Tag Archives: Musings

All’s quiet on the western front

Someone asked me the other day what’s new, and I was dumbfounded.

Actually, two someone’s asked me the same question while I was making my way through the chiropractor’s office, and I was just as flummoxed the second time as I was the first.

If I was a normal suburban mom with kids going back to school, I might have said, “Oh, my oldest is a senior this year! Look out, senioritis here we come!”

But I only live in the suburbs, I don’t procreate here.

If I had a real job, I might have said, “Half-day summer Fridays are almost over! Back to a real schedule!”

But the only work I do most days is not paid work, so bitching about the end of half-days rings kind of hollow, and no one cares that I finally defrosted the freezer compartment but only because the error message on the front panel wouldn’t go away no matter how many times I plugged and unplugged the fridge.

If I was a gardener, I might have said, “Garden is growing like crazy! Need any cucumbers or zucchini?”

But to say I garden when all I really do is harvest would be insincere, and if I bother to pick any bounty, you can bet I’m going to use it myself or let it sit in my overstuffed fridge until I forget about it and it becomes fuzz-covered mush.

I mean, the truth is, nothing’s new. Absolutely, positively nothing.

Well, nothing worth talking about. Or blogging about.

The broccoli-apple soup I made the other day was sort of disappointing (do not, I repeat, do not believe the internet recipes that suggest fresh lemon juice in your broccoli-apple soup is a good idea; my Beloved would tell you the very concept of broccoli-APPLE soup is not a good idea). I’m addicted to caramelized onions lately, but I don’t really have anything new to add to the conversation (use butter and sauté over low heat, just like everyone tells you).

The dog, as cute as she is, hasn’t done anything out-of-the-ordinary adorable lately, and the shenanigans of my Adored stepson are probably not my business to share.

I cleaned out the cabinet above the toilet the other day, but that didn’t even merit a good before-and-after picture.

Nope, haven’t seen any good TV shows or movies. One of the books I’m reading, Autobiography of a Fat Bride by Laurie Notaro is wearing thin and not as funny as I had hoped. The weather’s been, well, kind of hot, punctuated by rainstorms. Pretty much standard issue for August in northern Illinois.

If I was just a little bit older and a little bit weirder, making me eschew social customs, I could have come up with some really depressing answers for “What’s new?” People I care about are feeling poorly, a business deal in which I was involved went south and to be honest with you, my sinuses are draining like mad and I’ve gone my whole life without being one of those whiny allergy sufferers, and here I am, allergic to something in the air when I’m about to turn 49. Frankly, this getting older stuff is bullshit, I’ll tell ya.

But I’m not in my late 60s and I’m way too Minnesota Nice to answer any “How are you?” question with anything but “Fine.”

Still, it’s stupid to say, “I’m fine” when someone asks you “What’s new?”

So, I sputtered and stuttered and finally said, “Nothing. Nothin’ new with me. How about you?”

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My Christmas wish

As we’re roaring headlong into the Christmas week, the sleigh rattling and our to-do lists a mess of indecipherable scribbles, it’s time to take stock.

Why are you driving yourself crazy anyway?

Christmas can be hard.

If you’re mourning someone, Christmas is sad.

If you’re traveling to see family, Christmas is stressful.

If you’re entertaining hoards of people, Christmas is oodles of thankless work. (I’m that host this year, and I’m already sick of washing sheets and filling the dishwasher.)

But of course Christmas transcends these things, even for mourners, travelers and hosts. Heavy expectations hang on the boughs of the Christmas tree and in many ways, Christmas delivers.

Christmas is bounty and generosity, wrapped in paper and bows.

Christmas is sparkling lights and fun holiday sweaters.

Christmas is beautiful music. (Truly, the music this time of year amazes me. You can hear a piece a hundred times, and then someone performs it in a way that takes your breath away. I literally wept at the beauty of an opera singer’s rendition of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” when she sang this past weekend with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra.)

Given the way Christmas falls on a Wednesday this year, many of us are celebrating the holiday this weekend and some will be celebrating from now until Dec. 29th.

Right now, in the moments before the big event, think about why you’re celebrating at all. What is the moment that justifies all the hub-bub for you?

Is it the candlelight Christmas Eve service?

Is the look of delight on a toddler’s face when they realize they really were good this year and Santa deigned to leave gifts under the tree for them?

Is it being surrounded by family? (My moment is the one at the dining room table after all the people and the food are there and everyone — including me — is finally enjoying the cooking and the company.)

Whatever your moment is, name it now and prepare.

If it’s church, prepare by meditating on those well-known verses in Luke and plan to arrive early for a few minutes of prayer.

If it’s Christmas morning, make a list of everything that needs to be done the night before (wrapping gifts, grinding coffee beans, figuring out the video camera) so you don’t forget at the end of a hectic Christmas Eve.

If it’s the family thing, be intentional about getting out of the kitchen and into conversation in the dining room (or wherever your family gathers).

All the other stuff is just window dressing. Don’t let cluttered laundry rooms, unwritten Christmas cards or unmade cookies get you down. If you’ve nailed the important thing, you can let the rest go.

That said, don’t let your expectations ruin the real and actual moment for you. Because sometimes Christmas church is crowded and hot, sometimes the kids on Christmas morning are ungrateful and sometimes family members aren’t very good company. Savor those strange additions to your Christmas experience without letting them be unwelcome. In the words of John Lennon, let it be.

I remember spending one Christmas Eve not too many years ago tweeting lines from “Die Hard,” the movie my Beloved and I watched after church and sushi because I was pouting over a familial slight and simply couldn’t take the melodrama of “This Is A Wonderful Life.” Spending Christmas that way wasn’t so bad, and now sushi on Christmas Eve has become a tradition. I accepted the moment for what it was and found contentment, if not meaning, in it.

be

That is my wish for you, dear readers: May you be fully present in your Christmas moment and overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude for being a part of it.

Blogging: A reflection of life or a narcissistic indulgence?

mirrored building

I encountered this building on my run around Nowheresville this morning.

Where we stayed in Nowheresville, there was nowhere to run. The “gym” was being remodeled so first I tried running around the nearby industrial park, but the road had no shoulders and I tired of dodging enormous semi-trucks huffing and puffing up and down the hill.

The other direction didn’t hold much promise either, but the Arby’s restaurant next door had a big parking lot in which to run circles. The view of the nearby highway held morning rush hour traffic, and beyond that: This mirrored building, forever reflecting the world in front of it.

Since the world revolves around me, I noticed a tiny me running in the reflective surface. So I jogged back to the motel to grab my cell phone (it was better than running another circle). Can’t you see me? It was so obvious when I took the picture. Maybe the bright yellow arrow will help.

me in the mirror with arrow

As I pondered how to use these unremarkable pictures, I thought about blogging. My blog, anyone’s blog, is a bit like the mirrored building, reflecting the world around it. A snippet of the writer is always a part of the reflection (sometimes a bigger, more recognizable part of the reflection than in my example but always a part).

Is a blog evidence of narcissism? Probably. The writer waxes on about the world around her — stories, images, opinions — and the reader takes it or leaves it. Maybe, when the writer is very good and very lucky, the reader sees something of himself or herself reflected therein.

And then the reader moves on (or runs on), perhaps entertained, or enriched, or thinking differently.

At least I hope so.

Drifting

The bartender was the same guy we’d seen here a year earlier. Friendly and talkative, he was the quintessential bartender. I remembered him because he was so thin — his waist size was 28 at most, even though he had a vague hint of gray in his longish hair, trimmed neatly in a mullet.

The bar was in a town there’s no reason to visit unless you have a reason to: Your second cousin was getting married or your car broke down on the interstate nearby. Maybe, like us, you were doing business with a business in town.

My first thought: I’ve been living my life for a year while this guy has been working in this bar.

He attentively served us our beer and chips while telling a couple regulars about his 1982 El Camino, which I had noticed in the parking lot when we arrived. It guzzled too much gas to get him to California, so he was leaving it behind, he said. His mom would end up doing something with it, he didn’t care.

Lived with his mom. Couldn’t afford gas. But he was going to California? Wait a minute, this was the same guy who had been languishing here in small town America for a year. He’s going to California? What’s in California?

I assembled an entire backstory in my head, but the suspense was killing me. I had to know more. So when I ordered another beer, I asked.

Turns out he hadn’t been stuck with Mom in Nowheresville forever. Mom — and this bartending gig — were just the latest adventure in a life of adventure. He loved the beach, which he discovered in South Carolina. He once rode his motorcycle as far south as he could and found himself in Key West, Florida, where he found a bartending job the day he arrived and a crash pad the first week. He stayed in Key West four years. Then Mom in Illinois needed help closing her store. He answered the summons and ended up sticking with Mom, now in another state, for eight years.

Mom was great, don’t get him wrong, but Mom fussed too much when he got in late or when he had more than one beer.

So this unmoored soul was answering the call of the wild again. He was going to California.

Where? I asked.

Not entirely sure. Maybe Napa Valley.

You don’t have a job?

Nope. Gave his two-week notice a week ago. He was sure he’d find one wherever he landed. Maybe a winery.

Wow, I thought. This guy has courage. He trusts the universe.

I worry about what I’m going to eat for my next meal. I worry about how long my gel manicure’s gonna last. I worry about finishing my manuscript. I worry about how I’m going to decorate for Christmas. I worry about who’s going to take care of me when I’m 98.

I worry about such trivial things.

This guy, he doesn’t worry so much. He simply is. So calm. So implacable. So willing to roll with the punches and trust he’ll be just fine.

Did I mention the name of the bar where I met him a year ago and again today? The bar he’s leaving for a life of adventure in California, maybe in the Napa Valley?

Tumbleweed.

Cares of the past are behind
Nowhere to go but I’ll find
Just where the trail will wind
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

~ Sons of the Pioneers

Dream trips, delivered overnight via Yahoo

Some of the emails my Beloved receives are like lottery tickets.

I don’t mean they’re like spam that offers lottery winnings in Nigeria for just a signature and bank account number. Blech. I mean they’re entertaining like lottery tickets.

Haven’t you ever bought a lottery ticket and spent hours or days imagining exactly how you would spend the money? “Let’s see, I’d absolutely have to a new Coach purse. Maybe one in every color! I wonder what is the most expensive car I could buy. Then I’d pay off my mortgage. What the heck! I won $242 million — I’ll pay off the mortgage and give the house away!”

That two bucks spent on the lottery ticket is worth every penny in the vivid fantasies into which it breathes life.

My Beloved, being a devotee to deals, travel and online shopping, frequently receives emails with subject lines like “$17 Hotels! Book Today!” and “$99 Luxury Suite at Dubuque” (yes, Dubuque, Iowa), “$299 Caribbean cruise — leave Sunday” and from Groupon, “Deluxe Spa Treatment & Craft Brewery Tour” (only $10!).

We go on fabulous trips many mornings while drinking coffee and rooting through his emails. This morning, we took a once-in-a-lifetime 10-day cruise through the Panama Canal with stops in the Bahamas and Costa Rica. I wonder how many books I could read on a 10-day cruise? Our flight to Tampa (where we can now visit his uncle — it would be so nice to see him) was only $218 each; all we needed was a great deal on a rental car to get to Fort Lauderdale. It was so relaxing, and the excursions included historic tours and crystal blue snorkeling. If we left in 10 days, we’d be gone until Halloween. Heaven.

By then, we’d gotten to the bottom of our cups of coffee, and my stepdaughter called to chat on her way to work, and I had to get to the gym.

Vacation over. Back to real life.

But it was great while it lasted.

Rearranging the deck chairs

Creativity comes in many forms.

I like to think I’m creative, but I admire those people who move a room around just for fun and come up with great new ways to make a conversation area.

I’m not one of those people.

Living room configuration No. 1

Living room configuration No. 1

Our living room has only two layouts:

  1. Couch horizontal to the TV/fireplace.
  2. Couch perpendicular to the TV/fireplace.

After a year in configuration No. 1, I moved the living room around today to configuration No. 2.

Living room configuration No. 2

Living room configuration No. 2

Stellar innovation, I know. But it reminds me of a few of my rules to live by. These are a few of the bits of wisdom that I would file in the “This is most certainly true” file (see Wednesday’s post for that musing):

  1. Breakfast is not complete without fruit.
  2. Never wear navy with black.
  3. The best sex arises from love, not power (“Fifty Shades of Grey” did the world a great disservice on this point).
  4. Nothing good happens after midnight (unless you’re observing No. 3).

And No. 5: At least one piece of furniture in a room should float. If one shoves everything against the wall, your room tends to look like your first apartment: Decorated by an amateur.

With that in mind, the sofa in configuration No. 2 is not shoved up against the windows; a sofa table behind it cushions it from the windows.

That’s my creative contribution to the world today.

You’re welcome.

Anything to donate? To infinity … and beyond!

I have a splitting headache, a muffin top, a tax preparation hangover and a desk so messy I can’t think.

Remedy?

Box up some books to donate.

Hey, it’s better than chocolate (at least for the muffin top).

First shelf of opportunity? The “Star Trek” shelf.

star trek books

I consider myself a “Star Trek” fan, also known as a Trekker, but my fanaticism has waned in the past half dozen years. I’ve read that people cultivate collections for a reason, so maybe there was a logical reason I was obsessed with strange new worlds and seeking out new life back in the 1990s and early 2000s. Maybe I subconsciously yearned for a new world and a new life back then. I got a new life when I got a new man embodied by my Beloved. In any case, my enthusiasm for the final frontier is less fervent now, and I feel like I can let go of some of my “Star Trek” books.

But I’m keeping William Shatner’s memoirs and my Nitpicker’s Guides.

The Salvation Army website suggests paperbacks are worth 75 cents to a buck each and hard covers are valued at $1.50 to 3 dollars each for tax donation purposes. Which means the books I boxed up are worth approximately 1,800 calories: I’ve probably burned exactly as many calories lugging those books from place to place in the past 15 years as I would have burned in two weeks at the gym.

Before I kick these books to the curb, we’ll harvest one last quote from one of them, “Beyond Uhura: Star Trek and Other Memories” by Nichelle Nichols” (yes, I purchased and read the memoirs of every original cast member — that’s what fanatics do):

“For everything we do to make it otherwise, life is never a simple journey. We think we’re plotting a course from point A to point B, when in fact practically every step we take is a detour, a digression, a side trip.”

I hope these books find a new home, a side trip so to speak, rather than end up in the black hole of a dump. Live long and prosper.