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Thursday, July 31, 2014

NARS Azalea Pink

Digits, Thruway

When I was little, I'd periodically tell my mother that someday I would have a daughter and I would name her Azalea, because I loved the azaleas in our garden and to my ear, their name would make the most beautiful name ever.

That's not a name, she'd say.

Violet is a name. So's Lily, I'd reason.

Yes, but those are flowers. An azalea is a shrub, she'd reply.

My daughter will be the first, I'd declare.

And if you have a son you can name him Boxwood, she'd say.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Salt of the earth, my mother would bellow, because somehow that phrase couldn't be spoken in her normal voice at a normal volume. The person being so described would share one quality with every other person my mother defined thusly -- he or she would live on a farm. Of the earth seemed to be the operating principle rather than salt, and so the people who had little nailbrushes next to the kitchen sink, the people who used lava barsoap regularly, these were the people about whom my mother bellowed.


My father wasn't allowed salt. Instead he took a handful of pills and while he looked healthy to me, my mother would always ask him if he had taken them, did he need water. It's my blood pressure, he would say if he caught me looking. I would salt my food carefully, making sure not to shake the shaker in a way that salt fell astray. I imagined one loose crystal would be enough to kill my father, and I lived in terror of it. The salt would fall in a thick, dense layer, and my mother would say, You've put too much salt, my goodness, take some off. I would use the edge of my knife to scrape and spread, pretending it was like fertilizer for my meat, needing to be put down evenly.


No salty talk, she would say and glare in the rearview when she heard one of us use a word she believed to be leading toward profanity. My mother's definition of salty talk included oh my gosh, dumb, shut up. My brother and I would mouth our salty speak and watch her eyes in the rearview to see if they were upon us. You're stupid, he would enunciate. Your face is stupid, I would reply soundlessly. Zip your lip, he would hiss. Hey I said no salty talk, shooting eye daggers at him while I made the universal haha face of little sisters everywhere.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Or less

Behold, a young patriot looks for opportunities to invigorate our nation's economy.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Because happy birthday, but also AMERICA

This weekend George went to a birthday party.

Because he loves the honoree he spent an exceptionally long time making the birthday card.

He then spent an even longer time poking around my enormous container of bargain basement wrapping materials before bringing me his very fine choices and providing clear direction for the final look he envisioned.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

At this time I'd like to thank the heavens for that Hancock Fabric ribbon grab bag I scooped up a few years ago, because I think the eagles in flight are the x factor here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This kid

Sawtooth, yesterday, 8:23 AM

This child, born much too early, used to fit perfectly on my forearm. I would nestle his head in my palm, and he would draw his legs in, rest his tiny feet against the crook of my elbow and sleep. I would stare at him and physically hurt with love for him.

Now he is a full foot taller than I am. He drives and plays guitar and makes me beautiful things.

Sometimes late at night I tiptoe into his room and peek at him, and no matter that he has changed, a tightening springs to my chest, a dull ache of love.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Color scheme

My mother took an art class once, a color theory class in which she cut expensive, saturated papers into small shapes she cobbled together seamlessly.

"Look at the subtlety of that blue," she'd say, and I'd strain my eyes and tilt my head and finally just nod, seeing nothing.

Our den was harvest gold, orange, and a strange shade of green, the wallpaper in our kitchen a red, white, and blue patchwork design, but my mother stared into her little papers like they held the secrets to the universe.

"Do you see how vibrant that gray is?"

Squint, tilt.

Nod, nod, nod.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's a bird, it's a plane


Medical models always make me feel like I did when my children were bringing home their earliest attempts at school art.

I'd be all, "Oh, wow, I love the ferocious expression on the grizzly bear!" and the child-artist would look at me stonily and say, "Mommy, that's a pilgrim."

I genuinely felt accomplished that I recognized this as an ear. Go, me!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Hunting, gathering

My goodness, job hunting has changed in the last twenty years.

I feel like a dinosaur.

Specifically a stegosaurus.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


She cannot see the graying of her own muzzle. If she could, she would be Shocked and Horrified, for in her heart she is still my young dog, ready to fetch endless squeakies and protect us all from that most dangerous of vagabonds, the UPS truck.

Unfortunately I can see the gray, both hers and my own.

Monday, July 21, 2014


As expected, the youngest made a kachina in his anthropology camp last week. I opined aloud that it looks a bit like a character Tim Burton might have created, but George informed me that it is a traditional Hopi Hano clown and if I think it looks like a Tim Burton character, then perhaps that indicates Mr. Burton stole his design aesthetic from the Hopi.

Well, then.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Moo moo roar

Reynolda Road, 4:37 PM

On the first night in my third apartment in DC, I was awakened by the distinct sound of a lion's roar. I have always been an alert sleeper, and among all the city sounds, my brain sorted that particular noise into the "wake up now oh god wake up now now now" category.

Those who dewll along the other side of the sunken Rock Creek often enjoy the sounds of wild animals from the National Zoo, carried to them by the shape of the terrain, and so sometimes when I drive down Reynolda and see the cows pasturing at the Children's Home, I wonder who all hears them.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Electric company

Shaffner Park, 11:08 AM

Lookie, lookie, something else my faux grandson fake-inherited from me!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


A few weeks ago I was supposed to attend a play for one of DM's children and completely flubbed the timing of it. Her reply text to my idiocy was gracious:
No worries at all. Just give us DC restaurants and we will forgive all.
And so with their children dispersed to different camps, my friend and her husband are in Washington with entirely too many recommendations for the number of days they have there. Today came a one word text with uncharacteristically effusive punctuation.

Guapo's is where my husband and I had our first date, a restaurant I offered up to him as a place one could get authentic Mexican food. While we ate, he told me he was leaving the States in two months. Before those two months were up, his plans had changed, and two months after that, we were planning a wedding.

Ask to see the Fiesta Room! We had our rehearsal dinner there!  
Is it upstairs?

They told us it's closed. Perhaps I'll get lost.

Our rehearsal dinner was all the silly out of our system: traditional star piñatas loaded with nonsensical fake diamond rings (bride) and army parachute men (groom), a margarita machine, enthusiastic and terrible dancing. My cousin Harry gave a toast that doubled us with laughter, and my father and his brothers charmed the daylights out of everyone.

The next day's affair was suitably solemn, High Church and all, save for the wink to the night before just at the end: La Bamba as the recessional.

The salsa there is ridiculous.
Oh yes!!
Go enjoy your lunch. I'm having blueberries and leftover puerco. Booooo.
Yes. Gotta go. M was checking email. He's done now. Hugs, friend.

And then forty-five minutes later, the photo below and another enthusiastic one word text.

My friend indeed. Amiga del alma even.

The vapors

Stratford Road

Yesterday I went bathing suit shopping.

Today I should like to spend on a velvet chaise in a darkened room with curtains drawn, a cooling cloth on my forehead and smelling salts at hand.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Call me for all your pet name needs

Country Club & Westview

I did not get to name even one of the household beasts. Salsa came with her name, ditto Hadley. The oldest bestowed a moniker to Pep, the youngest to Steamboat Willie.

(The only name that truly fits is Salsa's, for when she is excited, she does a little Latin dancing on her back end. It's pretty fabuloso.)

The sweet old boy in the Found Dog poster above certainly has a name, but he's not telling. Accordingly I've come up with a list of monikers that fit him exquisitely.

drumroll, please...



I know. It's a gift.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Brother George

Old Salem, 11:54 AM

Smells good

Last night my friend DM and I sallied forth to dine in historic Greensborough, where we found the above historic marker which I felt needed sharing. Then my phone decided the phonophoto needed Auto Awesomizing via buckets of artistic filters. Let me share the text of said marker so you can understand why all the hoopla:

J    112
Lunsford Richardson

A pharmacist and entre-
preneur, he created Vicks
VapoRub in 1894 while 
operating a drugstore 
150 yards north.

VAPORUB, Y'ALL. Obviously both my and my phone's excitement is now understandable.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Granny beads

When my mother's mother died, we found piles and piles of granny beads in her top drawers, like she'd gone to Mardi Gras every year without telling us. We giggled and groaned, because she had never worn those beads and really, who would, and for goodness sake, why so many.

What she did wear: doubleknit pants, navy blue keds, and brassieres that shaped the upper half of her body into twin torpedoes. Hers was a working citrus farm, and these were the clothes that allowed her to take part in the work.

When going "into town" she also wore a navy blue cardigan with flat, blue buttons. She'd offer this garment up to me almost as soon as I hopped off the Piedmont plane, little golden wings announcing to the world that I had flown unaccompanied. I knew the air outside the Orlando airport would hit me like a slap of hot to the face, but when she'd ask me if I was chilly from the flight, I'd nod and uh-huh immediately just to get that sweater draped over my shoulders by my grandmother's strong, tan hands.

If she had worn granny beads, believe you me I would have found a way to get those from her neck to mine, and then I would have played with them all the way to Ocala. I would have twirled them in my fingers and worn them with my bathing suit, like I did the pair of dingy white kitten heels I found under my mother's childhood bed. I would have made eyes at my grandmother and sighed melodramatically, then acted surprised when she said I could take them home with me, wear them on the plane to DC even, and I would have done just that.

But the fact remains: my grandmother did not wear granny beads. And so yesterday I was surprised that spotting a strand of these beads she never wore, in a garish pink she would never have chosen, brought her immediately and joyfully to mind.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Monday, July 07, 2014

Be My Guest

Stratford Road

Once upon a time when I was a small adult and my mother was a medium adult, she called me and asked if I wanted to come spend a week at her mountain house.

It was summer, and I was contemplating spending a week in Rehoboth in a rented house with roughly 14 other small adults, this being the only way any of us could afford to go to Rehoboth.

In the course of one phone call, my mother the con artist convinced me that it would be a gift to myself to forget about that idea and instead come to the mountains to to Be Her Guest. Those were her words. Be Her Guest.

Thus a few weeks later I happily packed up and headed the opposite direction of Rehoboth, looking forward to a week of Being Her Guest. When I arrived she served me a wonderful homemade dinner (my mother was a gifted cook) and suggested we tuck in early. Really early. Like still light out early. When I made vague noises about staying up late reading, she said not to, that we had lots of things planned tomorrow. And so I went to bed early, looking forward to an exciting day of Being Her Guest, Now With Activities.

The next day my mother hurried me through my coffee so we could get cracking on our mysterious doings. Then she put me in her car and careened down the mountain, randomly applying the brake from time to time for no discernible reason whatsoever. At the bottom of the mountain she stopped and bounded out of the car next to an incredibly rundown miniature golf course.

Tada! she said.

I stared at her blankly. Then she shared the most wonderful news: she had purchased this albatross of a business, and we were going to spend the day Checking What Needed Doing.

MOM, I said.

We won't be here more than an hour I bet, she said.

She was right, because after an hour we left to Go Get Supplies, which took the remainder of the day. When we finally went back to her house, I looked forward to maybe now Being Her Guest, but after a rather hurried dinner of takeout, she said it was time to Make A Plan Of Attack.

I went to bed hopeful that I might at least be able to sleep in a bit the next morning, but she woke me up early again so we could Put The Plan In Motion. The Plan In Motion lasted five days and consisted largely of me painting every inch of wood on the entire course.

Every evening I hoped she might cook again, but every afternoon on the way back from Our Project she'd swing the car into the parking lot of the little strip mall with the Kroger. After the second evening, we ate our takeout on paper plates, which meant we no longer called it dinner but rather supper.

On my last morning of Being Her Guest, my mother fired up the stove and made me her delicious french toast. I feasted on my second homemade meal of the trip and then loaded my bag into my car. Coming inside to say goodbye, I found my mother sitting at the table looking dejectedly into her coffee.

I've loved having you here, she said.

Thanks, I said.

Come back anytime, she said.

I'll come back soon, I said.

Really? she said, visibly brightening.

Really, I said, kissing the top of her head.

Be My Guest, she said.


Robinhood & Peacehaven

My junior year of college I took a class on English literature during the Victorian era. One discussion I remember in particular centered on the role of the Tube, London's underground train system, the first in the world, which opened during said era. Suddenly you could descend into the ground at one place and pop up somewhere completely different. Great change happened from one simple action. In our discussion we concluded H.G. Wells and other English writers were heavily influenced by this concept.

I am reminded of that class every time I go through a carwash. It's only 20 feet or so of relative darkness, but change happens. Dirty becomes clean. Dusty becomes shiny.

Sigh. I miss college.

Thursday, July 03, 2014


The dogs are a complete disappointment to Hadley. No matter how many times a day she repeats the ninja attack on dozing dog training, they never learn that naps are for the weak.

Here she glares at them while they fight sleep.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Her giant barrel planter was too heavy to lift, too depressing to empty. The whimsical arms that in warmer months held hanging pots were considered "fixtures", I was told. So too the pair of wall pockets I'd brought her from Spain. I had staggered with their heft, wrapped in that morning's El País and consuming nearly all of my carry-on, through three airports en route, but seeing her happily fill them with pansies each spring more than repaid my effort. At the last second I spotted the turtle she'd tucked away in a shady spot, his patina lending him the perfect camouflage. And so I carried his unwieldy body home on my lap, my hand on his back rubbing his shell like a talisman, hoping somehow the joy of my mother's garden would travel with him.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Art-o-Mat Selfie with Suemo!

Oooh, from now on I shall call this place 'Mino!

I love nicknames madly. To that end I have vigorously encouraged my husband and children to refer to me as "Ca$h MoNeY". Sadly it hasn't fully caught on.

Camino Bakery