Who Loves a Funeral?

I lost a dear friend last week.

Someone who I run to with all my gardening questions. Someone who shared the best lemon bar recipe I’ve ever tasted. Someone who brought me seeds for my garden and who I drove my mom to her house just so she could give my mom a tour of her amazing yard and garden. She was witty and smart. She was funny and dry. She gave daily reports of the weather via the top of her shed. She laughed with me over my bazillion zucchini’s and cheered my oldest on when he went to culinary school. She gave me a few butterfly plants that are planted right outside my office window and I seem to just stare at them and cry.

I will miss her so much.

And I can’t believe at 44 years old she is gone. On Sunday she was commenting about my potatoes and by Monday she was dead.

The worst part is I don’t really know how she died. The obituary didn’t say. Her family hasn’t said and any mutual friends we share doesn’t know either. I don’t know why this bothers me so much. Maybe it is some morbid thread running through me that causes me to be curious. I just want to know.

And she hated funerals so therefore her husband isn’t having any services.

At first I was nodding my head. Of course you want to honor the dead’s wishes.

However. I started thinking. And then I started laughing.

Who in the hell goes around saying how much they LOVE funerals?

Shit, I’ve been to so many funerals (large Italian family living in Los Angeles. We knew A LOT of people) and I can’t pinpoint one I was jumping up and down at announcing, Man, I love it here! The casket, the flowers…LOVE. IT! (Snap, snap. Hair flip.)

Funerals are not really for the dead, are they? I mean, they are, well, dead. Do they really know any different? The funerals are for those left behind. A place to put the tears. A place to say goodbye. I guess maybe I’m just someone who needs closure in a tangible way.

These emotions have been bubbling inside me for a week. Unanswered questions. Heartbreak. And lack of closure.

Rest in peace, my friend. I know she used to read my blog everyday so I thought it fitting to give her a wee shout out here. Winter just won’t be the same listening to you carry on about all you are doing in your garden – in the snow.

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Oh Yeah, It’s Monday

It’s just one of those days.

When I pulled out of my garage and drove the three blocks to my subdivision’s swimming pool I was able to get annoyed twice. I am not even sure how that’s possible. A car pulling out of their driveway and not looking forced me to come to a complete stop. And at the stop sign me and another car arrived facing each other at exactly the same moment. I had my indicator on waiting for them. THEN they turned on their turn signal.

Not a great way to start a Monday at 6:30 in the damn morning.

I overslept too.

Normally I’m up by 5:30 so I have time to make my coffee and do other little things around the house before I go and spend 150 minutes in water aerobics. Today I had barely enough time to lather up on sunscreen.

And suddenly we are heading towards the end of July.

Which means summer is almost over.

NO!

In a few weeks I will be registering the two kids at high school and then summer will really be over and yet there is SO MUCH left to do this summer.

You know, those crazy ass things I had on my list.

Like read 35 history books. So far, I’ve read four.

And defrost my big freezer (fat chance, that sucker was just restocked with a ton of meat on sale). And scrapbook more. And finish editing my L.A. novel (I am ALMOST finished with it. Another twenty or so chapters and then it will only need…hopefully…some line editing and fine-tuning). And get the freezer full (after I defrost the sucker, of course) of freezer meals for those busy days/nights when I will be coming home from school right around the dinner hour. And read a handful of classics.

Right now I am a mixture of exhaustion and a dash of overwhelmed. I’ve got a kid laid up after foot surgery (and I suddenly have to drive him everywhere. Super fun, let me tell you). I’ve got another kid getting ready to take driver’s education and hopefully between now and school starting a car will be in his future. I’ve got school books to read, ASL videos to watch so I can try and have a miniscule leg up, and novels to read before I may not have as much time for fiction. I’ve got dentist appointments, a floor that needs refinishing and would require us to be out of the house for three days, and a garden to tend to. I’ve got a non-fiction book I’m trying to self-publish and another novel I am trying to rewrite/edit. I’ve got an aggressive swim exercise routine seven days a week I go to. And I’ve got to keep the fire burning on a potential job search that could move us yet again somewhere else.

Okay, for now I’m going to manage to walk down the hall and drink more coffee and rewrite another chapter when what I really want to do is pipe my coffee intravenously as I take a nap under the fan. Oh, hello Monday, you bastard.

Back To School – Again

In just over 6 weeks I will be going back to school. (Again.)

And I’m scared shitless.

Will I be able to keep up? Do I remember how to take notes? What kind of backpack should I get? Do I remember how to study or write papers? Do students use laptops to take notes or do they still use quill and bottles of ink like they did the first time I went to college? How will I stay awake during the dead space in my schedule right in the middle of my normally sit-on-the-couch-read-and-nap time between oh let’s say 2ish and 3ish? Will I look like a geek on the first day of school trying to find my classes? What if I’m called on? (They don’t do that, do they? Nah, I should be fine.)

And – why the hell didn’t I just sign up for online classes?!? Dammit to hell and my idea that I wanted to actually BE in a classroom with a real live professor. Blah blah blah.

My husband says I’ll be just fine. My family and friends tell me it will be okay and I’ll do great and it’s all like riding a bike – except I haven’t been on a bike since I was a pony-tail-wearing-brace-face-tween. Oh Gawd, what have I done?

I’m taking a language because that and an English Literature class were the only two outside my major of history that I apparently didn’t satisfy when I was getting my first bachelor’s degree. Anyway – a language. I am horrible with languages. Some people have an ear and I don’t. I took seven years of Spanish. I attempted many years of Spanish. Attempted. The highest grade I ever got was a ‘C’ and I skipped for joy at the end of it. But, for some reason unbeknownst to me that class didn’t transfer or I only took a semester when I need a year. (What.Ever.)

Anyway.

I’m taking American Sign Language. All summer I have checked out DVDs from the library to prepare me for sign language. I’m not 100% certain I will have the “ear” for ASL either but it was really my only hope in life to pass a language requirement.

I have an English Literature class and two history courses this semester: U.S. History (Hi, basic-ole-history) and something they call The Study of History – which I am very excited about.

Yes, four classes.

Because I’m a nut job.

And because I want this second bachelor’s finished as quickly as possible so I can move onto/into grad school. If I don’t fail anything (as the History Chair kindly informed me) I should be finished with this degree by the end of next year. I have fifteen classes to take and after ASL and English Literature all the classes will be upper level history.

Hours and hours of history. Ah, bliss…..

As long as I can get past looking like a granny on her first day of school carrying a David Cassidy backpack with matching lunchbox.

Now I am off to order some of my books online from Amazon (golly gee, you can do that now!) so I can start reading them ahead of time. I’m old, aren’t I?

Not From Here

I hail from the Los Angeles area. And every year on New Year’s Day we would sit in horror as the secret of our lives were broadcasted across the country via the Rose Parade – which was a mere two miles from my house and when the Rose Bowl game played later that day the blimp could be seen out our windows.

Without fail New Year’s Day would be a mild 70-degree something, the skies would be a bright cobalt blue without a single cloud, and the sun would be gloriously shining. Ahhhhh, January in southern California.

But then.

Everyone would notice our blue skies and sunshine on the first of January as they peek out their own windows at a cold, snowy, grey abyss and think…hmmm…maybe we should move to southern California…

Hence, our melting pot.

Truth be told, we were used to people flocking to the area. It was no different when we were in San Diego – same thing happened. Flocks. Of. Seagulls. People. (Sorry, my 80s came out there for a second.)

People came to southern California for a different life. Something better than what they thought they had. They craved sunshine year-round. They craved traffic. (No, that can’t be right.) They craved those cobalt blue skies they saw during the Rose Parade and couldn’t believe a place like that existed in January – as they shoveled five feet of snow off their driveway and froze their asses off on their way to work.

And people moved OUT of California for the same reason: they wanted a different life. Less traffic. Less people. Less crime. Less sunshine – yes, it’s true – but we like to say, “I wanted a place with four seasons”. They wanted a better place to raise a family. They wanted a slower pace of life. They wanted to live somewhere where their dollar went a little further and a place where you could actually breathe without your neighbors listening.

There were many reasons we left southern California. High cost, too many people, too much traffic, and we lived in what I referred to as a fish bowl. We wanted out of the rising cost of living in San Diego with its one season and growing crime rates.

Somehow the people of Idaho didn’t get the memo about people moving into their town. They don’t have a yearly Rose Parade watched across the country. They are therefore confused as to why people would move here. No, not confused. Pissed off. They don’t want people to move here. And they especially don’t want people from California to move here.

Without fail there are comments on Facebook whenever there is talk of increased crime or a traffic accident or road construction or houses being built in new subdivisions – “you people need to go back where you came from.” “Go back to California.” “Californians need to stop moving here!” “This was such a great place to live until all the Californians moved here!” I’m surprised we aren’t blamed for the cold winter and Boise State football losing against Ole Miss.

I want to shake them and tell them it is just the facts of life. People move around. People go places where they feel they can get a better life. Instead of being bitter, pissed, and angry at us Californians for “ruining their small town” they should feel happy and proud that we would all move away from a place where the sun shines 350 days a year to their little corner of the world – where the sun, well, doesn’t shine 350 days a year.

For such a quaint, friendly, small town when we first moved here ten years ago – I now see nothing but bitter and cranky people who despise anyone who isn’t born here.

Maybe Boise needs a parade.

…In the fall when it is gorgeous around here. On second thought, never mind.

What I’ve Learned Over The Summer

I hate that unofficially summer is over.

Poof.

The mornings are now very chilly. And while I love fall and all that I always feel a little sad to say goodbye to the warm days, daily gardening, and lazy afternoons.

Here is a quick list of what I learned over the summer.

1. I love when I wake up in the mornings and by 7am it is already getting warm. I walked every morning with a friend and if we were any later than 8am to get started, we were dying of heat. In a flash with the first ring of the school bell the mornings are now magically more cold. Damn.

2. I wish summer vacation lasted longer. This year I was at an immediate disadvantage because I was sick with bronchitis for at least half of summer. I love not worrying about homework and waking up early (even though I woke up early to go walking). I love lazy days and quick, easy meals, and sunsets near 10pm.

3. I don’t know what I would do without my garden, I love it so much. I wonder about this when we one day downsize and perhaps I don’t have the large vegetable garden I am afforded right now. And even though come mid-fall I am ready to pull whatever is left out (it becomes a tad bit overwhelming when the harvest is overflowing) I do look forward to spring every year. I love planting new things, I love eating fresh vegetables ALL SUMMER LONG. I love going out there in the early mornings and watering as the sun is starting to come up – so quiet and peaceful.

4. We don’t use the barbecue enough. We always say we are going to BBQ like crazy and then somehow and for whatever reason we seldom use the thing.

5. I always think I’m going to get more done over the summertime. Why is that? I mean, during the school year the kids are out of the house and IN school. Hello. Duh. During the summer the only thing working for me is that a) the weather is warm; and b) I don’t have to look at the clock all day. Even though my kids are older they still knock on my office door all day long asking for everything from “what is there to eat for lunch?” to “do you know where the pool towels are?”

6. Unlike people who don’t have air conditioners (my mom, for instance, lives on the beach in southern California and doesn’t have air conditioning in her house) and have to endure a heat wave or worse, a heat wave WITH humidity and have NO air conditioning (shoot me now) – it doesn’t matter to me whether I decide to cook ribs in the house or bake a cake because the oven doesn’t heat up a house with air conditioning. In fact, you hardly notice the heat from the oven at all.

7. I may “save” time every night from making the kids lunches but it is way worse because every afternoon the kids want lunch and they somehow never eat the types of lunches they eat all school year. Suddenly sandwiches, crackers, and fruit is not good enough. Oh brother.

8. As much as I love all that summer offers, I am a winter girl at heart.

9. I can never get enough of summer fruits and vegetables. I can bathe in a mixture of berries and peaches and live happily ever after.

10. My favorite place to be is sitting outside enjoying a quiet moment on my patio, admiring the yard, looking out at my garden, and loving the gorgeous Idaho skies.

Kept

I was talking recently with my walking partner about living in Idaho.

When we moved here a decade ago we had a purpose in mind. Get out of southern California with its high prices, annoying traffic, and high crime…and find somewhere slower, more peaceful, and a better place to raise our kids.

We found that.

And it has been ideal.

But maybe, just maybe, it will be time to move on in the near future.

I can’t say Idaho has been perfect. Yes, it has been a slower way of life and I love that most. It has definitely been more peaceful and less frantic and just about zero traffic even at 5pm on a Friday night.

The neighborhood has been, well, let’s say safer for sure. Friendlier? That’s a whole other blog post, folks. But, it is safe, beautiful, and totally enjoyable. The weather has been absolutely great with four delightful seasons but I am also that crazy person who just loves winter. We were able to sell high in San Diego and buy land and a big ole house and we have been able to travel around, plant a garden, and have privacy between houses (not something we had in San Diego, that’s for sure!).

And there have been some things not so great. Our education system is at the bottom of the list and the employment outlook has not been in our favor.

As I walked with my friend one of things we talked about was how little we could do here around Idaho. Now, I can’t say I have always felt that way because when we first moved here we saw plenty of the state driving north, east, and west and exploring everything from a potato festival to an old mining town to the infamous Sun Valley and everywhere in between. In another words, we sorta did it all.

And to drive elsewhere isn’t that convenient. For instance, it is a seven hour drive to Portland. Eight to Seattle, eleven to Vegas. And if I wanted to head back to my old stomping grounds in L.A. we are looking at somewhere between fourteen and sixteen hours.

And that was when my friend used the word, Kept. We are kinda Kept here in Idaho with nowhere to go exactly.

She summed up exactly how I felt.

Kept.

Trapped.

And sometimes I feel as though I can’t breathe here anymore.

I don’t know what all this means but I guess it does point out one obvious thing: this will not be our final resting place.

I just don’t want to be Kept forever.

I want to roam and explore and uncover and learn and find and discover.

Big City, Small Towns

So, I grew up in Los Angeles.

Not downtown or anything.

More like a little suburb nestled in between two much larger (and more well known) cities. In fact, the city I lived in wasn’t even incorporated enough to use the name of the city in our address, it was just L.A.

I think I want to be a small town girl.

The idyllic images of small towns with their corner stores and front porches with people sitting outside sipping lemonade. (Lalalalalalalalalalala, join me, won’t you? Lalalalalalalalalalalala.)

You don’t really get that in any part of L.A.

Then we didn’t live in Los Angeles but moved further south to a mini-L.A.: San Diego…complete with two major freeways and five trillion people all on it at the same time you are. It’s a gem of a place, really. Beautiful beaches, lovely weather, and way too many fucking people.

So, we moved north to a relatively small-ish town in Idaho.

And then we spent a year or so in a northeast town of about 1700 people.

Hello, Small Town.

We had more cemeteries than stop signs and the only traffic light was there simply because of the newly built high school, otherwise, there would be no traffic lights.

This made me anxious in some weird I-Grew-Up-In-Los-Angeles kind of way. Like, “What the hell am I doing here?” (And for the record, I didn’t see one person sitting on their front porch sipping lemonade.)

The one cop (there might have been more but his car was the only one I ever saw driving around town and directing traffic at that one traffic light on school mornings) was also the youth basketball ref. And I was uncomfortable whenever I saw him on the court because I knew he must have noticed the new face in town (how many new people do these small towns really see every year? Exactly, none) and prayed he wouldn’t pull me aside at halftime to ask me when exactly was I going to get Pennsylvania plates and get rid of the Idaho ones? Certainly there is a law about that.

I used to cruise Sunset Boulevard, for heaven’s sake. I was born in a Hollywood hospital. I could get to the valley three hundred different ways on streets that never intersected. I used to drive 45 miles to work from Playa Del Rey to Sherman Oaks – taking four different freeways and taking me well over an hour, on a (very) good day. The Rose Parade was only a mile from my house. We spent Grad Night at Disneyland. If you needed to find anything from imported Italian olive oil to a Cuban sandwich, folks, you could find it somewhere in Los Angeles.

In the northeast town I found myself in you had to drive into Philadelphia for those things. A mere four hour drive. And here in Idaho? All I can say is: Thank God for the internet because I can order just about anything online. Okay, not if I want a Cuban sandwich.

And then while living in the northeast we decided to take a trip to New York City.

And I stepped outside the car and my first reaction to the city: “Ahhhhhhh, I LOVE IT HERE!”

The sounds. The traffic. The noise. My Gawd, who am I kidding? I love big cities!

I recently saw a show (I’m not going to admit which one, okay, it was The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, don’t judge me) and there was a clip from NYC. I said, “Do you hear that? I love the sound of a big city!”

My husband replied, “You mean the sound of crime? All you are hearing is sirens.”

Me: “And horn honking.”

Him: “Funny how you always talk about how you would love to live in a small town. You aren’t still thinking you are some small town girl at heart, right?”

I realized that I am not cut out for super small town living, despite how much I may think I would like it.

We moved from the tiny little town with the only street aptly named, “Main Street” and back to Idaho. Unfortunately, I am still feeling the bug to be closer to a bigger city. A big city with lots of noise.

Sirens, more than one freeway, and the ability to get a Cuban sandwich at midnight.