Monday, December 31, 2012

Strong and disparate flavors

Last Saturday as I was having my nails done a man entered the salon.  That's a rare occurrence in Tina's Nail Salon.  I overheard him telling the receptionist that he was there for a gift certificate.

"It's for my wife, Ivory," he said.

"Oh, Ivory!"  The receptionist knew his wife.  "How is she doing?"

"She's got a great attitude and she's keeping up the fight," he said.  His voice sounded cracked and dusty, like the pavement on an old Alabama rural route that never gets re-surfaced.

In my mind I could see Ivory sitting at home in a recliner in front of the fireplace, with a pink scarf covering her head, gazing at the flames and wondering if this might be her last Christmas with her family.  I wondered if the gift certificate her husband was buying for her would bring her any comfort.  I said a little prayer for her, this sister of mine that I had never met and never would.

I hate the fact that if you cry while getting your nails done there's no way to wipe your tears away discreetly.

Then I went to Trader Joe's to pick up some ingredients for the curry I wanted to make that night.  I ran into my friend Kathy and we talked about how she had company coming into town and how high maintenance they were.  They had allergies to peanuts, soy and dairy.  They were gluten-free.  They hated fish and refused to eat anything that had been cooked in a microwave.  And they were bringing their Great Dane.

We joked that Kathy should serve fish with an especially high mercury content just in hopes of fending these guests off next year.  She even considering skipping the fish and going straight for mercury tablets.  She was joking, naturally, but as we stood under the awning at TJ's and laughed about the upcoming visit I saw her face relax and as we parted ways we were both smiling.


In the produce section I ran into Selena from church.  She had just picked up some gifts that she had made at a pottery studio and she was so excited to show me the plate she had made for her grandmother.  It was a beautifully simple piece - with a sunshine in the middle and delicate blue forget-me-nots around the edges.  I could tell that she could hardly wait to see her grandmother open that present on Christmas morning.  The excitement and the joy of giving were radiating from her face like that sunshine in the middle of the plate, and although we don't know each other very well she reached out to hug me as we said good-bye.


When I make curry I start with Japanese curry but after I've made it according to the package directions I add my own ingredients.  I learned when I lived in Japan that you can add ANYTHING to curry and it will taste good.  You can put peach jam, peanut butter, ketchup, barbeque sauce, strawberry yogurt, vinegar, Thousand Island dressing, sour cream, anything.

This step is my chance to make the curry reflect my mood at the time and on this particular occasion I put Nutella, grated onion, oyster sauce, grape jelly, rice wine, coconut milk and Japanese dashi sauce.  Let me tell you it was awesome!  Some of my best work ever.

That's what I love about curry - the way it can absorb all kinds of flavors and make them work together.  It can meld them together and make them complement each other.  Curry is made better by the addition of strong and disparate flavors.

And I thought about the way God had blended the most wonderful moments into my morning.  Ivory's brave fight and her husband's sweet devotion.  Kathy and her resolute humor.  Selena and her exuberance.  All of that made my morning wonderful, and it makes me wonderful.

I do hate the fact that if you cry while grating onions there's no way to wipe your tears away discreetly.

Friday, November 30, 2012

4 Things to Not Say to Me Right Now

Warning: My crappy mood continues.  Thank you for loving me as I am.

I have this one friend named Julia and when she heard I was getting divorced she told me, honestly and beautifully, that she didn't know what to say.  She asked what she should say.

And I was surprised to find that I was stumped.

I don't know what I want people to say.  I only know what I don't want.

1. "Sometimes people just grow apart."
This bugs me because my husband I didn't just grow apart.  It was way more complicated than that.  It wasn't a slow fade.  I don't want people to think that we stopped holding hands for longer and longer periods of time and then one day we realized we had wandered miles apart from each other in the woods.

That wasn't what happened.

But I don't want to talk about what did happen.

2. "My spouse and I are celebrating our 112th anniversary next month."
I'm so happy for you, really I am.

Except I'm not.

Know what I mean?

3. "Children are so resilient."
Resilience is over-rated.  I wanted my kids to grow up in an intact family, with a mother and father in the house.  In a house filled with harmony and love.  One that was a healthy environment for them.  That is what's best for children but it wasn't one of my options.  I had to choose between some pretty bad options and I chose the least bad of them.  But the thing about kids being resilient, it's like saying that after an amputation you're going to weigh a lot less.

Yes, you weigh less.  Big deal.  Everybody wants two legs.

4. "OMG, I can't believe it!  I thought you and Buddy were so happy together!  How can this be?!"
Umm, this is a moment where I need you to be there for ME.  Don't ask me to comfort you through my divorce.  Take it in stride, this stuff happens every day.  If you thought my marriage was perfect that makes two of us.  Sh*t happens.  

Now I'm back-pedaling a bit because I don't want to be mean:
If you have said any of these things to me please don't feel bad.  You were trying to make me feel better and that is what I will remember.

Here's what I guess you could say.  
Can you tell me about a time when you experienced a loss that was also a gain?  An end that was also a beginning or a beginning that was also the end?  Pain that was also joy?  Sorrow that was also beautiful?  Maybe you could tell me that story in the comments section or in an email.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Good Luck and other Bullsh*t

WARNING: I'm in a crappy mood lately and this post reflects it.  If you came for peach pie and a smile, I promise I will be serving that up again soon but today I just can't.  Thank you for loving me in spite of it all.  

In the last few months I've had lots of encounters with our nation's legal system.  And there's one thing strikes me about the people who work in it - they incessantly wish me good luck.

I sign a form for a bailiff and as I hand the pen back, he says, "Good luck to you."

The judge tells me he's granting my petition for divorce and I shake his hand and he says, "I wish you good luck."

I write a letter to my lawyer telling her I'm switching to a new lawyer for the rest of the process but I do it in the NICEST way you can imagine because you all know how important it is to part on good terms.  She responds with two words, "Good luck."

That's it.

Then she sends me a bill for $19 for something that is petty and ridiculous and mean, so I send her another letter that says, "If you find you need to do something billable on my account please contact me in advance to get my authorization both for the work and for the charge."

And then I sign that letter "Good luck."  

But amidst all of this good-luck-wishing, I wish I could snap my fingers and have a couple of cups of green tea appear and I wish I could invite the good-luck-wisher to sit down with me right there, wherever we are.

On the cold granite of the courthouse hallway. 

On the rose-beige carpet of the courtroom.

On the hand-woven Persian silk rug in the mediator's office, which is a silvery blue color and shimmers in the afternoon sunlight and makes me want to dive into it and stay under until my lungs are ready to burst. 

I wish I could tell them something that they already know, I know they already know.  But I would tell them anyway, to make myself feel better, that it was a series of CHOICES, most of them good but enough of them bad, that led me into their courtroom or their office.  Not luck.

Luck never had anything to do with it.

It never did.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Us, 1997 - 2012

Dear Downtown Diner customers,

It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that Buddy and I are divorced.

Although the divorce was not sudden, this is a painful time for us nonetheless.  I'm turning the comments off on this post and thank you for understanding. 

I'll be back soon with more.  Meanwhile, please send virtual hugs, lots of them.

Much love to you all,

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

They are driving without a permit, by the way

I was going to get Grant from school when this kid passed me and said, "Hey Grandma."  I was kinda stunned and was still standing there, unmoving, when his dad came along a second later.

"I think he just called me Grandma," I said.  "Is it possible that I look anything like his grandmother?"

"I'll kill him, " said the dad. 

I nodded and patted him on the shoulder.

I went on to find Grant in the crowd, worried more about my crow's feet than whether that dad might have been serious about killing his son.

Later as Grant and I were walking back to the car the dad came and found me.  "I don't want you to have a bad weekend so I had to come and find you.  My son said he said, 'Hi Grant's mom'."

OH!  That makes so much more sense!

Don't you just love it when your insecurities throw you out of the driver's seat and take over the wheel?

(This age-progressed photo compliments of my daughter's iPad)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stitches and potato chips

I was in the sewing department at Michael’s today when my cell phone rang.  It was Buddy.  He had been in the park playing with the kids and Grant was hurt. 

“He was playing soccer barefoot and he has a big cut on his foot.  I think it needs stitches.”

His foot, that’s good.  It’s far removed from his head.  Just to be sure I checked.  “Is his head okay?” 

“Yeah, it’s just his foot,” he said.

“Okay, I’ll meet you at the ER.”

When I got to the ER Grant was in a wheel chair and his foot was bloody.  I gave him a kiss and then leaned in for a closer look at the gash on his foot.  The cut was long and deep but the blood was oozing, not dripping.  I thought it was a borderline case for stitches but of course I don’t have those expensive “M.D.” letters after my name either. 

The next thing I knew Audrey jumped into my field of vision.  “My finger, Mommy, my finger!!” 

“Your finger?” I asked, confused.  I mean, aren’t we here for Grant’s foot?

“Oh yeah, she hurt her finger playing volleyball in the park,” Buddy said.  “I thought we could ask the doctor to look at it too while we’re here.”

“Mommy my finger hurts SO MUCH!  You should have seen how it happened!”  Audrey said.  And then right there in the crowded ER she gave me a slow motion reenactment of the injury, in which it appears she leaned waaaayyyyy back and then spiked a volleyball with a single index finger.

I examined her finger, compared it to the one on her other hand and concluded that it was a little swollen but for all I knew that was because she had eaten too many potato chips for breakfast that morning.  She could bend it enough to show that it wasn’t broken.  I didn’t think it was even worthwhile to ask the doctor to look at it. 

*  * *{wavy lines, wavy lines, go back in time to Oct 2011} *  *  *

“When did you say he broke his arm?” the doctor asked, holding up an X-ray in the ER room.

“About an hour ago,” I said.

“No, this break is older than that,” he said.  “This has already started to heal.  Like it’s a few days or even weeks old.”

Days.  Weeks.  My mind clicked back in time.  It stopped on October 5th, the day that Grant was playing goalie and his coach sent a practice shot his direction.  Grant had blocked it with his hand and then complained later that it hurt.  We had put an ace bandage on it for a few days but when Grant said that he was ready to go back to soccer I assumed his arm was fine again and I let him go back to his regular activities.  With a hairline fracture in his right radial bone. 

The doctor’s tone was condescending and judgmental when he said, “You see, this is what happens when you don’t treat those initial hairline fractures.”

I wanted to yell at him.  “I know it’s clear to you that he had a hairline fracture that later broke into a compound one, however you have a couple of key pieces of data that I didn’t have.  One is hindsight, which as you know is 20/20.  The other is that X-RAY that you’re holding in your hand.  I didn’t have one of those!  I was going on maternal instincts and intuition.  And with mine I can see into my children’s souls but I can’t see their bones!” 

*  * *{wavy lines, wavy lines, back to the present} *  *  *

“Mommy, Libby hurt her finger playing volleyball and she had to wear athletic tape on her finger for two weeks.  TWO WEEKS MOMMY!  I can’t live like that for TWO WEEKS!!!”

I hugged her and gave her a soothing and kid-friendly version of “This too shall pass.”  The hug also allowed me the opportunity to look over Audrey’s shoulder and see how Grant was doing. 

Just at that moment he was wiping blood off his foot and smearing it on his pants.  “Does that vending machine have sandwiches in it?” he asked a passing nurse. 

Because I love you, dear readers, I’ll spare you the details of the next few hours in the ER.  I’ll cut right to the end of the story, which is that Grant has seven stitches in his foot, bringing his total count to I-lost-count-25-stitches-ago, Audrey maintains full use of all 10 fingers, and my sanity, defying all odds, continues to remain intact.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My Fall Haiku

Flakes of gold drift down

I catch one and breathe it in

Strange, fall smells like spring


Friday, August 17, 2012

Goodbye to the slip 'n' slide

Goodbye lemonade, iced tea and smoothies,
Goodbye maxi dresses, sandals and smooth shaved legs.
Goodbye to homemade ice cream and chicken wraps and fruity yogurts.

Goodbye to eating outside on the deck, where you can spill and drop things and I will not yell.

Goodbye to triple-digit heat and especially you, 109.
Goodbye thunderstorms that rumbled and flashed in the late afternoon distance.
Goodbye to the slip 'n' slide.

Goodbye to flashlights and sparklers and lightning bugs.

Goodbye sunglasses and floppy sun hats and beach umbrellas.
Goodbye fishing poles and bait that Grant was too squeamish to put on the hook.

Goodbye London and Michael and Gabby and Oskar and Yibing.

Goodbye Carly Rae Jepsen.  You were so cute. 
The first 100 times I heard you. 
This might be just me but, if he hasn't called you by now, I would move on.

Goodbye to s'mores and campfires
Goodbye to sleeping under the stars.
Which I only did once and I hardly slept because there was a cricket jumping around in our tent all night.

Goodbye bare feet.  Goodbye to sunscreen, metallic between my teeth.
Goodbye bug spray.  Goodbye ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, june bugs, moths.

Goodbye to caramel-colored skin.

Goodbye to days that stretched on and on and on and on.

Goodbye to sliding in between cool cotton sheets and watching the fan rotate overhead.

Goodbye to the lazy hours that Audrey spent on the sofa with you J.K. Rowling, and you Rick Riordan and you Suzanne Collins.

Goodbye to being completely warm at last, caressed by the hot humidity of another Southern summer. 

Hello to hot lemon water, mellow milk tea, and smooth lattes.
Hello to mini skirts, boots and textured tights.
Hello to curry, casseroles and treats spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and cloves.
Hello to fires in the fireplace and scented candles.
Hello to pencils and the school bus and spiral notebooks.

Hello to long and peaceful nights.

Hello to snuggling up under the comforter. 

Goodbye Summer 2012.  You were a riot.  I hope you keep the party going in the southern hemisphere.

Hello Fall, it's so nice to see you again.  I missed you. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What I Learned From a Bird That Nested in my BBQ Grill

The other day I went out to the barbeque grill to make the kids a chicken breast for dinner. I lifted the lid and found it was stuffed with leaves and twigs. At first I thought someone was playing a joke on me but when I looked at the debris more closely it seemed that someone had spent way too much time on this for it to be a joke. The twigs and leaves were arranged in a way that was both random and yet precise. It was densely packed and yet light and airy. It was planned and designed, while at the same time having a rough, natural quality to it.

And then it hit me – it was not someone who had stuffed these twigs in my barbeque grill. It was something. A bird. A mother bird.

I found two purple speckled eggs nestled deep in the nest. They looked like the kind of eggs you can buy at Easter at Target, the kind that have a candy shell and chocolate on the inside. But these eggs were real, with real baby birds inside of them.

The mother bird must have entered and exited through the small ventilation holes in the back of the grill. She must be small if she squeezed through those spaces. I wondered how long it had taken her to build this nest. It must have been less than five days because I had used the grill the week before. She was fast. I wondered if this was an unplanned pregnancy and she was in a hurry...

I called the kids to have a look and then we gently closed the top of the grill again, leaving the eggs to incubate in the dark, quiet safeness.

The next day when we got home from school Grant wanted to take a peek at the nest so he lifted the grill top but this time the mother bird was in the nest and when the roof of her world suddenly opened up and daylight poured in, she flew away in a panic. It happened so fast we could hardly see her, she was nothing more than a brown blur streaking away from the grill and into a nearby bush. The eggs were still nestled safely in their twiggy bed.

Grant and I agreed that we had shocked the mother bird and that we had to be more considerate and more protective of her in the future. We vowed not to lift the top of the grill until the babies had hatched and the little family had moved out. I have no idea how long that will take, and I also have no idea how we will know when the birds have hatched and the family has moved out if we don't lift the top of the grill. Sort of a catch 22 - we can't lift the grill top until the birds have moved out but we won't know if the birds have moved out unless we lift the grill top. I plan to give her as much time as I think she needs and then double that. And then double that again.

Meanwhile I pray that the mother bird wasn't so frightened that she abandoned her nest forever. That seems like something that could happen in nature. The mother bird might decide that the nest that she thought was so safe wasn't safe at all, for God's sake the whole entire sky lifts off with no notice, and that she can't bring her babies into a world like this so she will leave them to dry up and die now in their shells. That will be better for them in the long run, to not even be born into a world where darkness turns into blinding light with no notice.  Where disaster strikes without warning, without caring, without concern.

I'm secretly fascinated by the fact that the mother bird was frightened when Grant lifted the cover of her little home, and yet she has no idea that she is sitting on a much greater, much more real threat, that she is completely unaware of. She has built a dry, brittle home just inches away from a propane tank. When Grant lifted the top of the grill he scared her but in fact, there was nothing to fear there but fear itself. Meanwhile there is a real and present danger just inches below her that was not even on her avian radar.

It makes me think about how fickle threats are, and how incapable we are of detecting them and avoiding them. It seems almost pointless to try because we will end up chasing shadows and flashes of light. Fleeing from perceived threats that are in fact harmless and completely missing the real and present dangers. Telling our kids to stay away from that reclusive man who lives across the street, meanwhile letting them get on the bus with a driver who, unbeknownst to us, is running on two hours of sleep.

I wish the mother birds knew that I'm watching over her. That I will make sure the kids never again disturb her. That I turned the propane tanks off. That no one will turn them on, no one will burn her nest up. That the daylight will never come pouring in on her again.

But she doesn't know I'm here. And I don't know how she's doing because I can't check on her without disturbing her. But I hope that she came back to her nest, that she gave it one more chance, that she didn't allow her skittishness to overwhelm her faith in a greater presence that is looking out for her.

June 5 update: I was hanging some laundry in the backyard today and as I was returning to the back door I noticed a small brown bird who flew up close to the grill but stopped on the window sill. I froze. The bird seemed to be chewing on something – maybe worms? Then after a couple of minutes she flew up and into the barbeque grill. She did. She flew in.  She came back.  She gave it one more chance.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Nature, laughter, lights, song, peace, love and dreams that came true

I was browsing through the pictures on my cell phone and realized they tell a story of our first six months in Nashville. It's a story of nature, laughter, lights, song, peace, love and dreams that came true. Enjoy.

My niece Bliss is born!

Grant broke his arm

Finally I'd like to give a shout-out to all the wonderful people we've met and come to love here. They are, in no particular order - Amanda, Jeff, Maggie, Paige, Julia, Gray, Missy, Michael, Haley, Merritt, Caleb, Josh, Breanna, Joe, Alex, Georgia, Elvis, Brian, Valerie, Maddie, Brian, Mariah, Brian, Rusty, Steve, Daniel, Lilly, Tigerlilly, Jenny, Austin, Grace, April, Patrick, Coach Greg, Jena, Eli, Anka, Coach Henry, Lynn, Yordanos, Jonathan, Bill, Florian, Shayna, Kim, Gwen, Chris, Markus, Nathan, Stephanie, Jacob, Marcus, Mimi, Will, Tim, Houston, Kim, Mr. Doty, Mr. Mayes, Ms. Ford, Ms. Hooper, Mr. McGuire, Ms. Ginter, Ms. Reddy, Ms. Strickland, Ms. Kurzrock, Dr. Pittman, Dr. Hughes, Ms. Gleason, Ms. Edwards, Ms. Angus, Ms. Black, Ms. White, Ms. Blake, Fong Chong, Craig, Taylor, Molly, Krissa, Mark, Bliss, Delaney, Landon, Libby, Danny, Andrea, Alexus, Marcia, Tim, Mave, Cheryl, Mike, Trey, Walker, Brooxs, Jacqui, James, Elizabeth, Leo, Alice, Wallace, Mary, Eden, Kate, Lindsay, Lisa, Michaela, Kori, Charlene, Jerry, Craig, Jeanette, Britney, Bailey, Renee, David, Xavier, Jeremiah, Cora, Nora, Shemuel, Kai, John, Amy, Mark, Harry Potter, Anissa, Hong, Grace, Carter, Mason, Doug, Susan, Jamey, Angie, Tina, Hope, Bruce, Thomas, Nancy, Miles, Lise, Blake, Sarah, Dominic, Laura, Jeff, Mida, Joe, Julia, Jim, Marcina, Craig, Will, Leslie, Kennedy, Laura, Elizabeth, Emily, Claire, Vicki, John, Lucas, Alex, Mandy, Patricia, and oh my goodness look at how many of you there are, you wonderful people, and I'm sure I'm forgetting many others. This city has been so good to us. You all have been so good to us. Thank you! We love you.