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One of the reasons I enjoy new things and places so much is because they give a new perspective, sometimes a badly needed jolt. I find myself in desperate need of that lately.

When there are things in your life that maybe aren’t so great, the good little things become bigger and more important.  You get so used to holding onto those things that you can’t break out of whatever your routine is for maintaining your sanity. It would take too long to take a bigger gulp and might even throw off the whole works.

But I am tired of that. I wonder why the heck I can’t break out of the every day rut of my own making. There are things I want to DO, yet I don’t.

I come to work, the same job for nearly 25 years. I sit in my office, with the same view outside and inside. I think, I should do this or I should do that, but I don’t do any of those things. I mindlessly look at the internet. (And thank god for my friends I chat with online – you have no idea how I need that.) I do nothing productive, and then wonder later where the time went, why I was so foolish.

At home, I do the bare minimum, and sometimes not even that. Dishes sit overnight at least, we use hand towels for showers. I read and sometimes watch my stories. Sometimes cook something. I DON’T do any of my crafty things. I don’t redo the Boy’s bedroom. I don’t sort through the endless piles of crap. I am in Christmas denial.

People will say “but the parties!”. Yes, I do those. At this point I can do that on auto-pilot. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it. But it doesn’t count.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I can’t bust out of this rut. Why I am letting so much time slide by, wasted. If I am honest, I would say it’s because the things that aren’t so great are taking up too much of my time and energy. I have none left for new things. I NEED that mindless time. I need to be numb.

But then it becomes a vicious circle, doesn’t it. At some point, if I am serious about change, I just have to take a very deep breath and brace myself, throw myself off these tired tracks. Let go of the things I worry about that I can’t fix. Check out the view from a different window, find a different drum beat.

Defibrillate.

 

 

 

tiny

This year is nearly over. I am ready for it to end. Aside from my lovely trip to Savannah and the August dinner party, this year has nothing to recommend it. It’s been full of strife, frustration, uncertainty and sadness. In the beginning, it’s easy to deal with less than stellar conditions in your life, because things usually balance out. To have it last for so long takes a toll.

You begin to look not for big nuggets of goodness or luck because evidently there aren’t any. You simply expect things will not go your way for the foreseeable future. It’s exhausting.

But since I am generally a glass-half-full person, I keep trying to tell myself it could be worse. And have no doubt, that is very true. We are healthy. I have a roof over my head.

But if that’s as good as things get, a person has to begin to find the goodness in the smaller things. Because there has to be a reason to keep plodding through this muck.

And so I’ve started a little list in my head that gives me hope or happiness in the midst of not-so-great.

Coffee. With milk and sugar. Or a cappuccino, on the dry side with sugar and cinnamon.

A weekend day with no plans. Sunny or rainy, but wide open with possibility even if I do nothing.

Jeans that fit just right.

My tattoos.

A well-made cocktail. Usually in a martini glass. Making them for other people is sometimes better than making them for myself. Must use high-quality booze and accoutrements.

Dinner parties. I don’t even mind the cleaning. It’s about planning the menu, inviting, cooking, conversation. Nourishing people’s bodies and souls. It’s selfish of me, because I get more out of it than any guest does.

Fire on a windy, rainy winter night. Preferably with a cocktail and candles.

A perfect set of words. Current favorites:

“Constant use had not worn ragged the fabric of their friendship”.

Dorothy Parker

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun”.

Jane Austen

Anything by e.e. cummings. The man is magic.

Crispness. Of a perfect french fry. Creme brulee topping. A fall day when leaves are changing and bright. A winter day after snow. Fresh sheets. A chocolate chip cookie, buttery crisp. A retort.

Jack. The one in my family who asks nothing but food and a walk. His heart is so wide.

Serendipity. The color and texture that became just right after the 5th layer. The mistake that led to the perfect combination. Being in the right spot to see an old friend.

No laundry pile.

When my son says thank you for making his lunch.

Glen Hansard’s voice.

Friends who let me be snarky and know exactly what I mean.

Champagne.

This last thing is perhaps not so small. Over these many months when things are not-so-great, even when it seems I am alone, I am not. The Geek stands beside me. Sometimes I am the strong one; sometimes he is. Bolstering, encouraging, reminding. Someday soon hopefully, our luck will change. In the meantime, there are the tiny things that sometimes add up to enough greatness to light the way.

Leaving you with some magic. May it light the way.

[love is more thicker than forget]

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky
e.e. cummings

adrift

Most of the time, once I post something I don’t go back and read it again. It feels odd to me and I can’t explain why. So what I am about to say may have already been said. It would not surprise me. I beg your forgiveness in that case.

Recently, I’ve been haunted by the niggling feeling that something is just a bit off, just a bit out of reach. Something I can’t even define, which is irritating since it’s hard to fix something you can’t name. It feels like the gear is not quite right or maybe the scissors have a nick that always misses a piece of fabric, repeating the entire length. But you need that fabric cut so you keep using the scissors with the nick, even though you know the final product won’t be quite right.

If I’m honest, I would say that it’s at least partly due to doubt. Doubt that I am on the right path, doubt that I can trust my instincts, doubt that I am doing and saying the right things. For someone who tends to be anxious in the first place, it’s a sticky place to be.

Some of this doubt comes from a feeling of time running out, especially when it comes to living with two teenagers. The words in my head come out of my mouth, enter some completely discombobulated translation machine and fly into their heads as who-knows-what. All I know is what they are hearing is not what I think I am saying. So what they spew back is, well, not usually pleasant. Hence the doubt about trusting my instincts and saying the right things. What if I’m not? Their time remaining under this roof is short (I hope) and I fear I’m screwing them up even more. Half the time I’m pretty sure they don’t even like me.

There is no doubt that I’ve failed in areas I’ve wanted to succeed in for a long time. Let’s face it, people: I am not a clean freak. I do not have that gene. Combine that flaw with a small house, and you might see where I’m going with this. My daughter claims she won’t invite people over because the house is a mess. Her own room tends to Hoarder Stage 4 – no doubt I have passed that failing along to her. Time is running out to fix that, too. So I am trying. I don’t want their clearest memory of childhood to be a messy house with piles everywhere.

When you’re weighed down this way, everything gets second-guessed. Which is usually an exercise in futility. And round and round we go. Until one magical day when you pass through some invisible veil of clarity and realize some of the weight is being held down by your own two hands. Maybe all of it. Maybe you’re clinging to emotions and pain about things you can’t fix. So you let go, finger by finger, until it slowly melts away. You move your head slowly, testing the new lightness, looking ahead of you. You start to see possibility, all clear and sparkly, not soul-sucking failure.

No doubt I am still doing it wrong, but now I know I am also doing the best I can. It will just have to be enough. I’ll keep telling myself that until it’s true.

 

garden dinner party!

It’s no secret that I like a good party. I especially like to throw a good party. It involves lots of my favorite things: food, drinks, shiny things and my friends.

I am also a Leo. I am bossy and a control freak about certain things. When it came time to decide what to do for this year’s birthday, there was only one thing that came to mind – the long-dreamed of Garden Dinner Party.

We have a small house. I can fit 10 at our table if I have to. The first Thanksgiving, I added a long folding table and we had maybe 15-20? Definitely packed them in there. But I’d always wanted to do a big outdoor dinner, very French/Italian countryside style. So I bit the bullet, told The Geek a very abbreviated version of my plan (and held my breath; he doesn’t enjoy this sort of thing), and sent out the invites to 20 of my best people.

They pretty much all thought I was crazy. But I had a vision, dammit, and IT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN. At first, I was on the fence about whether to do it in the back yard or the front. The back yard is a hot damn mess. Turns out it would require more time and motivation than I was willing to commit to it. Plus the front yard is smaller and more cozy, and already pretty usable.

So this is how you throw a Garden Dinner Party for Eighteen.

I had the vision in my head already, so I set out finding the pieces and making lists. I decided to order 2 6′ tables, white wooden chairs, linens, wine glasses, champagne coupes and silverware. (Originally the plan was to serve champagne and a cocktail, but as I got into it I had to give up the cocktail dream. That’s just too much to do for 18 people. So I compromised and served vino verde in those champagne coupes since it’s a little fizzy.) I have plenty of vintage platters and vases, and a fair amount of candle holders which I augmented on the cheap at Value Village. Add in my mixed vintage china and I was set for the table.

candles

One end of the table is at the end of the yard which is still pretty rough. So I thought I’d try to block that off with some sort of fabric curtains. I ended up using mosquito netting that I cut into panels. It was about $50, but I can reuse it. I also moved my jasmine plant down there to further block the ‘view”. I ordered two strings of solar powered lights that I added across the fabric panels and I was so excited when they actually came on! The finishing touch were some of those glass ball candle holders that you can use for air plants – I hung those here and there for more atmosphere.

I was going for a Rustic Vintage look, I guess you could call it. So I bought some burlap that I cut into table runners. I think it balanced out the pink napkins and glass candle holders  and went well with white tablecloths. My friend Carolyn came over the day before and demonstrated her awesome napkin folding skills! Add in a couple of printed menus and place cards and ta da!

dinner3

 

dinner6

dinner4
On to the food. The dinner menu included:Mixed Greens and Herbs, Grilled Parmesan Polenta, Tomato Confit, Herbed White Beans, Pork Tenderloin and Chocolate Semifreddo for dessert. The key to something like this: DO AHEAD as much as you can. And keep it simple, stupid. Hence the ditching of the cocktail.  The only things I HAD to make the day of the party were the two appetizers: greek skewers with feta, cucumber, olive and mint, and goat cheese with sauteed red grapes, and also the main course of grilled pork tenderloins. I brined that for a few hours, grilled it and let it rest, and then finished the polenta on the grill. I had made ahead the polenta with parmesan and let it set so I could slice it. I also prepped the salad dressing so that when Farmer Fels arrived with their luscious salad makings from their Mezza Luna Farms, it would be easy to throw the salad together. I made the semifreddo in individual jam jars rather than the usual loaf pan so I could avoid the slicing. I just threw one on a plate with a Pirouette cookie and done!

dinner5

I have to say the stars were really all aligned. Although the raining until noon thing did cause some concern, it did clear up and was even warm! Things to consider for next time: the beans did not seem as popular as the rest so I might try something else. And we only ended up with 16 guests – if the other two had come, we may have run out of food. AND I realized in the nick of time that I actually needed 2 8′ tables so I managed to change that. Things that worked: renting the stuff was awesome. Not cheap, but pretty handy. Assembling all my plates, etc. in the house a few days before and planning what food would go where. Serving two platters of everything.

It took some planning and more than a little luck, but it was a spectacular birthday. Thanks to my fantastic guests for putting on your party clothes! It will be hard to top!

dinner1

dreaming

Back in the day, when trying to picture the murky future and choose a college major, I imagined myself in a red power suit behind a stylish desk, molding words and images for people. I could see myself in PR; it seemed a logical, natural choice. I am pretty good with words. I thought I could be good with people.

After graduation, I ended up in an office job, not knowing any better and completely lacking in any ambition. I still have that job. It’s been 24 years.

In the years since, I’ve discovered I do not really  have the skills necessary to make it in the PR world. Yes, I can spin things and write things and organize the shit out of things. I am bossy. But diplomacy is not my forte. I am anxious around people. I am impatient with stupid people.

So maybe it’s a good thing that I still have this office job in a small company with hardly any stress. Am I living up to my potential? Is this what I thought I’d be doing 25 years after graduating college? Um, no.

Yes, I do a bit of PR-type stuff with the bar, but it’s behind the scenes stuff. No one sees me do it; I can hide behind the internet for the most part. It’s pretend PR.

So I’ve been thinking lately – WHAT would I do if I could choose? And since the lease is up on the bar again next year and we really have no idea what will happen, it’s not entirely a wasted exercise.

But what I would choose is only a dream. Complete make-believe, requiring a big pot of money. I’m not even sure if something like this would be profitable, so that big pot of money would have to be REALLY big.

Here is what I am good at/like to do (I think):

giving people food and drink

organizing

hosting

bossing

curating

looking at pretty things

playing with fabric and glue and paper and paint

So if money were no object, I would move to a town like Ellensburg and open a place called Studio Pie (name subject to change). It would be in a big space, one of the old brick buildings downtown, open but broken out into sections. We would bake things and serve coffee, maybe lunch, like the old Still Life Cafe. In another section, there would be fabrics and classes. In another section, there would be paints and canvas and glue and paper for collage, maybe screen printing, etc. And in another section, at night, there would be a small craft bar. With really good cocktails. In a town like Ellensburg, with a student population and creative residents, it might fly. Online sales might be a part. There could be a big space for guest teachers. Did I mention the cocktails? Maybe even bands occasionally? And now that I’m on a roll, there will be outdoor space in the back for dinner parties.

Now. While we are at it, The Geek can have a section for Games. Since we’re dreaming and all.

Off to buy a lottery ticket.

 

hope

We have a 16-year-old daughter. This one.

People say she looks like me. She and I don’t see it. We laugh when they say it, looking at each other like maybe THIS time, we will see the resemblance. The connection.

Physically, perhaps there is something of me in her. Internally, though, I am not so sure. The last few years have been a challenge, as regular readers may recall. Nothing life-shattering, knock on wood. But nothing for which I was prepared. I’ve been dangling, spinning in the wind.

It’s easy when they’re small. For the the most part, I felt like we were doing it right. Not perfect, by any means, but I didn’t feel like I did any permanent damage. You can pretty much trust your gut before they become teenagers, follow common sense, and they’ll turn out all right.

Well. Maybe you can do that with some teenage girls,  but not the one that lives in this house.

You want to give them room to grow, see what path they take, sit back a bit more than when they were little. You want to, really you do. But then they stumble and you rush forward, arms outstretched, trying to gently guide. Only it doesn’t come out gently – it comes out forcefully, bossy, controlling before you even know it. The words that sound so rational and calm come out in a language they don’t understand. Rather than translate it, they delete it altogether.

So you try again, louder, with more words. Like people sometimes do when talking to someone who speaks another language. They aren’t deaf, they just don’t recognize the words you are using. Speaking more loudly won’t make the words make sense.

The path that seemed so straight and clear now winds through dark woods. You try to claw your way to the light at the top of the trees, but something pulls you back every time. Once in a while a sunbeam breaks through, but it’s mere minutes before the clouds take it back again.

I’ve absorbed so many hurtful words that I am numb. They mostly bounce off now, but sometimes they are so fierce and sincere they make my stomach clench. And I am not innocent – though I don’t think my words are hurtful, I know sometimes they are loud and impatient and unyielding, when they should be soft and careful.

They say this stage is called “spoiling the nest”. They are making it an unpleasant place to be so that they will leave it. It’s bittersweet, because the time she has left here with us is so short, I hate to spend it arguing and being frustrated and hurt.

After yesterday’s failure, I took a step back. It occurs to me that I can’t care enough to make her care about the things she should care about, that I can’t fix the things she won’t fix. That even though her choices would not be MY choices, they are hers. Her mistakes to make, her mistakes to fix. And if she chooses not to fix them, that is still her choice. Hard and heartbreaking as it is, I need to let it happen.

I am going to try so very hard to move back to the sidelines, my heart in my throat, and watch. My arms will still be outstretched and ready to be her safety net. But they can’t be so tight around her that she can’t reach out herself.

I’ll be watching for the light in the woods.

 

 

now what

Hey, friends. Been a while. A long while. I’m sorry for that. Bit of a drought, it seems.

I recently went to Savannah for some friends’ wedding. As getting out of your daily rut/places will do, it brought on some thinking. That and various things at home involving raising teenagers. It’s not a pretty business, people.

Things in my brain have been percolating for a while now, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get them out of my head in any coherent form. So this may not make sense. But at least it won’t be cluttering up my head anymore.

I’ve had the same job since January 1990. You do the math. I work in a small office doing office stuff. Is it my dream job? No. But the people are nice and have been very accommodating as my family has expanded, letting me change my schedule as needed, and it’s certainly not a  job I have to take home with me. So that part works.

That doesn’t mean that I’ve never wished for the sort of job that is creative or fulfilling, that I am proud to talk about at parties. Who want to say they work in an office? What’s cool or exciting about that?

In 1995, The Geek and I bought a bar. So since then, his job has been to run that, and I do the books. The funny thing is, he doesn’t think that’s a worthy job, either. Even though more than one person has said how cool they think it is. (I think keeping that place open is important work, but really, that’s a whole different post.)

Most of our friends have “real jobs”. They go to an office and do “real work”. Things they went to school for, things with a career path. Things you need ambition for.

Which is really the gist of it. That whole ambition thing. Do some of us have it and some don’t? Can you learn it, grow it? What if your ambition is just to be happy?

The Girl Child is having some issues in school, mainly having to do with getting work done. It has put her in a precarious position, and may limit her choices going forward. We talk about college, and her answer is always “You went to college. Look where it got you. Such an awesome job.”  Which makes me wonder – have I said that to her? Or did she come up with it all on her own?

Another friend has recently been all fired up and encouraging about my writing, thinks I should do something with it. I write things here sometimes, so I suppose one could say I write. And sometimes I think that would be pretty cool. It’s easy for me. I enjoy it. And then doubts creep in. (Not that I am fishing for compliments here.)

Maybe the ambition comes along naturally when you find your passion? The thing you’d do if  they didn’t pay you. But what if you never find that thing? It’s a bit of a chicken and the egg – which comes first.

Even though I’m a little scared that ship has sailed, maybe it’s time to see what else is out there. Not a new job necessarily because this one works for various reasons still, but a way to add something that feels a little more passionate. Something to feel proud of.

We all need that. Sometimes in the day-to-day of just getting by, we forget.

I ramble. But as always, thanks for listening.

 

 

village people

Tonight I am going to spend time with a couple of girls I’ve known for many years, in the sort of way that there is comfort and ease in each others’ company no matter how long it’s been since we’ve been together. No need to put on a show; I’ll probably wear my soft pants and take off my shoes. There will be food and drink and dishing. And rebalancing and resettling of the business of our lives.

Sometimes when I am overwhelmed and out of sorts and wondering about the point of it all, I stop and breathe for a moment and remember the good things – surely there must be a few. The biggest: my village. The people I’ve known since college have been here the longest and own a big chunk of my heart. The ones who came with them, too. Our Roanoke family – not by blood, but by choice. How different my life would be without that giant circle of good people. Our Rosens and extended Rosens. Our Green Lake moms and dads. The Underwoods and the geeks that came with The Geek.

Social media makes it easy to reach out and stay in touch when you can’t always do it physically. I can’t give that up despite the dumb quizzes. There’s a secret Facebook group called Mommy Dearest – it began with my like-minded mom friends, raising our kids the best way we know how, not afraid to mock ourselves, raise a glass and maybe ask a serious question or two. It’s over 60 people now who don’t even all know each other, but they offer support and laughter. My village keeps growing.

That’s why I make the Geek help me clean the house and do the shopping for parties even though it’s not his favorite thing. It’s why I am constantly feeding people. It’s my way of giving back what they give to me. Those of you know who you are – thanks for answering the call and making my village so bright and funny and necessary.

 

the way back

I posted this status on Facebook a while ago:

Sometimes I still feel like that girl that used to wonder around downtown in the 80’s with a camera, having coffee and a cigarette outside the old Nordstrom. Life was good then.”

 It was so easy then. No doubt there were struggles of some sort, but nothing major comes to mind. It seemed like the possibilities were endless, not that I’d considered any.  Then, like now, I tend to live in the moment. Which explains how I ended up here.  But I digress.

Now that Nordstrom is many spaces, including Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie. Back then, the Rack was actually in the basement of Nordstrom and had real treasures. What is now Nordstrom was Frederick & Nelson’s – I actually tried on wedding dresses there. I sat outside the Nordstrom coffee bar with my coffee, cigarette and camera, watching the world go by and probably considered myself quite arty and European.

There were no weighty decisions to make, save when to have coffee or meet a friend. High school and college overlapped these years – I’d go back to college in a heartbeat. (High school can suck it.)

No Facebook to check, no constant tether to anything but what you were doing right then. How much more brain space I must have had.

I’m sure I didn’t give much thought to life in 25 years. But I gotta say, now that those 25 years have come and gone, responsibility blows. The worrying blows. Being in charge of small people and a business is hard. Most of the time, I find myself wondering where the real parents and bar owners are. I am afraid on a daily basis that I am doing it all wrong.

A friend commented on my status, wondering if we’d look back in 20 years at this time in our lives in the same way. I’d say the only thing this time has to recommend it over the future is our relative health, but who knows? I find myself thinking more frequently about the fact that I should probably pay a little more attention to the future (amid slight panic) and a little bit less to the now, but I am afraid to miss anything.

I know that girl outside Nordstrom with the camera is still in me. It might be the only thing that gets me through some days.

At the old Ace Records in Ellensburg - 1987/88?

At the old Ace Records in Ellensburg – 1987/88?

just right

You guys. We did it.

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Moms

P1050855

Mmm, snacks!

Dinner!

Dinner!

So, yeah. The days of endless projects and prep are over. I survived and lived to tell about it.

Thanks for your kind words here and on Facebook about my last post. You guys are the best. And in other news, I just saw the before photos of the kitchen – SCARY. A reveal post soon.