Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sorry to take a few days off. My mother-in-law had a stroke on Monday and that has made our life topsy-turvy. She is doing okay--she's aware, responsive, herself, and in good humor--but will have to spend time in acute rehab. As is often the case with strokes when it comes to a prognosis, we won't know until we know.

The Man has been in Charlotte with his mother for several days now. As is often the case when parents get ill, there is stress in the family. Everyone has the best intentions at heart, I believe, but this is an emotional and complicated time. So far the Man's cooler head has prevailed in the decision-making process, but the road may be bumpier up the way.

My mom was diagnosed three years ago with a very aggressive form of lymphoma, from which she is now fully recovered (and is considered cancer-free, praise be). The stress level was enormous. My and my brothers ideas about how best to serve her and my father during this difficult time varied and sometimes were at odds. No one was ugly, no one yelled or said mean things, but communications were strained. So I know how it goes. You always think you'll handle things beautifully until you don't.

So we're a little tired here, a little discombobulated. All prayers for Melvene and the rest of us are appreciated. I'll be back, hopefully with happier news. See you soon!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Hello & Welcome to My Life

Opened up the fridge this morning to grab some half and half, and this is what was waiting for me:

That's right. That's a plate with a tiny bit of pizza crust on it. Plastic wrap pushed back, but not removed. Plate not removed. So yes, a nicely chilled all but empty plate greeted me first thing this morning, and it wasn't the least bit embarrassed to be found in such a state of undress. It was enjoying the cool climate.

Please note that the nicely chilled all but empty plate is surrounded by many, fine nutritious snacking options: carrots, honeydew melon soup, a variety of lettuces and slaw. On the shelf beneath it are the remains of a lovely roast chicken. But whomever ate the pizza wasn't interested in healthy snacking. That is not their way.

What is their way, other than grabbing pizza slices but leaving an all but empty plate? Cereal boxes left open and out, little bits of cereal littering the counter around them. Cereal bowls with just a touch of milk in them, left to the side of the sink. Never in the sink, and never, ever rinsed, and never, ever, never, ever rinsed and put in the dishwasher.

Never never never never ever.

I can see there's work to be done here, and this work doesn't involve me rinsing cereal bowls and putting them in the dishwasher.

On a related note, the other day I asked Jack to please empty the dishwasher. His immediate reply was "sure," but after a second he looked at me and asked in a pleasant, curious tone of voice, "Why?"

As in why on earth are you asking me to do this, not why does a machine filled with clean dishes need to be emptied.

For the sake of my children's future spouses, I must start riding herd. And yes, I have the laziest children in the world, and yes they will resist and grump and grouch every time I remind them to do something. But it has to be done.

Because I can't take another morning like this one.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

I went to the farmer's market this morning in search of the perfect peach. The peach I bit into when I got home wasn't perfect, though it was better than the ones I've gotten so far in the grocery store.

We had tons and tons of rain in May, and I wonder if that's going to affect the quality of the peaches this year. A man I talked to when we were in Ocracoke, where they also had a very wet spring, said the island figs this year were the size of baseballs and tasted terrible. Essentially they were big globules of water.

Our figs are finally back. Two years ago I gave the fig trees a severe talking to--which is to say, I pruned them within an inch of their lives--and last year there were lots of leaves but no fruit. This year we have fruit and I couldn't be more thrilled. The figs are still small, so I don't know how they taste yet, but I'm relieved to know I have not robbed our trees of their productive purposes.

Today I'm going to work on a quilt. I may go to the gym, although it's so hot and muggy outside that it will take courage to leave the house. Tonight we're in for a treat: The Great British Bake-Off returns for its new season! I can't wait to see who this year's contestants are. Fingers crossed that they are asked to make something divine with figs!

Last night for dinner I made tortellini with pesto and bruschetta. As far as I'm concerned, tomatoes, basil and garlic are the very essence of summer. They're all I ever wanted.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Fridge at Ocracoke Museum

No post yesterday--I fell asleep early in the evening (I did a workshop yesterday afternoon--always fun and always exhausting for this introvert) and didn't wake up until 6AM this morning. The good news is, this puts me on a morning posting schedule. It's easier for me to do daily things in the morning. By most afternoons, my mind is scattered and unruly and not good for much.

No big plans for this 4th of July weekend. We are a lazy people who refuse to drive on trafficky holidays. If someone wants to go look at fireworks at the ballpark, I'm game, but I'm actually not that big on fireworks, at least not after the first five minutes. We'll cook out hamburgers on Monday and eat banana pudding (banana pudding!), which seems like plenty enough celebration to me.

Have I mentioned the entire family is obsessed with "Hamilton"? Jack got there first, but in April, after I decided to listen to the cast recording and figure out what all the fuss was about, I too became a Hamilton-head. Then the Man, then the Will, and then a few weeks ago we were all sitting down in front of the TV to watch the Tony's, just so we could see our beloved "Hamilton" cast members live and (almost) in person. I've never watched the full broadcast of the Tony's before and it was good! Much better than the Oscars.

Anyway, "Hamilton" is a work of genius and I bless Lin-Manuel Miranda for writing and composing it. If you haven't listened yet, be forewarned: some strong language lies within. Will and I have had some good talks about profanity and the power of language as a result, and how sometime profanity can be extraordinarily effective, but you dilute it of its force if you use it all the time.

One of the things I have to remind myself to do is keep an accurate ledger when it comes to the world. So many bad things happen that sometimes it feels like it's all bad. But good things happen as well--small good things and larger good things, acts of decency, kindness, courage and, yes, artistic genius. We get to put "Hamilton" on the side of the ledger that counts the amazing genius things that are a gift to us all--we get to put it on the side of the good. It counts.

In that vein, I will leave you with this quote from The Fellowship of the Ring:

The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hello! I'm in the middle of cooking dinner, but I'm afraid if I don't post now, I'll forget later. I've got book group tonight, and who knows when we'll finish up. Could be 9:00, could be 11:00. Suzanne, the earliest riser among us, always gets sleepy by 8:45. Sometimes I look over and her eyelids are fluttering the way mine used to do in Econ 101 ... Bless her heart, as we say here in the South.

Did I do yoga today? Yes, I did yoga today! Was it the old ladies yoga class? Yes, it was the old ladies yoga class! I was awesome. I kicked yoga butt. It's possible I was overqualified. On Friday, I'm going to try Gentle Yoga, which looks like it's the next step up, and this time yoga will probably kick my butt. But today I was victorious.

The gate pictured above is helping to keep the deer out of one of our neighborhood gardens, the one at the top of the hill. It's a group garden, and usually it's filled with all sorts of interesting things, but this year it's more subdued. Is someone missing? Did one of the gardeners decide to take this summer off?

We have a small garden this summer--tomatoes, peppers, blueberries and raspberries. We knew we'd be busy, and there's nothing more depressing than to look out your window mid-July and seeing a half-acre of weeds. Also: my children are the least adventurous eaters in the west, and the Man and I got tired of eating all those eggplant and summer squash by ourselves last year.

Okay, the bacon is done and I must put the Cobb salad together. That's it for today. Except for this: I found a picture of the boarded-up house I talked about yesterday. I knew I must have taken at least one! Here it is:

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

This clothesline was in the yard of an shuttered-up house on Ocracoke Island. The house (and the clothesline) belonged to a couple who had retired to Ocracoke--she died in 1994 and he in 1997, and they are buried there on a hill at the edge of this property. A utility worker I ran into while I was snooping around said the family still owns the property but doesn't use it.

For some reason, I failed to take a picture of the house, but I did get one of this shed:

 It's all very lush and beautiful and vaguely spooky. There was a screened porch that wasn't boarded up, and I wanted to go press my nose against the screen and see what I could see, but I was too afraid that a face would pop up in front of me and scare me to death, so I didn't.

I like hidden away places. I like secret paths. I like knowing only half the story. When I got home, I looked up the couple and learned a little bit more about them (he worked for the State department and was an assistant dean at Yale Law School, for instance, and neither of them were from North Carolina), but I didn't learn anything real about them. I guess in a way I already knew a few real things--that even though they weren't from Ocracoke, they loved it enough to retire there and be buried there. I don't know if I want to know a whole lot more.


What have we done today? Will worked out with the school baseball team this morning. I don't know why they're working out this summer, except maybe to build team cohesion or something, since they don't play fall ball. Maybe they just wanted to make sure Will got some exercise.

Jack? I don't know what Jack does. He's supposed to get some exercise, but to my knowledge he's had none since we got back from the beach. I will begin my nagging anon.

I wrote a bit and watched it rain and went to Whole Foods and walked Travis and made dinner and did laundry ... Just a regular day in the life. Tomorrow: yoga! Really. I mean it.

Monday, June 27, 2016

I'm back from Florida. The weather today--mid-eighties, medium humidity--feels downright arctic compared to the wild, thick heat of Orlando. This morning I picked blueberries and raspberries. That part of our garden has been woefully untended these last few weeks, but now that it's really, truly summer, I plan to be a better caretaker.

Here's a picture of the me being a panelist. I'm the one with the short dark hair. I'm sitting next to an famous author who has entered the world of children's literature. She was lovely, I'm pleased to inform you.

I'm always very nervous when I go to these big events, but everyone this weekend was wonderful and kind. And when I went to do my book-signing yesterday there was actually a line! I'm always sure no one will come, but they do. I adore librarians. They're my favorites.

This morning I woke up to this fabulous comment from Mags:

Ah, talk of the attic. I love your attic. Please go on just talking about the attic. It gives me such hope! I feel those blues right now. Summer starts on Thursday here (despite the fact that we have had our summer weather month in May, as always, and it will just rain on and off now, as always), and I am stressed and sad at the thought of all the interesting things to do that will stay on slips of paper in the interesting things to do jar, and at the knowledge of all the screen time and fights that will not stay in the screen and fights jar. Sigh. There may be reading and music practice, but that will come our of the fights jar too!

Mags, I promise to keep talking about the attic. It makes me feel hopeful too. It's such a dream--that somehow, someday, I'll clean up all my messes and get rid of all the junk in my life. As though that were possible. But it's pretty to think so, and some days it seems almost possible.

And thank you, Miss M, for admitting that you, too, feel the summer blues. It's good to know I'm not alone. I don't know about the UK, but here in the US there's an endless stream of messages about how fun, fun, fun summer is. Summer in my part of the world is beautiful, but it goes on too long. And yes, the screen time and fights refuse to stay in the jar.

I'm very, very tired of screen time.


I'm going to try to write here every day, Monday through Friday. One of the hard things for me about summer is the lack of routine, so I'm looking for ways to give my days more structure beyond writing time. So check in, say hi, and wish me luck!