Friday, November 27, 2009

Getting Ready

The other day I read a blog post from a woman with four children. They were traveling and she had packed all she and the children needed for the trip. Her husband needed only to get his little ditty bag ready and load everything in the car. However, when they got to their destination, he asked, "Honey, did we pack my lotion?" Needless to say the rest of the post should have been unprintable, but she managed to finish the story without curse words.

I know what she means. Wednesday night we gave a party for my husband's minister, celebrating his twenty years at the church. I cleaned the house, bought the food, hid 500 items of clutter, prepared the food, set out the food, went to church, and came home to light candles and turn on the music (a playlist I had carefully prepared sometime during the day) and await the company.

Five minutes after everyone had gotten here, my husband loudly asked why the music was so soft. And what was that playing? I ignored him. Why were we playing the music on my small IPod player and not through the speakers, he went on. The music was playing through the speakers, so I continued to ignore him.

On the dining room table, there were ham biscuits, fruit and vegetables that I had cut up, cheeses, desserts. Around the kitchen there were containers of nuts and sesame sticks. There was one dish of chips and salsa. As soon as the chips and salsa were gone, my husband loudly asked if we had any more salsa.

My point is this: There was no we to anything that had gone into the preparation for the party.

That said, let's get back to the blog post I mentioned earlier. My husband once said that men don't wear "outfits" and this was hilarious to me at the time. But when we were going on a trip, the fact that girls and women wear outfits was my biggest advantage. I could tell my daughters, "Three outfits," and they could pack their entire wardrobe for the trip. I didn't care if the outfit components matched as long as there were socks, underwear, shoes, shirts, and pants for every day of the trip. I could add, "One dressy outfit" to the instructions and they could execute that part too. Young as they were, they understood the concept of packing in outfits.

I guess I'm rambling here, set off by the inability of the husband in the blog post to perform a task that even my young daughters could do--that is get himself packed and ready for the trip--and the fact that he asked if his wife had brought the thing he had forgotten. Even my daughters would have said, "Mommy, I forgot my toothbrush," or their Sunday shoes or whatever they didn't pack.

I will say that I felt avenged at the party Wednesday night when my husband changed the music to a playlist that was entitled, "Dance Party" and he thought he was getting the Rolling Stones and other rock musicians. It was disco music, and I laughed out loud when I heard the Village People do the intro to "YMCA" - my husband HATES disco music.

Irony: The daily reading today says, "Everything that irritates us about someone else should lead us to an understanding of ourselves." Carl Jung

Monday, November 23, 2009


For the past several days (maybe weeks--I just noticed it a few days ago) The News and Observer has been running the following ad:

"This Thanksgiving, we are proud to be offering the largest paper of the year filled with holiday sales inserts from all your favorite retailers. In addition, this paper will include a special Decade of Champions section honoring the great success of North Carolina sports teams over the last 10 years. Due to the increased size and value of this edition, the newsstand price will be raised to $2.00 for individual copies of the Thanksgiving paper. Daily subscribers will be charged at their current Sunday rate."

Excuse me? You're filling my paper, not with news or articles of importance to my life, but with advertising? Advertising that you get paid for, and that I pull out immediately to put in the recycling bin that has to be hauled to the curb? You're charging me more for this without my permission? And you're acting like it's some special little gift you're giving your subscribers???

You've got to be kidding.

I have continued to subscribe to my local paper because I believe in the printed news. Even though the paper has gotten thinner and thinner, and the real news rarer and rarer, I have continued to pay the price I paid for the paper of old. But, Mr. Orage Quarles, this is the last straw. I will not pay for you to bulk up my paper with crap and charge me extra for it.

As a first step I'm cancelling the Thursday Thanksgiving special advertising edition. And I'm going to give myself a few more days to think about it. But the way I see it now, the Sunday New York Times has as much news as my local paper puts out all week, and I'm tired of being hoodwinked into paying for something that is really, in the end, a pile of recycling.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Come out of the closet

These are the reasons I hate to clean out my closet:

1. I know there are alot of clothes that I'm not going to wear.
2. Some of the clothes were expensive and I feel guilty about not wearing them.
3. I keep thinking that if I hang on to something, I'll like it better.
4. I really need to try each item of clothing on to see if it fits. This is very time-consuming.
5. Not only do I need to try it on, I need to find a top/bottom/shoes to go with it.
6. Some of the clothes are too small and this is depressing.
7. I have this fear that if things get really bad, I may need them. (Maybe there's been just too much talk about Armageddon for my taste!)

I admitted something to myself and to my husband today. I can wear a piece of clothing many times and feel as though it is flattering/I look good in it. But if I wear it one time and don't think I look good in it, I probably won't wear it again.

Another reason that I will wear something, like it, then turn on it is if I see a photograph of myself in it. There was this jacket that I absolutely adored. When I tried it on in the store, I thought it was perfect. I wore it every other day for a month. Then I saw a photograph of my writing group with me in that jacket. I've never worn it again.

My husband cleaned out his closet today. He gave away shoes and clothes without a second thought. He set aside four cotton shirts that he wants to wash in hot water to see if they'll shrink. He didn't try on one thing to see if he'd outgrown it or if it still looks good on him; he assumes that he hasn't and it does.

When it's time to clean out my closet, I wish I had his attitude.

Here is what my sister said about my closet: "Saw the closet: looks like Hurry-cane Katrina blew through Chico's and the shoe levees broke."

Yes indeed, laughing we endure.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Fred Chappell

We are fortunate to have so many wonderful writers in North Carolina. And one of my very favorites is Fred Chappell.

Tonight Fred read from his new book, Ancestors and Others, a collection of stories, at Quail Ridge Books. The story he read was set in the mountains of North Carolina, a fictionalized account of his childhood experiences of hunting on Christmas Day. It was funny, poignant, suspenseful, and as true to human nature as any story you'll read.

The book contains stories about the places and people of his childhood sprinkled with science fiction. There are three stories about Christmas. In trying to pin down a theme of the stories, his editor had him cut several of the originals. He said that in the end he hoped that by putting the Christmas stories in he had tied everything--traditional and speculative--together in a neat bow. He laughed.

We laughed too at his wonderful sense of humor as he answered questions and recounted something that happened when he and his wife Susan went to the Czech Republic earlier this year.

Fred was our Poet Laureate and he represents the finest North Carolina has to offer. If you ever have a chance to hear him read from his stories or poems, please make every effort to do so. He's a genius posing as a home-town boy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Searching For Some Feng Shui

Some of you regulars may remember last year when I cleaned out my closet. Well, guess what? This is how it looks today:

On the other hand this is what the linen closet in my bathroom looks like today:

A mouse died in the wall last week. Have you ever smelled a dead mouse?? You definitely do not want to sleep on sheets or dry off with towels that smell of eau de dead mouse. So, this is what my daughter's room looks like today:

There's some bad juju in the closets and bedrooms of my house right now.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Anticipation is intoxicating. I get a rush out of waiting for something, and it doesn't have to be anything life-altering. I used to look forward to Tuesdays when my children brought their weekly folders home. I look forward to the mail each day, hoping there will be a card or letter hiding among the fliers and bills.

I look forward to my day off, and to the weekends. I often read soon-to-be-published novels thanks to my book store friend, and savor the time between having read them and being able to recommend them to friends.

I look forward to seeing my family on holidays, to giving gifts, to eating good food at the table.

Anticipation of bad things, like doctor's appointments, funerals, surgery, has its own intoxication. But that's a topic for another day.

Tomorrow night I am reading a short story to my writing group. It's the first time I've read, and a couple of the people are new to me. I feel high about sharing my story, and a little anxious about how they will receive it. But deep in my gut is a fluttery feeling: anticipation.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Every now and then I find myself longing (yes, that's the word I want to use) for time at the coast. I am able to totally relax, leaving laundry, housework, dishes, animals, and grocery shopping behind. When I'm at home, I think of being by the water, lying around reading books, watching movies or old television shows, riding my bike with my camera around my neck, eating when I feel like it. Somehow I'm able to be lazy there in a way I cannot be at home.

My home is a refuge for me, don't get me wrong. But there's always something I could be doing or should be doing, and I'm a person who takes responsibility seriously. I always put it before play.

I'm trying to capture some of that relaxing spirit at home. I let the laundry pile up higher than I ever have, I scrounge around for something to eat rather than go to the grocery store, I delegate errands to my husband. I have been going to bed early and reading or watching the news channel.

I'm getting better at staring that old guilt monster in the eye and telling him to get lost. But locking him in a closet at home and driving away is still the best way I know to get rid of him.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fits and starts

Last week I informed my new writing group that I didn't have a writing discipline per se, that I let everything boil up in my head and then write in a rush. This runs contrary to everything I've ever read about being an accomplished writer, but it's just the way I've done things in the past.

Later something occurred to me: what good is the talent to write if you don't exercise it? So what if you have all the ingredients for a tasty dinner if you don't cook for a month?

Last night I put my meditation timer on my desk and set it to ten minutes. I wrote about something. When the timer went off, I turned the page and wrote about something else. I did this one more time, giving me a total of thirty minutes of free writing.

I started three stories. Good stories. I quit mid-line when the timer went off although I did not want to stop. I set up a folder called, "Fits and Starts" and put them all in there.

Today, I was telling my writing teacher my idea, and she said that many writers do what I said I do, let things boil up and then write in a rush. In fits and starts, she said. And I knew that although she was affirming my stated style of writing, I was on to something good with the new exercises.

Fits and starts. I like the idea of it.

Monday, November 9, 2009


One of the blogs I follow is the Raleigh Public Record. I think the reason I read it is to take my mind off the real crimes that are being perpetrated by the banks and credit card companies.

This one today broke my heart.

Police arrested a 22-year-old woman for attempting to steal baby food from the Food Lion at 4510 Capital Blvd. at around 11 p.m.

I hope they let her go with nothing but the baby food. And maybe kept her name so they could send her some more.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

People Watching in Paris: Part II

I've been my husband's groupie all weekend and have just enough left in me to post the last of the vacation photos. Thanks for going with me on the trip.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

People Watching in Paris: Part I

I won't bore you with photos of the Louvres or Notre Dame or any of the other beautiful sites in Paris. You've seen those, as had I. This trip I was drawn to the out-of-the-ordinary sights and to the people that we encountered. Old, young, beautiful or interesting, homeless, lonely, contented, in love: I snapped and snapped. I will end my travel story with some of these people. The final photograph, although not as in focus as I would have liked, epitomizes the young Parisienne: thin, smoke pouring out of her mouth, dressed in black. "Paris" is the word written in hot pink sequins on the back of her shirt.

Enjoy, as I did.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Creating A Memory

I'm going to interrupt the travelogue tonight.

Last night I took my 87-year old dad to see the Broadway South performance of South Pacific. He had to make a seventy-five mile drive to get here, and for the first time in his life expressed some concern about making the drive. About a year ago, he got caught in a horrendous thunderstorm on his way home from the beach, and hasn't been back since. But he drives around town every day, to the office, to Rotary, to church, to deliver Mobile Meals (yep, he delivers Mobile Meals!). It made me sad to hear him talk of limitations; he's always been proud and independent.

I debated how to handle the night. I wanted it to be special. Times are bad, though, and he's always been a conservative spender. I imagined the phone conversations that would take place today if the evening felt too extravagant to him.

I decided to go for the best. We went to one of my favorite high-end restaurants. He ordered an appetizer and water; that was okay. And when we got to the theater, I realized that our seats were on the third row. Good, you might say, but the price was on the ticket stub, and I worried that he thought it was too much.

The musical was amazing. My father loves music; he had to have the latest in stereos and musical equipment. There was always something playing in the background at our house. I knew every word to every song of South Pacific even though I've only seen the musical maybe twice. And because he exposed us to so much of it, I recognize classical music but couldn't tell you who the composer is to save my life.

It's crazy to still care what your parents think about you and your lifestyle choices at fifty-seven years old. But I do. I really do. And as much as I thought I had planned something he would like, I waited for his email today so I would know what kind of time he had. He writes us all--children, grandchildren, cousins--every week day. He thinks it's a bunch of drivel, but we love it. Here's what he said about the night:

I just got back from...a very nice visit with the Potters and going to see a Broadway production of "South Pacific" at the Raleigh Civic center. The performance was excellent and you can take that from someone who has probably heard that music more than 99.9% of the people on this planet. It was the first vinyl record I owned and I believe my children are all familiar with the play from hearing that music daily for quite a while.

I didn't know it was the first vinyl record the owned. No wonder we listened to it over and over!

I had a great time with him. Whatever the cost, it was worth it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Museum, Doors and Windows

A few years ago, my daughter and I visited Ghost Ranch outside of Santa Fe. It was off-season and the ranch had a desolate, abandoned feel to it. When we stopped at the Musee de la Camargue, I got this same feeling. Here is what it says on the Internet about the museum:

"The museum occupies a former sheep farm in the heart of the Camargue. It traces the history of human activity in the Rhône delta from the geological origins of the region up to the present day.

"A large part of the permanent exhibition is devoted to the different aspects of life in a mas during the 19th century: agriculture, stock breeding, hunting, fishing and domestic life. But the economic activities that developed in the 20th century are also featured, notably the construction of hydraulic infrastructure, and the production of wine, rice and sea salt."

The land and buildings that made up the mas were very peaceful and picturesque.

This model of farmers at a table was intriguing to me - ghostlike - and it looked like aliens meet the Amish rather than a meeting of mas ranchers.

I understood on this trip why whole books have been published with photographs of European doors and windows. Here are some of my favorites:

And lastly, the gesture we noticed the most while in France:

Tomorrow I will share photographs of children from the trip. And then it will be back to my regular scheduled programs!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I wanted to see the Mediteranean Sea so we took a side trip from Arles to The Camargue. The beach resort town was a little tacky, but a photographer's dream. Tonight, because I had my first writing group meeting and I'm tired from the adrenaline rushes, it's mostly a picture story. Bon soir!