Sunday, August 31, 2008

at work not at work

There is a new family on my horizon, and they are bringing Dad to stay with me. They are bringing him bit by bit, as though they can't bear to bring the whole man. And it isn't that they don't trust me, I think they do, but if his wife actually left him overnight, it would mean it was true, that life as she knew it is over, that she is alone, single in a giant house that he built. Heck, he built the road that runs in front of the house. He was a great man. He still is by my standards. Sailed to New Zealand when he was seventy. I took his big hands in mine, squatted down in front of him, and said, "Its gonna be okay." He looked right at me and said, "Its gotta be." And we were off.

His wife doesn't know what to do. She asks me for advice then changes the subject. She's good at that. But I don't know what to say to a woman who doesn't know how to be alone. I know how. I'm good at it. Its living with other people that trips me up. Her daughters try to convince her to start having fun, to go shopping, to the casino, kick up her heels for a change. But she tells me she knows she can't run from it forever, that slot machine pulls will only stay the inevitable for so long-- the inevitable fact that her husband is gone, and yet not gone. That he, the subject of better or worse, is worse even than that. That she cannot fulfill her end of the bargain. That's how she sees it. There should be a disclaimer in the wedding vows: unless s/he gets Alzheimer's.

I know we are a country of wimps. But this guy is six foot five, weights 280, and she is tiny. For her to have cared for him at home this long exceeds any vows I've ever made.

So I am thinking of them today, and I should be thinking of non-work things, but it is all too real sometimes, and when she wanted to take him home again, just once more to pretend this isn't all happening, that her husband of 63 years hasn't been abandoned to the care of strangers has he? I just nodded, and told her I understood. But truthfully, I cannot imagine leaving Kurt and walking away from him even if I knew beyond doubt that he wouldn't even know I was gone. I'd know.


I've never really understood how to get to that zen place, the quiet mind, transcendence. I'm not even sure how to spell it. But yesterday, picking blackberries, I had a moment, in fact moment after moment, where all that mattered was getting the next perfect berry without dragging the soft underside of my forearm across poison thorns. Three gallons later I feel compelled to share my expertise. It doesn't take much.

The pie was okay. It was actually a tart. I guess it tasted fine, but I had just made french onion soup and couldn't wait and ate my first bite too hot and the melted provolone on my tongue diminshed my abiltiy to taste ever-so-slightly. But pie is pie. And as my son was fond of saying throughout his teens: its all good.

So today I am having coffee with asia, grandkids for the afternoon, and working at Obama Headquarters in the evening. It is just around the block, literally, and were it not for this ultimate convenience, it is unlikely that I would get quite so directly involved. I mean, I may ask them if I could just have a line routed from my house. I'm that lazy. Walk two blocks? Don't they know who I am?

Seriously, I'll try this time. This race. Its that important. I'm not sold on Obama, but Michelle seems bright and she likes him. McCain seems to have lost his mind, not that I would have voted for him anyway. Sarah Palen? Okay. I guess she killed a reindeer and has spent time near Russia so qualifies for office. I'm sure she's a nice person, and I don't know much about all this, but it seems like political suicide to me. Which is fine--anything that lessens his chances. I can't imagine that the women of America will rally behind a soccer mom. And if they do... They won't, will they?

I do worry for Obama and the threat of assassination. I grew up in Southern Oregon where the KKK held meetings in the grange until I was in my early teens. I remember Bud Peebler driving his tractor through the orchards up to the grange hall. They didn't wear white caps, but they didn't have to. They were there and we knew it. There are many nameless citizens who would happily give up their lives to stop a black man from holding this office and be known for it. Still.

I hate to blog about politics, but I do love to watch 'em run for office. I may break my rules from time to time, especially if I end up spending much time in Obama Headquarters. I can tell you right now that the signs are awful and its a mess out front. Its a good thing I'm heading over there this evening. But like the sign on my office wall says:

"If things don't get better around here,
I'm going to have to ask you to stop helping me."
So there it is: blackberry meditation and political commentary all in one place. You can't beat that.

Saturday, August 30, 2008


I am home. I usually go out saturday morning and it was so good to just stay home, get the house in order, start some laundry, fold clothes and eat some oatmeal. It feels much more like a weekend when I start the day this way, sleep in a little.

But the reason I stayed in be is because I didn't sleep because it seems like once again I am on the cusp of bladder despair. Cranberry pills to the rescue.

Just back from a tough morning of yard sales and berry picking. Complusory yard sale items: a Billy Bass and an Ab Lounge. I pointed this out to the man running the sale and he didn't get it or didn't like that I wasn't going to purchase either one.

Then on to pick berries. Urban berry picking is much different than country picking. Urban berries are often found in places where the homeless folks roam, and while I am not so very far removed from the memory of homelessness, I am not a city girl. I could never have survived the streets. So we look the area over and pick away. I think we got about three gallons today. The pies I made last week were the best yet.

My husband always reaches for the furthest berries, the good ones just beyond safety. Me? I stay in one spot until there are no more, and only go in as far as I absolutely have to. I risk my fingers, he risks his life. There seem to be more than one variety of berry, smaller or larger. In the end we wound up in some nice big berries with great flavor. I'll make pie tonight.

Mother in law is in a nursing home after a hip replacement, and I'll make her a nice tart and hope it improves her mood. She's not going with the flow. I tried to explain the nursing home experience to her, but there just isn't any explaining it. It's awful. She's pretty freaked out. But its where they send people after surgery for rehab. Her son, my husband, says things like, How's it goin in the rest home??? I don't think it is helping.

Anyway, I'll bake something for her.

Here's the recipe:
For the bottom crust I use Marie Callendar's frozen. They are so good. Then for the top I use Pillsbury rolled crusts, cut in strips to weave the basket top.

Berries enough to fill the pie pan and a bit more.
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp lemon juice
dabs of butter under the crust top.
a bit of salt.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes, then 350 until done.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

quick camp

We spent the night at Metzler Park, cooked hot dogs and beans over coals and nothing else. Except cantaloupe, and vinegar and sea salt chips, my new obsession. I needed to get out of the city after a long week of decorating. It was not a Martha Stewart camping trip, as it had been a Martha Stewart week, but I found a new bedspread for our room and a big tin-type of Multnomah Falls, which is one of my all time favorite places if all of the tourists would leave.

It is now the end of the week, Thursday, and I haven't finished this lousy post. It was a nice night out of the city, stars in the sky, cool in the morning, smoke in the air. After four days off, back to work wasn't quite suicidal, and really, the cast and crew are all good. Sometimes it seems like a little hospital, and I guess it is, but life coasts downhill predictably to the end.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


In the midst of 103 degrees I can feel it: the coming of fall. This final burst of heat, a valiant attempt to forestall autumn's arrival, is futile. Fall will come.

Each year I await the arrival of fall with open arms, black turtlenecks at the ready, levi's and boots waiting for their time. I complain about winter, and I complain about summer -- but fall and spring... mmm. I love those seasons. I'm not sure what it is that gives it away. The first chill morning? It doesn't even need to be cold. It is just different, as if the angle of the sun has passed its prime, waning toward winter and the long cold nap. I long for short days and cold mornings, the coming of big holidays in the warm grasp of my family

oh, wait.

I forgot who I'm related to.

Anyway, while I may indeed dread the holidays, I do love autumn. Believe it.

This weekend I only have one day off. I don't like that very much, but am taking a couple of days off next week to make a long weekend before the long weekend. I want to camp for a couple more nights, or at least go on a picnic. I have spent the not-quite-so-hot day in and out of my new closet, trying to get things arranged to my liking. It is a little less like Christmas than I had imagined, but probably because I only have on day off and don't like to rush through this. I guess there is no need to hurry. It is a small space, but it is mine, and comfortable and finally, I can unpack after nearly five years. Enough.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Let's review: I wasn't going to paint anything that perfect shade of not-quite-white again, was I? Dammit. I just couldn't figure it out, and had all of these partial buckets of leftover paint.What's a girl to do? But I did something absurd and bought blue drapes. Blue. I bought all I could fit in my basket, all they had on the shelf. I love freddy's. You can get anything there. I go to Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn, and all their stuff has black polka dots, and maybe I'm behind (likely) but I don't want those Go Mod things all over my house again. I did it in the, what? sixties? seventies? I was drunk. I don't remember. I think I was young, so, probably the sixties.

But I had to paint the surfaces or I couldnt' hang the curtains. If I can't hang the curtains I can't hide the shit. If I can't hide the shit, well, I think I've pretty well beaten to death the concept of keeping shit in view. So, the curtains are purely ornamental. Sue me. First, I slapped a layer of joint compound over an old panelled wall to make it look magically like stucco so I can pretend I'm in a new house in Mexico instead of an old house in Portland. It took all of my self restraint (of which I am in notoriously short supply) to let it dry overnight before painting it. And I think I should have washed the panelling first because when I rolled the paint, it pulled the stuff right off the wall, so I had to paint it with a brush, which I have a hundred of, because I always forget where they are and buy new ones. This dilemma of hiding things from myself doesn't only apply to clothes, you see.

So it was an okay day in work land and I came home a little early to work around the house. The painting is pretty much done, but it is also never done. I have miles to go before I am through. I didn't paint the ceiling the last time, and it is glaringly not done. But it is tough to paint the ceiling in an occupied room. I will probably learn not to see it. I'm good at that.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Long time no post. So much has happened since Bozo died it is hard to know where to begin. Every day something happens that I view through my own lens, and think, hey, what a great post this will make when I get home to my computer. But my mind leaks. Memory fails when the dishes and the job and the dog and watering the yard get in front of everything.

Nicole moved away, which left a pretty big space in the house, and made her father sad. But it is a normal sadness, the empty nest. I've been in my own empty nest, sitting alone at night with the loud and insistent unemployment of childlessness, wondering how they can possibly get along without you, but they do. Because Nicole doesn't speak to us, or at least to me, it is hard to know her reasons and motivations, but she wasn't happy here -- that much was clear. I think most kids want to leave. I know I did. Having lived with her for nearly five years, and loving her in that uncomfortable, incomplete, never quite enough but always too much, step-mother way, I still hope for her eventual happiness and comfort in her own life, as it unfolds under her feet one step at a time. It is hard to be young, and easier by far than being old, but still just the same, I am happy to have been on the periphery of her small life for awhile.

So, with Nicole gone, I have created a walk-in closet for my clothing. We live in a small Victorian with tiny rooms and now I have some hope of organization. I have been living on three floors for four years, and it has been challenging. Now, for those of you have have been following the bouncing ball, you will understand that this organization myth is merely a hope, and has as little chance of materializing as, say, the Easter Bunny. I have, however, moved beyond plastic. I am now intstalling things that require drywall and spackle. I am renovating. Oh, did I say I am renovating as though it involved effort on my part? That was a lie. My husband is renovating. He is renovative. So, I have a closet where there was a wall, and shelves and other furniture that will house, but not hide, my many many articles of clothing and accessories and getting-ready supplies, which is another industry and another story.

I mention 'not hiding' because I have learned that putting clothes in opaque drawers and boxes is like sending them to storage. Only the storage is in Europe. I never see them again. And because they are not visible, I forget which item (say, summer capri-length pants) is in which large plastic storage container, and there they sit, years on end. The upside of opaque boxes and drawers is that it is like Christmas when I open them, and for awhile I am releived of the oppressive need to shop because I am wearing all my old clothes that I had cleverly hidden from myself. I blame my job, because I have to look competent every day, and I interpret this to mean I can't wear the same thing twice. How this relates to competence I can't explain. Don't make me try.

I had a dream last night that I had, in my organizational efforts, discovered a whole 'nother room of clothing and had decided to have a yard sale. I had advertised it on craigslist and said something like, "I'm selling some really nice stuff so don't expect to pay a quarter for something that cost me 89 bucks," because as you may know, I think everything at a yard sale should cost a quarter. So, the morning of the yard sale came and I was having it inside my house (which makes it technically not a yard sale). I had this plan to only let three people in at a time to minimize theft -- first come first served and all which is the craigslist m.o. -- but as the doorbell rang, I realized I hadn't even sorted through the clothes yet, or priced anything, and this guy who was first in line (for MY clothes, what's that about???) said there were 147 cars lined up around the block and that I'd better get organized.

Fuck. I have too much shit.

And my husband got a HUGE new motorcycle.

We all handle empty nests in our own ways.

I decorate.