Saturday, May 06, 2006
I didn't see the dawn this morning, too many dark grey clouds menacing the horizon. As I sit here on the bed and write the room is suddenly filled with light. The sun shines through the windows and glances off diamond bright raindrops on the leaves sending rainbow prisms like jeweled shards in all directions. I'm cold but my fingers are warm from the heat rising off the laptop base. So are my legs where the case rests on them. After so many days of mist shrouded horizons and claustrophobic gray cloud cover, the sun is a welcome sight.
A whisper of wind tickles the leaves on the trees, shaking the raindrops in all directions. A car whooshes by in the street sending the rain in fountains up and over the curbs. The water will be gone soon and so will the sounds of another light spring rain, the ground and streets, roofs and trees drying in the sun, feeding the thick puffy cottonball clouds drifting lazily past to empty themselves on another part of the world.
Today is a day of work and chores, catching up on writing and cleaning the kitchen -- my least favorite task. I wish I could find some way to cook and bake without having to clean the kitchen afterwards. Disposable plates only work to keep the dishwashing down, but I am concerned about how much waste is generated. I have at times eaten right out of the pots and pans, but the pots and pans must still be washed. The counters still have to be cleaned up, the floor swept and mopped, the dust bunnies trapped and exiled, windows cleaned, utensils put away, inside of the microwave wiped out, the garbage sacked and taken to the alley, and on and on and on...
When alchemists were busy turning lead into gold they should instead have been focused on finding a way to create a beautiful meal with their minds, set it on a lovely set table, the remains dispersed and the kitchen left sparkling. Of course, making, serving and clearing a meal by using the mind means you wouldn't really have to have a kitchen, but it helps to have a place to keep the refrigerator to store the food. Somehow I don't think a refrigerator will ever become a must have item for the living room or the bedroom, although it might be more convenient getting food during a movie or in the middle of the night without barking your shins on every surface between the bed and the kitchen. Still, with the power to materialize and dematerialize food and serving dishes you wouldn't need to buy or store food, thus rendering obsolete the need for a kitchen.
I received an email from another one of my cousins the other day. Reading her words made me remember a time when our families were so close. We spent holidays and summers together, shared countless family meals, tragedies and triumphs and visited back and forth so often they seemed more like sisters and brother than cousins. We shared so many adventures and experiences and they all came rushing back to me as I read her email. Like the time Ellen's dad, Uncle Bob, yelled at me for putting a plastic jewel in her navel one summer when we were putting together our annual beauty pageant. I made her an "I Dream of Jeannie" costume from a frothy yellow tea dress my mother found at Goodwill, complete with gathered hem at the ankles and a sort of tiara of cardboard covered with cloth and sequins to go around her beautiful long golden ponytail. The jewel was part of the outfit but my uncle just didn't get it. That year Ellen represented Iraq and to me Iraq was the land of genies and magic and jeweled navels, so much different than the Iraq that comes to mind today where soldiers huddle in grave-sized trenches in the sand under a sky of brass and glare ever mindful of the stutter of gun fire or the arcing laser flare of tracer fire or missiles that light up the night sky, a place where your enemy could be a child or a woman huddled over her bundled child only to pull out a gun or set off a belt of plastic explosives beneath her voluminous robes, a place where death is a bloody-eyed, dry mouthed demon nourished by destruction.
It is difficult to remember those simple times when our summers were full of planning our annual beauty pageant, scavenging glass jars and containers from the local dump to clean up and use for awards, practicing singing, dancing and baton twirling for the talent competition, or commandeering the basement and, eventually, my uncle's garage for dressing rooms and a stage. We didn't worry about Vietnam because we were focused on living and creating happy memories. The only death that brought us to tears was the dog lying by the side of the road where it fell after being hit by a car. The only blood we saw was from a paper cut or scrape when we got too rambunctious. The only heat the warming rays of a summer sun that kissed our skin with golden bronze.
It has been close to 20 years since I saw my cousins. They have had children, married and divorced, welcomed grandchildren into their lives and moved on, but once in a while we all return to the memories of those pageants when all that mattered was turning the beauty in our imaginations into lasting memories of golden summer days when my uncle yelled at me for putting a plastic jewel in Ellen's navel the year she represented Iraq in an "I Dream of Jeannie" costume made from a frothy yellow tea dress my mother bought at Goodwill.
Those days seemed as far away as my family, as far from me as Iraq is from peace, but Ellen's email brought them back to me just as the sun breaking through the clouds brought back the warmth and light I have missed these past few days.
Friday, May 05, 2006
There are some days when nothing surprises me and some days when every moment brings something new and exciting. The past two days have been like that.
The weather cannot make up its mind, swinging from warmth and sunshine to the giant shaking up the snow globe until the mountains and every vista outside my own little corner of the neighborhood was veiled in fog and mist. The mountains were a memory and the ground was covered with tiny green tinged yellow disks like drifts of snow that didn't melt. The roof tops and streets were dark with recent rain and the sun a hint of light behind the dirty gray cotton batting sky not warm enough to call the moisture back into the clouds. The winds whistled and moaned around the window frames, chilling everything within reach, including my plans for a friend's birthday.
Just as I gave up and went back to work after talking with my sister, the phone rang again. The news was good and there were plans to be made and checked. The original date for the celebration wasn't going to work. Alternates dates were suggested. After a few more phone calls everything was set and would work out better than I originally planned. The party was back on track.
When I checked my email this morning another piece fell into place. I had the recipe for the best cheesecake in the world. It's a bit unorthodox but the birthday cake is a cheesecake, a scrumptious dream that just melts in the mouth and leaves behind sighs of delight -- and groans of sadness when it is all gone. It is the same cheesecake that greeted me when I moved here nearly a year ago and the birthday boy's favorite.
I received another call this morning from the main attraction and we ended up talking for about an hour. We talked about religion (he's a recovering Catholic), quantum physics (they do have a lot in common) and music. He agreed to a special gift I have planned for the party and we will have lunch the day after the party and I'm bringing the Evil One along. In fact, if I have anything to do with it (and the weather cooperates), the three of us will meet in the park and share a picnic lunch. I might even have a little cheesecake left to share. If not, I'll make another one.
So much to do but I do have some time to maneuver. I'm so looking forward to this celebration. I've even decided to invite a surprise guest or three. I love planning parties like this: a little unorthodox and hopefully memorable. It also looks like I've made a new friend, which I hadn't expected. After all, he's a medium sized fish in a large pond and I'm a small fish in a rain puddle. Still, he has a brain, a sense of humor and he's creative, the basis of a very good friendship.
I guess what I need to remember is that when something is meant to be, even when I think it can't be done, when I step back and let go everything will fall into place.
Just like the past two days.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
A certain friend and I have been planning our joint vacation next month and I found out some interesting tidbits as we talked about food.
She hates bananas, even the smell and sight of them. Her wife loves tzatziki sauce -- the yogurt-cucumber-dill sauce that goes on gyros and Greek salads -- and will worship me if I make it. I told her to tell her wife to exercise the knees because I want the display of worship at my feet to be a smooth transition from standing to kneeling. I plan to make my decadent, guaranteed to slam your arteries shut bleu cheese-butter-cream-shiitake mushroom sauce for a night of grilled steaks. We also discussed what to put on an everything bagel: roasted red pepper hummus, chopped tomatoes (she likes hers toasted with a bit of butter) and my favorite cream cheese and smoked Cajun salmon. Other combinations were mentioned, but I want to try something I read about recently: everything bagel with the soft insides scooped out and filled with fresh chopped tomatoes -- and my twist -- Celtic sea salt and fresh dill. (better get the dill planted this weekend)
I definitely want to make something I've been working on, too: vegetarian lasagna with finely chopped shiitake, portobello and porcini mushrooms, ricotta-Parmesan cheese and medium sliced English cucumbers in place of lasagne noodles. There are other things that go in there, like my homemade marinara sauces, but you get the idea. I should also get busy making dilled cucumber salad and will probably make my baked Greek chicken and a Spanish frittata or two. I might even break down, if I can find some really good apples, and make open faced apple tarts with honey-apricot glaze on phyllo dough and I can't forget the vanilla bean vanilla ice cream as the topping right out of the oven.
Do you get the idea that I haven't had a chance to cook for someone other than me for a long time? You'd be right. I really enjoyed cooking for and with my kids when they were young. Sometimes we made a mess but every time we had fun before, during and after the process. One thing I am certain of is that my boys knews how to feed themselves, and not just with a microwave and a Budget Gourmet nuke-able meal. One of my sons wanted to become a chef but got sidetracked when he was told getting a good job was nearly impossible, so he became a mobile home salesman.
When I was at Mountain Mama's the other day talking to the new guy in the deli who was making my vegetarian artichoke-Parmesan spread wrap, who also happened to be from Ohio (born in Cleveland and moved to Columbus before coming to Colorado), I learned he wanted to be a chef and was saving to go to school. I told him he had the touch; the way he made my vegetarian wrap was beautiful and artistic, as well as tasty. He reminded me a little of my son, except for his deep brown eyes, tattoo, long wavy dark hair and earring. I will keep an eye on him. I've already given him my tuna salad recipe trick: I chop up fresh avocado with the chopped celery, boiled egg, Celtic sea salt, pepper, wild caught tuna, mayo and spicy mustard. Gives it a whole new taste. I like the wild caught tuna because it's not mushy.
Food is on my mind. I'm thinking about a birthday party that I didn't think was going to turn out that is turning out better than I thought, if only on a different date, and the special cake I want to make for the birthday boy -- if I can talk the best cheesecake maker out of his recipe.
As for my tandem vacation, there are recipes to plan, ingredients to scope out, movies to sort through and separate and fun to be contemplated. In fact, I'm going to ask my boss to extend my vacation by two days so I can enjoy the sun and a good book and even better company for more than a couple days. We'll probably get sick of each other by the end of the vacation, but at least we will be well fed, full of new sights and sounds and floating on a cloud of movies based on Jane Austin books. What better way to spend a vacation?
I guess I'll figure that out on my next vacation when Beanie comes to visit. To make sure she doesn't change her mind, I'm going to dangle my New Orleans style gumbo and crab cakes. I know that will do the trick.
...crazy lady territory.
I listen to a country station and every time I hear them advertising their station I cringe with that fingernails-on-the-blackboard, biting-on-tin-foil feeling. The offending sentence?
We have less commercials.
Today I had had enough and I called the station and asked for the advertising manager. I explained why I was calling and that the line should be: We have FEWER commercials. He told me that it's a nationwide promotion that goes with their "Less is More" promotion and that "fewer is more" doesn't work.
Excuse me? It isn't about what goes with an advertising tag line. It's about correct grammar. In addition to the degradation of the English language now the language is under attack by advertising execs who change grammar to suit their campaigns. ARGH!!!!?!?!!!
Right before he hung up the phone I heard his heavy sigh and the snarky smirking laugh when he told me he would pass my suggestion along. He didn't sound as old as my own children.
I didn't intend to venture into crazy lady territory but their web site didn't give a link, suggestion box or email for me to use and I was forced to call and speak to a real person because I couldn't stand hearing the commercial one more time without saying something.
The older I get the more I realize that life is too short to live with regrets and things not done. I may seem like a crazy lady (anonymously since I didn't give and he didn't ask my name) but I'm glad I called and said something. That call is one less thing for me to regret.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
According to the latest news from the FDA (Food & Drug Administration with the emphasis on DRUGS), cherries are on the verge of becoming labeled as drugs and therefore subject to FDA approval, testing, etc. What's next? Broccoli, cabbage, bananas and every other natural fruit and vegetable in your grocery aisles?
At this rate, the only food you will be able to buy will be processed, devoid of food and health value and capable of making middle-aged white Americans even less healthy than the British. Makes me wonder if the FDA is part of the problem promoting chemical and drug treatment over natural whole foods. Or is this just more proof of a government for, by and of the drug companies and corporations?
That is all. Disperse.
In the mornings when I make my soy protein shake and add fruit I see Shirley MacLaine from Postcards From The Edge putting vodka into her protein and fruit smoothie.
This morning I added frozen raspberries and a banana to my chocolate soy protein powder but instead of vodka I added water.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled reading.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
I was watching Catwoman while eating Mexican chocolate ice cream and waiting for Nottinghill to come on when I noticed something. Catwoman starts out with the lead character saying that she was about to die. That reminded me of The Jacket which I saw last night. That led me to Kevin Spacey's monologue at the beginning of American Beauty where he begins the movie saying that in one year he was going to be dead.
Although the endings are far different, the simple fact they began each of the movies in question with the main character about to die. American Beauty seems to be the first to use the device of the main character talking about dying as a major event in his/her life as a beginning or culmination of some change, a catalyst that drives the action. However, it seems to me to be more a trend, a way of thinking about death that is less an ending and more a beginning. Is this a sign of the times or is there a different message being offered.
In American Beauty, the main character is fired from his job and finally gets the message that life is passing him by. In that sense, being fired is like dying and Spacey uses his knowledge of his boss's peccadilloes to leverage a better "retirement" package. Thrust naked into the world, he decides to shake up his already shaken, not stirred life to change from a spineless worm who takes it on the chin with his wife, his daughter and his job, unwilling to straighten up and look life directly in the eyes, into a strong man who reaches out and takes life by the throat. All his changes, physical and mental, lead him eventually to his death, his second and final death.
Patience in Catwoman begins the same way, saying she is about to die and that is when she began to live. Jack Starks in The Jacket begins the movie saying that the first time he died everything was white. He is shot in the head by a Muslim child in the Iraqi desert.
In each movie death is not the end but a beginning, a chance to turn their lives upside down, cast off the shackles holding them to an unrelieved and endless round of quiet desperation and begin to the live the life they should have lived from the beginning. Death has become, at least in these visions, the catalyst for change instead of a final ending. Is this Hollywood's attempt to Hollywoodize what most people fear in the darkness; could it be that positive? Or have the philosophers slipped through the Hollywood cracks to offer a message of hope that death is not the end, that there is no real magic about death, but that death is a catalytic transition point between the mundane and unsatisfying into the reality of dreams and wishes and the secret desires we hide from the light of discovery?
Could this be a trend or simply a coincidence that as we move into the twenty-first century we refuse to be held to a dire future where we avoid the specter of death but rather embrace death as nothing more fearful than change, like a caterpillar seeking the safety of a cocoon in order to accept death in order to move from pain into a new and better life?
Where does the time go? Here it is the beginning of May and I barely remember January. No, I haven't been indulging in mind altering drugs, but at this point I'm not sure that isn't a good idea. At least the time would stop flying by like pages flying off a calendar in some movie denoting the passage of time. Last year was fast enough, but this year, too? I don't know where the time goes.
Oh, yes, now I remember. Work, work, more work, and still more work again. It seems I barely get to sleep and it's time to get up and work again while the laundry piles up and the dishes go unwashed because I am chained to work. Now that the doctors are goofing off again, having taken Passover as carte blanche to forget dictating reports, the work load is slow and I'm working whatever hours I can to get enough dictations so I have a decent paycheck. It's getting harder and harder to meet my personal goals with this dearth of work, so now I have to find other ways to occupy the time while I'm waiting for my computer to tell me "you've got work".
And I have found a solution -- of sorts.
I'm writing more.
I have 16 stories listed to write and sent to Chicken Soup because they want more from me. I can do that. Then there were manuscript submission packages to put together for a few publishers interested in what I sent them about a couple novels.
I do not understand why all publishers can't stick to the same submission guidelines so I don't have to rewrite everything. One wants a chapter by chapter synopsis and outline, another wants a running narrative synopsis -- Just hit the highlights and who gets who in the end. One publisher wants the first three chapters and another wants the first three and the last chapter. (I'll bet they're related to Harry whose dark side demands he reads the last page before he gets through the first chapter -- in case he dies) Then there are the fonts. One wants Times Roman in 12-point and another Courier New in 12-point. One wants 1.5 spaces and the other two spaces. And then there is the publisher who wants it all single space with indentations on the first line with the manuscript but not in the first three chapters and synopsis sent with the initial query letter. Details, details, details. They all need to standardize their guidelines so I don't have to rewrite, redo and reformat the same manuscript again and again and again and...well, you get the idea.
And I still have more writing to do. I finished chapter two of Anything For Love but I can't write anything else on it until I finish what I've already been contracted to write -- and been promised payment for. Then, there's the PPRAA newsletter I have to finish formatting, editing, checking and send out to the printer (with a copy for my favorite anal retentive control freak) and redo some of the newsletter to be transferred to PDF and uploaded to the PPRAA website with working links so those members actually living and familiar with 21st century technology can click and surf for further information. And formatting the newsletter is a bit of a nightmare when I have lots and lots of articles and only 12 pages worth of space, most of which is already ear marked for club and board meeting minutes and the president's monthly column (which is also available on its own page on the PPRAA website and makes no sense to me), leaving me with very little actual usable space, especially with all the disclaimers, advertisements and boiler plate that MUST be in each issue. It's a lesson in logistics just to figure out a font that is readable by the older members of the club without using a magnifying glass and still allows me to fit everything in. Talk about needing a shoe horn.
But I'm not unhappy or even discontented. I have lots to keep me busy but I'd rather have more time to get into trouble. Everyone needs a little trouble now and again just to keep in practice and to shake up the ant farm. Don't want the ants getting too comfortable --
-- or too boring.
The landlady told me last night as we sat on the front porch that changes are coming. First, my windows are about to be papered over. She is having the house painted in two weeks and they have to cover the windows to keep them from being painted over. I guess that means they won't be using brushes or rollers and that noisy air compressors will be forcing the paint into concentrated arcing sprays and their aim with the spray guns is probably about as good as their aim with their own fleshy spray equipment. At least it won't smell nearly as bad when they miss the target and we don't notice until we step into a half dry puddle in the middle of the night -- not that it's something I have to deal with. George is a very tidy and considerate fellow who gave up bodily functions when he died and decided to remain here in my part of this house. Sometimes a male ghost is all the male companionship I can stand and other times...
Well, I just got that "you've got work" message and it's time for me to make a few more pennies to add to the ones I didn't have to spend yesterday at the parking meter near the post office because some lovely generous soul leaving the spot ahead of me let me know there was still time on the meter. Bless thoughtful people everywhere.
That is all. Disperse.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
I'm still getting used to the keyboard and keys on the new laptop, but I have written more in the past 24 hours than I have in months. This is just what I needed to kick off my creativity. After all, writing doesn't have to mean sitting in an office chair for hours until my butt is numb and feels like it's made of lead or my legs are so swollen from pressure edema that they look like balloons and my feet like they belong to a cartoon character. I can sit comfortably on the couch or chaise or even be comfortably naked in bed with the laptop on a pillow or between my legs on top of the covers and write to my heart's content, pouring out all the thoughts I struggled to write longhand with pens that skip and fail to work consistently until my hands cramp. I have to work 8-14 hours a day transcribing and some days it is more than I can face to sit another 2, 3 or more hours to write out what is in the fertile soil of my brain. I feel like I have been given a reprieve and I'm running out the door before they figure out it was all a mistake.
Can I just say ... I LOVE MY NEW LAPTOP!
I am willing, nay eager, to get used to the keyboard and the function keys, and I can do without the numeric keypad. I am content.
While I was on the phone to Qwest to learn how to turn on the wireless function on my DSL modem and waiting for Steve to find the password to open the administration website, my eyes focused and I noticed lilacs blooming across the street. Lilacs. Beautiful lilac-colored lilacs blooming. Delicate pale blue violet clusters of star-shaped flowers budding and bursting open in ripe profusion. Lilacs. I hadn't noticed them before, but I have been otherwise engaged in mourning the death and dismemberment of the pink blossoms on the tree next door and the flagging sunshine gold of the forsythia.
The yard across the street is sere brown and rises in tan puffs when the pack of children attending the day car there romp and scamper across the yard. Grass no longer grows there and it seems the mother and daughter who own the house have decided not to bow to the suburban convention of perfect emerald squares of lawn treated to within an inch of its growth with chemical soups and stews that leach into the water table and poison the earthworms and bacteria that comprise an important part of the cycle of life and decay. There is no homeowners association in our neighborhood and, from talking to the Evanses ,who are sporadically moving from their suburban hell to our corner of Old Colorado City still caught blissfully in the 1950s, no Nazi Stormtrooper guardians of cloned mediocrity who need to spend their time monitoring their neighbors' hive conscious display of perfectly stationed and retrieved trash cans, parking skills and independent thinking. We here on the west side live oblivious to our neighbors' householding skills, focused instead on really getting to know them. Here the gossips are more concerned with what you do than what appearance you maintain.
Even though most of the neighbors disliked the tree-hating orc wench's pretensions to suburban thinking and her aggressive displays and complaints against the suburbanites who trekked here every Saturday morning during the Farmer's Market, intent on keeping them from parking anywhere around or near her possessive and clearly marked NO PARKING zones (despite the fact that she was marking territory already claimed by the city and thus public), they knew more about her private life than probably was good for anyone. The tree-hating orc wench never let anyone outside of her family (and eventually perspective owners when she and her husband were posted to Pueblo) inside the house. Even her "best friend" and partner in crimes against Farmer's Market visitors was never allowed inside the house. The windows were covered with heavy drapes and contact paper that kept out prying eyes and sunlight. No one found out the why and wherefore until Mike and Michelle, the young married couple who bought the house, moved in and began building friendship ties with the neighbors, dropping a pebble in a pond and letting the story spread in ever widening ripples that although the tree-hating orc wench tended lovingly to the yard and flowers and bushes, in comparison, the inside of the house was the black hole of Calcutta. Garbage stuffed into closets and corners, walls, ceilings, woodword and windows black with filth, grease and cigarette smoke and festooned in cobwebs more like what to inspect inside a crack house or abandoned derelict than in the house of someone who looked cleaned and neat, but who seldom ventured out in the light of day.
Into this world where spring is slow to ripen and winter reluctant to loose its icy grip, comes those delicately blossoming lilacs like a declaration that spring is here to stay no matter how the winter howls and spits its ice at us. Beneath that perfect blue sky and among the clattering bare twiggy branches lilacs have come back from their long sleep and burst forth with quiet triumph. Lilacs.
And where there is one bush there will be others, a sure sign on this cold morning that time moves on and even the seasons must give up and give way. We are speeding through time and it is a sight like blossoming fragrant lilacs that remind me there is so much to do that should not wait. There is no perfect time to do what needs to be done. There is only now. This moment. This breath. This second. Then it is gone to be replaced by another moment, another breath, another second that will be lost and mourned unless taken and enjoyed.