Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Just Like New

Thanks, Eugenio!  It's perfect.  Right down to the New Car Smell.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Baja del Norte, Mexico

 I've been gone for a few days.  Goofing off in Baja California, Mexico.  Chuck's daughter just turned 21, and it is her spring break; so we went on a little trip for her birthday treat.  Drove down to the border at Tijuana, then toodled around the Pacific side of Baja, roaming down as far as El Rosario.

We took Franken Audi, so named because it is an amalgamation of two Audis.  Chuck's Audi died a few weeks ago; but he was able to find an almost identical one with a good engine and front end damage. Voila!  Really, to enjoy Baja, you need four-wheel drive with high clearance.  Except for the main highway, very few roads are paved.  We did take Franken Audi off-road a few times, just to see what would happen.  Chuck's daughter K. fussed at us a little, worried we would get bogged down in the mud.  Then what?  Chuck shrugged.  Walk to a farm and ask for a tow?  We didn't get stuck, though.

This brings me to the art of traveling with Chuck. He takes it as it comes.  He doesn't plan too much.  If he likes what he sees, he goes there.  We camped one night, on the shore above Bahia de Todos Santos.  Other nights we would have camped, but hotel rooms were almost the same price.  Why not be comfortable?   

 The beaches up by Ensenada are smooth, clean and sandy.  Farther south, by San Antonio del Mar, very pebbly.  Too pebbly to sleep on.  That's why we stayed in a little hotel in San Quintin.
 There's a lot of big, corporate agriculture down there.  Strawberries; tomatoes.  But also fields of prickly pear, locally known as nopales.  I have eaten lentil soup with nopales, in Salt Lake.
 First day of spring, in San Quintin.  The local kids celebrated with a bike ride from town out to the bay.  I got the details from a parent who was hanging out with them.  Everywhere I stopped to ask questions, people were happy to talk to me in my goofy Spanish.  I had a lot of great little conversations.

 In the rest of Mexico, it's all about soccer.  But here,baseball rules.
 Open air market in El Rosario.  The locals were all lined up for cold drinks and I spotted this jug of horchata, which is...um...well... rice water.  Cinnamon rice water.  If rice pudding were a cold, refreshing drink, that would be horchata.  I looooooove it, and this guy's horchata was the best!
 I had to get over my notions about open air mercados, though.  This one in El Rosario was put on by the local for the locals, so I knew it would be authentic.  Beware getting too many ideas about authenticity, though.  Up in the tourist zone, the mercados were full of garish, ticky-tacky pseudo-Mexi souvenirs.  Out of the tourist zone, this mercado was all second hand stuff that had been bought at yard sales and in thrift stores in the USA and hauled down here for resale.  Check out the resourceful use of that walker.
 The food was great, everywhere we went.  Wood-fired steamers produced fluffy tamales that we ate at a roadside stand in Maneadero.  Ceviche to die for in a sit-down restaurant in San Quintin.  And lots of roadside taco stands like this one in El Rosario.

 The sink for washing up afterward didn't work; but there was a bucket of water next to it.  Good enough.
 A lot of the places we ate and stayed were almost deserted.  The staff told us that trade has dropped off tragically the last few years.  Americans are afraid to come down and vacation here because of their perceptions about the drug traffickers and gang activity.  We researched this a little before we left.  There is a certain level of, let's say, homicide density in Tijuana and Rosarito.  Once out of those urban areas, it's virtually murder free.  I sometimes felt a little concerned about whether I could find the kinds of empanadas I like; whether the shower in our hotel room would heat up; whether we would lose our oil pan.  And you know the number one exhortation about Mexico... did drinking the horchata mean that I drank the water??  I never worried though, that I was going to be killed.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


I have a bad cold.  I had a fever last night, and had to leave work.  I don't have time for this!  I have to work late tonight, start early tomorrow, work an evening shift tomorrow night, then Chuck and I leave for California on Friday morning.

I have managed to get myself tied up on knots, emotionally, over a simple cold.  I thought I should tell Chuck to stay away from me, so I don't make him sick.  I didn't want him to have to wait on me.  On the other hand, I felt lousy; and although I was pretty sure that I could get home and nose-dive into bed, I wasn't sure that I could haul myself around to make tea or feed myself anything.

So, of course, I bull-headedly texted Chuck and told him NOT to come to my place tonight.  I'm sick!  He'll catch it!  I'll snore!  And I also thought that maybe he needed to work on the car he's fixing up for our trip and shouldn't take the time out to look after me. 

Well, OK... If I insist...

Then I was sad.  See?  Just goes to show!  He doesn't love me anymore.

[Cue the laugh-track]

Yes, yes.  I realized I was being dumb.  Hey, at least I KNEW, right?  Uuuugggh.  After feeling miserable for a bit, I thought, "Oh for Pete's sake!  You are doing this to YOURSELF!"  I texted him back and said that I was just being proud; and that it wasn't true that I didn't need him.  I did need him.

At that point, he wisely ignored further texts; but he was waiting for me when I got home.  He literally tucked me up into bed; made chicken soup, and Lem-Sip with whiskey; scolded me every time I got out of bed to do anything for myself; carried the TV into the bedroom and rigged it so I could watch a movie without getting up; he read aloud to me from my book for an hour or so. 

I know! He's an angel.  I'm very lucky.  I told him so.

He's gone now; off to a morning meeting.  He blew me a kiss and was out the door.  I'm getting a slow start this morning because I still don't feel great; and because I can't run today.  I am feeling vaguely depressed, despite the fact that I have a cup of tea and some Girl Scout cookies beside me.  I think it is the same old shit.

I tend to see relationships on a continuum:  at one end is romance and eroticism.  At the other end is intimacy.  In other words, as you get closer and closer to a person, you slowly see their hidden corners; but they become less intriguing to you.  They are no longer objects of wonderment and discovery.  There is a beauty in the depths of this knowledge, it's true.  Lots of people slide down this continuum with ease. They leave behind all the... surprise!  The WOW!  The inability to keep their hands off each other.  The long, sweet conversations.  It's inevitable: you realize that your adored one snores; farts; bleeds.  He wipes out on his motorcycle and she picks his bandages off.  She gets her period unexpectedly and he washes the sheets. He gets a sinus infection.  She catches cold.  His car breaks down and she picks him up.  She crashes her car and he comes to get her.

I can't stand it.  It kills me.  I want him to think I'm magic.  I want to beat the shit out of the ordinary.

But only in one direction. I love it when he needs me.  I can see him ill and miserable today, and still adore and desire him tomorrow.  I know that the double standard is ridiculous.  Sometimes I say to myself:  imagine that he feels exactly the same about you that you feel about him.  That is a great feeling.  But I struggle to hold onto it.

So what's my problem?  Why do I continue to obsess about this?  And how do I make it stop?

Maybe I'm scared because of my past.  Oooops.  I hit on something - my eyes are welling.  I tried so hard to find affection, romance and adventure within my 19-year marriage; and I sucked at it.  I have no confidence that I can build or sustain any of that; because I tried and failed.  Intimacy?  Hell, yeah.  Si saw me naked and pregnant; watched my squeeze two babies into the world; I gave him shots in his belly; he saw me when I only had one boob.  I've seen him hallucinating so badly that he called himself the king of fucking Ireland.  The part where the couple takes care of each other?  I can do all that.
This is why I'm so insecure with the idea that I am capable of being pretty, or sexy, or a stimulating person to talk to, or the kind of person who deserves flowers for no reason.  I think, "There's no way I can keep a man's interest.  I didn't keep Si's."  Worse?  I don't think I ever really HAD Si's interest.

Major fail.

 I have tried to talk to Chuck about this, but he dismisses it, saying simply that he's happy and that there is nothing to worry about. That I will realize that, myself, after a while.  He has no anxieties or unhappiness about our relationship.  Other things in his life?  Yes.  Me? No.  I sigh in exasperation.  With myself.  Something is broken and needs to heal.  I've always been impatient with healing of any kind.

So I popped right up out of bed this morning, declared myself cured.

Fever down. Self-reproach up.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Surrounded by His Loving Family

My friend CH lost his dad over the weekend.  He has never seen my blog, so I know he won't read this letter I am going to write to him, which is OK.  I'm writing because I know I will never be able to say these things to him.  They would come out sounding all advice-y, which I don't like.  Plus, CH and I seldom get uninterrupted time to chat.

I am not absolutely certain, but I suspect that his father's death will be more difficult for him because of several things:  the family is deeply Balkanized; he was a primary caregiver for his parents for a time; he was not ready to let his father go;  he hadn't seen him in a while; and he was far away, overseas on business, when his dad died.

Maybe this is a Utah phenomenon, but it is a big deal in the local obituaries that, "so-and-so passed away peacefully, surrounded by his loving family".  This particular family has what I guess I would call a formal streak, a sense of ceremony and heritage.

My long-time blog buddies may recall that my dad's death two years ago was the exclamation point at the end of a shitty year:  Simon's botched knee surgery and long hospitalization; my cancer and resulting surgeries; then Dad's illness and death.  When Dad got sick, I wanted so much to see him once more, but I didn't get to.  It bothered me for a long time, and I still think about it a lot.

Dear CH,

I'm sorry about the loss of your dad, and I'm a little extra sore about it, because I still miss my dad a lot.  I am privately concerned that the circumstances of the last couple months and the fact that you didn't get to see your dad again will add to your sadness.

Because of my health and my family's attempts to coordinate what would be the most helpful to my mom, I didn't get to see my dad before he died.  Missed him by three days.

My point is that I got over it.  I was partially aided in this by my aunt Marian, who scoffed at the notion.  "Oh, brother!  This myth about the loving family, gathered around the deathbed of the patriarch!  Why should the patriarch care?  He doesn't!  Most of the time, he's not even conscious!"  Wow.  Strong language from a little old lady.

She's right.  I told myself, "But I wanted him to know at the end how much I loved him."  He knew.  Your dad also knew. 

And I see now that all this last minute stuff is nothing.  What does it matter in light of all that came before?  A whole shared lifetime, which completely overshadows the one last look or word.

And here is my final thought: one which has only begun evolving in my mind.  So far, this thought is taking shape as, "the best is yet to come". Now that some time has passed, I look to the future of my relationship with my father with enormous happiness.  All of the things I admired most, I adopt as my own.  I used to miss my Dad's friendliness.  But why miss it when I can HAVE it? Now, when there's a choice between starting a conversation  with a stranger or letting the moment pass, I try to start the conversation.  My dad had a real sense of joie de vivre.  Every time that I choose laughter and make life fun for myself I think, "Well, yeah, he's gone; but I picked the pockets of his character and got a double handful of everything I wanted."

My inheritance!

I'm sorry for your loss.  And I'm REALLY sorry about the anger and conflict that are going to muddy your waters, when you try so hard to keep them clear.  It doesn't seem fair - that you should have to sail such a stormy sea.  When I see you, I'll just hug you and say, "I'm so sorry about your dad," like everyone else. But in my heart, I'll wish I were preachy enough to say, "Your dad knew you loved him.  He didn't need anything more from you than what you gave him.  And after a period of missing him, you can dip into your inheritance and use it to build your future."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Budget Babe

Ugh.....  I feel awful.  I have been so sleepy all day!  I have no reason for all this tiredness.  Maybe my cancer has metastasized to my brain!  Or (worse), maybe I am growing old.  Shit.

I have always thought that, once I started to understand my finances better, I should blog about the things that I learned, so here it is:  the inaugural run of Budget Babe (February).

Rent and Child Support:  I can't really screw them up.  I just need to pay them.

Utilities:  I am pretty much on target with everything except natural gas.  I ran over my budget by 25%.  What I really need to solve this problem is spring.

Groceries:  a chronic problem for a girl who likes to eat good food and likes to cook for everyone who will sit down and eat.  I spent $341 on food this month, which is the lowest ever, and I came in under budget.  It still sounds like a lot, though, don't you think?  If I only fed myself and not the kids, it would be a whole different ball game.

GAS!  A triumph!  When I drove the Tacoma, I was spending an average of $348 on gas per month.  Since I got the Fiat?  $109!!!!

I got my Internet lowered to about $25 by calling the company and negotiating my rate after the original price offer ran out.  I thought my rate would surely go up from the rate I had before, but it is now about $8 lower.

I overspent on both of the kids' birthdays, and on the trip to Las Vegas.  I need to just assume that trips and celebrations will just be about twice as expensive as I think they will be.

My three pricey items which were not in the budget this month were:

Dry cleaning.  Let's see.  If you get a second hand suede skirt from the freebies left at school (so it costs you nothing), should you pay $33 to get it cleaned when you get salad dressing on it?  Hmmm...  I'm not sure this was a good expenditure, but I'm also not sure it was bad.  The skirt probably cost more than that when it was originally bought; and I like it and wear it....

Electric kettle.  I left my old one at Swiss Oaks, and I missed it, even though I tried not to.  After having a stove top kettle for the last nine months, I just decided that I didn't enjoy getting by with out it.  I'm OK with this expense.

Mary Kay.  Yeah, I know:  Me?  Really?  Well, half the proceeds were donated back to the school by the representative. Aaaaaand, I didn't buy anything after the party, but went home and thought about it a couple days (and bought the eye shadow colors at the grocery store).  I ended up getting some moisturizer, 'cause I'm not getting any younger.  Maybe this stuff is weakening me, draining me of my superpowers, and that's why I'm so sleepy.

Final verdict (quick, I'm dozing off...)  My income stayed ahead of my expenses by $445!  BINGBINGBING!   Yay, me!

(Of couse, considering the Fiat, March will be a very different sort of budget month for me...)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Crashed the Fiat

Oh, no:  I'm not joking.

Oh, yes:  I'm talking about my two-month old, 2012 Fiat 500.

I have never been in a car accident before.  Turns out it only takes a split second.  While driving the kids to school, I glanced down for the barest second to adjust the heating and there it was:  the traffic calming island in front of St. Thomas More Catholic Church.  My front driver's side wheel went up the foot-high curb, then slipped off it, destroying the front driver's side suspension.  The wheel, detached from the steering system, was facing toward the side of the road, and that's where the car went - unsteerable as it was.  Up the curb, across the sidewalk and scraped along someone's backyard fence until it finally crashed through and stopped.

Local readers, check it out!  Right across the street from St. Thomas More.  I have often noted how property owners with fences on that bit of road must get them taken out pretty regularly; now I'm part of that whole history.

No one hurt.  The lady whose fence I smashed was gracious in the face of my shocked apologies.  Geico has been fantastic.  I just don't know what will become of my beautiful little car.  My first car that I bought on my own.  Chuck came down straight away, steam-rollering my objections.  Hugged me and put me in his car so I could warm up.  He listened patiently as I went over all the things that needed to be done, until a sensible sequence emerged.  He took me to the house on Aloha Road and made me a cup of tea.  Provided me with a car and insisted that he would be OK riding his motorcycle for a few days. 

I don't allow myself to get emotional about this kind of thing, but I did go into his room while he was making tea and cocoon myself entirely in his black blanket.  He laughed when he came in.  "Where's Kate?  I can barely tell you're even in there."  "I'm in time out,"  I said, in a muffled kind of way.  He dug through the blanket a little until he found my hair and kissed my head a couple of times:  "OK..."  He went back out to pour the tea and I started to cry.  I shed a few little tears of frustration and suspended adrenalin, but ended the pity party before Chuck came back. 

I'm fine now.  It reminds me of a quality that I like about myself, but Simon used to misunderstand.  When we would have a misfortune, I would (as he put it) fail to see the seriousness of the matter.  He thought I didn't understand just how bad the mishap really was.  The truth is that I just move on quickly.  Well, shit.  I crashed the car.  So, NOW what?  What do I have to do first, second, third?  What needs to have happened by tomorrow?

It was a great thing to have Chuck's help and support. I am grateful that I have him.  He's steady in a pickle.  This evening, he asked of he could come to my place for dinner, and I was happy to see him.  He didn't seem happy, though; and I didn't have the ability to alter his mood much. This seems to be the case more often than not.  He says that I make him happy; but I have never noticed that I lift his burdens.  I wish I did.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

February Ends in Pictures

 Chuck's Hand of Fatima gets all catywumpus around his neck while he sleeps.  I keep thinking he will get bored with it and finally take it off; but there it stays...

 Leftover peach cobbler for breakfast.

 The Rec Center, as usual.

 On Fridays, I shop the sales.  First I go to Smith's for grapes, asparagus and soap...
 Then Macey's for sandwich bags, cucumbers and yogurt.
 Then home for what I call The Great Switchover: in which I travel back to my place just long enough to run a load of wash; exchange the clothes I have been wearing at Chuck's place for others to wear at the weekend; gather food that I need for weekend cooking, etc...  It is a huge pain.

 Girl Scout Cookies help.
 Everything I need to make bean soup tomorrow night.

 Monthly All-Staff Meeting
 I write thank-you notes during the meeting,
 Until the United Way presentation.
 The Cookie Mobile
 I take a little walk down the block in the afternoon,
 to Neighborhood House.

 It's Senior Daycare.  I love the time that I spend here.
 Back to work!
 Stuff to take home for the weekend
 Before I leave, I pretty myself up a little.
 And chat with my friends.

 Chuck's Franken-Audi project:  Taking the front end body work off his old Audi, which no longer runs; and putting it on this other Audi he just bought, which runs find but has a smashed up front end.

 We all make dinner together tonight.

 I survey Chuck about how he uses grammar in a certain kind of conditional sentence.  We are curious about it at work.
Dinner and conversation with Liz and Roi at the end of the day.