Saturday, October 31, 2009

Great Halloween

Didn't see the Great Pumpkin - but it was a lovely Halloween.

My mom, brother, and sister-in-law visited today and before they left, Trick-or-Treaters started coming. I thought they would be early since the holiday falls on a Saturday this year. So Mom and I got to sit together outside for a bit and pass out candy. It was a chilly but beautiful afternoon. We haven't mulched any leaves yet so the yard was a carpet of red, yellow, orange, and green.

I usually sit outside so I don't have to try to keep the dogs from jumping out and scaring the monsters, witches, and goblins.

Since the festivities started early and my hands got quite cold, I turned out the lights by 6:45. Problem is I still have tons of candy left. I'm always afraid of running out just as some throng of 10 ghouls approaches the house.

All in all an enjoyable evening. Hope all those kids have a great time. I remember this was by far my favorite holiday when I was little.

Oh yeah and happy fourth blogoversary to me!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


When I was 18 I set out for lands unknown in my 1969 red Volkswagen Beetle. The odometer didn't work and the gas tank had a leak. So, I had to stop frequently to pump gas.

First stop: Carbondale, where my sister was an art student at SIU. She was taking summer classes, so I was left to myself most of the day. A friend of hers had left his record collection for safe keeping at her apartment. I delved in and found the provocative cover of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." I played it and was swept away by emotion and desire. Desire that I could create something so wonderful.

I drove my bug on down the road to Lexington, KY, where my other sister lived. She was minutes away from used bookshops, which I took advantage of.

I rode home to Auburn, IL in the leaking VW. I longed, in the middle of cornfields, for the more Bohemian life of Carbondale and Lexington.

I wanted more jazz. Our local public radio station played it of an evening, but my mom complained when "they keep repeating that same note over and over."

We would usually be playing Scrabble when this happened. And I would say "I love it."

And then, "Oh, if I only had an "e."

Years later, I would drive to Chicago to visit my sister and her boys. Chicago airwaves are filled with hair band rock crap but also a jazz station that plays nothing but top notch stuff - some of it wildly discordant but wonderful.

Now we have XM Radio with 70 Real Jazz. Mostly they play awesome stuff. Lots of Coltrane and a great show on Saturdays by W. Marsalis.

Once in a while, though, I hear something indulgent or uninspiring. But, thankful that I have good jazz all day long, I abide.

Most of the time I moved by the jazz spirit that I first encountered long ago.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Beautiful fall day

• used the horrible noisy blower to push leaves from the patio - they went in every direction except the one I wanted them to

• pulled the dying marigold, Mexican zinnia, Asiatic day lily, and four o'clock plants from the front porch garden. Hope I didn't aggravate my neck problem - will know tomorrow morning. The nasturtiums are still doing fine.

• sitting outside on the patio, still dusted with maple leaves, thinking about the day and thinking about what I could write about tomorrow. The topic that came to mind? "Crab!" When I was quite young, my sisters and I would help my mom clean up the kitchen after dinner. Then, we would go to her closet and find the "old lady dress up clothes." These were black lace dresses and black hats that she had found at auction sales.

We would put on the dresses, high-heeled shoes, gloves, and elegant hats and proceed to the "parlor" - our narrow hallway - where the piano sat. One of us would sit on the piano stool and start playing beautiful sweet music (we all took lessons). The other two would sit in awe, quietly clapping our gloved hands. Soon, the room would turn dark. Tension filled the air. The pianist resorted to pounding minor chords that made no musical sense. She would turn an ugly face to the audience and shout "Crab!"

We would all run from the hallway parlor shouting "crab, crab, crab."

Over and over we would play this game. To write about it I need to be able to show, in imagery, why the young girls turned a serene, elegant setting into something frightening.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

one car

To economize, we have only one car to license, insure, and repair. Most of the time this works well. Some days, however, needs for motorized transportation overlap.

Ok, what I really want is an old pickup. Give me a good plant surrounded by some rust, cracked upholstery, and vintage lines. Something in which I could bring home a bed of mulch or load up a nice sofa from an estate sale.

My sister and I imagine that once we secure this $500 truck, we will also scan the alleyways for trashed treasures or scrap metal. She'll drive and I'll ride shotgun, keeping an eye on the curbs and telling her where to pull over.

I would love to get creative and turn otherwise useless trash into useful treasures.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Ain't Maxwell House alright?"

When I was working I was, admittedly, a bit of a coffee snob. Single source beans were my cup of the day. I love coffee from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Costa Rica.

Well, you can put out a bit of cash for such amazing indulgences.

I got to thinking how my mom always survived on Folgers and Maxwell House. Of course Mississippi John Hurt has an inspiring ode to Maxwell House that could convert the worst Starbucks devotee.

The other day I was at Walgreens and Good Lord Almighty they had Maxwell House on a BOGO. Buy one at $4.89 and get one free.

At that price I can't resist. It certainly is "a loving spoonful." One spoonful really does "do me as much good as three or four cups of that other coffee." But I do drink more deeply than a spoonful. Try several deep dark cupfuls. And that feels right.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

on the unstructured life

My Mom came to visit yesterday and asked: "so does it feel weird not going to work every day?"

"Weird? Not at all. It feels perfectly normal. Going to work every day felt weird."

So, it has been over two weeks since I left my position as director of academic and marketing publications at Bradley University. The decision was a heavy one that took much consideration.

One day in early August I woke up with a sore shoulder. As I sat at my computer at work, laboring over the seeming interminable, but unbelievably annual, catalog project, I felt increasingly uneasy. I couldn't get comfortable, squirmed and stretched, and eventually thought going to lunch could help. I came back to my desk with the usual soup and salad and tried to eat and work as I have done many other days. The food tasted awful, I felt sick, and dumped it in the trash. I continued to work until I realized that my neck was frozen. and I was in severe pain.

I went home. I'd fall asleep and all would be well.

But, every position I tried seemed more uncomfortable than the last. I called the doctor, who saw me that afternoon. Pain pills and muscle relaxants did nothing.

The next day I paced the house, called the doctor, tried to rest, got a new Rx, paced, and started to scream. That night, Andy said "I'm taking you to the ER." When I objected, he went to bed. Later that night, after rolling around on the floor in agony, I went upstairs, and said, "ok I'll go."

That led to 5 days in the hospital, the time it took before they were able to control my pain enough that I could withstand an MRI. Unfortunately it was inconclusive.

Well, after more procedures, and some very helpful epidural steroid injections, I am now experiencing a manageable level of pain. I decided, in the meantime, that sitting hunched over a computer in a state of stress was about the last way I wanted to spend the rest of my life.

I was thinking how many words get printed (on paper or online) in the English language every day. Someone has to write, proof, edit, and lay out those words. I can do all of that. So why not find resources that will allow me to do it on my own time? If I get into pain, I can stop.

A more unstructured life suits me. I wake up at 5:30 and feed the dogs and cats. The paper arrives. I read it and, with a feeling of great indulgence, complete the daily crossword. Then, I look at, one of my favorite Internet sites. I might stay up or I might go back to bed and sleep for another hour.

I do have the structure of PT and doctor appointments right now, but, Good Lord willing, that won't last forever. I can read, write, do freelance work, garden, clean, work on a house project, spend time with the dogs. Just anything at all.

The unstructured life is magnificent, although the income is lousy. With perseverance, however, I hope that will work out.