Monday, June 28, 2010

Finally, a beautiful breezy summer night. I've thrown open the windows and it was fun to read quietly while listening to the sounds of the neighborhood. We have the happiest child who lives across the street and he talks and sings in his backyard all evening long. The triplets on the other side of us are now big and loud and they jumped on their trampoline so boisterously you'd think they'd fly off in different trajectories. Tim burst in the door and asked if he could spend the night at Connor's. He had brought over his cheesecake dessert to share at Connor's house and together they made fettucini with peas, he told me, emphasizing the "peas" for my benefit.

My dad's blood pressure is back to a more livable level and he stopped taking a new medication that had precipitated the drop. He and mom went into the doc today to check in about it all. And, Mom sounded better on the phone. I called her at lunch today while sitting outside in the sun, a practice my colleague has embraced for better connections with her mother. It's a good routine. Thank goodness for cell phones.

I started Olive Kitteridge and love it; can't put it down. Another reader posted this picture that she named "old people kissing" to illustrate two lines from the book: They weren’t young anymore, this was the thing. They kept telling each other as though they couldn’t believe it. I made a Paul Newman thin-crust margarita pizza (ridiculously low price at Target this week) and ate slices while I read on the porch after work. Ken worked out at the gym so my dinner was solo, which was okay for a Monday.

This Monday was full of meetings, including one about three new technology projects. But the internal network connection in the conference room didn't work so we couldn't view the beta tests on screen. Figures. Another meeting was one full of thoughtful people and I was encouraged by the outcomes today. Plus, the meeting leader had a knockout dress and show-stopping jewelry to go with it. A pleasure.

I read that Meritage is serving up a fabulous lobster roll and it sounds so good I'll have to treat myself to lunch there sometime this week.

And now, back to Olive.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sifting through these feelings

3:30 Sunday afternoon. Tim and I sit in the air-conditioned living room, unwinding after lunch of tacos--beef, onion, cilantro, corn tortillas. Ken is upstairs watching tv and, most likely, about to take a long nap. I could jump in the car and drive up to see my parents. My mom called about two hours ago crying, upset, overwhelmed. My dad, who has been suffering after heart failure almost 8 months ago, was weak and tired and in bed for much of the late morning and his blood pressure had just dropped to 84/53. When I picked up the phone and heard her words and sobs I thought my dad had died.

They're mostly alone up at their home on Lake Beltrami and they both could use more companionship and assistance.

I suggested Mom call the ER and speak with a nurse or ask to speak with a cardiologist before bringing Dad in anywhere. She did and seemed to have a good conversation with an on-call nurse, who said if my father's blood pressure didn't rise in the next two hours they should come into the ER. Mom just called and said Dad's pressure had gone up four points, he was irritated but not confused, and she was feeling better--had just needed someone to talk with.

I could still drive up there anytime and now am thinking of changing plans so I can drive up there to see them this weekend.

Worry takes so many forms. I've gotten pretty good at masking it with busyness or a feigned calmness, but I really am worried.

So Tim can sense that and he's sitting next to me reading The Lightning Thief and we're going in to the kitchen soon to make a few desserts. He'll make a no-bake cheesecake and I'll make a chocolate chip/date cake that both he and Ken love. Did anyone see that movie with Jessica Lange, the one where she bakes muffins in the summertime to ease her worry and sadness? Tins upon tins of muffins cooled in her city kitchen while she smoked cigarettes in the window casement overlooking the fire escape. I don't smoke anymore so I'll have to settle for the calming ritual of measuring, sifting, stirring, and baking.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Gingerbread Room of Her Own

" 'My refuge,' she calls it." If this isn't a study in modern American living, I don't know what is.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Room of My Own

Decadent. That's all this is. Decadent. I'm on my crewel-embroidered loveseat in front of my wrought-iron balcony, the white sheers blowing softly in the breeze swirling down off the mountains. I hear music out in the distance. It's a beautiful 75-degree night in Salt Lake City; they've definitely kicked off summer here. The open-air Farmers Market began last week, there'll be outdoor jazz on Thursdays. I'm in the glorious Grand America hotel, built special for the 2002 Olympics. I'll be participating in a conference come Thursday but I so needed a getaway, a regrouping, that when I found an amazing deal on Expedia for seven nights at this grand place, I jumped on it.

In a few weeks the press marks its fiscal year end, a mark that we use to measure and look back on our previous year, and in this case it is one in which we cut staff and operating budget and new title output 30%. A risk and a triumph--we hit our sales goal a full month early and garnered a lot of great media attention and book awards. We dug in, this small team of publishing professionals, working as hard as we could to make this year a success. As if we owned the press and our lives depended on it. On the personal front, this month marked a lot of other milestones as well, not least of which is Megan graduating from college and Tim making it through his "underclassmen" years of high school. Two years ago he looked to me, after we both had sent in our applications--he for Cretin and me for the press director job--and he said, "We're both either going to get good news or we're going to get bad news. Either way, I predict we'll get the same answers." And we did; he called it.

I felt a real need to celebrate these accomplishments. I've given up a lot the last two years--mostly my free time and my carefully developed buffer against stress. After these months working like crazy to keep ahead of things, juggling books and authors and organizational-wide committee meetings and the ever-changing publishing industry, among so many things, I was starting to lose head capacity. My mind felt so full and so often my decisions had to be handed down quickly after rapid fire, and I needed to get back the clear-headedness and reasoned deliberation a good leader needs.

This guy writes in an SLC alternative paper under a feature titled, “As good as it gets: City Weekly designs the perfect summer day, “ . . . Having a whole day with no agenda and no people in my face is always a treat. . . . Friends naturally drop in and out of these “me” days, but I try to stay highly flexible and unscheduled. As a working professional . . . finding a way to schedule a full day of nothing in particular is hard work in itself. How often can any of us honestly say we have nothing on our daily schedules? No yard work to be done, no chores around the house, no family obligations. Even when your day is full of fun, like dinner parties with friends . . . you’re still sacrificing some quality solo time. It’s a life full of compromises, and we all just try to find a balance we can live with. My “me time” days help me keep balanced" (Dan Nailen, Utah City Weekly music editor).

That's exactly what I came out here to do. Find that me time to get me back in balance.

So tonight, after a long stint at the outdoor pool, where I wrote my Aunt Sue a letter and read some more of the mesmerizing book, This House of Sky by Ivan Doig, I have showered, drenched myself in Gilchrist & Soames primrose body lotion, and am wrapped in the terry hotel robe, waiting for room service to deliver my house salad and bread basket. Utah airs Colorado Rockies baseball and they're playing at Target Field this evening so I even have the Twins on TV.

The thing about down time is that you finally get the chance to free your mind, let it roam. Lately, when I give it the chance, my mind has been developing an urge to explore the Southwest, my birthplace. I was born in El Paso, Texas, and for the first five years of my life we lived in the middle of the Texas desert and took our vacations in the mountains of New Mexico, camping and picnicking and hiking. I've lived in Minnesota a good thirty years now but I've been feeling a pull to those places of my past. Coming here to Salt Lake City, seeing the mountains surround this basin and breathing in the crisp, tight air, I feel a bit of that Southwest vibe. But this is the Great West. Wagon trails and cowboys and sheepherding.

So I've had this freeing time these last two days--long sleeps and walks and swims by the pool--and I was thinking of my youth. This morning I took a walk to the fantastic SLC City Library. I love visiting city libraries. In Norway, where I met up with Megan last spring, I spent a morning at the National Library in Oslo while she attended class. I love people-watching at libraries. I love browsing the shelves and the displays and picking up books that fit my fancy. After taking in the breathtaking 360-degree from the rooftop deck here, I settled into a chair on the fourth floor, right along the glass edge of the steep overlook into the atrium, and read the poetry of Alire Saenz, The Book of What Remains. There is luck and there is chance and there is fate. I hope you can get out for some me time, some down time, because see, Saenz, as luck or chance or fate would have it, is a former Catholic priest who lives and teaches in El Paso. His poetry included many meditations on the dessert--what I craved. And also this passage. I'll be reading more of his work.

One time I was
At a party. Some guy asked me: What are you, anyway?
I downed my beer. Mexican I said. Really he said. Do
You play soccer? No I said but I drink tequila. He smiled
At me. That's cool. I smiled back So what are you?
What do you thnk I am? he said. An asshole I said. People
Hate you when you're right. Especially if you're Mexican.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Do you remember your first car?

We pooled our money with the teen kid and bought a 1998 Chevy Blazer for him. Good-to-excellent condition, V-8, automatic, 4-door, air, 149,000 miles, $2800.00 from our friend and neighbor Jim. Tim took Ken and me out separately for test drives. He showed me the 6-CD holder, the cassette player (which he probably won't use, he said, so seriously), tested the cruise control, and told me you could get in the locked doors only by inserting the key into the hatchback, which then released all locks.

It's the perfect first car for a teen guy and I hope it lasts him well through the rest of high school.

Our neighbor John, who sold Megan her first car--an old 2-door Ford Explorer--waved hi to Tim as he pulled into the driveway. "You behind the wheel now?" John asked. "Yep," says Tim. John says, "Want to buy my old truck?" "I just bought this one," Tim answered quite proudly. "Looks nicer than mine," John replied. A nice exchange between neighbors.

As a parent, I feel the loss of control, bit by bit. Your kids get their license and you no longer drive them to and from places. They get their own vehicle and you can no longer say quickly, without advance warning, "Have my car home by 3; I need it for work." Tim was out and about today with a few friends, from noon to five. Where did they go? What did they do? I know they had lunch together at Cleveland Wok. Where did the other four hours go? For him, it seems pretty seamless and easy. I asked him to be home by 5:30 and he was. No problem from his end. Meanwhile, I wonder and worry a bit what shenanigans they're up to.

Take big breath now.

Two years of him growing right before our eyes.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

10 Things to Do in the Garden

1. Cut mint. Make Mojitos. (Write on back of hand: buy rum on way home)
2. Water new seedlings of carrots and red onion.
3. Keep pulling out sprouts of morning glories. Doesn't seem quite right to swear in conjunction with the word "glories" but fucking morning glories from last year have invaded my garden plot. More glory sprouts than mayflies in Winona.
4. Stand on raised garden bed edge and talk with neighbor over chain-link fence. Invite her over for Mojitos, #1 above.
5. Plant bean seeds which were left out of frenzy of planting three weeks ago.
6. Cup new basil plants with halved milk/orange juice cartons to keep bugs off low-lying leaves.
7. Cut white and magenta peonies for bedroom. Savor white peony scent during sleep.
8. Bring out new pail of kitchen compost to add to backyard compost bin. Rinse and repeat in two weeks.
9. Dig up chaotic grass/weed/vine/undertended mess behind garage and plant new native grasses and hardy-as-heck perennials to fill.
10. Oh yeah, buy new sunscreen and wear it. Religously.