Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The End

I found out my neighbor died today. I didn't see it coming. I hadn't seen her outside on the porch in a few weeks, but I related her absence to the weather getting colder. She was too young to go, but she had health problems. We were geographically close. We shared a wall in our duplex. Her husband came this afternoon to tell us that she died this morning. I tried to think of people I could talk to about it, but I was having a hard time figuring that out. This has never happened to me before. (I do recall when my grandmother's neighbor Kitty died. I thought of her mostly because my grandparents gave me Kitty's wooden art supply box full of paints and brushes, and I used that box a lot. I only talked to Kitty a few times.) I wonder about what to do and what to say to my neighbor who just lost his wife. I haven't yet talked to him about it; only heard the news from my daughter who heard it from him.
She had a special name for my cat. We helped each other out. I didn't get to say goodbye. We knew things about each other that no one else knew, like when I stayed at home from work or when she was out of cigarettes.
I wonder if there will come a time when I will be that neighbor. Maybe I'll just slip away peacefully in a forgotten nursing home cell. There, the neighbors'll be kicking off all over the place so it'll be just another event there at the rest home.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Yesterday and today I've been thinking into the long-ago past, revisiting some unpleasant memories about me having to pay back a loan during some rough times. It wasn't my idea to take the loan out in the first place; it was at my then-husband's insistence. We divorced, and I got stuck with 100 percent of the payments for almost three years because he wasn't able or willing to pay his half. I paid the $142 faithfully every month, and made the last and final payment due when I finished graduate school. The loan originally went mostly to buy a new computer, which I never saw or got to use. I tried (and try) not to dwell on the tragedy of the totality of it all, about how all of our individual monetary choices started and ended exactly the same way, but now it comes back to haunt me in the future, when various current events force me to revisit the past. I generally think of myself as someone who hasn't had very many bad things happen to her. Last week a co-worker told me that I seem to have a lot of bad luck, and she thinks it's because I'm such a nice, pleasant, and positive person, and that the universe has to temper that by having me run into bad luck. I found that observation to be rather preposterous, but at least it contained a few compliments. I just try to think of each negative event in my life as a learning experience, but it's difficult to keep that focus when the past keeps coming back around. Sometimes it helps to remind myself that things are so much better now than they used to be.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Yesterday I went to a wedding, and did not feel the slightest bit cynical. Mm ... maybe a touch cynical, but much less than ever. I spent a lot of time right before the wedding painting a picture of the lovely couple taking a motorcycle ride in the midst of some amazing scenery. Maybe that helped lessen the feeling of cynicism.
The leaves on the trees that lined our road on the way to the wedding were more colorful than they are at home. Taking in the beauty of it all, in the short amount of time that is available, is something that must happen. Kind of like how one should feel when going to a wedding.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kenyan Cafe, Part 2

A re-visit to the Kenyan Cafe this night. What a welcoming, fulfilling, happy place to eat. The food is wholesome, flavorful and interesting. The masala tea is sweet with sugar and cloves, spicy hot with ginger, and soothing with its creamy, hot goodness. Oh, yes, tea can be that good (I hated tea for the first 25 years of my life. I thought it all tasted like dirt; it turns out that the only tea that tastes like dirt is plain black tea or plain green tea with no herbs, spices, sugar or anything to flavor it).
The owner was just as friendly this time as he was the last.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Today began a two-day stretch of taking a bunch of compensatory time I've racked up recently. I was just tired and wanted to sleep as much as I could. I woke up at 11 a.m. and didn't realize until about 2:30 p.m., when a headache set in, that I didn't have my usual coffee. So, of course, the rest of the day I was groggy. I discovered that my new computer will let me watch Netflix movies, which my old one wouldn't do. I watched "The Diving Bell and The Butterfly," similar to the book I'm reading ("The Gargoyle") because both involve being bedridden because of medical conditions. Other than that, the two stories are very different; one is essentially non-fiction and the other is a novel.
I wondered if it will ever be possible to go without coffee. In The Gargoyle, the main character is a burn patient who is trying to kick a morphine addiction. He does it. It takes three days. The author spends what seems like a couple of chapters detailing his Dante-Inferno-like hallucination, a journey through an intricate series of hellish settings. Meanwhile, I was feeling infirmed because of a lack of caffeine.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I put myself out there to take a two-and-a-half-hour trip to go to a work-related fundraiser Friday. From about noon to 3 p.m. I was second-guessing my decision to go; thought that I think a long trip to go somewhere for an event that would last only a few hours sounds like a great idea until it comes close to the departure time and I start thinking of the long road ahead and all the other things I could be doing with my time. I've gotten myself in those situations, and when I get there, I question the idiocy of my foolish choices.
From the time I left home, though, to the time I returned home, I was glad I went. I met the spouses of people I'd known for awhile, had some good food, and talked to a lot of nice, funny people.
Friday in the midst of my preparations for travel, a squirrel ran right under my car as I was driving uphill toward home. If I had applied the brakes it wouldn't have made a difference. Probably the only thing I could have done to avoid the accident would have been to stop at the ATM a few blocks away like I had planned but had forgotten to do. I'd managed to drive for all of my 20 years of driving without killing a single animal. I heard "clunkety clunk" under my wheels. I drove around the block to move the squirrel out of the road. As I approached its little body, I noticed a crushed chestnut inches away from it. The squirrel's fluffy tail swished from left to right, but the life was gone. I moved it off the road and apologized to the squirrel and its family, and babies, if it had any. The whole way down the interstate and back the next day was littered with squirrel bodies. I managed to save the lives of a couple of squirrels who dashed in front of my car on my trip, so I felt a little better about the animal that died under the wheels of my car. Someone told me there's a shortage of nuts in the area this year, which is causing the squirrels to forage frantically.
The death of the squirrel made me think about how, in the past three years, random, unpreventable accidents have happened to me at precisely this time in September. Last year, a dog bit me while I was walking calmly and peacefully in front of its owner's house. The year before that, I was stopped at a traffic light and a caravan rear-ended my vehicle, which caused my car's frame to crack. I don't remember any unavoidable tragedies in any other mid-Septembers. And I think that there were good results from my tragedies, with the exception of the squirrel dying: one, the damages from the car helped me pay for a new vehicle; two, the owner of the dog stopped having the dog wander around aimlessly without a leash in the vicinity of my house. Actually, now that I think about it (and was recently reminded that everything that happens to us is a learning experience), it helps me realize that unavoidable tragedies are a part of life, cannot be predicted, and sometimes we cannot prepare for them. But of course, just having the ability to drive in a car means that inadvertently killing innocent squirrels is a likely inevitability. I have been prepared for this moment. All those near-misses I've had have prepared me for it. And to think, thinking things through makes something out of what might seem to some like nothing. But life is our teacher, from the beginning to the end.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Today I was telling a story to someone about how someone else snapped at me in a disturbing and unjustified way. About an hour later, the person I was talking to about it snapped at me in a slightly disturbing and unjustified way. It was just one sentence that bothered me. It was one of those statements directed toward me that involved the other person being impatient and annoyed with something I said, but based on a misunderstanding of the meaning of what I said. I didn't react, other than to say, "OK," but thought about it and tried to shake off a bad feeling. I hate talking about other people in a negative light, but sometimes it's necessary. I also hate bad feelings.
Hopefully I will feel better in the morning.
Last night I discovered that Amaretto combined with soy milk is one of the best drinks ever. It tastes like cream, honey and butterscotch, all caramelized, only much better. The only catch is that you have to be 21 to try it.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


When I read too much, I narrate my life in my head in between the times spent poring over a book.

"She approached the kitchen cabinet door to pull out her earthy coffee mug a friend had given her years ago."

"She anticipated the steaming, strong beverage that would soon be filling her mouth when the espresso machine had finished with its cacophonous roar."

When I was young and used to imagine that my life was a television show, I imagined it would be produced just like it was on The Love Boat, complete with the guest stars and actors in round windows when they're introduced in the opening credits. Of course, I would have been the only one who didn't know it was just a show, and they did a really good job hiding all those cameras. Sometimes I think that Jim Carrey was actually playing me in The Truman Show. Doesn't everyone?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Unwind in the Way You Know Best.

Has a person ever felt that he just can't take any more? That he snaps at the slightest slight or inconvenience? That person needs to recognize that it's simply a sign that the person needs a time-out. I know I have done so. And when I do, I feel a lot better. I feel even better knowing that I recognized when it was time. I might unintentionally or intentionally revisit this topic sometime. Ahhh, Friday. I feel glad that you are here with me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


This evening I attended an open-house function for parents at school. Like the three other years I attended, I expected a visit to all the classrooms and with all the teachers. This year they decided to try a different format, which was to have parents choose one of six workshops, and to attend three of those workshops, most of them designed to help give parents tips about helping their children learn in school and at home. I was disappointed because I didn't get to go in the teachers' classrooms and hear them talk about each class my child is taking. I was disappointed because I didn't get to go home and make dinner for the family until 8:30 p.m. I was highly irritated that many of the materials passed out at the school to me today had glaring grammatical errors. I thought about how the principal told everyone he has an "open-door policy," which made me think about the time I told him about the problem with the compound modifier on the giant banner in the cafeteria; that the banner had a mistake on it, and that it should read "A People-Building Environment" instead of "A People Building Environment." Neither phrase makes much sense to me, but the idea of an environment that builds people makes more sense than "a people" building environment. When I told him, it clearly annoyed him that I thought there should be a hyphen on the banner, and I could tell he either wasn't comprehending what I was saying or didn't care (especially when I later noticed that nothing was done to correct the banner). He was dismissive and abrupt. I realize I told him during the lunch hour and he was very busy. But his reaction made me sorry I reached out. I thought about how I might be more successful flagging down an English teacher and asking him or her to change the banner, or at least debate with me about whether it is indeed a mistake. I keep telling myself it's such a minor issue, and I should just let it go, but then I think that a big banner in a school pinned up on the wall for everyone to see, every day, is going to make a difference. We get it drilled into our heads that a good education is so important, and I have come to believe that. So when I see an example of a statement that's supposed to be positive, and has been made into a giant display for all the students, and it has a common grammatical error in it, I think an injustice has occurred.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I Wasn't Finished

Today I wondered about whether there's a difference between interrupting someone and attempting to finish someone else's sentences. Whether someone interrupts me, or incorrectly attempts to finish a disturbing number of my sentences, the whole experience is draining because it requires extra patience with the person, and stamina for the energy it takes to maintain a coherent thought, stay focused, finish articulating a thought in its entirety and suffer through that annoyed feeling.
If someone wants to finish my sentence exactly the way I would've finished it, that can be gratifying and confirming, as if experiencing a miraculous-seeming coincidence when our intellects connect and we are one, momentarily.
If someone interrupts me once or twice (and I might get overanxious and interrupt the person I'm talking to), I expect that it's going to happen.
But the consistent interrupting and erroneous thought-finishing immediately makes me feel as if the person doesn't care about what I have to say, doesn't think my complete and finished thoughts are worth listening to, or arrogantly and wrongfully assumes the person already knows what I'm going to say and doesn't have the patience for me or interest in my thoughts to let me finish. Lately I've found myself resorting to such tactics as "let me finish," "just hold on a second," "what I'm trying to say is ..." "wait a minute" and "I wasn't finished." Sometimes it's not worth the energy or the time, and I just look at my watch.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kenyan Cafe

Today was made into a pleasant day by a visit to the Kenyan Cafe. Upon entering, guests are ushered to the tea for samples. The owner greets you with a smile and offers to answer any questions. The stew is whisked out to you by a group of people so that everyone gets their food at once. We had goat stew, chicken stew, beef stew, and chicken curry with chapatis, kale and cabbage. The kale and cabbage were cooked perfectly, with the texture and flavor of partially cooked or steamed vegetables. The portions were exactly right, and we all left feeling great about the healthy food we ate, and without that heavy, overindulgent feeling one can get after eating at a restaurant. We were all happy when a large group of people entered the restaurant after we left. I hope the Kenyan Cafe sticks around for a long time. It's open every day and they have Wi-Fi access (much to the delight of the teenager in the group).


Since the parking and traffic situation near my house is impossible when there's a football game going on (and there was a game going on), and I needed to buy some coffee beans, I decided to walk awhile to buy some at a coffee shop a few miles away. We left the house at 12:20; it was eerily quiet and cars were excessively parked all around, and tents and chairs were deserted. That's how I knew the game had started. Along the way, we encountered melted tar, sycamore bark, a shortcut, a shoe store, a friend we met, a pet store, a store with incense and lemonade, a yard sale and a playground. Four hours later, we arrived home.
About 2 p.m., I was curious about what was happening with the game, because I eventually saw groups of two to four people walking away from the stadium; all of them wearing the school colors (everyone except us). As we crossed paths with two of them, I thought they looked friendly, so I asked them, "What's going on with the game? Is it just too hot?" One guy said, "We're just too drunk." The other guy, carrying a bag of about six beer bottles, said, "Yeah, we're wasted." I guess it's my fault for asking; my fault for living in a university-dominated town; but I was walking with two 11-year-olds who probably did not need to hear their response. I started to wonder if all the people leaving early "were just too drunk." I thought a little bit about how the football games were about football, but so much more. Later on the 11 p.m. news, there was a local story about how the party atmosphere was so much under control, and about how it was more of a family environment than ever, and there is so much less drinking going on.
All in all, we saw a lot, got a lot of good exercise, fresh air and sunshine, and resolved that it was a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.