Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Catching up.

Well, I've certainly neglected this blog over the summer, haven't I?

Virginia has a peculiar weather pattern I've noticed the past few years--right about Labor Day, the intense heat and humidity break and life goes back to a happy pleasant temperature. This year the pattern held true, so I've gone from too deep-in-funk to want to write, to a state of such mental alertness that I'm too busy to write. Also many of the things I've been pondering haven't been blog-appropriate, which definitely is a style-crimper. I've honestly been taken aback at how many people read this thing--people who know me in...gasp...real life! So sometimes you gotta watch what you ponder about in public!

I started off September with a little home project: overhauling what I call my "utility closet" off my kitchen. We have two closets that open off the kitchen; I believe one was intended to be a coat/storage closet and the other a pantry. Well, the pantry became a tiny laundry room, and the coat closet has held a mishmash of paint cans, cleaners, and other detritus that used to live in our very roomy utility closet back in the condo.

This closet is much smaller and did not have shelves, just one shelf/hanger rod combo at the top. Then we had stuck a small leftover bookshelf inside just to have a place to stack things.

So we pulled everything out and Todd fitted it with white wire shelving, leaving room for the vacuum cleaner to slide in and the recycle bin to slide under. Just enough room on the sides to hang brooms and a mop, and that's that.

The closet was a very unattractive beigey color with 20 years worth of scuffs and scrapes, so I painted the whole thing white, and it just looks so pretty and clean. And neat! And tidy! Is there anything better than a clean tidy closet? I don't think so.

My friend Bev came down from Ohio to Virginia Beach on Labor Day for her vacation, and I went down and spent a couple days with her there on the oceanfront. We got rained on a lot, but we still had a fabulous time. I'll try to put up some pictures once I can get hold of them off Todd's computer. We took a dolphin-watching tour on the ocean that was amazing--I've never ever seen so many dolphins! And we drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in pouring rain, which sort of spoiled the view, but it was still exciting. I was glad to get to spend even just a tiny bit of time with Bev.

Last weekend I finally made a decision about what to do with our foyer/stairway/upstairs hallway, which all flow together. The walls are absolutely filthy, scuffed and scraped and gouged, and in desperate need of paint. And the carpet on the stairs really needs to be replaced. But if I replaced the stair carpet, then I'd need to either carry that through in the upstairs rooms or the downstairs rooms, so that it would all flow together.

I don't know why it was so har for me to figure out what to do, but we finally came up with re-carpeting the stairs, living room, and dining room. So I went to Lowe's to find a paint color and the right carpet.

The paint I chose is called Latté, from Laura Ashley. (Most of our home colors have been from Laura Ashley--love that line.) It's just a shade lighter than the original color, but warmer, and it's a semi-gloss, rather than flat. And I'm also re-painting the white trim, which is also terribly scuffed, gouged, and dirty. (Dogs and bachelors (the previous owners) are apparently awfully hard on a house.)

I've gotten the foyer all done, now I'm preparing to tackle the hallway. The stairs will be a chore in and of themselves, and Todd has worked out some idea for rigging a platform out over the stairs, which makes me queasy just thinking about it, so that will be his job and I'll stand by and pray for his safety while he paints it.

The foyer looks fabulous--so clean now, and the semi-gloss really reflects what little light there is, whereas the flat paint just sucked it up. I'll wait to get a picture till after we get the new carpet down, sometime here in the next few weeks.

So things are good, life is busy, and my brain has finally kicked back into order. It feels good.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Day of mourning.

The phone rang very early this morning and woke me up. It was only a telemarketer (grrr), but once I climbed back into bed, I thought about the phone call that pulled me out of bed exactly five years ago today.

On September 11, 2001, I was getting over the flu and had slept in. I heard the phone ring downstairs and padded down to hear Todd's voice on the answering machine: "Turn on the TV. I called Mary and John is okay."

John was our friend who was a United flight attendant flying out of Boston at the time. I couldn't figure out why he wouldn't be okay, until of course I turned on the TV and tried to make sense of the chaotic scene I saw. The rest of the morning is a blur. The one thing I remember vividly is calling Todd after the second tower fell and my voice failing as I realized I had just seen thousands of people die.

Apart from being concerned about our friend, and having to reschedule the trip to Connecticut we had planned for that weekend, Todd and I weren't directly affected by what happened on September 11. We didn't have friends or family in New York or at the Pentagon or on Flight 93. Life went back to normal pretty quickly for us, apart from watching the news every night and feeling the grief of all those people searching and searching for their loved ones.

This September 11, I won't be seeking out any news programs re-living the day. I don't even think I'll seek out any news programs that may track where our country has come since that day. I know all too well where we've a world that seemed unthinkable to most of us on September 10, 2001.

We're embroiled in a general war on terror and a specific war in Iraq, both of which devolved disappointingly quickly into a political tug-of-war, fought by leaders we can't trust. Sinister Arab faces and names are a staple of our news now. The blithe conviction that we were the most-beloved country in the world is gone, and so many tiny things we took for granted have changed as well. Some of still cringe when we hear a low-flying plane.

Well, I'm not telling anybody anything new. We all know the world changed. Most days we muddle along doing what needs to be done and don't think too hard about war or terrorism or the people who would gladly see us dead. This is a good day to think about think about where we go from here and to remember the people who didn't get to see this strange new world.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Windy, rainy yuckiness.

That's what we had today courtesy of TS Ernesto. The wind actually woke me up this morning...and for it to penetrate through the hum of my white-noise fan that I can't sleep without, it had to have been fierce. I peeped out the back door and our creek was a river, spilling out of the ravine into the yard on the other side. And the winds and rains kept rising and falling in those bands of weather that you get with hurricanes and tropical storms--for some reason, that intrigues me. It's like tangible proof that the storm is rotating and hustling along way, way up there.

I had several errands I wanted to run, but after going out to the car to look for an umbrella, and not finding one, and getting soaked through my pants, shoes and raincoat...I thought better of it. I had just settled down on the couch with some lunch when the power went out.

I cannot, cannot sit alone in a dark house, so I went out and did my errands, anyway. And got drenched multiple times for the fun of it. I had to drive over into York County, to the neighborhood where we used to live, because that was the closest spot that had power. I was so proud of my fellow citizens, driving so carefully through intersection after intersection with darkened, powerless stoplights, stopping to let the other cars make their left or right turns across traffic. Seriously! I was amazed!

Mailed my nephew's birthday present (baking powder/vinegar-powered rocket and a book of 101 science experiments), filled up with cheap gas (under $3.00? Yeah, that's cheap.), got a small bag of ice and a styrofoam cooler just in case the outage lasted, and made a desultory trip to the scrapbook store.

I say "desultory" because having that scrapbook yard sale a few weeks ago and selling all that stuff just really shocked me. My passion for scrapbooking waned a long time ago, but this was like finding out your spouse of thirty years has cheated on you for twenty-nine years.

For those who don't scrapbook, let me explain: scrapbooking is, at it's most intense level, a cult. It's about creativity and memories, sure, but at the cult level--at the level where you know designers by their first names and can rattle off the submission guidelines for five different magazines--it's about products. Having lots and lots and lots of products. Having the newest and best and latest and greatest products. Being able to recognize a product line on sight and name the company, and often, the designer who created it. And, if you decide to take the next step, being able to sell said products with your own work.

I know I've talked about this before, and bemoaned my love/hate relationship with the process, the business, and my own tiny design "career." But looking at that mountain of STUFF, and thinking about the other mountain of STUFF I'd just sold in May--ugh. I feel let down by scrapbooking, and bored with it, and suckered into something I'm kind of tired of thinking about.

It's not about feeling like my work isn't good enough, because I think I'm an above-average scrapper most of the time. It's more about using the word "work" to describe something that used to be something I did in the hours I wasn't working.

I guess I feel tired of being sucked in to the consumer frenzy that is scrapbooking right now. I feed it and I feed off it. I want to do something different for a while. I'm tired of bitching and moaning and thinking dull thoughts about something that's supposed to be, well, fun.

Man, that was a long detour from my Day of Ernesto spiel. So, after moping through the scrapbook store and feeling sick of it all, I sloshed over to Barnes and Noble and propped my soggy self up on a barstool and indulged in a pumpkin spice latté, which just made its fall reappearance. I don't know. They sound good, and they sort of are good for the first three or four sips, but then you're just sucking down something way too sweet to be coffee. Every time I give in and have a Starbucks sweet coffee drink, I always feel oogy and swear off for six months. So no more lattés till, oh...March.

Todd and I tried to meet up and have dinner when he got off work, but nothing in the shopping district had power. So it was back over to beautiful York County, where we ate at our favorite greasy spoon, along with about fifty other people who had no power, no hot food, and nowhere else to go.

We bumped into my friend Becky and her husband there, and shared the big booth I snagged with them. I took a writing class from Becky in January-February, and she is sort of sweet and tart at the same time, smart and wounded. They lost their grown daughter several years ago to a particularly horrible case of MS, and I hope I'm not being fanciful or dramatic when I say that you can see that wound in her eyes, and in her husband's eyes. I don't have a lot of experience with death and grieving, but I can see its impact in them. Sometimes Becky looks lost, just for a second, when her face is in repose.

I just think the world of her, and I totally enjoyed her husband--I hadn't met him before. My favorite kind of man: quiet, smart, and creative, with kind eyes. We had a really nice supper together...such a little bit of serendipity!

We drove home to check on things, and lo and behold, there was light and power and Internet and all good things. I was so relieved. We lost power several weeks ago in a lightning storm, and I'm afraid I was a bit of a drama queen about it. ("I can't SLEEP without my FAN! I can't READ by CANDLE light!") So I was practicing my stiff upper lip all day..."tut tut, better get some ice, don't you know, bother this rain," and rehearsing ways to fall asleep without temperature control or white noise...and it turned out just fine. Isn't that always the way.

But hurricane season ain't over, and my stiff upper lip might just get a workout yet.