Saturday, December 31, 2016

Goodbye 2016...

Well, for those of us left LIVING, anyway.

This year seems as though it was written by George RR Martin.

                   "Sorry....but your Character won't be in the New Season"

We have lost quite a few icons...Prince...Bowie...Mrs. Brady...Carrie Fisher...Debbie Reynolds...George Michael'''

As well as a few family & friends.

If anything happens to Keith Richards before Midnight...I will know the Apocalypse is upon us.

Still scribbling away at my first attempt of novel length fiction. Only about 1/2 way through the first draft. So much for the whole concept of writing a page a day, eh?  Sounds good in theory...but the muse has ideas (or lack thereof) of her own. Fickle bitch.

Started the year in (virtual) Madrid, learned to make flan and churros with dipping chocolate. Experienced my first (and hopefuly last) bullfight. Have a Bull Bell now. Read Lorca and ate blood oranges.

Wished my Eldest a Happy 29th Birthday...and mourned the loss of Ziggy  (David Bowie) .

Watched Ya'll Quaeda (The Bundy Bunch) as they Occupied (with firearms) a Federal Bird Sanctuary...were later arrested...and then acquitted. WTH???

Reconnected with my old friend, Laura who now lives in New York.

Checked out Seville, Andalusia, and the life of Picasso.

Followed into minutia the Primary Political Process this year...watched Hillary rig and steal the DNC nomination...and in the process slap the only decent man (candidate) in the face, and then lose the General Election...(A Miz Cleo Moment) and hand the Presidency to Trump.
 And there are folks who don't believe in KARMA.

Donald bad to you have to be that you lose to "Cheeto Jesus", anyway???

I watch the Broncos trounce South Carolina in Superbowl 50. No dabbing for Cam.

I toured (virtual) Granada.

I watched my oldest childhood friend, Pam, slowly come back from her Coma...recover...celebrated our Birthdays together with Lobster for what would be the last time...only to lose her forever in May.

I took the plunge and tried the Jeggings with an Oversized Sweater Look!
Not too bad!

I travelled Portugal (virtually), Checked out out their Maritime Museum, learned to make Bica, Sonhos, Rissoles, Ginjinha, Portuguese Bread, Pastis de Belam, and Lavadores, Bought a blue tile from Porto, Explored Alfama (the old city), and the Thieves Market. Checked out Obidos Castle and the Medieval Faire. Bought and tried all the various varieties of Portuguese Chocolate. Waxy and not very good.

Got sick with something between The Plague and Dysentery, and spent three relaxing fun-filled (sarcasm folks) days in the hospital.  I blame the Portuguese Chocolate.

Read Lord Byron and toured Sintra.

Explored (Virtual) Naples, Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, Read Virgil and Toured his tomb, bought a Corno necklace, learned to make Pizza Margherita, Stuffed Meatballs, and Pane di Sale di Mare. I tried Baci Chocolates!!! Outstanding! Also making Gelato. I learned The Tango.

We lost His Purpleness (Prince).

I turned 56 with much fanfare...and my Middle Grandson turned 6.

Finally admitted I was hopelessly helplessly addicted to Game of Thrones. Which is made more complicated by the fact I don't actually OWN a TV any more (by choice...since 2011)

Started a large kitchen garden with my Daughter-in-law! Also had Gardening Brunches throughout the season.   (floppy hat and wine glasses and shades mandatory)

I picked (and bought) morels and attended several car and art shows.

Spent a lot more time with family and friends.

Started (Virtually) The British Isles,Began in The Cotswolds. Love their sheep. Learned about the various forms of tea time and recreated a few. Learned some Cockney Slang. Ordered and tried a Curly Wurly...very nice. Virtually explored the Gardens and Pubs of Britain. Learned to make Pub Grub and a decent Scone.

Listened to the 100th running of the 500 Mile Race in Indianapolis.

Explored Ireland (virtually), attended an Irish Fox-hunt via You Tube firstperson rider vantage point, checked out Dublin, Bought chocolates from Dublin to be imported...fair. Visited Blarney Castle and The Wishing Stone.

Took each of my Grandchildren out individually for an adventure through the summer. Celebrated each of their Birthdays in the same manner.

Watched in Horror at the shootings at Club Pulse.

Tried to understand the implications of Brexit.

Watch the Season Finale of Game of Thrones...and now we wait...for what feels like ever...

Experienced the Thrill of Pokemon Go.  
"Okay...a Caterpie...I caught a Caterpie..."

Learned what a Lokai Bracelet was and why I HAD to have one.
Now I do.

Watched as Turkey survive an attempted Coup.

Explored (virtual) Scotland, Learned about Blackhouses and how to make Oatcakes, Saw Highland cattle (cute shaggy things) and tried Highland (imported) Beef, learned about fault-lines and thrusts and checked out some ruins, bought a silver Celtic cross necklace, learned a bit of Gaelic and about Scottish Tartans and Clans, Read about Nessie and Loch Ness, was going to try to make a good single malt...ended up making Stout instead. Explored the Shetland Islands and Glamis Castle. Made Summer Pudding with fresh berries. Read Robert Burns. Tried Haggis, Tatties and Neeps. (bleah!) and Butter Tablet , which was as good as Haggis was bad. Wandered (virtually) through the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral.

Nicole and I got tomatoes, beans, corn, squash, peppers, herbs and such from our garden. James made hot sauce from several varieties of peppers including our home grown Ghost peppers...and wants us to grow Carolina Reapers next year!

                                                          A Reaper
                                (these things even look bad ass)

Discovered the Mediterranean Sea (virtually) and even made a painting of part of its beauty. Bought a bit of lapis lazuli set in a sterling silver ring as a souvenir. The same color as the Sea. Travelled the Greek Isles of Corfu, Cypress, Hydra, Ithaka, and Crete (virtually).  Learned a smattering of conversational Greek. Re-Created a writing retreat and spa day that Corfu offered. Learned to make Lemon Shrimp Scampi. A little about the Bouzuki and Greek Dance. Read about the Greek Gods. Enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of Hydra and all the cats!!! Reread Cavafy's Ithaka. Checked out the Samaria Gorge on Crete and tried Cretian Honey (imported) Really amazing stuff...the cypress, olive and citrus tree pollens make a taste specific to Crete honey.  Delicious.
Explored Heraklion and the Palace of Knossos.

Celebrated my Youngest son's 27th birthday!

Created paper balls and flowers and helped Nicole put together an Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass birthday bash for Emma.

Mall Ratted Monthly with a Group of Friends all year.

Also met for Brunch with another group on a monthly basis. 

Toured (virtually) the Heraklion Museum, the 10 best beaches of Crete, the castles of Crete, Ditki Cave (birthplace of Zeus), and learned to make Moussaka (exceptional). Checked out Athens and Sparta, and a few others of the 9 million ruins in Greece. Learned to make Tzaziki sauce and Tiropita and Pita Bread. Finished Greece in Santorini!

Enjoyed my Grands and (almost) brought home a new kitty. 

Voted early.

Learned a new Fall Pie Recipe. (Apple Butter Pie)

Had a Mini-DS Gathering with Dave (from across the pond) and Jane and Betsy.
Enjoyed a beautiful Fall and a trip to Cataract Falls before they had to leave. Dave brought me stones from a rocky beach in Crete!!!

Both Betsy, and "Idgy's" Mom fought cancer. and were doing the whole chemo/radiation thing.

Enjoyed Halloween with the kids and grands.

Celebrated our Middle Son's 28th birthday!!!

Explored (virtual) Turkey...starting in Istanbul. Learned why the Turkish Waters are Green. Tried Turkish Delight. Learned to make Turkish coffee. Bought an Ibrik and a Copper filigree and porcelain demitasse. Researched reading the grounds. Took a Turkish Herb Bath and tried a Dead Sea Mud Masque. Learned about the Order of the Whirling Dervish, Belly Dancing and fell in love with Rumi. I learned to make Greek Yogurt. Read Gemell's Troy Trilogy and learned to make several Turkish dishes. Learned to write my name in Arabic. Still can't pronounce it. Discovered the Taurus Mountains, leaned about Pashmina and Hijabs, Took a virtual boat tour of the Lycian Coast,

Watched Donald Trump be elected as President.
Idiocracy was a documentary.
Who knew?

Suffered through DST again!!!! Enough already.

Had Thanksgiving with ALL my kids (except Lennon) and Grands! And "Friendsgiving" later with several good friends.

Reconnected with three friends I literally had not seen since my early 20's. So nice! We are older these days. 
Still as Notorious.

Learned about the myths of Bellephron, Pegasus, and the Chimera. Discovered the Chimera Mountain fires.
Saw Kayakoy (The Ghost City) and Topkapi Palace (virtually).

Enjoyed a last minute Adventure, combined birthdays and Teal and Brown beginning to December with Idgy!!!

Lost my friend Betsy to her year-long battle with Cancer. 

Enjoyed meeting four times this year with my Seasonal old friend/past lover and we both are still celebrating the fact that we are both

Still Here (alive).

Still Close Friends.

We have both lost so many good friends/family in the past few years.It makes you appreciate the time you have in this life, I think.

Finished Mayes: A Year in The World with The Riddle of Home. Explored home as as a structure, a concept, a person, a smell, a memory, a food, a geographical location, tradition and routine, sounds and familiar stuff, and as a beginning and end.
A good exercise in insight.

Celebrated both Bodhi and Christmas with the kids, grands (both human and puppies) and later some of my friends. (Friendsmas)

Have Sundays reserved every week, now,  for a Home Zen Retreat.

Finally got my Photo Trek accomplished.

Looking back over the past's no wonder I am exhausted!  

Now the house is quiet. Going to spend the day relaxing. I can undeck the halls tomorrow. Going to enjoy one last night of the Christmas Tree's dim glow. The presents gone now and Tucker lounging, sprawled, beneath.

"Idgy" and I are getting together (in the box) for wine, confetti and ushering in the New Year (...which has already arrived in Japan and Australia, btw...) using London Time (7 PM our time) and will be simultaneously streaming the celebration over the Thames at the stroke of "their" midnight. We will pop the cork and make a toast...toss some confetti...and still have time for a good dinner...deep bubble bath and a decent!

Last year we celebrated in Rio time! 
We were Brazil Nuts!

Time to say goodbye to 2016.

             Next Year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Christmas (Part Deux)

Celebrated today with All The Grands

                                              James and his Pit Crew!

This is the Good Stuff!

And...Christmas (after a week long celebration with EVERYBODY) is officially over! 
Going to be a hermit until the 2nd.
 I'm ready for the break!


Home: The Alpha and Omega (... or searching for the square root of light...)

When asked why she wasn't opening The  Yellow CafĂ© in California or Cortona instead of Georgia, Mayes mused that she was "looking for the square root of light".  Not Italy's scorching summer days or California's Endless Summer. No, the light she sought was the light of childhood.
The light of her beginnings.
Coming full circle.

My journey is a different one. 

Throughout my life (since four years old propped in a mound of pillows in the back of an old black Ford Station Wagon on the way to California) I have always been a Gypsy. Travelling, to me, is like breathing air is to others.

I enjoy all aspects of it...from the first time you sit down with the map and trace the squiggly lines to the last load of laundry when you make it home.  The packing and preparation. The adventure, discovery, learning. Starting very young as the map-reader and navigator on our long family vacations.

 During my career as a Nurse I often said if time and money were not a constraint  (or husband, kids,responsibilities) I would have done nothing but work and travel. Everywhere.
 And even my late husband was a Gypsy, too...we managed to see, experience, travel a great deal of our 18 years together. We did more...experienced more in 18 years that most people do in their entire life. We worked hard and played hard. We showed our children most of the US.

With FRED (the Glioma) I realized in 2015 that conventional travel and modes of  transportation were beyond my abilities, now. The realization was (at first) possibly more upsetting that the original diagnosis...but the past two years have been a lesson in adaptation. With the concept of virtual travel time and money is irrelevant. Since my limitations I have finally been able to explore Maine (always my Unicorn), Spend the greater part of a year in France, and re-trace Mayes footsteps through Spain, Naples, Portugal, The British Isles, The Greek Isles, and Turkey.

I have learned that I can experience travel through Google, Google Earth, YouTube, Books, eBay purchases, Amazon. I can learn recipes from every culture and buy most ingredients online. I can pick up the same souvenirs that I would have in Real Time...often from the same shops. I can spend as little or as much time researching an area and learning its specialties as I want. 

In the future I think I would like to devote a book to the subject of virtual travel for others who may be in a similar situation as me...Gypsies who have "lost their caravan" per se.

For me...I have found my Square Root of Light. 
It has been within me all along! 

And for Frances Mayes and "A Year in the World"...thank you for an amazing adventure. 


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Memories of Home

The older I get, the truer Pavese's quote becomes, it seems. 

Memory is a funny thing. Often selective and fickle.
Thankfully, re-trainable.

The evolutionary reasoning behind our ability to recall traumatic or bad events clearly is simple...a survival adaptation. From the days when a bad decision could well be the end of us. The whole fight or flight thing. Useful when avoiding Sabretooth Tigers...but not so much now.

Learning from our mistakes is wonderful.

Being paralyzed by them, reliving them. or regrets...not so much.
Replaying them endlessly must indeed be Dante's Hell. 

A great deal of my childhood was "horror-show" but through the years I have learned how to sift through the memories.
Winnow out the bad and hold tightly to the good.

I apply this process to everything in life now and am  healthier and happier for  it. 

 My childhood "home" memories is where I keep my brother. Safe and preserved in amber. Walking along the rail-road tracks from Jamestown to Advance and the Dairy Bar. Our Holy Grail. Picking up pop bottles to return for nickels and dimes so we could buy comic books, candy, a soda or an ice cream sundae at the Hook's Drugstore in town. Biking to Eel River and spending the day playing beneath the bridge or climbing the trestle. Hopping slow moving freight cars by the lumber yard. Riding mini-bikes together or doing our early morning Star paper route together...and maybe a million others.

It is my Grandmother's Hands as she made egg noodles from scratch or sitting with her (on a good day) having buttered toast and Black Raspberry Jello.

It is my Grandfather in the front yard teaching me to use his fly rod. Or making and nailing a saddle and bridle-like combination to the lower y-branch of a maple tree in the backyard so he could boost me up and I could "ride" while he was mowing the yard. It is him teaching me pidgen German from his time in WWII.

It is my (then) neighborhood...where everyone knew everyone and as kids we all played in the fields, ditches and woods together.

It is swimming in the low front yard when it flooded, and ice skating in boots in the winter when it would freeze solid.

And so many more!

As a wife and mother it was being huge with my first son at Christmas...and him not arriving until January 8th...I was as big as the Christmas tree.

It was bringing him home, and a bassinet made out of a wicker laundry basket.

It was him teaching me as much or more than I taught him in that first year or two...and his ear pressed to my distended abdomen listening to his baby brother still on the inside. And how relieved it was that he was getting a brother and not a!

It was meeting my Middle son for the first time with Bill...all red haired and bright blue mischievous eyes.

It was standing at the hospital window with snow falling in the middle of October and telling my youngest son...Welcome to the World.

And for all the boys it was love at first sight.

It was Bill and our lives together...him playing guitar in the living room of the Rose Cottage...and helping with my kitchen garden, or making beer while I made cheese, bread, and put up jam. It was moving into our new home and spending the first night there with nothing but a candle that smelled like Cinnamon Rolls...and a large sleeping bag and a couple of pillows. Just us. Making love right there in that empty room together in the candlelight.

It was having just 2 weeks together of the "Empty  Nest" years...but how amazing those two weeks were.

It was the way our lives fit together like a well worn jigsaw puzzle. 

And a million wonderful memories.

Now it is all of those memories, and all of the others made with people throughout my life...and the new memories made every day with my children, friends, lovers or grandchildren.

Like a scrap-quilt tightly wrapped around me...warm and full of love!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Home and The Stuff

One of my favorite Carlin routines was

Transcribed here:

Actually this is just a place for my stuff, ya know? That's all, a little place for my stuff. That's all I want, that's all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table, everybody's got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that's your stuff, that'll be his stuff over there. That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time.

A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you're saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff!

Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. Did you ever notice when you go to somebody else's house, you never quite feel a hundred percent at home? You know why? No room for your stuff. Somebody else's stuff is all over the place! And if you stay overnight, unexpectedly, they give you a little bedroom to sleep in. Bedroom they haven't used in about eleven years. Someone died in it, eleven years ago. And they haven't moved any of his stuff! Right next to the bed there's usually a dresser or a bureau of some kind, and there's NO ROOM for your stuff on it. Somebody else's shit is on the dresser.

Have you noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff? God! And you say, "Get that shit offa there and let me put my stuff down!"

Sometimes you leave your house to go on vacation. And you gotta take some of your stuff with you. Gotta take about two big suitcases full of stuff, when you go on vacation. You gotta take a smaller version of your house. It's the second version of your stuff. And you're gonna fly all the way to Honolulu. Gonna go across the continent, across half an ocean to Honolulu. You get down to the hotel room in Honolulu and you open up your suitcase and you put away all your stuff. "Here's a place here, put a little bit of stuff there, put some stuff here, put some stuff--you put your stuff there, I'll put some stuff--here's another place for stuff, look at this, I'll put some stuff here..." And even though you're far away from home, you start to get used to it, you start to feel okay, because after all, you do have some of your stuff with you. That's when your friend calls up from Maui, and says, "Hey, why don'tchya come over to Maui for the weekend and spend a couple of nights over here."

Oh, no! Now what do I pack? Right, you've gotta pack an even SMALLER version of your stuff. The third version of your house. Just enough stuff to take to Maui for a coupla days. You get over to Maui--I mean you're really getting extended now, when you think about it. You got stuff ALL the way back on the mainland, you got stuff on another island, you got stuff on this island. I mean, supply lines are getting longer and harder to maintain. You get over to your friend's house on Maui and he gives you a little place to sleep, a little bed right next to his windowsill or something. You put some of your stuff up there. You put your stuff up there. You got your Visine, you got your nail clippers, and you put everything up. It takes about an hour and a half, but after a while you finally feel okay, say, "All right, I got my nail clippers, I must be okay." That's when your friend says, "Aaaaay, I think tonight we'll go over the other side of the island, visit a pal of mine and maybe stay over."

Aww, no. NOW what do you pack? Right--you gotta pack an even SMALLER version of your stuff. The fourth version of your house. Only the stuff you know you're gonna need. Money, keys, comb, wallet, lighter, hanky, pen, smokes, rubber and change. Well, only the stuff you HOPE you're gonna need.

The reason it was so because, like the rest of his observational humor, it was sooooo true.

In the book, Mayes touches briefly on The Stuff of her Childhood Georgian home. First of all, nobody does STUFF like the South. I learned this when I married into a Southern Family.  It is amazing...bordering on pathological, okay?

"Oh...that there...that's my great, great, great, grandpappy's rocking chair...well what's left of it, anyways..and we must move it with us forever, because it once't belonged to family."

You think I'm joking?

I'm not.

It is the reason I still have a 1920's hand-made piano and bench, and an even older claw footed (with the glass balls) piano stool STILL in my home. 

Minimalist that I am these days...and despite the fact my late husband and I (or maybe because of it) moved the piano on four backbreaking separate including stairs...and that is weighs roughly the same as a small Buick.

Go figure. 

And I don't even PLAY the piano.

I grew up (was raised) by two grandparents who survived the Great Depression.

My husband grew up with his mother who had also survived it. Plus the whole Southern Background thing.

Their identical rally cry

"Never EVER EVER throw anything away...EVER!!!"

It was a job they took very seriously.

My husband added his own corollary

"If anyone throws anything in the house must immediately retrieve said item and return it to it's original cabinet, drawer or cardboard box as soon as humanly possible."

We were the Oscar and Felix of STUFF.

In retrospect, it must have been frustrating for him, too. 
It certainly was for me. 

I remember throwing away a dilapidated teflon-peeling couldn't fry anything in it if you wanted to...skillet at least six times.  Only to find it reappeared like some Stephen King Novel Shit in its cabinet, the next day.

I never said a word.

To his credit...neither did he.

I can laugh about it now...but I doubt that either of us found it funny at the time. 

In fact, in the year after his death, I think I threw the damned thing away twice...and then retrieved it myself.

When I made the move from The Rose Cottage...and placed it in the bin-bag the final time...only days before we left...I half expected to open the cabinet the next morning and see its peeling face, once again, staring out accusingly

When it wasn't...I felt a deep sadness. Our our life together...had came to an end. 

And it didn't particularly feel like I had won.

After cleaning up the detritus of my grandparent's lives, my mother-in-law's, and my late husband's (All World Class Hoarders) I took Thoreau's words to heart before my move...

"Simplify, Simplify, Simplify"

And, for the most part, I have.

I still have objects from all of them that I can't quite bear to part with...but the chaos is much smaller. 

A large silver serving spoon of Mom's that must have scooped thousands of scoops of Macaroni salads, topped with hard-boiled egg slices, in its day.

A Pipestone carved into a pipe bowl and crouching monkey found on a riverbank during a fishing trip with Dad.

A black leather beret of Bill's bought during an Anniversary Adventure in Brown County.  The band inside still smells like him after 6 years.

Other miscellaneous items from throughout my life that wouldn't mean a thing to anyone except me.

Oh, and Aunt Edna's Piano and bench.
             And the piano stool from Wiggins, Mississippi.


The Den, my home, just a little place for "My Stuff"


Christmas 2016 (Part One)

Which looks to be a week long affair this year!

Beginning on Christmas Eve with Chris and Tina, and "the grand-puppies" (Bennie and Neville)

Enjoying Chinese Food together, Christmas gifts, and Tucker & "The Boys" have finally reached a tentative accord! They don't bark at him and he doesn't claw their faces.

Christmas Day was basically a "Stay in Silk PJ's, Enjoy a Two Hour Bubble Bath, and Get Fed" Christmas for me.   Chris and Tina celebrated with her Mom and Sister and Emma...and later that evening Tina cooked, and Chris brought me a huge dinner plate of Ham and Green Bean Casserole, Mac and Cheese and Connie's Baked Beans!

Earlier that day, James and Nicole and The Grands were having their "Christmas Morning with The Kids" which I attended last year!

This year was a very Nerfy Christmas for all of them. Everybody got (in addition to their other gifts) assorted Nerf Guns...from a Nerf Pistol

to a Nerf Gatling Gun. James even received his own Nerf Sniper Rifle. I see another Great Family Photo in the works.  

This was last year's.

 James stopped by with Aiden...a few groceries I needed...and a HUGE bag of home-made cookies from Nicole (who has been baking all week) Seriously...she put together over 700 cookies this year to give out! And, like everything she cooks/bakes, they are delicious! Fell asleep last night in a tiny cookie coma!

Had a long, wonderful afternoon chat with Lennon...and pretty sure he will be up for the Holidays next year! Miss him soooooooooooo much...even though we catch up weekly. He is working his butt off, but hopes to have some vacation time next year!

We are getting together here this Friday for OUR Christmas together with (hopefully) ALL the Grands! Pizza and Presents...oh, and the best game I have seen in ages.

I saw it and said...The grands HAVE got to have this!!!

It is loaded with whipped cream!

Midweek Winter Brunch with my old friend/love that I see seasonally now. 
Our Winter Visit.

Thursday's Holiday High Tea with Judy, Loretta and Sharon.

By Saturday I will be, undoubtedly, Christmas'd Out...and planning a long low impact start to the New Year.

So wonderful to be surrounded by family and friends all week, though. 

Sipping my Christmas Coffee and nibbling cookies this morning...and soon to use my new brushes to start a Winter Painting! 
Including a FAN brush! 

I can make Happy Trees! 

 More anon...