Monday, August 30, 2010

Signs of the Times

Heading up north to take care of two really special people (you can guess who). Thought I would leave with some sign humor while I was gone. Of course, my sense of humor may leave something to be desired.

After our brief bike ride I was disappointed to see the above sign.  I always like to scare the tourists.  

You know that you live in a rural area when you see signs like this one above.  You will need to click on the photo to see what it says.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Gift

This is a gift my husband brought me recently on his return from a long trip halfway around the world. Can you guess what it is?  Scroll down below for a better clue.

Now do you know?  Not sure how I will use it nor how to keep it fresh!  That is a lot!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I Lost It Somewhere Along the Way

While I like to think I am an upbeat and optimistic person, most people would probably describe me as a little too straight-forward, sometimes condescending and often too honest with everyone including myself.  But honesty is the best policy if you want to know where you are standing in the chaos.  Thus, I have to be open about something I lost...and may never find again.

I do not think we are dishonest with ourselves purposely.  I think it is rarely a bad habit.  I think we are dishonest with ourselves because we see ourselves through the huge thick fog of the life we have lived.  The cacophony of memories distracts and clouds any sharp view we could hope to have of who we really are at any one time.  We end up swatting at flies and eventually just shrug off any hope for the clarity we were looking for.

In our early thirties we catch a refection of ourselves and for a second think we see an aunt or uncle or parent.  Gosh do we really look that old and that adult?  When did that happen?  Well, of course, now we are adults.  That had to be.

Then in our 40's we are no longer the center of attention in the room.  Our jokes are old school or our attention span is too short because of our heavy schedule.  It seems all the fun action is happening elsewhere at the other table.

By my 50's I didn't really care so much about myself because I was focused on kids that were moving out into the world.  I was focused on saving money for the long years ahead.  I was focused on ailing parents and my responsibilities to them.  I was focused on expensive changes in lifestyles due to loved ones' college or health issues.  I was focused on trying to get a promotion to cover those expenses.

Then as I entered the 60's came the big change.   I was retired, had lots of free time, was financially secure.  I could once again focus on myself.  But I looked through my transparent self to see a nagging smoke cloud hanging just off my shoulder that I had been ignoring for quite some time.  When I admitted it was there I also had to admit that it was some depression, some sadness.  But I could not identify why?  My life now was pretty much OK.  Sure I missed loved ones that had passed on, I missed the closeness of various family members...but...what was this?

Some would tell me it is impending death.  It is the fear of the end of life.  No.  That is not it.  I realized the other day that it was a death.  The death of that vital and energetic woman who was an active mother, wife, career person.  That women who was responsible for changes being made.  That women that spoke out with solutions at meetings.  That women who remembered everything and forgot nothing.  

I guess I am sad because she is gone.  She has left behind a faded replicate.  I am still here but with nothing truly important to do anymore.  Introspection is a lovely walk, ...but when you get back home it is also nice to have something important to take care of.  Art and hobbies are gentle distractions, but it would be nice to once again accomplish something that helps others change their lives.  I miss that.  I mourn for that.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Looking for Something

Those of you who live alone have welomed this state in your life or have accepted this state in your life or have become so familiar with this life style that you are surprised that it is considered a lifestyle.

My husband has been on a long two week junket far overseas.  He loves chasing the gold ring (my interpretation--actually he wants to save the world economy one village at a time) and I like having the peace of being alone for these two weeks.  But, I am now in my 10th day and I must admit that it is getting very easy to fall into a rut.
  • sleeping when and where I want
  • eating when and what I want
  • watching when and what I want on TV
  • reading as long as I want
  • spending as much time on the Internet as I like
People should only live alone if they have lots of obligations from outside family or have a job or are puritans at heart.  I am a hedonist.  (Some who know me might laugh at that...but then they don't really know me.)

Anyway, yesterday I fixed the lunch above for myself (perhaps motivated by Mindful Woman.)  We have a two-year-old fig tree and this is the first year it is beginning to produce a reasonable crop of figs.

These brown orbs are most exotic to me,  like some strange fruit from ancient Persia.  When I see them I think of men in turbans and robes sitting on oriental rugs and passing dates and figs on shiny brass trays.  

Figs ripen surprisingly fast, and once you pick them, you have 24 hours to eat them or they become their own version of jam or mush.  They are most delicious with blue cheese or goat cheese.  I ate this lunch very consciously and slowly the other day.  Then with the rest I made fig cake.  I am trying to be less of a slug and more of a harem girl.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Appear to be the Butt of a Joke.

(I got this in an email and my research on the Internet says it was "submitted by Debbie, Middletown."  Needless to say I do not know Debbie.)

God Finds Out About Lawn Care
"Winterize your lawn," the big sign outside the garden store commanded. I've fed it, watered it, mowed it, raked it and watched a lot of it die anyway. Now I'm supposed to winterize it? I hope it's too late. Grass lawns have to be the stupidest thing we've come up with outside of thong swimsuits! We constantly battle dandelions, Queen Anne's lace, thistle, violets, chicory and clover that thrive naturally, so we can grow grass that must be nursed through an annual four step chemical dependency.

Imagine the conversation The Creator might have with St. Francis about this:

"Frank you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there? What happened to the dandelions, violets, thistle and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect, no maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracted butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But all I see are these green rectangles."

"It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great extent to kill them and replace them with grass."

"Grass? But it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees, only grubs and sod worms. It's temperamental with temperatures. Do these suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?"

"Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn."

"The spring rains and cool weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy."

"Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it _ sometimes twice a week."

"They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?"

"Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags."

"They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?"

"No, sir. Just the opposite. They pay to throw it away."

"Now let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?"

"Yes, sir."

"These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work."

"You aren't going believe this Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it."

"What nonsense! At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. Plus, as they rot, the leaves form compost to enhance the soil. It's a natural circle of life."

"You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and have them hauled away."

"No! What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter and keep the soil moist and loose?"

"After throwing away your leaves, they go out and buy something they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves."

"And where do they get this mulch?"

"They cut down trees and grind them up."

"Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. Saint Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?"

"Dumb and Dumber, Lord. It's a real stupid movie about..."

"Never mind I think I just heard the whole story."

Monday, August 16, 2010


This busyness
This making of lists...

How many light switches
must be pushed
to empty the house
of nothingness?

How many
vanilla moons
for inner peace?

How many checks,
doors closed
before it is

really done?

How many
shiny surfaces

to mimic

the glisten
of starlight?

the inside
is empty and


It is the
frantic fear

of time passing
that is full
and messy
with life.

(I have no idea what this means...)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Baltimore, Life in the City

In mid-August my husband and I reached the 40-year mark.  It is a big deal that two people can live together that long without losing themselves in each other, or killing each other, or pretending to live together while not really.   So we take our accolades with salted chocolate and admit luck has a significant part to play in the duration of any marriage and the breakdown of a marriage does not necessarily reflect any more immaturity than we all harbor.  We didn't want to spend a lot of money flying somewhere as Hubby had a trip coming up, so we drove north to Baltimore for the weekend.

Baltimore is a changing city.  I used to drive up there for meetings when I was working and had to make sure I got parking passes for the John Hopkins campus before heading out, because if you parked anywhere outside the campus area, it was really creepy and probably dangerous.  Like New York, you can make one wrong turn and feel very unsafe.

But I will have to admit that the last decade has been kind to Baltimore.  The harbor area has been re-vitalized with lots of high-end restaurants, fun museums, and tourist activities.  There are also inexpensive activities for families to enjoy.  We stayed in one of those expensive waterfront hotels and got nice morning and evening views across the harbor.

The bright light in the center below is the stadium where the Orioles game was being played.

This city has drama and intrigue and both "The Wire" and "Homicide: Life in the City" were filmed here reflecting the grittier side of this town.   I think Baltimore is a 'little' like New Orleans or Venice in that there are some very artistic and passionate citizens that keep the city interesting in spite of the crime and poverty that lies just beneath the surface.  The building below is where "Homicide" was filmed.

While there was much lovely restored and new architecture along the greatly improved waterfront, one did not have to walk too far before you could see the painful transitions that are still ongoing.

We ate at my one of my favorite high-end restaurant chains, Roy's. While those Roy's in Hawaii are the best, they do try to keep that Asian fusion thing going across the continent.  Italian wine, spicy edamame appetizers, a crisp Asian spinach salad, tiger shrimp on jalapeno risotto and roasted veggies followed by a wonderful creme brulee.  It may sound too eclectic, but actually it was very good, and the restaurant was only a block's walk from the hotel, so the high 90 degree temperature did not ruin the weekend.  (This was also the same weekend when I saw the art film I Am Love and one of reasons we are still married is that hubby sat through the whole thing and actually stayed awake enough to help forward the after-conversation!)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Compliments, That Fragile Gift

I was thinking of compliments the other day.  Perhaps as a result of my submitting my blog to that site for review.  Why do we we want them?  How do we get them?  How we treasure them!  Can we trust them?  I am not a good person for compliments...getting them, that is.  I do not receive them gracefully and I rarely believe them in full.  I am a reasonable cynic, although, I, of course, think that is being a realist.  Perhaps because my mother was very sparse in handing out compliments to her children.  She was an expert on the criticism sharing I remember.  I also think I am not a generous person with compliments.  If I give one, it usually has a pretty solid kernel of truth in it, or I will not give a compliment just to make someone feel better.  Unless, of course, they need one for survival at that time in their life.

My FB friends are most generous when commenting on my photos. I love that they love the photographs that I post.  But it IS like having loving friends comment.  Your friends always praise your work because they like you and want to be nice and want you to succeed or they are friends of your children and have been raised to be polite and do not really care enough about you to criticize you.  Your FB friends are complimentary because only the jokes can be derogatory.  Perhaps, they do not want to be de-friended if they were too honest!  An FB friend said my photos reminded him of Ansel Adams.  That compliment only made me smile, because I knew it wasn't true.  It wasn't even close.  But, it was a friendly, well-meant exaggeration.

Bloggers are most gracious in posting about my photos and my writing.  Their comments truly warm my soul, especially when I know many of them are far better with the camera or the computer keyboard than I could ever hope to be.  Some of them even make a living at it, the writing or photography---not giving compliments.  Therefore, while I get a big smile when I read these compliments, I also feel deep in my soul that they would never qualify their remarks with a dose of harsh honesty or even gentle criticism.  So, of course, they are only left with agreeing or praising me or perhaps reading my blog in stony white silence..."if you can't say anything nice..."

But, real compliments are the best when they come un-expected.  Sometimes they are wordless and just the expression on someone's face,  such as the time my 16-year-old son failed to shift gears successfully on the Bronco going up the inclined driveway, and I took the driver's seat and did it quite easily.  I wish I had had a camera, because I had never seen that look in his eyes before.  Admiration from a child (especially a teenager) is golden.

I overheard my daughter talking to one of her friends when they were deciding how to get pictures at the swim fun day.  She suggested asking me because she said 'my mom is a semi-professional at it.'  Gold, pure gold.

When my husband goes back for seconds at some experimental dish I have tried, I think that is a lovely compliment.  He usually says something about how good it is...but he says that often when I cook.  When he gets seconds I know he really likes it.

Yesterday, the oven repair men (young) said that I was a really nice lady when talking to me about working out the warranty issues with the company.  I somehow felt they really meant it because they had nothing to gain from me and it made me feel good about working at my negotiating skills over my life.

I wonder how other bloggers feel about comments, compliments and criticisms.  Do you need to be prepared or can anyone bring it on if it is honest and helpful?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Movie Review---I Am Love

You can skip this post if you haven't seen the movie or have no desire to read movie reviews, but I felt compelled to write this post after seeing the movie in the title above...which really isn't a review as you will soon see.

I was reading Millie's blog where she mentioned she went to see I Am Love and that she liked it.  It is a foreign art-house film, so you may not have heard about it.  I was on a trip to Baltimore to celebrate the big 40 anniversary and told hubby I wanted to see this film --- all Italian with subtitles, so it is not everyone's cup of cappuccino.  It is a love story that ends in tragedy.  I liked it, but much of symbolism was too obvious or too complex for me, because I left the theater with lots of questions.  The cinematography is a feast for the eyes,  and the acting subtle and sparse of dialog.  But I had so many questions.
  1. Why is the 'chef' introduced so briefly at the first and we are not shown a single real clue about the magnetism he has?
  2. What were they racing--- cars, horses---it is, after all, the middle of winter in Milan?  Why don't they develop this mutual interest more fully so that we can understand the friendship that grows between the two men.  Why did they portray this friendship almost as a gay love when it wasn't?
  3. Why is the chef so shy...just like she said her husband was shy?  Is that what attracts her to him?
  4. Why didn't they draw a bigger clue to Russian cooking?  Was she homesick, for Russia, really?
  5. Why is everyone else drawn with such subtlety and the daughter is so overly cliche!
  6. How many boobies and bees and beetles does it take to make a love scene before it becomes overdone and boring?
  7. What was in the note that the son wrote to his mother?  Was he thinking of committing suicide?
  8. Why was the housekeeper's devastation scene so long?  What was the meaning of seeing a child like her waking the mother?  Did the mother grow up with her and bring her from Russia?
  9. Why was the housekeeper packing when no one leaves with those suitcases?
  10. And finally, why was the pregnant daughter-in-law so ignored in all this?  Was that some male chauvinism Italian cultural thing or did it have deeper meaning?

I guess I liked the movie, well-crafted, but it seemed to be filled with symbolism that I could not quite grasp and as you can tell, left me with many questions.  One movie review said that there isn't any motivation for anyone in the film.  I tend to agree.  It is all very subtle.  If you see the movie I will be thrilled to hear your comments.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Soldier's Return

It is strange how flat and quaint
this room seems to ear and eye
when trudging back after a long
and challenging trip.

The spaces are narrow
and confining.

The colors seem faded and
hidden even more
by the dust that floats
in the air of the sunbeams

that fall through the window.

Are these the walls
that once sheltered
and comforted me and 

protected each confidence?

Why that odd painting
above the fireplace?
Oh yes, it belonged to
Granny and we saved it.

Why is it so quiet here?

Where did the life go?
How can the world
grow and change and
yet this place ignores

and stays the same?

How changed am I.

Each time I fit less and less.
This time I am afraid
I may fit no more.

Monday, August 02, 2010


When you are old and Wisdom is the only best friend whom you can trot out eagerly to show others the closeness of your friendship, he usually brings Adaptation along for the ride.  Life will be hell if Adaptation does not hang close.  Adaptation insures that you will not be crabby, tired, or out of touch on the rest of the long journey ahead.  It is the best second friend you will ever have.

I once attended a conference on algology.  (Look that up in your Funk and Wagnells or if you bring along Adaptation you can Google it.  And yes, I saw that yawn.)  Anyway, I am not an expert in this area, but found one of the lectures most fascinating.  It was a discussion how oceanic cellular algae adapts to predators and diseases.  When something starts munching or invading, the algal plant later adds toxins or bitterness to the new growth to discourage more grazing.  Trees and other plants also use this adapting technique.  Howler monkeys in Belize can graze the new leaves in the tree tops in the spring for food, but later in the season the leaves are toxic and will make them ill.  

I have been thinking of this in my flower gardening.  If a plant is being eaten I remove the pest, but if I cannot find the pest I wait and see if it is going to continue to graze.  Many times I notice it usually only hits the tender new growth for a short time, and I am guessing that is because the plant becomes bitter or hard to eat.  This doesn't work for Japanese beetles or other non-indigenous bugs, and I have made the decision that it is because it takes some lengthy evolutionary time for the plant to adapt to the new threat and produce something the bug doesn't like.   So my great grandchild may find the Japanese beetle not as irritating as I do.

You can be a stubborn warrior as you get attacked with age and all of its physical and mental difficulties and changes.  But, if you want to enjoy the rest of the ride, you must compromise and find new ways to adapt to the handicaps.  I like being around people who accept what cannot be changed, keep a sense of humor about it all, but also find some new way (or several adaptations) around the problem and then go forward and get on with the rest of their life.