Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fall Cleaning

Today we are cleaning and sorting the tax office. We are sorting files that we might need if the IRS gets a whim from the ones we will probably not need again, good lord willing and the creek don't rise. It is invigorating and exhausting. Right now, we are at the stage where the office looks worse than it did when we started, but by the end of the day, we will be organized and ready for the 2008 tax season.

I seem to be doing a lot of cleaning and sorting these last few months. It is probably very important, especially for me. I have trouble throwing things away. I have several bags of half-finished, slightly dingy needlework, crochet, and knitting projects. I have many bags of yarn and every size of crochet hook and knitting needle you would ever need... somewhere.

Yesterday, I found an Izod sleeper that my now 21 year old son wore when he was an infant. These little gifts are part of the reason I can't throw things away. I can't find my winter skirts, but I found this sleeper just in time to give it to baby Gabe.

I know I have too much stuff. Some of it is good stuff, but I can't find it. And when I do, it is torn, dirty or broken because it's been in a box or closet or ... somewhere.

I am not going to say that I will do better about getting rid of things I don't need and taking care of things I want. I am working on it, but all of the good intentions in the world aren't going to make me do it. So no more talking. Just doing.

Well, maybe a little more talking...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Whole Wheat and Tofu

When my husband & I first got married, many centuries ago, while the dew was on the rose and the honeymoon was not over, I discovered a wonderful, exciting, new recipe. It was very exotic for South Carolina in the 80s. Extra large pasta shells (called "big macaroni" by most people) stuffed with four cheeses (no American!) and covered in a marinara sauce ("spaghetti sauce.") It wasn't hard to make, but it wasn't that easy. The hardest part was finding the shells in the grocery store.

As I said, this was early in our marriage, when my darling husband still told me I sang beautifully. And so I presented this great meal, with a side of broccoli, which was our favorite vegetable. He tasted it and said, "Yum." He smiled. He poked at the shell, peeking under the pasta, the sauce, the broccoli. He looked puzzled, then said, "Where's the meat?"

I thought about this last night as my family ate spaghetti with whole wheat pasta, and no one complained. My darling husband has even suggested that we should try more vegetarian meals, although he has drawn the line at tofu . South Carolina has grown, too, and we can get all sorts of exotic food now. It's a part of our adventure, trying new food, making new choices, being new people; but still being together.

The dew has left the rose, but I don't think the honeymoon is over. Although he did tell me to go easy on the broccoli.

Monday, October 29, 2007

How's the Weather?

When I was younger, I remember hearing that small talk was shallow and the perfect example of small talk was talking about the weather.

I'm not sure who I was listening to. I grew up in South Carolina where small talk is an art form and far from shallow. It is an essential element to civilization. It isn't an impediment to business transactions, it is part of the process. At least, here in South Carolina, and in some form or other, most of the world.

But that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the weather.

Soon after I remember hearing that talking about the weather was shallow, I remember thinking, what about hurricanes? We need to know when a hurricane is coming so we can prepare. Hurricanes are an important part of our lives.

And rain. We always have too little or too much rain. The farmers talk about rain and frosts and droughts an awful lot. It's an important part of their lives. And even though I have never lived on a farm, it is a part of my life too. How much will peaches cost, if I can get any? Do I need to water my herb garden or bring in my plants?

I don't know why weather is important here. We are no closer to the farms than most other places. Maybe I should ask why isn't the weather important everywhere? Are there places where they have forgotten where food comes from? Are there people who don't pray for rain? Maybe that is why we are struggling with water shortages in places that used to have lots and lots of water. Maybe that's why a healthy environment is a debatable issue.

Or maybe I'm just shallow.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Karma Kicks

Karma is not like a bank account, in which you make deposits that are available whenever you need a shot of good luck. Like all things in the universe, it operates on its own time table and by its own logic.

I mention this because I am having what currently appears to be the crappiest day of the year, but which I hope will turn out to be fortuitous. When I was a child, we had a book called Fortunately by Remy Charlip. "Fortunately one day, Ned got a letter that said, "Please Come to a Surprise Party..." Then it goes back and forth: "Unfortunately it was a thousand miles away. Fortunately..." This book became the springboard for a family game. Someone would start and we'd entertain each other for hours on road trips and stuff.

I am hoping my day has a next line. Kathy went to take her exam. Unfortunately, her van broke down on the Interstate. Fortunately, she was able to get it to a gas station and wasn't stuck on the side of the Interstate. Unfortunately, she was too late to take the exam and lost her money. Fortunately, she was able to call her husband... Fortunately, she isn't dead.

The karma thing relates to something that happened a few minutes earlier. A lady at the gas station, where I filled my car before getting on the Interstate, asked for help because she ran out of gas and had no money. She said she was a nurse 500 miles away from home in her pajamas. It seemed strange, but I had a little cash and gave her some. Maybe it was a con and she made a couple a thousand dollars that morning. Maybe she was stuck. Once, on the way back from NY, we tried to use our debit card to put gas in the car and it wouldn't take it. Fortunately, we had another card that worked. I don't know what we would have done if we hadn't. So I may have been a sucker and I may have been a saint, but I don't think I did anything to deserve having my car fall apart almost immediately.

And here we get back to the universe. Maybe I was better off not taking the test today. I felt bad anyway, and even though I am prepared, I might not have done my best. Had I failed this section, I think I would have lost confidence. And I'm feeling kind of low now anyway. I didn't get smashed on the highway, I didn't even have to wait very long. I was inconvenienced. I will have a huge repair bill. But I am alive and I see I have people who will help me, even if they yell at me first.

So what's the point? We'll see.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Customer Service

Let me start by saying that although I often patronize small businesses and stores, I am often found in large national chains as well. Convenience, price, being able to buy ice cream bars and bikinis in the same store --- all of these appeal to me. OK, I don't actually buy bikinis, but I like the juxtaposition.

I usually have fairly good service in these places when I need it. But not today.

This afternoon my sister and I went to a national home improvement chain to purchase cement wall blocks, soil and sand so that she can build a small raised flower bed. We grabbed a large flat push cart and navigated the barge to the back of the garden section. We loaded eight 40-lb bags of soil as large, well-muscled employees walked by. We shoved the loaded barge to the sand section and loaded three 50-lb bags of sand. She decided to order the blocks and have them delivered, since it seemed unlikely the two of us could get them on the cart and to the front of the store. And even more unlikely we were going to get help. It has been said that middle aged women are invisible in our society. This was certainly true this afternoon. And so, without help, we pushed the cart, which now weighed more than the two of us combined, to the garden center check out.

"I'm sorry, but we are closed. They can help you inside."

Had it been just me, I would have walked away, leaving the 300+ lbs of soil and sand in the aisle for clean up. But my sister is more patient, and with a great deal of effort, we pushed the cart through the store to check out.

While she checked out, I got the car. She wheeled it out and told me she decided to order the wall blocks on-line because the check out girl didn't seem to be interested in helping. We rolled our eyes and began to load the soil and sand.

A lady and her son, who were selling boy scout popcorn offered to help. We said no, thank you. A male customer walked by and offered to help. Again, we said no, thank you. My sister said it would be nice if an employee offered to help. But no, and we loaded and left.

We figure this fulfills our daily weight lifting requirement. We guess Sunday afternoon isn't the best time to shop at a home improvement chain. We think we might go to the local garden center next week. At least they'll put the stuff in the car for you.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Here I am again... waiting. Waiting for a phone call so I can finish a tax return. Waiting for another call so I can get one signed and out of here. Waiting for this day to be over.

It is Thriday... the last day of my non-tax season workweek. It's not that I don't have plenty to do in the next hour, it's just that I don't want to do what I have here. It is waiting on me, too. It will wait until Monday. It's Thriday, and I'm ready to go home.

Why do I get this feeling of anticipation? Is it the cool weather which arrived over night? Is it the way the sun shines at an angle that makes the world seem orange and bright, even though the leaves are still green? Is it the new moon? What am I waiting for?

Several things have been telling me I need a change. My AOL horoscope, my bank account, my sister. I'd like a change, but I want a guarantee that it will be a good change, and no one will give me that. When I wish for things like change, I always think of the story about the monkey's paw. Remember that one? The couple wishes for money and get a big insurance payment when their son is killed in an industrial accident? I don't want that kind of change. Well, duh.

It appears I'm not willing to do what it takes to make a big change, either. I don't want to change jobs or get a new husband (as AOL suggested for some bizarre reason.) I do want to get organized, increase my energy, do everything on my to do list. Martha Stewart says she gets her energy from eating well and exercising. What's the fun in that?

So I want to eat a healthy diet that included Karmel Sutra ice cream and diet coke with lime. I want to exercise --- really. I have a yoga DVD and a Tai Bo DVD. I have walking shoes. I have cool weather.

OK... that's it. That's the change. I'll walk and enjoy the cool air. I'll do yoga and/or Tai Bo. I'll get energy.


Tonight I go to Oktoberfest.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Walk for Life

Saturday morning, I joined my very good friends from CSI (the school not the crime scene) to walk in the First Ladies' Walk for Life, to raise money for breast cancer research. It's amazing how easy it is to walk three miles when you have good friends to whine to the whole way.

Saturday was overcast and muggy, but there was a little breeze. A real one, not just a wave of wet air that feels like a damp towel. A cool breeze that evaporated sweat and made it possible to breath.

I admit, I had tried to talk myself out of going. I was tired. I had to clean the house. I had to box up the stuff at Dad's house. I had to see my Saturday morning cartoons.

At first I was overwhelmed by the PINKNESS of the place. Pink hair, pink shorts, pink cell phones. Good lord, I don't even own anything pink. Except the miniskirt that is in the bag to go to the Salvation Army. (What was I thinking?)

But quickly, I realized I was very glad that I went. There is something magical about walking in a huge pink sea of people who care.

There was a woman who appeared to be undergoing chemotherapy who walked leaning on her husband and her child's stroller. There were cheerleaders who cheered the entire three miles. There were little kids and great-grandmothers. It was something.

I am very glad I walked. I am already planning for next year. I will wear a pink hat and pink shorts. I will encourage more people to join us. I really can't wait.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

One year

Mom died one year ago this month.

Sometimes it seems like it has been a century and sometimes it feels like I spoke to her yesterday. In a way I did, since her voice still comes to me at times. Yesterday, I read an article on going grey and thought about whether I want to use the bottle of "Dark Ash Brown" Clairol in the bathroom. I thought about my mother saying, "It's time for me to get into a fight with Miss Clairol," as she pulled out the old, stained towel and bottle of dye. I thought about her going grey, then about her hair thinning as she got sicker. I think I'll keep fighting with Miss Clairol for a little while longer.

So much has happened this last year. A new baby was born. Mom would have been so thrilled to hold the son of her grandson. She loved babies. Not changing diapers, but holding the babies and talking to them. As her grandchildren got older, she loved spending time with them, inviting them over every weekend, until I had to tell her I'd like to spend time with my kids. She said I could come over too.

A woman, one of her best friends, was elected chair of the SC Democratic Party. Mom ran for chair years ago, but the old white men weren't ready for it, even the ones who call themselves progressive, even the ones who accepted her support, hard work, and advice in the past. That experience hardened her, made her more cynical, but she still loved the Democratic Party. And she would be proud of Carol for becoming chair, and proud of the party for electing her.

We bought a new house. Every time I looked at a house, I thought about what Mom would have said about it. As I decorate, using some of her furniture, I think of her taste and style. I have my own style, but it is linked to her. For instance, I will think long and hard before I paint woodwork anything but white.

I am asserting myself professionally. She would encourage me to do that. I will never be a CPA because I don't want to spend another several years in school. If I had the money, I'd pay for my children's college; I've had my time. But I am taking the exam to become an enrolled agent, joining professional organizations, and seeking continuing education opportunities.

I am becoming more active in education reform, in a way. Mom was always involved with the community --- mental health, civil rights, economic development, education. I think that if I don't do things to help make the world better, I will be letting my mother down.

Another year passes. It's a little cooler, a little wetter. And it will be spring again, and we will go on.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Is it fall yet?

Since the calendar says October 2, I officially declare it to me fall. I know, September 23 was the official day, but in SC that is considered a quaint idea, at best. Usually it just makes us cry, although you can't tell, because we are sweating too hard.

But here it is October 2 and it's about 87 degrees outside. The leaves are turning brown, but that is because of the drought. There is a breeze that feels cool and refreshing. And so, I declare fall.

I brought out my sweaters, although I haven't actually worn them. I made a huge pot of vegetable soup, with fresh carrots, potatoes, green beans, and corn. A nice mix of summer and fall veggies. That is something to be grateful for, isn't it?

Our windows are open, which (I hope) means the electric bill will be below $200 this month. Maybe I'll use the extra money to buy bushes and trees to plant. Another thing to be grateful for are mild winters that allow us year round gardening. Well, I think that's a good thing. Don't ask my loving husband.

Well, that's two. Maybe I should stop whining and go enjoy the weather. I can walk around the neighborhood, dig in my yard, lie in the underused hammock. That is three. Who can be ungrateful in a hammock?