Thursday, May 28, 2009

44 Blessings

I am 44 today. I can’t believe it. Really. I still haven’t figured out what happened to my twenties and thirties, and already I’m almost half way through my 40s. I’m not complaining, though. I’m in good health and rich with more blessings than I can count, which became abundantly clear over the last few days after my uncle died, when my family came together to mourn his sudden passing and celebrate his life. Here are 44 things for which I am thankful—some silly, some serious—that come to mind.

1. My family, both immediate and extended (that includes you, Nanny Frannie!)
2. My friends—old and new, near and far
3. My place
4. My pool
5. My car
6. My job (the fact that I have a job, anyway)
7. Summers off
8. My balloon check (coming June 5!)
9. My trip to Europe
10. Pictures from my trip to Europe
11. Coffee in the morning
12. A glass of wine at night
13. Light hair that helps me get away without shaving my legs as often as I should
14. Margaritas
15. Other, vodka-based, "adult beverages"
16. Silver jewelry
17. My nails
18. Books
19. School Supplies
20. Journals
21. Flowers
22. The smell of lilacs and Lily of the Valley
23. Simmons College
24. Okay, maybe just Vodka
25. My patent leather Pliners
26. Pork Products
27. Being called Asia (pronounced Asha), my Polish nickname, by my nieces and nephews
28. Cooking
29. A good laugh
30. A good cry
31. Soft Sheets
32. A Comfy Bed
33. Sunbathing
34. Hair clips in the summer
35. My laptop
36. My cell phone
37. My shredder
38. Cable TV--especially the Food Network and msnbc
39. My dishwasher
40. My mandolin (the kitchen kind)
41. My brass cafe sculpture, once Mrs. Sterner's
42. Being raised by a village
43. All the birthday wishes I got today
and... last but not least...
44. Arugula

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunbathing Season

Next weekend my pool opens, beginning the season of sunbathing, an activity I take quite seriously, and at which I am--quite frankly--well practiced. In fact, although I am not paid to do it, I would consider myself a professional sunbather, possessing the commitment, the skill and all the necessary equipment.

Daily sunbathing requires multiple swimsuits, matching cover-ups and towels (also matching), and chair (preferably with wooden arms and a recessed cup holder in one arm)--not too low, nor too high, and with multiple reclining positions. If possible, clashing patterns should be avoided and the canvas of the chair should be in the same color family as the suits, cover ups, towels, and matching bag.

In the matching nylon bag one would find:

  • a matching Nalgene beverage bottle for ice water
  • a spray bottle (for the first days of the season when the pool is still too cold for a dip)
  • multiple suntan lotions, SPF 15 (minimum!) and higher
  • a make up bag containing:
  • a comb
  • a brush
  • an elastic hair tie
  • a hair clip
  • a small mirror for checking raccoon eyes
  • make-up wipes for eliminating raccoon eyes
  • deodorant
    • a book
    • a journal
    • a pen that will not be affected by heat
    • a crossword puzzle book
    • a Sudoku book
    • a magazine
    Aside from owning the necessary accoutrement, I am familiar with the pool code of ethics, the most important tenet being do not ever, under any circumstances, interfere with another person's sunbathing. (Hence the deodorant.) And so, even though I shift my chair angle as the sun moves through the sky, I would never infringe upon the space of, or cast a shadow upon, a fellow pool-goer.

    At this point you may be thinking Freak! and have an image of the old woman in Something About Mary, or--worse--republican minority leader John Boehner. I do get a nice tan, over time, but I don't turn orange like the aforementioned or the dozen girls in my school who are currently paying to fake-and-bake for the prom. Ever. And while I admit that a nice tan is an important outcome for me (somehow my exposed ankles and arms seem much less offensive when they are tan than when they are pasty, winter white), it's not what sunbathing season is all about.

    When I sit by the pool, or at the beach with said accoutrement, I can relax. For hours. No emails, no phone calls, no TV. No papers to correct, no bills to pay, no laundry to sort or fold, no projects to complete. I breathe deeper and think more about things that really matter.

    Being a pool fashionista is not one of them.

    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Shoes as Toys

    I remember when my sisters and I were kids, we could entertain ourselves with my father’s shoes. Seriously. My Baby Alive sat somewhere neglected while we would take turns putting on my father's shoes and walking around the house. While one of us would stomp around, the other two would laugh ourselves to tears—as if this were the cleverest thing we could ever have thought of, as if it were the first time we were engaging in these antics.

    I thought of our shoe game last night on my way home from my parents’. My sister Liz took the hour drive north with my niece and nephew to visit and so we had an impromptu get together with my other sister, Mary, and her kids as well. After dinner, Liz took the opportunity to shop without kids while Mary went to the gym and I sat outside with my nieces and nephews who all played together and well, although their ages range from 16 to 12 to 10 and almost 4.

    As I sat on the back kitchen steps and Jonathan, Amanda and Meredith (in chronological order) played Frisbee, my youngest nephew, Charlie, made a game of taking off my flip flops and running away with them. “Where are you going with my flip flops?!” I would play-yell and go chasing him across the lawn until he would drop them and keep running, out of breath from laughing and sprinting. At least a dozen times I let him take off my shoes as if I didn’t know he was doing it; every time he laughed from the tips of toes, as if it were the funniest game on Earth.

    The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I suppose.

    Sunday, May 10, 2009

    Lilacs and Mother's Day

    Today is Mother's Day, and lilacs are in season, so I got to bring some home with me from my mother's bushes, in one of her Mason jars, after a very nice dinner there. I'd call them my door prize, but I fear that might give the wrong impression.

    Both of my sisters are mothers themselves, and I am not, so I was the daughter designee this year, as I have been in the past. My mother's old country frugality and sensibility always puts the kibosh on any requests to take her and my father out, and invariably my mother orchestrates and cooks her own dinner. In fact, it was somewhat of a triumph that I got her to agree to my bringing shrimp cocktail for an appetizer and ice cream for dessert. My father grilled the steaks she marinated, which we enjoyed with boiled new potatoes and tossed salad. After dinner we sat around and chatted for a bit before having dessert, then we chatted some more.

    I left with a full belly, a full heart, and a renewed appreciation for two living and healthy parents. Oh, and a bunch of beautiful lilacs.

    Saturday, May 2, 2009

    For the Love of Books

    Every summer, at least once per summer, I devote an entire day to reading. I choose a book of reasonable length and watch the forecast for a sunny day and plan accordingly to read an entire book. At the end of such a day the book lover in me gets to add another title to my list of “Books Read Summer 200X” and my inner sunbather (as my sister Liz would say) is happy to have advanced another shade in the tan spectrum. For me, life doesn’t get much better than that—especially if adult beverages join the pool party midday.

    Similarly, in the winter I might choose to spend an entire snow day with soup on the stove and a book in hand. We didn’t get many snow days this past winter, however, so I began my February vacation with a reading day. I don’t remember how the soup came out, but I remember that I devoured Lost and Found, by Carolyn Parkhurst and it was just delicious.

    As the photos in my last post indicate, I spent April vacation in San Diego and had a wonderful time. (I promise, Jill, I will write about it…) In between mimosas and fish tacos and an afternoon in La Jolla and margaritas and belly laughs and a day in Manhattan Beach to visit with family I didn’t read a single word, because I’m sure browsing through the SkyMall catalog doesn’t count. Today, although not rainy as predicted, I intend to make up for it.

    But honestly, if all I had done over vacation was read, I would still make today a reading day because Elinor Lipman’s new book was released yesterday. Oh, Happy Day! As I was leaving school I got an email reminder that The Family Man was available in bookstores so I drove directly from school to Barnes and Noble to pick up my copy. As I have mentioned in previous posts, she is my favorite author and was my writing teacher at “Writer’s Camp,” so even if it hadn't gotten a great review in Publisher’s Weekly, I would have purchased it on day one and planned to read it in a single sitting. And so I am off, for the tenth time in my adult life, to be delighted by her wit and fall in love with her cast of characters.

    Only this time, after finishing and sighing a contented sigh when I put the book on my Ellie shelf, I hope to walk directly to my keyboard.
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