Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Leftover Report and Other Post Thanksgiving Matters

Buffleheads on their annual stopover

Stuffing: gone
Wine jello: one serving
Turkey: enough for a sandwich
Pumpkin pie: stop calling my name damn it
Mashed potatoes: Ugh
Sweet potatoes: You will be turned into a fancy tart with an almond crust and coconut topping.
Turkey chili that was made yesterday and served for dinner: half gone.

Buffleheads are swimming back and forth by our boat dock. The cat is sleeping. The young people have gone to a movie. My mother is crocheting in her room. The oven is half-way through its cleaning cycle. A load of laundry is churning.

I refuse to clean the floors just yet. I may drink another Mexican coca-cola while sitting in my quiet house reveling in the sweetness of having my grown-up daughters here for the holiday, of time with friends, and time with the man who loves me. I always learn something new from him. This morning it was how to easily remove the seeds from a pomegranate.

That blur where his right arm should be is a swiftly wielded wooded spoon.
A few deft whacks and the seeds fall into a bowl.
We ate them mixed into a little leftover cranberry sauce for our breakfast dessert.

Friday, November 29, 2013

How to Pass the Torch for Thanksgiving Dinner

It was noon by the time I finally got my mom (she doesn't do mornings) out the door. With another skin infection blossoming (the last one put her in the hospital for 4 days), a Thanksgiving Day trip to the ER was inevitable. "Um...can you put the turkey in the oven at 1:00?" I asked my son-in-law.

My mom and I returned almost 4 hours later just minutes before guests were set to arrive. The house smelled wonderful. Floors had been vacuumed, bathrooms cleaned, silver was polished and laid at each table setting just so, candles had been lit, a selection of cheeses laid out, drinks were chilling and the champagne bucket was at the ready.

Every photo I took was blurry--which kind of captures my feeling of relieved bliss.

My mom was well enough to join the party.

Gravy got made.

Turkey got carved.

Fun was had.

 I was not the great and powerful Oz of Thanksgiving dinner. 
And it was fabulous.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

And so it begins....

Things are a tad bit less festive than they look.

C  picked up a stomach bug and passed it to her dear husband.

My mother may be on her way to another skin infection.

Someone (not THESomeone) dear to me has had a lung biopsy this day before we give thanks.

But the apple crisp is in the oven. When it comes out, the pumpkin pies will go in.

The world keeps going 'round and 'round. Pumpkin custard will be eaten as dessert after our traditional Thanksgiving Eve pizza. Things are messy.

But all is well....enough.Blessings upon all our houses.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Report from delivered by a dream...with a tightrope and a hamster


I'm in some kind of improv performance. But not as a professional. I'm a volunteer from the audience. It seems that the point is to select a group from the audience, and then after an orientation with the director, we perform.

The performance space is car wash/gas station. One of those big places with a lot of things for sale so they can triple the cost of what you pay for the car wash when you shop while you wait. They have a little bit of everything, and since we are supposed to use what's in our environment as fodder for the improv, I  hurriedly note the possibilities. There's pet food and greeting cards and car stuff and some minor hardware type stuff. 

The only really interesting thing is a novelty entertainment that consists of a tightrope that runs around the perimeter of the room at ceiling height. Along the tight rope is a variety of characters that either bicycle, unicycle, or walk in perpetual motion around and around above our heads. I'm panicking, trying to think of something clever or some funny way to incorporate this. I'm not really able to hear or focus on what the director is saying. 

To add to the confusion, the audience who had already been seated on folding chairs in a sizable empty section of the room, is now being asked to file out for a few moments so we "actors" can finish our rehearsal/orientation with the director. The audience is annoyed and I am annoyed that there's all this milling around with people talking. I'm grumbling to myself about what a stupid arrangement it all is. Why have the audience come in and gotten comfortable if we now have to chase them out so we can rehearse or whatever you call what we're doing. 

The place looks different when they're gone. There's a big garage door visible now. Maybe it leads to some kind of service bay where they change oil or put your car on a hoist to clean the underside. These big doors have opaque glass in them and through them a glowing  light is visible. It's the only attractive part of the room. Better than the kitschy tightrope. Better than any of the product displays. These squares of light seem to promise that there's something on the other side. Was the director saying something about the doors? I couldn't really hear her. I don't know what she expects of us. I'm nervous. The audience will be returning, and I want to come up with something clever so I began to work on some kind of line where I say something like,"Oh look (pointing to the tightrope and it's characters circling overhead) don't you think our pet hamster would like that? He could run along the tightrope with them!" I don't think the line is very good, even though it does kind of follow the instruction of utilizing the environment.  I have a sinking feeling. This is going to be awkward.

And now for my improvisational interpretation. Here's the tightrope: the hearing loop--which in a home installation can run around the edges of the room at ceiling height. In the dream, I'm my mother--confused, unable to understand because I can't hear. Yesterday the guy from Caption Call came to our house with the new FTC (you'd think we were about to breach national security with her close-captioned phone) paperwork. I was telling him how difficult it is for my mom to hear--that the hearing aids don't help much, that the captioning on the phone is slow and not always accurate. He told us about the hearing loop technology, and about a smart phone app called TalkTranslate. 

The timeline is too short to get my kitchen, living room and dining room looped before Thanksgiving--darn, but I'm hoping for a little help from TalkTranslate so my mom can enjoy the party. This looping thing seems affordable and simple. It's quite widely used in public spaces in Great Britain and Scandinavia, the Internet says. Sounds like a miracle. Anybody out there ever heard of it?

As for the hamster, there's this....

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thank you for the birthday wishes on Facebook, by text, by phone, by email, by blog comment, in person, by telepathy, etc.

The day began with flowers. I was in the kitchen, first sip of my latté barely swallowed when M came in the door. The result was this.

And  breakfast was made--(not by me) eggs with chorizo and avocado and onions and toasted tortilla strips.

Then came the farmer's market where this happened.

And there was cake baking (not by me!!!) that started like this.

And there was a feast prepared (not by me!!!) Grilled shrimp, grilled asparagus, rice so embellished I'm not sure how to describe it.
And the serving of the most succulent gluten free carrot cake ever in the history of the world.

And afterwards, a duet sung by the daughters for which everyone was require to surrender their devices. ( M sang the Tom Wopat tenor while C sang the Bernadette Peters soprano from "Annie Get Your Gun.")

And utter loveliness ( I did have a bit of something to do with that.)

There was a quite literal ache (in a good way) in my heart all day.

Thank you.

What a Difference a Decade Makes

my color-coded life a decade ago
I remembered it was my birthday the moment I opened my eyes this morning. At the foot of my bed is a trunk that once belonged to a great or great-great aunt, and I knew that inside I would find a stack of my old day-planners. I wanted to know what my life was life 10 years ago when I was turning 51--well, I have some idea what my life was like--but I wanted to see the minutiae of it on paper. My life was color-coded!!! I have no fucking idea what the colors meant--urgent!!do this or die, fun vs. not fun, fuck you I'm only doing this if I feel like it. I really can't make sense of it now.

But from reading through the notations a bit, I see that I was taking M back and forth to an array of doctors for a mysterious and scary ailment that eventually got around to resolving itself. That she had a broken a finger playing basketball again so there were doctors for that too. C was driving her own self here and there, but I was shuttling M to a billion things in addition to the doctors. There were law firm events, and lots of nights out to Clippers games and the theatre and a certain amount of stress as to whether the Someone could actually take the time to go to these things. I was going out with friends and doing theatre myself, and my, my, my life was a whirl.

My calendar today as I turn 61, has nothing that needs writing. The daughters (one with a husband!--now that's a momentous change from a decade ago, no?) are both here and we will go to the farmer's market. There is a birthday dinner being planned (hooray for the daughter who married a man who loves to cook AND bake,) and I really should go to the supermarket because my mother is almost out of gin and vermouth. Mom really ought to have a martini on my birthday, don't you think?

I saw the sun rise on this day that I turn 61, and gave thanks for being here to see it. And as the water turned pink I read this:

 “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past.” In that sense, forgiveness is really not about someone’s harmful behavior; it’s about our own relationship with our past.

Okay. Happy Birthday to me. Good-bye 2003, etc. I'm closing your cover. Back in the trunk you go.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Morning Beach Report

Corduroy sand. Water rubbed to a rough sheen.
Islands like knives against the sky.
On some especially dark nights they creep closer, unable to
dull their longing for the continent that birthed them eons ago.
And the waves, having eavesdropped on what the yoga teacher said, pause in that moment between in-breath and out-breath, between out-breath and in-breath,

relishing the stillness.
Knowing that is when the mind is clearest.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Invisible Handcuffs

Enslaved Women Held by Invisible Handcuffs --so said the headline in the morning paper. I don't know if it's usual for commanders from Scotland Yard to employ metaphor. 

I've found it hard to let go of this image. And hard to hold on to the very idea that three adult women could be so emotionally abused that they remained captive  for 30 years. No sexual abuse, no trafficking....just "invisible handcuffs."

Police spent 12 hours collecting evidence from the house -- 55 bags have been collected, amounting to some 2,500 evidence exhibits.

And then one day one of the women finds the strength or the desperation or inspiration to make a phone call.

We are all bound by the invisible. Held to this spinning planet by forces we cannot see. Held together by bodily structures that most of us have only an inkling of. Hold is the word we employ for seeking a standard. Bound is the word we use to describe our striving for honor. Ties for the way we feel inextricably connected to family and friends. 

We can be tied to the train tracks like a helpless and hapless heroine. 

Every day there are questions of when to hold on and when to let go. Little things.Big things. Barely fathomable things.

The newspaper blows my mind every single day. For another blog post  on a similar page, go HERE.

photo credit:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In which I circle round and round chasing my tail

Yesterday I bought a bathrobe for which I stood in line for 30 minutes at Macy's. Big sale. Today I took it back so they could remove the security tag. "I'm back," I said to no one in particular when the security system began whooping as I walked in the door.

I went to Vons twice today. Pre-Thanksgiving shopping. Then to pick up one of my mom's prescriptions. This evening she tells me she's out of gin.

Took my car to the car wash. Guess what? It rained.

Got the postcard excusing me from jury duty because I take care of my mom....and she got her summons.

And still no answer from the Someone regarding the conditions of our mediation that have not been fulfilled.

With all of the family fun coming up, I decided to splurge on another kayak. REI is filled to the brim with parkas. Kayaks are out of season. There are car-top carriers where the kayaks used to be.

Ah, well, C and her husband are arriving this evening. I have champagne. I have pumpkins that will be turned into pies, and while they await their fate, they give the kitchen a nice orange glow. I have a pot of soup on. I have everything. I do.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


My photos do not come close to capturing the beauty of the birds placidly riding the waves in between fishing forays. Pelicans, gulls, terns, cormorants, grebes all bobbing and dipping and diving together.

In addition, I'm happy to report that a few buffleheads have appeared in our portion of the marina. They're just as striking as the photo (from Wikipedia), and in shape, bear a resemblance to bathtub tug boats. My mom calls them her ships. Which can be a little confusing since she also talks a lot about the boats that come and go in the marina. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How I Killed My Father or Why Some Family Stories Deserve to Die

My father died when I was 19. I'd only been out of the hospital and back at college a couple of weeks when a late-night knock on my dorm room door delivered the news. That same January while I spent a month in a Minneapolis hospital, my niece found out she had cancer and was given 6 months to live. "Don't cry," my mother told me when she showed me the letter.

The first time I heard the story--that my father's worry over my and my niece's health was the catalyst for his heart attack might have been as we stood in the cold February drizzle watching as his coffin was lowered into the grave. Or it might have been in the restaurant where the post-funeral meal was served. "It was just too much for him,"someone said. I'm not even sure who said it first, but after the words were uttered, they entered the ether of family lore--a sort of poisonous cloud that hovers over us swirling with a myriad of un-truths and half-truths that can be uttered by anyone at anytime.

You don't know the half of it, my younger self would think when anyone re-accused me of my father's death. You think the worry over my surgery killed him? Ha! What no one but my parents knew was that I'd had a secret pregnancy the summer after my high school graduation. My secret was found out with barely enough time to hustle me into the Iowa countryside where I hid out with a foster family before giving the baby up for adoption. That ought to be worth a coffin nail or two. I trudged around with the mantle of guilt for a decades silently bowed by its weight while simultaneously shouting "Bullshit!" inside my bursting head. Like many family stories, this one was grossly oversimplified. There was never any mention of my father's troubled business dealings, his high blood pressure, the fact that he was 73 and still responsible for a young family.

This past Sunday evening--our dining table graced with the presence of the man who loves me, M, and her girlfriend--my mother hauled out the story for another go around while I waited for the punch line. "It was just too much for him," she said.

"Yup, Mom," I said. "Sorry. I killed him." Given the state of my mom's hearing aids, and her imperviousness to irony these days, I'm not sure that, in her estimation, I acquitted myself. But now I'm on a mission to listen more closely to the stories I tell. Family life is never simple. The stories we tell about our big events and about one another ought to reflect the complexities in which the conspiracy of genetics and fate have bound us to one another.

Do you have a family myth, dear reader, that deserves the death sentence?


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Secret Tuesday Afternoon Margarita or How Not to Be Afraid

Set out to mail a letter and when your feet want to take you to a Mexican restaurant, let them.

When the hostess tries to take you to a table, tell her you want to eat in the bar.

In the bar, order a a Margarita and a bowl of albondigas--never mind that you are a vegetarian and drink wine only on the weekends.

Admire the orbs of grease shining in your soup bowl. Look for constellations as you cut into the meatballs while praying that the animals providing this feast lived and died at the hand of kindness.

Notice the men at the table against the wall. The 80-something father, white eyebrows like awnings, his hands gripping the edges of the table as if the earth's turning on its axis might be power enough to spin him into the next world--while the son (your age) silently sips his coffee.

Listen to the conversation at the bar behind you. Young Guy With a Beer speaks to Older Woman:
"That's one big ass tortilla chip you've got there."
"Tostata or something like that," she says. He goes on to tell her without a trace of an accent that he's from Spain, and in Spain they eat soup out of bread bowls.
"You eat the soup and the bowl," he says as if it's the most exotic thing ever. She offers him a bite of the big ass chip and some guacamole,  and he takes it while you nearly go insane with anticipation.
"Can I buy you a drink?" he asks.
"No, no, no," she says, but somehow its seems as though the door is still open. "I only ever have one."
"Are you sure?"
"What are you doing in the U.S.? she asks. "Are you working here?"
"I have a plumbing company" he says. "But my manager is handling things today."

Meanwhile, when the waiter comes to your table and offers you a second Margarita, order a Mexican coffee instead.

When he brings the coffee that smells more like tequila than coffee, ask what they have for dessert. Then ask him if he'd mind going through the list again. Give up pondering the three kinds of flan. Order the cheesecake.

When Older Woman gives Young Guy With a Beer the rest of her guacamole, and he takes it, imagine for minute telling her how kind she is when you run into her in the women's restroom later--which won't really happen.

Do your best not to turn around and stare when Young Guy tells Older Woman he's having lunch out as a tribute to his niece's birthday. "She has Trisomy 18," he says.
"Oh no," Older Woman says. "I'm sorry. How old is she?"
"Two," Young Guy says. "But she looks like she's a month old. My sister is beside herself."

Meanwhile a man sits down at the bar. He calls the bartender jefe. The bartender calls him jefe back and gives him a big glass of something.

Turn around just a little when Young Guy orders a shot of tequila. "The cheapest you have," he tells the bartender. Young Guy is clean cut and very tan. His ball cap sits next to him on the bar. He  offers Older Woman a drink again. She's pretty. Red hair out of a bottle. Fifty or fifty-five.
"No, no, no," she says. "I only drink Chardonnay."

Tell yourself that you only drink on the weekends. That you're a vegetarian. That you're not afraid.  That you're the jefe--at least of you. You are. You are. You are.

Pay your check and get the hell out of there. Walk home the long way, alternating looking up at the sky and walking with your eyes closed, counting the steps--working your way up to thirty. Thirty steps blind, always cheating with eyelids fluttering open when you try for thirty-one.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Let Our Spirits Walk on Water

The only church in the U.S executed in the "Mayan Style"--a worthy destination for a Sunday Walk.

The Ventura Pier--another place where the man who loves me and I walked yesterday.

And now one of my favorite poems by Ellen Bass from her collection titled "The Human Line."

Pray for Peace

Pray to whomever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah. Raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekhina, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.
Then pray to the bus driver who takes you to work.
On the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus,
for everyone riding buses all over the world.
Drop some silver and pray.
Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latte and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.
To Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, pray.
Bow down to terriers and shepherds and Siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.
Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.
Making love, of course, is already prayer.
Skin, and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile cases we are poured into.
If you’re hungry, pray. If you’re tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.
When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else’s legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheelchair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer as the earth revolves:
less harm, less harm, less harm.
And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas–
With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.
Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.
Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Scoop your holy water
from the gutter. Gnaw your crust.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saturday Morning Beach Report/ Saturday Night Street Report

Curtain of fog drawn tight around the islands. In front: sunshine, surfers, sail boats, and sea birds. People who've lived here their whole lives say they never get tired of it.

As for the streets tonight, there's no one out there as far as I can tell. Please, someone, open a tattoo parlor, a coffee house, and a night club here. I'm not going out there into deadsville tonight. The man who loves me is not on the train, so I'm heading to the couch for a trip to the virtual streets of Albuquerque on a Breaking Bad binge-watching marathon.

In other news, I got my hair cut today and found the neighborhood where I might someday live. A post-industrial live-work set up with a nearby vista to the beach that literally took my breath away. And it's walking distance to the sand too. What I see: yoga and t'ai chi chih studio. Me living upstairs.

Come visit.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Everything's Coming up Rosy

The dream occurred just before I woke, or so it seemed. "She's having a seizure!" someone shouted as they stood over me. "Call 911." The light wherever it was that I lay on the ground seemed oddly bright and yellow. It's not a seizure, I said--or wanted to say. I could not speak. But later I was able to explain to someone that I'd been having a pain one of my feet (true in real life) and that I'd been trying to exercise my feet (also true in real life) by stretching and flexing them when a series of insane charley horses took over my body and rendered me speechless with the pain.

I may have had this dream because of what's been going on over HERE. If you're the one or two readers of this blog who aren't already reading Elizabeth's blog, I suggest you click away from the workings of my brain and visit hers.

If, however, you are still here, let me say that I've finally worked out my ACA insurance insanity. Yes, my rates have increased 96.6 per cent. Yes, my policy got cancelled and I got "offered" a new one for a huge new price. And when I went to the Covered California website (which works swell, by the way) I found that I could get the same Kaiser policy for 9 dollars more than if I bought it from Kaiser directly--and that there was no cheaper policy available for me. And no, I don't really understand why individual rates are so much higher than group rates. But this morning after the seizure dream, I made peace with all of this. The litany of people I know and love without decent insurance or any insurance at all seemed present this morning as a gorgeous sunrise turned the water in the marina pink. Yes, I have a house in Southern California on  a marina. I have enough room for my mother and my daughter to live here. I have enough money to pay the tuition for both of my daughters. This money is not going to  last, but for right now I'm going to pay my big fat insurance premium and shut the hell up. Everyone in this affluent country should have decent health care without the threat of being dropped or considered uninsurable because they are sick. You can read more about that over on Elizabeth's blog too.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Breathe. Lift Your Hearts.

My mom and I in 1968 or thereabouts--which means that she was in her mid-40s in this photo--almost two decades younger than I am right now. 

Breeeeeeathe. Lift your heart. This is what the yoga teacher said.

Breathing. Hearts lifted. Then backs arching for the dive back into the water. This is what the dolphins did as I walked on the beach after yoga.

There were dozens of dolphins in clusters of five or six or seven cavorting more recklessly than I've seen before unless I've been out on a boat. Completely out of the water, splashing, and diving, their dorsal fins appearing and disappearing as if an immense paddle wheel was out there in the blue-green deep.

October here in Margaritaville is more summer than summer. June gloom--which can stretch on and on--has been blown away by the dry winds, and we are left with an infinity of blue.

My mother is thrilled when it's warm and sunny. She likes to sit in the sun in her tank top. When it's gloomy and damp, she wears long underwear under her pants and a t-shirt and a sweater over the tank. "Sunny California!" she scoffs then. "Ha! Where's the sun?" The temperatures listed in the L.A. Times give her false hope. It's always a good ten degrees hotter there.

This afternoon she chatted with her sister on the phone as I sat upstairs in my room reading. I was engrossed in "The Feast of Love" by Charles Baxter. Transported by the novel's big proclamations about love, transported my my mother's voice--louder and stronger than I've heard it in years--I found that I was picturing her in our house in Iowa, stretching the long curling cord on the wall phone in our kitchen as she reached for her coffee cup or her pack of cigarettes. I was in my girlhood room lying across the old four-poster bed, reading--but also thinking I should be listening. This loud voice, this enthusiasm--what was she talking about? Wasn't there something I should be learning from these grown-up women? But I was reading.

There's something in the air here. We are breathing, opening our hearts to our past and future selves, diving in and out of the present.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

the wind whipping the waves into weird shapes

The Santa Ana winds had already kicked up by the time I woke this morning. The water in the marina was blowing backwards, and I felt twitchy and weird. A couple of hours later, I had literally developed a twitch in my left eye. The twitch abated from time to time, but always returned. What am I not seeing, I asked myself. What don't I want to see?

Tonight after dinner, walking in the dark, the twitching lessened and almost stopped. Relief. And then two streetlights blinked out just as I passed them. Stopping, I turned around and watched as they flickered for a few seconds, then sputtered into black.

Is the left eye different from the right? I googled. Then I searched for eye twitching superstitions. Suffice it to say that there are many. All I've determined for sure is that my right eye is my dominant one.

courtyard at the Ventura County Museum on Sunday afternoon

The winds have mostly died down, but the twitching is back. A half-hearted gust rattles the dried palm fronds from time to time. They clatter like bones as if perhaps a few dead souls have forgotten to return to their world and are still walking about in ours.

a detail of one of the altars at the Dia De Los Muertos exhibit at the Ventura County Museum--the "sugar" skulls are actually eggs

At dinner on Sunday night, the man who loves me, M, and I told my mother about the Day of the Dead. The skeletons are happy, I told her. There are parties and food and drinks in the cemeteries. She said that sounded marvelous. But tonight I feel as if there are ghosts lurking just beyond the edges of my peripheral vision, and when I try to spot them they disappear.