Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Real (estate) Diet

Atkins. South Beach. The Abs Diet. They all did what they were supposed to--until I got bored, anyway. Not that I need to lose that much, but, really, is there a woman on the planet who is actually happy with her weight?

Now I'm trying the Real (estate) Diet, whether I like it or not. Want to give it a try? To get started, all you have to do is put your house on the market. Preferably right about the time the inventory goes through the roof--if you'll pardon the pun. Make sure you have an offer in on another house on the same day, just to keep life interesting.

In Stage One of the Real (estate) Diet, you could lose quite a bit. Mostly because you're too busy cleaning the museum that has become your home. When you start to feel hunger pangs and go to open the cabinets, you'll notice the fingerprints/spots/smears/drops, etc. And the ring of the phone will put you in overdrive, nicely ramping up your metabolism so that you can get everything in order and the kids and dog out of the house in the time you have before yet another agent arrives. All because you said "Sure, half an hour will be perfect."

Once the calls drop off, you'll start moving into Stage Two. You'll begin to feel like a teenager again--sadly not in the euphoric, I-am-invincible way. More like in the hang-around-the-house- waiting-for-the-phone-to-ring way. I have all agent calls sent to my cell phone, but still need to be close enough to the house to go home and get Argus out before the agent shows up. For some strange reason, a 150-pound Great Dane bounding at the front door tends to scare people off. But when the phone doesn't ring and the silence becomes deafening, you might find yourself reaching for snacks instead of the dust rag. So expect a little weight gain.

Stage Three begins when you drop the price and relist the house. Basically, you move back into Stage One, with the added incentive of knowing that you're moving closer to the closing date on a second house. And let's face it: Unless it's in the French Alps, I don't really need another house right now. (Ok, that's a want, not a need.)

So here I am in the midst of Stage Three, not sure I'm liking this diet any better than most of the others. (I'm excluding The Abs Diet here because the smoothie recipes alone are worth the price of the books.) But for for me there is a silver lining in all of this: If I get so exhausted from keeping the house spotless for three weeks, I can't really be obsessive compulsive, can I?

Now if you'll excuse me, there's a fingerprint on the back of the TV that's driving me nuts.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Beautiful Thing

Sometimes a beautiful thing happens when you least expect it: your child's first smile or laugh; the hummingbird that mistook you for a flower; the moment you looked into a friend's eyes and saw your soul mate. And sometimes this beautiful, wonderful thing comes from the last place you would expect it. That happened today, when George W. Bush set aside almost 140,000 square miles of ocean around the northern Hawaiian islands as a national monument.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has been at the forefront of the drive to protect this amazing bit of ocean, which (courtesy the Washington Post):
"include[s] almost 70 percent of the nation's tropical, shallow-water coral reefs, a rookery for 14 million seabirds, and the last refuge for the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and the threatened green sea turtle. The area also has an abundance of large predatory fish at a time when 90 percent of such species have disappeared from the world's oceans."
Bush hasn't exactly been the darling of environmentalists during his time in office, and some sceptics are already saying that this was an easy way for him to rack up brownie points and an environmental legacy. After all, the islands are uninhabited and the commercial fishing concerns were small scale. But just this once, lets give the man the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes people do something because it is the right thing to do rather than for political gain.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

In Response to a Reader

I received a comment tonight on one of my older posts (yes, I do read them) that made me wonder if I've been clear about several things in the past. First, I'd like to thank Paul for his comments, both the nice and the not-so-nice. The feedback always makes me look for ways to improve my writing and to re-examine some of what I've written before. And anything that makes you think can't be all bad, even when you're "pegged as just another air-head follower of the Democrat line."

For those who don't know it, I am an independent voter--I just tend to lean more to the left. Before every election, I do my homework to find out what a candidate stands for, what they really believe in, before making up my mind about who gets my vote. I would love to see politicians remember why they went into public service in the first place, instead of spending all of their time trying to get reelected. I would also like to see the proverbial pigs fly. But like them or not (politicians, not pigs), it is my duty to vote for the person I think will do the best job. I believe that it is also my duty to ask questions when I think something is amiss. The few political musings in this space and the occasional letter to the editor are my way of doing that.

Most of my family consider themselves Republicans--always have been, always will be. Even my older sister who once thought herself a liberal now refuses to vote for ANY Democrat. Why? Because Bill Clinton had oral sex in the Oval Office and lied about it. She can't understand how I could still like him. I will never understand how she could think that oral sex is morally more reprehensible than distorting facts and/or outright lying to get us into a war that cost thousands of lives, not to mention the billions of dollars.

Anyway, Paul, for what it's worth, I do try to keep an open mind, and I make an effort to 'fess up when I've said something really stupid or just been flat out wrong. And I make every effort to use multiple resources before forming my opinions, which at the end of the day are just that--my opinions.

One More Reason I Love Hockey

With all of the crap you hear these days about which [insert name of sport] player is, has been or may be doping, it was really refreshing to see this headline in today's Washington Post: "1,406 Drug Tests, Zero Violations by NHL Players"

Sure there are some thugs on the ice and, on any given night, you stand a pretty good chance of seeing a fight. Thomas and I once watched as the maintenance guys shoveled the blood off the ice (sounds worse than it was--just turned slushy pretty fast). But most hockey players actually seem to play for the love of the game. Just watch the face of the guy who just scored--whether it's his first NHL goal or 50th. Pure joy--like the face of a little kid who woke up to find that he'd been given the toy store.

And off the ice, how many hockey players--even the stars--would most people be able to recognize? They are, by and large, team players. They're not out there show boating on the ice and promoting themselves off (TO? Anyone? Anyone?). They know how to pass to an open team mate (Kobe?). They seem to be more focused on getting the win than on improving their own numbers (Ok, don't look at Jagr). Most of them stay out of trouble. I'd go on and on, but really, I think I'm beginning to bore myself.

So I'll just say that I hope Carolina doesn't win the next game. I'm not ready for hockey season to be over.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sell, Sell, Sell!

I've mentioned before that we are selling our house in San Jose. So far, lots of traffic, lots of interest, no offers. Except of the advice variety, as in "If only you had put it on the market two months ago!" Yes, yes, thanks. We get it. Smile, nod, don't hit. Repeat as necessary.

But at 5:30 today I got a call from our agent saying that the agent of a very interested couple wanted to come by for a quick walk through.

In the week since we've been back from vacation, I've managed to get the whole make-the-house-perfect-and get-out-in-20-minutes thing down to a science. Every morning, the beds are made immediately. The coffee maker, toaster and blender are returned to the garage as soon as we're done with them. Charlotte's high chair is wiped down and stashed in the garage after every meal. The floors are spot cleaned, except on open house days when I get out the bucket and rags and wash every inch of non-carpeted floor. Argus eats outside and any resulting mess is promptly removed. The mail gets stacked neatly in the microwave--yes, the microwave. Really, my inner obsessive compulsive is in heaven, but it's very hard on the girls, especially Hannah.

I had a really good feeling about this past weekend, that someone was going to make an offer, so I slacked off a bit on the cleaning. But after a very long morning of deafening silence, I decided, "What the hell. I'm going to make a lasagna." This is no small thing when you're trying to sell a house. People want aromatherapy: vanilla or cinnamon or freshly baked cookies. Not the onions and garlic lightly sauteed in olive oil with a bit of salt and cumin that form the beginning of my secret lasagna sauce. Secret because it's never the same twice; even I don't know what went into it last time. But again, I digress.

I had just assembled the lasagna when Kelly called with the info about the agent who wanted to come by. I apologized in advance for the lasagna smell and then went immediately into staging mode. Wipe down all counters. Sweep floor. Tidy playroom. Don't mention plans to Hannah because she will do her best to thwart said plans. Run upstairs and down, turning on all the lights, opening all the windows (really, I feel like Wee Willy Winkey here). Come to a screeching halt outside the upstairs bathroom when I step in, and then notice, a small puddle on the floor. And droplets leading away from the puddle to a small person hiding behind the door with her hands over her ears.

"Hannah! Did you pee on the floor??"

"No! But my big-girl panties are wet."

"Did you pee in your panties?"

I am rewarded with a sniffle and a nod.

The clock is tick, tick, ticking.

Fifteen minutes until the agent shows up and I am on my knees dabbing frantically at the little drops that form a trail from the bathroom through the hall and into the bedroom.

She's been so good lately with the potty-training. One accident in over a month. Why Now?? No time to wonder--just get it clean and get out.

We made it. Just as I was getting ready to put the girls into the stroller, the agent--John--showed up. We took Argus and walked around the block while he checked out the house. When he was done, he drove by, stopping to let us know that he was done, that the lasagna smelled wonderful, and that he would call Kelly later. He asked about the roof and the solar panels (for the water heater) but said nothing about the little accident upstairs. He also was kind enough to refrain from mentioning the one thing I didn't notice: the huge . . . present that Argus left on the back lawn.

I can't wait to have this over. We're all going a little batty.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Roadblock

I've hit a roadblock. I keep telling myself that I haven't posted to my blog for awhile because I've been busy with the move and vacation, etc., etc., etc. But tonight I realized that it was because a friend challenged me--asked, really, but it feels like a challenge if you don't want to do it--if I had ever written about when my brothers died. Two of them on the same day. A third lived, but his fiancee died a couple of days later. I haven't written about it, mostly because I don't think I've ever known how to even deal with it. But I tried, and had to stop when I couldn't see the keyboard anymore. Apparently, my typing skills are not what they should be.

I'm going to go ahead and post what I've written--it's not done. Maybe it never will be.

One of the most amazing things about having children is finding in them bits of yourself and other members of your family. For instance, you could easily mistake Hannah's baby pictures for Thomas's. And they look exactly alike from the knees down, especially in the summer when they both live in flip flops. Charlotte is showing signs of having inherited the same calves and feet. Both of the girls have their grandmother's little toe with the nail that sort of curves up and around, making it hard to polish, not to mention trim.

And every time Hannah laughs, I see that she has the same pointy little fang teeth that my brothers Michael and Steven have. I had to stop here for a bit because I'm never sure whether to use "have" or "had" because the last time I saw Steven he was neatly zipped into a black bag on the cold steel table of a Denver morgue. Michael was across town in a coma with a smashed face and an arm so badly broken that the first two doctors wanted to amputate. By the time the rest of the family and I reached Colorado, my oldest brother, Bill, had already been shipped back to Virginia to the funeral home. We didn't see him again until he was wearing a mortician's mask and bad suit. Charlotte has his eyelashes, a long, dark fan she alternately hides behind and flirts with. The one other person on the plane, Michael's fiancee Sherry, managed to hang on for another day or two.

There are some moments from that time that I will never forget and some that are buried so deeply under the grief that I don't think they'll ever come out. I still don't remember that my best friend, a true California blonde, dyed her hair dark brown. But in eight years I haven't been able to shake the vision of watching myself frantically pounding on Steven's chest, screaming at him to "Wake up! Wake up! What about Owen? Dammit, wake up!" But though his eyelids opened a bit to show those beautiful, pale green eyes, his expression never changed and his chest never rose again.

A few of the long curls had escaped from the bag, coiling around his face. I reached to wind them around my finger as I had done when he was a little boy sitting in my lap in the park. I remember recoiling from the touch because while I had been expecting the silky soft curls that he once hated, I felt instead the crisp of dried blood. I suppose that because he was to be cremated, they hadn't bothered doing the full body wash.

I've never known whether or not I really believe in g/God, but there were two instances during this time that made it impossible for me to rule it out completely. The first:

Sherry was a self-taught artist and Navajo. Her funeral, in the Rocky Mountain National Park near Bolder, Colorado, was officiated by a Navajo medicine man from the university. I can still remember how calm the day was, and the deep green scent of pines against endlessly clear blue skies. We stood in a circle, holding hands as prayers were offered. Then everyone was invited to take a handful of her ashes and scatter them to the four winds. As I stood there, not sure I belonged, I gradually felt a peace that I hadn't had in days--maybe even years--and then I began to notice that every time the medicine man said the names "Sherry" and "God" the wind rose around us before settling back into nothing.

The second:

Owen was two and a half years old when his father died. For days he kept asking for his Daddy. When was he coming home? Where was he? Karolyn didn't know what to tell him. She had tried "Daddy had to go away" and anything else that seemed like it might placate him. How do you explain death to a two year old?

Steven's ashes were scattered in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, in a place he and Karolyn used to go when they were dating. On the hike up, Owen kept asking when Daddy was coming and talking about what they would do when he got there. But a funny thing happened on the way down the mountain. Owen pulled away from his mother and ran toward a clump of bushes. He stood there alone for a bit as if looking for (at?) something and then turned away. Before he continued down the mountain though, he turned back, waved to the bushes and said "Bye, Daddy. I love you." He never asked for him again.

Whether it was g/God or nature, someone found a way to explain death to a two year old and to make it just a bit easier for the rest of us. If only he/she/it could do the same for Michael.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Speechless in California

I finally did it. After almost 10 years together, I managed to render Thomas completely speechless. As in stuttering in shock and awe. A perfectly prepared meal, all parts ready and at the proper temperature at the same time? The house stocked with a year's worth of Newcastle or Guinness? A brand new boob job? No, no and he wouldn't be interested.

So what could possibly render my usually unflappable mate silent? Two little words. "That's it." Doesn't seem like much, but in response to the question "Where are the rest of the bags?" when getting ready to leave for a two week holiday . . . Ah, priceless. One bag for me and the girls and one for him. Both would fit in the overhead compartment if we were crazy enough to try to lug them in addition to the girls, the stroller, the diaper bag and Hannah's backpack.

If only I'd known, I would have started rolling the clothes into tiny little logs ages ago. Good thing it was a summer holiday. But with any luck, the shock will carry over for a few more trips.