Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Turkey popped out of the oven
and rocketed in to the air;
It knocked every plate off the table
and partly demolished a chair.
It ricocheted into a corner
and burst with a deafening boom,
Then splattered all over the kitchen,
completely obscuring the room.
It stuck to the walls and the windows,
it totally coated the floor,
There was turkey attached to the ceiling,
where there had never been turkey before...
It blanketed every appliance,
it smeared every saucer and bowl;
There wasn't a way I could stop it;
that turkey was out of control.
I scraped and I scraped with displeasure
and thought with chagrin as I mopped,
That I would never again stuff a turkey
with popcorn that hadn't been popped.
written by Jack Prelutsky

"Contents May Settle"

Whether boisterous family and turkey (and pie!)
Or alone with your thoughts of Thanksgivings gone by
Whatever circumstances have brought your way
I wish you the happiest, most blessed day!

Lots of Love,

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wish I'd thought of it!

Do you ever get an almost overwhelming urge to do something naughty like this?

Well, I know I do. This made me laugh out loud, immature lout that I undoubtedly am.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Around the House, Part II

Autumn in north Texas is a funny thing. Some days the winds blow cold and cruel, ripping dried leaves from their tentative hold on tired branches. On others the sun shines gloriously, relentlessly, and one would swear that summer is fast approaching. Naturally, these changeable days play havoc with one's allergies. And one's garden.

The bougainvillea didn't bloom all summer. Not until after our first cold snap did it burst forth with its gorgeous fuschia hue! The hibiscus has issued another tropically tangerine flower as well.

Leaves continue to fall ...

And this little guy, who resides on the front porch, could use a good dusting!

I picked up the little branch that's in the planter while on a neighborhood walk. It's perfectly shaped like a fork!

Yuccas and Sagos and Scarecrows, oh my!

And now I'm sneezing again. Let's move back inside. It's Technicolor teatime.

Is the front of your fridge as messy as mine?

A Huichol Indian beaded mask -- Fierce with color!

And here's something a bit sweeter:

This was a fun yard sale find. Perfect for holding our keys!

The day is turning dreary, but there's plenty of color to cheer me inside. There's also an "I Love Lucy" marathon on the tube -- And so I'm content, just to be home.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two words, an abbreviation, and a groan ...

Bladder. Infection.


(Ugggggggggggghhhhhhhhh ...)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Paz, amor y musica Latina!

Peace, love and Latin music!

We're going to hear one of my favorite bands, Del Castillo, play this evening at the historic Palace Theater in Grapevine, Texas. Del Castillo is an Austin-based sextet who play the most amazing mix of flamenco-Latin rock imaginable, and never fail to give a soul-stirring performance that has everyone dancing in the aisles! Oh, what fun it's going to be!

Check out a few of their videos here:

And check out me (hee!) with Alex Ruiz (a/k/a "Lobo"), Del Castillo's lead singer.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My very first time to be TAGGED!

(Thaaaaaaaaanks, Luthien! ;-))

OK ... If I'm understanding correctly what it means to be "tagged": I am to write 8 facts/habits about myself, tag 8 other blogger friends and notify them. Here goes nuffin'!

The facts:

1. I could live on grilled cheese sandwiches. OK, so I would probably weigh 1,000 pounds and be extremely unhealthy and die prematurely, but what a way to go. Mmmmmmm ... cheeeeeeese. When I was small, I was a finicky eater and all I wanted was grilled cheese sandwiches. My mom asked the pediatrician for advice, and he said, "Feed her one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. Pretty soon she'll grow so tired of the damned things, she'll never want another." Heh. Some expert he was.

2. My first home-away-from-home when I left my parents' nest was in Balibago, Angeles City in the Philippines. I was 19. It was an experience, to say the least.

3. I have an irrational phobia -- I'm freaked out by fish. Dead or alive, they give me the heebie-jeebies. Can't eat 'em either.

4. I never tire of "I Love Lucy."

5. I had emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder in March of this year, after 10 years of suffering from painful stones. Good riddance!

6. I am eerily fascinated by stories of Jack the Ripper. (And it's actually pretty gross that I'd follow up an entry about having my gallbladder surgically removed with a statement about Jack the Ripper, but there you have it.)

7. I excelled in shorthand in high school, back when it was deemed a vital skill for secretarial work. I still use it on a near-daily basis, although sometimes I can't read what it says for the life of me.

8. I think I come across as pretty outgoing, although I'm actually painfully shy much of the time.

And here's who I'm tagging:

1. Linda at Lime in the Coconut
2. The Yellow House at Our Big Yellow House
3. RoyalTLady
4. OhioMom at Cooking in Cleveland
5. Mindy at Good Times, Noodle Salad
6. Kahlanne at Long Ramblings
7. Darlene at Our Creative Life
8. Balego at Frayed Brushes

Here are the rules of the game :

1. Each player starts with eight random fact/habits about themselves.
People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

2. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag eight people and list their names.
Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’ve been tagged and to read your blog.

Remember to come back and leave me a comment after you've done your "duty!"

Happy tagging!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Deluge of Color!

When at last I decided to end my own personal pity party yesterday -- to crawl out of my self-made black hole -- I sought out that which never fails to bolster my lagging spirit. Rocky made a simple but delicious meal for me at home. The kitties, who are much like faithful dogs in that they always greet me at the door when I return from work, lounged on my lap and shared considerable cuddles. I released those pent-up frustrations with an hour-long sweatfest on the elliptical trainer, and then I visited my old friend, the computer, to indulge in a bit of eye candy by one of my favorite artists, Stephen Morath.

I don't recall how, when or where I first became familiar with his work. I just know that I was instantly smitten. I've had the matted and framed print above, "Sunset Ride", for a number of years now. It presently hangs in my office, along with this one, entitled "Ajo Al's."

Stephen Morath began his studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and continued at Tufts University. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1979 and began his full-time art career in 1984. His popularity has evolved from his colorful narrative paintings of the Southwest. At first glance his art may appear to be a simplistic, cartoon-like landscape, but upon closer inspection, the viewer finds a complex storyline. The paintings blend bright, expressionistic Southwest landscapes with a touch of humor and nostalgia. Whether capturing a bountiful table of delights on a Mexican beach or a parade of trailers through the desert countryside, Morath’s paintings express his obvious amusement and fascination with the Southwest.

Many of his paintings contain a commentary on contemporary life: "I love the Southwest with its Spanish towns, Indian Pueblos, sparkling deserts of southern Arizona and the beaches of the desert sea ... the neon honky-tonk strips, weird outrageously colored topography and the tourist traps in between."

In recent years the artist has begun painting outdoor still lifes containing brightly colored flowers and unusually-shaped, oversized fruits and vegetables. He also enjoys utililizing his unique personal vision while painting the native flora and fauna of the Southwestern desert.

Mr. Morath's whimsical, exuberant nature shines forth in all of his work. Here are a few more wonderful examples ... Enjoy!

"Gallos Blancos"

"More Snowbirds in Cactus Land"

"Gringo Pass"

"Evening Would Find Me"

"Afternoon Monsoon"

"Moonlight Harvest"

"The Last Beautiful Things of Autumn"

Left out.

Why, hello. Step inside. Welcome to my pity party ...

You know ... I really don't think I'm overly sensitive. Ordinarily I'm fairly well-balanced and able to shake off affronts by giving others the benefit of the doubt. ("Oh, they didn't mean anything by that ... They like me ... They wouldn't purposely try to hurt me.") And many times I just don't give a big ol' rat's patootie. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that sometimes things do hit me the wrong way, and I get my feathers ruffled.

Lately, I've been feeling a bit left out of extracurricular activities around the workplace. The attorneys that I work as secretary for enjoy lunching together at various downtown restaurants on a daily basis. Shortly prior to noon each day, one or more of them will begin roaming the hallways, seeking lunchtime companions and proclaiming loudly that "it's time to eat!" Last Friday, one of the young attorneys strolled down my hallway and announced that he was in the process of "inviting everyone" to go out for lunch. Apparently, "everyone" is code for only the other attorneys, as he strolled right past my office, glanced into my open door, looked into my eyes, and kept walking.

I wasn't invited.

Then again, the support staff is never invited -- unless it's to mark some silly, Hallmark-induced occasion like "Professional Assistant's Day." And I'll be honest. I'm not really sure I even want to go to lunch with these folks on a regular basis, but it sure would be nice to at least have the opportunity to accept or decline an invitation once in a blue moon. As it is, the blatant snub has a way of causing one to feel like a non-entity, which doesn't contribute to positive workplace morale. At least not for me. When you hear with regularity, "Hey, we're all going to lunch!" -- and you know that you aren't included in the equation, well ... it stinks.

Yesterday my coworker began talking to me about a pregnant woman in another department, with whom we've both worked on occasion. "Did you realize she's due on December 31st?", she asked. "I must stop by Kohl's after work to pick up a baby gift."

"Oh? Is there going to be a shower?" I inquired. "Well, yes!" she exclaimed, "This coming Friday."

I wasn't invited.

As she continued to talk about the shower and the baby gift she planned to buy, I found myself growing increasingly hurt (and cross) and finally interrupted with a terse, "Look, I didn't get an invitation, so I know nothing about this." You'd think that would have given her pause and perhaps she'd have downplayed the event, but no ... she continued to talk animatedly about the shower. And this morning, she brought in the little pink outfits she'd purchased to show me. (Insensitive much?) Honestly ... I thought I'd made it clear that I felt excluded, yet she continued to act as though there had been no slight (intented or otherwise), cheerfully gloating over the baby clothes and the upcoming party. So I did what any self-respecting, grown woman who feels like she's in junior high school all over again would do. I feigned complete disinterest.

(Yawn. Your crummy shower BORES me.)

It definitely doesn't feel good to be excluded, but I know I'm somewhat silly for allowing myself a poor-pitiful-me wallow. It feels rather peculiar to be 46 years old -- to know that by this point in my life I should be able to rise above offenses that are of little consequence -- yet at times I do revert to reactions that call to mind mini-dramas from my early adolescence. My Grannie, who turned 91 last week, recently shared that she is often taken aback when she looks into the mirror and an old woman returns her gaze. She still feels like a young girl on the inside ... and I fully understand. I suppose we never really lose that inner child, for better or worse. Sometimes we still wonder if we're truly accepted and valued, if we're "part of the group." Sometimes we feel we're on the outside looking in, lonely even in a crowd of acquaintances. In those times when we experience the cold shoulders of others, I suppose it's common to turn our hearts toward home -- to that safe haven where we know we're loved and wanted, no matter what.

And that's how I'm feeling today. I just want to go home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The elusivity of words ...

When I officially began blogging last month, I fully intended to write a bit about something every single day. While my first attempts yielded a fair result, I've discovered this isn't really as easy as I'd expected. In case you didn't notice, I've had a few days where I've just found nothing to say. Not because there's anything wrong -- not even so much that my thoughts are jumbled -- simply that the words don't come forth with enough verve to weave a fabric of ideas worthy of putting into print (let alone that anyone would care to muddle through reading).

At other times, words flow like a river (at least in my head). The post prior to this one was churned out around 2:00 yesterday morning, after I'd tossed and turned with words tumbling through my mind for at least an hour prior to rising and firing up the computer. I'd stirred from a most interesting dream in which I was writing a novel. Oh, it was a very good story too ... Plots quickly formed into paragraphs in my mind, and in my trancelike state I tried to remind myself: "Remember this! Put it on paper ...", but by the time I roused from slumber and rose to type, the details of my story had vanished.

I've enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. In my job I am sometimes tasked with editing another person's work -- rather heady when the request comes from upper management, I must admit. Whereas I once tended to more or less rewrite someone else's work with my own words that I narcissistically deemed more expressive, I've learned instead to closely follow their initial endeavor and offer grammatical suggestions and make clarification only where necessary (thereby avoiding a presumptive appearance -- especially important when editing for the boss!).

I read a good deal for pleasure, and am often amazed at the number of glaring errors I've found that obviously escaped a proofreader's scrutiny. Sometimes I think I would've enjoyed editing as a profession. And sometimes I'm taken down a notch when I've revised someone else's work and discover, cheeks flushing, several conspicuous errors of my own.

Although words often elude me, I will continue to blog with as much regularity as my mind can muster. Blogging is a wonderfully challenging, creative outlet for expressing that which would ordinarily remain introspective. There's something so very liberating about allowing one's thoughts to discharge and to just flow freely ... when they finally do build to that point of a surge.

Stealing a branch from the family tree

I'll let you in on a secret: I've absconded with the family album. Actually, I borrowed it from my mom a couple of years ago, who had previously borrowed it from her sister, my elderly aunt -- who may very well at this moment be parked in front of the television, unable to focus clearly on the brusque pronouncements emanating from Judge Judy's pursed lips, for wondering where the heck it is. It is a large, red leatherette tome that is embossed in gold, haphazardly bound together with twist-ties from old bread wrappers, and falling apart in a very bad way. I had actually planned to arrange the photos in a new, archival-quality album that would preserve them properly, although I fear that removing them from the vintage sticky-backed, magnetic pages will cause many of the photos to crumble. And so, the album remains squirreled away in a cabinet -- yet another of those innumerable projects I've not yet attended to.

I like to take the precarious album out of hiding from time to time, and gingerly turn its pages. It is filled with photos of my mom's maternal line, and I believe the oldest photo is that of my great-great-great grandfather (if I'm following the succession correctly). He wears a heavily braided, brass-buttoned uniform and reminds me vaguely of Captain Kangaroo (with all due respect to this long-gone grandpa and good ol' Bob Keeshan).

There are numerous photos of my grandmother and her brothers as children. For some reason, these photos intrigue me. Perhaps it is because I only ever knew them as "old folks", seeing them as youngsters and wondering what their lives were really like is a fascinating exercise to me. Even though they came long before I did, in what ways were we alike? If I'd somehow been able to know them in their youth, would we have been friends?

I look at the sepia-toned photos of my great-uncle, Buster. When I was a child, he and my great-grandmother lived for a time next door to my grandparents, and I visited fairly often. I was terrified of Buster. An ex-Navy man, he was rough and gruff, and had battled the bottle which had taken its toll on him in a number of ways. He was a tattooed, leather-skinned curmudgeon with a cauliflower nose whose bark of "Hey, c'mere kid" struck terror in my heart. Yet, he only ever wanted to give me that which all children crave: A bit of spending money. Sometimes it was a quarter. On occasion, it was a whole dollar, and I was rich! I remember tentatively stepping into his darkened room when he beckoned with his scary snarl, only to emerge briefly thereafter with overwhelming relief at not being eaten alive, and even better -- money in my pocket! Looking at his photos now through knowing adult eyes, I see him as he might really have been. Where had his travels taken him? What did he regret most in life? Did he ever fall in love? Obviously, behind his coarse exterior his heart held a soft spot for the little child that I once was.

A small and petty part of me rather revels in the knowledge that I have this album in my possession, and that it isn't presently in the hands of my older cousin, who has always (and rather inexplicably) considered himself some sort of family patriarchal figure -- a self-appointed conductor of family business who would undoubtedly wish to be the keeper of treasured family photos as well. Strangely enough, it only occurred to me very recently that these photos do not just belong to him and what I've long considered to be "his" side of the family. This is my family too. These are my people. I just wish I knew more about them.

Lately I've been considering what a very short time each of us is allotted on this earth. Someday, someone somewhere will open a musty album and gaze upon photos of me as a child. Will they wonder who I really was? Will they contemplate my life? Will I matter?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Feeling Anxious ...

Surely I am not the only one who is anxiously biding time until the revelation of The Man Who Will Be President. I'm trying to stay focused on the (entirely too many) duties that must be accomplished today, but my mind keeps slipping back to thoughts of this election -- attempting to mentally prepare myself for whether the "good guy" or the "bad guy" prevails. I remain guardedly optimistic for the most part, but there's still a feeling of restlessness, tinged slightly with nerves. I've been voting for 28 years now, but I can't recall ever being this tightly wound in anticipation of the outcome.

... Today I observed for the first time since Fall arrived that the leaves are changing color. As I drove along the river on my return to work after lunch, the leaves fluttered softly, showing off a newly-hued glory. Gold and russet, crimson and olive. Here in north central Texas, we don't get a great deal in the way of a leaf show. In fact, Fall tends not to imply so much that the leaves turn Autumnal shades, as they simply "Fall off." The lovely presentation of the trees today made my heart slightly skip a beat, in anticipation and awareness that change is in the air -- in one form or another. And it was indeed a beautiful distraction.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Livin' Large?

Once upon a time in my young and foolish days (likely in the 80s), I was somehow deluded into believing that a large, extravagant house was the absolute triumph. A unmistakable sign to the world that one had "arrived." A stronghold representing the culmination of a life well lived. A most worthy aspiration that would bring immeasurable contentment and pride.

Eventually, that all changed.

The Technicolor Cottage measures a surprising 2,000 square feet, thanks in large part to the transformation of a significant amount of attic space into a bedroom and half bath in 1948. The attic is roomy but quirky. Downstairs, the rooms are quite small, ceilings are far from soaring, and countertop and storage space are practically nonexistent. And yet, it somehow manages to suffice and suits our needs just fine. My days of believing in bigger as better and longing for more, more more ... well, they're most definitely behind me. I've come to the conclusion that I thrive in an environment that's small in scale; where I don't rattle around like a pin in a trunk, feeling insignificant and dwarfed by my surroundings. Give me a cottage, and make it small.

Today I learned that my ex-husband is selling the 17+ acres that we once purchased in a certain posh, suburban community containing more luxury homes than you can shake a monstrous mortgage at, and his asking price is just shy of $3.7 million dollars. $3.7 MILLION!? To borrow a wonderful bit of British terminology, I was completely gobsmacked to learn of his ambitious (read: greedy) solicitation. One of the innumerable reasons that he is my "ex" is precisely his repeated displays of a voracious appetite for and appreciation of money and possessions (instead of people), so I suppose this shouldn't come as such a surprise. And yet, it does.

He and I had briefly envisioned building a home on the heavily wooded portion of the acreage, in spite of the fact that there already existed a nice, rambling home that was built in 1968. I had suggested remodeling that space, but he wouldn't hear of it. His goal was to demolish it and in its place erect a monumental structure that would somehow be a testament to all of his tireless work (did you catch that? Yes, I said "his tireless work", as my contributions were viewed as negligible), and his dream was punctuated with the notion of hosting a holiday party where he'd hire white-shirted valets to park the cars of the beautiful people as they arrived. Oh, the impression that would make! (And wasn't that mostly what mattered?)

Forgive my momentary foray back to Resentmentville. What I'd really like to say is that I'm so thankful that his dream no longer has to be mine. I've always felt my happiest and most content in a small home. My very first home after I left the nest was in the Philippines, a small but serviceable little place with concrete walls and louvered windows for which I handsewed green calico curtains. I lived in a succession of homes over the years following my return to the states, all relatively modest in size. It was with my ex that I came to consider and ultimately purchase an overblown bit of real estate -- a 3,500 square foot custom "McMansion" that, despite all it promised at the outset, completely failed to deliver when it came to warming my heart. (And really, isn't that what a home should do?) That particular house was actually small in comparison to others in the area, many of which contained dedicated theaters, gargantuan kitchens, separate wings for the children (see them? Mustn't hear them!), bathrooms large enough to park a pickup in. It struck me once how their hulking, imposing proportions seemed to nearly blot out the sun. Do these gigantic, luxurious spaces somehow make for a happier home? My experience was sufficient to tell me that no, indeed, they do not. (A predictable twist to my tale: The ex now lives in an even larger house than the one we shared. I hope he's happy. Heh - oh, who am I kidding? I really don't care.)

I love the little old cottage where I live now. I may tease and halfheartedly complain about its antiquated features, but the truth is that I simply cannot imagine living anywhere else at the present -- nor can I imagine ever going back to living in a large home. On occasion, I'll have the dream (nightmare, really) that I'm forced to return to the large place I left. I toss and turn as I amble down endless hallways, and wake in a cold sweat, unable to get my bearings for a fraction of a second. And then I am filled with relief when I look around and realize where I actually am. I'm home -- that little old place that envelops me and soothes me and truly comforts me. And it just doesn't get much better than that.

Dear house, you are so very small. Just big enough for love, that's all.