Thursday, September 6, 2012

Excuse me while I just lick this salt off my fingers...

Top Five Signs Your Work-From-Home Arrangement Just Might Include Too Many Potato Chips:

1. You know that the keys you use most often on your computer are "A" and "E" because they are the most encrusted with salt.

2. When you walk into your office, the dog automatically stations herself under the desk with her mouth open to catch dropped chips.

3. Whenever you stand up, inches of crumbs fall from your lap and slowly drift down toward the floor (and the dog, see #2).

4. You find yourself thinking they go with everything; nothing garnishes banana bread quite like a nice crispy Sour Cream & Onion potato chip.

5.  You consider having potato chips with your lunch, but think to yourself, "Oh, but I had chips for breakfast."

Monday, September 3, 2012

A sigh of contentment

I'm feeling particularly sunny and happy today.  Maybe it's because it's sunny outside, with a clear blue sky and delightfully cool temperatures.  Maybe it was almost 30 miles of biking on country roads before 10 a.m. Maybe it's because a new neighbor delivered a fresh hot loaf of banana bread to my door this morning. Maybe it's because it's now been a full month since the last time I had to commute on the Washington DC Metro (which, don't get me wrong, provided pretty good service so long as you were willing to be crammed into a train with hundreds of other sweaty people and get your ass groped once or twice a month).  Maybe it's that we're finally nearly unpacked and at last I know where my other pair of running shoes are.

(Mike and our chariots in downtown W3, note they are not even locked up!)
After just three weeks here, we are already getting into the tempo of our new country mice lives.  We walk places:  to the store, to friends' houses, to work, to the local pub.  We get outside: biking along long country roads, running through trails cut into fields, walking the dog in the evening and staring at all the stars. We chat with folks: the neighbors (seriously, thank you for that bread), the woman at the boutique in town (about whom I now know more than some people I worked with in DC for years), the guy at the Farmers' Market who answered a question about native plants with a long disquisition on the very meaning of "native," the pilot down the street who as it turns out can, indeed, recommend a good vet. We cheered at our first local parade although we missed the big annual fair (see note above about emptying boxes in search of running gear), but are vowing to hit the Round-Up down in Pendleton next month (even money says I come home with another pair of cowboy boots).

(There is a special place in heaven for guys who volunteer to be the rodeo clown with the pooper scooper in a horse-filled parade)

There's really only one more thing that will make this first holiday in W3 (Walla Walla, Washington) absolutely perfect.  Yes, a nap.  Maybe after another piece of banana bread. Here's the August monthly report, although somehow August already feels really far away.

Saturday, August 25, 2012


If this move still doesn't feel entirely real, it is no doubt due to the fact that we continue to inhabit an empty house.  And yet, somehow our life in Virginia is taking on an unreal tone for me as well.  We are neither here nor there, but also both there and here.  We are camped out, if camping can mean air conditioning, a double-thick air mattress, and Netflix videos on the computer at night.  We are settled down, if one can be settled when all of one's belongings are somewhere in Nebraska. Or Utah. Or Montana.  We are filled with plans for the future, just as soon as we finish the process of selling the home of our past.

We marvel at the cool mornings and crisp evenings, and still compare the weather with our last known address. We paint--and when the color is awful, we repaint--and we try to remember the size of our furniture as we wander through each room. We have a $100 bet about what color the couch actually is.

We do our work, me from a camp chair in what will eventually be the dining room.  We go on bike rides. I get myself hopelessly lost on runs through fields and residential neighborhoods.  We have laughter-filled meals with old friends.  We have twilight drinks with new ones. We buy a second box of plastic forks, because I keep forgetting and throwing them away after we eat.

They say the lessons come not from the destination, but the journey.  This is a long class, indeed. But a good one.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lost in America

Here's the thing about spending days and days on the road, living out of your car: your life becomes all about spending days and days on the road, living out of your car.  It's load it up, drive, drive, drive, let the dog out to pee, drive, drive, bad food, drive, check into a hotel, unload the car, walk the dog, feed the dog, eat more bad food, collapse, start over tomorrow.

I was going to try to sum up my thoughts about leaving Virginia after six years, but right now Virginia is nothing but a place I was seven states ago.  So instead I'll just post July's monthly report and promise Very Deep and Profound Thoughts on starting over--sort of, not completely, since happily I still have my job, my dog and my husband (in no particular order) carrying over from the last chapter--at some later date.  Probably from an empty house while I wait for the movers to arrive.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"No time for a kiss at the subway station..."*

So the other day I stood wedged into an overheated car on an Orange Line train, trying to ignore the conversation of some neighboring tourists about which building was actually the Capitol and hoping that for once nobody would grab my ass, and it occurred to me that in just a couple of weeks, I won't have to commute anymore.  No more mildewed trains, no more broken escalators, and no more cramped trains on the Metro.  No more detours to the gym for a shower, no more dodging unpredictable taxis, no more knees popping all the way up the hills on my bike.  

Here in the Hard Core 'Burbs of Northern Virginia, I fritter away moments each morning checking the weather, looking at my schedule, mapping in my head where I need to be and when in order to determine what mode of transport I shall take.   debate whether a 50% chance of rain really means it will rain, or if a triple-digit temperature forecast really means collapse. I pull out bike clothes, I put away bike clothes, I pull them back out again before shaking my head and looking for my Metro card.  I plan out the packing of pannier bags like some sort of clothing engineer.  I offer up a quick prayer that I don't destroy a computer in a fall.  And then...only I spend the actual 75 minutes or so getting to work.

But in just two weeks, my commute will consist of the 3 or 4 seconds it takes to carry my coffee from the kitchen into the home office; I'll suddenly have all those hours I spend commuting back.

Let me say that again:  I will have an additional couple of hours to fill as I please each day.  That's 13 to 15 HOURS a WEEK to spend doing things other than shuffle my way to and from work.  Over the course of a year, it'll add up to the equivalent of 5 weeks of vacation--it's like I'm suddenly going to be French! Whatever shall I do with it? (Other than taking up smoking and pretending that I am French.)

Bike rides, but unhampered by excess commuting gear and the dreaded Circulator Bus?  Become a true "yogini," maybe get to the point where I can touch my toes without groaning? Learn to do that funky chi running thing (even though I feel like I'd look kind of silly at it)?

Maybe I should embrace the arts.  I could finally learn to knit. Take up watercolors, or set up a pottery wheel out on the deck? I could try to make something to sell on Etsy, or maybe start off by understanding what Etsy is. Or maybe I should attempt another belly-dancing class, this time without a torn shoulder and a sling which, frankly, can really cramp a girl's efforts to undulate and shimmy. (Can one take a belly-dancing class in Walla Walla, Washington?)

Conversely, I could blow the dust off my banjo.  Maybe this time I can actually turn on a metronome without falling under its hypnotic spell and stop playing "On Top of Old Smokey" like a dirge. I can learn to read music well enough that I can transcribe it, and amuse all my friends with ironic versions of bluegrass versions of the Clash or Donna Summer.

Mmmmm.  Maybe I should read more.  Not just the Harper's Index ("Minimum number of U.S. states whose constitutions forbid atheists from holding public office: 6") and Scandinavian detective novels, but brainy stuff that will arm me with useful tidbits of information at cocktail parties. ("Well, of course you know what Kant would have said about that!  Ha, ha...Hey, would you like to hear me play 'Hot Stuff' on the banjo?")

I could spend the time becoming a bona fide small-town-style fixture.  I'd walk into the coffee shop in the mornings and be greeted by name before pretending to look at the menu and saying, "Oh, what the heck, I'll have the regular!"  I'll chat with other folks about the weather and how the Walla Walla Sweets are going to do this season now that really good outfielder graduated and all.  When the winery tourist folks come into the joint I'll tip my hat [note to self:  get a hat] as I walk past them and the waitress will say, "Her?  Oh, she's a regular.  You should see her belly dance."

An extra 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours a day.  That's a lot of time.  Maybe I don't actually have to choose.

*The subject line is a lyric. Sound familiar?  Yeah, it's from "No Time This Time" by the incomparable band The Police. I should spend some time digging around for that CD....

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Totally In the Dark

If you read the papers--or if you have friends or family in the Greater Washington DC who, like me,  tend to revel in complaining about the weather--you'll know by now that at the end of June we got one helluva storm here in Ol' Virginny, followed by a blackout.  While losing electricity can be a sort of adventure, a chance to live all "old-timey" and eat by candlelight, the fact that this one came in the midst of a heat wave was....problematic. The fact that it lasted for days was nerve fraying.

Within 12 hours, civilization here in the Hard Core 'Burbs (such as it is) started to crumble.  Housewives in their Lululemon yoga pants all but came to blows at the local Harris Teeter when the ice supplies ran low.  Gas station owners raised their prices per gallon by about $0.40 virtually overnight, and they could get away with it because so few had any power and the lines were reminiscent of 1973. Traffic lights were out, and rather than come to a stop local Virginians adopted a "might makes right" attitude with SUVs barreling through intersections at an awe-inspiring death-defying 40 miles per hour.

We retreated to the basement, hiding from searing heat during the day and sleeping on makeshift beds formed out of sofa cushions at night.  The dog was panting and looking at us beseechingly, "Really, you guys can open the dog food cans but you can't do anything about this damn heat?"  One night as I lay there suffocating under a wet blanket of humid air I thought about how millions and millions of people all over the planet live like this every day; subject to increasingly violent and unpredictable weather they suffer through without refrigeration, without air conditioning, without coffee makers for the love of god.  I silently acknowledged how very lucky I am to live when and where I do.

But because I am a very good multitasker, in addition to this compassion for others less fortunate I was able to feel a deep and abiding pity for myself.   It is this ability to redirect my attention to my own suffering that makes me a true American, I think. I proved that I am not equal to our pioneer forefathers.  Hell, I wouldn't have lasted long in about 1950. Also, any plans I may have been entertaining about becoming Amish have gone out the window--the solidly-closed-to-seal-in-the-air-conditioning window. Now, a week later, we once again can contribute to global warming by keeping our own living space cool, we are slowly refilling the refrigerator with expensive foodstuffs, and with the cushions back on the sofa the dog can once again take up all the space while we watch our stories on the Tee Vee.  And I am able to boot up the computer and do the monthly report for June.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

If change is the new normal, I've got normalcy down pat.  New job for my spouse?  Check.  Moving cross country (again)?  Check. 

Three years ago we moved into the Hard Core 'Burbs and thought we wouldn't be moving again for a long time.  Hell, we even got rid of those ratty cardboard boxes we'd used to go from Los Angeles to Washington State, from Seattle to Virginia, and through three moves here in Virginia.  Yes, well, "pride goeth before a fall" as they say. (I guess that one would be "fierté vient avant une chute," though I'm not sure the French are as concerned with pride as we Americans are.)

So now we ponied up some moolah for new boxes, we're sorting through all our stuff, and I am grateful to have mundane everyday type things to keep track of in the midst of all the madness.

Here--somewhat delayed--is the May monthly report.  It features coffee, tight hamstrings and bunny rabbits.  What could be more normal than that? Or as our friends across the Atlantic would say (right before cooking up said bunny rabbit, no doubt), "Ce qui pourrait être plus normal?"