Tea for Two

The kitchen is complete. It’s so different Alf and I feel we’re in an alternative universe. We’re having to get used to it like a new house.

Unlike us, it’s bright, open and sleek.  What was once a traditional kitchen of the 60’s is now a bold space with stainless steel, grey cabinets, black and white granite counters, and a brown hardwood floor. teapot

Our son, the artist, immediately spotted all the flaws. “I would have laid the hardwood floor in the opposite direction,” he said.  A floor is a floor. Vertical or horizontal, once you throw rugs over it, who’s to notice? He did.

Our daughter was thrilled with the upgrade. “Wow. Makes the house look glamorous. I’ll be coming over more often.” Who knew modernizing the house is the secret to bringing the family together.

Right now I’m purging food items, pots and pans, and small appliances before we fill up cabinet space. I discovered I’ve been hording bags of spices, too many spatulas, dish towels and oven mittens, and an extra set of dishes meant for a banquet of 24. Time to toss.

Calvin says, “I have to establish new scent trails to my food dish.” beagle

 

 

It’s Not All Bad

After 30 years in the same house, Alf and I finally decided to take the plunge.

We’re remodeling our kitchen.

We’ve heard horror stories from many people, but what are you going to do? Believe everything you hear?

We began by asking several friends who they recommended and we called them. One was too busy. Another didn’t want the job because we were too far away. A third came by, looked at the kitchen, grunted and left.

Alf and I wondered if it was us. cows

Were we wearing a sign that said, “Perfectionists” across our chests?

Not really. There’s a remodeling boom going on in our neighborhood and all the good contractors are tied up.

So we asked our real estate agent, the one we would use if we were to sell, who she liked and she immediately came back with a name.

We called him and John came over.

“Piece of cake, I can have this done in a week,” he said.

Oh wow, how wonderful. Alf and I sighed with relief.

John gave us a contract and we noticed it said two months from start to completion.

We asked him why. “Oh that’s just a standard contract. In your case, a week,” he repeated.

Relieved we signed the paper.

A day later John showed up in his truck, a trailer and two workers, Fernando and Gustavo. By the end of the morning, Fernando and Gustavo had demolished the kitchen, thrown the debris in the trailer, and were dispatched to the dump.

Alf and I now stood looking at each other in a large, empty, dusty room. The only thing still alive was the refrigerator.

The next day John went to the cabinet maker to order the cabinets. Since they were pre-fab and in stock, he expected to come back to our house with them.

Nope.

There was a three week wait list for assembly.

Three weeks?

“Everybody’s updating their kitchens,” was the cabinet maker’s response.

So now Alf and I have three weeks of waiting with a ticking refrigerator in a gutted kitchen. And that’s just week #1.

Calvin says, “It’s not all bad, at least you can eat ice cream.” beagle

 

 

Not Yet, Maybe Later

One of my favorite authors is coming out with a new book.

It’s called Scary Close by Donald Miller.

Apparently it’s about intimacy.

I find that comical. Don is single, or was. He recently married at 42. And his book is about what it’s like to live with another person after so many years of being a self-proclaimed hermit. Well, writers are hermits. That’s part of their DNA. You can’t write while you’re carrying on at a party, or watching a movie, or attending church. You can’t write while having a conversation with your spouse either.

I’ll bet his wife is an extrovert dragging him into public places with friends and family and ruining his writing time.

I think he should have waited at least 7 years to write it. He’s still in the honeymoon stage of married life. Nothing he says now is going to be true later. But it’s too late. He didn’t consult me.
Jacqueline Osborn

I loved his Author’s Note:

“Somebody told me we will never feel loved until we drop the act, until we’re willing to show our true selves to the people around us.

“When I heard that I knew it was true. I’d spent a good bit of my life as an actor, getting people to clap—but the applause only made me want more applause. I didn’t act in a theater or anything. I’m talking about real life.

“The thought of not acting pressed on me like a terror. Can we really trust people to love us just as we are?

“Nobody steps onto a stage and gets a standing ovation for being human. You have to sing or dance or something.

“I think that’s the difference between being loved and making people clap, though. Love can’t be earned, it can only be given. And it can only be exchanged by people who are completely true with each other. I shouldn’t pretend to be an expert, though. I didn’t get married until I was forty-two, which is how long it took me to risk being myself with another human being.

“Here are two things I found taking the long road, though:

“Applause is a quick fix. And love is an acquired taste.”

Calvin says, “Oh no, why can’t he leave well enough alone. Intimacy is a well loved bone by the fire.”beagle

 

 

A New Friend

I met a woman I instantly fell in love with. Her name is Cordelia Spencer and she’s a retired family therapist of 30 years who now wants to spend her time writing mysteries.

She’s moved out of the Bay Area for Southern Oregon where she’s among her kind – writers, actors and impersonators.

“Having spent so many years listening to patients I feel I can become them,” she says with a chuckle.  “Oh the stories I can tell.”ashland trees

Her one companion who is allowed to distract her is Maurice, a 2-year old Cardigan Corgi who was bequeathed to her by a patient who died.  You will find Maurice with a wary eye constantly by her side. “At first I was angry at having to take him, but he’s become my best friend. I suspect he plotted his way into my heart.”

Cordelia and Maurice live in a condo overlooking a beautiful park filled with trees and a roaring creek. They have no furniture in the apartment except for a bed and a computer table for Cordelia’s laptop. Cordelia prefers it that way. She spent 30 years in a home with a husband and two children surrounded by clutter. Now she has the space she craves and likes it that way. Maurice, on the other hand is not so sure because he spent the first two years of his life on silk sheets and enjoyed a pampered life. Since being adopted he’s had to learn to be a dog.

So far Cordelia has been unable to write a word. Every time she opens her laptop her children call or a friend drops by. And they usually need help. And Cordelia can’t say no.

Calvin says,”I have to meet this Maurice character. Silk sheets? Are you kidding me?” beagle

 

 

 

 

Due for Another One

At midnight last night four cop cars pulled up in front of my neighbor’s house across the street.

Alf was awake and watched from the bedroom window.

I like my police department. They have heart.  cropped-rubbed-my-tummy.jpg

They could have screeched their way into the neighborhood like they do in the movies with lights flashing and sirens screaming, but instead they crept in like silent ninjas.

Alf said it was their voices that caught his attention.

People, one by one, came out through the front door, with one man in handcuffs. The last person to leave was our next door neighbor. She crossed the street and went into her own house.

The cop cars left as quietly as they had arrived and the neighborhood fell silent again.

Even the birds had stopped chirping in the trees.

I was sound asleep so I missed the entire thing. Alf told me in the morning.

That explained why I dreamed cops were combing my front yard and looking behind every bush.

Wait. That happened several years ago and I was awake then.

Every few years we have some criminal activity and it always seems to end up in front of our house. We’ve had our share of car chases, and thieves and escaped criminals running through our backyard with cops and police dogs in hot pursuit.

I guess we were due for another incident.

Calvin says, “It’s thrilling when those German Shepherds strut their stuff. Makes me proud.”    beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Drip in the Night

We’ve had plumbing problems at home this week.

It’s been disorienting to stumble into the bathroom at 5 a.m. to brush my teeth and to be shocked by running water splashing around my ankles.

This puts Alf into a panic. Computers are his field, not pipes.

Our solution: buy another vanity. photo(116)

We went to Lowe’s armed with tape measures. We looked professional. We measured the vanities on display. We chose a very circumspect one, cherry brown with a white marble top. We hunted down a live sales person. He checked the inventory on the computer. It said they had two in the store. He began to look. Up and down the aisles he went. Nothing. Finally I asked him what the product number was, and now there were two of us, and then three with Alf. We stretched our necks searching for box # 400897 at a height of an eagle in a tree. Several strained necks later we returned to the computer to discover it had lied to us. There were two vanities, but one was a return because it was damaged, and the other was the display we had measured. How many others had measured it, kicked it, and shimmied it? We were not going to buy that one, but I was tempted to ask if we could get a discount on it. Nope, I didn’t do it. Our salesman was not to be daunted, so he called another store, and found a new one. So we put it on hold, dashed over there, confirmed they had told the truth, and paid for it.

This took the better part of the morning.

Our wonderful neighbor, a whiz at fixing all things broken and a truck owner, picked up the vanity with Alf and dragged it into the house. Like a moth to a flame, Ed’s attention was immediately drawn to the problem with the old vanity. After examining it he declared he could fix it. Why spend $400 on a new vanity when he could fix the old one for $32. So off he went to the hardware store, chose new parts, came back and got to work. What should have been a few hours turned into two days, with several additional trips to the store, but when he finished I had brand new, shinny silver pipes guaranteed never to leak a drop of water on me again no matter what time of day or night. Then Ed and Alf schlepped the new Lowe’s wonder back to the store to be returned to its black hole in the sky.

Calvin says, “You guys are ridiculous. What’s wrong with the hose out in back and one of the trees to pee on?”  beagle

 

 

 

 

Oh!

I shared a recent blog post with an artist friend and he shared a painting with me.

He enjoyed my post and I loved his painting.

Then he mentioned he was getting it ready for competition. photo (35)

I told him I was glad it would have a public viewing and that the judges should be quite taken by it.

“Isn’t there somewhere in the bible about there being only one lawgiver and judge?” he said.

“That’s only for sinners. Paintings are other creatures altogether,” I said.

“Oh,” he said, “I thought you were going on about your blog getting a public showing/judges etc., and not my painting!”

Huh?

This is how most of us communicate.

Each one out of his own head.

Like two planes on different flight paths.

Is it any wonder we have craziness in our everyday with people?

Alf is fond of telling me I speak a different language than he.

I suppose he’s right.

My first language is Spanish, he’s is English. There’s a continent separating us.

That probably explains why we’ve been together for so long.

We’re still discovering who the stranger is we married.

Calvin says, “Actually you speak better Beagle than English.” beagle

 

Noises in the Night

We’ve had a bit of trouble in our roof these past few nights. Probably because the temperatures have dropped into the low 30’s and everybody is freezing, critters included.

We’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by scratching noises. Sometimes they’ve been in the kitchen area, at other times in the bathroom. At no times have we been happy about it.

Alf went into the attic with his super-powered flashlight to startle the intruder.     Rat

“Nothing,” he said as he climbed down the ladder.

The next night we heard the noises again.

This time Alf went into the attic and sprayed it with a horrible smelling liquid that makes them gag and hack.

The noises were back again the following night.

Then Alf asked our neighbors. Their fixes ranged from throwing poison pellets into the attic to setting killing traps.

With our luck, we’d end up with a rotting carcass in a corner somewhere that would stink up the house for weeks.

That’s when Alf struck on an idea.

He pulled out the trap he uses for squirrels in the backyard, filled it with peanut butter and shoved it into the attic.

Sure enough, the next morning we had a very fat and happy rat in it.

“What are you going to do with it?” I asked.

“Export it,” Alf said.

He put the cage in the trunk of the car and let it loose at the foot of the mountain where he hikes every week.

It just so happens the foot of the mountain is in the most expensive part of town.

“Upscale housing,” Alf said.

Calvin says, “What a genius fix. I wonder if you’d export me to a rabbit habitat if I bayed once too many times.”beagle

How To Spot a Phony Restaurant

I knew the moment we walked into the restaurant it was a mistake.

El Gordito was proud to be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. It even sported a sports bar.

The owner grabbed me by the arm and walked me and Alf to a booth by a window. He dealt the two over-sized menus like playing cards, and left us. I looked around the room. We were the second customers for dinner. The first was a robust family of six, just finishing their meal. They looked up and smiled.

The owner returned. He was a man in his fifties, with dark short hair, a little black mustache, and quick eyes. He brought a basket of chips and a bowl of red salsa and plunked them down in front of us.

“Somtin do drink?” he said.

Alf suggested a margarita. I said no. This place would front load it with corn syrup and fake juice.

“Ice tea,” I said.

“Sangria,” Alf said.

The owner rolled his eyes and left. He went behind the bar and prepared the drinks. The only TV in the sports bar was flickering a basketball game. How un-Mexican. Where was the bullfight?

The tortilla chips were brittle. They had been fried in lard, a darling of Mexican cooking. I saw myself launching guerilla warfare from my booth with them and perforating the owner and the chef.

“Cause of death: impaled by chips,” the coroner’s report would state.

The salsa was thick, tasteless, and hot. The heat was poor camouflage for its nastiness.

I looked around. The window was covered in drawings of blue, pink and green margarita cocktails.

A couple roared into the parking lot on matching motorcycles. He looked like a mafia don, dark and mysterious behind dark glasses, she like a mortuary hairstylist, petite and curvy with lots of makeup. They were the third victims coming for dinner.

“See, we’re bringing in a crowd,” I said. “We should get this meal gratis.”

The interior of the restaurant was like the country of Mexico stuffed into one small place. Stone walls with paintings of Mexican towns, pottery in garish colors erupted with plants and vines in profusion. The booths and tables were made from rough wood and carved with designs of birds and flowers. Nothing matched.

Maybe if I spoke in Spanish I would win us special attention and we could order off-menu.

I ordered in Spanish, the owner replied in English. He was onto me.

We chose the most authentic item on the menu – tacos al carbon – tacos with grilled steak, raw onion, cilandro and lime. Everything else on the menu came smothered in melted cheese, re-fried beans with a side of lard.

While we waited, a minstrel sat down on a chair, donned a Mariachi hat, and pulled out his guitar. A laminated sign next to him read, “Teeps. Muchas gracias.”

Our dinner arrived. The plates looked like platters. We searched for our tacos. They were hiding under a mountain of shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes. They were soggy. It was a scavenger hunt locating the meat. The rice and re-fried beans oozed into everything like an oil spill.

The Mariachi strummed his guitar and sang pathetic love songs that were popular in Mexico thirty years ago. He was off key. He jumbled the words. He switched to classical. He murdered the music.

We picked at our food and ate what we could so we wouldn’t embarrass the owner.

“How’s everytin?” he said.

“Great,” Alf said through teeth full of lard.

I said nada.

The dissonant notes of the guitar engulfed the room.

I began to laugh and couldn’t stop.

“I’m the one drinking the alcohol,” Alf said.

The owner asked us about dessert. I wanted to tell him his place was sugar-coated with lies, enough for a telenovela, but I bit my tongue.

Calvin says, “Food is food. I’d have wolfed down that lard in a heartbeat.”

Online Dating Is Not For Wimps

Getting married used to be a simple thing. You lived in a village all your life, and when it was time to find a spouse, Aunt Sadie, the village matchmaker was only too happy to oblige.

The village is now the world.  Aunt Sadie is an online dating site that fulfills a similar role, but in a less quirky way. If you don’t like the looks and sounds of someone, you move on. After all he was only a photograph with a few descriptive lies, not a real person. I suppose the same happened back in the village, but in that instance you ran the risk of bumping into him the next day at the county hog races.

Finding a mate is not for the fainthearted. It takes finesse, timing, the right circumstances to come together, and plain sheer grit.

I asked a friend of mine, a perennial bachelor who continues to comb the online dating scene for hopefuls, what he does when he is hurt and in pain over not finding the right person. “I tell myself God loves me much more than all these losers,” he said with a laugh.

“Even at your age when you behave like a dejected 17-year old?” I asked.

“We’re all 17-years old inside. And it doesn’t get any better as you get older either,” he said.

And he ought to know. He’s been looking for a wife forever.

The truth is I know many couples who met online and they have happy marriages.

It’s the ones who are still hopeful that I feel for.

Sometimes the search is aggravating and unbearable.

Calvin says, “Do what I do. I dig up an old bone to re-acquaint myself with it. Then bury it under your pillow so I have something to keep me entertained while you search on your iPad.”