oldsalmonflies.jpgI've watched my father gear up for fishing trips many times in the last few years. And, while I never really sat down to observe, I noticed his efficiency and quickness as he handled the rod and the reel and the line. Not once did I consider how his length and level of experience with these tools might make his set-up time shorter than average.

Until today.

Jon and I are off to the mountains on Friday night. We'll be staying at a friend's cabin North of Yosemite. And on Saturday morning we'll rise at the crack of dawn and drive to a pack station where we'll start a trail ride that winds up in the back country. Prime fishing locations await us at the end of the journey, so we need to be ready.

For our birthdays my folks gave us matching rod n' reel sets. Jon has been fly fishing exactly once, and he caught an enormous trout on his sixth cast that trip. He claims he knows how unlikely it is that such luck will pass his way twice. Look at me. I haven't caught a fish in years. But secretly he's hoping he'll do it again. And secretly, I hope so, too.

But gearing up for us took forever. Jon's reel was tangled. Mine was on upside down. And tying the tippet to the leader, even with the set of illustrated instructions in front of us, was torture. Pull the lines parallel to one another, twist and fold into a knot, pull tight. Tug.

Snap.

After an hour (and if it took us that long in the air conditioned living room of my parents' well-lit home... Lord help us...), we went out to the backyard to brush up on our casting. Jon caught a tree and I deftly snagged the grass more times than I could count. In the violet twilight we couldn't see the little beige fly at the end of the transparent line. It hooked in the skin on my forearm and I yelped. But, as we all know, there's no crying in fly fishing.

So, I have new admiration for my Dad's skill as he twirls the flies tightly onto the end of his line. And I wish he'd been here today as we set up for such a trip. Let's hope he's with us in spirit out there in the wilderness. More importantly, let's hope I catch a fish!

(As long as wishing for things... let's make it bigger than Jon's, okay?)

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teriyaki.jpgAs any true Livermoron knows, our fair city has too few places to dine. When hungry, we scratch our heads and contemplate whether to hit McDonalds or Carl's Jr. Or, if we want to go out... well, the choices are Applebee's or Chevy's... or perhaps Chilli's.

Sounds like I'm whining about nothing, but after the zillionth quesadilla, it's enough to make me want to stop eating. Period.

Wait, I didn't say that. I love eating.

So, when a new restaurant comes to town, Jon and I always give it a try. And finally, FINALLY, we found one that we hope will stay. The Shibuya Grill is excellent. Simple, basic, delicious food. Teriyaki bowls, rice and beef (my fave) or chicken, carrots... the place has made me enjoy broccoli. That says something, huh Mom?

The restaurant's owner is in almsot every day, supervising and making sure his customers are well taken care of and that his food is perfectly prepared.

Give it a shot, friends. Vasco Road. Shibuya Grill. It's refreshing. It's yummy. And it's in Livermore!

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bluecrush_1.jpgAdding to the list of my guilty pleasures (that I am apparently unafraid of sharing with anyone who reads my blog) is one of the worst movies ever made... Blue Crush. Starring the gorgeous Kate Bosworth, one blue eye and one brown eye twinkling, as the surfer girl of all surfer girls. She lives with her sister and two best friends in a beach shack in Hawaii, works as a maid because school wasn't her "thang", and lives off of rice crispy treats when she's broke.

Could this sound less awesome?

Well, the secret truth is that I once wanted to be a beach bum. No joke. Me, the girl who is deathly afraid of the ocean, wanted to surf. I understood the athlete mentality anyway. I know that urge to conquer something bigger than myself, bigger and stronger than anything or anyone I know.

Why didn't I do it? To begin with, I was way too white to be a surfer. And my family didn't approve of tattoos. Granted, these are only parts of the surfer image. Still, there was a darn good chance I'd be terrible at the actual surfing part.

Because of that obscene beast called the Ocean. It's not even that the water frightens me. I happen to be a very strong swimmer. Or, I was. And I don't mind the stinging, clogged-up pain of getting water up my nose (too much). Mostly it's the sharks.

(((Insert scary, impending-doom, Jaws music here)))

It would be hypocritical of me to want to look the part, a tasty, kick-butt, surfer chick dominating the waves... and at the same time be upset with the sharks who agree with the "tasty" part.

Anyway, back to this terrible flick of a movie. Ignoring the love story... ignoring the predictible Mom-ditched-me-so-I-run-from-my-problems-too angle... ignoring everything, in fact, except the surfing... I feel good after it all. Watching someone, an underdog, get back up, swim back up after getting absolutely owned, is inspiring.

And I admire the fact that the best women surfers in the world advised the director as he undertook a film like this. It's tough to make an audience sitting in a movie theater or nestled into one comfy corner of a couch to feel the waves, to be splashed and crushed and wiped out. Somehow I feel it, though. They did something right. When the girls are sucked under and are struggling to find their way up, my lungs burn, too.

Plus, there aren't any sharks.

Now I work 8 to 5 every day. I do not have any tattoos (which is something I've considered changing, but old taboos die hard). I remain whiter than white. And my shark-phobia has not subsided. But I admire my best friend and Ya-Ya, Amy, because she throws it all to the wind and does this sport that I am so impressed by. I've been tamed, but she hasn't.

Jon and I are planning a trip to Hawaii within the next six months or so, but I don't think I'll attempt surfing even then. No, I'm more suited for beach volleyball, beach horseshoes, reading on the beach. We all have to find our niche. Mine is just obviously going to be found on dry land.

Thankfully, Netflix allows me access to terrible movies with zero plot and fantastic sporty-chick appeal... without forcing me into the embarrassing position of owning the darn thing.

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Alameda County Fair.gifOn Sunday we went to the races. It was my first time to the track; we went to the county fair and placed our bets. And we learned a little bit each time.

To begin, I picked a winner in Race 6, our first of the day. Funtrip, a three-year-old bay filly. Her jockey wore emerald green. She came out of the gate dead, dead last. I sighed and peered out after her, shading my eyes from the heat. Rounding the first turn she kicked in and pulled ahead of one horse, then another. But the favorite held a steady lead.

At the final turn I hitched my gauzy skirt above my knees. Oh it was so hot. With the blessing of breeze beneath me I grabbed Jon's shoulder and threw my maturity to the, er, lack of wind.

"Come on, girl!" I yelled. "Gimme a sudden burst of speed!"

She did. And she flew across the finish line a whole nose ahead of the bunch. I couldn't believe it. Jon wanted to pocket our dollar-fifty profit and make out our next ticket.

But first I wanted to watch Funtrip prance lightly back to the line. The crowd cheered for her, and her jockey nodded to us all. For that moment Funtrip was mine. Her veins pumped with energy and adrenaline; I could see them rising from her burnished coat like a road map to victory or fantasy, or both.

And then we went on into the fair, surrounded by heat and summer madness. Somewhere we could already smell the cows and pigs in their pens. We ambled between old tractors and feeders, running our hands along the rails. I wondered who had driven them and over how many acres.

In a photo booth we took our annual photos. Silly, laughing, kissing, smirking, crazy. A tradition we started during our first summer.

We steered clear of the cotton candy, listened to some awful karaoke, and spent most of our time in the youth sumission hall. Much of what I saw there impressed me. While I don't know jams or jellies, cake decorating, clothes-making, painting... I do know hometown fun. It made me proud.

In high school I took a drafting class with Mr. Rudolph, a sweet old man who liked me because I was the only girl in the class. We designed "buttons with a message". Mine won honorable mention. To be completely honest, though, there were a lot of honorable mentions. I missed the button exhibit this year. Hopefully I'll get to see it next year.

We played the ponies five times, almost breaking even most of the time. But on the final race we made some silly bets. I liked 2 and 4, even 6. Jon put $2 on number 9, a 20-1 shot, the least likely to win. As post time neared, the odds changed. Suddenly 9 was 35-1. I don't think it would be innaccurate to say we began to regret our bet. Not that two dollars matters, but neither of us like to lose.

Missle Tone, beautiful number 9, a gelding with almost no one pulling for him to show, let alone win... pulled it out. He raced right on through with his broad chest puffed up. And he won it. We cleared almost $100 on that final race.

I can see how horse racing could be addicting. Not just the thrill of money or beating the odds. Those beautiful horses, shooting stars. I could watch them every day. Listen to them every day.

One more reason to love the county fair.

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small town.jpgSunlight on brick is hottest at four in the afternoon. It bakes between the boxy shadows of the buildings on Main Street. Boys sip coke from slender-necked bottles. One of them shakes his fist, rattling the dice and tossing them down to clatter up against the wall. Two sixes. As there are no rules to this game yet, he'll come up with them later, he smiles and takes them up to roll again.

Women move slower in the heat, but they allow their hips a bit more swing. This is to catch the only breeze with their pastel skirts; catch it and let it flutter between their knees, cooling their muscular ankles. From beneath the brims of their day hats they talk the way only women can. Words like soft bubbles float between them, many at a time. To the words they nod. It could be gossip. It could be education. It could be nothing at all.

I wonder at these people, the ones who move by me without looking back. They would only see a little girl with her hair snarled into something like a braid. They might see my freckles or my chocolate brown eyes. But I doubt very much they would see me. I do not translate well into words the way they do.

One man hefts a crate of newspapers. He is the owner of the market, and those newspapers no longer possess the news. What happened this morning is long gone. In the heat of the afternoon, people do not care about anything but the baseball scores, and they'll catch those on the radio this evening. Or they can stand in the doorway of the barber shop and listen in as he gives free haircuts to the only three White Sox fans left in our town.

Mr. Charles and his wife live above the market in an apartment with only three windows. Behind the store in a planter box, Mrs. Charles keeps a very small Victory garden. When she took the train to Springfield to visit her mother for a week, I stopped by and watered the tomatoes after school. On my last day I tied a red, white and blue ribbon to the top of each plant. The plants have outgrown the ribbon now, and it's tattered, but Mrs. Charles won't untie them. She says that patriotism must be able to withstand wear.

If I take careful steps, the long kind, so I feel a pull just behind my knee but both feet are flat on the ground, it takes only thirty-two to reach the corner where my house is. The two blue stars hang in our kitchen window above Mom's white porcelain duck. One star is for my brother, Henry, and the other is for Uncle Thad. When we're sitting around the table at dinner now, since last December, Dad tells us to hold hands and then he says simple words to God. He never asks for a thing, but instead speaks what he hopes he knows. Henry is safe. Thad will be home soon. Those goddamned Nazis will lose this war.

Sometimes I don't keep my eyes closed all the way, and I see Mom wince a little when he swears. But I also see her mouthing her own prayer. She asks things, so I do, too.

Our table cloth is sky blue with little eyelet flowers. When dinner is over and everyone is gone, I help to clear the table. But I get the napkins last. The crumpled white napkins look like clouds on the blue tablecloth sky. It makes me think of Henry and his plane, the way the engine sounds like a thousand snaps being pushed closed and ripped back open all at once. His uniform looks like that sound, all snaps and razor sharp creases down his long pant legs. His picture is on the piano and his cap is cocked to one side. He is next to his plane, which looks like it is baring its teeth; and I think he looks so dashing.

But that is all I think of this war. If I think much more about it I'm afraid I'll become bitter. I could even start to stoop a little, like Mrs. Macklin does because she's always leaning in to hear the war news on the radio. Instead I skip rope and walk along the curbs like they're tightropes. On Tuesdays we go to the community center pool.

I love to swim, and Mom made me a red bathing suit that looks just like the one Betty Grable wears in her most recent movie, but I don't look at all like her. Too small in so many different ways. The boys at the pool don't look at me, but like I said before, they wouldn't see me anyway. Until last month the boys went to the pool to watch Hannah Stuart. She's the only one in our town who owns a bikini. But then she went off to be a nurse in the navy. Both of the Levi brothers enlisted that same week, but that was probably a coincidence.

Today, though, I am merely sitting on Main Street. A lady in a pink dress and a yellow hat is buying a water melon, but she seems to be having trouble picking exactly the right one. When I am older I hope I learn how to do those grown-up women things, like applying mascara or picking out melons or placing strips of cucumber by the door so the ants won't want to come in. I can't do any of that now.

What I can do is watch. I see things and know things so fast that the words just come from nowhere, from that secret spot in my brain where I never sleep. And I remember all of it. I remember the way the chalk clicked and broke in half in Ms. Silver's hand just before she dismissed our Sunday school class on that weekend before Christmas. Dad was waiting for all of us in front of the church, even though he never goes. He'd walked over and he was out of breath. He was holding Mom's hand and squeezing, and then they led us down the street like ducklings. I shuffled my feet along to make scratchy, soft-shoe music. I remember Dad sitting us down on the sofa and explaining the word infamy.

My peppermint ice cream has melted into a pink puddle in my glass. It is time to take the thirty-two steps home. But today it takes forty-seven because Able Bowers was washing his truck in the street and he tried to spray me, but even when I ran out of his reach I kept count. I try to be impeccably honest. I also try to avoid Able Bowers.

Dad is whistling 'Ain't We Got Fun' from the bathroom where he is washing his hands. When he hugs me I can smell the soap. The plate in the middle of the table is piled high with corn on the cob. It has a damp, sweet smell. I wish we could afford air conditioning. But when we take our seats and settle into the evening time, a coolness comes over us. Around our table we are safe. Dad is a rock. Mom is impenetrable. I hold hands with my little brothers, Jacob and Matt. They are so small and fair. I feel love for them pouring from my heart, all of a sudden, a reaction to the dark, fluffy tops of their heads bowed as Dad speaks. I am supposed to be praying.

Tonight I do not ask God for anything, I do not tell him what I hope is true. Tonight I say thanks. Here there simply is no war.

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fourthofjuly.jpgWhen the thumping of fireworks splattering across the night sky reverberates within my own chest, rivaling my heart, I know without a doubt how lucky I am. How lucky to be here in this country where my right to speech and faith and the pursuit of happiness are protected. Lucky to be here in this town where folks wear their patriotism on their rolled up, hard-working sleeves. Lucky to have a husband who squeezes my arm in time to the music behind the firework show, kissing my nose between the glorious, colorful pops in the sky.

It is a good feeling. And, although I was less than impressed with the renditions of the cliche Fourth of July songs chosen as this year's soundtrack, I was comforted by the sentiments. Hearing "I am proud to be an American" and "The Truth goes marching on" and "America, America, God shed his grace on thee"... without the protestations of the "lefties and greenies" who seem so noisy the rest of the year, that is something I love.

I wish we, those of us who love our country enough to congregate with family and barbecue until we're too tired to move, I wish we would take the time to be more blatant about our love of country the rest of the year. Why only once? Why only in the months following tragedy?

Tonight I watched every kind of person, representatives of every walk of life, every race, every religion, every level of education and class, streaming toward the flat, welcoming field of green. They spread out their blankets and were careful where they set their keys. They readied cameras and kicked soccer balls, munched on kettle corn and swung laughing children through the air by their ankles and wrists. They bobbed their heads to the music, smiling at the words. They watched one another. They made eye contact with me. They nodded and knew me, a neighbor, a friend, a fellow patriot.

Jon and I tossed a frisbee around with Cindy and Jason. Grass crunched cold under my toes and I snagged the frisbee from the air, biting my lip when the spinning momentum made my chilly fingers sting. Jon clapped for me and I bowed. It was a terrific catch. It was something to remember.

With the first big bang we raced back to our blankets and curled up, wrapped up to keep warm, and straining to hear the music above the explosions. Jon took pictures and I hummed along to the songs I knew. As always, it was the classics, the George M. Cohan songs that make me think of Jimmy Cagney tapping away and stubbornly waving that grand old flag, those warmed my heart the most.

After the firework show, which needed better music but remained amazing after one of the most spectacular finales I've seen in ages, Jon pulled me up and we danced in the center of the field. It was our third Independence Day together, and each year we dance. He touched his nose to mine, cold and loving, an eskimo kiss. And once again, for the zillionth time today, I felt unbelievably lucky.

(My family's second annual Fourth of July Scar Belly Open was today. We came in second. Dad and Mom have a trophy as evidence of their victory. We will unseat them next year. We will reign supreme.)

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national velvet.jpgOn the bed I share with my husband is a blue-edged quilt that has been washed enough to fall in soft folds when I kick the covers back in the morning. As a little girl I dreamed of waking to the throaty, inevitable crowing of my own bold rooster and then, without hesitation, shedding the warm weight of a quilt before running out to do farm work. My quilt was pulled off the rack at a department store downtown. It is one of a thousand identical quilts. And never have I risen to the call of a rooster.

But I can't forget those girlish dreams, the way I considered how a wrought iron weathervane might look atop my family's town home. I pondered the amount of milk produced by the single Holstein cow. I studied up on my Quaker ancestry when I watched John Wayne abandon his life as an outlaw for the peace and grace of Gail Russell and her Quaker family's farm (The Angel and the Badman, 1947).

What is it about farming or life on a working ranch that appeals to me? It can't be the hours. Just making it to my 8-5 job in the mornings isn't easy. However, recently I've discovered the back route to Pleasanton from my side of town. It winds behind Springtown, out by the Rod n' Gun Club, way out where the feared "suburban sprawl" can't go.

The land back there is lovely, unblemished. In the spring it was probably green with dark pockets of valley and tiny flickering streams of runoff. Today it is gold. The yellow and gray grasses prove that even death is beautiful under the tough Livermore sun. Farms and ranches run along either side of the road where I can see lazy cows with red clips on their ears wandering parallel to the barbed wire. It is the horses, though, that catch my eye. Black, white, brown, painted, speckled, blazed, glossy, shorthaired, long-legged, walking, running, cantering, whinnying, snorting, playing, grazing. I want to ride one and run with them.

In high school I took a few lessons from a friend's mom. She was a tall, weathered woman in old blue jeans, and she was terribly deaf. I couldn't tell whether she liked me very much. But then, I couldn't tell if she actually liked her own daughter most of the time. Over the course of two months we met about five times, and with a lot of help I learned my mount, a fat, slow-moving mare named Kissyface.

I learned the curve of her back, the sensitivity of her flanks. Not once did I kick her. Only when prodded myself by my staunch, hawkish teacher did I squeeze Kissyface with my thighs. She twitched about the nostrils and picked up her pace, but never faster than an even canter around the ring. To these lessons I wore jeans from Mervyn's and one of my brother's sweatshirts. After fifteen minutes of running the brush over her thick skinned flanks, I was covered in horse hair and horse smell. But I loved it.

And I was learning to ride bareback. Between us was only a ratty, gray bareback pad with short stirrups that slipped off if I wasn't careful. Kissyface didn't need a bit, either. We used a bitless bridle that slid softly over the bridge of her nose, and she could munch the carrots I fed her while I groomed. Our relationship was shallow, just her desire for carrots and sugar cubes wedged up against my desire to ride a horse, any horse. I think now that I would have fallen deeply in love if I'd seen her more than once every other week.

While other girls in the fifth grade were dreaming about boys, I was dreaming about horses. I absolutely believed that there was one horse out there for me, only me, with a soul I would understand and big, hazel eyes that matched mine. I had a named all picked out, too. And I won't give it up here, either, because I haven't given up on that dream. Even though Jon cannot now imagine nor desire a life that involves horses, I have faith.

After all, Velvet did find her Pie.

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boardwalk.jpgIt's been a while since I've felt sand slide under my toes, sucked playfully away by the tide.

But today I stood knee-deep in the Pacific Ocean with my friends and enjoyed the soft swirling beneath my feet. I plunged my toes deep into it and splashed in the sandy puddles. My pink toenails flickered from within the waves.

Santa Cruz, California is beautiful, of course. But not all of my memories there are good ones.

When I was about ten years old, I went to the Boardwalk for the day with my best friend, Julie, and her family. The day itself was quite an adventure. Julie's brothers buried us in the sand and abandoned us for a game of Frisbee. If a passerby hadn't sympathized with our plight, we'd still be there, wriggling under the heavy sand and frantically bobbing our heads.

Then, before we went to try out the rides, etc., Julie's mom told us we had to eat something. Fortunately, she'd packed hotdogs. Unfortunately, we didn't have a camp fire or grill. No problem, she said, we'll just eat 'em cold. Such began my worst food day ever.

More on that later. I can recall funky, silly things about that day that mean nothing to anyone but me. Julie's sister Connie was a year older than we, and she seemed so wise to the ways of the world. That morning she'd pulled out a pair of jeans and turned them into cut-offs with a few deft snips of her scissors. And boy, were they short! Too short, probably, her mom might have suggested. You're just advertising your behind to the dirty guys at the boardwalk. (She pronounced it bee-hind, which made Julie and I giggle.) But Connie, with a distinct will of her own, shrugged and pulled out a black sharpie pen. As we ambled about the arcades and carnival games we lost count of the boys who stopped to stare at her bee-hind. Of course, at that point you couldn't blame them. Across each back pocket she'd scrawled: If you're reading this, back off!

I killed at air hockey, even when pitted against the brothers. For my unabashed victories, I'm sure I was tickled and tossed in the ocean. But I'm equally sure that I loved every second of that attention. We rode all the rides, too. The creakier, the better. Over and over. And I was awfully proud of myself for my absolute fearlessness. Around corners and over steep drop-offs we whipped and wheeled, and I screamed until my throat ached.

Everyone knows, of course, that the only remedy for an aching throat is cotton candy. I gorged myself. Julie and I must have put away four whole sticky, pink helpings. Well, one might have been blue. I remember pulling away thick, scratchy clumps of it with my tongue and smacking my lips to savor the sugar. After a while my eyes were spinning in opposite directions, but I kept right on going.

The boys sought us out to display their new fake tattoos, tiny, crooked and dark green on their chests and arms. I wanted one, too. But Julie's mom, adjusting her leopard print bra straps, stopped me. Apparently only trashy women have tattoos. Had I not been completely hopped up on sugar and, therefore, incapable of constructing a coherent argument, I might have told her I only wanted to be trashy for one day. It was the Boardwalk, for Pete's sake!

Julie bounced a ping pong ball into a glass bottle and won a goldfish.
My skin was ringing like a telephone. I kept touching my arms and legs, pressing my fingers gently across my little thighs and watching the skin turn from red to white. But it was dark, and I couldn't really make out the burn. And what a burn. Vaguely I wondered how I could possibly have burned. The second we five kids had exploded from the van and sprinted to the beach, Julie's mom had snatched us by the scruffs of our necks and slathered us with sunscreen. Granted, that was only one time, and we'd spent hours on the sand and splashing in the water.

Ohhhhhhhhh.

One last ride, the boys pleaded, and their mom agreed. Julie grabbed my hand and pulled me on. It was a spinning ride on a track that whirled around. Double the spinning, double the fun. All day it had been that way. But there in that little green car, with my head caught in the clanging vice of the beeping carnival music, I felt so very very sick. On the turns I slid toward Julie, her little body vibrating with the same amount of sugar I'd consumed, but her half-Hispanic skin glowing a healthy brown after the same amount of sun. My lips were so dry.

The trashcan closest to the ride exit caught the cotton candy and the cold hot dog in reverse. Julie's mom pushed a water bottle into my hand and laughed a bit as I tried to walk a straight line. The air felt like heavy cotton. We drove home in silence, tuckered out. But as the other kids slept, my body screamed with every jolt, every pothole.

Julie wanted me to spend the night. I was in utter agony. But I wasn't sure if I could go home because it was so late. So I stayed, sitting up because I couldn't put pressure on my back, and with cold, wet wash cloths draped over every inch of lobster-red skin. It was my first big, bad sunburn. And I would have blocked that painful memory out entirely if I hadn't had so much fun at the beach. Since that time I have not touched cotton candy (it makes me sick even seeing the stuff), and I can't go on that final ride either. Funny the scars sunburns leave, huh?

Today, at twenty three years of age, I spent several fun hours in Santa Cruz. But my favorite fifteen minutes were those with my toes stuck delightfully deep in the sand. I really ought to go to the beach more often, especially now that I have control of my own sunscreen. SPF 45.

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grad day 01.jpgMuch has happened since the last time I blogged. Even as I realized June was upon me in all its anticipated glory, June was gone. So here, on a Saturday morning in my slightly messy house, I am sitting on the floor... without any homework hanging over my head, without any guilt at all. It's a new feeling, a blessed feeling. I am used to days and weeks and months flipping and screaming by me as I strain to keep myself at an able and worthy pace with those around me.

But this last week did not fly by as usual. In fact, from the moment I graduated, from the second the friendly man in the many-colored coat handed me my fake diploma (actually a pamphlet on joining the Davis alumni association, and an alumni pin, hint hint), the clock slowed. Now the days saunter along with me, easily containing all I must do.

The "Must-Do List" has decreased by enough that I am considering reprioritizing some of what used to be stuck on my "Wish-I-Could-Do-But-Who-Has-That-Kind-Of-Time List".

For instance, cooking. In the interest of absolute honesty with my audience (which I am certain has depleted since I began posting an average of twice a month), I will admit that I have cooked a meal for my husband and me a grand total of TWICE since marriage. We are now 44 days from our second anniversary of husband and wife. Oh, it hurts. I have baked many more times than that, but cooking, preparing entrees and side dishes on a schedule and with a recipe... not my thing. And BOTH times, Jon helped a lot.

So, with my extra time, I thought I'd put my degree in English to good use and don an apron. I have a really cute blue one with my name on it. Cooking with style. It could be my new thing.

Or maybe I'll take up a hobby. Jon still climbs (not a lot recently, but the poor boy has been out of town and/or sick for three weeks), and it relaxes him and motivates him. I'm sure I could climb, too, if I tried. I mean, I used to go twice a week with him. But I would like something of my own. Recently we've been playing tennis. Er'we call it tennis. After all, we both own rackets, we have the tennis balls (pink ones!), we live near tennis courts... but our knowledge of the rules of play is minimal and we can't rally more than three or four times. Someday maybe. But again, that requires both of us. I have considered horseback lessons, a dream of mine when I was a kid. Hmmmmm... I do live in Livermore.

Because I have this free time, I do occasionally fall into a daydream about school. Impossible, you say? Well, I do miss it. The paper writing, the creativity, the deadlines, the pressure, the grades that told me exactly how I was performing so I could make changes to be better or bask in my own genius. Maybe I do miss the grades most of all.

grad day 03.jpgNobody gives you grades in life. You're alive and you're breathing, and that's what everyone walking around you can say, too. So you're on equal ground. Until you start measuring yourself against people by way of house score, marital status score, children score, salary score, vacation score, and stuff score. The measuring is alternately fun (because you kinda made it to the point you did without thinking about getting there exactly) and depressing (because the people who did think about it got to someplace slightly better, and you can't change the past).

At school it was As and Bs. A C in one of my Shakespeare classes and a D in Health and Humanity. But in English, in reading and writing and thinking, it was mostly As. And that reinforced my self-esteem, made me write more, pushed me to become the best. I miss it.

At some point I will post the two short stories I finished out my final quarter with. The short stories that earned excellent grades and spawned the burning ember that is encouraging me to consider graduate school. Not for a while though. And maybe, if you're lucky (and that means you, Dad, my Number One Poetry Fan!), my poems will be available, too. But not today. Today I set one goal for myself, to blog. For the love of GOD, to blog. To start July with my best foot forward, to get my groove back.

grad day 02 biggest fans.jpg

My biggest fans came to watch me walk the final mile (or 300 feet) and transform into Audrey Jean Camp, B.A.

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