Sunday, August 29, 2010

Summer

June 23 1.5 quarts sweet peas, frozen
June 24 2 quarts sweet peas, frozen
June 27 2 quarts sweet peas, frozen
Total: 5.5 quarts sweet peas, frozen

July 11 2.5 quarts broccoli, frozen
July 13 4.5 quarts yellow wax beans, frozen
July 18 2.5 quarts broccoli, frozen
July 19 7.5 quarts yellow wax beans, frozen
Total: 5 quarts broccoli, 12 quarts yellow wax beans, frozen

August 1 9 pints Hungarian hot wax peppers, pickled and canned
August 4 2 quarts broccoli, frozen
August 7 1 quart butter & sugar corn, frozen
August 8 4 quarts butter & sugar corn, frozen
August 13 30 stuffed peppers, hot and sweet, frozen
August 17 2 quarts Silver Queen corn, frozen
August 19 3 quarts Silver Queen corn, frozen
August 19 4 quarts carrots, frozen
August 20 3.5 quarts carrots, frozen
August 22 14 quarts spaghetti sauce canned + 2 quarts to use fresh
August 25 5.5 quarts carrots, frozen
August 25 4 quarts refrigerator pickles
August 26 7 quarts whole tomatoes, frozen
August 26 28 stuffed peppers, hot and sweet, frozen
August 27 14 quarts spaghetti sauce canned + 2 quarts to use fresh
August 29 10 quarts whole tomatoes, frozen
August 29 4 quarts refrigerator pickles
Total....... Two days left, two days left, two days....

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Road Well Traveled

I called a friend the other evening while I was driving along Route 210, a long stretch of twisty-turny country road with very spotty cell phone reception. Probably not a place I should be making cell phone calls, anyway, but over the past couple of years, I’ve driven it so often that I know where all the deer crossings are, know where the bends in the road are likely to conceal an Amish buggy (therefore require I take them a little more slowly than my curve-hugging Subaru can handle), know the sections that contain a crumbly shoulder and have trained myself to look ahead for traffic, adjust, either swerve slightly toward the middle or slow so my tires and suspension don’t take a beating.

I don’t often make calls on that stretch of road, but I did Sunday evening. I was on my way to Pittsburgh, but only for one night, sleeping there and waking for an early morning medical appointment rather than hitting the road at dawn and fighting rush-hour traffic to get there. Short trip, easy as pie, but I felt melancholy, nonetheless. Didn’t want to be away from home, didn’t want to be in yet another setting where I couldn’t do what I’m doing right now (and likely not doing well). I can’t write, so when Amy answered, I told her, “I need to talk to another writer.” Bless her, she’s younger than I am, and though she might not agree, more disciplined, and she told me, “Just write anything and don’t worry about it. It’ll come back. Just get through it.”

I was doing well, not producing the straightest-line-as-I-can-write cohesive stuff, but okay. I was seeing the narrative, seeing the logic in the narrative, where it wanted to go, remembering where it had been, rearranging in my mind, slowly shaping and reshaping into a real manuscript.

And then my mother died. Everything about her life and her death is begging to be put on the page, and at the same time, I can’t manage more than a few notes in my Moleskine. Some writers would tell me I need distance. Fuck distance! It’s all here, all here now, and how it stubbornly defies my efforts to distill even a sentence of it has me floored. I wrote a little about God’s will, before and after, and that wasn’t easy, but Ma – you lived eighty-four years in such a way that never attracted a whole lot of attention (it wasn’t your way), such an incredible life, even though parts of it have made me want to scream, and I need to tell the world about you. I can’t. I try, and I can’t.

I’m beginning to think I know your life so well, and perhaps that’s the problem.

Till later…

Monday, May 10, 2010

The sparrow and the jay

At first, I thought it was a squirrel: the darkish gray-brown undercoated in white. But when it fell from the trees above the stone wall, followed by a flash of feathered blue, I saw the angled appendage that wasn’t squirrel-like.


Too soon, it lay on the sidewalk; too soon, its body covered (rescued?) by another creature, unlike it in coloring, unlike it in size. The bird, a jay, was bigger. Not a squirrel at all. The angled appendage was a wing, broken. The jay did not swoop to rescue, but to attack. The smaller, squirrel-colored creature: a sparrow.


Later, I search. I find that jays are omnivorous, relatives of the crow.


Knowing this does not ease the sense that, in Shadyside, just one block from Mellon Park, where young men and women stroll and sprawl, books open, on the lawn; dogs strain on leashes, sniffing at something half a pace ahead; children tumble and laugh, framed by the cowboy sculpture on the rise, murder is committed on the sidewalk as rush hour traffic crawls slowly by.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Life as Art

art

–noun
1. the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.


sub·lime

–adjective
1. elevated or lofty in thought, language, etc.: Paradise Lost is sublime poetry.

gro·tesque

–adjective
1. odd or unnatural in shape, appearance, or character; fantastically ugly or absurd; bizarre.

–noun
3. any grotesque object, design, person, or thing.


Monday, April 26, 2010

A Happy Mess

I skipped a gathering after my class tonight and instead came home—or rather back to the home that I refrain from calling home. My temporary abode. As I circled the block twice, looking for an easy-in, easy-out parking space, I didn’t feel any regret that I couldn’t find two open spaces—nor any deficiency that I was too tired, too wired to attempt what would be (I assume) for most an easy parallel park. Parallel parking has never been easy for me, and I accept it. But all day, and for a week prior to today, I intended to join my classmates and my professor. I was looking forward to it, even after a very long (and enjoyable) weekend of travel with my daughter and a friend. We road-tripped to Dayton, OH to meet, for the first time, someone I got to know “out here” – an internet friend and musician who, with his wife, a vocalist & percussionist and young bass-player friend, performs at the BRD House, a place too cool for me to do justice to it if I tried describing it in my fatigued state.

I’ve spent a lot of time today in awe that my body did not resist more rigorously the fourteen hours of driving, the four hours of sitting Saturday evening, and the additional get-up-and-go this morning (which included another two hours of driving) to get back to the city. I allowed myself to be fully aware of my body, what it was doing, how it was feeling. I couldn’t get to my apartment this morning to grab the bag of tortilla chips I bought last week. Bucket trucks blocked both lanes of traffic, and I don’t know the neighborhood well enough to scoot around the side streets efficiently; I had a meeting at twelve-thirty, and I didn’t want to be late, so I turned back, and after I got to campus, I walked the half a block to the 7-11 to buy another bag.

There and back, I practiced mindfulness: I am walking, I am walking. My right foot comes up, my cane with it. My right foot comes down, my cane with it. Now my left foot, up, down. I see the grass growing in the lawn of the William Pitt Union. The dandelions have grown tall, gone to seed. The seed has been blown away. They are in the beds of hosta, too. Purple petunias sprinkled throughout. The tulips are fading. The rain has begun again, just sprinkles. I left my umbrella in the car, and my hair has already begun to mat over my eyes. It needs to be cut.

Where is the pain? In my hands: the left, gripping my cane. The right, holding the grocery bag with the tortilla chips and a bottle of water. The water is half-empty already. I opened it and gulped as the cashier rang it up. I’m thirsty again, dehydrated-thirsty.

The pain is in my knees, acute as each foot touches the pavement, and then takes my weight. The pain is in my feet. I can feel each individual bone, especially those in the right. I can feel the inside bones of my ankles poking out. The right is not a bone at all, but it feels like real bone. I think about it. A steel shoe horn, hugged around my tibia. Now I feel the steel and each of the seven screws anchoring it to the bone underneath.

The pain is in my shoulders. My purse strap, slung across my body diagonally, cuts into the meat of my right shoulder. No pressure on the left—my messenger bag is in the car. But the pain is there, as if it were.
The pain is in my lower back, and I suck my gut in, tuck my tailbone. Keep walking.

I have so much “I,” where is the “Not-I?”

All day, all day yesterday, all day the day before I felt, acknowledged and acted, not in spite of, but with the pain. To resist is to say the pain is something
foreign, something I have to deny in order to function. Delusion.

And when Helen said to me tonight, “You look exhausted,” I realized that following through on the plans I had made this evening was more an assertion of the “I” than accepting that this body I’d been observing so closely had finally run out of steam. So I didn’t feel disappointment that I couldn’t find a parking spot I so self-consciously knew I couldn’t slide into, at least not then. But I did realize some regret that all the imagined conversations would not take place, that the good wishes to the soon-to-graduate would not be made, at least not in festive surroundings—although I’ve rarely imagined and found reality to be even close to those imaginings. “All I’d imagined” is usually a wish more than a truth. Saturday evening and the music my friends played wasn’t (it was better), though in honesty, meeting my friends for the first time, face-to-face, was exactly as I imagined, and that’s more rare, finding no slippage between the virtual and the real.

The regret of earlier has since faded away. I can email Renee and ask her about the challenges of being Evangelical Christian and tolerant of difference at the same time. Did I really need to engage Jason in a conversation about Warren Zevon, likely to prove my superiority in knowledge of the man and his music? And I did want to talk with Joel, ask where he grew up, tell him I’m very self-aware and know I’m often a mess, though a happy mess. Yes, a happy mess. I think I like that.

Till later…

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Backyard Buddhism


I was at a weekend conference recently, and on Friday evening, a group of us went to a nearby Thai restaurant. The food and company were great, but settling the bill was a nightmare (the computer was down, the waitress paired some of us who should not have been paired, and "reimbursement accounting" is obviously not a concept taught in basic conversational English). Somewhere in the midst of the comings and goings of the waitress, the owner (I presumed) visited our table and commented on my jewelry, a turquoise-beaded necklace with a silver Ohm charm.

He said, "Buddhist, yes?" My response: "Backyard Buddhist." Which is about what I am. I know enough of Buddhism to recognize it as a good guide for the way I choose to live, though it's been many years since I picked up a book and studied any of the teachings of Buddhism. Guided only by the Four Noble Truths and The Noble Eightfold Path has been enough. Using the path as a lens through which to interpret my own experience is something Buddha would have appreciated, I think, rather than me spending the time trying to learn from other teachers. Experience is the teacher.

But I'm ready to return to the reading, and I will monitor my level of Resolution (adhitthana)) -- or not *grin*. I picked up a couple of books -- a primer by Desmond Biddulph and Darcy Flynn called Teachings of the Buddha: The Wisdom of The Dharma, from the Pali Canon to the Sutras -- and I admit I bought it as much because I liked the binding, the heavy, coated pages and the ribbon page marker as much as the comprehensive conveyance of The Teachings.

So, I've begun. Again. Let's see where it leads?

Till later...

Monday, March 08, 2010

Sitting Still or Getting Moving

I think I have equal difficulty with both. When I'm still (even when I'm supposed to be still), I'm usually thinking that I should be moving, and when I'm moving (especially when I should be moving), I'm trying to figure out ways to slow down.

Maybe I need a reboot. A "hard reboot" would be good. Old techies would remember those...

Till later...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I can't change the weather, but I can change me

I wonder sometimes about my weather obsessiveness. My father was had it, too. Nothing could bring out his ire quicker than my mother falling asleep before twenty-five past the hour when the weather report was given on our local news channel (he was afraid he'd miss something and needed her recollection to check his own).

In the days before twenty-four-hour news and weather broadcasts, that's all he had - two minutes at the bottom of the noon, six and eleven o'clock hours. And then networks expanded to five p.m. broadcasts, ten p.m. broadcasts, then CNN, then The Weather Channel. If he'd been just a little younger or lived just a little longer and had his internet indoctrination, the fact that a current (local!) radar map was his at the click of a mouse might very well have had the same effect on him as it's had on me. I forget that I can look out the window, or (gasp!) walk outside. Instead, I make my rounds, attempt to synch the various and sometimes contradictory reports -- will it be 2-5 inches of snow? 3-6? or should I brace myself for the very confident amateur report of 4-8?

It's been a challenge not to use the weather to small-talk with everyone I meet (or pass in the street, stand next to in the elevator, or hand money to in the coffee shop). It's boring. It's the repertoire of the bore. When living in a city that's been very literally crippled by the month's record snow fall, everyone is talking about it, and it's hard to avoid. It feeds a weather junkie's habit, and my big, fat weather habit needs not one more snack.

But I know I can't blame my problem on others, not even the sky which, as I write, is once again emptying the contents of its maw down upon us (this time in the form of freezing drizzle). It's the end of February, or near enough. Ten days left, and I can continue my binge, wasting untold hours clicking "refresh" in my browser, developing imaginary friendships with the meteorologists on my television screen (example: I'm a little concerned that TWC's Betty Davis is losing her voice), and fretting because the hour-by-hour forecast has shifted forward or back (What?? It's not supposed to snow for another fifteen minutes!!) -- or I can make a decision to swear off now.

So, from this moment forward, I will limit myself to twice-daily viewing. Just so I know the travel conditions. Maybe a little more if I'm concerned about my kids. I mean, they're all over the place and I have to know their weather, too, right? If I call and tell them to be careful, I'm only exercising a mother's duty. And if I have my work done, then making my rounds of wunderground and accuweather is a hobby, not anything that's interfering with responsibilities. Everyone needs a hobby. It's also useful to know if there's a low front moving in. Explains a lot about the pain in my joints. So, for health reasons, I can check here and there. Yeah, I can control this thing. I've got it. I don't need to give it up altogether. Just reign it in. I can manage it, right?

Till later...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This is too good not to share



And maybe it violates the less-whining pact I just made with myself, but what the hell. It's not my picture. I'm just passing it along.

Snow-bound Whine

I'm on my third snow day, which means that for the third day in a row, an official institution has validated my staying at home. But, technically, I'm on my fifth snow day -- five days since I've been more than two feet from my front door. The one time I tried to go out, bundled and with snow shovel in hand, my husband shot me a look (clearly stating without saying a word, "Are you nuts? What do you think you're going to accomplish out here??") and I went back inside. I was productive the first four days, reading, writing, preparing for classes. That all went to hell today as I compulsively followed #snOMGpgh, #howsmystreet and various other hash tags that kept me current on what I missed this week in the city. I realized something when I sent my occasional tweet cyberward: I whine. I'm not happy about it, but I'm happy I'm now aware of it.

So, I'm making a resolution to, if not to cease then to greatly decrease the frequency of my whining -- or, if it's a prolific day, lower the ratio of whine-to-upbeat expressions. That fair, I ask myself? Sure, I answer.

Till later...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vulnerabilities

I realized this evening, walking from class to the parking garage two and a half blocks away, that I still don't have a strong sense of safety. I'm not saying I was afraid of others on the streets, though that may have been the case when I was younger (and don't think I'd ever let you know about it). I felt unsafe because of the street itself, the cracks in the sidewalk, the lip of the curve, the flashing amber hand telling me the light would soon be changing, so I'd better hurry--and hurry, I can't.

For the first three quarters of my life so far, I was afraid, not of people on the street, but of men on the street, of what I knew they could do and feared they would do. I dealt with it by overcompensating, acting tough. I put myself in the position of choosing before being chosen, attacking before being attacked. It didn't always work so well, but short of withdrawing completely, it's all I knew how to do.

And then my youth faded. My body skipped the middle-aged phase, donned only the disguise of middle age, while on the inside, just below the surface, the crone took the place of the maiden. Bones brittle, tendons taut, muscles fissured, joints swollen and slowly deforming. And I still won't let you know it, not if I can help it. I put a smile on the face others tell me doesn't look forty-ish (kind souls). I make a joke. I walk faster than my aches and fears and pains want me to, wait until I'm behind my own door so that I can strip off the costume, let the crone breathe and sigh and cry.

I think I understand now why distance is necessary.

Till later...