Sunday, June 30, 2013
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Monday, June 17, 2013
Our weather also produces ideal conditions for weeds. I filled bucket after bucket with weeds I pulled out of the flower beds, carting them up to the street. I also had it pointed to me that while I love the extravagantly natural look of over-grown shrubs, it does not make for a house that sells well. So I got out a ladder and loppers and went to work on a huge old hibiscus that is partially obscuring the front of my house. I'm not cutting it down completely, just making it look a little more manageable. I also cleared out another hibiscus that was essentially reclining on my lawn, just looking louche. I love it. But I'm told it looks untidy. In addition, I took out about half the nandina, which draped over the basement windows and the air conditioner. My dream, though, is to design my next yard so that it has very little grass and is mostly big, joyfully lush gardens. By the end of the weekend I'd stacked an enormous number of limbs by the side of the road. But when I went to get a photo today, the efficient city had already carted them away. While I was outside working yesterday, I was listening to the neighbor kids playing with their cousins, who were visiting. Three on bikes appeared to be in the 5-7 range, and I heard one of the little girls refer to me as "that teenager." The neighbor boy leapt to me defense, "That's not a teenager - that's Ms. C. She's a GIRL!" I couldn't argue with that logic, so I just smiled and waved.
Monday, June 10, 2013
And for a time, we were poor. My mother went back to college and we found a little rental house. I ducked my head in shame when a substitute teacher asked me loudly why I only paid five cents for my lunch and I had to explain the reduced lunch program in range of the listening ears of my new classmates. My father rarely sent the meager child support checks on time and my mother fumed about it. To us. To say that I was angry about the turn our lives had taken would be an understatement.
I believe that's when it started. I began squirreling money away, terrified that I might need it and not have it. Because I had seen how easily it could happen. The ten-dollar bill in my birthday card from a relative? You might find that rolled up and hidden in the curtain rod. The pockets of my winter coat, in between book pages, in the space behind a dresser drawer - all were good hiding places for money. Coins were counted and purchases very carefully considered. I went door to door offering to rake yards or wash cars for a buck here or there. And you better believe that when I hit 16, I took the $200 I had saved and bought myself a battered '68 Chevelle so I could work at McDonald's.
So here I am at 50, established in my career, and I still fret. I'd mostly laid that aside until my own divorce and holy God did that stir it all back up. But I was determined to do it differently so that my kids would not be burdened with worry. When people criticized me for buying a house and pouring money into fixing it up and furnishing it, I sloughed that off. Yes, I'll take a big financial hit when I try to sell it. But it's been a good home for my boys, they got their own rooms, and I don't regret a single decision I made.
However, I do like two things that involve money. First, great food. Thankfully I'm a good cook so mostly I can provide that myself, but I admit I will spend money on eating out. And second, travel. But it is so, so hard for me to carve money out to go somewhere and I am really itching to travel. So I've resorted to a little shell game with myself. My sister told me about a plan of setting aside a sum of money every week, adding a dollar each time. $1 the first week, $2 the second, until the last week you add $52. In the end, you've saved $1378. But that would mean saving only $10 the first four weeks and having to cough up $202 the last four. I suggested it might be more fun to randomize it. And while I was thinking that through, I came up with my own plan. I divided the year into 2-week periods, reminiscent of how I used to get paid before I was self-employed. Wait... let me take a moment to recall actual regular paychecks... yeah... that was nice. Aaaanyway. On 364 slips of paper, I printed the numbers 1 through 14 26 times each and folded them up. Every day, I draw one and put that money in a bag. To make sure I don't forget, I have a little calendar to record each day's amount and the total amount.
I know that it's the same money regardless, but somehow it doesn't feel that way. And this is not my only money issue. I can't bear to owe anyone money, so I only go into debt for housing. I have a mortgage, but other than that, I'd rather buy a used car than take on payments, and won't buy anything I can't pay for. I use a credit card the way others use a check book, for the convenience and the frequent flyer miles I'm earning on it. But I keep it paid off because I have a horror of paying interest. And it's not even that I won't spend money. I believe in tipping wait staff well, for instance, and when my cervical cancer ended up costing me $15,000 out of pocket for tests and surgeries, I considered it money well spent. But pay someone to do anything I can reasonably do myself? Nope. That's why you will find me all summer mowing my own yard.
Every time the money in the vacation fund bag on my dresser tops $100, I will pull that out and sock it away in the safe in my basement. In my cold war era house, the original owners built a bomb shelter in the basement with a safe that is permanently cemented in. You heard me. Seems I'm not the only one with a little anxiety about the future.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Later that night, I ate a ton of good sushi. I sure do love sushi.The person who invited me emailed to say he'd be coming directly from work and so hoped I wouldn't be offended if he was in jeans. I wrote back: "Oh all right, then I won't wear the evening gown I was planning on. Or the tiara. Sheesh."
His response: "Nama told me they have a strict policy of one smartass per table... guess I have to call and change our reservation to two separate tables."
Saturday morning I went out to the lake and walked five miles. When I got back home, I was sitting in my living room, looking out at the park-like view behind my house, drinking my coffee, and feeling unaccountably melancholy. I decided the best way to deal with that was to think of some things to do to make me feel productive. I set about making a list of possibilities, hoping I'd at least get a few of them done.
I also made a small batch of a recipe called "massaged kale," just to try it out. Basically you chop up kale leaves, drizzle them with lemon juice and olive oil and then mash it up with your hands for a few minutes. I ended up letting it be the base of a huge salad with a little of everything in it: baby Romaine, peppers, cucumber, artichoke hearts, avocados, Greek olives, mozzarella cubes, and almonds. I'll have it for lunches for a few days. And made my 5 little bowls of whole grains for work breakfasts while I was at it.
Friday, June 7, 2013
Monday, June 3, 2013
An embarrassingly long time ago, Molly left me a comment suggesting I do this "Where I'm From" exercise. There's even a template for it, which I did not notice until mine was complete. Because although I said I would, I couldn't figure out how to approach it. In fact, just thinking about it made me feel a little lost and unrooted. But on my recent trip to visit one of my childhood homes, it hit me. I'm not from one place or one stable experience, and that's what needs to be reflected. So from the many homes spanning the entirety of my childhood, where I'm from:
I am from quaint New England neighborhoods and snowy walks to school. I am from sand boxes and swing sets in back yards. I am from rocky seashores and towns with shipyards. I am from the shadow of Viet Nam and fathers in uniforms. I am from liberal churches and education.
I am from submarine bases and neighborhoods organized by rank. I am from Quonset huts and shopping at the PX. I am from peace signs and environmentalism. I am from towering sequoias, barking sea lions, and house boats on the lake. I am from roller skates that tighten with a key and Easy Bake ovens. I am from cousins, best friends and long days outdoors.
I am from people with a wanderlust and family vacations. I am from jungles, deserts, volcanoes and beaches. I am from foods from around the world and home gardens. I am from Scouting and camping and hiking. I am from grandparents and airplanes and road trips.
I am from steamy gulf coast air and shrimp boats off shore. I am from hurricanes and bayous, mosquitoes and moccasins. I am from bikes with banana seats and Kodak Instamatics with flash cubes. I am from water that tastes of sulphur and gumbo with crawdads. I am from catching tadpoles and setting off firecrackers.
I am from red clay and dusty summer heat. I am from cows in the pastures and corn on the stalk. I am from hard farm work, acres of pine trees and a broken-down horse. I am from building a home with hand-skinned logs and tending babies. I am from lazy Southern drawls and lingering vestiges of segregation. I am from wasted August afternoons in unairconditioned schools with outdated textbooks. I am from falling asleep at the wheel after too-long work shifts. I am from redemption through band and drama and reading.
I am from British boarding school rules and thrice-weekly skiing. I am from powdery snow, jagged mountains and glaciers. I am from Alpine walks and tiny chalet-filled villages. I am from navigating in French and enforced church attendance. I am from priveleged classmates and elitism. I am from pints of beer, crusty bread and rich chocolates and cheeses.
I am from great rage and great love. I am from alcohol-soaked fury and abuse, cuddles and bed time stories. I am from family secrets and shame, and outward normalcy and success. I am from cruelty and misfortune, tenderness and good luck. I am from terror and sorrow, resilience and strength. I am from everywhere, from yin-yang and balance.