Monday, February 27, 2012

Right Under Our Noses

 Southern California seems to think it's summertime right now. We've had temps in the high
70°s—even up to 83° last Thursday. Everything in the yard is budding and blooming like crazy.

I felt like the Universe was throwing us a big old life lesson this weekend after I missed our bi-monthly produce pick-up because I was at a taping of The Bachelor. Mr. Wonderful and I belong to a Community-Supported Agriculture program in Silverlake CA, so every other week, we get to fill two grocery bags with a variety of gorgeous, locally-grown fruits and veggies. It's an awesome program and makes us feel like we're doing right by the people who farm in the area. 

 Mr. W bought this nifty heated seed sprouter to help us get a head start on our spring/summer
garden. I'm hoping we get loaded with homegrown goodies. And that we're in the country so
we can enjoy them...

When Friday's taping ran so late that I missed the pick-up window, we weren't only out $24, we were lacking a fridge full of produce to sustain us for the next couple of weeks. Huge bummer. Or so I thought until I walked into our backyard Saturday. As I looked around, I realized that I could find what I needed right under my nose.

 The carrots got a little stunted but what they lack in size, they make up for in quantity!
We roasted some last night and they were delicious.

I made multiple trips from the yard to the kitchen,  ending up with carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, broccoli leaves (which can be cooked like kale), spinach, tomatoes, and even a few spindly lettuce leaves.

 We left the cauliflower on the plant a little too long so it was flowering, but we roasted and ate it
anyway and it was just as good as it would have been in a tight white bunch.

 We'll pick this little guy before he goes to flower. Hopefully he'll get bigger between now and then!

 My sweet precious tomato plant has not let us down once since it sprouted. Every week—
even when the weather hasn't been great—he has delivered. I'm totally buying him an engagement ring.

 I was shocked when Mr. W told me we were already getting little grape babies.
Hopefully we'll be able to eat some this year. Last year they got a bad case of mold.
Good thing we weren't planning to make wine with 'em!

 We picked all the spinach to make room for new plants next weekend.
I think the earwigs will be very sad to see their salad bar go.

 Although its numbers have dwindled from the first planting, Mr. W's dream lemon orchard—grown
from contraband lemon seeds he smuggled back here after our honeymoon—continues to flourish.

 I hacked off and relocated this big mama agave after it gave birth to SEVEN offshoot babies. Mr. W
has had this plant since he moved to LA 17 years ago. To the best of my knowledge, it's his only
teenage child.

 We barely had enough pots for all the babies. I wonder if eventually, we'll try to harvest
some agave syrup to use in place of sugar.

 The bees are loving the early spring flower outbreak. I'm loving how good the local citrus trees and
jasmine plants smell. It almost makes up for the severed heads around town.

It's funny how sometimes everything you want is right under your nose. Or right outside your back door. You think you're lacking and then you look around and suddenly see you have everything you need, exactly where you are. 

I was already feeling grateful for this realization when the Universe hit us with another unexpected bounty. Saturday afternoon, an organization in the area was picking fruit from Hollywood Hills citrus trees to supply local food banks, and after they took oranges from our house, they came back with this lovely thank you basket filled with an assortment of treats from the neighborhood.  

Somehow I think that $24 we were out on Friday came back to us in our lucky abundance of backyard and neighborhood crops!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Post-Bachelor Support Group May Finally Get Its Start

Despite more than one vow to never again watch the show, every season I find myself re-addicted to TV's matchmaking train wreck, The Bachelor. It is ridiculous reality slop but also one of my favorite guilty pleasures. So, last week, when a friend contacted me with an opportunity to see a taping of "The Women Tell All" episode, I nearly piddled in my full-coverage panties.

See, in addition to loving the show, I also have a fantasy about starting a support group for the poor, dejected women who don't get picked to be the bachelor's bride. These are beautiful (sometimes a little crazy), white-toothed, bikini wearing babes and yet, every week, they drown in tears, sobbing and cursing about how they can't figure out what's wrong with them and how they just wanted Ben to fall in love with them and why didn't he know they were soulmates?!

Oh dear sweeties... There are about 2.99 billion other men in the world to date. Some schmuck not choosing you on season sixteen does not mean you're going to be alone for all eternity.

If you know me at all, you know that I love to cheerlead for people when they're going through rough patches. I also adore doling out advice and tough love. Heck, I'm even planning to go through Martha Beck's coach-training program later this year.

So the idea of being in a studio with all the reject bachelorettes thrills me to no end. I wonder if I'll get kicked out for offering to be their wingwoman or teach them about manifesting. Maybe I'll just make a sign that says, "Your husband is out there. Quit all that crying."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In the Depths

Wonderful on the surface
is a perfect
place to start.
the boundaries
of kindness
to find
just how much
you can impart.

You learn how deep
love runs, though,
when grief
comes through
your door.
You trace its chains
to an immobile
anchor that's
cleaved itself into
your core.

And suddenly
your arms
long for the strength
to squeeze
away his pain.
You hold him tighter—
a futile attempt—
to silence
hurt's refrain.

Unsure if the tears
that dampen your cheek
came from his
tired eyes
or your own,
you realize that
this parallel ache
is something stronger
than you've
ever known.

And there in the dark,
in humbled awe,
you welcome
the caregiving chore.
You surrender
to the burn of certainty
you’ve never felt
love so boundless

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Post for Yiayia

Seven years ago this spring, I was helping decorate for a surprise party for my sister-in-law when I got the call that my beloved Grandma Hetherington had passed away. Although she had been in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism, she was recuperating in a nursing home and expected to make a full recovery. It came as a shock to the whole family when she threw another clot and didn't make it.

Grandma H. was always a kick in the pants, so it seemed like the right thing to carry on with the party that night and be together as a family, not just celebrating the birthday of my sister-in-law, but also the life of a quick-witted lady we all adored.

I remember, after the initial wave of sadness washed over, feeling immense gratitude that night. I wonder now if it was just some sort of coping mechanism kicking into gear. But I felt overwhelmed and eternally grateful for having had time with her (I was in between jobs then) before she was gone. I was so lucky to take in those last stories and cheeky puns.

When my dear Grandma P. died two years later, there was a slow decline leading up to it, so my thankfulness felt more spread out over a number of months. I hung on to every conversation in the nursing home. Even if they were disjointed, they were gems. I wore her jewelry more often. I made sure my schedule had me stopping by to see her a couple times a week. By the time she stopped being able to talk to all of us, I was ready for her suffering to end and I had prepared to let her go.

It was hard to lose these women who had helped raise me and had been my single gal pals at so many holidays after my grandfathers passed away.

But then in late 2008, I met a new grandma. Mr. Wonderful's sweet, Greek Yiayia.

We visited her on our first trip to St. Louis together and I was in love immediately. She hugged me and kissed me a million times, telling me how happy she was that I was dating her grandson. In what I assume is traditional Greek grandma fashion, she asked us at least a dozen times if we were hungry, each time rattling off a different snack she had to offer. She took us into her bedroom and yanked open drawers, revealing stacks of hand-crocheted doilies and other knit items. She insisted that I take with me an apron she had sewn, and sent Mr. W with a bedspread-sized handmade afghan. Being in her presence filled a little space inside me that had been empty for a year and a half.

On a subsequent visit, I got to try a lemon-orzo soup she makes that is now one of my favorites. Actually, a lot of her cooking skills were passed straight to Mr. W, so there are probably a lot of favorites I have that can be attributed back to her.

In September of 2010, Mr. W and I visited St. Louis again and Yiayia taught him how to make baklava so that we could hand it out as the favors at our wedding. Yia wasn't feeling well enough to travel for the ceremony, so it meant a lot to at least have her recipe there with us.

That's our wedding venue above, and if you look on the napkins you can see all the packages of baklava Mr. W made, thanks to the tutelage of his grandma.

Because she couldn't make the trip out, we had Mr. W's dad Skype the ceremony to her and other St. Louis relatives over his iPhone. We hoped it was almost like being there.

When we visited Yiayia again this past October, she was tired but so glad to see us and look through the book of wedding pictures we had for her. She was full of hugs and kisses, as usual, and I think she referred to Mr. W by her favorite pet name, "my best boy."

Last weekend we got word that Yiayia had taken a turn for the worst, and we found out this morning that she passed away.

My heart is broken for Mr. W and the entire family. They have lost an irreplaceable matriarch. But on the edge of that sadness is the same feeling of gratitude I had when my grandmas passed. I am so lucky to have met such a precious soul. I will be forever grateful for the chance to know Yiayia.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gilded Shower-Cleaning Acknowledgment Glory

About a month ago, I spent the good part of one of my unemployed mornings cleaning Mr. Wonderful's bathroom. No, we do not have a cleaning lady and yes, I am that kind of awesome wife. As much as I wanted to turn my cheek to it, I couldn't help but notice how much soap scum had accumulated in his shower. And given that I had no other work to attend to that day, I decided to go to work on the tile muck.

It took me an eternity and many different scrubbing tools and cleaning concoctions. When all was said and done, I was wet with sweat and funky rinse water.

So I did the natural thing that anyone would do after completing a task like that. I posted about it on Facebook. (Anonymous from this post is calling me a stupid American right now).

I wrote that I thought women who cleaned their husband's showers should be awarded a medal or trophy of some sort.

The remark received lots of comments, the funniest of which came from my brother. If you like gross humor, you'll love this one. If you don't like gross humor, I apologize for his crass creativity. He's a clever one, that brother of mine...

I had forgotten about the Facebook exchange (and my sore shower-cleaning shoulder) until this past weekend when a mysterious package arrived in my mail. The return address was Washington DC and at first I thought maybe someone in the White House had sent me a collection of secret files to hide from the terrorists.

When I opened it, however, I discovered this:

This poses a serious problem. You see, I have no idea who to deliver my acceptance speech to. So I'm asking you for help, blog readers. If you have any idea who awarded me this gorgeous golden trophy, please contact me ASAP. Thanks and happy shower-scrubbing to you all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spreading the Love

It may have been the residual effects of reading about Janice's Nurture Project back in November, or possibly the adorableness of this pillow on Etsy:

But I got it in my head that this year I was going to make some homemade Valentines and send them out to a handful of single-ish girlfriends. So last Friday morning I busted out my wicked craft skills and got to work making these:

I know how much I enjoy receiving cards and letters in the mail, and I just wanted to give that feeling to a few others.

Sadly, my Valentine-making skills were put to use again later in the weekend when I chose to participate in an "I Care" initiative that my hometown put together. On Friday afternoon, a 15-year-old boy took his own life on the campus of my niece's high school. The same school where my siblings and I went. The same school my mom graduated from in its very first senior class. My heart broke for the boy, his family, my niece, my school and my beloved town.

In an effort to do something to try to ease the pain, a card-making program was born. The cards will be delivered to the high school's students and alumni today.

I made a dozen.

Assembling both sets of cards got me thinking about how important it is to let people know you're thinking about them all year long. As commercialized as Hallmark is, I appreciate how they've encouraged us all to regularly remind one another that we care.

I hope the people who open my cards know I do.

Happy Valentine's Day, blog readers.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Is it just me, or is playing on your phone the new coping mechanism for feeling awkward or alone? It seems like every time I see a single person waiting for a table at a restaurant, waiting for their friend to show up at the coffee shop, waiting for the bus to arrive, they're looking at their phone like they're extremely busy and important and oh so glad they have a moment of solitude so they can plow through that gargantuan list of text messages. Right...

I could be projecting here, but I really think most people are just trying to alleviate the anxiety of aloneness.

And the truth is, I do the same darn thing.

Just last night, as I was waiting for a friend to meet me at a hip West Hollywood restaurant, my immediate reaction upon entering the building was to pull out my phone to keep myself company. Two other single men sitting near me were both on their phones, too. God forbid any of us should just sit there and enjoy the ambiance of the establishment.

But as I retrieved my beloved coping mechanism from my purse, I was suddenly aware that in addition to being embarrassed that I was sitting alone in a bar, I also needed to be embarrassed by the phone I was about to pretend to check. See, I suffer from upgrade aversion, and for the last 4...maybe 5 years, I've been carrying around this:

I love my little 1.3 megapixel purple flipper. I can type out texts letter-by-letter with my eyes closed. I can drop it on the floor a million times and it never breaks. It holds a small treasure trove of pictures I have no idea how to get off of it.

But when faced with the idea of having hipsters see my counter-culture mobile device in the carefully orchestrated light of a bar lounge, I was filled with iShame.

No longer did my phone feel like my security blanket. Or maybe it did feel like my security blanket except this time I was in junior high and all the kids were going to laugh at me if they saw me cuddling it.

Mr. W says I should upgrade and get myself an iPhone. He says if I don't, he's going to force me to take his current phone when he decides to get a newer version. I'm sure when that happens, I'll feel more comfortable about mobily soothing my anxiety in public.

Until then, maybe I'll try to work on honing my other coping mechanisms. Like inspecting my cuticles or balancing my checkbook.

Yup, still have a paper checkbook, too...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Marriage: Because Icky Things Are Easier to Deal With When You Have a Sidekick®

 That is a homemade bandage on my cat's foot. It took two of us to apply it
and the process wasn't much fun.

Are you guys beginning to sense a trend here with my recent posts? Needy wife continually wants husband at side to tackle challenges and provide support. Let's just continue on that path, shall we?

I can distinctly remember the first time marriage made practical sense to me. I was nineteen or twenty and happened to be filling the bird feeder in my parents' backyard, daydreaming about how I'd travel to Europe someday. As my mind wandered through Italian fountains and French cheeses, I suddenly thought— "It would be really nice to have someone to go with me on my travels. Like a partner who I could do all sorts of fun stuff with. Wait a that why people get married?"

I had never thought about it from that perspective before. I'd always just sort of pictured two people playing house, keeping the cupboards filled with food, mowing the lawn when it got too high, taking annual vacations to the lake.

But a partner in crime who would have adventures with me? Now that sounded like something I'd enjoy!

My teenage epiphany realized its potential this past May when my new husband and I went to the Amalfi Coast on our honeymoon. Husband = travel buddy? Check!

However, in the months since then, I've come to understand many, many other important purposes that marriage serves. When I lost my job in October, I had a built-in financial and emotional safety net. When I had the opportunity to juggle freelance copywriting and personal writing projects, I had a cheerleader at my side, assuring me I could do it all. And this weekend, when I discovered bloody spots on the couch where my 13-year-old cat was laying, I had someone to recruit as my medical assistant.

Icky stuff is always easier to deal with when you have someone wincing next to you.

My cat had been biting his toenails or calluses or some other disgusting such thing when he got carried away and broke the skin on one of his back paw pads. Although I wanted to doctor him up because I felt bad he was injured, I also wanted to prevent him from leaving bloody footprints all over the entire house.

So with Mr. Wonderful's help, I held the unruly blob of fat kitty goodness in my lap and we wrapped him in Neosporin, tissue and surgical tape. I wish I would have taken video of him walking around with his "sock" on, because he kept trying to flick it off like someone who had toilet paper stuck to the bottom of their shoe. 

Fatty 2x4 puts the "por k" in "poor kitty." He was SO not happy with that bandage on his foot.

I can't tell you how thankful I was to have Mr. W there to help me through the incident. It deepened my respect for single parents and unattached pet owners and of course expanded my appreciation for the groom I landed.

Thank you, Mr. Wonderful for assisting me in Operation Foot Gash and for furthering my tendency toward codependency. Montycat and I owe you big time.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Shakin' in My Bulkhead Seat

Photo found on ©Jeff Finkelstein.

After I accepted my new freelance gig a week and a half ago, the company's CEO asked me if I could fly up to San Francisco for a day of introductions, strategy talks and team-building. Although I loved the idea of meeting my new coworkers, my immediate thought was, "Yikes, I really don't want to do that."

The older I get, the more nervous I feel each time I fly. Particularly when I'm doing it alone.

About 7 years ago, I happened to be wearing a necklace of my grandmother's when I flew to New York, and ever since then, I've packed it in my bag with me like its some sort of disaster-defeating talisman. Unfortunately, my good luck charm only alleviates so much of my anxiety.

In the days leading up to my flight to Oakland last week, I was a ball of nerves. I could picture the plane going down and how sad Mr. Wonderful would be when he found out he'd been widowed. Yes, I know I should probably renew my therapy membership...

The morning of my flight, I awoke at 4:45, got myself ready, packed two necklaces that I thought could protect me from death, and kissed my husband goodbye, uncertain of whether I would ever see him again. Dramatic, much?

I went on to have a fantastic day.

That's the crazy thing about my fear of flying—once I'm actually doing it, I'm not scared anymore. I actually really enjoy having the time to read and relax. And on my flight home later that night, I purposely sat on the right side of the plane so I could take in the California sunset. Burning below me along the horizon of the Pacific Ocean was one of the most beautiful, deep orange glows I've ever seen. Inland, the city lights were twinkling white and red, reminding me of the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland. It was gorgeous. It made me thankful to have the opportunity to fly.

It's funny how often the leading-up-to part of situations is so much scarier than the reality of them. Whether you're flying or meeting new colleagues for the very first time...