Sunday, June 30, 2013

I ALMOST Saw "World War Z"

It's very hot and as I said in an earlier post, while the tenants of our rental property are enjoying the benefits of a brand new air conditioning unit, we are not.  I have a fan.  So to beat the heat, in spite of fatigue from a stressful week and a very full weekend, I went to the movies with Bob to sit in a cool building with comfortable seats.

I had wanted to see "World World Z" because it looked like a fun alien film, ala "Independence Day" from years ago - with action, humor, a slew of heroes, and an appropriate amount of suspense.  Naturally, Brad Pitt was a draw as well.

This was not that movie.

You should know that I have some sort of issue with the muscle under my left shoulder blade.  This is turn is causing tension and achiness in my left bicep and ultimately, my fingers.  Its sort of a "knee-bone's-connected-to-the-leg-bone" kind of phenomenon.  And really is starts with my neck and I am working like mad to remember to relax my shoulders and willfully release my muscles from a general flexed state.

This movie was counter-productive to that goal.

I cannot tell you much about this film.  Apart from a scene where Brad Pitt is making pancakes for his kids, there is little about this film that gives you a break.  And because that scene comes in the very beginning of the movie, I didn't really need a break yet.

This movie was like "Jurassic Park" meets Michael Jackson's "Thriller" (without the cool choreography).  

Mostly, my eyes were closed but I peeked often enough to see that the CGI was pretty good.  Too good.  One scene made me fairly nauseous.  Early on, I leaned in to Bob and said "I may not make it through this movie.  If not I'll just go sit outside".   But in thinking it though, the record heat today made this option nearly as terrifying.

I used be able to sit through a suspenseful movie or TV show with the best of them but I have noticed a gradual inability to cope.  My  internal "Anxi-o-Meter" starts going ding-ding-ding-ding-ding at the first hint that a restful, peaceful scene is about to be corrupted by an unexpected, sudden entrance of evil.  It doesn't matter that I know it is coming - when it does I nearly pee my pants.

So I just counted my Raisinets, looked at my fingernails, the seat in front of me, Bob, the ceiling, and in all that free time, I realized that the reason we could endure the suspenseful and frightening in films at a younger age was that we didn't have the filter that now keeps us from ruining the experience for those around us.  We were free to scream back at the screen, warn the hero, carry on, and not give a whit about the old guy sitting in front of us.  And I think if I had been able to scream at the Israeli people safe behind the walls (for those of you who have seen it, you know) to stop their singing and shut the hell up, I might have been able to watch the scene unfold.  I understand it was pretty spectacular - as zombie acts go.  I did get a glimpse of a female zombie in a shredded pink dress gyrate and take off toward the action to get her share of human flesh.  I will say too that there was one line in the movie I loved: "Mother Nature is a serial killer".  Great line.  But as a hypochondriac, I will no doubt play it over and over again in my head - everytime I feel the need to see a doctor.

So at the end of the film, I walked away with muscle spasms in my arms and neck and it hurts to type this.  But I am safe now, at home.  And Bob is on the roof with the hose.

And maybe that's what we should have done in the first place.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Post Birthday Reflection

Celebrating my many years...
I worked yesterday, on my birthday.  I was taken to lunch and given gifts.  I was given a lovely red velvet cake and I was pleased.

When I got home - there was a card and a balloon and a cake in the refrigerator.  Bob immediately told me he had been all over all day looking for something to get me but gave up.


In fairness, I don't even know what I want for my birthday that doesn't cost several thousand dollars.  And it is also true that I will return something I don't want - which I have been known to do.  But after nearly 21 years of marriage, I thought it was fairly unimaginative of him.

What he did bring though was a chocolate cake that he crammed 72 candles on (nearly 20 too many) and lit them all for a "make-a-wish-and-blow-out-the-candle-inferno" photo opportunity.  In spite of it being a horrifying reminder of how flammable my cumulative years have become, I thought it was kind of funny.  I was well lit, anyway.

But there would be a penalty for having brought no gift.  So when we chose a movie to watch and got comfortable and ready to be entertained, I handed Bob my brush and he and Grace took turns brushing my hair.  For the duration of the movie.

Happy Birthday to me.  Best damned present I can think of.

But I'm still going to buy myself something.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I Am NOT 56. I Am NOT 56. I Am NOT 56.

Ready for my closeup...
Yes I am.

Actually I am 55 years, 51 weeks, and 6 days old.

But who's counting?

All I can say is that if 50 is the new 30, 56 is...

... the new 56.

It isn't that I feel 56 (whatever that means).  It certainly doesn't  feel like I thought it would feel when I was 25.  It was inconceivable.  I thought it would feel old.  And I don't feel old.

It isn't that I don't feel "cool"  anymore - although my soon-to-be 14 year old can't resist an opportunity to tell me that I'm not. (But what the hell does she know?)

It isn't that I don't feel relevant.  Who cares that I don't know the names of 20-year-old movie stars who make careers of playing vampires with issues.  Or that I don't know what "My Chemical Romance" is or how a chemical could be romantic - or owned - let alone sing.  (Though I understand that the romance that was chemical belongs to no one any longer.)

It isn't that I'm spending time figuring how many years fewer I have to live than I have lived already.  (Although I am.)

It isn't about maybe becoming a mother-in-law.  (Although that is pretty weird.)

I'll tell you what it is.  It's gravity.

Its about actually knowing just how high and at what angle to hold my head in order to hide the three (yes, count 'em - three) chins that clearly are going to require surgical intervention.  

It's about eyelids that have drooped so low that they now resemble foreskin.

Its about just-above-the-knee skirts that aren't long enough and not being able to wear sleeveless.  Its about fat around your knees, and not being able to walk in heels anymore.  It's buying hair color in bulk when its on sale.  It's about the line of your mouth dropping from neutral to frown.

Its about finally seeing what my parents saw when they told me I looked like my grandmother.

But you know what?  Its also about having a story.  And I've had a pretty good one.  And as they say, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings".

And I'm only humming.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lost Dogs

Toby and Bob
I am very used to the dogs not getting excited when I get home.  They know better.  I do not respond in kind.  So when I came home today and saw that Bob's car was gone, I expected that they would be in the backyard and that I could walk through the door with relative peace.  And that is just how it went.

Bob returned home half an hour later and a half hour after that we realized that the dogs had not reacted when he got home.  Usually, they go running through the house, barking like maniacs, jumping at the door and then all over him when he walks through it - as though they'd been worried sick that they would never see him again and then, had just been returned safely by the police.

Something was wrong.  We knew they were gone when we realized that they hadn't reacted to Bob's arrival but we went through the motions of looking through the house and yard.  They were not there.

Bob got in the car and and started to search.  Grace went with him.

I stayed home and pondered life without Toby and Jack.  My feelings were very mixed.  The thought that "nature" in the form of coyote, rattle snake or other predator taking them was really unbearable.  I could see their doggy eyes in my head and picture how they loved me even if their love was unrequited.  If I ever cried, they'd come to me as if to ask "what can we do?"  If I ever did reach down to pet them, they were always grateful.  Toby learned that I would laugh when he would smile (baring his teeth), so he would often come up to me and do his trick.   Just for me.   Without being asked.  Jack caught on that I don't like to be licked.  So he doesn't do it.  He will just sit at my feet and resist the urge to do what dogs do to show affection.  Gross as it is.

On the other hand, it would be the end to pee stains, and furniture with holes chewed in it, incessant barking when they want in or out - a million times a day - muddy paws, bad breath, humping the legs of visitors, dragging their butts across the carpet to deal with an itch (aaaarrrrgggghhhhh!), and general disobedience.

Bob and Grace returned from their search without the dogs.

The full impact of loss felt followed them into the house.  Especially Bob because while he sucked it up, Bob was devastated.  He had resigned to them being gone and while he sucked it up, shrugged his shoulders and said "well, whaddaya gonna do?", he paced the floor and wouldn't look at me.  I knew he was beside himself with grief and he was mad at me.  Mad because he had to be mad at someone.  Mad at me because I didn't love them.

I asked him if he wanted me to make a poster.  He said "I guess".  But in his heart he knew they were gone.  For good.  And my heart broke for him.  I knew the girls would cry and be upset, but I actually worried about how Bob would get over it.  He loves those dogs nearly as much as his kids.  And they give him the constant affection he craves.  There have been many times I have awakened to find him sleeping on the couch with the dogs all over him.  He always makes an excuse ("I couldn't fall asleep", "you were snoring")but I know it is because he loves the cuddling.  When I sleep, I need my space.  I like to cuddle too but when its time to sleep, you go your way and I'll go mine.  They are never angry with him.  They adore him.  And so, he loves them.  Completely.

I always talk about how Bob is a boy.  And it is really true that there is a lot of "boy" in him.  But I was witnessing a man.  My man experiencing sadness I hadn't seen in a long time.    And I knew I couldn't comfort him and I also knew that while he knew it wasn't my fault, he didn't like me very much.  Because he knew I didn't feel what he felt.

Bob and Grace decided to take a walk and look for them one last time.  Then Grace saw a sign on a lamp post.  It said "Two white dogs found.  No tags".  So convinced were they that our dogs were gone forever, Grace's first thought was "How weird that someone else lost two white dogs too!"  And of course, the reality washed over them and I wasn't there but I can only imagine the relief.

It turns out they had been found hours ago.  Somehow their absence had escaped everyone.  Hard to believe.

But I am much relived as well.  Because while it is true - I have no deep affection for them, my husband does.  So I will be happy to put up with all I can't stand about them, and hold them dear besides.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Clean, neat, and no longer embarrassing
We bought this rental property with my 401K a couple of years ago and it has proven to be a good investment.  After having spent a lot of money for upgrades initially, we now find we have to replace the air-conditioning unit.  It's okay though because as with any investment, money needs to be spent for upkeep.  Unless, it appears, it happens to be the investment I live in.  The house can be falling down all around us and Bob will say "it's  fine."  So I am extremely jealous of my tenants because they have new carpets, new granite counter tops, new window coverings, new lighting fixtures, and now - new air-conditioning.

Bob hates spending money.  Hates. It.  We need a new couch.  Really.  The leather couch, after 13 years, has a hole in the cushion (thanks to my horrible dogs).  It needs to be replaced.  Ain't gonna happen.   When our dishwasher broke down he did dishes by hand rather than spend $700.00 on a replacement.  We finally got a new one when a friend updated her kitchen and gave us her old one.

On the other hand,  I do spend.  Within reason, I have never had a problem spending money on vacations or things that I want for the house.  But these days I am inclined to try to get by without if I can.  Still, with the air-conditioning going into the rental, I wanted a present too.

So yesterday, I got a call from the young man who is coming to stay with us for the summer while he completes an internship here in Southern California.  (We had a really good experience with our intern from France last year so we thought we'd do it again.)  But he called yesterday and said his mother was coming out with him for the first three days and would that be okay.  Weeeeeelllllll... suuuuure.  We do have another spare room.  But that room is a complete disaster having housed a messy daughter for many years.  It is the one room who's door is always shut.  So when I told Bob that our intern's mom was going to stay for three days, even he jumped into action.

Within ten minutes of the call we were in the car headed for Home Depot to buy carpet and paint.  And I have ordered bedding.  And new lamps.

He is painting as we speak.  And I am so happy I could cry.  We have a reasonable guest room.  One room in the house down, eleven to go.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Emailing With the Big Guy

Subject:  Gotta Minute?

Dear God:

I was hoping you could spare a minute and just hear me out as I have a few issues that I am grappling with and and I was hoping you could give me some perspective.  Is this a good time?


Subject: Gotta Minute?

Hi Valri:

Seriously?  "Is this a good time?"  I'm juggling a lot of balls at the moment.  Some pretty intense stuff going on these past couple of thousand years.   But honestly?  I'm pretty good at juggling so listening to you it isn't a problem.  Shoot.


Subject: Gotta Minute?

Thanks.  I didn't think it would be a problem but I didn't want to assume because everyone knows "whenever you assume..."

Subject: "Gotta Minute?"

"...It makes and ass out of you, but never of Me."  Go on.

Subject:  Gotta Minute?

Okay.  I'll dispense with my lame attempt at an ice-breaker.  I guess I'm just wondering, what's it all about anyway?  I mean, I'm looking down the very short road to another birthday, I can't believe how old I am and suddenly I am wondering, have I blown it?  Was there something I should have done, something I should have seen, something I missed along the way that was right in front of me that I didn't grab onto?

Subject:  Gotta Minute?

I thought you were going to ask me something hard.  The answer is - yes, you have blown it, yes there was something you should have done, yes there was something you should have seen, yes there was something you missed along the way that you didn't grab onto.  Anything else you need to sort out?

Subject:  Gotta Minute?

Seriously, God?  That's all you got?  I am really freaking out about all of this.  I look back at a life, here in my middle age and see such an average, milque toast story.  And I am ashamed of a lot of my behavior over the years, and such a lack of gratefulness.  I see years of time wasted in jobs I didn't like, that wore me down, just to pursue some kind of security that I thought I could own.  I abandoned the theatre - something that gave me great joy.  I gave more pursuit to personal comfort than I gave to my family.  We rarely even had dinner together.  I watched too much TV.  I read too little.  I didn't take risks.  I got fat.  I lost touch.  I gave more time to the wrong things and less time to you.   I feel so lost.

Subject:  Gotta Minute?

Hang on a minute.  BRB...

Okay, I'm back.  I had to get the Master Schedule.  I'm looking over your life right now and yes, it looks like you're due for another birthday.  Goods days.... bad days.... way off track over here.  A little closer there.  And yes.  Here you are.  Not all bad but yeah, a lot of wasted time, leaving you... right... here.  Yes, confused and discouraged.  And seeking answers.  Yup.  Looking for purpose and joy.  So what do you want to know?

Subject:   Gotta Minute?

God, with all due respect, what do you mean "what do I want to know?"  I need some counsel.  What heavenly and eternal words of wisdom can you impart that will change the trajectory of my life?

Subject: Gotta Minute?

Okay.  Here it is.  You're not dead yet.


From:  Valri@dumpingmypurse
Subject:  Gotta Minute?

Uh... I'm not sure what to say to that.

Subject:  Gotta Minute?

Really??  Did you expect the mountains to crack open and heavenly voices to sing you the answers to the universe?  It's simple, Valri.  And of course, as always, you can take it or leave it.

Thanks for checking in, though.  I invite you to do it more often.  I really love all you guys - more than you know - but y'all do make me laugh.  An eternity of entertainment.


P.S.  I like your recent FB photo.  I've got it on the refrigerator.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Own Fred Astair

When Bob and I were first talking about getting married, I had a fantasy of our future together.  My fantasy included three perfectly adjusted, beautiful daughters, happy family, and Bob tap dancing on the kitchen floor.

Well, in spite of me, I now have 4 beautiful, seemingly well adjust girls.  And I believe we all have some measure of happiness most of the time.

And Bob tap dances on the kitchen floor.  And the foyer floor.  And the carpet.

There is something so extraordinary about it.  I listen to the sounds his feet make and marvel.  I sometimes dream I can tap dance.  But he can.  And I so love it.  To me it is like magic.  How can you make your feet move like that?  It is such a joyful form of dance.

Some women dream of candles, wine, and flowers.  Some dream of music and sonnets.  I dream of syncopated rhythms and clicking beats on the floor boards.

I am never more in love with him as I am when he is dancing.