View from the DMV parking lot

Today I received a Summons for Jury Service.  Twenty-six years have passed since I was last called for jury duty.  And that time, twenty-six years ago, I had to decline because the summons came from Washington state and I had just moved to Connecticut.

Ever since, I’ve felt like I was missing out.  On March 12, I’ll know for sure if I have perhaps romanticized jury duty.  My husband and two sons have been summoned since we moved here and they report that it was unremarkable and even boring.  What do they know?  I’ll let you know.  Ha.  (It’s entirely possible I have watched too many 48 Hours episodes.)

So today, I took one of my sons to the DMV to get a photo identification card.  He’s leaving on a jetplane to go to a choir conference in Utah and a couple of days ago, I suddenly realized that he doesn’t have a photo ID.  (He has a driver’s permit which is not valid for identification purposes, apparently.)  He’s flying out on Tuesday and so it was urgent.

I told him I’d be waiting in the car and sent him to stand in line.  (At the DMV here in California, you can make appointments.  However, a new law enables undocumented immigrants in California to get driver’s licenses.  And a lot (50,000 since January 1) of them are super excited about getting a valid driver’s license.  So when I tried to make an appointment, the next available slot was in April, two months ago.  Six months ago, you could get an appointment within a week.)

Anyway, I took him late this afternoon, figuring the longest wait would be 90 minutes because the office closes at 5 PM.  And sure enough, he got through the line and was successful, though unsuccessful at the same time because the card will be sent in the mail within the next two to four weeks.  So, he still has no “acceptable identification” for next week.  (But that’s a complicated story for another time.)

I have a point to this story.

So I’m waiting in the parking lot, reading blogs on my iPhone and looking at photos on Instagram and eavesdropping through my open windows on the people coming and going.  I heard the distant cries of a baby and some man screaming at some woman who tattled to the security guard.  Then I heard a man’s voice saying, “Your car is over there!  Your car is over there!”  and a more feeble voice saying, “No, no.”

I turned to catch a glimpse of the man with the feeble voice.  He was an elderly man wearing a hat and a a big bandage on one of his thin legs.  He tottered around the parking lot, clutching his key fob as if it were a dowsing rod.  He held it straight out as he wandered the parking lot, first going one way, then another.  I wondered if I should hop out of my car and help him listen for the tell-tale sound of a car beeping.  Just as I’d convinced myself to help, a couple of younger men stopped and talked to the man and pointed him in yet another direction.

And then I didn’t see the elderly man again . . . until I saw him driving around the parking lot in his sedan.

Oh wait.  Maybe I don’t have a point to this story except that I was kind of scared that the elderly man with his dowsing-rod-key-chain-fob who couldn’t find his car for ten minutes was now operating a motor vehicle.

When I told my kids about him, one of my sons said, “Well, just because he couldn’t find his car doesn’t mean he was a bad driver.”

And then I realized how many times I myself have wandered a parking lot, trying to find my car, waving my key fob like a magic wand, hoping to make my car appear.

I wonder if any young whippersnappers have watched me and wondered if they should help the lost old lady?  You never know.  You just never know.

(My so-called life has come down to this.  I’m writing posts about the DMV and jury duty.  I would like to apologize in advance, except that you’ve already read this.  So I apologize after the fact.)


Seven bucks’ worth of fun

Earlier this week.

A photo posted by Melodee (@melodee128) on


I’ve had a very long week. My husband was out of town. I drove carpool three days this week. I cooked dinners and drove kids around and met friends in my free time while everyone was occupied by school to hike the trails at Torrey Pines. Every single day I’ve thought it was the next day.  I worked every day and went to bed late every night.

When I finished working today, I cooked dinner and put it in the Crockpot to keep warm. Then I drove through rush hour traffic to pick up my daughter from a game where she was cheerleading. When we got home, we had five minutes to change clothes before heading out to watch my son and his girlfriend perform in the high school’s Coffee House event. They were the first act of many. (He played guitar and she sang.)

Even though I was exhausted, watching those high school kids was a delight. The monologues, the skits, the songs, the dancing, the laughter, the forgotten lyrics . . . a blink ago, those kids were first graders with gap-toothed smiles and enthusiastic motions and boisterous shouted songs.  At least that’s how it seems.  Now they are careening toward adulthood.

It was so touching and encouraging and scary and impressive to see these high schoolers express their big feelings and humor and confidence and beliefs. Such talent and vulnerability and hilarity. Their peers in the audience cheered and yelled “I love you!” and shouted out lyrics.  Paying seven bucks for the honor of being a witness to the awesomeness of high school kids onstage was a bargain.

(Then I came home and worked some more.)


Goodnight and goodbye to forty-nine.

A photo posted by Melodee (@melodee128) on


Okay, everyone.  Gather close.  Listen carefully.

I’m fifty.

I was born half a century ago.  Five decades.   So long ago that I can remember when you had to dial a rotary phone, often WHILE STANDING IN THE KITCHEN, to call someone.  And then, for privacy, you could hide in the laundry room and try to talk while other people in the house kept picking up the phone the master bedroom extension saying, “Oh.  Sorry.  Are you almost done?”

It was a time before the Internet.  Before DVRs and way, way before Taylor Swift.  When I was a kid, our parents shooed us out of the house in the morning and we wandered through our neighborhoods and undeveloped acres of land surrounding our neighborhoods and played in the creek and often rode our banana-seat bicycles without helmets.  Or shoes.  We came home when it was dark or when we were really hungry.

I can remember watching the moon landing on a black and white television.  I remember television back when there were only five channels:  ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and channel “11” which is where all the magic happened (aka “Gilligan’s Island”).   Okay, maybe it was channel 13.  Maybe I can’t remember, but you’ll have to understand because I am old.

My dad only lived to be 47, so I’ve lived three years longer than he did.  But my grandmother lived to be 102, so I’m not even halfway there.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s a design flaw, this inability to know exactly how many days we each get.

Some people say you should live each day as if it were your last, but that’s kind of impractical.  Am I right?  If you only had tomorrow to live, wouldn’t you make it count?  (Or maybe you’d just eat cookies all day and burn your diaries so no one would discover your deepest, darkest thoughts.)  But if you had another 18,980 days you might be forgiven for slacking off a little and wasting time.  (I hate to waste time but I have Instagram.  So, I’m a hypocrite, basically.  An old hypocrite.)

I don’t know.  I’m figuring things out as I go along.

Tonight, I just read another blogger’s list of things she’s learned in forty years of living and I thought, hmmm.  Maybe I should create my own list of things I’ve learned.  Also, I thought, “Forty?  Humph.  Forty is so ten years ago.”

While the idea of writing a list of things I’ve learned in fifty years contains promise, I’m too tired (read: old) to come up with something tonight.  I have all year anyway.  (I hope.  If I don’t, wouldn’t that be ironic?  And tragic?)


For now, all that matters is that it’s my birthday.

I will celebrate and eat cake and postpone all chores and duties.  I may also mourn my lost youth and wonder why I’m losing pigment even though my essential self–the me inside my brain–feels as vibrant as I was when I was twenty-two.

I will not remind myself that in ten years, I’ll be sixty or that in twenty years, I’ll be seventy or that it’s possible (WHY AM I EVEN THINKING THESE THOUGHTS?) I’ll be dead in thirty years.  I remember thirty years ago.  Thirty years isn’t really all that long.  I’ll try not to be bitter that all of this ends for all of us with being dead.

Wait.  Okay.  Focus.  Reframe.  Stop with the morbid.  Birthday!  Cake!  Presents!

Getting older is a gift you receive that you did not order and which you cannot return or exchange.

(If I were younger, I’d get that tattooed on my ribs or my collarbone or my scapula.)  (Just kidding.  I would not.)

I can’t seem to stop rambling.  You know why?  Old age.

Seriously.  I’m going to bed now.

When I wake up . . . I will be fifty.  When you read this, I will be at least fifty.

Fifty.  Fifty.  Fifty.

(If you are thirty or younger, you think I sound ancient.  If you are seventy or older, you think I’m a whining whippersnapper.  I’m just a rambling middle-aged woman who can’t quite find the punctuation mark to end this treatise.)

T H E   E N D (of an era)


Here are a few of my least favorite things:

1)  Missing the sunset, especially when I hear later that it was spectacular.

2)  Not knowing what an acronym stands for.

3)  Raw tomatoes.

4)  Stopping at red lights when I’m in a hurry.  (Basically, all the time, in other words.)

5)  Thinking up a plan for dinner and then executing that plan.

6)  Forgetting some thought I had earlier in the day that I was convinced I could remember without writing it down.

7)  Hangnails.

8)  Car trouble.

9)  OVERFLOWING TOILETS and subsequent leaky ceilings.

10)  Uncertainty.

11)  Taxes.  Paying them, filling out the forms and filing them.

12)  Problems without clear solutions.

13)  Having to pay money to fix dumb problems.  (See:  Overflowing toilet; leaky ceiling.)


In the dark of the night

My mind is running on a hamster wheel. I keep circling around but get no closer to any destination. This, my friends, is worry.

Worry demands so much energy, steals so much peace and burns like a wildfire. My sleep is fitful.  I wear the burden of worry like a coat made of cement.

Tonight, in the dark, I am fretting about my ceiling. (See the previous post for the gritty details.)  I have some estimates for drying out the ceiling above me and the bathroom floor and if I told you, you would not even believe how much money these companies want. I’ve called my insurance company as a result but they can’t tell me much of anything until Tuesday (at the very, very earliest), when the insurance adjuster is working again.

So, I worry.
I worry about money.
I worry about insurance coverage.
I worry about mold.
I worry about money again.
Then for good measure, I torture myself by searching the Internet for clues. Will the insurance company pay?
I look up DIY solutions and wonder why I don’t know how to install drywall.
I price those giant fans and wonder if I could rip up the plywood sub-flooring by myself.
I worry about all these things.

I shrug that cement coat onto my shoulders and try to get comfortable lugging it around.

Then, the wildfire jumps the road.  While I’m at it, I start to worry about other things, too. Random things. I branch out into hating my hair and considering whether I’ve ruined any of my children and wondering why I can’t be an all-around better person who never complains or needs to sleep, a person who runs miles for exercise and writes poetry and knows how to preserve peaches in Mason jars.

Then I remember a few things.

1) Writing about something always helps. Almost always.
2) Things usually work out.
3) God loves me. My husband loves me. My kids loves me.
4) Everything seems worse at night.
5) There’s no point in worrying about things in advance.

I’m going to sleep. Tomorrow has to be a better day.



It’s Monday morning.  The sun is shining.  Two men are here preparing to cut out part of my office ceiling so I’ve relocated my computer to the kitchen.  The insurance adjuster is coming on Thursday.  I guess we’ll survive.

Fire and now water

Post-festivities face.

A photo posted by Melodee (@melodee128) on

Everyone’s teenagers send texts from inside their own house, right? It’s one of the wonders of the modern age. Your teenager can communicate with you without actually having to bother finding you first. (And you can tell your kids to simmer down without ever having to leave your bed. I love technology.)

So I got a text message this morning from my teenager. He let me know that the kids’ bathroom toilet had overflowed and he wondered what he should do. He didn’t do it; he only discovered it when he stepped in water.

I told him I needed to start work but then I’d come and check it out and deal with it. I was extremely nonchalant since I am a veteran of overflowing toilets. On the way downstairs, I stopped by the bathroom and told him to start soaking up the water from the carpet with bath towels. (Yes, you read that correctly. This is the second house in a row that we’ve owned that had carpet in the bathrooms when we moved in.)

Then I came downstairs to my office to log onto my computer to begin working except that . . . I heard water trickling. I looked at the ceiling, saw faint lines of dampness on the ceiling and hurried back upstairs.

When he said the toilet had overflowed . . . well. It was brimming over the top of the toilet. I turned the faucet off and began bailing toilet water into the tub so I could then plunge the toilet.

I’m telling you, it was an exciting way to start the day.

So then . . . we used every towel in the house to sop up water. When that job was done, I came back downstairs and noted that the trickling sound had stopped. However, two spots on the ceiling looked exceedingly soggy. After an hour of occasional drips falling, I probed the ceiling with my fingers and then poked a single hole (using a toothpick) in the center of the mushy drywall . . . and water turned from an occasional drop into a steady trickle.

Long story short . . . water fell all day. I covered my desk with towels, set up a bowl and collected about two gallons of yellowed water from my ceiling. It finally stopped dripping around 5 PM.

We’ve had fire (in the oven) and water (in the ceiling) and I can only hope we do not have some other catastrophe. I can only take so much. Seriously.

A picture’s worth a thousand words

A photo posted by Melodee (@melodee128) on

This is the old lighthouse at Point Loma. I took this picture today.

I am a criminal and a pyromaniac

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

A photo posted by Melodee (@melodee128) on


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.)

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