Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thursday Thoughts #17 for the New Year

Looking back is not something I enjoy doing as the road back is longer than it used to be and the scenery starts to blur as I squint to that far horizon.
  1. 2008 was a big year for me as I retired in so many ways...not just from the daily grind. I began to let go.
  2. 2008 was the year I got better at being a grandma. Instead of staring at how fast they were growing I started to participate in the event.
  3. In 2008 I lost 10 pounds...no more and no less...but there is yet 2009.
  4. In 2008 I evolved into a much better cook with the time to be creative and invented new dishes with all the herbs from my garden and ideas I gleaned and modified from my many cookbooks. I learned that you can teach an old dog (cook) new tricks.
  5. In 2008, speaking of gourmet cooking, I made S'mores with the grandson and I haven't made S'mores in decades!
  6. I have pretty much taken 2008 as a laid back vacation doing only what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. I am so thankful for such luxury.
  7. In 2008 I lost 100's of thousands of dollars (I have lived pretty frugally most of my life) in the stock market and I don't care because I realize I don't need much in this new life I am living.
  8. I do need $1.99 persimmons and I splurged and bought 4 of these beauties yesterday.
  9. In 2008 I did not beat myself up for wanting alone time anymore and accept the fact that this is one of the ways I charge my batteries and restore my soul.
  10. In 2008 I also accepted the fact that just looking at a flower or interesting plant this year can restore my soul for the rest of the day.
  11. In 2008 I also learned how high energy my husband is and I am trying to meet his needs as we walk together into these days ahead.
  12. 2008 was the year my youngest turned 30. That was harder on me in many ways then when I turned 60!
  13. My resolution this year will be to get back on a schedule and try to give more of this precious time I have to others.
I made it to 13 and that must bode well for the New Year, doncha think?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Dinner

The restaurant she had selected was a high-end seafood chain located in the Galleria near the more expensive stores. She had hoped that the empty parking spaces outside were a clue that the restaurant would be quiet inside, but the holiday season had packed both the bar at the front and the tables in the various rooms with festive customers.

She and her husband were led to a room near the far back and that helped reduce the din. Trying to look a little fashionable, she had carefully dressed in a loose fitting black turtle neck sweater and a faux suede skirt cut on the bias that allowed her new tan and dark brown cowboy boots to show. The weather had turned unusually warm which meant the brown tights she had decided to wear instead of a slip were making her a little uncomfortable. Her husband, who spent much of the last few weeks in jeans and sweatshirts, had found it more difficult to dress wanting to wear the new mock turtleneck sweater he had gotten as a gift and finding most of his slacks too dressy for the casual knit. He finally decided on a faded pair of Dockers. They looked like a typical middle class retired couple pushing unsuccessfully for an upper middle class look.

Their waiter arrived almost immediately upon being seated. His head was covered by a thick heavy thatch of dark hair shooting every which way and his face was covered by a dark beard making him look very much like a terrorist rather than a waiter, but his smile was easy as he filled the water glasses. She ordered a holiday cocktail to help her relax and her husband ordered the usual soda water.

They both checked their phones for messages and then made idle conversation hiding the slight tension as they waited for the third party to arrive. She had called him twice during the afternoon and didn't get an answer. Finally she pressed upon her husband to call him once again just before they parked the car, and that was when their son returned the call to say he was finishing the final load of laundry and would be running a little late.

They were in the middle of the 'calamari trio' appetizer when their son showed up dressed casually and with his favorite torn jeans. (Did every pair he owned have torn pockets?) He order a soda and she had mixed feelings about his avoidance of a bottle of beer. It was good because he had to drive out later to his apartment and meet up with friends for the rest of his birthday celebration, but she wondered if this meant he would keep his guard up during the entire meal.

Small talk about the crowds and the holidays and the sales drifted into talk about the Christmas day memories with the little toddlers. She and her husband ordered the special with the recommended glass of wine. By the time they were well into their entrees the conversation had drifted comfortably into politics and religion. The subjects that all were in agreement on and safe in discussing during the rest of the meal.

As the final espresso was ordered her son began a story about a friend of his and the friend's girlfriend at a recent night out. Her son had been scolded by the girlfriend because he had brought another friend of his with two twenty-something sisters who were in town for the holiday. The girlfriend seemed to think he was trying to fix her boyfriend up with one of the sisters and angrily reprimanded him, and the whole event sounded like the Bachelorette or one of those other inane junior high level reality shows of this thirty-something generation where the women are so insecure that only 20k of plastic surgery will calm them down.

At the end of the story, her son smiled and said he felt sorry for his friend and then said he was glad he wasn't dating anyone right now.

They paid the bill and then walked to their cars and exchanged some gifts and Christmas cookies she had made. She hugged and kissed him goodbye and drank in the smell of him under the aftershave, perhaps clinging a little too long as she knew it would probably be months before she could get their paths to cross again. He opened the door to his car and gave them that familiar sideways smile and little wave before he ducked inside.

Well, she thought to herself, that went as well as can be expected.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Notes on "Busy"

Val was so kind to comment on the post below. In answer, my days were filled with a visit to the Botanical Gardens in Washington, D.C. which have the best display of miniature trains interspersed with houses, figures, etc. all made from plant life. It is a magical land and captured both the granddaughter and grandson and it was free.

I also went to the grandson's pre-school holiday program. This included quite a number of songs that they had memorized and a jingle bell ringing as they sang Jingle Bells. As you can probably imagine, the little boys got quite carried away with the bells wringing as they had been standing still for most of the program.

Holiday at the daughter's house was wonderful with Xman understanding the gift part of Christmas for the first time. He was so excited and thrilled to be passing out gifts to everyone. My son came early the night before and I was overjoyed to spend time with him and see that he seemed to be weathering the recent breakup with some balance. I hope to see him tomorrow for dinner.

Busy, Busy, Busy



Been just a little busy and except for the first photo you can see I have been away from the house. The arrow in the first photo is to illustrate the numerous places that busy hands go while you are measuring flour. You may need to click on the photo to understand.

I am now catching up on blog reading.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Life Story #22- The Rest of the Story



As some readers may recall, we left our newly married royal couple in a small cabin in the woods as the night was falling in the tropical forest with what seemed like a not so happy ending. Fortunately, with the resilience of the young they awoke to a much brighter day and after a breakfast of eggs and fried breadfruit and sliced papaya, they packed their chariot to begin the second day of the 'rest of their honeymoon.'

A wedding couple does not have to stay in a 4 star hotel for a beautiful honeymoon on the Big Island, because most of the real tropical beauty is away from the hotel's boring swimming pools and crowded beaches. (Besides if you are graduate students, you barely have two nickels much less $200 for a night in a hotel.)


Hawaii is called the 'orchid isle' and it lives up to this name with orchids growing wild everywhere, even along the roadside, causing the Princess on their second day to ask the Prince to stop the chariot every few minutes so that she could bury her face in their sweet smelling blossoms. A drive down the 'chain of craters' road where they eventually had to come to a complete stop because of the cold lava that merged like frozen molasses across the road, amazed them both.

Hours later, the newly-weds danced under the giant tree ferns, picked ginger blossoms for the dashboard of their chariot, visited historic Cook's Monument at Kealakakua Bay, let their fingers trace centuries-old petroglyphs in the volcanic stones nearby, explored dark lava tubes and soon forgot about the prior day's disaster.

But when they stopped for a family-style lunch at Volcano House, they were reminded of the prior day's debacle as they sat at a large, rustic, round table with the other tourists for a family style meal. The initial noise of the restaurant was that of normal conversations among happy tourists, but at their table the conversation among the fellow diners dwindled immediately into uncomfortable silence as people politely passed food and surreptitiously directed side glances toward the Prince with his oddly deformed lip. This deformity also meant his enunciation was muddled and the Princess had to speak for him when he needed food passed. Suddenly the Princess realized what it must be like to be a person with a deformity in a society where everyone else is "normal." This was an eyeopener and gave the Princess a new appreciation for the "commoner".

The Princess explained that they were on their honeymoon and had had an early mis-adventure with a honey-bee. The atmosphere at the table immediately thawed and idle conversation began once again with everyone wishing them a happy future.

The following days were somewhat of a blur visiting Pahoehoe Point, Kamuela, Kohala Road, and Saddle Road, until on the next to the last day the couple reached the end point of a paved road at Pololu Valley. This point is the start of goat trails to five deep and beautiful valleys on this side of the island. The royal couple had brought their rustic backpacks and proceeded to descend into the northern most valley, Pololu, by following a trail down a 420-foot cliff face that zigged and zagged sharply toward the bottom. (Reminder, this team was not very worldly).



When they reached the valley the cool ocean breeze across the crescent beach was very welcoming. They paused for the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunch (not exactly gourmet) and then climbed up the next very steep ridge and descended into the next valley. The climbing and descending were so totally exhausting that after crossing a number of streams, the small shelter of Australian pine trees at the base of the valley near the ocean was immediately chosen as the evenings camp spot. The royal team set up a primitive campsite which consisted of two sleeping bags, a plastic drop cloth and some cooking utensils---such luxury.



During the day as they had crossed each river in both valleys, the Princess noticed that the streams were filled with dead or dying, floating, dangerously red centipedes and the evening music that accompanied that night's dinner was the sound of a nearby violently crashing surf against the rocks blending with the sounds of squealing wild pigs up in the valley. The Princess had visions of either drowning in the encroaching surf waters, being attacked by a wild boar, or being bitten by one of the four-inch long centipedes that had washed down the valley and that could seek shelter in her sleeping bag.

The plastic drop cloth that was to be used as protection from the impending rain, became a sail that captured the choking campfire smoke when the wind changed direction from blowing onshore to blowing offshore---as any naturalist would have known. Not much honeymoon lovemaking or much sleep for that matter took place! (Looking back on this beginning it is a wonder that we ever had any children.)

The Royal Couple survived this final night of celebration of their marriage and looking like mud-covered warriors and being given second and third glances by the mainland tourists in the parking area, they returned to their chariot to begin the life of a more normal couple. But that is several other life stories and adventures for a later book.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Window to Past, Present and Future

Looking back at a time when I was a little girl, I can remember the colorful and interesting Christmas cards that my parents would get from across the United States and occasionally across the world. I would look at the photos, read the personal notes and wonder who these people were that had known my parents so well before I was born. What was this life that they had shared with people in another era? They were just old boring parents as I knew them.

This past weekend I was at my daughter's house when she was opening her mail which consisted of at least a dozen holiday greeting cards that were, for the most part, photos of grinning or mugging little children. Who were these dozens of little people? What part were they playing in the lives of my daughter and son-in-law? The cards were a little window into a current social world that was unfamiliar to me.

Last week I got an email from my son's girlfriend letting us know that we would not be seeing her over the holidays as she and my son had recently broken up. It was a mature separation that appears to have left them both in a lot of pain. This was sad news for me as my son is not a social butterfly and being alone over the holidays is not how I wanted to picture him. What we have is a failure to communicate when it comes to this parent son relationship and this gal was my little tiny window into his life of un-returned phone calls and rare email responses. Now that this window has been closed, our worlds are once again drifting apart. I am so sad.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Rewarded with Rushing


Hubby and I are heading into the city not to see the lights or go to a fancy holiday party...but to babysit, of course. This activity seems to be the most popular on our social calendar over the winter holidays. We have also been asked to pick a 'few' days during the two weeks that school is closed over the holidays to spend time with (take care of) the grandchildren.

I know the cost of babysitters and know that we would be saving them a fortune, and I love being with my grandchildren, and do not resent this in any way. We are asked and not 'expected'. But I can see how some grandparents would consider this an imposition if they found children exhausting or their own lives more interesting.

I, on the other hand, know how fast life rushes by and how fast these children will want to spend time with friends their own age rather than old people, so do not regret one second. And my holidays do not require much rushing around now that I no longer work.

Having said that, rushing to make and decorate Christmas cookies is not as good an idea. But my problem is that I say "When life gives you lemons, you can try still life art." My reach frequently exceeds my grasp. I also say that cookies that look handmade are far more delicious to eat. (I admit that adding the sprinkles was a bit too much!)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Incongruity

Today is December 13. We are only 12 days from Christmas. While we have had one or two feathery dusts of snow, this is what my backyard looks like this morning. The temperature is currently 36F and there is a very slight breeze. Someone needs to tell the new lawn that we put in this fall that winter is now here. The lime green is quite incongruous.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"oh" My Darling Clementines - Part II


There are clementines out there from Morocco as well I found out today. I bought the box and the surface of the rind is not as smooth as those from Spain. They are as sweet and as easy to peel but even though the box says seedless, I got an average of 5 seeds from each Clementine!! Buyer beware. Spanish clementines are expensive but worth the price. Also make sure that someone has not removed a citrus or two from under the netting!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Looking Into the Future

I see the future in this little one's face. Her personality shines through. With this one glance I become putty in her hands.

Monday, December 08, 2008

My Darling Clementines


Every year at this time I pick up a container of clementines from the market. I make sure they are the ones from Spain as I was disappointed one year from a box of 'so-called' clementines from California. Once I get them home I put them in a hand woven basket where they are seen each time we walk by. Since they are seedless and sweet both hubby and I eat them like popcorn!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Blue Christmas

I am sitting here in the early evening after a cold winter wind has rattled the windows all day long. Even the wrapping of presents could not shake the gray loneliness from my shoulders. I was in a pensive and cold mood. I had read Tammy's post where she indicated that her holidays did not necessarily leave her with nice cozy memories. Divorces and children scattered to other geographies left her more pensive than celebratory at this time of year. I put on my old Christmas CD's, and of course, the first to be played was an Andy Williams CD. Talk about nostalgia!

After reading Tammy's post I remembered those Christmases after the children had grown and were living too far away to come home for any holiday. Our house was so quiet and empty. I just could not wait for the weeks to pass and get on with preparation for springtime!

Now once again I am blest with family that is close and even new little ones to bring back the old memories. But Tammy's post reminded me that not everyone is feeling so warm and friendly this time of year.

I will keep this thought close and remember to smile more when I go out, say nice things to strangers that I may encounter and to keep my wallet close to the top of my purse for those charities that need help. I will also remind myself to gulp every day as if it was golden honey, because the times will come when each day is not this way.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Thursday Thoughts # 16 ---Categories


  • Under the category of way too much time on one's hands I was in a Michael's craft store looking for gift boxes for some clothing I had purchased when I overheard another customer ask a saleswoman if the kits for homemade Christmas cards had arrived(!).



  • Under the category of way too much stuff and not enough time I had told my kids I didn't want anything for Christmas and when they protested, I said, "Alright, give me a gift certificate of your time." "That's hard.' was the response.



  • Under the category of being married too long hubby indicated he only wanted to get me something I really wanted and not needed. So, I found the coolest pair of cowboy boots in the Coldwater Creek catalog and he immediately went into the next room and called an ordered them.



  • Under the category of missing fashion opportunities what I really need is something that is comfy to wear, something I can clean house and cook in, but something that is stylish enough that I can still answer the door without looking like a couch potato. How does Diane Keaton do it?



  • Under the category of Rome is burning falls the headline about the poor soul who was trampled to death by a bunch of brain dead consumers---may their holidays be filled with no electricity. (Isn't this holiday supposed to be about the birth of the 'Prince of Peace'?)



  • Under the category of dichotomies we saw once again a black domestic cat cruising our woods this morning and had found evidence of a dead bird on the dock the day before. Hubby actually briefly wondered if we should shoot the cat. (Sorry cat lovers...but these guys can be very destructive.)



  • Under the category of mission accomplished all of my holiday shopping is done except for one person and a birthday gift.



  • Under the category of what did you expect? our winter maintenance heating visit revealed that the reason we were feeling a little cold was because the valve to the heater was not working and we were depending on the heating pump alone...cost to fix (as it is under only 1 year warranty): $500.



  • Under the category of reality bites is the news hubby is once again going to Hawaii in Jan or Feb for this project start-up and in order to save money he will be staying with distant friends (very conservative in both their eating habits and their activities) on the side of a hill in the suburbs. While invited, I would not be near a beach or shops or beautiful jungles...so probably will not go as I envision fixing PB and J for lunch and wandering around in their back yard for a week!


  • Under the category of enlightened or unenlightened it wasn't until I saw Obama's acceptance speech that I realized the first lady was black and both her children were black. In all honesty I did not see this in my mind's eye until then!


  • Under the category of getting too old, I had a loosening of something (particles) in my inner ear that gave me nausea and vertigo for about a week up and through Thanksgiving until all was reabsorbed. The first 'attack' was when I got off the elliptical and I, at first, thought I was having a stroke.

  • And finally, under the category of pleasantly surprised it took less than 10 minutes to both change our health care status and change my auto deposit of my retirement check to a different bank with only two phone calls.