July 4: T-Minus 12 days, my husband has purchased fireworks

It seems like I’ve mentioned here before about my husband being something of a neighborhood terror when it comes to July 4, even if in looking over what I’ve written here in the past couple of months I can’t find any trace. After so many years of marriage, all of this is oft-repeated and second-nature to me. So forgive me if any of it comes off sounding redundant.

In short, my husband John is a fireworks nut. If I let guns in the house, he would be a gun nut. Basically, anything John can blow up or incinerate or shoot holes through he takes to with childlike enthusiasm, though if any children followed John’s lead, I think I’d lose my faith in humanity.

John buys more fireworks and explosives than a militia. His annual show could cause an airliner to divert course rather than risk being shot down, every dog in our neighborhood now needs tranquilizers to not be driven berserk by the noise John creates, and the neighbors served him with a “Cease and Desist” order one year, though they later relented.

John’s even talking about celebrating Chinese New Year to have more excuses to set off more explosions. I’d laugh, but I found Mandarin language tapes in our kitchen.

What’s funny is that my husband is otherwise so gentle and sweet, nothing like the angry, combustible sort of blow hard I’d expect a fireworks nut to be. John works hard to give our family a decent life, is emotionally present when he’s home and listens attentively to everything I say. He’s treated me like his queen for 25 years, and he’s the only man I’ll ever love.

So I indulge John this adolescent fantasy, even if he’s pushing 50. I look the other way every time he brings home another box filled with Roman candles and other explosives, a massive grin on his face, like he did this past weekend. Because the truth is, a part of me smiles too.

Posted in The one and only, John McCauley

The World Cup and my crazy husband

Sorry I haven’t posted in a week. In honor of a certain soccer tournament underway on another continent, I am writing a post in the voice of my husband, a soccer fanatic.

I couldn’t wait for the World Cup 2010 to start, and if I could afford a ticket to South Africa, I’d make that trip in an instant.

I’m a soccer geek. From the time I was little, I’ve had a closet full of soccer attire. My dad was a professional player in Italy before I was born, and you could say I have soccer in my blood and that it was instilled in me from a young age. I played rec, high school and Division III college ball and even tried out for a pro circuit, though I didn’t make it. Former teammates served as groomsmen at my wedding, a ref performed the ceremony, and I even wore soccer shoes. My wife was miffed about the shoes, but I maintain that they go well with a tuxedo.

Soccer rules my waking moments and sometimes overtakes my sleeping ones as well. I regularly have dreams where I’m playing in highstakes games before South American gangsters, with thousands of pesos in bets riding on the outcome. I don’t know why I’m playing in front of gangsters or why they’re from South America, but I’ve had this dream since childhood, and my wife knows each time it occurs since I talk aloud and sometimes cuss (Editor’s note: He does. Loudly.) One time I dreamed I was in a brawl with some soccer hooligans. Man, that was lots of fun, even if I destroyed some pillows in my sleep, and my wife made me sleep on the couch for a month after.

I get crazy following professional soccer. I’ve probably watched that YouTube lego soccer match between the U.S. and England about 10,000 times in the past week. And in general, I often stay up late to watch live satellite feeds from overseas leagues, occasionally waking the neighbors with shouts of joy when my favorite Estonian team wins a local tournament at 3 a.m. our time. My wife keeps threatening to put me in treatment for soccer addiction, which I didn’t even know existed, but I suppose there are recovery programs for everything these days.

Come to think of it, it’s probably a good thing that I’m not at the World Cup– a good thing for me and a good thing for South Africa.

Posted in The one and only, John McCauley

My rooster kitchen

A couple of years ago, my husband John McCauley and I decided to finally renovate our kitchen. We had lived for years with a drab old room replete with burgundy linoleum from the 1970s to go with lime green cupboards. I’m pretty sure the person who lived in the house before us and supervised that remodel was colorblind or insane or both. John thinks he lost a bet.

Even though we live on a busy street, we decided we wanted a country kitchen for our remodel, a calm and peaceful haven anytime we needed it. We wanted something that looked like part of a bed and breakfast, or off a magazine page. And so we begin to create a rooster kitchen.

Let me say first that kitchen decor with roosters wasn’t just some random idea John and I hijacked for little reason. John grew up on a farm and, cliche as it may sound, he awoke to the sound of the same rooster for years. Roosters have incredible lifespans, sometimes as long as 20 years, and John eventually named the resident rooster on his farm Winston. He lived almost long enough to come to our wedding.

I spotted a rooster apron at the grocery store one afternoon and bought it for John as a surprise, and the idea grew from there. John loved his gift (he uses it when he barbecues), as well as the general idea of rooster design kitchen decor, and we went online that night to buy rooster towels and other rooster kitchen decor. I have since learned that there are rooster plates, rooster salt and pepper shakers, and every conceivable fabric item with a rooster on it. We now have more roosters than a chicken factory.

Of course, matching rooster design kitchen decor won’t make a country kitchen on its own. Besides kitchen roosters, we also purchased an old wood kitchen table and chairs and wrought iron light fixtures, and we painted the kitchen harvest yellow with fire engine red window treatments. It was important to us that all of our kitchen decor have a rustic look to it, and if we didn’t necessarily get all matching kitchen stuff, we at least tried to find things that roughly coincided. I think it came out looking super.

Technically, we’re still on the same busy street, but some mornings, John jokes he can hear Winston’s call.

Posted in Around the house

My travel nightmare story

When I was 19, I learned the importance of proper travel luggage and why it’s not smart to use plastic bags from the grocery store as travel gear. What was supposed to be a dream vacation with my family quickly became a travel size nightmare.

In honor of my grandmother’s 80th birthday, my grandfather took our entire family to Hawaii. I should have known better than to tempt fate since our flight was scheduled for Friday the 13th, but I got lazy the night before and decided to not pack a suitcase.

It seemed every previous vacation had been a struggle for me to fit all my travel stuff in my ratty old carry-on luggage set that I think my dad got as a gift for helping liberate France. I figured I could just grab some plastic bags from our kitchen cupboard, throw a handful of clothes and toiletries into them and be set. I was in for a lesson.

When we got to the airport the next morning, my mom reacted in horror when she noticed me toting my motley collection of luggage into the terminal, looking like a lost hobo. She considered getting me one of the luggage sets right there at an airport gift shop before deciding it was better I learn a lesson. I did.

The lady at the check-in counter looked at me like I was some kind of redneck when I presented my would-be luggage. These were in the days before heavy airport security, though the standards of our particular airline said plastic bags weren’t approved carry-on luggage so I had to check my bags. That’s the last I’ve seen of them. To this day, for all I know, they went to the Great Conveyor Belt in the Sky.

I didn’t know this until we landed, though, so I didn’t stock up on the assortment of travel size products that any self-respecting airline boasts in abundance. Had I known, I would have asked for travel size bath body products or travel size shower essentials, maybe bartered part of my dinner for them with one of the first class passengers if I had to.

Instead, I made it through the week on the small travel essentials from our hotel bathroom. There was also the question of clothes. I was left literally with what I had on my back when my bags disappeared. We probably could have gone to a local clothing store, but I think my mom still wanted to teach me a lesson.

We went to the hotel gift shop, which only offered Hawaiian shirts. Nearly thirty years later, I still have more of them than I know what to do with.

Posted in Vacation stories

I love baths

I wrote in my last entry here about how much I enjoy summer gardening. Here is another favorite pastime.

At least once a week, sometimes twice, whether I’ve had a normal day or a challenging one, I find few things in life as nice and relaxing as a warm bath.

When my three children were still in the house, I’d only have time for a quick shower: ten minutes tops, all business and then out the door, always on the fly somewhere. While I would have the occasional relaxing shower after a long day, I found it not the same as laying back in a bath.

There’s something about being able to relax in a tub filled with salts, oil and bubble water that makes a relaxing bath after a long day vastly preferable to shower time and cheaper and more effective than a massage. Even a regular day can make a great time for a relaxing bubble bath I’ve found.

In any day, there will be stress and many tasks, which I’m grateful for. Without challenges, I don’t know if life would be as joyful as it is. Nevertheless, by the end of most days, I’m tired and a little sore, and my body hungers for some rest and relaxation. Some nights, there simply isn’t time to do this until I crawl into bed, but I’ve found a good bath can provide relief.

My husband John McCauley and I have this arrangement. John likes to blow off steam by playing in pickup basketball games with kids half his age at the gym, even if the extent of his hoops career was being a junior varsity team backup in 1977. In return for me letting him indulge his fantasy, he doesn’t mind that I overtake our bathroom for 30 minutes a minimum of three evenings a week.

I employ an arsenal of bubble bath essentials: scrub, loofahs, soap, shower gel, body scrub, massage oils. I don’t why a good bath requires so many accessories, it just does. My husband jokes that he should buy stock in the store where I purchase all of my bubble bath supplies, and I tell him to just be happy I’m not heavily into clothes shopping like some of the other women I know.

Thirty minutes can seem like an eternity as I lay in the tub, and I admit it’s sometimes a challenge to remain there the whole time, though I almost always do barring some emergency. I have to add more hot water halfway through my bath, lest the water go cold, and by the end, my fingers are as shriveled as dried fruit. Still, my body thanks me for the bath when it’s done.

Afterwards, while the water drains, I stand on the foot towel and use the gigantic towels that are probably large enough to double as linens if for some reason we were ever low on bedding. I walk out in the robe I will wear the remainder of the evening, feeling refreshed.

Posted in My favorite things

Summer gardening

Every year for an eternity, or so it seems to me, rain blankets the greater Seattle area. My children have left home, my husband works, and I’m dragging my feet on getting back in the workforce (it’s been decades) or enrolling in some new courses at the local community college. In a perfect world, I get my MFA in writing and publish the novel I’ve pecked at for 20 years. Until that happens, I spend months every year sitting by my living room window, reading Oprah’s latest suggestion, waiting for the sun so that I can start gardening in earnest.

I love gardening, have loved it since I was a young girl, learning from my late mom how to cultivate flowers, grow many different kinds of vegetables and why homegrown fruit tastes infinitely better than store-bought, pesticide-ridden farm creations. Today, I grow everything from red tomatoes to black berries in my garden.

The beginning of June is typically when the break in weather occurs, and rain clouds are banished from Seattle, save for an occasional appearance, through the end of August. Some people garden in the rain around here, but I don’t enjoy it, a byproduct I suppose of growing up in California, where it’s perfectly sunny a solid 50 percent of the year and prolonged storms prompt public protests (I think.) So I wait for the summer months, where I spend almost every morning tending to my garden.

The reason I garden in the mornings dates to my upbringing in California where July afternoons are almost oppressively hot and solid work in the soil rarely happens past 10 a.m. While it’s almost never necessary to beat the heat in Seattle, force of habit is somewhat comforting, and morning gardening makes me think of my mom (she died ten years ago, and I still miss her.) Plus, I’m a morning person at heart.

Posted in Gardening | 1 Comment

Memorial Day down, Father’s Day and July 4 coming up

I was so busy yesterday morning thinking of my son wrapping up another year of law school that I forgot to mention how Memorial Day weekend went.

I mentioned a few weeks ago in my first post here (I’m relatively new to this blogging thing) that most weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day feature some kind of boating trip for my husband John and I. All three of our children are now in some form of college, and the boat we bought after our youngest left has become the new baby of the family. John wants to name the boat Lucius, but I think that’s crazy talk.

Sure enough, this past weekend marked the debut voyage for 2010 for our as-yet-unnamed vessel. We went out to a lake near Seattle and spent all day Monday boating with another couple (had I not reminded John to put on sunscreen, I’m sure he’d be nursing a burn today.) We mostly just tooled around and talked, though we did a little water skiing, too.

Afterwards, we came home and grilled some steaks in the backyard, which was delicious. My mouth waters just thinking of the charcoal-tinged rib-eye and flame-broiled baked potatoes. As always, the one and only John McCauley commandeered the grill, guarding it more fiercely than the U.S. Mint.

My guess is that Father’s Day and July 4 will also be marked by trips to the lake. No telling when the kids will be in town again, which leaves us more time to spend with our fourth “child.” After so many years of actively raising children, I must say I’m not totally opposed to that, even if I miss my kids.

Posted in The holidays