(Un)Expected Gifts

There are three Indian families that live across the street from us. They have elementary school age children. At night they come out of their houses and talk with loud voices. It sounds like a party with everyone speaking at once. A friend of mine who visited India for the first time said, “It’s so noisy here, day and night, I can’t think.” The funny thing is they don’t talk to each other. It’s as if invisible walls were wrapped around each house with a no trespass sign. I don’t know why because they don’t talk to me either. It’s a shame because one of them has a prolific tangerine tree in their backyard and I’d like some.

On the other hand, my neighbors to the right have been friends for  years. They have fig trees. Anybody with a fig tree is my best friend for life. As a child, my grandparent’s fig trees were my daily treat. At nap time, I’d climb out the bedroom window with a chair and gobble figs until I couldn’t breathe. My neighbors give me their crop in exchange for my lemons and oranges. To the left of me, there’s not even a hello from the front door. It’s just as well. She has no fruit trees. Two doors down a Portuguese family lives with Sunshine, the American short-hair cat, Nigel, the chihuahua, nameless chickens, and a persimmon tree that is so beautiful it takes my breath away. Every year we receive a box full of those beauties at our doorstep. Across the street from them is a family with teenagers and their revved-up cars that go zoom at midnight, sending me to the ceiling and back. In the front of their house they have an avocado tree. I’ve been tempted to snag a few as a consolation prize for putting up with their noise.

Calvin says, “Lucky you. Sunshine and Nigel bring me nothing but turds.” 

The Cure for Social Media Boredom

Have you noticed the changes that are happening on social media these days? It’s no longer a place to hang out with friends and family. It’s more like a shopping bazaar. Every other post is for leadership workshops, coaching lessons, weight loss programs, dog training.

Lately there are tons of courses for writing a book. It seems, according to the marketers, everybody should write a book. We have a story in all of us, they say, and it must come out. It’s the new therapy. Regurgitate your life on the page and press publish.

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Except it’s boring. Have you noticed that? Read some memoirs. You can distill the essence to angst, depravity and survival. That seems to sell. Stories that are hilarious, unique or good for the soul people won’t read.

I can speculate why the negative sells. People like drama. The more hideous the better. Check out your favorite reality TV show. The human tendency to be brutal is inherent in all us.

But I prefer a good story that ends in laughter. It’s time to flood social media with those. Anyone want to join me?

Calvin says, “I will. I’ll write some scratch & sniff posts.”

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Another Year Done

I’m eating leftover deviled eggs and freezing. There’s a cold wind whipping the dead leaves into swirls today. The kind of weather that belongs on the east coast, not here. What’s happening to this side of the country? This is California, not Connecticut.

The deviled eggs, well I made too many this week and my guests didn’t eat them all. They left them for me to do that. Calvin, of course, is too eager to oblige, but I know better. He’ll rip one or two or three throughout the day that make me want to fumigate the house. He gets a bone instead. IMG_8942

Alf is buried in blankets, Calvin is under the bed comforter with only his tail showing, and I’m at the computer dashing this off. A rather inauspicious end of the year, I admit, but I’ve never been one for noisy cocktail parties with fireworks in the background. That’s better left for Hollywood, or New York City, or maybe Paris. And since I’m not there, I’m happy to huddle by the fire, even if it’s a spare-the-day day, reading my book, and saying cheers to all of you. Thank you for visiting my blog this year and being a gracious readership. Happy New Year to you!

Calvin says, “I read your blog, too. It’s time to give me a starring role. I want more lines. I need a make-up artist. My own chair with my name on it. And I certainly need better food. Including eggs.”  beagle

 

 

That Ridiculous List

I hate New Year’s resolutions, so here are some of mine to hopefully make you laugh, because as we all know nobody lives up to this ridiculous list.

  1. Flush the guilt down the toilet. What has it done for you this year?
  2. Only spend time with people who add richness to your life. Flush the others, along with the guilt, down the toilet.
  3. Do more writing. Get that book written. painting19
  4. Consider walking an extra mile every evening. Only one a day isn’t doing it.
  5. Speak up more. Slap down those boundaries.
  6. Forget being nice. Where has it gotten you?
  7. Try authentic on for size. You might like it better.
  8. Remember some people use words as weapons. Don’t show up for the fight.
  9. Let me know how #8 works for you. Share your bulletproof vest.
  10. Fear rules most of us. Turn it on its head. Revel in being alive today.
  11. Don’t buy that puppy to keep you warm on so many levels. A good chocolate souffle will do the same without the vet bills.
  12. Invite more people into your home. It’s where to know them better.
  13. Listen more. Look for the extraordinary in them.
  14. Affirm others. They’re starving for it. One trait, that’s all it takes.
  15. Yank those weeds from the garden. I mean your heart.

Calvin says, “A chocolate souffle, eh? Well then, I’ll find another home where my warm body and doggie breath will be adored.”  beagle

 

 

Conversations on the Run10

I need a replacement life.

Personally I collect magazines instead of men.

Women have become so boring. Is there anyone else out there?

After five years of attempting to talk to my husband, we now talk a different language.

Monday I come here, Tuesday I go there, Wednesday I go around, Thursday I stay put, and Friday, I’m out of here. unnamed (1)

With all this social media, when can I be myself?

He looks like the collective of the dead inhabitants of the club.

Personal umbrella insurance is surprisingly expensive for an umbrella.

Pastor Boss.

What do you get if you become a knight?
You get diplomatic immunity in your own country.

Calvin says, “I could use diplomatic immunity in rabbit holes. They’re downright hostile.” beagle

Search and Rescue

“How could you have lost a plunger?” the clerk at the hardware store said on the phone. “What did you do with it?”

Clearly this was a repeat customer. Her tone of voice gave her away.

Was he asking for a replacement or help in finding it? I didn’t stick around to find out, but it did make me curious.

How could you lose a plunger? How could you lose any plumbing tool for that matter? They’re large enough to trip over.

I’ve lost rings down bathroom drains, wallets at check-out stands in supermarkets. I even lost Calvin once on a walk. He gave me signs that he was sufficiently trained to obey me, so I let him off leash. I blinked and he was gone. The next thing I heard him baying like a coyote in heat. He found a hole in the fence and wiggled through to dash after a hare. I called him, but he was deaf. Unlike sheep who obey the shepherd’s voice, Calvin ignored me as if he didn’t belong to anybody. He was his own master, and that scared me to death.  IMG_0130

So much for the love and care I had given him over the years. So much for the training that didn’t stick. So much for the intense distress this was putting me through. He plainly didn’t care.

And then there was my son. This was his dog. He left him in my care while he went to college. “Son, I lost your dog. He’s probably dead. I’m sorry.”

Calvin was camouflaged in a thicket of bushes. I called louder. Nothing. I couldn’t climb the fence without tearing my body in pieces. I kept calling louder until I was hoarse. A park ranger heard me and opened a gate in the fence and let me in. I walked for miles calling Calvin’s name. Birds flew overhead. Squirrels rushed by me. Calvin was nowhere to be seen.

I never thought I’d do it, but after an hour I gave up.  I turned back and walked to the car weeping.

As I got closer, I saw a silhouette of an animal by the driver’s side of the car.

It was Calvin, sitting there, waiting for me, with a smirk on his face.

Two emotions came flooding in. The first was relief that I wouldn’t have to tell my son his dog was dead. The second, I wanted to kill his dog.

Calvin says, “My body may have escaped, but my heart was always yours.”

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More Than Dirt

Alf and I got tired of the lunar look of our backyard, with its deep ruts and crevices and dead everything. We used to have steady visitors of cats and squirrels and noisy ravens, but lately even the butterflies do fly-overs instead of landing. So with the help of a longtime neighbor, who builds commercial nurseries for plants, we are working on a new garden together. photo (47)

I quickly sketched my idea of an English garden with pathways and gravel and flowering plants. Something that Alice in Wonderland would choose as she read and conversed with the Cheshire Cat.

I didn’t want a lawn. I was convinced of the versatility and beauty of drought-tolerant plants. I’m a survivor of too many droughts and didn’t want the demands of water guzzling green things anymore. They remind me of crying infants when they’re hungry. I don’t have time to invest in pruning, trimming and talking to them either. I hardly have time to do this with Alf.

I’ve been learning a few things about myself through this. I’m impatient. I thought the re-design would take a month. In my mind it was a simple idea without a lot of fuss. Dig up the dead lawn, and then stick some Woolly Bluecurls, Tree Anemones, and Sticky Monkey-flowers in there, and let them duke it out. I was wrong. I have no understanding of soil, bricks and greenery and what it takes to put all three together in an artful way. It’s taken all summer.

Another problem arose. My neighbor’s taste and mine are not in sync. It’s an act of high level diplomacy every time we disagree. We compromise. We change things. We discard stuff. Always smiling. It’s like a marriage. I’m sure he goes home muttering under his breath. But through it all, a glorious garden is coming into view, and the best part is we haven’t filed divorce papers. That’s the important thing. It may not be ready for the fall, and by winter it will be too cold for tea parties, but then there’s next year. The plants will be settled and feeling good about their new home. And maybe the squirrels and ravens will return chattering and cawing their approval.

When the project is complete, I expect my neighbor to be over many times, showcasing me as his still-friend and my garden to future drought-tolerant fans.

Calvin says, “I’m not so stinking happy. You took away my favorite pee spots.” beagle