pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: December 2012

31 December 2012

An end has a start - 2012

Newport Beach, California
31 December 2012

When Out of the Kitchen was active, I ended each year with a recap of whatever struck me as important or amusing or hopeful. But OotK has ended, and for me, this was a year of endurance--and I don't mean that in a bad way. It was, quite literally, learning how to put one foot in front of the other. Again. And it was a year of just getting things done. A lot of that isn't very interesting. But I made it back to Europe, and the son got off to university, and we all put one foot in front of the other. By the end of the year--down to the wire, the last six weeks--it was time to look up and start looking forward.

An end has a start.

So no real recap this year. I managed two concerts which is one more than last year. With luck, that will increase exponentially in 2013. I did read a book published in 2012 and I loathed it. (Yes, it was Gone Girl, and I thought it was utterly asinine and I know I'm in the minority. So what?) I saw a bunch of movies, and read plenty of news that made me sad and furious, and occasionally something that made me happy and hopeful. I drove way too many miles. I did stuff with my loved ones and my friends, and made the best of what's still around.

I should have listened to more music. Music makes me happy against all odds. It is A Good Thing. I will listen to more music next year.

The last couple of years, I published photos of snow, but this year, the spouse had the idea to go to the beach late this afternoon. We got down there about an hour before sunset, and it was chilly but beautiful, and such a quintessential California Winter Day. It's rained quite a bit lately, but today the air was clear and sharp. I hadn't planned to take photos, but ended up taking rather a lot. There was a sea lion at the end of the pier, birds everywhere, creches in beach shop windows, and the biggest starfish I've ever seen on a beach, measuring at least twelve inches across.

Amidst all of this, we watched the sun set on 2012.

While the year is ending on a better note for me, it's ended terribly for others. It's time and past time to make some difficult choices about a lot of controversial subjects, and every single one of us needs to slow down and consider our own actions in all of our dealings with one another. Because I am, at heart, an eternal optimist, here is to a much brighter and kinder 2013, to smart decision-making and to love for us all. My wish for everyone continues to be that we come out shining on the other side. Thank you, as always, for spending time with me.

Be safe, be good, and remember to eat your black-eyed peas.

...with hope in your hands
and air to breathe

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. And go listen to some good music: "An End Has a Start" from the album An End Has a Start by Editors.

30 December 2012


Sequoia National Park
28 December 2010

The daughter appeared over my shoulder, as she is wont to do, while I was reading a recipe and cogitating over the directions for making a ginger-infused simple syrup.

The daughter: "Oh! A ginger margarita! I bet you'd like that!"

Me, mildly: "I've had one."

(Thinking: "Or three.")

The daughter: "Was it good?"

Me: "Yeah. D. and I tried it in Houston."

The daughter, sighing: "I wish I could meet your friends."

Me: "You have met D."

The daughter: "For, like, 3 seconds! I want to get to know her. She seems to be so much fun."

Me: "She is. But you have fun friends. You and your group get into all sorts of mischief."

The daughter: "Yeah, but you have stories. You two go to concerts. You have so much fun."

Me, grinning reminiscently, "That we do."

The daughter: "I want to have fun."

Me: "Okay, I'll tell D. that the honor of her presence is requested in California next time."

The daughter, clapping: "YAY!"

Is that not one for the books? The teenager who wants to hang out with the ladies of a certain age? 

It is quite cold out today.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. 

29 December 2012

Lost in the mist

Sequoia National Park
27 November 2008

We visit Sequoia every couple of years, and on this occasion had gone during Thanksgiving. There was only a dusting of snow at the higher elevations--unlike the blizzard we got two years later--so a lot of the trails that we miss when we're there later in winter were actually open. We were hiking in the general direction of Moro Rock, and the forest was quiet, drizzly and filled with mist. It was like a fairyland, but we're all well acquainted with the Grimms' grim tales, so we kept an eye out for bear and other predators. Fortunately, nothing seemed interested in us, but we saw numerous deer and as we were the only humans about, they largely ignored us and went about their business, almost silently picking their way through the leaves and rocks.

I've thought a good bit about the shape I'd like the future year to take. Not that I have much control over what might occur--my body is a constant reminder of that--but I think I'd be pretty happy if it looked a lot like the first two-thirds of 2008. There were problems and aggravations but the good was so excellent, that I was able to chuck the bad by the wayside after a good grumble over it, and move right on.

I'd like that again.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

27 December 2012

Infinite variety

Corona del Mar, California
18 June 2011

I love the ocean, but I'm not what I'd consider a beach person in that I don't go to the beach frequently and spend eons in the water. I actually prefer to stay out of the water after after a frightening experience off the coast of Maryland when I was 14, but I will endlessly watch the waves gather and break, gather and break.

This is one of my favorite stretches of beach, and near sun down is my favorite time to visit. It's usually close to deserted and the rock formations are wonderful. There are lots of good beaches in lots of places, and I've been fortunate to visit many, but this one is particularly tranquil. And it's a good place for photos. As I sorted through these pictures tonight, it was the case that I liked each one more than the last, and I looked at the waves crashing against the rocks, then pulling back again to reveal tiny, crystalline tide pools. Always changeable, never the same.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

25 December 2012

Silent night

Orange County, California
25 December 2012

I could hear the chatter of voices by 6:30 am, but I was warm and disinclined to get out of bed. Probably someone heard me cough because not long after, the spouse brought me a cup of coffee and informed me that my presence was requested in the living room.

The daughter, he told me, "is acting like she's 8 years old again."

The kids are mostly grown ups now. The son will be 19 in February, and the daughter will be 16 two weeks later. Christmas is always pretty modest around here: larger gifts tend to be for the family, and no one gets cars with gigantic bows or even expensive cell phones. Some toys and games, sure, but a judicious measure of books and some clothes. Still, we've always had plenty of fun.

When the kids were younger, I would tie their Christmas stockings to their bed posts, mostly in a bid to sleep in a little while they tore into the small gifts contained within. Nonetheless, we'd hear them run into one another's rooms to show off their treasures, and one memorable year, the daughter awoke at 3 am, took everything out of her stocking, and evidently satisfied, went back to sleep with a mutant zombie action figure tucked firmly into her arm.

Their stockings stayed on the mantel this year, the son's filled with hair gel, and the daughter's containing a small silver ring.

The son graciously allowed the daughter first pick of gifts, and the daughter made a beeline for two boxes I'd put a ribbon around but hadn't bothered to wrap, less out of laziness and more because I didn't want to the posters to get smashed. She ripped the boxes open with vigor, first pulling out a Prometheus one-sheet (Michael Fassbender prominently displayed), followed by an Avengers poster (Robert Downey Jr prominently displayed) and a Skyfall poster (Daniel Craig prominently displayed). She grinned like a maniac, a teenage girl channeling both her inner 8-year-old and her inner filmmaker.

Not to mention her altogether teenage girl.

I tend to leave funny messages on the gift tags, and the son grabbed his first box and puzzled over the notation "It's cunning!" But he laughed and immediately pulled on the hat and wore it the entire day. And silly as it is, I have no doubt he will also wear it around his dorm.

And that was the sort of morning it was. As is custom, the first thing opened was the box of See's candy (and for the first time ever, an entire pound of See's had disappeared before dinner), since Christmas morning is one of two when chocolate is an acknowledged breakfast food (I later made scones and scrambled eggs).

Christmas carols played all morning and the daughter and I sang loudly, making up new lyrics to old songs. I don't remember what I sang that had the spouse crying with laughter, but it took him awhile to recover.

And this year, we started a new tradition: grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. I really don't have the ability to stand for long periods of time anymore, and having just done so at Thanksgiving, I'd announced that we were skipping the fancy Christmas dinner. Since it was just us, everyone was fine with the idea. It was fun because there were choices for bread, and fillings and cheese, but at the end of the day, it was comfort food and quick to prepare as well as quick to clean up.

Games have been played and messages sent to friends and family. The cat has dozed on any number of laps today. Now the evening is winding down, and everyone is preparing to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special. The tree has been gated off again (the cat tends to eat it, and after a very expensive, life-threatening intestinal obstruction two years ago, we're dedicated to the proposition that the cat should not chew on things that aren't cat food).

Years and years ago, I realized there was no point in praying for peace. Recent events have certainly borne that out. But no one can stop me from wishing you peace and warmth and happiness and the simple joy of whatever family you choose. And no one can stop me from hoping that you will carry that wish onward.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

22 December 2012

O come, o come Emmanuel

Orange County, California
30 December 1999

I don't re-run posts very often, and this is the first time I've cross-posted from Out of the Kitchen (hey, now you get a photo), but the daughter at 15 years, 7.5 months, is not so very different from the daughter of 20 months. She still gets that look on her face, the one that just says "don't even think you're going to thwart me." And anyway, this is one of my favorite stories. We recounted it last night, walking around looking at Christmas lights.


I need to get pictures of the kids for holiday cards. Since it was the first Christmas we were celebrating in our more southerly Southern California house, I had the bright idea to drive down to San Juan Capistrano and take pictures at the mission.

It's one of those brilliant winter days, the light is terrible for outdoor photography, and San Juan Capistrano is abloom and beautiful. I snap a few photos, and inevitably, someone has to go to the bathroom. The spouse whisks the son off to the restroom, and the daughter, who is 20 months old, disappears around a corner. I pursue the girl, only to find her climbing through the barrier designed to keep people out of the life-sized creche. She is standing in front of plastic Mary, looking into the empty hay-filled bed.

"Baby Jesus?" she questions emphatically, pointing. Every fiber in her little body says, "Where the hell is Baby Jesus? I know he's supposed to be THERE!"

"Not until Christmas," I tell her. "Come on out."


This is a command. Since Mama is apparently ineffectual, she begins hunting in the creche for the lost baby herself.

Of course, a priest shows up, tall and sere in his long brown Franciscan robes. He looks at the daughter; he looks at me. I know he is thinking that the daughter is an undisciplined devil baby, and I'm the mother-from-hell.

"She's looking for Baby Jesus," I tell him wearily.

"Christmas," he tells the daughter. She gives him what can only be described as a sneer.

"Baby Jesus," she says again, with strained patience, pointing at the empty bed.

The priest gives me a significant look, and strides away.

Go listen to some good music: "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" from the album Joy to the World by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The photo was taken with an ancient (by technological standards) digital point-and-shoot, probably an early Olympus.

20 December 2012

Santa Claus don't care

Neighborhood display
Orange County, California
20 December 2012

I hear "apocalypse" and my brain automatically moves on to the next bit of business on my agenda. The world has been meant to end so many times in my life that I've long since ceased to pay attention.

And this occasion has been no different. 

Tonight I'd finished putting dinner together, and the spouse was, predictably, discussing the end of the world, when I asked, "So how exactly is it supposed to happen this time?"

The spouse stared at me in disbelief.

"Look," I told him, "I know the Mayan calendar ends, blah, blah, blah, but you know, do the spaceships come? Do we all just drop dead?"

He continued to stare at me for a moment, realizing for the first time just how little attention I'd paid to the talk of apocalypse. Finally, he collected himself and said quietly, "Meteors. We're supposed to be hit by meteors."

"Oh," I replied briskly. "Alright then. Dinner's ready."

And after dinner we went out and had a look at the local Christmas lights while the stars sparkled down in the cold night air.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Truly, I had no idea. And no, not my house. It's the house of an elderly man who clearly has way too much putting up decorations every year. This is only part of the display.

18 December 2012

Lights through the kitchen window

The 'hood
18 December 2012

When we lived in Los Angeles County, we lived up on a hillside and my kitchen window faced the valley below. Probably, I should remember spectacular sunsets but my favorite time of year was the end of November through Christmas. Every Thanksgiving weekend, the owner of an enormous deodar on a street far below would string lights all over it, and the result was visible when I stood at my kitchen sink in the early evening. As the weeks toward the holidays progressed, the houses in the valley and along the hills would bloom with colorful displays, and I watched them twinkle and glow every night in those all too brief period. Once Christmas passed, the lights were rapidly extinguished, house by house, until January darkness claimed my window. I always watched them go with a pang, and while I miss little about living in that house, I do miss seeing that gorgeous, jewel-like display every night while I made dinner.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. No worries, I made SURE you can't see my reflection. And yes, I was wearing clothes.

15 December 2012

Grief is not a photo op

You read the names, and they sound like any group of elementary school children. Names in a holiday program, a class list. The names are remarkably similar to the those of the children who went to school with my own, the kids for whom I'd plan holiday parties, or place Scholastic book orders. The names of the teachers and administrators are eerily like those of the people in whose classes I volunteered.

In this case, however, it's a list of the dead.

Like many in the US right now, I'm furiously angry and absolutely grief-stricken. My children...are fine. Thank you, they are fine. The son is in the midst of his first university final exams and the daughter's school broke for the winter holidays yesterday. So, my life is moving along on its usual December path, and my children are fine. For which I'm endlessly grateful. But I grieve for the parents who lost their little ones yesterday. Last week. Last month. Ten years ago. For anyone who lost someone they love to the same sort of really incomprehensible and absolutely senseless violence that took the lives of students and teachers yesterday. As I tried to explain to my own offspring, parenthood changed something in me, something fundamental, and while I can't for a moment comprehend the horror the parents in Connecticut are living with at this moment, my whole being aches for them. Because I can't comprehend what has happened to them.

And yes, furious, too. Furious mainly with the media. I am furious with ALL the major news outlets for racing to report erroneous information, including implicating a man who had nothing to do with yesterday's crime. I am furious with every photographer who poked a lens at terrified children and adults, and who had the unmitigated gall to feed off the blood of children to get to the agony of their parents. Every single one of you should be deeply ashamed. Believe me, I'm ashamed that we breathe the same air. There is no justification for any of the media circus that has surrounded this tragedy.

Then there is the whole gun thing. Yup, people with guns kill people, people with knives kill people, people with baseball bats and tire irons kill people, and people kill people with their bare hands. It is time and past time to take a serious look at how guns are treated in this country, assuredly. But more to the point, it is time to take a long, hard look at the culture of violence in this country, the incivility with which so many treat each other. And it's also time to revisit the idea of civil rights and exactly whose rights are routinely violated and who has given up those rights altogether. Spare me the rhetoric; it's time to face the nightmare that's been created head on.

And taking photos of the grief-stricken? Not checking your facts so you can scoop someone else? My God. You are the lowest of the low.

13 December 2012

Sundown in Santa Ana

Santa Ana, California
13 December 2012

I spend an inordinate amount of time watching the sun set over Santa Ana. In the wake of this morning's storm, it was cold and windy (seriously!) and I'd forgotten my jacket in my haste to get out of the house. I think the chilliness of the day caught everyone by surprise because I heard a high school girl yell, "IT IS COLDER THAN A PAGAN'S [ALLITERATIVE BIT OF MALE ANATOMY] OUT HERE!"

I shivered waiting for the daughter to show up, and finally she did and we made our way back to the car.

She chattered while I drove, and I made affirmative noises as I successfully dodged pedestrians and bicyclists and other motorists. Someday, I will film the drive home from her school and you can see the chaos for yourself. Actually, that might be instructive.

As we neared home, I told her I'd been able to find her a pretty good Christmas present, and she immediately set to guessing the what, except that she substituted who. And for some incredibly interesting reason, she assumed that it included dinner.

She pondered, and as the silence grew longer, I finally told her, completely joking, "No, Rush is not coming to dinner."

"DARN IT!" she said with what sounded like genuine disappointment.

"You know," she said, chewing on her thumb, "you really should invite them to dinner when they are in town. You cook really well and they'd probably appreciate a good meal while they're on the road."

"I think they're pretty well taken care of when they're touring," I told her, trying not to smile.

"I know, but Mommy! A home-cooked dinner!"

Sweet girl. It makes me so happy that she sees possibility everywhere.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. And no, she never did guess what her gift was. But she'll love it although it does not involve dinner in any form.

12 December 2012

Ribbon of shame

12 December 2012

After dinner, the daughter and I were filling gift bags for her friends: bath bombs, chocolate, candy canes, chocolate, colorful mints, chocolate. Milton, who'd been incredibly bad during dinner (patting our legs, yelling, jumping up on chairs, all in the hopes of scoring some chicken fajitas), was helping. 

If you have a cat, you know that "helping" generally involves knocking things over and knocking things off tables. So those pretty mint balls become tiny soccer balls in the paws of a cat. Right up until the moment that an unwary human steps on it and smashes it into the carpeting or wood flooring.

(And if you have dogs, you know that "helping" might involve falling asleep under the table, looking interested, or washing its nether area. At least this has held true with my dogs over the years.)

In any event, Milton was chasing mint balls and wrapped chocolate balls (or trying, since I kept shooing him away), and finally I got really annoyed with him and draped a ribbon around his neck. I told him that if he really wanted to help, he could be the ribbon holder until we were ready to use it. 

The look of disgrace says it all. He sat very quietly until I thanked him for being useful and took the ribbon to tie the bags closed.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Actually, I was trying to distract Milton; generally, he'll take the bait and play with the ribbon instead, but tonight he sat as though he was too embarrassed to move.

10 December 2012

Tree farm

Out in the hills
24 November 2012

06 December 2012

Do you see what I see?

Architectural decoration
Houston, Texas
1 December 2012

Deb and I were in the bar enjoying a quiet drink (or three), and catching up on all the things one doesn't say in emails and texts. I was facing this pillar, and sometime halfway into my second drink, I realized that I wasn't looking at the pattern of the stone as a pattern in the stone, I was seeing medical imagery, probably because I have had to look at a lot of MRIs, PET scans and CAT scans in the course of some of the work I've done. 

Anyway, the more I looked and the more I contemplated, the more the image resolved itself into...well, look at it. And just as Deb was working her way into a really good diatribe, I leaned over and said softly, "Look. Look. It's a giant..."

And Deb looked and I more or less lost her under the table, as she sobbed with hysterical laughter into her napkin.

When she finished, I asked primly, "Now, what were you saying about...?"

It was that kind of weekend. Gods know, both of us needed it.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

05 December 2012

Public art

Liverpool, United Kingdom
20 July 2012

Honestly, most public art bemuses me. This was no exception, but apparently, the Superlambanana (I've seen it written a half dozen different ways, including Super Lamb Banana and Super Lambanana, so I've really no idea which is technically correct) has a long and celebrated history in Liverpool, and after hearing the story of the Liver Bird (another story and photo altogether), I suppose I'm sort of not surprised. In an odd way, it makes sense.  However, the clownish face on this one sent us all reeling back a bit because none of us is much of a fan of clowns (see Pennywise, the homicidal alien clown, creation of Stephen King).

Anyway. There it was.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

02 December 2012


01 December 2012