Thursday, August 19, 2010

Noisy Neighbors!

            I’m tired today.  After a 4-hour lengthy hike in high altitudes, I was looking forward to a good night sleep.  So was my husband. Not to sound like Debbie Downer, but sleep we did not get.  Waa.  Waa.

The air in Tahoe is wickedly thin.  So thin in fact, that a whisper can carry down the trail, through the pines and land on someone’s ears miles away.   We’re careful, so very careful to be aware of that. And anytime our voices reach a decibel that might be heard from more than 6 ft. away, one partner gives the other partner the signal to shush, too loud.

            Our neighbors up here do not employ the same set of rules.  Last night for hours they sat on their deck visiting, loudly, late into the night.  We tried to ignore it.  We put pillows over our heads.  We put on the sound of soft music. We considered shutting the window, except it was warm up here. 

            At one point around midnight, I could hear our neighbors talking about another couple.  I tried not to listen, but admittedly was intrigued with the infidelities of our neighbors friends, thinking, wow do people really do that? Shame on me for listening. That was about the time when one of us, trying desperately to drift into a blissful, restful slumber, had enough.  Guess who?

            No, not me, but papa bear stormed to the window and loudly implored “WOULD YOU LOWER YOUR VOICES? PLEASE?”

            As incredibly tired and frustrated as I was, I just couldn’t take it any longer.  I buried my head in my pillow and laughed.  Fatigue will do that. The look on his face, the sound of his voice, the absurdity of it all was funny.  Not sure if my husband thought I was laughing or crying while the bed was lightly shaking.  He was so tired, he didn’t even ask.  Bless him for that.

            What do most people do in situations like this?  Is it socially acceptable to say something?  Is it more mature to ignore and hope it doesn’t happen again?  I need advice here.  Anybody, please!

            The loud talking continued for about another hour, probably until the wine ran out.  Perhaps they didn’t hear the request from 40 yards away?  Or, most likely decided to ignore it.

            I’m all for people having fun.  I love conversation.  Partying and enjoying the company of others is fine.  But, please, just a little civility and attention to the needs of others would be so very much appreciated. 

            As I walked by their deck this morning on my way to run the dog, there my neighbors sat, happily drinking coffee, smiling away, their little mutt barking at us through the deck posts.  I considered saying something clever.  I thought perhaps I should implore them to lower their voices in the future. 

            But after a pleasant good morning salutation from these chatty partiers, I just couldn’t do it.  I nodded, smiled and silently chuckled, as I knew more than I cared to about these people. Let’s see what happens tonight.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Year!

I did it!  I took on the challenge of chronicling our first year alone without teens underfoot.  The challenge was to explore this life stage and post one weekly blog for family, friends but mostly for me. 

The questions considered for exploration, How is it?  What’s different?  How did the coeds do?  And, most importantly, how have I changed? 

The funny thing is, I found myself reading (more than writing) other blogs from women of all ages.  Young moms write a lot and sometimes I wonder where in the world they find the time.  Menopausal women, god bless them, write a lot and I wonder from where do they get the courage to expose the changes in themselves in such a public fashion? Single women write without contempt for the moms of the world. Men don’t seem as into it and I wonder, when do they share their stories?  Or does it matter?

My own posts just touched the surface of our first year as empty nesters.  To avoid getting too personal, I kept looking for the humor in the daily grind and laughed out loud frequently as I am so easily amused.  Occasionally, I would attempt to chronicle the humorous and every chuckle was like balm for the soul.  It helps to have a husband with a funny sense of humor.

But, I just couldn’t publically share my deepest, darkest, brightest revelations.  Those are tucked away in the privacy of my desktop folder for me and only me.

So, what’s it like?  At first the magnitude of silence is deafening, but then the silence quiets too.  There is still chaos, life is messy after all, but that also takes up less space in the heart.  Time is what really stands out, there’s more of it to become self-obsessed, hence the narcissistic blogs. Less cooking, less laundry, less conversation, less, less, less.  That’s not so bad.

How did the coeds do?  There was the typical euphoria of something new.  There was the honeymoon period when all is well.  There was the moment of homesickness that all kids must work through.  There was the excitement for a future graduate.  There were lessons of all kinds, clean, messy, good, bad, shallow, thought provoking, easy, not so easy.  In other words, they changed and matured and learned how to maneuver through the ups and downs of life independently.  Well, mostly independently. 

How have I changed?  My identity as a parent took a major shift.  Parenting from a far requires an acute skill in listening.  I started listening for nuances that are subltle, a change in text or phone patterns, a shift in tone, what’s not being said.  And then there’s the temptation to give advice and the inner voice that screams STOP, they are not asking for it. They just want to be heard.  Such self-control and often I wasn’t very good at it.  I think I’m getting better, however.

At home as the quietness increased, the tension decreased, which is normal when there are fewer personalities afoot. I do like the energy though with a house full of young people.  That I still miss.  A lot.

I found joy in playing scrabble, dominoes, watching a ballgame with my mate.  I loved the freedom of spur of the moment meals, an evening walk or bike ride.  I learned to quiet the chatter of my mind.  Where initially there was agitation in that stillness, now there is peace.  Mostly.

So just as I got use to this new way of living life in its typically fantastical fashion, changes again. 

Advice to family and friends who are transitioning the kids out of the house, it’s really fine.  Really.  Enjoy it while it last.  Because it is likely they’ll be back.

Next up, home again home again giggity gig!  I cant’ wait.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Although it places a near second, the weather is not the universal language.  The subject of food, food and more food is the language we all speak.  At least that’s how it is for our family and friends. 

Weeks before their arrival, we began discussing what I would be preparing for a 9 day visit from our Italian friends, who by the way, own a restaurant below the lovely ancient city of Sermonetta.  They know how to cook and they certainly know how to eat, hence my anxiety.

Beginning in June, I started thinking about the menu.  I knew I didn’t want to serve pasta and compete with their native cuisine.  In fact, I thought it would be better for them to taste the local flavors of California, vegetables, fruit, nuts, herbs, fish, cheese, great bread and wine.  We are so lucky here. 

Around middle June I noticed our garden would have an abundance of zucchini, squash, basil, lettuce, arugula, parsley, too early for tomatoes, however, with our cool summer weather. The thinking of food progressed to perusing cookbooks, recipes and web sites. 

An obsession was beginning to take root.  Here I am 52 years old worrying about feeding two 20 something visitors.  Little did I know that I did in fact have something to worry about.

End of June, I carefully tended to the garden, watered, picked, plucked, cooked.  Still wasn’t sure what I was going to prepare for them, however.  I experimented with what was available locally.  California cuisine (thank you Alice Waters) would be the deciding factor based upon what was in the market and garden.  What was available would be what got prepared for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I shopped the day before they arrived and had my plan in place for the most part. 

On the day of their arrival, I was informed that one of the visitors had recently developed severe allergies to most fruits, some vegetables and all nuts!  Her allergies were so severe that her mate was afraid to taste the foods in fear of kissing her may spur on an attack.  Much to my dismay, the dried fruit and almonds purchased were placed in the back of the cabinet.  I did, however, bake the fresh peaches in wine for a dinner party in their honor and served them vanilla ice cream instead. 

There were two near disasters.  The first was in Virginia City.  Italians love the romance of the “old west”.  Here we were clopping along the wooden walkway when we came across an old-fashioned ice cream parlor.  Friend with allergies wanted a scoop.  Her mate was adamantly against this idea because of the possibility of fruit and nuts contaminated on the scoop would be transmitted to the ice cream.  I implored the worker to scrub the spoon with hot water in the event she decided to risk it.  Mildly annoyed the worker obliged.

An argument ensued in Italian that only native speakers can understand, but one can only imagine the exchange.  Allergy girl trumped her boyfriend and vigorously attacked the cone like it was her last meal.  Boyfriend in broken English looked at me and said, “the problem is now hers.” We all watched, tense and ready with epi-pen in hand.  Apparently the scoop was in fact cleaned properly. Disaster averted but not without drama.

The second episode was during a visit to a local coffee shop.  In search of an innocent muffin without the problematic ingredients we spotted what looked like a decadent chocolate brownie sans nuts, perfect with strong coffee. Five times I asked the barista if there were nuts in the brownies and five times she answered NO.  I emphasized how horrible it would be if this young Italian ingested nuts while the customers waiting in the ever increasing growing line were watching with mildly amused expressions.  Like my husband reported to a waiter during dessert on another night, we cannot have nuts, look at nuts or even think about nuts. The waiter laughed and I’m sure thought it was we who were nuts. 

I was 99.9% sure after the 5 emphatic No’s that the brownie was ok.  Brownie purchased, our friend began walking out of the cafĂ© and carefully placed a very small portion in her mouth.  The barista, in the meantime, was having second thoughts and pulled out the book with the ingredients of all the pastries.  Last ingredient, WALNUTS!  STOP EATING!

I cannot describe my horror.  Apparently my faced blanched, one could see my heart thumping in my chest.  Italian friend quickly ran into the bathroom ingesting large quantities of water, finger down throat to regurgitate what was the equivalent of perhaps 1/8th a teaspoon of brownie.  We all sat nervously waiting for a reaction, praying that there would be none.  So upset was I, I could not eat my own brownie. 

Oh Dio! It took me hours to recover.   

In the end, much to my delight, our visitors were furiously writing down the recipes of their favorite meals during their visits, all of course without nuts, dried or fresh fruit.  Translating some of the ingredients proved a bit difficult with me gesticulating, miming and using sound effects to describe goat cheese, Dijon mustard and Herbs de Provence for a French lentil salad that was a big hit. 

I love food.  I love cooking.  I love the watching those I serve enjoying every morsel eyed, sniffed, swallowed and digested. 

Our friends have returned to Italy, delighted in every aspect of their visit, including the food.  I miss them already.  Am I nuts?