I derive inordinate pleasure from my yellow cooking pot.  I don't like anyone else to wash it, for that job is nearly sacred and therefore  mine alone. 

I love my gas fireplace on a cold winter's morning.   Better yet, couple that with tea and books.

Bengal Spice tea is practically a drug in my feel-good repertoire.  Especially when it's been steeped overnight.  Its natural cinnamony overtones sweeten it beautifully.

I love Ombra bubbles in my bath.  I could stay in there for hours, smelling their pungent smells.

I love Lululemon running clothes with their perfect little pockets made for carrying Ipods.

I love Anthropologie linens and Anthropologie everything.

I love the smell of lavender.

I love sunshine and positive people.  The two are sometimes directly linked, I think.

I love finding a new author I love, only to then discover that she's written scads of books. 

I love Zumba.  The ridiculous ways I'm asked to contort my body make me laugh.

I love freshly bathed kids with trimmed fingernails and clean ears.

I love watching my kids from my deck as they jump on the trampoline, a laughing, shrieking pile of happy kids reminding me of puppies, clambering all over one another.

I love sun-washed Hawaiian holidays with eminently whole sisters who are unashamed loud laughers.

I love waking up slowly on a weekend morning, only to find that someone in this world loves me enough to have placed a Starbucks coffee in an insulated mug on my nightstand.  He never forgets the cream.

I love the feeling of being completely surrounded by forest.

I love the smell of citrus peel.

I love cold, hard, crisp granny smith apples.  The perfect, unblemished greenness of them makes me feel like all is well in the world.  I think I like looking at them almost as much as I like eating them.

I love it when my Littlest says things like this to me still:  Moms are better than friends, I think.

I once knew a woman who had to dress her baby very carefully.  Not in the o is my precious bundle dressed in her best coordinated Baby Gap ensemble for maximum cuteness sort of way, but more in a can I stand to touch my own newborn because of the fabric cloaking her body sort of way.  She had an aversion to velvet, you see.

I know another lady who hates cats.  She hates them not for the allergies they bring in their feline wake, nor for the hair they deposit everywhere they go.  She just. can't. stand. them.  The idea of touching the long, lanky muscles just barely cloaked by skin and fur makes her cringe. 

I know two men who can't even look at a child with a danglingly loose tooth.  The only answer for these men is to avert their revolted eyes.

I, myself, am very nearly horrified by ketchup.  Though for the most part I try not to, when I think of putting some of this - to me - noxious substance in my mouth, I feel a speckle of tiny pricks spreading their horror-struck way across the back of my neck, culminating in an animalistic shake of my upper torso.  I'd rather eat bugs, frankly.  And I'm only exaggerating a little when I say this.

What perhaps irrational thing creeps you out?
Somehow or other, JoyBoy and I have managed to pool our genes and come up with someone magical.  Her name is Anabel and if you've read this blog for any time at all, you've met her before.  She's always been highly intelligent and unusually kind, but in the last year, another amazing quality in her young life has come to light, dazzling in its eccentric, unexpected brightness.  In the very midst of  14-year-old peers, clad head to toe in clothes trumpeting name brands out to all of Middle School Land, walks Anabel.  She's wearing an apron.  She's not in Home Economics or headed for some messy Science lab.  She flaunts its yellow ginghamyness for the sheer, unconventional joy of it.  Other days, she wears her beloved Daddy's cast off XL teeshirts, which say bold things like Field AgentJohn Deere across their fronts.  Only for the Anabel version, she makes them strapless, pushing her narrow little ribcage through the Daddy-sized neck holes.  She pushes the man-sized sleeves inside themselves, serving as pseudo-pockets.  All of this she wears over tights and a teeshirt of her own size.  The flourish (as though it were needed) is a thick black satin ribbon encircling her ribcage, tied in a confident and oversized bow.  Ah.  My Girl.  I look forward to seeing her enter the kitchen each morning for breakfast.  I know there is a surprise in wait for my viewing pleasure.  Colors - flamboyant brazen colors - are her dear friends.  She prides herself on the exploration of absolute virgin territory in the realm of clothes and fashion.  On Superhero Day at school, her eye-makeup was completely different from one eye to the other.  She looked fantastic.  I think I've mentioned the tunic adorned in masses of pinkly enthusiastic pigs.  Her favorite place to shop is Value Village because that's where you can find the most extraordinary things.  I can assure you that there are not masses of like-minded 14-year-olds flocking to the same ensembles - the gigantic multicolored ponchos, the  faux fur time-worn old coats - rushing to see who can get to them first.  She is a fashion law unto herself.

I love to goad her into wearing styles I love, but am not prepared to don for myself at this age.  Frankly, there is very little goading involved and the deliciousness of the prospect of a brand-new outfit rockets straight to her head, rendering her nearly exhilarated.

A lovely, gentle-souled teacher put her arm around Anabel's waist at school one day and said, Now tell me all about your outfit today, Anabel.  Anabel proceeded to do so with great enthusiasm and then laughed as she told the story to us at home later on.  She's so whole.

I think that some of the seeds of this new passion of hers have sprouted because of the years of uniform dressing that have been her lot up until this year.  She hated the sameness that she and her peers had no voice in establishing.  Though rebellious isn't a word that leaps to mind as I think of her, she would try to sneak a colorful tank top under her uniform top back in the monotonous day, just for that heady flash of color.  Her fingernails were almost always glitzily decorated.  She did what she could to get by and not feel squashed. Individualism means a great deal to my first-born girl.

Anabel marches to the beat of her own drummer, and fortunately for us as parents - for she would be a formidable force to contend with otherwise - we really like the beat we hear resonating through her young life.  It's so distinctive and so very, very Anabel.
My thoughts on old age spread through my consciousness like a science experiment carnation, steeping in food coloring saturated water.  My way of looking at life feels changed now, just as the white carnation morphs into a bright red one. 

I find myself looking at life now from a slightly, but importantly altered vantage point.  Now when I get motioned over by Oliver's teacher to debrief about his day (and we only debrief on those less-than-enchanting days, it seems), though my stab of annoyance with this spirited child still struggling for that elusive self-control isn't vanished entirely, I feel an awareness of his beautiful vibrance blanketing the lie he told about kicking his friends' lunch box as it sat - innocently - on the floor.  I hate that my little boy told a lie, but I'm conscious today - first - of the enormity of his joy.  I hope I don't forget anytime soon that these days are fleeting.  I hope I don't forget to see my wonderful child before I see the fib he tells.
Have I mentioned lately that I love you people?  Several of my real life (as opposed to cyber, but no less wonderful) blog-reading friends told me how much they, too, loved yesterday's tomato cans.  We share a near obsessive interest in the mundane!  Hearing about it made me so happy, I wanted to commemorate this joy with showing you what I ended up doing with the notorious can in question.  I had a little pot of parsley growing and I plunked it in.  The picture below shows the back of the can, which is also so lovely, I think.  Don't you think the woman looks like Mother Italy, Herself?
I'm making Chicken Parmesan.  The smells wafting their way about my kitchen are enough to make me want to renounce my Canadian citizenship and head straight for some more exotic land.  First, I work on the Tomato Sauce which cries out to be christened in some glamorously melodic language.  Plebian, mundane, sadly English 'Tomato Sauce' doesn't capture the sultry beauty of it.  I've splurged and bought my first can of really wonderful tomatoes.  They hail from Italy.   Look at how pretty they are.  I like the cans so much, I could see myself lining a part of my cabinet with them were not my cabinets lined already with other things I think are pretty.
When I opened these tomatoes, I felt a bit like an eager child.  I'd always wondered about these lovely, mysterious cans, but they always seemed like tomatoes for another, more prosperous day.  Tomatoes for another girl.  But today they belong to me and as I gaze into the can's rich redness, I see with my own eyes that these are indeed special tomatoes.  They are small and pear-ish and hold their shape beautifully.  A subtle bouquet of basil rises up to greet me in all its sublime freshness.  They are the farthest thing from the pulverized President's Choice mash that normally features so prominently in my cooking.  I didn't know canned tomatoes could be so lovely.

And then, as though these otherworldly globes were not enough for the procurement of culinary ecstasy, I follow the instructions to learn that I must then add these:
And this. 

And other lovely things.  I feel nearly fulfilled just sitting here in my kitchen, smelling it all melding, slowly, simmeringly.  I almost don't need to eat it, the aroma is so captivating.  I smell the licoricey basil, perhaps first and foremost.  If the ingredients have layered themselves, basil reigns, heady at the top.  I love basil and I never wash my hands after cutting it into its thin, pungent strips because I know I can then carry that smell with me as I live out the next portion of my day, cupping my hands against my face, breathing in deeply as I wait in my near-perpetual perch in the driver's seat of my car for various schools to dismiss various children.  Yes, I always err on the side of adding more basil.  I smell the tangy balsamic vinegar and the fresh parsley and the garlic.  I close my eyes briefly and believe in my heart that I am bellisima and that I live here:
Surely this rain and this Canadian persona are just a figment of my imagination.
Perhaps you've gathered that my times at the senior's home loom large in my head all week long, long after I've entered in my special numerical code to open the  main door to allow me to leave the premises.  It now dawns on me that my freedom to do so isn't for just anyone. 

I come home afterward to my empty house, and feel again that dogged catch in the back of my throat as I replay my morning's memories.  Today when I asked one beautiful, old soul how I could be praying for her this week, she looked at me with fervent, watery eyes and responded: please ask God to let me die so I can just go home.  How does one go about praying that?  I suppose I just take her words at face value and ask for what she asks for, knowing that a pain-plagued lady on the cusp of her 94th birthday knows what she needs and doesn't need.  My 38-year-old naivete doesn't really have a role to play here.  What on earth do I know about anything?  Visiting these people so intimately familiar with chronic pain and suffering helps me see that I don't know nearly as much as I used to think I did.  Frankly, sitting down at the keyboard after a time there seems more than a bit rich to me now.  Is it me who has to press my call button, trying to summon an overworked RN to help me lay down in my own bed because my back pains me so badly I can't sit upright in my wheelchair any longer?  Am I the one plagued with bedsores that just won't heal?  Do I drool down my own front, fully aware of myself as I do so, poignantly lacking the requisite ability to stop this dignity defying thing? 

Today this fragmented lady told me the terrible story of her own son's death as a little boy, who - naughty thing - climbed up on the school roof to fling whirly-gigs off its edge, though he'd been told not to countless times before.  The floating, twirling, exciting beauty of it was too much temptation for him to resist.  Roofs are dangerous places for seven-year-olds, invincible though they think they may be.  This aching, remembering woman is fragmented not just because her body won't work properly anymore, but also because she's wheeling around on this earth with a prominent segment of her heart missing.  That chunk of it went away when her littlest man did.  I think he must be hurling whirly-gigs in Heaven today, only safely now.  Soon, I'm going to stop typing so that I can ask God to help his Mama join him.  I can tell that she misses him a lot.
I now reside in that  place in marriage where the heady thrill of supercharged romance has slipped inconspicuously into the past.  I find - contrary to what I may have expected as a novice 21-year-old first entering the institution - that I like it here best of all. 

It is now only the rare giddy thrill that  flashes through my days spent with this man.  Instead, I feel his love imbedded deep in my core, saturating and hydrating me.  There is such freedom to find in sharing life with someone who knows everything about you, including the very most horrible bits, and who still - despite this deep knowledge - chooses to love you anyway.  There is a profound and humbling comfort here. 

While the JoyBoy and I were dating, I remember thinking on many occasions, what if he knew  X about me?  or if he ever found Y out about me, he'd change his tune.  But over the years as each of these myriad X's and Y's came to light, I found that the knowledge of them only seemed to deepen our intimacy.  After a time, they were easy to share as he had laid such a foundation of acceptance.  I don't think anyone has ever loved me so patiently.

It's not all prune juice and roses, though.  Not by a country mile.  I'm married - I think I've mentioned - to an extremely dominant person.  Perhaps by now you've noticed that I too share this quality.  Alas, we are two people who almost always think that we are right.  This combination can sometimes ignite some explosively flamboyant fights.  So many times I find myself thinking, why can't this man just obey me?  I know that he's wondered the same thing himself about me on many occasions because he's told me so more than once.  And yet I know for certain that I'd truly hate it if he did.  I love that my life's partner is so stunningly proficient at standing up to me, though it ticks me off so ferociously at times.

As we grow older (and we do so at an alarming rate it seems), we grow just a bit wiser with each passing year and we choose our battles a little more judiciously.  We are inclined to be more generous with one another and it's slowly dawning on us both that sometimes the best thing to do is to just zip it.  I realize now that it's not a requirement of a healthy marriage that I agree with every word emitted from his beautiful mouth  - and vice versa.  We can disagree at times and not make a big stink about it.  This, while maybe seeming like a small thing to those less dominant among you, is a really big deal for us.  We are two people who like it best when everyone we know and love agrees with us on every. single. point.  And so this softening around our edges is welcome and good. 

It's good to have been married almost seventeen years.  I like this place; it's cosy here hanging with my best friend.

I've met a new friend who also allows large chunks of her days to be eaten up by a process that sometimes finds her dazed, bewildered and just a bit stunned at how much time has just somehow escaped her notice.  She's a writer.  And far cooler than any claim to fame that I could ever hope to bandy about - she's got the very same name as a famous and published author.  She good-naturedly tells her - clearly favorite - joke over and over again, asking me if I don't recognize her name because she's so famous.  Only the spellings are different.  That and the fact that this particular lady is confined to her wheelchair in the senior's home, where she's lost control over her bodily functions.

This lady is a living, breathing, life lesson.  We sit together in a room where I do typing for her because her hands have curled in on themselves, making the task very difficult for her.  Because she prefers to have the door closed for privacy, we sit together in the tiny space that is her room, breathing in the organic smells her rebellious body persists in creating, despite her own best attempts to wrangle some control into the equation.  And as we do, she is dignity Itself.  I want to be just like her when it's my turn at this life-stage.  We don't comment on the smells rampaging angrily about the room, of course, and though she can't even lift her head comfortably up off her chest, she tells me about her childhood, which is a place in her memories that feels most familiar to her now.

Though she was married for decades and decades and had five pulsating, life-filled children of her own, the Figure of Great Importance now in her thoughts and conversation is her larger-than-life stepfather.  She'll talk about him endlessly if you're willing to listen.  He - and his superhero-esque shenanigans - is whom she writes about.  I learn a lot about him as I re-type the tattered pages telling his story. 

I wonder if these twilight people revert back to their childhoods because it was life's happiest time for them or for some other, unrelated reason.  Perhaps it's just a bare-bones scientific matter of the newest neuro-pathways degenerating first.  I wonder if people shackled with unhappy childhoods revert back to that time in their lives, too.  This idea strikes me as being singularly sad.

But this happy, writing, Coca Cola-imbibing woman seems anything but sad.  I love that if it is her lot to dwell in a place not the present, hers is a happy place filled with people she loves and admires.  She spends her days, crippled but mostly content, doing what she loves behind the privacy of a closed door.  People offer her up the dignity of knocking before entering and she is treated well by all who enter.  

Before I leave, she asks if I would trouble myself to open up the plastic wrapper on the new mouse pad she's just ordered from a nearby drugstore.  She chuckles as she watches me do it because she gets an artless kick out of the fact that on its surface are two kittens who can now play with the computer's mouse.  We should all be so lucky to find joy so easily and in such small things.
I'm still a newbie to the world of online shopping, but through conversations with some of the more experienced among you, I'm beginning to see that doing so doesn't necessarily ensure that a middle American named Festus will abscond with my identity and corresponding credit, which he'll promptly then use to buy himself a new Escalade. 

So in the fervent hope that Festus and his ilk will leave me alone, look what I just bought!