Friday, May 26, 2006

How Many Bath Products Does a Girl Need?

This morning she trekked into the bathroom to clean, hoping to get that job out of the way before the Holiday Weekend. Memorial Day Weekend was destined to be hot and muggy, and the last thing she wanted to be doing was cleaning the bathroom.

When she finished the sink and toilet and turned to the bath tub, she just stood there looking at it as if some stranger lived there. Removing the products from the side of the tub to clean it took longer than cleaning it. Two different shampoo brands, calling, of course, for two different conditioner brands; two tubes of Oil of Olay face wash; a bottle of St. Ives Apricot Scrub exfoliant; a bottle of Oil of Olay Ribbons body wash; two bottles of different scents of shower lotions; a bottle of K-Y massage oil; a can of ocean-scented shave gel; one Venus razor; and last but not least, two large bottles of bubble bath, one sandalwood scented and the other mango and orange.

She thought, "I've got to get rid of some of these things!" and retrieved a plastic Wal-Mart bag. She tossed in one of the shower lotion bottles, the nearly-empty-but-not-quite shampoo and conditioner and the almost-empty-but-not-completely mango and orange bubble bath. She took the massage oil, which she decided probably really had no purpose on the tub, and put it in the cabinet.

After scrubbing the tub clean and replacing the seashell bath mat, she lovingly replaced the saved-from-the-dumpster products and walked out of the bathroom, tossing the bag of disposed of items into the trash bag on her way out the door to take the trash to the curb for pick-up later in the day.

Back to work, her mind kept wandering. She was remembering that only two days ago she used the tossed shampoo and conditioner, and her hair felt so soft all day. She was remembering that a few nights earlier, her skin needing extra moisturizing, she rubbed the massage oil on her arms and legs in the tub. Her breathing quickened. She strolled back to the bathroom from behind her desk and prided herself on the organization on the side of her tub, but once back to work, she could not let go of the little voice in her head, telling her that she was going to need the things she threw away, probably within the next half-hour.

In her PJs, hair pulled up in a long ponytail, barefoot, muttering to herself, she rushed to the curb, and barely noticing the passing cars, the people staring openly at her, probably discussing with their children on the way to school that they should feel sorry for people like her, she opened the bags until she found the Wal-Mart Bag of Discarded Bath Products. Hugging them to her chest, she rushed inside and replaced them on the bath tub, her withdrawal symptoms fading, thinking, "Tomorrow I need to go buy more bath stuff before I run out!"

The life of a Bath Product Addict. There is no Twelve-Step Program for her but probably should be.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Battle of the Bees

About three weeks ago, the wood bees, who obviously also love the idea of having a beach house, made their annual pilgrimage back to the beams of HER beach house. They started by just showing up one day while she was grilling burgers, casing the joint, finding all their old holes from last year and merrily buzzing away to collect their friends and little pieces of bee furniture, returning the following day with a crew of carpenters and movers and their families of ten.

She listened, not as much annoyed as amazed by the sounds of munching and drilling going on overhead, but when sawdust began to shower down on her, she called Don.

For two years he has complained about the families moving in above their heads, the parties going on in the beams. When they read on the Internet that those little creatures dig entire tunnel networks in the wood structures, he vowed to eliminate the problem.

This eviction process never quite got off the ground. She wanted to net them and remove them and spray them with nerve gas, and Don just wanted to knock them to the ground with the net and stomp them to death. In the end, they did nothing but sit and complain.

She has never been afraid of the bees, allowing them to hover at eye level and share her space, but he is terrified of them. Their buzzing and hovering intimidates him. Just how frightened he is of them she never realized, however, until she purchased a bottle of spray to rid of the pests that were destroying The Beach House.

She said, "Don, come here! Look! There's one drilling right there and he has his ass sticking out of the hole! Quick, spray him, spray him!"

And Don said, "I'll get that little fucker! I'll get him...if he's still there after we eat, you better believe I'll get his ass!"

She stopped turning the steaks, mid-turn and glanced over at Don and realized at that moment that he had no intentions of declaring war on those bees. She laughed at him and he said, "What?"

She said, "You're scared."

Don replied, as everyone would expect him to with, "I'm not SCARED! I just want to eat dinner first."

Again she laughed, and he asked, "Well, what if they get pissed and don't die and just all come swarming out of their little forts and attack me? Look, I said I'll get them right after we eat, okay? If he's still sticking out like that."

Dinner lasted awhile. Don cut his steak in unusually small bites and kept spooning seconds and thirds of vegetables he normally never cared for.

After dinner, she went straight to The Beach House, thinking he had followed her, but when she turned around, Don was nowhere in sight and she found him in the recliner in front of the TV.

"Don?" she said. "He's not sticking out of the hole anymore, but I can hear a swarm of them drilling and chewing and there is sawdust falling like crazy!"

With the remote in-hand, flipping distractedly through the channels he replied, "I knew the stupid bees would hide. No need to mess with them now, it's almost dark. I'll get them next weekend, though, for sure!"

She went into her office and added to her list, "Get a ladder," finally realizing that she was going to have to climb up there and wage war on the wood bees alone.

Sighing she sat down next to her boyfriend and grabbed the remote from his hand. "Hey, the person braving the Battle of the Bees gets to decide what we watch on television."

There was no argument from him, but three weeks later the bees are still in residence and have put out blinking neon signs advertising hotels and restaurants in The City Above The Beach House, and every Sunday for the past three, she has marked everything off of her to-do list except carrying out the bee elimination process. Somehow that just never gets to the top of the list.

Well, there is always next weekend...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

There are going to be times, she has discovered, when things just do not go well. Life is zipping along in mindless mode when all of a sudden something a little menacing steps into the path and brings us up short. We bounce around like one of those balls tethered to a paddle by a rubber band, losing our way, finding our way, being scared, being pissed, being fine. Life has a way of making us have to stop and take a deep breath, recollect our spirits and our souls, pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off and start again.

To make a long story short, she has learned that when receiving iodine contrast dye in order to have imaging of the kidneys done, some women experience "warmness and tingling in the genital area." For all of us not quite so quietly old-school modest, that means that it can cause an orgasm.

How can you find anything wrong with the chance to lay on a table naked with doctors around while experiencing orgasms? AND NOT EVEN HAVE TO DO ANY OF THE WORK??

She thinks that you can find absolutely nothing wrong with that. True, the dye could kill her because of her seafood allergy, but at least she would be going out with a big old smile on her face and her carbon footprint would be deep and her aura like a rainbow!

If you have to cope with a medical issue, she can think of no better way to cope than this. Who knows? She might start trying to find ways of getting a stash of that dye for home use. Imagine the friends she would have!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Relationship with the Sentinel Tree

Anyone who knows her understands her love/hate relationship with the tree in her back yard. Her house was built in 1937, so that tree was probably residing right there for many years prior to the construction, if it's height and circumference are any indication.

Southern Indiana is the storm mecca of the United States, especially in the early Spring. A day without a storm is like a day of frickin' peace, and those do not come around often in her vicinity. To make the unnerving tornado sirens blasting every other day even worse, after the weather imps unleash their fury by sending wind and hail and deadly lightning (lightning is always described by the local pseudometerologists as deadly before, during and after a tornado-spawning storm from Hell rumbles and growls and roars through) she has to go into the back yard and pick up the large branches and numerous smaller sticks and stack them by the alley for the City to dispose of.

The tree has taken on a personality of its own now, having lived with her in-residence for the past twenty years, and stands there regally just begging for another storm so he can drop a few hundred limbs in the yard and watch her break her back picking them up, quietly, its top gently swaying in the higher-level breezes gently meandering through, an innocent looking, gentle giant guarding and shading her back yard, providing a cool place to sit in the summer to enjoy outdoor meals and cold beer. The Sentinel Tree.

She piles limbs up, admiring the blue sky, taking a deep breath of fresh air, then goes inside and stands by the sink in the kitchen, enjoying a cold glass of lemonade. Glancing absently to the west out the window above the sink, she squints, squats down a little to get a better look and mutters, "I'll be damned." Sure enough, a new bank of dark clouds is rolling onto the horizon. Within the hour, she finds herself living in her basement once more as the tornado sirens blast and the storm blows in and blows out to the east, leaving a perfectly cloudless sky.

This time out to collect the sticks and limbs she kicks at the tree and says, "Dammit! Stop throwing all your trash down here! Stupid tree!"

Another monster storm cuts through her city that night and another limb gathering session is necessary in the morning. The pile by the alley has grown in two days, three times the original size. On the last pass, with arms full of wood, extended to drop the latest tree trash, she pulls it back toward her chest and turns slowly, head back in order to see the top of that old tree and smiles.

The tree stops swaying for a moment, the smart-ass little smirk wiped off his face, studying her. She can feel how perplexed he is when she carries her load up close to the back of her house and drops it there. With determination, she stomps to the stack by the alley, gathers an armful of sticks and purposefully marches to the back of the house and adds those to the new pile.

There is a change in the personality of the tree as he watches her make one trip and then another and another, recollecting the trash he so mirthfully dropped on her lawn everyday for the mere pleasure of watching her gather it all up.

When she has converted the branches from the Alley Pile to the Just-Behind-The-House-Pile, she gathers up four bricks and makes a little wall, pulls up a lawn chair and settles in, taking the time to deliberately break the pieces into nearly identical lengths, stacking them between the self-made brick walls. The tree watches with curiosity, then feigns indifference, then watches some more.

She stands up and admires her little kindling pile. That evening she goes shopping and comes home with a chimenea. She settles it into place in the bare spot in the back yard. The tree drops an errant stick, obviously as a test and this time she says, "Thank you, beautiful, Tree."

Breaking the stick and putting the pieces on her impressive woodpile, she mutters her new motto: "If life keeps giving you sticks, go buy a chimenea."

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cooking

The art of cooking was totally lost on her. She spent many years growing up in the shadow of a grandmother and mother, both excellent cooks but, unfortunately, who were quite short on patience, so they cooked, and she ate. They discouraged questions about the methods that caused previously unappetizing, uncooked foods to become masterpieces on the dinner table on Sunday afternoons. Because of this lack of their willingness to share their knowledge, cooking by adding a little of this and a little of that, until a beautiful, delicious meal materialized magically on the kitchen table, her own children grew up believing that the Kraft Italian Spaghetti in a box kit was a gourmet meal. She really never mentioned, and her son, who grew up to be a cook in an upscale restaurant once moving into his own home, called her on it many years later, that it really was not all that difficult to boil water and open two cans of tomato sauce. When she stepped out of that kitchen looking totally exhausted and put that spaghetti dinner on the table, her kids were ready to nominate her for the Mother of the Year award for her culinary expertise. They were naive and she liked it that way. She did remind her son that at some point she read that the best way to cook pasta was to boil it for a minute, turn off the flame, the most important part of the instructions, and then cover the pan with a dish towel for five minutes, allowing just enough ventilation for the steam to rise, causing more even cooking. He told her that really did not constitute being Italian from birth, a story this German-gened woman told them many times, so she also pointed out that there was the time she started pouring a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into the water which did make her feel she was cooking in true Italian fashion. She was pleased when Prego began to manufacture sauce in jars, secretly, which eliminated the necessity of even using the can opener.

Once the kids started school and began spending a little more time with friends, or, let's face it, even in the school cafeteria, she was forced to admit that she probably was not the best cook and did learn to put a chicken in the oven. Many chicken and mashed potato and green bean meals later, her daughter came home raving about the culinary attributes of a friend's mother, heaping adoring praises on her like, "Mom, you should have been there to TASTE it!! She's the best cook in the whole world!" Imagine her dismay upon learning that the heavenly meal consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. And not even homemade tomato soup, just the stuff in the cans.

It was about this time that she discovered the cooking bag kits with the premixed spices, and pot roast. There was no way of messing that up, and her cooking skills increased. Pot roast, baked chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and Kraft macaroni and cheese and the occasional Banquet chicken pot pie became her rotating menu; pure delicacies!

The kids were born, lived and left, and survived nicely, apparently. There was certainly no weight loss going on in that house, and imagine her total surprise when she realized that at the end of a pay period, she had cash remaining in her checking account once they had gone. And, imagine the sun breaking out from behind black storm clouds creating a beautiful golden hue over the city as she stood before her first gas grill!

It would take three years for her to break down and purchase an inexpensive gas grill at Wal-Mart. Her children were a little perturbed about the purchase as they had not been consulted, nor had anyone waited for them to send their approval reports to Mother Freedom Board of Directors, and let's face it, they felt a little slighted and hurt, especially upon learning that Boyfriend was being treated to such things as New York Strip steaks and gorgeous sauted vegetables several times a week. They certainly were remembering the lean Kraft spaghetti days as they sat uncomfortably in the dining room, where they had shown up uninvited, and watched her consume the biggest part of a T-bone steak...for breakfast.

She felt badly for them all the way to the store to purchase salmon filets for dinner.

And that was Day One.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Preview of Imagination

She has worked since she was seventeen. And now she is forty-nine, edging eerily close to fifty...half a century old, five decades living for work and working to live.

Her forty-nine-year-old back stopped cooperating with her twenty-five-year-old brain this year and protested every move, every moment seated, every moment laying down, every moment walking, so in a desperate move she saw a doctor, took some medication, begged off work for five full days, this time not to travel to Venice Beach, California, or Dallas, Texas, or Albuquerque or Boston or Newport, Rhode Island, but to do the one thing she has dreaded, to rest.

The very thought that she was needing to relax, not fight airports and delays and smart-ass taxi drivers, frightened her a little. By day five, though, she had become content to be home, happy with herself, comfortable.

There was the usual self-examination day when she used her chair-side psychoanalysis techniques on herself to discover where her center was. There was the day she reconciled being nearly fifty. There was the day she learned she was really okay; no, more than okay; that she was just fine. And finally, after all that psychobabble was over, the sleep caught up on and her back better, she rediscovered her imagination.

This morning she ventured outside early. Her iced coffee was rich and thick and strong as she sipped it. The sun was filtering through the leaves of the big old tree in her back yard, making broken glass-like patterns in the thick grass and ground cover. She sat at her picnic table awhile and finished her coffee, rubbing sleep from her eyes. The next few moments were ticked off by wandering around, picking up twigs and limbs that littered the yard, a product of the storm that rumbled through the night before.

The next few moments she squatted in the grass to hunt for four-leafed clovers, a pleasure her mother taught her many years prior, one that she had given up for her nine-to-five, for raising her two children alone, for hiding out from any number of evils and demons chasing her down.
In the next few minutes, the girl understood she was finally a woman and that the demons had thankfully been put to rest. It only took forty-nine years to learn that lesson.

The next few moments turned into two hours, and she knew then that time meant nothing.

She stood up, brushed the dirt from her hands. It was an amazing morning of realizations and calmness and letting go and grabbing on. Imagine her surprise when she realized that all along her center had been in her own back yard and she simply needed to take the moment to find it.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A Story About Windchimes

There is really nothing quite as relaxing as a set of windchimes, tuned to A#. The sound is rich and thick and earthy and she has always loved that octave, has always felt a sense of peace when hearing them play in the breeze.

Her neighbor has two sets of chimes, but both are tuned to a much higher octave which becomes increasingly annoying when the wind is gusting.

Last weekend her boyfriend asked her if she remembered the set of chimes she had given him for Christmas one year. She tilted her head to one side, remembering and then said, "Those cost me sixty bucks! You've never even hung them up!"

Guilty as charged, he offered them to her with the explanation that he is always at her house and just never would have enjoyed them at his.

That afternoon they moved the shepherd's crook from the back yard to the west end of her front porch, taking a lot of time to position it just perfectly so the chimes would sway just above the floor of the porch but far enough away from the white aluminum guttering that the wooden clapper would not swing into it, causing nicks and cuts in the beautiful diamond-shaped walnut wood.

Later in the day, with a steady breeze effecting their music, the two sat in the Beach House and relaxed, drank beer, ate the food she prepared on the grill, and talked of love and music while the chimes swung and sang.

When a storm blew in that evening, they paced and worried inside the house. "Should we take them down?" "I don't know...you know the neighbor never takes hers down, and besides, aren't they made for WIND? After all, they ARE windchimes."

The wind started picking up at ten o'clock that night, and the chimes were not playing music but screaming for redemption at the west end of her porch. Twice she opened the door and looked out, once nearly losing an arm when the wind, now gusting at about fifty miles per hour caught the storm door and ripped it out of her hand, the second time actually braving stepping out onto the porch but being chased quickly inside by a huge bolt of lightning.

Resigned to leaving the windchimes outside, they went to bed. The next morning, with the wind still gusting hard, they vowed to ignore the music of death outside and leave those chimes hanging right where they were. That was their job, and that was that.

All day long on Saturday, she listened to them blowing, could occasionally hear the neighbor's lighter, higher-octave chimes tinkling in the mix, but convinced herself that she enjoyed the thick, dark tones given off continuously by her A#-tuned windchimes.

Saturday night they went to bed with the wind still blowing steadily, gusts so strong they were taking limbs out of her big oak tree out back with ease. Several times in the night she awoke, and even upstairs, tucked away in an attic bedroom, under the eaves, she heard the continuous chiming.

On Sunday morning she awoke, stretched and was greeted by a steady wind and the music from outside. She nudged her boyfriend and said, "You think the neighbors are hating our new windchimes yet?" And he replied with, "I heard a gunshot at about eleven o'clock, did you?"

Alarmed by the jogged memory she said, "I did! I heard that, too, really close. What do you think happened?"

Don sat up and rubbed his eyes and said, "I think someone was shooting at our new windchimes."

She trudged down the stairs and started the coffee, threw her rain slicker on over her pajamas and ventured out onto the porch to retrieve the chimes which were by now, weeping in desperation, took them into the house and settled them ceremoniously on a hook near the front door to regain their composure before taking their sentinel post at the west end of the porch after the hurricane-force winds eased. Taking two cups of coffee upstairs, she settled back into The King, noticing Boyfriend sound asleep again, took two sips of her coffee and fell into a merciful, music-free sleep for two more hours.

Windchimes have their place and their time.