Monday, May 28, 2007

Read this

I can't think of the last time I read something that moved me as much as Cormac McCarthy's, "The Road." And I read a lot. Not that I am any smarter for it; most of what I read I soon forget. I don't have strong retention. The lack thereof has caused me regret, but I read voraciously nevertheless. I found a friend in Dave Barry years ago when I stumbled across his confession that, he too, forgets most of what he reads; he just loves the process of reading. His admission made me feel better and I never forgot it. I read because I love the process. I love where written words take me. I love wandering in the realm of story-telling.

It may be hard to recover from "The Road,"however. The book touched me so unexpectedly deep that I melted into a puddle of tears leaving me to sort through why I'm so broken up. Obviously, from others' reviews I am not alone. The story is haunting and beautiful all at once and after "All the Pretty Horses," and "The Crossing," Cormac McCarthy is on my list for favorite authors.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

It's just coffee

A fellow coffee snob sums up the obsession in this column from Wired magazine. I too, have grown weary of my pursuit to brew the most supreme cup of coffee ever. These days I'm back to tap water and Yuban and where's the big dif?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Girls and Horses

Though it's not her first time on a horse, this was her first lesson. Allison rode K.G, a 26 year-old mare at the Misty Rivers Stable in Independence, Missouri.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The littlest one

Since I just finished praising the men-folk of this family it is only fair to add a little applause for Allison who this month has endured more than her share of life's dramas. After months in a school in Mexico followed by a long, arduous drive home, we returned to deal with serious issues (Robert's dad dying and David's son killed.) Ryan returned home from college and the house filled with his friends again. Endless procession of family and friends into the house and late nights. Two funerals. Dead people, coffins, cemeteries. It's a wonder she hasn't had nightmares.

Since I married into a Scotch-Irish clan there is always drink and loudness and always a crazy aunt. She's the youngest in the clan, but we expect so much grown-up behavior from her. She's been malnourished and neglected in my distraction, living on Hostess Ho Hos and Zarda's BBQ. Her daddy did fulfill a promise to take her and her cousin, Skye, miniature golfing yesterday between his golfing with family in for the funeral and the evening get-together at our house in return for her help mulching the yard that morning.

Tomorrow is Monday, a new week, a new start. She begins horse-back riding lessons so that means shopping for cowboy boots and a helmet tomorrow.

Boys to Men

Like I've said, I really love watching my family work around the house. Today they were at it again trying to get the landscaping mulched. It's taken longer than usual to tackle the yard work; we were delayed by a lot of rain last week.

We buried Robert's father this week after a long illness. He lingered in the hospital for months and did not die well. It has been hard on everyone, especially Robert, for reasons I can't elaborate on here. Robert says he feels like the last pillar standing under a grand family porch. One by one the other men in our family have been knocked down and he bears the weight alone. But, he adds, the next generation of men are readying to take their place under the structure. Our sons. Three nephews. Someday, the husbands of our young women. This is the way it is--holding it up until the young can add their support.

Later this afternoon we attended our nephew, Joe's, high school graduation. After a long week of intense family obligations related to the funeral, everyone was looking forward to a day off (or at least a day to work at home), but here was one more thing. We hurried to the ceremony to be there for Joe whose own father can't be there, can never be anywhere again for Joe, he being one of the pillars knocked away too early. I sat next to my two sons so big and strong and thought about Joe and how well he's grown and secretly welcomed him to the ranks. He takes his place with the men in the family and that feels so right and satisfying to me.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Benjamin Moore on the Rocks?

Yesterday I found that our friend, Danny, had brought over the makings for a specialty drink--a Hurricane--I believe. I don't know, I just drank the fruit juice part of it I found in the frig.

He's been helping us with household projects (nice friend.) How does paint figure into the recipe? The paint just happened to be sitting on the counter where he set the ingredients.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Men at Work

I love men best when they are working. I love watching them work, especially when it involves lots of physical exertion. I love it even more when the work benefits me in some way--then I am the queen bee and, they, my faithful subjects.

My son, Ryan, likes to mimic the blissful expression he claims I wear when watching all my men working around the house. (Funny, he doesn't notice that I'm always working just as hard by their sides.) He's right, though. I do enter a sort of blissful, goofy alternate state of well-being. I am never happier than when they act as a crew of big, strong, capable men asking me, "Where-do-you-want-this-to-go?"

What to get mom for Mother's Day is not a dilemma for my boys: They know all they have to do is don a tee-shirt and work boots and show up for instructions. Yippee! Mother's Day means I'll get my yard edged and trees trimmed. Someone will plant shrubs and power-wash the garage. One of them will climb through a bedroom window to scurry around the roof cleaning out rain gutters while the other moves a piece of furniture to the basement.

Wiser women than me must have schemed for the holiday to fall in May. Mother's Day is not for candy and flowers; it's for help with those difficult household projects and spring-cleaning chores. It was invented by mothers desperate for a little help. The goofy expression I wear is probably universally recognizable to mothers around the world as joy.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Premature Evacuation

I did a bad thing today. I drove the young robins from their comfy nest outside our kitchen window. I didn't mean to. It was the squirrel's fault.

When we returned a couple of weeks ago we discovered the nest constructed close to our back door. Our long absence must have convinced the robins they'd found a perfect safe spot. Though I wasn't happy to have a family of birds nastying up my patio, I tried to be considerate if for no one else sake but the mama robin who obviously had a lot invested in her little nest on my window. Once, my curiosity got the best of me; I admit to reaching into the nest to feel around for what might be in there. But after that, I left them alone, marveling over how fast the chicks were growing. But they are gone today. I'll tell you why, but let me give you a little background first.

The other day we were sitting on our deck and Robert's cell phone rang. I heard him say, "Not much. Just watching my grass grow," which was totally true. Since he seeded the lawn we keep constant check on its progress. The rain we've had has certainly been helpful even if to everyone else it's a bother. Kansas City is saturated, the rivers and creeks swollen and more rain is in the forecast, but we wake up to cheer the green blades sprouting up through the hay Robert spread. For me it's a sense of relief to finally see a lawn appear. What I'm really anxious about is my neighbors' opinion of us. Neighbors like to see neighbors keeping the place up. When we were gone for the winter, neglecting the house, I didn't give it much thought, (I figured the snow would cover-up things nicely) but on returning to see the mess I instantly began feeling sorry. I think to the many times I've cursed the man across the street that every autumn lets the wind rake the leaves of his half dozen monster-sized trees into our yard. (Well, there's other stuff too, like the paint on his windows he's never bothered to scrape off since 1998.) But, our other neighbors are sensible people who hire lawn services and tree trimmers, and get their homes re-roofed and driveways resurfaced. I'd like to stay on friendly terms with those folks.

This morning when I took my coffee to the window to survey our budding lawn I saw a squirrel furiously digging away under the sweet gum tree, his little claws ripping at our precious, tender shoots of bluegrass/fescue blend. I sat my mug down and dashed out to the patio and hollered, "HEY, CUT THAT OUT!" I guess I scared him senseless for he didn't immediately know which way to run. But the unexpected result of my outburst was the terror it caused the two little robin nestlings who leaped from their nest taking flight for the first time in their lives. They made it about 30 feet before tumbling to the grass on the fairway. Their mother started shrieking and fluttering about as they fumbled around. After a minute I thought maybe I'd chase them down and what? Return them to their nest? I didn't know what I would do but the mother was shrieking and the babies were on the fairway and before I knew it I was chasing birds in my pajamas before God and golfers.

I suppose the chicks were so close to leaving the nest anyway since they were able to dodge me. Not knowing what else to do I left them to their fate. I think they'll be okay; they were farther along in their development than I thought. I've googled robins and now know that at 15 days the chicks are ready to depart the nest, about 8,015 days sooner than human offspring (more if they go on the five-year college plan) For the rest of the day I kept thinking about how surprised we all were at that moment when I startled them out of their nest--me, for not realizing they could fly, they too, for that matter, not knowing they could until the moment called them, or screamed to them, "NOW!"

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Postcards from San Diego

Our time in San Diego was overshadowed by events that rushed us back to Kansas City. I've had a chance now to look over the photos I snapped of the San Diego Zoo and Sea World and thought I'd post just these three: The weird, the cute, and the ugly:

The Beluga Whale whose underbelly looks eerily like a human form
The universally loved, cuddly Koala
The hideous face of the ancient Galapagos tortoise

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Loveliest May Day Maiden

After months taking in the Mexican culture with it's festivals, carnivals, pinata parties, this May Day celebration at my niece's school was a special trip back into our own.

I see the Future and it's Metallic and Shiny

Where to begin? Well, let's see. We rushed home from our stay-over in San Diego. The son of one of Robert's best friend's was killed in a shooting. He was in a bad neighborhood and that's all I can say about it. We made it home the night before the funeral with no time to unpack. Now, Robert's father is failing fast. He's been hospitalized for months and the end is very near. And there are other family dramas and sorrows as well. I go to sleep at night thanking the heavens for my children's good health and fortune. And Robert, who's heart is so damaged is my other concern. He never complains, but tires so easily these days. I should be babying him, but my measure of the state of his condition is always by how often he plays golf: If he can play golf at the drop of a hat, then things can't be that bad, right? "Come on fat boy, let's go for a walk," I holler, when I'm geared up to go and want company. I'm so mean, yet he comes along cheerfully crediting my insistence on fresh air and exercise for keeping him alive. Shoot, compared to what lies at home begging to be done, a little three-mile walk is nothing.

Yes, once again, we are home to face the reality of a sorely neglected house. It will take weeks to shine it up again beginning with a new lawn which Robert insisted we seed rather than sod. I believe he wants to test the new sprinkler system's ability to nourish $200.00 in grass seed thus saving us money on installing sod. However, it's been raining so much that the sprinklers are unnecessary. Every day we try to tackle a project, be it closet clean-up, shower scrubbing, purging the garage or basement, or "operation dust removal" which eats up several boxes of Swifters. Robert hung a light fixture that had been sitting on the floor since last summer. He fixed a clogged garbage disposal in the bar and a clogged drain in the guest shower. He cleaned the fish tank. He repaired the BBQ. I pulled weeds and gathered and clawed up a million sweet gum balls out of what was left of our back lawn until I cried like Scarlet O'Hara, vowing to never be on my knees again, or something like that.

You'd think that our oldest son, Beau who has been living here at our request while we are away, would have kept things up. All I can say is he'll get his when he joins the sorry rank of homeowners, which may be sooner than we think. Now that we've returned he's restless for his own place where he won't hear me complain about his untidiness. His wheel and tire business is coming along, though slowly. Robert and I talk about business with him every night and suddenly we are so smart. He wants to know about mortgages and interest and real estate. He's suddenly become so grown-up and responsible, but he still drinks up all the milk in the frig and leaves his dirty laundry on the bathroom floor so the wish to part company is mutual. Only on that level. I am enjoying having him around. Allison, too. From the moment Beau returns from work she is right there by his side--or by he and his girlfriend's side. He has a girlfriend now, so she's here all the time, and while we were gone, probably more than she should. I gave Beau the "shackin-up" lecture which makes me look like a June Cleaver. He replied with the "test-drive" argument. I told her she has to go home by 2:00 am which is a generous closing time, I think.

They are content with quiet living--no nights on the town. She lives at home while finishing up school. After work, they watch television (with Allison) or play games (with Allison) or go for walks (with Allison). The sight of the three of them cracks me up for the irony. Growing up, Beau was critical of our boring life in the suburbs. I'll never forget when he asked me, "How do you stand it?" He wanted to live in Japan or somewhere exotic. Looking out at them on the fairway teaching Allison the backward somersault, sun setting on our dull little piece of paradise, Beau grinning ear-to-ear with contentment, makes me chuckle.

We didn't put Allison in school since there are only a few weeks left till summer break. Instead, St. Joan, our faithful nanny-surrogate-grandmother-tutor, is coming three days a week to school her. In fact, we won't be putting Allison in any school this fall since our plan is to be on the road seeing America. It will be Road School for Allie as we wonder around the U.S. and Canada in a travel trailer, our newest great idea. Robert is really retired, I guess. The suddenness of his rejection of work is slowly sinking in. I think we ended a long vacation in Mexico, but I'm waking up to the possibility that a 30-foot Airstream trailer may actually by my home for the next year. If I don't say yes to that I may well end up on a 30-ft trawler on the Mississippi River (his first-choice), he suggests. (What happened to the Catamaran in the Sea of Cortez? Robert's decided he wants to be where everyone speaks English.) I too, like the idea of seeing the U.S. state-by state even if it means big road trip. The advantage of a travel trailer is huge, though uncomfortable. But maybe no more uncomfortable than the inconvenience of unloading and unpacking at every hotel. I think of it like a giant closet... For me the adventure will be like living in a mobile classroom. We can learn about sights and areas as we travel. We can pick a spot, read about it, and then visit it. I could use Ken Burns' study of the west as our travel guide. I can read about the Battle of the Big Hole and then drag us to its re-enactment. We can watch "Dances with Wolves "and then go see a herd of tatanka for real!

Robert's friends are betting I can't survive the journey. They think I will freak to discover our adventure is just glorified camping and that I will grow tired of living in a 200 square foot tin can. We shall see. This may be just a whimsical thought that will pass when we concoct some other scheme. A few more weeks here and we may begin to settle into a routine. However, it won't be an old routine because with Robert's early and unplanned retirement, that one no longer exists. And if he gets to be home having fun then I want to be alongside. I could restart a career but he won't be sitting home planning dinner for me. He'll be out somewhere seeing things I want to see. He's not leaving me behind even if it means I'm coming along riding in a Silver Twinkie.