Cul-de-sac Chronicles

Porch Sittin’

imageThis is the most gorgeous evening. There’s enough breeze to ring the chimes and the thermometer is hovering at a blissful 78º. Though it isn’t here yet, I can smell fall, idling just around the corner. Here, boy. Here, boy. Come to Mama.

The Meeting

Can we all get along? — Rodney King 1991

In 1984, when we moved into a new community in Maryland, we got “involved.” We were in our thirties and had a kid. That seems to be about the time when people get all in a dither about making their little corner of the world a better place. So we served on committees and went to meetings and made suggestions, etc. It was all good, pretty much. There were a few grumbles along the way. One neighbor was angry when her daughter wasn’t approached to fill one of the vacated lifeguard positions at the pool. Another got her nose out of joint when her yard wasn’t chosen for Yard of The Month because it was so much more beautiful than her neighbor’s yard, who did win. You can’t avoid those things. Cannot.

So, my friend Patsy serves on the HOA board for her condos. I’ve never understood how Patsy ended up on this board. I think she wonders, too. She is not the type, but I think her friend Marian convinced her. Marian is the president of the HOA. One of the other board members, Clair, decided she no longer wanted Marian to be president. She didn’t only want her to relinquish the presidency, she wanted her off the board altogether. She felt that Patsy and Marian voted together too often, and that their court received more attention than the other courts.

Patsy and Marian probably do see things the sam way, and probably do vote the same on a number of issues, but their court did not receive favoritism. The records proved that their court actually received fewer funds than the others, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? Ask President Obama or any president we’ve had since 1960. Perception matters. But it turned out that Clair and two residents, Mr. and Mrs. Satellite, had their own documentation – a photo.

Many of the condos have trees in the front yards. When the condos were built, Bradford Pears were all the rage, and that’s what the landscapers chose. Bradford Pears are pretty when they bloom in spring, and that’s about it. They’ve since improved upon some of their shortcomings, but twenty-five years ago, Bradford Pears were short-lived, the limbs were weak and tended to break as the tree matured, the roots buckled the sidewalks, and they were just too darned big for condo application. Over the years, most of them were replaced with the much more appropriate and less destructive crepe Myrtle. Marian decided that she did not want a crepe Myrtle and requested an ornamental cherry, also an appropriate tree, but it was not a crepe Myrtle, and would prove to be the lightening rod for the attempted coup d’état.

It turns out that Mr. Satellite, several years ago, when it was first planted, took photos of Marian’s ornamental cherry. Um hmm. Aren’t you impressed? This is a man who plans ahead. He kept that photo all this time. Truthfully, I wasn’t clear on why the photo mattered so much. I mean, the tree is still there, right in front of Marian’s condo. The board could have simply taken a field trip to look at it in person. Didn’t the jury do that in the first O.J. Simpson trial? But they would use the photo in another meeting.

Clair and the Satellites requested and received a private meeting with the condo managers. They lodged their complaint, showed their photo and requested that Marian be relieved of her duties immediately. This did not happen. This private meeting was held before the regular board meeting. So they would try again then.

The board only meets every three months. All of this cloak and dagger stuff among Clair and the Satellites occurred between meetings. They were fired up and loaded for bear by the time the meeting rolled around. Marian, tipped off by another resident, had her own buckshot. She had written a three-page, single-spaced rebuttal to all the hoopla. Besides that, she had the “record” that proved that her court had not received more funds.

Patsy can’t get a head of steam up over these kinds of things. She’s a laid-back sort. She viewed the whole kerfuffle with amusement, but I know she did have a dog in the fight. She likes Marian and felt the Satellites and Clair should have talked to Marian directly instead of launching a private meeting.. The board meeting finally arrived. Patsy called to tell me she was leaving her condo, and if she didn’t call in two hours, I should send out the militia.

Marian gave her speech. Clair was straight-faced and stern. Marian explained that her ornamental cherry costs less than the crepe Myrtles. “But that wasn’t really the point, was it?” Clair countered. Marian got something different. She got to choose her tree. Marian explained that everyone could choose, and it wasn’t her fault if Clair got a crepe Myrtle, furthermore, knowing someone took photos of her tree made her feel stalked, and she found it more than a little creepy that a grown man would carry a picture of her tree around in his pocket, waiting to use it against her at a “secret” meeting with the managers. Clair declared that Marian and Patsy got more “stuff” for their court and their snow was always removed first. Marion denied this and called it nonsense. She maintained that she had served honorably, answered phone calls in the middle of the night, was always polite and helpful when residents approached her while she was walking her dog, she always tried to do the best for her community… and so forth and so on.

The upshot is that Marian was not removed and did not resign. She has at least another year before re-election, and she told them that she had not decided if she would run again, but if they wanted someone else, they should find someone to run. No one was shot or kilt. Nothing made headlines in the paper the next day. The world still revolves, Marian still has her ornamental cherry, and they all meet again in late October. Hopefully, tempers will have cooled. If not, I’ll have more blog fodder. I’ll always vote yea for that.

Do You Hear That

earH has tinnitus – ringing – in his ears. He’s had it for a couple (few?) years. He mentions it from time to time, and tried a couple of remedies but nothing worked. Now I think I have it. How do I know for sure? I’m sitting here in a very quiet office, hearing only the slight thudding taps of my fingertips as they connect with the keys. In between the taps, I hear what I can only describe as background noise, white noise, an ocean of cricket-like sounds that all blend together, or maybe what others would call the ringing of tinnitus.

I don’t know if I would call it ringing. But there you go. That’s me… always wanting a more precise description. Anyway, it doesn’t seem to bother me like it does some people. I mean, you have to hear something. It may as well be an ocean of far-away crickets. I don’t even remember what it was like before, and I’m wondering if I’m just making the whole thing up so I can be as special as H.

We were supposed to go to Williamsburg yesterday, but I couldn’t sleep all night Thursday night. I don’t do that very often anymore, but there I was, wide-eyed and no where to go, so I visited some of you. I feel like I’m in a real neighborhood. When I can’t sleep, I take a walk through the neighborhood, turn left on this street or right on that street, cross the ally and knock on your kitchen door to see if anyone is awake and willing to tell me a story. I always find someone. After a few stories, I return to bed and sleep like Rip Van Winkle.

I’m thinking about my last post, and how so much was going on in those last months before Dad died. I couldn’t write about all of it. Of course, we all have to decide how much we want to share on the internet when “things” are complicated. You know it’s all there forever. Forever! And your penchant for shoplifting men’s underwear and zesty salsa chips will show up just as your kid is about to secure the Republican/Democratic nomination. Next thing you know, a microphone is shoved in you face, and Geraldo Rivera is asking in that dripping-with-faux-sincerity way of his, “Why zesty salsa chips and not sour cream potato chips?”

And sometimes it’s just that I get tired of hearing myself complain. It’s a throwback to childhood when only my slightly crazy (only in a good way) Aunt Ruby was allowed to complain, and if you ever complained, you were called Aunt Ruby (only in a bad way). Never wanting to be called Aunt Ruby, you grew up knowing that there is a line where sharing your experience becomes plain, old bellyaching. If you cross that line, you will be relegated to the same category as poor, crazy Aunt Ruby who always ate a Milky Way when her “energy got down” or her heart started beating so wildly in her chest she thought she might faint or when her blood sugar was down. A Milky Way was a good remedy for a lot of things in Aunt Ruby’s book, and it’s a good thing because she had a lot of “things” that needed remedying.

A Year Later

IMG_6836A year ago tomorrow, I wrote a post entitled Mush for Brains. I was in the midst of traveling back and forth to Dad’s to fill in the gaps with his caregivers. I seldom slept, had grisly nightmares when I did, ate horribly and had unrelenting low-level anxiety that flared into high-level anxiety the minute another major thing happened. Major things were happening several times a week. Every time I turned around, there was another fire to douse. I remember writing another post during that time that followed my week. I dated each day of that week in June. Only one problem, it was September. I was functioning but not fully.

I wrote the Mush for Brains post on August 8, 2013. I read it again recently. The following jumped out at me.

It’s hard to tell when you’re in the middle of something. A year from now, I could look back at this particular place in time and see a little bump in the road or a deep sinkhole. It’s always easier to see the landscape at a distance and once it’s behind you, not still ahead.

The other thing that strikes me about that post is how much of it was written in a lighter tone than I felt. I was in a very bad place. One of Dad’s caregivers was ready to fly the coop and the others had schedules and responsibilities that limited the hours they could spend with Dad. I had no idea how long Dad would live, that he would be gone in one month, and I had no idea how long I could hold out.

His care was extensive by then. He could do nothing for himself. My health was lousy, and I had barely recovered from a serious health scare. Still, I couldn’t stand the thought of placing him in long-term care. H helped me through it all, but he always made it clear that he believed it was too much for me, and I should consider the long-term care option. Of course, he was the one who comforted me when I woke screaming in the middle of the night. Even my brother was exhausted emotionally, not to mention financially. He  always took the brunt of the bills. Talk about out of control, I had no control over any part of my life. Then I think about Dad. He had none either. He depended on me and my brother.

I was at a low point when I wrote, “A year from now, I could look back at this particular place in time and see a little bump in the road or a deep sinkhole.” Well,  it turns out that it was not a little bump in the road. It was a rough ride, but like all things, it did come to an end. Even though it was more than a bump, it didn’t rise to the desperate level of a sinkhole. More like a deep rut, one of those monsters that can have you at your mechanic’s the next day for a realignment. I remind myself, though, that it could have been worse. I could have been forced to make decisions that I was loath to make.

I always wished that I could see into the future, see what was going to happen with Dad, when he would go. I thought I could manage everything better, make better decisions if I only knew. If he was going to live another year, I could hang on and keep him at home. If he was going to live five more years, I could not. But life happens the way it happens. Maybe there’s a reason for that but maybe not. Maybe it’s all random. We just have to take it the way it comes. Even though I wished I could see the future, I was right. We only see the landscape in its totality when we look back from a distance, not forward.

What did I learn? A lot of things, but this is the one that struck me the hardest. I learned that coping is an important part of living successfully, happily and healthfully.  It’s a huge part of enduring the tough parts of life. I’m not saying I was good at it. I was not, and that’s probably why this was the lesson I came away with. If we can’t control the bad stuff, we better learn to cope. If someone is going to throw us in the ocean, we better learn to swim.


I thought you might like to see the doggie. I have to give him a name and stop calling him “the doggie” and “my dog.”  Look how his ivy has grown since spring.

Remember when I first planted it in mid-May?IMG_6719

 And Today


He’s very proud of himself, and so is his mama.

Organic Carrots


Do you buy organic? I don’t always, but I was looking for carrots last week and found these Bolthouse Farms organic carrots. I had a craving for some roasted ones; you know how they’re sweeter when roasted because the flavors concentrate. I usually eat a raw one while I’m peeling and preparing the rest of them. When I bit into it, I couldn’t believe how sweet it was. They tasted just like carrots tasted when I was a kid. I bought more today. This time I’m going to roast them with thyme-roasted chicken with potatoes. I got the recipe over at Sidewalk Shoes. I really enjoy that blog. The recipe doesn’t call for carrots, but as they used to say in the Army, “If ya got em’, smoke em’.”

We spend too much money on food. Do you? I can’t believe how expensive it is. People need a little piece of land so they can plant stuff. My mother used to can. She made the best spaghetti. Of course, I can never duplicate it because she grew and canned her own tomatoes. My goodness, it was delicious.

I really don’t have much to say today. I just wanted to give you the tip about the carrots. If you see them in your store, I hope they are as good as mine.

Even though it sounds like it, this is not a paid advertisement.

On The Face Of It



H was supposed to play golf yesterday, but because of the RAIN, we decided to watch a movie. Now, you know I can’t set myself up as a movie critic because I never see them until they’ve grown whiskers. I wait until they’re on one of my “premium” channels for which I’ve promised Comcast my first-born grandchild.

So you guys have probably already seen Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks. But that’s what we chose and it was very good. Mr. Hanks did an excellent portrayal of Captain Philips. Only one problem. There were subtitles, which I could not read (am I forever kvetching about this stuff lately?). I kept stopping the DVR and asking H to read them. This got old fast. He kept reading them to himself but forgetting to read them to me. Plus the movie was very intense, so it wasn’t long before we became irritated with each other – him with me for bugging him and me with him for forgetting to read aloud. Otherwise, I recommend Captain Philips. It kept me on the edge of my seat, but get your glasses ready or learn to speak Somali.


The last time we were at my brother’s, I was impressed with how wonderful Donna looked. In fact, it was nothing short of amazing. She’s had a rough time a couple of years ago. She’s beaten cancer twice, and this last time took a toll on her, but she looked rejuvenated and fresh that day.

She’s a very attractive woman, a sharp dresser and about as personable as a puppy. I love the two of them together. I’ve seldom seen a couple whose personalities were as complimentary – different but complimentary. She’s polished and a girl’s girl with a smattering of tomboy in the mix, and he’s a guy’s guy, and has no problem saying “it” like “it” is, while she’s artful and painless in her approach to sticky topics. They’re both social to the core. They love to entertain. Remember how in high school we referred to a “couple” as “cute?” Well, they’re cute. They’re the ones sitting on the seesaw in the yearbook photo with the inscription that reads “voted cutest couple” underneath.

I digress.

I called my brother a few days ago. I asked him how Donna was doing. He said she was fine, but she was in Richmond with her mother. They were “consulting” with a doctor. Her mother was considering a procedure.

I said, “Oh, is it something with her back again?” “No,” he said. I asked, “Is something wrong?” He blurted out, “Okay, it’s supposed to be a secret, but her mother is getting a facelift.” “Oh, I said, I won’t tell a soul, but next time I see her, I’ll ask her if she’s been on vacation because she looks so rested.” He laughed at that, and dared me to do it. You know I will.

He’s so lousy at keeping secrets from me. All I have to do is nudge.

But back to my point. There was a point. Donna looked so amazing that day. Before we were out of the driveway, I told H that she’d had a facelift. “You can’t know that,” he said.

Men are so naive.

Whoever did it did a great job. Poor Meg Ryan should have consulted Donna first.



Peach Pickin’ N’ People Watchin’

IMG_7447Yesterday, we took a day trip to Carter Mountain Orchard near Charlottesville. What a gorgeous day. After buying some peaches, destined to end up in a peach cobbler for H, we drove into Charlottesville for lunch, a little people watching and some feel-N’-touch shopping (not buying) in the small shops along the Pedestrian Market, a.k.a. Historical Downtown Mall.

I only took a couple of photos at the orchards. I wish I hadn’t left my camera in the car at the Pedestrian Market, but you can see how lovely it was in this photo I found online.PedMall_Charlottesville

Main Street – Charlottesville, Virginia

It’s been a couple of years since my last visit to Charlottesville. I’ve always thought it was a pretty area. A beautiful brick-paved city street  (blocked off for pedestrians), colossal planters overflowing with dusty miller, coleuses and sweet potato vines, huge trees that carelessly toss dappled shade over scattered bistro tables, a variety of restaurants and quaint shops lining both sides of the street, the Pedestrian Market is an oasis for diners and shoppers.

We enjoyed our lunch from Eppie’s. H got the Mediterranean sandwich with humus, roasted peppers, etc, and I chose the tarragon chicken salad and a small fruit salad that I shared with H. We sat there and lazily enjoyed the day. I so relish our day trips. I think that having no control over the weather makes it all the sweeter when we get such a splendid day… especially in July.

The working lunch set was out and about, and there was the occasional college student strumming a guitar or singing a song or playing an instrument, and hoping to earn a little extra money. I think they did. I noticed that long skirts and sleeveless tops are “in,” at least in Charlottesville. I must have seen more than a dozen pretty girls pass by in flowing swirls.

The crowd seemed a little on the young side to me.  Of course the college kids were young, but the bulk of the crowd looked to be in their twenties, thirties or forties, and a few in their early fifties. And fit! Gosh, I hardly saw a fat person in the bunch. How many parts of America can you say that about? And what a well-dressed crowd.

I looked up to see one of the most gorgeous men I’ve ever seen in real life. He was in his forties, but had a full head of  prematurely white hair. He was fit. Very. He wore an expensive, flawlessly fitted, pearl-gray suit, and his face was nothing short of the male personification of beauty. He was walking in our general direction with a pretty, younger woman. I thought to myself that he’d gotten every woman he ever wanted his entire life. Voted most popular in high school, president of his fraternity in college, he always won the bet, got the girl, and snagged the job. He spent his life buying low and selling high, his kids were smart, athletic and beautiful, and his car was fast. But as they passed, I caught a snatch of their conversation. He asked her, “Have you guys picked a date yet?” She replied, “Yes, October…” And the rest of their story was lost to me as they passed me by, but they were friends or possibly father and daughter, but not lovers. I knew that much.

Then I changed his story. He’s still with the same woman he married twenty years ago. She’s lovely, an artist, drinks herbal tea and has tiny lines beginning at the corners of her eyes from squinching them when she laughs. And he makes her laugh a lot.


Last night, I dreamed that my son was about three inches tall. I put him in the washing machine with a bunch of plastic toys: sand buckets, shovels, watering cans, etc.  When the cycle finished, he was nowhere to be found, washed down the drain, I presume.

I don’t know where that came from. My son is old enough to have high cholesterol. I was horrified in the dream, and felt immeasurable guilt. I promise that I have done nothing horrible to my son in my waking life.

The only thing I’m guilty of is loving him too much, but that’s all mothers, all sane mothers. I always say that codependency is a normal state for mothers. That’s a little joke, but there’s truth to it. We have a hard time with separation. That’s why kids get so nasty in their teen years. We’d never let them go if they didn’t drive us half crazy. If they didn’t do most of the breaking away, they would still be in their rooms at 40, their stinky socks and underwear piling up until we did their laundry. Just know that once they’re gone for awhile, you’d join the Witness Protection Program if they wanted to move back home.



Trifling Matters

I woke at 3:00am. What can I say? Sleep has been erratic this week. I’ve had a few little things niggling the corners of my mind, and I guess it affected my sleep. I’ve slept well for months, but it’s been hit and miss this week.

So I paid some bills. Why not? Nothing like shelling out money in the middle of the night to ready the mind for sleep.

I’ve had problems commenting on your blogs. I don’t have a clue about why. I even had problems replying to your comments here. I’ve read everything you wrote, though.

We’ve been hold up, watching movies. We watched The Butler yesterday and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I enjoyed The Butler but not so much The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I read the book, and I don’t think I would have “gotten” the movie without being privy to a lot of detail in the book that was left out of the movie. And it was dark. I mean literally dark. I can’t see overcast and dark films. I know the director thinks it’s artsy, but it’s just dark. I also had difficulty hearing it. There was too much background noise, and the actors spoke softly, whispered or mumbled, and then there were the accents. I sound so old and grumpy, don’t I. Well, I am. Just give me a well-lit movie with loud-talking people. Is that too much to ask?

See, this is the stuff I resort to writing about in the middle of the night. At least I’m not writing about Ice Age caves in Missouri, Sasquatch, UFOs and leprechauns again. That was really an all time low, and yet I liked that post.

It’s after 5:30 now. I’m off to bed with my bad self. H is still sleeping like a baby, a baby with a swollen face and two black eyes. Yep. He has two black eyes, and when he smiles, he looks a little daft.

The dentist said the strangest thing. He told me that H was a very polite drunk, meaning that he was polite when drugged out of his mind. H said that the dentist said the same thing after his last implant. When I had the cardioversion, my doctor said that I announced to everyone that I was a Southern girl. I wonder why I felt the need to say that?






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