High Falutin’ Beans and Cornbread

Braised and crispy fried pork cheek, leek puree,
warm lentil salad, microwave brioche and smoked ham hock jus.

Chef Boy ‘R Mine works at one of the top 20 country clubs in the country. As Sous Chef, he is sometimes called upon to choose (and prepare) food that complements particular wines. Planning and executing the wine tastings are something he enjoys doing and, according to the wine reps, something he does well.

He told me that for his next tasting, he wanted to sneak some “beans and cornbread” onto the menu. I howled with delight and was anxious to see and taste the result. Since he’s in Charlotte and I’m not, I didn’t to get to taste. (But doesn’t it look lovely!) I’m a teeny-tiny bit disappointed that he didn’t use pinto beans as that would have been a nice nod to his Appalachian roots.

[Lentils, kid? Seriously?]

My disappointment is slight as it is, but also tempered by the fact that I am often the recipient of some of the left-over wine as (shock, gasp, choke) Chef Boy ‘R Mine doesn’t like heavy, dry reds.

My son prepared this wine tasting yesterday, which was also his birthday. He is now the same age I was when I gave birth to him. I felt so old when I had him and, when I look at him, I see just how young 26 is.

And, yes, folks.  I do love it when he comes home and cooks for me.

Diametric Opposites Conspire to Inspire

So there’s this turtle video that either has or is fixin’ to go viral. It’s pretty amazing – the Michael Bolton soundtrack aside.

I’m feeling a tiny bit cynical today. When I posted the link to my Facebook, I commented that I have friends who would have insisted, “Oh no, really, I’m fine.”

Perhaps one or two of them really would have been just trying to tan the pasty-white undershell, but others of them would cut off body parts before asking for help.

I’m like that sometimes.

So. What is it that’s so hard about asking for help? Or even accepting it when you haven’t asked?

Given that it is so hard to ask, why is help so often proffered with a sermon? (I do that too.)

Do you suppose the helpful turtle railed on and on about whatever stuck turtle did to get stuck in the first place?

And speaking of stuck, I ran across an exceptionally long Q&A on a website about how to get unstuck. It rocked my world. I shared the link with a friend who said to me afterwards, “I don’t know whether to punch you or thank you.” It’s a powerful piece that does have the effect of a sucker punch – you are warned! The columnist’s response to the letter doesn’t go where you think it’s going to – again, you are warned! Chances are pretty good you’ll be plunged into despair and yet hopeful. You are warned!  The central idea is it’s up to you.

I feel stuck some days. I’m finding inspiration in two diametrically opposed viral pieces – one that says let a friend help and another that says that you have to do it yourself. Both are true. Neither are true. Life is complicated. This too shall pass. Yada Yada.

I ended my 50th year last week. As excited as I was to turn 50, I’m just as glad to leave it. 51 is a nice number – a calmer number, a less fraught with significance number. In spite of my stuckness, I am moving forward in some areas, backwards in others, but I am moving. So, “clearly” (to quote the Princess Bride), I’m not stuck.

The week of my birthday was spent catching up on sleep (primarily) and eating (far too much). I spent time with HMOKeefe, friends and family. I saw some movies. Read some books. Played some board games. I opened presents.

Chef Boy ‘R Mine sent me French champagne and truffles. (Is he a great kid or what?) I’ve yet to partake of them and I’m sure he’s puzzled as to why. The answer, I think, is I’m waiting for the right time. There’s a good chance that tonight might be the right time. If the gorgeous weather of this weekend holds, this evening may find me at the patio table, all loosey-goosey from time in the spa (fitted thanks to HMOKeefe with a new cover) munching, sipping, and wallowing in champagne and chocolate.

We’ll see.

I return to the real world tomorrow. I’m both looking forward to it and dreading it. This seems to be a theme with me lately – diametrical opposites. It doesn’t seem like I should be able to hold two opposite ideas in tandem and expect to feel motivated. It could be what an old friend called the Private Benjamin Effect.

Said friend was infuriated by the end of that movie. Goldie Hawn plays an unlikely Army soldier, one who impetuously joined the Army without having investigated the situation too well. One who after a number of missteps and misunderstandings finds what she believes to be True Love ™ only to discover she’s been duped again. The movie ends with Goldie tromping down a dirt road in the south of France. My old friend would point out that she had no money, no plan, no place to go, no way to get there, and wildly impractical clothing.

Sound familiar?

Birthday Balloons

It’s Chef Boy “R Mine’s 25th birthday today. 

Until he was 19, I hung balloons over his crib or bed in the middle of the night so he could wake to a visible reminder that the new day was his birthday.

Once he moved out-of-state this birthday ritual proved more challenging.  Most years I managed in one way or another though not always over his bed.  This year I’m relying on a florist to at least get to his porch.  Twenty-five balloons weighted by chocolate chip cookies are supposed to be delivered before noon today.

I’ve said it before – the day he was born was the best day of my life.

Maiden Mother Crone (The Arrival)

Maiden Mother Crone

I have taken dozens of photos, scrapped hundreds of words, and pulled on my hair. I cannot capture the images and I cannot find the words to describe what I’m seeing, but my Maiden Mother Crone triptych is in my possession. And it is phenomenal.

I’m nearly speechless with awe.

I began blathering about this last year when my friend, the art historian aka The Bitch Across the Hall, snagged some student work. I threatened to steal hers, but as the conversation with the artist, Melissa McCloud, progressed, I found myself commissioning my own set. I fretted for some time trying to figure out how to pay for them only to receive the news that Dr. B.A.T.H. was giving them to me for my 50th birthday.

Melissa McCloud

My 50th birthday, all around, was an occasion that kept me in happy yet overwhelmed tears. The significance of the triptych to my turning 50 is so apparent to me that I’m puzzled when I have to explain it to people.

The average of menopause in this country is 50 and I’m right on track. Menopause is sometimes referred to as the crone stage of life. I’m still mothering my son, albeit in quite different ways, but the hallmarks of motherhood are passing. I’m entering, mostly gleeful, the crone stage.

Here it is Easter weekend. I have in no way marked Easter in the Christian tradition or Ostara in the pagan tradition. I have sat around wiggling my nose hoping to end up with a bunch of completed projects without putting in the time and effort.

It wasn’t working.

I forced myself to pick up the camera and try again. It was an insult to the artist and to my friend not to acknowledge this triptych. In moving about the house trying to capture their beauty, I’m slowly gathering steam.

The Working Drawing

The three women are carved balsa wood. Layers of balsa were glued together (laminated), cut and carved. At my request, they were heavily textured and stained the same color as my woodwork and most of my furniture. I wanted them to slide into this house like they’d always been here and to appear as if they’d organically grown with the barn on this hillside. And they have.

Carved front and back.

There’s no place in this house they wouldn’t be perfect. My struggle is to find the right place where I can see them often and touch them often. They beg for touch. (Besides which, I never get the opportunity to fondle a well-endowed set of breasts.)

Some years ago, I whined and pleaded my way into another piece of art featuring the torsos of three women (Artist: Sherri Weeks.) The multimedia piece has hung in my study for several years now and I never tire of looking at it. In anticipation of the Maiden Mother Crone arrival, I have been preparing the study for installation which has involved a thorough gutting, cleaning, wall repair, dithering about color, and the application of 8 million coats of paint. I have whined.

I have also stalled.

The Other Women

My plan was to install the triptych under the painting and on top the bookcases that serve as a credenza. The one trio of women would mirror the other.

For some weeks I worked feverishly on the study and other weeks not so much. The closer I got to finishing, the more my energy levels waned and then I got zapped by Carlos the Cruddy Cold (who may turn into Boris Bronchitis).

The camera is just inadequate.

Without the ceremony they deserve, I picked up the triptych on Friday. My inertia deepened when I couldn’t get them to photograph well, I couldn’t describe them to my satisfaction, and I couldn’t find the energy to finish the damn study.

Frankly, I’m tired of the chaos of the study project. I want nothing more than to sit in there gazing adoringly at my six women.

Winter is over, the triptych is here and I feel ambition welling akin to the swelling of the branches that will result in leaves and flowers on the plants in my as yet neglected garden.

The women whisper to me to get on with the next stage. The earth has turned, the sun has returned, and the time has come.

The women must be listened to.

Discourse without distraction.

Naked lobster at the elephant table.

I have returned from Massachusetts after celebrating HMOKeefe’s birthday.  It was a wonderful time even if I did give him a cold for his birthday (or tried to).  The champagne was Veuve Cliquot, the lobster 2 lbs and the discourse was without distraction.

The Phenomena of New Year’s Resolutions

I find the whole phenomena of New Year’s resolutions interesting.

It’s striking that the custom occurs immediately following a holiday season where most of us are focused on other people – get-togethers, shopping, cooking, and the like. I suppose there are some people who resolve to make their spouse a better person or determined to manipulate their boss into bestowing a big raise, but most folk concentrate on self-improvement.  I suppose that is a fitting end to the holiday season with its penchant to provoke most of us to abandon good habits, indulge in our worst ones, and suffer through the torments of shopping malls.

After a few failed attempts in my youth, I pretty much gave up the New Year’s resolution thing. My resolve usually peaks in August/September – that time of year has always felt like the beginning of a new year more so than now.

However, in 2008, known as Great in ’08, I made a simple resolution. I was going to quit, cold turkey, watching Law & Order. I still had satellite television service at the time and I spent 2007 sprawled on the sofa watching episode after episode. I couldn’t explain the compulsion. I’ve never been a huge TV watcher and the situation bumfuzzled me to no end – nevertheless there I was. The truly appalling part of it was that Law & Order can be found at any time day or night on one channel or the other.

Law & Order made me cynical and provoked me to look for the worst in people. I did not like the person I was after a 6-hour jag. And 6-hour jags were moderate sessions.  My favorite franchise of the show, Special Victims Unit, mirrored much too closely my job.  To some extent, my jags didn’t do much but extend my working day.

So. I announced my intention and jumped in my car to leave Massachusetts on January 1st. That first day of 2008 should have been easy, no? No. I hit a surprise blizzard in the Cumberland Gap and was checked into a motel by 8 p.m. with no cell phone service, no internet, and no book. (It was storming far too hard to stand around digging through the trunk of the car to retrieve my book. I never travel without a book.  I now never travel without a book  on the back seat.)

So? Guess what the only channel the motel television could pick up in the storm was? The one showing the 24-hour New Year’s Law & Order marathon. Other than lying on the bed staring at the ceiling, I didn’t have much of a choice. I still had adrenalin rushing through my system after the terrifying drive in search of a motel.

I checked out the next day, re-affirmed my intention, and have not watched the show since. Cancelling the satellite no doubt was helpful. It is the only resolution I’ve kept faithfully in my life.

Last year, overly optimistic with the success of 2008, I pondered which one thing I most wanted to do to improve myself. I had already dubbed the year to come Fine in ’09 and was centered and focused on emotional equilibrium and quiet contentment. I plotted out a number of changes and activities to provoke such a sense of well-being not the least of which was Gardenpalooza.

Well. If you’ve been reading this blog you know that 2009 was anything but quiet or content though great strides were made in the garden. It’s been a flippin’ awful year. HMOKeefe waited until I’d left town to have a heart attack and he closed out my year with a stroke. (It wasn’t a good year for him either.) My financial situation went down the tubes. Interspersed throughout the year were unexpected family deaths, health problems, house problems, job problems, puppy problems,  Through most of it, I gardened or planned the garden or admired the garden.  The garden, as much as the people who love me, got me through this trying year.

And while 2009 was flippin’ awful, it was also right good. I had a ball in the garden; I had a magnificent birthday; and I found the wherewithal to ease the financial problems. Chef Boy ‘R Mine was the light of my life.

And so, with ‘10 dubbed Total Zen in 2010, I’m pondering what resolution(s) I can make to ensure the slogan becomes true.

A number of things come to mind:

1. Get my diet back on track. My eating habits have become awful. I’ve always had a relatively good diet, but this last year has found me eating almost nothing but junk food. The resolution has nothing to do with losing weight, that’s not particularly a need right now;  it has to do with feeling good and feeling healthy. Healthy food takes time and money.

2. Get back on the exercise bike. Get back to yoga. Get back to meditation. This is a time problem more than anything else. While I don’t yearn to ride the bike, it’s not that bad. After a bit, the white noise kicks in and I feel good. And I feel very virtuous after 30 or 40 minutes on it. Yoga is immediately soothing. Meditation is hard work, but I had been noticing microscopic inroads to a sense of No Mind when I gave it up.  I’m a mass of flab and wasted muscle not to mention a future cardiac patient.  It occurs to me now that I could combine the bike with the meditation.

3. Write more. Writing is deep play for me. Again, this is a time thing. I need, or think I do, a minimum of 2 hours to produce anything other than a down-and-dirty rough draft. I enjoy writing. I keep most of it to myself and that’s fine. Writing is exciting, contenting, and all-around good for me.  Of the stuff I share, mostly this blog, my time constraints have provoked blog postings riddled with typos and thoughts not well-fleshed out.  While I enjoy it, flaws and all, I think my readers deserve better.

4. Learn how to clean the house in dribs and drabbles so that it never again gets into the state it’s in now. Like I said, I enjoy a clean house. The more chaotic my life, the more I need orderly surroundings.  Today, I have thus far restored order in the dressing room and dusted and re-arranged my vanity.  I feel so virtuous with this little act of domesticity.  It seems a simple thing to do and not one that takes much time or money.

5. Figure out how to spend more time with friends and family. I’ve neglected both shamefully. That time thing again.  When I do make the time, I never fail to note the blessings of having good people in my life who love me warts and all.  That’s a gift beyond price that I’ve played much too casually with.  How many people in the world pine for one good friend?  And I have so many.  How many people pine for unconditional love?  I have so much.  How many of those people know I treasure them?  I’m not sure.  It’s time to be sure.

6. Be a better pet owner. My puppies have suffered far too much loneliness and neglect with my hectic life. I haven’t taken them for a walk in forever; in fact, I haven’t even sat on the sofa and cuddled with them in weeks.  I banished them from my bed when menopause provoked sleep problems.  I miss that time of cuddling and I really miss Trudy as a foot warmer on cold winter nights.  I think I have a handle on the sleep problems; tonight will tell.  I intend on settling down with three puppies in the, now, cobweb free bed.

So, it’s pretty clear to me the resolution needs to be More Time. That’s not a simple problem to solve. I’ve done a fair job of streamlining my life to squeeze out as much time as possible, but I have to find room for improvement.  Every aspect of my life, save the bank account, is suffering the effects.

I don’t need a failed New Year’s resolution to further batter my self-esteem, so I’m going to focus on eating better, being a better Puppy Mama and spending more time with family and friends.  I finally worked up that head of steam I’ve been hoping for and blathering on about for the past few days; the house is getting there (if you ignore the plumbing problem I discovered this morning).  Already, I feel more tranquil, more relaxed, more at-home in my skin.  Intermixed with the cleaning, I have talked to family and friends.  I have cuddled with and played with puppies.  I’ve foregone the junk food and treated my body to some real nutrition.  It’s not rocket science to figure out these actions make me a better person – the ultimate in self-improvement – and these actions are good for the people (and puppies) I care about.

I’m pretty sure most of us need Total Zen in 2010. So my wish for you this year is that you achieve such in whatever way is best for you to go about it.  And let the people you love know that you love them.  These actions shouldn’t be phenomena; they should be rooted deep in our lives.

Re-Entry

And the first period in months is not helping.

And the first period in months is not helping.

Re-entry into the land of paid labor is proving difficult. I just cannot get my transmission in gear. Given that I have a 70 hour work-week, this is proving to be problematic.

At Job #1 we have an employee perk that is not mentioned in the employee manual, but which is generally accepted as standard practice. Vacation Head is that state of being wherein one returns from vacation not worth a shit. This state is not questioned. In fact, said perk allows the employee either 3 or 7 days of merely showing up and only dealing with those matters that are on fire. The four day discrepancy is explained by the fact that in the Executive Director’s absence, we took a vote and agreed on 7 days. I believe we’re operating on a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. As long as we look like we’re doing something, 7 days is usual and customary.

Motivation is the key to success.

Motivation is the key to success.

At Job #1, I have shown up. I have showed off birthday presents and photos. I’ve told stories. I’ve gone through email, dealt with a couple server emergencies and orchestrated a solution to a web page boondoggle. Other than that, I’ve spent my time re-adjusting to being in the office 8 hours a day,

Job #2, on the surface, is neither physically nor mentally taxing. However, 30 hours tacked on top of 40 is both physically and mentally brutal. And it’s even more so in Vacation Head state.

I had a brilliant vacation. Vacation Head is especially bad this go around. I ate roughly every 12 minutes (and exceptionally good food). I slept whenever I wanted to for as long as I wanted to. I engaged in carnal relations. I read 3 novels. And I was the grateful recipient of several spa treatments (massage, sugar scrub, aromatherapy bath, and a wonderful thing called a swim spa). I drank champagne, ate decadent chocolate, and enjoyed spectacular views.

Even more pleasurable was the company of good friends and family members for the birthday house party.

It’s been a week since the carriage turned back into a pumpkin and real life asserted itself.

I am still not worth a shit to my employers.

I think I’m angry that vacation can’t go on and on and on.

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho

Today, I have forced myself to deal with some housekeeping. In doing so, I found the tiara that (long story) my mother wore during my surprise birthday party. There it sits on my scarred and cluttered kitchen table. I fondled the glittery headpiece with a sense of deep envy.

If I were, in fact, a figure-head queen, I would never have Vacation Head because I would always be on vacation. It’s true that I am genetically predisposed to be one of the idle rich.  Something has gone very wrong.

I am girding my loins for the next 8-hour shift. My head hurts thinking about it. The scab from the trip-over-the-computer-cord-banging-head-on-sewing-machine-and-splattering-blood-and-hot-coffee-all-over-me-and-the-wall is not helping matters. My hair is embedded in the scab resulting in a pulling sensation occasionally punctuated by sharp pains. The headache behind my left eye has been around so long now that I’m tempted to name it. Right now, Horace is leading over Hector and Hermione.

All that glitters.

All that glitters.

I’m tempted to wear the tiara to work, but the scab makes that impossible. There’s a Great Truth buried in that, but the headache is too fierce for me to puzzle it out.

Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work I work go. On the way, I’m buying aspirin and a lottery ticket.

[Apologies for the photo quality. I get madder and madder at that lowlife who stole my camera.]