One Less Set of Eyes…

The day started in the usual way which is to say, as of late, I’ve had to practically do cartwheels to get The Poodle out the door for his early morning walk. Begrudgingly, he finally gets with the program, as it were, and we’re off up the street, around the block and into the woods.

Luckily we have been missed by Hurricane Florence but we’re experiencing some scant peripheral effects as it is a particularly gloomy day.   We’re due for rain but we’ve not seen more than a few drops, so far that is.  Still, the sky could not be any grayer.  As I listen to a Hearts of Space playlist I’m all to keenly aware of how the music and the somber sky are messing with my soul. I need some pep in my step so I switch to Spotify and decide on something more energizing.  On cue, The Poodle begins to pick up his pace too, although it’s because of a nearby squirrel sighting.

My mind wanders over this and that as we continue down the path. About a mile into our walk I say to The Poodle, as I often do, “We’re almost there so let’s stop for a brief moment to say hello, shall we?”

‘Round this bend….up and over breaks in the macadam path due to gnarly tree roots….then around another bend to the right…..

Wait a minute….

I stop in the middle of the path in a moment of utter confusion.

Was I so into my head that I missed her?

“Let’s turn around,” I say to The Poodle.  We backtrack only three steps. I look right, left…all around me.

Something definitely is not right here.

I turn back in the direction of my purpose.

And then it hits me like a two by four….

I am in the right place… but she is not!

OH NO! This can’t be! I literally cried out aloud. The Poodle looks at me with questioning, clouded eyes.

Drusilla the wood nymph–the name I gave to her– is gone!  I hadn’t taken this route for a while because the mosquitoes were such an annoyance…and now, it seems that she has disappeared! 

I cannot believe that my “eyes and ears in the woods” is gone. 

I stand at the spot where she was once proudly rooted, searching for an explanation.  And then I see her.  She had to have taken her last breath weeks ago during one of the pounding rains.  She’s lifeless indeed, broken almost beyond recognition, split into three or four chunks and covered with a  tangle of debris.  The heavy rains from some weeks ago have drowned the life out of her, washing her away from the sentry post she held for years down into the shallow ravine that was now to be her final resting place.

I stand above the spot where she fell lamenting the loss long enough for The Poodle to decide that he may as well lie down and rest his weary bones.

Dear readers you must think I’m bonkers.  Perhaps so.  But truly, seeing Drusilla the wood nymph on my morning walks for years when visiting my sister and now for a year living in her neighborhood has been a lovely ritual.  Nearly every morning I’d share a moment with her, stopping as close to her base as possible given the terrain to tell her a thought that I held in my heart…then I’d move on to the rest of my day.  It was a curiously magical, divine start to my day.

Yes, you know it…I shed a tear or two.  I will miss her wonky head and her almost sad, asymmetrical face.  I will miss the simple act of saying “Good Morning Drusilla.” My morning walks won’t feel quite the same now that she is gone.

I suppose it just speaks to the impermanence of Every. Little. Thing.

In the words of french novelist Gustave Flaubert:

“The principle thing in this world is to keep one’s soul aloft.”

Through some difficult months a walk in the woods and a Drusilla sighting  was responsible for doing just that.

There was bliss in that.

 

 

Drusilla, the wood nymph.  Eyes and ears of these woods!

Chilled…Not Chilled

I’m staring at the glass before me which contains a splash of a lovely, buttery Chardonnay.  What I’m about to do will make any decent oenophile gasp in horror.I add ice cubes.Lest you judge dear reader I’ve got reason as you’ll see….or not.

So, I’ve had a first world problem for over a week now (eight days and ten hours to be exact).  The refrigerator, a lovely gleaming Kitchen Aid purchased new one year ago…went on the fritz.  Specifically, only part of it died.  It was a curiously slow decline that I witnessed;  over the course of two weeks I noted that the refrigerator was not cooling items very well but the freezer was behaving perfectly fine.

That’s strange. How could this be? 

I checked the settings.  I even lowered the temperature by two degrees.  Nothing.  Well, actually there was something; I was beginning to throw away food at an alarming rate due to spoilage.Well isn’t this just peachy? Not.I dug through my files to find the receipt.

#$%! Seriously?!

Yep.  You guessed it.  We are less than a week past the warranty coverage.  As happens often in my world…what rotten luck.

Grrr.   A one year warranty for a $3200 refrigerator!?   Over coffee, I gripe to my sis about this.  She points out that’s why they try to rope you into purchasing pricey extended warranty coverage.  In all my years of purchasing new refrigerators I never purchased extended warranties. Refrigerators were built to last a long time.  Our fridge in my childhood years is likely still running, albeit terribly out of fashion in it’s avocado dress.

Harumpf.

I call the place where I purchased the refrigerator and they are sympathetic.  They urge me to contact Kitchen Aid to complain about a one year warranty saying that if enough people do so perhaps the company will do something about it.  They also give me the name of the service repair company they refer their customers to.  I’m of the temperament to complain later.  In need of a refrigerator, like yesterday, my energies need to go into getting the problem fixed.  So I look up the referral and the company appears to have good ratings.  I call to have it serviced, which in itself makes me want to spit bullets because, again….the refrigerator is just a year old!  But I grit teeth and breathe through the impulse to be angry.  There are so many less fortunate than me.

The response is not as swift as I would have liked it to be.  It takes two days for a serviceman to come out but I’ve got the luxury of storing items in my sisters’ basement refrigerator.  It doesn’t take long for the repairman to diagnose the problem.  I spit even more bullets when it was determined that the freezer door apparently was not being closed appropriately on enough occasions that it caused the refrigerator fan to fail.  I rack my brains for all of a minute and realize that this problem can be traced back to a certain man-child who had the freezer stuffed to the gills with his junk food for ten months.

I excuse myself to my study for a moment.  I need the time to give my Dammit Doll a good three whacks on my desk.  Ah…better. I’m feeling mighty proud that I didn’t utter one expletive.  And yes, it hasn’t escaped me that for six weeks we didn’t have a functioning kitchen due to the renovation but we did have a working refrigerator! Now the opposite has occurred! How upside-down is that?

The repairman orders a new fan part which may be around $400 and he says we should have it in a week, tops.  “Great,” I say with all the calm I can muster.  The service rep smiles when I tell him: “I’ll chill.  We can go with the flow for one week; it’s just a minor inconvenience in the big scheme of things.” Right?

Hmm.  Maybe I’d lose a pound or two without trips to the fridge for cheese…

So here we are today, a week later.  The repairman is back with the new part in hand. I’m practically busting with excitement that within the hour I’ll have a working refrigerator again.  I’m itching to fill the bins with salad greens and vegetables and of course eggs, butter, cheese, milk and yogurt.  There’s a couple of bottles of prosecco and a bottle of Chardonnay too, not to mention Rocket-man will have his beer back in the fridge and not in a cooler on the kitchen floor.

As I type these words I am mindful that my inconvenience is trivial compared to so many.   Hundreds of thousands of folks in North Carolina are without power as the continue to be pummeled by Hurricane Florence.  Relief washes over me knowing that my elderly aunt and uncle have evacuated Roanoke Island in the Outer Banks to a safer location.  We are lucky that it seems our area will be spared Flo’s wrath.So I’m chilled (sort-of) with the refrigerator repairman–in spite of the fact that he arrived just barely within the service window of between 1-4 p.m.  I’m chilled (sort-of) that he has been downstairs working on the repair for two hours now.

Good grief!  How long does it take to install a refrigerator fan?!

Meanwhile, The Poodle figures it’s his earnest duty to bark…a lot…which of course is doing nothing to keep SHE WHO LOVES and FEEDS HIM calm after a week of hit or miss meals because of not having a refrigerator!Ah…here we go folks!  I hear the repair dude calling from the kitchen below.  I practically dance down the stairs with checkbook in hand ready to pay and then make a mad dash to the grocery store.

Oh…wait dear reader.  I’ve got an update!

Wait for it…wait for it….WAIT FOR IT…Drum roll…..THE WRONG PART WAS ORDERED! 

“Sorry ma’am, but it looks like It’ll be another week before the correct part comes in.Son of a…biscuit.

I’m pretty sure I looked at him with blood-laced daggers in my eyes.  In fact, I noted he winced as he said “I’m sorry” for the third time.A purple minion moment is entirely justified here.  Just saying.So pardon me while I go do just that… Purple Minion Moment: I am not chilled.

Not chilled.

As soon as the repairman was out the door I call and leave an after-hours message for the appliance repair company telling them in measured restraint that I AM NOT CHILLED.

Fortunately, I’ve got chicken stored in my sister’s refrigerator.  That, along with tomatoes, rice, onions, olive oil and garlic means there is hope for a home cooked meal on the table this evening.  And there’s plenty of pasta in the pantry with all sorts of possibilities that don’t require a stocked refrigerator.  Indeed.  What on earth am I carping on about.  We can get through another week.

There is bliss in that.

The Magic of 108

I got a late start on walking The Poodle this morning. Sleep eluded me well into the wee hours of the morning. In a jolt I was up at 6:30, a good hour and a half later than my usual time. In fact, I nearly fell out of bed in a rush to attend to our house guest. That would be the very one who was pacing with pitter-patter perkiness in our room, nails tapping in a sort of syncopated beat on the wood floor as she paced about between the hall and bedroom.   Oh my!  How could I have forgotten that Nica (that would be my sister’s pooch) is still with us for the long weekend?   My old boy, The Poodle, barely opens one eye.  He’s curled up into a tight ball in his bed.

“Nica needs to go out ASAP,” I all but croak in my before-caffeine voice to Rocket-man as I reach for my phone and watch.  He still appears out for the count, as he should be given he’s enjoying a few days off.

I hear his soft groan of acknowledgement and breathe gratefulness that he’s going to do the first walk of the day with Nica.

Over coffee I check for messages.  Still nothing back from my son, I note.  I sigh deeply.  I had called two days ago.  He didn’t pick up (and I didn’t think he would).  Still, I left a message.  I sang Happy Birthday, and wished him the best on that September 1st day, his 36th birthday.

Later that morning I rolled out the yoga mat and inexplicably, without two moments thought, decided on something different from my usual practice: 108 Sun salutations, the graceful sequence of twelve poses or asanas called Surya Namaskar.

Good griefWhere did that come from!? I thought as I stood at the top of the mat.  I’ve only done 108 sun salutations once and that was nine years ago in a tiny studio overlooking the ocean in Southern California.  Typically the practice of 108 sun salutations is reserved for the change of seasons (think solstice or equinox).  It’s physically challenging enough when you perform three or so sets in a typical Vinyasa class; 108 is well, akin to a marathon.  108 is a sacred number in Hinduism and Yoga.  There is also a spiritual significance to the number 108.   For example, there are 108 beads on the catholic rosary and on a strand of Tibetan prayer beads.

courtesy of : https://yogawisdomforeveryday.wordpress.comsalutations-and-the-winter-solstice/

As I stand facing the wrong direction (eastward is recommended) A little dialog inside my head ensues:

So, you know you haven’t even had breakfast.

Okay, I know. So actually that is better. It’s advised to practice on an empty stomach. Check.

What about the dogs?

Yes, I know….I’ve got to do this practice slowly, purposefully, mindfully and with NO DISTRACTIONS. 

I’ll close them out of the bedroom. Check.

What if your daughter texts you?

Phone on airplane mode. In fact, take off your Apple watch too.  Remember, NO DISTRACTIONS.  Check.

And just WHY again after all this time are you considering this?  The autumnal equinox is still weeks away don’t you know!? 

So….my kind seven readers, I’m sure you will understand.  It’s my son’s birthday and my mood is blue.  I’m overdue for a calming mental shift. Estranged we remain despite ten months of him living in my basement.  Nothing seemed to appreciably alter our estrangement.  Not praying, nor purple minion head-popping moments, nor outpourings of love, nor soulful tears…not even family gatherings helped much.  Nothing changed. Well, except my heart is heavier over this second-time-around gentle boot out the door.

And so, with the dogs in another room thankfully slumbering away, I dedicate my practice to the boy I labored nearly twenty hours to bring into the world.  I still pray that he will find his way.

I select music from Spotify to help me through the practice; it’s my Dreamcatcher playlist.

Hands at heart center, I close my eyes.  Inhale, exhale. Okay, let’s begin….

As I move through the poses inexplicably I’ve got images before me which I haven’t “seen” for quite some time.  I’m at the Army hospital laboring to bring my baby into the world.  The nurse attends to a screaming young woman several beds away from mine.  She’s all of seventeen, if that.  I recall my judgemental stare.  It’s obvious she didn’t prepare for the miracle about to unfold!   Even the nurses are impatient with her; she is not cooperating on any level.  I’m doing my best to breathe through contractions and remain calm through her screams and saltier than a sailor expletives.  I’m starting to tire and am fighting the urge to ask for drugs (I eventually caved to an epidural after more than sixteen hours).  At some point my husband stepped out for coffee and my mother comes into the labor suite.  A nurse tells me that she’s not having success with the external fetal monitor.  “We’re going to have to monitor your baby differently now,” she says as she prepares me for the internal fetal monitor. I knew what that entailed.  I had done my homework. My mother barely lasted two minutes in the room.  With a dramatic wave of her hand she announced she was leaving and heading for a good bourbon on the rocks.

How vivid still, that stab of disappointment.  Yet again she could not offer even a smidgen of nurturing support, not even during the birth of her first grandchild.  The sting was over in a flash I recall.  In fact, I was immensely relieved.  But it would be many years before I understood why.  I would have been invisible; If she would have stayed in the room it would have been all about her.

Focus! shouts a voice in my head. What number am I on?!  

Inhale, Love…Happy Birthday son…exhale, peace…I pray you find your way…

And then the strangest sensation overcame me, somewhere around my 30th sun salutation.  As I slowly lowered into chaturanga a song from my playlist punctured thoughts of my son, literally stopping the video of him that was playing through my mind as I inhaled and exhaled through each pose.  It was a song from Coyote Oldman’s album Under The Ancient Sky.  Whoosh! I was transported in time…it’s now four years ago in Carefree, Arizona.  I am at my mother’s house.

Every morning before the sun peeked through the tallest saguaro on the eastern hills I would step out the door for my morning walk-jog.  I’ve no doubt that the task of caring for my mother for over three months would have done me in completely without this morning ritual that became sacred to me.  It was Coyote Oldman’s music that soothed me through four miles of gently rolling hills among cacti, saguaros, coyotes, Javelinas and other Sonoran desert creatures.   The song New Worlds was the first in that playlist.

As I exhale into uttanasana (standing forward fold) I may as well be in my mom’s driveway…I am there, gazing at the rising sun.  It’s still cool in the early morning and yet I walk tentatively down the long pebbled driveway on the look-out for rattlesnakes.

Stay on task girl…..you’re on number thirty-two, I think.

Inhale…exhale…

Just great.  So now thoughts of my mother, gone two years now, invade my yoga mat.  Images of her tirades during those difficult months morphed into other memories that reached as far back as when I was ten years old.

My breath becomes labored, more pronounced, as I worked to shake thoughts of her from my mind.  I do not want to lose my asana count nor the fluidity of the practice so I start to whisper my poses:  “Inhale, circle arms up to reach the sky, exhale fold….inhale flat back….exhale step/jump back into chataranga dandasana, inhale, upward facing dog, press back into downward facing dog….five breaths….

It was in that flow, to the cedar flute of Coyote Oldman, that somehow my mother came to me.  It was a surreal, supernatural experience that perhaps lasted a minute or two.  Honestly dear reader, I am still trying to process it.  It was as if my mother and I were one. 

Oh man…this is weird.  Perhaps I should have eaten breakfast!  I stupidly forgot to bring a bottle of water to my mat.I would not allow myself to step off the mat.

Tears escaped the corners of my eyes as I held to the rhythm of my practice.

Inhale, long exhale….inhale…

The feeling of her presence was intense.

“Are you here mamma?”  I whispered as I stepped back into downward dog.  Exhale…No answer.

“I feel your presence.  Why? Are you here to set things straight?” I whisper through tears now streaming down my face.  No answer.

But I begin to feel an answer…of sorts.  As “we” move through the poses she is exceptionally serene, a trait she never possessed while living.  I feel her amazingly youthful; her bronze skin is smooth, wrinkle-free.  Can it be that she wants to finally bond with me through this yoga practice…and that maybe, just maybe…she wants to feel its benefits too.  How I have advocated for years that she give yoga–any activity for that matter–a try; all failed attempts to get her to manage her bouts of depression, anxiety and mobility issues.

“I wish it would have been better between us.  Did you ever love me mamma?   What do you want to tell me?”

“No more walking on eggshells mamma.  Is it here and now, on this mat, that I can be brutally blunt with my questions?”

And poof…she was gone. Somehow, I managed to keep it together.

Inhale, peace, exhale….It’s Okay…let it go.   

Inhale, peace…exhale…It’s Okay let it go.

Bathed in sweat, the feeling that remained on my mat was pure peace.  Wow.

108 Sun salutations; a cleansing like no other!  In any other situation I probably would have freaked over this visitation of sorts.  The magic of it still affects me days later.

Inhale, exhale….There is bliss in that.

Roadtrip!

A clock on the wall ticks rhythmically. It’s the only sound I hear in the otherwise quiet of this early morning.

I’ve got a cup of coffee in my hands as I take in the unfamiliar space around me. The silence is remarkable, not a peep even from a bird.

How is it that I am awake before the birds this morning?

The Poodle is curled up into a tight ball in front of the kitchen door. He is not home yet still he slumbers completely at ease as if it’s been his spot for years.  He has joined me on this last-minute get-away to visit Miss Cookie, my friend of more than forty-some years.

As I sip my coffee in the darkness of Miss Cookie’s comforting kitchen I rewind to some mornings ago when I decided on my impromptu adventure….

“….and I know you’ve got work and can’t take off so I’m gonna manage it solo,” I told Rocket-man as I laid out my plan.

“What about The Poodle?”  He asked.

“Well of course he is coming with me,” I answered.  Of course he’d be useless as my navigator but perhaps he’d help me stay awake.

The next day The Poodle knew something was afoot. He didn’t let me out of his sight as I went about the business of packing my sweet-green Patagonia duffel bag. Then, when he saw me bring up his travel bag from the basement, he was jazzed beyond measure.

Yee-haw are we going somewhere? his entire body asked as his feather-duster of a tail wagged excitedly.

The Poodle is literally busting with energy as he jumps on me, pawing me with questioning eyes: Where, oh where, oh where are we going?!

Little does he know that it’s not going to be a quick jaunt. He’s in for a five-hour car ride to North Carolina with his nervous ninny upright navigating solo.

I load my bag into the car along with The Poodle’s bag which contains his food and water dish and other canine necessities.  I didn’t even have to say “Go Car,”…he jumped into the backseat before I barely had time to situate his travel blanket.

“How funny you are my poodle-love, I remarked as I took stock of our travel gear.  “You jumped up with the swiftness of a puppy and yet you move like an ancient when I want you to go out for a walk!”

With hugs and kisses to hubby and promises from him that he would keep his cell phone glued to his hip and the ringer set to full volume during my trip The Poodle and I set off on our little adventure.

The drive down was fairly uneventful until two hours in, around Richmond, at which point the heavens opened up.  Heavy rain intermittently followed me for most of another three hours virtually until the turn into Miss Cookie’s neighborhood when the sun returned through a cloudy haze.

I let out a long, slow breath as I pulled into her driveway.  I did it! Praise be to technology; without a good navigation system there’s no telling where The Poodle and I would have ended up.

It was lovely to spend time with Miss Cookie and her husband Steve.  He’s a gem of a guy with the added plus that he rocks a bow-tie for business attire better than any GQ man I’ve seen.  For three days I was wined and dined as well as chauffeured to parts around the area.  For one, I was in search of dinner plates that I’ve had on my mind for a couple of years so we visited ten or more pottery studios around Seagrove, North Carolina, whose claim to fame is being “The Handmade Pottery Capital of the United States.” It’s a must-see stop.

You can see for yourself via this link:  http://www.heartofnorthcarolina.com/cities-and-towns/seagrove.htm

It was both curious and fascinating to meet talented potters living out in the country.

Lily Pond at one potter’s home in Seagrove, NC

One potter had the most amazing lily pond in front of her shop and another young woman with sparkling eyes and a happy glow about her had her dog Lola as her sidekick in her quaint shop.  I purchased a small decorative plate from her that caught my eye because the colors screamed happy to me.

My Happy Plate: Pottery by Dean & Martin, Seagrove, NC

 

We also made a pit stop to an Art center in town.  After a lunch of mixed greens adorned with grilled chicken Miss Cookie took me on a quick tour of a pottery classroom.  I knew that she had recently taken up pottery but didn’t know her husband has also been attending classes.

“Wow, I’m mighty impressed,” I tell my friend with sincere awe. The large classroom was both neat and messy at the same time. Rows of bowls, cups and other items in various stages of completion lined floor-to-ceiling shelves. I learned that potters are extremely generous folks. The Seagrove potters donate thousands to charity. And in this particular pottery studio/classroom in nearby Greensboro, many of tables filled with soup bowls that had already been fired will be donated to soup kitchens.

I watched a woman who looked to be in her late 60’s as she sat etching a pattern onto a mug.  “That’s lovely, I say, adding “the only thing I’ve ever created are two kids.”

“Oh, this…this is just doodling.  You can do this too,” she said looking up at me matter-of-factually. Well I know my sis would be a natural at this….but could I….ever? I wondered.

Later that night Steve managed to grill us up some delicious steaks in between bouts of pouring rain while Miss Cookie prepared veggies and a dessert to die for. In fact, days later, I’m still dreaming of Miss Cookie’s delightfully decadent chocolate Texas sheet cake.   A three-mile walk the next morning didn’t make much of a dent in the calories I consumed, but honestly, I cared not; I’d go face-down in that chocolate dream every night if I could!

I tagged along one morning when Miss Cookie had to keep a vet appointment for her cat Diego who had recently undergone surgery.  The doctor was pleased that Diego was recovering quiet nicely.  He also talked and talked….and talked (in fact, I think he may well be still talking).

There were interesting sights as well on the day before my return home as we spent a lovely afternoon visiting historic Old Salem, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The town is rich in history and one afternoon was not enough time to soak it all in.  For lunch we stopped at The Tavern in Old Salem. The family restaurant was built in 1816 as an annex to the 1784 Tavern. It is still a family owned restaurant today with a menu inspired by the Moravian families that lived in Salem in the 19th century.  I made a mental note to read up about the Moravians and the symbol of their church, the Moravian Star.  It is my limited understanding that the Moravian religion developed as breakaway protestant religion out of Germany and it’s been around for some five-hundred years.

Moravian Star

For lunch at The Tavern I stepped out of my usual fare and ordered grilled bratwurst over mashed potatoes with a side of sauerkraut.  Rocket-man scratched his head over this to be sure; I’ve always been emphatic about my disdain for that sour cabbage, but it wasn’t bad. I fell in love though with the spicy wasabi mustard; it provided a terrific explosion of flavor that was a wonderful compliment to the wurst.  I left feeling wonderfully satisfied, not to mention proud that I had enough restraint to skip on the pie that was screaming my name from the kitchen below. After lunch, as we walked through more of the historic district I knew that I’d have to make a second trip to this little town.

The drive back home was nail-biting.  Miss Cookie now has a second moniker to her name: “WC”, as in Weather Channel.  The Poodle kept one eye open from the back seat while I drove white knuckled through practically a non-stop deluge of rain.  I missed a turn in the confusion of consecutive eighteen-wheeler trucks passing me causing a moment of near blinding conditions as water splashed the windshield. At one point, I nearly threw in the towel as a voice in my head shouted “Go Back!” because there was so much water on the road. I kept my hazard lights on because visibility was that poor.  WC called several times, keeping me posted on the constant torrent of rain hammering the area.  As I neared Fredericksburg, VA things were definitely better with bright spots of blue sky amongst the heavy gray and only an occasional drizzle to give notice to.  I was feeling mighty fine about everything until WC called once again.  “Where are you,” she asked without preamble.

“Oh, I’m doing just fine,” I answered.  It’s not raining; the worst is thankfully behind me.”

“Are you near Fredericksburg?” she asked.

Hmm.  Is she tracking my car?

“As a matter of fact, I am.”

“What exit are you close to?” she pushes further.

“I’ve no idea.  I just know I’m within five or so miles.”

“Listen, I’ve been watching The Weather Channel and there is a tornado about ready to cross I-95 in Fredericksburg.”

Oh good grief!

I look to my left and see that westward is indeed not a pretty sight.

How is it I’m just noticing how deathly menacing the sky looks?!

WC’s voice cuts through my thoughts.  “They say it is going to cross somewhere around exit 142,” she says.  “Where are you?!”

“Oh lovely….I’ve just passed exit 138!  So…Okay then: instead of Dorothy and Toto, it’s CC and The Poodle flying off to Kansas,” I tell her trying to keep fear out of my voice.

She tells me to be careful and we say our goodbyes.  I step on the gas pedal and throw caution to the wind setting cruise control to nine miles over the speed limit.  “Let’s outrun this!” I say to The Poodle as I change the car radio channel from Sirius XM’s The Bridge to Symphony Hall.

Ah yes.  How about Franz Joseph Haydn to get me through the rest of the drive.

Before I roll into the driveway carrying another deluge with me straight into the garage, I get not one but two more calls from Rocket-man providing “doomsday” weather updates.  Between sis, Miss Cookie/WC and Rocket-man, how lucky I am to have people who care for my safety! 

A good five minutes later, after a welcome back hug from hubby and settling The Poodle with a bowl of fresh water I was out on the screened-in porch with a glass of wine in hand.  As I began to relax from the long drive I called Miss Cookie to let her know I had made it through the crazy weather and to thank her once again for a lovely visit.  Moments later she texted a picture of the downward slope just beyond her back yard.  The non-stop rain had turned the area into quite a lake.  Wowza!

Next adventure you ask?

The beach.

Bliss.  Am I right?  Oh yeah!

Breath of Fresh Air – White

I whacked my Dammit Doll on the counter so hard yesterday that I thought for sure it’s red-yarn tufted head would burst into a stream of its cotton-ball filling. The Poodle sat still as a statue nearby. I could feel his steely gaze, as if in judgement, as I let the moment of frustration wash over me.

“What’s got your knickers in a knot,” he’d say if only he could.

In a blink my outburst was over though it was followed by quiet tears.

I’m just so over all this man-child-in-my-basement drama.  Yet another time I’ve failed miserably to reach inside my son’s head and heart and get both headed in a better, healthier direction.

I’m thinking of his words as he walked out the door.  “Well if you want me to leave you should give me money.”

Talk to the hand son: Not going to happen.

I fix myself a cup of coffee and sweeten the moment with a cookie to soothe the ache in my heart. As I take a sip I realize that all the recent drama has clouded my head and heart with negativity and blue moods.

I look at my new kitchen…yes, NEW kitchen…and my spirit instantly brightens.

So, it’s been in the works for exactly a month. Our lives were in understandable chaos with a gutted kitchen and extremely limited means to create reasonably healthy meals.  Not to mention the constant presence of workers and The Poodle barking (A LOT!).   The inconvenience (and ear-splitting noise) of it all felt like years but in reality, the month has flown and we finally have a fully functional kitchen once again. With the exception of a few odds and ends that need finishing, we are absolutely thrilled with our breath-of-fresh-air new look.

Gratitude seems like a word over-used lately–in particular, without honest conviction– but honestly (and I know, kind readers, you all know it too), it’s a word that should be relevant every hour of the day.   Thankfully, I’ve become immensely better at practicing heartfelt gratitude especially when I find myself starting to wallow into a negative spiral of emotions.  Often, it’s just a long, deep breath that I need to get myself back to center.

And yes…sometimes it takes a prop….like my Dammit Doll.  Judge not until you try it: It really is a terrific stress-buster.

Inexplicably, my mind is a whirlwind of thoughts.  As I sit in my kitchen that has been transformed from darkness to a breath of fresh air, I’m filled with hope and a deep appreciation for every thing. From things large and small, happy and sad, the good, bad and the ugly, I’m grateful for everything that has colored my life so far.  Yes, It seems like such a cliché… but I am better for it all.

….Yes, even for the father that beat me and the ex-husband that stifled growth and joy because of fear and insecurity.

Holy Cow: It’s amazing what a white kitchen will do for you!

Before

 

 

After: A breath of fresh air!

In this moment, feeling blissful…

Clearly Commando

I stood at the spot for a good ten minutes. I was hoping she would return.  Perhaps I should give her another five minutes …maybe she’ll emerge from around the bend at which point I could wave her down…..

I thought of walking in the direction she went but given the myriad of paths she could have taken I’d be wasting my efforts not to mention that it was turning out to be another scorcher of a day.  The Poodle was already panting heavily from the short distance we’d covered so far.

“Well, that’s unfortunate,” I say to The Poodle as I bag my good intention and we continue towards home. “I’m sure she would have wanted to know that little piece of information.”

As I walk home I think about my preference and the flak I sometimes receive from going against the grain as it were.  I’m okay with that but it’s interesting how my preference irks folks.  I suppose It’s all about them wanting to show how “right” they are.

Okay, I am SURE you’re scratching your heads…..as in….Where in the world is she going with this?

So as I walked The Poodle this morning I spotted a woman out cycling.  She had just turned the corner not far in front of me.  I’ll admit to feeling wistful in that moment.  I haven’t been in the saddle (cycling) for a year now.  Between the move, family issues, and all the home repairs  going on (not to mention feeling just a wee bit depressed over being miserably out-of-shape) there just hasn’t been a good time.

As she cycles by I turn to look at her and it’s then that I see….

Oh my! That is particularly bad. In fact, the worst I have ever seen.

She should know.  How could she not know?!

Someone needs to tell her.

Which is why I stood for over ten minutes hoping she’d be cycling back in my direction.

Alas, I did not see her again.

Perhaps some of you die-hard cycling folks know what I’m referring to.  In fact, I’ll bet my next paycheck (Oh…wait…I’m not working now)….well, you get my drift.

So for those not in the know…..

Her cycling shorts were COMPLETELY threadbare in the back.  And yes, the material was so worn thin that you could see her derrière, bare as the day she was born.

In a nutshell:  The cycling world is somewhat divided on the issue of wearing undies under cycling shorts.  Those in the “commando” camp assert that its more hygienic to go sans underwear since there is a chamois pad that fits close to the body which is specifically designed to absorb sweat. It’s thought that wearing underwear doesn’t allow for sweat absorption, which may increase one’s chances of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI).    But really, their most compelling reason is to prevent chafing in the nether regions.   While I can absolutely attest to the merits of these arguments, the other camp–those who do wear undies– mostly women, simply feel more comfortable, modesty-wise.  If rides are short, wearing undies is more convenient when changing from bike shorts to other attire if, for example, you’re heading into the office.  In addition, that extra layer keeps bike shorts cleaner which means fewer trips to the washing machine, with an added bonus that your bike shorts lasts longer.

I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit to know….

Which camp am I in?

Suffice it so say that I’ve tried it both ways–from 100 miles in the saddle to ten, and I still feel more at ease with undies on.  With all the miles I have put in the saddle, I have never had a UTI.  Saddle sores?  Well…of course, but who hasn’t?!  Still, chafing is entirely manageable since I use plenty of Butt Butter (yes…folks, that’s what it’s called).  Multiple and generous applications of butt butter definitely helps keep the chafing down.

Butter to prevent chafing in one’s nether regions….

 

And why, might you ask, don’t I prefer the favored commando approach?

My personal preference is to strike a balance between modesty and function.  Obviously, I could have plenty of pairs of cycling shorts/pants in my cycle drawer and I could (and do) closely inspect them for wear before putting them on.  Still, I’ve seen far too many butts due to thread-bare cycling shorts.   I honestly don’t want the unintended consequence of barring my buttocks–as lovely as Rocket-man thinks it is– to the world.

 

 

An unintended consequence of going commando…..

Waterlogged

I’m pretty sure The Poodle is actively scouting for new digs. In fact, if he possessed opposable thumbs I’m certain he’d be doing web searches now looking for a new place to move his bed to.

Let’s be clear.  I am not abusing my four-legged love though he would be quick to argue otherwise.

Since we’ve moved into our Northern Virginia home it’s been one fix-it problem after another.  In just shy of nine months we have endured a steady stream of contractors and the accompanying noise.  Some of course, were entirely optional, such as painters in the house for over a week.  However, vent cleaning, replacing the defunct water heater, toilet replacement, new appliances being installed, tree removals, and even replacing the rotting deck weren’t planned.

So now we’ve been able to enjoy a week of quiet after replacing the decaying wood deck with a lovely new screened-in one.   It’s been tranquil around these parts without incessant Poodle barking due to drills, pounding and such.  No sooner than we all exhaled into the bliss of our screened-in porch another shoe dropped.

I was sitting in Italian class when the call came from my son (yes…he is STILL in the basement)….and, in light of recent headlines about a man-child in a New York basement, let me not digress….

I excused myself and went out into the hall to take the call.  Actually, I was thinking my son was going to tell me he had lost this job.  Instead he said:  “Mom, there is water dripping from the ceiling in the kitchen. I placed a bowl there….thought you should know.” 

Ya think?

“What?” I roared, causing heads to turn.

Santo cielo (good heavens)….per l’amor di Dio (for the love of God)….can we not catch a break!?

“Mi dispiace professoressa. Ho una problema con il tetto di mia casa!”  (I’m sorry teacher….I have a problem with the roof on my house).

In two minutes flat I was on the road home.  In the meantime, I called my sis asking if she’d look in on the situation before I arrived.  She called me less than five minutes later as I was still in transit to confirm the news.

“The drips are coming down a good six seconds apart,” she reported.  “Your master bath is directly above the area. Maybe its a plumbing issue?”

Naturally, I nearly lost my mind.  What else could go wrong with this house?

Off and running I went to address the situation.  With the help of my sis I figured out how to turn off the water via the main shut-off valve.  I scrambled to submit an on-line claim request to the home warranty company and within minutes received a work order number.  I followed up with a phone call just two blinks-of-an-eye later only to learn that it would be a week before a plumber could come out.

A week?!

I’ll confess I was not….um… calm.  This is my first time with a home warranty company.  Is this going to be the norm?!  I could feel the Purple Minion bubbling up from the pit of my being.

“A week?”  I refrained from adding: Are you nuts?!  “I have water steadily dripping from my ceiling….around the light fixture, I might add!  I cannot possibly wait a week to address the problem!”

So, kicking “you might not be able to go out of network” to the curb, I called my plumber George.  He installed a pretty white potty in my powder room soon after we moved in.

“What’s up?” asks George.

I launch breathlessly into a tirade about the problem finishing with “can you please come out today?”

“Um…no,” was his reply.

Before I had time to erupt in frustration over his answer –which would have been my second lava flow of the day–George says “Lets walk through the problem over the phone.”

So, he Face-times me.  I can see that he is on his back in someone’s bathroom.

“Oh my God George, you’re on  job now!  I am so sorry to bother you.”

“No problem.  It’s what I live for,” he deadpanned.

He walks me through things to check as he continues working on his back on his client’s floor.  Hmm…no, it’s not the toilet in the master bath.  Hmm…all looks good in the shower which is directly over the area that’s leaking.

I’m yakking on Face-Time with George as I rack my brain.  As I pace the floor George makes a request. “Hey, boss lady, can you please stay in one place, you’re killing me here with sea sickness!”

Oh…jeez…right….I’m sorry!  “If it is not coming from the master bath …where is the water coming from?  Though we have been getting soaked with rain lately it cannot be the roof….I mean how can it be?  According to the previous homeowner, It was replaced in 2013.

I walk into the other bedroom and continue chatting with George as I look out the window.  It is then that I can see that a portion of the roof just above the area in the kitchen that is leaking is wet from water dripping from the gutters above me.  I look left, then right.  Everything is dry as a bone except for that wet spot.

“By George, I think I’ve got it,” I say to George.  I think this gutter system is the culprit.”   I profusely thank George for his help and promise to call him soon as we will need another pretty white potty installed.

I call Rocket-man to let him know that I may have diagnosed the problem.  “It’s the Gutter Helmet system.  I tried to schedule a cleaning for it just a few days ago and no one would service it because…well…it’s a Gutter Helmet system.”

Note to anyone thinking about Gutter Helmet for their home: DON’T DO IT. Don’t believe them when they say it keeps stuff out of the gutter. It’s a hassle–fifty-fold, and more–to clean. and if not done just so (read: By a Gutter Helmet professional) it voids their “lifetime” warranty;  most other gutter cleaning companies don’t want the headache particularly since the helmet system is placed UNDER the first row of roof shingles.  It’s by no means easy-peasy to remove the helmet and it’s also EXPENSIVE to do so.

Before I digress into a long diatribe about my first world problem suffice it to say customer service with Gutter Helmet was terrible!  The service technician from Gutter Helmet never showed up.  Naturally, as not one but two pots in the kitchen were steadily receiving water from the ceiling, this warranted plan B.  Replace Gutter Helmet with a more user-friendly leaf guard system.  I called another gutter company and the next day, bright and early….and on time….they new gutter folks showed up.  The guys were super.  They were practically giddy to show me how horrible the Gutter Helmet system was.  There was so much mud and debris in the gutters that they were incredulous the gutters didn’t fall off from the sheer weight of all the gunk.  So, I’m pleased as punch to have new gutters and downspouts.

Who says a gal needs shiny baubles–or new shoes– to be happy?

You’d be wrong however if you thought that was the end of that little drama.

Of course not.  How silly.

The next day my first world drip problem was back.

Another round of sleuthing (and expletives) began.

So it turns out it was not the gutters causing the problem.  It was the HVAC system in the attic.  Apparently the home inspector (the one we paid $875 to perform a thorough home inspection before we bought this house) overlooked YET ANOTHER problem.  You’ll recall the mountain of lint in the basement ceiling because the dryer vent was not venting to the outside! Yep….THAT home inspector.  Grrrrr.

Anyhoo….A call to the HVAC company yielded a quick response.  Within thirty minutes I had a definitive diagnosis: the primary condensation line was clogged which meant the secondary condensation line to the outside would need to come to the rescue.  It would have been able to do its job had it not been THREE INCHES TOO SHORT.

Breathe missy….breathe.

Therefore most of the condensation water was dripping back into the house.  The HVAC guy said, “Your home inspector should have caught that right away.”

I held up my hand.  Don’t get me started was all I could muster.

Rocket-man has dubbed our house “Aquarius”.  “We are waterlogged.” Between all the drainage issues in the yard, leaky faucets, replacing a water heater, leaky toilet, and now water damage to walls and ceiling…..I see his point.

I pull The Poodle up into my lap moments after the HVAC technician, who had worked for more than three hours to resolve the problem, finally pulled out of our driveway well after happy-hour time.

Rocket-man hands me a glass of red wine as we kick back on the deck.  As he takes a swig of his beer, He’s tallying up the fix-it expenses… so far…less than a year of living in our Aquarius home.

I caress The Poodle and ask Alexa to play some smooth jazz.  For a moment I’m lost in the music.  It’s our first world problem.  Too many folks in the world don’t even have a roof that leaks or a condensation line that is too short.

I let Chris Botti and his trumpet, along with the beating heart of my poodle-love, soften the worry and anxiety in my heart.

“First world problems,” I say to Rocket-man.  “I’m chilled.”   Without a shadow of a doubt,  I am grateful for Aquarius and all of her problems and possibilities.