Introspection and Self Doubt

A number of the young women bloggers I follow write a lot about self doubt. Do I write well enough? Am I a failure if I give my kids pizza for dinner from time to time? If they don’t grow up to be good people, it’s all on me. I need to make the world a better place – today! How can I be a good mother and an interesting marital partner? And then, after awhile, they ask – What happened to me? Where did I go?

Those last two were things I used to think about. I married the first time when I was twenty and had two young children by the time I was twenty-three. This was well before the internet where I might have found help for how overwhelmed I felt. It was even before there were many self-help books. My husband probably was as overwhelmed as I was, but he turned his insecurity into verbal abuse and because I’d never lived on my own, had never earned a salary or paid my own bills, or really been responsible for my own life, it was easy for me to buy into his views of my worthlessness.

I felt like I had been erased. Where was the secure, smart, motivated person I’d been? The young teen who had thought about choosing between being a ballerina and a brain surgeon. Okay, the ballerina thing was delusional, but medical school not out of reach.

It took eleven years for me to get out of that first marriage. My two children were only part of the reason I stayed so long. I had a college degree but had never had a real job. If I left, how would I support myself and my kids?

I look back on 41 years of a second marriage to a lovely man who still thinks I’m smart and talented and beautiful. But it took me a long time to believe him. And it took him being injured in a catastrophic automobile accident thirty years ago for me to understand that I could make it on my own. The scared child inside me got pushed aside by the need to take care of my husband and our four children. It wasn’t easy, but at the end of six long years of his recovery, I no longer doubted my ability to take care of myself and my children. It put a lot of things in perspective.

Maybe it’s the process of aging, but my worries today are about our country and the world, not so focused on self. My kids are adults and make their own decisions and the consequences are theirs. They are good, responsible, caring people. The kind of people I hoped I would raise. The occasional pizza I fed them didn’t seem to inflict lasting harm.

A Trip to New York City

Last week my husband and I spent a couple of days in New York City. He was born in New York. As a young child his parents moved to the nearby suburbs so he visited often and knows his way around the city – unlike me who has no clue about uptown and downtown or in between.

We took the MegaBus. $40 for both of us round trip. That’s the upside. The downside is that we have to drive to White Marsh Mall outside of Baltimore to catch the bus and returning is a wait on the street near the Javits Convention Center. Our choices from the Eastern Shore of Maryland are 1) drive ourselves and pay astronomical parking fees in New York, 2) drive to Wilmington, DE and take the train ($100 – $200), or 3) take the MegaBus. Driving to Wilmington or White Marsh is a horse apiece so we chose MegaBus.

Going up was something of an ordeal. The bus we were supposed to be on was broken down and we had to wait for another bus. Fortunately we had “reserved” seats (an extra $2 per person per trip) and could wait out of the cold and wind in our car. Oh, I forgot to say it was raining. Another bus finally came and we started out – only to get off the highway at a rest stop because the windshield wipers had stopped working and the driver couldn’t see. We had a bathroom and snack break while we waited for another bus. That took another hour. So getting to the city – not so great. It was a good thing we didn’t have matinee tickets for a show. But coming home was terrific. Decent weather and they let us get in the bus while we were waiting to leave. The drive back to White Marsh was uneventful.

Before the trip Laura persuaded me to put Uber on my phone and that’s how we planned to get around the city. I had downloaded the app and my credit card information so no worries about having small bills and how much to tip, etc. You set that up ahead of time.

The MegaBus drops you off midtown – everybody on the bus exits and we got our bags from under the bus. I pulled out my smart phone and touched the Uber icon, feeling extremely proud of myself for using this new technology. Old dogs CAN learn new tricks.

What I didn’t know was that there are three options on Uber and I picked the worst one. It’s kind of a carpool option and it doesn’t pick you up exactly where you are, you have to walk to a location. So we did. Did I say it was raining and blowing so hard it blew my umbrella inside out?

The silver lining was that there was already a young woman in the Uber that picked us up and she explained to me the different categories. I should have picked UberX. That picks you up based on your location, although in NYC’s one way streets that might be on the other side of the road. But all in all, Uber was fantastic. They came fast, were good drivers, and since you’ve already set up your credit card info, no scrambling for bills at the end. You know what the ride will cost before you get in the car.  I’m a fan.

We had a couple of things we wanted to do in the city. We wanted to eat dinner at Il Grifone. We wanted to see a Broadway show. I wanted to go to Chelsea Market and the fabric store, Mood, which is featured on Project Runway. I needed some make-up refills so a stop at a department store was on the schedule. Other than that, we just wanted to poke around.

The city was beautiful as we walked to dinner.

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Grifone is a small Italian restaurant with white tablecloths and exceptional food.

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When I sent Laura this picture of my grilled octopus appetizer, she texted back it was the most pornographic food she’d ever seen. I’m still trying to figure that out.

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I’d never eaten octopus before, and it was delicious. Meaty and mild with a lobster-like texture. A fresh salad with some grilled shrimp was my dinner.

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When we strolled back to the hotel the rain had stopped and good weather was predicted for the next day.

My husband wanted to check out Tiffany’s first floor. We weren’t shopping for anything but it’s always fun to see all the glitz. Bergdorf Goodman was nearby and I thought that was as good a place as any to get my make-up refills. I went in and asked the first clerk I saw. He put me on a stool and before I knew it I was convinced I needed a new brand of foundation. Soon, Clif and I were on a first name basis. One thing led to another and I left with a bag full of goodies. That is me post Clif’s attentions.

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Then we ubered down to Chelsea Market where I knew I’d be able to find the elusive harissa. Nope!  It was still elusive, but I did find a container of 25 whole nutmegs for under four dollars. I won’t use that many in this lifetime so I’ve shared with some friends.

Then on to Mood where my husband found a seat (holding my bag from Bergdorf) and I walked around and patted fabric. He patted Swatch, the resident dog. I bought a Mood tote bag.

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I used to sew a lot and I love watching the designers on Project Runway. They always go to Mood for their materials.  There is now a new show called Project Runway Junior and these kids are truly amazing. Some are as young as twelve, none more than eighteen. Often they’ve taught themselves to sew watching YouTube videos – or they were lucky enough to have a seamstress mother or grandmother. I always sewed from a pattern and here they are patterning their own designs. Amazing talent.

That night we had tickets for “The Book of Mormon.” It was funny, irreverent and touching. No wonder it garnered so many Tony awards. However the seats in the section of the Eugene O’Neill theater where we were sitting had no leg room. My tall husband was miserable. It took his legs two days to unkink.

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It was nice to get away for a little while, but I always love coming home.

I Cook Calamari

I occasionally try new recipes, but the old stand-bys that I have in my head are now pared down to feed 4-6 so that there are leftovers. (When I was cooking for four hungry teens, I made lasagna in restaurant sized pans.) And the tried and true recipes have been modified for food sensitivities we have. I have several friends whose husbands won’t eat leftovers. If my husband ever started down that road, he’d have to fix himself a bowl of gluten-free cereal for dinner.

My writing partner, Laura Ambler, is an inventive cook and recently told me that she frequently makes Calamari. I often order calamari in restaurants, but didn’t even know where to find it in my supermarket. But recently, on a foray to our local big box store, BJ’s, I found it next to the frozen salmon. Turns out calamari is a fairly inexpensive protein. Be adventuresome, I told myself as I bought a box.

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I went on line to see how to fix it and was glad I did. High heat and short cooking times keep calamari from overcooking which leads to a rubber tire result. This recipe, which  I found on Chowhound.com) made a quick and tasty dinner. Cooking the jasmine rice for 18 minutes took the longest. This recipe will go into my rotation. And since what I usually order in a restaurant is fried calamari, I need to try that, too.

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Calamari with garlic and parsley

  • 1 lb squid, cleaned (it came that way in the package but I rinsed it), cut into 3/4″ thick rings, tentacles left whole
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter (1/4 stick)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp coarsely chopped parsley (I still had some in the garden)
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges

Instructions:

  • pat squid dry with paper towel
  • heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat until smoking. Carefully add squid in a single layer, then add butter, garlic, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook, tossing frequently, until squid is opaque and cooked through – about 1 to 2 minutes (do not overcook). Season with additional salt and pepper and serve over rice.
  • garnish with lemon wedges

Have you pursued any cooking adventures recently? Successes or epic fails?

 

 

 

 

It’s Just a Shed

We have a cute shed in our back yard. It was here when we bought the house. The husband built window boxes for it and in the summer they are full of ivy and geraniums although it’s a little forlorn in the fall and winter.

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Like most sheds, things get put in it and don’t come out. One of our goals this fall was to see what was in the corners, so we started taking things out some of which were donated to ReStore. We found three boxes of stuff that had been put in the shed when we moved here eleven years ago. I had wondered where those cast iron garden birds had gotten to.

With the shed almost emptied I saw an opportunity. This was the time to install drywall. It would protect the insulation that someone had installed. I didn’t plan to paint the drywall.

You have to understand that I have done a fair amount of drywall in my life. I helped install it in several rooms of our old house and I was the mudder. I still have the tools to prove it. But the last time I did drywall I told myself I was never doing drywall again. However, the passing of years meant I’d forgotten what a pain in the butt it can be. I’d also forgotten about digging drywall dust out of my nose.

My husband handed me the jigsaw you use the cut out the bits where the electric sockets are. I’m sure I would have gotten better with more practice, but after my first cut, I told myself – IT’S JUST A SHED and handed the jigsaw to him.

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And since it’s JUST A SHED I’m not going to spackle the seams and screw holes. I did begin to think about paint, however. Not to make it pretty, but to protect the drywall. We have two sheets of drywall to finish the job and they are standing in front of the space in the garage where I store paint. I’ll have to see if I have any partial cans that would do the job. Or I might go to Lowe’s and see what they have on the “oops – that’s not the right color” shelf. I am not paying $30 a gallon for paint for the inside of the shed where the drywall seams haven’t been taped or mudded.

Update: On the Saturday after Thanksgiving I went to Lowe’s but they didn’t have any “oops” paint. I went around the corner to ReStore and got a never-opened gallon of white paint for $7. Two days later all the dry wall is painted (two coats) and now we can install hangers for tools and sort what has to live in the shed. Those unmudded seams and screw holes are a little bothersome to my perfectionist self, but my mantra is…It’s Just a Shed!

 

 

Parking Lot Rant

Like most people who blog, I have draft posts that were never published. I just found this one.

This post isn’t about writing. It’s just a rant. Couple of days ago I noticed that some bozo or bozette had cut his or her wheels while I was parked at Graul’s Supermarket (I’m gonna be gender neutral here, but I’m picturing a guy from Tilghman Island in a big honking truck) and left a big dent in the front side panel of my Honda Accord. It was on the passenger side so I didn’t notice it until I got home.

Did that person leave a note on my windshield? Of course not!  My car is only two years old and already had major body work because it was attacked by a deer last December 23rd on my home from the last performance of The Santa Diaries. That was mostly covered by insurance, but since there isn’t any other insurance company to go after with this claim, my rates will get jacked.

At least that’s what USAA told me when I asked why they raised my rates last year. All because I had a windshield replaced on my previous car. My USAA car insurance doesn’t cover windshield replacements so I paid out of pocket. Apparently Safelite sent in a claim and got paid twice. I never knew that until I got the notice of the rate hike. When I called the insurance company to find out why my rates had been raised I was told it was because there was nobody to go after when a stone breaks your windshield. Duh! Isn’t that why you have insurance. For accidents!  I was starting to feel like a Liberty Mutual ad so I hung up.

Since there’s nobody to go after in this instance, I figure my rates will get raised if I put in a claim. Mullikens in Easton told me $845 to fix the fender damage. $845. And that’s no new parts, just taking the old stuff off, pulling out the dent, repainting. Okay, I can see maybe how they get to $845. I know they are in business to make a profit, but seriously, I’m going to have to think about whether I’m going to have it repaired or not. It’s on the other side of the car so I don’t see it much.

However, I’m putting out a universal curse on parking lot people who damage other people’s cars and don’t leave their contact information. You ought to be ashamed.

Update two years later: I did get the car fixed. It’s as good as new, but just reading this makes me mad all over again. I have to remind myself that most people are responsible – just not the one who damaged my car.

Darth Vader Lexus

Darth Vader beside Lexus 69ee945ef89ba49dbd7c97633dca5fdb

Why did I think I was the only person who saw the similarities?

When I Googled Darth Vader one of the choices that came up was Darth Vader car.  Here’s what I found: Lexus unveils bold ‘Darth Vader’ concept at show- Keith Barry, Reviewed.com / USA Today 1:58 p.m. EDT September 11, 2013

Apparently the Lexus folks decided they wanted a car with an edgy feel. I call it a creepy feel. This is just an evil looking car. If I was driving one, I might go over to the Dark Side and start running over pedestrians.Well, probably not. I hope I have more self control than that.

The only time I thought about driving into other cars was when, during menopause, my gynecologist put me on hormone replacement with a small amount of testosterone (Estratest). After two weeks I told her I wasn’t going to take anymore because I was thinking about running into other cars in traffic because I didn’t like the way they were driving.  When I told my husband, he said, “Welcome to a man’s world.”

My first car was a 1963 red Beetle. It was cute. It made me smile until I forgot I had to put gas in the tank. It was my first car, I was only twenty, and I only did that once.

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My VW took me to Goucher College in Towson, MD from where I lived, newly married, in Stewartstown, PA. Interstate 83 had just recently opened and there was hardly any traffic so I could study note cards for my classes as I drove. After that it kept going until it was traded in, when I had children, for a VW hatchback.

My second husband and I had several Volvos which turned out to be not very reliable and expensive to maintain. We bought the first one because it was the only car on the market that would hold all four kids (two of his, two of mine.). I think it cost about $6K. It had a seat in the “way back” and none of the kids really wanted to ride facing backwards. But it took us all where we needed to go for quite a few years.

Then we got Hondas and have been driving them ever since. We drove cars until they needed new engines and then my handy husband would drop one in a new one. More recently I’ve wanted Hondas that have more of the latest safety features-like airbags that might shoot you full of shrapnel. I guess it’s a crap shoot, but I refuse to even consider driving a Darth Vader car.I might end up in a battle with other Storm Troopers on the highway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Thing Leads to Another

You know how this goes. You want to get a project finished, but before you can really start there are other things that have to be done.

The project: fill the window boxes in the front of the house.

Last Thursday the Green Thumb Garden group of the St. Michaels Woman’s Club took a bus trip to London Town in Edgewater, MD. We had the first day with no rain in 20 days. After touring Londontown and its beautiful, soggy gardens we boarded the bus to Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, MD. We were there to shop! The bus had loads of room underneath and Homestead Gardens has a fabulous selection of plants for my window boxes. Oh, and llamas and alpacas.

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I wanted to find a replacement Golden Showers rose. It’s a pillar rose and the one I have is ten years old and showing its age. Three years ago I ordered another one from Wayside Gardens to put in as a replacement. It has not done well. And the three Fairy roses I ordered from Wayside the same year have never bloomed! I am not ordering plants from Wayside again anytime soon.

Homestead was very low on climbing roses and did not stock Golden Showers. I bought a pink climber to try. I also was in the market for annuals to fill the window boxes on the front of the house. Homestead had Sunpatiens – a new cultivar of New Guinea impatiens that does well in the sun. So I bought 15 which is what I need for the five window boxes. I fill in with some other things – so I bought more plants.

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Before I began on the window boxes I needed to plant that rose. I started to dig a hole but the ground was so wet that I abandoned that and will try again when things have dried out. See all those maple tree helicopters. That’s another project with the blower, but requires the fliers to be dry.

Now I had the plants, but before I could plant the window boxes I had to make sure the drip irrigation system was working. That required a trip to the store for new 9V batteries. I have two drip irrigation systems. One for the window boxes and one for the raised veggie beds. The systems have timers which need to be set for day, time of irrigation and number of minutes. But before you can do that you have to set the time and day you are setting up the system. All this is done using five little buttons. Something has to be blinking before you can program it. Since I do this once a year I never can remember the sequence. Even with the instructions it’s daunting. However this year I resolved to program the darn things before I put them on the hose. Every year in the past I’ve installed them and then ended up lying on my back trying to figure it out. Result: lots of cursing and plants getting watered at strange times.

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So now the gizmo is programed and ready to be attached to the hose. It’s really windy today, so I’ll wait until tomorrow. Then I need to turn it on and see if there are any leaks in the system. Then I can  plant my window boxes. The weather forecast is for cold night temps tonight. I don’t want to put the boxes out and have them blasted. Tomorrow might be a good day. Those window boxes will be in by the end of May.

I still have to program the system for the raised veggie beds and test it. I know there is a major leak in one of the big hoses. Damn squirrels chewed it last fall. But, of course, I didn’t put a piece of tape around it so have to turn on the system and be prepared to get wet while I hunt for the leak. Like I said, one thing leads to another. But I am going to get the system set up before I attach it to the hose outlet. I do occasionally learn to work smarter.

Note: The bunnies have found my raised veggie beds. The BB gun is coming out of the closet.