"Why Are You... The Way You Are?"

Yesterday while Ellen was napping, Eddie and I happened upon a rerun of "My So-Called Life." Angela was talking to Jordan when he turns suddenly, putting one of his arms out, his hand above one of her shoulders and corners her into a near kiss against a fence. Then he asks her, "Why are you.... you know.... the way you are?" Then he leaves. HE LEAVES. She catches her breath and tries to ask him, "How am I?" He doesn't hear her (or can't/won't answer her in front of his buddies). As he walks away, she's even more desperate to know his answer so she takes a few steps forward and says a bit louder, "How am I?" She's left with no answer.

I'm totally guilty of looking to others to find out How I Am. I just... you know... need to stop it.

I also look to family, home, hobbies and duties for a quick definition of me. I need to stop that too. Maybe it's not the How or the What that we are, but the Why.


A Collector's Item

Many months ago, I was with the family at Babies-R-Us to purchase a last-minute shower gift. (I don't think there is any other kind of gift, other than the last minute one. Have you SEEN Babies-R-Us on a pre-shower Saturday morning? It's filled with women dressed to go to a shower, stopping by to get their gift. I digress.) Along with our gift, we purchased one of the featured diaper bundles. If I can recall, the bundle included a lot of diapers, some wipes, and some type of unnecessary wipes case - all in a large, branded, plastic tub. After all of the diapers and wipes were used and the unnecessary case was discarded we were left with the tub. It has served many uses.

1. Hamper
2. Toy box
3. Shoe box
4. Catch all
5. Car
6. "Box"

It is currently called "Ellen's Box." She calls it that. She likes to get in it and sit. And then stand. And then sit again. In between the sitting and the standing are many, many trips outside of the box to retrieve items to put in the box with her. Then they go out of the box (so she can then get out of the box, pit it up, and start the process again). It's all great fun. Today she brought colors into her box, one by one, and decorated it.

When you have a kid in daycare they are sent home with their little art projects, the pieces they've painted, glittered, stamped and smeared. In the beginning, Eddie and I saved every. single. one. One and a half years in, we keep the really pretty ones. Just today I pulled a piece of art from his car and held it up to him in a gesture that said, "What are we going to do with this?" He responded, "I wouldn't mind if we didn't keep that." But we're keeping the box. It's performance art.


"We Are Now Composters."

Earlier this summer, Eddie, Ellen and I visited a friend in Alabama. She put us up in her beautiful house in the country. The house sits on a hill and from the kitchen we could see the deck, that overlooked the pool, that was next to the garden, that was next to the horse pasture. In her kitchen we cooked meals together, gossiped like old times, and watched Ellen chase her dogs around the house.

During the course of one of our conversations while preparing a meal, I spied a beautiful, chrome bucket sitting on her counter. I asked her what it was for. "Compost," she said. "We have a compost pile behind the fence." I remembered that her father maintained a compost pile in her old back yard, here in Baton Rouge. When I was 16, I remember thinking it odd that when I was over for dinner or to spend the night, her family treated the vegetable scraps differently than my family. MY family just tossed 'em. HER family cleaned the kitchen after dinner, all of the dishes and counters and table and everything except the purposeful pile of vegetation. After all was done, her father would gather the scraps and head outside. To the compost pile. HER father had a rose bed in the front yard, and I assumed he used it for that. MY father cut the grass and trimmed the edges, that was about it.

When we returned home from our Alabama vacation, I had big dreams of gardening and building and painting and rearranging and COMPOSTING!!! But to make any of these things happen with a full-time job, a very nearly two year old and dishes and clothes and cooking... pesky little things like "needing to get some sleep" sometimes get in the way. So I set my bar really low.

I mean, who can't compost, right? It's just putting this part of the trash over here, instead of over there. Right? No. Turns out you need a bin. And a place to put the bin, a place with "good drainage." Once you get the bin, you find out that you need some chicken wire or netting as a barrier to the soil you need to till before you put the chicken wire down and the bin on top of it. Keep me honest if I'm not doing my math right, but THAT'S A WHOLE 'NOTHER TRIP TO THE HARDWARE STORE, PEOPLE. So, once received, the bin may or may not have sat in our garage for a few weeks.

Today Ellen went to her grandparent's house for a hefty portion of the day.
Today Eddie had the day off from work.
Today I got a text at 2:24 pm with the picture below attached. It read, "We are now composters."

I still lack the fancy, chrome compost bucket. But I'm on my way. I wonder when I'll get the text, "We now have a pool." That'll be a good picture.


Family Portrait, A Still Life

Between the couch and the hallway, there is a little piece of house. The shoes go there. Nobody decided, they just do. They pile up and up until they're worn again or someone accidentally puts them away. Yesterday evening there we were, our little family, perfectly captured in the first cast-off pieces of the mid-week day.


Where Oh Where Did My Youth Go?

After two full days of being down for the count (so sick I couldn't move), I finally have some energy and seem to be on the mend. What is my first priority?



Mining the Journals #2

In class assignment, Leadership, Providence, RI. September 19, 2000

Why I chose "Brave."

When asked to choose only one word that describes me and to decide that in only three minutes, there's really not a lot of time for soul-searching. I know that if I were given more time to think on it, I probably would have discarded my choice as presumptuous. Brave does not equal fearless. In fact, the mere definition of brave implies that some amount of fear must come first. Brave is being afraid but getting on a plane anyway. Brave is closing your eyes and jumping out from the platform and into the water. Brave is getting in the car after the accidents.

I am scared.
I am brave.


Bad Hair Day

I'm sick.
I have a full-time job and dirty dishes in the sink.
I am a wife as well as a mother to a very nearly two year old. She never runs out of energy.
My lymph nodes are swollen.

I have a presentation at work tomorrow.

Almost regretting the whole NaBloPoMo thing right about now. I'd say I'm phoning this one in, but folks, I'm really givin' it all I've got.


A Piece Of Life In Providence

From my journal:


I'm sitting here at this desk, facing a wall, but I have a framed picture of my Sparky tilted and resting against it. This moment I see him there, on the beach in Charleston. His curly hair is moved, but captured still, by the Atlantic breeze.
I know that he's looking down - reading the instructions to the camera I used to take the picture. But it looks like he's sad or wistful, posing maybe.

It's a great picture to look at. I takes me back to the moment as a picture should.

I am surrounded by my Sparky. The bible he bought for me back in 1996, the printer he's letting me use, his note he left for me in my book sack for my first day of class... even so... I miss him.

My room mate is leaving tomorrow for the weekend so I have three days alone with my thoughts. I'm considering some studying.

There are a few prospects in the friend arena. I have to decide whether or not to discard my hermit crab shell. To call or not to call - that is the question. It is almost like I don't want to belong here. Actually, it's exactly like that.

I like the adventure part, but the actual "living" here thing isn't conforming with what I consider to be my identity.

I look back at the picture of Eddie. I can see my reflection in the glass. We're almost together in the picture. My eyes fit perfectly in the middle of the sky.


Tears In Tuscaloosa

There was a big football game tonight. I would probably fall well short of "super-fan" status, having fallen asleep on the couch during the game - only to wake up in overtime as my team was just about to win with the final score. I'm happy for the win not only because it's fun to watch my team win, but because of what it does to this city. For a moment, we are united in joy. For a moment, while the confetti flies, all is forgiven because there is only room for celebration. I wish life could be this way more often, on a crisp fall night.



To Blog:

Step 1. Wake up the computer.
Step 2. Tap a few keys on the keyboard and wonder why nothing happens.
Step 3. Ask yourself, "WHERE is the wireless mouse?"
Step 4. Realize that your husband, who was home with your daughter today, probably turned off the keyboard so said daughter wouldn't re-set the desktop again (we still can't fix it back) while chanting, "keyboard, keyboard, keyboard."
Step 5. Turn on the wireless keyboard.
Step 6. Remember that the wireless mouse is missing. Briefly look around the room for the mouse (an unforseen drawback to the wireless mouse - apparently you can misplace it).
Step 7. Leave the room, enter the bedroom where your husband has just fallen asleep. Wake him up by asking, "Do you know where the mouse is?"
Step 8. Wait for him to wake up a little. Pretend you didn't know he was already asleep.
Step 9. Listen while he tells you that, no, he doesn't know where it is. Then take his advice to "go look in the closet."
Step 10. Exit bedroom, re-enter room with computer and open closet. See mouse alone, on the floor. Pick up the mouse.
Step 11. Bring it to the desk and click it a few times, then wonder why nothing happens.
Step 12. See Step 4. Replace "keyboard" with "mouse."
Step 13. Turn on wireless mouse.
Step 14. Log into your blog
Step 15. Look around for inspiration.


The Very Best Chocolate Cake In All The Land

I don't want to ever lose this recipe. It was given to me by a former co-worker, Sue. I felt like we went through war together and I will never forget her. Mostly because of this cake. Actually, it's a lovely way to remember her.

Chocolate Bundt Cake

For the cake:
1 (18.25 oz) box dark chocolate cake mix
1 (3 oz) box instant chocolate pudding mix
1 (16 oz) carton sour cream
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Kahlua (may substitute with milk)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate or peanut butter chips (or 1 cup of each)

Preheat oven to 350°.
Grease and flour a 10 in bundt pan.
In a large bow., combine cake mix, pudding mix, sour cream, eggs, oil and Kahlua.
Beat until ingredients are well blended.
Fold in chocolate and/or peanut butter chips.
Batter will be thick.
Spoon into prepared pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until cake springs back when lightly tapped.
Cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out and cool on wire rack.

For the Glaze:
1 oz square semi sweet chocolate (or 1 oz of chips)
1 tbsp unsalted butter (I've used salted and it's worked JUST fine.)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 or t tbsps warm milk

Melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave until just melted.
Stir it together.
Stir or sift together the powdered sugar and the cocoa.
stir a little of the powdered sugar mixture into the chocolate mixture.
Add a small amount of the milk and stir.
Add in the rest of the powdered sugar and whisk together until smooth.
Pour over the top of the slightly warm cake (or serve on the side.)

That's it. My husband has become emotional over this cake. It's a go-to recipe for a wow dessert. It's easy to modify or substitute ingredients and it reminds me of Sue. Can't get any better than Bundt.

Of course, I've never really tried a babka.


The Second Of November

My sister would have been 29 today. There's really no other way to say it, rather than it's weird. I don't like that she's gone. It's been eleven years. I was six years older than her. We rarely got along. I'm jealous when I see my friends interact with their siblings as adults. That is a relationship I will never know. That's hard. Admitting that is hard.

Happy Birthday Kath.



Old Dog, New Chase

I saw a dog chasing a cat today. I was on my way home from 1 1/2 trips to the store.

Let me explain: I went to the grocery store this evening for the first time in a long while untethered by a toddler. I was drunk with freedom, the freedom one can only know and appreciate when they're not trying to convince the un-convince-able to stay in the buggy while attempting to find 11 specific items on a list among the other 14,352 in the store. I was walking slowly down the aisles, reading the labels and may or may not have lingered longingly in the school supplies. I made my way to the check-out and completed the transaction with zero extra buttons pushed on the debit card payment thingy. I left the store, put all of the groceries in the trunk, returned my cart and got back into the car without trying to convince the un-convince-able that her car seat is a "special chair". Like I said, I was drunk with all of the freedom. I made my way 2/3 of the way home when I realized that I had forgotten a key ingredient in the evening's dish. I had to go back. To the store.

This time, I went in with purpose. Directly to the missed item. Directly to the check-out (carefully avoiding the eyes of the woman that JUST checked me out). Directly back to the car.

With everything necessary from the trip safe in my trunk, I drove home. This is where I saw the dog and the cat. At that moment, watching a dog chase a cat made sense. I've seen the dog around the neighborhood a lot and I've never seen her move this fast. In fact, she's hobbling most of the time. I've always assumed she was ...older. Witnessing those two animals playing out predictable roles gave me a comfort that there may still be predictability. I just may have to look for it. Being a new parent (yes, she's almost TWO and I still consider myself "new") brings unpredictable days, or days full of unpredictable-ness. That makes me tired. I'm tired.

I'm trying to take inspiration from the dog today - the old dog that had the energy when her instinct kicked in. C'mon instinct.
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