Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Okay, so people have been writing asking if I am A) dealing with copious amounts of pet bodily fluids (yes) or B) playing with my puppy (yes) or C) dead (not that I am aware of.)

The truth is that I don't actually know what's wrong with me. It's a little like depression, this feeling, but I am not depressed. I feel a little bit like I'm coming down with something, but I'm not sick. I'm not getting much done except basic tasks. I'm coasting. I'm just sort of...quiet. I seem to be resting up for something.

I KNOW-- everyone is just a lee-tle afraid.

Maybe this is part of living in a place that has seasons --maybe as you get in touch with the cycles of the earth, you also get in touch with your own ebb and flow. Maybe it's necessary to lie fallow for a time before beginning some new season. Maybe it's like the firewood we just had delivered--it has to season for a time before it can blaze forth.

Maybe I'm coming down with something.

The great thing about this quiet before the storm is that I don't quite know what shape the storm will take. Will I be inspired to work and finish my novel? Will I tile the basement? Is there a big landscaping project in my future?

I don't know, but I'm laying in a lot of sock yarn just in case.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Oh, the Randomness of Me

It's Tuesday and you know what that means! We're gonna have a special guest! (Oops, wrong show.) (But can you name it?)

It's time for Barb to be purposefully random! (And you know what? THAT would be a great name for a band. Or a blog.)

(As a complete aside to the normal randomness, my girls are very into calling things "random." And lately, they've been announcing, "I'm so random." If you announce that you are being random, don't you think that implies premeditation? But what do I know--I'm just the mom.)

Bullwinkle, from the comments, is trying to win a trip to Antarctica. It's easy to vote for her --all you have to do is go here and register (free). If you then leave a comment on her blog telling her you voted, she will enter you into a hand-knitted sock raffle. She's in the midst of a remodel and her dog is having some health problems--she needs a good trip. Increase your Karma AND possibly the warmth of your feet come winter. (Also, Bullwinkle has two really funny cats and they are all over her blog.)

Austin the puppy is now bigger than our older dog, Scout. I LOVE him. Even though he is gradually destroying my hardwood floors and frequently knocks over furniture and I'm pretty sure we should register his tail as a lethal weapon, he is the SWEETEST dog. His temperament is really perfect. Plus, he's funny and you know what a sucker I am for funny. He barks in his sleep. He wanders into ever picture I take. He has to have a toy in his mouth at all times but what he'd really prefer is to have THREE toys at once. When left to his own devices, he will throw the ball for himself and chase it. (I am not kidding. The next time he does it, I'll try to get it on video if I can because it just makes me giggle out loud.) I know about half of my friends thinks I'm crazy because we have all these pets. (The other half thinks I'm crazy for other reasons.) But you know what? In my vision of what a happy childhood/life looks like, there are just a lot of animals. I love a big, sloppy, happy dog. Warms my heart.

Today my yard service restored my faith in the tradespeople of New York. Last week, I paid the company to take down four dead trees in my front yard. I wanted the trees cut up for firewood and taken into my back yard. I paid them before they'd cut up all the wood but I was just kind of out of Confrontation for the week. I figured I would ask my husband to call and complain have them finish it during the fall clean up in a month or so. But lo and behold, today there's a guy here loading wood into a wheelbarrow and toting it into my back yard. I'm so grateful that someone is actually doing what he said he would do that I actually called the company and gushed all over their answering machine. And I slipped the worker a little cash --because y'all, it's hard to put a price on good honest tradespeople.

Have I mentioned my red bell peppers? Behold: Really, it makes me wish more than ever that I was Carol Marine.

Coop was traveling all last week. When he got home, this is how Edward rejoiced:
(As always, you can click on the pictures to enlarge them. If you click on the last picture, you'll see Jane's bandaged leg. She collided with Ana while on the neighbor's trampoline and sprained some part of her leg. She's really enjoying all of the attention and she's been so sweet about it (yesterday, she thanked me in front of the Principal for taking her to the doctor) that I want to EAT her. Just gobble her right up.)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Done List, September 18, 2009

A few days ago, I swore off of "To Do" lists and embraced the concept of the "DONE" list. Here we have my DONE list for Friday, September 18, 2009 until I sort of lost the will to finish my DONE list.

(Ironic, that.)

5:30 AM: Supervised the Changing of the Cats, which involved some hissing and a large jolt as Thomas the Fat Cat ran off Edward, The King of the Forest. (Edward lay in wait for Thomas by the door, though, so there was kitty retribution.)

6:00 AM: Punched all of the buttons on the alarm clock but succeeded in turning it off. (Go, ME!) Got dressed.

6:05 AM: Turned on coffee, let dogs out, started with the day's lunches, fed cats, let dogs back in, fed dogs, drank one cup of coffee as fast as possible, remembered to take medicine.

6:35 AM: Woke up Ana, served her breakfast, told her funny morning stories, agreed to Thank God it's Friday, administered vitamins.

6:45 AM: Woke up Jane which took cajoling, bribery and threatening. Served her breakfast, repeated everything I needed her to know at least six times because she was reading.

7:00 AM: Urged everyone to finish breakfast and get dressed since this was an early morning. Wrote checks for Jane's After-School theater class, membership in PTA.

7:15 AM: Jane finally decided what she wanted in her thermos (Chicken Noodle Soup.) Started it heating.

7:20 AM: Brushed Ana's hair, loaded her in the car and took her to Chorus (on time).

7:30 AM: Belted out Susan Tedeschi song in car. Marveled at my powerful morning singing voice. (Oh, hush. Just hush.)

7:35 AM: Finished Jane's lunch, loaded her in the car, took her to school (on time), walked her inside, kissed her whole face.

7:50 AM: Came home, let dogs in, walked upstairs, made beds, collected laundry, started dark load, ate Ana's untouched croissant, reheated my coffee, took dogs to go put one last bag of trash in the trashcan by the curb.

8:25 AM: Trash had already been picked up so pulled trash can back up drive-way to house, looked for dogs who could be seen running amok in neighbor's yard, went into the house to grab a magazine (Sports Illustrated) to spank them with for not coming when I called, shouted for the dogs who actually came running, thus voiding efficacy of magazine. Settled for scolding them.

8:40-ish AM: Sat down to blog. Answered e-mail, made another cup of coffee. Noticed two lights out in that ugly pot rack/light in kitchen. Resolved again to find an electrician to hang pendant lights since it's not like you can use pot rack for actual POTS if you want to see the person you're talking to on the other side of the island. Realized I only had one light bulb to replace burned out lights but wasted a good ten minutes searching and trying the wrong ones. Took a deep cleansing breath so that I wouldn't come off the rails over this kind of time-wasting CRAP which is clearly the result of my disorganization. Took another breath for good measure. Ohm.

9:17 AM: Stood at back door and watched the robins playing in the sprinkler. Noticed that the leaves are turning and beginning to drift down. Scritched the puppy.

9:30 AM: Walked with my friend Donna for an hour. (This is the first time we've walked since I injured myself at an exercise class a few weeks ago, which I don't think I've mentioned. It was a serious setback and a return to constant foot pain for a good week, leading to thoughts of further surgery to fix the fusion in my foot that didn't work. Bummer. But it went away so I'm back to the Land of denial! Yea! Huzzah for Denial. EMBRACE the Denial, baby!) Donna and I had so much to say that our walk seemed to go by in about ten minutes.

10:45 AM: Rebooted laundry, showered, noticed that my towels smelled funky AGAIN and bought them down to be washed. AGAIN. (Things don't really dry in this humidity.)

11:10 AM: Ate disgusting frozen diet dinner. Noted the fact that I've been eating disgusting diet dinners since March and have yet to lose one single pound. Thought hard about a burger and fries but decided that would be giving up and I am no quitter. Much.

11:25 AM: Gynecologist appointment for annual exam. (Sparing y'all the details of this. See how thoughtful?)

1:45 PM: Picked Up Jane (on time.) (With snack in hand.) Did some knitting while waiting.

2:45 PM: Picked up Ana (on time.) Did some knitting while waiting.

So, then the afternoon and evening were filled with all kinds of normal and normal-but-ABnormal things, too tedious to detail here. (Except, I will tell you that we had some guys here taking down dead trees and they parked their chipper thingy in such a way as to make it necessary for me to back down our driveway not once but TWICE. If you've seen our driveway, you will know that it is a wonder that I did it, and that I didn't A) take out anyone's mailbox and B) didn't help take out the trees.)

All-in-all, this is a pretty good exercise. It was helpful to write down every single thing I do because, well, sometimes it doesn't feel like I get anything DONE, if you know what I mean. Of course, on the other hand, it's fairly pathetic to put "Drank Coffee" or "Took Shower" on my Done list. (Well, okay, the shower one is truly an accomplishment.)

Blogged About Done List --Done.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

I Have This New Theory About Stonehenge

Earlier today, Jane (8.75) had this idea to build an Elf Fire.

She was very, very, very specific. We hunted the exact proper sticks, buried them at the same height, laid slats of wood on top to hold the "food" as it cooked.

I was sweating despite the crisp Fall day. But it was a great time and she spent a long time outside, totally enamored of her project and distracted from screen time.

I have a whole new theory about Stonehenge...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Whine But No Cheese

Okay, I just have to come clean.

Several people have written to ask if I'm okay because my last few (hundred) posts have not been up to my normal perky standard. I know, I know. I haven't been feeling so perky. I mean, it's HARD to be all perky when you're in the midst of a run of Stupid Luck.

Stupid Luck (TM) is very different from BAD luck. Bad luck is cancer, death, loss, grief, FULF. Stupid Luck is, hypothetically speaking, reaching for a box of spaghetti, opening it and upending it only to find that the box was already open on one end --the OTHER end--and you've just dropped spaghetti all over your kitchen floor. It's going upstairs to put your kids to bed and leaving your puppy unsupervised for the only ten minutes of the entire day and finding a large accident in your dining room when you stagger back down. It's having a flare-up of TMJ so painful that you can't eat a tomato sandwich for lunch. It's your beloved cat, who inexplicably stops using the litter box and STARTS using, well, the whole house. It's having insomnia. It's fouling up the kids' piano lesson schedule. It's having a detailed conversation with your older daughter about feminine hygiene when your husband is unavailable to distract your younger child and/or hand you shots of hard liquor. It's just...

It's just coming up against your own limitations/incompetence/neuroses all the freaking time.

I used to call them Sieve Days--those days when you feel your holes. When you feel how disorganized you are... and like you are treading water trying to get anything done. It's kind of hard to tread water when you feel like a sieve.

I started thinking about all this and realized that maybe it's not really Stupid Luck at all, but more the natural rhythm of life itself. Life continually has all of these tiny challenges (although maybe not always such a large amount of bodily fluids and steam cleaner chemicals) and maybe what we're supposed to do is to find the humor and grace in the uneven dance of it all.

Yesterday, I was feeling so overwhelmed at how much I had to do and how badly I seemed to be doing everything that I just started doing one tiny task at a time. I walked into a room and made a bed. I didn't immediately start decluttering the desks and closets and planning a new paint scheme...I just made a bed and walked to the next room. I did one load of laundry. I loaded the dishwasher. I focused on doing exactly one task at a time, with as much concentration as I could bring to bear. (This is more difficult than usual, as I have taken up my unfinished novel again and the characters have a tendency to come out and have these very deep conversations right when I'm in the middle of, say, making soup or something and it's all I can do not to burn the house down.)

Anyway, it occurred to me that maybe the REAL Stupid Luck is rushing around, multi-tasking and trying for greater efficiency every minute of the day. I feel so frazzled when I do that. I make dumb mistakes.

I feel my holes.

Maybe we really do make our own luck, Stupid or otherwise.

Today, I am going to do exactly one thing at a time. Make one bed. Mail one package. Pay one bill. Pet one cat. And instead of crossing things OFF of my To Do List, I'm going to create a DONE list and fill it in as I go. (See, see??? This is where I get all crazy and start cross-referencing my To-Do list with my Done list and the next thing you know, I've got a six page spread sheet and have done exactly NOTHING. Oh, I make myself so crazy!)

Today, I'm going to try to be very present for each small task I do. I'm going to slow down and think before I leave the puppy unsupervised or schedule anything without having my calendar right in front of me. I'm not going to let the length of my To Do list get me all stressed out. I'm going to be PROACTIVE instead of REACTIVE.

Who's with me?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's Official

Puberty is all around me.

Even the puppy's voice has changed.

(Youtube clip embedded here, for those of you who get the blog via e-mail.)

He's entered a very destructive phase:

He doesn't want to stay outside:

He just bedevils the heck out of his siblings:

And his parents:

and has to be the center of attention at all times:

And there's lots of eye-rolling and moodiness...oh, wait, that's not all HIM.

Dang, are all of these rites of passage necessary?

Good thing he's so cute.

Friday, September 11, 2009

We Remember

I'm not having a particularly good morning.

I lost most of yesterday to a particularly vicious migraine, brought about (no doubt) by the combined forces of Fall arriving with a bang and sending my older daughter off the Middle School. I got nothing done yesterday, except a really long cuddle with Edward. I haven't mailed the relish packages yet.

It's raining and cool and very windy. Our recycling spilled everywhere and in the midst of dashing kids to school at different times to different schools, I had to find a second to clean it up. In the rain. And the wind.

I'm still wearing two different sneakers. I still have a headache. I have that unsettled feeling that comes when you didn't get to spend the quality time you crave with your loved ones.

And then, you know, I remembered.

I remembered that thousands of people had the worst day of their lives on this day in 2001 --a bad morning that will never stop. Thousands of kids lost one or both parents. Hundreds of communities lost some of their finest public servants.

For them, there is no Edward kitty who will make everything all better. There are wounds that even time cannot heal.

Hug your babies (furry and otherwise) if you've got them.

And never forget.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

I'm a Little Distracted

I'm a little distracted.

The kids started school today and I'm wearing two different shoes.

That's not a by-product of my being distracted, though. I was wandering around my back yard and stepped in a big pile of dog poop because my whole mind and heart were a few miles away with Ana as she starts Middle School. That's the distracted part.

I did NOT cry. Not while watching Ana walk into the school, nor after stepping in the dog poop. I kind of FELT like it both times, but I didn't.

My husband and I have a tradition of going together to take the girls to school on their first days. Jane started a new school today, too. She was a little nervous but once we got into school, she was really excited. And really ready. (Gosh, I love that little face. It's impossible to capture Jane on film though because she never stops moving so pictures of her never really look like her to me. Then again, the pictures from today aren't terribly good anyway. I was a little distracted.)

Here's Ana, walking away into her new world, along with my heart.

(She's the one with her hand up. I tried to edit the photo to point to her but I just couldn't get it done today. See what I mean? Distracted.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I Don't Want to Talk About It

My tomatoes have succumbed to the Dreaded Tomato Blight.

I am all bummed out, even though we really were lucky to get such a good crop before the blight really hit us. Still, I just learned to make salsa!

I'm sure my down mood has NOTHING to do with my kids starting school tomorrow. Am I the only mom in America who is going to miss her kids?

Sunday, September 06, 2009

And The Winners ARE:

The winners of the (Possibly Illegal) Relish My Relish Giveaway have been chosen. We did it by a highly scientific method. (I wrote down everyone's name who left a comment or sent me one via e-mail. I assigned those people a number (1-38 --no duplicate entries) and then put tiny slips of paper with corresponding numbers into my very official (Tour de France) hat. My daughters did the honors of pulling the numbers out of the hat.
They, usually blog-shy, were excited to be seen in their new glasses so I had willing labor.)

The winners ARE:

and Ei. Now, Ei said she didn't really WANT any relish and since Stefanie is almost a family member and I am sensitive to charges of nepotism, I picked another two readers. (I am still sending Stef and Ei something and I have their addresses so they can't stop me.)

Andrea in TN

Please e-mail me your snail-mail addresses at so that I can get your relish (and other goodies) in the mail.

I have to tell y'all that I just hate that I can't send everyone something. You all said such nice things about me and the blog but the truth is that I would never have made it through the Year of Pain without you all. You saved me --and I'm not even exaggerating. You continue to brighten my days so much. You've become friends I take with me as part of my Coat of Blessings and I've evolved from not just writing my blog posts in my head but also predicting/wondering what you'll say!

I'm going to do more giveaways because this was just so fun. Congratulations to the winner and if anyone asks, you don't know WHO sent you illegal relish!

Puppy Madness

I can't figure out how to embed my newest puppy slide show into my blog. YouTube seems to have...done something? Evolved? Responded to numerous lawsuits against it? And I can't find the part where it says, "EMBED."

Anyway, the newest slide show can be had by clicking on its name: An Old Game. Naturally, YouTube managed to delete my soundtrack since I'm not licensed to play a thirty-second snippet of a twenty-year-old Shawn Colvin song. (Not that I'm bitter.) (The music WAS "Climb On (A Back That's Strong.)" Because I must have my own little jokes.) It's just a bunch of pictures of our older dog, Scout, playing with our puppy, Austin. And yes, for those of you keeping score of the mental health of our family, the puppy IS orally fixated. He always has something in his mouth and frequently three toys at once.

We think this is hilarious. (For now, anyway, until he eats the couch. He's not even eight months old yet...look at the size of him!)

Oh, no, wait. I just found the video for embedding. Still no soundtrack, though.

Carry on.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Bad Restaurant Day

In which I complain mightily and it becomes apparent once again that my mental health is not really getting its apple a day, if ya know what I mean.

I should preface this blog post by saying that almost everything that happened yesterday was my own dang fault, but I am not going to do that.

Because I don't want to.

I should tell you all how grateful I am to have been mobile enough to get through yesterday mostly without pain, but I'm not going to do that either.

Because I don't want to.

(Just so you know where I am as we embark upon this adventure together. I am crabby. Almost unapologetically so.)

Okay, so yesterday morning was orientation for Ana (11) at the Middle School. We were to be there by nine o'clock and due to a bit of double-scheduling on my part, we had Ana's best friend Nina over to spend the night. She had to go to the orientation, too, so this was not problematic unless you were hoping that your child would have a good night's sleep before being set down in the coliseum in front of all those lions ushered around her new school. I think the girls finally fell asleep around midnight.

Meanwhile, Coop had to get up at 4:45 in order to catch a flight, and because I can't seem to know...ever, I just dozed from then until I got up at 7:30. I woke the girls at 8:00 and gave them some breakfast, but, well, forgot to eat my own.

(Mistake Number One, if I were given to admitting to them. Which I'm not.)

Nina's mom, Two-N-Anna, picked us up at 8:30. We left Jane sleeping but I had warned her the night before that we'd be gone when she got up and to make herself some toast, feed the dogs and practice her piano before she got on the computer. I hate to leave her alone, though, even though she's given me no cause to worry... it's just pre-programmed that, as a mother, you will fear the worst.

We got to the school before 9:00, but it turned out that the kids were just having breakfast for the first half hour and parents were excused to go stand in the main foyer and have snacks. I needed to put something in my stomach, but all I could find was a very rich, iced brownie (Mistake Number 2) and this, combined with the noise in the small entryway, immediately triggered the onset of a migraine.

At least, I THINK it was the super sweet snack combined with the noise. It MIGHT have been some sort of latent Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at finding myself inside a Middle School--scene of the worst years of my life. All public Middle Schools smell the same, you know.

Anyway, finally, we were allowed into the auditorium with our kids. The Principal, with whom I am seriously impressed, gave a very professional presentation about the school which touched on rules but was basically geared toward allaying the fears of the kids that they would never be able to find their way around the school and would be late to class because they'd gotten lost and that they'd be the only ones who ever got lost and that everyone would look and laugh at them.

By this time, my anxiety level on behalf of my perfect, sensitive, smart and in every way lovely Ana was high enough that I pulled out my sock and knit a few rows to calm myself down. Unfortunately, I finished the sock before the kids got their schedules (Mistake Number 3) and had to sit there for the rest of the time, playing endless loops of the horrors of my own Junior High days in my head while I watched my tall, willowy daughter --you know, the one I brought home from the hospital YESTERDAY?-- compare schedules with her friends.

Then we toured the school for what felt like about three months while the girls found their classrooms and the gym and the cafeteria. We left and picked up Jane and I took the girls out to eat lunch. We went to a place called Friendly's, which is not my favorite place but the girls will eat there and it's--hahahahaha--fast. We wanted to meet back up with Two-N-Anna for shopping later.

I should have suspected something was up when it took us about twenty minutes to be seated, even though there were open tables. We stood behind this woman who was holding forth on her very decided opinion that life sucks and then you die, and then you are dead, dead, DEAD, I tell you, DEAD. (So, she's just bellowing all this stuff out a way that makes it clear she thinks she is a witty and cynical worldly sort of person and then she notices that I, with three children in tow, am standing right behind her and she says, "Oh, I have an AUDIENCE" in this incredibly snarky way. Lucky for her that I had already lost the will to live at that point because I could have told her exactly what I thought of her profanity-laced lecture on the futility of life. I mean, Good GOSH, Woman, get a puppy or end it all!)

I will spare you all the gory details of our disastrous trip to Friendly's except to tell you that it took more than TWO HOURS and we left before we got our free dessert. At one point, Jane held up this sign. I was on a very slippery, slippery slope, not helped at all by the fact that we sat next to a mother and her maybe seven-year-old son and she brow-beat him full-voice the entire time. All about how unhelpful he was with the back to school shopping and why wasn't he eating more of his dessert, he always ordered these huge desserts and then only ate half of them and it was driving her CRAZY... He finally got up and LEFT the building. Also not helping my general, trying-to-ward-off-a-migraine-and-a-major-blood-sugar-crash was the fact that I had a strong suspicion that the bun to my grilled chicken sandwich, once it finally, finally, endlessly, I-could-have-raised-a-chicken-in-the-time-it-took arrived --might have fallen on the floor back in the kitchen.

We made it home and made s'mores, because when deprived of free dessert, it is necessary to improvise. (Since I was lacking in a bonfire at the moment (unless you count the one raging in my head), the way I made them was to skewer five large marshmallows on a wooden skewer and then place it on tinfoil inside the toaster oven, setting it to broil. Turn once and you have lovely, melty marshmallows to go along with your chocolate bar and graham cracker.) The girls left for shopping and I got a chance to lie down on the couch for a solid hour of napping. I woke up feeling much better and then we had piano lessons at our house.

My friend Sherry brings her daughter to our house for lessons to make the commute a bit easier on our fabulous piano teacher --plus this gives us a chance to drink wine and talk about stuff. (And knit. Sherry is a wonderful knitter.) So we sat and talked and I told her about my day and how disconcerting it was --both the Middle School stuff and also the Non-Friendly's fun. We decided to all go to eat at my favorite restaurant. It was sort of a do-over for me.

So naturally, we got put at a table in the back and the wait staff seemed overwhelmed. We had a good meal, but then things degenerated into doing various Tricks With Body Parts while we waited for the waitress to bring our bill. Like, you know, rolling our tongues and seeing who was double jointed.

I lost the will to live again.

Finally, I stood up to go into the back and find our waitress when she happened to pass out table and I shrieked out, "EXCUSE ME, CAN WE PLEASE GET OUR BILL?" Judging by the way the woman was looking at me, I guess that perhaps I had been more forceful than I thought. "I guess I sounded pretty cranky," I said to Sherry.

She, in her direct way, said, "You sounded hysterical."

So I had THAT going for me.

We paid and went on our way and on the way home, I kept trying to make some sense of the day's happenings. You know, in my beat-everything-to-death-when-maybe-it's-not-really-a-conspiracy-to-send-me-to-an-institution-nor-is-it-a-sign-of-the-impending-Apocalypse kind of way? I swear, it's a disease with me, this need to look for larger meaning when there probably is none.

Ana listened to me thoughtfully. "Today was a bad restaurant day," she said.

Yeah, it could just be that.


Quick note that the Relish My Relish Giveaway is still open until Friday night at midnight. I am touched by how many of you weighed in with your stories of how your found my blog, but really not wanting any tomato relish. Y'all humble me and make me laugh, too. I'd love to take you all out to eat might need some sort of Karmic Restaurant Adjustment before THAT happens.