Monday, December 31, 2007

More of the Story

It's New Year's Eve--please be careful out there. Celebrate sensibly and make it home to see the new year!
I spent Friday afternoon alone in the house continuing the cleaning process. Dear Daughter went to a museum and IMAX film with JenMc, the Evil Bunny and Banana Girl. I got lots done and actually kind of enjoyed the quiet of being "home alone."

There's a great sense of accomplishment to be had in setting things up around a house in such a way that what was before merely a "house" becomes a "home." While we try not to set a great store on "things," there are objects--photographs, paintings and the like -- that truly create the environment that nurtures and stimulates us. We're not entirely there yet, but crucial items -- the Walter Anderson postcards my mother had framed for me in 1994, the Homer Winslow print of a girl reading that was my Christmas gift in 1995, the lost painting by my legendary great-grandfather that mysteriously resurfaced in the mail in 2004, the print from a Franklin street festival of a little girl on a front porch braiding her grandmother's hair--are in place. I think they, too, are glad to be home.
Dear Daughter has switched rooms and has some different furniture. I bought a daybed and trundle from an estate sale recently and swapped it for the giant maple futon she'd been sleeping on before. It looks rather girly and sweet, but in a 'tweenagery kind of way. She also has her purple mushroom chair in there, and the lovely table she made at Art Camp last summer. The top is a nightscape she designed and carved into a plate of linoleum and then printed on handmade paper. She cut the glass to fit the table top and welded the table together. It's a simple and happy piece, and quite a nice work of art, especially for a grade-schooler.

Later, as I was winding down, I thought to take advantage of the peace and play a little music. My piano looked so beautiful sitting in the sunlight pouring through window and it made me so happy. I opened the case to find this frightening sight:

Apparently, when the movers turned the instrument upside-down, three octaves of keys raised and locked and will not go down. I am absolutely heartsick. I'm waiting on both the moving company to send a claims adjustor and the piano company to send a technician to see IF it can even BE repaired. In the meantime, my poor lovely piano is nothing more than a beautiful piece of wood holding up some very nice candles. To paraphrase Augustine of Hippo, "...our lives have no music in them, and our hearts are lonely, and our souls have lost their courage."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Fifth Day of Christmas

I'm not expecting any gold rings today, but the move continues to progress in wacky and wonderful ways. The sun is shining today, which makes up for the chilly temperature. There's all kinds of tasks left to be accomplished, so I'm certain we can get plenty done without suffering too much from the temperature.

Yesterday was eventful. Aided by the head of the Mathematics department of a prestigious local private academy (aka JenMc) and her two lovely children (who, for the purposes of this blog have asked to be referred to as Evil Bunny and Banana Girl) met us at the house to begin cleaning. My tenant, less than tidy, and we were faced with a good bit of work. The kids set about tackling windows, dusting ceiling fans and sweeping while Jen and I took over the kitchen. I opened the oven to this:After liberal application of caustic chemicals and a half hour of elbow grease, it was greatly improved. Jen worked on the laundry closet while Banana Girl made the picture window shiny and bright.

Meanwhile, Dear Daughter and Evil Bunny (who is actually quite a nice young man) tackled a repair job in the bathroom. The soap dish had come off of the tile wall, and we thought it would be simple to reattach using this handy-dandy product:

They gave it a good shot, and patiently sat with their feet in the tub for ten minutes, holding the dish to the wall while the glue cured. The soap dish actually stuck to the wall for about 20 minutes before crashing again into the tub. Distracted, I tossed the soap dish onto the nearest flat surface, thinking I'd deal with it later.

"Later" came when one of the kids discovered I'd made a fascinating alteration to a bathroom fixture and announced "the toilet seat now has a handle!" And by golly, it did!

More to come: a "tailor-made" mattress, breaded fried chicken parts, the joys of toluene, and a horrific discovery.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Fourth Day of Christmas

No sign yet of the Four Calling Birds, but I do have wonderful human help on the horizon. Today, we attack the house with cleaning supplies. I'm also installing the microwave oven (a dubious sign of impending civilisation), sewing the mattress on the trundle bed back together, cleaning that nasty oven and gluing the soap dish back to the tile wall. It's been more than 48 hours since I wore mascara (and yet the world continues to turn). Never fear, I am still exfoliating and moisturizing. My hands feel like .060 sandpaper, but this too, shall pass. We are going HOME!!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

On the Third Day of Christmas...

I got, not three French hens, but rather Two Men and a Truck. Actually, I lucked out and got two sets of two men and a truck each. I had the hired moving company PLUS a friend and a brother and a Big Red Truck (an actual vehicle, as opposed to a wine of questionable vintage, although by mid-day, even a self-consciously trendy wine who owes more to its clever label than actual quality would have been a good thing).

By 7:30 a.m., I had not only showered and got Dear Daughter underway, but had cooked breakfast, started hauling boxes from the attic and organized three boxes for Goodwill. At 9:30, the movers called to say they were done loading up my tenant, so we (the brother, the daughter, the co-worker and I) pointed our caravan (BRT and a mini-van) laden with boxes and bookcases north towards home.

All told, the move went remarkably well--way better than I could ever have imagined. By 3 p.m., we had all of my furniture and 90% of my packed boxes moved. I still have some packing to do (closet stuff), but the big stuff is out of the way. My favorite moment was when the amazing Arlando walked past me, single-handedly pushing my piano, which was turned UPSIDE-DOWN and strapped to a dolly. Of all the men the company could send me, they picked THE MAN.

My least favorite moment was discovering the condition in which my tenant left my house. Heavy sigh. Tomorrow will be spent cleaning around the furniture. I already scraped the top layer of grease off of the cooktop and tile backsplash, and made the bath tile clean enough I might actually use the shower in a day or two. We've vacuumed the entire house for the first time. Tomorrow, a crew consisting of my self, Dear Daughter, the head of the Mathematics department at a prestigious local private academy, and her two bond-servants (pronounced "children") will attack the house armed with Murphy's Oil Soap, oven cleaner and lemon Pledge. By day's end, I hope to have not only rendered the house habitable, but also have explained to my former tenant in exacting detail precisely why her deposit is forfeit.

Anyway, we're winding down here. A wonderful thing about hard physical work is how pleasant by contrast it makes rest and sleep. But first, I have one more task to complete...we realized that all of our clothes are at OUR house, but WE are still here, so I am washing and drying laundry so we'll have something clean to wear tomorrow. It never ends, but really, I'm not complaining. We're going home. We have wonderful, dear friends and family (Mom, Pat, Number One Brother, MCBA, Fineoldfamly, JennyMc, E) and things are gradually returning to normal. Life is good, and getting better by the day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bunny Waits for Santa

So, I'm minding my own business, filling the tank of the Nimble-mobile and watching wispy clouds scud across a brilliant blue sky. It's Christmas Eve day, and all things considered, all is pretty calm and bright.

I hear maniacal giggling from inside the car, and climb in to find Dear Daughter punching buttons on my cell phone and laughing. Turns out, her Inner Auteur took over while I was pumping gas. Here is the result.
Wishing you and yours a very Bunny Christmas, from our nut-house, to yours.

And so this is Christmas...

Looking back at what we've done, I'm amazed I am upright, much less able to write anything about it. Of course, I've only just started trying to write, so who knows, I may not get any distance at all.

It's Christmas tomorrow. Today is the last day of the Advent season. Dear Daughter and I have tried, through the chaos and sadness, to keep a reasonable and hopeful Advent. I just this moment realized that in the exhaustion and emotion of last night (as the Loved One prepared to leave for his holidays with his family and then on to Alaska), we completely forgot our Advent Sunday night ritual readings and candles. I knew something was missing from the evening...actually, there was a great deal missing from the evening...but I am sorry for overlooking that extremely important element.

About 7 p.m. last night we had a knock at the front door. People rarely come to the front, as we are definitely back-door folk. The wide parking apron, generous carport and elevated patio make a much nicer entrance, especially as it opens into a warm and fairly inviting den, instead of the cool, marble-paved foyer. The front of the house was dark, and I picked my way through the pile of packed boxes and the stack of boxes waiting to be built and filled. I switched on the lights and unlocked the doors to see who was there. Elijah, perhaps? Joseph and Mary, looking for shelter? Someone who mistook our dark and sad house for the holiday party they were missing?

No, it was Titus. He was thin and smiling, shivering in two layers of plaid, flannel shirt, fleece gloves and worn jeans. He had no coat, no hat; only a satchel filled with books and a massive, crackling walkie-talkie shoved in the bag. I knew in an instant I was about to be hit with a pitch to buy books I neither wanted nor needed. Still, I opened the door and this shy, thin boy began to talk.

He told me he and his sister were working the neighborhood, selling books to try and raise money for college. They were from Kentucky, he said; and he was home-schooled but hoped someday to get more formal education. His eyes darted around, and wouldn't meet mine. He was so thin and fragile looking, and his smile was bright and cheery, despite the 30 degree child. The skin on his face was translucent and shone as he talked of someday going to Heaven and meeting Jesus face to face, along with the loved ones he'd known on earth.

He was earnest and shy, and I knew he was no threat. I gave him the little cash I had with me for a book called Pathways to Health and Happiness. I offered him a coat, as we had a couple of extras hanging in a nearby closet. As moving day comes closer, we are getting rid of things we don't need. He declined and said he was fine in his shirt sleeves, smiled again, and turned to go.

As he walked down our steps, Titus turned back toward me and asked me to pray for him. Then he continued on into the dark night with his bag of books and the $7 I'd just given him.

I wondered the rest of the night and most of this morning how much of his story was true. I've found that the books he was selling are a product of a legitimate church, but still, I have to wonder, does the love of Christ really compel us to send our children out into the cold and dark on the eve of Christmas eve to knock on the doors of strangers, and to refuse help when you so obviously need it?

Yes, Titus, believe me, I will pray for you--that you are loved and warm and safe, and that the shyness in your eyes occasionally flames to love and joy. I hope that your story was true, and that the people who you are with are your family, and not some lunatic cult, deceiving you with heresy and depriving you not only of a warm home but keeping you from the love of your family. I hope that you go to sleep each night, assured not only of the love of God, but of your own mother and father, who are nearby, and who care tenderly for you. You brought me a gift, Titus, on a dark day in my own life. I know that I do not value enough the good people and things I have in my world--how could I ever possibly hold them dear enough?

Merry Christmas, friends. Please pray for Titus.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

All About Marcia

Today in the house we welcome marciamarciamarcia. She's one of my co-workers, another single mom and a great lady. She has a unique read on life, is deadly calm under fire (of all kinds) and is a fabulous cook. Navigate over to her page and give her a big redblur welcome to the blogosphere!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Because She Does

"Mary, she moves behind me
She leaves her fingerprints everywhere,
Every time the snow drifts, every time the sand shifts
Even when the night lifts, she's always there..."

from "Mary," by Patty Griffin

Winter Morning Drive in the Country

Frost-furred lumber stacked by the roadside
waiting for hands and hammers and nails;
a slow-moving river bearded with white fog
winds by the south gate headed for home.

Winter falls softly in this part of heaven.
It creeps in on shoes that are silent as sleep.
The sky fills with grey clouds as birds huddle together
On a lamppost arm stretched out
by the side of the road.

Red leaves lie sleeping on the the floor of the forest,
crunching beneath footfalls as a man passes by.
The land settles down with a sigh for the winter,
like the last sleepy breath
of a day that is done.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Help in Time of Trouble

Our Lady of Walsingham has been very gracious this week. Please visit here to learn more.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In Praise of Rutabagas

Those who know me know that I eat my vegetables. They also know that I can’t abide the word “veggies” or any form of it. The word is “vegetable,” or, if you prefer, gemüse. The Germans have such lovely words for ordinary things.

But I digress. I eat my vegetables. They’re good and good for me. In the spring and summer we often make meals for days at a time out of whatever fresh and plentiful produce is available. It’s almost a game to figure out what is in season and what I can make of it that will be delicious and satisfying.

I’ve only met one vegetable I don’t like, and that is the rutabaga, also know at the swede, yellow turnip, or more precisely, Brassica napobrassica. Growing up somewhat middle-class in a large family, we ate plenty of things that our friends and classmates didn’t. I didn’t mind eating regular white or purple topped turnips (which are crisp and joyful) or the interminable crocks of dried beans, or even the beets, which tasted rather like dirt and stained the plate with a horrific magenta liquid. But I always drew the line at rutabagas. It seemed to be the ultimate in low-class, end of the line, no further humiliation than to have to peel a wax-covered rutabaga and boil it up for dinner. I recently described the taste to a friend as “a turnip, gone horribly wrong, having lain under the front porch for about three months, in the dirt, where the cats go to pee and the bugs can crawl on it with their dirty little feet.”

In the British Isles, prior to pumpkins being readily available (a relatively recent innovation), swedes/rutabagas were hollowed out and carved with faces to make lanterns for Halloween. Often called "jack o'lanterns", or "tumshie lanterns" in Scotland, they were the ancient symbol of a damned soul. This is the reason, I presume, why they taste so awful.

The only way I will really eat rutabagas without setting up a howl is in “Himmel und Erde.” This German dish, translated as “Heaven and Earth” is made up of root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, potato, carrots and rutabagas. The other vegetables and the butter and seasonings conspire nicely to cover up the taste of the nasty swede. It’s a recipe that can make something nice out of something fairly unpleasant.

Those who know me also know what a stinking mess my life currently is. I’m moving out and on, and it’s scary, difficult and painful, and not always in that order. I worried about Dear Daughter, my family, my house, my financial situation, even the One I’m leaving behind. My stuff is scattered all over the city in various safe places. I’m homeless with a mortgage. I’m tired and scrambling to keep work and life together.

But through it all, the past 36 hours have been filled with grace and light. I’ve received help—monetary, emotional, spiritual and physical – from all sorts of wonderful people who have shown me their love and kindness in abundance and without hesitation. I try not to be surprised when God answers prayers, but when the blessings start pouring in so quickly and in such torrents, it’s astounding. I truly am not worthy of such loving-good friends and family.

One of the dear folks who have thrown her not-inconsiderable influence onto my side lately also sent me a Christmas card. I love Christmas cards—both sending and receiving them. This one is beautiful, but what it contained inside (along with her sweet message) really made my day. She sent this recipe for rutabaga cookies, with the tongue-in-cheek suggestion that I bake a batch. It was a good laugh, but there is a great deal of wisdom in her idea. Despite all of the chaos and sadness in my world right now, I have so much that is good—so many wonderful people who are showing me love and helping me to show love. Even through the darkness, we are surrounded by light. And Pat’s little funny, tucked inside a glittery card, is a nice reminder of how to make something sweet and good out of something that outwardly appears to be homely and sad.

A Long Time Coming

Curiousity killed the cat
and it's not so good for me
and you.
So don't leave me a trail
you don't want me to follow.
Don't leave me clues
that I'm not meant to find.
Don't tell me lies, then
tell me I'm dreaming.
My eyes are wide open now.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

As Paralysis Sets In...

They say you can't go back again. I think the proper phrasing is more along the lines of "you SHOULDN'T go back again."

I've spent part of the evening re-reading old messages from the Loved One. Times were that we were happy and good to one another. I can't believe the people who wrote those things then are the people we are now.

What happened? Oh, whatever happened?

I've shoved some more things into some more boxes. My plans are still not completely defined. I keep telling myself and those around me that I'm really fine, but I doubt I'm being truthful. The coin has two sides, and I keep turning it over in my hands.

To justify my existence, I need to pack a couple more boxes.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

When You Come to the Edge of Everything You Have Known...

Two years ago when my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, a very wise and caring man, who also happens to be my priest, told me that when I come to the edge of everything I have known, one of two things will happen. I will either step out onto safe and solid ground or I will learn to fly.

Today, folks, I'm absolutely soaring.

I'm in early middle-age. I'm a single parent. My relationship that I thought would be the one I had for life is ending. My mom is still sick (but doing better, thanks). I'm overdrawn (how the hell did this happen? Actually, I know exactly how it happened, I just don't know how I'm going to fix it.) at the bank. Someone I know is about to get a very rude surprise about an unexpected baby (not me, folks). My tenant keeps bouncing checks on me. I'm about to move back into one tiny room at my mother's house for the foreseeable future. My car really needs tires.

Did I leave anything out? Oh yeah, it's Christmas.

Still. I'm soaring. I have so many wonderful things in my world. My Dear Daughter is so very, very dear. She knows what is going on, and she's okay. We're okay. We've redefined home to mean not "that place where your stuff is" but rather the more accurate "that place where your heart is." Our hearts are together--therefore, wherever we are, we are home.

Even if our stuff is living in a mini-storage halfway across town.

My friends are simply amazing--MelBoe, FineOldFamly and Kimby-the-book-fairy are helping me sort, throw away and pack. These are three amazing women, and I would be saying that even if they weren't solidly in my corner in this time of fiery, blazing crisis.

My friends at work are great-- they recognize enough of the challenges going on in my life right now, and have given me the encouragement I need in the right doses. They also have given me a healthy sense of practicality and are definitely keeping me busy enough to not despair. They (pronounced Illy, Meerkat, e, marciamarciamarcia, MCBA, Optimus Wicked and Stanimal) make me laugh, which is keeping my internal organs well massaged and my head on as straight as it can be for now.

My family...well, I never appreciated them enough until now. They're the best.

The rest of the world--well, it's still turning. It's not going to stop for me and my hefty bundle of issues. Eventually my parachute will open (although maybe not until I pull the reserve), but until then, I'm passing through clouds both grey and silver. It's a beautiful view.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

It's also about giving up

I can't really expound on this right now. Big changes. Sad times. Gonna be okay.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Public Acknowledgement

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Thanks be to the Blessed Mother, ever Virgin Mary and to our patron Blessed St. Joseph, for prayers heard and answered, in so short a time and in such rich abundance.