Saturday, July 30, 2011

The First Night

It is three in the morning in a dark bedroom and I am on my knees with my face almost to the carpet.  This is not an EAT=PRAY=LOVE moment as I am not least not formally.   I am trying to get the courage to run my hand under the edge of the darkness of the bed.  I have looked against the grayness of the sheets and all around the floor with no luck.

There is a little four-year-old whimpering quietly in my nearby bed.  She has lost her 'doggie,'  The bright pink one with the rip in its' bottom that was placed ever so carefully in her arms earlier when she was tucked in bed next to her 6-year-old brother.

Suddenly the young boy sits straight up in bed as if awakened by my gentle search.  I recognize his Elmo doll on the pillow between him and his sister.  But, I see he has something in his arms as he stares across the room.  I reach over and grab the Elmo and take the small dog from his arms and thrust Elmo in his arms and gently push him back down on the bed.  Hubby comes out of the bathroom and I whisper that he has to sleep with his grandson as granddaughter has taken his place in my bed.  I hand her the doggie and slip in beside her.  She is in heaven.  She has her doggie and she gets to snuggle with Neena. I am going to try to fall asleep once again before the sun.

Thus goes our first night of vacation.  Grandkids = 2 and grandparents =0

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Will She Return?

I am leaving in two days for a 10 hour trip with a car full of toddlers (with colds) and more STUFF than any human deserves or needs...although 95% of the stuff is not mine.  I have been told I am NOT allowed to bring ANY shopping will be a priority at the other end, or standing in long lines in restaurants!  I will be gone more than a week and we will celebrate at least two birthdays.

If I never return here to post again, you will be left with the mystery of wondering what happened to me.  If you come across some old lady toes sticking out of the beach sand on your next vacation, that might be a clue.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dining with a Closed Mind or Where Do You Sit (fit)?

I somehow got on this dining memory streak and because the writing muse has totally gone on a long vacation deep into the heart of some black hole, I will have to go with whatever memory string hangs loose in front of me and create a weave of a story from that.  Wow.  Enough mixed metaphors for you?

Lets go back to Guam for this dining memory.  I was in my early twenties and full of career-minded visions.  I was working in a vocational school for young adults from the islands and a conference or meeting or something resulted in my trip to Guam.  I was living on a small island and flew out with one of the other teachers...a young Micronesian man.  I cannot even remember what he taught.  He was handsome and friendly and intelligent...looked a little like Benjamin Bratt except he was shorter.  I was happily and newly married, so our travel together was strictly professional.  We were staying at the same hotel and although he was attending a different meeting that day, we decided to have dinner together at the end of the day.  As I look back on this it was probably my idea and he felt guilty letting me dine alone and accepted.

I do not remember how we selected the restaurant or even if we got there in a rental car.  I remember that I was on some normal school girl planet and looked forward to eating a nice meal at the end of the day without another stray thought in my brain.  As we entered the restaurant, I noticed subconsciously that my dining companion was acting a little odd.  I could not put my finger on it, but I sensed something out of sync as we were shown to our table.  He seemed ill at ease, and I, being the sophisticated married worldly gal, was concentrating on making small talk and smiling and trying to get him to relax.  I thought, naively and egotistically, that he was just impressed with dining with an attractive woman his age, and concerned he didn't do anything stupid.  I knew that many of these 'local' teachers probably did not get to eat out often.

The meal moved on, but there was still an oddness about the stiffness of his behavior.  Mid-way he accidentally knocked a piece of silverware onto the floor.  I winced, hoping it would not mortify him even more, because this sort of thing could happen to anyone.  But, as he leaned over to pick it up I noticed two young men at a nearby table looking our way and chuckling with what appeared to be derision.  Instantly, little miss attractive, got her brain in gear and a casual look around the restaurant revealed several couples and others (about 25%) staring at us with what was clearly rude condescension and/or reproach barely hidden.  It was the first but not the last time I would be exposed to racism in all its subtle ugliness.  But it was one of the few times I would find the derision directed at me and someone I was with.

We finished our meal and returned to our rooms.  I did not talk about it.  I think I was too young to try an intelligent conversation and I am thinking he was more than relieved for me to forget the whole incident.

I rarely have to keep my radar up as a middle class "whitie."  I think it must be a real energy drain to always be compelled to have your radar running.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dining Out Loud

I may have written about this a long time ago, but I am thinking not.  When my daughter was an only child (for about 2.5 years) we did a bit of around the world (well, half-way around the world) traveling.  Actually I flew alone across the Pacific Ocean and into the mid-west when she was only 8 months old and not yet born...are you following that?  The stewardesses blanched and almost did not let me on the flight.  Today, a future mother would probably need a doctor's statement for a flight of 15 hours not including the 2-hour layover in Hawaii.

Later, we were flying the other direction and she was 20 months old at that time.  Cuter than a bug's ear and quite the chatterbox at such an early age...clearly our little genius.  We landed in Guam around 8:30 in the evening and were starving.  The only restaurants open at that hour near our hotel were the few fancier ones and the only people eating at that hour were adults.  We were tremendously jet-lagged but not too tired to wolf down anything on the menu.  My daughter was so glad to be out of a plane seat that getting her into a high hair at the table required some persuasion until she smelled food and became amenable.  We tried to be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible because it looked like everyone was on their important evening away from the kids for a Saturday date night.  I think that was the quietest restaurant I ever ate in...although it could have just been my self-consciousness making me think we were the loudest party there.

Once our meal was finished and we were waiting for our bill, my daughter discovered that her spoon when banged on her plate made the most lovely clang.  Like a silver bullet each clang shot across the restaurant into the quiet conversations of the well dressed diners.  I grabbed the spoon from her hand and turned to put it out of her reach.  She immediately got her father's fork and continued with the tempi movement of her symphony.  Hubby raised his hand higher and with no grace indicated we needed the check as he removed the second utensil from her chubby fingers.  Not to be prevented from showing her amazing musical talents, she began the rhythm portion of her performance by clanging together the metal salt and pepper shakers with glee.  I could not believe that she had only two hands and two arms...but they moved with the lighting speed of a frogs tongue in meeting their goal.  I could not bring my eyes to meet the adults at the other tables,  some chuckling quietly and others groaning, and lifted her out of the high chair and through the door to the peace of the lobby while hubby waited for our bill.

It wasn't her fault nor was it the diner's fault for the clash in atmospheric expectations.  Had we had a better choice in time and place, we would not have brought her there.  I am sure when the customers made their reservations, they did not clarify that they did not want to be seated near any musical genius toddlers.

This whole experience came to my mind when I recently heard in the news about a restaurant in Pittsburgh that is no longer allowing children under six to eat there due to complaints from customers about the behavior of some of the children.  This is an upscale golf resort restaurant.  I thought about this ruling and while there were many that think children should be allowed to eat wherever and whenever and that this was discriminating, I really felt that a restaurant has the right to establish the type of mood and food they want to create.  I certainly do not want to sit next to a chaotic family if I was going out to eat in a nice restaurant for a special evening out.  That might be the kind of thing I would have every reason of expecting at the local diner or fast-food place.  ( I am guessing if that rule was in place on our memorable night, the restaurant would have taken pity on us and provided at least take-out.)

Your turn for input, agree or disagree?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Having Fun

We borrowed a sailboat and took an afternoon sail.

Went looking for ice cream with daughter and caught this image.

Not as many butterflies this year so I made this one appear to disappear.

As can be seen, I do not have the sophistication of a style or genre.  Another witness to my scattered brain.  But I certainly had fun creating them all.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writing in the Third Person

Trying to keep track of her is like trying to keep track of that annoying summer fly in the bedroom while you are reading.  She buzzes in and then she buzzes out...creating an annoying distraction.  What on earth has she been up to?  She has at least a dozen half-read books scattered across her nightstand... symptomatic of a scattered brain.

Last time I saw her she was out in the garden staking plants that had been pummeled in the inch of rain deluge the night before.

Then 30 minutes later she was squashing Japanese beetles with her bare hands!  Yuck!

Then, just after that, she had her camera in hand and was adding ANOTHER 100 flower photos to her million plus files, hoping to find something that will attract attention on the Internet.

Now she is staring at the pile of laundry with her hands on her hips.

She should be making reservations for her fall trip to Colorado and Utah.  (OMG!  Does that mean we must suffer through  more photos?)  She should be planning the menu for the end of July trip with family to Hilton Head.  She most certainly should be exercising so that she does not resemble the beached whale in the swim suit when she gets there.

I give up...where is she now?  She is due for another blog post.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Thursday Thoughts #36---13 Things That Annoy Me

The world if full of annoyances which if not ignored will drive us to tearing our hair and screaming into the night sky. So we ignore them as best we can. Today I will list some of my favorites.

THINGS THAT ANNOY ME  (Listed in the order in which they burble to my consciousness...nothing 'pops' into my head anymore):

  1. Salad Kits.  These can be found in the produce section and they are plastic bags filled with chopped greens, and perhaps, a plastic bag of dressing as well.  I do admit that if you do not know how to chop lettuce you should stay away from knives.  But a SALAD "KIT"?  Puhleeze...just shred the lettuce with your hands and buy a bottle of dressing.
  2. Any 'Housewives of'  Television Show.  No further comment, except if you enjoy these you need to go to more of your family reunions for entertainment.
  3. Comments from My Children on How I Spend My Time.  Yes, I do spend inordinate hours taking and processing photographs.  Why does no one comment on how much time a chef spends perfecting his skill, a weekend boat builder in spending years on his hobby, your husband and his sports related stuff?
  4. Cleaning the kitchen sink and finding 5 minutes later it is covered in tea leaves.  Enough said.
  5. Lowfat Yogurt.  This stuff tastes like something weird and certainly NOT yogurt.  Ice cream and yogurt have to have fat in them or they are not worth eating.
  6. Plastic Wine Stoppers.  Real cork has been proven to be the more environmentally friendly way to go and metal screw on tops have been proven to be a better way to seal wines for aging.  I HATE plastic wine stoppers and you cannot tell you have one until you remove the aluminum wrapper and spend an hour trying to pull out the stopper!
  7. Provocative clothes for any girl under 14.  You can complain about childhood promiscuity and the danger of pedophiles...but if your kid wears a bikini or tiny skirt I am ignoring you.  If your 14-year-old wears white skin-tight slacks I am going to hit you up the side of the head.
  8. People who assume you have an open book in front of you on your lap because you are bored and want to talk to them.
  9. Congress.
  10. Picky Eaters.  Wasted time trying to plan a meal or choose a restaurant that makes them happy.
  11. People who read over my shoulder.  I apologize, but it is a quirk I cannot contain.  Hubby knows better!
  12. Mosquitoes after the rain.
  13. Late Acceptances.  After inviting my son and his girlfriend down for the 4th two weeks earlier and not hearing from him we gave up and decided to head to the city for fireworks.  He calls at 1:00 that very afternoon and asks if he can come down with his gal!
Anything particularly annoying for you these days?  (The oyster photo has nothing to do with this post...isn't that annoying?)

Monday, July 04, 2011

Friends and the Roles We Play

Here is another take on people that help us.

I first met Oscar about 4 years ago when we were putting in our lawn to this new house. (The lawn in the photo looks much nicer than it is...mostly mowed weeds.) I had already started a few flower beds and it was early fall and I was attempting to clean out some of the areas around the larger plants.  I could tell he was interested in my work and so I attempted a conversation in simple English.  Oscar spoke Spanish but was able to give me some advice on some of my plants as he assisted with the lawn.  Perhaps there was an ulterior motive to his attention, because later that month when we wanted to move some larger plants my husband gave him a call and asked if he worked outside the landscape company.  Fortunately, he said he could work on the next Sunday.

Later we started that large paving project which disrupted that blue bird nesting I had written about.  Oscar and his brother and other workers spent over a week in our front yard tearing up the concrete sidewalk, aligning the driveway, installing pavers and putting down a composite to hold them.  They had to re-work some drainage and adjust a retaining wall.  The supervisor, who was not Spanish but an overweight good ole' boy, rarely moved his butt from the tiny earth moving bulldozer as he provided advice to the three laborers through arm waving and calling out.

Oscar was smart, followed instructions exactly, even gave some good advice and we ended up with a lovely driveway.

Over the years Oscar has been an irregular Sunday visitor to our home whenever we needed help with a project that hubby could not do alone but which was too small a project for the landscape firm.  He moved enormous plants, reset brick edgers, moved tons of earth, set up a small patio beneath my arbor and helped repair our deer fence.  He is always gracious and his English has gotten better.  Oscar has a generous smile and is a handsome man; I have watched him go gray.  He has two daughters the age of our President's that he has to leave back in Mexico with their mother for months at a time while he works in the United States.  He works at the whim of the landscape company.  Today he told us that they are laying him off for three weeks because of the slow down in demand.  He cannot afford to live here without a paycheck so is returning to his family during that time.  I cannot help but think how expensive this must be.  Expensive in monetary ways as well as expensive in personal ways.  His daughters have grown up and he has been far away most of the time.  He has had to live in a foreign land to earn money so that they can go to school, have clothes and a home.  I wonder how much they miss him.  I wonder if they will realize the sacrifices that were made when they have families of their own.  This lifestyle is somewhat like the lifestyle that military families must face.  Long days, perhaps even dangerous days, far away from their precious families.  Except our military does get benefits in terms of retirement and health care.  Oscar only gets an irregular paycheck.  I am sure (?) that the company would hire local laborers if they could find people who were willing to work under such arbitrary conditions and at such a low pay level.

I get a deep seated guilt (such is the disease of the liberal heart) when he is here.  We pay him slightly more than the landscape company and he is happy for the work, but I cannot help but feel uncomfortable in my safer lifestyle.  I feel like I am in one of those Hollywood movies and I do not fit the part, or if I am in denial...I do not like how well I fit the part.  I am blessed to celebrate the 4th in this country when I see the struggles other countries face trying to determine their path to a form of democracy that fits their culture and economy and with citizens that willingly come to our country for any job because they are aware of our unique freedoms and opportunity.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Helping Hands

I was thinking about the responses to my last post. If you are a handyman, it is hard to sit back and watch others do the work when you cannot. First, you have standards that are probably higher, second, you get pleasure out of seeing your accomplishments, third, you also like the puzzle and challenge, and fourth, you have a meaningful role in society. Sitting and watching sort of takes the air out of your tires.  When this opportunity is taken away, it can be hard to age gracefully and let others take over. I think it is much like the woman who was the great cook in the family having to turn over the job to others on holidays because she can no longer do it all.  No one can bake or roast as well as her, but we have to gracefully let others find their space.  While most of us like our independence and refuse to be waited on we should perhaps read Tuesdays with Morrie and try to emulate his generosity of spirit.

Another comment to the post was a question about helping in general.  The man I wrote about had had a very serious heart operation about two years ago and was bedridden for a while.  I brought over food and offered to food shop or stay at home so wife could get out of the house.  So, yes, these are neighborly contributions, and these are very important.  Perhaps, because almost anyone can do them, they do not seem as significant to me.  A silliness on my part, perhaps.

I just tend to be more impressed by the person who fixes my computer, my car or my toaster.  The one who looks at the corner of my deck and figures out the leak issue and then fixes it.  The one who can do that boring and frustrating stuff.

(Oh wait!  A really cool thing I once did when we lived overseas was upholster two seats for a homemade airplane for a handyman friend whose wife was an excellent seamstress but back in the U.S. for a month.  That was back when I could actually sew pretty well.  I was nervous doing it, but happy for a job reasonably well done.  The sewing machine and I now do not always speak the same language. )