pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: 2015

31 December 2015

An end has a start - 2015 : New Year's Beach

Newport Beach, California
31 December 2015

It's been our tradition for a few years now to go to Newport late afternoon on New Year's Eve, walk around and see what is what, and then have an early dinner, getting home before the real crazy starts. It's nice and we've taken friends with us (they got an orca show last year), something festive without too much stress.

This year was better than last year, qualitatively and quantitatively, though it was still terrible in many, many ways. On the good side, the movie that was filming this time last year has found audiences at festivals, so that was good beyond my wildest dreams, certainly, and the daughter's too.

(It'll be showing at the Irvine International Film Festival in a couple of weeks....)

The daughter finished high school and started college which meant I was officially done FOR ALL TIME with the business of volunteering at schools. I get little come-ons from both universities, and I politely tell them to go away. I've hung up my cupcake pans.

But, of course, no sooner did I prepare to savor the novelty of not having to drive anyone anywhere, than the daughter dislocated her right knee (again), and I was back to driving her to school. Because that's the way we roll. Literally.

I read books, saw movies, and went to concerts (an entire week in Texas with D., New Orleans for my birthday, Salt Lake City with the daughter, a total of seven, count them, SEVEN shows).

And I felt my heart implode (ah-huuuuh, ah-huuuuh...though easier to sing it than write it).

I find it important to reflect on endings. What went right. What went so very wrong. What I can improve (everything?). Somehow it makes the start so much sweeter, so much more exciting, so filled with potential if I take the time to consider what I need to take forward while I clear the chaff.

So much I need to do. So much I want to do.

I've never been one for the biological clock. I never felt a sense of urgency to marry or have children. But in the last several years, I've started to feel the press of time. Not quite urgency, but a sense that there are things I need to complete, things I need to shed. What and who I love stays with me always, but there are things, real physical things, that take up too much space, need too much maintenance, need to go. I like the sense of lightness, the freedom of less. Keep what works; let go of what doesn't.

But you, you, were there at the start and you'll be there at the end, carried along in my heart, my head, my songs and my stories.

Because I am, at heart, an eternal optimist, here is to new adventures, new travels, new stuff to do 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 iPhone6. Also, go listen to some good music: "An End Has a Start" from the album An End Has a Start by Editors.

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28 December 2015

Look up


Dumbarton Oaks
Washington, D.C.
8 November 2015

At lunch on Christmas Eve, after talking about her nephew going through his first round of chemo and telling us of another relative with cancer, my sister-in-law said, "It's been a rough year."

Then she smiled ruefully and added, "But I said that last year."

And I added, "I think we've all been living it since October 2013."

The family gathered around the table agreed.

Later that night, as I put my mother-in-law to bed, my heart sank at the spectacle before me: how old she looked, how frail. I never expected her to just give up.

But it's been a rough year. And in many ways, next year doesn't look like it will be much of an improvement.

However, I did get a gift today and gifts like these tend to change one's way of thinking about the good, the bad and the ugly. I've not felt well for the last six months, so there has been much to-ing and fro-ing  to various doctors (just what I need: more doctors), consultations and tests and fussing. Most of this has revealed that I'm generally strong as a horse (albeit a horse with a heart condition who is partially paralyzed, but otherwise, everything is as it should be) but the unwellness remained, and there were still things to be examined. So I spent this morning at the hospital being poked at (with much ill grace, I'll admit) and in the end, we got an answer and the answer is that it's pretty easily treatable.

Of course, the underlying answer was that it was not cancer.

Later, as I staggered out to the car still under the effect of sedation, I looked up at the sky and leaves and the trees, and I thought about a story another woman had told. Her massage therapist was working on the woman's neck and told her that if she would only "look up more," her neck wouldn't hurt so much. And to the other woman, this was a revelation, as it was at the time to me. We spend time looking down at our gadgets, looking down in despair, looking down at the ailing person in the bed, looking down for whatever reason.

And I decided this morning as I climbed clumsily into the car, that in 2016, I will spend a lot more time looking up.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

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25 December 2015

24 December 2015

A fairly silent night

 
Somewhere in L.A.
24 December 2015

18 December 2015

Longing for a cone of silence

 
Furnace Creek Inn
Death Valley National Park, California
21 November 2015

I managed, up until last week, to have absolutely no idea when the latest flick in the Star Wars franchise was going to be released. Obviously, I knew it existed--no one will freaking shut up about it.

I do not hate Star Wars. By that I mean, I do not hate Star Wars, the actual film, the one that started it all, the film that now has another name that I can't be bothered to remember. I did, in fact, see it in the movie theater (back when they were theaters, not shoe boxes) in 1977.

(The El Dorado, where I saw it, and years later, The Empire Strikes Back at what was probably one of the first midnight movie showings that are now completely commonplace, no longer exists. It was an awesome theater.)

By the time the Ewoks rolled around, I think I'd sort of grown out of the franchise, and I don't think I ever actually saw the whole movie, though I have seen some of it, courtesy of cable.

And those were the three promised films, though back in the late '70s, George Lucas said he would like to produce a total of nine.

Sadly, in the early 1990s or thereabouts, he started to make good on that. I've never seen the 4th film (which became the first film, but will always be referred to by me as the 4th film because actual chronology is more important to me than the franchise's chronology), and I don't know what it's called and I don't care. My children DID watch it and I was wildly offended by what I still refer to as "that giant orange frog."

Honestly.

SomeHOW, they (being the spouse and children) talked me into going to the theater for the fifth film (don't know what it's called; don't care), where I sat in stultifying boredom, wondering why some woman was being called a region of the brain that she didn't evidently resemble. Then I just got really bored and started thinking about something else and waited for the film to be over. I could not tell you what happened.

The sixth film came out and I refused to go the theater with the spouse and children, and went shopping instead. If you know how much I dislike shopping malls, then it's pretty clear how much I didn't want to see this film (don't know what it's called; don't care). They returned disconsolate and said it was a terrible movie.

And I think a lot of people were happy it was done.

Until today. And JJ "now able to ruin TWO franchises at once" (that's the daughter) Abrams has gotten hold of this juggernaut.

(About that comment: my family likes Star Trek, but hated the Abrams' reboot. The daughter expects she will hate the new Star Wars (don't remember what it's called; don't care). The spouse wishes to see both. I wish JJ Abrams would make another Cloverfield. I could not care less about Star Trek, but am mildly curious about Star Wars, though not enough to actually go to a theater any time in the next six months. Just sayin', JJ.)

In any event, I do not wish to hear any more about it. I do not wish to see any more dancing Storm Troopers. I wish everyone standing in lines and in theaters the very best. But please, please, no more.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. Full disclosure: As I've frequently told the daughter, watching the opening titles and the first sequence of the original Star Wars was heady and mind-blowing. No one had ever seen anything like it. And when that spaceship passed by overhead...magic. I was captivated. It was the very first movie I went to see more than once.

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14 December 2015

Getting from here to there


Leadfield
Death Valley National Park, California
22 November 2015

Leadfield was a swindle, a con for investors, and it's hell to get to with washed out roads, but rather fun once we got there (I probably also got whiplash  and I thought about writing a long post about joys of acrophobia, but I'll spare you). We'll just say 4WD and nerves of steel are required, especially if you don't like switchbacks with drop offs.

*****************

Production on "Starlight" was starting this time last year, and it was set during the protagonist's semester final exams. Not unexpectedly, the daughter spent the better part of the last 4 days filming a final class project. The house is decorated for the holidays, and I joked with one of the actors (she was a principal in "Starlight") that she only seems to visit me in December.

And we found out last night that "Starlight" is an official selection of the Irvine International Film Festival, laurels and everything. So, yay.

(She went to IIFF last year, too. She'd written the screenplay for an official selection.)

*****************

Speaking of film festivals, I received an email today that started by addressing me as "a film creative such as yourself." Which made me frown, and then think, "well, yeah, I guess..."

And then immediately return to "no."

I just do what I do. Which is what I have always done.

Though it was fun.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000.

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11 December 2015

"MOM! I need fake blood..."

 
A day in my life
11 December 2015
 
Looks arterial.
 
(gel food color, cornstarch, water)
 
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

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09 December 2015

Life in the valley of death


Hole in the Wall
Death Valley National Park, California
24 November 2015

Even the desert blooms when there is rain, and in mid-October, two flash floods wiped out roads and buildings in Death Valley. By all reports, it wasn't a lot of rain (about an inch, I heard, but have not verified), but it came all at once, and in a place unaccustomed to that kind of moisture, havoc ensues. If you look closely at the photograph, you can see that the rocks are buried in mud that has dried.

And plants have broken through.

***************

"...and rarely, there is a woman who drags a man to the show..."

Which made me smile.

Because, yeah!

***************

Are you getting tired of the asterisks? Because, yeah. But everything is scattered at the moment, not least of all my brain. My house is the set for not one, but two student productions that are filming starting tomorrow, and as the son tends to say: lolno. No really, NO. Except that, yes. I thought that I was done with this stuff, except that everyone figured out that the daughter has access to a house, and she's close to school.

(Where everyone is currently has norovirus, I might add. So really, NO.)

It makes it kind of hard to get that roof and painting done.

***************

I am listening to Carmina Burana, and if you haven't seen this, drop everything and go watch it. It never fails to make me laugh. Usually insanely. As in rolling on the ground, crying. But there's sort of a back story, maybe two.

My father-in-law was a huge fan of opera and classical music, and he got it in his head that he wanted to know the words in English (he really wanted me to translate the Latin, but my Latin is church Latin, and rusty to the point of disintegration). Anyway, knowing I can find pretty much anything, I got the commission. And I did, indeed, find the translation of the poetry. I think it was a bit less risqué than he was hoping, but there it was.

(That makes the video even funnier, frankly).

The video was brought to our attention by one of the daughter's friends who was studying classical voice in high school, and is a terrific contralto. And because I love C., and the video is SO C., it was all the more perfect.

**************

We buried CHS a year ago today, and the story above, while still funny, makes me realize how much I miss him. But there is life in the valley of death, if you know where to look and are willing to do so.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. I didn't drag him to too many shows. Red Rocks didn't count because he wanted to go, so that leaves...six?

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05 December 2015

Racetrack


Racetrack Playa
Death Valley National Park, California
23 November 2015

The week didn't start well. We were awakened at 5 am last Saturday by a security service alerting us that an elderly relative had pushed a panic button and that paramedics were en route. Of course, it turned out to be a false alarm, but one that involved firefighters breaking into the house and generally serving to scare the entire family out of its collective mind.

*********************

It was also jury duty week. I've had the unmitigated joy of serving jury duty more than once, but this time I was on call rather that in the room for five days. It still was difficult to plan anything, not knowing if I'd be free the following day, but I was thrilled when last night, I went to the web page, and was told I was done.

Of course, I know two judges and an infinite number of lawyers so I'd have likely been dismissed anyway.

*********************

I've been threatening to buy an artificial Christmas tree for years. Not because I actually want one--the idea of a plastic tree is obscene--but because I am violently allergic to pine pollen and no matter how much I wash the tree from the farm, I still end up with contact dermatitis and am sneezing for a month. And with the drought, I'm already dealing with the latter issue. Also, the cat is very determined to eat said tree with detrimental effects on both his health and my bank account, so we have put a literal fence around the tree in the living room. Which is ridiculous. And wrestling with an 8-ft. tree is really getting beyond me physically.

So Tuesday, the fake tree arrived. No sooner did the daughter and I have the three sections out of the box than the cat began chewing on it.

And who knew that plastic could cause contact dermatitis?

The bottom half of the tree has been bagged up in old flannel sheets. I am referring to it as "the tree diaper."

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. You can read more about the mysterious moving rocks of Racetrack Playa here. In the wake of all the recent violence, including Wednesday's horror, I am trying to keep this light hearted. That's an uphill battle.

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01 December 2015

And it feels


Rhyolite, Nevada
22 November 2015

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000.

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26 November 2015

Moonrise


Death Valley National Park, California
23 November 2015

Today was about feeding people. Luckily for me, this year was just my own little family, minus the son who had been invited to join his roommate's family.

(Thank you, roommate's family.)

Since we found out a year ago that neither the spouse nor the daughter can tolerate any form of dairy, I've had to adapt all my recipes (and no more mac and cheese. Or grilled cheese sandwiches). But mostly, I've been able to figure it out. So I make dairy-free pumpkin pie (which is delicious) and today, I managed dairy-free green bean casserole. I've never particularly cared for the stuff, but the spouse and daughter love it. I have to admit this is actually quite good because it eliminates that nasty canned mushroom soup. And it takes a little longer because you have to do more than open a can.

Dairy-free Green Bean Casserole

2 Tbl. olive oil
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, finely chopped
1 Tbl. flour
1 c. chicken or mushroom broth
1/4-1/3 c. unflavored soy creamer
2 14.5-oz cans cut green beans, drained (you can use fresh or frozen, but blanch them first)
1-1/3 c. fried onions, divided usage
Salt
Ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Heat olive oil in 2-quart pot. Saute onion, celery and mushrooms until mushrooms give up their juice. Sprinkle vegetables with flour and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened. Slowly add broth, stirring thoroughly after each addition. Using a hand blender, puree the soup until it has a more uniform texture but is still chunky. Add desired amount of creamer (less for a drier casserole, more for a soupier one) and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

Mix green beans and 2/3 c. of fried onions in a 1.5 qt. casserole dish. Add soup to dish, and mix thoroughly. Add a small amount of additional creamer if the mixture seems too dry. Bake for 30 min. or until hot. Stir casserole and top with remaining 2/3 c. of fried onions. Return casserole to oven and bake for an additional five minutes.

(Mushroom soup recipe adapted from the 1980 Fanny Farmer Cookbook. Green bean casserole recipe adapted from the French's Green Bean Casserole recipe.)

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000.

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25 November 2015

Death Valley sunrise


Sunrise
Death Valley National Park, California
25 November 2015

Roads were closed because of the October floods. Even roads that were open were nearly impassable in places (glad I rented that 4WD Jeep...). The weather was okay until yesterday when the winds kicked up to almost 60 mph.

(No joke, that. Gusts were knocking me off my feet.)

Despite certain moments of exasperation and disappointment, there were moments of interest, education and sheer beauty. Stories to come.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000.

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24 November 2015

23 November 2015

22 November 2015

21 November 2015

20 November 2015

In the end


En route to the Austin Film Festival
31 October 2015

Yesterday, she was named a 2016 National YoungArts Foundation Merit winner in Cinematic Arts. It's a pretty cool acknowledgement of her work. Today is the first anniversary of her grandfather's death, so if anything good came out of all that pain, it was learning to use art to find a way back home.

It's been a hell of a couple of years (or for me, five years. But that's another story).

It's such a relief to feel that she's in good place to take control of her life.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

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16 November 2015

Portal


Dumbarton Oaks
Washington, D.C.
8 November 2015

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. It's hard to find the heart for this right now.

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14 November 2015

What the world should look like


Sixth Street
Austin, Texas
31 October 2015

So here's what happened:

There's a guy in the back, to the left with pink hair. He was drumming. Wildly, happily. I put a couple of dollars in his bucket and he was loudly appreciative.

The sharks, the lobster, the jellyfish (she was awesome), the seahorse (wherever he'd gone) all began to dance in the street to the drummer. Suddenly a group of random people dressed like pandas arrived and joined the seafood buffet in their dance. They laughed and shimmied. The spectators laughed and took pictures. The drummer played on, clearly pleased.

The seafood and the pandas went their separate ways. The spectators dispersed. The drummer played on.

Everyone was happy.

It's really not that hard.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

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09 November 2015

Down the garden path


Dumbarton Oaks
Washington, D.C.
8 November 2015
 
After flying all day (with nary a cancelled or delayed flight! Red letter day!), I am home.  And I'm not getting back on a plane until at least February unless I get an engraved invitation for something very, very interesting.
 
Just saying.
 
It rained a good deal Saturday, but yesterday was autumnally gorgeous. I took the son to Dumbarton Oaks (and The Old Stone House the day before), and we wandered through the gardens as the daylight failed.
 
And I fed him, often. And bought the blessed suit. As well as new dress socks, a new belt and a new tie.
 
No sooner had I gotten in the door this afternoon, though, than it was time for me to drive the daughter to her evening class.
 
So it goes.
 
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6, with some random Hipstamatic combo.

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06 November 2015

The cryptic airport codes

Last night, American cancelled my 6:45am flight out of Orange County and rebooked me on the 7:30 flight. This meant I'd have a tight connection in Dallas, which made me uneasy.

So I presented myself at the OC airport this morning, did the necessary and got to my gate.

It didn't escape anyone's notice that there was no plane at the gate.

At 7:30, we were told our flight was delayed an hour (as of this writing, it still hasn't left, 3 hours after scheduled deparure). So much for my Dallas connection.

I went to the desk and after running through all the possible permutations thru Dallas (Dulles, BWI, all full), I was rebooked on a flight out of LAX that will get me to my destination 4 hours late but will hopefully get me there.

American did the right thing and gave me a voucher for a cab to LAX.

So I'm now sitting in LAX hoping my flight leaves in 2 hours.

Sent from my iPhone

SNA LAX DCA?

05 November 2015

Last time


Barbara Kruger: Belief+Doubt
Hirshhorn Museum
Washington, D.C.
6 May 2014

I would tend to think that getting on a plane tomorrow is probably not sane since I only got off one Sunday, but the son, who is giddy with the prospect of being fed for free, probably would beg to differ.

(And suit shopping. In the shopping mall. JOY.)

Anyway, it's not like it's the first time I've hopped off a plane only to head off to another destination.

Tomorrow night, I will be safely ensconced in my favorite Canadian chain of very nice hotels in preparation for the weekend's adventures (according to the son: food. Hello, Wisey's and lobster rolls and food trucks), while the spouse, daughter and cat get to relax at home. We are all still reeling from last week's travels. Soon I will be reeling from this week's travels.

No, wait. I already am.

Update: So, completely epic. I am out to dinner with the spouse and the daughter and I get a call: American Airlines cancelling my flight! However, they had also rebooked me on the later flight (I get to sleep an extra hour), and I'll still get into D.C. at the same time.

Honestly.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000. Here's the thing: I do believe. But some portion of my brain just continues to doubt. Someday, I'd like the certainty of knowing. Just think. You could put all that to rest!

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02 November 2015

Austin

 
Young Filmmakers Program
Austin, Texas
1 November 2015
 
The daughter's film was second to last on the program. She grabbed my hand as it started, and we sat there, huddled together, in a theater where only two other people--her father and D.--had any idea who she is.
 
Through that 9 minutes that we both know so well, we listened to the audience. It's weird to hear people actually get drawn into a story, and the theater fell silent as the film progressed. In the final minute, with the final reveal, we clasped hands more tightly, and there it was: gasps and exclamations as people understood the end.
 
So freaking awesome.
 
Several audience members spoke with her and with me afterwards, and told us how much they'd enjoyed the movie. And yes, people cried.
 
(When someone told me that she'd cried, I almost said, "Oh, I'm so glad!" which would have been totally inappropriate, but I was so glad. I am so glad that story made the connection with people at such an emotional level. Because there is nothing in there to tug at anyone, no Steven Spielberg banner proclaiming "CRY NOW." It's just a very simple but heartfelt story.)
 
I am so glad that D. was there to see the movie on the big screen, and I am so grateful that the Austin Film Festival thought it worthy of sharing.
 
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
 
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01 November 2015

Stuck on a plane

 
The airplane seat back that I stared at for hours
1 November 2015
 
We are home now.
 
But not without a fight!!
 
 

31 October 2015

Made it

 
Badge!
Austin, Texas
31 October 2015

30 October 2015

Due to unforeseen circumstances...


Red sky
Orange County, California
14 October 2015

So at 4pm, Southworst Airlines called to tell me that they'd cancelled our flight to Austin. Naturally, I was thrilled. You could tell by the way I was screaming at the top of my lungs.

D., far calmer than me, was texting suggestions, and once I'd calmed down and gathered an iota of composure, I started working the Internets, just like I did in September 2014, when Southwest cancelled my flight to Austin.

(Yeah, Southwest, we're done. Especially since your customer "service" was so thrilled to be helping me after I waited 25 minutes to talk to her.)

And once again, D. (and American Airlines) saved the day. We'll miss the Saturday screening of the Young Filmmakers Program, but the daughter and I will be in attendance Sunday, as will D. Come hell or high water (and apparently, the latter has been quite likely).

And we'll still have Halloween in Austin. Thanks to D. (and my frequent flyer miles).

In other news, the daughter drove herself to school today. First time ever.

Just one heart attack after another!

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
 
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29 October 2015

Sundog's fire


Santa Monica, California
24 October 2015

Flights have long been booked (which is good, because tomorrow), but I've still been dithering with some of the hotel bookings. Finally, made a reservation at one of my favorite DC hotels (which is good, because next week). I often stay at the conference center, which is apparently currently serving as a dorm. Not good. So hotel.

Those who will be left behind are sulking. He who will be feted is smirking.

And today, I had filmmakers! Not unusual, of course. Just today, rather inconvenient. Especially after two days of knocking down six feet of hedge. From a ladder. At which point, my back said, "sit down or I'll knock you down."

Sigh.

But film festival. And frivolity.

Wait, didn't I already write all this?

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
 
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23 October 2015

On your mark...


Alleviating my boredom
Orange, California
23 October 2015

Something like this:

Wedding (bonus hours in the car with person I cannot stand. I can't wait.)

Austin (bonus hours with D.! Yippee! I can't wait!)

D.C. (bonus hours with my eldest. He can't wait. Especially when I make him go suit shopping. But he enjoys it when I feed him and I usually feed him well at nice places.)

And wow, was the end of that ball game sad. But where one door closes, new adventures open up.

So it goes.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. I was going to add a label "taking the pulse of the readership" because yeah. That too.
 
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21 October 2015

Cats, baseball and tomorrow night's dinner


Milton
21 October 2015

Milton has been very confused this autumn because the light is changing but the temperatures aren't. We're still spiking over 80 and sometimes 90F (though I've actually been able to open the windows for the last couple of days). He thinks it should be cold and that he should take advantage of my lap every opportunity it's in evidence. Which it usually isn't because I'm running around doing something.

Today, I sat for a moment to watch the start of the ALCS game, and he immediately plopped himself on top of me. So I told him that I'd take photos of him until he went away. He took a bath on my lap instead. If you have cats, you know this means you end up covered in fur.

Fortunately, today's game was better than yesterday's and I was live texting the daughter again (as in "5-0 haha") while she was at school.

Eventually, Milton decided that it was in fact too hot to sleep on my lap, so he went elsewhere and I started making palak paneer for tomorrow's dinner (it was chicken souvlaki tonight. We're so international) after careful cat hair removal (packing tape. Works wonders). I was so busy watching the game while I was chopping jalapeno, that I really wasn't paying enough attention to what I was doing until I noticed the skin on my forehead was tingling and burning. Fortunately, I didn't rub my eyes because that would have been really ugly. I finished the jalapeno, and thoroughly washed my hands.

That game ended well (poor Cubs). The house smelled delicious. Milton sat in the window and screamed at his nemesis, Olivier.

So went the afternoon.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.
 
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20 October 2015

Unknown


Ieper (Ypres), Belgium
10 July 2012

Although I had about a thousand other things to do today, I spent a great deal of time staring at 3 photos of the spouse's great uncle. I've stared at those photos before, over the course of the nearly 30 years since they first came to my attention. I've heard stories, mainly how he was beloved by his younger sister, the spouse's grandmother. How, after he was lost, her life was never quite the same.

For almost 30 years, I've stared at those photos, and marveled over this man's beauty. He was a stunningly handsome man. I've wondered at those photos, and pity tugged at me, because his story, like so many of that time, is so utterly tragic.

Lost, strayed, stolen. Like so many of his generation.

When we were in Belgium three years ago, I couldn't help but think of him. Because like so many of his generation, he was there, somewhere. He, like so many others, is lost. Truly lost. He died on a battlefield and was never found again. For all any of us know, the "unknown warrior" on the left is him.

We were talking about him last night and about a newspaper article I happened on about the discovery of an almost perfectly preserved World War I trench. The spouse was outraged that no family members of the trench's occupants had appeared for their interment.

"Most of them were young men," I told him. "They likely died without issue. No children, no heirs."

Like his great uncle. Who probably died before his 21st birthday. Died younger than my own son, his great great nephew, is now.

I don't know anything about the kind of man he was. I only know that he was loved by his teenaged sister. I know that he stood proudly in his uniform. I can't explain why I feel that he deserves to be remembered, why he should be more than a line in a old book and three photos. Perhaps it's because I look at him, and think about my own brothers and my own cousins who fought in wars. Because I know the kind of men they are and were: proud, honorable, dedicated, and conflicted about fighting. Because had they been lost, they would have been worthy of remembrance. Perhaps it's because I remember standing at the Menin Gate and reading all the names of the lost, and weeping for each of the families behind those names while a group of school children sang "O Canada."

Perhaps it's just because war is so wrong and seems so inevitable and no one ever wins.

Spurred on by the spouse, I started to look. I found his entry in the massive casualty list published by the Germans in 1917. I started to reconstruct. He had a combat ribbon awarded by the duchy of his birth, so we know he saw more than one battle. We have numbers that are still meaningless. Was he an NCO or officer candidate?

Does it matter that I find him, a young man who disappeared 100 years ago? Technically, no. The sister who loved him so died 25 years ago. Of the children she had, one has died, one wouldn't understand, and the youngest is now 80, so there is no imperative there.

But his story, however brief, interests me, and I think, the spouse. And it grieves me to think that his entire life has been boiled down to a single line in a book, punctuated at the end by "vermisst."

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. When I was young and the world didn't carry shades of grey, it was very easy to determine who was good and who was bad. Then I grew up, and learned that there is good and bad on every side. It's amazing how this perspective both complicates and uncomplicates life. People are people.

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15 October 2015

Problems that can't be solved (and baseball)


Let sleeping cats lie
11 September 2015

Yesterday, I had a doctor's appointment early afternoon. Typically, I skipped lunch, and then arrived home afterward starving (but with a sandwich in tow). I was fairly agitated when I got home (doctor's office, hungry), and decided that rather than working through lunch, I'd flip on the Texas-Toronto game while I ate.  The seventh was just starting.

Do I actually need to say anything else?

I forgot the sandwich pretty quickly. I can only imagine how loud it was inside that dome with booing fans and the rain of cans and bottles.

I texted the daughter: "Are you watching the Jays game?"

Daughter: "No!!!!! Where is it?????"

Me: "Try the student union. Probably on one of the big TVs."

Daughter: "Got it!!"

Me: "7th was WHACK."

Daughter: "What happened?"

Me: "Hard to explain by text. Weird ass calls; 2 bench clearers."

Daughter: "WAT?"

Me: "Game tied 2-2. Weird call with Choo; Odor scored a very controversial run...Under review for like 1/2 an hour. I thought Gibbons would be tossed...Fans throwing stuff on the field; practically a riot."

Daughter: "Woah."

Me: "Bottom of 7th, Andrus dropped the ball 3 times on routine plays...bases loaded...Pompey comes in to pinch run and takes out Tx catcher...Play under review, benches clear, fans throwing stuff on the field..."

Daughter: "Ruh roh, was he hurt?"

Me: "No one hurt. One run scores. Tied 3-3. Bautista comes in and hits 3-run homer."

The game ends at that point.

Daughter: "They're so excited. N they just can't hide it. Omg, Bautista's reaction to his home run tho..."

We watched highlight reels all evening.

(So I still stand by Toronto in the Series, but St. Louis got itself eliminated. Cubs would be pretty awesome. Not sure that the Dodgers have the staying power, but I'd love to see Howie Kendrick get a ring--one in the eye for you, Arte Moreno. Not that I'm vindictive. And you know, the Angels can get a new GM, dump Baylor and Butcher as coaches, but the one who really needs to go is Arte. Not that I have an opinion.)

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. Yes, I understand the rule and how it was applied in the case of Choo/Odor. So technically the right call, but really? And what the hell was up with Dyson? And who knew Cole Hamels was so hot? And ANDRUS? I felt so badly for him, though I was happy Toronto won (sorry, D). For the record, I have loathed Arte Moreno since he decided to rename the team. I still hold out hope that they will go back to being the California Angels--or even the Anaheim Angels--once Arte finally recognizes the teeth of karma in his rear and sells up. Not that I have an opinion.

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12 October 2015

How many times...?


Orange, California
18 September 2015

"Drive away into the setting sun," the daughter sang as she got into the car this morning. "EVEN THOUGH I CAN'T DRIVE!"

I cocked an eyebrow at her as I pulled away from the curb. She was in an inordinately good mood for someone hobbling around in an immobilization brace.

She leaned over to check my odometer (which was sitting at 67,000 when we left the house this morning).

"You've already driven 35 miles today," she frowned. "And it's only 11 am."

I declined to comment.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. Go listen to some good music: "We Hold On" from the album Snakes and Arrows by Rush. My rule with regard to blogging has always been to let the words go and lock up the editor. Lately, however, I've been editing posts down to nothingness. Too much happening behind the scenes that has become almost untenable. Driven to the edge of a deep, dark hole, which is another song altogether.

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10 October 2015

Songs of bravado and courage


South Coast sunset
Costa Mesa, California
13 September 2015

I have been systematically destroying my journals over the course of the last year or so. A thousand pages into the shredder. It is both a relief and a sadness, but I find myself carefully considering what I want to leave behind. Not that I have to actively worry at this point, but it is a consideration.

And I found the line that I used the as the title in one entry.

I've been keeping a journal for about 40 years (yes, I did start really young, which probably helps to explain why I'm a fairly disciplined writer), and it occurred to me that what I've written in those decades are in fact songs of bravado and a courage as I've tried to understand myself and the world around me. And there's been a great deal of fussing as I tried to come to terms with certain occurrences in the last decade in particular, though I think I've finally made my peace with that.

Mostly, anyway. Except on the days when I haven't.

***************

Travel, arrival.

I've worked out the details of the Austin trip the daughter and I are taking at the end of the month. Her film is screening twice, so I had to maneuver around that, but it's all set. She may be off crutches by then.

And as it turns out, I'll be leaving both the spouse and the daughter to their own devices and heading to D.C. the first week of November. Then with cleaned up cameras that I know how to operate (she says sternly to herself), I'm heading out to Death Valley to do stuff. I am renting a Jeep. To go with my cameras.

Now if that isn't a song of bravado...

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

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04 October 2015

Don't be alarmed


Only a Test
Orange, California
25 September 2015

No, the Angels didn't make the post season. I didn't expect them to. As a team, they were pretty abysmal this year. Yes, Trout was generally awesome, as was Pujols, Johnny G, Freese when he was healthy, Heaney, Cron, Calhoun, shall I go on? But there were front office distractions, bad preseason trades (...all the stuff I edited out...)

Anyway.

I expect that we will be seeing Toronto versus St. Louis.

*************

Daughter has been sentenced to physical therapy, and her orthopedic surgeon thinks at the moment that surgery will be unnecessary. So amidst the bad, some good news. And I discovered that I actually wrote someone that I will have to drive her to school for another six months rather than the more likely six weeks. Hell of a Freudian slip there.

*************

I just finished Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life, and yup, this is a case where all the hype is completely warranted. It's a beautifully written novel even if it's 5000 pages or whatever long (though never boring), and it is sad and funny and moving, and about friendship and identity and love and the impact that every little life has on the little lives around it. No, it's not perfect; one story line goes rather overboard, but I didn't find it difficult to overlook this even though I am not fond of being bludgeoned. I never highlight what I'm reading, but I found myself highlighting whole paragraphs--I identified quite a lot with one character in particular. I'm not sure that I necessarily would tell everyone to read it--parts are just devastating--but I thought it was a tour de force.

*************

Everyone knows I'm not big on watching TV unless I'm on the recumbent bike, and even then, I'd rather watch movies. I tried watching The Bastard Executioner (just no. Too much gratuitous violence and too little actual story) and Fear the Walking Dead (please, please, please may all those hateful people be eaten tonight so the season finale becomes the series finale).

On the other hand, I really liked Deutschland 83 and I have one episode left of Mr. Robot, which I've enjoyed though it was pretty obvious what was going on from the start. As for movies, I finally watched Chinatown because the daughter had to watch it for school, and holy mackerel, talk about topical. We also watched A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, which had a lot to recommend it, especially visually, and I thoroughly enjoyed Frequencies, though the daughter didn't.

I have a huge watchlist but there just hasn't been time.

*************

It's a new week. Aren't you happy?

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

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01 October 2015

At least it's a pretty day


Orange, California
1 October 2015

I'm not sure when Hipstamatic got something that shoots tilt shift (or when I did), but it was weirdly effective. I was just goofing around while I was waiting for the daughter. Seems like I did a lot of that today, when I wasn't driving around in circles looking for a place to park (rapidly becoming the story of my life), or stopping in red zones to haul her out of the car.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

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30 September 2015

From behind the steering wheel


Orange, California
3 September 2015

The daughter acquired her driver's license on September 18, as planned. We got her insured, and ready to go. We started looking at cars for her, and test drove different ones all Sunday afternoon. Monday, one of the dealerships acquired a car we wanted to look at. The daughter and I went down and we each drove it, and then the daughter drove it home. That was Monday.

Last night, Tuesday, she dislocated her right patella. Does this sound at all familiar? It should because she did the same thing in November 2012, just as we were planning to start her driver training. Between the injury and subsequent surgery, she was unable to use her right leg for four months.

And here we are again. Wednesday is her long day at school, so today, I was hauling her all over the campus in my car. She is on crutches and in an immobilization brace. I also spent the day dealing with the insurance, and the orthopedist who is seeing her on Friday.

I will be driving her to school for at least six more weeks.

I know. I know. It's just a knee.

Did I also mention I got called for jury duty?

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. Yes, we're still going to Austin.

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29 September 2015

Fun in the ER

 
Emergency Room
Orange, California
29 September 2015
 
The daughter blew out her knee during the last few minutes of her self-defense class. Whoever was running it panicked and called the paramedics before we even knew what happened.

I don't think the injury required either the paramedics or the emergency room.

It's turning out to be a very expensive week.
 
Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6.

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27 September 2015

Blood moon


Super moon eclipse (as seen from uncooperative camera)
27 September 2015

My camera wanted nothing to do with this event. Nada.

Granted, the humidity, the haze and the bands of clouds were not making it easy. It may also be time to take the telephoto in for a looksee. The auto focus motor was being difficult. Not that it liked my attempts at manual focus any better.

Of course, possible it was just because the moon was tough to see. Through the shadow, the humidity, the haze and the bands of clouds...

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000.

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24 September 2015

Just another pretty picture


Somewhere far away
23 July 2012

Other than the happy Austin news, I've had a mightily exasperating week. Usually that leaves me with little to post, so just enjoy the sunset.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40, off the coast of Britain, I think.

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21 September 2015

Off to Austin...again!


Austin, Texas
23 April 2013

If you'd told me as I took this photo that I'd be visiting Austin again...and again...and again over the course of 2 years, I would have laughed and said, "Sure. Whatever!"

But the daughter and I will be in Austin, again, at the end of next month.

And that is because the daughter's short film will be showing at the Austin Film Festival in the Young Filmmaker Competition. Which is freaking awesome.

(Fun fact: the bomber jacket that figures so prominently in the film was actually purchased in Austin last September--Lucy In Disguise With Diamonds!--when the daughter and I visited UT, and D. took us around SoCo.)

The daughter is beyond excited. The Civil War story for which she wrote the screenplay made it into three festivals last year, but she can't wait to show the work that she directed.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4. Bonus points on this trip because we get Chica Time with D. A good time will be had all around.

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10 September 2015

The tie that binds

 
Mortar
Caernarfon Castle
Gwynedd, United Kingdom
13 July 2012
 
As we all know, weird things fascinate me. Like the mortar used to hold castles together. Why would this fascinate me? Often, ancient buildings are rebuilt over time--fire, flood, war, age all take their toll. But places that are left undisturbed have stories to tell: where did the constituent parts come from? Even if there's rebuilding, a story still emerges. This, too, would be why archaeologists love garbage middens. You can construct opuses from a civilization's garbage!
 
While I'm happy to leave the garbage to other more lofty academicians (I once read a novel where the Black Death reemerged because of people fussing around old corpses), I'll stick to photographing mortar.
 
If nothing else, that's quite an attractive rock.
 
Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40. Last night, I sliced my left index finger open with the bread knife (trying to be kind, I was making the spouse a sandwich) and typing is a beast because of the bandage. Mostly, I can't quite seem to get the "b" and "g" keys. So for now, you get a rock. But Louisiana is yet to come! Let's face it, I could easily drag this out for the rest of the year.

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09 September 2015

Bigger in Texas


San Antonio, Texas
19 May 2015

So we left off with lots of singing. At 3 a.m.

D. had to go to work when the sun rose Tuesday morning. I had to figure out if I was going to Houston.

Yes, no, yes, no.

Plane! (no)

Concert! (yes)

But...plane. (argh)

I looked at flights. The idea of getting on a plane seemed like a gargantuan undertaking.

(Concert hangover. Singing hangover. General exhaustion. General inertia. nononono)

San Antonio to Houston. Houston to New Orleans. I needed to be in New Orleans by Friday. San Antonio to New Orleans?

I stared at my iPad with disgust and finally started pushing buttons. (yes?)

So...I'd committed to Houston with a non-refundable flight. And I still didn't have a ticket to a concert that was beginning to sound sold out.

Which meant I was going to be getting off the plane and heading straight to the venue to see if any tickets were going to be released. Always a fun proposition. But one that had worked well for me in the past, most memorably when I entered my house years ago, sweaty and disgusting from mowing the lawn and pulled up a third row ticket to Nokia for face value on Ticketmaster. Some things, apparently, are just meant to be. So I'd keep my fingers crossed.

When D. returned home from work, we took the rental car back (please note: only D. could successfully convince me to drive a truck I with which I was unfamiliar in a city I'd never seen before. Did I mention that D. and convincing was how I ended up in the pit at Irvine? Yes, yes, I did.), and then D. decided I needed a Big Red margarita.

It's true, everything is bigger in Texas. Even blue drinks that are also red.


Bonus margarita photo!

(That scant inch from the rim was about the sum total of what I drank. The margarita was huge...as in about a quart huge.)

Over the course of the evening and into the next morning, I was checking the Houston venue's website via my phone. Ticket? No ticket. Ticket? No ticket.

And finally, while I was sitting in the departure lounge at the San Antonio airport: ticket! Which sent me into a panic. Tech savvy as I may be, I do NOT buy things using my phone.

But Wednesday, May 20 was a day of firsts: setting out for a concert alone for the first time since December 2010, and hitting the "purchase" button on my phone as I boarded a plane.

(It was also the first time I actually worked during a concert, though I begged off the conference call I was supposed to be on, citing noise issues. Still, I sat there responding to emails and setting up agendas before the show started and during intermission. Because I am weird like that.)

I ran into a number of people that I know that night, but a concert is never the same without D. Yes, I still have a blast, but it's just not quite the same. At least in my head, D. and I have been Team Chica for the last decade, and it's always more fun when she is standing there elbowing me, or vice versa, during the show. Plus there is the getting lost and the 1 am breakfast and the reliving of the previous 3 hours. And invariably, whatever happens becomes fodder for storytelling for years. Witness the two of us sitting up over homemade pancakes until all hours after Irvine in July, regaling the daughter with stories of Kansas City and Chicago, Red Rocks and Las Vegas, New Hampshire and Atlanta, Toronto and Austin, crying with laughter as we lived it all again.

And just as invariably, stories come from the times I travel solo. There I was during the first half of the Houston show, happily giving myself whiplash during "The Anarchist," when suddenly someone grabbed me from behind. I nearly came out of my skin.

It turned out to be the inebriated male significant other of the even more inebriated woman in the row behind me. They were trying to hug me (!!!) because, as the woman screamed at me, "you're a Rush sister!"

Awesome.

At least they didn't spill beer or throw up on me!

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. I have had beer spilled on me many times, which is why one of my traveling rules is that I always have a completely clean change of clothing packed along with a large garbage bag for the clothes I wore to the show to keep them separate until they can be washed. Blessedly, I have never been vomited on nor peed on, though I know that has happened to others.

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08 September 2015

Think cool thoughts


Sequoia National Park
27 November 2008

The temperatures topped 100F today and are expected to again for much of the rest of the week.

Blargh.

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D40.

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07 September 2015

Cats and dogs


Mitzi and Milton
Orange County, California
31 July 2005

Milton now has a Facebook. I have no love (negative love, actually) for Facebook, so making a page for my cat seemed perfect. And yes, I am very aware the world is going to hell in a hand basket--I am living in that hand basket, thankyouforasking--so ensuring there are more cats on the Internet seems a good thing. At least until Facebook realizes that MMS is a cat.

No worries. I love dogs, too. So much so that I've yet to find a replacement for Mitzi the Wonderdog, Baddest Dog in the Universe. Who died more than nine years ago. She is a tough act to follow.

I miss her.

Tech stuff: Taken with a Canon Powershot S110. I promise: more Texas! And because someone always asks: Mitz was a standard American Eskimo. The most willful dog ever born. We were told she was untrainable (she wasn't). Milton adored her.

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04 September 2015

What Friday looks like


Orange, California
4 September 2015

The daughter has been going to college for one week and it already feels like 6 months. It didn't help that I had to make a trip to Los Angeles in the middle of the week and that didn't end well.

She takes her license test in two weeks. So I probably have 3-4 more weeks of chauffeur duty (until it starts raining, and then all bets are off). Fridays are great in that she only has one class, but it only lasts 50 minutes and the roundtrip is 45. So, in Pollyanna fashion, I walked the area (three miles!) to kill time until she was done.

It beat the recumbent bike.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone6. And probably this weekend, more Texas.

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02 September 2015

How to talk to girls at college


Just a kazoo player in a rock and roll cover band
Santa Ana, California
8 June 2012

The daughter, of course, is terrified that she will never have any friends at university.

(This is discounting the fact that the young woman who starred in her senior project is also in the daughter's college, as is someone with whom she spent 4 years in her high school conservatory, as well as several other people with whom she went to high school, including numerous older students. And this also discounts the numerous students she knows from her high school who are in other colleges at this university.)

So here we are first day of school, and the daughter is having lunch with someone she's known for four years, and they commandeer two seats at a table where two young men are already seated.

The daughter is wearing her R40 t-shirt.

One of the young men asks the daughter rather shyly, "So you like Rush?"

"He was expecting me to say it was my father's t-shirt," she told me.

"I hope you said it was more likely to be your mother's t-shirt," I replied severely.

She gave me a look.

So, of course, the daughter responded to the young man with enthusiasm about her favorite band and there was much discussion about albums and songs.

(And it transpired both the other boys were juniors and also in her college.)

Today, she was in class and as class ended another young man asked her, rather shyly, "So are you the girl who was wearing the Rush t-shirt on Monday?"

And she said, "Yes!"

And there was much discussion about albums and songs, and the Irvine show which this young man also had attended, and shock and awe that the daughter had seen three shows this tour.

(And it transpired that this young man was also a junior and also in her college.)

"I didn't tell him that I've been going to shows since I was 7," she said to me.

"But isn't it nice to be known as 'The Girl in the Rush T-shirt?'" I asked.

"Yes!" she said, and then very seriously added, "I hope they'll let me hang with them because they seem pretty cool."

She'll figure it out.

Tech stuff: Taken with my iPhone4.

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01 September 2015

The other shoe drops


Overexposed super moon and really cool clouds
Orange County, California
29 August 2015

I knew it wouldn't last, but wow.

Today, everyone went back to school. Traffic was ungodly. Especially when I went to pick the daughter up. The university doesn't have the sense to provide a pick-up/drop-off zone anywhere, and there is no parking. I finally found a place that I could stop the car a half-mile from where she was, so that was aggravating. That is how a 45-minute round trip turns into an hour and a half round trip.

(And, this is California. Public transportation doesn't exist. Or it takes you to Santa Ana.)

On top of that, an elderly relative who needs a caretaker is fighting the idea, so there's that to deal with tomorrow. Yay!

No wonder I woke up with a headache.

But I will figure it out. I always do.

It's a new month...

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000 and telephoto.

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31 August 2015

Moonset


Orange County, California
30 August 2015

I was up early yesterday to see the son off at the airport, so watched the super moon set.

I was up early this morning to drive the daughter to school. Yeah, I know. Actually, she drove, but I'm still legally mandated to be in the passenger seat. She does fine, but the traffic and bicyclists running stop signs were giving me a heart attack. I had to drop her off anyway (that's special!), so I took over a couple of blocks from the university.

It will all shake itself out. She takes her license test in about 3 weeks.

Still, first day of college.

I drove myself home, popped on a ball cap, plugged in my earbuds and went for a walk.

I giggled the whole way.

It feels like years ago. It feels brand new.

I'm learning to walk again (no, no, not metaphorically. For real. Again.)

Doesn't matter. For the moment, it's awesome.

Come hell or full circle
Our arms filled with miracles

Tech stuff: Taken with my Nikon D7000 and telephoto. Go listen to some good music: "Go Places" from the album Challengers by The New Pornographers. Yes, a heart should always go one step too far.

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