Thursday, March 31, 2011

De la Antigua Escuela

My local grocery store not only sells Doritos Taco-flavored chips, they have them in the bag of my  misspent youth.
It's like the 70s have returned for a limited, racially-insensitive appearance in my kitchen.  Don't tell Michael Pollan, but I love these chips.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tulip Wednesday: Week 5

Compared to last week's snow event, we're much better off today.  Mind you, it was a chilly 29 degrees when this picture was made, so we're only slightly better off.
The weekend's forecast calls for sun and temps in the 50s.  I have to keep reminding myself that time is on our side and soon enough I'll be sitting on a sunny back deck.

Today only, I have included a special addition of gratuitous hosta picture.  You have to look very closely, but the tips of the bulbs are just above ground. That's happy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Springtime in the Garden

I have a well-established garden and among the plants in my backyard is a bush that I've heard locals call a beach rose.  That name sounds sweet but this plant is less charming rose and more malevolent, thorny, beast.  In fact, JT and I call it the Thorny Beast and unless we have on armored suits, we steer clear of it.
If someone advised me that the bush ate small children, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised (it did once attempt to consume my nephew S, who barely escaped).  Once Thorny Beast blooms, it's covered in lovely green foliage and white flowers.  Hidden underneath that beauty are hundreds of sturdy, prickly thorns.  Once bloomed, it grows voraciously and is nearly impossible to trim because the thorns are abundant and prohibitively lethal. 
So I must trim the plant before spring has really taken hold, when I might be able to avoid the worst of the thorns.  I suited up yesterday to get the job done.  I wore my new garden gloves (thanks, Santa) and waded in, knowing that I would be injured, but aware that if I don't clip it now the house will be overgrown by thorns come June.  Rest assured that Thorny Beast doesn't go down without a fight, as my bloody ankles and hands can testify.  I gave it a pretty serious clipping.
Then I collected the lethal branches with some downed tree limbs and deposited it out front for the township to pick up.  Let's hope they have on some leather gloves when they stop at Sassafras House.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gun Totin' Mama

Among the catalogs that I receive is one from Cabela's.  When it arrived a few weeks ago, I idly looked through it.  I didn't really expect to find anything that I needed (or wanted).  Then I came across these pages:
An entire section devoted to my conceal-carry gun and weaponry needs.  Finally, something useful!

A new nylon holster is always nice to have on hand.
This gun fanny pack is not really my style, though it could be handy on those days when I wish to be hands-free.
Really the leather handbag may be more fitting.  The name certainly works for me.
But I'm sorely tempted to get something pink for for my feminine side.
Pepper spray?  Taser? It's just so hard to decide.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Brackets edition

The backstory:  JT and I both have a bracket entry in the NCAA pool at work.  His only professed goal is to beat me; my professed goal is to win the whole pool.  I picked Kansas to win the whole shooting match.  JT picked Notre Dame.  The fighting papists lost on Sunday night and on Monday morning JT learned the troubling news.  He was bummed out and so I tried to provide some comfort.

Mama:  If I win, I'll give you a share of my winnings.

JT:  Really?  Because if I had won, I would have bought you a smoothie.

Mama:  A smoothie?

JT:  Yeah, a smoothie.

His generosity overwhelms.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tulip Wednesday: WTF edition

This morning, we awakened to snow.  The roads were slushy and wet with patches of ice to trip up the unwary driver.  The grass and my garden got a generous helping of spring snow.  The tulips remain steadfast, if chilled.
 I intend to take an optimistic attitude toward this serving of poor gardener's fertilizer.  It can't last, right?  Right?  RIGHT?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Come on Baby, Light my Oven

It took all my powers of self-control not to make a sexually inappropriate joke about the fact that my oven required a new ignition coil.
See, I am a grown up.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mother Nature: "I'm Still the Boss of You"

Yesterday was the first day of spring and the last day of spring break.  The day was clear, sunny and bright; not exactly warm (temps were in the low 50s) but lovely enough to warrant a belief in spring.  We're headed back to school this morning and it's cold and rainy.  Temps today are forecast to rise no higher than 50 degrees and snow is forecast for later in the week.  


I put away the rest of my winter clothes away this weekend.  I packed up are cold weather coats and scarves, my warm skirts, heavy wool sweaters, and tights.  So yeah, it's my fault that winter is making a return engagement.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Tourney edition

The backstory:  JT and I have been watching a lot of college basketball and, as usual, this leads to discussions of places far, far away.  So it is that he's become a fan of Jimmer Fredette and BYU.  Utah was his state for the 4th grade state report and it seemed like the stars were aligned: he'll go to BYU for college!  This raises some obvious concerns for his profane, liberal, unmarried, gay, mama.

Mama:  They have some rules you won't enjoy.

JT:  A dress code?

Mama:  No.  But they can't drink Coke and no swearing is allowed.

JT:  Damn, I guess I won't go to BYU.

Dodged a bullet on that one, folks.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Sometimes I wonder what it must be like to get off the plane knowing that after seven days together, her son is headed to a home and a life that isn't hers.  What does it feel like to know that in a few short hours she'll be exchanging daily contact with her child for daily thoughts of him? 

In those moments, as I wait anxiously for his return to the home and life he shares with me, I feel sorry for her.  What must it be like to fit your life with a much-loved child into the hours of every other weekend?  I see him nearly every day.  His toys and baseball cards are in my home, his shoes litter my doorway, his laundry is in my washer.  Even so I feel the years flying by.  Though I sometimes try to understand it, I cannot imagine what it would feel like to be in her position. 

She doesn't speak to me and she certainly doesn't care what I think.  But I feel sad that she is missing all of this time with the boy we once called ours.  I can only hope that there is consolation in the fact that it was her choice.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: College Prep edition

The backstory:  There is a dress code at our school and sometimes JT chafes at the restrictions.  He doesn't care that he can't wear jeans and he's got no complaints with the collared shirt requirement.  But……he strenuously objects to the limitations on shorts (now that he's a middle schooler, shorts are not permitted after October 1st in the fall and he can't pull them on until after May 1st in the spring…..he thinks that's lame).  And the boy is no fan of the requirement that he keep his collared shirt tucked in.  His animosity became more clear last week, when a friend of ours came to visit.  JP is a graduate of our school and a junior in college.  She happened to mention that she wore blue jeans to classes.

JT:  Hold up.  Do you mean that there is no dress code in college?

JP:  There is no dress code in college.

Unable to believe this extraordinary claim, JT sought confirmation from me.

Me:  There is no dress code in college, son.

JT:  Wow.  Now I finally have a reason to go to college.

Thank goodness all those years he's spent in a prep school won't be for nothing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tulip Wednesday

There was rain this morning.  But the afternoon brought some watery sunlight and sun with actual warmth is forecast for the rest of the week.  The tulips are well on their very happy way.  If you are still when you stand outside by the flower bed, you can hear their quiet call:  Spring is coming, spring is coming.
It will be lovely.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Household Happiness: Hallway Wall Decals

Last summer, when I updated my life list I included an item about my hallway upstairs (number 16, for those of you playing along at home).  The plan was to strip the wallpaper, paint the wall and then add some wall decals that I'd been admiring at Elephannie's Etsy shop.  Stripping off the wallpaper and painting the wall was a big job and when that was complete I decided to live with the walls for a while. This winter, after hours of daydreaming about the wall decals I wanted, I bought some flowers to place by the hallway mirror.
They were easy to put on the wall and I liked the clean lines of Elephannie's design.   I started thinking about what else I would add to the hallway.  I wanted colors that echo the living room re-do; this upstairs hallway paint is a shade lighter than the living room and for accents I wanted to use the same dark red and brown in the room downstairs.  Flowers were an easy first choice but I didn't want the hallway to be too girly.  Elephannie's shop had lots of options.  I went with a nature theme and selected some birds and a squirrel.

The birds are a nice touch (note the red birds above the bedroom door of a certain Cardinals fan).  The squirrel, which is the first thing the eye sees coming upstairs, makes me smile, in no small measure because it reminds me of our good friend Pesky the backyard squirrel (you can read about him here and here).  Elephannie sent a sample bird to try out the installation.  I tried it by the light switch in my bedroom, where it stays.
This whole wall decal business is very alluring.  Easy installation, reasonable cost, lots of choices……I've been thinking of re-painting the guest room and if I do, I'll use some wall decals on the re-designed room  Until then, the hallway looks terrific and I've checked another item off my life list.  Yeah, me!

Monday, March 14, 2011


On the weekends when JT is away, I like to joke that I'm unsupervised.  But it's really that I'm untethered.  The daily responsibilities of being a parent, the only parent in this house, don't feel unrelenting.  But they are unremitting.  If I don't get it done, it won't get done.  There is no hope for rescue and there is no margin for error. 

So it is that my daily life is one of planned allocation of resources.  It's a well-oiled machine.  I work; I make suppers with leftovers for the next day's lunch; I wash a load of laundry every day, so as not to be confronted by piles of unwashed socks just when we need them the most; I do one house chore a day so as not to be overwhelmed by them all on the weekend; I get myself to the gym to ensure my strength and my sanity.  I make room for fun.  But I never forget that I'm it.  If something happens to me, we're done.

A life lived this way is one of organized responsibilities.  My days are full and the routine is comfortable, if not always comforting.  When I head upstairs at the end of the day, I've been busy and I'm tired.  I tuck JT into bed and then crawl into my own nest.  I savor my blessings and then read my book until exhaustion engulfs me.  The hours unfold into days and I'm surviving.

Then the routine stalls.  Twice a month, JT leaves on Saturday morning to spend the rest of the weekend with my ex.  After nearly two weeks of doing everything, I've got no child-related responsibilities.  It feels odd and uncertain.  On those weekends, I have the quiet (and time) to miss both my current routine and my old family life.  But it's not even 48 hours and there is always something to get done.  I manage because my life is all about managing.  Soon enough, the familiar routine returns.  Worse yet are the two weeks a year when JT is with my ex for 7 days.  Those days have an ebb and flow all their own: I carefully organize projects and activities for them. In principle, I think that I should welcome the respite.  In practice, I don't.  It feels uncertain and irregular to me.

I'm three days into being unsupervised.  I've got plans and obligations that interest me.  I'm neither bored nor lonely.  Still, I'm aware that these unsupervised times always feel like I've foolishly torn a bandage off of a healing wound.  The wound is still sore;  not in danger of gaping open, but still unexpectedly tender.  This part of my life still feels hollow, like I'm waiting for something.   But I don't know what I'm waiting for.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Who's the Boss?

Each week, Tiger joins me for the changing of the sheets.  He loves this routine, playing hide and seek and then finding a spot to be tucked into the bed. 
Last week, Lucy joined in the fun.  Lucy is a little bossy, so she insisted that she have a turn under the covers.  Tiger reluctantly agreed to share the bed.
And then he decided to just let Lucy have a turn on her own.  Without Tiger to boss around, it wasn't as much fun.
When the bed was made, Tiger and Lucy, clearly exhausted by all the work, settled in for a nap on their freshly made bed.  Lucy opted for her princess pillow at the foot of the bed.  Tiger selected from the remaining real estate.
I was dispatched to fill the kibble bowl, clean out the litter box, and otherwise attend to the needs of my masters.

Friday, March 11, 2011

On Sassafras Pond

The good news is that the birds were chirping when we woke up this morning.  There was some cloudy sunlight to be seen and the rain seems to have stopped.  The bad news is that we came downstairs to see that the backyard now has a pond.  We've never had this much of a pond before.
And there's water in the basement.  Well more than one would like.  JT and I will fire up the water pump shortly.  We are well experienced in the task at hand; and I have to say that having JT's help makes the whole chore a little easier to bear.  Rivers around here will crest in the late afternoon and then we will will slowly return to normal (which is flood-prone anyway).  I grew up in drought-prone central California.  That had its own problems, of course.  But surely there is some sort of happy medium between the two conditions?  I'd like to find that zone for the next few weeks.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Home Invasion

Spring Break spells a whole lot of relaxation at our house.  We've caught up on our sleep, been to the movies, and enjoyed some leisurely mornings.  I've finished a book and tried out some new recipes.  JT's been outside and in the playroom for hours on end.  Yesterday, I crept upstairs to see what was going on up there.

Invasion.  Volumes of troops lined up for a military face off that crosses continents and historical time.  Naturally, prisoners have been taken and divested of their weaponry.
Lucy has been assigned to guard them.  For their sake, I hope they don't smell like poultry.

Tulip Wednesday, Week 2

Between the imminent arrival of torrents of rain, the Weather Service's less-than-gentle suggestion that I'll be screwed when it arrives, and JT's departure for a week of "parenting time" with the non-parent, I'm a bit fraught with anxiety.
So I've chosen to take a deep breath, admire the emerging daffodils, and do my best to let go of the things I cannot control.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

My Personal Seasonal Disorder

It's no secret that I was happy to put away my snow shovel for the season.  However, in the brief celebration that followed, I had not anticipated how quickly I would be plugging in my shop vac. 

That's right, the basement monsoon season is upon us.  In all fairness, the basement was dry through 10 pm on Sunday night.  But the rains were remarkably heavy and steady; everywhere I looked outdoors there was standing water; the rain gauge was at 3 inches.  I knew the dry basement couldn't last.  And, true to form, there was water in the basement on Monday morning.  Happily, there was sun outside.  The sun continued today and more is forecast for tomorrow.  I took advantage of the lull to fire up the wet/dry vac and suck up the water in the basement.  Things are well on their way to dry.

But I see that the forecast is for floods and rain all day on Thursday.  The Weather Service website dryly warns:


I shall take the course of least regret, and keep the water pump at the ready. 


Monday, March 07, 2011

Not in My Country

Later this week, Representative Peter King, a Republican member of the House of Representatives from Long Island, New York,  intends to hold congressional hearings about so-called Muslim extremism.  Regardless of his motivations, which I find suspect, the fact is that his hearing is stimulating the sort of ugly, racist, nativist, invective that damages all that America stands for.   The Obama Administration is leery of King's hearing and so am I.  In fact, no decent person can stand aside and watch this happen.

Despite what you might have heard, ours is not merely a Christian nation.  It is a nation founded in support of liberty.  And the 1st amendment requires a protection of religious liberty from government interference.  The power of our nation is in the protections of all religious faiths (and none, for that matter).  A congressional hearing to explore the intolerance present in all religions might be interesting (and even useful) but that's not what Representative King has in mind.  He wants to conduct a McCarthy-esque circus of name-calling and accusations directed at Muslim Americans.

It makes my heart ache to think that Muslim Americans must fear for themselves while Peter King insults both their faith and their patriotism.  All of our citizens deserve better than to be demonized by ignorant members of Congress.   We must stand for more than ourselves.

Tell Representative King that he's part of the problem and ask him not to stage his ridiculous hearing.   You can contact him here

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Required Viewing

A few minutes ago, JT and I sat down to watch 60 Minutes.  We tuned in for the story about polar bears.  Prior to that, there was a story about children, poverty, and homelessness in the United States.  It was an awfully powerful story.  The next time someone tells me that we must take care of our national debt in order to protect the future of our children, I'm going to remember this story and point out that hungry children, children who cannot think and cannot study, who cannot fall asleep because they are hungry, have a greater concern than the fucking national debt.

You can watch the segment for yourself here.  I hope that you will do so.

After JT and I watched it, I dried my tears, turned to him and said "Our nation can do better than this." 

We can, can't we?

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Economy of Action edition

JT:  Next time you need to use the bathroom, go ahead and bring the newspaper with the picture of Chris Christie in with you.

Me:  Why?

JT:  Because we're out of toilet paper and we don't like him anyway.

  Okay.  But why not head upstairs and get a replacement roll?

JT:  Why?  Do you need to use the bathroom now?

Me:  No.  But I might eventually need it.

JT:    Okay.  I'll get the toilet paper when you need it.

And then he returned to the game at hand.  True to his word, when the toilet paper was required, he did get it.  So, really, I have nothing to complain about.  And please note that the Christie recommendation reveals that his politics meet the family test.  But I was amused.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

I can't claim credit for turning up this Esquire article about Ray Towler, a who man who spent 29 years in jail for  crime he didn't commit.  The story came to me courtesy of the terrific Kottke.  But I will say that the tale lingers.  And I find myself thinking that if this sort of thing happened to white America as often as it happens to black America, the problem would have been fixed by now.

Mr. Towler eventually got help from The Innocence Project.  The organization does amazing work and they deserve our support.  I've never done this before, but I think that it's important to support their effort to make sure that our justice system is actually just.  The Innocence Project is trying to raise $20,000 in support of their work.  They plan to do it via fund-raising pages.  Mine is here and, if you're so inclined, I hope that you'll donate and help this project.  All funds raised go to The Innocence Project, to support their work to free innocent men and women from our nation's prisons.  It's noble work in pursuit of justice, which is shamefully elusive for some of us.  I hope you can help.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Tulip Wednesday

When I first moved to Tennessee, I was enchanted by the seasonal changes.  The leaves in the fall and the bulbs and blooms of spring were not native to my California experience and I spent hours outdoors as the seasons changed, admiring the beauty of it all.  In my lowest moments of winter, when I question why I ever left the mild California seasons (California never made me shovel snow, I tell New Jersey in a tone of passive aggression), it is thoughts of spring which buoy my spirits.

There are still remnants of the winter's deep snows, but their time has passed.  Last Thursday night, when we stepped out on the porch to check out the rain, JT announced, "It smells like spring."  He was right; it does smell like spring.  Thursday's heavy rain seemed milder, a harbinger of warmth and green blooms to follow.  I've shoveled a lot of snow this winter and I'm eager for the seasonal change.  To celebrate the coming green warmth, each Wednesday, I'll be taking pictures of the tulip bulbs in my front garden. It's Tulip Wednesday!
Not much to be seen as of yet.  But there is a bit of green pushing through.  The prospects are most grand.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

March 1st: Clematis Vine

As the snows have melted, JT has continued to enjoy his backyard games.  No matter the season, he plays outside almost every day.  In the cold, he sometimes skips the outdoors but the arrival of slightly warmer weather and sunny skies is an even greater lure for him to get outdoors.  The grass is wet with slushy snow, the yard is stark and doesn't look particularly promising, but he's been so eager to play outside that I've put up with the mud.
He's out there keeping the clematis company as it girds up for the growing season that lies just ahead.  There are very slight signs of spring in the air and I'll be keeping my eye on spring's progress in the month ahead.  For now, the clematis is quiet.  But I expect that the next month will be very promising.