I’m not lurking; I’m finding my zen

The view from another, more photogenic, San Francisco hill.
The view from another, more photogenic, San Francisco hill.

As I may have mentioned before, I do a boatload of driving.

In fact, I drive up and over one particular hill at least six times every day. Let’s not explore the reasons why. Suffice it to say that having two children in schools on opposite ends of the city can make a person do ridiculous things.

Over the past six months, I’ve developed a habit of pulling over and parking at the top of the hill. Maybe I’d feel a little embarrassed if it didn’t feel so dad-gum therapeutic.

It’s not the most spectacular view of San Francisco, but the sky is constantly changing there–like moods. I am always surprised by what I see.

Sometimes the clouds split and a ribbon of light rips across the horizon.

Sometimes I can see it raining one place, sunny in another.

And sometimes–like this morning–the hill is adrift in fog and I see nothing at all. I always look for a while anyway.

I might comb my hair or clean out my purse. I might eat breakfast, read a few pages, or listen to the inane commentary of morning talk shows.

Often I close my eyes and take ten breaths.

The neighbors must wonder about me–though I have taken to setting my alarm for seven minutes, so I don’t wallow indefinitely–but for that tiny envelope of time, there is nothing but the sky and me. It is strangely satisfying.

***

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Fears

Image from http://www.smithsonianmag.com
Image from http://www.smithsonianmag.com

Then

  • Clowns
  • The dentist
  • The basement
  • The dark
  • Getting lost
  • Getting lost in a dark basement full of dentists dressed like clowns
  • Escalators
  • The principal
  • Being a disappointment to my parents
  • Drowning
  • Caves
  • Mean girls
  • The Shining—never, ever read Stephen King books in grade school
  • Being tickled until I wet my pants
  • Juvie

Now

  • Jury duty
  • The mortgage
  • The Internal Revenue Service
  • Airport security
  • Serious illness
  • Insomnia
  • Mammograms
  • Hand guns
  • College tuition for my kids
  • Ignorance
  • Colonoscopies
  • Being a disappointment to myself
  • Termites
  • Alzheimer’s
  • The basement
  • The dentist
  • Clowns

Somehow stuck at 90 words today, but this note makes it 100.

****

I realize that was a total copout, but a) I’m human, and b) tomorrow’s Thanksgiving. I need to spend a little more time cooking, cleaning, and being grateful instead of tearing my hair out over ten words.

 

R.I.P.

©2011 Beret Olsen
©2011 Beret Olsen–Not Piranha. I couldn’t make myself photograph a frozen fish.

 

Yesterday I found one of our goldfish in the freezer, nestled between the breakfast sausages and a pint of mocha ice cream. She lay awaiting proper burial: a tiny coffin, a moment of silence, a cozy hole in the yard.

But Piranha has been stuck in purgatory for two or three weeks now, while her surviving compatriot circles the tank and gives me the stink eye.

I briefly consider her stiff corpse–recalling her five-year sentence of dry fish flakes and fake plants–before tossing her regretfully into the compost bin. Here’s hoping she doesn’t haunt me for too long.

Time

Vicki DeLoach
Photo: Vicki DeLoach

I remember when each hour crawled languorously before me—a caterpillar on sixteen tiny legs, inching from Pensacola to New York City and back before the mantel clock would chime again.

Two days before my birthday, I thought I might be 50 before I turned eleven.

Now the years skip about with surprising unpredictability, and I’m never certain how old I am on any given day. It’s not unusual for me to believe I’m in my late twenties–until I try to stay up past eleven, until I glance at my little ones, and realize we see eye to eye.

Joys of Insomnia: A Late-Night Conversation with a Tween

From www.newyorker.com.
From www.newyorker.com.

My house is not a happy sleep place. Sooner or later, someone is destined to rouse me, so I can no longer doze off before the first two or three late-night interruptions. This makes it impossible to relax, read a book, sleep, or participate enthusiastically in conjugal relations. Mostly I just lie there and worry about who will be first to appear bleary-eyed at my bedside.

Last night, it was Miss Twelve. My light was still on low and I was holding a book open, imagining myself being able to concentrate on the words.

Miss Twelve looked at me expectantly. What follows is our conversation, verbatim:

Me: S’up?

Miss 12: What?

Me: S’up?

Miss 12: What?

Me: What’s up?

Miss 12: What?

Me: WHAT IS UP?

Miss 12: What?

Me: Can’t sleep?

Miss 12: What?

Me: IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE HAVING TROUBLE SLEEPING.

Miss 12: What?

Me: Do you need something?

Miss 12: What?

Me: HOW CAN I HELP YOU?

Miss 12: I can’t sleep.

Me: You can’t sleep and you are DEAF.

Miss 12: What?

Me: YOU SEEM DEAF.

Miss 12: I can’t hear you. I’m wearing ear plugs (removes ear plugs).

Me: WHY WOULD YOU WEAR EARPLUGS WHILE TRYING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION?

Miss 12: I was too lazy to take them out.

Me: (silence)

Miss 12: Anyway. I can’t sleep, so I took some melatonin. Good night.

Ridiculous as it was, the interchange was mercifully brief, and did not require me to get up and rub a back, procure ibuprofen, review for the state capitals test, fluff pillows, discuss the fall of the Roman Empire, fetch an icepack, listen to friend issues, or massage feet–all of which have happened in the past few weeks. Instead, I had plenty of time to worry about the next nighttime visitor.

Today’s Pop Quiz

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It’s a quick quiz. Just one question:

1. Let’s say your mom has been fighting a stupid virus for five weeks now. But instead of lying in bed quaffing Dayquil, she rallied and took you to the beach. She and her pounding sinus headache ran around playing games with you. After that, she took you out for the most amazing ice cream OF YOUR LIFE. Then, while you showered and sat on your butt watching TV, she made a tasty dinner comprised of: mashed potato patties, salmon burgers with lightly curried ketchup (your favorite), cucumber slices with a drizzle of cilantro oil, and even a %*($!! sprig of parsley. When you see your plate, the correct response is:

A) What? Where’s the bruschetta? Weren’t you going to make bruschetta tonight?

or

B) Thank you.

Dear *sshole Neighbor

Congratulations! You discovered my tipping point.
Congratulations! You discovered my tipping point.

Dear Asshole Neighbor,

I’m in a bit of a funk. I know you don’t care, but I’m telling you anyway. After the letter I received from city public works today, I thought we should get better acquainted.

I got laryngitis right in time for my college reunion, so I got to stand around drinking seltzer, smiling and nodding like an idiot, while everyone else had the time of their lives. Then I got much, much worse.

I was dismally ill through the entirety of my family’s big awesome vacation to Hawaii, including one memorable day at the Kaiser Permanente clinic there, because that’s fun. I enjoyed reading last September’s Better Homes and Gardens cover to cover as well as a thoughtful booklet about advance health care directives. That was such an informative way to squander a day in paradise.

I flew home and was sick some more. A month later, despite giving up coffee, alcohol, talking, sleeping, and–especially today–joy, I’m still sick.

A couple of hours ago, I had another visit with my doctor. He assures me that I will probably be feeling better by the end of July…which will be right after a big family trip across country to visit my mother. Here’s hoping the recovery comes before my husband abandons his hacking, sleepless wife.

No big deal, right? Just a pesky virus. Things could obviously be much worse.

Did I mention that my big, fabulous book deal just disintegrated? No?

Well. My big, fabulous book deal just disintegrated. Maybe it’s for the best, you may be thinking. After all, the publisher had a penchant for the playful caveman font. Still.

Add to this the fact that my best friend is apparently breaking up with me…via email. Ouch.

But instead of crying in a heap about my broken heart and broken dreams, or going to bed in order to finally, actually, maybe start feeling better, I have been copyediting and photo editing and cleaning out the closets, taking small people to the eye doctor and dentist and piano lessons, and grocery shopping and saying goodbye to friends who are moving 3,000 miles away, and labeling every goddamn pair of my kids’ underpants with a Sharpie for camp.

Imagine my surprise then, when I was reminded–after living in this house for almost eleven years–that I happened to forget to bring my garbage cans in. Once. I left them out there for one day.

AND YOU TOOK A PICTURE AND SENT IT TO THE GODDAMN CITY so they would start harassing me.

Really?

Have you nothing better to do?

I’m sorry you were so overwhelmed by the incredible monstrosity of my tidy row of bins that you were completely unable to walk over and knock on the door like a reasonable human being and were instead forced to take a photo and print it out and mail it to the goddamn city.

Guess what? I’m going to sneak over there today to cough on your mail. And maybe lick your door knob.

Cheers.