Tuesday, September 20, 2005

on being old

On my email list of moms with 9 year-olds, we recently had an exercise where we listed five random facts about ourselves. I was stuck on coming up with a fifth one for myself and finally put in "I am afraid of being old." Not of *getting* old, mind you, which is pretty much the definition of life, but of *being* old. And here, my definition of old is not strictly chronological, but physical.

My dog Callias is old. Her body is failing her. Last June I went through the trauma of being convinced that after a series of cluster seizures caused by a brain tumor, it was time to tell her goodbye. The vet tried steroids at the last minute and I learned why they are called miracle drugs. She's been more or less her normal annoying and loving self for the last four months. She's very stiff in her back end, but still puts on a burst of speed every once in a while when she feels frisky.

This morning, however, she woke us up around 5 am because she was fumbling and falling in the hallway, her toenails frantically clawing at the hardwood floors. She'd lost much of her ability to control her back legs, and had that horrid glazed look in her eyes. I sat with her, without bothering to clean up the poop and pee on the living room rug, while she tried desperately to get her legs to work, panting heavily the whole time. I'm certain the phenobarbital dose she's on kept her from having a full blown seizure. The glazed look went away, and she recognized me, but for an hour, she stumbled around the house, running into walls, getting stuck in corners, and walking over our cat, Sammy, who had no idea what was going on and got himself thrown out of the house because he was hissing and striking at her. She tried to drink water, but kept falling into the dish and spilling it all over herself and the kitchen. Now she's fallen into a deep and exhausted sleep. And this is what I mean when I say I am afraid of being old. This really sucks.

Here's another random fact about myself: I think I may have broken my foot yesterday by tripping on the driveway. I know this won't surprise Marion, who has always marveled at my ability to be clumsy in the best of conditions. I've been through the physics of it over and over in my head, but I can't figure out how I could (possibly) break the side of my foot by falling on a flat surface, albeit covered with small driveway rocks. It was dark when I fell, and from the pain, I assumed I was gushing blood. I hobbled into the house, prepared to totally gross out my kids, but saw not a thing, nary a scratch. I sat there staring at it, more than a little perplexed, until I noticed the tiniest prick of a purple bruise on the side of my foot. It's grown overnight to cover about a quarter of the top of my foot, and is slightly swollen and very tender. I don't know if I've really broken it after all, but it certainly makes a better story if it is.

So I plan to spend the day at home, nursing my elderly dog and my ailing foot. I will probably get all philosophical about this, thinking of life and the universe and how we are integrated into nature - how we *are* nature. ...and how in death while our conscious self is quieted, our physical self, our molecules, stay integrated into the universe. It will give me some peace, but I'll let a little bit of sadness remain. Because that's a natural part of our lives, too.

Friday, September 16, 2005

in the words of Dorie...

There were two articles in the newspaper this morning. Actually there were considerably more than two, but I am just going to mention two. One discussed the increasing number of teenage boys and girls that practice oral sex (about half of them by the time they're 16 or so). The other article mentioned that the middle school here was in lock-down mode for 3 hours yesterday while police and dogs searched for a gun that a student had supposedly taken into the school (none was found).

I'm just sayin'.

This parenting thing wasn't supposed to cause my stomach to knot up until I need to vomit, or for me to curl into a fetal position at night was it? For now, my two are talking about baseball and pokemon and I am so happy with that. I suppose I don't *really* want them to stay small. But I would appreciate it if time would move just a tad bit more slowly. Maybe I'll start a commune with my closest friends who have wonderful children and we can seal ourselves off from the rest of the world until the kids are 27 or so. But then they'd be nut cases, wouldn't they?


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A rough day for some of us

My poor husband has had a rough day. First, he was cut-off on the way to work by some guy who was lost and weaving from lane to lane, resulting in DH having to slam on the breaks, resulting in the crockpot of meatballs and sauce he was taking to a work party spilling all over the car. :-O It's not really "new" anymore since it's a year old but there was still a hint of newcar smell to it. Nevermore I fear. I guess we'll have eau de'meatsauce now - or worse, eau de'meatsauce-left-in-a-hot-car. Gag. DH says he cleaned it up but I've been afraid to even go look.

Then tonight while making spaghetti for us (to go with the leftover meatballs and sauce that survived the car incident) he learned why all good chefs break raw spaghetti such that the broken section is on a trajectory AWAY from your face. He ended up with a piece of raw spaghetti in his eye. And I swear I was really trying hard not to laugh. In particular, I stopped laughing and yelled at him in horror when he went to the bathroom and grabbed some tweezers to try to get the piece out. I was able to convince him to first try the oh, somewhat less invasive method of running water over his eye before resorting to plucking it out with tweezers (and he has the shakiest hands I've ever seen, too...horrors). Yes, the water worked.

It's much calmer here now. DH is listening to some baseball game on xm radio, so he's pretty much back to normal. I'm about to go clean out the rest of those meatballs because my word, they are tasty. Picturing them scattered over the floorboard of my car just brings me to tears. Sigh.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

ends and beginnings

I was most distressed to learn of the permanent closing of Mission Falls. It's been a staple of my yarn stash, and I particularly love their colors, which are rather muted and earth-toned, and blend together so nicely. So in my mourning, look what I collected on Friday, much to the detriment of my checking account:

This is something like 20 skeins of the superwash wool, at 30% off. My friends and family are likely to be receiving a plentiful number of hats and mittens this Christmas. (sniff). I am still sad that they have closed. I especially liked their pattern books. :-(

And on a completely different topic, I share the official photo of the 2005/06 bus stop gang simply because it is so darned cute, especially as it grows in number each year.

I particularly love Dylan's expression (the preschooler). He's one bad dude, he is.

sensory experience

I must have been Italian in a past life. Truly. Or maybe I should just chuck it in and move over there now.

We had our lovely friends Jamie and Jamie over this weekend for dinner - an Italian dinner. I made bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, soft mozzarella, red onion, olive oil and balsamic vinegar on toasted slices of bread. We started with the famous lentil soup with toasted fennel and andouille sausage from the recipe from our local Italian restaurant, Guiseppe's. (check out the pictures of Guiseppe's - it's so cool.) The entree was spinach and cheese calzone from the Moosewood cookbook. The salad was baby spinach and mixed greens with baby peas, sprinkled with lemon and olive oil. It was heaven, if I do say so myself. But I believe I enjoy the preparation even more than eating it.

I was in the kitchen, with onion and garlic sauteing on the stove, mincing fresh spinach leaves and basil, with the calzone dough rising in a bowl by the stove, and I stopped to just take in every single sense. Smell was easy - especially the freshly cut basil and the simmering onion and garlic. Sight was lovely - a countertop cluttered with fresh greens, a block of cheese on the cutting board, and a bowl of red tomatoes and purple onion. Sound was nice - the sizzling of the onions, and a good CD playing in the background. Touch was also easy - the feel of a heavy knife in one hand, and the cool spinach in the other. Taste would have been perfect if I'd had my normal glass of red wine whilst cooking, but I was holding back so I could have a glass (or two) with dinner. Ahhh. I tell you, I do think I am Italian somewhere in my past.

I am re-reading "Under the Tuscan Sun" and it's wonderful. I can feel the hot Tuscan sun, taste the fresh fruits and vegetables, see the huge old house with the long table outside under the trees filled with food and wine. I go there every time I open the book, and I can only read it in little chunks. Too much is like gorging on a good dinner.

I would have been a great chef...or at least a very happy one.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

nutritious day

Today was a "good mommy" food day. For breakfast, my kids got hot oatmeal (well OK, it was the pre-packaged quick cinnamon-bun flavored variety but still...) and a bagel with cream cheese, and orange juice or milk. For their lunches (first packed lunch of the school year!) they received mini-pitas, which are very cute, by the way, stuffed with pastromi and cheddar, carrot and celery sticks and cherry tomatoes with ranch dressing, red grapes, 2 cookies and water. Their snacks were pop-corn, cheese sticks and yogurt, and for dinner I am making them pork chops with broccoli couscous and buttered broccoli. Aren't I good? It's quite the change from the end of last school year when I was throwing in chips and sweets and juice into their lunches after the sugar-laden popular cereals in the morning and hot dogs or Sonic hamburgers for supper.

Monday, September 05, 2005

normalcy in the midst of tragedy

School starts tomorrow. I spent the last two days frantically plowing through Q and E's rooms - picture a comic strip with a blur of rotating arms throwing piles of trash and outgrown clothes and toys into various piles, all amidst a flurry of dust. That was pretty much the picture. Now the kids both have tidy rooms and desks with (gasp) enough space to do homework on. They both have clothes to wear until winter, at which point we'll go shopping again. They both have their school supplies either stored away at school in their cubbies or in their packs to take tomorrow. I have lunch supplies stocked in the pantry and fridge. They have their piles of forms filled out and signed (DH's contribution). Do you know he actually made Q read the use of computer rules? He's got to be the only 4th grader in the state who has made his way through that legalese. Me: "Hey sweetie, how's it going with that?" Q: "My head hurts!!! This doesn't make much sense!!" Ha. No kidding.

And the whole time I'm walking around with a pit in my stomach that is New Orleans. I want to throw up. I want to go to sleep and pretend it's not true. Nope. Not possible. You cannot wipe out an entire city of the U.S. in a matter of a day. It cannot be possible that my fellow citizens have been living in a cesspool of toxic, foul water, surrounded by feces and decaying dead bodies. Not possible. Not here. Not today. Not possible that although we have known for years and years that this would happen that we were so surprised by it that recovery efforts were for the most part non-existant for several days. (Several days that meant death for a lot of those folks). We're not this stupid really, are we?

And then we get into the whole blue/red, Republican/Democrat, you/me, finger pointing, it's your fault thing. I'm mad - just like everyone else with any compassion at all. I'm mad and lashing out and because I'm a raving liberal, it's easy for me to find things that the reviled Bush administration has done wrong. I will spout off about it to just about anyone because I am SO MAD. But what makes me even more mad (or maybe just sad is the more appropriate word) is the lack of communication - the failure to find any common ground...the missed opportunity to focus on what is wrong and fix it. No one will TALK to me about this!! I want to know why this isn't the fault of the federal government. TELL ME why this should have been the domain of local and state governments, where they failed. Stop telling me that I'm a typical blue dot in a red state with a big chip on my shoulder. TELL ME who could have done what better. I'm not pretending to understand all this. I actually really care that so many people have died a horrific death because of this hurricane, and I honestly want to know who screwed up. It's not like this scenario was a surprise. National Geographic wrote a story a year ago that eerily describes what happened. WHO WASN'T READY???!!

I belong to a 10 year old parenting email list that is somewhat diverse politically and religiously and even we can't talk about this. We have dissolved into name-calling and nah-nah's and "I'm not going to talk to you anymore" before any real communication has taken place. Before telling me I am wrong, tell me *why* I am wrong. I desperately want someone to look me in the eye and say calmly, "but have you thought about why..." When did we become so divided here in America that communication has stopped? Why are we "us" and "them"? I despise Bush and his energy-loving, money-loving cronies, make no mistake about that. But even more than that, I despise that we have forgotten that the goal is to make things work. We've made the goal to win. And even in the face of this horrific tragedy, we are tallying up who has won more points.

Has it always been this way? When did the media finally succeeded in making our lives here a big made-for-TV movie, a big superbowl game? Do you think the rescue helicopters are going to start showing up with corporate logos blazened across them?

I don't know what's going to happen, but it's going to be ugly ugly ugly. America is feeling very generous and loving right now. But what about...oh say, 2 years from now when a lot of these 100,000+ families STILL do not have permanent housing. Will we be as generous then, or will they become welfare cases and an ugly thorn in our sides? You know, Hurricane Isabel hit this area 2 years ago and a few families are still trying to rebuild now. That was such a tiny disaster compared to Katrina. The recovery from Katrina will be going on for a very long time and will likely outlast the compassion of most people. What an ugly blot this is already becoming on our history.

And yet, life goes on. I throw open my windows at night and turn off the air-conditioning to let in the cool newly-coming fall nighttime air and the sounds of crickets. I poor a glass of red wine and sip it while splayed out on my couch watching a movie. I throw out piles of left over dinner that my kids didn't eat. They each take baths in tubs full of good, clean water, and come out smelling sweet and clean and are comfy in their t-shirts and slicked back freshly-shampooed hair. I get hugs goodnight and kisses and then clean the dinner dishes and plan for my errands tomorrow. And all the time, the pit in my stomach reminds me that not all that far away, about half a million of my neighbors are feeling lucky to be alive, are wondering where their sisters are, and are starting to realize that despite the utter exhaustion and the feeling that this can't be real life, they are going to have to start over tomorrow and figure out their lives all over again. Everything they have ever known is gone. Gone. And meanwhile the country is busy name-calling and watching hour-long TV specials that ask why black people are described as looting while whites are described as finding food. We are a mess. I thought we had come farther than this., Tragedies like this have a way of exposing your unhealed scars, don't they?