December 27, 2005

Sleepy Time Pants & Downtime

We'll be driving late into the night because we want to wake up to the waves crashing on the shore.

Yes oh yes. Despite the weirdness of December, our annual year end trek to the Outer Banks is still on. Our sleepy time pants are packed, the car ready to load. The Boy has been dropped off at the airport for his flight to Atlanta. He's got a bit of traveling to do himself and will ring in the New Year in Florida by singing at a friend's wedding. Watching him stroll into the airport, his head bobbing to the tune on his iPod, his suitcase rolling along behind him, tugged at my heart. He's become so independent. What a marvelous visit we had this holiday.

I'm yawning as I type this blog farewell to 2005, but am certain I will perk up once we hit the road.

Safe and happy New Years wishes, folks.


December 22, 2005

Thursday Thirteen

Thursday Thirteen is the brainchild of Leanne, but I picked it up via Jen. Go visit them, right now if you wish, and play along. Or not. But at least leave ME a comment. Even if it is Friday. Or Saturday. Or so on. And so on.

* * * * * * * * *

1. I hope it doesn't take me as long as it took Jen to complete thirteen items. If it does, it will be Friday before I post my Thursday Thirteen. There's probably a law against that. Somewhere.

2. The Boy is down visiting his dad for a day or two. I got a text message from him saying they were discussing their "relationship." It evidently wasn't going well. I hope they can find a way to come to terms with each other. Fathers are special, as are sons. They need each other.

3. Wendy and I went to the mall tonight. All the clerks and patrons were happy, full of smiles and have a nice day's and excuse me's. Except for one screaming toddler perched on Santa's lap. Can't say as I blame him.

4. We do not have a real tree this year. We do not have a fake tree this year. We have a tabletop tree my sister-in-law sent my mother. Evidently she sends my parents a tabletop tree every year. It is made of branches stuck in florist foam. My mom asked us to take it to our house after the funeral. It doesn't have ornaments or lights but we may add some. Later.

5. We bought my mom a body pillow for Christmas with a very, very soft cover made from Pima cotton. I adore Pima cotton. We thought it might be nice for her to have something to hold in bed since she now sleeps alone. Is such a gift creepy or kind? I hope she likes it.

6. Today was my last day of work until next year. Oh sure, I have a few phone calls to make and will check my email and such, but I don't actually have to do any real work-work. Envy me.

7. Uh oh. I'm only on number seven and I'm slowing down.

8. Did I ever mention that my office postponed our holiday party because I had to be out of town for the funeral? How cool is that?

9. Wendy and I will be spending New Year's in the Outer Banks with a bunch of friends. It's a no-bra and pajama pants kinda trip, a laid back way to end the year. We are the token lesbians of the group, although Wendy came home with an odd rumor today that has us believing two of the single heterosexual women who will be there have been hooking up. I'm all like "WTF?" People are strange. I'm too old for that shit.

10. My sister has given up her robes. She wore them for sixteen years. She's still a Buddhist, but no longer a nun. My mind has not yet fully wrapped around the change. I love her dearly.

11. I have a date with my friend Tina to go grocery shopping tomorrow morning. 8:30 am. Damn that's early. I'd take myself later in the day but I don't have a car (see number 2). But it will be fun. Hanging-out-with-Tina-time has been hard to come by of late. I miss her.

12. The Boy sang the Navy Hymn at his grandfather's service. He brought down the house.

13. *insert heartfelt holiday wishes here*

Peace on earth, goodwill to men.


December 21, 2005

A Million Points of Light

Is there anything more delightful than a pencil with a nice sharp point? Such a pencil is a most marvelous thing indeed! I've got a bunch of thoughts floating through my head tonight, but no real point. Bear with me. I may find one by the end of this post.

We went to a gathering at a friend's house in Bumfuck, Maryland a few months ago. (No, Bumfuck is not the name of the town. It is a description of the geographic location. You knew that, but still your mind took you elsewhere. Beware! Santa's listening. You have been warned.)

The first time we trekked up there, years ago, we stopped in Damascus to pick up a six-pack. Wendy and I strolled into a 7-11 and surveyed the refrigerator cases, dumbfounded. There was not a beer in sight. A nice biker dude informed us Damascus is a dry city. A dry city? Oh the unmitigated horror! He directed us to a bar just across the city line, Lou & Boo's or something like that. That bar has a lot of biker-ish character and sells cold beer to go. We fit in like a glove on a foot. We grabbed our beer and left.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Have you ever been at a party and become trapped like a fly on flypaper by the person who has a reputation for being the Most Boring Individual Alive? Sure you have. There is one in every group. It's a rule or something. The Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt endure dull people because dull people need friends too. The Most Boring Individual Alive lives up in Bumfuck, Maryland. I know him.

I bravely initiate conversation. Obviously I am an idiot, yet also intrigued by the challenge. I am determined to find something interesting about this fellow. I've been trying for years. For example:

Me: "Have you read any good books lately?"

He: "Why yes, Suzanne. I'm in the middle of reading The Ideaology Behind the Formation of Quartz Rock Structures and Their Long-term Effect on Wind Currents in the Northern Hemisphere."

Me (eyes rolling back in my head): "Oh. Gee. Well. I just finished a fun mystery, part of a series about a female caterer who lives with her family in the mountains of Colorado."

He: "Oh... fiction. I never read fiction." His chest puffed up with pride, as if reading exclusively non-fiction was the grandest achievement to which a man could aspire.

But I think it takes all kinds. Fiction and non-fiction. Biker dudes and church ladies. Dry cities and towns that sell beer. Straights and gays. Buddhists and Christians. You get the idea. Can't we all just get along?

Holidays really mess with routine.
None of my pencils have points either.


December 18, 2005

In the Moment

Home, home on the range!
Where tampons get flushed down the drain!

Sing it with me, y'all.
You know you want to.
How can you resist?

Put another check mark on the "pro" side of living in suburbia: public sewer systems. I've never lived with a septic system and if I did, I might convert to using The Keeper. My parents, however, live in the boonies. So when insult was added to injury and my period started the day of my stepfather's funeral, I did not sing "Gloria!" in exaltation.

Tis a week before Christmas and all through our house not a holiday decoration is up, not a package wrapped, not a meal planned, not a holiday card sent. Unsent holiday cards are nothing out of the ordinary, but usually we've got the other parts well in hand.

But we are home. Together.
For right now, that's enough.


December 13, 2005

♪♫ We Are Siamese If You Don't Please* ♪♫

I am sitting here reveling in the sheer delight of breathing through my nose.

It's been days since I've had such pleasure. This past week I've cleared gallons, yes literally gallons, of mucus from my nasal passages. Did you just get the same visual I did? A neat row of galvanized steel buckets brimming over with snot? Yummy. Let's try envisioning the interior of my sinus cavities: swollen, red, inflamed, frantically oozing mucus in self-defense. My throat has been raw, my chest wheezy. Can I blame my body for reacting so harshly to the very specific allergen to which it has been subjected? I think not.

I'm going to enjoy breathing clearly for today. Tomorrow my sinuses and I will be descending again into the Third Realm of Hell, the land of the Siamese cat, also known as my mother's house. Knowing we'll be spending more time there has me seriously contemplating suicide a long term solution such as allergy shots.

Meanwhile, share my joy.

Breathe in.
Breath out.
Breathe in.


* Post title borrowed from a Disney song I remember from my youth. Can anyone tell me what movie it is from? My memory fails.


December 12, 2005

You Better Watch Out

Doesn't everyone know at least one person who has been Naughty this year instead of Nice?

Personally, I think the whole lump of coal thing, while appropriate to humanity historically and deserving therefore of at least momentary consideration as a holiday offering to those who have earned such recognition, is outmoded.

A lump of coal for a naughty person at Christmas is as out-of-date as my grandmother's size ten mink coat had become. My mother had that mink coat transformed into something equally as impractical as a size ten anything in our family: a teddy bear. I kid you not. Somewhere in the good old US of A is a place where new life is breathed into old furs coats that we larger modern relatives never have a hope of fitting our larger modern selves into. I think it's just across the bay from the Island of Misfit Toys.

The mink teddy bear sits on a couch in her formal living room. While it may seem a teddy bear in a formal living room is entirely out of place, Winston fits right in.

Yes. My mother named her bear Winston. It's a family thing.

I came across the ShizaGram, that is, I think, an acceptable modern gift alternative for the Naughty people in our lives. This gift item has the added appeal of being completely impractical, unlike a lump of coal that can be used in a variety of ways by a Naughty person with imagination. It can be burned for heat. Or used to write on the sidewalk. Or launched as a projectile at an unsuspecting stander-by.

Then again, the ShizaGram can be used those same ways. But it sure shouts "Naughty!" more than any old lump of coal ever could, doesn't it?

I'm making a list.
Should you be on it?


December 9, 2005

I Am So Selfish

Yes, yes, it's true. Despite selfishness being a quality I quashed when I became a mother. Who has time for it with kids at home? The quash was only temporary. Having kids at home is only temporary. In the years since The Boy left for college, my selfish spirit has reawakened with a vengeance.

Wendy and I drove home from my mother's yesterday evening. All the way, delightful fantasies of long stretches of time with no one asking anything of me danced joyously in my head. I selfishly thought of the things I would do upon arrival at our comfortable little suburban paradise.

I thought of sitting quietly in my recliner in front of a fire with dogs in my lap, drinking cheap beer, reading quietly for as long as I wanted to do it.

I thought of sitting in our office at my computer catching on up All Things Internet via a connection that wasn't a primitive dial-up in a house that doesn't make me sneeze, wheeze, itch and blow snot everywhere. Goddamn Siamese cats. (Hell, I shouldn't complain. The view from the office is spectacular. Achoo.)

I thought of snuggling in our king-sized bed with Wendy and our two dogs, reveling in puppy kisses, a pile of warm bodies and familiar pillows.

I thought of waking up at my leisure in the morning, showering in our own shower, driving my car down familiar roads to spend quality time pushing paper around at work and reconnecting with my friends there.

I did all that.
It was good.
It was very, very good.

Except in the back of my mind was the disconcerting knowledge that I have to go back there. That I have to go back and spend my weekend there. My precious weekend will be wiped out in a haze of doing what other people need. Not that helping others is a bad thing, but in this case the things that will be asked of me are hard things, things on par with stabbing myself in the eye with a sharp pencil.

But I'll go. I'll do the things that need doing. And I'll keep doing them to the best of my ability until the needs are fulfilled. I'll even be grateful for the opportunity. Because I'm fortunate to have people in my life to love and who rely on me. Even though I'd rather bury my head in the sand and pretend the real world isn't really as real as it really is.

But you folks here now know the truth.
I'll be selfishly wishing I was somewhere else.


December 8, 2005

The Gay Haters Make Good Chicken Salad

I was laying in bed Monday morning, not quite half awake, when our phone rang. Wendy glanced at the caller ID and said "Suzanne, it's your mom's cell phone. Want me to get it?" My sleep-fuzzled brain briefly wondered why the hell she was calling so early and I said, "No. She'll leave a message." I snuggled deeper into the covers.

Somewhere else in the house my cell phone started ringing. I pretended I didn't hear it. Then Wendy's cell started ringing. Guess who? That's right! My mom. Wendy answered.

My stepfather, Hal, had had a heart attack while sleeping. She didn't know if he was going to survive.

This is, of course, a lesson to unplug and turn off all phones before going to bed. Kidding of course. Sort of. It's not been a week for many jokes. Hal was probably dead before my mother began CPR. Definitely by the time EMS transported him to the hospital.

So began a most bizarre week for my family. Well. It's going to be more than one bizarre week, I guess.

Wendy and I drove the few hours to where they live and found my mother ensconced in a living room full of caring neighbors. It is a tight knit community in a small town. (Well. Small is relative. I know someone who calls the town in which my parents live the New York City of Virginia's Northern Neck. I call it a quaint village.)

My mother introduced Wendy as her "bonus daughter," which always warms my heart more than words can say. She's a peach, my mom.

So was he.

It's been a long week. Eating was the only normalcy so we did a lot of that. I've gained weight grazing on the plentiful bounty the villagers are showering upon the grieving household. That bounty is the source of the title of this post. I may explain it later. Or not. It's a bit of levity we've leaned on often this week. No disrespect intended. Really.

We had just celebrated his 70th birthday: the day after we ate Thanksgiving dinner together, the same day we all spent raking leaves, and the day before I hugged him goodbye for what was to be the last time.

Argh. Just argh.


December 4, 2005

We Could Use One for Our Shoes

Parking garages are some of the creepiest structures around. Even when they are well-lit, there are still dark spooky corners, dead ends, and menacing columns. The film and television industries do not contribute to a healthy image for parking garages. Someone's always getting attacked or found face down in a puddle of blood or some equally as icky fear fodder for an imaginative mind such as my own.

My employer provides parking in our building's garage for the three days a week I am in Old Town. It is self-serve and has more "compact car only" spaces than it does regular spaces. That's fine for me, but many of the other patrons take up two compact car spaces with their humongous gas-guzzling SUVs sporting "W the President" stickers. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. We live in America after all. Please plaster your car with any stickers you deem fit. Just don't ask me not to mock them.) It beats the hell out of street parking in Old Town where one has to be vigilant and move their car every two hours or risk facing the wrath of the chalk-wielding ticket automatons. Those people have no souls.

The stairwells in that parking garage are sparkly clean enough to eat lunch off the steps. No one actually does, but if they did, they'd live to tell the tale. The same cannot be said for the stairwells in the parking garage at the Huntington Metro where I park several times a month. I will walk way, way, way out of my way to avoid those stairwells. Like miles-uphill-in-a-snowstorm-naked way, way, way out of my way. People pee in those stairwells. Closed Stairwell + Pee = Massive Olfactory Overload Possibly Leading to Dry Heaves. I'll risk the frostbite.

The best of the best is my favorite parking garage in DC, the one off the alley. I park there twice a month. I've never seen the interior. I drop the car at the entrance, toss the attendant the key, return several hours later and off they scramble to retrieve my car from the depths of wherever it is they stash it. Those attendants have memories like steel traps.

About two weeks ago I had been a major bedslug was running a bit later than usual. I zipped into the alley and was chagrined to see a large sign proclaiming "Garage Full. Monthly Parkers Only." There was quite the flurry of activity around the entrance: people, cars, more people. I caught the eye of one of the attendants, who shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. I pouted as I turned my car around and headed to my second garage of choice.

It costs $13 to park in my favorite garage: $12 fee and $1 tip for the attendant. The next closest garage, literally at the entrance to the aforementioned alley, charges $15 to park which morphs into $16 with a tip. How does that make sense?

Last Friday found me turning into the alley again. The attendant waved me into the garage. As he handed me my ticket, he said, "Hey, the next time the garage full sign is out, don't pay attention to it. Don't ask me anything. Just pull on in. I'll find room for you."

Who knew I had friends in such high places?


December 2, 2005

Potato Talk

Last night we had dinner out to celebrate Wendy's birthday. That's right. My woman is now officially a year older than she was the day before. Funny how that works.

She ordered first. An eleven ounce Delmonico, medium rare, garden salad with Thousand Island dressing on the side, a loaded baked potato and a vegetable medley.

Ah, the good old vegetable medley. Our server, when asked, said the medley consisted of steamed broccoli and cauliflower. Oh, and carrots, he added as an afterthought. Wendy and I both made a face because neither of us has an appreciation for cooked carrots despite the nice splash of color they add to a plate. At least they don't taint the whole vegetable medley like green peppers taint whatever it is with which they are cooked. Cooked carrots are easily pushed aside, leaving not a trace of their ever having been a part of things.

I was still perusing the menu having trouble deciding what to eat. Then I did something I have never done before. I slapped the menu closed and told the waiter, "I'll have exactly what she's having." Boom. Decision made.

Wendy raised her eyebrows and said, "You want a loaded baked potato?" I just smiled and nodded. I'd never had a loaded baked potato before. Usually I eat them with just butter. I eat the skin too. It's the best part.

"What comes on a loaded potato anyway?" I queried.
Wendy said, "Butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon."

Our dinner was served. Wendy and I exchanged a quick high-five because not even one carrot from the medley found its way to either of our plates. As for the loaded potato, well, it was buried beneath a mountain of artery-hardening toppings. The combination of tastes and textures was interesting and not even slightly unpleasant.

We never eat baked potatoes at home. We rarely eat potatoes of any sort at home. The potato display is something I breeze right past at the grocery store. I have been known to serve instant mashed potatoes every now and again, but I never eat them myself because mashed potatoes are yucky.

Time for a survey of sorts. Let's talk potatoes, people. What is your favorite way to prepare them? What toppings do you prefer on your baked potato? Do you eat the skin? Do any other people deprive their families of the joy of mashed potatoes simply because they themselves do not like them? I know I can't be the only one.

Or can I?