First (Soggy) Day of Summer

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Our morning glories made their inaugural climb despite the rain.

My parent’s street today:

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Lima is full of residential scenes that make sense in widescreen.

Btw, there are ongoing dramas for friends and family of mine. I avoid mentioning such matters because doing so with much coherence could invade the privacy of the people involved. With that aside, I can no longer resist mentioning that my mother had washer number six delivered today. There’s no typo in the preceding sentence. My mother has found no less than five washers lacking since the beginning of May. Today Dad returned number five for the sixth pretender to the throne.

I don’t know the finer details of this appliance series, or how my dad overcame the obstacles of returning so many washers. Is he starting to feel like someone who’s been struck by lightning multiple times in dubious circumstances? Did he just give up around washer three or four and start donating the rejects to secondhand stores? I remember watching a Weather Channel special years ago in which a woman had survived three lightning strikes and was reluctant to describe how ordinary the scenes were when it happened. She was struck the third time while washing dishes. Her predicament reminds me just a little of my parents’ marriage.

My washer and dryer were made in 1987 and still launder clothes well with fantastic inefficiency in water and electricity use. I’m so fortunate they show no signs of collapse. I just didn’t inherit enough of my mother’s force of personality to find worthy replacements for them.

I will close with a rainy scene from today’s garden. Incidentally, my washer was spinning with ease as I walked outside to take this picture:

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Jealousy

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Jealousy is the gut-twisting indigestion of emotion, and I’ve felt plenty of it lately. I’m hoping it’s just a step in grieving recent losses, like treading the waves of chronic pain or seeing how my daughter is struggling more to find her place among her neurotypical peers.

I confide my jealous thoughts to my husband, and he gently warns me that I’d alienate the people involved if I revealed such feelings. I then feel a bit jealous that he can squelch his more toxic thoughts before those who might be wounded or angered by them. I’m not the kind of person who can vent before an ideal audience whenever the need arises. This is why I have a blog and he does not.

I’m not jealous of things I see and read online. My Facebook friends can post as many shots of new campers, bigger houses, and graduations as they wish. I do not begrudge them their pride. It’s enduring the sight and sound of people close to me bragging about their good fortune in matters that they know trouble me.

I could turn this around and focus on their callousness. If I had a friend who struggled with infertility, I would not brag about my unplanned pregnancy. Why in the world must I hear chapter and verse about how their children who are close to mine in age are fielding suitors and learning to drive cars? My daughter is a smart, autistic sixteen-year-old who’s gotten bullied by males and can’t tie her shoes. She resists any suggestion of her learning to drive. I love my daughter to pieces. I wouldn’t trade her in for another child, but it is hard to witness the widening distance between her and her peers.

It is hard to capture the feeling I get when I hear that the child of one of my friends has achieved something that stands at some hazy distance in the future for my own. It’s a confrontation with two things: the reality that autism is a developmental disability and a reminder that I ultimately have not surpassed the jealousies of my youth. When I was sixteen, I envied my classmates who were dating or could drive cars without failing their driving test twice. Nevermind that my daughter has told me she doesn’t want to date or drive a car yet. It burns me up that she is missing out on the same things I did, even if she claims to be indifferent about it.

When I hear my friends brag about their teenagers, I silently judge them for living through their children, but isn’t my dread about my daughter’s present and future just a photo negative of their bragging? Why should I mourn that my daughter has none of my teenage goals when my achievements of those years translated into naught in my adulthood? I was a bulimic National Merit Finalist who squandered two attempts at a college education, who half-ass stalked my unrequited crushes. It’s a good thing she’s not my clone. I’d have been tempted to send her to a convent with adjoining ECT clinic.

Last semester, my daughter had health class, and she confessed that she laughed out loud when her teacher mentioned the evils of LSD because she remembered my anecdote whose tagline was, “LSD cured my bulimia.”

Yes, that is exactly how I earned a three-day stay in a mental ward at age 19, my insistence to student health that a hit of acid had cured my bulimia. I should relish having a daughter who can enjoy those stories without the least temptation to recreate them.

She will do what’s she feels is worth her time on her own stubborn schedule. Feeling as if I’ve been wounded when I hear that a friend’s teenager has already passed points a, b, and c is an emotion I wish I could exorcise from my heart’s repertoire.

How Did We Find Each Other?

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I’m still motoring through Agatha Christie’s back catalog, and the novel Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? has me impressed with how quickly its various characters are able to communicate by post or phone. It has me thinking that I too once lived in a world free of email or cell phones, and I don’t recall having much trouble making plans with friends or family if I wanted to emerge from my hermitage.

I can’t seem to remember how we arranged times or places with accuracy. I really can’t remember how we made things happen, how for instance we’d know to show up in front of the bookstore on a particular day and time. I don’t remember anyone failing to show up for such rendezvous. Late at times, yes, but absent, no.

This failure of memory seems absurd to me. It’s not like the first generation of car drivers forgot how to ride horses or how to read a train schedule. The part of my brain responsible for remembering how I made plans before I had a cell phone must be the same region that eventually forgets the particulars of a brand logo once a new one is adopted. This brand-forgetfulness has been a lifelong minor plague. When I was seven years old, my family passed through a small town that still had an older version of the K-Mart logo. The relief I felt at seeing the older logo was akin to dreaming of a friend I hadn’t seen in years (and said friend looking the same as when I last saw him or her). It’s the relief of knowing that your memory is longer and deeper than you suspect, even if your mental search engine doesn’t deliver an answer when you want it.

Now I feel like a cell phone is a shopping necessity. I could miss a call or text from home asking me to add something to my cart. Or, heaven forbid, I could “lose” my daughter or husband in the store. This is a part of life before cell phones that I do remember. My mom had a knack for disappearing in department stores. The larger the store, the greater the probability she’d slip away while I was thumbing through 45 rpm music singles or combing through a shirt display to find one in my size (which I could get only if it was on sale). I’d look up and Mom would be nowhere in sight. I’d spend the next half hour wandering the store and finding her only at the moment I’d given her up as lost for good. I’d spot her right before she slipped into some alternate retail reality where the pictures of mothers and not children are to be seen on milk cartons.

I’d have appreciated some way of knowing exactly where she was, but a cell phone would have diluted her mystique I suppose. Unless she went missing in a store, I had persistent knowledge of her whereabouts. I didn’t have to wonder if she was in the bathroom or the backyard or the planet Venus. I just knew. Perhaps such transparency was exhausting at times.

How did we let others know where we’d be and when we’d get there?

Garden, June 17

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I don’t like this heat, but I am apt to complain of temperatures that dare to escape my 10-degree margin of comfort (currently 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit and narrowing by the year it seems). Any day with heat in excess of 80 degrees shall be called anathema; a 95-degree day like today has a name so indecent I shall not write it.

The flowers seem to enjoy this heat if they have enough water. A couple of the hanging baskets dried out a bit by the evening watering time, but I persuaded them back from the brink with a long drink.

(Almost Summer) Photo Walk, June 16

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I’ve been remiss with my photo walks this year. It’s not like I haven’t been taking walks. I just haven’t had my camera with me. Instead, I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year, as much reading as I can possibly accomplish given the ordinary demands of work and motherhood. It’s like reading makes one’s perspective a bit more distant. I’m still enjoying the scenery of my days; I’m just not paying as close attention to what I see.

I’ve needed the mental engagement that a book can offer to those who linger between its pages. I’ve found that my ongoing flare-ups of nerve pain don’t mix well with television viewing. My mind is just not far enough away from that pain while I watch the show screen.

Around Halloween, I quietly decided that I’d start binge reading instead of binge watching. I’d exhausted all the episodes of Poirot and Marple on AcornTV, so I choose Agatha Christie’s bibliography as my first binge read. Since Halloween was just a pumpkin throw away at that time, I started with Hallowe’en Party. It’s one of the Poirot novels in which he teams up, willingly or not, with the mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver. I adore the Poirot/Oliver novels, for in those pages Christie seems to be laughing both at herself and her most famous detective. There are healthy amounts of satire and sometimes bawdy wit to be found in her work.

So far I have read 53 of her 75 novels and several of her short story collections. An e-reader like Kindle is a great tool for anyone who’s interested in binge reading. It will keep your place just like Netflix remembers the last episode/scene of a TV show. Life can be full of unexpected waiting, and I’ve had a novel (or three) of hers on my phone at all times. I also have a tablet for reading at home. I’ve enjoyed almost all of these books for free through my local library’s connection to Overdrive. The link provided leads to Ohio’s Overdrive collection, but I think this service is available in all states. The entry ticket is a current local library card.

This morning I slightly merged my interests in photography and reading by making a trip to my local library, which has a fantastic garden next door. I thought that I may as well take a camera along to record the progress of that garden.

I regret that I missed this year’s blooming of the peonies. Oh well. The weather was soggy, and I was busy reading The Hollow and The Carribean Mystery.

Unsweet Ramen Salad . . . and a Summer Picnic

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I haven’t posted a recipe in at least half an eon. Yesterday evening my daughter and I attended a summer potluck picnic at Bittersweet at Betty’s Farm here in Lima, Ohio. Bittersweet offers a range of services for people with autism. My daughter has been participating in their periodic social living programs for a couple years now.

Three times a year (weather permitting) there are gatherings for all of the families served by Lima’s Bittersweet. Yesterday’s picnic offered the full array of Ohio picnic fair, from ambitious dips served in Crock Pots to cream pies.

Pictured above are my indulgences from the picnic. Yes, I rested a chocolate chip cookie on top of a slice of gouda cheese, and all was good. I was so delighted to spot a ramen salad on the buffet tables that I filled a bowl with it.

I hadn’t thought to make a ramen salad myself until today. I decided that I’d rather not add sugar to my version. I’m finicky about sweetening an otherwise savory salad because it’s so easy to overdo it.

Here’s my super simple version of ramen salad:

Unsweet Ramen Salad

(good for a picnic potluck or a dinner inspired by such cuisine)

  • 2 – 3 oz bags ramen noodles, your favorite of the simple flavors; I chose chicken
  • 1 16 oz bag coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)
  • 1/2 cup additional carrots, sliced (optional)
  • 2/3 cup Italian dressing (use more or less to taste as long as the salad is saturated)
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the Italian dressing and ramen noodle seasoning packets. Break up the ramen noodles and add to bowl. Add the coleslaw mix, carrots, and peanuts to the bowl. Stir all together gently, lest the noodles and cabbage scatter about your kitchen. Cover and refrigerate for an hour before serving.

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Now that I’ve shared that recipe, I will offer a few of the highlights of the picnic aside from the food. There was a spirited bubble battle. I so wish I’d brought a camera aside from my cell phone. My daughter is just emerging from depression, and I was thrilled to see her so happy and engaged in the presence of others:

The picnic’s music was great as well. I heard Ike and Tina Turner’s cover of “Proud Mary” for the first time in over a decade. I mustn’t forget to buy a copy of it. How did I go so long without having it in my sonic arsenal?

It’s one of those songs that’s bound to grab people’s attention. I could tell that about a third of the people at the picnic had not heard it before. I was so delightful to see another generation won over by this song’s impossible, arresting charm. One after another just froze in place long enough to “tune” into the song and begin the toe tapping and hand clapping.