Thursday, March 31, 2016

Middle-aged Teal

I really envision myself as being a travel writer, but the current budget is not allowing me to do much else besides go to Publix and get gas for the car so I can continue to go to Publix.  There is only so much one can write about that kind of travel, and I guess at this point I have pretty much covered said topic.

So I am resigned momentarily to write about ‘teal’, a colour I’m not really fond of, representative of the chapter of life I have entered.

The concept of teal as a metaphor for my current situation came about several years ago while taking skiing lessons.  Our instructor told us by the end of the class we will have traversed some green slopes and a few blues and could probably consider ourselves ‘teal’ skiers by the end of the afternoon.  That made perfect sense to me, and I’ve been blending colours and assigning them to various phases of my life ever since.

Sadly, teal is where I’m at.  The good news?  Being in my teal phase means I don’t care anymore that I ended the previous sentence with a preposition.  The bad news?  I know better, and I should care.  That’s what teal does to catches you in the crosshairs of caring and not caring which almost sounds like something Lao Tzu would say, but I digress.

Just because I’m not a fan of teal doesn’t mean I have to treat it dismissively.  It’s just being itself, a blend of green and blue, with no other aspirations, having reached its goal in life.

I, however, do have aspirations.  I have conquered the beginner slopes and easy runs of life.  Greens have been mastered too and they have been challenging physically and mentally, but exhilarating and beautiful.  Just now testing the blue slopes.  Scarier and more challenging, but I know that view will be captivating, exquisite, magnificent and full of many additional adjectives.  I will press on until those challenges are conquered and goals are met.
Skiing, a cat and teal-coloured print!  Meme success!

The black slopes sound like they will be full of wrinkles, health problems and bad knees so I’m just going to pencil in that one and let it evolve, or not.  There’s always the bar at the ski lodge as an alternative.

Meanwhile, caught in between green and blue, this middle-aged teal is everywhere, damn it!. It has taken over my brain.  When I think about myself these days I see a slightly hazy version of me in my late thirties and I honestly think that is how I still look.  Until I look in the mirror and see my mom staring back.  And then I clear my throat and my voice cracks and I realize she has moved in. 

Instead of having one bottle of Windex on hand I now have four, and yet I can forget to buy toilet paper for a week running.  Don’t even get me started on back seat driving.  I don’t verbalize as much as I used to, but flinching, small gasps and using the air brakes are getting their message across, and for some reason I perceive the recipient of my care and concern as being highly annoyed.  I’m pretty sure it was cute and endearing when we were dating.  Teal is chipping away at my cuteness.  Where’s my bottle of wine?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Merrily On My Way...

One way to travel!
I used to travel a lot, and I will travel again.

In the interim I am forced to entertain myself by making up stories in my head, pretending that I have an exciting life, and hoping that no one will notice why I am  speaking French to no one in particular at the gas station.  Unbeknownst to the casual observer, I could in fact be in France in that particular moment although it LOOKS like I am at the Mobil station in Naples, FL.

The adventure begins…, but not in France....

Backing out of my driveway every morning is not unlike being on safari in Africa.  Herds of wild cats scatter away from my slow moving tires as I set out on my daily adventures. Okay, okay, some of them are abandoned domestic house cats, but the others are, in fact, feral.    "I know Kenya will be just like this!"  I lie to myself. And yes, I know cats are not referred to as herds but that’s what I’m calling it and it’s my story.

The speed bumps in the neighborhood make my Jeep wrangler twist and rock, as if I am driving on the open savanna.  I’m not even out of my subdivision and already I have saved myself $12,000 by staying here and going on safari instead of off to Africa.  Birds of prey are perched on the dry, leafless branches of a few dead trees, and the heat shimmers from the road creating that illusion of an oasis of water in the distance, only to have it disappear from sight as I get closer.

I miss this kind of market!
Now, crossing six lanes of traffic to get to the Publix Super Market will be the next challenge on this journey.  Only a short distance is provided to allow me to traverse across the first three lanes in order to get into the left turn lane.  During rainy season (or off season as we call it here) it is not as treacherous, but when school is back in session and snow birds have migrated back it can be a harrowing adventure, fraught with risk.  And that is only the first three lanes.

Eventually I make it across lanes four through six and end up safely on the edge of the open Publix parking lot. It has only been 45 seconds since I left my house and my heart is racing with excitement.

I look for a space that has a palm tree shading it so I can have some protection from the sweltering sun.  From the back of the Jeep I grab my Winn-Dixie grocery totes (I do that on purpose) and quite frankly if I had a large woven basket handy I would at least momentarily consider putting it on top of my head and swaying on in to the grocery store.  I’m all about creating my own reality, and the basket on the head thing seems like it would be a perfect complement to the story going on in my head.

Having embarrassed myself too many times in the past, I quickly come to my senses and abandon that little fantasy.  It was fun for a moment though.  Maybe next time I’ll dig out my feather earrings and caftan from the early 70’s.  That basket will fit right in then!

Suddenly a song from long ago fills my head as I approach the entrance to the market.  “We’re merrily, merrily, merrily on our way to nowhere, in particular!”  This could be my theme song, I tell myself, and I recall fondly hearing my mom sing that song as we kids would pile in the station wagon and go with her to the grocery store.

Now I get doesn’t fall too far from the tree!  I am my mother's daughter.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Earth Experiment

Here's another random thought - sometimes I think we are just one big experiment (this planet) and we are being observed and toyed with by unknown beings who are measuring our rise and fall since the beginning of time.

First the fish - must have been frustrating for these observers to just watch them swim day in, day out, millennium after millennium, thinking all along...."get out of the water and grow some feet you idiots! Do we have to do everything for you?"

And then eventually (just a few million years later) the planet ended up with dinosaurs.  Really cool and all that, but the experimenters were watching, thinking that's not really how we thought this would all turn out when we told the fish to start walking.  Let's test their skills and throw in a set-back or two; like an ice age, or maybe some kind of meteor strike with toxic fumes.  It would great to see something a little more progressive come from this experiment.  If they can survive that they can survive any presidential administration.

It won't be pretty, but neither were the dinosaurs.

It's like the earth was dropped into a terrarium eons ago for our observers to watch as this Petri dish grows and dies, grows and evolves some more, and then dies, and then grows all over again.  I'm beginning to wonder if the observers are saying to each other, "you know, I'd have to say I am a lot more pleased with the development of that dirt clod we put in the terrarium over on that shelf than the one in this jar we are calling Earth."

And then television was invented and the observers got caught up in "The Real Housewives of Babylon" and "All My Hominids" and completely forgot to pay attention to our evolution.   Which is what let the human race take off on its own without any intervention.

Suddenly (another several million years later) we've ended up with some marginally functioning humans on our hands!  The observers clapped in sheer joy when they saw (during a commercial break) that we had evolved into a society that could do so many honourable and intelligent things!  "Look at her upload that photo to Facebook" one shouted, "and she didn't even read any of the instructions."  "I bet she's got a blog" said another.  The head observer rested his (or her) hands on his stomach and noted out-loud... "Survival has finally become almost intuitive for them.  I am reminded of the time Jane Goodall was watching the chimps and they learned to stick a twig into the termite mound to fetch their dinner!"  Another round of applause came from the observers as they determined that life as they knew it would continue on for awhile longer, until the next election when half the population will move to Canada.  And then adaptation will start all over again due to climate differences, longer pronunciation of vowels and different speech patterns, stronger beer and ongoing territorial disputes between the French and English descendants.

Well, that's it for me.  What have you been thinking about today?

Saturday, March 26, 2016

How to write a blog...

Many people wonder how to go about writing a blog.  How does one even start?

Like many things, it is a matter of sitting down and just doing it.

However, there are certain rituals that must be performed before the writing begins.  For those of you interested in the process, I thought I would share mine.

First of all, I like to start with a nap.  This allows me to think about a topic I want to write about while simultaneously not overthinking it, because most likely I will have fallen asleep within minutes.  Upon waking with a start, it is important to then get mad at oneself for wasting the afternoon on that nap when you know your imaginary fans are waiting to read your next episode.  I have always performed best under self-inflicted pressure, although I'm not sure if I've ever really done anything in a timely fashion.  So maybe the first half of that last statement is only accurate based on a lack of knowledge and experience.  I suspect I will never know.

I turn the computer on next, and while it is booting up there is always plenty of time to start a load of laundry and begin boiling a dozen eggs.  Since writing can also be very intense and fatiguing, I quickly prepare some sort of nourishment to keep my brain alert.  Usually protein.  This afternoon I had three spoonfuls of peanut butter and a bite of leftover grilled tuna.  The time is drawing close, where pen will finally meet paper.  I think I am ready.

Finally the computer is up and running, although now the first load of laundry is ready to go into the dryer.  I have no idea how that happened.  It seems like it's only been about three minutes since I turned the computer on.  Quite possibly I may have diverted to Facebook for awhile.  Who knows? 

Again, I am forced to stop absolutely everything that was just about to happen concerning my writing so I can put the clothes in the dryer and start another load.  And wouldn't you know it, the timer is going off on the boiled eggs.

Who has time to write?

Monday, March 21, 2016

I've fallen off the wagon...

It's fortunate that in declaring my intent to create a thirty day blog challenge for myself I conveniently left out the word "consecutive", right before the word "thirty". 

As it stands now, I am seven days into this program and already three days behind.  That is not good.

I have a list of excuses as to why I fell off the wagon so soon, but I will save those for another time when I may need them more.  Right now it may just appear that I am busy as opposed to unreliable, and I'd like to sign off from today's post before you find out that, in fact, it is both!

Happy Monday everyone!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

The challenges of being a hot mess...

Hot mess.  I love that phrase and I only wish it had been around when I looked like what the real meaning is.

But today at the art show I am a hot mess according to my age 'fifty-something' definition.  Which is... totally damp, flat hair due to dripping high humidity and hot flashes.  Mascara stained cheeks because of trying to rub the pollen out of my eye for hours. Swollen ankles from sitting too much and alternatively standing on cement.  I can't take my sunglasses off because only one eye has any makeup on it and the other one is red and bloodshot. Over the course of a few hours I had rubbed my left eye so much I finally took my contact lens out for the fourth time and threw it in the bushes behind me.  The good news was at that point I couldn't really see how badly I looked.  I kept my sunglasses on all day though, as looking like a one-eyed freak is not good for business.

By 10:15 a.m. (the show opened at 10) I already needed to buy a new pair of shoes due to falling arches, plantar fasciitis and a broken bone still on the mend.

Is it too much to ask to have just one day of having everything look and feel good at the same time?  The only solution that seems to bridge that continuous gap for me is tequila.  It used to be a glass of wine, but these days being a 50 something hot mess is a job for tequila.  Don Julio and I have become quite good friends lately.  I anticipate a very long and loving relationship...

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Short and sweet...

If it takes me as long today to write this blog as it did yesterday we're going to have to shut down casa | art | studio.

I'm trying to be patient with myself on this new project.  After all, yesterday was only day two I keep reminding myself, but six or seven unplanned interruptions at our studio along with a big technical glitch with Blogger had me using many words that I won't be able to use in my blog.  Pity, because they were so descriptive.

I had written the bulk of the blog between 9-9:30.  About seven hours later I was finally able to hit the 'Publish' button.  I'd have to say that's not a particularly good use of my time. 

Fortunately I was able to gather my wits about me, and perseverance helped me win the battle as I found a work around for the tech issue.  At that point I was reminded how good it feels to stick with something until you reach your goal.  It's quite easy to lose sight of that in the midst of the problem.

And of course I felt entitled to a reward afterward, so our evening plans of no drinking and healthy eating quickly turned into cocktails with steamed potstickers for an appetizer, sautéed wild caught shrimp served on a bed of Farro with caramelized shallots and mushrooms, a side of asparagus and a nice bottle of wine.  It's important to celebrate the wins, isn't it?

Suddenly I find myself looking forward to some technical issues today 😄

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Free $10,000 Cat

Ever since our first stray wandered into our lives and picked us to live with we've been smitten with cats, and in particular, black cats. 

Carver, King of the Manor  1993-2012
When Carver appeared on our doorstep back in Atlanta in 1993 it was the beginning of a twenty year love affair.  Handsome, distinguished and wearing a tuxedo 24/7; and with a yowl that harkened back to what we guessed were Siamese grandparents.  For years whenever we got on the phone he would howl for such long spells that people often thought we had a real baby in the house that was in serious distress.  We lost a lot of friends over time who wrote us off due to our insensitivity and lack of priorities - wondering why we never hung up the phone to tend to that dying child.  

One thing we quickly learned about free cats is that there is nothing free about them starting the following day that they move into your home.  Soon after Carver had selected us as his lifetime place of residence he came down with a urinary tract infection.  The cost of going to the vet at that time was negligible compared to the lifetime prescription of cat food we have had to special order for all of these years.  If one cat eats it, they all eat it.  We are still using that cat food almost 25 years and $10,000 later and regret not having bought stock in that particular company. 

Did I mention that along the way we acquired a few more strays?  We have never had a ‘catless gap’ of time since 1993 where we might have been able to start anew with another type of food.

In addition to the prescription food there have been dental cleanings, annual shots, countless toys that they hated, scratching posts that they turned their noses up at, and a host of cat nannies that we had to 1099 back when we traveled a lot overseas.   Yet all of that pales in comparison to the thyroidectomy and subsequent blood work that Carver ended up having in his middle-aged years.

The good news is that it’s all relative, right?  Cat number three, Fiona, has coincidentally ended up with thyroid disease also.  Because of her petiteness, surgery was not recommended, so after arranging for special financing at an exorbitant interest rate if we are five minutes late with just one of the payments, Fiona was all set for the radioisotope injection, to be administered by a group called Radiocat.

We hated lying to her, but if she knew what was about to happen we would never get her out from under the sofa.   So we told her she’s off to Radiocat Summer Camp.  She thinks it's a ‘Fun with Broadcasting’ summer program, but 1) it's not summer anymore and 2) it has nothing to do with broadcasting.  We’re hoping she doesn’t catch on to that little deception. 

Leading up to this procedure required numerous phone calls with Radiocat’s main office in Baltimore. Then blood work, a urinalysis, chest x-rays, and an ultrasound to get her ready.  Now you know why we had to lie about where she was going.  Prior to her procedure a ‘packing list’ of what to take to ‘camp’ was emailed to us.  She needed her food, plus treats, one or two of our dirty shirts that she could sleep on, and her favourite skunk toy.  And none of these would be returned to us because they would be radioactive after this procedure. 

After three days in isolation we got to pick her up and bring her home. The vet tech promised she would not glow in the dark, but she was in fact still radioactive and would be for two weeks as the isotope continued its retreat in daily half- life increments.  Actually I just made that part up in order to sound smart.

And of course we had to buy special flushable litter so that the radioactive waste didn’t go into the landfill.  Not surprisingly, this litter was $25 a bag compared to the normal $8 bucks we usually spend.

Did I mention that at one time she was free also? 

Steve and I often find ourselves pondering the evolution of our lives over these past 25 years and ask ourselves should we pursue our dream of moving abroad and painting and writing, or should we stick around Naples and continue rescuing cats?  Or should we go overseas and rescue cats, and paint and write?   The answer to this question changes on a daily basis, but one thing we know, there will always be cats.

Mascara at 80 MPH...

Several weeks ago Steve and I were up in the Tampa area, running late for an appointment, per usual.

We've never been extremely punctual people, but living in Florida for twenty years has destroyed any ability for us to arrive at a socially appropriate time.  I blame it on the Latin influence down here.  If we arrive an hour late at some party no one even notices, because they're not there yet either!  Sometimes the hostess is still in the shower getting ready.  These are now my people, and I am grateful everyday.

But, back to running late for our appointment.  We do our best to be timely for business meetings, but it can come at a personal cost to me because I often have to finish getting ready in the car.

As we flew up the interstate at eighty-plus miles per hour I had to find my personal rhythm while putting on mascara while Steve darted in and out of traffic, around cars that were obviously not aware of our agenda.  As I swayed back and forth, waiting for a few stable seconds to swipe one set of eyelashes, and then the other, it reminded me of being on a cruise ship in choppy seas.  Feet slightly apart, keep the upper torso loose, and do what you can to stabilize yourself so you don't fall face first into the breakfast buffet.

Within a minute or so I had found my groove and manged to get mascara onto upper and lower lashes, with only a little bit getting smeared onto one contact lens.  I thought to myself, "you know, this was almost more successful than my daily routine in the bathroom every morning!"

We exited off the interstate and I looked at myself in a little handheld mirror (we have a Jeep Wrangler...there are no makeup mirrors installed in this vehicle).  Success!  In fact, I had done such a great job putting on all of my make-up in the car that morning I turned to Steve and said, "Look at me!  I look great!  Don't you think this is the best I have looked in a long time?"

Steve swiveled his head to look at me and said, "I'm not really sure how to answer that question safely."

I gasped, because in that moment two people on bicycles pulled out in front of us to cross the road.  Steve swerved quickly to avoid running over them.

After catching our breath and regaining our composure Steve looked at me and said, "I cannot believe I almost hit those two people.  Can you imagine living with the consequences of that?"
He fell silent for another moment and I could tell he was still quite rattled.  Then he looked at me and said, "On the flip side, the consequences of answering your make-up question incorrectly is quite possibly something I would never survive.  So yes dear, you look amazing!"

 I really love him.  He is so darn cute, and knows me so well.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Creative Avoidance...

 I don't really ever have writer's block.

What I have is "writing" block, which means making the time to sit down and put it all together.  I have pages and pages of notes and anecdotes on my iPad, waiting to be set free into the ether, to be read by whomever sees the blog and pauses long enough to think "ya know, I really ought to take a few minutes to read about those cats again, and that husband who naps a lot and otherwise causes problems when he's awake".

So, I have created, and signed up for, my own self-imposed thirty day content challenge and will be writing and posting daily until April 15th.  My first goal is to learn how to avoid run-on sentences.

I will write about the cats (no surprise there), Steve, and maybe stick a toe in some political water. I plan to make you cry and hope to make you laugh.  Maybe I'll wax philosophical about something or other, and I'm guessing those moments will revolve around aging and how sometimes the alternative of being dead sounds like the better choice.

I will take you with me when I travel and exhibit at art shows and together we can "talk" about the crazy people that stop in our booth and the myriad of pets in strollers, dressed up in hats and aviator sunglasses, birds on people's shoulders, Sugar Gliders in our neighbouring artist's tent (her 'kids'), the python draped around someone's neck like a mink stole, the one person walking seven Maltese dogs at the same time causing the sea of humanity to part so the dogs can get through.  And on and on.  Just like that run-on sentence.

Creative avoidance? I ask myself why, when the setting is so nice.  I'm sitting in the kitchen, almost right next to the litter box (which is occupied I might add), my view is of the washer and dryer, and another cat is on the table next to me drinking out of the Buddha fountain which I had turned on to help create this inspiring ambiance.

Stick with me.  It can't get worse!