Friday, March 28, 2008

Measuring March

21 days of influenza.

11 days of not leaving home.

4 birthdays: Cindy, Gianna, Jennie Lou, & Kyle

8 books read: Atonement, The Jane Austen Book Club, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Sticky Fingers, Emma, Second Nature, A Year of Living Biblically, The Book of Changes.

11 movies viewed: The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn, Notes on a Scandal; Fried Green Tomatoes; A Lot Like Love; License to Wed; Horton Hears a Who; Sense & Sensibility; Arranged; August Rush; Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest; Gone with the Wind.

1 hospital visit—diagnosis: Cindy has pneumonia.

1 request for more blog posts: Thanks, Bonnie

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Garden is Calling

While I was sick with the flu, Spring came. Our 3 ornamental plums that began blooming on Cindy's birthday were a riot of pink by the time my fever hit 102. I lay on the couch with aching muscles and an overly sensitive nervous system while the daffodils came and went and the rosemary cascaded in periwinkle blossoms. By the 5th day of my illness, I was taking a little fresh air. On the first day, I simply sat on the swing and enjoyed a nippy breeze that brushed my skin along with the warm sun. On the second day, I couldn't handle looking at the weeds which had grown a full inch since the day before, so I found a folded tarp and plopped it on the ground and pulled weeds in a circle around the tarp. This became my practice each day. I would head outside after the coolness of morning wore off and sit on my tarp and pull weeds in a circle. It's not the kind of vigorous yard work that I'm used to this time of year, but at least I was making a dent.

On Saturday, before it rained, Cindy fixed a leaky faucet and I managed to weed one whole stretch of flower bed. Instead of my usual half hour, I worked for an hour. All kinds of things are poking through in that bed: yarrow, rudbekia, coreopsis, Echinacea, Shasta Daisies, salvia, day lilies, caryopteris, echinops, veronica. By June the hummingbirds and butterflies will be cruising this bed.

Today, the cough is still knocking me silly, but I spent an hour in the vegetable garden planting sugar peas. Culley says it's 3 weeks too late to plant peas, but I don't think it's ever too late. I'm totally happy to have them in the ground, and I know I'll be crunching their sweetness by late May. The roses I moved into this fenced garden are coming along nicely and in a couple months we'll plant tomatoes between them. I moved some volunteer nicotania to make a border along the back of the bed near the faucet. If they make it, their yummy pink flowers will bob there all summer and they won't be in the way of anything else. While I was working, I had a great idea about planting melons in the strawberry patch. All I have to do is make a fence on the upper side and we can have a nice space for melons AND strawberries. Maybe I can get Lee to come and help me sink some posts for a decent fence. Then if I dump some compost in there, I can plant melons in May.

The flu and the garden are teaching me about patience and simplicity and transience.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

My Date with Candice

The last time I left the house was 10 days ago. I went on a birthday date with my granddaughter Candice who just turned 6. She had planned our itinerary: Starbucks, WalMart, lunch at Applebee's and dessert at the Donut Factory. She also wanted to invite her cousin Gianna. I'm so lucky to have been in the company of these two lovely girls, for over the course of our 4 hours together, I slipped into a mighty case of influenza. The girls were oblivious to my light-headed weakness and chattered happily about all manner of things.

They are well matched not just in the adorable pig-tails they both wore but also in their easy-going ways. After selecting frothy drinks at Starbucks, they moved through the various departments of Wal-Mart with thoughtful diligence beginning with accessories where they chose Dora glasses. Next they tried on shoes in the shoe department. They spent considerable time in the toy aisles deliberately examining one toy after another but only those at their eye-level. They ended up choosing matching diaries with keys. From there we moved to electronics where they looked a DVDs. Then we went to clothing where Candice chose a denim backpack and Gianna chose fleecy sweat pants. I had promised they could choose candy at the check-out stand. Gianna picked sugarless gum and Candice got Peds.

Then we went for lunch at Applebee's. They asked for onion rings as an appetizer and chose corn dogs from the kids menu. Candice had a side of applesauce and Gianna a side of fries. While I sat, hoping I wouldn't get any sicker before it was time to drop them off, they unwrapped and examined their packages from Wal-Mart.

Candice had her heart set on a donut from the Donut Factory, but they were closed when we got there, so I suggested Save Mart which has Krispy Kreme Donuts. She is such an amenable child that this was an acceptable alternative and we got donuts for the girls as well as Candice's siblings. Then we headed to the park where we were to meet her mother. I was pushing the girls on the tire swing and shivering with fever chills when my daughter–in-law arrived. The girls were laughing and smiling and I felt like the date was a success.

Little did I know that I was headed to bed for four days when I left them at the Park. I'm resurfacing and will do a little blog catch up over the next few days. For now it's simply fun to recall my date with Candice back before the flu grabbed me.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Books—a sweetness I devour

It's been a while since I wrote about the books I'm reading, so I'll do a little catch up. Last week I finished Eats, Shoots & Leaves which I wrote about on my other blog Grammar Police (drop by and visit me there too). It's a nerdy book about punctuation, but the author, Lynne Truss, is hilarious and the book was actually a New York Times best seller. If you have even a tiny interest in the English language, this book will make you laugh aloud.

I also read (actually listened to) Ian McEwan's Atonement. I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie. I'm so glad I did because so much of it takes place in the minds of the characters. The movie will undoubtedly be a different beast though I still want to see what the screen writers did with this incredible work. McEwan is so astute about human emotions—greed, guilt, fear, desire—and his ability to show all views of an event with all the potential misperceptions and misconstruals is phenomenal. He is a master of detail which slows the pace of the book immensely and it was something I found quite satisfying. However, if you like a fast paced piece, Atonement is not for you.

Atonement segues in a weird way with the book I just started on audiotape called The Stuff of Language, another nerdy, non-fiction book, this time on psycholinguistics, which is the science that looks at how language and the mind work together. The book is dense with semantic research, but I'm getting enough of it to be totally fascinated. Author Steven Pinker describes how single words can be understood differently by each of us. He then goes on to explain why this is so. He also describes how children learn language which is truly a miracle given the intricacies of language that he relates. I can't think of a single person who might enjoy this book as I am (maybe Anne or Andrea, but then again maybe not).

My books always seem to connect weirdly to my life and other things I'm reading. I'm sure this is no accident, but it always surprises me. For instance, a few weeks ago, Cindy and I watched the movie The Jane Austen Book Club. The very next day I got an email from the editor of the newspaper saying that Karen Joy Fowler, the author of the book The Jane Austen Book Club, was going to be in town in March and would I be interested in doing an article on local book clubs. I took the assignment and bought the book. This time, I read the book after seeing the movie. I'm not quite finished with it, but I will be by the time Fowler comes to town this Friday. It's a fun book and was a great movie even if you haven't read Austen (though I'm sure it is more fun if you have). The book makes me want to get back to my novel (remember NaNoWriMo and Memo?) because I was using books in a similar way when writing that novel though they weren't books by a single author.

I'm also a quarter of the way into The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs which I put aside to read Fowler's book. I'll say more about it when I finish it.

Books are the chocolate of my life . . . so sweet and delicious that I can't keep myself from devouring them.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Cindy, Cindy

Every year, the plum trees are blooming on Cindy's birthday. Since the temperatures stayed cold much longer this year, I feared there would not be blossoms to honor her day. On Saturday afternoon, however, the first blooms appeared, and by Sunday, there were dozens of pink flowers peeking through. That evening, the sky blushed hot with color in another kind of applause, giving Cindy one of her much loved sunsets. I was so glad that nature came through to honor my gal!

Her family came too. Cindy's Mom and Dad arrived Friday night to spend the weekend having fun with their daughter. Cindy and her mom fell to talking the minute Bonnie walked through the door in that companionable mother/daughter conversation that seems to pick up right where it last left off. After a dinner of tacos, the three Dixons located daubers and went to Chicken Ranch for Bingo. We'll skip the details of that particular Bingo night since it finished wanting on many fronts, and I'll jump into Saturday which was the kind of day I've come to expect with the Dixons.

After breakfast, I started making spaghetti pies for Sunday with Bonnie cleaning up after me and Cindy arm-chair directing my every move. (You'd think I'd never cooked a thing in my life with all the instructions she gave). While we worked in the kitchen, Fred worked on getting a socket set up in the shed for the freezer we bought last summer. After that, the Dixons went to yard sales. I stayed home, ostensibly to take a nap so I could stay awake for our evening out, but I got busy with other things. They came home with some happy finds, including some goofy toys for our kids' toy box and a brass planter for me. While Cindy and her mom worked on spiffing up Cindy's "My Space" page (which turned out super cool by the way), Fred and I each took a nap.

Next, we went to dinner at the Diamond Back. It was packed with people we knew. Cindy connected with folks from Columbia El, and I saw folks from Columbia College. The meal, of course, was delicious. Then we went to see "The Miracle Worker" at the Fallon house. It was even better than opening night, and we all walked out shaking our heads in wonder at the acting, especially that of Leah Bateman who played Helen Keller. (See my review of the play in the Union Democrat).

Sunday dawned sunny but cool with the plum trees blooming and the rest of Cindy's family arriving. We took over the clubhouse to eat and play: ping pong, pool, horseshoes. In addition to Cindy's family, our guests included Becky and Marianne and my brother John and nephew Lee. The cake I got from Alisha's was a hit (WHEW!)-- light as angel food and frosted with whipped cream. Cindy was gifted with wonderful gadgets —her favorite things in the world. She now owns a vehicle back-up video, a GPS, and a slew of new office gizmos. She couldn't be happier.

After our guests helped us clean up the club house and load the truck with all her new things and the leftover food (not much of that), we drove back to the house, marveling that the GPS knew the names of the roads in our little mobile home park. Move over Patricia & Map Quest—Cindy will never get lost again.

Happy Birthday Cindy. May this year continue to be full of the family and friends that are so dear to you!