Monday, July 26, 2010

Cleaning the Refrigerator

My new goal is to get and keep the house ACR -- Always Company Ready. You know, so we never have to go into panic mode when someone calls and wants to visit.
Please stop laughing.

I started in the kitchen. I washed all the little kitchy stuff on the window sill, cleaned out cabinets and decided which things I could live without (do I really need to keep the kitty cat cake pan that I used for Maggie's 2nd birthday? She is almost 23. No. Well, maybe).

Then, I decided to pull out the refrigerator and clean underneath. Yikes. I took a before and after picture, but I can't post them here -- it is too shameful. Nothing too nasty, but lots and lots of dust bunnies. Big black dust bunnies.

Then, I started at the top and wiped down the whole fridge. But I had to stop and admire all the things that had taken up residence on the front and sides. Old things, yellow things, sentimental things. Things that have been up there since before I knew what "acid free" meant or had a laminator. So, I decided to scan them. And share them:
Various magnets. A Grandma Shirley Remax from 16 years ago, a St. A magnet from 1999, and a WKSU magnet from circa 1989, I'm guessing. The Pioneer magnet? Wow. That's old.
Sister Josita gave me this xerox copy about 20 years ago; she had the original hanging in her office. Not sure what I did to deserve this honor, but I bet I was in trouble.
Grandma Shirley saved this comic for us, as she said it was "Maggie all over":
Soccer magnet of little Will:
And my favorite, which I think came from my mom's bulletin board:

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Just a moment

for a reading update. Yes, I do like Altas Shrugged. Not so much for its political/social commentary, but for the story. And for the insights it is giving me into the way my husband thinks. Who knew?

This, along with my Outlander experience, just goes to show that I should never dismiss a book outright. Good grief -- I'm going to be reading science fiction if I don't watch out!

Peace, John Gault.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Thinking Woman's Vacation

And the only reason I say that is because driving 2000 miles in 10 days gives you lots of time to think. And listen to Atlas Shrugged (but more on that later.)

On Sunday, after we dropped Will off in Durham with the St. A group bound for their mission trip, we headed toward Charleston, SC. There's much to be said about that drive, our detour to Myrtle Beach, and the awesome 3 days we spent in Charleston; maybe I'll write on all of those later, too.

As we first drove into the city, I saw a huge line outside of Hyman's Seafood on Meeting Street; whether that signaled "tourist trap" or "ringing endorsement", we decided to try it. The meal was great -- Clay thinks he had the best scallops and mussels he has ever eaten, and that's saying something; he's been to countries where preparing seafood isn't just cooking, it's art. I had crispy flounder, my favorite fried green tomatoes and an outstanding Bloody Mary, but the food was almost a minor part of the experience. First, when the hostess took us to our table, we noticed little brass tags at each place, noting the celebrities who had sat there. It was very cool that Martin Sheen, Jodi Foster, some Senator and Bob Villa had all shared our spot, but we were thrilled to see the little brass tag noting that NEIL ARMSTRONG had sat at our very table.

When we were almost done, the owner of the restaurant, Eli, came around and talked to us. I told him how we were so happy to be seated at that table, as we were Purdue grads and Clay had worked at NASA; Eli told us that of all the celebrities who had eaten in his restaurant, Mr. Armstrong might just be his favorite -- kind, quiet and unassuming. It made me a little teary.

Anyway, on the tables at Hyman's were little inspirational cards, which we were encouraged to take. One of those listed the "40 Promises for Marriage." I won't list them all, and I will confess that we don't celebrate our birthdays in a big way (#25), send flowers on Valentine's Day (#35), set up romantic getaways (#28) or date once a week (#3), and neither one of us is much good at #36, admitting when we are wrong.

The ones we do do, and do well, I think, are these:

#4, Accept differences. Tall/short, conservative/semi-liberal, left brain/right brain, ISTJ/ENFP (for those Myers-Briggs types), fit and sporty/not so fit and not so sporty. If we didn't accept each other's differences, we'd be sunk.

#10, Laugh together. When you put "shortest route" into the GPS and find yourself in the middle of north central Kentucky between Lexington and Louisville on winding, narrow country roads for an hour and a half without much sign of human life, the very best thing to do is laugh.

#14, Encourage. While Clay doesn't really need much encouragement to do anything, without his encouragement, I would be a sad little slug. Maybe not a couch potato with 12 cats and a penchant for courtroom drama shows kind of slug, but certainly not as motivated as I am.

#16, Fix the other person's breakfast. Coffee counts, right?

#18, Call during the day. There's not much better that getting that lunchtime call, even if it's only for a minute.

#33, Reminisce about your favorite times together. The favorite phrase in this family is "remember when?" Reminiscing is almost as good as a phone call.

#34, Treat each other's friends and relatives with courtesy. I hope I am as good at this as Clay is. All my girlfriends think he is a prince, and my family is pretty darn fond of him.

#29, Be Positive and #30, Be Kind. There's no other way to be, is there?

#19, Slow Down. Clay doesn't think I can do this at all, but I think that's what we did in Charleston. I bet the last time we intentionally walked together in the rain was on our honeymoon; walking down to the Battery under the umbrella/souvenir we bought at Hyman's, peeking into gardens, was one of the highlights of this trip.

#38 is "pray for each other daily." I don't know if Clay prays daily for me. But my recent thinking on prayer follows that of Meister Eckhart: "If the only prayer you say in your whole life is 'thank you', that would suffice."

In that case, yes, I do. Not just daily, but every hour, minute and second. Thanks.


(PS -- I Googled "40 Promises for Marriage" and found this, "50 Promises"; apparently, 10 more wouldn't fit on the little card at Hyman's!)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Book Talk

I'll admit it -- I do love to listen. On my long drive to convention and back, I listened to Elizabeth Berg's Home Safe. She read it herself, and I liked hearing her voice -- I often wonder about that -- am I reading this sentence with the same inflection as the author intended?

It wasn't my favorite Berg book, but it was nice: a little love story, a little mother/daughter story, a little what-it's-like-to-be-a-writer story.

When I wasn't listening, I was reading -- actually holding the book -- The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.

As a writer (and I use that term really loosely, as the only things I have had published lately are letters to the editor and blog posts), my biggest roadblock has always been endings. I remember many a story/paper that was criticized for being wrapped up too quickly.

This book is great in so many ways -- her detail, characters, plot were fantastic. But from the beginning, you are looking forward to the end, as you are presented with the mystery in the first pages: a little girl is found in Australia on a ship from England, all alone with no identification. Without giving anything away, I'll just say that the ending left me a little empty.

I'd recommend it, though, and I think it would make good book club reading -- there are a lot of questions at the end, whether Morton meant there to be or not.
So, I'm back to Outlander. Clay finished Drums of Autumn at 3:50 this morning. He's more addicted to these books than I am! I'm about in the middle, and looking forward to getting back to Claire and Jamie.
We have Anna Quidlen's Every Last One loaded on the Ipod for vacation driving, and next on my list are The Shanghai Girls, The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, The Piano Teacher and Cutting for Stone. And, I heard a great discussion of The Scarlet Letter on NPR the other day, so I'm tucking that in my knitting bag, too. I just love summer reading.
Peace, and good reading.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Personal Theology

(Warning. Rambling religious/spiritual/God post ahead. Those of you who are not of that ken may want to avert your eyes. Those of you who are might not like what I have to say here. Sorry.)

So, I serve on a philanthropic organization's national council with 13 other women. The council serves over 3000 women in 127 Chapters throughout the Midwest. These 3000 women serve countless others in their communities in the areas of speech and hearing, art, music and literacy (plus tons of other local projects) and together we raise about a million dollars every year. It's very cool.

It's not a Christian organization, per se (but I would bet that 99% of our membership tag themselves that way). We pray before meals, we do good things for others, we say, "with God's help may we advance in these fields of endeavor" in our opening verse before each business meeting.

These are trying times for groups like ours -- membership is down, profits are down. But optimism is high, especially at and after convention. Monday, at our post-convention council meeting, one of our members said that she was "convinced" that God had brought all 14 of these strong women together to tackle the challenges ahead of us.

Me, I'm not so convinced. I think it is swell that 14 women can work together so well and lead an organization successfully. I think it is terrific that despite our differences (ie, some of us are quite ladylike, classy and proper; others of us enjoy a racy joke, a nice cocktail and occasional use of the f-word) we can have so much fun together and care so much for each other.

And while I would love to think that God looked down upon my little organization and said, "Yes, I ordain that she and she and she will sit on the National Council in 2010-11; that will be a splendid mix," I would then also have to believe that He said, "Yes, I will give that woman cancer. She will die a slow and painful death and her children will be driven to their knees in despair."

"I will give that man Alzheimer's. His intelligence and strength will gradually leave him, and those who look to him for wisdom will be left lost and bewildered."

"I want that awesome child with me, so I will cause an accident in which he will die, causing his family long-lasting sorrow."

I just don't think it works like that. I can't believe it works like that.

What I do believe is what we say in the Creed each week at Mass. God made the earth, made us, sent us Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the church and words to live by. Along with those gifts, He gave us really magnificent brains so that we can use this earth and all that it contains for our survival and benefit, and that of others.

After that, I'm thinking we're pretty much on our own.

Oh, He cares about us, I know that. Otherwise, He wouldn't have given us flowers and babies and music and water and memories and friends. And I am so thankful for that.

I don't believe He's going to single me out for a lottery win, or my kid for a high SAT score or my team for the big win (no matter what you hear on TV after a game); I chalk those up to luck, hard work and determination. God didn't make the Saints win the Super Bowl -- he's much smarter than that. To choose sides would mean that He would always be failing someone -- in a war, an election or a ballgame.

Likewise, to inflict pain and suffering just so we could "learn a lesson" or "grow in faith" would just nothing short of cruel. I don't believe God is cruel to us because He doesn't need to be -- we are certainly cruel enough to each other. But that's a post for another day.

Theologically, this might not be very Catholic. Maybe not even very Christian. But is it what helps me survive, stay upright and keep loving life.

Good stuff happens. Kids graduate from college, spewing oil wells are capped, women work together.

And bad shit happens. Kids become drug dealers, wells keep spewing and organizations fail.

Our job is to be thankful for the good stuff, learn from the bad shit and move on.