Friday, December 25, 2009

Cooking Wine

It's not like cooking sherry. It's the glass of wine I sip while I cook dinner. Sometimes I have another glass with dinner, sometimes not. The essential purpose is to mark the beginning of the end of the day.

Now, my brother might shudder at some of the wine that I drink. But, he has stated a number of times that if the person drinking the wine enjoys it, that's what matters. I'm in agreement with that ideology. I'd also like to say that I respect my brother for being "for the people" in that respect, even though he knows lots more about wine than I do and could act like a real wanker if he were so inclined.

Also, since it's Christmas, I want to say that I love my family -- my brother, my mom and dad, my husband, my kids -- everybody. God bless us, everyone. And that's not the wine talking.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Snow Spa

This weekend, we received a record snowfall. The kids were ecstatic. The adults, while enjoying their glee, meditated on the dark side of record snowfalls: record shoveling sessions. However, after being indoors with the kids for the good part of two days, I chose to shovel the driveway to get some "me time." Extreme situations call for extreme measures.

It was strangely peaceful outdoors. Just me and the snow and the scraping of the shovel. Not exactly a pampering spa experience, but it saved my sanity just the same.

After about an hour, the kids came outside and played in the snow. We watched neighbors with their snowblowers and even a few ATVs with snow plows get to work up the street. While the kids body-slammed snowbanks and made a grotesquely misshapen snow man, I finished my Luddite snow removal project and surveyed my handiwork.

I am Mommy, hear me roar.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cereal for dinner = I love you

I spent yesterday trying to remove wallpaper from a bathroom wall. I could describe the chain of events but if you've ever had a home renovation experience that went bad, you understand what I'm talking about without knowing any of the details. It's the familiar scenario where you assess the work that needs to be done and based on previous jobs you estimate how long it will take you. "This should take less than a day." Four days later, I'm hoping I'll be finished by the end of the week.

The epic battle was called off so that I could take my daughter to her ballet lesson. When we returned home, my husband was crashed on the couch. The kids scrambled next to him and I headed to the kitchen, rapidly revising my dinner plans. I'd defrosted some salmon earlier and had some couscous and steamed cauliflower in mind. That would take less than thirty minutes. Hm. Spaghetti and salad started to look good. That would take about ten minutes. I looked at my husband and the kids again, snuggled together in the living room. "Hey honey," I asked, "would you like a beer?" He answered, "I've got one. Would you like one?" As a matter of fact, yes I would. "And let's have cereal for dinner," he added. "You worked hard today."

I love that man.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

World's Worst Fortune

"You enjoy sports, horses, and gambling, but not to excess."

We were celebrating a hard day's work of home renovation. After scraping wallpaper and painting for hours with occasional breaks to load a new cartoon on the iPod for the kids, I was ready for somebody else to cook dinner. Hence the Chinese food and the fortune cookie.

But maybe this one was for me. At least it acknowledged my search for balance with the "not to excess" bit. If I were to become interested in horses and gambling, I would strive to keep it within reasonable limits.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Too much

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
--William Wordsworth

If the world was too much with him when he penned this in 1806, how much more is it with me today? I keep my cell phone with me while I'm at home, so that if I'm out in the yard and someone needs to reach me, they can. I am so very important.

I was thinking about my GTD list when the first line of this poem came to mind. GTD is designed to free your mind for more creativity, but I haven't implemented it to that point yet. I keep telling myself, "Go for incremental progress." Write it down, file it. Don't let it clutter your brain. Brain clutter is the major reason that "it moves us not." Be gone, autumn is here in two more days, and I'm going to enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


My daughter saw me reading a blog yesterday morning. She looked at it for a moment and then said, "Mom, some people write a lot in their blogs. The people who read your blog must think you are dead!"

So, I greet you from the Other Side! It's really great here -- but I have no time for writing. Feel free to leave your outraged comments, if you have time.

Friday, August 7, 2009


When I began this blog with the intention of getting back into the practice of writing more regularly, it seemed a reasonable goal to write something a few times a week. Maybe I should reconsider what I thought "reasonable" might be? A month or more into it now, my last update was over three weeks ago. It's like having an online counter that displays the last time you went to the gym and worked out. The counter doesn't indicate all the times you planned to go to the gym or how many times you packed your duffel bag and put it in the car. Only actual calorie-burning sessions are recorded in this tally. It's a pretty grim accounting system.

I'm finding that I procrastinate writing because I know that to do it well requires thought, effort and sometimes extensive revision. I learned to write on paper, with multiple rough drafts scribbled and tossed. Writing online can obscure the process, and make me think it's much simpler than it really is. I actually like the hard copy drafts, with side-margin additions and circles around sentences, moving them here and there. The sense of process is clearly evident and it is so satisfying to move through the various messy drafts toward the final copy.

Online, the cursor moves forward, and then back as I delete. Cut and paste, replace, delete, all hidden from view. It's a cleaner process, but something is missing. Is my brain wired to write the way I learned 30 years ago?

Why do you procrastinate? Notice I didn't ask if you did or not.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My "attic window"

"When the square suddenly seemed to begin to glow in an enchanted way and look wonderful in spite of its sooty trees and railings, Sara knew something was going on in the sky; and when it was at all possible to leave the kitchen without being missed or called back, she invariably stole away and crept up the flights of stairs, and, climbing on the old table, got her head and body as far out of the window as possible. When she had accomplished this, she always drew a long breath and looked all round her. It used to seem as if she had all the sky and the world to herself." 
--A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I have a place like this, too: a tiny half-bath window that faces the trees on the western edge of our yard. The two largest trees, an oak and a black walnut, are almost one hundred years old. Smaller black walnuts, locusts, and maples shade the lawn in the afternoon. The loveliest time comes as the sun is setting. 

Spending all day with my children leaves me yearning for a quiet, solitary moment, especially at day's end. (If you can guess my Myers-Briggs type, you'll get a special mention in my next post.) Once the kids are in bed, I head to that window, open it and listen to the birds and feel the breeze that lifts the branches. As evening falls, fireflies begin winking in the grass and up in the trees. As a child, I was fascinated by Disneyland's artificial fireflies in the "bayou" on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Discovering that real fireflies are every bit as magical as the ones from that memory has proven to be a potent antidote to ennui. The fireflies that light the branches of the trees flicker next to stars. Their ephemeral display turns the dark giants into enchanted Christmas trees, months away from December: a midsummer night's dream.

"It's a Splendid one," said Sara, softly, to herself. "It makes me feel almost afraid--as if something strange was just going to happen. The Splendid ones always make me feel like that."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nap Time

It's not just for resting anymore! Or is it? This afternoon, as soon as my son went down for his nap, I headed to the backyard where I had a blanket spread out under a tree. I read for a while, sipped some iced coffee and took a snooze. But, it wasn't always like this.

The first few months after my daughter was born, I collapsed into instant sleep whenever she did. Sleep deprivation trumped all other concerns. Later on, when she had a regular nap time, I wrestled with whether I should use that valuable time to accomplish my list of jobs or if it was more profitable to recharge my own batteries. The house was looking pretty grungy after months of neglect, so I opted to tackle that list. I worked feverishly for several hours and when I finally sighed into the recliner I would hear my baby girl waking up.
Sadly, it took many months before I gave up the power cleaning sessions. My initial response was to try harder. Optimize: clean faster! I thought, "If I don't do this now it'll never get done." My ideal home was tidy and inviting. Motherhood was messing with my sense of identity. I was a woman who ran a tight ship. What had happened? I had been warned that kids would change things, but I don't think I really believed it. Maybe other women couldn't handle it, but I was different.

As I became increasingly aware of how out-of-control I felt when the house was cluttered and messy I started to notice that I blew up more often when things were "out of place." It really irked me to see toys all over the floor and dirty dishes in the sink. My illusion of perfection was shattered. If the house was a mess, I felt awful. I had to clean it to feel good again. Figuring out what was going on was only half the solution. Once I knew what was happening, I still wasn't able to reason away the emotions that exploded when chaos reigned. Intellectually, I could understand that I was a control freak, but what could I do about it? How could I control it? When I considered my dilemma, I saw the image of a snake biting its tail, circling infinitely. In Celtic art, that kind of stuff is cool. For everyday life, it is not. I was the snake, biting my own tail, and it was making me miserable.

Ultimately, I credit AMA (advanced maternal age) as the cure for my manic nap-time cleaning sessions. If I'd been a mom in my twenties I would have powered through, leaving a faint burning smell in my wake. Thankfully, I was too tired to keep up such a rigorous schedule. My house has wavered between passably clean to somewhat grungy for several years now. I traded my ideal of perfection for a more homely reality. I still like my house to be clean, but if it's not, I can manage. I can enjoy the day. "Forget about cleaning -- for now."

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What if and why not?

We adopted a kitten this weekend. My husband and I applied ourselves to constructing various barriers to keep the new kitten and our young adult cat Nacho away from each other. At some undetermined time in the future we hope they can get along in the same house. The woman from the adoption center optimistically offered that perhaps the new kitten will even "draw out" our rather anxious and neurotic cat.
When we brought Nacho home he was 8 months old and afraid of everything. He hid for days. Usually we couldn't find him, until he got bigger and had fewer options for hiding. He has warmed up to me to the point where he will sleep on my lap and enjoys seeing how much of the mattress he can hog from me at night. He considers my son a non-threat and will tolerate my daughter, though she smothered him with young-girl-cat-love when we first adopted him and he still distrusts her. But he will not let his guard down with my husband. We can't figure it out. Maybe it's my husband's height or the register of his voice? After almost two years, we've had to accept that he's unlikely to develop a sudden affection for someone whose footfall causes him to do an imitation of the scene at the beginning of The Matrix where Trinity dives through a window, hurtling through the cat door to the basement.
Last Friday, my daughter pleaded with me to go to Petco to "look at the kitties." We do this from time to time, with my disclaimer that we're not going to get another kitty. The kids were laughing and watching the kitties play while a volunteer cleaned out their cages and fed them. We chatted with her and she mentioned that one of the male kittens had the personality of a lap cat. None of our cats have ever been very affectionate. No problem for me, as I pride myself on being a bit of a cat-type person. My husband, however, wanted a cat that would sit with him on the couch and purr and just "hang out." There was something gentle and mellow about the little guy she showed us. I thought to myself, "Why not?"
The "nots" came flooding. I wasn't sure what my husband would say. What if we got this cat and it turned out to be like Nacho or worse? Was it too much money to spend and what about the vet bills? What if we turned into people with dozens of cats living in squalor? What if? What if?? I waited to tell him about the kitten until Saturday morning. I had instructed my daughter to let me talk with him first, thinking that I'd find just the right time...when he was in a good mood, etc. Maybe I would mention the visit and try to gauge his reaction. Apparently, being married to an easy-going man for over 9 years has not taught me much. I acted like a character from Oliver Twist asking for another bowl of gruel. When I told my husband about the kitten he said, "Let's go get him." Later, he teased me for my elaborate scheming. Like most of my worst-case scenarios, it was pretty silly.
Nevertheless, we have a sweet kitten who cuddles with my husband and loves to play with the kids. Nacho and I made up this afternoon: he slept on my lap while I sat in the glider and read. I've also been giving him lots of treats. I'm not above bribery.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Book Covers and Wine Labels

I like this
Sometimes I choose books and bottles of wine by a similar system: if I like the cover or label, I get it. There are serendipities and disappointments, but it is a fun way to choose and most other methods of selection have failed to offer better results. I recently ordered a book from because I liked the cover art and the title. There was a sunny porch with wicker chairs and a side table with a pitcher of what I liked to think was sweet tea or lemonade. It had a southern feel to it. I envisioned lazy afternoons reading a story of plucky heroines who would warm my heart and make me laugh out loud. When I received the book, the back cover blurb promised an experience along those lines, so I was encouraged.
I began reading and soon started jumping ahead, rather than reading each page through. This is usually a sign that a book isn't clicking for me, but I ignored it. I stuck my bookmark back at the place where I starting skipping and decided to read later when I wasn't so distracted. This experience repeated a number of times. After I had managed to slog through a quarter of the book, a strange thought (for me) crossed my mind. "Why am I reading this book if I don't like it?" I wanted to like it. Wasn't that enough?
There a lots of things that I do because I have to do them. That's part of life. Asking myself whether or not I like paying bills or doing laundry or changing diapers is silly. Those tasks must be done. But reading is different. Reading is for pleasure. For fun. I had become so used to steeling myself to complete daily tasks that I'd turned reading a book into another task.
I've had this tendency for a long time. In college, I remember an afternoon when I was obsessively studying my German flash cards. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Knowing me, it was probably a weekend, too. My friend walked over to me and said, "What are you doing?" She grabbed the cards and threw them out the window. Then she poured me a glass of wine. I knew she did the right thing because I wasn't upset by her decisive action. I was relieved; she had saved me from myself.

Friday, June 12, 2009 - the search for balance

The other title for this blog could be "Big Purse, Little Purse" which is a phrase that my husband came up with to describe both my ongoing search for the perfect-sized purse, and numerous other "lifestyle optimizations." I often find myself going back and forth between two extremes, even though I know that somewhere in that elusive middle ground, there is a place of balance... the perfect-sized purse. So I keep looking. And trying out different purses. Here at I will share some of my experiences in the hope of connecting with others who are also searching for that place of relaxed, natural balance on the tightrope of life.