You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2011.
Kelsea (and Uber-Cool Will) graduated from eighth grade last week.
This was a big deal, much bigger than I had thought.
There was no graduation from eighth grade for me. Not that I didn’t, mind you, just that they didn’t celebrate such things. I was in a Pre-K through 12 school, so for us, it was just the end of another year. The big difference was that we moved to the Upper School campus in 9th grade, but otherwise? Meh.
So I was approaching Kelsea’s end of eighth grade as I had approached my own – just the gateway to another summer. I had no idea how wrong I was. I’m still unsure if it’s a big deal because she’s going to a different school – high school – or if it’s a big deal because times have changed and we now feel the need to make a big deal out of everything that our kids do as a part of being human and semi-adult, from coming in last in a competition to helping a duck across the street.
But a big deal it was, and I was proud to be a part of it. All the girls in her class dressed up. As you’ve probably been able to tell from my talking about Kelsea, she’s about as far from a girly-girl as Abe Lincoln is from Diana Ross. So when she told me she wanted to wear a dress for graduation, I thought she was kidding. She wasn’t. And she didn’t just wear a nice short-skirted party dress like every other eighth-grade girl. If she was going to wear a dress, she said, she wanted to do it her own way and make a statement. Thankfully the statement wasn’t this:
No, she wanted to express her own sense of style. So she wore a floor length dress, and her long hair down, and she looked gorgeous. And she only tripped on it once on her two trips up to the platform (that would be her dress, not her hair).
The continuation ceremony was looong - almost two hours. There were the requisite number of inspirational speeches about “what school has meant to me” and “taking the next step into the journey towards adulthood”. One excellent student speaker told an embarrassing story about her mom from when she was in high school. I surely hope she discussed this with her mom beforehand, otherwise the poor woman no doubt wished she could sink into the floor.
One of the 90 students in Kelsea’s graduating class had succumbed to cancer shortly after the beginning of the year. The staff acknowledged her and her parents who were in the audience, and that brought tears to my eyes. They acknowledged all the veterans among the parents, which I thought was a nice touch. And at diploma time, when the principal said to hold applause until each row had received their sheepskin (or cardboard, as sheep are scarce these days), we were a poor audience and refused to do so, but came to an unspoken compromise by making a coordinated single clap for each student, with a more robust chatter of applause after each row. I thought it was hysterical, but I would get distracted, and clap off beat, which was rather awkward.
Kelsea had straight As, so she was on the President’s Honor Roll, which included a certificate signed by Barak Obama. She and I both wanted to wet the ink to see if it was a genuine signature, but we resisted. My niece, who works in the governor’s office, also gave her a personal letter from the Governor, congratulating her on her achievements – that one really was a genuine signature.
And as for Kelsea, she is so relieved to be out of middle school that she said she almost wishes summer was over – she’s that eager to start high school. I hope it lives up to her expectations. She used to love school (in elementary school) and she just loathed middle school, even though she did well. But for now, she just wants to sleep as late as she feels like sleeping. I, for one, will let her do so – though I may be the only one who will let her do so.
I am so proud of my lovely girl. Watching her cross the stage with poise and joyfulness was a wonderful experience.
So I guess it is a big deal after all.
Photo title: View from Temujin
Quote of the day: “A little while with grief and laughter, And then the day will close; The shadows gather . . . what comes after No man knows.” – Donald R. P. Marquis
My overalls – I love them
Kelsea being in a good mood today
Making progress on unpacking
My neice’s cat is unexpectedly sweet (I think being an animal shaman helps our relationship)
Being back on the Atkins Diet
Amazing storm clouds over the eastern plains – made me want to go chase tornados (maybe next weekend)
I’ve never had the honor of encountering soldiers as they were actively doing their duty. I’ve met soldiers on leave, and former soldiers, and Marines, about whom I can never say “former”. Because once a Marine, always a Marine. I suppose I am fortunate in never having been in an active war zone, where our fighting men and women were doing their finest to protect me, but I can say in all honesty that I am surely glad to know that they are where they are needed.
So today, I want to take a few moments to acknowledge the soldiers I have known and respected, and in some cases, loved.
My Grandpa. The source of my earliest memory – a very wise and peaceful man. He enlisted during WWI (I think), but never saw action due to a most unfortunate accidentally bayonet injury. If that hadn’t happened, would I even be here?
My Aunt Irene. She was an army nurse during WWII. She met her husband in the military, and while he was likely one of the lamest husbands ever, he could kill a chicken by swinging it around above his head, holding it by the neck. I don’t think that’s much of a recommendation. He wound up running off with his son’s wife’s mother. Probably the best thing that ever happened to my aunt.
Norris Woody. My father’s best friend in the world. My father wasn’t eligible for the draft, but Woody was and saw action in Germany in WWII. He brought home some battle souvenirs for my father, who kept them in a trunk in the attic. I remember that one of them was a captured Nazi flag. And I remember the day my father found out Woody had died. We had just gotten back from the beach, and he stood in the kitchen doorway, bracing himself on either side of the doorframe, nearly ashen, and said, “I just realized that I’m not immortal. Woody is dead.”
John Prince. A Boulder local for a number of years. We met in a Laundromat, and somehow, I became the person to whom he told his darkest secrets about his time in Vietnam. I will not repeat them here. We only ever saw each other in the Laundromat, and once in Juanita’s. He was mustachioed and handsome and always wore a cowboy hat, and he was the most polite man I ever met. Every time we met, he tipped his hat, and called me “Ma’am”. I never minded being called “Ma’am” by him. I was always a little swoony for him. I wonder what ever happened to him.
Stan: Stan and I never met, but I feel I know him. I have channeled his recipe for slumgullion, and his picture is in my living room. He served as a doctor in several wars, and I’m not sure he ever found peace in this life, but I think he has in the next place. And he left a lot of good in this world.
Ex-Pat: Yes, my ex-husband is a veteran. He was fortunate enough, when drafted during the Vietnam era, to be sent to Korea, where he was a medic. And he helped people. I think it scarred his tender side, perhaps even made him turn away from it forever. But he is proud of having done his duty, as he should be.
BIL Tom: Tom was also a Vietnam-era draft, and he wasn’t as lucky as ex-Pat. He went into the jungles and emerged with a nasty wound from a pongee stick, but he emerged alive.
Jake: Jake and I dated for a short while. He too was a Vietnam Vet who carried the mental scars. He had a horrible fear of snakes, and I learned early not to startle him in his sleep. His service changed him. There was much he couldn’t speak of, and he would get emotional when he did. But his heart was huge.
CJ: Ex-Pat’s best friend for a number of years, he was seriously wounded in Vietnam, and it took him years to recover. But recover he did. After knowing him for 25 years, he has never spoken to me of his service or his injuries.
Lyle: While we have never actually met, we’ve talked for a few months now. I can sense more about him than I know, and I know he’s spent most of his life tredding in dangerous territory in the Middle East. He’s saved some lives and watched some be lost, and it has marked him, but he keeps going. And that is honor.
Captain Buddy: Buddy epitomizes the “Once a Marine, always a Marine” motto. He still celebrates the Marine Corps birthday every year with his mates, and I was honored to be his guest at one such celebration. He too has shared much with me, which will never be discussed with another living soul, and again, he has honored me by trusting me with that knowledge. He is one of the few people on this planet who I know will always have my back, or “tune someone up” on my behalf.
And last, but never least, my Captain: His service in the Marine Corps was an honor to his country, and the country returned the honor, by helping to care for him during his last illness. He wouldn’t have stood a fighting chance without his Veteran’s benefits, and he fought as hard as anyone I’ve ever met in his battle to live. I wish it had been a fight that he’d won – I doubt there were many others that he’d lost. He would always laugh when I would try to sing the Marine Corps Hymn to him, so I tried it as often as I could during the years we were together. He had such a great laugh. He was such a good man. As he always told me when I was low, “Marines and Risdons never leave a man behind.” He couldn’t help leaving me behind this time.
So to all you soldiers who have touched my life – and that is all of you, whom I have known or whom I have never met – I thank you on this day in May for your service to our country and to us.
As long as there is memory, you will never be forgotten.
Photo title: Angel on the Doorstep
Highland Park, Illinois.
Quote of the day: “Silently, one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven, Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Finding the perfect thing at the perfect price at auction
Giving with no expectations
Those who served.
Photo Title: The View from Olympe
Somewhere in the British Virgin Islands.
Quote of the day: “No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.” – Helen Keller
Cooking without burning something
The power of bathtubs
The seemingly endless move is finally done.
Done is, of course, a relative term.
But when I say done, I mean that the last item was carried out of the Cottage – by me – today. Before I left, I walked through each room. The painter was already working, so it didn’t feel like it was my home anymore, but still, the memories remain.
Tearful conversations and good night hugs. Holiday dinners eaten over the stove and on the kitchen floor. Happy showers. Love and laughter well made in the sunny bedroom, with hopes of shocking the Sunday morning congregations. Naps on the red couch, A lot of memories. And a few tears as I left, with that one last item, a wine carafe experimented with with much mirth.
Everything is here now. And I have been sleeping here for almost a week. I sleep well here. I am exhausted. I haven’t gotten home from working, moving, cleaning until after 8 every day this week. I come home and forage for food and crawl into bed. I’m the lead writer on a huge proposal at work, so even after crawling into bed, I was editing until I couldn’t keep my eyes open. So unpacking didn’t happen this week.
The movers were … okay. One was great, but his two adolescent helpers were dawdlers, and so I wound up paying extra for their time, which pissed me off. But Ruben did take apart and put together my bed, which was really, really helpful. Although he made it higher than it had been, somehow, so I almost fell out of it trying to reach something on the floor, which was greatly amusing to me, even in my exhausted state. I only had one casualty – the bookcase. You know the one, right? The one put together without any nails? Yea, that one. It didn’t survive. And I didn’t think it would, so … okay.
So I’m negotiating around boxes, trying to unpack when I can. Trying to get things washed and sparkling. The Bungalow is happy to have me here, and it feels very homey, like I’ve been here for a long time. It is quiet at night, and the birds are chirping and cooing in the mornings. I even saw a bunny in the alley today.
Being as old as it is – 111 and one of the oldest houses in town – it has its spirits. I have glimpsed them out of the corner of my eye. They are curious and embracing, but slightly surprised to have someone here with any sensitivity to them We’ll see how that relationship evolves.
This will be Kelsea’s first night here. And Niece One’s as well. She is going to live here until August until she goes to teach overseas. I hope they are as enamoured of it as I am. It is a great little house, and I want it to be a home.
I know my true home is where my heart lies. And my heart is both waiting and restless right now.
Photo title: Alone and Lonely
Somewhere In the Caribbean.
Quote of the day: “Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
Laughing with Christine
My little Bungalow (and those with whom I will share it)
Hard-won common sense
Photo title: For God’s Sake, Get Your Head Out of the Sand, Man!
Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Quote of the day: “It’s ever so much more satisfying to get into a blissful place and attract a blissful person and live blissfully hereafter than to be in a negative place and attract a negative partner and then try to get happy from that negative place.” – Abraham
The garage band that I actually saw playing in a garage today.
Taking the long way home from work once in a while.
Incredibly furry llong-haired llamas.
The mountains that I get to see every day.
Hawks that skim the tall grass without flapping their wings.
I’m not a grammar Nazi, like one of my colleagues. I don’t have Strunk and White memorized, but I do know what someone is talking about when they refer to Strunk and White. (Do you? If not, go look it up. Go on…I’ll wait.) I do not subscribe to the Chicago Manual of Style or the AP Stylebook online. Although for the current job, I do have to be familiar with all these tomes, and so I find myself referencing them from time to time.
No, my grammar bibles are more along the lines of those authored by the fabulous Karen Elizabeth Gordon, who brings us such reference guides as The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed, and Torn Wings and Faux Pas: A Flashbook of Style, A Beastly Guide Through the Writer’s Labyrinth. She’s educational and entertaining, just as any good teacher should be.
No….I can take or leave grammar. Even if I sound dumb saying something, you’ll probably still get my point.
What I love, however, is a good thesaurus. And what I find myself running up against time and again, are not good thesauruses. Not good at all.
It seems as if the powers that be expect us to be getting dumb and dumber. The new and “improved” updated Roget’s Thesaurus for the 21st century has pitiful few synonyms for the words it contains, and contains only the core words that one might need if one wished to write something at a 6th grade level. Severely dumbed down. And I won’t stand for it. I get annoyed every time I try to use the hardcopy thesaurus in the office. It’s just so frustratingly lame. I think I’ve explored every online version available and find all of them almost equally useless.
And so, when I am at home, and struggling for just that word, I turn to my own thesaurus … and I breathe a sigh of satisfied relief.
Yes, it’s old. Yes, it’s dust jacket is tattered due to use and moves and general hard-living. Yes, I bought it at a second hand bookstore about 30 years ago. And yes, it’s still the best thesaurus since sliced bread. It’s still packed, or else I’m sure I could use it to find a synonym for “sliced bread”. It’s that yummy.
This image is essentially what mine looks like. As I have been working on proposals, blogs, articles and the book, I have found this dusty old gem almost as valuable as a grande unsweetened iced green tea. Not as tasty, to be sure, but when I’m sucking down tea and swirling word choices around in my head, its tender pages have provided much needed mental refreshment, along with moments of calm clarity and sparks of rollicking brilliance.
Its original author, Peter Mark Roget, was also a medical man, and also invented the log-log scale, which is essentially a slide rule. Smart guy. But he had an overwhelming fascination with making lists, which was well manifested even in his early childhood. He used list-making as a tool to cope with tragedy and depression. From the modern psychological standpoint, I would say he had a pretty severe obsessive disorder. But his psychological flaw is the rest of the world’s gain. I doubt I would ever have had the patience to put into creating a book like the thesaurus, so I am surely glad that someone else did.
I think the man (who died at age 90 in 1869, a remarkably old age for those days) would be turning over in his grave if he knew how his book of lists has been tampered with over the past century. Dumbed down indeed. So if you have even the slightest inclination to write, I strongly recommend that you trot off to your local used book purveyor and purchase a hardcover copy of the afore-imaged thesaurus, not one of the new-fangled ones they sell at Barnes & Noble.
Get one just like mine. It’s like dipping your brain into a grande unsweetened iced green tea. Trust me.
The last time I saw you
my knees shook.
They actually did.
They went weak,
I was afraid
I might fall,
Fall even deeper.
That hadn’t happened since a summer of 16
when my first great love
looked at me with
his amazing blue eyes
on a morning as we
waited for breakfast.
I never forgot the feeling
or the moment.
That had already ended by then too,
By the time he looked at me.
And yet I pined for him for years.
Just as I pine for you now.
I wonder what that says about me?
I hope it’s that I love well
(And not that I am stupid.)
He and I spent one night
bundled under illicit furs
on a bare floor
doing nothing but holding each other
and talking in front of the fire.
You and I had so much more.
Now, he is thousands of mile away,
Well, you might as well be.
But me -
I still feel like 16.