Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Saturday, March 08, 2008


I grew up in the bona fide country (various neighbors had chickens and horses, and it was a 3 mile bike ride to the corner store), so when I hear my city-boy husband and his various relatives describe our neighborhood as the country, I can only laugh. It's as city-suburb as they go, with houses plunked side by side along winding streets that are filled with cars at night.

But he argues that the various bits of nature that grace our existence make it true country. There are neighborhood rabbits, for example, who are bold during the summer, dancing around the pool while we swim and munching on my rosemary. He thinks they've gone off to Bunny Florida for the winter, but my nocturnal vampire eyes catch them here, a lot. It's especially fun to see them racing aross the snow in pairs, or waiting in the grass for me to get home from work, their eyes big and blinking.

We also have a mixed and colorful flock of birds who come to call. I am convinced they are tiny messengers from God. When they flit in the little trees in front of my home office, it's a sign to breathe and watch the small details. And others, I'm certain, are the souls of those I used to know. I know, it sounds wacky.

But consider this: after my beloved professor died in Ohio, the most enormous, glorious red cardinal came to visit on the day of his funeral, actually landing in my window boxes and tapping on the window, singing and staring at me intently. He's returned just once--on the day my best friend in the world was diagnosed with something awful. I didn't know that day--but the red bird did. Now, I'm grateful for his distance--he stays in the trees, perhaps six feet out, calling to his partner, who is inevitably nearby.

And most recently, when's J's friend Lisa finally lost her battle with lung cancer at 51, a fat brown and grey bird I had never seen before came to the box as I put on my face and prepared myself for work a couple of mornings later. It followed me out to my car, bouncing and chirping, not afraid to come within 2 feet of my dangerous self. "Hello Lisa," I finally said to the bird. I swear it did somersaults.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Drying out

How did I manage to stop writing for three months? It's a sign, I tell you. I'm utterly convinced I turned down the wrong path late this summer. And now I'm grabbing my life back. THEY can't have my soul.

So, random thoughts on things that matter to me this morning:

I took rare, giggly delight from watching the Michigan fans bawling in the stands this weekend. Nicely played, Ohio State, even if you did blow it the weekend before. A Rose Bowl spot still feels like the ultimate to me.

Today marks two weeks since Sahara left the earth. It still burns.

I finally read Eat, Pray, Love and truly appreciated most of it. But I would've been happier if I'd skipped the last 50 pages. Blah.

Yesterday I made black bean soup, just sort of randomly out of my head, without sausage. It was silky and divine. The smoked pork hock was loaded with meat and definitely added dimension. Even though J pigged out, I have four quarts in the fridge--two for the freezer, two for tonight. Whee!

2007 has turned into one of the most painful years of my life. I'm not using phrases like "it can't get any worse" anymore because I recognize that it can. And has. And will some more. But I'm still on the ship. And best as I can tell, I am still steering.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The spin cycle

Do not ever tempt God with phrases like "there's only so much I can take." Apparently I am capable of just so much more. I can't decide if I'm just floating around in a pool of delusion or if I'm down to what's really important, but I seem to be above the water and now and then, I can still see my legs, swimming below the surface.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Many happy returns

Perhaps my world is beginning to right itself on its axis. We paid the gardener a small fortune to plant some new echinacea, rudbeckia, lilies and a butterfly bush (not to mention the mulch and hocus pocus act on the remaining weeds). It's not the same, but I don't cry when I come home, so it's something.

Yesterday I learned that E. Gordon Gee is returning to Ohio State University as president. Amidst all the chatter that this is unprecedented, which is likely is, there seems to be an undercurrent of genuine joy that this man is back. Having spent several years under his watch, I couldn't be more delighted. Dr. Gee stunned me once when, some months after attending an English department benefit where I was the recipient of several awards for creative writing, he saw me in a mall, grinned, and called me by name, saying he'd liked my poem. Apparently he did that a lot--never forgetting a face or a name.

I tried explaining this to J last night at dinner (who went to a city university) and he seemed bemused and baffled. Why would anyone care about their university, he asked, when it's just a business arrangement? You pay your money, you get your degree, you're done.

Obviously, he never encountered anyone like Gordon Gee. He's just one of many who made me feel vital and valuable during my academic years at Ohio State (unfortunately, the 13 years I spent there on staff were some of the worst 1,622,400 minutes of my life and I still have the stinkeye for Robbin, Marijo, Peggy, Maran and Leslie, not to mention dozens of others who I've exorcised from my bitter brain).

Gee is one of the good things, and his stage is now set for greatness. The next generation of Buckeyes is in for something very special.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The garden

One of the great pleasures of going away is seeing what other places, and other people, do with their gardens. In our area of Long Island, I'm never impressed. It's as if entire blocks seem relegated to the Buy-1-Get-2-Free aisle at Wal-mart, featuring the sad combo of brownish orange with pepto pink.

This weekend, I went to Milwaukee for a Sahara benefit and there, the beds were just beginning to green up downtown. In the limited part of town I visited, there were no vibrant gardens to make me jealous. For once, I came home glowing and knowing that my own carefully cultivated garden, was going to produce a whole symphony of colors and scents this spring. I'd waited patiently for the necessary two to three years that perennials take to get established, and THIS WAS MY YEAR.

The keyword being was. Because today, in an earnest but foolish attempt to help weed the beds (which I pay a gardener to weed), my husband tore up every last perennial, then hacked up the roots. The rudbeckia, the echinacea, the foxgloves and delphiniums, the columbines, chrysanthemums and shastas, all gone.

The weeds and dandelions are still there. He thought they were pretty. He was so proud of what he'd done; I think he was stunned when I stood in the driveway half hollering and half crying.

The hole in my garden is unbearable; the hole in my heart is worse. I know he didn't mean it, but I can't help alternating between devastation and rage. And yes, I know there are far bigger things to worry about. But all I can think is that I no longer have the time or ability to replace that; that I'm going to have to stare at the hideous mulch and weedy bits forever. And if he tries to do the right thing and replace what he killed, I'll end up with three shriveled-up half-dead brownish orange and pink annuals that bring some weird disease to kill off my roses.

I think this may be worse than the time he locked me out of the house.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

God takes on my toenails

Some time back I discovered the coolest nail spa ever, and as luck would have it, it was during my gig as a nail salon writer extraordinaire. I managed to sell two pieces on the place (and yes, I paid for all my services--nothing free for this journalist!) and became a big fan of the owners. Place was big, balmy, and just full of fun. Not to mention it had great products and services, and I left feeling serene, pampered, and well-groomed.

Alas, when I stopped by for an impromptu pedicure and brow wax a couple months back, the place was the same, but the vibe was different. The tech remembered me and in the wax room, wickedly whispered that the old owners were gone. I asked if the new owner was good to her, and was she happy, and she nodded. And since my wild Romanian brows were straight and my toadnails were pinker than Bubble Yum, I went on my merry way.

The truth is, I like the nail place just around the corner, where it's not as fancy schmancy but the owner goes out of her way to make it pretty and welcoming. (And yes, I've sold articles about her, too.) Problem is there, two of the pedicure girls are just not that great. Their pedis hurt, and I end up with ingrown nails and early chips. Which simply won't do. The one girl who is amazing is booked, booked, booked--and a new mom to boot--so even if I do get on her schedule, there's no guarantee that I'll end up at her mercy.

So recently, when I really needed a perfect polish, I crept back over to the fancy spa. The sign on the door said "Yes, we're open" which seemed odd. And they were, albeit with construction buzzing away and nary a customer in sight other than a man groaning on the massage chair.

But hey, the giant blow-ups of my articles were still in the window, so what did I know?

I took my place on the throne (and not the end one I liked, either, but one that forced me to climb over things, snarl) and Esther took on my feet, utterly silent. Five minutes into the service, it was as if someone had flipped a switch. "Hi, how are you!" she chirped. "This you first time?"

Uh, you just wiped off three coats of I'm Not Really a Waitress and removed an acrylic toadnail that was there while a broken one was growing out...what do you think? Not to mention I immediately took the massage remotes and set the chair just the way I want it.

We continued and she fretted over the fact that my pants were getting wet. Please. And then I guess the foot washing got to her because she suddenly popped up and became very serious.

Do you have a religion? she hissed.

Yes, I said.

What are you? Presbyterian? Lutheran? Catholic? Are you a Christian?

I'm Orthodox, I told her. (Technically, anyway, as I was baptized on my grandparents' dining room table after the church burned down...but that's another story.)

No, no, no, she said. Do you believe in God or not?

Yes, I said. What about you?

Oh yes, said Esther. I Presbyterian. But you. I think you Methodist, with all these questions.

What's funny is that I was pretty much raised in the Methodist church, and my parents now go to a Methodist church that they really love. I guess maybe we Methodist types have a certain type of feet.

Whatever, the pedi continued and she seemed satisfied, so I kept my heathen feet in front of her. In terms of massage and pampering, the whole thing was pathetic. My only treat? She hummed hymns while waxing me, in a perfect, clear soprano.

One week later, my toenails are nicely polished but if I look closely, my toes look like crap. My mani just started chipping yesterday--although the nails themselves snagged the next day. And in the weirdest turn, the toenail she was working on while all the questions came up (the left piglet known as wee wee wee all the way home) told me it was going to fall out in a dream on Thursday night, and when I woke up Friday morning and put on my sandals, it DID.

Lord have mercy.