Saturday, December 31, 2005

Thanked my mom


For sending me some bits and pieces of writing I did when I was a little kid. Kind of confirms that this writing thing is going to be a part of my life no matter whether I sell much or not.

I wrote a little newspaper called “Weekend Report” once that chronicled the goings on around our house on a particularly eventful weekend when I was nine. What should have been the top story, but was about half way down, was about my big brother J coming back from “Nom,” but being in a “housepital” for an eye infection.

This is an illustration from the back page.

Geranium in Bloom Friday 12/30/2005


I’ve lived in Southern California for almost half my life now, and I’m still amazed that flowers continue to bloom through December. We had a couple of cold weeks earlier this year, down below freezing, but this guy by by front door kept on growing anyway.

This plant is from a cutting I took from a geranium down in Laguna Beach on the day of L’s memorial. Plants from cuttings are probably my favorites.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Fixing the Toilet Thursday 12/29/2005

Truly, many things happened other than toilet-fixing on this day. I took a photo of a row of shiney palm trees that I thought was going to be my photo of the day. But it ended up feeling like this was what it was all about.

The tank in the guest bathroom has been running for something like a week. We’d just turned off the water tap behind it and ignored it for a while. But friends are coming to stay the night for New Year’s Eve, so we thought we’d better get to it. So glad we didn’t wait for Saturday morning to start this.

This is an essential difference between the much-heralded D and I. He likes to wait until the minute before the last minute. I like to get my chores done first so they don’t bother me. Outstanding chores seem to have no emotional or psychological effect on D whatsoever. I might like to try this philosophy out sometime, but the mere thought of the consequences makes me shiver.

He did most of the work on this because it had lots of complicated little parts, and it’s a somewhat confined space, and I’m really really lousey at sitting around waiting to be asked to hand some one the pliers. So I tidied the rest of the house and stayed in earshot so I could help when I was really needed. To double check the assembly, to hold them steady while he tightened the bolts that secure the tank to the base. We replaced all the working parts instead of just trying to figure out which little gizmo was messing up. The works are probably as old as the house, which was built in 1989. Not so long ago in terms of houses, but pretty long for little plastic and metal parts that are constantly emmersed in water.

He got the whole thing back together and was hooking up the tap to the tank, when the worn out metal tube sprung a leak. Long story short, we had to turn off the water to the whole house. And drive 10 miles into town for a replacement part. Which the nice man told D didn’t need a washer. Just teflon tape.

My new plan is that we always buy a washer whether we need it or not. The twenty-seven cents is much cheaper than the gas to drive into town and back for the washer the nice man said we didn’t need.

I have a nice place to store unused washers, in baby food jars neatly arranged inside an old library cardfile. (Gee that sounds obsessively neat, and you’d be amazed at the mess that the house gets into. But I digress.)

D drove back to town to get the washer (another 20 miles round-trip) while I tried to keep being productive, but then I found the Medicine Cards (a divination set) that I’d thought I’d lost maybe forever, and did a centering spread and found out that… Well, anyway, I was very helpful when he got back, running in and out of the house repeatedly to turn on and off the water from the main supply. The washer did the trick, but then there were little leaks from other places.

Every half hour or so he’d go in and tighten something a little more. You have to be careful because you can crack the porcelain tank. The instructions say that you should only hand-tighten the various washered connections from the bottom of the tank, but there’s no way that this is effective in creating the kind of seal you need. I think you have to use wrenches, but they won’t tell you that because they don’t want you to call them when you bust the tank into seventeen pieces because you got a little over-zealous.

When in town in the midst of this, we took ourselves out for a very nice sushi lunch, congratulating ourselves that we’d saved a lot more than the cost of lunch by not calling a plumber. True. Lunch and the parts were probably half what a plumber would have charged. Of course, we could have saved the price of the lunch, but what kind of incentive is that, I ask you?

Oh good grief. Did I just write 707 words on fixing the toilet? Yes, I did. I checked it on Word.

Well, anyway, here’s a nice picture of the rejuvenated tank, which I added sunset hues and a poster effect to with Photoshop. Isn’t that romantic?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The three tenets of folding

1. You need a clean, clear space big enough to spread out whatever you’re folding. The top of the washer or dryer should work, given that you’ve actually put away the stuff you folded last week.

2. The item you are working with will tell you how it wants to be folded. T-shirts don’t like to have their sleeves crumpled. Washcloths like to show off their woven-in stripes. Napkins will sit prouder on the shelf if they get to show their patterns on the neatly folded edge.

2a. Sometimes, no matter what the folded item tells you, you have to listen to the drawer or shelf instead. Kind of like rock, paper, scissors: the drawer beats the cloth. It has to fit the space you have for it. Don’t feel bad. This will be a learning experience for both you and the item.

3. Patience, Little Grasshopper. Always patience. There is a zen moment waiting inside each item to be folded. Your mind will rest quieter knowing that everything is happy in its proper place. Or, if not exactly happy, at least experiencing spritual growth within adaptation.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Syriana at the Cineplex - Wed. 12/28/2005

We went to see Syriana this morning, first show of the day at 10:25. I always feel that I’ve gotten away with something wonderful when I see a movie in the morning. I still have the rest of the day to be productive, and to think about what the movie has to say, if it’s that sort of film. Which this one is.

Wow. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that George Clooney would one day be one of my heroes, I would have said he had a looong way to go. Seemed like just another playboy back then. But the man is using his money and clout to put out amazing films like this one and Good Night and Good Luck, and I am on his side, you betcha.

Syriana manages to make you see things from many different perspectives without becoming didactic. It’s very complex and that may seem a bit overwhelming at the outset. But I realized that there were many very Shakesperian-style themes at work in it, and that I needed to just trust that it would all come together and make sense in the same way a newcomer to Shakespeare has to let the language flow over her. Sure enough, the characters were distinct and the stories all followed through in interesting and engaging progressions.

An intellectually exciting film!

I didn’t plan this ahead, but there I was in the theater with my camera in my bag, and I can prove it…

I Squat for Freedom - Tuesday 12/27/2005

Stayed home all day. Cleaned my studio, which I tore up looking for a couple of things recently: framed photographs and a certain old journal with writings about Iceland for an essay I’m working on. D and I also cleaned up the house, which got a bit out of hand with all the unwrapping of gifties on Christmas Day, and playing with them the day after.

We went out for a hike around four o’clock. D has a digital camera too, now. His first in years and years. He took some amazing shots of light on the mountains yesterday. Our hike took a while since we both kept stopping for pix.

I had walked ahead and was squatting on the trail when I took this. He reciprocated by taking my photo. Squatting… It’s something one probably shouldn’t allow oneself to be photographed doing. It comes off as vaguely scatalogical at best.

But you know, maybe I should be proud of my ability and opportunity to squat when I want to. Could my grandmother have squatted with impunity?

I squat for women around the world who are not allowed to squat for reasons of oppressive propriety!

Or, um, for reasons of personal dignity.

The photo D shot:

Monday, December 26, 2005

D Checks Out the Sky 12/26/2005

We had reservations to camp at Carpinteria Beach State Park this week, but it was rainy and windy today. I think both of us were kind of holding back on saying that we didn’t really want to go, but once we talked about it, I felt truly excited about staying home.

It was a beautiful day off and on, with the clouds playing around the mountain tops across the valley.

Lucas Loves Scratches 12/25/2005

What a sweetheart. I love my birds. But I miss dogs. This is D’s cousin’s dog, Lucas. He watched us forlornly from outside the sliding glass doors while we feasted on Cornish game hens with papaya salsa.

He deserved a good long scratch, and I gave it to him.

Christmas Day 2005

Starts at home with a cup of tea.

I broke the lovely bone china poinsettia tea cup that I recieved from a White Elephant style gift exchange with the women of the acoustic music club last year. It was so thin you could see light through it. Of course it couldn’t survive my clumsy one-handed attempt to put the cap on the spray olive oil can. Sigh.

So this is my nice fall-back tea cup, with the sweet porcelain spoon my mother sent me for Christmas. These were meant for each other, no?

We open gifts from others before we drive down to spend the day with D’s family. Then open gifts from each other when we get home. A whole day of giftage.

D gave me a Waterman pen, with notes about it being a magic pen that will help me get the words out of my heart and onto the paper. This gesture of support and faith is particularly potent after this year’s struggles and self-doubt. I cried a little. The good tears. I’m a very lucky person.

The Tree Saturday 12/24/2005


I love having a tree in the house. We were very lucky with this one. We’ve had it since the week after Thanksgiving, and it’s still drinking water and not all dried out.

My family heritage includes Irish, English, and a tiny bit of Native American, but my maiden name was German and there is German ancestry on both sides of my family tree. My great-grandfather came here at the end of the 19th century.

I have a pickle ornament on my tannenbaum. As I understand it, it harkens back to pre-Christian days when pre-Germans worshiped nature and gave thanks by carrying food and candles to evergreens growing in the forests. (It’s widely credited to Martin Luther, but it’s true that Christianity has always been good at incorporating the symbols of the religions it replaces.)

Anyway, I perhaps romantically like to believe that my deep reverence for the natural world and appreciation of its beauty are rooted in my background. In Germany there are paths through fields and woods where visitors are welcome to partcipate in volksmarches (hikes).

We’ll contribute the trunk to a campfire this spring when we go camping with our friends.

Afternoon at the Bookstore Friday 12/23/2005

We spent a couple of hours at Barnes and Noble. Most people were shopping a bit frantically, so there were plenty of chairs to be had.

I’ve been reading Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment kitchen, which my friend G sent me…because of this blog. Pretty good return on my investment of time here, I’d say. It’s about a woman named Julie who set out to cook all the recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. I enjoy cooking when I have a little time, and this piqued my interest in trying some new dishes. Luckily, I came to my senses and didn’t get a Julia Child book. Just too difficult.

But I did have a lovely afternoon of sipping a pumpkin spice latte and looking through books. I took the foreground home, found another book to give as a gift, and D found one on various guitar styles that he brought home. We decided these were gifts for each other.

I highly recommend this sort of gift giving. Spending time hanging out and shopping together and stumbling onto something special you didn’t know about is fun, and we also have the gift of the memory of the day spent together. It might be a nice thing to give a friend or relative you don’t spend enough time with. A gift card and a shopping date.