Monday, July 29, 2013

One Night In Baltimore

Baltimore is an interesting and dynamic city.  It is also a dangerous city.  One can wander just a few blocks off center and find themselves in communities of extreme poverty, communities that are mostly black, and communities where people will fix your car if it breaks down on their street and then drive it away. There was a TV drama show called "The Wire" about crime and the drug trafficking in the city of Baltimore which got positive critical review for its honesty and acting.  It was dark and gritty and the kind of thing us white folks in our safe little homes watch with interest as we might watch a train wreck or analyze cultural diversity.

All of the ugly racism which has crawled out from under our dirty beds and is being displayed on Facebook, Twitter and talking head news shows brought back a memory of something that happened to me a few years ago in Baltimore.  It was a very short incident, and had the city and the character types been different, it would not even be a memory.  I searched to see if I had written about this before, but could not find a related post.

The time of year was August.  Hot town summer in the city.  My husband and I had taken this lengthy drive to celebrate an anniversary.  He was taking me to a favorite fancy restaurant in this town.  I was dressed up more than usual and had shiny swinging earrings and more make up on than I normally wear and was in a dress-up mood.  We had been ignored by our kids for the better part of the summer, and as a reassurance, we were purposely going to celebrate the end of the summer like we used to so many years ago.

We were driving on a brightly lit street downtown in a main tourist area of the city where the weekend evening traffic was picking up.  We came to a red light and hubby stopped the car.  I glanced over to my right at the car next to me.  Inside were four twenty-something black men.  Their hair was in crazy shiny dreadlocks and one had gold earrings and their heads were bobbing back and forth to some music I could not hear.  One of the men said something funny and they all threw back their heads in laughter, their brilliant white teeth like tiny flashlights against their dark black skin in the dark car.  They were having a really good time.

I instinctively broke into a broad smile perhaps feeling glad that others were also in a good mood on this evening.  (Perhaps in the back of my mind hidden way deep somewhere, I realized they might be drug gang members and carrying guns inside or high on cocaine or ecstasy, but this thought did not surface to the front of my mind.)

The driver instinctively turned mid-laugh to look at me.  Our eyes connected for one of those seconds that seen to last for ten as we both sat just a few feet from each other, our proximity almost creating a personal space.  The whites of his eyes were as bright as his teeth.  He clearly saw my smile but I could see he was registering my race, my age and my attitude and so many other things in that second and evaluating me and what I had seen.  I did not stop smiling and since my smile was not some fear-filled reaction but a true feeling of enjoyment at their fun, he suddenly grinned an even bigger grin and tilted his head to me in greeting as the light changed and we both pulled away, hubby making a left turn and the car filled with black young men driving on.

I have no idea what I am trying to convey by writing about this incident.  I am not saying I am some sweet person who can see the good in all and help change the world with a smile (although why not?), or that drug dealers are balanced folks and just need the reasonable smile of some old white lady, or that black men with dreadlocks and earrings and nice cars are even always drug dealers!  Maybe they were Ravens players!  Maybe they were DJ's heading to a wedding?

I guess I am just saying that I wished the world was always like this.  Nonjudgmental and gracious and ending with peaceful departures.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Miscellaneous Opposites That Meet When World's Collide

(I could not come up with a complete Thursday 13...for some reason this goal always eludes me.  If you want to see how an expert plays the game check out Colleen's  posts on Thursday 13 Days!)

That cute little ten-year-old ring bearer in the gray suit in those earlier wedding pictures that I posteed looks so precious and gentlemanly, doesn't he?  He walks like a careful dancer across the grass holding the hand of his baby brother.  At 10:00 P.M., when his family was leaving after the wedding celebration, the same young man left the front door of the country club, took a weird sharp left skip down the driveway and proceeded to fall to the ground and tear open a nice hole at the knee of this $75.00 suit and cut himself a nice knee wound as well.  So this is the way that one gets wear and tear out of a new suit!  The same new suit was used for his first communion just the month before, so I guess it got some use before he outgrew it.

My friend, who is on my landscape committee, has some concerning health problems, one of which is migraine headaches.  She has been taking botox injections in the forehead which have reduced the pain substantially.  BUT she mentioned that she feels weird because she cannot raise her eyebrows even though she thinks that she is trying to convey an expression.  We also cannot tell if she is in a good or bad mood anymore!

On the evening of the 21st and the early morning of the 22nd of this month, my husband and son passed on planes in the night as they both crossed the Pacific Ocean going in opposite directions.  One on his way back from a honeymoon vacation and one on his way to work on a project.

I am allergic to cats and even looking at them can make my eyes itch.  Yet, I have decorated my powder room in cat art.  (I am sure I have posted this information before...bear with me!)

My sage was dying from too much rain and it started to recover and now it seems to be dying from too little rain and too much sun!  I though herbs were easy to grow.

I am alone for 10 days while hubby is on travel.  I wish I could say I was alone.  I have a lawn keeper that I must meet with tomorrow, I have a meeting the day after that with my volunteer group, I have another meeting two days later that I am covering for my husband where I have to help teach gardening to children.  Others days are FILLED with so many errands and activities!  I was actually viewing this as a vacation time not having to cook.   So naive!

It is so charming watching the little goldfinch balance so delicately on the sunflower heads in my garden.  His acrobatic poise and gentle pull on each little seed is fun to watch and then he mushes up the seeds like the hungry bird he is.  It is not so cute when the annoying furry chunky squirrel climbs the sunflower stem and proceeds to snap the stem with his fat belly bending the whole plant to the ground while he goes for the entire head mushes it up permanently!  (A photo post on my other blog will document this tragedy.)

I purchased a container of half and half the other day.  When I was younger half and half meant half milk and half cream, but the label said it was 'fat free'!  I did not realize I had purchased this until I got home because it looked like the regular container of half and half.  Well, it is half skim milk and corn syrup and thickening agents...meaning it may still thicken your waist and has nothing to do with cream although it tastes almost the same. It is opposite of what I wanted to purchase and I hate the way marketers lie to us.

I have grown more addicted to all those British mysteries on TV these days.  Please read the following in a nice British accent.  "Why you might ask do I add this to my list.  I dare say, they do pass the time for one such as I on a warm summer night and the opposites that they bring to the evening are lovely cottages with bunches of pastel flowers hanging over rustic stone walls followed by entry into a room with a well-stocked library and a prone body usually covered in crimson blood."

And my final news that I discovered this week is that space Scientists have provided a photograph of the tiny earth next to Saturn's rings from that distant telescope at a fun new angle from so many miles away.  Our planet is just a spark of light in the photo.  You and I are so small in the grand scheme of things.  But, for additional perspective, science also has discovered a new virus that is 1,000 times larger than any virus known to man and 80% of its DNA is brand new to us.  Science keeps looking inward and outward and finds many new miracles.

(only 10...can you come up with the rest?)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

So Lucky

I am lucky today.
It is 4:00 in the morning and still dark outside, but I know it is a lucky day for me.
I look down at my polished toes that rest on the coffee table.
I can wiggle my toes, I am so lucky.
The coffee pot beeps three times to let me know that my coffee is ready.
I can clearly hear its high pitched call.
I am so lucky.
I can smell the rich liquid from the next room.
I am so lucky.
I listen carefully and hear my husband's gentle, regular breathing through the open bedroom door.
He can breathe, I am so lucky.
The fan above my head whirs mixing the cool and warm air across my skin.
I am so lucky.
I stretch fully and can feel the pull off every muscle.
I am so lucky.
There is a new Cook's Illustrated magazine to explore at my side.
I am so lucky.
There are chores to do followed by the reward of accomplishment and need.
I am so lucky.
There is a day of crazy photos and events to peruse posted by crazy Facebook friends.
I am so lucky.
There is another day to live vicariously through my exotic Blogger friends scattered all over the planet.
I am so lucky.
The first light of the sun is teasing and tickling my photographic eye.
I am so lucky.
I have been given another rich day.
I am so lucky.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Big Day

Eventually the big day arrived. We got up early to head to the country club to deliver cookies, the arbor (homemade by the father of the bride--SUCH a do-it-yourselfer) and the sashes and buttons.  The bride taught everyone how to tie on the sashes which were purchased and how to add the buttons (homemade by the mother of the bride).  We had 165 chairs to cover!

We walked around outside to decide the exact placement of the arbor and tree table and the aisle for the chairs which were to be put out by the rental company in the early afternoon.  Two tents, one for the string quartet and one for the soloist, were already up.  Then the 'girls' were off to get their hair and faces done.

Some of us looked much better than others.

Some of us were fascinated with our new shoes.

But at weddings, once the show is underway, we are all beautiful.  I took so few pictures, because as the mother of the groom I really did want to take time and enjoy the ceremony.  My small point and shoot camera was acting up in the humidity and so got only this blurred photo of my daughter.

And above it the ring bearer, the flower girl and the animal rights activist...all my grandchildren from the sweet lady above.

...and the handsome groom waiting for the bride.

The happy married couple exchanging vows.

The centerpieces were wine bottles that had been saved with wine cork votives.  The flowers were simple but elegant in a fresh way.

And then we danced till...the DJ went home.  He was a great DJ and got everyone out on the floor.  Below in the last photo is hubby and son putting on some moves.  No photos of me, I am waiting for someone to send me some that show the dress.  But thus far just one portrait that doesn't show hair or dress.  The mother of the groom is not a photo opp it appears!

As an aside, hubby's suit jacket and tie were off by the third dance!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Devil Is Too Dumb to Mess with the Details When I am in Charge

(I will post this today although I am in an extremely angry and sad mood.  Another murderer has gone free and I do want to caution all parents of teenagers to make sure they get only slightly tanned this summer, to not wear that new sports hoody if a cooler breeze from a storm comes up, to not take any shortcuts on their way home, to not confront someone who asks if they are where they should be while shopping, to not attempt to defend themselves if a vigilante person pulls a gun (which he no doubt did), and to make sure they call the more erudite friend on the phone if they want a witness and advice on the altercation prior to their death.  Do not doubt that it is now open season on young black men by those who want to hunt them down, because if you have been robbed by a black man, then all are suspect.)

Okay, take a deep breath, and lets get back to documenting this wedding for posterity.

I lucked out big time on this new daughter-in-law and her very nice parents.  You cannot pick your relatives nor can you pick the relatives of the daughter your son marries, but these folks are the salt of the earth and just plain good.  All of the extended family seems to follow that pattern.  They are also big do-it-yourselfers.  They know the value of a dollar and do not waste a penny.

Thus the rehearsal dinner (for which we were responsible) was held at a rustic Pavilion in a state park.  At the suggestion of my son's in-laws we selected an Italian deli to provide the food.  This meant they did not serve...just provided big boxes of food and serving utensils.  We were responsible for dishes, utensils, glasses, napkins, etc.  There were 80 people invited to the dinner and about 65 showed up.  I have to admit that while I am not rich, I am not poor, and tend to want to just write a check if I am giving a party for 80 people.  But this was not meant to be.  The food arrived in what are called 'hot boxes' and have to be carefully placed over warming trays filled with water that sit above heating candles.  The relatives did most of this while I was doing something else...decorating the room.  (I am not in this photo although I wish I was that thin.)

I put on my moving sandals (the gal above is the sister of the bride) and spent the better part of the evening decorating.  We covered the picnic tables with some marvelous green paper (exactly matched one of the brides colors) that is used by metal workers to protect their floors and was purchased at the MIL's office.  I had purchased country flowers which we place in mason jars that the parents had from another event.  They had some lovely rustic lanterns that had come from a friend's wedding and we used those also.

This rustic sign was placed to direct folks from the parking lot and I smeared the names to remain anonymous.

Lemonade and iced tea were made and placed in beautiful serving containers on end tables, sodas were placed in coolers that had been filled with ice and we turned on the fridge in the pavillion for more space for cold water and salad and fruit trays.  The park did not allow alcohol which was a little disappointment to the beer and wine fans, but not a terrible sacrifice as the food was wonderful.  We had stuffed pasta shells, BBQ pork, lemon chicken, baked beans, cheese potatoes, mixed green salad and mixed fruit salad.  Homemade cookies and bakery purchased pastries were placed on platters for dessert.  Yes, I did spend time replacing the large aluminum trays of food when they were emptied and we did do some juggling to get them over their warming trays without burning ourselves, but we all survived.  One of the aunties worked part time as a caterer and she and her husband were the perfect helpmates.

There were several full trays of food left over and I had asked the bride's family if they had a food pantry that would take prepared food.  They went me one better.  The next day they delivered the food to a good sized family shelter!  The shelter was so pleased to be getting so much good food that they said it would last several days and they would be eating really well. 

The rains came and went ever so lightly, but we were mostly inside.  The bugs were nasty out by the parking gate and the gatekeepers (we had reserved parking but most people tried to ignore the sign!) used lots of OFF which did not seem to help much.   One of the bouncers (actually a guest) came all the way from Scotland, can you tell who in the photo below?  In the Pavilion, which was screened,we remained bug free.

Good food, good people and only one late best man to the rehearsal dinner which made for a lovely rehearsal dinner evening all in all.

Friday, July 12, 2013

If You Are Getting Married, Remember the Dirt!

More than ready, I had packed everything, including the new summer wear that I had purchased at the Dressbarn.  (I only shop at the most fancy places.)  I had gone to the big mall, but the high end shops did not have anything that appealed to me.  Instead I bought a black and emerald green Capri pants and top set that looked pretty good with my newly smaller figure.  (I lost only a little weight, but with Spanx I looked better than I had hoped.)  I also bought a bright orange outfit for the rehearsal dinner which was a BBQ at a state park.  In the event that you did not get the memo...oranges and blue greens are the 'in' color this year.  It was hard to find anything in other colors!

Son had to ride up with us and could not leave from work earlier than 4:30 in the afternoon which meant we faced a 6.5 hour drive in the evening.  Shortly as we were heading out of the city, the bride texted Son about an errand.  Son turned to Dad and asked if he brought the 'dirt.'   I looked at hubby's blank expression.

"Remember, Dad, I asked you to bring some dirt from the yard."

"Dirt?" I responded.  "Why do you need dirt?"

Hubby continued to look blank.  Hubby is not a good person for details.

"The Union Ceremony," son replied.

I gave him a confused look.

"You know, like lighting the candle?  We are planting a tree."

I began to feel like I had missed a good part of this wedding ceremony already.   Should have I packed garden shoes and gear instead of the jewel toned summer wear?

Well, we did not have any dirt from the yard and were already an hour and a half from our home.  Son had not grown up or even lived in our current home, anyway.  So, hubby, who is a master at fixing his forgetfulness, left the freeway and pulled into a side street by a small stream that ran by the high school where son went so many years ago.  I had clean doggie doo-doo bags in the glove compartment which had been useful for grandchild baby diapers.  We pulled far off the road and Son went tromping along the weeds down to the stream and collected dirt into the little bag and was soon back in the car and we were once again on our way.

No pre-wedding jitters from him as you can see in the photo above.  He slept most of the way, hubby drove, and I took photos of the changing weather front across Pennsylvania, hoping it would settle down in the coming days for the outdoor wedding. 

We got in just before midnight and the bride-to-be picked Son up at our hotel to take him back to her parents home about five miles away, which is a bit of a modern arrangement, is it not?  We checked in and found our room through the mouse maze of a newly remodeled hotel and collapsed on our beds for a restorative sleep before the busy days ahead.

This "tree planting" union ceremony glitch was not yet over, though.  The next day we discovered that the Mom and Dad of the bride had purchased a tree at the local greenery.  It was the smallest one they could find and was over 4 feet tall.  Too tall to place on a side table at the ceremony.  You can see the tree table just behind the bridesmaids in this photo.  Not a good idea for a large tree!

Eventually it was decided that they would dig up a burning bush that had been replanted from her grandmother's yard the year before.  It was very healthy.  It was the right size.  It came from her 90-year-old grandmother's yard AND from her parents yard.  We could work with that symbolism.  You can just see it between the two bridesmaids on the left of your computer screen in the above photo.  I will briefly explain another glitch was the rains at the in-laws house had forced an ant nest into the bush pot and we had to contend with that before bringing the plant to the ceremony by soaking the whole thing in water for a few hours.  (I really should have packed garden gear and clothes!)

Now if I can just keep it alive in these torrential downpours until they return from the honeymoon...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


The mother-of-the-groom is back, her house is empty of relatives, the wedding photos are waning on FB from all the friends of the bride and groom, tons of food has been eaten in both states, and people are finished with reviewing how - beautiful, cute, funny, energetic, loving, young-looking, young-acting, well-behaved, wonderful - everyone was.

Back at the house only one argument hot conversation ensued on a conservative/progressive review of how education is handled by public and private institutions.  It was between a brother and brother-in-law, and they both were actually in agreement on about 90% of the argument, but couldn't see that.  It flared and the fire died and the rest of the visit went without incident. 

The bride and groom are landing in Australia as I write this...both for some snorkeling/diving on the Great Barrier Reef...then touring other parts of the country and ending up in Sydney.  They are taking three I get to live vicariously in a few weeks.

Today I have about 60 loads of laundry to do and hope to get back into an exercise routine...although I no longer have the motivation of fitting into the fancy dress.  Photos?  You are asking  for photos?  I did not take any of myself, but maybe someone will post one or two soon.  Soon, after I have adjusted to the landing, I will write about the glitches and stitches that come with a wedding ceremony with 100's of details.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Where Did I Leave That Guidebook

I was sitting watching the movie "Lost in Translation" on television this week.  (I had vacuumed and mopped the kitchen floor, washed the cupboards, made cookies, cooked some marinated pork for later easy BBQ...all for the impending company and I needed a movie break.)  I had seen this movie originally at the theater years ago and fell in love with it at that time.  It is so well written and acted and so different from what one expects in a love story.  If you have ever been on a business trip to a foreign country or traveled with your spouse on such a trip or spent time on lay over in a country where you are killing time, this movie so expresses that lost feeling and that time for re-evaluation of where you are in living your life.  I have been to Japan several times for various reasons and all of the scenes in this movie reminded me of those trips in some way.

Trying to figure it all out, trying to absorb the culture, trying to understand the culture, trying not to be so homesick, trying not to be so different, and being away from your familiar home as if on another planet and feeling a misfit and re-viewing what you want out of life and what decisions you have made thus far is kind of what what this movie is all about.  The lead man is Bill Murray playing an over-the-hill actor who has adjusted to fame and wealth, but is at that time in his life where he can see the world through the un-rose colored glasses.  He sees people as they are and with casual humor moves through each day with equanimity.  The lead woman is Scarlett Johansson who throws a wrench in that movement.  I do not know if this was her first big movie, but I had never seen her before in anything and her charisma  and charm and earthiness is all over the place.  She plays the young end of the lost generation.  She has followed her famous singer husband to Japan and finds herself spending most of her time waiting for him in a hotel room and trying to find herself.  These actors could not have been better cast.  They both come across as real people who through no fault of their own find themselves living in some exotic artificial emptiness and who are able to find each other in that maze growing toward a solid friendship.  It is far from a traditional love story.

Well, perhaps, I have not made this movie sound as interesting as it is.  It is all about values, self-awareness, shallowness, and people who are 'stuck'.  We have all been there and most of us survive that period, and some of us jump off a cliff and find ourselves face down on the concrete. 

Guess what?  I think that this is my first movie review!


As a follow-up to my post below, it appears my blogroll on my sidebar is now working.  Do not know what the on/off glitch was yesterday.   So the death of Google Reader is not to be mourned.