Posts Tagged With: Family

New Normal

Wrapping my mind around starting to blog again is a difficult thing.  I feel like I have so much to say, and so much has been left unsaid, and we’re all in this strange world where nothing is right and I’m White so how much should I really be saying anyway? 

But I find myself wanting to blog, so maybe the way to do that is to just go forward and leave the other stuff unaddressed. 

We are approaching six months of quarantine on September 13th.  In California it was March 13, a Friday, that the world shut down.  After living a life that was totally NOT normal in every way, we are finally carving out what is going to be our new normal for a while.  Brian is still working both his jobs from home.  I have co-opted the back bedroom to teach English via an online charter school.  Asher is back at his own school, on site, five days a week. 

This new normal is not a bad one.  I wake at the crack of dawn, make Asher’s lunch, attach a mask to his backpack, and start work before anyone else is up.  I listen to Brian and Asher being silly downstairs.  At some point, they leave for school.  Asher takes a different toy each day, and daycare staff are sure to check its temperature when they take Asher’s before letting him inside – at Asher’s request. 

In the afternoon, I pick Asher up.  They hand him off to me, and then I have to convince him that he does, in fact, want to go home.  “Can we stay?” he asks me most afternoons. 

“No, Love, Dad is waiting for us at home.”

“I’m not a Love, I’m Amber the Brave Ambulance,” he says.

We ride home, snuggle on the couch while watching Robo Car Poli, and eventually I make dinner.  Potty training goes well.  Asher climbs on Brian while he’s working, or watches Buster The Bus on Brian’s second monitor while he’s checking spreadsheets.  Or Asher makes a construction site in the Kinetic Sand, then asks me if he can mash the potatoes.  He blissfully refuses to eat dinner but will sit at the table with us.  After dinner is over, he steals an apple from the fruit basket. 

Most nights Brian goes up to the back bedroom to see clients and I put Asher to sleep, wrangling pajamas onto a body that’s jumping on the bed, negotiating exactly how many books we get to read (I can usually be convinced to read four… it’s at five that I draw the line).  He sleeps with his ceiling stars on.  I go downstairs and flake out on the couch with a peanut butter cup or maybe some Moscato.  We do it all again the next day.

There are brighter spots – meeting family in the park on the weekends; an impromptu dinner on the lawn at the University of Redlands; a trip to hike somewhere.  It’s not bad at all. 

Until I see the pictures that come up in my Timehop and remember how very together we all used to be back then, last year, a lifetime ago. 

It’s then that I know how much I’m looking forward to a newer normal.  I hope it gets here soon. 

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Mothering in a Time of Pandemic

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With the world in a tailspin, it’s been hard to do anything but tread water – hasn’t it?  Brian has recently started to try and give me a little time in the day, every day, to myself.  It feels like such a luxury.  It’s stirring my creativity again.  A creativity mixed with anxiety, but that’s probably to be expected.  I am working on an art journal to chronicle our Pandemic experience.  I have time to write a blog.

In some ways, our life has only changed for the better.  Brian is home more, and we actually get to see him.  I have time for a garden and for perfecting my Strawberry Shortcake recipe.  Asher and I have time for busy Montessori-style work and craft projects.  In some ways it’s better. Just some.

Still, it feels like a horrible slog through most days.  Asher doesn’t understand why Dad is in the house, but unavailable to him.  He keeps asking me if he can go to school, or to see Amma, or to the park.  It breaks my heart to tell him no.

“Remember, honey?  We need to keep the Coronavirus from traveling to see anybody.  Right?” I told him the other day.

“I WANT the Coronavirus to come.” he said with a classic pouty mouth and a stamp of his feet.

“You don’t really,” I said.  “Coronavirus makes everyone feel yucky.  We don’t want that.”

“Humpf,” was the reply.

We each have a Covid Freak Out Day (TM) about once a week.  I’ve tried to make them less traumatic by just accepting that it’s going to happen and preparing for it.  Still, it doesn’t make them feel any better when they do come around.  I’m starting to track what’s happening the day of and the day before freak outs to see if we can interrupt the cycle.  I’m pretty sure mine are triggered by watching Asher cry at the office door when Brian is in an important meeting and he can’t go in.  He won’t be moved or distracted. I’ve tried.  And then I hold him on the floor of the hallway while he sobs and I feel so powerless…

In the mean time, I’m running a small Montessori Home School over here with the help of Asher’s teachers.  As a teacher myself, stuck in a virtual system, I KNOW how hard his teacher is working to provide individualized lesson plans for all of the students.  And I know that teaching virtually is about three times as much work as teaching in a classroom.  But as a teacher, I also know that lesson planning is about 1/3 of the job.  Delivering the lesson and classroom management are HUGE parts of teaching that I am taking on with little help and no formal training (my training is for teens in English – not preschool Montessori).  I’m mostly doing well.  We’re a few days behind the schedule the school has given us, though, because sometimes I need to get materials for the activities.  This has necessitated absorbing some lesson planning duties on my part as well.

Living near the University of Redlands has been a huge boon for us, though, because when it all gets to be horrible and we all have been in the living room too long, we go through a drive-through and find a vacant lawn to have dinner on.  We smell the roses and listen to the birds.  Asher runs.  Everyone feels better.

I don’t have a point, really, except to say that this is hard.  My family is doing this, in some ways, under the BEST possible conditions.  And it still feels impossible but oh-so important.  We’re hanging in there.  We’re learning new skills.

I’m going to post some activities as a closer.  If you’re wondering what I’ve been doing with Asher, or maybe looking for ideas for your own toddler, here are some of the activities he’s loved:

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In the rainbow rice bin.  You can see his construction trucks around the edge.

Rainbow Rice! We used the method of pouring craft paint into the rice and mushing it around.  Asher helped mush the color with me, so it was a double activity.  Good things to put in the rice have included cups and funky spoons for pouring (ice cream scoop!), a hinged tea ball, and some small construction trucks.

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License plate in the mouth, putting flowers in the vase.

Flower Arranging.   I do it a little differently than the linked post.  Asher isn’t really strong enough to use scissors yet (he can’t get them back open after closing them), so I pre-cut the stems to size before he arranges the flowers.  Also, he arranges in a dry vase which I fill with water afterwards.

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Water pouring.  That look of concentration on his face is a huge aim of Montessori learning.

Water Pouring.  We use a small tea pot and a glass canning jar.

Asher stirred the batter and mashed the strawberries for my Mother’s Day breakfast.

Cooking and Baking: Asher does a lot of the prep work with me when I’m in the kitchen.  He stirs mixes, peels oranges and bananas, mushes strawberries with the potato masher, cuts soft things with his wavy chopper, and salts and peppers veggies to go in the oven.  He has even moved on to stirring hot pots on the stove (with plenty of supervision and a long spoon, of course).  We usually “take turns” with this stuff so it really gets done, since most of his efforts are brief and incomplete.  He’s only 2 1/2, so he gets a pass.




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I had a little time to do some actual writing in Maine while I was there. It felt good to exercise those muscles again.  And it also led to the writing of some vignettes, like the one here.

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A Maine thunderstorm is not like a thunderstorm in California.  In California, the gray clouds gather for hours before they begin to weep a misty drizzle that eventually might turn to more persistent streams.  The booming clouds are loud but faithless.  They roar a couple of times and then they turn back to the drizzle they were born of.

In Maine, a thunderstorm comes in.  The gray fluffy clouds roll across the blue, blue sky, groaning in warning.  In a matter of minutes the sky is all cloud, the wind chimes ring out their warning peal, the rain falls in a sheet.  The booms seem to echo in the sky around you, and the lights of the house flicker.  Sometimes the house lights go out and you are left grappling for your flashlight.  The clouds continue their persistent roll and roar even after the rain has passed.  A Maine thunderstorm means it.

I sat in the living room of my mom’s cottage with my husband and watched the storm come in over the ocean today, wondering if it would wake up my napping son in the room above.  And in the way of children and mothers, it pulled me into a different memory.

It was surely not my first thunderstorm in Maine. I have been a slightly legitimized summer person since I was born (since many of my family lives here full time). But it’s the first storm I really remember.  We were staying in the big cottage, the one Grampy’s father made for his mother (as opposed to the tiny cottage that Grampy himself had built – maybe 600 square feet?)  The black “Juanita” sign still hung in the living room in the big cottage amid the iron stove, the rag rugs, and the furniture from the 1970s with holes in all the upholstery, stuffing flying free – deftly covered by Juanita’s granny square afghans of many colors.  We were serviceable at the beach.  Despite the bucket of clean water at the door to wash your feet as you came in, there was a fine patina of sand on everything.

I slept next to my sister Cody under the eaves in a bedroom upstairs, white lace curtains at the window.  The noise woke me up and  I was frightened, but too old to admit it.  I couldn’t remember a storm that loud, even though I remembered Maine thunderstorms. My mother was up too.

“Case, can you help me close the windows?” she asked, flitting from room to room.  The sheet of rain had already started, and the window sill in the hall was already wet.  I shoved the pane down, and moved downstairs to the next.  A peal of thunder shook the house.

It took forever for the two of us to manage the window on the stairwell, too high to grip tight and slippery because of the rain.  But finally my mother managed it.  I was still scared, though the purpose of the moment had turned my adrenaline to excited.

“We did it,” said my mother as we turned to each other.  Another peal, and when the house shook I also shook.

“Mumma!” Cody called from the bedroom upstairs.

“I don’t think anyone’s going to sleep tonight,” said my mother.  “Have you ever watched a storm over the ocean?”

I shook my head.

She climbed the stairs to get Cody.  “Grab a blanket, and we’ll all watch together.”

We settled in on the couch, Cody on one side of my mom’s lap and me on the other, tucked under one of Juanita’s afghans.  My mom had pulled the couch over so the big picture windows were perfectly in front of us, like a TV.  The lightening danced over the dark waves of the ocean, sparking the clouds in purple and forking down to the water.  No two zig-zags alike.  The thunder shook us at intervals and it seemed like it all must be right on top of us.  Cozied in like that I felt safer, though.

“How far away is it?”  I asked.

“Count,” said my mother.  So my sister and I counted one-mississippis between light and sound,  and my mother did the math.

“About a mile away,” she said.

It felt more present than that.

“Could the lightening ever strike here?  Would it strike the rocks?”

“I don’t think it will tonight.  It’s very rare, but it could.  It has.”

“It has?”

“Yes, you know the hollow on the rock you were pretending to make seaweed stew in the other day?”

I nodded.  The rock was a larger than the footprint of the small cottage, an almost perfect 30-degree angle of dusky, weather-beaten granite that dipped toward the shore, ending in a collection of smaller rocks that created tidepools when the tide was out. At the top left of this rock was a perfectly round indentation, like a black melamine bowl.  This room was always our kitchen when we played house, because it already had a sink.

“That wasn’t there when I was a girl.  Lightning struck the rock, and created the hollow.”

In the world where we are both adults and we have talked about this again, I know my mother never saw the lightning strike happen.  It was winter, and no one was at the beach then.  They came next summer and the hollow was just there. But I could see it so vividly in my mind that I was certain she had for many years.

It would have been a night like this one, and maybe Aunt Nancy would have come to snuggle with her on the couch cushions.  I never could quite picture my mother with her mother, who died shortly after my mom’s marriage and whom I never knew.  And Grampy wasn’t a cuddle with the kids during a storm kind of guy.

The two of them, Kathy and Nancy, would be watching the storm, tucked under one of Juanita’s afghans, and the lightening would bolt down from the sky.  There would be a huge cracking sound as the electricity hit the rock, sparks flying, the rock burning for a time before the rain put the flames out.  And in the morning was our sink, too hot to touch for weeks.

We were outside time in that moment, those two girls and my sister and I. Parallel. Same house, same sky, same blanket, even to some extent the same sisterly love.  I have had so many Maine moments that run parallel that perhaps I can be excused for believing in this one for so long.

I still live in California, where I grew up.  Despite what they tell you, there is history there.  It just isn’t your history.  I live next to an orange grove that was planted and picked by someone else forever ago, to my south an irrigation ditch dug in the 1820s by local rancheros.  The local church has done a Las Posadas every Christmas for a hundred years, the 4th Of July Band plays Sousa all summer long, and the epithet “without vision a people perish” has presided over concerts in the park since the 1920s.  I can even visit Teddy Roosevelt’s chair at the Mission Inn, if I want to.  The tradition is there, but it doesn’t pull in the same way.  It doesn’t belong.

History in Maine is rooted, sweeping you into the past like the rolling of the clouds over the ocean, dropping rain sheets of the lives of others over your modern veneer.  In a moment it doesn’t matter what year you are in, and time moves in a circle like it does in theoretical physics.  You are tangled with the generations before you, whether you like it or not.  Mostly it’s comforting, that sense of being both outside of time and inside a memory.  In Maine, history means it.

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A Retirement


It’s been a milestone year for almost everyone in my family.  One of those milestones is that my mother is retiring, which happens officially tomorrow.  We went to the party last week, at the patio of the Alumni house.  It was this gorgeous Spanish-style courtyard with bright tiles and stucco, plenty of pink bougainvillea, strings of bulb-lights overhead.  A 4-piece combo band played background music, the linens on the round tables were all school-colors, the flower arrangements were supernaturally gorgeous, and the food was divine.  There was even salt water taffy on the tables from Maine – a nod to where my mom plans to spend much of her retirement.  I think it was probably the best retirement party I’ve ever been to.  Certainly the most fashionable.  It felt like a wedding reception; the classy kind.

My sister and I were asked to give a speech.  “We know your mom’s career now, but you’ve seen the whole thing,” her assistant told me on the phone.  So she and I got together and wrote one (Cody, below).  I’m gonna publish it here, because my mom really is great and that should probably be big news.

She’s leaving me soon to go spend most of her summer and fall in Maine (tear).  But she’ll be back before Baby arrives – I’ve told her that’s non-negotiable.

Also, I borrowed the picture above from my mom’s Facebook page, so I’m happy to give credit where credit is due – except I have no idea who took this thing…

Here’s the speech:

Cody: Writing this speech was really hard for us. Because what do you say about a mother who is as great as ours? We had an idyllic childhood, and a lot of that was because she stayed home and made it that way.

Casey: “Don’t you remember that summer feeling?” My husband Brian asked me one day. “You know, where you’re bored out of your mind and there’s nothing to do, and you’re just restless?” I had to tell him No. Kathy made sure we were never bored like that.

Cody: Summers were the best times in our house, pulling out the latest dollhouse and working on it as a family, waking up to the smell of bacon and biscuits cooking on the stove, Simon and Garfunkel playing on the radio as mum puttered. Gardening together, riding around on our bikes.

Casey: And then there was the month in Maine, running on the beach with our cousins and competing to see which of the three of us could get browner. The only year I won was the year I had a head-start at Sea Camp, Kathy was always the champ.

Cody: Hard work was always a value of Mum’s. She taught trombone lessons most of our childhood, and Casey and I would hibernate in the back room until the honking was done. When finances were tight, she taught Music for Young Children classes, wearing silly earrings with faces for the kids and bringing home French horns made of hoses and funnels. Sometimes we would garage-sale for furniture and refinish it together on the weekends. We were always busy, and it was always fun.

Casey: I was in sixth grade when she officially took a “mom job” to get us all health insurance. An 8-3, 9-month position doing the books for Baxter Medical Center, she was home when we were, holidays and summers included. When we were in Junior High, we used to walk to her office after school and play solitaire for 15 minutes or so on her computer until it was time to leave. We were the mascots of the office, and I was thrilled to be able to tell all the nurses about my 9-minute mile in PE Class.

Cody: They loved her as much as we did, and the promotions came rolling in. She was second only to the director by the time she decided to pursue her MBA and a bigger career in the field. We were in high school then, and all three of us did our homework in the evenings, together but separate. Her graduation was in a huge arena in Los Angeles. We cheered loudly when they called her name, and an image of her shaking the president’s hand flashed onto the jumbotron. By this time, she was a single mom. We had both witnessed how hard she worked for her accomplishments, for us and our future, but also to fulfill herself.

Casey: In a lot of ways, she gave us the best of both worlds. Her time was so valuable when we were young. But the lessons she gave to us as we were older were just as important. “You CAN have it all,” she used to say. “Just maybe not all at the same time.”

Cody: Her hard work and ability to bring people together has been an inspiration. Who would have thought that her part-time mom job would end with her overseeing four departments as an Executive Director of Student Wellness? I don’t think any of us did. Which makes us all the prouder.

Casey: Through all of her responsibilities and hard work, she still finds time to support and care for us. I think we can all say that a long rest in Maine is well deserved. We know things will change as you enter this new chapter of your life, but your penchant for hard work and joy, and the love we have for you, never will.

Cody: Congratulations, Mom.

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Granite Point

I thought I might post some, you know, actual Writing on the blog in celebration of getting something published.  But most of the things that are fantasy-esque are being shopped right now and I can’t put them up.  I remembered, though, that I had written a few practice essays in my black Moleskine, and that some of them were pretty good.  So I typed one up for you. This was from a Steering The Craft exercise that was supposed to be full of lavish description.  When I think purple prose, I always think of the beach.

It’s a little bit maudlin, but I’m posting it anyway because I think it’s evocative. And I’m sure you can forgive me for being self-indulgent for an entry.  The happenings are true, but I don’t feel that dramatic about it in every day life (I’m really mostly a pragmatic person and would probably have made the same decision to sell.  I get it).  I’m the kid on the left, and that’s the cottage in the back.

Here it is.


Granite Point:

There is a place in the east where the world is both gray and vibrant, the verdant forest rooting into brown fingers of granite which, in turn, grab hold of the blue, blue sea.  In between the tall fronds of marsh grass and the slap of ocean on the soft, gray sand is a brown road and a row of houses.  Two of them are red; one small and one large.

Round the corner in your car, past the black and white boulder and the green cottage it hides.  Slip from the shade of the trees, your tires crunching on the gravel as you press the car forward, and it’s laid out before you: the flat grasses, the pools of brackish water, the line of round trees in the distance where the forest coalesces again, the white heron standing alone, bright on the muddy landscape, the row of houses opposite.

Only the two red ones belong you; one big, one small.  The houses, the land they stand on, is your birthright.

The big house is the Juanita, says the black and gold sign.  Named for the whitest of great grandmothers, the most puritan on these puritanical shores.  The small house is nameless, and under the wooden floor in the tresses are too many nails where your uncle hammered them in distraction while Grampy built the house and raised the walls around them both.

There used to be a mansion on the headlands, out there where the silver beach ends and the granite grips the sea.  There used to be a mansion where the waves rush, unthinking, onto the rocks and their spray splashes at the sky.  See?  Says your mother as you walk on the point just before the sun sets.  See?  That house has borrowed the old foundation.  That is where the mansion existed, though it doesn’t anymore.  Consumed.

What happened to it?  It burned in a fire that swept along the shore and took the cottages with it.  The Juanita was saved because Juanita saved it, watering the roof with a garden hose and brushing burning embers onto the grass with a kitchen broom until she had to leave, before the forest started burning too and there was no way to get through the slim forest road.  The little cottage with no name hadn’t been built yet.

Juanita saved it for you.  She saved it so you could put your finger through the rusted bolt on the domed granite tent rising from the sand like an island and try to imagine a toe-headed boy named Bobby tying his boat here.  But it’s impossible to imagine white haired, red cheeked Grampy as anything but a grandfather.

She saved it so you could slip on the rocks, tearing up your shin on the barnacles, your red blood mingling with the waving seaweed.  The small green crab comes to investigate and you move your toes away from his pinchers.  The salt water stings.

She saved it for you so you could jump from tall Elephant Rock, squealing as the air rushed around you and your heart leapt to your throat, your ankles shuddering on the wet gray sand below.  You egg your cousins on, daring them to take the higher ledge, afraid to take it yourself.

She saved it so you could all visit the mudflats in your pristine matching bathing suits on picture day.  You find the mud under the slim layer of sand in the shallow water, like overbaked brownies but slick.  You slip, and your arm is half slime, your bathing suit brown.  You scrub in the salty water, but the mud stays as though it knows you belong to it.  Your transgression is immortalized when you grin, crouched next to your cousins on Bobby’s Tent while grownups flash away, the mud a stripe barely visible as you cheat sideways to hide it.

She saved it so you could rush around the house in the gathering storm in your pajamas, closing the windows on the driving rain, the wind wuthering around the corners of the house.  You pull the plush chairs, stuffing mounting an escape, up to the wide windows and cuddle beneath the ancient crocheted blankets with your mother and sister.  You watch the lightning strike over the sea and count for the thunder.  You think of the black divot in the rock, the size of a kitchen mixing bowl, where a lightning bolt burned the granite ages ago.  That happened when I was a girl, says your mother.  Did you see it happen? You ask her, dreaming of a great burning flash, sparks flying, a smoking, steaming hole left behind.  No, she says.  I wasn’t at the beach that night.  You fall asleep in the chair to the sound of the rain.

And yet, a hose, a broom, and determination have only done so much to save this place.  The ages pass and the flame of taxes in tourist country rise, sweeping the old cottages off the beach one by one.  The Juanita falls this time, razed for a new gray mansion that matches the others new millionaires have built on the shore.  The small cottage still stands, disguised by gray paint and manicured hedges that screen it from you. Consumed.

Your birthright didn’t last.

The puritans passed away from the gray but vibrant shore and left only the sand and the rocks for you to remember them by.  But sometimes you think that maybe this is enough.  After all, you do remember.

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Extension Cord Peril


My grandfather has always been a little quirky.  His latest DIY is usually my favorite thing ever, and they happen frequently… like when a lizard got into the house accidentally, and he installed cardboard and duct-tape “lizard flaps” across the bottom of all the doors.  Or when the paint started to oxidize on the top of his old car, so he bought a can of spray paint and was disappointed by the way it looked when finished.  Or how he leaves notes on my car that aren’t usually at all noteworthy.

My father is also known for his strange antics.  Like the clogs he bought when he took an evening job for fun at Border’s Café back in the day.  Plastic, so he could put them in the dishwasher when they got dirty – which he did all the time.  You’d open the thing for a clean plate and find shoes instead.

I’m not around as often, so I don’t get to witness the shenanigans like I used to.  But every week my dad and I meet at my grandfather’s house and go to breakfast together with whoever can join us, and this week we were waiting for my sister to arrive.

“Come out and keep me company,” he said, peeking his head through the door to the garage.

So I went outside, and he was holding the most decrepit extension cord I’ve ever seen in my life.  In two pieces.

“What the?  What happened?” I said.

“Puppa cut the thing in half with a chainsaw when he was doing yard work.”  He  had a pair of wire cutters in his hand, and he was carefully cutting the rubber from the sliced end of the chord.  And then I notice all the silver lumps of duct tape down the line.

“What are you doing?” I said.

“Splicing it back together,” he said like I really should have known better than to ask that question.  Because why would anyone ever buy a new extension cord once they had sliced it in half? And it had been repaired, oh, a half-dozen times already.  Puppa slicing it in half with a chainsaw is evidently an epidemic.

He finished stripping the wires and then twisted the two halves together, copper hanging free.  And then he pulled open a drawer and started shuffling through the tape.

“I don’t know if there’s electrical tape in here.  Dad!” he yelled.  “Dad, electrical tape?!  Hang on,” he told me.  “I’ll be back.”

He disappeared into the bowels of the house to find Puppa, and when he came out he started rooting in the tape drawer again.

“We don’t have any electrical tape,” he said.  “I don’t think we can do this without electrical tape, it’s not very safe.”


I started laughing, and I couldn’t stop.  This right here is my heritage, folks.  To be fair, I was totally willing to let him plug it in and see what happened, so I may not be entirely blameless myself.  I did manage to convince my dad that he should just gift Puppa a new extension cord, so at least he’ll be safe until the next time he cuts through the thing.

Also, I missed this.

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Turkeys On Time


My father is the cook in the family. We force him into making his supernaturally fluffy omelets whenever we get the chance. With cheese, bacon, and avocado please. It’s ruined me for diner omelets. His creamed corn recipe is well renowned and a staple at all the fancy dinner occasions (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter…). He wears a white chef coat, brandishes a spatula, and yells bloody murder at everyone to get out of my grandfather’s small kitchen. Except me, because I stuff myself into a tiny corner and hand him things he needs. It’s a good arrangement. I don’t mind being yelled at when it’s all in fun.

For Christmas, my father has a perfect Turkey recipe and prides himself on getting it to the table ON TIME.

Brian and I did the turkey for Christmas dinner this year at our new place. And by “Brian and I,” I mean Brian. I assisted by giving good moral support, not looking too close at the dead bird on the counter, ignoring the neck completely, and deciding on the times to put things in the oven. Turkeys creep me out, and Brian is a champ.

The bird was an hour and a half late. It took just a little extra time than I expected to cook, but I forgot things like resting and carving when I told Brian when it absolutely had to go in.

It was a lovely day, it really was. And the bird was delicious. Everyone kept patting me on the back and telling me how they weren’t too hungry anyway as breakfast had been such a big meal. But I brandished my new wooden spoon in my fancy Christmas apron and felt that sinking feeling when the time stretched forward and still the bird wasn’t done. I had violated the ON TIME stipulation. I was my own pet-peeve.

In other news, who knew that cooking Christmas dinner could be so exhausting? Brian did the Turkey, but I did the potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and 2 kinds of cranberry sauce. And I expedited. I spent a weary Friday wondering if I would do it all again, but by Saturday I knew I gladly would. We are still eating (tasty, tasty) leftovers. The house feels infinitely more like home now that we have some good Christmas memories in it. It was a good holiday. But next year, I will get that turkey to the table when I SAY it will be on the table.

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Maine (!!!)


I should be deliciously happy that I’m going to Maine in only a week. And I am, in theory. There is something about Maine that is healing. I get to longing for those gray shores and crisp nights. I dream of the smell of fresh cut grass and the waving umbrella tops of Queen Anne’s Lace in the fields. The hole in my heart grows bigger the longer I’m away, but it’s become something I just bear. I can’t ever get to Maine as much as I’d like to. One trip will tide me over for another few years. My roots will have tasted home soil and I will feel much better, I’m sure.

This is the first time my sister and I have been sans fellows on a family trip in a long time. They’re nice to have around, of course, but it’s a different kind of trip without them.  I’m looking forward to it.

I have big plans to finish draft 5 of the novel, staring at my laptop screen until all hours of the night. I will be inside, but I will know that the stars are shining brighter outside my window than they ever do in California. In Maine you can see the Milky Way cutting across the dark sky. In California I am lucky to pick out Orion. My sister and I will also visit with my grandmother’s sister and see what Salem is like the week before Halloween. I plan to eat lobster, watch the boats chug by out the (new) French door, take lots of pictures, and follow my whims in all things. The Queen Anne’s Lace will be frozen into submission and the fields will be brown, but the forests will be full of color and the fierce, reedy beauty of Fall in Maine will be out in force.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? That is why I am not yet deliciously happy. I want it too badly, so surely work will rescind their permission for me to take time off. Or Brian will find that he cannot spare me for a week. Or something unseen and crushing will conspire to ruin it. Until I am on that plane…

But, no sense in being a total pessimist. I have bought brown oxfords and have dug my sweaters out of the depths of the bottom drawer. Maine, here I (most likely) come!

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Old Vermont Musings

Sometimes I forget that I do this, but I often write little snippets of essays that aren’t really for anything.  Then I save them on my computer and forget they exist.  I went through a pile of them yesterday (if computer files can be a pile) and I found a bunch of things I really like, such as this one.   My cousin Courtney got married last year and Brian and I spent several days in Vermont.  This is what I wrote the morning of our first day there:


We are in Vermont now, and it is so beautiful.  It is like everything I remembered from my childhood in Maine, only more so.   If it were feasible for me to move in immediately, I would do it.  The plane ride from New York was especially gorgeous.  I looked out the window, half hoping to see the green tarnish of the statue of liberty out the little plastic oval.  I didn’t.  Instead, I saw a long beach stretching as far as the eye could see, tan and slim.  Breakers beat at its shore, even from so high up as we were.  The tan length of it disappeared in a haze at the curve of the earth, peopled by fluffy clouds over our silver wings.  The clouds took over the view, collecting one by one until they obscured everything, and then separating apart to reveal the deep green underneath.  We soared over farmhouses like tiny train models in the middle of lush forests and hundreds of pools of water.  A wide blue river wound to the north.

It was better once we landed.  As soon as we left the airport, I smelled it.  Green; the kind of thing that is grass clippings and clover and the hidden sweetness of running across the lawn barefoot in the summer time.  Beside the airport were the kind of houses I remember in my childhood, their muddy white clapboards rising from thick bushes as if they grew and solidified in the scrubby lawn.  This is the kind of house Uncle Earl had, when we ate blackberries from the thicket in front of his house.  He fed us blackberry pie for dinner and taught us about chickadees, the state bird of Maine.  This is the kind of house Grampy had, with the bed in the guest room not quite a double and more than a twin.  They forgot one night when we came to stay that it wasn’t a regular double, and my husband and I spent a night under the white tufted coverlet trying not to elbow each other onto the floor, too polite to remind them.

We arrived at cousin Courtney’s to enthusiastic hugs and watched the humid day slip away on her back porch.  I listened to Uncle Dave tell jokes, throwing his head back to laugh, and thought how much he reminded me of my mother, raking his fingers through his hair.   And then the patter of warm rain fell around us on the screen porch.  And then we went to bed.

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Weekend Miscellany


This weekend has mostly been a confluence of crazy events and family.  My father, a teacher, set out on his motorcycle two weeks ago and hasn’t been back.  We usually have breakfast every Saturday morning.  He texted me this week to say that he’s east of the Mississippi.  Must be nice to just pick up and go like that.  Hop on the back of a bike with the wind in your hair and see the country. 

Brian’s mom put on a fabulous Thanksgiving in August for us on Saturday.  His sister Julie is here from Virginia, a rare occurrence.  There was a turkey in the freezer.  It really was kismet.  Brian and I brought the Martinelli’s and tried to stay out of their way in the small kitchen.  I brought my knitting and my ukulele, and played while Brian sang LP’s “Into the Wild” for Julie, who had never heard it but loved it.  We went home with many leftovers.  I ate almond green beans and potatoes with gravy most of the weekend.   

I had a job interview scheduled for Monday, and very faded red hair with atrocious roots.  Cue the other sister, mine, who helped me navigate through the complicated world of box dye.  It was much easier than we thought it would be, although it’s a miracle that no one passed out from the toxic fumes.  It still lingers in the bathroom.  I ruined the towel I accidentally stole from Yosemite a month ago.  It is streaked brownish red. 

“So not only are you a thief, you’re also a vandal?” said Brian. 

“Yup,” I said.       

My mother gets back from Maine tonight.  We’re picking her up at the Long Beach airport.  Julie flies out early Thursday morning and she’s bunking at our house Wednesday night.  We’re having beef roll-ups for dinner. 

That’s all.  It’s been a crazy week of comings and goings and family.  I’ve taken a hiatus on writing because I’m making an afghan for a non-blood related family member.  I expect to start draft 3 on the 26th.  In the mean time I’m hooking furiously while listening to much bad TV, and some good TV.  I recommend Netflix’s “Orange and Black.”

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