Ponder this:

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve razzle dazzle

Go away.
Come back at midnight and

click below!

Happy New Year!

Thanks to Northview Dairy for the link!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I won! I won!

I won Shreve's caption contest at The Daily Coyote!  ...and my prize is an Eagle Feather Artemis necklace! Look at this thing! It's huge! 
Very exciting!

Artemis is the Greek goddess of forests and hills, goddess of the hunt. This necklace is imbued with her strength and purity, connecting you with the earth, helping you find whatever it is you seek.

This necklace is made from a 4.25" length of naturally shed elk antler, which hangs from a dark brown leather thong. MC has adorned the antler with a single, stunning eagle feather. 
. . .
100% Natural
100% Eco-Friendly
100% Cruelty-Free
. . .
Elk grow a new set of antlers each summer, and each spring, they drop naturally. I go out on my horse and sometimes I'm lucky enough to spot one in the sagebrush.

If any of you aren't familiar with The Daily Coyote, I highly recommend it for a daily dose of natural beauty, the story of Charlie the rescued coyote, and his household.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Revisiting childhood storytimes

When I was very little we had many many story books, from which my mother would read to us at bedtime, or whenever we could coerce her into it.  There are a few stories from those books that have remained in my memory.

One is the story of the talking lollipop.  Another is the story of the sad neglected evergreen tree.  I have eBayed my way into ownership of the book containing those two tales.  As I read the former, it seems to me that it could never be published now, since to those who would see filth and danger to children everywhere, it would smack of pedophilia. Imagine . . . in those days it was just an innocent story. I don't think I was harmed by it.

The third story, which I had hoped was in this book, but is not, is about white holly berries jumping onto the smooth holly leaves and sledding down snowy hills ("Wheeeeeeeeeee!") until the leaves were all bent and prickly and the berries turned red from the cold.
...and that's why holly looks the way it does.
I'm still on the hunt for that one.

I have found, too, a book of Japanese Fairy Tales, published in 1905, to replace the copy we had [that probably burned up in the fire my crazy aunt started]. The illustrations are what I most recalled about the book, and I have only the vaguest recollection of the stories themselves.
I should probably read them now that I once again have the book in my possession.
There are images of the cover and pages in this post at Future Momo Jewelry.

Adogtion: It's a disease

Those of us with addictive personalities know that we might achieve remission of one addiction only to find Compulsion popping up in another area. I'm no longer even slightly inclined toward alcohol, thank God. But there are so many places where addiction can pop up:  eBay, food, and nearly impossible to resist, petfinder.com....

All my life I was a cat person. Cats suited me. They would cuddle and when it would be time for me to get up and do something else, they had several other attractive options to which they truly wished to attend. Dogs were nice but all that nonstop emotional exchange was distasteful to me. And then we got our first dog, a mini poodle. He and I bonded into One Being and eleven years later when he died I thought I would drown in my tears. It happened that the evening of the day of the dog's demise we attended a wake for an acquaintance and I was such a puff-eyed, swollen-faced mess that the bereaved were comforting me. Six dogless months passed and two mini poodles joined the perfect feline in our household. That was more than thirteen years ago. We've had a couple of real dogs, wonderful dogs, during the poodles' tenure, and each of them died too young. 

I have always been the caretaker, the cleaner-upper, the one to cart the animals to the groomer and to the vet for everything from well-scheduled vaccinations to the odd, "...well, I don't know....she just doesn't seem .....right." I have been the Minister of Medicine, pilling them in any way it could be accomplished, squirting liquid stuff into ears and other orifices, gathering samples to be carried off in labeled containers for analysis.  I have spent years of my life doing that stuff and I have lost yet more years of my life in worry over these animals.

Long ago we vowed never to get a dog from anywhere other than a shelter or a rescue organization. We have promised ourselves not to again add a third dog to this pack, and we are far past the stage where we want to deal with raising a puppy. I have sworn never to be another dog's sole parent. I have told Husband, "The next dog will be your dog. You will feed it, you will vet it, you will clean up after it, you will wait up until the appropriate late hour for Last Time Out."

Husband has always loved German shorthaired pointers. Last weekend some friends stopped by with their eight-week-old GSP baby girl. Within minutes of their arrival I had her in my arms, her muzzle cuddled in my neck, and then curled sound asleep on my lap. I played with her feet and her ears. I adored her puckery little lips and her soulful hazel eyes.

Here I am, awake in the middle of the night, browsing through petfinder and admiring beseeching please love me hound eyes. Hound? Could anything be further from a cat? (Well, yes, in fact. A mini poodle.) The only thing that's keeping my heart in my chest is that all of the GSPs I see are far away and their blurbs indicate that adoption out of the area is not an option.
Thank God.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, my friends

We have underdone ourselves this year. 
In previous years we have foregone the tree, but I would get out a fabric snowman for the coffee table and put a big wreath on the six-foot-square upstairs window.  This year the decor looks the same as it did in August except that the screenporch plants are inside.

Husband and I haven't given each other Christmas gifts in years. We need and want nothing more of robes, jewelry, books...  We have no children, no grandchildren, so the only gifts I bought and wrapped this year were for a couple of friends and for my coworkers. For one coworker, who recently won an award for her original gingerbread man needlework design, a gold-sparkly gingerbread man tree ornament.

For Afternoon Boss, who among many other talents is an artist, a calligraphy pen set.

Last fall, Morning Boss asked me what to do with the sage she had grown, and I found, while browsing on eBay, a book about growing, harvesting and cooking with herbs.  Aha!  With perfect timing, it arrived in the mail on the 23rd.

It was with pleasure and a tickle of excitement that I wrapped these little gifts for delivery yesterday morning, the Christmas Eve half-day of work.

Of the three only Afternoon Boss and I opened our gifts together.  He loved his gift and will use it in his art.
Needlework Woman, who loves Christmas, and who will begin tomorrow counting down the days to next Christmas, happily accepted her little package and she and I and Afternoon Boss went off to Morning Boss's desk. As we approached I sang, "We three kings or Orient are, Bearing gifts we traverse afar..." and we each placed our gifts on her desk blotter.

Morning Boss looked at me unsmiling. "I didn't get you anything."  
"I don't care. It doesn't matter."
"You said you didn't want to exchange this year!" 
I had said that, because I didn't want to obsess, as I knew I would, if I had had to choose a gift for her exacting self.  And I didn't want to add to her stress by adding "gift for June" to her list of Things I Must Do. I think I'm enough of a chore for her every day.  I hope that when she unwraps the book, she will see how minor a gift it is and will let the competition guilt drop away.

I didn't go looking for those gifts. If I had, I would not have had the pleasure of chancing upon them.  

Today our usual holiday gang will gather for Christmas dinner. R and E, who originally planned to spend the day with R's family, changed their minds and will be here, and BonBon baked and will bring a pie, since she doesn't like our traditional household Christmas dessert of crème brulée.  

Our group will be happy to be together today. If gifts are exchanged they will be small things. Our gift to each other will be our good fellowship.  It is said that friends are the family you choose. But you don't go looking for them, sweating, madly scouting through the hordes of humanity for them. 
You happen upon them...
...like The Perfect Gift.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Last night I read a Vanity Fair article about the code, the lives, and the decline, at the hands of wicked stepmothers, of the landed European aristocracy.  It's difficult for me to feel sorry for them over the selling off of Holbeins and other chattels.  What truly enthralls me every time I get started on this train of thought are the images of the historic stone piles. Not their size, although the idea of a home with more than two hundred rooms boggles my mind. It's the age of the things that quickens my breath. Seven hundred years ago, people were living their day-to-day lives in these places. Places that have been reduced to mere single walls standing...in those places, people had headaches, petted cats, hummed as they worked, admired colors. Life went on in those places.
I know it's my American perspective that makes all this seem so exotic.  Europeans are accustomed to the immense age of their surroundings. 

One of the places mentioned in the article is Cawdor Castle. It's grand and the grounds are beautiful, but just look at the walls and the dearth of openings in those walls. Think of the drafts blowing through.  Think of standing in one of those rooms, looking out one of those openings. What would you see? What would you be thinking of? ...hoping for?
Cawdor Castle
Think of the servants fixing meals in Cawdor's kitchen.  Smaller than I would have expected, but there wasn't a lot of need for storage of blenders and pasta makers.  It must have been one of the warmer rooms.  Look at the curved ceiling. Somebody's hands made that ceiling.  Maybe he was hungry, thinking about lunch, while he worked. Maybe he was worried about a sick child at home.

If I had been alive in those days, I would have been fortunate to have had a dwelling as rich and solid as this cottage (image from Thistle's Scotland).  How dark, damp it was, smelling of wet wool and smoke and bodies.  I suppose they hardly noticed.
Picture of cottage

14th Century Dacre Castle is available for rent   The interior photos make my heart beat faster, despite some obvious modern improvements. Think of the centuries of hands that have touched the walls of this spiral stairway....
Dacre Castle

...which brings to mind Frederic William Burton's
Meeting on the Turret Stairs, Fredrick Burton

If I could travel in time, I would go back seven or eight hundred years so I could feel the places in their newness. I would hear the sounds of feet on stone floors, watch [and no doubt, be one of] the common folk at their backbreaking chores, trying to stay warm, living their lives. 
I'm sure I'd be glad to come back, but I have a feeling that that life would feel faintly familiar to me.

Wouldn't it be nice if the font were a uniform size in any of my posts?

In my Real Life I am Donna Reed

I was born early in the fifth decade of the last century and for much of my life, I held on to the illusion of life as I had grown up imagining it would be. I would keep house as a career and have afternoon Tupperware and Sarah Coventry parties where I would serve crustless half sandwiches and molded gelatin salads to other housewives.  I would vacuum the house wearing powder and lipstick and shirtwaist dresses. There would be mashed potatoes every evening at six o'clock with a pineapple-baked ham or pot roast.  My short stint in college was wasted on me. Why work for four years toward a teaching degree when I already had my groom lined up?  I did not go enthusiastically into Womens Liberation; it was thrust upon me.  My groom married somebody else, I quit college (I never really wanted to teach anyway) and got a job to tide me over until the life that I was supposed to be living would begin. Sometimes I think I'm still working and waiting for my Real Life to begin.

More than ten years now at my place of employment, the longest I've worked in one place except when I was waitressing.  In the last couple of years I have been the birdie in a political badminton game. The newly-elected administration of Small Pond, far more able than I had expected and feared, seems inclined to make changes that might improve my working life. Afternoon Job has been relocated to a different area of the building, far from my back door field view, but it's a comfortable location. I have the promise of returning to Afternoon Job full time at some future point, leaving Morning Job to some person with excellent eyesight and knowledge of the difference between a credit and a debit. There would be an end to deciphering numerals in tooth-fairy-size print on sheets of paper covered with basmati rice-sized boxes. 

If I were sure I could trust that Afternoon Job would once again be my Whole Job I would not be considering yet more change, but that possibility is down the road a good bit and subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous egos.  In Small Pond one really can't predict the future. One sweep of a large fish's fin in this eyedropperful of water and the surface tension can break, discharging a miasma of anxiety and bewilderment into the working atmosphere.  And so, last week I polished up my resume and tailored a cover letter for a different employer. 
I sent out the resume last Friday. I had hemmed and hawed and wasn't going to send it and was going to send it.  And finally decided that just sending out a resume doesn't mean I'm bound to go to new employment. The possible outcomes are:  I will receive a job offer for the same or more money and I might use it as leverage to speed up the "back to fulltime Afternoon Job" process (probably wouldn't work . . . they'd let me go);  I will receive a job offer for less money and I'll get happy about where I am (most likely); I will receive no response; if the recipient of my resume calls and I've changed my mind, I can say, "Please disregard." 
I have nothing to lose.

It isn't my Real Life anyway.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Brides in 1957 and 1958, it seems, all wore off-the-shoulder gowns, bodices fitted, skirts full. Princesses with Miss America smiles, entering to Wagner, exiting to Mendelssohn, they were photographed posed on the altar, the trains of their gowns fanned in swirling display around their invisible feet, none of their attendants more beautiful than they. Or they were photographed with their proud but decidedly second-fiddle grooms as they prepared to enter the black limousine that would sweep them off to their wedding receptions where strict protocol of the order of dances (first dance, mother/son, father/daughter) and eloquent toasts made a marker of the day.

I did not have that kind of wedding.  We were married in a church and I wore a knee-length cream-colored dress. No Lohengrin, no Mendelssohn, no father's arm guiding me down the aisle. My groom and I spoke traditional Protestant vows and the five of us in attendance dined afterward, but there was very little regal formality about the day. I'm not sure if I felt less married than if I had had the whole dog-and-pony show. I might have. I'll never know.

I recently attended a wedding. The Bridal Chorus began to play and the bride, gowned in voluminous cream satin, began hesitation-stepping across the lawn. As she reached the back row of standing guests, she stopped, closed her eyes, shook her head, sneering in dismissal. The music stopped. A moment passed during which the thought swept over us all that she was about to call off the wedding.

"I'm Too Sexy" began to play, she gave a large nod of smiling satisfaction, and sashayed to the arbor altar.
The cleric was the groom's brother, who'd received his ordination online.
The bride's sentimentally tearful personalized vow closed with, "...and you're the sexiest bitch I've ever known."  Before the groom delivered his vow, he observed, "that dress is gonna look beautiful on the floor."

Some people might have been scandalized; I was bemused.
This latest wedding was about the same number of degrees less formal than mine, as mine was from those fairytale weddings.
Was it more fun?  Is a wedding supposed to be fun?
In the end none of that matters.
The Day does not a marriage make.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Restaurant stories

I loved working with Sue. We were gaited the same way and we operated as one waitress.  The value of a team player is physically measurable in restaurant work.  Sue was funny, too.
A horrendously busy weekday lunch: some local event that no one had foreseen had people lined up at the door, and only the two of us on.
The cooks were prepping as they cooked. Sue and I were both flat out. A madhouse.
She and I muttering to each other:
"Is that your order up or mine?" 
"Oh, who the hell knows. You take it. I need to clear C7."
The very same day that the owner came in to observe.
Sue and I, sweating and cursing without moving our lips, couldn't help erupting into giggles every time we passed each other.
After a half hour of the owner watching us from the back diningroom, he called us both back to speak with him. We were hoping he'd fire us and let us go the hell home. Instead he told us how great a job we were doing, "...and you're still smiling!"
He dismissed us and we ran back to our tables to catch up the five lost minutes, laughing even harder that he had mistaken our near-hysteria for professional cordiality.

One dinner hour Sue, then five months pregnant, joined me in the waitstation, laughing breathlessly, her entire face bright rose pink.  She'd seen a stray napkin on the floor of the diningroom and had squatted down to pick it up. I gather it is the nature of pregnancy that a mother-to-be can do a thing one day and the next day have gained the ounce that makes that thing impossible: she couldn't get up. Squatting with the retrieved napkin in her hand, she slowly, gently tipped against a diner's knee. And stayed there, leaning against his leg, unable to right herself. Without a word passing, the knee chivalrously tipped her away, and she pushed herself upright.

Debbie was so pretty. And such a good worker. Reliably professional, kind, smiley.
Another crazy lunch hour. Filling ice, clearing tables, running dishes to the back, greeting people, waiting with bated breath, feeling the eyes of the waiting line while Loving Mom elicits from her four-year-old darling his preference today of the five different soft drinks available. Finally, finally, Debbie was able to get to a table that had been waiting a little longer than they might have been under other conditions.
"You're slow!" the woman customer exclaimed to Debbie.
"You're fat!" retorted Debbie, aghast at herself even as the words left her lips.
She got the order and hustled back into the waitstation before she started to laugh so hard she could hardly tell me the story.

Friday night busy.  Four or five of us on. An off-duty waitress, Donna, came in with her family, and sat at Chastain's table.  Chastain came to me after a while with a carryout container in her hands. "Here. Take a bite out of this. It's Donna's."
"I'm not doing that!" I said.
"No! It's Donna's. She'll get home and see it and think it's funny."
We went back and forth for as long as we had...probably ten seconds...and finally I bit into the leftover half sandwich in the container and put it back.
During closing, Chastain said to me, "You know that sandwich that you bit into? It wasn't Donna's. It was that  [malicious, spiteful, or overbearing woman] that's always here on Fridays."

We had a pretty limited menu at the place. Most people came in knowing what they wanted, we got it for them and they left.  Every now and then somebody would ask for some small out of the ordinary thing. People who didn't eat pork would ask that the cook use a different knife when he prepared their food, or people from other countries would ask for "Glass vatter pleze, no ize." 
I can't recall what it was, but I remember an upper-crusty type who wanted one of the regular items prepared in a way  that was way out of the league of restaurants to which ours belonged. When I tried to explain to him the limitations of the kitchen, he retorted, disgusted, "Well! I should think they'd be able to do that. This isn't the Ritz, after all."

I own a book entitled Waiting: the true confessions of a waitress, by Debra Ginsburg. I identify with nearly every story she tells.  One of the chapters is entitled, "I am your waitress," in which she writes about customers who don't recognize the waitress as a person when they see her out in the real world.  
Being a waitress is acting. Put on the uniform: become a clothed smiling mirror.

Every waitress develops her regulars whose orders she can give the kitchen as she sees them approaching the door.  She and those customers share a little intersecting piece of their days and enjoy what seems to be a friendship. But isn't, really.  Some customers make the mistake of thinking the waitress, as she is in uniform, is as she is in her real life. I let it happen to me only once. A woman with whom I had interesting, if short, conversations during her lunch, invited me to a Celtic festival, to see a particular singer. She had a little crush on him because of his brogue, I think. We had a bit of trouble finding him, and she was disappointed. "He is such a spiritual man!"  When we were about to give up we happened across him and listened for a half hour or so. She kept looking over and smiling in confirmation: "Isn't he wonderful?" He sang the songs you'd expect: Danny Boy, Greensleeves...  He rollicked into The Scotsman's Kilt, and at the punchline, I shouted with laughter and my customer's jaw dropped. She turned away in embarrassed shock. As we hustled to the exit, she harrumphed that she had thought he was "such a good Christian!"
I think I probably swore once or twice while we were on our outing and not only did she not invite me anywhere else again (for which I remain, to this day, grateful) but she stopped coming in for lunch.
She was one of those people who think that performers are their performances. 

Editing to add: There's that tiny font again! Sorry.

Winter thrill ride

Last week there was a snowstorm.

Unlike last year, I was prepared, my studded tires applied in the nick of time. I set out for work confidently and a little early, to give myself time to reawaken my winter driving skills.  I hadn't foreseen that the road crews had all slept late, leaving all the roads as God and Mother Nature had modified them.

Down the little one-lane hill road I went cautiously. At the bottom of the road there is a sharp drop where dirt road meets state route. I slowed far in advance, and still slid halfway out across the road. Fortunately, no traffic from either direction.
So. This is good. Now I know just what I have to deal with: Purely treacherous roads.

Slowly, slowly, twenty on fifty-five-mile-per-hour roads, with the occasional floaty feeling that means complete loss of traction, I made it to the interstate. The stretch that I travel of this particular interstate highway is known and respected for its exposure to winter winds and resulting ice.  There was no wind that morning, and as I left the exit I was pleased to see that I was the only westward traveler in view. I trundled down the highway, feeling ice ridges under my tires.  After a while, a few vehicles caught up with me. Most stayed well back.  A tanker truck passed me on the way down a hill, and as it passed, I enviously eyed its confident forward momentum.

Between my entrance and my exit the interstate goes through three or four climates due to the changes in elevation.  At the highest point of my route, the guide rails have been breached and mended many times.  There the highway overlooks, to the north, and four hundred feet below, the two-lane state route that could have been my alternate route.  It also overlooks a yellow house where I imagine, on bad road days, the residents might sit at their kitchen table and watch vehicles rolling one after another down into their back yard. It is a landmark: "The yellow house where the cars roll down." I might have smiled to myself as I passed that point without mishap.

My exit is at the top of a long hill. The tanker that had passed me was still in sight and I saw its bulk sway over to the right shoulder, tires caught in snow and icy ruts. I made a mental note to avoid those ruts. They grabbed me despite my preparation.  I was careful to maintain my breathtaking thirty-five miles per hour. I emerged from the ruts. To my surprise, then, my car began a graceful and balletic sliding loop to my left. I watched through the windshield and the side windows as the world turned around me.

As always in such circumstances, time slowed.  Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, I had plenty of time to look about me and to wonder what was going to happen next. I noted that oncoming cars were far enough away that collision was unlikely, and I had enough time to think, "Finally, after all these years, today I will be be one of those poor slobs whose cars sit in the valley of the median while other commuters pass and smugly wonder what happened to get it there."

The car stopped looping and began a straight rearward glide south toward the edge of the road. Then I could apply my brakes, and was satisfied to feel the studs digging in. I stopped, still on the road and facing due north. The whole three-quarter loop took, perhaps, four seconds.

A small white car that had been following me had stopped, staying out of harm's way.  I looked out the passenger side window at the driver to see if she would go past but she remained where she was, waiting for me to sort myself out. I gently touched the gas pedal and resumed my controlled-slide commute.

Nobody at work had expected the weather to be as bad as it turned out to be. Morning Boss said, "I'm not sure we should be here at all."
"Well I'm not goin' home!" I cried.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Freedom on the hoof

Yesterday afternoon, I stepped out the back door at work to take a moment. The rear of the building is surrounded by hayfields.
Some movement caught my eye: a big doe running and leaping down the snowy hill toward the two-lane county road. She had a good distance to go before she got there, but I worried for her until I saw her, a few minutes later, alternately walking and trotting back up toward the woods.
I had heard no sound that might have startled her; I was far far away, and quiet, so I doubt that I was the cause of her flight.  I think it's still hunting season but I feel sure that she wasn't pursued by hunters or I would have seen her drop out there in the huge open field.

Photo of white-tailed deer doe in the snow
Photo of white-tail deer doe in snow from: Nature of New England

Maybe she was just enjoying her day.
She certainly improved mine.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I want to move to Tennessee

I spent some time today online looking at Tennessee rural real estate ads.  I've never been there, even for a visit, so I don't know one county from another, or what cities to search in, but it's a little dream I indulge every now and then.  If I stay in this state I will never retire; the state and county taxes would render life as I know it extinct.  Tennessee seems a lot more economical.  And Tennessee scenery looks a lot like what I see here; that's important.  It's the same mountain chain, just farther south.


A few years ago there were some contractors from Tennessee  working on the local WalMart.  During our conversations in my office, one of them told me about his home in Dickson County.  He's the one who started this idea rolling around in my head, by telling me that he had all four seasons, but winter lasted only from late November through about February. I like my seasons, but I don't enjoy living with winter until late April. I'm afraid one of these winters I'll just grow roots into my couch and never be able to move again.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sweet Relief of Saturday

The quote for today in that little gadget up there is: "Change before you have to." I'm putting it into the body of this post because, automatically generated, tomorrow's will be different.  Since that Jack Welch quote piqued my interest, I checked out some others of his, and read a short bio. Brilliant man, captain of capitalism and industry, tough businessman, big deal in General Electric. His function was to increase industrial productivity, and that's reflected in many of his quotes. His brilliance acknowledges the human element as well.

Change before you have to.
Well, I'd like to, but I don't think I'm capable of that kind of self-discipline. I fight change with every fiber of my physical and mental being, until I am crushed against the wall of impossibility of escape or avoidance. I fold, and at last crumpled boneless, find that the wall is not solid stone, but ocean water through which I can pass buoyed by its mass. Maybe what's called for is not, in fact, self-discipline, but an easier go-with-the-flow attitude. Sometimes I have that and sometimes I don't.  I know from whence my resistance comes and it doesn't matter. It just is.  I dislike hearing people say, "That's just the way I am," but in this, it is the way I am. I expect never to be otherwise without determined application of tools, coping skills, that are not thoroughly ingrained.

I clawed my way through this last week, climbing the sheer rock face of a mountain on which I could neither stop nor descend, but only progress upward or sideways at whatever pace I could manage.

I go to drop off my jacket in the Afternoon Office and find it in complete upheaval. The department will be moved to a different room by 12/15; the Power That Be has begun moving out my files to the new location, and has moved everything that is left to different and oddly angled positions. The coat rack is gone. I leave my jacket on the back of my Afternoon Desk Chair and return to the Morning Office.
End of the month stuff. Every total must match. Fearsome.
My every total does not match; I need help to find my mistake of a transposition of numbers.
In addition, two payrolls to do, one regular, one hitherto unexperienced end-of-fiscal-year payroll process. I overlook two employees' special payments and thereby turn the two payrolls into three. Rattled by that failure, and aware of the clock edging toward the end of my time to complete my tasks, I hurry through the regular payroll and create a one cent deficit. Hours of time invested in checking figures, checking figures, and failing to find the penny. All the while my heart pounding and my thoughts scattering, reading numbers (in size 2 font) that aren't there.
Morning Boss asks if I am upset over the Afternoon Office upheaval or if it's something else.
Jack Welch: "Be candid with everyone."
"I'm less upset than I am terrified," I tell her.

Still checking those payroll numbers in the morning, complete ongoing upheaval in the Afternoon Office. So much has been moved that the room echoes.  Unable to get enough of a grip on myself to adequately perform the Morning Job, and deprived of the tools I need to do the Afternoon Job, I slip into a vortex of frustration and fear, exchange words with the Afternoon Boss. Morning Boss calls, reminds me I've forgotten to do a monthly billing. Toes dragging, tears welling, I return to the Morning Office and mindlessly follow written instructions to do the neglected billing. Peripheral coworker asks if I want her to stuff the envelopes for me. "No. I need to do something I know how to do. I know how to fold paper and stuff envelopes."

Morning Boss finds the penny, on which I had not yet quite given up.
"Show me!" I cry. "What did I do to make that happen?" She enlightens me, gently.
Jack Welch: "I've learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success."
Maybe I'll remember it next time, but with these full moon nerves, I can't be sure.
That's the worst thing about fear: it disables me.

Morning Boss talks while we work, catches herself. "Am I talking too much?"
"No. I feel better when you talk than when you don't."
"When I don't talk it isn't about you, you know."
"My brain knows that; it's my nervous system that doesn't get it."

I am worn thin, a stick figure going from one task to the next sans enjoyment or triumph or, thank God, fear.  I tell Morning Boss, "It's very embarrassing never doing anything right."
She replies with fine irony, "I don't know how you could make these mistakes in this working atmosphere! What the hell's wrong with you?"
A comfort, that response: acceptance, compassion, forgiveness.
Jack Welch:  "Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act."
I leave work early, come home and sleep. And sleep. And sleep.  Thursday evening, Afternoon Boss phones from the hospital to which he has been admitted through the ER with chest pain and attendant cardiac symptoms.

Power That Be asks me if I know about Afternoon Boss being in the hospital.
"Yes," I say.
"Did we do it to him?" he asks me, "Or did he do it to himself?  Does he feel he has to help move the office?  I told him he didn't need to, that I would get other people."
Morning Boss, nearby, speaks up: "Of course he felt he had to. We all feel that way because we're afraid we'll lose our jobs!"
I speak with Trusted Friend after my workday is over. Trusted Friend makes of himself a blank canvas against which I throw events and my reactions.  He takes it all in, summarizes it for me. The painful emotion recedes, a watercolor wash that enhances the clarity of the bold print headlines of actual events:  I see how things really are. 

Jack Welch:  "Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be."
Speaking from this Great Relief of Saturday, The End of the Week From Hell, I would amend that to, "Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be, or as it appears to you through a veil of emotion."

I am left with feelings of great gratitude for people who, with contributions of compassion, kindness and humor, helped me climb through the week. It's times like this that I realize the truth of "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Returning to add: I don't know why the last part of this post is in minuscule font...I have fiddled and fiddled with it and can't fix it. Like the penny, it is a riddle that is beyond my capabilities.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Merriam Webster's second definition of lunacy is "intermittent insanity once believed to be related to phases of the moon."

Once believed? I believe it now.

In one hour, the moon will officially be full. I'm suffering great distraction of the mind. I can't keep my thoughts straight. It's one of the hallmarks of full-moon-itis for me.
In the days when we had a boat, Husband would tell people that on full moon nights, they could find June at the end of the dock howling at the moon.

This month there are two, count 'em! ...two full moons...today and again on New Year's Eve.
For joy.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Everyday luxuries

I like the wind that has been howling since late yesterday afternoon. It's been a constant background mutter-snarl with spasmodic whoops and shrieks around the eaves. Last night as we got into bed I murmured to the poodles, "It's a Heidi night, boys." This kind of gale makes me feel cozy: Heidi snugged up in her hayloft in Grandfather's Alpine cottage.

This morning I'm thinking of my commonplace comforts, the mundane delights of my daily life.

Our woodstove is an ongoing comfort. We started with a cast iron woodstove. It was a good stove...nothing warmer than woodfire heat...but every morning when I got up and every afternoon when I got home I'd have to start a new fire. This one, installed two or three years ago, is soapstone. Three days without a fire and enough sparks remain among the ashes that I can throw in some wood and have a roaring fire in twenty minutes. Turn it down, flip up the catalytic combustor lever and I'm comfy for twelve hours. White Noise of Wind, and Warmth: what could be better?

I like my coffee grinder and my good ol' Mr. Coffee machine. In the mornings I let the dogs out, grind the coffee, fill the reservoir with the sprayer hose from the sink (I moved the coffeemaker right next to the sink so I wouldn't have to fill and spill first thing in the morning), and start the machine. I turn on the laptop, put water in the microwave for the dogs' breakfast. The thirty seconds that I have to wait for that almost kills me with frustration. I put the kibble in the warmed water and the dogs come back in. I pill them (thyroid for Angus, heart for Max) and by the time we've finished that routine, the coffee's just about ready. Lots of it. I like my freshly-ground Eight O'Clock coffee beans, and I like knowing, as I sit here, that there's a whole pot of nice hot coffee waiting for me to refill my cup. On Thursday afternoon everybody else was singing the praises of Keurig machines. If I ever decide to drink less coffee in the morning, I'll look into a Keurig. My consumption would decrease: I wouldn't be able to stand the fifteen-second wait for another cup.

One of our Thanksgiving group was my friend E. Three years ago when I met E she spoke no English. An American friend of E's mother wanted her children to become fluent in Spanish so she brought E here from Mexico to be the children's nanny. Our friend R knew enough Spanish to begin keeping company with her and when he came to paint our house, he brought E along. R often acted as translator and joked that we would all learn Spanish before E learned English.

Every day while R painted, E and I sat at the picnic table with Vanity Fair and Harper's Bazaar and other magazines, showing each other ads we liked, opening the glued perfumed edges of pages, sniffing and critiquing by means of facial expressions and unstructured sounds. That was My Summer of the Sandals: I treated myself to regular pedicures and wore flashy polish on my toes and fingers. She always came equipped with her cosmetics bag, and when our efforts at communication thinned to wisps, I read and she groomed her brows and nails. I gave her some Burt's Bees cuticle cream; she gave me an Estée Lauder lipstick. So the beginning of our friendship was based on Girly Things. When R and E come to visit, E always arrives bearing Girly Gifts for me.

Thanksgiving Day E brought me a whole array of amber-scented bath goodies, and a bottle of OPI Dear Santa nail polish.

It's lighthearted candy apple red with sparkly bits. She said when she saw it, she said, "Ooohhh, June!"

There were years of my life when I had more than a dozen nail colors in my kit. I had to arrange them in a rotation to make it easier to decide which color should go on on Sunday evenings. The popular wisdom in my Yankee youth (I gather it's different in other parts of the country) was that Mature Women Who Were Not Trashy did not wear brightly colored anything. Either that belief has changed or I no longer care about it.
I have always loved clear bright red nails but I was in my forties before I was brave enough to sport them myself. Having missed out on that joy for so long, I'm not about to give it up. Yesterday while I did laundry and cleaned up and put away for another month all the holiday platters and bowls I took breaks and caught up on my Girly Grooming. I adore my tiny Christmas ornament fingertips. I could hardly wait to wake up and turn on the lights this morning so I could admire myself. Instant Happy.

One more homely pleasure: Wool Wax Creme. A friend gave me a jar of it as thanks for some little favor. Great stuff.

Proust Questionnaire

Vanity Fair's website includes an interactive Proust Questionnaire. The questionnaire is a regular feature on the last page of each month's issue of the magazine and I always look forward to the pithy and witty responses.
I completed the questionnaire just now and find that the celebrity whose answers most closely match mine is Annette Bening. I haven't ever particularly cared for her. Now I have to read about her and see what it is that we have in common to cause our responses to be similar.

I'm back.
We have nothing in common except our political inclination.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Eve

The pies are baked and cooling. The salad parts are chilled and prepped and wait in little bags for tossing together with my own dried basil and a myriad of other herbs and the red onion, which rests in the garden until morning. The cranberries have been sweetened and cooked into sauce. The Yukon gold potatoes have been boiled with a few cloves of garlic, and whipped with white pepper and a secret (because Husband thinks he doesn't like it) touch of good ol' Bell's seasoning and loaded into a casserole, sprinkled with paprika for reheating. Husband is browning the sausage and onions for the stuffing, with the homegrown dried sage.

The fresh turkey presents its nether parts to me at every opening of the refrigerator. It is the final insult available to the poor bird, who becomes an afterthought among this panoply of dietary excess.

Shrimp to be roasted and cocktailed, menaste marinating, to be reheated with cannelini added at the final moment, sweet potatoes and acorn squash, and the tablecloth are morning chores.

You would think we had the Russian army coming for dinner.
We will be a total of five.
By 5:00pm tomorrow we will be five stuffed and logy folk.

How fortunate we are.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Misperceptions. Or not.

I have been reading too much online lately. Blogs, articles, opinion pieces in various online news sites. I need to stop it; I'm getting seriously annoyed and sputtery. I am not sure limiting my browsing will help that condition, though. The following laff riot came to me in my email this morning:

> > Tragedy in Los Angeles
> > In South Los Angeles , a 4-plex was destroyed by a fire.
> > A Nigerian family of six con artists lived on the first floor, and all six died in the fire.
> > An Islamic group of seven welfare cheats, all illegally in the country from Kenya, lived on the second floor, and they, too, all perished in the fire.
> > 6 LA, Hispanic, Gang Banger, ex-cons, lived on the 3rd floor and they, too, died.
> > A lone, white couple lived on the top floor. The couple survived the fire.
> > Jesse Jackson, John Burris and Al Sharpton were furious. They flew into LA and met with the fire chief, on camera. They loudly demanded to know why the Blacks, Black Muslims and Hispanics all died in the fire and only the white couple lived?
> > The fire chief said, "They were at work."

A joke, apparently.
I don't find that amusing. Is it me?

Besides the p.o. factor, I have begun to read things oddly. I see things that aren't there. For example, I read, "In an essay titled 'Heil Heidegger!' Carlin Romano, a critic for The Review, called Heidegger a 'Black Forest babbler' and fraud who was 'overrated in his prime' and 'bizarrely venerated by coyotes even now.'"
The word was acolytes.

I read, "Eating a good night’s sleep." The real first word of that sentence, as it was written, was "Earning."

In an online ad, I see, "Do you keep your customers coming back?
"Buying more?
"How do I do it?
"Evil marketing from Constant Contact."
Of course, the ad was for Email marketing.

And, simply because I seem to be writing about my odd perceptions of my environment, I'll add this observation, made yesterday to myself about myself. My hungry stomach has the same vocal tone as my cell phone when it announces, "Verizon Wireless," right before it rings. I nearly jumped up from my chair to grab the phone before I realized.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Railway Tunnel

Memory: A tunnel that my father often drove through on the way home from the village.
The tunnel was made of close hand-laid moss-covered stone walls, rounded sides to the low ceiling, like a remnant of an ancient castle. It accommodated the road where it cut through a hill. Grass and brush grew up the banks on either side of the entrance and the exit; grass grew on top. Whenever we kids were with him, we would beg him to blow the truck horn as we passed through the tunnel; the sound's reverberation thrilled us. It wasn't a long tunnel; it was short enough that once we entered it I immediately became impatient for Dad to blow the horn lest we be out before I heard that sound. I liked the feeling of being in that tube of stone. I felt cozy and protected. There is a similar tunnel on one of the nearby twisty curvy country roads. When I drive through it I slow down and blow the horn. If the road there were wider I might park in there and enjoy the closeness.

I liked then, and I like now, tunnels and burrows. In the winter I liked to burrow into snowdrifts. Snug and warm in my heavy wool snowpants I would sit in my little rabbit warren snow house. I smiled little smiles to myself and admired the blue-white walls and and the absence of sound. I felt secreted and safe.

Sometimes on long winter days my sister and I would pull and carry every wooden chair in the house into the livingroom and turn them over on their faces, cover them with old quilts and crawl inside our homemade tunnel. It seems, in memory, that we had rooms in there, although there couldn't have been that many chairs or that much space but . . . we were small.

This love of small cozy spaces is apparently part of my inborn psychology: Prior to my birth I never turned upside down the way a getting-ready-to-be-born baby is supposed to. I came out butt first.
I wanted to stay where I was safe and cozy.

(Note to self: Read Franz Kafka's The Burrow)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Holiday catalog shopping

Christmas is coming, and so are the catalogs. My rural mailbox is several hundred feet up the road from my driveway (the United States Postal Service fears coming too far down the road for fear of a non-return trip) and I break several vehicle and traffic laws by pulling to the far side of the oncoming lane to open the box from my car. During the last week there's been a veritable avalanche of catalogs waiting to fall upon me (if I'm quick) or on the ground (if I'm not) when I pull down the mailbox door.

I love this.

I bring them all indoors and stack them next to my Evening Chair, and spend hours examining each picture and sensual description of the myriad gift items.
"5 handmade brushes, each with a different width and length. Our ink set contains 5 ink blocks in black, red, blue, gold(!) and white, each embossed with a golden dragon." I think it's the "embossed with a golden dragon" that grabs me. And the idea of blocks of ink . . . I imagine the smooth surfaces, the rich colors.
Winter-themed solar lights! I envision glowing fairylights out in the cold winter darkness, softening, to my eye, the edges of the ice shards blown by the biting wind.

These poor deer would be blown two fields away in a week of our winter wind...but aren't they pretty?

Brightly colored alphabet giraffe puzzles, the A at the animal's head, the Z at its hind foot . . . sixteen inches tall! I have no children for whom to buy gifts but I like it so much that I consider for whose child I might buy it. (I have always leaned toward the educational in gifts . . . a characteristic not much appreciated by my child gift recipients, I think. I remember a plastic clock I had when I was learning to tell time; I loved it. But that was in the olden days. I think many children now cannot read analog clocks, only digital.)
Personalized everythings . . . gift boxes, pen sets, parking signs... Smooth woods, glittering crystals, wit in red print on metal.
Stacked boxes of fruits and nuts, assorted coffees and jewels of jams and jellies.
Boxed sets of holiday greeting cards with dreamy pictures and sentimental messages.
I'm sucked in by all of it.
I turn over corners of pages as I go, mentally piling up all the lovely sparkling treasures.

I set the catalogs aside, and during subsequent evenings I go through them again and again, running through the fingers of my mind the opulence of these riches.

I order nothing, and in February throw out the whole stack.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More restaurant stories for Joe

Big kitchen. Big walk-in freezer. Old big walk-in freezer. Newer ones have handles you can punch if the door closes behind you. Old freezer. No handle. It took twenty minutes for the cook to figure out where I was. Trust me on this: No matter where you live and no matter how hard your winters are, they are nothing compared to being trapped in a walk-in freezer for twenty minutes.

The air conditioning had one zone and in summer we always kept it set it on STUN because the back of the house was so hot. One Saturday night a customer complained that she was freezing and wanted me to turn down the air conditioning. I said,
"If we turn down the a/c the cooks gon' pass out."
Customer didn't say a word.

One day during lunch one of the cooks did pass out. Right after he had an epileptic seizure and whacked his head on the corner of the oven on his way to the floor. Us waitresses picked our way carefully through the blood and walked across a broke-open cardboard box before we hit the carpet. The rest of the cooks worked around him until he came to and the manager took him in back.
Rule Number One: Ain' nobody call no amba-lance to no restaurant!

There was a back kitchen with three gigantic stainless steel sinks, the dreaded freezer, the walk-in cooler, and right in front of the door to the waitstation, the dishwasher. The dishwasher was a machine, not a person . . . us waitresses would run it in between scooping ice out of the icemaker and carrying it to the sink in the waitstation, picking up our orders, taking care of our tables, changing the soda canisters... The manager's desk was at the back end of a long tunnel-like room with its door just opposite the dishwasher. I was hustlin' from the back of the back kitchen with a bowl of salad for the salad bar. I got almost to the dishwasher when a chef's knife whizzed through the air past my face and stuck quivering in the wall between the dishwasher and the door to the waitstation. The assistant manager was in the office th'owin' 'at knife . . . he playin' wit' me.
He say he know he ain' gon' hit me . . . he know right where I wuz.
I lay him out in lavender. I tol' him jus' where the bear went in the woods. I tol' him just whut I do widdat knife do he play me like dat from here on forwar'. He ain' never play like dat wi' me again, I tell you dat.

New waitress in training.
Firs' thing she tol' me wuz her name. Secont thing she tol' me she havin' a baby.
I thought she meant right that minute.
Firs' few shif's, th' way it work she follow somebody 'round an' learn how to do evvything. She don' get no tips. Trainer get her tips. She get minimum wage until she get tips, then her pay go down. I wuz trainin' her. I tell her "Good idea go do this now, time to do that now...."
You can tell when they get it and when they don'.
I say, "Here . . . take this tray an' go clear that table."
She crinkle up her forehead and twitch up her mouth an she put on a mad face and say, "Tha's a lotta work. I'm havin' a baby."
I say, "That's the job."
She ditten move. I went and cleared the table. And took the tip.

Next night my friend trainin' this new girl how to close. Breakin' down the salad bar. Back on that two-foot square dishwasher tray go all the crocks fulla cottage cheese, slice cucumbers, salad dressing. Things always weigh a ton, but you balance it right ain' nothin'. Waitresses got good biceps and backs. Thirteen crocks, two dishwasher trays full, to go back to the cooler.
My friend loaded up both trays and said, "Okay. Now we take 'em back to the cooler."
New girl she say, "I can' carry dat. I'm havin' a baby."
My friend, she say, "You aren't havin' a baby. You're pregnant."
New girl didn't come back next shift.

One day as lunch was winding down I was refilling the salad bar. The kitchen was big and it was a long trek with a big square dishwasher tray of full two-quart crocks. I still had tables so I was beatin' feet. One of the cooks decided it was about just about the right time to mop the floor in the waitstation.
Quarry tile. Greasy quarry tile. Water on top.
I made it nearly to the diningroom carpet when my feet went up and my face went down. I don't know where the crocks went, but one of my fellow waitresses told me later she'd had to clean Russian dressing off everything . . . the cash register, the phone, the shelving...

Not five seconds after I hit the floor, while I was still facedown on the floor next to the cash register, a man was at the counter with his business card in his hand for the manager. He sold some floor treatment that would keep accidents like that from happening.
I mean . . . I'm layin' there and this guy's sellin' his wares.

Next morning I woke up feeling like a truck had run over me. I asked Husband to call in sick for me and went back to bed.
Two hours later the store manager phone. "June! Where you at? You op'nin' this mornin!" Husband forgot to call.
I said, "Wait a minnit." I looked in the mirror again. I had a baseball on my cheekbone and a black eye. I went back to the phone. "You gon' hafta fin' somebody else."

I did go to work the following day and all my customers thought I'd suffered domestic violence. I got good tips that day.

Election Day

As usual I am up and moving too early. I would like to think that with this extra time I will be up and out and voting on my way to work. More likely I'll fiddle around and waste this time and vote on my way home.
I know that I will be voting today.

Since I live two towns over from where I work, I won't be able to vote in the election that will affect my livelihood for a few years to come. Up for election, or in one case, re-election, three seats* on the board that governs the municipality for which I work.

The only position that holds any uncertainty is the top seat.
The result of this election will be governing board comprising:
  • One convicted felon;
  • One reasonable person;
  • *One prince;
  • *One apprentice prince;
  • *And, in the center seat, either an unstable narcissist or an experienced, knowledgeable and realistic person.
It's an off year for national elections, but in my world this is it. There is a sense of gloom for those of us who anticipate these next few years with a board majority who thinks Nike's admonition to just do it is a valid mantra for governing. Just make the motions, pass the laws, demolish existing law . . . all without forethought, examination, or, indeed, any consideration of other laws violated by those actions.

The bottom line, and face time on camera, are all to this majority.
Cut the budget; give away the store.
Remove from the budget all funds to pay for training and for the books that delineate the law to be enforced.
Truck away equipment as cost-free gifts to neighboring municipalities.
Move adding machine departments into the same square footage as departments with a lot of noisy public exposure.
If all this results in employee inefficiency, the felon announces at a public meeting: "We'll just get rid of the employees."
And the irony of it all is that there will be no reduction in taxes.

So I will vote.
My vote will make little difference to most of the hours of my waking life.
I will vote, in my hometown, for people with whom I would like to work.
It is possible, after all, that that might come to pass.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Five words to ponder

GooseBreeder's recent entry has enticed me to try this five random word thing. The words to address are:

Before I met the late great Marly dog, and had only petfinder.com pictures of her
with which I was trying to decide if I should consider adopting her, a dog-trainer acquaintance told me she had "a bold look."

Merriam-Webster defines bold as "showing . . . a fearless daring spirit." And, indeed, Marly was a fearless and daring soul. Boldness, like courage, isn't aggressiveness. Nor is it foolhardiness. Boldness is a willingness to face what is. Marly taught me a lot about that. She was expert in investigating and evaluating new people and new situations. Except for car-riding.
Her boldness did not extend to the interiors of moving vehicles. I suspect it was due to her never having gone anywhere better when moved from place to place. Her own four feet did fine for getting someplace better. By the time she came to live with us, the habit of vehicle nausea was well-ingrained and she never got over that, poor thing.

See that round-eyed straightforward curious gaze? That's bold.

Marly was beautiful to me. Or rather, she became beautiful to me. I had never owned a dog that color, and I had no frame of reference for the beauty of a red-gold coat and amber eyes. When she came here she was ribby, with a thin dry coat. Wherever she walked she left a trail of falling hair. A good life improved her coat, but what made her beautiful to me was less her nascent thick fluffy pelt than her slowly-revealed personality . . . her sense of humor, her devotion, her caring nature.
A person's beauty is like that too. Some decidedly physically plain people are beautiful to the eye that sees beyond the exterior to the warm soul inside.

Oh, Marly had been beat up earlier in her life... Her bio provided by the woman at the rescue included her having been shipped by air, at six weeks of age, to a family who upon seeing her didn't like her color. They had apparently expected the usual brown or black kelpie, not cream. After several months the man of the family decided she either had to be given away or shot. She came here with that bold nature, but as well, a neediness, and a fear of men. Husband brought her around, with his warmth and playfulness and gentleness. At first she would recoil from his attention, and I remember the joy of watching the first time they played the game of peeking and chasing around the kitchen island.
It is my firm opinion that animals who are given a second chance for happiness grasp it and are forever grateful.
Just like people. More readily than people, really . . . animals being less inclined to hold grudges against life.

What do I know about bespoke? ...except that I read recently in Vanity Fair magazine about Dominick Dunne's bespoke suits.
Husband has a few custom-made shirts, a luxury he indulged when he lost a lot of weight and deserved them.
Some years ago I worked at a state agency with an attorney who had an extremely successful Long Island Gold Coast practice waiting for him at the end of his tenure as a public servant. I can't recall what started a particular conversation about thrift in clothing purchases. Laughing, he said, "So I should start shopping at Macy's instead of Brooks Brothers?" I laughed back, my gasp of shock silenced before it escaped. Thrift, to me, meant Wal-Mart, or thrift store!

I like walking barely: Barely are my feet. In the late spring, I wriggle with pleasure at the feel of the grass as I walk for the first time in months on the lawn. As soon as I come in the door after work, the shoes go off. And the socks. The former for comfort, the latter for safety: I have wood floors slippery as ice to sockfeet. Winter floors are cold to bare feet but still my toes go naked, if icy chill. For this preference I pay in calluses and plantar bruises from escapee kibbles from the dogs' food dishes. Still, I like walking barely.

Just an odd note about barely. You know how, if you look at some words long enough they begin to look strange? Barely is like that. It wants to be barley to my eyes. Or barrely (like a barrel).

Should anyone care to carry on, here are my suggested five words to ponder:
Do with them as you like.