Posts Tagged With: life

A Fence Fiasco

 

We moved into this strange house in the middle of the summer, knowing that the house had been beautifully flipped but the yard was a travesty of epic proportions.  I pulled cactus and dead rose bushes for months.  Almost five years in the making, and the front yard is looking decent.  We haven’t touched the back yard, except to put in two raised beds amongst the weeds so I can have tomatoes.

Although we have had the funds to do small projects, the fence has been beyond us.  Every time we think we’ve finally saved for it we get some sort of a disaster.  The car needs a whole new transmission, and the stove broke, and, and…

I think now this was probably fate.

In the week long rains of two weeks ago, the world softened.  The rusty nails holding the fence together slipped free, and the fence collapsed – revealing a rather beautiful hedge of cypress trees that the neighbors had erected.

Brian and I looked at the glimpse of elfin style we had beyond the weeds and decrepit fence and saw potential.  It looks like we’re just going to take down the back fence and enjoy the trees, since the hedge is a solid screen and we don’t have to worry about keeping any pets in.  It will help us when we go to replace the rest of the fence too.  That back stretch was the longest and most expensive.  Bonus!

Now to find the time to take the old one fully down… Which I’m sure I’ll manage in a fit of tomato longing in the next month or so.  This year, now that I don’t have to spend 20 hours a day holding a baby, there is produce in my future.  I’m determined.  And the baby can dig in the dirt with me.  Just as long as I get the fence down first.

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Ceiling Fan Magic

This family just went on Vacation for the first time.  My Mother-In-Law had reserved a time share for a weekend up in Big Bear, but then ended up not being able to use it.  She offered it to us instead. And it was mostly a good time although VERY stressful.  The packing list alone, man… Also, Asher didn’t know what to think of it and refused to adhere to any kind of regular schedule while up there.  I worried.  Incessantly (he’s fine, of course.  He’s even sleeping soundly).

But we had good times amidst all my superfluous woe.  It was beautiful up there. And the weather was not a million degrees too hot to go outside.  We hiked, we swam, we enjoyed awesome Nepalese food at the Himalaya Restaurant, we strolled by the lake.

Asher didn’t care about any of that.  His favorite was the new and fancy suite to run around in.  New rooms with funky flooring!  Vertical blinds!  Oh, the remotes! And then there was his one true love, the ceiling fan.

I noticed it one morning when I had pulled him into bed with us.  He stood on the white comforter, one hand bracing himself steady on my hip, and gestured to the fan.  He stared at it, and his hands twirled.  His fingers extended out and then in again as he gestured, pulling his arm back, pushing his arm forward.

It looked for anything like he was performing magic on the fan.

So here is the question: what WOULD an eight-month-old want to summon from inside of a fan?  Or is he just trying to keep it running with his magic fingers?  He did this several times throughout the trip, too.  It wasn’t a fluke.

I don’t know, man.  I may be waiting for an owl to fly in my window in a few years with an epistle from Hogwarts.

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Baby Days

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a post about life in general.  Largely, it’s been good.  Although I will say that it’s a bit strange to be a stay-at-home mom sometimes.  I find that most of my day isn’t terribly interesting; always repetitive, even while it’s extremely rewarding.  All I need is a baby grin and I’m a happy mother.  Bonus points for one of those shrieking giggles he gives sometimes about unpredictable things.

Being a mother is also surreal, though.  Asher doesn’t look exactly like me at his age, but he’s close enough that things get strange in my head.  Especially when I’m sleep deprived.  I often get the sense that I am outside of time, scrubbing my own elbows in the whale-shaped bath, cajoling myself to eat peas, pulling my tiny self close at 3 am when I’m having a hard time sleeping, singing show tunes to calm my younger nerves.   I know logically that he’s not me, but the lines still blur.

It feels sometimes like I traded everything that made me interesting for a suitcase full of baby snuggles, but it never feels like it wasn’t worth it.  Baby snuggles are pretty great. Besides, I know it’s a temporary condition.  My mother and grandmother, both stay-at-home moms, are/were VERY interesting women.  And I sneak in interesting whenever I can, between the cracks of bottles, naps, and routine.  Brian, wonderful Brian, helps.

It’s summer, so Brian and I have been taking Asher on an adventure once or twice a week – hiking, to the Redlands Bowl, swimming… It messes up the baby’s schedule but I think it’s worth it for the way it breaks my monotony.  After all, if Mom isn’t happy no one is happy, right?  That’s what I’ve been told and I don’t intend to test the theory.  That and books are my saving grace.

I don’t know why motherhood is this oxymoronic bundle of easy, boring, and the hardest thing ever, but it is.  I’m continually looking forward to whatever this baby is going to do next, though.  That’s all I really wanted to say this week.

Also, just for kicks, I’m going to write down our daily schedule for posterity:

  • 6:00 am ish – Baby wakes up.  Brian or I feed him a bottle (whomever is more sleep deprived gets to sleep).
  • 6:30 am – Brian gets up and gets ready for work while I corral the baby.  He usually squirrels around and plays with his Totoro plush while I sing to him.
  • 7:00-7:10 am – Brian finishes getting dressed, so he corrals the baby while I get dressed and eat breakfast.
  • 7:40 am – Brian leaves for work and the baby is MINE.  I feed him and sing songs to him until he either gets fussy or finishes his tray.
  • 8:00 am – Asher plays for about an hour, doing mostly his own thing except that every 10 minutes or so he wants to climb into my lap and get kisses for a second before moving on to the next thing.
  • 9:00 am – Bottle and nap time.  This kid usually falls asleep while he’s eating, right on top of me.  I read quietly on my phone until he wakes up. He used to have another nap later but for the past few days this one has just been epically long.
  • 10:30 am ish – Baby wakes up and plays again, but this time I MUST BE RIGHT THERE for him to stand on or hug him.  He wants to be touching.  Unless he doesn’t.  But no really, he does.
  • 11:00 am – This kid gets another bottle, though he stays awake and hums at me through it. He plays when he’s done, crawling around the living room from toy to toy.
  • 12:00 pm – Brian comes home for lunch.  We swap out watching him, and I get Asher a tray when I’m done eating so he can have lunch himself.
  • 12:45 pm ish – Depending on the weather, Asher and I walk Brian back to work.  The baby usually falls asleep sometime during the walk, and (depending on the weather) I just park him under the shady tree in the front yard until he wakes up while I sit on the bench on the porch and read some more.
  • 1:30 pm ish – This kid wakes up and we head inside.
  • 2:00 pm – Baby gets another bottle, to which he usually falls asleep.  This one’s his long nap, and I can usually count on 1 1/2 hours from him.  Yesterday he slept for 2 1/2, though… When he wakes up, he plays.  He doesn’t care at all about me now, just wants to do his business on his own time.
  • 4:00 pm – Another bottle for baby.
  • 5:00 pm – Brian gets home.  After Brian’s changed out of his nice work clothes, I get a small respite from being “in charge.”  And if there’s anything I need to do on my own, I can do it.  I also often make dinner.
  • 6:00 pm – Everyone has dinner together, Brian and I at the table and Asher in his high chair.
  • 7:00 pm – The baby bedtime routine commences.
  • 8:00 pm – Asher is (usually) asleep by now.  The adults collapse in exhaustion in front of the TV.
  • 10:00 pm – The adults go to bed.  Or at least pretend to (if my book isn’t too diverting).
  • Sometimes Asher will wake between 3:00 am and 5:00 am in which case he’ll get a bottle before going back to bed in the pack-and-play in our room.  Sometimes he doesn’t.  It’s kinda a crapshoot. And that’s it!  Are you tired yet?

 

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Road Lessons

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I have two moments to rub together – a rare occurrence these days – so I thought I should take the time and get a blog entry up.  This weekend has been an eventful one.  Most notably because of baby’s first tire blow-out.

Yup.  I blew out a tire on the way to my mother’s house.  I must have run over something and gotten a flat, because the tires were brand new.  I had just loaded the twelve-million things I bring when I take this kid places into the car (stroller, Ergo, diaper backpack containing four diapers, two bottles, changing pad, three fresh outfits, and pacifier, child securely strapped into his seat, his sweatshirt, a knit blanket, a swaddle…) and merged onto the freeway when the car started to shudder.  I got off the freeway at the next exit, and just as I was pulling to the side of the road the passenger side dropped, started smoking, and made a horrible grating noise.  I thought for sure the transmission had dropped out of the bottom or something equally dire, and couldn’t think of anything I did for this new-to-me car to have collapsed so epically.

I pressed the red button for the flashers and got out of the car.  Relief.  Not only was the rear right tire flat, but it was shredded like a doughnut and completely separated from the rim.  That was the smoking and the drop.  The car itself was fine.  We were in a safe spot, and there was shade to wait in.  Tires are imminently fixable. I called for help.

AAA was wonderful.  The lady on the other end put a rush on the service request when she heard the kid screaming in the background, and then he and I went on a walk in the stroller down the street.  He fell asleep in contentment and stayed that way while the gentleman from AAA put on my spare.

The best part?  Well, there’s two of them:

One – I broke down in front of a Lowe’s and several construction workers and contractors came to check on me, concerned about the baby.  It restored my faith in humanity to see these beefy gentlemen so concerned about us.

Two – it was Anime L.A. this weekend and I was slated to take care of this kid ALONE all night for the first time ever while Brian ran midnight RPG games in Ontario.  It scared me to death.  But after handling a tire blow-out with aplomb, I knew that 3 am held no terrors I couldn’t overcome.  Mom’s got this.

Not the best afternoon ever, but definitely a moment that turned out to have good in it.  Tire repaired and we’re on our way.

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Slow and Huffy, or Morla the Box Turtle

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Morla has become quite the fixture in our home, despite his relegation to a corner of the dining room and relative inactivity.  He’s usually either in his pool or in his house, just hanging out.  If you’re lucky, he’ll blink and move his head a bit.

The reason he’s become such a fixture is because he’s hilarious.  Brian swears he looks perpetually grumpy no matter what he’s doing.  I think he looks smugly superior.  When you pick him up, he closes his shell and makes huffy noises as if he’s SO inconvenienced. Either that, or he waves his arms and legs around like he’s flying.  Before we bought him a fancy log house, he would turn over the one I made him from a tissue box and then try to dig through the bottom – or what used to be the top before he upended it. I cut out the bottom for him so he could dig into his loamy bedding, but I guess he doesn’t care.

“What the hell is that noise?” Brian would ask, before investigating.  “Oh…” he’d reply to himself with a chuckle.

Dots doesn’t know what to think, but has decided he needs constant surveillance.  The other cats don’t care.

We thought that Dots would get tired of him, because he really DOESN’T do much.  No sign of that yet.  Every time she gets on the dining room table, she ends up over there staring as Morla wiggles his shell back and forth, adjusting under the light, blinks and raises his head, or plods towards his new house to dig under it for a nap.  She stares if he’s not doing anything, though, too.

Her tail is a calm twitch, and she doesn’t make those chittering noises as if she wants to eat him.  She hasn’t attempted to get into his aquarium, either. She just stares, poised and intent, as he does his turtle thing.  It’s like cat TV.

It’s like human TV for us too – as good as watching an aquarium with all the fish swimming by.  You know, only less exciting.  Except for the constant glee that he seems to eminate.

I really thought I wouldn’t care at all about a turtle I can’t even touch (they can carry salmonella, so I’m a no with the baby on the way).  But he’s been a pretty good addition to what is slowly becoming a menagerie.  I’m glad Brian convinced me to keep him.

Morla is the name of the tortoise in Neverending Story if you were interested.  Bookish and nerdy at the same time – just what this household requires.

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A Bad Week

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This week has been a hard one, and I’m not even quite sure why except for the obvious.  The things that are happening in this country make me sad and worried.

 

Social media isn’t making it any better.  I keep waiting for the world to implode into WWIII or Civil War Part II, and my feed just confirms it all.  Whatever it is you worry about, it’s right there happening.  There are glimmers of hope of course, but not enough of them.

Couple that with my Jury Duty experience, and the world seems extra-bleak right now.

Yup, I had Jury Duty that started last Thursday and went through to today, my first time having to appear at the courthouse. I was placed on a trial almost immediately after arriving with 100 other jurors.  about 40 were excused post-haste since the trial was supposed to last until mid-March and they had conflicts or their work wouldn’t pay that long.  I found out yesterday that it was a double shooting murder charge.  The defendant wasn’t trying to claim he didn’t shoot the guy, either.  He was just claiming it was self-defense.  I ultimately was excused after jury selection was finished – I wasn’t even questioned.  That means I can talk about it.

It was an experience unlike anything else, and very interesting.  The thing I keep thinking about is this:

The prosecutor kept asking the jury panel if they felt sympathy for the defendant, who was sitting right there.  She pointed at him.  He was young and might have been handsome if you could think of him as anything but a giant accusation, in a thick mans-man way.  He had a buzzed haircut and deep bags under his eyes. He wore the same thing all 3 days of the trial, too – khaki pants and a khaki dress shirt, green tie.  And I just kept thinking that the entire panel must have been lying whenever anyone coldly said “no” to her question.

Maybe I didn’t feel sympathy, exactly, but I felt compassion.  This had to be one of the worst days of that guy’s life, and I think it’s maybe even needful that we acknowledge that he’s a human and so were the people who died before we set all that aside and make a cold determination of fault based only on laws and evidence.

It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t questioned…

But it all seems death and destruction right now, between murder and mayhem.  It also seems impossible to pick things up and go to work tomorrow like normal, though I’m sure I’ll find comfort in the routine of it when it arrives.  I would just like something to hope for, I think.  Something that is entirely pure and gleeful, and not the lesser of two bad options.

I’ll just have to keep looking until I find it, I guess.

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Piano Lessons

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There are pictures of me in every album, at every age: fluffy white-blonde hair sprayed into submission, floral dress over white tights or frilly socks and black mary janes, smiling at the camera with the black and white keys of a piano stretching to my left.  In some, I bow with my knees locked straight.  In others, my face is in profile while my hands lay static on the keys.  Sometimes there’s a patient smile on my face as I look up from the bench, that my song has been interrupted by someone I’m fond of for pictures.

Piano was a religion for me.  3 hours a day, waking up in the mornings before school to sit and force my muscles to remember that tight, fast fingering on the right hand in in Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turka; or stretch my left palm a little farther to get a cleaner octave in Joplin’s Entertainer.  I spent hours poring over theory books and listening to intervals.

It centered me.

And then I was doing it less.  And then I wasn’t doing it at all anymore, my fingers putting up a revolt when I tried to pick up a piece after six, maybe eight months absence.

I missed it less than I thought I would, though I still missed it.

“Do you remember?” Brian asked me about a month ago.  “You once showed me a few chords on the piano.  It seemed like it made sense.  It seemed easy.”

It is both easy and hard.

“Would you teach me?” he asked.

I remembered, fifteen years ago, when I was thinking of giving lessons for extra cash.  “Just get a book,” Christine, who had been teaching me since I was 4, said.  “Work through it in order.  Someone who wanted to be a serious musician would eventually need more, yeah, but you could definitely start someone off.  And a lot of experienced teachers don’t take anyone who can’t read music.  You’d be a great in-between.”

So I said “Sure,” to Brian.

We walked to a practice room at the college where Brian works.  The music building is one of their oldest.  It’s at the end of a tree-lined lawn, frescoes in the eaves of violins and flowers in a vase.  Inside a tiny room on the second floor was a beat-up Steinway upright that was still mostly black.  A grimy window looked out onto the quad beyond, the fronds of an evergreen brushing the panes.  There was no place for a teacher to sit.

I stood.

Our lesson went so quickly, I couldn’t believe it had been more than an hour.

I have never seen myself in someone I wasn’t related to.  But last night it struck me with a vengeance, the way Brian gravitates towards foreign pianos even in public places now, wanting to feel the slick white keys under his fingers, to fool around with the notes for just a moment.  The way he taps his hands on the table, a look of concentration on his face, both hands crossing at different times like they should.  “I had a bad day, but I practiced tonight and I feel fine again,” he said last week.

I don’t know what changed, but I watched him sit there, the negative of the image I used to be: long denim-clad legs tucked over the pedals, the cowlick in his dark brown hair standing tall, the black and white keyboard stretching before him, look of concentration on his face.  Somehow the universe seemed to re-orient itself into new tiers of importance.  This was at the top.  Not Brian, exactly, or even the piano, but the knowledge, the sharing we give to each other as we move through existence.

I grinned.

“What are you smiling about?” Brian asked.

“Nothing,” I said.

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November Start

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I told you it wouldn’t be a whole month until I came back again.  Nano is going very well.  So well, in fact, that I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It usually drops in week 2, so we’ll see how much I hate this story and everything it stands for in another 8 days or so.  I’m no longer surprised that this happens, but every year I’m surprised by how genuine the feelings of loathing are.  You would think I would have learned by now that this is a phase.

Brian participated in the annual Baked Potato Decorating Day contest at his work, held every year on November 1st.  He won for his impressive rendition of Bag End, complete with round carrot door and broccoli Party Tree.  I am still upset by his refusal to let me make hobbits from tater tots, but I shall live through my disappointment.  His prize was $45 to Barnes and Noble, and we spent a blissful evening among the stacks of books.

“Do you want anything?” Brian asked me toward the end of our perusal.

I started laughing.  Because I want everything, of course.  They’ve come out with those amazing gilded Barnes and Noble Classic editions of American Gods and Anansi Boys, A Wrinkle In Time, Shell Silverstein poems, Cthulhu mythos, Robin Hood, Moby Dick, The Eye of the World, 10 Wizard of Oz books…  Moleskine has Harry Potter special editions sitting on the shelf.  I have not yet read Rene Ahdieh’s latest.  America’s Test Kitchen has a gigantic cooking bible.  I’m dying to purchase a slew of romance novels, and Uprooted. They have a vast collection of color-your-own postcards and a Pusheen luggage set.  I still need the Puffin In Bloom copy of the Little Princess.  They had fancy hard-backed editions of The Silmarillion.  When I said I wanted everything, I wasn’t kidding.

“Don’t worry about me,” I said.  I’m used to drooling and not buying.  Also, I didn’t help with the potato and I can’t remember the last time Brian bought books.  He picked up three and has been spending his nights reading, like I usually do, which is reward enough.

Writing and reading your heart out are what November is for.  We have a good start on that over here.

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Weekly Woes

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It’s been sort of a terrible week.  I spent 3 hours waiting in a scary train station parking lot last night for Brian to navigate the broken down and delayed system back.  I have received a quick rejection letter and am feeling downtrodden about it – my 16th this year.  There is an army of ants who are attempting to take over my desk at work.  Brian has been ill and I’ve been doing my best to take care of him when I’m actually home (which isn’t much).  The weather is over 100 degrees and melty.

It’s one of those times where I wonder if running away like I tried when I was five is still possible.  But most days I really like my life.  The law of large numbers just insures that sometimes all the crap is stacked up in a single week like this.

I have been reading Storyteller by Kate Wilhelm, one of the founding teachers at the Clarion Writer’s Workshop.  It’s a lovely book, part writing advice and part memoir, and it’s taught me some stuff already.  You know, besides igniting all the regular yearnings to one day attend Clarion into a fervor.  I’m going to rewrite the ending to the story that was rejected and see what happens next.  I’m also itching to get my hands on some inexpensive used paperbacks so I can start dissecting the authors I love and see if I learn anything.  Which I thought I would never voluntarily do.

Friday is my day, though.  The Redlands bowl is having its last performance of the season, which means William Tell and fireworks.  Totally my thing.  Couple that with some kitten cuddles and I’m sure I’ll be feeling much better by the time next week rolls around.

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Elie Wiesel: A Memory

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I feel the need to write something about Elie Wiesel’s death.  It struck me pretty hard, and I’ve been sitting on the feelings because they seemed untamable into words until I had a little distance from them.  But I think I can do it now.

I met Elie Wiesel a few times.  He had a standing relationship with Chapman where he would come and give talks at their Holocaust center, before doing a big campus shindig in front of anyone who could fit in the auditorium.  I saw him at the big event a few times.  But the meeting that I think of most is this one: My professor was asked to interview him for the campus shindig, so he asked if we could get a few moments with Dr. Wiesel privately as a class.  There were fifteen of us in the group.

It changed my life.

It’s hard to say how, except that it unleashed a bravery in me that I didn’t know I possessed.  And he did it so quietly, too.

We went to a fancy room in the library that was small, with wide windows in one wall and desks set like a U.  In the corner was a stand of cookies and coffee, and we all clutched our cups nervously, sitting up straighter than we usually did, adjusting our collars or skirts since we all dressed up for the occasion.

He wasn’t at all formal, just incredibly kind.  We sat in the sunlit room while he told us of the night he went back to his family home, the one where they lived before the camp.  His father had planted a gold watch by a tree so the family could come back after the war and claim it again.  Dr. Wiesel had not been back for 50 years, but he dug into the earth and the watch was there.  He held it up to the moonlight, thought of his father for a moment, and then buried it back in the ground.  It seemed to belong there, he said.

He talked of walking the corridors of Buchenwald alone, asking for a moment to himself at an anniversary event, and of how he didn’t feel the terror there anymore.  In every breath he spoke a brilliant truth, it was all things I perhaps knew but didn’t have the words for, or knew but hadn’t looked at from that side.  I think the whole room fell in love that day.  We would have done anything for this grinning, gentle man with the wild hair.

At the end of it all, he charged us with a task.  As humans and scholars, as the next generation, we were to bear witness.

I knew that he meant the atrocities that are committed in the name of progress, but I also know that he meant everything.  The joys, the sorrows, the living.  Bear witness to life, because there is sorrow and heartbreak and wonder there that is important too, among the injustice and savagery.  All of it is worthy of proclamation, perhaps even needful of it.  All of it is holy.

He was so full of life himself, and so easy with bearing his own witness by the time I met him.  I knew his charge would be something I would take up and try to fulfill.  And through the writing, I have tried to do it as best I can.  That meeting changed me, changed my writing, made me feel brave about relating my experiences, mundane though they are in comparison.

He wouldn’t have remembered me.  I’m certain of it.  I was one face in a sea of fifteen that class period, and he probably met many more classes that day alone.  I didn’t raise my hand to speak or ask questions because I was so enraptured by the answers that I wanted to savor them.

Perhaps it even matters more that way, that I was one of a crowd to him.  That he had enough trust in us to share, and enough love for us to give us a task without knowing our individual stories.  It makes me wonder how many others are like me, who were changed in an instant without him even knowing.  It was a gift he offered with ease.

I am in mourning.  The world has lost a brilliant man.  If you want to honor his memory with me, consider bearing witness  to some truth in your life.  I know he would be pleased if you did.

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