Sunday, April 27, 2008

Up the South River

This weekend we went to Oriental. At one point I went to the bathhouse. As I walked into the stall, I saw a small round shiny item on the stall floor. It was about the size of the last eye I found and to tell you the truth I was almost afraid to pick it up. But of course I did. As I looked at it, I realized that it was like a mirror and my face was reflected back to me. Is it the third eye? Help me decide:

Yesterday we did one of our favorite things to do on the boat, anchor in an isolated place. We went way up a branch of the South River this time. It is very primordial to be away from everything like this, with no city lights and only animal, wind and water noises. Here is the spot:

Some friends brought their boat over for a little lunch, then went back to the comfort of their home. If they had only stayed a while longer (and not minded boating back in the dark) they would have seen this magnificant sunset:

When I got up this morning, this is what I saw:

I often remember books by the place where I read them. I read the marvelous new book by Elizabeth Strout, a collection of connected short stories entitled Olive Kitteridge. It is the first book that I started re-reading before I finished. I believe it is my all-time favorite book for now.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


After cleaning my closet, I am more aware than ever of the clutter in my house, possibly because I had to search other closets for coat hangers. My children are living in places that have impermanence written all over them, and they aren't at all interested in taking their sentimental things. In fact, they tend to bring the literal emotional baggage home with them when they move from place to place. Seeing the effort involved in packing (and paying the movers by the pound) they skinny down their possessions.

When I look in their closets, I see their childhoods. Artwork, graduation gowns, photos in frames and boxes, stuffed animals, doll furniture, posters, CD cases (mostly empty but please don't throw them away), soccer shoes, t-shirts that carry memories of camp or trips, yearbooks and scrapbooks and diaries. Their bookshelves are creaking with good books that either they or I can't bear to give to the used book store. Their drawers are full of paints, key chain collections, more t-shirts, soaps and old makeup.

My oldest daughter worked with me one day to clean her room of the extraneous and she has the least left. The other two groan and walk away when I suggest doing the same in their rooms. They have to do it with me, making the decision of what to keep and what to get rid of.

I can't bear to throw away their pasts. When I think of moving from this house that we have lived in for almost 25 years, I know it is inevitable that the decisions to keep or throw away or give away will be made, that they will go through their memorabilia and I will go through my books and accumulation too.

Today, I close the doors to those closets and to thoughts of sorting through our life. But I'm not going to buy much for a while. Toilet paper and food and other things that can be used up and thrown away without thinking or feeling.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I have a thing about numbers. Here are some facts about how I interact with them:

1. I see people as numbers from 1-9. People I consider old souls are mostly one of the odd numbers. Young souls, mostly even.
2. In a checkbook, I destroy all checks that include 666 in the check number. It is such a Biblical cliche, I know, and I have tried to counteract my aversion by reminding myself that my numerology number is 6. To no avail. If I see the numbers 666, rather than looking away, I look hard at them and "spit in the devil's eye."
3. When we are on a car trip, I try to see license plates that have three of the same digit. A good trip is when I see plates with three digits of each number 1-9. I have found that when I am looking the least hard, I have the most success.
4. My favorite numbers are 4, 7, and 8.
5. I can tell time with approximately 99% accuracy (without a clock, of course!).
6. I was very excited today when I went on my blog and the counter read 1777.
7. Two-digit numbers I like are 14 and 17.
8. When my husband and I decided to get married, I insisted that we choose either 7/7 or 7/14. I was incredulous when a friend of mine got married in July of last year and did not pick 7/7/07.
9. If a client's invoice contains three sixes, I worry that we will have problems getting paid. If it contains three of the numbers 4 or 7, I don't worry at all.
10. I like to be an even-numbered age more than an odd-numbered.
11. If I see someone with 666 on their license tag, I think, "I would not have taken that one." If I see someone with four of the same number, I wonder how they felt when they got it.

There are more things, I'm sure, but I like the idea of listing eleven things I think about numbers.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Being watched

A few days ago I was doing laundry and one of those eyes that you find on stuffed animals fell out with the clothes. Odd.

Today, my husband and I went to lunch and when we were coming out of the restaurant I looked down and saw a white circle on the pavement. I thought, "That looks like the back of one of those stuffed animal eyes." I walked by; then I knew that if I didn't pick it up it would haunt me. Picked it up. One of those eyes.

I don't know what to make of this.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

For the record...a P.S.

It is 2:24 on Tuesday April 15, 2008. The taxes are in the mail. Ain't I glad I got my priorities straight?

Several morals to this story, but the one I keep thinking about is that things are never as hard as I imagine they're going to be. I can't seem to remember that.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Death and Taxes

Death and taxes: the only sure things. And I don't mind when they come one at a time so I can properly deal with them, but today they both needed to be dealt with at the same time.

My uncle died this past week and his funeral was today. He and his first wife were married in a double ceremony with my dad and my mom (his wife's sister). His wife died at 42, my mom at 55, making my dad the last person alive who stood at the altar that day, December 23, 1950.

The funeral took place in Wilmington and of course I wanted to be there. The only problem was that we had left our taxes to be dealt with today and tomorrow. Going to the funeral meant that I had tomorrow only. I am a person who likes to be finished ahead of time, slapping the chalk off my hands with a "glad that's over" expression on my face. I panicked.

I had some choices to make. First one came yesterday. We had gone to Oriental to spend the weekend on the boat. It was surprisingly beautiful. Sunday, I could either leave early and go into the office or stay and enjoy the day. I asked myself if I were to die tomorrow, would I rather have spent my last day on the boat in the sun with my husband and friends, or doing taxes. We stayed.

Second one came when we got home last night. Did I want to stay home so I could go to the office and do taxes or drive to Wilmington to be with my dad and my uncle's family? Again, I asked myself if I died tomorrow would I want to be remembered by the IRS or my family. I went to the funeral.

When I got back from the funeral today, I was just about physically, emotionally and intellectually spent. I came into the office and my husband told me that one of our daughters had called with a relationship problem. And a friend had written to say that a couple of things were going wrong in her life: a death and a separation. Another choice: Should I work on taxes or talk to my daughter and friend? I called them both.

Tomorrow the taxes will be waiting for me, inevitable as they are. And should I die peacefully in my sleep tonight, I know that there are some people who feel better for knowing me because I let the paperwork wait.

This may seem to be a post that talks alot with dying, but to me it's really a post about living.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Whoa, Universe!

Okay, I've been trying as hard as I can to practice patience with the music director at my church. But this morning, when the cat needed to go out at 4:30 and I had some thinking time, I decided to write him one last time as soon as I got to work today. Just to let him know why I, who doesn't sing, write music or play an instrument, care so much about the music at our church.

I spent quite a while composing it, remembering that my horoscope today said brevity was the best policy and to say what I mean in everything. I didn't want to feel pushy or whiny (he hasn't replied to my last couple of emails), but wanted to tell him of the power of music in my life.

So I'm writing along through phone calls (I hate how business interferes with my ability to conduct pleasure) and after reading it several times and changing a few things, pushed "Send."

And there in my Inbox was an email from him. WHAT? He couldn't have read mine so quickly! But it was a reply to one of my earlier emails saying thanks for the encouragement I had given him.

And once again, I am amazed at how life comes together to bring tears and laughter simultaneously.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Minor irritation

In my ongoing effort to avoid homework, I have to post a bitch here. Small, but very irritating nonetheless.

I would like to slap the first teenager who left the "d" out of a contraction with an "n't" after it. Take the word "cook" drop the "k" and add "unt" after it and this is what it sounds like:

"She coo-unt get your number to go through." (An actual quote from a bank customer service person)
"We woo-unt want that to happen, now would we?" (Another quote from this condescending little twenty-something)

Has anyone else found this trend to be annoying? Why can't they be working on the perfect cliche? Or maybe the teen who says "Shoo-unt" IS the perfect cliche.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

What to do?

When I have a day like today--in town, cloudy weather, no real agenda--I have a hard time picking and choosing from favorite playgrounds.

This morning I woke up early because my husband woke up early. We went to a new restaurant with our bookselling friends, and the food may have just been too rich for him. When I realized that yes, it's 6 in the A.M. and I'm fully awake, I turned to the bedside table and saw Jhumpa Lahiri's new book, Unaccustomed Earth. I have read one of the stories and her writing sends me. Beside her book is another book, Home Bound, about Filipino immigrants to the US. I'm reading this hoping to flesh out a short story. In reading it the other night, I was struck by how many truths about their immigration story have unconsciously appeared in my story about a person who disappears after 9/11.

So already before I'm even out of bed, I have two choices: read for research or pleasure?

In my grown-up playroom, another set of diversions calls. Last week, I spent a couple of hours organizing my paper, stamps, and punches at the card-making desk. Each morning when I've gone down to exercise, the desk has looked so appealing. My meditation cushions are there too, and I could take a few minutes to be quiet. The television holds the key to exercise: videos and tapes of yoga, pilates, even Richard Simmons "Sweatin' to the Oldies"! On the other side of the room my writing desk sits, journal in the center, neat and inviting.

I could take a long walk with my camera. It's not too hot or too cold and the flowers and trees are fantastic.

I have time to do some serious cooking today, something that I love when I want to do it rather than have to do it. For some reason, spaghetti has seemed appealing this week.

My Thursday girls are doing a couple of chapters from the Not So Big Life, and I need to read them and be prepared to lead the discussion. I have several critiques to do for class on Tuesday and my own stories to edit and turn it that day also.

I know there are a few chores I could do too. For one thing my closet is a wreck. When it looks like this
I know it's getting time!

It's hard to choose, but I think I'd better get out of my pajamas and get started. The closet is last on the list; maybe I won't get to it.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

This week's religious encounters

[Qu'ran Sura 5:48] ...For each of you, we have decreed laws and different rites. Had GOD willed, He could have made you one congregation. But He thus puts you to the test through the revelations He has given each of you. You shall compete in righteousness. To GOD is your final destiny - all of you - then He will inform you of everything you had disputed.

Monday night, I went to hear Charles Kimball, author of the book, When Religion Becomes Evil. Fascinating, brilliant, fair observer of religion, he had me spellbound. I loved the passage above from the Qu'ran that he mentioned during his talk. God has a plan; we don't have to worry about whose faith is the most meaningful and important. Now this, folks, is the kind of "good news" I've always wanted to hear from the pulpits of our churches.

I was talking last night to someone about Bart Ehrman, author of the book, Misquoting Jesus. Ehrman has researched the transcription of the Bible extensively. After reading his book, I came away feeling that there is truth in the Book, but that it has been surrounded by so much myth that you have to dig around to find it. And thinking about this leads me back to Dr. Kimball. He said, "The truth of the three Abrahamic religions is this, 'Love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.'"


Before I can love my neighbor as myself don't I first have to LOVE MYSELF? How many of us love ourselves unconditionally? How many of us look in the mirror some days and feel disgusted at the way we look or at the way we behaved at the cocktail party or at the food we ate so unhealthily yesterday or that we can't seem to find time for the things and people we love? How many of us wish we were someone else or somewhere else or richer or happier or that we could just start all over? And if we're doing that kind of judging on ourselves, what in the heck do we expect to happen when we encounter our neighbor?

I think all this talk of religion this week has led me to these conclusions:

1. Love God, Love yourself, Love everybody else.
2. Let God be the Decider--He'll sort it all out in the end.