Sunday, December 31, 2006

Thoughts on New Year's Eve

I should be painting my bathroom, but....I think I may have carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand, a disorder I tended to dismiss as psychiatric in origin until, of course, it happened to me. It started gradually. One day a couple of months ago I hopped into my car and grabbed the stick to shift, only to experience an excruciating, piercing sensation in the center of my hand the moment I made contact with the top of the stick. Lest I forget, it continued to happen pretty much every time after that, and then the pain traveled on up through my wrist and into my arm, and down into my fingers...but this is boring stuff, it even bores me, and it’s my hand that hurts. Suffice it to say, I’m wearing a splint as I type this...but I digress.

I should be painting my bathroom, addition to the problems with my right hand, it’s New Year’s Eve. New Year’s Eve, and in a couple of hours, I’ll be sitting in a small church, listening to the Bach Society perform all 6 of the Brandenburg Concertos. First, they’ll play the first, third and fifth concertos on wonderful antique instruments, which can be perused up close to my heart’s content at intermission, after which the sixth, fourth and second concertos will be played. Oh, I absolutely love those concertos, and I look forward to this concert all year!

I should be painting my bathroom, but...I’ve been thinking about all of the things I want to accomplish or at least explore in the coming year, and an essential part of that process is writing out my thoughts. My resolutions, yes, but also my aspirations. I’ll tell you something funny. Not ha-ha funny, but weird funny. Last year, I made out a list of things I wanted to achieve in the coming year, and, having been unemployed for about a year at that time, of course, finding a job was number 1 on my list. Well, not only did I find a job, but in reviewing the list a few weeks ago, to my surprise, I realized that I’ve knocked off quite a few of the things that I put on my list. Not all, by any means, but it was a pretty steep list. So of course, I’m going to write another list of things that I’d like to achieve this year. I’m at a point in my life where some things are looming large, e.g., selling my house and maybe even leaving Texas. I don’t know if I want to do that, but I want to explore my possibilities.

I should be painting my bathroom, but...shoot, I’m just going to add it to my list. Odds are, by this time next year, it’ll be done. Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas 2006

I went to hear the Dallas Bach Society perform Mozart's version of Handel's Messiah on Wednesday night, December 20th, but my festivities officially began on Friday night, December 22nd, when I hosted my annual Christmas party/open house.

Close to 40 friends, family and neighbors attended my party this year.

We ate, drank and chatted into the night, eventually gathering 'round the badly out of tune piano for some songs, played by my talented and lively
lively 82-years-old, across-the-street-neighbor, late in the evening.

On Saturday, the 23rd, Alex and I attended a matinee performance of The Nutcracker at Fair Park. It had been years since either of us had done that, but we enjoyed it so much that we've vowed to do it again next year, whether we're together or apart at Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, as usual, we opened gifts by candlelight at my house. Two moments were especially memorable this year: Katharine's eloquent tribute to Alexandra, and Xander's face when he received his Christmas present from his grandfather, A: his first bicycle.

On Christmas Day, Katharine and Brenden hosted Christmas lunch at their house, and that evening was family movie night: A, Alex, Mike, Chris and I went to see The Good Shepherd, which all of us gave 2 thumbs up. We're movie buffs: we also saw Children of Men and Blood Diamond.

Alex flew back to Chicago on Wednesday morning, and Mike flew back to Arizona at the crack of dawn today.

I'm looking forward to New Year's Eve, which I'll spend the same way this year as I have for the past few years: enjoying the Dallas Bach Society's performance of The Brandenburg Concertos, performed in a small setting, on both antique and modern instruments, after which I'll return home for champagne and chicken enchiladas, Christmas (meaning with red and green chilies) at midnight.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Feliz Navidad

I went out tonight to try to shoot some pictures in the fog. Dallas is almost never foggy, and I miss fog (Chicago and Minnesota have their share of foggy nights), so tonight I was smiling as I walked around in the fog, savoring it (if one can savor fog).

That doesn't mean I can shoot it, though. None of my fog shots turned out, but I did come across a yard that had these lights up for Christmas decorations...after which I came home and ate a mushroom and goat cheese quesadilla with sour cream and pico de gallo, washed down with a bottle of pear ale, while I had a long conversation on the phone with my favorite younger brother, is good.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Happy Holidays

I was at North Park Mall Sunday afternoon, in Dillard’s, sniffing Vitabath, when I heard a male voice exclaim: “Alright, lady, put it shoplifting!” Of course, I wasn’t shoplifting. Nevertheless, suffice it to say, there are circumstances under which I might have been alarmed at that exclamation...except that I recognized the voice of my youngest child (by 1 minute), the incredibly funny Chris. I turned around and looked up at him. 6'5" tall and still amazingly thin from all that vertical growth, he was all dimples, totally pleased with himself at “getting” me, even if it was just for a fraction of a second. Stephanie (his sweetheart), was with him. They announced that they’d been Christmas shopping.

“So what are you doing here, Mom, I mean, besides trying to shoplift a little Vitabath...” Christopher asked. I gave him The Look, then told him we’d met Kath, Brenden and Xander (age 4) and gone with them to have the pleasure of seeing Xander visit Santa. For those of you in the rest of the county, who may not know this...North Park Mall in Dallas has the real Santa...with a real beard, and a real opposed to all those Santa’s helpers that everyone else has to make do with, wearing red suits and fake beards, that are almost as ubiquitous as neighborhood Starbuck’s, at this time of year.

Chris smiled, knowingly. “Ah, the Real Santa,” he said, and then added to Stephanie, “This really is cool. Xander just went to see the same Santa that Mike and I always went to see. Very cool, Mom,” he added.

“Huh? What do you mean?” Stephanie asked.

“Well,” I said, “When Mike and Chris were little, I discovered that The Real Santa is at North Park Mall every year...and so we have a series of pics of Mike and Chris on Santa’s lap, and it’s clearly always the same guy, complete with real beard, and now we’ll have a series of pics of Xander on his lap...”

“Wow,” Stephanie said, “That is neat. My parents never took me to see Santa,” she said, adding, “That just wasn’t one of the things we did at Christmas.”

Then she asked, “So when did you first take Mike & Chris?”

“When they were 3, so that would have been 1988, 18 years ago,” I said.

“Wow, that’s a long time when was the last time you took them? Do you remember?”

“Yeah, I do,” I said. Pausing for effect, I continued: “That would have been 3 years ago, just for Chris though. Mike stopped seeing Santa years ago, but Chris insisted on coming back, because from the time he was 12, Chris asked for the same thing every year: A girlfriend. 'Santa, please bring me a girlfriend'...”

Chris, who’d been talking to A, suddenly overheard me.

“Mom! What are you saying?!? No, Stephanie, that’s not true, don’t listen to her...”

“Yeah, 3 years ago, just before he started seeing you, that was the last time I took Chris to see Santa,” I said, adding, “Frankly, I think Santa was getting a little sick of the same old request, over and over...but I guess he found you and sent you to him, so Chris got his wish, finally!”

Stephanie grinned, enjoying it, and said, “Yeah, that’s pretty much what happened.”

Meanwhile, Chris was voicing his protests in the background, “Aw, Mom, jeez! I can’t believe you said that! Stephanie, just don’t listen to my Mom, EVER...”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. He can dish it out, but in this family, that means he better be prepared to take it in turn.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Hot Doug's

It was 19°, or maybe 23°, but still there was a line snaking down the block of people willing to wait 30-45 minutes in the cold to be able to sample the divine cuisine at Hot Doug's last Saturday afternoon in Chicago.

My friends and I happily became part of that line, and like everyone else, we stomped our feet and moved around, trying to keep warm, as we talked to other people in the line about what to order once inside.

There are hot dog's of course...but Hot Doug's bills itself as The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium

You get the idea...well, here are some of the sausages that were offered last Saturday:

Brown Ale & Chipotle Buffalo Sausage, with La Fin du Monde mustard & Oak Smoked Cheddar

Spicy Cilantro Chicken Sausage with Chipotle Dijonnaise & Pepper-Jack

Blue Cheese Pork Sausage with Prickly Pear Cactus Cream and Smoked Almonds

Ribeye Steak Sausage with Horseradish Cream Sauce and Caramelized Onions

Smoked Crayfish and Pork Sausage with Creole Mustard and Crumbled Blue Cheese

Spicy Thai Chicken Sausage with Sweet Curry Mustard and Spicy Red Lentils

Fresh Mint and Garlic Lamb Sausage with Roasted Red Pepper Mayonnaise and Brisante Cheese

Decisions, decisions...

I finally decided on the Blue Cheese Pork Sausage w/Prickly Pear Cactus Cream & Smoked Almonds, and it was good, but I found myself experiencing sausage envy after sampling the Fresh Mint and Garlic Lamb Sausage w/Roasted Red Mayonnaise & Brisante Cheese, which was incredible.

And of course, it being Saturday, we had to have a couple orders of the Duck Fat Fries (french fries fried in duck fat, available on Fridays and Saturdays only).

Oh my. Standing around in the cold, one tends to work up an appetite, and Hot Doug's is DEFINITELY worth the wait. After indulging ourselves, we waddled back to the car, and I found myself smiling, happy that I didn't have to pour myself into the dress I'd worn the night before...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Chicago, Chicago

Chicago, Chicago
That toddlin' town
Chicago, Chicago
I'll show you around...
Bet your bottom dollar
You'll lose the blues
In Chicago, Chicago
The town that Billy Sunday
Could not shut down
On State Street, that great street
I just wanna say
They do things
They don't do on Broadway, say
They have the time
The time of their life
I saw a man
Who danced with his wife
In Chicago, Chicago my home town

I love Chicago. A couple of light years ago, I used to live there, and although I moved away, the vibrant city on the lake has never lost its appeal for me. BTW, in case you’ve ever wondered, Billy Sunday was a National League baseball player who became a fundamentalist preacher and strong supporter of Prohibition in the early 20th century after finding religion in the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago in the late 1880's, and he was, indeed, unsuccessful in trying to shut Chicago down during Prohibition.
This past weekend, I flew in for something called The Friday Night Supper Dance, a black-tie dinner dance that could easily have been taken right out of a Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie from the 30's, except that this particular event was started right after the second world war.
I left Dallas Thursday afternoon, on the heels of the cold front that blew in last Wednesday night, plunging the temperature 44 degrees in just a few short hours: from 80° to 36°. The threat of an ice storm in Dallas and a heavy snow storm in Chicago accompanied the change in temperature, so at noon last Thursday, American Airlines cancelled all their flights from Dallas to Chicago. Luckily, I was flying United.

Taking their cue from American, my office shut down early, at 2:00 PM. Feeling lucky, I hurried to my car and drove to DFW, where luck was indeed with me, as I was able to catch an earlier flight to Chicago and arrived a couple of hours before I was scheduled to arrive, in spite of the threatening weather.

Chicago’s O’Hare is a terrific airport. The United Terminal is especially zappy, featuring an amazing 744 foot long neon light sculpture called “Sky’s the Limit” by California artist Michael Hayden. The sculpture runs the length of the ceiling above two moving sidewalks that carry passengers through the terminal. This is the effect as you move along the sidewalk beneath it.

Snow was falling as I fell asleep Thursday night, and when I awoke on Friday morning, everything was covered with a fine dusting of the pristine white stuff. I took a few pictures on my way to having a manicure and pedicure:

Friday night an old friend hosted a small dinner party (and prepared a delicious dinner) before the dance.

Then it was off to the dance itself, where I felt as if I might almost have time traveled to arrive at the beautiful, old, oval ballroom in the small, private club just off Michigan Avenue, where I spent a magical evening sipping champagne and tripping the light fantastic as the band played Gershwin and Porter, among others, into the small hours of the morning.

Shortly before midnight, supper was served:delicious scrambled eggs, with bacon, sausage and toasted English muffins.

All too soon, the dance was over, and it was time to get some sleep, and to rest up before Saturday's culinary adventures: Hot Doug's for lunch and Mon Ami Gabi for dinner...

to be continued...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

Texas is such a strange state, truly more a state of mind than a state of union, in many, many ways. When I moved here, in 1983, one could still buy "roadies" at drive through liquor barns...nevertheless, the area in which we ended up buying a house was, and remains to this day, "dry"...meaning I can’t buy so much as cooking wine at my local grocery store, nor are there any places where I can buy any sort of liquor in my neighborhood. Accordingly, because I required Grand Marnier for the cranberry sauce, and dark rum for the sweet potatoes, and because I wanted to serve wine with our Thanksgiving feast, when I left work at 2:00PM on Wednesday I drove straight to Sin City, my appellation
for the community just to the west of the dry residential area where I live, where I can buy wine, beer, and yes, even hard liquor.

I’d been wandering around inside Sigel’s for maybe all of five minutes when I spotted two of Mike & Chris’s best friends from elementary school, Jon and Dan. It brought me up short for a moment to realize that at 21, they have as much right to be there as I do. We quickly established that despite the difference in generations, we were looking for the same beer (Dogfishhead 120; we had to settle for 90, though). I invited the guys to drop by later that evening to see Mike & Chris, made my purchases, and continued on my way.

At my house, the kitchen smelled wonderful. Alex & Chris, who’d flown in from Chicago on Monday night, had blanched the pearl onions and were peeling them. The sweet potatoes were in the oven, baking, the very first step in the multi-step process required to produce the delicious end result: a concoction of sweet potatoes, rum, butter, ginger, cream and chopped walnuts. Anthony was out shopping for a tub in which to brine the turkey; after finishing the onions, Alex began cutting up two different types of mushrooms for the stuffing. I brought out wine glasses, then sliced some bread and set out crackers and various cheeses.

We ate leftover homemade spaghetti from the night before, and munched on bread and cheese and crackers. Eventually, Mike and Chris showed up, then Jon, Dan, and Kevin, and much, much later, the boys’ longtime friend Abby and her boyfriend, both in from college at Iowa. There were kids in my kitchen, and kids in my living room, where there was a cheerful fire in the fireplace, and there was much laughter and the sound of voices talking late into the night.

On Thursday morning I rose early and began cooking the cranberries. I used a plane to shave some zest from a couple of lemons to add a bit of texture, and I added a bit of Grand Marnier to enhance the flavor. While the cranberries were jelling in the refrigerator, I poured the cooled, blanched, peeled pearl onions into a large pan, added enough chicken broth and vermouth to cover them halfway, and then added a bay leaf and sprinkled a bit of thyme over them, before slow cooking them on the stove top them for 20 minutes or so. Eventually, Chris got up and began prepping the turkey, and Alex joined us, finishing the stuffing and also braising the brussels sprouts.

At 2:00, the bird was removed from the oven, and after it had rested a bit, it was time for Chris to get a carving lesson from A.

At approximately 2:30, we sat down to eat:

Braised Brussels sprouts
Creamed onions
Sweet potatoes w/ginger, rum and walnuts
Cranberries w/Grand Marnier
French salad
Brined turkey
And for desert:
Pumpkin & pecan pies

Monday, October 30, 2006

Adventures in Hot Springs...

...when I'm weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig's having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate wilfully misunderstand me

And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
I don't know where it's likely to go better.
I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
But dipped its top and set me down again.
That would be good both going and coming back.
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
From Birches, by Robert Frost

That’s not a birch tree, and we were hardly swinging on that sturdy branch and yet, having once been country girls, each of us has climbed our share of trees. And so, when it came time to take pictures, and I saw this great tree, with a sturdy branch easily accessible to was clear to me that it would be fun to climb onto that branch, and have some pictures taken there, to remind us that once, a couple of light years ago, we three sisters were swingers of birches...or at least, climbers of trees.

Not bad for 73, 65, and 57, eh?

On Saturday morning, feeling adventuresome, I accompanied my three brothers to the Buckstaff Bath House, where we arrived at 7:30 AM and then split up, they to the men's side, I to the women's, to have Buckstaff Traditional Baths. I've gone to Russian and Turkish baths before, but at the Buckstaff, a traditional bath includes an attendant who bathes you, a new experience for me. The bath begins in a deep, old, porcelain clawfoot tub filled with hot mineral water and equipped with a portable whirlpool. An attendant gives you cups of hot mineral water to drink and then, equipped with a loofah, scrubs you down, after which you lie back and soak for 10 minutes or so. This is followed by a Sitz Bath, after which you are led to a Vapor Cabinet, a steam filled cubicle with metal doors and a lid that folds over the shoulders so that just your head is exposed. The Vapor Cabinet was also a new experience for me, although I seem to have some vague memories of an I Love Lucy episode involving Ethel & Lucy sitting in Vapor Cabinets. The Vapor Cabinet was followed by a Needle Shower, a shower stall that's sort of like a mini-car wash for humans, in that there are pipes with shower heads spraying water on you from several different directions. After the Needle Shower, I lay down upon a padded table for something called Hot Packs, a really delicious experience where 4 hot, wet towels were rolled up and placed beneath my lower back and around my shoulders, and a cold, wet washcloth was placed on my forehead. I promptly fell soundly asleep, but only for about 10 minutes, after which I went to another room where I had a 20-minute massage. I emerged pink, clean, and feeling as if I didn't have any bones in my body.

The Buckstaff is the only bathhouse that is still operational on Bath House Row in downtown Hot Springs. My more modest sisters and sisters-in-law stayed behind when they found out bathing is au naturel, and I respect their modesty, but they definitely missed out on a great experience.

This is a photo I took of the sunset on Saturday night.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

...and the leaves that are green turn to brown...

I know, I's been forever since I've posted. Between the commute, and the long hours I'm working, I've been pretty dull, but...tomorrow I'm leaving work at noon to drive to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a reunion with my five brothers and sisters. It's been 11 years since we've all been together, and since my younger brother Dave and I (the baby boy and baby girl, respectively), are in our 50's...well, as Paul Simon says, time hurries on...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

In the meme-time...

I lifted this from my friend, Tammy...if you haven't read her, check her out!

1. FIRST NAME? Judith but no one calls me that (thank goodness!)
I got a little choked up a couple of weeks ago, when I heard that Ann Richards had died, but other than that, I can’t remember...I’m pretty sunny most of the time.
I don’t like lunch meat.
Yep, because I’m funny and I like funny people.
Since I was a kid...
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Never. I hate roller coasters, too.
10. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Grapenuts (I know, I know, lame...)
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF? Uh, my Nikes are the only tie shoes I own...and yeah, I have to untie them to take them off...
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? Yes, very much so, although less so physically these days.
14. SHOE SIZE? 7.
18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU? I'd love to read my bloggies answers (I stole that answer directly from Tammy!)
19. WHAT COLOR PANTS AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Whoa, it’s almost 11PM & I’m home alone...I’m not wearing pants or shoes!
20. LAST THING YOU ATE? A mushroom/goat cheese quesadilla with sour cream & salsa, for dinner. Yum!
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? You’ve Got A Friend In Me (Randy Newman) - thanks, Tammy!
22. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE? Burnt Sienna - I love the color and the name.
23. FAVORITE SMELLS? Rain, and fresh earth...

25. THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU'RE ATTRACTED TO? Well, the first thing I notice about anyone is their gender, but after that it’s eyes, smile, voice...
27. FAVORITE DRINK? These days it's probably Ace’s Pear Cider.
28. FAVORITE SPORT? NFL football, although I’m no maniac.
29. EYE COLOR? Green
30. HAT SIZE? Dunno, but I have a small head (as opposed to Oprah, who has a HUGE head).
31. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Yep. My distance vision is still fine, but I can’t see anything up close, so I wear a near and a far, and the far actually shortens up my distance vision so my brain can process things visually (although I'm not sure how well that’s working).
32. FAVORITE FOOD? Filet mignon, red in the center.
33. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Hmmmmm, when my friend Sherri was in China a few weeks ago, she had a massage, and the massage therapist, who was a guy, asked her if she wanted a Happy Ending. Ewwwwwwwwwwww. She declined, of course. For what it’s worth...I always prefer happy endings (but I’d have declined that freaky therapist, too).
34. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING? An almost knee-length, grey tee.
35. SUMMER OR WINTER? Fall - I love sweater weather, and sitting in front of a crackling fire on a cold night.
36. HUGS OR KISSES? Kisses...definitely kisses.
37. FAVORITE DESSERT? A really great, tart, key lime pie, which is hard to come by.
38. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING? I just finished Bukowski’s Factotum & haven't decided what to read next, which is pretty unusual for me.
39. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? My mouse, and the pad itself is plain.
40. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? Law & Order...I’m addicted.
41. FAVORITE SOUNDS? I love the sort of rif-rif-rif sound that dry palm fronds make in the wind...and Maria Callas’ voice. I’d time travel to hear her live.
44. WHAT'S YOUR SPECIAL TALENT? Shoot, I dunno. I’d say I’m good at providing Happy Endings, but that might be misinterpreted...
45. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Wisconsin
46. WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? I lifted it from my friend,
47. NEWEST THING YOU'VE TRIED? A camel trek through Big Bend, but that was in 2002...I’ve been a slug since then in terms of new things.
48. ONE THING YOU'D CHANGE ABOUT YOURSELF? I’d like to stop being such a procrastinator, but I know there’s always plenty of time to change that...
49. WHO DID YOU LAST SEND A CARD OR LETTER TO? At the risk of sounding like a total curmudgeon, I sent a Wachovia phishing scheme to SpamCop this evening.
50. WHERE WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO VISIT IF MONEY WERE NO OBJECT? Antarctica, but it’s prohibitively expensive, at least it is when I consider all the other places I’d also love to see.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Sunrise, sunset...

Left to my own devices, I'm a night owl. I'm a high-energy woman, but my circadian rhythms have always been off. Even when I was a little kid, I was a slug in the mornings. I've always had to ease into the day, and that means certain things: coffee, minimum interactions, no talking, no morning tv. My kids are the same way; there's not an early bird in the bunch. When they were little, I used to wake them by singing to them, paraphrasing the lyrics of the Good Morning song from Singin' in the Rain (
"Gooood morning! Good mooooooorning! You've slept the whole night through! Good morning, good you!")

Hey, I'm still here, and so are they. Eventually, I become functional, able to carry on a conversation, etc., etc., but left to my own devices, I really start to get energized as the sun goes down. I can still pull an allnighter if I need to (although I admit, recovery is hell).

However, since August 1st, when I re-entered the work force by accepting a job over an hour away from my house, I've had to turn my cycle around. These days, I have to be up at the crack of dawn. Literally, at the crack of dawn. Actually, most days, when I leave for work, it's still dark outside, and sometimes it's still dark when I get there. I thought I'd hate this, and I have to admit, getting up so early is not my favorite thing, but it’s not all bad. In fact, there's one thing that I really enjoy, and actually look forward to each day, and that's seeing the sun come up. It's fair to say that I’ve seen more sunrises since August 1st than I’ve seen in my entire life, prior to that, and I have to tell you, they're growing on me.

So this morning, as I was scurrying about, trying to remember all the things that are so hard for me to remember in the early morning hours, I actually remembered to grab my camera. It was a beautiful morning, crisp and cool, and I drove to work with the top down (hey, I have heated seats!). It was still dark when I got to work, so I went inside, turned on my computer, started working, checked the time for sunrise, and then went outside and shot this pic. It's not a great pic, but it was a terrific sunrise.

And to balance it out...yin yang, and all's a pic of the sunset tonight, taken from a drainage ditch near my house...

And the sunrise reminds me of Mike and Chris, when they were little guys. In July, 1989, I took all 4 kids to South Padre Island by myself. Alex was 13, Kath was 10, and the boys were about to turn 4. Mike and Chris wanted to see a sunrise, but being the slug that I am, and all 4 kids being the slugs that they were, I kept putting off that particular pleasure until suddenly I realized I had just one more morning in which to achieve it.

That night I set the alarm, and the next morning, as soon as it went off, I got all 4 kids out of bed (no small feat), and we stumbled, sleepily, over to the beach to watch the sunrise.

Which would have been great, except...there was a huge bank of heavy clouds, low on the horizon, and those clouds were so heavy that not a beam of sun managed to break through them. As a result, we sat shivering on the beach, in the wet sand, for a good 45 minutes, waiting to see the sunrise. When the sun finally did break above the cloud cover that morning, it was fairly high in the sky. Nevertheless, I believe in ceremony, so I said, enthusiastically, "There it is, boys! Look at that! That's a SUNRISE!"

Mike and Chris looked, obviously disappointed. Clearly, the sun didn't look much different to them, in terms of angle, color, and size, than it usually did when I was driving them to pre-school in the early mornings.

"Yeah, thanks Mom, that's great,"
they said, flatly but in unison.

Never one to let well enough alone, I decided to seize the moment, and turn the outing into a little science lesson.

"Now boys,"
I said, "tell me this: do you know what DIRECTION that is?"

They looked at me as if I'd lost my mind. "Uh, yeah, Mom, we KNOW what direction that is, whaddya think?" Mike said, while Chris muttered something to his feet.

"Well, then, tell me, what direction is it?" I asked.

Both boys exchanged a look, and then said, clearly exasperated, "Mom, that direction is UP!"

From the mouths of babes...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

birds do it...bees do it...

Birds do it...bees do it...
Even educated fleas do it...
Let's do it...
Let's fall in love...

The most refined lady bugs do it
When a gentleman calls...
Moths in your rugs they do it
What's the use of moth balls?

I'm sure giraffes
on the sly
do it
Even eagles as they fly
Do it
Let's do it...
Let's fall in love

The Dutch in old Amsterdam do it
Not to mention the Fins
Folks in Siam do it...
Think of Siamese twins

The world admits
bears in pits
Do it
Even pekineses at the Ritz
Do it
Let's do it
Let's fall in love

Electric eels
I might add
Do it
Though it shocks 'em, I know
Why ask if shad do it...
Garcon, de "shad roe"

The royal set sans regret did it
And they considered it fun
Marie Antoinette did it -
with or without Napoleon

The chimpanzees in the zoos do it
Sentimental centipedes do it
Let's do it
Let's fall in love...

Alright, I know Cole Porter was ostensibly writing about love here, but face it...all those clever lyrics are really about SEX. And maybe it's because I'm reading Bukowski, or maybe it's because I listened to Primetime tonight, or maybe I'm trying to balance out my mundane entry about a relaxing Labor Day, or maybe it's because...well, nevermind why, the why doesn't really matter, but for what it's worth, tonight I'm writing about sex.

A couple of light years ago, when I was a student at the University of Chicago, I became smitten with a bright, funny guy, who was apparently equally smitten with me. We spent lots of happy time together, quipping and flirting outrageously through weeks of warm, sunny days and crisp, clear nights that fall quarter, but we never got beyond flirting, in part because (as he announced regularly and publicly), he was a virgin, and I was not...and each of us was a little afraid of each other, because of that difference. We liked each other so much that we became great friends, nevertheless, and stayed in touch over the years.

By his own account, sex was highly problematic for D. He wasn’t confused about his orientation, he said (and I believed him); but he was consumed with guilt at the thought of having sex. He remained a virgin until he was in his late 20's...he kept me informed of the situation, although I’d have preferred to have been kept in the dark, so to speak. In his early 30's, he became engaged, but eventually, his fiancee left him, and he never married. Over the years, he was at times a member of a number of groups that I tend to think of as cults, e.g., EST. I always told him how I felt about his membership in such organizations, and we often argued about it.

In the early 90's, he became a member of a group that espoused celibate marriage. When I wrote him that I was getting divorced, he phoned late one night, and after we’d talked for a long time, he cleared his throat and asked me if I’d consider marrying him. I was touched by his asking me, and yet I was also very taken aback. He’d been like a brother to me for over 20 years, and I had no reason to think he’d viewed me as anything other than a sister (of which, by the way, he already had 6, thanks to his parents).

“I’m honored, D, I really am...but I don’t think it would work,” I said carefully.

“But we’re such good friends!” he said.

“Yeah, we are...we’re great friends...and that’s not going to change just because I get divorced. We can keep on being great friends. We don’t have to get married to stay great friends,” I said.

“I dunno, I’d sort of like to be married...” he said.

A light went on in my head.

“Whoa, D,” I said... “do you mean celibate marriage?”

“Well, sure I do,” he said, “You know that’s what I believe in, and it’s not like we’d have to have sex to have already have four kids, and I don’t want any...”

“A celibate marriage?!?!?! Is that what you’re proposing?!?!?!”

“Don’t act surprised!!! You know that’s what I believe in!!!”

“Yeah, but D,” I said, “It’s not what I believe in..."

I should have stopped then, I know, but I didn't.

"And anyway,"
I continued, "You can’t ask for that right away. It’s not reasonable."

Unable to resist, I added slyly, "Trust me, it takes YEARS to achieve a state of celibacy in marriage...”

I was reminded of all this, because tonight, as I sat in my gameroom at my computer and browsed real estate in St. Louis on the web, I had the tv on in the background, and ABC’s Primetime did a show called
"The Outsiders: Strange Arrangements”, about, among other things, people who are asexual (as opposed to people who are celibate, like my friend, D).

Apparently, there’s a growing movement of asexuality in the United States (dunno about Europe or the rest of the world), and for those of you who, like me, were blissfully unaware of this movement, there is (of course) a website where you can find out more, called the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, or AVEN for short. According to AVEN,
“Unlike celibacy, which is a choice, asexuality is a sexual orientation”.

We’re so bombarded with sexuality, perhaps this movement was inevitable, and yet...I dunno, maybe it’s my Scandinavian heritage, but to me, saying you don’t believe in sex is sort of like saying you don’t believe in reaction is,
“Yeah, riiiiiigggghhhhttt...” And then I have a strong urge to quote Dr. Phil, “So how’s that workin’ for ya?”

What can I say? I’m just not that sublimated.

Sweet dreams.

Monday, September 04, 2006

a lazy Labor Day weekend...

Ahhhh, labor day. A is off on another of his long soujourns: London/Croatia/Slovenia/Trieste/Venice/Paris/Chartres/Rouen, etc., etc. According to the itinerary he sent out before leaving, he's cruising on the Croatian coast today, and I opted not to do the traditional family labor day barbecue in his absence. A good thing, too, as it's rained all day, and here in Texas, where we've suffered a drought for all of this long, hot summer, that rain is welcome.

So I got up late, this morning, for me...9:30-ish...and had a civilized breakfast by myself, on my patio (see pic above - those are freshly cut chives on top of the cream cheese on that bagel). I like the soft grey light of a rainy day, and spent a little time on the patio, reading some Bukowski, (Factotum, which is excellent, and now a
film starring Matt Dillon), as I enjoyed my leisurely breakfast. If you don't know Bukowski, I highly recommend him, for both his prose and his poetry.

It's been a fairly productive weekend for me. I got the genie on my garage door functioning again, among other things. I'm grilling a steak for dinner, and steaming a little spaghetti squash, and I bought some pork chops at Central Market for my dinner tomorrow night that are presently soaking in a marinade that I made a little while ago. Not very exciting, I know, but good stuff, nevertheless. Happy Labor Day.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Office Space

...and so she weaveth steadily
and little other care hath she...

It’s 8:30 PM, and I’m sitting in my game room, at my computer, writing this. Outside, it’s still a zillion degrees and the cicadas are screaming in the trees. It was 108 degrees when I was driving home this afternoon, according to one of those big interactive, highway billboards along LBJ.

But frankly, I don’t give a damn. My car’s in the garage, the cats are fed, I’ve had dinner (a cold grilled salmon fillet and a bottle of pear ale), I’ve watered the plants (not that it seems to matter, much, in this horrific heat) and (Kath, don’t read this), I’ve had a quick skinny dip.

Life could be worse. I’m actually enjoying this contract gig, in spite of the commute. After 19 months of being unemployed, it feels great to work again, even though I seem to have landed smack dab in the middle of
Office Space. If my supervisor, Dawnelle (yes, that’s really her name, and she’ll never know about this blog, so I’m using it) ...if Dawnelle came up to my cubicle and told me she needed to talk with me about my TPS reports, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Two of us were hired as contractors, and as much as I’m enjoying this gig, my fellow contractor is not. She doesn’t like the fact that we’re doing the equivalent of Peter Gibbons updating bank software for the 2000 switch (another Office Space reference), except that rather than entering thousands of lines of code like Peter did in Office Space, we’re entering thousands of lines of facts about devices (my co-worker) and drugs (moi) into endless domestic and international FDA reports. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not personally fulfilling in the way that working with kids in child psychiatry was, but it’s a job, and it’s pays ridiculously well, and I don’t have to wear a pager, and for the first time in my life, I have flex time. I LOVE flex time. It takes all the stress out of the commute. No one cares what time I come in, or what time I leave, so long as I do my 8 hours, and I love that. Also, even if I didn’t, the contract’s up at the end of January, at which time I’ll be doing something else, and I like that, too.

Did I mention that we get to actually stop work and eat lunch? Lunch. What an amazing concept. In the 5 years that I worked at the U, I almost never got to do that. Of course there were times that I did, but those were the exception, and not just for me, but for most of my colleagues as well. We either skipped lunch altogether, or grabbed a bite to eat at our desks, hoping we wouldn’t have to deal with patients, either in person, or on the phone, as we ate. A couple of times a month, we had working lunches, brought to us by pharmaceutical reps, who did a dog and pony show for us, telling us why we should push their particular drugs, as we wolfed down their fajitas or pizza or Eatzi’s sandwiches, but even then, taking a full hour was not part of the deal. Usually, at the U, it was easier to just skip lunch altogether.

At this contract gig, there’s so much work that the day just flies by, and then, when I’ve put in my 8 hours...I get to leave. I walk out to my car, drive home, and I don’t have to think about work. That is such a change for me. To not have to carry a pager...I suspect I won’t want to do this forever, but for right now, it’s mindless, and busy, and just what I’ve needed.

Life is good.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Happy Birthday Mike & Chris!

21 years ago today, I gave birth to Mike and Chris. Happy Birthday, guys! I love you.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

party on the ice floe...

I’m 56, and on September 11th, I’ll turn 57. Except for my knees, I feel pretty much the same as I did in my 30's, except that I know a lot more now, and for the most part, I enjoy knowing the things I know. I wouldn’t say I’m wise, but I’m certainly wiser than I was in my 30's.

Two things have happened this week, though, that have gotten me thinking about the way Americans view women as we age. This being August and Texas, of course it’s been hot, for example, yesterday the high was 105. On Wednesday night, just before going to bed, I went into my back yard to water my patio flowers. It was a little after 10:00 PM, and Mike had just left for the evening, so I was home alone. Watering the flowers, I felt incredibly hot and sticky, and suddenly decided to have a quick skinny dip in my pool. There's a high fence around my backyard, so it's totally private. I swam around, au naturel, for about 5 minutes before locking up the house for the night and going to bed, feeling considerably refreshed and relaxed.

The next evening, Katharine was over, and I mentioned my skinny dip to her, thinking she’d appreciate the spontaneity. But her reaction wasn’t what I expected.

"Ewwwwwwwwwww," she said, "Mom! I didn’t want to know that!"

"But why?" I asked, knowing she enjoys going skinny dipping herself. Then, seeing the look on her face... "Oh my gosh, is it because I’m getting old?"

"’s sort of gross..." she said, and then added, "And anyway, what if I’d come over with Xander, what’s he supposed to think?"

I said, "Well, if you come over unannounced with anyone at 10:30 at night, you’re going to have to take what you get and deal with it..."

I’ve been thinking about this. I’m 56, and my favorite things...things for which I’ve acquired a taste in the time I have lived on this earth, so far (and I’m adding more all the time)...those things, for the most part, haven’t yet fallen by the wayside, in spite of the fact that I’m 56 years old. I still like red wine, and dark chocolate (not necessarily at the same time), and I still like driving fast in a small convertible with the top down late at night, and the wind blowing in my hair...and I still like oysters on the half shell, and deep fried calimari, and indie films, and good music of almost any type...and I still like good books, and good conversation, and good sex (though I have to admit, sex is like pizza...even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good)...and just like I have my whole life, I still love skinny dipping...and I don’t think I’m going to wake up one morning suddenly not liking those things, just because I’m 60 or 70 or 95...

Which brings me to my other rant.

I had dinner last night with an old friend, someone I’ve known for almost 30 years, who recently (in the past couple of years) got divorced. For the record, he is, he’ll be 60 on his next birthday. We were talking about dating, and specifically, about internet dating.

"People lie," he said.

"Well, yes," I agreed, "they do, it's the internet, so you have to keep that in mind."

"Yeah," he said, "like this one woman...on her profile, she said she was 56, which would be OK..."

I felt a flag starting to rise in my brain, but pushed it down, waiting to hear what he’d say next...

"But when I met her, she admitted she was 62! 62! I mean, I have a 16-year-old daughter, what am I going to do, going out with someone who’s 62? And I asked her that, and she said it was fine with her if I have a 16-year-old daughter! It may be fine with her, but it’s not fine with me, I’m just not going to date someone who’s 62!"

I sighed, and I’ve been sighing every time I think about it. For what it’s worth, he’s 5 years older than his ex-wife, and is currently dating a woman who’s 51, or 8 years younger than he is...but he was insulted to think that a woman just 3 years older than he is would think it might be OK to date him. And also for what it’s worth, actress Susan Sarandon, who’ll be 60 in October, has a 14-year-old son with her partner, 47-year-old actor Tim Robbins, and no one seems to think twice about it.

What is it with men and age? Most guys I know find the 16-year age difference between Tom Cruise (42) and Katie Holmes (26) quite acceptable, because she’s younger, but they’d be horrified if that difference were in the other direction. But if that difference were in the other direction...if guys Tom Cruise’s age were looking for women who were 16 years older, rather than 16 years younger...well, all I can say is, it’s comforting to me, to think that at 56, I’d still be too young for Tom Cruise.

And Kath, I’m putting you on warning...if I live to be 90-something, it’s quite likely that you’ll be getting regular calls from the nursing home: "It’s your mother, she’s been skinny-dipping AGAIN..."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I've been neglecting this space, I know. Blame it on my finally having found gainful employment, in Ft. Worth. I leave my house at the crack of dawn each morning. In fact, Mike accused me of putting our cat, Leo, out "in the middle of the night!"

"But I didn't!" I said.

"Mom," Mike said, "I heard you!"

"Well, I let him out in the morning, as always," I said.

Mike interrupted, "No, Mom, it was the middle of the night!"

I thought about what he'd said.

"Could it have been 5:00 AM?" I asked.

"Yeah," Mike said, "I think it probably was."

"Uh, Mike...that's what time I get up these days, for work..."

I'm spending about 2 1/2 hours a day, commuting, and that cuts into my computer time, but I'll be writing more soon, I promise, and I'll be catching up on my reading of everyone else's blogs too.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Removing the Bean, or, Just Another Day at the Office

Oh, the things I learn at work. Yeah, those of you who know me, you read that right, WORK. As in, JOB. As in, what I haven’t had in 19 months. I finally got hired by a CRO (clinical research organization), as a...ahem...drug safety specialist for a big, posh company that shall go unnamed, but that is so big and posh it shuts down for a week at Christmas. It’s in Ft. Worth, which is over an hour’s commute each way for me, and it’s more than a little corporate...think Office Space...but I’m a contract worker, meaning if I don’t like it, I can simply not renew in 6 months, when my contract’s up, and go on to something else. In the meantime, I’ve plugged that ugly gap in my resume, and I’m doing something new and interesting.

I’m being trained by a pharmacist, one of many employed by this company. This one happens to be a zappy woman, just 2 years older than I am. She also happens to own a horse. Today, when I walked into her office to ask her something, she was on the phone. She waved me in, and as I stood there, waiting, I overheard her trying to talk her veterinarian into making a house call.

"Can’t you please come out?" she asked. "He really needs to be seen, and I just don’t know how I’d bring him in...yes...ah, yes, I see. I understand. Ok, I’ll think about it and try to figure something out. Thank you."

She hung up the phone and sighed. "I’ve got to bring my horse in," she said, "and I don’t know how I’m going to do it. He absolutely refuses to get into the horse trailer, but he needs to have his..." She stopped, and looked at me. "How much do you know about horses?" she asked.

"Nothing at all," I admitted.

Her eyes crinkled into a wicked smile. "Then you don’t know about Removing the Bean?" she asked.

"Haven't a clue," I said. "You’ve lost me, what’s the bean?"

She proceeded to tell me. Sheesh, and I thought I’d heard almost everything, working for 5 years in a department of psychiatry. I was so wrong.

It seems that male horses, almost all male horses, have a problem with...ahem...smegma. If you don’t know what smegma is, click on the link. Do I have your attention now? Ok, so here’s the thing...male horses have rather large, apparently can produce prodigious amounts of smegma. Over time, it dries, and accumulates in various parts of the male horse’s rather vast and mysterious Male Horse Anatomy, including not only the outer and inner parts of his, uh...sheath...and also the top of his, uh, member...but also...and herein lies the problem, so to speak...the dried smegma accumulates in a small pouch just inside the urethra, and that small, smegma-filled pouch is known as "the Bean". I am not making this up! Ultimately, this causes problems for the horse, and ultimately, the Bean has to be removed.

This is the 21st century. It’s about a hundred degrees outside, but my house is pleasantly cool. I’m sitting comfortably in my gameroom, writing at a keyboard that transmits my words to a computer screen, and then on to my blog, where people whom I don’t know, from all over the world, can read them if they come across them. If I walk into my kitchen, I can get ice from the door of my refrigerator...well, that’s wishful thinking...actually I can’t, because the icemaker’s broken...but you get my point. To quote Paul Simon, "these are the days of miracles and wonders..."

And yet, when a male horse accumulates too much smegma in his nether parts, the solution is quite primitive. It involves a hose, water, a lubricant, some gloves, and a human hand. Uh-huh, that’s right. If you doubt me, you can read all about it, here. How often the bean has to be removed varies from horse to horse. With some horses it’s once a month, with other horses, once a year.

It turns out that although my friend loves horses, she didn’t know this. She found out about it last week, when a farrier, working on the horse’s hoofs, noticed that the horse was...letting it all hang out, so to speak. The farrier, a tiny woman of 70, asked, when was the last time the bean had been removed. It turns out my friend has owned the horse for over 5 years, and because she was unaware that this could even happen, in all that time, the horse has never had anyone get up close and personal with his parts, to Remove the Bean.

The farrier, experienced in performing this procedure and feeling sorry for the horse, offered to do the deed then and there. My friend watched, fascinated, as the farrier donned gloves, only to have her hand and part of her arm disappear from sight as she proceeded to soap and clean the horse’s inner and outer sheath. The bean, though, untouched for over 5 years, was too large to be removed by the farrier, who said it’s so big that she believes the horse will have to be anaesthetized for the procedure.

Thus the call to the vet, asking if he makes house calls.

Wow. Dunno what it is, but wherever I work, I always end up having the most interesting conversations.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot

Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot: Show me something interesting on the porch or patio of your house or apartment. For those of you with neither, fire escapes and window sills will suffice. If you want to play, click on the link, above.

OK, here's mine: desert sage (Artemisia tridentata) that I gathered in Colorado. I've bound it up in a bundle and I'm currently drying it, suspended upside down on my patio, out of sunlight, so I can make sachets of the wonderful scent this fall.

And in case you’d like to try are two simple recipes for sage sachets. Enjoy!

The first is for a sachet base that can be used to make lots of different scents. This base is a fixative, and you can use whatever herbs and essential oils you like. Mix the base with herbs in a ratio of 3 T base to 2 cups of herb (e.g., sage).

Fixative Base: Sachet or Potpourri

4 oz orris root powder
4 oz sandalwood powder
1 oz cedar powder
1 oz lavender flowers
2 oz rose petals
2 oz patchouli leaves
1 oz vetiver powder (
vetiveria zizanioides)
1 oz benzoin powder
1 tsp clove powder

Simple Sage Sachet
Take some sage, either dried or fresh. Pack the leaves into a small muslin bag and add fresh orange peel. Drop it into a hot bath, step in, and enjoy.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Road Trip, ctd. - Day 6

Monday, July 16, 2006 - Day 6
Telluride to 4 corners to Monument Valley to Mesa - 505 miles

On Sunday night, after dinner, we sat in a hottub beneath a zillion stars in the clear, cool, Colorado night sky. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Monday morning, after breakfast and a brief tour of incredibly beautiful Telluride, including a gondola ride, we were off again, to the 4 corners and Monument Valley and Moab, Utah, before heading back to Mesa.

There’s just one place in the United States where 4 states come together at one point, and that place, located on Navajo Nation land, is called The 4 Corners Monument, or just "the 4 corners" for short. A and I took our firstborn, Alexandra, there when she was a baby, in 1977, and sat her tiny, diaper-clad bottom on all 4 states: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado & Utah.

For what it’s worth, the site, established by the US government in 1868, was a site of intersection in the 17th century, too, although the 4 groups represented at that time were not states but peoples: the Spanish, Apaches, Utes and Navajos of the region.

It was Arizon hot in that part of the country, and when we skirted through Arizona and stopped, so I could take a pic of my shadow, the heat was formidable.

From the 4 corners, we drove Hwy 160 west and south, to Kayenta, NM, and on to Monument Valley. If you haven’t been to Monument Valley, you need to go, preferably at sunset, when the shadows loom long, making the red buttes even redder.
Monument Valley is stunning, and it's easy to see why it's been the setting for more Westerns than any other site in the US. Happily, it still looks almost exactly as it did in 1938, when John Wayne and John Ford went there to film Stagecoach.

From Monument Valley, we drove on Hwys 163 and 191 to Moab, Utah. On the way, I spotted this amazing rock:

In Moab, we had a bad dinner but a decent beer (Polygamy Porter) at Eddie McStiff's. A & I were both disappointed that on this trip, there was no time to spend exploring either Arches or Canyonlands National Parks. Nevertheless, as we drove out of Moab, on Hwy 128, we saw a spectacular sunset above the canyon walls before driving back to Mesa.