Friday, September 29, 2006

Crustacean Tube Dysfunction

Did that get your attention?
I hate going to the doctor, and so I've been treating my own inner ear problem for about 6 weeks now. My left ear is driving me batshit.

Don't you just love the 'net! First I diagnosed allergies, and I tried Alovert. Nope. Then I determined that I had swimmer's ear, even though I don't swim, and I prescribed homeopathic ear drops. No improvement.

I got back on the 'net and found stories about bugs getting into people's ears and laying eggs in there. The idea that my head might be full of larvae made me break down and make an appointment with the doctor. It's not really something you want to take a chance of.

Things to Be Thankful For Today: No Earwigs for me! Yay!

I have Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. Big medical terminology. It translates into "Eustachian Tube Not Functioning Properly." Here's the x-ray they took of my ear:

More good news is that I don't have to take any medicine for this. There IS no medicine for it. Instead, I have to do this:

Only I have to hold my nose and exhale through my ears at the same time.

I must say that was interesting to watch the doctor demonstrate. She really did it, like she was getting ready to dance The Swim or something.

Anyway, I have to do that every hour on the hour, until...well, I won't tell you until what, except the doctor used the medical phrase "gob of stuff."

I know, I couldn't help myself, either, from saying "EW!" when she said that.

Every hour. Sometimes I'm glad I have a cubicle-y job. I've already tried it once, and lo, the right ear pops, but the left ear doesn't. Maybe that doctor knows what she's talking about.

I promise I won't blog about the day the left ear finally gives out. I won't Gob-blog.

Your welcome.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bringing up the grades

It's been three months since my son graduated from boot camp. I spent the summer waiting for and readying for him to come home, and then, after he left, adjusting the house around for one. Then I "loaned out" his room to one of his friends, temporarily, and adjusted the house back around for 2.

It's a weird crossroad, this empty nesting. I've had plenty of time to invest in the things I like to do: I've done some photography, and hung out with The Mom, and cooked for friends and family, and done some hiking, went on a vacation, and hung out with friend at the coffee shop and the beergardens. I remodeled the sunroom, took care of the yard and the house.

I run my tail off each day, and yet lie down at night thinking "man. I didn't get jack done today."

Day after day.

Hm. Why do I feel, lately, like my grades are slipping, when I'm generally keeping everything up to par?

More importanlty, what's it going to take for me to feel like I have more of a sense of accomplishment at the end of each day?

The answer is a no-brainer, for me. I need to create something. I need to re-organize, and buckle up, and MAKE time at the easel. I need to set some goals, and get busy. I goofed off for my first semester of this empty nesting stuff, and it's time to regroup.

I've been doing just that. Leaving work around 4, walking an hour, tidying up the house. Fixing a HEALTHY dinner early in the evening, and staying off of the dessert and wine for the rest of the evening. Vitamins and flossing, and all that jazz. There. The basics are covered, in a manner that leaves me with an extra 2-5 hours, at least 3 evenings a week. Maybe more.

And the paints are out now. And I'm choosing some of my photographic images to base my paintings on, and putting a few grids over them, and scrutinizing which elements I'll leave in, which I'll take out, and what I might add to this one or that one.

And I'm doing this.

And I feel great.

Here's a pic of one I worked on tonight; it's a little dark; I increased the contrast so you can see the pencil lines. The canvas is slightly larger than is shown here, and the 3 characters on the left are still pretty rough. I'm using the image "boys.jpg" from my LA Favs smugmug gallery. I'm removing the blue drop cloth from the back, turning the head of the guy in the middle (so that he's not looking at the painter) and changing some of the colors.

I'll post the progress, periodically, of this one and more. Sharing this with you is going to help me stay on track.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Pizza Party

One of our buds, Mark, put out an APB last week: A "fix your own pizza" party at his place Saturday night. Oh boy! I used to have pizza parties for Brian and his friends. Get some Boboli crusts, some Pizza Quick sauce, pepperoni, and a bag of cheese. Sounds like fun to me!

Yeah. Well.

As you can see, this was clearly no lame-o "Boboli" Party.

There was real live pizza dough rising on the counter when we got there. A large pan full of roasted tomatoes—from Mark's garden. Homemade tomato sauce simmering on the stove. Fresh homemade pesto. And fresh mozzarella.

And there was sausage, and fresh basil, and olive oil. And there was a rolling pin, and a baking stone, and a paddle, and canister of corn meal, which Mark referred to as "ball bearings."

We pulled up chairs and let Mark take the lead on the first couple of pizzas.

There's Mark's hands, fixing up a crust.

Pesto, artichokes, and mozzarella on this one.

Boo-ya! The pizza came off of the paddle!

Tina adds more ball bearings for the next pizza up.

So, these crazy-delicious pizzas on crispy crusts would come out of the oven, and we'd devour them almost before the next one was popped in for baking. During the interim, we talked and cut up, while we sipped a few [million] Blue Moon's. It was simply lovely. Hanging out and cooking with friends is one of my favorite things to do. Especially when the friends are doing most of the work!

Ah, but I gave in, before night's end, and gave it a shot. I was determined to toss my crust, but I wasn't so good at it. I eventually gave in to the almighty rolling pin.

Mike dishes it up.

Marcy and Atef mugging for the camera.
Or rather, Atef mugging Marcy for the camera.

Look! Mark has central vac! Alanis saves the day!

Atef & Mark (mozzarella) cheesing it up for the camera.

Now get this. Not only were all of the pizzas handmade and all of the ingredients homemade, but Tina brought the dessert.

Not a dessert, like a box dessert like WE might have brought, if we'd brought anything, which we didn't, because we suck. Well we did bring ice, but it wasn't even homemade ice. Yes. We were too lazy to even make ice. I iterate: we suck.

Anyway, Tina's dessert was a rich, beautiful chocolate torte. That she made herself. From scratch.

She also brought along 2 tubs of homemade whipped cream, a bowl of fresh raspberry sauce, and a tub of homemade strawberry ice cream.

To quote another blogger that I read, "Shut Up! I Know!"

Tina's chocolate torte.

Strawberry ice cream. Homemade Strawberry ice cream.

I know you're all lining up to become my friend now, just so you can get to Mark and Tina through me, and score an invitation to any parties in which one or the other of them might be cooking.

Go ahead. E-mail me.

I'll put you on the waiting list.

Gone Baby Gone

As long as I'm tossing out random notes today, I'll throw this in.

I was very excited the other day to read that Ben Affleck is making Dennis Lehane's Gone, Baby, Gone into a movie. I'm sure someone, somewhere, in the past has heard me say "Mark my words, this book will be made into a movie!"

But they made Lehane's Mystic River, first, which was also a pretty good choice. (I predicted that one too, long before it was chosen for a film.) I hope they do as good with translating this one onto the big screen as they did with Mystic.


Re-enactment of the CU Blogger Meet Up

What's the big idea of everyone announcing an CU Blogger Meet-up at the Esquire last night, then not showing?!! Momo and I arrived a little after 5, as instructed, and Gamera Gabs stopped at our table, to ask if we were the blogger party.

We guessed we were, so sit down! Gamera and I worked together for years, and I'd read her blog, not knowing it was her, so that was cool.

Well, three's enough for a party; we whooped it up and talked about the rest of you behind your backs until midnight for 90 minutes before we had to leave for another engagement.

Do over!


I've been tagged by Last Minute Lyn: I'm supposed to post an unobstructed view of my head. Well, this was taken last week, and it's slightly obstructed, with Melissa's glasses.

Lyn, did I get this game right? It seems too darned easy!

I tag Momo and Kirstin, and you.

Monday, September 25, 2006

There's my two little kittens, circa 1991. It was April of that year, when Brian was 5, and I was ... 28 (!) that we heard through the grapevine that a nearby farmer had some kittens to give away. I'd bought a house in January, and we had our act together except for one thing: We needed a pet. We should, we decided, probably check out those kittens.

This particular one chose us in a matter of minutes, and we merrily hit the road, trying to pick out a name for her. Brian decided, suddenly, that her name would be Sylvester! That was it. Sylvester the Cat!


Sylvia, she became, after a little coercing on my part.

She was a precious thing, and meowless. She'd utter a weird voicy growl, now and again, but meowing, rarely. She and Brian were fast and furious from the get-go. He'd drape her over his head, and she'd happily ride along like his little cat-hat, never offering up any kitty arguments, and often coming back for another ride. They pounced and screamed, and ran through the house for years, he with a feather on a stick, and she determined to make mincemeat of it.

We taught her a few cool cat tricks. After feeding her, we'd walk away, and tell her, "Say thank you, Sylvia." She'd leave her dish every time to give you a quick rub across your ankles before heading back to the grub.

And there was a game called "I'm a cheetah," in which we'd wrestle around with her (saying, of course, "You're a cheetah, Sylvia!") until she was tempted to bite. Then we'd call out "no bite!" and she'd stop where she was, mouth still open, a tooth poised on your arm. She test you a little bit, but with another "noooooo" she'd leave the game altogether, as if to say "screw it. If I can't bite, I'm not playing."

Brian and I browsed through a cat book once, in which cat's emotions were potrayed. One of the portraits amused us, with a caption that said "this means worry." He'd then tease the hell out of the cat, holding large objects (usually pillows) over her head, and when her expression was just right, he'd say "Look, Mom. This means worry."

I'm pretty sure he held one of our floor pillows over her head when he was home on leave in July.

15.5 years we've been coming home and greeting our beloved Sylvia.

Alas, she fell very ill last week. When I took her in to our vet, it was only a matter of minutes before the doctor informed me that she had a lymphoma that was fatal. I wasn't altogether surprised to hear her words, I knew our kitty had been slowing down for a few years, and I knew she wasn't feeling so hot.

I'm usually pretty good at keeping my emotions in check. But I began weeping at the word "fatal," and I cried unapologetically through the rest of the conversation, in which I determined that she would only continue to suffer, and worsen, if we kept her alive. It was a no-brainer, the decision to put her to sleep.

The house is lonelier by 1 now. I still unconsciously look for her, before jumping into bed, so I don't land on top of her. I gave Brian the bad news on Saturday morning, after he'd gotten in from the field, for 10 days. "Ohhh, Poooooooooooor Kittyyyyyyyyyyyyy" he said, in a baby voice that was meant for me, I know. He is a tougher soldier than I.

And you know, I have the nicest friends in the whole world. I put out a mini-APB on Thursday morning, and friends called within a half-hour, to see if I was OK. And e-mailed through the day. And left me messages to call them, also. And though I had a few things to take care of at work, the bossman told me to go home whenever I wanted to. And when I felt like burrowing in at home on Friday night, I still got phone calls from my coffeeshop buds, inviting me down, and telling me whom all had asked for me, or said hello. And my mother called, and some others, I learned today, toasted Sylvia and drank to her.

So. Thanks, you guys, for looking out for me.

And have one for Sylvia, next time you're out.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A little levity

While having lunch at great little cajun place along Hermosa Beach, Lori pointed out this little girl, just outside our window. The pen next to her is full of fluffy little yippy dogs. "I'm trying to figure out if that's a real dog in her lap," Lori said.

We spent about 5 minutes, flip-flopping back and forth whether the thing was real or not; was it just one of the puppies from that cage? Why is she holding it like that?

Then she unzipped the thing and put her hand right into it's back. Oh! Startling at first, but we had our answer:

That thing is her purse.

Friday, September 22, 2006

What a week.

Lawd'a'mercy, this one was tumultuous. Heartache interlaced with chaos, and then there was 5 trips to 3 Verizon stores and still a dead cel phone, until the mail arrives on Monday. Everything happens to me.


Pity Party is Officially Over.

(All in favor, say aye.)

The Good News Is, I've got all I need to recuperate, on this exciting Friday night:

Comfy sweats pushed up to my knees. A choice of 3 rented movies. Trader Joe's crabcakes in the oven. A crappy bottle of champagne. And a canvas in front of me, that a drawing will be transferred to by night's end.

The weekend's looking good too. If the tornado's hold off, a potential festival tomorrow, followed by a nice, wholesome, "fix your own pizza" party tomorrow night. (BYOB).

I am nothing if not resilient.

We will resume regularly-scheduled blogging soon.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Off the Beaten Path

This is Downtown Arthur, IL, taken from the north end. It's about 40 miles from my place, and I spent Sunday afternoon walking around and taking photos of this little town and another, Arcola, IL. They're 9 miles apart from one another, and known foremost for being Amish communities, also with a large Mennonite population.

I'm often more surprised and contemplative after visiting these towns, than I am by anything I see in a big city. It's true that Venice Beach offers up a guy with naught but two tufts of hair on his head, dyed red, and molded into horns, and with a bright red tail tattooed on his back.

But Arthur finds me standing in line at mini mart, behind a young man, with sleeves of ink. He wears his ballcap backwards, and bounces to tunes on his iPod. In front of him, a young Mennonite girl, in a pastel pink dress that falls past her knees, and her hair tucked into a white cap. A long white ribbon from her cap is tossed over her shoulders. They are about the same age. They are both buying candy, a beverage.

This, I think, is culture clash like none I witnessed in Los Angeles.

And there's more.

Arcola is often referred to by those in our Mexican community as "Little Mexico." I found a brief article in their local paper about the Hispanic community, that began building in the late '60s when folks started moving here from Cadereyta, Mexico to work in the Broom Industry. (Broomcorn, for those of you that don't live around here. Broomcorn. Broomcorn Festivals. Broomcorn Brooms. Read Dave Barry's take.). Cadareyta, the article says, is often referred to as "a sister city" to Arcola.

As I walked around Arcola, several cars passed me, rattling with the beat of loud Latin music, the drivers all nodding a hello. These guys asked me take their picture. Ok. Click.

On the advice of friends, I stopped into a little hole-in-the-wall, Mom & Pop place called Taco Tako. $6 gets you cinco (that's 5, goober) bistek tacos (handmade tortillas!) with cilantro, cheese, & lettuce, and a side of grilled onions, hot sauce, and fresh lime.

There are less than 5,000 people in these two towns, combined (2,662 Arcola, 2,203 Arthur) and yet, they are amazingly rich in cultural and religious diversity.

There is, of course, quite a bit of tourism in these places, people come from miles around for Amish crafts, quilts, and cheese. Tour buses hit the hot spots: Rockome Gardens, and the Cheese Factory. But they are both "don't-blink, or-you'll-miss it!-" sized towns.

My advice, as it is anywhere you go, is to get off the beaten path and open your eyes.

Because there's so much to miss, if you blink.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dear Dogbait

I have a situation. Please. Hop a plane and take care of this for me.

I innocently opened my mailbox this week, when this spider jumped on his back legs, and yelled "Rahhhrrrrrr!" Then he just stood there, laughing while I screamed. Stood there...

on a letter...

from my son!

If it had been bills, or more applications to get 0% credit cards, I would have just closed the mailbox back up and made a run for it.

By the time I fished my camera out of my purse, he'd retreated to the back of his new quarters. Still. I stood there, thinking about This story from Dogbait. If you go on to read his comments, he explains exactly how it is that these Arachnids run up his arm or down his head and neck. "Pretend for a moment you are a meter reader," he says.

Oh yeah, I got that scenario down, in my mind: I'd just give my letter a little scoot out the door, and that spider would scream Gotcha!!! And run up my arm. And, of course, down my collar.

And there I'd be.

Naked in the street.


Worse yet, when I went to get my mail yesterday, there was a stack of mail waiting for me.

But no spider.

Wiley bastard. I knew full well he was laying in wait between the junkmails.

So, what has every other day been a mindless procedure, is now quite involved.

Find a stick.

Open the mailbox door. With the stick, of course. Then stand back!

Reach that stick in there, and Quick! Drag all of the mail out, right onto the street.

Hop around and squeal a bit, just in case the spider comes charging at you.

Triple check that the spider hasn't, thus far, ended up on the end of your stick, or anywhere on your person, and then use that stick to separate and flip over each piece of mail, still lying in the street.

Pick up each piece after it's cleared the spider security check.

Tickets are on me, Dogbait; I can't go on like this forever.

Friday, September 15, 2006


I have been in the printing and publishing business since I was 18 years old. 25 years, that makes it; straight out of high school. Hence, I see a word, or an error, in my peripheral vision. Just today I *fanned* through a set of pages, and found the word "Ubiquitous" spelled "ubiquitouus" on a series of pages, and marked it on a set of proofs that I had nothing to do with. Because, it is what I do. Still, forgive my my errors here; as I forgive yours. I care not but your message, yes?

I tell you this only because, 5 years ago, as I was putting clothes away in my son's room, my eyes caught words, on an IM printout on his desk, that were not mine to read. I tried to respect his privacy. I tried not to read them.

But still. I looked to the left. And to the right. Anywhere, but AT the words: He'd considered IT. IT was not worth living. He'd thought about IT. His friend argued, scolded, and chided. Don't do IT.

I finally gave in, and I read that printout.

And I promptly went straight to bed.

An anvil on my chest, I could do nothing, but go DOWN. Down, down, down, maybe I should lie on the floor, maybe I should find a parking garage, I need to be as DOWN as I can get.

And I fell, immediately, into a deep unconscious sleep, for 30 minutes. Dead to the world. I could not process this. I had to leave this.

I then woke up, and waited for my son to get home, and I didn't waste a minute. "THIS was none of my business. YES, I violated your privacy, and I apologize. But it is better for you to resent me, or HATE me, even, than for me to live knowing, that I never talked to you about IT. I know, I know, that IT crossed your mind. IT has darkened my doors before.

And you.



Do you understand me?


If you do,

I can't imagine.

That I won't.

Got it?


I talked to Brian yesterday. He'd returned my call, while I was out taking a walk. We discussed his cel phone bill. And then he told me that... final formation, at the end of the day, it was announced, by a red-eyed sargeant, that one of his friends, in his company, had taken his life that day.

My son, still reeling. He'd just been to the mall, with this guy a week or so ago, with a group. His age, he was not sure. "What's up with you?" they'd asked him. He said "nothing."


My son, 20, and in the Army, and still, I want to shield him from this. After flipping through an EMT book that we typeset in my company, just yesterday afternoon, looking at gunshot wounds, and imagining what my kid might someday see. God, I hope not. And still I want to protect MY son. From...

...his father's best friend, after PTI (Police Training Institute); hit by a car, and pressured to get back to work. Chop chop! Broken back my ass!;

...a boy I had a crush on, when I was a kid. Steve Seipult;

...and another, that I still cannot bring myself to write about here.

And I know this hurts, for some of you to read.

This Suicide, that we cannot wrap our minds around.

We are left with grieving at every Death, in our life.

But at those who take their own, we are left with Grief. And Frustation. Dammit! WHY?! and Guilt! What should I have said? Should I have paid more attention? And Anger. Fuck YOU, you didn't care enough about me to stick around? You hurt me like this? And Logic. What were you thinking? How is this better?







To Grief.

Times infinity.

And maybe, that anvil on my chest, 5 years ago, was nothing but drama. Teenage angst. A lovesick kid. A conflict with a friend.

And maybe.


I'd do it all.



and again.

I ache.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Vacation Notes

A few photos and comments about my vacation, and then I'll move on. At least I'm not forcing you to stay awake during a slide show.

First, a few observations about you Los Angeles-sians.

You're not quite as mannerly as Midwesterners. Most of us don't shove or cut in lines. We say "excuse me" when we step in front of someone, or bump into them.

I couldn't keep myself from it, and found myself, more than once, face to face with someone expecting something. "Excuse me." "Yes?" Well, nothing. I'm just trying to get by here, excuse me while I move around you. Too much work! I can see why you've dismissed it from your social niceties.

But in other issues, you're MORE polite. You don't flip off crazy drivers. Lori explained, to me, though, that it's not because you're all so polite, you sneaks! It's that you fear the other driver will point a gun at you. That's just crazy. When someone cuts you off here, you flip them the bird, and they flip it right back. It's therapeutic. There's no need for violence, people.

You all really are more fit than we are. You have more nice outdoorsy stuff and more access to fresh foodstuffs.

And it's not unheard of here, but it's still rare to see a man getting a mani/pedi. I didn't pass a salon in LA that didn't have at least one guy getting a no-polish manicure. Interesting.

And I'll admit it: your farmer's markets are WAY better. We do not have an omelet bar, homemade tamales, crepes, fresh OJ, or coconuts with straws coming out of them.

The flora and fauna in LA is amazing. It's so established. Ours freeze to death and have to fight their way back every spring. No time for gargantuan leaves and blossoms.

There are more co-ed bathrooms in LA. Girls here are oh-so-prim, and rarely share a bathroom with the boys. Furthermore, beach bathrooms are out-and-out disgusting; I perfected my hover on Venice Beach out of pure survival instinct.

Enough. Here's some photos, and I'll be out of your hair. First: 10-cent avocados. I'd be knee-deep in guacamole all the time if I could get an avocado for this price. You can't even get a gumball for a dime in this berg.

The girl on the back of this tandem bike has the right idea.

Ummm...this can't be good...

Flowers from the Santa Monica Farmer's market:

And one wild one, at Pt. Mugu.

A little something from the Santa Monica Fisherman's Pier.

And from Venice Beach:

And these from an outdoor furniture/statuary place along the Pacific Coast Highway. Oddly enough, it was one of my favorite stops on the trip.

Maybe these guys had something to do with it.

All of my photos will be at in the next few days or so, if you really want to see the slideshow.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Monarchs & Matriarchs: Sunday with Mama

I know it's not really autumn yet, but we've still been blessed with a spot of cool weather. I can hardly wait; this is my all-time favorite time of year!

So, Mom and I nix'd the shopping today, and took a stroll through Meadowbrook park. I'm always drawn to the public gardens there, I love watching the progression from seedlings to overgrown autumn chaos.

As luck would have it, today seemed to be Butterfly Day. There's a bed of flowers at the West end of the gardens that were teeming with Monarch butterflies. Mom and I were completely mesmerized with hundreds of them flitting about, and spent a good 45 minutes pretty much standing around the same patch.

You kind of had to be there. But here are a few shots I got, with the old cam, small enough to carry with me everywhere. The pictures were alright, but trust me, they don't do the moment any justice.

Notice there's practically a butterfly for every bud here.

Extreme Close Up! Party Time! Excellent!

This one came out a little dark, so I Photoshop'd it to enhance the colors. It's a bit fakey here, but still. You get the idea?

Butterflies were willing to share, at least those blossoms that didn't have much to offer:

"Hey, baby, what's your sign?" Anyone want to tell the guy on the right that he's barking up the wrong tree?

Back to the butterflies.

I have to confess that just for giggles, I gave the entire jungle a bit of a shake, just to see what would happen.

Imagine standing in the midst of Monarch Tornado. It was so suprising and disorienting that all I could do was stand there and giggle with my my mother.

Like I said. You had to be there.

Go there.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Da Update!

There he is folks!

For the record, that is NOT his kid. Unless he's holding out on me. I haven't really summoned the nerve to ask.

Brian seems to be doing very well. I have access to him, and he answers the phone when I call, which is probably too often for his comfort. When I do call, he often has to put me off, to tell me he'll call later, he's busy with friends.

As it should be. At least he answers.

He seems to be liking Fort Benning. His biggest surprise, from what I hear, is that the Physical Training is much tougher there than bootcamp was. There have been days when he had to run 1,000 miles, with 5 other guys, all of them holding a raft containing 2 other men over their heads.

It's all true but the 1,o00 miles. It's some miles though, in Georgia heat, and he's wringing out his clothes every morning.

I'm not sure what he's studying, though his friend (and my new roommate) tells me bits about what he hears. It sounds exciting.

He received his first promotion last week, for this I am bursting with pride.

He is an upstanding citizen, a pillar of the Fort Benning community.

Here's proof:

John, after answering his cell phone tonight, called to me "Hey, Brian's wasted!!!"

I raced over to John and yanked that phone out of his hands while he frantically tried to warn Brian "she's coming, she's coming, she's taking the ph...."

Me: How are you?

Brian: Fine, Mom.

Me: Repeat after me: She sells seashells by the seashore.


Me: Stand on one foot, close your eyes, and put your finger to your nose.

Brian: I'm doing the foot thing, Mom, but I have the phone in one hand and a beer in the other.

Me: You're not driving, are you?

Brian: No, mom. I'm not driving. I'm staying here for the night.

Me: Sleep face down, will ya?

As an upstanding parent, hellbent on keeping my kid from smoking, drinking, and any other number of things, there's one thing I figured out.


Shoutout to my buddy Standish: You think that Tequila's bad...go for a 3-olive martini, boy. Oh. And take care 'o my kid. I love you too.