April 25, 2007

Lunch with Lisa

I have lunch with my friend Lisa one day a week, usually Monday.

This week she picked the place, La Piazza, a favorite in our lunch rotation. We both have a fondness for Italian food and their pasta is good eats. For $8, I get a nice salad, fresh garlic bread, and stuffed shells florentine. The place smells divine. It's a feast, particularly welcome since Wendy and I have not been eating well at home. As soon as Lisa proposed the location I agreed, despite being attired in a white blouse. A white blouse that now has one tiny spot of tomato sauce that somehow avoided my bib. It was worth it.

A woman occupied a nearby table. My casual glance took in a frumpy middle-aged woman wearing frumpy middle-aged woman business attire: mid-length polyester skirt, blouse with a ruffled neck, panty hose and sensible shoes with a moderate heel, all in earthtones. A bottle of red wine and a glass kept her company as she nibbled on her salad, a paperback book held open in front of her. I couldn't see the title.

As we lunched, Lisa regaled me with tales from her recent trip to Italy, a two-week sojourn she took with her mother to visit their relatives.

Lisa and I can be loud. Just a tad boisterous. Yes, yes, I know how odd that must seem. Me? Loud? Boisterous? Well. It happens. Sometimes we don't whisper. We were happy to be where we were and enjoying our conversation. Several times during our meal, the woman with the wine joined us in laughter. She finally said, "I don't mean to eavesdrop, but we are sitting so close!" We smiled and laughed, nodding in understanding. The more, the merrier.

I'm not sure what gave it away. Her mannerisms? The way she held her head? The timbre of her voice? All of the above? Whatever it was, I was reminded that outward appearances can be deceiving.

Soon she finished her bottle of wine and left, waving farewell.

I looked at Lisa and said, "That wasn't a woman, was it?"

She just looked at me and said, "Duh."
We smiled.

It takes all kinds.


April 23, 2007

Taking Odds

I haven't been inside a grocery store in nigh on two weeks.

Our freezer is almost empty. Our stash of canned goods and dry staples is depleted. Fresh vegetables? Fruit? Milk? Eggs? Opening our refrigerator I see only beer and water. And the door full of condiments with nothing to put them on.

The cupboards are bare. We haven't prepared anything close to a meal since we had muffins (made with our last two eggs and water instead of milk) and bacon (from the freezer) for breakfast two Sundays ago. I'm sick of carryout. We need a personal shopper for times like these.

The other night we eagerly snacked on stale Goldfish crackers, cheddar cheese flavor. I felt like I'd struck gold when I found that package buried in the cabinet behind the dog treats.

Yet is the project done? No, but it's goddamn close. How can one little room be so time consuming? It just is. Then there's Spring, which has completely sprung. It's full of distractions.

Pictures Sunday, or I'll eat my hat followed by a home-cooked meal for dessert. I miss my kitchen.


April 19, 2007

This Was Then

I'm starting to get all emo about The Boy's upcoming graduation, a mere month from today.

I can't help but think back to his high school graduation. We had a horde of family in for that event. I get a bit neurotic when family visits. Wendy and I hosted a party following the graduation, quite a large party by our standards. I get a bit neurotic when we host a party; the neuroses multiply when it's a major event.

Well. Let's say I used to get neurotic. I've changed since then. Really. I'm far less neurotic. Ask Wendy. She'll vouch for me. Maybe The Boy will too.

But I'm still sentimental. I was back then too, I just wasn't aware of it as acutely as I am now.

So! Flashback to when The Boy was a senior in high school, graduation imminent. It was June 15, 2003, a glorious bright Sunday afternoon, Father's Day, at Tim's Rivershore Restaurant, a charismatic crab house on the Potomac. Gathered around the table were Pop, Grandma Wanda, sister SK, sister Cathy and her daughter Maia, James our temporary son, Wendy, me and The Boy.

I snapped this pic of The Boy and his grandfather, my father, that day. It's a favorite of mine for reasons that don't need words.


April 17, 2007

Of Labels and the Changing Thereof

I've been spending some quality time with our furnace. It's unavoidable, really. She lives in the Laundry Room.

While seemingly pleased to have company, I could also sense a bit of an attitude beneath her shiny exterior. I was curious. Perched atop a ladder repairing the ceiling, I initiated conversation.

"Something wrong?" I queried. "You still peeved about that filter? I swear, as soon as we are done in here, I've got a brand spanking new one for you. Fresh and clean, right from the factory. You know how good that feels!"

As I worked I babbled about life outside the Laundry Room. The furnace looked on blankly, kicking to life every now and again. The weather is still cold here. But the Laundry Room is warm, almost cozy.

The truth didn't come out that day, but it did the next. Seems the furnace is displeased with her residence being deemed the "Laundry Room." She groans the word "laundry" with greatly emphasized disdain. I briefly wondered how the washer and dryer have managed to peacefully co-exist in such close quarters with this diva.

But the furnace makes a good point. There's more mechanical function going on in there than there is laundry. And no way in hell was that room designed as a laundry space. I looked around with a new eye. What else goes on in this room? Why, all the hot water we enjoy in all the different places we enjoy it originates here! The source obtrusively occupies a prime corner, with shiny pipes reaching out like arms and disappearing into the ceiling at odd angles.

The space we've been calling the Laundry Room houses other important household functions, the heart of the house it could be said. How could I be so blind? Washing machine and dryer? Pfft. Why should the room name focus on them? Our beloved HVAC system feels slighted; the hot water heater has so far offered no comment but I can imagine how he feels.

Henceforth and hereinafter I think I'll call it the Mechanical Room, Mech Room for short. Yet that sounds stiff. Maybe the Utility Room? It is quite utilitarian and not much else. I can't call it The Pit anymore, not once the makeover is complete.

The one thing I do know is that it is no longer the Laundry Room. Wendy has not yet blessed a change of name, but she humors me often. We'll see.


April 15, 2007

Usually Between 5 & 6 PM

My mother and I have frequent meandering phone conversations. She's been quite chatty of late, cheerful and busy. We cover a range of topics, slipping from one to another easily as some mothers and daughters can do.

Some highlights!

Recent oncology checkup: Everything is fine. Tamoxophin makes her feet cramp. That's gotta suck. "Well," I said, "You only have to take it for another four and a half years." We laughed.

Trader Joe's: "Have you ever tried their mango with chili?!" Further conversation determined she was so anxious to taste it, she opened the package while driving home. It lived up to her expectations in all the right ways. She loves her snacks, the spicier the better.

Something about the future: "I figure I'll just move into a nursing home near wherever y'all are then." That's a direct quote. I'm documenting it for future reference.

Innovations in litter boxes: We discussed in detail the features of a new litterbox system she considered buying. She decided against it for fear it would upset Princess, who would then refuse to use it. Princess lives up to her name.

Record winnings: She finished a recent mahjong session up $3.92. The table concurred: no one had ever before won that much in one day. Her hot streak continued the next day when she finished up $1.84. She's a shark and there is blood in the water.

Bathroom wallpaper: Despite shopping for months, she still hasn't found one she likes. My mother, she knows what she likes. Eventually it will find her, and Wendy and I will joyfully hang it. I selfishly hope it remains elusive until at least June. Odds are in our favor.

Happy Test: She twittered about the Happy Test over at Oprah.com. In the spirit of comaraderie, I took it too. I passed, meaning I did not fall into the unhappy range. I was also not in the extremely satisfied range.

Like I needed a test to tell me that.
She'll pass, too.
Happy is as happy does, or something like that.


April 10, 2007


We blew the deadline. Ah well, what's another week in the relative scheme of life? Our partner-in-crime was in favor of the extension. Watch this space. After-pics are so close I can taste them.

So we ran out of drywall mud. The Home Depot didn't have our usual brand. They had this pink stuff instead.

I was a bit skeptical. Outside of the obvious Sassy-like appeal, what self- respecting do-it-yourself'er needs color-changing drywall mud?

But then I used it. The texture is divine, almost like Playdoh but a bit softer. It is so creamy. Not to mention bright. Truth be told, it was amusing to spread that pink Playdoh and shape it to an adequate fine acceptable finish after it dried white. It easily sands to a smooth, satisfying surface. And oh my, how practical is that square bucket!

Little things please me.
Add this new drywall mud to the list.


April 8, 2007

Hair Bands Gone Wild?

I knocked a hair band off the bathroom counter and it rolled across the floor, catching the corner of my eye. I startled. My imagination saw an insect. A fast moving insect. Like those fuzzy centipede things that lived in and around the house we used to live in. Except this one was black! I was relieved to discover it was but a hair band. I retrieved it and made a ponytail with my hair.

Those centipede things. I remember them vividly. They ventured everywhere in that house. They moved like the wind and came in all sizes, the largest I encountered was three inches in length but he had smaller kin. Only one color though, a tawny beige. They had hair. Or stuff that looked like hair. Little fuckers were as fast as lightning.

There was no "catch and release" program for those things, oh hell no. There was a "slap fast and wild with any handy shoe or newspaper and hope you hit them even though you don't really want to squash them because it's oogie and they splat but it's the only way and they have got to go!" program. We didn't see them often enough to develop a true technique.

When The Boy and I first moved into that house, we discovered a nest of them in the basement storage area. We got something to spray on it. Killing Stuff. Then we rock-paper-scissored to see which one of us would spray that nest. He lost. I fitted a mask to his 13-year-old face and armed him with the Killing Stuff. He did the job.

We don't have many bugs in this house. A few spiders. A cricket or two. But nothing like those centipede things. For that, among many other things, I am grateful.


April 5, 2007

Mastering the Plan

Home improvement isn't all sweat and dirt.
Often it is sweat and numbers.

Last week a fine Spring day here in the Nation's Capitol brought us 80 degree weather with bright sunshine. Where did I spend it? Inside. Crunching numbers, crafting a spreadsheet, multiple spreadsheets actually, each a work of art in its own right, saved to disc with the grandiose name of "2007 Master Plan."

Were I always efficient, our 2007 Master Plan would have been in place before 2006 ended. I do so adore a calendar year. Unfortunately I'm not always efficient. To save face, I will apply the concept of the fiscal year to our plan. Our fiscal year now officially ends March 31, 2008. So it is decreed, so it shall be recorded.

This is not the first Master Plan we've utilized. We've had one each year since we bought this house. We work better with a schedule and a budget is never optional. Sticking to it is often a challenge but when the going gets rough, and it always does, the guidelines are invaluable.

Presently we are in fifth gear, cruise control set for 65 mph, rolling down highway 41.

Will we get a flat tire?
Run out of gas?
Hit a bump in the road?
Get stuck in the mud?


Half the fun of a Master Plan is comparing it to reality after the fact. Such masochism draws me like a moth to a flame. So wish us luck. This year should be interesting.


April 3, 2007

In the Genes

It's official and I may as well admit it: I am in a Royal Funk. The women among us will understand exactly what I mean. No one does Royal Funk quite like a woman.

I snapped at my mother on the phone today for asking yet again if my father will be attending The Boy's graduation next month. Then I took a deep breath and apologized.

The problem is that I don't know if he and his wife are planning to attend. Due to circumstances I will not detail herein, our communication has been less than stellar since November. Yes, November. That's a long time. It niggles at me, sharp little teeth nipping randomly. I'd like to think it niggles at him too.

Stubbornness is the root of my problem. Pride may also be involved. Encased in my Royal Funk, what I should do is obvious. I am driven deeper into Funkitude because I know if I do what I should do, what I've always done, it's giving in to the same old same old. I need something different. I drew a line in the sand. My line matters.

I think of those ducks in my neighbor's yard. I think of my neighbor's certainty about the bread they like to eat. What if she didn't feed them white bread? Would the ducks turn their noses up at rye? Would they spit it out if she offered whole wheat? Would they eventually stop gracing her with their presence because what she serves tastes bad over time?

No one does a Royal Funk quite like a woman.
And for the record, I'm a fool for pumpernickel.