Monday, March 26, 2012

Here Comes the Rain, Again

The only thing better than rain is post-rain.
 I love rain.  I love the sound of it on the roof and windows, on leaves and overhangs.  I love the feel of it, warm or icy cold as it dribbles down the inside of my collar, trickling along the part in my hair.  I love the smell of ozone that accompanies it.  I love gauging its intensity by watching the ripples on puddles or the distance I can see through it. 

As a native Southern Californian, rain was a novelty, a miraculous moment when moisture fell from the sky, rather than from a spigot. The media perpetuated this feeling of awe and mystery, sending rookie reporters wearing slickers and hip waders into dry stream beds and drainage ditches in preparation for Storm Watch.  Television shows were interrupted to announce if precipitation was sighted, perhaps even felt, just in case we weren’t aware of the sensation or maybe it was to prevent panic, a la Chicken Little.

In preparation for the “rainy season,” such as it was, my mother kept my sister and I well stocked on rain coats, umbrellas, and rain boots.   Rain coats were frequently left unbuttoned.  Umbrellas were just as frequently lost as used for rain gauges (upside down), or better yet as sails.  It was always much more entertaining to position an umbrella to catch the wind rather than to fend off moisture.

I love rain boots.  Part of it is the equestrienne aspect of wearing any boots.  The first pair of rain boots I remember were yellow with rabbits on the sole.  I walked backwards so that I could see the imprints.  Being naturally clumsy, this almost tripled my trip rate, which wasn’t a complete tragedy, because if I’d fallen forward, I’d actually have gotten wet, my raincoat being unbuttoned.  One time at school, a friend and I wandered to the back end of the field where there was a rather large puddle.  Wanting to show off the advantage of boots rather than shoes,  I waded along the length of the puddle.  About five steps in, I found myself thigh deep in water with knee high boots.   The weird sensation of body temperature water pulsing out of my boots as I walked back to class was equal to the initial horror and thrill of feeling the cold water rush into them.

My first thunderstorm was during a road trip to visit my grandmother.  I hadn’t seen lightning or heard thunder before and the Grand Canyon provided a spectacular introduction.  Despite being frightened of fireworks and popping balloons, I was enthralled by thunder.  The rumble and crack made my body vibrate, my hair stand on end.  My father taught my sister and me how to figure out if a storm was coming or going.  We continued to encounter storms and watched lightning bolts twisting through the sky as we crossed the Great Plains.

Frolicking post-rain in front of my Baton Rouge apartment.
My first summer in Baton Rouge, it rained every day at 4pm, flooding the streets knee deep as two to three inches of water gushed from the sky in roughly an hour.  It was astounding.  And warm.  There was no point in using an umbrella or raincoat.  Because the rain was so predictable, it was easy to hunker down somewhere, preferably The Chimes with a platter of cheese fries and an Abita, and watch the rain.  On the other hand, feeling that amount of rain wash over me was incredible. 

The storms weren’t without danger.  There were almost weekly reports of students getting struck by lightning as they crossed the Parade grounds of LSU – fortunately no one was killed.  Once a bolt of lightning hit a transformer across the street from where I was standing.  I can still hear the whirring buzzing noise as the bolt came down and feel the electricity that coursed through the ground and air afterwards.  Terrifying, but wonderfully exciting.

Although during our first year in Northern California there was tremendous flooding, the rain has progressively dwindled in amounts over the past few years.  When it does rain, I try to enjoy it.  Our current dogs don’t seem to mind it.  On days of heavier rain, I go through a raincoat for each dog.  I can’t understand why raincoats are “water resistant” rather than water proof.  We go to the creek to check the water level.  If I miss the peak flow, I look for the tell-tale signs of bent grass or debris line and then marvel at how quickly the level drops.  If it rains at night, I go upstairs to listen to the rain on the skylight.

Maybe my love of rain is because it forces me to take a moment, to put ordinary life on hold, to resign myself to Mother Nature’s will.  I don’t like to drive in the rain, so I’ll come up with any number of excuses to avoid it.  At the moment, I’m in a position that allows me to do so.  With our washer and dryer on the porch, laundry is put on hold.  Once the dogs are walked, I can usually stay at home. 

Mother Nature, I surrender. 

There are worse thing than a comfy chair, a good book, and a hot beverage, while listening to the susurrus of the rain.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Rituals of Everyday Life

I had a dream there were
clouds in my coffee ....
My daily life is composed of a series of micro rituals, little events that I perform every day.  I don’t think they’re compulsive behaviors.  A compulsive behavior suggests doing something out of need, whereas in my case, I actually enjoy the events, not for magical purpose, just because they make my day pleasant.

The dogs know the rituals as well.  When I stir in the morning, I let The Rockstar out of his crate so he can snuggle on the bed until it’s time to “really” get up.  Right before we do get up, I do a big wake up stretch, which is a cue to the dogs to creep up to the top of the bed where I distribute kisses, belly rubs and scritches.  Their fur is soft and I can tell the position in which they’ve slept because they’re warmer on that part of their body.  I like the way they smell at that time, a little dusty and they even have morning breath, which isn’t as awful as it sounds.  We all stretch again, they shake off and step off the bed.  They glance back at me, tails softly wagging and an open mouthed smile, eager for the day to begin. 

“Think there’ll be squirrels today?” they seem to ask.

I’m pretty sure there will be - which makes every day a banner day for them.

The next ritual is coffee, dark roasted and fragrant.  Once it’s made it, I pour it into one of my favorite mugs.  It’s actually a “hand me down” from my sister, pretty, mustard w/ orange flowers on it.  I really like the tulip shape, which is funny considering it has poppies on it.  It’s footed.  It reminds me of my sister, her exquisite taste and generosity.  I pour the coffee, then the half and half.  I like half and half rather than milk because it makes beautiful cloud patterns, so I never stir it.  I pour and watch the billows drift and merge until the coffee turns light, and then I drink it, wrapping my hands around the curves of the mug rather than using the handle because I like to feel the shape of the mug and the warmth on my hands.

I put on my make-up.  I’m reminded of my mother and it makes me smile.  I’m looking more like her as I get older.  I put on foundation, powder, eyebrows, and I see myself echoing her gestures, but with modern tools.  I use brushes whereas she uses puffs and sponges.  When I’m done, I look a little less like her, but not intentionally.  I just don’t use black liner or red lipstick for daily wear.

The Rockstar and I take our walk.  We’re both environmentally oriented, he with scents, me with sights.  I wait when he finds particularly interesting smells, and he waits while I take pictures. When either of us are finished we look at each other, smile/wag, as if to ask, “ready?” and then we continue.  If we go one route, The Rockstar slows as we round the corner and then looks at me.  He knows that’s where I’ll pause to look at the mountains, if it’s a clear day.  When we go by a particular fence, I’ll slow because I know he likes to look for squirrels there.  When we cross the street, we pause so he can sniff the long grass and I can gaze across the street at the field where there are deer sometimes.  We continue through the park looking for squirrels and other interesting things.  When we do find something, we exchange excited looks. 

“Did you see THAT?”

I like that even though we’re different species, we both share in those moments and enjoy each other’s reactions and company.

At night, after dinner, the Wee One likes to snuggle.  When he sees my husband go to the couch to watch t.v., the Wee One literally leaps onto the couch with him, which can result in some painful landings since the Wee One weighs sixty-five pounds. The Wee One starts out on my husband’s chest, then usually winds up on his back between my husband and the couch, mouth open, dream growling as Baby Cujo.  It’s one of the high points of Wee One’s day.  Both my husband and the Wee One are wiggle worms, so it’s nice to see the two of them quiet and cuddled together.

At the end of the night, we all, husband and dogs, go upstairs and everyone piles onto the bed to watch a little more t.v., get scritches, and talk and laugh.  I like all of us there together on that big bed.  I still see the hole where the Uber Hundus would’ve been, but we’re all there.  I like doing the mental roll call, seeing that we’re all together safe and sound, our little family, snug as bugs in a rug.  It’s a good place to be when the zombie invasion happens.  Everyone is comfy.  Everyone is loved.

And tomorrow it starts over again.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

All Growed Up

Letting the "wild" out.
 My husband will be eligible for AARP next year.


Yeah, I know.  That’s what I thought.  Because, if he’s that old, I’m not far behind.  So, how does that work?

For the longest time, I’ve been waiting for the adult in me to kick in, like some sort of magical switch.  I keep expecting to suddenly become somber, serious, eager to wake at the crack of dawn, clean house, and eat and prepare balanced hot meals.  It hasn’t happened yet, and assuming that I’m not living into my late nineties, I’m on that slippery downward slope to the grave.  I remember my mom at my age.  I’m definitely not my mom, although I’m starting to look like her.  My “mature adult” switch must have a short.

There are certain things I started doing upon reaching “majority” and leaving the shelter of my parents’ home, things which are probably not the best examples of adulthood, but that I still practice:

1.       Ice cream is good at any time, including breakfast:  I have a fondness for coffee and sweets for breakfast.  On those moments when we have pie or cake in the house, why not eat them a la mode?  It seems almost un-American to do otherwise.  But I didn’t start it.  My sister made the breakthrough move when she put sherbet in half a cantaloupe.  Brilliant!  I just cut out the fruit part.

2.      Listening to new music: O.k., maybe I’m not as alternative as I think I am.  I don’t listen to rap, mostly because I’m no longer an angry youth, just a bitter middle-aged woman.  I’m more inclined to say “Quit your bitching and get a job” than “Down with The Man.”  It’s probably because I married The Man, or at least that’s what the homeless in Berkeley say whenever we walk by.  I’m still open to music that has a good beat and that I can dance to, which is pretty broad considering how I dance. 

3.      Wearing funky colored toe nail polish:  Most of the time my toes are covered anyway, so why not green, blue, hound’s-tooth, or leopard?  I figure if someone’s bored enough to be looking at my feet, why not give them something worthwhile to ogle?

Even as a kid, I was responsible about work, taking care of animals, and following social protocol (at least to the best of my abilities).  I started working at 12, babysitting five days a week for a neighbor, and I’ve been a productive member of society until now.  I pay my bills on time, and all that, but in many ways, I still feel like I did while I was 16, and I’m not sure if that’s because the changes came gradually or if I really am that immature. 

Sometimes, it just takes one picture to show ALL the wrongs.
Still, there are a couple “adult” ideals that I’ve adopted:

1.      No shorts.  I’ve given up on shorts except as morning loungewear.  I’ve always hated the sensation of the back of my legs sticking to a chair.  I’ve never had great legs, so it’s not a huge adjustment to go to linen slacks, sundresses, or maxi-dresses.  Because I wear slacks or jeans for the majority of the year, my legs seldom see the sun anyways, so in shorts they become a beacon for squid and moths.

2.      Keep hair no longer than just past shoulder length.  I start out putting it in a ponytail, but when it gets much longer, there’s the temptation to venture into Heidi or medieval braids.  I’ll save that for my grande dame years.  I go back and forth on dying.  Usually I just do a temporary rinse in conventional colors when I’m bored.  It saves me the effort of maintaining the roots and I’m kind of curious to see how the grey grows out.  So far, it’s favoring my right side.  I’m hoping it’ll pan out into a Cruella de Ville look.

3.      Keep the liquor cabinet stocked.  You never know when guests show up, and I’d like to be able to offer them whichever poison is most to their liking.  I’m also always prepared for a party, or any particularly hard day that falls my way.

Still, I wonder if this is how my mom felt when she was my age.  Maybe it’s different because she had two kids.  Then again, my mom now looks to us for advice and guidance since my dad passed away.  So, maybe I am more mature than I think I am.

If not, I have an excuse.  It’s all in my head.

No, literally.  More specifically, in my mouth.  I still have one of my “baby teeth.”  My dentists were amused at first, now they’re amazed.  So, until it’s gone, I’m still a kid.  At least that’s my theory, and I’m sticking to it.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Against All Odds

Do you believe?
I don’t know why I did it.  I don’t generally buy lottery tickets.  I think it was the combination of hearing “$135 million,” having to go outside into the rain again to do the laundry, and feeling a bit morose. 

Why the (insert expletive of choice) not?  What’s the worst that could happen?

I could be a buck poorer … or five.

My father used to buy five dollars’ worth of lotto tickets every week and my sister plays on occasion.  

“You can’t win, if you don’t play,” she tells me.

“Yeah, but it’s not enough,” I argue, when the total is under $10 million.

“Whaddya mean ‘not enough?’” my sister says and already there’s a fed up resignation in her tone.

“Well, if I won, I’d want the immediate pay-off, and that would cut the winnings in half.  Then there’s the taxes, so it’s cut in half again, and after that, there’s the taxes on the income drawn from the interest.  Really, I can’t do what I want with what’s left, so what’s the point?” I say.  “I’d be frustrated.”

My sister stares at me through narrowed, disbelieving eyes.  “So, if I offered you (1/4 of the winnings), you’d refuse,” my sister says, hands on hips.

“No,” I say.  “Because it wouldn’t cost me a dollar and I’d be sure to get it.”

This is usually followed by my sister giving an exasperated exclamation and some comment about my flawed intellect.


I hopped into the car and drove to the local convenience store specifically to buy a lotto ticket.

I’ve never been a gambler on games of chance.  Several years ago, my husband and I went to Las Vegas.  He’d never been and I hadn’t been since my parents took my sister and I back in the 70s, which is almost like not having been.

It was hot.  The place we stayed had several gigantic pools – and every one of them was full to choking.  I’m not a poolside lounger, especially not in 100 degree plus weather.  So, instead we roamed The Strip, checking out the various hotels and casinos.

Like my dogs, I’m sound sensitive, particularly to high pitched sounds.  The electronic whirring, whistling, and chiming from the slot machines were deterrents rather than enticements.  I couldn’t leave the casinos fast enough.  But, it was Vegas. 

I don’t know how to play craps, and I’m weak at blackjack and poker, so I wasn’t about to join those tables.  Having watched “Lost in America,” both my husband and I are weary of roulette.  So, for me, that only leaves the dreaded slots.

“Here,” my husband said handing me a cup of nickels.

“I can’t,” I said.

My husband sighed. “It’s only a dollar,” he assured me and then left to try his hand with Lady Luck.

I put in a nickel and pulled the arm.  Nothing.  I did it again.  Same results.  Third time a charm?  Nope.

I took the remaining nickels and put them towards a cup of coffee, spending a good quarter hour watching the clouds of cream billow and musing to myself as I sipped it.  Definitely, a better use of my money … or rather my husband’s money.  

It’s not the money itself, since I’ve willingly spent a dollar for a fortune telling fish, silly songs, and other odd items.  I don’t even necessarily expect a large return for a dollar.  It is only a dollar, after all.  But I do expect a dollar’s worth of effort on the seller’s behalf and a one armed bandit puts in no effort at all.  On the other hand, I’ve entered contests that were free without hesitation. It’s the combination of cost and chance that causes me angst.

Maybe the problem is that I lack faith in games of chance.  Maybe, like Tinkerbell, one needs to believe in order for luck or the possibility of luck to exist.  What makes everything odder is that I would pay to go to Loch Ness to look for the monster, and I’d gladly pay more than a dollar, which suggests that to me, the potential for the existence of Nessie is greater than me winning any game of chance.  Is it any wonder that my sister rolls her eyes at me?

So, when I arrived at the convenience store, I realized that there were multiple lotteries running and I had no idea which one I’d planned to play, further antagonizing me with the futility of the situation.  But, I prevailed, purchased five Quick Pick numbers.

“You bought a lottery ticket?” my husband asked in amazement.

“It’s $135 million,” I informed him.  “You can’t win if you don’t play.”

“Uh-huh,” he said with a shake of his head and retreated into his office.

I promptly forgot to check the numbers later that night.

I caught the news the next day and it mentioned that the winner was in another state.

Oh, well.  I guess it’s too late to start clapping and believe.
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