Thursday, May 29, 2008

Love (Austin) Thursday

This post has a soundtrack. I don't know that I've ever written a blog post before with a song going around and around in my head so I guess this is a first for me. And of course, I can't find it on YouTube--how weird is that? But the song is "This Old Porch" by Lyle Lovett. Y'all can listen to it here for free.


I'm homesick for Austin.

There. I said it.

I've been trying not to give voice to missing Austin because I am all about blooming where I'm planted. Or transplanted in this case. I mean, it doesn't do any good to think about the people and things I miss about Austin because, um, well, I don't live there anymore. That chapter in the book of my life is closed. (Or will be as soon as our freaking house sells. Are you people eating enough spaghetti? Because I got nothing. Nothin', I tell you.)

Earlier this week, I got an e-mail from a reader who just totally read between the lines (because I'm so subtle that way. It must have been my bursting into tears over a traffic thing. Or maybe it was the DMV snafu... you can't BUY that kind of subtlety, people.) and sent me the nicest, most tactful and lovely note about big moves having stages, much like grief, and how after the initial "oh, we're on an adventure! See how much fun we can have with all this newness!" phase, it's pretty common to sink into the "Everything sucks here! Nothing sucked back HOME. Every bad thing that's ever happened to me can be traced to moving across country!"

Okay, so she didn't say it like that and of COURSE, it's not true. Lots of things sucked back in Austin. But back in Austin? I knew what to do when things sucked. Here I'm still foundering about, using my GPS and asking Lin about everything. When Lin moves, I will have lost my liaison to this new world. She's so good about not laughing, see.

But I haven't even told her how much I miss Austin.

You know what I miss? I miss those tiny, hyperactive geckos that used to get into the house and that we'd have to rescue. I miss having neighbors to either side who I KNEW would watch my kids, reflexively. Just because they were outside. I miss having neighbors on the street whom my kids considered second families--Jane used to run to their house and half the time she'd come home having eaten dinner and had a bath there. I miss the safety of knowing that our street was, like, some sort of bubble, you know? Like, we didn't lock our door for, oh, eight years. My new neighbors were telling me why we needed an alarm system here and you know, of course I KNEW that. I just didn't WANT to know that.

I miss Central Market and I miss Barton Springs pool. I miss Barton Springs Nursery and by GOD, I miss the Town Lake Trail. I miss walking my kids to school and knowing who to talk to when there was a problem. I miss my mechanic and my dentist and our pediatrician. I miss my gynecologist (words I bet you don't hear that often) and I miss Austinites. As a species.

I miss our community library, which was outstanding, and its dirt cheap continuous book sale. I miss the parties we used to throw and the music that was just down the street from us (and all over the city.) I miss the fact that my kids were in the same school and on the same schedule. I miss our pool and my screened-in porch and the way I did the most meaningful jobs of my life in Austin--even including giving birth and toilet training my children. Yesterday I actually let slip that I was a grant writer in my Life Before Kids. I mean, I told someone that on purpose, with hopes that maybe I can start getting involved and helping a bit. (I usually don't tell people because writing grants takes an enormous amount of energy and research and time and that would cut into my blogging. I have my priorities.)

And oh, I miss my old rambling house with its quirks and all the ridiculous colors I painted the walls and its loving craftsmanship that doesn't remotely resemble this slapdash new construction.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not taking anything away from Long Island and the good things here. (Put the flame thrower down and step away, friend.) I like it here and I think I will find a good groove once I find some friends and figure out where to shop for what and what camps to sign the kids up for and how to negotiate the traffic and the higher decibel level. It's GOOD here. I just miss my old life --which took me many years to dial in, right? I can't expect to have dialed in this new one in the two and a half months we've been here. I haven't even finished unpacking yet! It's not like I felt immediately at home the LAST time we moved.

I just can't help it. I miss my old root system. This growing new roots thing? It's sort of painful.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wordy Wednesday

(You catch that title? Do I completely rule? Only *I* can take a concept (Wordless Wednesday) and flip it right on its arse with great pride.) (Well, okay, lots of people do that.) (I still rule.)

(Plus, anyway, technically, it's still Tuesday as I write this. See what an overachiever I am??)

So, today, I get to go to a new gynecologist.

I had gone to my one in Austin for twenty years. I used to tell him that I had a longer relationship with him than any man in my life. Ha. Joke. Get it?

He delivered both of my children after treating me for cervical cancer. AND for twenty years, he laughed at my jokes. Every. Single. Time.

We were sort of starting to see him and his wife socially (which I know MadMad thinks is the weirdest thing ever) because we just all get along so well. Plus, I love him.

But now? Off to see a new doctor.

And the first thing I get to tell this new doctor is why I haven't actually been to the gynecologist since November of 2005. That ought to be a BARREL of laughs. Because I hear that doctors really like it when you say, "I forgot."

Of course, now that I realize how long it's been, I am totally convinced that I am riddled with cancer and that this weight I've put on is not really the result of inactivity so much as it is a forty pound tumor. I've heard of tumors that can give you double-chins, haven't you? (Oh, just hush.)

Speaking of inactivity, on Monday I got on the treadmill for about five whole minutes (don't judge me until YOU'VE tried it with three screws in your foot) and then rode my bike on the exercise trainer for another 20. I did push-ups and then flailed about with some free weights. ("You'll put your eye out!") Today, I can almost raise my arms above my head, so that's all good.

Also on Monday, I tiled the Cat Cabinet. Look, here's Thomas using it now. I think if you squint you can see the tile under him.

Tile, just in case you are wondering, is very strong and should support his weight quite well. But it's really slippery, so occasionally we hear the huge THUNK of a kitty who got a lee-tle too much momentum...

In fact, on Monday, I got the whole laundry room all organized and even switched the dryer door so that it opens on the correct side and just in general made that room worthy of spending the majority of my time in there. Only now I can't actually walk in there because Scout has discovered how tasty used cat litter is and I had to put up a gate.

So we can add THAT to Scout's resume of charms. Sheesh. Love that dog, LOVE him. I think we should send him a nice basket of fruit. (Okay, two movie references in one post. See note above re: me ruling.)

Here is a picture of the socks I am knitting for Ei. I'm showing you all this picture so you can see the difference between knitting a fingering weight yarn and a sport weight. I know you all were DYING to know this information. Because I knitted this entire sock for Ei in a little more than four days in my spare time.

I'm also showing it because I have undo it and reknit it because I made it too small. That's okay--I like to knit and I love Ei so it's a win/win. Plus, that yarn... OH HOW I LOVE ME SOME CLAUDIA HAND-PAINTED YARN. Maybe I've said that before--like every single time I've knitted a pair of socks with her yarn?

Speaking of socks and a win/win, I have been letting Edward out even though I haven't finished the Edward socks yet.
He's been sticking pretty close to home. It makes us all a little nervous to let him out --Jane and I were beside ourselves this morning when we couldn't find him before I took her to school--but there he was when I got home. Something has been restored in him by allowing him to go out. His swagger is back. Coop weighed him this morning and he weighs about what he weighed when we brought him here from Texas. (We can't tell for sure EXACTLY what he weighs because my digital scale is just a random number generator. Except if I stand on it and then it gives a mighty sigh and shows the same damn number every time.) (Which is higher than at any time since I had a child actually emerging from my body, thank you.) (Sigh.)

Okay, I have to go to my appointment. (Yippee.) Remind me to tell y'all of my new-found passion for the New York Times crossword puzzle and how I'm just sure it's going to stave off dementia.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Scout has learned to get the newspaper.

"Wait, what was I getting again?"

"Going to get the paper. Going to get the paper... Going to... what was it?"

"Oh, look! It is a newspaper! Look at that! A newspaper, right here where I was running! I think I will pick it up!"

"Now I will shake it and worry it and love it and care for it and then..."

"I will take it for a little tour of the neighborhood!"

"Man is calling me! My Man is calling me!"
"Oops, I am still carrying this paper. Maybe he will not notice the paper. I hope this is not the neighbor's paper. I must get to Man as soon as possible!"

"Man likes me! He is taking the paper and calling me a good dog! Now I will pee on the front step in joy!"

Wow, that's a seriously nice calf muscle! Good dog, Scout!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Neurotic Much?

It's 8:00 in the morning on a weekend morning and my children are still sleeping.

Do you think I'll ever get to the point where I won't fear that they are DEAD or VERY VERY SICK when they sleep in?

It can't be normal to worry this much just because they're, hello, SLEEPING. But then again, if I were normal, I'D be sleeping, too.

So, I'm about to do what I always do when I am afraid they have mysteriously been abducted by aliens during the night while I slept. I'm going to march right up those stairs and check on them.

Which will wake them up.

Then, in an hour, when we are in the midst of fighting about what constitutes a decent breakfast (Cheetos? NO.) and everyone is crabby and in horrible moods, they will ask me, "WHY did you wake us UP?"

And I will be unable to tell them that I just...missed them.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sucking Wind

It's Memorial Day weekend.

Yesterday, my old dog Sydney (15) was running around the backyard and she had another seizure. She's okay but that old heart just doesn't have that many beats left, you know?

Today started out with Ana throwing up again. This has been the worst bout of strep we've ever had at our house. She's had fever and a rash and this stomach bug. Anyway, we got to make another trip to the doctor this morning because we thought last night she might be having a reaction to the medication and so we needed to get that rash checked out. We stopped actually TAKING the medication, which is probably why she started throwing up again.

Then, the tile I told you I'd found for the back-splash in the kitchen and the new bar area and the cat cabinet? I was going to get it in these very groovy three-eighth of an inch mosaic tiles --because I am all about HGTV high style, right? Yup, that's me. Only, one small thing stands in the way between me and fabulous, gorgeous tile. Do you want to know what that is?

It's $299 a square foot.

No, that's not even a typo. I walked into the tile place and picked out the world's most expensive tile. (I'm sort of gifted in that way.) Needless to say, that glass tile? Won't be gracing the Cooper Clubhouse.

So, I'd be all about The Pit of Despair right about now but look at THIS:

Jane lost one of her front teeth. I keep having to make her giggle so that I can see that snaggle-tooth grin. She's so cute with that smile that I could BITE her--just eat her right up. That grin is going a long way toward saving my weekend.

And I needed something because I just looked down and noticed I have vomit all over my shoe.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Almost Ready

So, my beloved little Edward has been back with the family since April 29th.

It's hard to imagine it's been that long, actually. Three and a half weeks now. People have been asking how he's doing and how he's settling back in and I've been a little hesitant to answer because he's a different kitty than the kitty who left. I haven't been able to define it really...

It's not just that he's so skinny --he has put on some weight but he's still not back to being boneless. You can feel every single bone in his body.

It's also not just that the pads of his feet seem to be scarred for good: Which, you know, causes me some grief because oh, how I love those feet.

It's not just that he and Thomas, our other orange cat, are only just now getting along after their six weeks apart. Thomas has been a VERY UPSET cat over this new interloper-- honestly, he acts like he's never seen Edward before. (We've taken to calling Thomas and our cow dog Scout the "Brain Trust"of the Cooper family. But just today, Ana (still home sick) caught them grooming each other. (I may have accidentally uploaded the big version of this photo so when you click on it, it might be HUGE.)

But what I think it is is that he's just lost his arrogance. Dudes, he was the funniest, most arrogant cat before. His entire motto seemed to be, "Hey, I MEANT to do that. Now, you there, stop gawking and admire the tail."

The tail is intact.

But Edward? He's just sort of a paler version of himself. A little more tentative and clingy than he was before the Great Adventure. Do you think little orange cats can suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

And we haven't let him go back outside yet. (I thought I'd try something new and actually take my husband's advice for once.) He's ready, though. He paws at the screen to go out and he sits there, yearning to be free. I know the day is coming when I'll need to let him go and trust that he'll come home again. I made a deal with my cats when I brought them home that I wouldn't keep them confined. They've always been indoor/outdoor cats and I promised them they always would be.

It's just not so easy, after everything that's happened, to let him go with grace and to trust that he'll come back to me. Maybe I have a little bit of PTSD, too? So, I'm giving him until the Edward Socks are finished to be kept inside. I'll finish them on June 1 --that seems fair.

Meanwhile, though, and I'm SURE this is no coincidence at ALL, I cast on the first of my Contest Socks. I'm still working on the Edward pair--they are my traveling socks that I take with me to work on whenever I have to wait somewhere. And today I sent off the books to the first five winners --but if you won a book from me, you have to send me your address if you really want me to send you one. Send it to my e-mail address which is barb AT I promise to promptly lose it but hopefully, I'll mail the book before I do. I'm not really some lecherous carpet salesman from Amarillo masquerading as a neurotic mother/knitter/writer from New York. I mean, Dudes, you can trust me because who could make this stuff up?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Love (New York) Thursday

Okay, I shouldn't have posted yesterday. Maybe it's like Friends Not Letting Friends E-Mail When Drunk--a coda to that ought to be, "Friends Don't Let Friends Blog With Migraines."

What I was trying to say was that everything looked terrible and affected me terribly because I was getting a migraine. I wasn't looking to wail about my unfortunate driving experiences in New York (because let's face it, mostly that's just FUNNY) but I was TRYING to say that a small incident in the school parking lot had an enormous effect on me because I was getting a migraine. It wasn't that big of a deal, really, except that I was SOBBING over it. (Which is pretty funny too, but I couldn't see it because I had Lost My Sense of Humor.) On any normal day, I would have simply rolled down my window and apologized and gone on about my business.

OOO-KAY then, moving right along and away from the slippery slope of my mental health...

To make it up to all of my New York friends who felt like they should sort of, well, apologize because I got yelled at (Dudes, I'm sure it happened in Austin, too. It's just that in Austin, people yell more quietly.), I offer This:

Reasons Why I Love New York and New Yorkers

I love that New Yorkers are all about What You See Is What You Get. I know there are probably poseurs here just like everywhere but for the most part, everyone I've met has had nothing to prove to anybody. I respond well to authenticity (well, you know, most days) and I like not having to guess what people are thinking.

I love this group of people we've had working on our house. Love. Them. Seriously, I'd like to invite them to dinner. They're honest, they work hard, they charge a fair price, and they clean up after themselves --what more could you ask for? Get this, those cabinets we had installed? The contractor guy got them for about $400 cheaper than he had estimated so he, hello, discounted my price by $400.

It's so BEAUTIFUL here. This was a huge surprise to me--I just hadn't thought about it. Driving my kids to school is such a pleasure because of the lush vegetation and the vibrant colors. Everything is in bloom! Everybody knock wood really fast but my own garden? FREAKING GOING TO TOWN! There are few things that make me as happy as seeing something bloom and grow, and double the pleasure if it's something I've planted myself.

The rabbits. I know, I know, they'll eat my garden if they can but they're just... well, they're just really cute. And they're everywhere--these little brown puff balls with white cotton tails.

My immediate neighbors and my community here. Really good people. When Edward was missing (Edward post coming tomorrow), people called just to tell me that they were looking for him, too. When you're really sad over losing a pet, it really helps not to feel so alone. It kept me going. And my neighbors... well, I've already told you about Lin. But there's a Cathy next door and a Sandra across the cul-de-sac and I think maybe we're all going to be great friends. And they have KIDS the same ages as MY KIDS.

The food. Okay, so this might also have to be on a list of things that give me great anxiety because, I kid you not, every single thing I've eaten here has deserved the moniker, "The BEST (Whatever it is) I've EVER had." (Well, okay, except the Mexican food, which sucks eggs.) I could write a POEM about the bagels here. Dudes, the food is amazing.

Delightful Dinners--saving my marriage and my sanity, one meal at a time.

Being less than five miles from the beach.

Having a big-arse backyard. Scout can actually be barking at the back of our yard and I can honestly and realistically pretend I don't hear a thing.

You cannot pump your own gas here. There are only full-service gas stations in the town where we live. I would imagine that in the coming winter when it's 2 degrees outside, this is going to be even more of a blessing. (As an odd corollary, it's very hard to find anyone to sack your groceries at the grocery store. I'm not sure why that is.)

It's NOT 99 degrees here. I find that I am loving having seasons.

Okay, That Does It

I've taken the option of commenting anonymously off of this blog.

I'm sorry to do so and I hope it won't inconvenience those of you you who comment under that option but sign your names. It's just that if someone is too cowardly to be identified when leaving rude and idiotic comments, then I don't want his or her thoughts on my blog. Call it censorship but it's my blog and you know what? You don't have to agree with me to read it. You don't have to agree with me to leave a comment --Lord knows I LIVE for the comments, pro and con --but if you're going to take a pot shot at me, you DO have to have the guts to take responsibility for it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Smacked Upside the Head

I am having a DAY. First I burst into tears in Jane's school parking lot because some woman yelled at me. Then Ana woke up with a fever so I took her to the doctor and she has strep. Next, on the way home, she THREW UP in my car--which I think I have to sell now. So then I was standing in CVS getting her prescription filled and I got one of THOSE migraines, which explains the crying because someone yelled at me in traffic--since it happens every day up here.

And oh look, it's raining again.

There's more to this story, of course, like the fact that the woman who yelled at me in the parking lot did so because I almost hit her child with my van. But see, I was watching the little girl and she was bouncing all around and I knew she was about to bounce in front of my car so I was INCHING forward. I was doing the RIGHT thing. But you know, if someone almost hit my kid with a car, I think I'd probably yell, too. The look that little girl gave me, my gosh, it just froze my blood.

Or like the fact that I got home from taking Jane and crying and the three Southern men in life, my FIL and BIL and husband, were all standing there, not quite knowing what to say to a woman who is WEEPING ABOUT A TRAFFIC ALTERCATION. And I was all embarrassed and my husband was holding me and I said, "I feel like I'm in trouble all the time up here." And so Coop told me that a woman in the pet store parking lot had been so rude and abusive to him and clearly in the wrong that he actually called her a NAME and walked away. And this is my husband, one of the most chivalrous men I've ever known. He said, "It hurt my feelings when she yelled at me. I understand." I guess that sums it up--I got my feelings hurt and I cried. Because I'm all mature like that.

Another lovely little shading to the morning is that Ana cries a LOT about going to school. (She's not a morning person. Which is sort of like saying HITLER wasn't so much a People Person.) So Coop and I were getting all Tough Love on her this morning and talking to her about how sometimes she just needs to SUCK IT UP. Sometimes she needs to just put some fuel in her body, and get dressed and GO TO SCHOOL.

And then it turns out that she's not only really sick, she's REALLY sick. Because that's how it is in our family--we are always filled with the right resolve at exactly the wrong time.

I was just about to say that I need a Do-Over on today when I got two more Joy Rush Lists:

Texas Peach

Tiny Tyrant

AND the sun came out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Random Tuesday Stuff

Oh, look, it's raining again. Such a surprise.

This past weekend, before I started killing brain cells that I really, REALLY cannot afford to lose, I had to move my garden. You know, my vegetable garden? The one with all the potential? Well, it turns out that if I wanted to see any vegetables in real life instead of in my mind, it needed more sun. Now that the leaves have filled in on the trees, there just wasn't any way it would get the six or more hours of direct sunlight it needed.( Spring happened here practically overnight. Classic Coop-ism, "You'd think it would hurt the trees to push out leaves that fast." I'm picturing the trees all red-faced and sweaty, "Dang, next year, I SWEAR I'm not going to let the deadline sneak up on me. I'm freaking exhausted.")

Anyway, I had to move it. In order to depict the move, I have trotted out my ever-so-adept Photoshop skills. (Okay, so the Pioneer Woman I am not. Stop that laughing.)

Luckily, my father-in-law is visiting and as we all know, he is the King of Homegrown Tomatoes Everywhere. So, he gave me planting advice and then he was concerned about the state of my little seedlings so he bought me some plant food and actually explained to me (several times, see White Russians Equal Death) how to feed the little things. Now we just need a little sunshine--HELLO--and maybe we'll be seeing some tomatoes soon.

It could happen.

I'm on Day Two of never drinking again. The thought still makes me want to... well, let's just not even go there, shall we?

Progress on the organizational front? Um, zero. Well, actually, that's not technically true. I now have some cabinets in which to put more boxes and at least get them out of my line of sight, where they sit reproaching me for failing my German heritage. Yesterday, our amazing contractor, handyman guy brought the cabinets and installed them.This one is in the Butler's Pantry.

And this one is in the laundry room. (Dudes, again with my stellar photoshopping. Hey, be nice. It's not so easy with one of those stupid touch pad mouses. (Mice?))

I didn't want to actually SHOW the cat box, which needs cleaning, but we took the center panel out of the cabinet. I am going to put some sort of flap on there (Coop suggested Love Beads but I think not.) and then I'll take a real picture. [NOTE: STOP READING HERE IF YOU'RE SQUEAMISH: Annabanana, the secret to stopping the dogs from helping themselves to a crispy-coated treat is to make the hole smaller than their heads, but big enough for the cat and then to put a child proof lock on the cabinet door. Luckily for me, Syd has outgrown this particularly nasty habit. But back in Austin, we had the cabinet featured in THIS post.OKAY, SAFE TO READ AGAIN.]

I'm going to tile the tops of the new cabinets because I love to lay me some tile. (Have I mentioned that I own my own wet saw? You sure?)

I went shopping for tile and, wow, I had to honestly just not go completely crazy and Tile Everything. I found a tile I like and brought home a sample and showed it to Coop. (Another classic Coop-ism, "Well, I LIKE it. But I think we need to be careful that it doesn't resemble something with MOLD on it." Good point, there. Because I hate it when the tile in my kitchen looks like mold.)

Okay, that's absolutely as many links to to my own work as I can possibly fit into one blog post. I'd like to point out, though, that each of them, and each of the photos, will open into a whole new window if you click on them to enlarge. Because I am an HTML GODDESS, do you hear me?

Stop that laughing. Just... oh, well, okay.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Why I Blog

So, you know how periodically, I question why I do this blogging/writing thing? You know, given that I'm not sure it counts as a career, regardless of the amount of time I spend on it. Well, a new reader who is also a writer (Farm Suite --do y'all know her? You will.) asked me a question and in answering her, I kind of figured it out. She asked, " did you end up writing a column about your personal life... and being okay with everyone knowing that stuff?"

This is a slightly edited version of my answer to her incredibly insightful question. Because I know you all are DYING to know. (Oh, hush up and just hit delete. There's no need to get mean.)

I think there are a whole lot of factors that went into making me the kind of writer I am. As I started thinking about your question, I kept coming up with more and more of them.

One is that when I was a girl, I had a very serious eating disorder that thrived in secrecy. And the more secret I kept it, the bigger and more unmanageable it became. But when I finally started talking about it, I recovered from it. (Well, more or less. Still have some after-effects.)

Another is that I have big issues with being heard. Maybe this is from being the youngest of four or maybe it's because of the way I talk or something but I feel sort of invisible about half the time. Seriously, in my own family, every single person will ask me a question and then either not listen to the answer or sometimes, get this, even walk out of the room when I'm in the middle of answering. I can't even get the DOG to listen. Maybe I talk too much or something? I don't know. But it seems like when I write, people HEAR me.

Probably the biggest thing that affected my writing and led to me writing personal essays was that I had an epiphany one time where I realized that when I withhold information about myself, it's almost always because I am afraid of being judged harshly by someone. And for ME, that's the sin of pride and it's my biggest failing. So I decided to just stand naked in front of the world, so to speak, with all my faults and dumb mistakes and missteps right there under the fluorescent lights. Sometimes this is harder than others but I don't want to live my life inauthentically in the eyes of my God.

This isn't always easy. My husband is a VERY private person and he appears in both my columns and my blog with some regularity. He's not so happy about that. So I try to respect his privacy but still live "out loud" so to speak. It's a tough thing to balance, especially right now when he's about 85% of my adult interaction.

In the end, I keep blogging and writing because a very odd thing happened when I started talking about my darkest or deepest and silliest stuff-- it turned out that there were actually a lot of people out there who could relate and who felt somehow better knowing that they weren't the only ones who...whatever it is. And I developed this audience of people. Sometimes they tune in just because my work makes them feel a lot better about their own lives! I had a reader tell me that she loved to go read my blog because she always knew that no matter how crazy her day had been, mine was probably worse. (I'm not sure that was a compliment exactly...) So, I sort of see it as my mission to do what I can to bring down the false barriers between people, especially between mothers because we really are all much more similar than we realize. And a lot of people think the exact same things I write about but maybe they can't express them. It makes me happy to think that I can express it for them.

I never, EVER thought of myself as a humor writer. In fact, I STILL don't really think of myself as a humor writer. It's just that life is so FUNNY. And also, the best and fastest shortcut to building bridges between people seems to be a shared laugh. And then there's the concept I learned from one Jane Cooper (now 7) which is how amazing the power of positive energy is. That kid is going to take over the world.

So, this was probably way more information than you were looking for. But it actually really helped me to type all this out. I guess I knew all this stuff but there's something about writing the words, "my mission with my work..." that makes you realize you, um, actually HAVE one!

There, that wasn't so painful, was it? Tomorrow I'll be back to the absurd and I'll tell you how we paid darn good money to have a cabinet installed so that we could put the cat box in it. No, seriously.

More Joy Rush Lists

I eased into this week by reading about other people's joy. (I had to EASE into the week due to a a small cold and a fairly wicked hangover --my father-in-law and brother-in-law are visiting and last night, my BIL made us all White Russians because we were watching The Big Labowski. There's a reason I haven't had a White Russian since college--they really, REALLY don't like me. I may never drink again.) Anyway, I love you guys for making these lists --they've been so uplifting to read. I wish I could knit you ALL socks!

Mrs. Q


DK DK gets hand-knitted (by me) socks. She's a much better knitter than I am so this isn't a very good prize for her but she already has my book. She made me cry WHILE I had goosebumps!

Chickie Momma Chickie Momma gets a book if she'd like one.

Poppy Buxom

I hope I've linked to everyone who has sent a link to me so far. (My organizational process broke down over the weekend --see note above re: White Russians.) If I have left you out, please send me another note!

I also got some lists via e-mail but I need to find out if I have permission to post them...

Thanks again, you(se) guys.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

List of Joy Rush

Here are the first entries in the Barb's Loosey Goosey Joy Rush List Contest. I think my basic criteria is if you made me cry you get something. But we ALL get something in a lazy afternoon reading (Oh, come on, you know you want to!) about the joy in other people's lives and their conscious gratitude for it.

I've been thinking a lot about the attitude of conscious gratitude lately because I think some people think it's something that comes naturally to me. It's not, though. I have to work at it just like a lot of people. I wrote a column once about Happy People where my general conclusion was that people who don't have happiness as their core essence weren't destined to lead horrible miserable lives of despair. They just have to work a little harder to be happy. I'm one of those, I guess, and one thing I've learned is that consciously being grateful for my blessings is a shortcut to happiness for me. Actually, reading what brings joy to other people seems to make me happy, too.

Is this all just way too Oprah for y'all?

Anyway, here are the first eleven or so lists. I loved them all.



Can't Holder Tongue


Ei's Eyes Ei gets hand-knit socks--which she'll get from me in the fall after I've knitted the four pair I have to knit for recent graduates. (I'm sorry! I wish I was faster!)

Suburban Correspondent SC gets a book, if she wants one. (You don't have to read it if you don't want to...)


Farm Suite (who is brand-new to me and whose list was so wonderful I made her an instant winner. She gets a book, if she wants one.)

Here's one from Mom of Henri, who post shouldn't really be an entry because she wrote it before Mother's Day but the spirit is certainly alive and well and, as we all know, I'm making these rules up as we go along.

Innocent Observer

Farm Chick gets a book, too.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ana and Jane-isms

So, the response to yesterday's joy rush meme has been incredible. I mean, amazing and heartwarming and so miraculous I keep having to pinch myself. I'll be posting the entries I've gotten so far tomorrow. I figure I'll leave the contest part open for about a week but naturally, you are all welcome to compile your joy rush lists and send them to me forever. I love them.

In the meanwhile...

Yesterday afternoon, Ana and her friend Jenna came inside because they found two lady bugs and one of them was "giving a piggy-back ride to the other."

They were afraid that it was because one of the Lady Bugs must not have had legs or have been able to fly or something. They wanted me to help them find another lady bug so that the injured one had another back to ride on.

Dudes. I'm going straight to hell because I COULD NOT STOP LAUGHING and they were so, SO serious. Tears were squeezing out of the corners of my eyes. I know they think I am the most heartless and cruel person ever.

Later, they came back in. "Mom, I think the ladybug is dead! It's not moving!"

I said, "Well, maybe it's just stunned."

I'm on the A Train south, aren't I?


This morning when I was taking Jane to school, I said, "Have I told you yet today how crazy I am about you?" and she said, "No, but you've told me I'm making you crazy."


A few days ago, my girls were having fudgesicles outside and I came out to see them standing on stepping stones, foot to foot, face to face. I came out in time to hear Jane quoting Dr. Seuss. "I never have taken a step to one side." And Ana said, "For I live by a rule that I learned as a boy back in South-going School..."

I don't know why but it just cracked me up.

No Zax by-pass needed, though.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Love (My Life) Thursday

In honor of Love Thursday on this, the twelfth anniversary of my first real date with Coop, I'm creating my OWN meme.

Because, see, I just went to the nursery AND to an office supply store. (Dudes, going to those two kinds of places makes me realize that I can never, EVER do drugs. Because clearly, I have an addictive personality and I am powerless against certain temptations.) AND then, coming home, I heard the Indigo Girls on the radio and I was just so filled with gratitude for my life that I started making a little list of things that give me a rush of joy.

1. Jane's belly laugh. Actually, Jane's BELLY. I get this little rush of joy that she has that great six-pack. I can't explain it--maybe it's just an appreciation of perfection. Jane's stomach is completely perfect. (Well, okay, the rest of her isn't so bad either.)

2. Ana's spray of freckles across her nose. In the morning when I go into her room to wake her up, I always take an extra few seconds to gently stroke those freckles--I think if we connected them, they would make a most wondrous constellation.

3. Coop's kisses. Twelve years later and I still get a little goose when he kisses me.

4. The Adventure Song: Years ago, the girls and I dubbed the Indigo Girls' song "Get Out the Map" our Adventure Song. We've played it for every single trip that could have remotely been considered a possible adventure--from going to the grocery store to driving across the country.

I have heard this song, conservatively, about 64 million times and each time, when it gets to the line about, "I'm going to love you good and strong while our love is good and young," I smile. Every. Single. Time. Because my loves are good and young.

That's the song I heard today driving back from my errands.

5. That kind of gospel harmony that is so thick you can almost walk on it. Joy rush, right there.

6. Homegrown tomatoes from my father-in-law's garden in Alabama. I am on a never-ending search to find tomatoes that taste as good as his. Hasn't happened yet. Sometimes I go here and just look at them.

7. Edward's feet, Thomas's broken purr, Sydney (just Sydney) and Scout's smile.

8. Claudia hand-painted sock yarn. And hand-knit socks. (Guess that goes without saying.)

9. Planting... stuff. All stuff.

10. Empty white pages and a really good pen.

11. My camera.

12. Crisp days when the sun warms you and makes you drowsy.

13. Really good writers. Actually, there are some writers whose use of the language can bring me to tears. Barbara Kingsolver, Elizabeth Berg, Karen Joy Fowler, Kaye Gibbons.

14. The Ocean. Because it's um, the ocean. Look at this picture I took of Ana and her dad this past Saturday. Does it give you a combination of heartache and deep, deep happiness? I think that's a joy rush...

15. This blog's readers. Today, I got a fan letter from a reader and DUDES, I still haven't stopped smiling. (I've been beaming for about two and a half hours now.) JOY RUSH!

Okay, so I'm tagging everyone. EVERYONE. Come up with your own Joy Rush List and be sure and either send me a note to tell me you've posted it if you're a blogger or send me an e-mail with your list. I'll link to y'all (bloggers) or post the list if you don't have a blog and you agree to that. I'll send a copy of my book to the five I like the best--unless I've already sent you one, in which case, maybe I'll knit you some socks! Totally subjective contest, in an objective kind of way.

Love Thursday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Again With The DMV

My working title for this post as I was driving home just now from the New York Department of Motor Vehicles rhymed with "Muster Duck." New York is adding a certain amount of color to my vocabulary, and not necessarily in a good way.

All I wanted was a New York driver's license and New York license plates for my mini-van. To be in compliance.

Because Lord knows I live to be in compliance with the rules. (Stop that laughing right this instant.)

Having packed up all my necessary paperwork in a nice folder --because I am all organized like that --and showered for the second morning in a row so that I wouldn't look like a terrorist in my driver's license photo, I headed forth.

It was maybe not the best omen when I ran that red light, which, Officer, I am telling you, I never even SAW. Luckily, people here are USED to people running red lights because no one even batted an eyelash and I did NOT end up in an accident, just truly mortified.

But anyway, I got to the DMV and collected all of my stuff and went inside. The nice man gave me some forms and then asked if the van's title was in my name. Well, it's not because I had an 18-month-old Hurricane when we bought the thing and I did good to even DRIVE it before my husband hung around to do all the paperwork and bring it home.

So, HE has to be the one to register it here in New York. And if it's in both of our names, we BOTH have to go. Which I don't really understand because only *I* was required to register my children for school here and a van is just.. well, a van. Who cares who's name is on the title? All I want is to comply and have my nice car registered in New York and give the nice man money to do that.

But Rules is Rules. So there were, see.

(Plus, I guess I really have to find the title to the van now. That should be easy because I am so organized and all.


Anyway, okay so we can't register the car. Let's get me a legal driver's license shall we?

Only, guess what?

My Texas license expired and had to be renewed on my birthday in February of this year. And when the new one came, I, being SO ADVERSE TO CLUTTER, threw the old one away and put the new one in my wallet. I'm so FREAKING organized like that.

But in order to get my driver's license here, my Texas driver's license had to be at least six months old.

I don't know why. Same DL number before and after the renewal.

However, if I really want my driver's license here, I have to call the Texas DMV --you know, the one with the exact same efficiency of my current filing system? --and request a transcript (certified) of my driving record and then bring that with me to apply for my new license.

I left and, you just cannot make this stuff up, the GPS sent me the wrong way up a one way street on my way home.

I hope nobody wrote down my license plate number.

Say it with me now: MUSTER DUCK.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Now Where Did I Put That Flame-Thrower?

I had really good intentions for my day today. I was going to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and finally get my New York driver's license and my New York license plates.

My husband, naturally, has already done that. So I called him to ask for directions and he reminded me that the DMV is going to make me turn in my Texas special-edition "Share the Road Y'all" Lance Armstrong license plates (Mother's Day present c. 2006) and that he'd dug out an old set of Texas plates for me to turn in so that we could keep the Lance ones. Because that is very important to US, you betcha.

So, I came back home to find those plates. And I looked and I looked and I looked. I looked through whole rooms full of mementos that I will scrapbook someday if I am fortunate enough to live to be 8,000 years old. I looked through stacks of my children's artwork and journals that I can't bear to part with, receipts for things I bought back in 1980, notes to myself of things I needed to do for work --you know, when I had a job.

Boxes. And. Boxes of it.

Don't believe me?

I looked in boxes in my office.

I looked in boxes that wouldn't FIT in my office:

I looked through the stacks on my desk:

I looked through the stacks of stuff on my bookshelves.

I looked through the stacks of disorganized sh..stuff in my garage.

I used some language unbecoming to a woman of my breeding and stature. (Oh, hush. As long as I'm having delusions, they might as well be delusions of grandeur.)

I got, really, really, really mad at myself. I realize now why Ana's compulsive collecting of everything makes me so crazy. It's because I have seen the future and it is I.

Because, see, I know just what happened to those dang license plates. I bet you a ton of money that we were about to have guests over and I went through with my cardboard box and stashed all the clutter for another day. Because that's what I do now. Because that's what I've become:

Yes. It's true. My name is Barb and I'm a Crap Stasher.

And then I went upstairs to make the beds and I saw that there is a new sign on Jane Cooper's door:

Me, too, Sweetheart. Me, too.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wow, a Milestone

So, my blog meter thingy that tells me how many people have visited my blog just passed the 60,000 mark. In just over a year of blogging! How awesome is that?

I think only about 40,000 of those are due to my blood relatives who are forced to come read or to me coming back to reread my own words. (Just being all honest and real and, um, completely lame here.)

Anyway, thank you all so much. I'm still not entirely sure why or what this blogging thing is all about but I really like it and I really love the great people I've gotten to "meet" through it! I'm really honored that you all come to read.


Mother's Day 2008

I've written before about what a sap I am about Mother's Day. I can't help it--I think it's part of the programming that comes with the job, like the ability to NOT kill your child after she plays the same song on the recorder thirty-seven times in a row.

THIS year, my kids were more excited than they've ever been about Mother's Day. Granted, they were aided and abetted in this anticipation (Dudes, alliteration on a MONDAY--do I rock or what?) by their schools. (Ana (10) said to me, "The school is VERY excited about this Mother's Day --and I think FATHER'S DAY will be even BIGGER!")

Coop tried to prepare the girls for about a week in advance by beginning every Mother's Day planning conversation with, "Okay, so FIRST we'll let Mama SLEEP IN." The girls assured him they would.

Well, it was a little later than I normally get up when Jane (7) appeared by my bed at 6:30 and said, "May I take your breakfast order, Ma'am?" (Yes, she's carrying an umbrella. Why do you ask?)

So then I had my breakfast and I opened my presents. (Note the presence of Edward, just hangin' out.)

(Note also that the box on my bed is not something I forgot to unpack that we've been sleeping with for two months but was actually used by Ana to transport her many presents. Just wanted to clear that up.)

Jane gave me this teacup. Is that the most perfect present, or what? I quite, quite love it --it's like the embodiment of everything that is great about Mother's Day. She also gave me $2.
And a poem:

Ana gave me some M&M cookie mix--I think she knows her mama pretty well, don't you? and also this amazing book of things she'd written about me:

So THEN, I got to do some gardening while the girls and my husband (okay, just my husband) cleaned the kitchen.

I could not be more stoked by this blank canvas I have in our backyard. I started reading a garden design book and DUDES, I almost couldn't sleep! I think partially it's because the people who owned this house before us did some landscaping in the front of the house and every day, I walk outside and feel like someone gave me a big PRESENT. Look at these azaleas!!!

I had no idea what they even were until they just ERUPTED into bloom --because clearly, such a profusion of blossoms cannot be described by simply saying they "bloomed." They EXPLODED into color and now every day when I walk outside, I say a little thank you to the previous owners who planted the azaleas and also, whatever this pink tree is. And the pansies:

But anyway, I digress. (Fancy that.) I started my landscaping efforts on Mother's Day, which is not entirely unprecedented in my world. Here's a picture I took today so it doesn't look like very nice weather. Do you know why that is? Because it's FREAKING FREEZING here. Only, not quite literally, which is good because if it was, I might have to cry, given all the new plants.

So, this doesn't look like much, I realize. But that's the fabulous thing about gardening, you can PICTURE its potential! Perfect thing to do to commemorate Mother's Day, right? Because isn't that what we moms do for years and years with regard to our kids? And then one day, they just erupt into bloom and you realize that someone or someTHING else must have had a hand in raising these kiddos because you've never had that much luck with azaleas before now.

(I also got to go to brunch at Lin's house--if you can call something that ends at 4:30, "brunch" --and I got a little knitting done. I don't want to detract from my beautiful thought about Mother's Day and gardening, though. You know, just in case it's another long while before I get all deep and profound again.

Happy Mother's Day, y'all.)