Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hot Springs Heaven

Sunday we got one of those gorgeous January days that act as a reprieve from more wintry weather- sunny and in the 50's. Perfect day for a run to Hot Springs. We had some time before our reservation so we looked around the shops in town and then took a long walk through the wooded campground along the French Broad River.
The highlight, of course, is the soak in the hot tub. These tubs are filled for each reservation directly from the springs so don't require the water to be kept heated. This particular tub sits on the bit of land where Spring Creek joins the French Broad. I'd brought a chilled bottle of pinot grigio and some snacks. It's a truly blissful experience to shed your clothes and sit in the steamy water, sipping wine and looking out over the river.
The squirrels know to check in to see if there might be snacks for the cute rodent crowd. The one that ventured onto the deck was in luck.
The squirrel dug in as if he hadn't eaten in days. Weeks, maybe.
At the end of the hour, we reluctantly pulled ourselves out of the warm water and walked over to a little restaurant that sits by the creekside. Fish and chips and a couple of IPAs (mine was better). We decided this would be just the first of many trips together.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Carpe Diem, but within reason.

This is just a little riff triggered by comments in Nick's latest post about worries for the future. We only have this moment, the future is uncertain, live for today - you've heard it. I think it's a response often elicited by anyone talking about being concerned about having enough money to live on when they are old. After all, no one even knows that they'll get much in the way of retirement years. Maybe you'll be flattened by a bus tomorrow or keel over with an aneurysm next Christmas as you're opening the curiously strange gift from an eccentric great-aunt. (And don't even get me started on curiously strange gifts from my eccentric great-aunt.) But what if you don't? What if you are still tooling around at 95? The women in my family tend to be pretty long-lived, in fact. There has to be some sort of balance point between living exceedingly close to the bone so you can sock away every possible penny and spending frivolously on the misguided notion that tomorrow will magically take care of itself.

I guess that's why platitudes often annoy the bejeebers out of me. Like when I was awaiting my younger son's MRI results and people would pat my arm and say, "Don't worry - everything is going to be fine." Huh. Sure didn't feel that way as I sat by his bedside in the ICU after his brain surgery. Yes, he's alive and well and of course I'm grateful. But my little boy having his skull cut open doesn't fall under the category of "fine." What's so hard about acknowledging that life can be tough and that it makes some sense to at least try to prepare for a variety of outcomes?

It's not that I don't believe in being in the moment and enjoying whatever life is throwing at you if you can, it's just that I think it's unrealistic and even fool-hardy to ignore the future. Which is why it raises my hackles a little to be told to "live each day like it's your last." Seriously? Because if it were truly my last day, I'd be flying me and everyone I loved somewhere amazing. And that would be great unless I woke up the next morning, found out it was all a big mistake and I still had the rest of my life to live with an empty bank account and a maxed-out credit card that I would be expected to pay off. Maybe our wish that we could live life like there's no tomorrow is why the bankruptcy rate is so high. And anyway, if I were really living each day like it was my last day? I think going repeatedly through all those emotional goodbyes would just be exhausting.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I'll just refer you to my blog motto.

To follow-up on the share v. don't share decision: I know I made the right one. Not having any place to put my private thoughts isn't a concern. I have my brain for that. I also have a handful of close women friends who I tell things that don't even make the blog. But more importantly, this relationship matters a hell of a lot more to me than maintaining a secret blog. Because here's the thing - starting when we went out a second time a few days after that first lunch date, we've spent at least part of 12 of the next 15 days together. And we've talked and talked and talked. It hasn't been the usual evening out once a weekend sort of thing. So, no, I absolutely didn't mind cuddling up in this temporary fireside bed and pulling up the blog on his iPad. And because it's right and I have nothing left to hide, the blog goes on as it has.
When I retired my old blog, I carried its banner ahead as my footer, with my ongoing motto: "Life is weird and unpredictable, but often in a good way." I still believe it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I hadn't anticipated how much I'd enjoy my kids as adults.

My younger son has been wearing a pair of ratty sneakers for awhile and I had asked him repeatedly to get onto Zappos and pick out a new pair that he liked so I could buy them. He finally did and then sent me this text:
He's a good kid.  And I look forward to the times he comes over to hang out and is in a chatty mood. We had a long talk the other day when he was waiting for a planned hiking trip. Mostly about dating conventions in his age group versus mine. When I referred to Tinder as a dating site, he corrected me, "Mom, it's more of a hook-up app." He told me he didn't understand college students using it since they can easily meet fellow students in class. My son said that he felt Tinder is pretty shallow and based purely on physical appearance rather than anything more substantive. Did I mention he's a good kid?
After a long walk on Saturday with that son, I called my older son and we also ended up talking about relationships. At one point he said he wasn't flexible about his standards for keeping a house clean. I said, "Honey, you have many wonderful qualities but flexibility isn't one of them." He responded with indignation, "I don't need to be flexible, I just need to surround myself with people who do things the way I want!" I laughed so hard that he started laughing with me in spite of himself. It delights me that he has met his match in his girlfriend, who he describes as an "alpha female." He loves AND respects her, which I think is ideal.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Winter is so variable here.

Some days it verges on being warm. Friday afternoon, for instance, I was out raking the back yard. I started with a fleece vest over a long-sleeved shirt over a camisole. But about thirty minutes in and I'd peeled off to the camisole layer, enjoying the only-slightly chilled air against my skin as I worked. See that piled of leaves I moved to the curb next to my Christmas tree? All that will be picked up by the city and composted. My method for dealing with the unbelievably heavy carpet of oak leaves in my back yard is to rake them onto a tarp and drag them to the street. As I was emptying one load onto the pile, a couple of men came by in a truck and handed me a flyer for yard work they do. I'd say that it had nothing to do with what I was wearing except that while one of them explained, at length, all the types of yard work they offer, the other grinned dopily at me.
Other days, it's freezing and I'm happy to stay inside and watch the critters that visit my deck. Except the other morning. It was like a scene from "The Birds." I was sitting on my sun porch enjoying my morning coffee, when a cardinal landed on the railing of my deck. A minute later, his mate joined him. They watched me. From the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of bright red as yet another cardinal landed on top of the bird feeder. I glanced out the window and noticed that it was empty. That cardinal then flew over to perch on the railing with his friends. They were soon joined by a wren. The birds would turn to look meaningfully at the empty feeder, and then return their gaze to me. I saw what was happening here. The songbirds believed they could intimidate me into putting down my mug and leaving the warmth of my cozy house to tend to the feeder. I made a show of turning the page of the book I was reading, to let them know that I was impervious to their tactics. The tension was palpable. They fluffed up their feathers to look bigger and kept their beady eyes fixed on me. I sat wrapped in a quilt, immovable as a mountain, and stared back through the rising steam of my coffee. It was an epic battle of wills.

 And that's why I was out in the cold early that morning filling the bird feeders.

Friday, January 16, 2015

When "nice" isn't faint praise.

In this case it's not the dismissive, "Well, he was nice" sort of nice. It's the flowers-and-chocolates, open-the-car-door, nightly-goodnight-calls, coffee-in-bed, let-me-cook-you-dinner nice.
But it's more than that. I've dated men who were thoughtful or attractive or bright or funny or liberal or good dads or willing to talk about things that matter. And it is all of that, but it's more than all of that.
I can only say that this feels different. Even this early in, it just feels right.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

At the Duck Pond

Before my older son left to go back to school, the three of us walked over to the duck pond near my neighborhood with some bread crusts.
It didn't take the Canada geese long to figure out and they made a beeline for us.
They were a little braver, and would take a bit of bread directly from our hands.
There sure is a dinosaur-like quality to a goose's beak!
The gulls were there, too, circling overhead.
Some of the ducks were crested, with poufy feathers on their heads.
It didn't seem specific to breed so I did a little research. It's actually a genetic defect of the skull.
This gull appeared to take a disliking to the fancy topknot. Yeah okay, maybe it was after the food.
Eventually we ran out of bread, and after a last reproachful look...
the birds moved on to look for other food.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The comically ironic reason 2015 is looking pretty good to me.

Last Sunday I decided at the last minute, since it was too rainy to go on the hike I'd planned, that I would go to the Unitarian church because they were having a program about letting go. Last year at the same time, they did a similar program. And it was the same member of the church who talked in that service. In the last Sunday before New Year's, we were invited to have a rock symbolize what we needed to let go of and then drop it into a bowl of water. This year, we wrote what we want to go let go of on slips of dissolving paper. Across the center of mine I wrote in big letters "worries about not being in a relationship." I added a few others around the margins but that was the main thing. I wanted to let go of the idea that it was necessary. That I had to try so hard to find it. That I couldn't just relax and see where my life took me. I walked past the guy who given that part of the service and dropped my slip into the water. Afterwards, I bypassed the line where everyone stops to greet the people who had done the service, spent some time talking to friends and then went home. I decided to send a message to the guy on Facebook, along with a friend request because, as I told him, I didn't want the message to go into the 'other' box "where messages go to die." I told him I enjoyed his portion of the service and also let him know that I could probably have talked easily to either him or his father about cars. He'd said in his talk he was into Detroit muscle cars as a teen and that his father preferred British sports cars. I told him that my first car was a '68 Chevelle and that I'd also had a '74 MG Midget. I got a friendly note back and we started chatting. He asked if I was often at the church and said that he'd like to meet me, sooner rather than later. A couple of messages later he asked if I'd like to have lunch after church the next Sunday. We texted throughout the next days and he called New Year's Day evening and we talked for an hour on the phone. By the time I went in to say hello this morning, it felt very comfortable. After the service (which included the lovely version of Joan Osborne's "What if God was one of us" below), we went to a restaurant downtown with outdoor seating because it was an unseasonably warm day. I had a delicious salmon omelet with asparagus and cheese grits.
But the temperatures were dropping so he suggested after lunch we go get coffee. He also picked out an assortment of chocolates, including champagne chocolate truffles because I'd said I like champagne. We talked for a long time and reluctantly headed back out into the cold. When he dropped me at my car, we kissed goodbye and agreed to see each other again. Now I'm happily waiting for the goodnight call he promised.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Feeling pretty good about 2015 so far.

The holidays were a bit of a whirlwind. Christmas day itself was wonderful. I love my older son's girlfriend and it was a pleasure to have her here. I treated her like one of mine, so she had gifts and a stocking like the boys did. The same thing happened at their Dad's, apparently. As she was opening a present she said to me, "I feel so spoiled. This is the best Christmas I've had in years." Her parents live in Alaska, so she was happy to have family to be with. I made a big Christmas dinner with the first turkey I've ever cooked. I did a dry rub with herbs and coarse salt, both on and under the skin, with herbed butter also under the skin. In the cavity of the bird I put half an orange, a bundle of chives, some garlic cloves and bay leaves. It was delicious. I also made puff pastry spirals with Parmesan, spinach, lox and capers, roasted pesto potatoes, green beans almandine and cranberry apple sauce.

As life often goes, there was sad mixed in with the good. My mother-in-law passed away a couple of days after Christmas. Even though she was technically my "former" mother-in-law, it never felt that way. I still visited her when she was in town, and the last time I saw her, she hugged me and said, "I want you to know I'll always love you." She was never anything but kind to me, and I'm glad I knew her.
New Year's Day I asked my neighbor friend if she wanted to go hiking. It was overcast but not too cold and it felt great to be out in the mountains. When we got back, I'd made the Southern New Year's standby, Hoppin John. Basically rice and black-eyed peas, with greens (spinach, because I HATE turnip greens). The tradition is that if you eat this poor person's dinner on New Year's Day, you'll eat well the rest of the year. The black eyed peas and greens are also meant to bring luck.

There's more going on, but I'll get to that later. For now, wishing you all a wonderful New Year.