I am a criminal and a pyromaniac

Okay, not really.  But kind of.  You decide.

A photo posted by Melodee (@melodee128) on

So,

So, a few minutes after I took this photo, I turned and began the short walk back to the sidewalk and to my van. I’d brought my dog with me to the beach on a spontaneous adventure.

You see, Lola the Dog loves to ride in the car and when she sees one of my kids ready for work, she gallops over to me and barks her head off, begging to go. I decided to bring her with me to drop him off.

Then, because my daughter decided to skip her last gymanstics class, I had a free hour. My plan was to drop off my son, then head to the beach just in time for the sunset.  (While I was doing this, I had a casserole baking in the oven.  Be impressed while you still can.)

You should know that during the three and a half years that we’ve lived here, I have taken my dog to the beach only three other times.  Or maybe two times.  Only two times that I can actually recall.  That’s because dogs are not allowed on the beach.  And I am a rule-f0llower.  (I used to be a rule-follower.)

But it’s the off-season and every time I’m at the beach I see a scattering of dogs on the sand.

Do you see how the criminal mind works?  We justify our law-breaking.

And then, with nary a care, we throw caution to the wind and just do it.  We break the law.  We let our black hearts take over.

So, that’s how I met Officer Perry tonight at the beach.  I knew he was heading toward me with his uniform and shiny badge and big radio and official hat.  I would have run but I am almost 50-years old, out of shape and I have a bum Achilles tendon.  And where would I go?  Into the ocean as if I were a character in The Awakening (Kate Chopin)?  (Does anybody understand that reference?)

He asked me where I lived.  He asked if I had identification.  (I did not.  I left it in the car.)  And then he pulled out a little notepad and asked me for my name and called me in, like a common criminal!  Once he ascertained I was not wanted in seven states (or on their list of dog-on-the-beach violators), he let me go.

How embarrassing.

As if that weren’t enough for one day, when I got home, I set the oven on fire.

I didn’t mean to, of course.  It’s just that since we’ve lived here I haven’t cleaned my oven.  (I’ve been busy.)   As you can imagine, it’s kind of grody.  (Oh wait.  I don’t think that’s a word.)  On the spur of the moment, I turned it to the cleaning cycle after I pulled my casserole out of the hot oven.

About ten minutes later, the dog jumped up, startled.  At the same time I heard a whooshing sound.  I looked into the oven and saw flames.

As soon as I turned it off, the flames extinguished.

However, smoke poured out of the oven for a good long time, long enough that I wondered why my smoke detectors weren’t shrieking.  My clothes smelled like I was locked in a smoker’s lounge.  I had to open every downstairs window.

My oven is still dirty.

And I’m on the List of People Who Flagrantly Disregard Law At The Beach.

Tomorrow’s a new day.

Tis the season

Weeks ago when we dragged the boxes of Christmas decorations into the house from the garage, I dreaded the day I’d have to reverse the process.

The younger kids still love to put ornaments on the tree but they lack enthusiasm for taking the ornaments off.  And while it’s fun to plug in twinkly lights the first time, it’s so not fun when it’s time to untangle them and put them back into a box.  I do not love to undecorate.

And let’s not even talk about how much I loathe taking down the actual fake Christmas tree and pushing it into it’s falling-apart box.  By the end, I’ll have scratched arms and a wrenched back.  So I have procrastinated.  I’ve chased sunsets and read novels instead.

In other words, it’s still Christmas in my living room.

Lest you think I’m a total slacker, you should know that I have gathered decorations from my family room and put them on the kitchen table.  My family room looks normal, but the living room is still a full-on festive holiday display.

That might not seem to weird if it were a winter wonderland with frigid temperatures and snow on the ground, but it’s been warm and seventy-something degrees here.  My pretty Christmas decorations are beginning to look as out of place and pitiful as cast-off Christmas stuff at Goodwill.

So tomorrow needs to be the day that Christmas ends here and we return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Bah humbug.

The sacrament of putter

I woke up this morning with absolutely no plan for the day.  This was somewhat alarming to my 12-year old daughter who really seems to view me as her personal Julie McCoy (the Cruise Director of the Love Boat . . . if you recognize this pop culture reference, you are as old as me!).  Anyway.  She came in asking, “What are we doing today?” and I said, “Nothing” and she began to lobby for some Starbucks and I can’t even remember what because I shooed her out of my room and immediately put her wishes and dreams out of my mind.

I worked for a while, then decided that I couldn’t stand my dusty cluttered office for even one more afternoon.  So I launched into what Anne Lamott calls the “sacrament of putter.”  I just started to putter around, moving this thing to its rightful location and throwing away that thing and relocating other things out of sight.

I dusted.

You might be interested to know that dusting seems to me to be the least important household chore.  When I was a teenager, I never ever dusted my room.  It would have been fine except that from time to time someone would write cursive in the dust on my piano (yes, I had a full-sized piano in my bedroom).  Once you start writing cursive in dust, the dust becomes suddenly and obviously visible.

Anyway, it was kind of dusty in here, so I cleared off surfaces and dusted.  (Not totally thoroughly, of course, because I have eight thousand books in here and I am not a raving lunatic who would remove each book and dust behind it and all that.  Come on, now.  I am almost fifty years old and don’t have that kind of time left.)

I puttered and puttered and puttered and before I knew it, it was time to cook dinner.  Frankly, it was way past time to cook dinner and by the time we were eating our roasted chicken and mashed potatoes and weird gravy made from a bouillon cube because I didn’t have any chicken broth and green beans cooked in bacon . . . well, it was after 7 PM.

And so I barely had time to read before The Celebrity Apprentice came on.   (I’m reading California, a debut novel.  I love to read debut novels!)

Then it was time to work.

But, oh, my office looks so much better.  My heart is at peace.  (But the pots in the kitchen . . . are still all unwashed because I am not a superstar housewife.)

A sinister warning

Merry Christmas from Balboa Park!

A photo posted by Melodee (@melodee128) on

Okay, so I know that Christmas is over. (But isn’t this picture I took at Balboa Park cool? I didn’t realize until after the fact that I’d caught that butterfly fluttering near the treee.)

You’d never know that it’s not Christmas by looking at my house. It’s still fully Christmas-fied. Apparently, those decorations are not going to take themselves down. I guess I’ll be packing Christmas away tomorrow.  My children will mysteriously disappear into their rooms as soon as they hear that bit of news.

Today was a mostly lazy day. My daughter and I had lunch with my husband, rather on the spur of the moment. We met him at the restaurant . . . which led me to a bit of inspiration. After we ate, I sent my daughter home with him and then I went to Barnes & Noble to buy books with a gift card I received from my company. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering through the bookstore, deciding which books to buy with my windfall.

(I’ll post a photo of them tomorrow, for those of you who are curious.)

Also, in case you are wondering . . . yesterday I cleaned out my fridge and replenished it with food purchased from Costco. I was surprised at how crowded Costco was and shocked at how many people shopping in Costco seem to have no knowledge of the number one Costco Shopping Rule:

1) Do NOT stop your cart for no reason in the middle of the walkway.

Doing so is the same thing as hitting your brakes, stopping your car and GETTING OUT ON THE FREEWAY. Knock it off or I’ll have to accidentally bump my fully loaded cart into the backs of your heels.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Accentuate the positive

Here’s the good news:  I cleaned out my purse today and rid myself of old grocery store receipts and half unwrapped sticks of gum.

I also managed to cook a terribly unbalanced dinner of homemade egg rolls and a few cream cheese-filled wontons.  At eight p.m.

But I got my purse cleaned out!  You’ve got to focus on the positive.

Even though it’s a holiday, I had to work, so I was chained to my desk from noon until five, at which point I took my daughter and her friend to a trampoline park.  While I sat in the super uncomfortable seating area (hard wooden stools or hard metal benches), waiting for one of the girls to land on her neck and cause permanent paralysis or death (I signed a waiver, dismissing my rights to sue in that case), I read Unbroken.

But before that.  First things first.  As soon as I sat down, I started to dig in my purse in search of my reading glasses and that’s when I decided to clean it out.

So, my purse was clean.  And I read my book.  Then, finally, it was time to go home and I made homemade, from scratch, egg rolls.  I finished at 8:15 PM, ate, read a little, slept (sort of) and then worked another three hours.

My office is a wreck.  I still don’t have any vegetables in the house.  (Tonight, the girls tried to make pudding . . . but spoiled it by adding some sour milk they found in our “garage fridge.”)  My Christmas decorations are all up and I imagine that it would be inappropriate and perhaps kooky to leave them up until next Christmas, so I need to get them put away.

But at least my purse is tidy!

Don’t speak. I can’t. My head is full.*

I realized today that I’m feeling kind of peopled-out.  I know this doesn’t happen to everyone, but I can only take so much interaction with people before I get crabby and stabby, as they say.  (I know.  Stabby is not a word, but wasn’t it fun how it rhymed?)  And school breaks are those times when . . . it’s just a lot for me.  I love the breaks–sleeping in!  no schedules!–but I am worn out by the constant queries:  “Are we doing anything today?  What’s for dinner?” and the infuriating, “I’m bored.”

Today I took Grace to see “Into the Woods” at a new movie theater.  I bought the tickets with my phone and so even though we were ten minutes late, we went right into the theater and into our reserved seats.  I liked the movie a lot.  Meryl Streep was amazing as usual.

But–and this may be sacrilege–I thought it kind of dragged on a little too long.  And the small children running in and out of the theater may have agreed with me.  That movie was not really awesome for preschoolers, if you ask me.  And there were a fair number of them scurrying around in the dark.

Anyway.  After the movie, a little shopping with my girl, then a box of tacos for my boy at home (who had three friends over all day, starting at 7:30 AM when the first boy’s mom dropped him off on her way to work).  The boys were all starving, according to the text message I received during the movie.  STARVING!

After the taco delivery, it was time for me to work–I’m covering someone’s vacation shifts this week–and when I finished working, it was time to cook dinner (without a plan, without adequate ingredients, etc. . . . my life is one long episode of “Chopped” in which I am working to put together a meal using  seaweed, the left hoof of a young goat, chunky peanut butter and zucchini blossoms).

After dinner, I had just settled in for a long winter’s nap when my phone buzzed.  My co-worker in northern California had just lost power due to a storm.  So, instead of napping, I went back downstairs to work and put in five and a half more hours online.

And now, I’m going to bed.

(And tomorrow, to combat my irritability, I am going to clean out my refrigerator and my purse.  Both are sure-fire ways to make myself feel better.)

*Title taken directly from Judge Judy this week.  I love her.

A post-holiday summary of the humdrum

As I predicted, Christmas came and went as it always does, ready or not.  It’s all over but the random new stuff in the living room that needs a home and the Christmas decorations that needs to be tucked into boxes and the leftover ham which needs to be cooked with beans.  (I just interrupted this blog post to find a recipe and to dump the beans into a pot with cold water so they can soak overnight.)

I did make a last minute run on Christmas Eve to Target on behalf of one of my sons.  He wanted to buy Christmas “crackers” for his brothers–and when he tried on Monday, he was asked for proof that he’s over 18–which he is not–so he was not allowed to buy them.  (“Crackers” which contain trinkets and paper hats and kind of pop open . . . they are more common in the United Kingdom.  Not the crackers that you eat.)  Anyway, so I went to buy them and I was asked for identification as well.  Weird.

Then I went to the grocery store for last-last minute items.  While in the baking aisle, I encountered a man who reminded me so strongly of my dad that tears sprang to my eyes and I had to sternly tell myself to get it together.  My dad has been gone for twenty-five years–he died from cancer when he was only 47 and I’ve been without him for more than half my life.  Still, it was startling to run into someone who reminded me of him so much.

On Christmas Eve, after running those errands, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the kitchen making family favorites like homemade Chex Mix and cut-out cookies (that’s what we call sugar cookies that you cut out in shapes) and peanut butter blossoms, those cookies with a Hershey’s kiss in the center.  Then, all of a sudden, it was time to tidy up and hurry to church where my daughter sang her first-ever solo in front of the Christmas Eve crowd.  I never even knew she could sing until about a year ago and there she was, singing confidently and beautifully in front of everyone.  (I played the piano for her and a band played along–which was funny because we never rehearsed together before that night.  I was most definitely the weakest link in that entire situation.)

My major accomplishment today was getting my outdoor fountain running again.  When we have heavy rain, the electrical circuit outdoor breaks, so I have to let everything dry out, flip the circuit breaker, press the mysterious little red button in the bathroom outlet and then turn the fountain back on.  There must be a secret special order in which to do all these things because it didn’t work the first or second or third time I tried, but then mysteriously, the fountain turned back on and water began to flow and all is well again in my sensory world.

I’ve been reading Unbroken and looking forward to seeing the movie.

I’m thinking lately about how hard it is to be the parent of adult and almost-adult kids.  When I was that almost-adult kid and twenty-something adult, I didn’t feel like I was a worry to my parents at all.  I am not at liberty to really discuss details in a public forum, but man, oh man, it’s a tricky thing to be a parent at this stage–far more challenging than the tantrum-stage of earlier days or the no-sleep stage of babyhood or the despairing days of fourth grade homework.  Mostly because not much is in my control and it’s not in anyone’s best interest for me to save anyone from themselves.  It’s hard.

In other news, I took my dog to the beach last night to see the sunset (illegally, as dogs are not allowed on that particular beach) and she avoided even getting her paws wet in the surf.  Her breed is supposed to like water, but she did not get the memo.

In other other news, the television meteorologist said there’s a frost advisory tonight, so I brought in the houseplants tonight.  I am absolutely loving the cooler weather.  It’s nice to wear socks and a sweater occasionally.

In the shadows

Tonight was our church’s Christmas concert.  Usually, we don’t have an evening service on Sunday nights.  And tonight, I really didn’t want to go because I’d had to work a four hour shift this afternoon and after the service I was scheduled to work my usual four hour Sunday night shift.

But I gathered 75% of my children and off we went, arriving only five minutes late.  (I cannot manage to get anywhere on time if my kids are involved. Some things never change.)

What I want to remember is that moment I looked down from the balcony and saw children dancing in the shadows of the darkened sanctuary while the choirs sang in the spotlight.  The sight of the children twirling with unbridled joy to the music brought tears to my eyes.  (Why?  Is it my advanced age?)

And then the children’s choir sang and I had to dig my tissues from my purse.

Christmas joy.

Hello, good-bye

My mom had been here since November 11. Today, I dropped her off at the airport so she could return home to Seattle just in time for a giant soggy storm. We will miss her.

While she was here, we went to the beach as often as we could. Today, on the way to the airport we detoured to Cabrillo National Monument where I happened to snap a photo of this hawk. I definitely want to go back another time to explore the park and lighthouses and shoreline. As it was, today we were rushing to get to the airport on time. To complicate matters, at some point I noticed I had enough gas to drive only 16 miles. By the time I rolled into the gas station it’s quite likely I was coasting along on fumes and prayer.

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The other night, the sun set in glorious fashion. A rosy haze seemed to cover the entire world for a time.  My mom and I stayed until the sky was lit only by a thin strip of dark pink on the horizon. The holiness of the moment was ruined by my family calling me on my cell phone asking what was for dinner. (See? They want dinner. Every night. It’s so boring.)

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This afternoon at the Hotel Del Coronado, as we walked back toward our parking spot, I snapped this photo. I could have spent an entire day photographing the beach and surrounding area. The beach is very wide in the is particular place, so we were far from the shore but the waves were amazingly tall and crashed with beautiful force. Again, I wish I could have hurried across the sand for a closer look. But we had a flight waiting!

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In only two weeks Christmas! Let the panic commence.

The little things

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It’s the little things that tell my story.  For instance, see these rocks and shells?  I gathered them during low tide on a cloudy day at the beginning of November.  I love the white stones, but more than that, I love that shell with a hole drilled into it by a vicious snail or some other sea creature.  And the little shell on the left?   I love its faint lavender color and its swirly shape.

But the story is not in the gathering of the shells.

No.  The story here is the fact that these shells–and a few others plucked from the beach on another day–sit in a jumble on my dresser, surrounded by a smattering of sand.  I see them every morning and yet, I just haven’t made time to put them in a glass jar or . . . some place.

It’s silly, isn’t it?  I am collecting shells a few at a time when I live so near the beach.  But I can’t resist a perfect shell or a unique shape or color.  A brilliant white stone catches my eye.  How can I not pick it up and stick it into my pocket?

My whole life and house is a depository for little things that caught my attention or need my attention or slipped my attention.

Meanwhile, the urgent big things demand my immediate action.  Chores demand my time because for some reason, everyone wants to wear clean pants every day.  And they want dinner!  Oh, how they want dinner every single day!  I manage my life on a macro level–we are all clothed and fed–but the rest of life?  The details?

If you cannot clamor, you get ignored around here.  I’m talking to you, craft projects and unfinished novel and broken sewing machine and messy laundry room and coat closet containing coats we never wear because who wears coats in southern California?

Oh, I don’t know.  Am I just rambling?

I guess the point here is that I’m not juggling things as much as I’m shuffling them around, ignoring them and rushing through them, depending on their level of importance.  And the little things are abandoned more often than not.  I don’t like that but I have faith and hope that one day, I’ll move those shells and clean up the sand and find inspiration to write a Christmas letter and put that beach towel away and put the Christmas bows by the Christmas wrapping paper and find a frame for that photo of my grandma and sort through my digital pictures and print out the best ones and paint all those picture frames in the garage black and sort through this stack of papers on my desk and you know.  Get it together.

In the meantime, tomorrow I’m seeing a doctor about my foot.  I think I damaged my Achilles tendon (walking on the beach, of all things!).  And I have a cold.  (But I’m going to the doctor because of my foot, not the cold.  I find walking to be sort of a requirement of my daily life.)

And really, all I want to do is lie in bed and read Unbroken (oh my goodness, the Kindle version is only $2.99–you will want to buy that, if you have a Kindle and you haven’t read the book already–the movie will be released on Christmas Day and you’ll want to read the book before then!).

It’s the little things that make life worth living, right?  Which is why I collect shells and read books.

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