Friday, May 19, 2006

Stand Up Comedy and a Kick In The Gut

Tonight was the Swing Dance and Comedy Night at our church. If you read my blog regularly you know that I have been a bit nervous about this, but it went well. I guess all that time spent practicing telling my stories to friends and then specifically practicing for this evening in my car paid off. I was surprised and delighted to hear that the things I find funny brought out some pretty big laughs with the crowd. Thank you very much, I'm back on Sunday.

I forgot to do my schtick on men and football, but I did throw in some stuff about the closet organizer, men and shoes, construction workers picnic, Men Don't Have Teas, Steve's first and last time dancing (why you should NEVER laugh at men) and then stuff about the kids. This last wasn't rehearsed at all, but was based on the following:

I got a call from Craig as we were on our way to pick up a bite to eat before this evening's festivities. "Mom...I'm getting married." Well I'm confused. I believe that he is in an all male detachment where he is, so who is he marrying? I really can't speak other than to say, "Wow." He kept talking to fill the silence. Then I finally asked "What kind of a person is she?" "She's a God-fearing Christian woman." Well, Craig's only 21, so it's hard to imagine he's marrying a WOMAN and not a girl. Hey, I should know. Steve was a VERY mature 20, and I an even more grown-up 17 when we got married. We were stupid, young, naive and in for some very tough times. Anyway, before we got off the phone I managed to insult my son by pointing out his lack of financial control and how he is likely to drive any woman insane. I also managed to choke out congratulations, even though this is the second of my children in the last few weeks to tell me they are marrying someone I: a) have never met, b) don't know so much as their last name and c) may not meet before the wedding. (Actually Kristen says I'll meet Paul prior to the wedding.) Craig is apparently getting married at a county courthouse and so it is likely I won't even be invited. I could just cry. Oh wait, that's already happening.

Things are so different now. I feel like Tevya in Fiddler On The Roof. I want to start signing "Tradition! Tradition!" Oh my. My parents not only met Steve before we started dating, he asked permission to date me and to marry me. The fact that my parents were insane enough to grant such permission doesn't negate that we followed the traditional route.

I don't know what the deal is. Are we so scary that no one wants us to meet the people they date? Of course, Kristen lives in another state, so meeting anyone she would date would present a bit of a problem. She did introduce us to the guys she dated when she lived in town, at least most of them. I've met only a couple of girls that Craig calls "friends". I've never known if they were really dating or not, though I seem to recall that the one girl who made unique jewelry may have been some kind of girlfriend. Anyway, he's known this girl for two years. I've never met her. Did I mention that already?

Well, after talking to Craig, I called Alex, just back from his freshman year at college, and asked if he was planning to call me sometime soon to announce his marriage plans. "I'll wait 'til August." Well, good. Perhaps by then the house will be done, I can put it up for sale and move to Italy.

I wonder if I'm being overly dramatic, but as much as I love my kids, want them to be happy, and hope they are making wise decisions, I feel as if I am cut off from their lives. And now, I get the dreaded "Mother In Law" title back again. It's one thing to be mother in law to your daughter's husband, it's quite different to be one to your son's wife. She (rightly so) gets to take first place as the most important woman in his life. I get the scraps. Not only that, but from here on out, I have to walk on eggshells hoping not to hurt and offend this girl I've never met, so that I can hope to avoid the hatred reserved for mother in laws by the wives of their sons.

I just wanted a little more time to enjoy how well my kids are turning out without the pressure of trying not to offend new people by being ME.

The reviews are in. Steve thought I did "surprisingly" well and had good timing. He's the toughest crowd there is, so that's pretty high praise. Maybe next time I'll do a bit about Christians and different churches, saints and sanctimony. I actually hope I get another opportunity to do this. I really enjoyed it. I just hope I don't get new material on the way to the gig.

Dear Reader

I think I'm going to eventually use some of the material here to flesh out either a book, or a series of articles, so reader participation is important. You can participate in a couple of ways. One is to post comments, the other is to email my blog to anyone you think might be interested. I would like to develop a readership, not merely as an ego thing, but also because I think some of the experiences I've had and the lessons I've learned should bring hope. Let me know.

Hot Button Words

Written at 10:30pm, Thursday, May 17, 2006. Well, the lines for DSL and cable were cut today while the guys were working on the sprinkler system, so this post will have to wait until that is fixed. In the meantime, I am so agitated that I just have to write.

Tonight was worship practice, which for those who don’t know means that the singers and musicians get together and practice what we will sing during Sunday morning church services. It is often mistakenly called “Worship”. Oh, there can and should be worship happening during the singing of songs and hymns and praises, but worship doesn’t begin and end with the songs. Worship is to be part of what we do always as we recognize who God is in every part of our lives, and when we devote what we do to him and in honor of who he is, his unchanging character, and in praise of what he has done. I’m stepping down off of my soapbox now.

Anyway, at one point one of the ladies was gushing about how wonderful their small group was and how great it has been. (For a better explanation of small groups and their place in many local churches, please look up Saddleback Church, New Life Church, or go to As my small group is taking the summer off, I asked if I could visit theirs. I was told that theirs was “closed” right now.

That is a very powerful word to me, and hit me like a sucker punch in the gut. Whoosh. The air was knocked out of me. In the church where I grew up, and only left about a year and a half ago, “closed” has a very defined meaning. It is what is said about a “meeting” where you are not welcome except by invitation. One of the sister churches in town is a full-blown closed meeting, and though I have known many people who attend there for most of my life, I have never even been told where they meet. It is also used for churches that you may visit, but may not speak, may not partake of communion, and sometimes may not even be allowed to enter the sanctuary, but may have to watch the service from the foyer. The word has a lot of emotional punch. It represents all the years of feeling on the outside, of feeling “other”, of feeling rejected, not accepted. Of course, there were many who did accept me, just not the church as a body. They might deny it, but I always felt that there was a secret handshake or an initiation rite that I didn’t know about.

I thought I was over all of that, but that word brought it back up. The moment she said that word, my walls went up. I went into self-protect mode. I hurt. I tried to shut down my emotions the way I did for so many years, trying not to feel hurt, alone, rejected. But even thought I know it was not her intent to hurt, I admit it. I feel rejected, unwanted, outside.

Feeling rejected, unwanted and alone is a recurring theme in my life, something that began as a child. I just felt as if I never really fit in and was never really wanted. I have sometimes been pathetically grateful that someone wants to be my friend, and as a child even tried to bribe my way into friendships. Okay, that was the neurotic me. I am not that kid anymore, but as writers often do, I sometimes feel like I am on the outside watching the drama rather than participating in it. I feel like the audience, where everyone else knows their part, knows their line, and that I am merely an observer.

In part, this explains my love of all things Italian (except for the overly carved, gilded furniture). As a kid, I saw Italian families as loving, exuberant, affectionate, passionate—alive! I, on the other hand, come from a cold Scandinavian family. It isn’t that there isn’t love, but it is hidden, not displayed for all the world to see. Our emotions were scary things to be kept to oneself. Affection? Are you kidding? I often tell people that in my family a six foot couch was for two people, sitting at either end, clutching the arm for dear life. We don’t do hugs and kisses. And passion, if there is any, is to be controlled. Italians seem to be so present in the moment, in a way that I am not.

I’m glad that at the moment she said the words I was able to say, “You don’t know the meaning that word has for me, given my background.” In very few words I told her that it was powerful and painful. In the past I would have kept that inside and stewed on it, and never expressed to a soul the pain wrapped around that word.

I still feel rejected. Well, that is the nature of a closed group. You are rejecting anyone who wants to join you. You are saying “no”. My job is not to take it personally, but to deal with it and move on. Accept what is. And I need to really accept that I was never going to become knit into the fabric of my old church. It was not ever going to happen. And, somehow I need to let it go completely. Completely. Do the whys even matter? I’ll probably never know all the whys.

Perhaps all of this is part of making me more human, more real. The pain of fellowshipping at that church, and the painful decision to leave it, broke open some pretty stiff walls. The constant pricking broke through my hearts hard outer shell and let me bleed. It allowed me to cry. Tears aren’t the way I would have chosen to experience real deep emotion, but when you are calloused, it hurts tearing off the calluses. Only as the healing begins and the new skin is more flexible and tender are you able to really experience some of the finer emotions, the joy, the gladness and lightness of heart.

May your heart be tender, your life filled with affection, exuberance and passion. May you live in the moment in all the best ways and may you never, ever experience a closed group, a closed church, a closed heart.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I've been looking for a dress...

for whatever reason, I have felt like buying a dress this spring. I own a couple of dresses, both are pretty in a frumpy, fat girl kind of way, but I want to find a pretty dress. Something young and colorful and stylish. Not. A. Sack. I find lots of things that would look lovely on my mother's friends. Makes me feel old just looking at them. A shift with a short-sleeved boxy jacket. Or shifts without the boxy jacket. Long jumpers, designed for 6 foot tall amazons. Depressing.

For much of the season I wasn't able to find dresses anywhere. None at Foley's. Only a couple at Dillards, but the styles ranged from ridiculous to old lady with few exceptions. One exception was $180.00, so I left, never to find it again. I should have bought it and damned the consequences. One time I did buy a dress that was a week's salary. It was beautiful. Classic. Never out of style. If I hadn't gained weight, I would still have the dress today.

At a certain size, style seems to go out the window. Someone assumes that heavy women want to wear things that are...well...frumpy. Sacks. Muumuus. The snappy fabrics seem to stop at size 16.

So I was at Coldwater Creek this morning (or was it just past noon). Anyway, they are so wonderful there, solicitous, helpful, every person there seems to make it their personal job to make sure you have whatever you need, and not in a pushy way, just helpful. So I tried on several skirts, jeans, dresses ("Oh, I'm sure this will fit, you wait and see.") Well, the dresses I particularly liked stop at size 16. some of the others were okay, but either didn't fit right, or just weren't right after seeing just what I wanted in a snappy celery and hot pink number. Looking in the mirror like that is really hard on me.

I can't stand what I see in the mirror. I think what I decided today is that it isn't the clothes that are frumpy as much as it is just me. When I put on cute clothes I suddenly make them look frumpy. After seeing the jeans I wore today in those unforgiving mirrors, I will never wear them out of the house again. In fact, they may just wind up in a consignment store really soon. When I saw myself in them I realized that they looked awful on me. I thought they were cute and stylish. WRONG!

After trying on some (gasp!) $80 jeans and staring at my still frumpy (though decidedly less so) reflection, I decided that long skirts could be the answer. I need to look reasonably pulled together at all times. I need to be able to take clients out on a moments notice, and who wants a realtor who looks like she got dressed in the rummage room at the Red Cross Shelter?

Anyway, I bought two new skirts that can be dressed up or down (and by the way look perfect with my white sandals), both look great with my denim jacket, and I also bought a crisp, white blouse with a self-belted tie (that doesn't accurately describe it, but oh well.) I feel more pulled together and confident just thinking about wearing my new outfit tomorrow.

If only I could find more simple, classy pieces, perhaps I would be able to walk out the door feeling good every day.

Anyway, I drove to Longmont to pick up permits for a project up there. Traffic was a nightmare getting through Denver, so I didn't get there until 4:30-4:45. I refused to head back through Denver at that hour, so decided to have dinner up there, see a bit more of Longmont and head back when traffic died down a bit. The nice lady in the permit department said to head down to the end of 3rd, take a left on Hover and I would find myself in an area with lots of "eateries". After taking a half hour or so in a used bookstore, I did just what she suggested, passing several promising looking places along the way. Following her directions I suddenly found myself in a newer section of Longmont. Chain stores and chain restaurants everywhere. I was so disappointed! "Eateries" conjurs up small family owned cafes, locally owned restaurants in quaint locations, not McDonalds, Panera Bread and the like. I think I made the best of it by stopping at "Noodles". I had never been there and had a great Thai noodle dish that was quite tasty, even if the decor was standard, the service was okay, and the screaming kids were allowed to continue their tirades.

I don't object to chain stores and restaurants. Target is great for shampoo, cleaners, dog food, small appliances, etc., and Outback Steakhouse has a great salmon, but I am always disappointed when I travel even a couple of hours only to find exactly what I have at home. Even at home I like to try local places whenever possible. Roman Villa is great (though their salad is not worth eating). I want to try a little place that boasts "European" food in paint on their windows. I like Trivelli's. I love King's Chef Diner and the Corner Cafe, El Tesoro and Guiseppe's. Chains aren't a bad thing, but they don't feel personal.

Anyway, I got over my disappointment, bought some books at Borders (and the used bookstore), picked up a iced mocha at Seattle's Best, and got back on the road.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Letting Go of Self

Well, just got back from Bible Study a while ago. Just discussing with other women how the whole paint thing makes me feel got me thinking. Do I want to make a big issue out of this? Some people find red a very angry color. It increases their agitation rather than energizes them. Steve has enough agitation and aggravation without coming home to it. It's tough running a business.

For his sake I need to give it up. I need to let go of my anger and my hurt feelings and do something constructive. After all, he is more important than paint. The day may come when I can do whatever I want in the house, turquoise ceilings with chartreuse walls, have 4 dogs shedding all over everything and tearing up the furniture, whatever. When that day comes I would be ashamed to have made a fuss about red walls. This house needs to be HIS sanctuary too. If that means that he has a say in what happens here, that's fine.

Perhaps we both need to learn not to dismiss what the other says or wants without really listening and thinking about it. There are some things that can't be compromised. Paint isn't one of them. So if you hear me grousing about repainting, remind me that People are more important than paint.

Good night.

Painting the Living Room.

I'm really torn about painting the living room, but since Steve is unwilling to furnish the living room until it is a different color, I guess I'll concede, though I can't claim to do it in good grace. I've been kind of grousing about it lately. When I first painted it red, I had previously hand glazed the entire room (5 coats) covering each inch with a sponge dipped in one of three glaze colors. When it was done the room was the color of aspens in the fall, a particularly fantastic fall we had a few years back. I went and cut a few branches and brought them home to make sure the color was right. It was beautiful. Steve hated it and called it orange. After much "discussion", I agreed to paint over it only if it could be red. He agreed to "anything". It took many coats to get the right red shade. Red is particularly difficult to paint, as any light or dark spots really show until you get enough paint on the wall. I have loved the color for the last few years, anticipating when I could finally use the room and really enjoy my "Opera House Red" walls.

I want to ask two things: 1. Why does he get to change the deal once the deed is done? Does he get to? and 2. Why does he have a say? Don't men typically just let the woman decorate as long as they aren't forced to look at fabric samples, numerous paint chips, etc.?

I confess that part of me (a large part) feels as if this is a part of WHO I AM that is being dismissed. My thoughts, my planning, my efforts, my time, and yes, my MONEY that paid for all that paint is being dismissed as irrelevant. I know that this is a blind spot that Steve has, but I want to say like that line in "Phenomenon", "you should have bought (my) chairs."

There have been moments throughout our marriage when I have had flashes of almost murderous rage at this kind of dismissal. This man has the nerve to say, "You can't do that. You wouldn't do a good job." As if I needed a professional to paint my home, to choose my colors, to select my furnishings, to wire a lamp, to paint a picture, whatever. You don't know how many times I have been forced to paint over my handiwork or simply get rid of it, I think, simply because I made it.

The real problem perhaps is that he doesn't trust himself to do handiwork of anykind, with the exception of pipe, and so he doesn't trust me to do anything either. He was never encouraged to test his abilities and try new things and develop confidence in his skills.

I have tried many things, with varying results. I have done macrame, embroidery, quilting, made dolls, made clothes, made chaps for all the little boys in the neighborhood and handpainted them. I have stenciled walls, planted gardens, painted, plastered, wired fixtures, replaced the garbage disposal, put up drywall, hand painted artwork, done graphics work, arranged flowers, worked on my car, baked bread, etc., etc. Some of those things I have done well, some of them I discovered a distinct lack of talent and desire to continue. But I'm not afraid to try something. I figure there's very little that can't be fixed if I screw it up.

If you wanted to see my red living room, you better make it quick. Pretty soon it'll be all over but the crying.

Your Opinion, Please

I bought these wooden panels to use in the entry, as the backdrop for hooks to hang up a coat or hat as you come in. I bought two different types of hooks over the past month or so and wonder what you think I should use. The large hooks would only allow for three hooks altogether, but they are pretty neat, with old postage stamp style art work mounted in the center. The smaller hooks are handcrafted iron hooks purchased on a recent mountain expedition.

The panels are small cupboard doors rescued from a house being torn down in Red Rock Canyon. I like the color, I like the rustic feel of using them as is, but may be willing to repaint and fill in the holes where hardware used to be. I thought of possibly handpainting Italian countryside scenes in the center of the panels if I use the small black hooks. What do you think? I have seen old hardware and old cabinetry and/or wood scraps put together for interesting (and pricey) wall art and/or hooks before, but thought this was a little different than what I've seen, and besides, I found all the pieces, so it would be uniquely mine.

Please vote for the large or small hooks. If you go for the small hooks, should I paint Italian country scenes in the center of the panels?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Tarragon, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Need any tarragon or sage?

I have been harvesting already and drying bundles in the kitchen. They smell wonderful, and harvesting simply allows the plants to put out new leaves, new shoots and not to become too woody and spindley. That's my theory, at least. The thyme I planted remains very small, but it survived the winter, so that's good. If I leave it alone for a while, perhaps it will grow. If not, I'll have to plant some more plants.

I've already bottled a bundle of dried sage in one of the ancient spice bottles I received at my wedding shower from my mom. It was one of the neatest gifts ever. An entire shoebox filled with spices and herbs of all description. I even had a bottle of saffron at one time (gasp!).

Sometimes when I buy new spices, I pour out the old ones and refill those bottles. Now I will fill them from my own garden. I think I'll plant some dill seed and have some of that to harvest as well. I like to plant the herbs in among flowering plants for interest, but right now, one end of my planter bed, between the salvia and some vincas that keep coming back year after year, I have my herbs. I treat the lavendar as a flower and have that elsewhere, though when it comes time to harvest, it will be treated as another herb, to dry in bundles hanging all over my kitchen. I'm either going to have to add some hooks, or string a line across the kitchen to hang the bundles on.

In town friends, call me, and I'll bring you some tarragon or fresh sage. Tarragon is wonderful with chicken and rice. Absolutely wonderful flavor when used with white pepper. Sage is used for lots of things, most of which escape me at the present moment.

My imagination is filled with Tuscan villas lately, the colors, the smells, the simple and slow, luxurious way of life. Filled with olives growing on the terraced hillsides, grapes and blackberries draped over rock walls. Of lemon trees grown in large pots that are pulled inside for the winter. In my head I have designed a house with several sets of double doors across the front, windows between. The house is stone, with blue-gray stones forming the window and door framing. The floors are stone on the main level, and wide chestnut planks on the stairs and upper level.

The width of the house on the main level is open, with a few rooms off the back, large walk-in fireplaces for cooking and heating, a kitchen open to the dining area and to the living area. Three fireplaces are on the main level, one at either end and one slightly off center for the kitchen cooking. This fireplace provides the only screening of eating/cooking areas from the living area.

A wide staircase runs up the center to the assorted bedrooms and bathrooms located on the upper level. Ceilings are very high throughout the house, none less than 10 feet, and the structural beams are a thing of beauty, large, dark, oiled. Open shelves flank the fireplace in the living room, containing various books on travel, decor, gardening, etc.

Simple furnishings invite you to linger, sit, rest, eat, talk, read...whatever. The plaster walls which began as white, have over time taken on the golden yellow, peach, corals, blues and greens of the Tuscan countryside.

A modern heating system is completely hidden, but takes off the winter's chill. Fans circulate in high summer, but the house doesn't seem to welcome frigid air-conditioned breezes.

One of the rooms off the back of the main level is simply for storage. Here, in a darkened cupboard go bottles of extra virgin olive oil, pressed from homegrown olives, the house wines of several area vineyards, extra serving dishes, linens, large pots for entertaining crowds of friends, dishes, herbs harvested from the garden, multi-use baskets and winter blankets and throws, as well as bottles for the wine I hope to ferment from my own harvest someday. Bags to bring things home from the market, or from walks through the countryside, my walking stick and a couple of hats to keep the sun from my fair skin while working outside.

If you want to know why I'm dreaming of Tuscan villas, read Frances Mayes books. She has rekindled my love of Italy, and my longing for a way of life that seems more in tune with my internal pace. I live in a world that seems frantic, frenetic. I am not those things, but some of the anxiety that others have rubs off on me sometimes. I sometimes feel guilty that I am not spinning all the time. I simply can't. When I run at that pace, it never lasts for long, and then I am sick and forced to rest by my own body. I want to be a person at rest. I don't mean idle, but a person that exudes calm and helps others to relax simply by being there and being calm and peaceful. I have known some people like that. Their homes exude that same quality. Walk in and your shoulders drop, and suddenly, you have a neck--your ears aren't growing straight from your shoulders after all. You exhale and realize that you've been holding your breath. For how long, you don't know.

Close your eyes and see yourself, feet up on the coffee table, book in hand, listening to crickets singing in the world just beyond the open doors. It's okay. There's time here. you don't need to return any phone calls right now, tomorrow will be soon enough. Breath in, exhale slowly and thoroughly, dropping your shoulders and relaxing your neck muscles. You're in Tuscany. Later there will be food and wine and conversation, but for now, just relax.

Wasn't that great?


Come along with me to some of my favorite places:

1. The Comfortable Home in Kittredge, followed by antiqueing in Evergreen, or back to Golden to wander the streets and stop in at Woody's for pizza, or their famous cheese soup.

2. Off the Back Porch in Woodland Park, with a stop in the Mexican import shop along Hwy 24, and donuts or soup at the Donut Mill.

3. Downtown Colorado Springs. The Silent Woman, Mt. Tejon, Whickerbills, The Lark II, followed by a wonderful lunch at El Tesoro.

4. Decorating Den outside of Larkspur, followed by a trip to my favorite little gift shop in Larkspur (what is the name?) and lunch at the coffee shop or anywhere recommended by the proprietoress of the gift shop. Perhaps a spin through the art gallery/shop in Monument before heading back home.

5. Park Meadows Mall. Restoration Hardware, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn (yes I know we have one in Colorado Springs, but it's SMALL), The Container Store and The Great Indoors. That may be two trips.

6. Antiqueing in Florence.

7. Pueblo Riverwalk. Walk the river, then antique down main street and stop for pizza at what looks like a hole in the wall. Just wait!

8. Thrift shopping in Aspen, Vail and/or Breckenridge! What fun!

9. Maybe you want to go to Jackalope for pots, wander around inside looking at dishes, furnishings, gifts, etc. before finding someplace to go for a sandwich and a latte.

10. The Hillside Gardens in Colorado Springs. Wander around picking up plants, garden sculpture, wind chimes, old gates or fence sections, wonderful pots, and more. Plan to stop in for a light lunch in their cafe.

11. South Broadway in Denver. I've heard it called The Antique Mile, though I've never gone through every shop to see how far you can go.

12. 16th Street Mall, Denver. I can't wait to find out what treasures are in store.

13. I didn't get to spend much time in Longmont and I'd like to wander around and find the antique stores, the thrift shops, the unique and special, the local watering holes. Just for fun.

Come with me. I'd love to show you my world. In my world, even Home Depot may reveal treasures. Come garage sale-ing with me, or thrift shopping. I haven't hit all the local thrift stores yet, have you? I'm not looking for junk, but for wonderful items to enhance my life and to decorate my home. Remember my $15.00 chandelier I mentioned in an earlier post? I just found a few pieces of great wall art--totally my style, $15 for the pair at a used furniture store. And while I was there I picked up a funky set of coffee mugs with a parisian print on them for next to nothing.

You just have to be ready for adventure and play tourist everywhere you go. You never know what wonders you may find if you decide to check out life outside of WalMart, Applebees and Chili's.

Anyone up for a trip to the thrift stores and antique shops of Simla and Limon? Broadmoor thrift/consignment store?