Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Finishing What I Started

"The fairies, as is their custom, 
clapped their hands with delight over their cleverness,
and they were so madly in love with the little house 
that they could not bear to think they had finished it."

-- J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

The End. 12-31-13

"The end of a melody is not its goal:
but nonetheless, had the melody not reached its end
it would not have reached its goal either."

-- Friedrich Nietzsche

Like they say, "All good things must come to an end."

And so I bid you all "adieu."

Thank you to anyone and everyone who stopped by and peeked in on my 365 day journey.

I hope that perhaps I cheered you up, or made you think, or made you feel, or made you laugh.

I hope your 2015 is a happy year overflowing with good things.

Trust me. They're there. 

Don't ever stop looking for them.


Tuesday, December 30, 2014


"There is more simplicity in the man who eats caviar on impulse
than in the man who eats Grape-Nuts on principle."

-- G.K. Chesterton

Tobiko (flying fish roe) 12-30-14

"Under cover of the clinking water goblets and silverware and bone china,
I paved my plate with chicken slices.
Then I covered the chicken slices with caviar thickly as if
I were spreading peanut butter on a piece of bread.
Then I picked up the chicken slices in my fingers one by one, 
rolled them so the caviar wouldn't ooze off and ate them."

-- Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

My husband gave me bacon jerky and a few jars of caviar for Christmas.

I gave him a few bottles of whiskey and some boxes of shotgun shells.

Tobiko caviar on mother-of-pearl caviar spoon 12-30-14
It wasn't exactly The Gift of the Magi, but in our cockeyed way, it was a touching gift exchange nonetheless.

Anyway, yesterday I cracked open the little jar of red flying fish roe, called Tobiko, for my lunch.

I ate the itty-bitty, glistening, jewel-like eggs all alone by myself on crisp griddled toast spread with a tiny smear of wasabi.

I am neither a caviar expert nor a caviar snob.

I just happen to like it. Not all of it. I have my favorites. I prefer the milder stuff, and the tinier the eggs better. I like them to "pop" when I eat them.

The big fat soft ones? Nope.

Basically I take the same approach with caviar that I do with wine. It's a simple formula:  if it tastes good, I'll eat it. If it doesn't, I won't.

And this happened to taste very good.

Maybe today I'll try it with a tiny bit of jerky and see if it makes good bacon and eggs.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Common Interest

"Peace is a never ending process ...
It cannot ignore our differences or 
overlook our common interests.
It requires us to work and live together."

-- Oscar Arias Sanchez

Finger puppets and a pop up toy 12-29-14

"So, let us not be blind to our differences --
but let us also direct attention to our common interests
and to the means by which those differences can be resolved."

-- John F. Kennedy, 
Commencement Address at American University, 1963

"The secret of happiness is this:
let your interests be as wide as possible
and let your reactions to the things and persons
that interest you be as far as possible
friendly rather than hostile."

-- Bertrand Russell

It is indeed a rare and precious occurrence around here to find something -- be it an activity, an idea, a philosophy, a movie, or simply what to have for supper -- on which we can all agree. 

We are a household of strong-willed, opinionated individuals who each tend to take a firm stance when it comes to what we like, believe, think, pursue, and choose to do with our time.

I'm pretty sure that just makes us a typical family.

But lately, we have all tripped upon a hallowed space of common ground.

In front of the television.

Don't judge. Hear me out.

I am familiar with and have personally decried the evils of too much television and the havoc it wreaks on family unity and communication.

Fuck that noise.

When a TV show causes all of us -- Dad, Mom, both sons and the girlfriend -- to lay aside our disagreements and come together with a common excitement and anticipation and interest and joy -- I'll take it.

It doesn't really matter what show it is. (Well, to us it totally matters. But to make my point, it doesn't.)

What matters is that we have found a small, kindred place where harmony reigns, where we can come together and share a little bit of time all enjoying the same thing, breathing the same air, reacting to the same turns of event, wondering at the same wicked plot twists, digging into the same bowl of popcorn. 

We're usually pulling in a million different directions, which makes our brief little sojourns to the Island of Common Interests a welcome and peaceful change of scenery.

It's one good thing. And one good show!

Sunday, December 28, 2014


"Sorry old girl," I said to [my bicycle] Gladys in the gray dishwater light of early morning,
"but I have to leave you at home."

-- Alan Bradley, A Red Herring Without Mustard

Lego Mini Marge Simpson with bicycle 12-28-14

"So if you have a bike that's hanging in the garage  --
one that you have fondness for but rarely ride --
keep an eye and ear out for someone who may benefit from it.
Bikes are built to be ridden."

--Rhys Newman, 
"The Joy of Hand-Me-Down Bikes,"


"Something, such as an item of electronic equipment,
that is passed from a younger to an older member of a family."

One of the benefits of having kids that are about my size, like Sam, or grown much bigger than me, like Leo, is that I get their hand-me-ups.

My husband and I are repositories for clothes our boys have outgrown, toys they no longer play with, gizmos and gadgets they've replaced with newer, snazzier versions.

My first digital camera was a hand-me-up from Sam. It's where I cut my teeth and cozied up to the idea of digital photography.

I have an old, soft, thick, plaid flannel shirt of Leo's that I wear almost every day. It's keeps me warm when the house is chilly.

My favorite hand-me-up of the moment is a bicycle that Leo bequeathed to me when he got his car.

We bought the bike for him when he outgrew his old one, but before he had a driver's license. He mostly rode it back and forth to football practice when he couldn't bum a ride.

It's a good bike, barely used, and it was just sitting neglected in the garage gathering dust.

So when winter hit and I moved my skinny-wheeled, temperamental road bike to the stationary trainer in the basement, I cleaned up Leo's mountain bike and started putting it to use.

Now, it's my town bike. On mild winter days, I get outside and ride it for exercise. I buzz to the store on it. I have a wire basket that I can put on the handlebars to carry home groceries and stuff. Sometimes I toss my camera in the basket and just go exploring.

It's a substantial, hearty bike with thick nubby tires and pedals that don't require specialized cycling shoes. It's more sure-footed on slippery surfaces, and it gets me out of the basement so I can still enjoy riding in the fresh air and sunshine, even if it gets a little snowy.

Riding a bicycle is one of my all-time favorite "good things." And thanks to Leo's hand-me-up bike and a mild (so far) winter, I am still out there riding one, even though it's nearly January.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Feeling Of Accomplishment

"Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end.
It's not a day when you lounge around doing nothing;
it's a day you've had everything to do and you've done it."

-- Margaret Thatcher

Mushroom salt and pepper shakers 12-27-14

"I had arrived. I'd done it.
It seemed like such a small thing 
and such a tremendous thing at once ..."

-- Cheryl Strayed, 
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

For months ... OK maybe years ... I've been telling myself that I should really clean out my kitchen cupboards and get rid of some shit.

And then I look inside at the cluttered mess and the task seems so big, so overwhelming, that I just shut the doors and forget about the problem until the next time the Tupperware cupboard vomits its contents all over the floor. 

And instead of handling the mess, I shove it all back inside and I go take pictures of Barbies instead.

Well, yesterday things got real.

I did the work.

Because I had help. I had someone to kick me in the pants and get the job done.

Sam, my extremely efficient, streamlined son, is home for Winter break. So with his encouragement and a few cups of coffee, the two of us tackled the problem and cleaned out the messiest problem cupboards and drawers.

In the process, a couple of good things happened.

A. I found these funny little mushroom salt and pepper shakers that were my Grandma's.

B. My cupboards are blissfully organized and spacious and clean.

C. We filled the back end of my car with all the stuff I don't want or need anymore, and made a big donation at our local Goodwill collection center.

D. My previous feelings of frustration and anxiety over the messy, disorganized state of my cupboards was replaced by an enormous sense of accomplishment -- the satisfaction of a long-overdue job well done. 

I felt inspired, empowered, tired, yet ready to tackle the next mess and take another load of unnecessaries out of my house.

It was a very good feeling.

And tackling the problem with someone who kept me motivated made the task easier, more enjoyable, and a helluva lot more fun.

That felt good too.

Maybe Sam will help me clean out the closets next.

I hope so. He's a fun-gi.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Something To Remember Her By

"When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out.
We want to believe it was all like that."

-- Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale

Antique engagement ring 12-26-14

"Remembrance restores possibility to the past,
making what happened incomplete
and completing what never was."

-- Giorgio Agamben, 
Potentialities: Collected Essays in Philosophy

One of my grandmothers lived to be 102 years old.

The other died when she was only 58.

I have copious experiences and objects and photographs by which to remember the one.

I have precious little by which to remember the other -- a wooden crucifix with a plastic Jesus, a single sepia-toned photograph of her and my grandfather with my own father as a newborn, and a scant handful of childhood memories. 

I've always wished for more. In the brief time we had together, I felt a strong connection to my father's mother. Her name was Alice. We hit it off. We did simple things together. She wasn't a fancy lady or a society dame. She was plain and quiet. She had heart trouble, so she kept things pretty low-key. 

She made perfect rhubarb pie and always had Dr. Pepper in the fridge and ribbon candy in a jar. 

The only toys in her house were leftovers she'd saved from when my Dad was a boy, things that seemed exotic and strange -- my favorite was a kaleidoscope. 

We played a lot of Old Maid. 

When we walked to the corner store, she'd buy me an enormous molasses cookie to eat on the way home. She'd hand the grocery bag over to me and ask me to carry "the whole kit and caboodle." 

She kept geraniums in paper bags in back of a dark closet to replant in the spring. 

I remember sitting on her lap waiting for my parents to bring my baby sister home from the hospital.

I was six or seven when she died. She'd pulled the shades and laid down on the sofa for her afternoon nap. A close neighbor noticed the shade was still drawn past the usual time, and went over to check on things. She'd died peacefully in her sleep, of heart failure.

She was buried in a baby blue dress.

While visiting my mother a couple of days ago, she scuttled me up to her bedroom with a clandestine whisper. She had something for me, she said.

She knelt on the floor and pulled out a wooden box from the bottom drawer of the nightstand on my Dad's old side of the bed. In it were a few old bits of jewelry, including my grandmother's engagement ring.

It's a delicate little antique ring from the late '30s, with a tiny speck of a diamond set in filigreed white gold smoothed from 20 years of wear. 

It might fetch a couple of hundred dollars on eBay, but I don't really think it's worth a whole lot, monetarily speaking.

But my breath kind of caught when my mother pressed it into hand.

My mother is at a stage in her life when she is offloading cargo -- giving her daughters particular items of family significance that she thinks we'll appreciate and care for. 

I am honored that my Mom chose to give this particular trinket to me.

I think she knows that I had a special connection with my grandmother. I even look like her. I have her nose and her chin. I have her over-sized hands. I have her rangy angularity. Her bony features.

I make a pretty damn good rhubarb pie myself.

I'm not a sentimental person, and I don't go all smushy-wooshy for family heirlooms. But receiving this particular object definitely tugged at a little something in my heart.

It's good to have a little touchstone. It's good to have something to remember her by.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Homies For The Holidays

"And thank you for a house 
full of people I love.

-- Terri Guillemets

Gingerbread family 12-25-14

The best thing about Christmas is waking up in my own house, with my own little family.

Yesterday we traveled to Michigan for the big fat family shindig with my mother and my sisters and their families and all the kids and all the dogs and all the food and all the noise and the mediocre coffee and watching A Christmas Story for the umpteenth time followed by the late-night drive home in sketchy winter weather and being up until two wrapping presents.


It's always fun. But it's also exhausting.

This morning it's just us. The four of us.

It's quiet.

It's calm.

There's no stress.

There's no Christmas music.

Nobody is pestering me about when we can open presents.

Nobody is complaining that the food isn't organic.

There's no barking.

The coffee here is the best around.

I have to thank my mother particularly for being a generous, understanding, unselfish soul who makes it a priority to let her daughters spend Christmas Day in our own homes if we choose to. And even though Christmas Day is also her birthday, my Mom doesn't hassle us or give us any shit about not being there because she understands the importance of making our own family traditions and memories. She intentionally plans her Christmas get-together on a day that isn't Christmas Day.

It's the best gift she could possibly give us.

So, in the spirit of the holidays, I wish you a Happy-Whatever-Doesn't-Offend-You.

I hope you are spending it with people you love.

And I hope it is filled with lots of good things.