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4/30/10

No Sale

Today my house comes off the market.
Turns out my house is like the last woman a not-quite-out-of-the-closet guy goes out with before he decides he's really, for sure, no kidding...gay.

My house has helped many people decide what they REALLY want by being the "It's-cute-but..." house.
As in, "It's cute, but I want to be closer to Duke; it's so cute, but I need three bedrooms; it's cute but I'm worried about the road noise; it's cute but the yard's too small/too big"...and on and on ad nauseam. You are welcome people of Durham!

Come to think of it, my house is like me. "You're great, but..." and then off they go to prom (or relationship or marriage) with someone else.

Actually, I'm relieved and a bit excited. Getting prices on a screen porch and new [fiber cement] siding; thinking about a fireplace mantel and built-in's. Maybe new counter tops, since I only have about two inches of counter space it shouldn't be too expensive.
A landscaper's coming over this afternoon to give me a price on xeriscaping the yard; Julian's [realtor] coming with a bottle of wine and pulling up the sign.

Here's to "You're cute, but..." houses and women. We have to stick together apparently.
Sláinte!

Eleven Years Ago

My father died April 30, 1999.

He died from a cerebral hemorrhage caused by Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of plasma cells.

There is no cure.

He also lost a kidney to cancer (very probably caused by MM) and two thirds of one lung (most likely due to smoking non filtered cigarettes since he was twelve).

I miss him, but am glad he's not here to see what's happened to Mom. It would kill him.




4/9/10

Lunch Today

Mom was in rare form today. The phone rang 20-25 times before she picked it up.
I'm wondering if she isn't connecting the ringing to the phone. She would have killed herself to get to the phone before.

She was very happy today, very giggly. She called me "dum-dum" because I didn't understand something she said. She made the "eerrrrrcc" sound kids make when they play with cars as I came to a stop sign; said "Oh it didn't work". Sure it did, the car stopped.

We went to Piper's for a change since I had a coupon. When the waitress, I mean server, seated us Mom said, "Don't forget me, I'm here too."
It's interesting to see how people react to her, some stop talking and making eye contact immediately, others engage her (Danielle at Rick's, Ashleigh at Mayflower, both excellent). The latter get bigger tips. This one was the former.

There are big gaps of silence now because she really cannot hold a conversation. I told her Culton, her third great grandchild, weighed 10 pounds already. "Who?"
I explain who he belongs to. "Well, I guess he might be bigger."

She was being goofy with her napkin and the paper from the straw, making me laugh. "I'm just making you happy." she said. Yep.

On the way home we pass a sign - "Axle Weight, I don't think I want any of that." Took me a second, then I start laughing.

Too late, I think I already have axle weight.

4/7/10

I Can't Stop Reading

I first read Jon Katz's articles in Slate online. Here's the archive link:
http://www.slate.com/default.aspx?id=3944&da=&qt=&au=40207

I fell in love with his dogs and the way he lovingly described the farm, his neighbors, his steer Elvis, and the donkeys.

Hadn't been to his website in awhile, I guess quite a long while, because there's been some changes. He's divorced and getting re-married, his daughter's written a book and he starting on a children's book.

Anyway, while I was poking around on his website, I came across his hospice journal. It only spans about a year, there's no explanation why. It could be one year is all one can do. I imagine it is a very rewarding, yet emotionally draining experience. The hospice workers and volunteers are amazing, generous people. http://hospice.bedlamfarm.com/

May I recommend a big box of Kleenex and starting at the beginning. Click on archives to select the month.

Cooking - Southern Style

My father was not demonstrative as a whole; his Scots-Irish DNA prohibited it. He was a man of walk the talk, not talk the walk. If he was there, he loved us. The end.
When he wasn't at sea or didn't have duty, he was home every night for supper and he contributed, like the rest of us. He made the salad, I peeled the potatoes, my brother and sister set the table, and Mom did the rest.

Sometimes he was the cook, usually when we had "vegetable" dinner or breakfast for dinner.
Vegetable dinner consisted of pure carbs: black-eyed peas, rice for Hopping John, cornbread, sliced tomatoes with mayonnaise slathered all over them, turnip greens (for Mom) and my favorite - what my father jokingly referred to as Potatoes A La Patton.
Recipe: roughly mash potatoes with milk and butter, plop them on your plate and make a hole. In the hole, place raw chopped onions and mayonnaise, then mix.
The crunch of the onion, the tangy creaminess of the mayo all mixed in with the carrier potatoes - shut your pie hole! To this day they are one of my all time favorite comfort foods.

My dad fried eggs by ladling hot bacon grease over the top of them, no flipping involved.
I am convinced that a Southerner's blood is part bacon fat. We actually owned a canister set that included one for bacon grease. In my house, pouring a precious commodity like bacon grease down the drain was a first degree felony.
Fried corn, another one of my favorites, involved bacon grease.
Recipe: remove the kernels from a bunch of fresh corn. Saute in bacon grease (sub olive oil now) in a cast iron skillet (that is important). Ta da! Fried corn. Freezes well.

Not sure why it's called fried, batter was not involved.

4/6/10

Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree


(My hair courtesy of Mom's "tomorrow-is-picture-day-just-let-me-trim-your-bangs-a-little" handiwork.)

My father and I have/had very similar personalities.
We also looked the same - note the goofy smile, the dreamy far-away look, the long face, the ears. I cannot tell you how many times I heard the words every little girl longs to hear,
"Why, don't you look just like your father!"

In spite of looking alike and having the basically the same personality - or perhaps because of it, we bugged the crap out of each other, especially when I was a teenager. Except reading, that was common ground. Reading seemed magical to me and I learned at around three.
By second grade, while others were plodding through Dick and Jane, I was reading "Black Beauty".

My father was a sucker for an encyclopedia; in addition to the ever popular Britannica, we had medical, animal, art, gardening, and biblical. I'm pretty sure we were on the "that guy will buy anything!" list. We also owned every hard cover National Geographic book ever published, in addition to getting the magazine subscription for decades.

I received books for all major present giving holidays and illnesses. You never got trouble for reading in my house - unless it was a comic book (or at the table). My dad thought comic books were "noneducational", he had an irrational dislike for them and they were not allowed in the house.
This rule was so adamantly enforced I actually thought I was dying when he gave me four comics during my measles episode (105.5 temp). There could be no other reason he let me have them! Still remember what they were - two Richie Rich, a Baby Huey and Little Lulu.
Of course that rule was totally out the window by the time my siblings were reading and they both had comic books galore. Brats.

In 1968 we moved from Miami, FL to Kodiak, Alaska and were TV-less for two years. Something about the TV putting us over two thousand pounds (the limit the CG would move). Right. (Not that it mattered much, there was only one channel that was on less than 24 hours a day. Taped Christmas specials came around New Year's.)

My dad and I were regulars at the library during those years. We would come home with a stack of books and read two or three at a time. Back then I could easily read a book a day, even during the school year. The librarian (wish I remembered her name) would put aside books for my dad, sister, and I according to our interests. She told me about Frank L. Baum writing more than "The Wizard of Oz" and the Tolkien trilogy, which I thought was the best thing since sliced bread; I read it in three days and then started them all over again. We read books on Africa, Australia, nature, every Zane Gray novel ever written, science fiction, interspersed with fairy tales, Egyptology, and Norse gods.

In a way we also bonded over music, even though my dad made fun of my musical choices. He was into equipment, we always had a nice stereo system - JVC turntable, Akai reel-to-reel tape player. I had my own stereo and headphones (that way he didn't have to hear any Black Sabbath). He showed us all the correct way to handle an album, how to thread the tape on the reel to reel. (Later in life I was a waitress at a barbecue restaurant; the owner had an amazing collection of Motown, blues, and jazz on reel to reel tapes. I was the only one who knew how to work the thing.).

My father believed in taking care of things, there were certain things you DID NOT DO. Like laying a book down with the pages open (breaks the spine - use a BOOKMARK!); touching the record (LP) (handle it on the edges); not putting things away in the proper place - if Herb Albert was in the Mills Brothers album cover, there would be hell to pay!

4/3/10

Spring Has Sprung!



Spring in North Carolina is pretty magnificent.

Bradford pears, Japanese magnolias (aka tulip tree), cherry, and plum trees start the show, then redbuds and the ethereal dogwood jump in.
Can't leave out the color blocks of fuchsia azaleas, brilliant yellow forsythia, phlox, tulips, daffodils.

All the deciduous trees seem to leaf in overnight; I've gotten lost in Durham because some streets look so different from winter to spring (in the street's defense, I am easily lost).

The downside is pollen - which coats and gives a yellowish cast to everything - the asphalt, cars, decks, your lungs.

Nothing Compares 2 U

My father was the guy who made fun of my, as he called it, "yea, yea, yea" music. So imagine my shock at supper one night when he starts a discussion about Sinead O'Conner.
"Don't understand the shaved head, but I like that song she sings, Nothing Compares to You."


Wait...whaaaaaaaa...how do you know about Sinead O'Conner?!

Turns out the nights he couldn't sleep, of which there were many, he watched VH1. His two favorite music videos: "Nothing Compares 2 U"and Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love". Well, natch.

I bought the CD for him. After he died, spontaneous tears would erupt whenever that song came on the radio or I happened upon the video.

It's been seven hours and fifteen days
Since you took your love away
I go out every night and sleep all day
Since you took your love away
Since you been gone I can do whatever I want
I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
But nothing
I said nothing can take away these blues
`Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

It's been so lonely without you here
Like a bird without a song
Nothing can stop these lonely tears from falling
Tell me baby where did I go wrong
I could put my arms around every boy I see
But they'd only remind me of you
I went to the doctor n'guess what he told me
Guess what he told me
He said girl u better try to have fun
No matter what you'll do
But he's a fool
`Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

all the flowers that you planted, mama
In the back yard
All died when you went away
I know that living with you baby was sometimes hard
But I'm willing to give it another try
Nothing compares
Nothing compares to you
Nothing compares
Nothing compares to you
Nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

Happy Birthday

Yesterday was Mom's 74th birthday. She had no idea.
When I called at 9:30 to wish her a happy birthday, she said "Oh, I can have one? Is it done?"

I took the day off so we could get her nails done at Wal-Mart in Hillsborough. Her hair was clean, so the beauty parlor must have worked out - yay! Who knows for how long. She was wearing a sweater and sweatpants (on a day when it was supposed to be in the upper 80's), and, I noticed when we got in the car, were dirty. I know she can't help it, but crap.

She remarked that every single redbud tree we saw on the way over was pretty. Yep.

After the nails we drove over to Mayflower, a seafood restaurant. We both had the boiled shrimp. (Someone told me I don't sound Southern until I say "bolled" - as in shrimp or peanuts).

While we were waiting for our food, Mom says,
"There's two men over there." (at another table)
"And? There's two women over here."
"Well, I'm just trying to help. We should be very friendly!"

Then she proceeds to eat her lemon wedge. I asked if she was sure she wanted to do that.
"It doesn't have to say that on that." ??
"Why are you eating it?"
"Because it's there."

Okay then now.

On the way home she said her fingernails looked funny about once a minute because they squared the tips.

This morning I talked to a friend of Mom's who called for her birthday; Mom said I hadn't been over. She won't remember talking to Judy either.

Happy Birthday Mom.

4/1/10

More Things I Really, Really, Really Like

1.) Archie McPhee's. (do not type this wrong - you will get a porn site.)
Flagship (actually - only) store is in Seattle. Total blast.
You have to go if you're in Seattle and are even close to having a sense of humor that's stuck in the second grade.
That's me, with the old lady hair, and my friend Judy. We've known each other since we were eleven.

What's not to love about a store that has inflatable fruitcake, bacon bandages, and a lizard head coming out of it!?

2.) Trader Joe's. I lived in California for 23 years - Trader Joe's was part of life.
When TJ's FINALLY came to Cary, I drove the 50 mile round trip twice a month.
Then...oh happy day...TJ's came to Chapel Hill! Now they get to see me 2-3 times a week. I just know they're excited about that.

3.) The Daily Mail. This is a trashy on-line British tabloid that I read almost every freakin' day. I adore it.

4.) Sourdough bread. Another California ex-pat love. Unfortunately my favorite bakery, Lombardi's in Petaluma, home of the extra sour loaf, went out of business in 2008 after fifty some years.

5.) The sound tires make on a drawbridge. Honestly. It's right up there with kids laughing.
There was a great drawbridge near Brunswick, GA between Jekyll and St. Simons.
Guess people got tired of having to wait every time a pesky shrimp boat went out/came back, which was often. Once it was stuck in the UP position for quite some time - I mean weeks (glad I wasn't on it when that happened).

It was replaced by the largest suspension bridge in the state.
Progress sucks sometimes.