C is for Chocolate

I love chocolate. Not just love. I bow down before it and say words of praise and thanks. So, it is natural that I would know how chocolate is made – from the cocoa bean forward. I understand the grinding of beans and the percentage needed to make various levels of dark chocolate.

What I did not know is that there is a strict process for growing the beans in that the pods can only be pollinated by a specific insect. Actually there are two species of this insect, both called the biting  midge. I do not intend to go into the details of how this happens since it takes away from the aura and sophistication of a fine chocolate. Suffice it to say that I hope the midge keeps biting.

A is for Abandon

Origin and meaning of Abandon – from Old French abandoner, from a- (from Latin ad ‘to, at’) + bandon ‘control,’  The original sense was ‘bring under control,’ later ‘give in to the control of, surrender to’ (via Google).

“This is my youngest daughter. She looks better with short hair.”

“Are you sure you want to keep taking roller skating lessons? You aren’t very good.”

“All you want to do is hang with your friends. What about me? After all, I’m your mother.”

The abandonment started at birth. Pregnancy made my mother a queen; motherhood was another story. “Keep crying and I’ll give you something to cry about.” I was 2 weeks old with colic. It’s a good thing my parents produced intelligent children. I was a quick study and learned early to favor my mother in order to keep her attention. No daddy’s girl for me.

It is interesting that the word ‘abandon’ originally meant ‘bring under control.’ That was my mother’s first desire – to have enough control over us to keep us dancing and off balance. It worked for years. Then it stopped working; I said ‘Enough!’ and walked away. I can’t describe how free I felt.

Moving into the New House

Today, I read that our greatest fear is success. That seemed counter-intuitive so I gave it some thought. I mean, who wouldn’t want the trappings (interesting word) of success, whatever that means to each of us. My conclusion is that I fear what I will have to give up for success. Will I have to let go of the people in my life now? Will I have to let go of things, activities? Maybe. Am I willing to go to any length? It’s scary. I have a perfectly good life right now but I know there is more. The pull is there; I just can’t identify what is pulling me or where I’m being pulled to.

Previous transitions have been hard but so worth it. And I had to give up people, things, and activities. I had to live in that desert for awhile until the sand got so hot it was walk on or die.  I guess the sand just isn’t too hot yet.

But, one thing I know – the new house is getting built and I’m packing up. I just don’t know my address yet.

What’s Next?

It’s the day after Memorial Day and we have all said thank you to our vets. Now what? Let’s not make this a three-day weekend and just go back to work. Granted, Memorial Day is a celebration of those who lost their life in service to our country. But everyday can and should be Veteran’s Day.

Many still suffer from mental illness that is a direct result of their service. Often, these vets self-medicate with drugs and alcohol resulting in lost jobs, ruined families, and homelessness – for the vets and their families. It’s easy to hit Share when a cool post comes along. So, let’s put those Thanks into action. There are several organizations in Toledo that offer help to veterans. Personally, I volunteer for Adams House. Their contract with the VA provides recovery to veterans in addition to others with drug and alcohol issues. There are also 1 Matters (1matters.org), any homeless shelter, and the VA. Add any others you know about. Can you offer an hour a month to help a vet get in contact with the help they need, take him or her to a doctor’s appointment, or just talk – especially if you are a veteran? You understand as few others can.

If each of us provides just one drop in the bucket, it will overflow in no time.

The Rules

A friend (male) made one of those “you women” comments the other day. “You women must get up at 3:14 in the morning to make rules for men – like, when men pay for something the cashier gives the change to the woman and men can’t wear socks with sandals.”

Well, my friend, first, we don’t get up at 3:14 – we haven’t been to bed yet. That’s because there is still another load of laundry to finish, the kids lunches need to be packed, and the two dozen chocolate chip cookies for cub scouts are still in the oven. So, now that the TV is turned off and we can think in peace and quiet, we realize that you’ve started wearing socks with your sandals and you look like a dork. What happened to the days when you were trying to impress me? Yes, I know, they are in the same drawer as my sexy lingerie.

So – my solution is this: if you do the f-ing laundry, I can get to bed earlier. Thus, no rules. Sounds good to me, but I suspect most men will just tolerate the rules…

A Letter From the Past

I was organizing some paperwork for a friend when I came across a letter. He has a business and also a recovery house for homeless, drug and alcohol addicted men. The letter was from a mom, thanking him for everything he was doing for her son. “My son was lost, spiraling downward. I would lay awake nights scared I would get a phone call – the police, the hospital – and scared I wouldn’t.” They had tried everything they could think of.

Then, he came to the recovery house. He wanted this program. He wanted the craziness of his life to end. “I’m getting my son back. A miracle is happening.” Then, I saw the signature. I know her son – or knew him. He overdosed last week.

Serially Lost

“I’m home! Can you come out and help me with something?”

I can, but I don’t want to. I’m finally sitting down, letting every muscle let go of on-mode and melt into the couch.

“This will just take a minute.” Ok, I drag myself off the couch and as I open the back door a little lab puppy jumps on me, wagging his tail and wiggling everywhere.

“What the…” I don’t want a puppy. I have a full-time plus job and my husband travels for work so training will be all mine. If only our other dog would take some responsibility here.  But, this is our dance. He brings dogs home and I fall in love with them.

I try to resist, but fat chance. So, I sit on the ground and let him love me.

We name him Buster and I start the training. He is smart – and wily. He knows how to work me and he’s only 12 weeks old. He’s housebroken quickly but ‘come’ and ‘sit’ seem only to be suggestions. Every day I have a new story about something he’s gotten into.

Years later, he is much better behaved but still has a puppy heart. Nothing is boring. If it exists, it must be for his benefit – to smell, eat, hide. He has attached himself to me and follows me everywhere. When I’m cooking, he lays in the middle of the kitchen just in case I drop something. I step over him to get to the refrigerator. He sleeps with us and has to lay across the bed between us. My husband says we look like an ‘H’.

He lives at full speed. There’s always something new to sniff, a squirrel to chase. Then, one day, he just stops. His feet slide out from under him on the tile floor. He walks slowly with his head down. No smiles or tail wagging today. His eyes look sad, or maybe that’s just the reflection of mine. The vet says tumors, nothing can be done.

I cry. And cry. When I see his collar on the table, I cry some more. I hear his nails clicking on the kitchen floor – but he’s not there. The grief subsides. Then, one day, I’m resting on the couch and hear, “I’m home! Can you come out and help me with something?”

A Room With a View

Lately, I’ve been looking at real estate listings, specifically in my old neighborhood. It’s really a small town, a suburb to the city I live in now. I spend many years there, being less than grateful for my surroundings.

We lived in a large house “in town”. Four bedrooms, half an acre with 30 trees. We hired the rowing club from a nearby university to rake the leaves each fall. They would be knee deep by the end of October. There was one tree outside the back door that turned a brilliant gold, so bright that it lit the yard at night. That was convenient since one of our dogs was black and I could never find him in the dark. The location was perfect. I could walk uptown to the coffee shop or to visit friends. The bank was around the corner and the grocery store was a five minute drive. A traffic jam meant I was second in line to pull out onto the main road. It was so quiet I could almost hear the grass growing. Our favorite restaurant was a local place where we knew we would run into friends and neighbors. No one eats alone at that place.

Then, after a series of unfortunate incidences, we sold the house and decided to rent for a year. The rental (in the same town) was a small, three bedroom house on a former estate property. It sat near the river and across the street from a nature preserve. The house didn’t have a lick of insulation, but they let us have our dogs. Deer grazed in the nearby woods, there was a secluded fire pit, and a privacy fence to keep things cozy. We had everything we needed except our sanity and that slowly returned. How could it not in such a peaceful setting.

And then another death in the family. This time, my mother-in-law. I loved her house; it was the perfect size and layout. We were still in our recovery phase financially so buying out my husband’s sisters was a wise move, or so it seemed. But, the house was back in that city I said I would never return to. In fact, it was in my childhood neighborhood. We updated some things indoors and I started gardening. Mom didn’t like the outdoors much so the yard needed some work. I put up my bird feeder and set a chair under the huge oak tree. When it rained, I sat in the sunroom. Then, the sirens started – the house is near a hospital. And the traffic is constant with horns and loud motorcycles. I sit at the end of my street waiting to get out into traffic. A trip to the grocery store is an endurance contest with long lights and backups. “Hey, want to meet for coffee?” now must be scheduled and lunch at the local spot has no familiar faces. One night, on my way home, I stop at the grocery store and the security guard is chasing two young men out the door. I’ve never shopped where a security guard was necessary. What have we gotten ourselves into??

So, I download the real estate app and look longingly at our old stomping grounds. We aren’t in a position to sell and we could be in a much worse place. I build a fire in the fire pit and the crackling almost drowns out the traffic. This house has enabled me to retire and become a freelance writer and editor. My office is in the sunroom, weather permitting. I still love the layout and I’ve found some new friends close by. We have coffee on short notice. Life is good, but if the opportunity to move back arises, I’ll be packing in an instant.

Unlock My Mind

Today is the first day of Writing 101 and I’m so excited. But, I’m always excited at the beginning. Then the procrastination kicks in. Or I get busy with work. Because this is for ME, it gets relegated to the bottom of the list. Gee, I bet I can change that. Just put it at the top of the list no matter what. I’ve done that with other things that I really want to accomplish. So, you are my witnesses. Writing 101 is a priority.

To be honest, I’m really an editor. I prefer editing others’ work. But there is so much more writing work out there. So, I’ve become a writer  because I like living indoors. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I’ve been waiting for the big revelation. Which hasn’t happened. So, I thought I wasn’t a very good writer. Aren’t I supposed to be single minded, writing rather than eating (I wish). That hasn’t happened yet and the more I read about the process from published writers, the more I realize that I don’t have a clue about what it takes to become a writer. Most say they force themselves to sit with pen and paper (or computer) for a certain period each day. That writing daily is mandatory. That I will have shitty first drafts (to quote Anne Lamont). That’s good and bad. The good part is that maybe I can become a writer. The bad part is that it looks like a lot of work.

I’m running out of steam here and still have over 8 minutes to go. I could cheat and just quit, go about my business – I have plenty to do. But, I said this is a priority. Today might be a good day to look into taking a class at a nearby university. I retired from a sister university so I get free tuition and they are offering a class called “Persuasive Writing” this summer. It’s about doing research, formulating an argument, then writing. That seems perfect for me since I want to write creative non-fiction. I don’t necessarily want to change anyone’s mind, but the research and organization of thought would be beneficial.

But, then a friend calls with a computer problem. I worked in IT in my former life so off I go to help her.