Monday, September 28, 2009

Housekeeping? Moi?

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.
Erma Bombeck

After reading Gilead, I had Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping novel somewhere on my books-to-be-read shelf. I didn't await it with glee. The title scared the crap out of me. You see, I'm not the best housekeeper. In fact I can pretty much find everything else to do rather than clean my house, i.e. the books shelves in the study where my youngest son does his homework. (Note the presence of the old encyclopedias. What does one do with a set of those these days?)

Conversely, husband's side of the family are cleaning freaks. I can visit his mom's house and use the garage floor as a plate for my dinner, no thoughts needed. At my house, I push aside a pile of papers on my kitchen table to find a spot for my plate. I dare not think about when it might last have been washed off.

I admit it. I'm a crappy housekeeper. Oh, I have times when I sweep, dust, vacuum, mop, sort, toss, scour, and pile papers into a neat stack. Few and far between occurrences. I am easily distracted by the New Yorker open to a new article on top of the pile on the table, or a handwritten letter to send, a garden to plant, a friend to visit, or a novel to write.

Lest I say, you get my house as is when you come by. Which is why Marilynne's book didn't disappoint. Two young girls, Lucille and Ruthie, have survived their parents and grandmother and are passed off to their aunt, Sylvie, their mother's sister the "tramp". Or transient. She prefers the outdoors, danger, a trance-like atmosphere. Collects tin cans, newspapers. Adverse to housecleaning. When the younger sister, Lucille, decides on a more conventional life and moves in with her teacher, the authorities swoop in to see if Sylvie provides a good home for Ruthie. Sylvie cleans the house, but both decide this is not what they want. They escape over the bridge out of town - the railroad bridge no on else will cross, and enter a nomadic lifestyle. Very happy with it, I might add.

The message? Not everyone conforms. Not everyone is cut out for the cookie cutter life. The definitions of order are different for everyone.

I like that kind of thinking.

Although, all good things must come to an end. There does come a time when one has to break down and clean the damn house. My husband and I did that at the lake this past Saturday. Fall Cleaning, as it were. Supposed to do it last spring, but then the crowds came and, well, so much more fun to loll on the dock with a glass of wine than wash sheets, find out what's really under the beds, and scour showers.

We put our bodies to work non-stop. I must have done 24 loads of laundry. Bed pads, sheets, comforters, pillows, blankets. Took everything off the bookshelves, dusted, washed. All the windows, showers, toilets. Moved the furniture - vacuumed and washed underneath.

It looks mahvelous. Ready for the next round of 100+ visitors. At least the upstairs.

We have to spend next Saturday doing the bunkroom and downstairs windows. The old fashioned horizontal kind you crank. Like Venetian blinds, only glass. Plus the downstairs shower where all the hundreds of kids rinse off. Yeck. (That job is for sale if any takers.)

But that night, after we declared the day done, my husband and I lumbered onto the dock to watch the sunset. Our bodies dropped into our chairs and we wished the entire wine bottle plus another had found its way down with us. Although our wearied limbs tingled with overuse, we did have satisfaction in the order and cleanliness of the cabin behind us. Only a momentary tingle for me, I'm certain.

Now, will someone come shovel out the house in town. The one where all the junk of life lives.

Meanwhile, share the sunset.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Random Kindness Appreciated

Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.
Henry Ward Beecher

Yesterday brought a most unusual day for several reasons. First, awoke to rain and cool temperatures of 58. Sixty-eight days of 100+ degree heat accompanied by a drought, found me dredging through the closet for a pair of pants that might fit my summer body.

Instead of biting my lip when looking out my windows at a scorched lawn and wilting garden, beautiful green met my gaze. My new tomato plants reached higher just overnight.

Happy to find my husband had replaced my windshield wipers, I drove over to pick up a friend I hadn't seen in a while. Time seems to get away from me and I had thought of her often. A few weeks prior she had dropped her daughter off at college and now with both children gone, I wondered how she fared in a house void of children.

She chose a restaurant downtown and we ordered a glass of wine. Greeted by a menu of delectable comfort food, I ordered something I never do, nor particularly like. Macaroni and Cheese. This, however, was Green Chili Macaroni and Cheese delivered in a very large bowl. Incredibly good. Mouth watering good. Don't let me take another bite good. Great perk also - large enough portion for a take home dinner for husband and son.

Where is this going, you say? Just the usual, fervid conversation as we caught up on the past month only stopping to take in a bite or a sip of wine. The waiter came to ask if we wanted dessert. We passed. (I was giving up swimming a mile at the Y to lunch the afternoon away. Couldn't further compromise myself by eating dessert.)

She then informed us that our lunch had been taken care of. That no bill would come our way.

What? Was I in the movies? How could this be?

"Who?" we asked.

"I can only say someone in this room."

Having been so engaged in conversation, we never noticed anyone at other tables and we glanced around the room, seeking who we knew. I knew no one. I looked at Lisa. She didn't know anyone either.

A kind soul? An admirer? We'll never know. Most fun.

I will have to return that fun with gratitude for someone else one day soon. A kindness I never would have considered until I experienced it myself. I'm thinking that will be more thrilling than having received it. Gratitude appreciated.

Also, random kindness arrived in the form the following two awards. From ds at the beautiful third-storey window I have been granted the Zombie Chicken award. Please visit her site. Truly lovely. ds, I'm so glad I found your site.

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken-- excellence, grace, and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words.


And from Missy at Missy's Book Nook, the Dragon's Loyalty Award. I find it most easy to loyally follow her blog. Who can resist a book lover? Visit and read her book reviews. Authors - she also will review your book. I thank you, Missy.


The morning glories featured here were another lovely surprise. They sprang up during the late spring from seeds in a pot I had planted last year. All summer at the lake, I kept them watered in hopes they'd bloom. The week I was in Green Bay, I figured they would die without my touch, but returned to find them most beautiful. One never knows.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Tenacity is a pretty fair substitute for bravery, and the best form of tenacity I know is expressed in a Danish fur trapper’s principle: “The next mile is the only one a person really has to make.”
Eric Sevareid

Last April I wrote a post about my youngest son, Ian, the high school baseball player. How he had endured an odd hip fracture while swinging the bat. Needless to say, it ended his season. Took him out for the summer as well, and required months of rest.

Yesterday, I sat in the bleachers and watched that boy come up to bat once again. His choice, he signed up for Select Fall Ball. No one else in the stands may have known, but I understood the anxiety he held standing in that batting box.

Poised in his stance, he watched four pitches -- all balls. He trotted to first base. Safely. No hitches in his step. Second at bat, the same - four errant throws and another trot for a free base. Third up? He swung and missed. Next pitch he fouled off into the parking lot. Then, struck out looking. Fourth, and final at bat for the day, he connected for a chopper to second. Safe at first on a Fielder's Choice.

Back in the saddle.

On the two hour drive home from San Antonio, he critiqued his play. Recanted the plays he'd made from the outfield - balls caught and throws made. Assessed where he needs to improve. Pleased his arm is back, even though he admits rust.

I reminded him that the kids he's playing with finished the season last spring and played all summer. Told him how proud of himself he should be for climbing back on the horse. He smiled.

Did I have that tenacity and persistence at 17 years of age? I doubt it. Proud of that boy, I am.

However, it does sit my butt back in the bleachers on weekends. I hate to say it, but I didn't miss melting into the metal in 100+ degree heat all summer. But I did miss watching my boy play.

Onward to next weekend's game, the next horse. And the next mile.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stalking Intructions

My middle son sent me this. Too funny. Oh, how I love The Onion.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Quick Trip Down a Familiar Route

The great man is he who does not lose his child's-heart.
Mencius, Book IV

Beginning in the late 1980's, my kids and I spent four weeks every summer with my parents in Green Bay, Wisconsin. In mid-July I'd arrive with my entourage of three boys, to escape the Texas summer heat and enjoy a Midwestern summer.

Some days we'd pick raspberries, cherries and strawberries followed by my cooking up cases of jelly for the coming year. Sometimes we hung out at the local library for the movies and story times or drove to Door County to swim in Lake Michigan or Green Bay or attend a drive-in movie. But many mornings, we'd drive the few short miles to Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, to watch the summer training camp.

My young sons walked beside the giant players as they came off the practice field for the long walk to the stadium locker rooms. Local kids offered their bicycles to the players. Quite a site - a 250 pound behemoth of men riding tiny bicycles while a thrilled child ran beside carrying their helmet. (FYI - they still do this every summer.)

The players, famous and not so famous, walked among those children, signing autographs and accepting the good wishes of the loyal fans. My kids were right in there, gathering signatures from the likes of James Lofton, Sterling Sharpe, Reggie White and more.

One year, my middle son, then 5 years old, stomped his foot in frustration after Ty Detmer handed back his signed football.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"They all write in cursive," he said.

While others yelled out at the players "Sharpe, Favre, Schroeder!", my oldest son, a new master in the art of Southern manners, said "Excuse me, sir. May I get your autograph?" Many a player reached over the crowds to add his name to the collection on the Wheaties box he held up.

Much to my surprise, that boy became an ardent Dallas Cowboy fan. During the Cowboy summer practices we visited, the likes of Troy Aikman, Emmet Smith, and Deion Sanders didn't even proffer a glance at the young kids calling their names from the stands.

Knowing no opportunity presented itself before or after the practice for an autograph, he still adopted this team as his. Has remained loyal and, of course, predicts their victory in the Super Bowl this year.

(I have never really been certain if he truly loves the Cowboys or if it was just a way to separate him from his other brothers. Entirely possible.)

However, that oldest boy and I spent last week in Green Bay visiting my parents. We both took the opportunity to spend time with my folks before our work ventures take up our time here in Texas. He taunted his brothers that he would wear his Dallas Cowboy shirt if he visited Lambeau Field.

We did visit the stadium. I did take pictures, Please notice there is nothing Dallas Cowboy about the shirt he's wearing. I think in his heart, he's still a Packer fan more than he'd ever admit.

My last post did include pictures of Alaska. A trip my husband and I took last year for our 30th wedding anniverary. Hope you enjoyed the glacier.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.
William Shakespeare, Hamlet

I'm out of town for a few days. Will keep up with you the best I can. Everybody take good care.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Softly the Evening Came

Softly the evening came. The sun from the western horizon
Like a magician extended his golden wand o'er the landscape;
Twinkling vapors arose; and sky and water and forest
Seemed all on fire at the touch, and melted and mingled together.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Man Wall

Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.

From David Hume's Essays, Moral and Political, 1742

See that big white wall out there? When we built the dock, that baby was just a narrow rectangle on the plans. A small storage area. Turned out much larger and I didn't recall the odd "fit" with the roof. I first saw it toward the end of its construction and I wanted to throw up.

"What the hell is that?" I asked my neighbors.

They shook their heads. We stared at it further.

"Sometimes we get a hard west wind," one of them said.

I laughed. "We can hope."

Further discussion with my husband only wrought an indignant attitude. To him, the beast was aesthetically perfect. Beautifully constructed. Masterfully planned.

"An eyesore?" he said. "It's functional. Serves it purpose completely. Paint a cool mural on it."

"I had a cool mural there," I said. "A real one. A view of the lake."

The past two years, I have provided hints on how to mask its beauty. I suggested a neon Blue Moon beer sign. He nixed that. Hates Blue Moon beer. I suggested a sign like the little resort in Minnesota my family has visited since 1958 and where we took our kids for 20 years. Maybe something on that line.

ONE , big, round sign.

I think all he heard was the word "sign". Next thing I know, packages arrive at the house. He has ordered the wall's new design. He spread his purchases out on the fireplace. See for yourself.

Our very own Man Wall, complete with a see-through nightgown.

I asked if I could order a few signs, to break it up a little. He agreed. Not sure he likes my choices (Blue Moon silk stockings, Schwinn bicycles, Popsicles, and the Twilight Lounge .)

At present all the signs are laid out on the floor with the precise spacing only an engineer can bring to the party, ready to be drilled for eternity into the white wall. I guarantee, the wood wall will rot or blow over before any of those signs move even a squinch.

I'll send a picture after he gets them up.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Meanwhile, An Opportunity Knocks

[I]f one wants to get a boat ride, one must be near the river.
Anchee Min, Becoming Madame Mao

A brief note of progress on the job hunting venture. No, I'm not going to read high school essays again. Might be worse. I signed up for substitute teaching.

Even though I have decided I don't want to teach high school again, I did sign up for subbing when the opportunity opened. Last school year, many districts had an overabundant onslaught of applicants for substitutes. When things were quite dire around my house, the sign up had closed. Hence, I ended up reading high school essays for three miserable months.

A woman who sat in front of me on our sweatshop line would often moan and hold her head as she returned to her seat from one of our two breaks. "This place is the graveyard for the liberal arts major," she cried.

Huh! Couldn't argue with that. Substitute teaching may be another section of that graveyard in regard to the pay, but I do enjoy the kids and will be happy adding to the tuition/food/kid's continuous needs coffers while I continue my journey toward something more permanent.

My application is not yet complete as I need to submit my college transcripts. Where the hell you think my college is going find them? I graduated in 1978.

Can't you picture some poor soul in a clackety elevator slamming deep, down into a musty basement. After pulling the chain attached to a dangling light bulb, he clicks on his flashlight and wanders among the boxes lined to the ceiling. Way back in the far corner, he swishes away a spider's web to find the box marked 1978. For my $5 fee, that good scout will find those pages that prove I was truly there.

Now the grades on those transcripts may not show my mind was there, but, no matter. I got the piece of paper with Bachelors marked on it. All I need.

As to the more permanent pursuit? Of course writing is my favorite thing, as well as reading. But we know how that goes. I've narrowed it down a bit however -- editing, or returning to school for an MFA in Creative Writing.

Not sure I can afford the latter with two in college. But if dreams die.....

How are those of you in transition faring?


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