fun


If there is anything better than holding a new baby and carrying TWO ice cream cones, I just don’t know what it could be. I could pretend that one of the cones is for the baby, but you probably wouldn’t fall for that.

I was going to write about spring and how it came early this year, and how it’s still only March yet the forsythia is in bright bloom, and the daffodils are up and waving in the sunshine.

Except as soon as I had formulated all these thoughts, winter decided to take one last swipe at us. Indian Winter, I believe is the technical term for it. We’re shivering today and are dressed back in coats, glowering at the gray sky and huddling against the wind.

But that’s okay. Because who needs spring when you have the Most Fun Video Ever?

Ten million viewers can’t be wrong. (I may be responsible for about two million of these views. I simply can’t stop watching this!)

Watch and enjoy. Spring can wait.

This summer is only two days old, but already it has a theme.

It is The Summer of Fluidity. Not nearly as much fun as the summer two few years ago that everyone knew as The Summer of Frozen Drinks, or the one in the year 2000 that became The Year of Camping Trips Every Few Weeks.

Nope, this is fluidity—not just because it has rained every day for weeks on end, and “fluids” are starting to come through the porch skylights and are thundering through the drainpipes—but also because we are living the kind of life where nobody is ever sure what’s happening from day to day.

It’s kind of fun, actually. This is the first summer I can remember when I didn’t have a book due on September first, which in itself is astonishing. There are whole HOURS in the day when I am not typing. And I am not being awakened in the middle of the night by some character in the book who has chosen 3 a.m. as the time to finish telling me a story I MUST include in the final draft.

Also—Stephanie is back at home, at least part-time, between her internship with a casting director in New York and her various babysitting jobs. She comes back and forth so much she’s practically a commuter, which is lovely because she knows something that very few people know about the world, and that is that it is necessary to go to the ocean as often as possible.

I had forgotten this fact of life—surprising since I was raised on the beaches of Florida and then transplanted to the beaches of Southern California, and I spent three-quarters of my early life sitting on some damp towel on one of the coasts, contemplating whether I should make another sand castle or if the last one would suffice.

This is why it’s a good idea to have children: they remind you of things you always knew but may have forgotten while you were busy trying to raise them and make sure they got their homework done and brushed their teeth.

Stephanie returned from college this year just slightly worn out—sick and tired and overworked and oversaturated with city life—and she knew immediately that she needed to go to the beach. “I think the beach is nature’s hospital,” she told me. “And that’s where I need to be.”

And so that’s what we do. We bought a season pass so we don’t have to feel guilty if we can only spend an hour or so there—and we head for nature’s hospital whenever it is not absolutely pouring rain. Cloudy days are even fine. They have their own charm at the hospital, I’ve found—a kind of peace and quiet. I don’t even mind huddling under the blankets in the cold and sipping hot tea.

There’s something else about nature’s hospital that I’ve realized. It has an incredible arts and crafts unit—plenty of shells and rocks and seaweed to work with. Lately I find myself collecting little rocks that look like teeth and creating what could only be called “mouth sculptures” all along my towel.

Soon, I know, one of those mouth sculptures is going to start talking to me, telling me some story that I’ll realize needs to be written down and that perhaps will turn into my next novel.

But for now, it’s enough that it’s just me, the clouds, the little teeth, and the daughter—all of us spending the Summer of Fluidity in nature’s intensive care ward.

Believe me, I’ve tried not to talk about this.

But for the past month or so, I’ve been drinking a green smoothie every day…and I have become somewhat addicted, I’m afraid. I hate talking about it because–well, I’m all too aware that people (and by people, I mean family members) are rolling their eyes at me. I know what they’re thinking: this is just the latest of my little obsessions.

Okay, I admit that I do have obsessions. A few years ago, for five straight months I woke up every morning and ate half a can of pineapple. I can’t remember why this was a good idea, but it had something to do with getting enough chromium, so the pineapple had to come out of a can. Fresh pineapple, delicious though it might be, wasn’t an option. We had stacks and stacks of cans in our pantry. One day I decided I didn’t want anymore.

I’ve also had some hair issues (read: obsessions) from time to time. I’m the only person in our family with blond hair, and as anyone with blond hair can tell you, the color is NEVER precisely right. It’s always either too gray-looking (hairdressers call that “ashy”) or else it’s too gold (“brassy” to the professionals), and sometimes, defying all logic, it can be both at the same time. You can have ashy hair when you catch a glimpse of it in the rear view mirror of your car, and then the most horrifyingly GOLD hair in the bathroom mirror. When that happens to you, you NEED family members to assess and report on what THEY see. It’s difficult to keep them from backing away from you, though, when you attempt to explain what’s going on and impress upon them the importance of their evaluations. At times, they will run out of the room to escape your questioning.

And I’m not even scratching the surface of my health interests. For instance, I was once told by my yoga teacher that I am totally misaligned in ways that were going to lead to pain, bad knees and sloping shoulders–and so he recommended that I perform an exercise which involved lying motionless on the floor for forty-five minutes a day with my legs at right angles on a chair, and my head perfectly forward and my arms at my sides. Forty-five minutes of motionless lying about! I wasn’t even permitted to fall asleep, which would at least be a good use of the time, because then I would collapse myself into my old misalignments and grow even more crooked! And I couldn’t use the time to make phone calls or even watch educational things on television, because all you can really do when lying motionless on your back is stare at the stains on the ceiling.

But I did this–for a while, at least. My family members were quite amused. But no one joined me in this attempt to become a better aligned person. And now that I have quit doing it, they are polite enough not to bring it up again. It’s been filed away in the catalog of my oddities, I’m sure.

But this brings us to green smoothies. Despite what you might be thinking, green smoothies aren’t green TEA smoothies. They are green because that’s the color of the smoothie itself, since it it is chocked full of green vegetables. Like handfuls of baby spinach, to be exact.

What you do is take some frozen strawberries–a lot of them, but this is not exact science, so just put as many as you like–and two bananas and the handfuls of fresh baby spinach and you put all that in a blender along with some water, and then you turn on the blender to its best ICE-CRUSHING setting, and then watch as the whole thing turns a slightly horrible-looking green color.

A warning: You will not look at it and think, “Wow! I have GOT to drink that thing, because it looks so good!” But when you taste it…wow. It tastes mostly like strawberries, with some creaminess due to the bananas, and a kind of fresh, crisp taste from the spinach. It definitely does not taste like spinach, so you don’t have to worry about that. But when you drink it down–I have two large glasses of it every day–well, you can’t believe, frankly, that anything that bad looking tastes so WONDERFUL.

The best part of it is that just this blenderful of goodness contains, like, a bazillion servings of vegetables. You know how recently they decided that it wasn’t enough for us to get five servings each day, like they’d always been recommending, but that now we needed, oh, at least NINE? And I remember thinking, “Well, THAT’S never gonna happen!” But now I think I get nine servings just thinking about the green smoothie each day.

No, no. Here’s the really, really best part–and now you’re going to think I’m just bragging. The other day I went to the doctor, and of course they always insist on weighing you at the doctor’s office, no matter why you’re really there. Usually I try to ignore this aspect of doctorhood, because it’s just a quirk that they can’t help. But–holy smokes! I had lost FIVE POUNDS without even trying. Honestly. I still eat all the food I normally do, whenever I’m hungry. I’ve just added this green smoothie to the mix–and five pounds has somehow melted off without me noticing. (I feel that five pounds that leaves in April is worth about ten pounds any other time of the year, because this is the time of the year when a person is starting to think about the bathing suit problem coming up.) AND! I can take my jeans off without unbuttoning and unzipping them. In fact, I have trouble getting them to stay up! I’m actually going to have to buy a belt. I found out I lost two full inches in my abdomen, just from drinking green smoothies for five weeks. My stomach is flatter than it’s ever been.

So you can see why I can no longer keep quiet. Thank you, bloglily, for telling me about green smoothies being practically the National Beverage out there in California. And, by the way, does my hair seem ashy to you?

That video of 200 people in Belgium suddenly breaking out in a dance to “Do-Re-Mi” is popping up everywhere–and with it, the question of what it all means and why anybody should care.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s really an astonishing four minutes in the Antwerp train station when Julie Andrews’s clear, high voice starts singing over the public address system, and seemingly from out of nowhere, people start performing a choreographed dance–the crowd of dancers growing larger and larger, much to the amazement of the regular folks in the train station.

The dancers are all ordinary looking people of all ages, some wearing business suits and carrying briefcases, others hoisting backpacks. They look like ordinary passengers–only they all know the same steps, and THEY ARE DANCING TOGETHER, performing wordlessly in straight, precise lines. The crowd of onlookers can’t stop themselves from looking stunned and delighted as the folks next to them suddenly join in.

When I watched it, it made me smile–and then without warning, my eyes were filling with tears.

But why? I had no idea. I watched it five more times the first day, and since then I’ve seen it perhaps ten more times, and each time I feel this tugging at my heart.

I figured I was just losing it. But tonight, on salon.com, a commenter on Table Talk put into words just what I’d been feeling. Here’s an excerpt from it:

The dancers are presenting the purest form of art imaginable: art simply and truly for the sake of art.

What they are presenting to the people in that station (and the rest of us, of course) is the ideal of human co-operation. They’re showing us the possibility that a bunch of unrelated, unconnected people could spontaneously burst into a song and dance routine in a train station because that’s what they all wanted to do and that’s what we could do too, if we set our minds to it.

They have shown me a little bit of what it is to be human again.

And if we can be human again, maybe there’s hope for us as a species. And that, I think, is why I love to watch it. It just feel so good to think of ourselves as part of something bigger, something joyful and lovely and filled with hope. It’s the best of our humanity.

As my conductor friend Bobby said in his wonderful blog, Bobby Derailed, how long before this breaks out in Grand Central? We could use a little of this close to home.

I don’t want to make any of you wild with envy or anything, but today a plumber came to my house.

I know. It is not an easy thing to get such an event to take place. And it’s not like it happened just by magic. We had been waiting for quite a while–it was a couple of weeks since we made our first request–and we waited patiently, because when you are waiting for a plumber, attitude is everything. If you get mad, or worse, lose faith that it will happen, then the universe steps in and puts you back at the bottom of its invisible list. You must wake up every day, confident that the plumber is working his way to you. Do not let doubt creep in.

I can’t even imagine what it must be like to actually BE a plumber, a person whose services are so in demand that he cannot even stop to answer the phone. Ours is a perfectly nice man, a little on the taciturn, gruff side perhaps–but this is just because he is forever having to put up with people standing knee-deep in water wondering why he didn’t get there before. People are not at their best when they are standing knee-deep in water or are hearing hissing sounds from their pipes.

We were not knee-deep. We were big-toe deep perhaps, and even then only in one section of our garage, inside a closet where all the mysterious waterworks of the house seem to be located. I often go and look at them as they gurgle and hum and send water along its confident way through the pipes of our house. They seem quite sound. I hear the well pump go on and off, hear the chuggling sound of water in the pipes, notice its fervent flow when you turn on the taps.

But then a few weeks ago we stepped into the garage to find a puddle. We peered at the machines who looked innocently back at us.

I mumbled a few words, something along the lines of, “We are too busy for this right now. Stop it this instant!” (This sometimes works, and I always recommend trying it first when there is a household crisis.)

The leak stopped, we made it through Thanksgiving, and then it started up again. We called the plumber’s answering machine. The leak stopped. Then re-started. Re-stopped.

The plumber did not call us back.

Some days we would step into a puddle in the garage, some days not. Then there was a hiss, and a slight mist of water coming from the pipes area.

I emailed with friends, trying to plan our times to get together. “I don’t know when next week I can really see you,” I said to my friend Peggy. “A plumber is expected sometime.”

She wrote back that she was also in line for a plumber. She’d been waiting for two weeks for her plumber. It had gone on so long, in fact, that her mother felt sorry for her. One day when the mother had worked her way up to the top of some plumber’s actual list and actually had him in her house, she called Peggy and said, “Would you like to come over and gaze upon my plumber?”

We laughed.

So today my plumber came. I was still in my pajamas, wearing an old ratty sweatshirt and flipflops when he arrived, but I did not dare make him wait while I changed into real people clothing. You don’t want to risk him going off to some other, more deserving job. I showed him the non-leak (because of course it stopped when it heard he was coming.) He knew what was wrong, though, and replaced a whole section of copper pipe. Before he left, he ominously predicted that many, many more feet of copper pipe will be needed soon and for a lot more money. Our pipes, he said, remind him of aluminum foil.

“Happy holidays anyway,” he said. He really is very, very nice. He used to have a toilet seat riding on the grillwork of his truck. And sometimes he would bring his nice dog with him.

Lately, though, he is just busy being the most harried person in America, beleaguered by phone calls and hissing pipes and people standing knee-deep in water and yelling at him.

I didn’t yell. I like the brand new copper pipe, and I am currently just glad I can go to see my friend Peggy.

“Today,” I will tell her, “I gazed upon my very own plumber.”    

Today, it must be said, was not one of the best days.

The stock market had the worst day it’s had since 2001.

There was a gratuitous snake in the driveway this morning when I went to take the garbage out.

My computer is broken, and I have to figure out how to write blog posts on this other computer which does not know all my little shortcuts, passwords or software thingies. And if it doesn’t know them, how am I supposed to know them?

My tooth just maybe MIGHT perhaps have the beginnings of an expensive toothache.

But, as so often happens on apocalyptic days when snakes and teeth and stocks metaphorically combine, there are some redeemingly good things happening too. And one of the best things today was that I got directed to a blog that tells you what your name would be if you had had the misfortune to be named by Sarah Palin.

As everybody knows, she has given her five children names that nobody else would ever have thought of in a million years: Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow and Piper. So what would she have named YOU?

I would be named Fowl Overtime Palin. (I wish to be known as Overtime, I think, because Fowl could be so misunderstood. I’d have to be forever spelling it for people and saying, “No, NO! NOT with a ‘U.’ FOWL, like the birds.”) And my husband Jim would be Buster Taint Palin, which is just so delicious that I may have to start calling him that. Of our three kids, Ben would be Drown Wing; Allie would be Grill Igloo, and Steph would be Stepper Choke. I can’t imagine why I didn’t think of Stepper Choke instead of Stephanie Jane. Failure of imagination, maybe.

So go there now and find out your Palin name. And then…for heaven’s sake…go register some would-be Democrats to vote! (But first, please tell me your name!)

It’s true.

Every year we go to the Cape–pack up the cars, bring the kids and sometimes their friends, and stay in the same house we’ve stayed in for years, a 3-bedroom house that comes equipped with lobster pots and playing cards, good paperback books, electric fans, feather pillows–and beds that sag in the middle. (We joke that it’s those beds that finally make us glad to go back home–we practically need a team of chiropractors to get us up in the morning by Day 7.)

Over the years, as you can imagine, the vacations have varied in their quality. There was the year Hurricane Bob struck on day two of the vacation, catching us completely unaware. Apparently everyone else got the memo and knew to bring batteries and lanterns, filled-up ice chests, and buckets to fill with pond water so they could flush the toilets…but  not us. We had a policy then of not watching TV on vacation.

Instead, we stood there dumbly while 70 mph winds blew down trees all around us, and by the time, three days later, when we managed to work our way out of the woods of Wellfleet and into civilization, all the batteries, ice and candles were long since sold out. Because this was Our Vacation, our one time of the year to be away, we stayed there for another five days which I will not describe to you because you would know then how utterly insane we are.

In the vacation journal we keep, there is one line, written by me, which sums everything up: “Tonight for dinner we had crackers and potato chips. Warm beer for us and warm water for the kiddos.”

But why am I talking about that? This year was perhaps the culmination of everything that is GOOD about the Cape.

For one thing, there was day after day of sunshine, beach days with actual warm water (up to 66 degrees, in the OCEAN). There were stars and evening beach walks. There were steamers and mussels to eat. There were early morning runs on the bike trail. There were babies to play with in sand that was as soft as flour. There was a campfire one night, with a million stars sparkling in the Milky Way above us. And there was a lot of drawn butter.

And there was no internet.

I LOVE the internet, of course, but I have to say it was kind of nice to be back to the elements of sand and water and sun and fire and drawn butter. I didn’t even work on my novel, although I meant to. Instead I played in the water with babies.

My characters would speak to me every now and then whenever I wasn’t talking to anyone else (which was rare), but they seemed busy, too. The main character, Annabelle, pointed out that she really does love her husband a lot, even though she complains about him. She thought maybe I should emphasize that a little bit more in the opening chapters. “I’m not REALLY wanting to be done with him,” she said. Then she wafted away and wasn’t heard from for the rest of the vacation. I figured she was on vacation, too.

One evening, walking on the beach, though, looking at the nearly full moon on the water and catching the white tips of the foam, I suddenly knew the title of this novel. (Here I’ve been writing this book for six months and am over halfway through and haven’t had even one inkling what its name might be.)

It’s going to be called The Year You Think of Nothing Else.

There. That was enough work for a vacation, don’t you think?

And now that I’m back, the characters came back, too, with lots more to say. I’m back on the internet and vow to be a better blogger than I was in August.

And I gave Annabelle some nice things to say about her husband.

I’m still tanned and spoiled and fat from all that drawn butter, but it’s fall. Time to get shaking. Tomorrow I might even go to the gym.    

Okay, it’s summer.
We aren’t supposed to be sitting at our laptops blogging all the time, are we?
We’re supposed to be out laughing and eating pie and riding in the car with the top down singing at the tops of our lungs.

So, if you’re in need of a laugh–watch this. Just be warned: do NOT have liquid or food anywhere near your mouth when you watch it. (And you might want to empty your bladder first.) Just sayin’.

No doubt you’ve already seen this and have been happy for WEEKS…but I have just discovered it.
Now that my baby birds have flown away, this is my new way of cheering myself up. Watch it and enjoy–be sure your volume is turned on!

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