Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rough Start, Better Later

My day did not start well today. 
Nathan has topped his Christmas list with the dreaded "cell phone".  His father is in favor of it, because Nate will be going to middle school next year, (sixth grade will be middle school).  He will be ranging more widely.  I get it.  However, Sara didn’t get a phone until she was 13.  And above all, I don’t want to reward him with a device that implies responsibility when he had shown very little lately.  He will sometimes do a chore when asked.  He filled the wood box yesterday without too much objection.  But he was a little shit about helping with supper and found excuses not to help clean up.  I would prefer to wait until the beginning of the school year next year and use the intervening time to, let’s just say… train him in a few life-skills.  He’s pissed because he wants the phone for Christmas.  Everyone has one!  Everyone except him!  How do I expect him to have friends!  Tears.  Recriminations.  Rants about the quality of my parenting.  What he fails to see is that he is digging himself deeper and deeper. 
Then I used my commute to get myself wound up about Chuck.  The anxiety dujeur (if that's spelled wrong, all you Frenchies need to forgive me) is money and the future.  We have figured out our financial life together for the present.  But what about retirement?  What if one of us gets sick?  If I die before he does, what will that mean?  If he dies before me?  Argh!  I never wasted a thought on these matters in my first marriage.  First marriages are all about building things together.  You have babies, you buy homes.  You earn together, save together, do everything in sync and on the same time-line.  What are we building in a second marriage?  It is a little depressing to think that all a second marriage is about is keeping the other person comfortable and happy as we slide down the hill into old age and death.  I wonder if I would be more settled and happy if I thought there was something that we were working toward as a couple.  I should try to discuss this with him. 
I got all the way to work before I remembered that I was supposed to stop at the camera repair place and drop off my/Sara’s/Chuck’s camera to be repaired.  Geeze, I even had a sticky note with the address stuck to my dashboard to remind me.  I was preoccupied and on auto-pilot.  I pulled into my parking space, swore, and pulled back out again. 
I found the camera shop and the lady who worked there looked at the problem, then pulled a face that told me, “DOH!  That’s gonna cost ya!”  It’s a firmware problem. Huh?   Probably needs to be sent back to Cannon.  They may need to replace all of the circuitry.  It might cost more than a new camera at this point.  Sigh.  The camera is almost new.  Just not quite new enough.  And Sara adores it and has become an avid photographer.  What caused this to happen?  Nothing.  Sometimes, it just…happens.  To me.
Finally, as I was leaving, I was waiting  to turn right into heavy traffic.  I was looking to my left…looking to my left… there’s an opening…I just started to pull forward when ZIP!  There goes a bicycle, against traffic and on the sidewalk, crossing right in front of me.  I slammed on the brakes with barely an inch to spare.  Scared the living shit out of me.  My hair stood on end.  And of course, I stalled out my engine, delayed getting into the break in traffic and got honked at by the guy behind me, who clearly thought I should have just run the cyclist over.
But, the day improved.
Chuck called me to chat for a couple minutes.  He doesn’t do that very often anymore, but I love it when he does.  Reminds me of when we first started going out. It's a date! 
Then, we got a huge donation of graham crackers.  Cases and cases.  The expiration dates are varied:  September through December.  If we time it right and watch the stock, we can give them out for snacks for several months before they get really rancid.  I know that doesn’t sound great.  But we have had no snacks at all for months.  I like to have something on hand because so many of our students come straight from work without having eaten.  And the kids in the childcare can use a snack, too.  I stacked cases of crackers in the office and piled more cases in the garage and was very happy.
And finally at evening staff meeting tonight, Chuck showed up with a giant burrito, which he threw at me in a neat spiral, slugging me in the chest and almost knocking me over.  It’ll feed me for a couple of days!  And I was able to give him a Guatemalan style tamale, courtesy of my student Alma.  I gave mine to him.  Kind of like the gift of the Magi, only with supper.  Life is good, after all. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Best Surfer in the World

Years ago, on vacation at the Oregon coast, I enviously watched a surfing lesson.  An actual surf instructor drew a pretend surfboard on the sand, and a woman lay down on it and pretended to paddle.  I thought, “Man!  I want to try that!”  Not the lying-in-the-sand part.  The part where they get in the water!  Play in the waves!  At that time, I had no wet suit (they may surf in bikinis in Hawaii, but not in Oregon), no board, no money for an instructor.  
But Chuck’s brother M. loves to surf.  I have been pestering him and making little puppy-dog noises ever since I met him last summer.  Everybody gathered in Santa Barbara for Thanksgiving, so we both brought our wet-suits.  He keeps an old long-board at his parents’ house.
Here’s the main thing I didn’t know about surfing until I tried it:  IT’S NOT THAT HARD!  All you middle-aged ladies like me who think you are too old to start surfing?  If I can do it despite my dubious balance and missing left pectoral, so can you.  No more excuses!  Mike took a minute to show me how to jump up to a standing position on the sand and tethered me to the board with a “leash”.  Yes, surfing involves light bondage.  Even more fun.  Then we went out to about five feet.  He showed me how to find my balance point on the board. How to plow over the top of a wave.  Then we would wait for a good wave.  When a good one came along, M. would shove the board into it and shout, “Paddle!  Paddle!  Paddle!”  Sure enough! I paddled and caught the wave.  What I learned really quickly was that, once the board is sort of locked in the wave, it is pretty stable.  Surprisingly so.  After a couple tries, I was popping up on my knees; once, I started to stand up, but I had dithered to long, and the wave crashed before I really got up.
A lot of my personal amusement was caused by my blindness.  I couldn’t wear my contacts out there.  I could sort of tell when a  good wave was coming, by its shadow.  But I had to keep an eye on the rocks up on the shore and ditch the ride before I crashed into them.  After about the third time I did that, I paddled back out to Mike, who asked me why I didn’t finish the ride.  “Well, I don’t want to run into those rocks.”  ”What rocks?”  “Those, right there.”  “Those aren’t rocks.  They’re just kelp piles.”  Oh.  After that, I ran into them with great enjoyment.  I tried not to think of all the tiny things I was stepping on out there; tried not to think about how it would feel to step on a sea urchin.
So, it was perfect, thanks to M’s help.  I did get pretty banged up on my very last ride.  I went up to shore and crashed into the kelp pile, then tried to stand up.  A good rule of thumb:  near shore, always stay behind the surf board.  If in front of it, you will get pulverized by the thing as the waves smash it into you.  After a couple of bruising waves, I quickly stood up and snatched it out of the water, holding it over my head.
Chuck emerged out of the fog and blur, holding out my glasses to place them on my face.  “You know who the best surfer in the world is?”  “Uh-uh.”  “The one who is having the most fun.  So it has to be you.”

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hot Foot Melancholy

I have been feeling a bit sad this evening, for reasons I was unable to pinpoint.  Then I realized:  my feet are hot.  I am sitting in front of the wood stove next to Sara, each of us in our own little laptop world.  This started off feeling cozy; but, as I now realize, I have become overheated and dehydrated and this is making me sad.  Well, I'll get up in a sec and make myself a cup of tea.

Today, I went for a six-mile run.  There is a route I can do from Chuck's house: a loop that is hilly and challenging whether I go clockwise or counterclockwise.  Today, it did not rip my guts out quite as much as it sometimes does.  That's good, because I can't cheat the way I did before we got snow.  Used to be, the last half mile up the Little Cottonwood Canyon was via a little footpath, and I would walk it - called it my cool-down.  Now the footpath is covered in slush and snow, so I have to run the last leg out on the Little Cottonwood Canyon Road.  All the skiers coming down the canyon at the end of the day can see me, pink-faced and gasping.  My ego will not allow me to walk. 

I picked up Sara and Nate from their dads's house today, and Sara told me that she had been skiing today. 

"Hey, Mom.  I was riding down the Canyon with Jess and her dad, and we saw this bicyclist pedaling up the Canyon.  We said, 'Why would anyone be cycling up the Canyon in the rain?'  So, Jess says, 'Maybe his wife is chasing him.'  Then a few seconds later, there's this lady running up the Canyon and Jess and her dad start laughing.  Sure enough, his wife IS chasing him! Then I saw:  it was YOU!"

Willie Nelson is singing:

Oh, my love, my darling/
I've hungered for your touch/
A long, lonely time.
Time goes by so slowly/
And time can do so much.
Are you still mine?

Chuck sings this to me sometimes. I think I will go and find him.  All is silent up in the badroom.  I'll bet he has fallen asleep.  Good night!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Hillbilly Highlife, Episode One: Snow Comes to the Canyon

I was inspired to write this entry after ogling Yes, I admit it.  Don't worry:  I never follow any of her suggestions.  Well, OK, except for the one about organizing the bathroom cupboard with a wire pull-out. 

And a few crock pot recipes. 

She has a blog, in which she explains how things work in her world. I was dazzled by some of her winterizing techniques. Check this out. This is how she bundles up her collection of concrete garden urns for the winter.

Martha, I am impressed by  the...tautness of your burlap.  Thanks for recommending that we sew our burlap with a sail needle.  I am not surprised, of course, that you sew your own sails.   
Clearly, if I had taken your advice, the recent snowstorm in our part of the world would not have blown my blue tarp off.  When the storm lets up, I'll get back out there with the duct tape and make sure things are really battened down.
And, regardless of the size of her estate and the number of outbuildings included, I'll bet her garage does not have room for a dismantled barn and two cars in the midst of repairs.
I Googled "Martha Stewart snowplow", because I wanted to check out her blade.  Guess what, she has a dog named "Snowplow", but appears to be without a blade attachment of any kind.  Gotcha beat there, Babe.
We cannot compete with her wood pile.  Check it out!  A special, pre-made stacker, AND a nifty contraption that spaces the logs JUST SO, allowing for optimum air circulation
Ours suffered a slight mishap when the storm blew in, and has partially collapsed, burying the wheelbarrow.  However, we have a handy rack for holding mauls and wedges...

SO, Martha, what with your sail-making and all, I'm sure you must have had an episode devoted to winterizing your yacht.  I missed that one.  I thought I'd share the Brainerd-Diggins dry dock with our shared readership. 

One boat on either side of the driveway.  The canoe is not visible, tucked back behind the woodpile.  The raft frame is another matter.

I'll add a couple of other winter preparation tips, in case Martha didn't think of them. First of all, check on the condition of your snow blower.  Chuck found this little number by the side of the street during bulk trash pickup in the Avenues.  It started right up!  He got it home, and now it will NOT start right up, but Chuck will figure out the problem. That's Chuck's strong point:  my guy can fix anything.

Martha, don't forget to check on these two necessary features:  the fullness of your propane tank(good) and the fullness of your sewage holding tank (bad).

We'll finish this episode of Hillbilly Highlife with a quiz. Any of our readers who can tell which hearth is mine, and which is Martha's will win a nifty wrapping paper organizing spindle.  Mine, or Martha's?
Mine, or Martha's?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Civility in Discourse

I have never used my blog for discussions of anything political, because I don’t really think that I add anything of value to the other hyenas who are already yapping and snapping.  I have a lot of opinions, but in writing about them, I lack fluency.  And I don’t want to do a bunch of research, which I would feel obliged to do if I were to write about politics.  
I’ll tell you what does excite me about the modern American experience, though: the death of civility in controversial discourse.  When I was doing my graduate work in Linguistics, my favorite classes were Sociolinguistics and Discourse Analysis.  I love picking apart letters to the editor, considering why the writer chooses particular words over others.  I am animated by the ways in which political forces take ownership of language and use it to further their own ends.  Think, “family values”.  Think “job creators”.  
I was listening to the show “This American Life” on NPR the other day, and the stories were all about friends and family who were so politically polarized that they were unable to maintain their relationships.  Unable to talk about ANYthing anymore.  Unable to eat a meal together.  I’m interested in why we can’t listen to each other, learn from each other, and respectfully disagree. 
Are we getting too much of our lessons in how to talk to people from talk shows where people shout and interrupt, so that’s all we know how to do?  Chuck’s theory is that when we were younger, there were far fewer sources of information than there are now.  “Truth” as I knew it came from Walter Cronkite and the Milwaukee Sentinel.  Granted, it was probably a poor truth, but when conversing about our beliefs, we didn’t have to contend with today’s reality:  there is nowhere you can go for the truth any more.  There are a thousand truths, based conflicting studies and distorted facts. Because I teach people how to use the English languge, I think it is my responsibility to help them learn how to do things like give opinions respectfully, ask others for their thoughts, disagree in such a way that no one feels belittled.  To be able to talk about religion, politics, social issues in a way that  unites heart and minds.  And because Guadalupe School is a community learning center, with students and volunteers from all backgrounds forming a quasi-family, I want that environment to be a place where we can experiment with discourse and feel safe in doing so.
So, you may catch me driveling on about this once a month or so.  If you want to add to the conversation in the comments section form time to time, as the spirit moves you, go for it.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Paying Attention

Once a month, I try to focus on the details. Here's yesterday.

6:00:  I am awakened by Chuck and am almost immediately bright-eyed.  I go to bed much earlier now, than I used to.  Alarm clocks are forbidden – Chuck wakes me up at whatever time I ask.  I know!  How does he DO that?  I wake up the kids, get the kettle on and Sara joins me to go for the newspaper.  The paper delivery guy is at the mailbox when we get there and hands it straight to me.  Breakfast, sack lunches, dishes. 

7:00:  I get a cup of tea and Chuck’s vitamins ready for him before I leave.  He pulls me in and whispers in my ear that he loves me so much that I make him cry sometimes.  It has been a long time since he has spoken to me in this way, and I carry it with me for the rest of the day. 

7:20:  Out the door and off to school.  The sunrise has not hit the canyon yet; but the Oquirr Mountains on the other side of the valley are pink. 

7:40:  I drop Sara at her middle school and then drive over to the church parking lot from which Nathan’s bus will leave in about 45 minutes’ time.  This has been awkward ever since the divorce.  His school starts more than an hour later than Sara’s.  Do I leave him at home and go back for him?  Waste  of gas and time.  Drop him off at his school?  Too early.  The bus stop is so close that I can see his dad’s house while we sit waiting.  But it isn’t fair to the custody agreement to drop Nate off and have him wait at his dad’s.  We have a routine now:  we both have our books and we read while we wait.  In the coldest part of winter, it sucks and we freeze.  Otherwise, it’s not too bad.

8:20:  Nate sees his friend Ethan headed to the school bus stop and leaps from the car.  They race every morning to see who will lead the bus line.  As soon as he has a companion to wait with, I leave and go to the Rec Center.

8:50:  It’s a fat-burning day!  This means I lounge on the exercise bike, keeping my heart rate at a mellow 114 beats per minute.  At that rate, I can read my book!  For an hour!  YES!  Today, I get a fair amount of ribbing from the peddlers of the other bikes when I drop my book spectacularly (lunging to catch it, missing so that it bounces off my finger tips and goes flying, etc…).  The old guy next to me asks me please to do it again.

9:50:  I’m reluctant to stop reading; but my butt is sore from sitting on the exercise bike – and it’s time for work.  OK…  I drive downtown.  

10:15:  I arrive at work and transform myself from sweaty fat-burner to semi-groomed semi-professional. 

10:30:  Unpack the crate of work I took home over the weekend and start working on phone calls:  Will one sanitation company offer me a lower price than the other to pump Chuck’s sewage holding tank?  Can I persuade any of the commercial radio stations to air a public service announcement, requesting volunteer tutors?  I have been working on one of the local media conglomerates for several weeks, and am finally invited to come to the corporate office to be interviewed by the producer of the X96 morning show, “Radio from Hell”.  I think that the company will probably just interview me and air sound bites in the wee hours of the morning.  BUT!  What if I am really hip and funny and the producer of the morning show is entertained by me?  Could I get some sort of morning show exposure? 

11:00:  Time for e-mail.  The bottomless pit:  teacher licensure questions; meetings to schedule; Thanksgiving food donations; student payments for textbooks;  ordering business cards; following up on broken technology; volunteer recruitment; Sara’s English teacher.  With interruptions to review the latest draft of the rules for our childcare; giving teachers advice about which textbooks to choose; interpreting Spanish / English at the reception desk.  By the time I have finished scaling Mt. E-Mail, it is...

1:30:  OK, the main event for today is supposed to be updating volunteer and student enrollment for the new month.  I start working on that, with breaks in the action to deal with:  someone calling from Brigham City to find out whether there are English classes up there; discussions about how to organize a baby board book lending library for parents.  And could I have my picture taken leaning out of a school bus tomorrow?  Sure.

2:45: A little lipstick.  I know I am backward about this; but I get prettied up before I go home, rather than before I go to work.  I want to look nice when I walk in the door.

2:50:  Time to pick up the kids.  Time for hectic, but of a different sort.

3:20:  Sara and Nate are waiting behind Nathan’s school. Sara’s school lets out earlier, but I’ve told her that she has to walk up to Nate’s school, and that I’ll pick them up together. 

Quick stop at their dad’s house, because Sara can’t find her shin guards, then home.  The house is cozy and welcoming:  my ginger chicken has been bubbling in the crock pot since early morning; Chuck tosses another log in the wood stove.  I have about 30 minutes before I have to go out again, and daylight is at a premium, now; so I head out into the yard, tossing my “dirt coat” over my work clothes.  There isn’t much to do out there anymore:  oiling and stowing tools, coiling hoses.  Little things. 

4:15:  Time to drive Sara to her soccer practice.

4:30:  Drop off Sara and boogie over to Blockbuster.  Chariots of Fire for Monday Movie Night.  Chuck is on a “sports movie” jag.  I get home a little before 5:00.  Just a few minutes to get a bunch of things done.  I kinda simultaneously get rice water boiling on the woodstove, mop the upstairs floors and drill Nate on his spelling.  Chuck keeps his eye on the rice and I leave again at 5:30 to go get Sara. 

5:45:  I pick up Sara and we head home.  Like many thirteen-year-old girls, she is ready to talk about things on her own time frame.  The drive home was spent talking about “cutting” among teenage girls:  “cutters” that she knows; their motivations; the dangers involved.

6:00: Ahhhh…  Supper was so delicious.  Crock pot every Monday!  Talk about a time-saver!  Supper table conversation also get a little edgy:  Aids; condoms; bodily fluids!  Man! Dishes, ice cream.  Chariots of Fire.

Late evening conversations with Chuck about firewood, sewage removal, snow tires, whether or not I am sufficiently pretty for him.  That’s a whole other blog entry…


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Friday, November 2, 2012

October Ends (Badly) in Pictures

As always, the month ends in pictures. This particular day was not the best day, though. Here it is.

Chuck and I lingered in bed for a little bit.  That part was good.

 Well, this part was pretty good, too.  This is my "new" thrift store outfit.  Pretty jacket... 
 Mini skirt with boots:  a look that makes me feel like Rosanne Cash.  My full length mirror toppled and broke last month.  This one leans against the wall in the area of the bedroom called "Chuck's Office".  Maybe we should relocate it.
 I go for the mail.

 I need to stop by my old house...
 ...and drop off some costume pieces for Sara.  It has long been the tradition that the kids can tell me what they want to be for Halloween, and I will make it happen.  It was no different this year.  However, the kids are starting to think that my creations look too homemade.  Sara ended up rejecting her Egyptian cat-goddess costume and asking if she could use the cave-girl outfit that I wore to a party over the weekend.  She wanted some brown tights to wear underneath, to keep it school-appropriate.  You know, Sara, this costume is homemade as well...

 Mel's hair is purple.  Melissa is Marvin the Martian.
 Here is where I stopped taking pictures of the work day.  I had to enter data onto a web-based collection system; and the Internet was running so slow that I thought I was going to pull my hair out.  A job I thought would take an hour took ALL. DAY.
 Get me out of there! 

 Home sweet home.
 Chuck spent the day doing cabinetry work for a kitchen remodel he is working on. 
 I was miserable and wound up from work.  Chuck suggested a walk. The old road is being dug up to lay a water line.  "Henrietta's"  dog saw us leaving and came along.  She is cooped up in the house all day.  When "Henrietta's" boyfriend gets home from work, she comes over to see Chuck at her old home next door.  This time she was frolicking at our feet when I heard gravel crunching behind us.  "Henrietta" in her pickup truck. 

"Are you taking Sally for a walk?"
Chuck said, "Sally is taking us for a walk."

Henrietta actually smiled and flipped her hair.  She called Sally to get into the truck and was gone.  That is the only time since we have moved here that she has spoken to either of us.  I had really appreciated that boundary.

It is bad enough that I have to live next door to my boyfriend's ex.  Do we have to talk to her, now?  Do we have to share her pets?  Do I have to run into her when I have changed out of my pretty clothes and am out for a walk in my grubbies? 
 Dark by the time we got home.