From chaos to quiet, a family story

It’s been a quiet week in my hometown . . .

Okay, fine, it’s been way more than a week. It also hasn’t been particularly quiet.

Where did we leave off? Looks like mid-August. Well, since then, my daughter and her husband found a house they loved, made a successful bid for it and bought it. No one was allowed to talk about it until it was a done deal, for fear of jinxing it. That’s how fraught that competitive process had become. They accomplished a relatively fast closing and moved out of my house and into their new one in mid-September.

Sometime in there, my daughter got a new job and her husband settled in to his shifts at the hospital (I’m happy to report that being an attending physician is far less time-intensive, averaged over a month, than being a resident). Along the way, they cooked in my kitchen. And cooked. And cooked. Both of them. The results were delicious. And of course, they cleaned up after themselves. Mostly.

We all jockeyed for stove time as well as space in my fridge and pantry, and gave my dishwasher epic daily workouts, while trying to respect conflicting sleep schedules.

Just for the record, and I don’t care how quiet you are about it, no one can sleep through the aroma of frying bacon. Or sautéed garlic and onions.

I wouldn’t describe them as loud, exactly. But my daughter and her husband are intense. Full of non-stop energy and motion. It was exhausting just watching them. Several mornings, as I was finally drifting off to sleep around 6 AM (I am not kidding when I say I’m nocturnal), they were up and dressed and out the door for a 2-3 mile run around the lake. No caffeine, no food, just get up and GO. Insanity.

Apart from the running, there was a lot of coming and going. Much of it move-related. I think they slightly underestimated the amount of belongings they’d managed to accumulate in my house when they decided not to rent the moving truck for an extra day after they cleared out the storage unit.

“We’ll just move the rest by car, Mom. It’ll be fine, stop worrying.”

Uh-huh. Like I’ve never moved before. Suffice to say, many many car trips were involved.

Oddly enough, there were no reports of domestic disturbances or related trips to the ER. Just a few incidences of slightly sore tongue, due to judicious application of teeth to same. On the whole, we did all right.

The White Ninja was in charge of inspecting the unusual influx of cardboard boxes. She was unimpressed that these did not appear to be cat-sized, but mostly took the commotion in stride.

 

The dog was another matter. Poor Jenny. She is so sweet and so well behaved. But she’s been so confused. She stayed here with me for a while until the kids got major stuff unpacked and somewhat settled. Then, finally over at the new place, she freaked out about uncertain footing on the hardwood floors. And then, just when she was getting comfortable there, she came back here for two weeks because of conflicting work schedules and trips out of town.

Of course, there were still the usual ridiculous text message conversations, even while my daughter was out of town:

Kids. Never wanting their parents to have any fun.

But Jenny went back home last Thursday and is reportedly thrilled to be there. The White Ninja misses everyone — so do I, honestly — but life here has gotten quiet again and I’m settling back into my own schedule. Uninterrupted sleep and long quiet stretches of time to concentrate on writing. Bliss.

Speaking of breathing a sigh of relief, fall is by far my favourite season and the weather is finally cooperating. Summer extended its stay this year and temps haven’t really been cool enough yet for many leaves to change colour, but all in good time.

You know where it does look like fall right now? Minnesota. My youngest sister took these pics a couple days ago and gave me permission to share them here. Isn’t my home state gorgeous? Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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That time I wasn’t excited about the eclipse . . . until I was

Are you tired of hearing about the eclipse? If so, this post is not for you. Or maybe it is. Yeah, I was heartily sick of hearing about it too, days ago. I vaguely remember the one from 1979 and it wasn’t all that special. Sure, there was eerie spooky light, like dusk but with light and shadows at all the wrong angles. But mostly it was an excuse to stand outside doing nothing for a while.

I tried not to roll my eyes when my daughter and her husband bought the special glasses and planned to drive to South Carolina where it would be 100% totality, versus the 93% projected for this area. I mean, good for them. Sincerely. I applaud their enthusiasm.

But as for me? I didn’t really care. I know, I’m horribly jaded. Until I looked out at my deck about a half hour before total eclipse and saw this:

 

I’d heard people talk about this online, about how sunlight dappled through the trees would let you “see” the eclipse. And I thought, “Yeah, right. Sure it will.”

Okay, here’s where I admit I’ve never paid much attention to dappled sunlight. Never really noticed, or cared, that it presents itself as little circles. LIKE THE SUN. I don’t know, maybe I just assumed the spaces between leaves were all perfect circles. Or something.

Suddenly, here was something VERY COOL. And just as suddenly, I was all excited about the eclipse.

So I took a ton and a half of pictures of the little sunlight crescents and their progression on my deck. Why, yes, I am going to subject you to them. But I’ll put them in a slideshow, so as not to completely overwhelm my blog (and people’s RSS feeds).

If you can’t see it in your feed, it’s here:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

slideshow

Isn’t that cool? I even made a short video, because I realized that when there was a light breeze, the little crescents moved around, winking in and out, and looked a bit like a kaleidoscope effect. You have to watch closely to see it, as the wind was very light today (we just won’t even talk about my less-than-steady video skills). Here:

video

Good grief. Short of creating a YouTube account, I had to first post the video to facebook and then insert the URL here. *sigh* Sure hope I didn’t break anything.

There aren’t many “after” photos, as the sunlight shifted and was hitting the maple tree at an angle that no longer allowed for the dappled effect. But did you notice how the crescents moved from the upper right to the top and then to the upper left?

I’m writing this at roughly 8:30 PM and my daughter and her husband are still slowly making their way home through horrendous traffic. Current ETA 9:15. (Update: After a six-hour drive, roughly twice as long as it took to get there, they’re home!)

I pleased that my eclipse watching experience didn’t include that sort of nonsense. And I’m really glad I watched.

Were you able to see it in your area? Did you watch? More important, did you pay attention to the dappled sunlight? I’ll never again look at it in quite the same way.

 

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Ain’t no cure for the summertime flu

My daughter texted me the other day to confirm that they’ll be back in town on the 24th — which is this coming Monday! — and I was confused and surprised to realize they’ve been gone two and a half weeks already. Because I’ve been sick the entire time.

I’m just starting to emerge from the menthol-cough-drop-scented haze of near-death to realize . . . I’ve lost a couple weeks.

This malaise, whatever it is, started out as a mere sore throat. Worst sore throat ever, but still, that was the only symptom. For a short time, maybe three hours, I thought perhaps it was simply a bad cold. But no, it was just gathering strength.

If you took all the worst symptoms of an awful cold and all the worst symptoms of a horrible flu, and combined them, that’s what I’ve had. It’s been a long time since I’ve been this sick and this completely wiped out. Absolutely worthless.

The only thing I’ve accomplished in the past couple weeks is to not let the cat and dog die of thirst or starvation. It was a near thing.

I lost my voice during the first week and have been whispering to them ever since:

“Jenny, are you hungry?” Like it’s some big secret.

“Do you want to go outside? No, kitty, you stay here.” This mission, should you choose to accept it, is highly classified.

“Are you ready to come in? Good girl.” Quick, don’t let the neighbours see you.

My head has produced so much green slime, I could supply several seasons of Nickelodeon and the next three Ghostbusters movies. Seriously, I’ve gone through FOUR LARGE BOXES of kleenex. So far.

And I’m telling you, somewhere underneath this middle-aged sprawl, I’ve got one hell of an eight-pack of coughing muscles going on. Of course, I’m now wearing my lungs on the outside and my diaphragm is up around my neck, but my coughing muscles are mighty impressive.

I am so sore.

Yes, I know. This is disgusting and I shouldn’t be talking about it. I’m totally going for the pity factor, here.

While I’ve been suffering, my daughter and her husband have been enjoying a lovely and relaxing vacation in the wilds of far eastern Canada. She reports they only saw one BEAR, while they were in Maine, and it was quite small and afraid of them. Right. I’m sure its mother, no doubt lurking protectively in some nearby bushes, was terrified of them as well.

Not that I was worried.

Here’s a picture of their version of a “simple” meal while roughing it. I can’t wait for them to get back so they can cook for meeeee. Her caption read: “Eating PEI mussels in a white wine cream broth, cooked campside on PEI, while looking at Nova Scotia across the strait.”

Yes, PEI is Prince Edward Island. I can tell you that’s where they were, since they’re no longer there. Here’s another shot from the same place, which she captioned: “Room with a view.”

I hope they won’t be too disappointed when they arrive chez moi in a few days to discover that, between bouts of coughing and sleeping 14 hours a day, I haven’t managed to finish clearing off space in the pantry for them. Or in the fridge. Maybe they can set up their tent and a cooler in the back yard until I get things sorted.

Oh well. As I said, at least the pets are still alive, even if they do think they’re now undercover spies. My current status is somewhat more iffy.*

 

 

*OK, seriously, I am MUCH improved. My voice is back, although an octave lower, and I’m even eating real food again. I just have that annoyingly persistent cough you get with the flu, the one that will apparently last *coughcough* the rest of my life. *cough*

 

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Whole lotta nuthin’ goin’ on

Geez. Apparently I haven’t had anything to say in recent months and some of you are about to demand proof of life. This tends to happen when there’s either too much or not enough happening in my life. Oddly, this time, it’s both. I’m not sure how to explain that. Not sure it would matter to anyone if I could.

Yes, I’ve been writing. In a distracted-by-interruptions sort of way. Like tonight (Friday), for instance. My daughter is on her way from Boston to the Cape for a long weekend, as her husband is doing a two-week stint there to finish up his residency. My son and his wife are out of town for a wedding. So I figure this is a good time to get some writing done. Right?

Then I get a text:

DD: On the ferry on way to the Cape.
Me: Great! Have fun!
DD: Well, IT got a little wet in my backpack walking to the wharf. Sorry ☹
[I’m not sure what she’s talking about, but I reply . . . ]
Me: Uh oh
DD: It’s just around the edges of the first 100 pages
DD: Gives it character? I hate messing up books

OK, typing this out is too time-consuming. Here, have some screen shots:

And we go on like that with silly word-play for a while. As you do. And then a little bit later, she sends this:

Why yes, I DO use up my annual quota of exclamation marks in text messages. And now I’ve got that creepy song about the Edmund Fitzgerald stuck in my head. Not helpful, brain.

Obviously, some of these distractions are unavoidable. I’m never going to ignore my kids when they text or call me. (She texted a few minutes later to say they were docking, in case you were worried.)

In related news, and speaking of distractions, after seven years of living in other states, my daughter and her husband are finally moving back to THIS state. I am absolutely thrilled and can’t wait for them to get here. In two weeks! *GASP* How did time fly so quickly? It seems like just last week instead of last summer that this decision became official.

Anyway, they’re coming home and then, two days later, as an interlude before starting new jobs . . . they’re leaving Jenny the dog here with her BFF, The White Ninja (and me), and going on an epic three-week road trip. To Points Unknown. Or so they say.

Given their history, I assume they know exactly where they’re going and that it involves proximity to BEARS, and they decided not to tell me their plans so I won’t worry. Please. Like that’s going to stop me.

Provided they survive close encounters of the BEAR kind, upon their return they’ll be living with me until they find a house to either rent or buy. This wasn’t their original plan, but the housing market here is insane. To say it’s a “seller’s market” is a vast understatement, especially in the area they want to live. It might take a while to find something.

This will be interesting. In a good way! Probably. I hope.

So I’ve been preparing for long-term houseguests. Little things like cleaning out the fridge and freezer and pantry, throwing away things that are expired or unidentifiable or inexplicable, so no one dies of food poisoning. Or shame.

I’m also clearing out some closet/cupboard space so they have room to put stuff that isn’t going into storage. When my daughter was here for a quick weekend visit toward the end of April, I convinced her to help me clear off a shelf in the under-stair closet since it held a few things of hers.

Although mostly it was my detritus, like this, which I thought some of you might find amusing:

Yes, that’s a bottle of Crème de Menthe. See the little Georgia liquor tax stamp? I’m not even going to tell you how long ago it was that I lived in Georgia. Suffice it to say, it’s so old it turned blue.

And then there was this little gem that I didn’t even know was IN that closet, shoved way in the back.

Not only do I not know how old it is or where it came from (I’ve never been to Puerto Vallarta), I have no explanation for why no one ever drank it. Too late now.

This is what happens when you have too much room for storage. Things just expand to fill all the available space and then “out of sight, out of mind” takes over until you need that space for something else. Or until you’re in the mood, as I have been lately, to purge all the “crap” from your life and simplify.

What else has been going on . . . Oh, my son-in-law was here for a long weekend in early May for job-related doings, and I made two big pans of lasagna (Ed Giobbi’s recipe, which is a ton of work but so worth it). Doesn’t it look good? It was.

 

My daughter was not happy to miss out and wanted her husband to bring some back on the plane. Yeah, right. I sent her the recipe.

Oh, here’s another distraction, even as I write this: My Bossy Older Sister just texted to tell me her son, who lives in NYC, was texting her about the free ebola on the subway.

Me: WHAT?!

Oh, turns out she meant free ebooks (thanks auto-correct) courtesy of the NYPL, celebrating the new free wi-fi on trains. Here’s a pic of the “book train” my nephew was on, which is pretty cool:

Are you starting to see why I haven’t posted for a while? There’s a lot going on but none of it is particularly interesting, let alone blog-worthy.

But I’m plugging along with the current story, in spite of having NO IDEA what I’m going to do with it once I’m done. I suspect that’s part of why it’s taking so long to finish. I’m dragging my feet — er, fingers? — and putting off that decision.

There’s so much uncertainty hovering over this particular project and it has me feeling all ambivalent and lacking momentum and at the same time completely stressed out.

One of my writer friends summed it up well a week or so ago in a group forum when she said she felt stuck because she couldn’t decide what to do with her story once she was done– whether to query agents or self-pub. In my mind I was all, “YES, EXACTLY.” But I didn’t say anything because I have no advice for her. It’s the kind of decision a writer has to make for herself. I know all the options, all the pros and cons of each, have read ALL the facts and opinions out there. And I can’t fucking make up my mind. Or rather, I make up my mind only to change it the next day, or the next hour, each time absolutely convinced I’ve finally made the best choice for this story. And then change my mind again.

I can’t adequately describe how frustrating this is. I’ve faced decisions in my life that were difficult, or that made me uncomfortable even when I knew what was for the best. I’ve honestly never encountered a decision like this where the sides are so evenly balanced that I don’t know what to do. Yeah, I’m a mess.

I know, I know. Cue the tiny first-world-problem violins. I need to just finish the story and THEN decide what to do. I’m trying. Actually, I’m very near to being done enough for delta readers.

And really, I need to hurry up and finish before my distractions manifest in physical form.

In two weeks.

I’m just glad they’re not arriving via ferry.

 

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And now for something . . .

. . . completely different? Well, slightly different.

How did it get to be the end of March, already? Yes, of course, in the usual way, days passing one after the other without pause. Perhaps the better question is why haven’t I accomplished as much as I had planned to by now. I am making progress, but it’s been slow.

Speaking of time passing (and in an effort to post something less “controversial”), on my latest birthday (in December) my Bossy Older Sister sent me flowers. Red orchids, to be exact:

I’d never seen red orchids before. Aren’t they gorgeous and exotic? The enclosed note said something about the flowers helping me celebrate all year long. Which confused me, because these were cut flowers and I didn’t see how I was going to keep them alive for an entire year. I asked her about it and she said, “No, silly. You’ll get new flowers every month, for a year.”

WOW. What a wonderful gift. I love flowers, absolutely love them, but never buy them for myself. It just seems . . . overly self-indulgent.

So the red orchids lasted almost three weeks, but then they were gone and I’d pretty much forgotten about the “every month” thing when one day in January, these showed up:

MORE ORCHIDS. I thought the red orchids were just a lucky selection for one month, but no, turns out it will be an entire year of ORCHIDS.

These were delivered in February (sorry, by the time I realized it was a horrible blurry pic, it was too late):

And just last week, these arrived:

You can’t tell from that pic, but the centers of these look like Johnny Jump-ups, so it’s like getting two flowers in one. Wait, here’s a close-up:

So this has been delightful, getting fresh flowers every month. Luckily, The White Ninja is indifferent to the additional coffee table décor and hasn’t eaten any of them. Yet.

What other innocuous things have been going on . . .

Oh, my daughter and her husband took a two-week vacation in Europe. I freaked out just a wee bit after their plane took off and I realized they were going to be 30-some-thousand feet over the vast, deep, unsearchable expanse of the Atlantic for several hours. Which was unsettling because I hadn’t anticipated being bothered by that. But I was, on both their departure and return.

They’re back now [whew] and my daughter has been sending pictures, most of them the usual touristy sort of thing: here I am next to some ancient stone structure, here we are drinking beer, here’s a lovely landscape. Great shots, but you know the kind of thing I mean.

But this one is different and it really caught my attention. And my imagination:


She titled it: Rainy Cityscape

I love that it’s not the usual tourist picture. I love the shine of wet cobblestones at night, the juxtaposition of the modern bicycles and the centuries old Bächle. But mostly I love the mysterious, almost spooky, atmosphere it invokes.

Makes me want to tell a story.

Yeah, maybe I’d better finish the ones I’m already working on first. Before another month comes and goes.

 

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