About Me

My photo
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Grand Finale ~ The LimesNow 2009 Award for Extreme, Exuberant, Exaggerated, Extravagant Holiday Excess

My father says that I can walk into a room, talk to a dead snake, and the snake will talk back to me. One of my blog followers once asked, "You know that you can sure tell a story, don't you? You know you're good at it?" I'm not sure what or why it is, but people do tend to engage with me when I tell an anecdote. And I have an anecdote or two to tell. Hey ~ every day something new happens to talk about. True story: Ex was a man who used as few words as possible to talk about anything. I'm the opposite. Amber may look 100% like him, but she is her mother in young form. Sometimes at the dinner table, we'd be in full cry and Ex would literally put his hands out defensively, as if to fend off the barrage of words. While I value quality over quantity, there's no question that I am a prolific verbal and written communicator.

David is an excellent communicator, both speaking and listening. When one tells him a story, his body language assures the speaker that he's tuned in. I'd worked for him a short while and we were getting to know one another, telling about our lives and the people in them. I'd apparently spoken compellingly about someone important to me, because David said, "I'd love to eavesdrop on some of your conversations with him." Remembering a few choice, rude confabulations and some bawdy or politically incorrect gabfests between us, I blushed crimson. When my face regained its usual color, I managed to squeak out, "Why's that, David?" To my surprise, he replied, "Oh, not for any bad reason. I just think it would be like watching a good movie. All that brain power between you two. The conversations must be cerebral." Ha!

Fast forward a couple of years: I write a blog now and I'd posted a piece telling about a trip to the desert. I included some words from our conversations and one of my followers commented that she loved to listen to talk between us - it felt "comfortable" to her. She said she felt our relationship must be comfortable. I replied that comfort is one of the things in the relationship and I pondered on the likelihood of two people saying they were drawn to hear us talk to each other. There is no denying that we've had some earth moving conversations, solved the world's problems over and over again across the years, verbally expressed love, anger, pain and joy. During our first face-to-face discussion, we talked about the assassination of Martin Luther King, which had happened days before. In our last face-to-face, we rehashed the delights of the desert at solstice. While one or two of our tete-a-tetes may have been movie-worthy, mostly we talk about how we'll jump the chainlink fence and gate blocking us from our walking path or how best to hike the circumference of the dunes or how many miles we want to put on ourselves in an afternoon.

Just a couple of things to add and then I shall have set the table for my end-of-the-holidays tale. The man is Scrooge-like. He loves solstice. He is not known to tolerate any form of nonsense, and he detects nonsense quickly. Despite that he's up for most any adventure I propose, even if it takes him out of his way. And I've proposed some adventures.

For three holiday seasons, I have had cause to observe a remarkable display of Christmas Nazi-ism. Remember who's writing this. I know it when I see it. I have observed how this act has grown and developed, bigger and better each December that rolls around. In the past two years, I've stopped my car (more like crashed it into the curb from shock) more than once to try to photograph this flaming exposition of Yuletide glitz. I have failed. I lack the camera equipment and the know-how to capture even the visual part of this attack on the senses. I determined that this year, I'd take a photographer.

I began to watch the house in mid-October. It takes three sheds in the side yard to hold all of the stuff now. I watched the man set things up day-by-day. The ferris wheel that first appeared last year now actually turns and there are a lot more stuffed animals riding on it. The electric train set appears to have about twice as many cars and one can see gray wisps coming out of the smokestack. Santa, carried by his eight tiny reindeer, makes a much smoother descent from the roof to the tree now. I can see that system has been improved over the years. Once daylight savings time ended, I could see the light display taking form. Not a shrub was left uncovered, no wrought iron fence post unadorned. Plastic carolers and snowmen appeared, wreaths and bows of every size and description . . . we were approaching showtime!

"Would it be OK if I took you and your camera for a 4 1/2 mile ride so you could take a picture of some Christmas lights for my blog?" "Sure! What's special about it?" I said that it was a little over-the-top and I planned a series of posts about holiday excess that would be well illustrated by a shot or two of this place. It was agreed and we selected the day we'd go.

We left my place too early. We pulled up to the house in earliest dusk. No lights were on yet, but he's not blind. He could see what he'd been commissioned to photograph. His jaw dropped into his lap and he gave me a look. And then started some nice conversation. "WTF?!?!?" I allowed as how it was pretty remarkable and it was going to get better when the lights and sounds began. " He started to go off in every direction - the light pollution for the neighboring houses, the cost of the electricity, the noise pollution for the neighbors, the time and money spent putting it together, the drawing of so much traffic to the neighborhood, as this would pull people as surely as the star led the shepherds to Bethlehem. The man who tolerates no nonsense was building up quite a head of steam. "#%*@&!" What in the . . . . #&*(%^*!" I snickered quietly. We spotted the homeowner in the yard, sweeping the driveway and adjusting individual lightbulbs. He seems to know exactly how each one of them should be positioned. He puffed at a cigarette, hitched his jeans up under his armpits and fiddled with his obsession.

He rolled the car onward and I sputtered, "What are you doing?" He said we'd circle the block awhile waiting for the lights to come on. We did that for awhile, as he muttered and exclaimed. Every time we passed the house, we noted the man was still outside fussing before the curtain rose on the night's presentation. Finally, I said, "Park the car and let me out. I'll ask him to turn it on. People who do this are show-offs. He'll be flattered and he'll turn them on." But he protested repeatedly and continued to circle the block. "I can't get out and set up, Les. He'll want to talk and I'll go off on him. I can't make eye contact with him. I'll get us into a whoop-dee-doo." We circled some more and finally, disappointed, even I had to agree we'd spent too much time at it. "I'll stop one night after work for you. I'll get your pictures."

During the last week before his winter break, he e-mailed to say he planned to stop that very night and get the pictures. We flipped e-mails back and forth as we are accustomed to doing, me advising him to carry a barf bag and to call me for bail if he started a dust-up at the place. Soon enough came the e-mail from his BlackBerry, "I got them! I think they're pretty good." No more words than that. I was surprised he said so little. For I have stood before that house in the dark, lights flashing to music, animated objects moving like synchronized swimmers, canned sound of children (stuffed animals) laughing as they ride the ferris wheel, my hair rustling in the breeze as Santa swoops down from the rooftop. It is an assault on nearly all of one's senses. I e-mailed to ask whether he'd felt the need to retch into the gutter. "Just a little. I wanted to watch out for the camera."

I do wonder what Mr. Christmas Nazi is avoiding. For it takes one to know one, and all the signs are there. I mainly agree with the Badger about the impact upon the neighbors. I wish (and maybe he does this) he'd throw the same amount of money toward feeding hungry people or giving gifts to children. The amount of power he uses would light a casino for a month and I struggle with that. But I must say I understand the man. Home dude must be just a little tightly wound.

In my ears right now: Fine Young Cannibals - She Drives Me Crazy. I enjoy a body of musical work that doesn't quite fit my era. You see, I had a colicky baby in the MTV, VH1 years.

Something that charmed me: I like goony road signs. I usually have something smart to say back to one that affronts me.

"What the heezy, that's what I came here to do?!?"

Photo credits for A Nazi Christmas: J. D. Morehouse

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It Sneaked Up On Me!

Well, maybe I allowed it to sneak up on me, but the end of the year is upon us. I had so much to write about. And I had time to write, but I didn't. Maybe I didn't actually want to confess my time spent as a Christmas Nazi. I've been called Cleopatra (Queen of Denial) regarding other issues in life. So now, the quick version of my former Nazi-ism.

By the time of my last Christmas spent in the marital home, our rituals were firmly entrenched. Everyone knew his or her duties. Each of us was recognized for our special talents ~ Les, Ex and Amber. We lived in a small, 4-square-mile city completely surrounded by San Diego and we were related to about half the population. We were community activists, involved in city council, school board, PTA, Friends of the Library, Soroptimist, Kiwanis, Concerts in the Park and the Chamber of Commerce. We had one hella gift shopping list and the card list was longer. Somehow, over the years, it developed that we gave not one, but several gifts to each person on our list, unless they were more like acquaintances than actual friends or family. We shopped year-round. eBay, Amazon, quirky little shops, craft fairs. I kept a bound journal in my purse at all times for lists and other lists and lists that talked to each other. Somehow, it happened that we got so "cute" about wrapping gifts that if we were giving a dress to a little girl, I'd find a way to use a sweater as the "wrapping paper" and a pair of tights as the "ribbon". Wrapping Weekend at our home included hot glue guns, shiny dimensional objects and 48 hours in pajamas, all meals being delivered to the door. Ex wasn't grand at wrapping, but he could cut, glue, take out the trash, stack the gifts. The child showed a marked suitability to Nazi-ism at a very young age.

We hosted many of the Christmas Day family get-togethers. By October I knew how many extra tables, chairs and table linen we'd need to rent. The menu was in place by November. Somehow, it came to pass that our home would be decorated with some form of Christmas tree in each and every room, and I'm not talking about small ceramic Christmas trees. Even the dollhouses we built as our family project were decked out for the holidays. Every door in the home had a wreath on each side of it, unless it was the inside of a closet door. My little dog wore Christmas clothes . . . . is the reader getting the picture here? We spent life doing Christmas. I baked and made candy. I owned more Christmas music than the law allows. I was partial to the one that featured guitar music accompanied by a babbling brook. And the most fun I had all year long was shopping the sales after Christmas to get ready for the following Christmas. This was life for years.

This paragraph contains no tongue-in-cheek information. What I've described above is literally true. It was that frantic. There is a certain sickness to it and I know that. It was my sickness. The child was a child. She didn't create it. The only thing Ex ever knew about Christmas was whatever the Indian Center handed out for meals and gifts to indigents. Lest the reader believe I am stupid or vapid, I want to put something else forward. First, I'd like it known that we also delivered meals or served them every Christmastime, all three of us. I always chaired the Christmas Caring program at Amber's school, personally buying food and gifts for 20 families. Secondly, the answer today is: Yes, I do know what I was running from, why I had to have so much frantic diversion in my life, with whom I was avoiding interaction, where I needed to land, and when it was time to let it go. For you see, I have grown. I am living proof that people can make meaningful change. It shows a little on the outside. But the bigger shift occurs in our operating systems. When one is as tightly wound as I was, and the spring is finally sprung . . . . well.

That last Christmas Eve, the heavens opened and the rain came down in torrents. My home had miles of terra cotta tile flooring and as we greeted the 50 or so guests, the floor became treacherous. We employed every rug and beach towel we owned, trying to avert a lawsuit when someone took a dive. Things were progressing nicely and everyone was seated at the tables for dinner. One of the relatives' kids - a smarmy 12-year-old smartass - said, "Hey, there's water coming down the stairs!" I exchanged a glance with Ex that he probably understood pretty well - we'd been together 31 years by then. "Little asshole." However, I'd no more than turned my attention back to my dinner plate when the tidal wave announced itself. Water heater. Upstairs. Emptying its contents downstairs. It was a stressful time, dear readers. I've never groused about the $800 it cost to replace a water heater on a rainy Christmas Eve, nor about the work it took to dry everything out in rainy weather. But I was truly disturbed at the sequence of events that messed with my entertaining. I hadn't yet learned that I don't control anything. Tightly wound. Uh-huh.

Now I do the holidays differently. I don't call them "Christmas" any more. I don't trick out my home in tinselly stuff and I don't buy gifts for 8,000 people. I am still tightly wound about some things, so I get a little out-of-sorts trying to work out a holiday-like meal translated to primitive camping conditions. I do it pretty well. I sleep on the ground instead of my warm bed, and sometimes I sleep with all the same clothes that I've worn all day - one wants to avoid hypothermia. My face chaps and my nose runs and sometimes the conditions are just . . . . miserable. I sit in a sling-style camp chair that makes my back hurt if I sit too long reading. Dishwashing and bathing are best accomplished at the warmest hour of the day. One hikes miles and miles and sees stark great beauty. And animals and old mineshafts and "stuff". And that's where I find my peace. Although I could never have told you I am bothered by noise pollution, I've never failed to arrive in any corner of the desert and immediately exclaim, "Listen to the quiet!" It quiets me in every way. I put down my burdens and live in the now. Just a little less tightly wound.

In my ears right now: Jefferson Starship ~ Miracles. That danged Erin O'Brien got me going and I can't stop. Tightly wound! I wish I was wearing a twirly skirt.

Something that charmed me: I work only peripherally with a man I dislike intensely. When he approaches, I feel my jaw clench. He always manages to offend me in most every way. Sometimes he does it in one sentence. He came into the office and started in on what a wonderful year 2009 has been and yada, yada, yada. Well, 2009 has not been a banner year for me, for many reasons. In fact, I've been inviting any interested parties to help me boot its ass on out of here tomorrow night. I said as much to him and he started in on all the expected things: my health, my job, my home. I maintained my Little Miss Crabby Ass demeanor until he rumbled off. And when he did, I grinned. I don't give this man much, but he hit on the things that matter. I adjusted my attitude. 2010 has to be better!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


My reentry into my real world is going slowly and easily. Work demands aren't any more than I can handle and I'm behaving like a toad at home. Translation: my duffel bag remains where I placed it when I came home and my jacket still smells beautifully of the campfire smoke. We decided I must be a smoke magnet, for wherever I placed my camp chair, the slight breeze would shift to ensure I got a face full of the gray wispy stuff.

I'm not a photographer, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes this makes me feel a little anxious, as I follow people who are photographers and I'm not anywhere near their standards. I have a little leaning toward competition and I have a strong leaning toward doing things well, so I want to present pictures that are decent. But here's where I've landed: I do some things quite well and some things adequately and some things poorly. And I'm beginning to be OK with that. That is a new attitude for me. The voices in my head (my own is the loudest) scream, "You must do things perfectly!" But I don't have to. The world won't stop if I'm a hack at certain things. My reality won't slam into a block wall if I take on something without needing to grind out every molecule of its essence.

I grew up in a photographer's home. My father is quite accomplished and owned a photography studio for years. I've had a camera pointed at me for all of my life. I know about lenses and filters, f stops and cable releases. I recognize a Rolleiflex when I see one from a distance and I like the smell of chemicals used for developing film (a thing of the past, for the young reader). During my marriage, Ex always handled the camera. He bought me a beautiful Nikon set up that I used a time or two and then it fell to him. There are entire trips to Europe that yielded up not one picture of Ex. He was always behind the camera. And in my most recent years, I have shared life with a fine, truly talented photographer. I've been allowed to be lazy. "Hey, can you capture that over there for me?" I have a good curious mind and I never hesitate to take on new things, so one can only conclude that photography just doesn't grab me in the sense that I yearn to do it. Then there's my attachment to language ~ I prefer to make pictures with my words.

In that spirit, as I work on the side at a longer writing, I will present some "pitchers" I love from my holiday outing. If you want the photographs, and I believe you will, visit Digital Existence.

From our camp, looking toward the dunes, two miles off. There is something I love about that mountain range. My camera equipment and the distance prevent me from capturing it, but those mountains are made from layers of different colors. A small rock was found and presented to me that shows everything going on in those mountains ~ blue, green, magenta and purple.

I do not use the words "I can't." Virtually never. If those words pop out of my face, I immediately say, "That's not what I meant. I meant that I haven't been able to yet." We'd hiked the two easy miles out to the edge of the dunes. We'd traversed several of the individual dunes and circled the base for a mile or two. They undulate and as one hikes on them, one can end up in tricky spots, or challenged by a nearly vertical wall going up or down. He wanted to shoot pictures from the top. We chugged upward and upward. I began to lag. It is one of only a handful of occasions where I have failed to simply follow in his footsteps and arrive at the destination. He hollered over his shoulder, "It's OK, just wait for me there." I did. When he arrived at the peak, I heard "Whoa! Razor's edge here, Les. No place to balance. Sheer drop off." He got his pictures, though his perch was precarious. Yonder comes the Badger, slip sliding away down that last 100 yards I didn't make. Yet.

I am good at puzzles. I had not been a camper long before I was able to identify animal tracks. I am proud to say it was I who figured out that the round paw prints in the sand were cat prints. I was pleased when he exclaimed, "Hey, you're right!" It wasn't so hard, readers. I've been kept by about 50 cats in my life. The big ones have paws similar to the domestic ones. In the photo, you see the cat prints and the bird tracks. They appeared to have been made at the same time. I imagine quite a little drama was played out here in the dunes.

In my ears right now: It's still The Mountain. I recommend it.

Something that charmed me: Cats are scarce in the desert. In all our years in the outdoors, we've only seen their tracks in a handful of locations. We spotted one on the hoof once - only the flanks and back end of it as it loped away from the Jeep trail we rode on. We both tried to make out what we were seeing, because something wasn't right. It wasn't a coyote. Minutes later, the Badger said, "Hey, that has to have been a cat." He was right. It moved that way. This time on the dunes, there were cat tracks in abundance. We followed some of their trails for miles up and down the mounds of sand. There was some evidence that there was at least a pair of them, and possibly a family of three. It made me feel good to think of them and their life in the sun on the dunes. I'm a cat person and a desert person. That's beauty to me.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Home After Solstice

I did something most unlike myself during my Solstice Fairy gig. I took out the camera that has gone everywhere with me for years and . . . I took some pictures with it. No longer the digital accessory, that Sony was employed for the purpose it was intended.

Solstice at Grandmother's house, after the remodeling and landscaping were completed.

The solstice outing to the dunes was a most wonderful holiday get-away. Things were a bit different this trip. Shorts taken, but not worn. The skies not quite the same as every other time. New things to see, old landmarks gone missing. Conversations made while being pulled into the most marvelous of campfires. Observations made while climbing in the dunes. "Hey, cat prints -big cat! What do you think, cougar?" Soon we observed there are at least two, and possibly three, cats. Some of the footprints are smaller than others. They appear to hunt together, one following the other, until their tracks diverge. Perhaps some bird flew off at a tangent, or a small mammal changed course and appeared worth following.

I found time to think and consider things. I weighed a few matters in my head, trying to land on how much more time and energy I will throw at them. And I realized on the ride home that I've got through "the holidays" without any negative energy or events. It is a challenge for me and not only did I get through, I walked upright. I even managed a very difficult personal situation during the holidays to the extent that I feel very good about it, very strong.

And so, I will spend a day reading all the blogs, making my comments, and then I will proceed to write and tell what I am compelled to set out.

In my ears right now: Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band ~ The Mountain. It was requested of me as a holiday gift. The beauty of that is one gets a free burn of the CD! It is very good and features a little input from Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and Iris Dement. Enough said? I recommend it.

Something that charmed me: I love finding a marsh - wetlands! - in Death Valley. It just doesn't easily compute for me. Yet, there it is. We heard frogs croaking and waterfowl chirping. There it is, just like last time. Just like next time.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sleep in Heavenly Peace

Mother Badger, circa 1934-36

After a really long day Tuesday, I sat down at the computer instead of packing for holiday camping as I'd intended to do. I noodled around on blogs and left my mark wherever I was moved to write. I checked my e-mail inbox almost as an afterthought. After all, the BlackBerry had not breeeeeenged me to attention, announcing incoming. However, the network had been acting oddly all afternoon after the wind began to roar, so I decided to take a look. Therein awaited a true treat ~ Mother Badger sent the chattiest e-mail in a long time and she made me laugh out loud in the privacy of my own home.

As she is wont to do, Mother Badger had been perusing blogs. She doesn't comment on the blogs, but makes her statements and asks her questions privately, through e-mail. So she dished with me about being "Les, the ex-Limes" and she claims she has entire generations of trigger points for her body worker to go after. I shall soon attempt to one-up her by sharing a statement Stephanie once made: "Leslie, basically your complete left butt cheek is a trigger point." Well! By the way, this week Stephanie went after the tibialis anterior muscles for a real treat. Let's just say that she found a number of trigger points commensurate with the number of miles I walk and it was a pretty unpleasant experience. I'm big on using Lamaze breathing techniques to ease discomfort - hey, it worked for me during childbirth which was about half as difficult as these leg trigger points. But that's not what I meant to talk about. I meant to say that I went to sleep Tuesday evening, grinning with delight over Mother Badger.

The view from my office deck as I arrived at work. Yes, those faint lights on the horizon are the fabulous Las Vegas Strip.

Wednesday morning I was pensive as I walked my miles. I have managed to keep an even keel across these holidays, mostly by trying to do many things differently. Westerman, who advises me about many things, counseled me to avoid certain people and certain subjects and to put some things on the back burner just for a month. He reminded me I needed to get more sleep and eat well. Every single day. I've tried to do that.

The view from my office deck after the coffee brewed.

What we dreaded has come to pass. The holiday season in which we got no crush of business. Down on the ground you see a couple of my war wagons. We used to have more home dudes than war wagons and there was a spirited competition between the homes to claim ownership of a particular chariot. Everyone wanted #3 - it has a great sound system. No one wanted #12 - it's the oldest in the fleet and behaves that way, too. We're smaller now, but still standing. Some days it feels as if I talk to more out-of-work carpet cleaners than potential customers. "Sorry, we're a bit slow ourselves right now." The vendor who sells us our cleaning products tells us weekly about the demise of yet another small business, and that vendor has reduced staff, as well. Sometimes I book a job and the customer will say, "You're the only company that answered the phone. The others are disconnected or the phone just rings." Yes, well, they've had to close their offices and the carpet cleaner can't hear his cell phone ringing while he's cleaning carpet.

I'm not depressed or panicked, but I am very concerned for what has happened to all of us, all working class Americans. I'm fed up with reading that the recession is over and then reading that reports of the recession being over are overly optimistic. In the last few days I have talked with potential customers who go far beyond the usual "pain in the butt" or "odd". Yesterday and today I spoke with one man and one woman whom I would classify as genuinely, certifiably batshit crazy. I didn't become annoyed by them. I reminded myself how stressful the whole world seems right now and it's the holidays, to boot. How do I know what they might be suffering? The technicians radio from almost every job now, to say, "This is a really sad situation." Husband lost his job, house is foreclosed, people are sick and can't afford medical care.

It's time to get ready to go away for solstice. I'm going to set everything down for just the few days and breathe deeply, feel the sun on my skin, dance in the solstice moon. It will take an effort to let it be for this short time. Sometimes the dance of guessing and second-guessing takes on a life of its own. I want to have a crystal ball. I want to know how it will all end. I want to know what's waiting just outside the tunnel. I want to feel confident and secure.

It is time to ready my little birdies for the long weekend and make several trips with packages to my car. It is time to make the special foods to be transported to the dunes. It is time to lay down the things that make our days difficult and find some brief respite. Soon I will sleep on the ground in heavenly peace. For just a little while. And when I come back, I will feel refilled, refueled, refreshed.

In my ears right now: True deal, Erin O'Brien's fault again. Who knew I was so suggestible? Love the song. It invites twirling dance with a long, flowing skirt. I agree the viedo is unremarkable. This is about the music.

Something that charmed me: Despite my trying to swear off the Christmas Nazi stuff, I made a 2:30 a.m. trip to Wal-Mart this morning. I'll confess the details in some other post. Another woman and I kept coming across one another in the aisles. She stopped to take off her coat. She draped it across her cart and I noticed she had her sweater on completely inside out. Not slightly mismatched buttons or a collar turned up. Label flapping, big bumpy sweater seams showing, inside out. I waited until there was no one else in the aisle with us and I mentioned it to her quietly. Hey, I'm a woman who'd want to know if I was trailing toilet paper from the back of my slacks or wearing my sweater inside out. "Mind your own damned business, you bitch." Yow. You know, I need a break.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Season's Greetings ~ Secret Revealed

Over the river

And through the woods

To Grandmother's house we go...

The horse knows the way
to carry the sleigh

Through the white and drifted snow . . .

Wishing my followers and readers a happy, healthy, prosperous 2010.

Love, Limes


Virginia Woolf

Bloomsbury and Benson and friends

My special holiday request of my followers and readers: In 2010, please stop calling me Limes or LimesNow. My name is Leslie, dammit. And "Les" to my friends. That little disclosure is my gift to myself. :~}

All photo credits except Bloomsbury and Benson Bird, Gino and Fausto BadgerBirds: J. D. Morehouse

Monday, December 21, 2009

Peace on Earth at Winter Solstice

I plan to keep writing pieces about holiday excesses because I have a visual wonder to post on the last such article. But the days are moving quickly through the holidays now and I have a couple of other things I want to post in between. I hope the reader will indulge my hopscotch approach. I figure it's still "the holidays" for another 10 days or so.

I love solstice. It has come to mean "the holidays" to me. And today is solstice. It is the morning I have leapt out of bed, beginning my four-day run for the finish line into solstice celebration. I have begun the lists, the shopping, the planning, the assignment making, the setting out of the appropriate clothes. I've sent e-mails and reminders and talked about it to home dudes when I arrived at the office this morning. For solstice is the season for me. I am the Solstice Fairy of Past, Present and Future.

The first couple of holiday seasons "after", I hardly knew what to do with myself. I was partnered with people who didn't care a lot for Christmas, as such, and "Christmas" is all I ever knew. I'd limp out of those holidays feeling unsettled and unfulfilled. I didn't know what I wanted, but I wasn't getting what I needed. I couldn't move forward because I couldn't quite leave the past.

And then came that year. Mother Badger had come for the holidays and to help get the Badger through a day surgery on his hand. She took him off in the predawn and they called me midmorning to say he was fine and they were going home. I was relieved and now could turn my thoughts to wrapping the last gifts, picking up the freshest items for our holiday meal.

About 2:00 p.m., the lab called me. I'd had a routine blood draw on the previous Friday so my doctor could monitor certain of my prescriptions. I was told I needed to go immediately to the nearest emergency room for blood transfusions and to be prepared to stay a couple of days. I was acutely anemic and I was flabbergasted. I called home, tearful, and the Badger said the lab had called there. He gave them my work number. "Come home, Limes. We'll get you there."

Then commenced an afternoon, evening and night from hell. I was a basket case, the Badger was a bit of a zombie having had general anesthia that day, Mother Badger was a fierce advocate on my behalf. The hospital emergency room, at a good address in Las Vegas, was hideously overcrowded and I wasn't injured or actively bleeding, so we waited and waited until Mother Badger started to raise hell. I was finally seen by an army of phlebotomists, internal medicine specialists and I don't know what else. We'd been there 7 hours when I was shown to the gurney where I would spend the night in the hallway - it was the only place they had to put me. When the first unit of blood was started, the Badgers bid me good night and told me to call when anything was known. I wanted sleep that night, but it was difficult. I clenched my purse between my knees beneath the blanket and closed my eyes, turned toward the wall so complete strangers wouldn't see me in my sleep as they walked by.

At dawn, I'd been given enough other peoples' blood to put me back on the "living" list, had been monitored, given a light breakfast. All the health care providers agreed I needed to be admitted to determine what had caused such anemia, but there was no room at the inn for me. I called home and the middle aged man and the elderly lady set out to pick me up. I was damned glad to see them, and choked up while sipping at my orange juice. They carried me home and we all settled into exhausted sleep.

When we met at the kitchen table around noon, Mother Badger said she'd had a call from the young woman who tended to her cat and home when she travels. It looked like someone had been in the house and burglarized her! She was distressed - we all were - and it was decided we'd open gifts and share our holiday meal that night so Mother Badger could drive home the next day. Not the way any of us intended the holidays to look, but we had to deal with all of it. Arriving at home, Mother Badger called to say she had been burglarized, and likely by a young man acquainted with the woman who was hired to watch her home.

I napped and rested - I needed to. At one waking, the Badger asked me to look at the computer monitor. "Look at the temperatures! Let's go camping, Limes." I didn't want to, readers. I didn't feel up to loading food and camping gear and clothes and . . . . "I'll do most of it, Limes. I'll just need help with things I can't do with my hand." He did, too! Although I am big on splitting the tasks 50/50, that time he did the lion's share of the work.

He drove and I napped in the car. We arrived at the place we'd never visited before, and stepped out into balmy air, clear, sunny, blue skies. The weather readings had been correct - it was warm. We spent a few days there in quietude and warmth. He hiked and I hiked when I could. We discovered an unlikely, misplaced swamp in the transition between the Mojave Desert and Death Valley. No, it wasn't a mirage. I know reeds and waterfowl when I see them. We found old mining structures and became familiar with the most glorious series of sand dunes to climb and hike.

But it is the solstice moon that draws me the most strongly. For in this place at this time of year, that moon squirts up over the mountaintop just about the time I am cooking dinner on the Coleman stove. It presents all fire and opalescence, lighting up the terrain as it rises, the time being not-quite-light and not-quite-dark. We always "ooooh" and "aaaaah" ~ "Badger, can you capture it on digital?" He can. He does.

This will be the third solstice camping in four years. Although on one trip, we found the beautiful gift of an out-of-place little violet flower on top of the dunes, it appears we will be more challenged later this week. First we had the possibility of rainshowers. That has diminished. It will be colder than we are used to in this spot. But it will still be quiet and it will still be beautiful and one can enjoy all of that with just a few more warm layers. I'll roll out of the car and be cradled in the embrace of the dunes. There we talk. There we enjoy our fire. There we read and refuel our empty tanks.

Happy Holidays, everyone ~ I hope you spend them in the ways that mean the most to you. Peace on Earth. Good Will to Everyone.

Photo credits for the real LimesNow and the last three photos above: J. D. Morehouse

In my ears right now: Still Cyndi Lauper and Peter Kingsbury singing Walk Away Renee. In the new year, I'll seek out a 12-step program.

Something that charmed me: Tag just e-mailed me the damnedest thing I've ever seen. He suggests it might be "Limes Now". I submit I haven't worn that mustache for years!

Photo credits for THAT LimesNow: NOT J. D. Morehouse. And I'm NOT that LimesNow.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Embarking on my Own Adult Holiday Excesses

I married in 1977 and I spent a lot of time in Hallmark stores that year. Invitations, thank you cards, little scrolls commemorating the occasion that one presented to the guests secured with a little faux golden wedding ring, Christmas cards to be sent out two months after the wedding, new invitations after my mother beefed up the guest list sufficiently to require a new venue. At some point the lovely Hallmark Christmas tree ornaments appeared, setting off a whole Christmas Nazi campaign of its own. I'll finish the post with the ornament story.

Ex and I came to Las Vegas to live on the Bicentennial Day. A lovely little house and a new adult life awaited us as Stepfather was a general contractor building houses as fast as he could, and Mother was the real estate broker selling them. There were big plans for Limes and Ex, too. Since we were now adults, as if that had suddenly happened as we rolled through the city limits, we soon got a marriage license, that fall of 1976. My mother barked about that sufficiently to back us off for another year. The marriage license took up life between the hardback covers of Gone With the Wind, and we established our new life sans marriage. We'd lived that way for many years. One more didn't make much difference.

My mother asked a business associate to put me to work. As she gave this man hundreds of escrows a year, from land purchases, through construction loans, through the sales of the homes built, he quickly found me a file clerk position. It was soon noticed that I had a brain and I progressed from escrow secretary to junior escrow officer to escrow officer, to branch manager in pretty quick succession. Ex went to work for a construction vendor Stepfather worked with. He was OK in construction, but showed a true genius for building and managing the intricacies of sprinkler systems. Stepfather and Mother helped him establish himself as a landscape contractor. We had a sweet little cottage industry as long as Stepfather could build them, Mother sell them, Limes escrow them and Ex landscape them. This lasted for years, until the Las Vegas boom-and-bust cycle hit bust. We were 22 and 23 years old.

It was in the planning of that wedding that an inborn talent and skill were revealed in me. I am adept at managing complex projects. I have a knack for handling multiple lists, budgets, deadlines and competing interests. I can hit a moving target with a dart, and deliver up an event seamlessly. Being of tender years, I'd never undertaken anything that would have shown I could handle this. The Great October Wedding Circus included 7 custom made dresses for me and the females of the wedding party, tuxes for the men, a cake the size of a small building, chapel and music arrangements, Stepfather flying a small plane full of flowers from his rose farm in California, finding a local florist to arrange them, negotiating a discount at a hotel for throwing them 200 paying guests for several days, recruiting friend and relative volunteers to help me execute all of this, and all that damned printing . . . . it is here where I learned the tricks I've since used to put together fundraising and political events, union rallies and community events. I am a ringmistress and I like a circus! There is much more to be said about that wedding and the marriage, but that will be for many more posts. This one is meant to be about holiday excesses.

As if the marriage ceremony also included some rite of passage to "young matron", I immediately began to become social. I gave parties non-stop, plying friends with food and drink, music and fun. To give the reader a sense of the times, my wedding gift microwave was the size of a Volkswagen and Ex's Sony BetaMax (yes, he was the first kid on the block to own one) was equally as large, with a remote that had about 100 miles of wire. Disco was big, and Angel's Flight trousers for young men. We bought our music on 8-track tapes. Crockpots intrigued us, if we could just integrate that notion of "slow" cooker. I typed my escrow documents on an IBM Selectric, using many different colors of correction tape, depending on which form I was completing. Hidden Valley Ranch was new and platters of crudites were what we carried to potlucks with this dressing. "Buttermilk? Are you sure?" Well, that's what the package said.

In this setting, I became aware somehow that one could purchase a permit in the sporting goods section of Woolco allowing one to cut down a Christmas tree in the forest for the princely cost of $1. Now, I liked putting on events and I liked Christmas and I liked the outdoors . . . . I talked it up to girlfriends and they were quickly "in". The list-making began for what was to be the First Annual Chainsaw Festival. It ran for years, becoming bigger, better and more excessive in every way. It should be noted no one was ever hurt, jailed, nor did we ever hurt any other person. That is proof that angels exist and watch out for young, dumb people. Dumb? We were mostly young professionals who functioned at a high level in society. And we were also city kids, to a person, who knew nothing about the forest or cutting down trees. This story also reminds me how much life experience matters. We had IQ points at the time, but little common sense. We'd only been adults a short while. "Practical" would come with age and miles.

The women volunteered to bring hot chocolate and chili, donuts and soft drinks. Some of the men knew someone who knew someone who owned a chainsaw. Ex owned trucks for his landscaping business, so we could transport the trees back to Las Vegas. Everyone had visited Mt. Charleston when it snowed, so we all knew to bundle up. The men knew we needed maps to find the remote location in eastern Nevada, about 1 mile from the Utah stateline. Eight-track tapes were gathered, Tupperware and thermoses full of food and drink. Someone was smart enough to think of firewood, matches, toilet paper and paper towels. We'd be encamped briefly while the trees were felled. Some 25 cars pulled up in front of our home, groups fell in together and selected which cars would go. The caravan ultimately consisted of 15 vehicles packed with excited young people, music blaring, women in sweaters harmonizing to Bohemian Rhapsody (I got the Freddie Mercury part), men laughing in their Pendleton shirts. We may have required a permit for caravaning that many cars and trucks, but who knew? We set out. Although "booze" had not been included on any list, it seems no one forgot to bring their own. Half way to our destination, most everyone was at least "happy" and probably no one should have been driving. Booze blending with callow youth, we were in for a few surprises.

First, was "getting there". We title and escrow types thought we were experts with maps. And we were! Give us a Thomas Brothers to get around Las Vegas, or give us the coordinates from the Mt. Diablo Base & Meridian and we could plot out any residential lot or stretch of vacant land in Nevada. But hand us a road map taking country roads to lesser roads to a spot within a mile of Utah, in the woods . . . I have always felt there was a 50-50 chance we may have been generally in the area of approved tree cutting. I think we were in Nevada, as required. All the drinking forced repeated rest stops, so the journey took approximately three times longer than we figured. But at last we were there.

The women poured out of the cars (literally), started a fire, warmed up food, poured more drinks. The men fired up the chainsaws after many abortive yanks of the chains. Group by group, we stepped out and began to select the trees we'd cut. Although the group needed about 20 trees, we had 50 permits and we were bound to take 50 trees. If we had to give them away to friends and relatives, we'd do so.

The Limes of the day was at least somewhat practical. We had vaulted ceilings in the house and I asked Ex how large a tree we could handle. "A big one" was his reply. I asked Stepfather, who built those homes, and he knew to tell me, "Twelve feet, Limes." I wasn't dumb. I knew our friend Rodger was six feet tall, so we could accommodate a tree twice as tall as Rodger. My mom had asked for a modest one about six feet tall - piece of cake! A tree as tall as Rodger. This stuff was easy! Everyone bustled around selecting trees, having the men cut them down, putting ID on each tree so everyone would get their own back home, working in teams to load the trees into the trucks. It was hard work and the day had spread out longer than we anticipated. It was darkening when we packed up and headed back to the city. We were all tired and a little worse for wear and tear and food and drink.

In Las Vegas, my street was bustling with friends moving around transporting trees, food containers, saws, jackets, gloves. We had a brief huddle in the middle of the driveway and agreed we were doing this every year and we were going to grow the program - more friends next year, maybe even a campout! Everyone scattered. We all had Christmas trees to put up and decorate!

Folks, I cannot tell everyone's story from that evening. Only my own. The weather was frigid. We still had much to do, pruning our tree, putting a sturdy base on it, getting it indoors. Man, a 12-foot tree was b-i-g. Stepfather stepped out into the dark from next door to collect Mother's 6-foot tree and to see if he could help us. We presented him with Mom's tree and he muttered, "Oh, I'll need to cut that down a bit." He took it to their garage and returned to help us. Stepfather eyeballed our tree and quietly said, "Limes, you've got 26-28 feet of Christmas tree there. It's not going to go inside the house. You have too many corners to turn. That tree's as big as the White House Christmas Tree." No. That couldn't be right. I'd checked it out myself. The tree was about twice as tall as Rodger. Then Stepfather noticed the trunk. "Limes, when the trunk is bigger around than my thigh, that's too much tree." Well, the trunk was pretty thick . . . . the Badger family has an insider family saying from a long-ago summer vacation: "Distances are deceiving in the west." I'd set out one of my own experience: "Size is deceiving in the forest."

Have I written that I am a hard case? Nothing in the world was going to prevent me from putting up this tree. Ex and Stepfather hacked and trimmed at it for two days. It was altered to about 12 feet high. It's circumference was such that they ultimately trimmed the back side of the tree so it would only protrude half-way into the living room instead of all the way out the front door. We didn't own anything like enough decorations for the monster. But I knew what to do! It was 1977, after all. We were newlyweds. I went to Hallmark and bought up more "Just Married" ornaments than the law allows. Some were engraved with our names, some generic. Each was different, and I'm not going to say how many of the ornaments I bought. Suffice it to say I had one of each of their "Just Married" ornaments for that year. Despite the vast number of decorations, that tree was pretty sparse looking. But I knew what to do in future years. In 1990, Amber would be born and Hallmark had way more "New Baby Girl" ornaments than they had "Just Married" ones in 1977.

A couple of weeks later, Ex and his brother David were watching football, drinking excessive amounts of Budweiser as I wrapped excessive numbers of Christmas gifts. The cats had been excessively attracted to the gigantic tree from the moment we brought it inside. I always figured it smelled of nature and that captured their attention. This time when three of them shot up the trunk at the same time, they toppled the beast, bringing it down on David's head. It knocked him out! Ornaments rolled, tinsel fluttered, cats scrambled, and then silence for a moment. "Limes," said Ex, "this tree cutting thing is one of your best schemes yet." But we continued to go on the expedition for the next 5 years. We just selected trees that seemed way too small. That worked out just right. Because size is deceiving in the forest.

In my ears right now: Bowie and Jagger. Dancing in the Streets. I need a perky noise. The birdies appear to prefer some types of music over others. They dance rather like David and Mick.

Something that charmed me: I got a lovely holiday bonus yesterday. We don't have money in the budget to do that, even though our little group has been pared so close to the bone. I'm sure David did that out of his pocket. Peace on Earth to all Persons.

Disclaimer: It's 2009 and I'm 57. No, I don't approve of drinking and driving. Nor do I approve of going out in nature, hacking, burning and destroying. But those sensibilities came with growth and maturity. I'm glad I've been given the time to grow and mature. I hope to experience more growth in 2010 and forward.