puppy or full grown dog out for a stroll with his parents then I will of course ask if I may pet the canine and if granted, which is usually the case, I become one with my four legged friend. The dog will usually come and sniff my hand or sometimes disband with formalities and hop right into my lap. Depending on how big the dog is, sometimes I am knocked to the ground which I am sure is a very funny sight. Think Lucille Ball with brown hair. I need not say more.

On this occasion though, a new element came into the picture that had not previously presented itself. This aforementioned golden puppy with curious eyes and a black wet nose proceeded to come over to me looked at me with a tilted head. He (I am pretty sure it was a male) sat down in front of me and proceeded to – you guessed it – poop! Right there in the middle of the walking path. As if he were giving me a gift.

Now this had never happened before- at least not to me. And the owner was of course ready with her trusty blue poop bag and my son and husband were in stitches saying “Mom made the dog go poop. Look Mom you have magic poop powers!”

Once finished doing his business the puppy then gave me a smile – or what I believed to be a puppy smile and trotted off with his master. I am not sure if that smile meant, “Thanks I needed that,” or more along the lines,” Lady, you are full of sugar honey ice tea.” (NOTE this is a clean site so an acronym will have to do here…)

In any case, my life is never truly dull. And while this may seem like a farce, I stand before you and say: this is a true story there are three eyewitnesses.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Green Thumb

A green thumb is not something I have at my disposal. If anything, my opposing digit is closer to the hue of dirty dishwater in color. It is opposed to anything remotely related to green life and plants and leaves and flowers and sod. I wish it wasn’t so, but alas, it is.

Which brings me to the point of this posting. Water. Or lack thereof. No, I am not going to wax eloquent about the state of perpetual drought that plagues the state of California and the southwest in general I believe.

Rather, I am going to lament and mope about the sad state of the three plants in my home – which I inherited from the previous owners by the way. They are all of the Ficus variety I believe. And in an effort to keep them alive and in the state of perpetual health I have given them names: Henry, the sometimes hearty green leafed plant dresses our dining room table in an urn-like pot. He unfortunately gets droopy all too often making me feel like a true heel for not paying better attention.
Ivy is my little potted plant that sits in the kitchen windowsill. She gets talked to the most, but she unlike Henry suffers from over watering and goes limp and yellow.
And then there is the King of the house, Sir Harold. He is a magnificent creature in a twenty or thirty gallon pot that resides in our family room. He has a special drinking tube that I am supposed to remember to fill every few weeks as well as rotate his heavy humped bottom. The key word here is ‘remember.’

With no disrespect to anyone suffering or dealing with senile dementia of the Alzheimer type (it was actually my undergrad thesis back in the mid ‘80’s so I have a great deal of respect for this disease and the turmoil it brings). But that said, I sometimes think I am suffering from presenile dementia of the previously mentioned type. I do not remember to water Sir Harold – until he seems to be a shriveled and rather unsightly Charlie Brown-like tree.

I sigh and moan and sometimes apologize to these green vestures of life and rebirth- for being so dependent upon me for their very existence. I did some preliminary searching to understand these three plants to see if perhaps I could get some insight into how I should improve my green thumb and horticultural understanding.

All of the websites that I visited pretty much said the same thing when it came to information about indoor plants: Pothos (of which I think my three plants fall) can handle a wide variety of indoor conditions that rival some of the best indoors plants. (Good to know).

Well, that cheered me up a bit- perhaps Henry wasn’t beyond resuscitation after all. According to the plant experts, such house plants are ‘able to adapt to and endure lower light conditions and generally poor treatment,’ well that did it then. My plants were engineeringly designed to handle the likes of me and my poor nurturing skills.

One would think really, how hard can it be to:

· Regularly water
· Fertilize,
· Trim, prune
· Dust and shine leaves

Let us just say, that it is more difficult than one might think. At least in my case.

Which reminds me, I need to check on my leafy friends….

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mother Love

The Monster Mash has nothing on me. I can take the most mundane task and turn it into a freakazoid of an accident in no time flat. It becomes a matronly dance all its own.
Take for example, my attempt to make nice and healthy lunches for DH and DS. As I opened up the refrigerator door, a jar of mayonnaise hurled itself upon my ankle- the one still black and blue from the encounter with the corner of the bedpost the night before.

Lucky for me the container while full, was plastic, making the pain less than that of a glass container. At least this is what I am telling myself as I take comfort in not having to pick up globules of glass in addition trying to ignore a throbbing appendage.

After retrieving said mayonnaise jar from the floor I proceed to take out the turkey meat and the carrot sticks and edamame and cheese. I then lovingly cobble together sandwiches made with fiber-enriched wheat bread whose packaging assures me that it provides 100 percent of the daily recommendation of fiber and vitamins. Nothing is too good for my boys.

I glance down at the aforementioned ankle which now resembles a doorknob in a motley collection of green and purple hues. Quite lovely actually. For an injured ankle.

I proceed to take the lunch pails- insulated rectangles of orange and grey- drab in comparison to my ankle I must admit- and add ice packs to the lunches stopping to think that maybe I should take an extra ice pack out of the freezer for my ankle. But then realize I have no time to be pampering a self-induced injury. I have lunches to prepare, beds to make, laundry to do as well as get myself to work on time.

I add a small bag of Pringles chips to each lunch which now contains a decrusted sandwich complete with a slight smattering of a mustard mayo spread and a healthy helping of turkey meat and a protein rich slice of cheese, cut in two (triangle shaped versus the more ho hum rectangle version). I add a bottle of water to each along with a bag of veggies composed of edamame and mini carrots.

I also provide a plastic (recycled no less) spoon and a container of apple sauce (organic) to round out the lunch made with TLC for each of the men in my life.

I deliver said lunches to appropriate pick up stations: for DS- I deliver his to his backpack. To DH, I deliver his to the front door next to his shoes, where he can easily pick it up on his way out the door.

Having done my domestic duty I then begin the rest of my day scurrying about. Off to work, grocery store, dry cleaners, post office, the usual.

The day goes on and before I know it, the evening meal is upon us. DS, DH and I sit down at the table and give thanks for the meal and chat about the day. My DS, with his big brown eyes and truly engaging smile looks over at me and says, “Mom, I know you work really hard on giving me a nice healthy balanced lunch (if he only knew…) but really, do you think you could up the ante on the junk food? The kids at school all have these amazing unhealthy lunches, and well, mine is just so healthy…”

The broccoli spear on which I was munching lodged itself in my throat at this very moment of his utterances….I will have to finish this story later. 911 may be needed this time….

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Patchwork Quilt

Today, Tuesday, January 20, 2009 - the fist uncurled, the hand frozen shut opened - extended its fingers across the lines of color and religion and economy and reached out, grasping other hands, other souls eager to once again reclaim America as the United States of America.

The patchwork quilt has added another fabric square– one that will bind together so many unraveling pieces of this glorious blanket we call home. Our patchwork quilt is made up of so many bits of fabric scraps – each with its own story, its own history. Stitched together these bits of fabric have come to represent the blanket of America.

It is a blanket that has kept us safe and warm. It has, unfortunately fallen prey to the whims of time and Nature.

But now, a new tailor has come into town. He brings with him needle and thread stronger and more resilient. He brings with him not just a cadre of seamstresses and tailors, but cobblers and plumbers and many other artisans who can not only shore up this beautiful mosaic of color and creed, but shore up the crumbling walls; reinforce the tired buildings and once more shine the dome of pride that made this country the land of the free and the proud.

It is a new day- a glorious and historical day where color does not matter; where religion and sexual preference do not matter; where it is the integrity and the meter of one’s soul that is the only sure thing.

Today, the fist of rage was uncurled for the first time in many years. And today, with the extended hand along with a needle and thread, we as apprentices in this new time will do just that- take responsibility for ourselves, we will learn to sew and reinforce the fabric of our patchwork quilt. We will extend a hand to our brothers and sisters- a hand up – not a hand out. Together, we will all rejoice and take cover in our warm and soft blanket.

Together. We will stitch a new patch on our quilt and it will be beautiful. Because we will have all worked on it together – as a team – as human beings. As individuals with hope for today and a vision for tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sweet Jehosophat

I have discovered heaven in a cup. It is the simplest thing but it works - for me…sweet Jehosophat found in liquid form. Albeit the Syrians may prefer another beverage given the long standing feud from the 4th king of Judah and his buddy Ahab. But I digress….

I am not talking about oil or liquid gold but a good ol’cup of coffee – made to my liking without my having to do much other than place my order and say “please" and pay– but peanut shells instead of walnuts….

I enjoy a good cup of coffee but have gotten tired of waiting in line, paying exorbitant amounts for something with a fancy name that is little more than cream, sugar, and flavoring. And most of the coffee shops – if one can actually refer to them as that- are little more than multi syllabic money pits with the stench of burnt beans often emanating from a back room someplace. And for this privilege along with a surly server and a $3.00 out of pocket experience, I am handed my cup of Java. Actually it is left unceremoniously on a counter top and I am called to some can pick up my order. Brisky beverage - California style.

Given the state of the economy and the lack of additional resources to support my addiction I have begun to reach into the bowels of my wallet for spare change to try and get the extra mile out of the morning java. With my renewed economic frugality I had found that I can get a customized cup of very good coffee without even leaving my car. Of course I wish I could say without leaving my house, but I can tell you horror stories of my attempts to brew a pot of coffee…The results are not so good usually.

But I can say that I give two thumbs up to the coffee that is customized to my liking: two creamers and one sugar- by none other than McDonald’s. Yes indeed, I can drive through our newly opened neighborhood fast food McDonald’s blended in stone work designed to evoke a Tuscan setting and have my morning coffee hot and happy.

I stumbled upon this newest neighbor while filling up my car with gas at the building next door – which is when I looked up and noticed a little window with a head poking out. It was a cashier window and there was a car there delivering money. Because of the masked architecture one would think it was more a shop or some high end restaurant. There is an golden arch “M” on the building but it is small – compared to most other McDonald's’’- and it is on the side of the building- and while it is yellow it is sitting quietly near the rooftop under the eaves of the brick building where it can easily be missed.

The god of the sky Jupiter and his son Apollo are looking out for me on this balmy January morning in southern California as I sip my cup of coffee – knowing that I have enough change left to buy another tomorrow….

If only the rest of the world could find such contentment with a simple cup of coffee....

Monday, January 12, 2009

Charlie Brown and Me

There is a generation of children growing up without the knowledge of the Charlie Brown tree. I am not sure why this struck me as a bit sad really. Perhaps because all of my peers and those of us of a certain age know immediately what is meant by the phrase “Charlie Brown Christmas tree.” Perhaps it is the comfort derived from the known. The familiar. The familiarity with having been a Charlie Brown tree at one point or another in my life.

I realized this the other day when my son asked me why a particular neighborhood tree looked so scrawny. “Well,” said I. “He (for some reason I have always taken to giving masculine qualities to my trees) is probably an offspring of the Charlie Brown tree.”

“What is a Charlie Brown tree?” my son asked.

“What do you mean what is a Charlie Brown tree?” I responded in a rather perplexed voice.

“Mom, the tree is skinny and could use a few more branches and leaves but what does that have to do with Charlie Brown? Who is Charlie Brown?”

We were in the car (it seems I am often in the car for these lovely conversations –some of which have really been doozies of late- more on that in tomorrow’s blog so stay tuned…)

“Well, let me start by saying that when I was a girl…”

“I know mom, a hundred years ago…” my ever so jovial son reminded me.
“No actually, it was less than that,” I said as my brow furrowed and I tried to avoid a squirrel racing across the road.

“Better pick up the speed there Charlie,” I said not realizing what I had just muttered to the furry rodent with the electric shock tail and overstuffed cheeks.

“Mom, what is a Charlie Brown tree and who is Charlie Brown?” my son looked over at me with his chocolate kiss eyes that required an answer. Then and now.

“Well,” I began. Thoughts of the sprigs of hair sticking up from the top of Charlie Brown’s round head and his scratchy somber voice came back up from the cellar and into the wobbly corridors of my present mind.

“Charlie Brown is the main character in the comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. And from the time I was 8 or so; I read the comic strip every Saturday. He also was made into a television character and each season had its associated disaster, like the pumpkin…”

“Um, Mom, could you just tell me what a Charlie Brown tree is?” said the non scratchy voice of the wheat-colored mop of hair next to me.

“Oh, sorry, dear,” said I.

“In a nutshell, Charlie Brown was the unpopular, always last to be called little boy who had really bad luck,” I stated as I made my way down the street and around the corner keeping an eye out for wayward squirrels.
“Sounds like you a little bit Mom- at least the part about bad luck,” said my son now munching a granola bar with the crumbs making a delightful pattern on his shirt and knees. Granola crumbs are a royal pain to clean up….
“Mm hmm,” I mumbled nodding my head slowly.

“Now a Charlie Brown tree is the smallest, skinniest, most naked tree you can think of- and that is usually all that was left by the time Charlie Brown went looking for his tree at Christmas.”
“Sounds like maybe Charlie Brown was a wait until the last minute kinda dude,” said my ever ready ten year old.
“Well, I guess maybe you could say that,” I said, “But really the truth of the matter is that he just had unfortunate luck, but he learned to accept his not so good luck and tried to make the best of it.”

“He sounds kind of pathetic Mom,” my dear son stated.

“Well, maybe he was but somehow I always felt sorry for him and somehow I always related to him and the inability to have too many good things happen and well, it’s kind of hard to explain really,” I mused out loud.

I felt a soft warm hand on my arm, complete with a few granola scraps. “Mom,” said my son looking at me, “You are nothing like Charlie Brown because you have me and Dad who love you and you have lots of friends and are so creative and funny.”

“Oh, honey, thank you. That is so kind of you. It makes my day.”I barely got the words out when my son added, “Plus, you always look for the tree or pumpkins with the most character, and now I will know what you mean when you say character- it is code for Charlie Brown-type.” He winked and gave me his crooked Cheshire cat grin.
I grinned back and drove on.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Picasso's Owl

The air is tinged with a snippet of winter frost that leaves a tartness on one’s tongue and a sting on one’s cheek. The inky darkness has not quite thrown off her morning coverlets. The stars are canvassed against the purple ink of the nighttime sky. The long limbs of Eucalyptus, pine and oak trees stand dark and straight in their masked silhouette. This is my morning landscape from which I begin to paint my day.

The sounds of the early morning are soft and gentle; and this morning is no exception. I take my three mile jaunt along the walking trail and pass under a canopy of tree bows including the large Eucalyptus where I hear the familiar “hoot hoot whooo” of the owl.

This morning it is answered by another. I stop and look up and there before me high in the boughs of the tree is an owl shadowed against the sky. I can see another owl peering from the top of a nearby tree. Her wings are also open and she is turning her head from side to side slowly. She is listening. As am I.

The owl hoots again as his wings unfurl the full magnificence of his span. His face – two orbs of golden honey in a white face of feathers look down toward me. He lowers his head as if to welcome me into the solitude of the early morning calm. The gift of the owl – the acknowledgement of my existence in his world – gives me a shudder and tingle. I smile and he bows his head once more and brings his massive wingspan closer and stands still on his branch while his mate observes from a distance.

At the wee hour in which I often can be found taking my constitutional, much of the neighborhood is still slumbering. For me, this is the absolute best time of the day. The air is still, I can listen and hear the sounds of the morning: the twitter and chirp of first call from the local members of the bird symphony. There is no rush to compete. It just is. The moment.

The owl recently moved to the neighborhood. I am not sure where he last resided, but I for one am happy to welcome him. He sits in an aging Eucalyptus tree with leafy shards of tussled leaves that sway and toss with the morning winds. He is high up off the ground. I have to peer closely to see him – he is still and regal. Like a king on his throne. This is what I think.

His movements are deliberate and calibrated to an exactness that is fascinating. Sometimes, on my walk, I will stop myself from my ‘quick step jaunt’ as my DH refers to it and simply gaze up at him. I can see my breath – reminiscent of the caterpillar’s smoke stack in Alice in Wonderland. In the crisp morning air I can breathe deeply and enjoy the solitude of being. It is a gift that the owl has helped me to discover.

And then I trot on waving good bye to my friend the owl. For that is what he has become in some ways- a comfort – a part of the morning routine to which I have become accustomed. The early bit of the day is just that - a tiny moment - one from which so much of the remaining day’s landscape can then be painted. I wonder what today’s painting will be?...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Odyssey and Me

It is a new year. A new day. A new moment. And yet, time appears to tick on oblivious to the changes of the sun, the wind and a motley collection of other things. And sometimes I think I do too. Like a ferris wheel I let time pass, not really taking in the moment. Not really grasping the meaning of the moment – as simple and small as it may seem.

How did it get to be January 8, 2009? What happened to the days and weeks in between November 25th and now? Where did they go?

As I reflect back on the past year albeit a bit after the moment of reflection is supposed to have occurred, I think that there have been many things to occupy my time. We had friends from Paris, France visit us at the start of the holiday season which meant that time for family and friends was condensed a bit this year. It meant a trip to San Francisco with J&E, our young friends to whom I will always refer as ‘the children,’ since we (my Dear Husband (DH and I) are like their American family. And we- I think I can speak for my better half – DH -enjoyed our wonderful time as a United Nations family – even if it was just for a few weeks.

And what have I learned from this past year? Much – but not enough. The financial community is a place to be treated with carefully - much like a cemetery. One should walk carefully - mindful of stepping on graves. The dignity and respect once afforded the banking capital of the world is now a mere shadow of joy itself. Hopefully with a reassessment and a good hard look inward the ‘souls of the new machine’ in the making will rejuvenate and bring back a glow worth reflecting and holding. One can hope.

There is still much to be grateful for- the fact that I have fingers as achy and disjointed as they may that enable me to peck at a keyboard. That I have a brain that mostly fires on command – mostly. That I have a family – a small and close knit husband and child who are the blanket of the everyday with whom I can snuggle and keep out the chill of the dark skies that sometimes threaten to unleash a bucket of rain.

And good friends and health and humor. And the simplicity of everyday simple tasks that despite the monotony, somehow give satisfaction in knowing that there is fresh milk in the refrigerator and clean underwear for all. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.
So, as we begin the trudge of learning to live in a recession prone world, a world with unrest in Africa, the Middle East and here at home, what is there to be grateful for? What is there to be happy about?

Over the coming months in addition to my trite and light attempts at levity, I will drop in a morsel now and again that is along the lines of food for thought – little bits to be savored, like a delectable piece of forbidden candy – sweet and buttery and full of flavor. So, what is there to be grateful for? And why should we (I) try and make a concerted effort to be in the moment?
Well, for one thing, being alive sure beats being ten feet under or a box of ashes stuck in a dark and breathless place. Secondly, the sheer delight of watching a new generation explore the world and all of its prisms and angles of light. Having the love of a good man. Having a roof over my head. Food on the table- even if it just a bowl of soup and a piece of fruit.
The ability to make the bed and do the laundry – cumbersome tasks as they are – I can do them and I am not dependent upon someone else to so my laundry, to get me out of bed, to make my food, to drive me to the market and the post office. I can get around and do these things on my own.

Waxing philosophical happens to me now and then. My Dear Son (DS) just finished reading the Odyssey- albeit the gentler kid-friendly version (difficult for Greek tragedies in general I think) which is a really great reality check.

I mean Odysseus was one determined guy- I hope Penelope appreciates all that he went through to get back to her and Telemachus. Compared to one-eyed giants, cannibals, roaring winds (okay we do have the Santa Ana to contend with) I have it pretty darn good.

So, the next time I see or hear that the economy is rapidly disintegrating and that we are at a standstill and Hades is having a comeuppance, well, I think I will just take a good look around. I will take a look around at where I live, the work options afforded me and the family that is the tapestry of my life and think that just maybe, it could be a whole lot worse.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


The other day I had a grousing session with a paper towel. It was being stingy – giving me only half of a sheet versus the usual whole sheet required to clean up my messes.

As I grumbled at the white sheaves unfurling across the kitchen counter I tried to rip off a section. My futile efforts were rewarded with a piece of paper towel not big enough to wipe up the sweat on my brow - never mind the freshly brewed coffee that gave renewed meaning to cup runneth over…

No, my paper towel was anything but strong and reinforced with fine recycled paper: shards from some happily pulped tree urn. Mine was as flimsy as a toothpick. As I moved in for a closer look at my woeful mound of lazy paper serviettes, I noticed that indeed there were perforations along every six inches or so - unlike the usual 8X10 smooth sheets to which I had grown accustomed. I could see through them – like parchment really.

For forty years – or close to it now that I really think about it… I have never had an issue with the size of the paper towel. Until now. Marketers in their infinite wisdom have decided that I must have a need for smaller sheets. I just must. What they have given me in their efforts to simplify my life are gray hair and a migraine. Simplified indeed.
I have been perfectly content with my strong enough for the toughest spill Brawny and “the quick picker upper” Bounty quilts of amazing absorbency. (Note: it depended and still does which one happens to be on sale making me an equal opportunist.) I knew my paper towels (PT) and they knew me. We were homies of the homestyle variety.

Both of these lovely rolls of big white strength were big enough to handle any disaster I might throw at them: including the aforementioned pot of coffee, goops of mayonnaise, eggshells, wet oatmeal - the list is endless. I could always rely on my tried and true paper towels to get me through a sticky situation. You could say that over the years we have developed quite an intimate relationship me and my quicker picker upper and strong and mighty friends.

Recently however, this relationship has been sorely tested. Wandering the aisles of my local department store in search of paper goods including paper towels, I was suddenly assaulted by an entire room of paper towels from the likes of Bounty, Brawny, Viva, and a host of others I had never even heard of. Imagine both sides of an aisle swathed in bunting bundles of paper towels - five shelves stacked deep and so wide –twenty feet long and a good fifteen feet high. I never imagined so many choices. Beckoning to me from across the aisle were “Extra soft”, “Select a size”, “White” (why would I need another color?), “Super duty”. Where were my ‘regular’ old paper towels?!

I searched desperately for my friends of the tree cloth - who seemed to be now gone. So, I made a best guess decision and after ten minutes of shock and awe I headed home. I needed to take some aspirin. I installed my newly acquired paper towel roll and realized that despite my best efforts, I had purchased the half sheet “select a size”…

What is a soul to do? Back to the store I trotted, buoyed by three Excedrin and a bottle of water. I was ready to do battle with the paper towel aisle. I had a dictionary of terms to help me on my voyage this time. And as I made my way to the paper towel aisle something caught the corner of my eye that made me well, stop in my tracks.

There on the end cap and snaking around the corner it appeared that there were not one but two aisles and a back row dedicated to – toilet paper (TP)…How would I ever begin to fathom the marketing here when I had not fared too well with the PT? How would I ever even begin to fathom this world of sexy TP adjectives like “Jumbo” “Mega” and “Super sized..”?

For those of you of a certain age, perhaps the name Mr. Whipple will ring a bell. And right about now, I wished that I could request that Calgon and Mr. Whipple take me away from this almost unbelievable selection of TP. What I would give to squeeze a bundle of Charmin right about now…

But I digress. I simply wanted my well-known and dare I say, well-loved familiar brand of paper towels. My head was hurting and I decided I would have to wait until another day to begin to tackle the TP issue.

In their attempts to simplify the lives of us busy homemakers, marketers have created a plethora of choices that is overwhelming. Can we just go back to the good ol days when brawny wasn’t scrawny and paper towels were designed to be the quicker picker upper…please??