January 29, 2010

Kanata Canada

Canada is lovely this time of year. No, seriously, it is. See, I just got back from a recent trip to Ottawa. Well, technically I was in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata. Yes, that's Kanata, Canada.

This is Ottawa:

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Generally speaking, that whole area is due north of the bitterly cold place that is upstate New York. So I expected it to be bitterly cold and then some.

Only it wasn't cold. It was balmy. And rainy. And practically warm. Until yesterday.

Yesterday was the day I flew home. Yesterday, the temperature in Ottawa dropped from the high 30s into the low teens and kept falling. Yesterday, a freakish wind sprang up to blow a light snowfall into a frenzy. It stopped traffic and sent blinding flurries sideways through gray skies. The snow stopped eventually. But not the wind. It made for an interesting view through the two-story windows at the airport terminal. Gorgeous sunset up top, all pink and glowy and peaceful. Furious storm down below, with swirling eddies of snow so dense you couldn't make out the planes at the end of the gangways.

Weird. And for a woman with a massive flight phobia, totally unnerving.

So I took my Xanax, the gift of pharmacology that makes air travel possible for panic-prone fliers such as myself.

Then the flight was delayed. Which I didn't realize, because my Xanax - lovely, panic-quelling miracle that it is - also puts me out like a light. But I heard the boarding announcement. I got up. I got on the plane. And then the Xanax wore off. It wore off just as we were coming into DC's National Airport, one of the nastiest approaches in US airspace. All bouncy and twisty and crazy-making. And, unknowingly Xanax-free, I had my first panic attack in a decade.

I was lucky. I was sitting in the back row of the airplane, all by myself. So the plane bounced. I panicked. No one noticed. The plane landed. I made myself stand up and put on my coat. I calmly walked to the baggage claim and I picked up my bag. I walked out the door. I met an old friend who'd come to give me a ride home. Like the gentleman he is, he stepped out of his car to put my bag in the trunk. And my competent, 43-year-old self immediately collapsed into a shaky, snivelly, post-panicky mess.

Poor fella gave me a hug, even though it was about 12 degrees outside and all he really wanted was a hamburger because my late flight had delayed his already well delayed dinner. Good man. Good friend. And it worked. Shaky snivelling stopped. Panic abated. Though I'll admit it was something like 2:00 a.m. before I finally settled down enough to sleep.

Nice to know a good hug makes an effective Xanax substitute when you need one, though.

PS: Here's wishing a very happy 8th birthday to my diva!

January 27, 2010

I Left My Chocolate In San Francisco

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a horribly social creature. I like to talk. I like to listen. And I really really like to talk. I crave people the way a chocoholic craves, well, chocolate.

But I spend nearly every waking moment in my little house. I work here. I sleep here. I watch TV here and I eat here and I blog here. I get to talk to my three children, and to my wonderful au pair who makes my life so much easier. And they are patient souls who listen and talk and sometimes even listen a bit more.

I am, however, slowly going crazy.

So last week I got out. I got way, far out. I went to San Francisco. And then I went to Ottawa.

In both places, I met people whose names I recognize from emails, whose voices I know intimately from countless phone conversations, whose humor has been the highlight of frequent late-night chats. I was surrounded by people. I talked to them. I listened to them. I went for walks with them. I ate with them, too. And oh, was that fun! I had fresh-caught scallops (though my daughter, the wannabe marine biologist, would be disappointed because I did not first ask if they were ocean-friendly - they were too yummy to worry about). And, of course, Ghirardelli chocolate. I had brilliant, bright green olives - not the browny green you normally see, but a vibrant pine green with a surprisingly brineless, purely olive flavor. I had whole, crisp baby artichokes while my companions had pig cheek and octopus. I know, my choice sounds a little lame by comparison. I am not normally a food wimp, but I was really drawn to those artichokes.

And I had people. No, no, not for dinner. I'm not that fond of fava beans. But I got to know long-time acquaintances in a whole new way, over coffee, over cocktails, over wine. My friend Ange - that is her real fake bar name, which I promised I'd put in my blog - has even said she'd send me a list of half-decent wines so I won't continue looking like a complete ignoramus when I go out (this is what 13 years of marriage to a teetotaller will do to a girl).

I'm home now. Back at my desk. Back to my quiet little life. But that very loud chocoholic-style people craving that's been plaguing me, it's not quite so loud now. Crazy will just have wait a few more months.

January 11, 2010

Fluffy Pink Hearts

Saturday morning, I took my dog to the vet.

It was quite a big deal, actually. She was a very large black Lab - in the 90-lb weight class. She had bad arthritis, and for some time she hadn't been able to get herself into the back of the minivan. My au pair and I had lately been hoisting her back hips in a dishtowel sling just so she could eat and do her business.

But she wasn't always like that.

The ex and I got her as a four-month-old puppy shortly after we married. Thing is, I'm a lifelong cat owner. Categorically not a dog person. But newlyweds have fluffy pink hearts where their brains should be, so when the ex said, "Not only do we need a dog, but we need a dog the size of Texas!" I got all pink and fluffy and said, "Yee-haw!" Which I think meant yes.

We named her Artemis. You know - black Lab, goddess of the hunt, all about the nighttime. The idea being that someday she'd have a bright and shiny yellow Lab as a companion, and we'd name him Apollo.

Fortunately, the pink fluffies wore off before that could happen.

The name did not stick, though. Artemis was not a dignified, goddessy dog. She was a Mack truck. In a head-on collision with your Camry, she'd have won. She knocked down every kid in the neighborhood at least once. Not because she tried, either. She'd bound past and they'd just topple like duckpins.

So we called her Moose.

Moose was true to her breed. She loved food. She stole hot dogs off the kids' high chairs and cookies right out of their hands. And heaven help them once she figured out there was milk in their sippy cups. We have a lot of chewed up sippy cups.

She's swiped at least one sandwich out from under the nose of every one of the seven au pairs who's lived with us, except the last one. She once upended a colander full of grapes. Really full. Ten dollars worth of full. She ate every grape and left the stems behind.

She figured out that there was food in cans - most notably in cat food cans. If anyone left the pantry door even slightly ajar, we'd find bits of aluminum and mashed up food all over the house.

I still remember one Christmas, we left for just a couple of days and had the neighbors come in to watch her. They checked on her that last morning and all was fine. We got home around dinner time to find Moose wobbling atop our dining room table, surrounded by ripped paper, cardboard and chocolate. She'd figured out there was food in that stack of fully wrapped gifts, and she'd helped herself.

When I was pregnant with my first, and we still let her up on the furniture, Moose would curl up with me on the sofa. Too big for lap-sitting, she'd rest her muzzle on my leg while I napped. She made a good blanket.

And she really took to the kids. When she wasn't knocking them down or stealing their food, she was playing horsey and letting them climb all over her. She never nipped or snapped. She never even made a sound.

She loved the snow, too. That first winter we had her, Mother Nature dumped three feet of snow on our little corner of the world. And this puppy, just learning the real purpose of the great outdoors, went bounding through snow up to her nose, reveling in the stuff. She totally forgot to pee.

This winter, 13 years later, I had to dig a path for her through the last blizzard and out to the yard. She was cold and miserable and stayed in most of the time, curled up under my feet in front of the sofa, sleeping. She was deaf and battling arthritis and an enlarged heart. She wasn't eating so much any more.

Then, last Thursday, out of nowhere, she attacked the Christmas tree. She pulled the lights off and chewed right through three full strings (which she'd thoughtfully unplugged first). I dragged her away from the tree. She couldn't stand, so she crawled on her front paws to get back to it. Over and over this happened until, finally, I gave up. I took the tree down at midnight that night and went to bed worried.

So I took her to the vet. I took her to the vet, who thought the incident with the lights was evidence of neurological damage, probably from a slipped disk. In just those two days, she'd stopped walking on her own. She'd stopped eating.

Moose died on Saturday. She had massive big hugs from the kids, and a great big bowl of chocolate gelato to see her out. She was surrounded by every one of those fluffy pink hearts.

We'll miss her.

January 4, 2010

Kissing 2009 Good-Bye

It's a new year. A new me. A whole new name. Well, an old name, but since I haven't used it in 13+ years, it feels new. New "About Me," over there on the right, too. Kinda had to change it now that I've officially left the limboverse between separation and divorce and entered single motherhood.

Felt all that merited a new template, too. Old one was nice and green. This one is not green, but it's far easier to read, and that's considerably more important. I wish I had the time and the talent to make my own beautiful green blog layout. I don't.

And so, a new year. I'm tickled pink to have kissed 2009 good-bye. Much crap in 2009. Much. Crap.

Lots of joy too, though. And since I'm a rose-colored glasses kind of gal, I thought it best to wrap up the year with a Done List of the good stuff.

In the past year, I have ...
  • Introduced my kids to 35 members of my immediate and extended family, all of whom love them to pieces just because they were born.
  • Hugged my dad. In person even.
  • Successfully baked cakes from scratch. Martha Stewart's Cupcakes is my new kitchen bible, and trust me, the yellow buttermilk cupcakes with fluffy vanilla frosting will put you in a cupcake coma. Pure joy.
  • Rediscovered old friends and made some new ones. These friends? They're the kind who, once you've met them, you wonder how you ever thought your life was whole without them.
  • Found The Best Side Dish ever - Cauliflower Goat Cheese Gratin, at Bobby Flay's Bar Americain in New York. If you go there, order five servings of cauliflower and a Cosmo. It's all you need.
  • Saw Wicked. Lately, my diva's been singing "Defying Gravity" ... and she's doing it well.
  • Saw the most beautiful place on earth: Paradise on Mount Rainier in August.
  • Learned several important lessons, one of which I'm currently ignoring (that would be Lesson 3: Get Some Sleep, Stupid)
  • Rescued one sorely damaged and dearly treasured cast iron fry pan from kitchen fire. Elbow grease and bacon brought it back. So nice to have an excuse to cook lots and lots of bacon.
  • Made 57 blog posts. People actually read them. Awesome.
  • Got my kids through an insane number of transitions. Separation. Divorce. Middle school. Preschool. New au pairs. Old au pairs. And realized that, after a full year of change, they are happy. Really, truly, genuinely happy.
  • And, of course, made it through Limbo. That's the big one, really.
If I sat here long enough I could think of another dozen or so wonderful things. Because there's never so much crap that it completely obliterates the good. Rose-colored glasses, you know. They make the good stuff that much easier to find.