Monthly Archives: April 2010

In Pursuit of Perfection

Finian, the man who helped us reclaim our house one board, post hole, retaining wall, and joist at a time, had a thing for great turns of phrase.  He would sing as he worked, swinging his hammer in rhythm to Helen Reddy.  There’s nothing like hearing an Irishman’s brogue warbling “I am woman, hear me roar.” One of my favorite Finian phrases would pop up when he had measured twice, cut precisely, and watched as the board or piece of sheet rock or whatever material slid right into place.  “Perfect,” his helper would say, and he’d reply, “Well, perfect will have to do.”

Perfection with building materials is rather straightforward.  Either it fits, or it doesn’t.  And if it doesn’t, and you force it, like those ridiculous IKEA instructions, something is going to break.  But with other things, it is not so easy to decide what is perfection.

I have been having this issue with the cover of my book.

I thought I was done.  I had carefully moved thing around, edging this piece of type up a smidge, or changing the color of that piece of type from latte-colored chocolate to espresso-colored chocolate.  Things got bigger.  They got smaller. They moved around.  It is enough to drive you crazy sometimes, but you hope that by the end you’ve come up with something good.  So I sent the cover off to Hong Kong and I got the proof back.  But it wasn’t perfect.  I knew I liked it … pretty much … but there was something that bugged me.  It was only after folding it onto the dummy book that I realized the chocolate color just wasn’t right for the type, and what WAS I thinking to make the headline type so huge, and it was too close to the edge.

I had to call the printer, tell them to stop work on the cover, and prepare for a new file.  In reality, they don’t care a whip.  They charge for any changes you make, and the slow down of the schedule due to your changes is very clear.  So why was it so hard to make that call?  Why did I think they (and this is so embarrassing to admit) wouldn’t like me as much if I became that kind of client who changed her mind all the time.  You know the type.  Demanding.

Why do I care?

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Stacking Up

Little dead sea urchins from the bottom of the sea.

I can’t get over how lovely they are.  They show the perfection of nature’s graphic design at work.

I wrapped them in tissue paper and said a prayer that they would make it the 17 hours of travel time back to my house.  They did.

They are, hands down, better than any t-shirt or other island item that I could buy.  But are they not just more stuff?  What is it about humans that we like to collect and possess things?  Might they not have done more on the sea bed?  Should I have left them as a home for some little critter?



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My Son, The Fashionista

The first thing said to Hans when he walked into his new school was, “Why are you wearing your pajamas?”

He wasn’t, of course.  He was wearing jeans.  Extra skinny Levis jeans.  That just happened to be plaid.

This stuck me as particularly funny, as Hans had originally chosen his canary yellow jeans for his First Day Outfit.  They used to be even more bright yellow, but somehow the family Laundress had mistakenly thrown them into a batch of whites that were being highly bleached due to some particularly nasty stains.  (Note:  turmeric is a bitch to get out of white clothes.)  Instead of being angry, he admitted they had gotten “even more cool.”

Even so, I thought that bright yellow jeans with bleach blotches might not be the way Hans wanted to make his grand entrance.  I was scared that perhaps kids might think he was weird.  So I told him that bleach-spotted jeans were too trashed looking for day one, and so he pulled out the plaid pair.

“Wow,” I said.  “Now those are much more subtle.”

“Mom,” he fired back, stretching the word out and bending it around his raised eyebrows, “it’s ok.  It’s fine. They’re plaid.”

They day I found the pair that looked like someone had gone mad with a Sharpie, I knew I had found the best Christmas present ever.  The Internet is basically the only way to go to find extra skinny Levi’s 505 jeans, although Tilly’s had the red ones on sale at Christmas time.  Sometimes you can find them at  We found the black and white checked pair in a ridiculously expensive clothing store in Amsterdam. They are two sizes too big, but Hans didn’t care.  They were marked down to $5 US, and they are made by a company called Cheap Monday that has a bunch of Right Wing Christian fundamentalists all up in arms because they have a skull and crossbones on their logo.  The green pair are also from Amsterdam, from a Dutch company called Scotch & Soda.

Some days when Hans puts together his outfits, I have to just sit back and smile.  I’ve tried to talk about using a light hand when it comes to color and pattern.  You know, dark black jeans with a bright purple top is great.  Or polka dot sweatshirt and lime green pants are great, just leave the black and white checked hat off.  But for Hans, it’s all about color and texture and ACTION.  If he could wear nothing but graffiti, he would. For him, stripes and checks and dots DO all go together, and some days, they don’t look half bad.

Until you are an adult looking back on your choices.  And you wonder what the heck your mother was thinking, letting you out of the house like that.


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Signs From Above

Sometimes things just line up perfectly.

I was walking up an unending hill yesterday, talking to myself about the plans for my future (actually interviewing myself about my kids book).  It felt good to be somewhere very very green, as Bequia was so very brown and dry.  Roxy, my dog, was happy to be out, and although I had made one “hail mary” call to a local girlfriend to join me last minute, I actually was appreciative of the solitude.

Of course, if anyone could see me, I looked like a lunatic talking to myself.

So there I was, huffing and puffing up the hill, all the way to the top, where I get a great view of my town and beyond.  Beautiful.  Satisfying.  I had said all the things I wanted to say to myself.  But it wasn’t until I turned around, started back down, and rounded a corner that I was met, full face on with the most glorious CLOSE and PERFECT end-to-end rainbow I think I’ve ever seen.

It was a big ‘ol cosmic HELL YA SISTER!   KEEP ON TRUCKIN’.

At least, that’s how I interpreted it.

And I even laughed out loud.  Because it was that perfect.  And I stayed there looking at this thing of beauty even after it started to rain, pretty hard on me.  Because, you know, when the cosmos is talking, you can’t start walking.

Sunshine and rain, that’s all we need.

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Work Less

Hmmm.  The front of this shirt says “Sail More.”

Our friends will be working not at all this upcoming week, thanks to a volcano is Iceland.  How’s that for globalization?  Their British Air flight was cancelled, and the soonest they could get rebooked was a week from now.  So suddenly their 2 week vacation morphed into a three-week vacation, and, as their youngest daughter Abi said, “And nobody is hurt and nothing bad has really happened.”  Indeed.

Family Glader skidded back into Mill Valley late Saturday night, and will endeavor to hold on to the essence of the Caribbean for as long as we can.  That will be profoundly difficult for Anders, who had to put on shoes (imagine!) and fly off to Portland this morning for strategy meetings with his new company.   Last year, he couldn’t concentrate for more than a few hours at a time when we came back, and this year will certainly be no easier.  Perhaps I should put a bit of Amos’ famous rum punch that we brought back with us in a thermos for him, to help buoy his spirits.

I am so relaxed I think I’m a bit of a danger on the road.

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Buzz Buzz Buzz 2

Rum and Ginger with Lime Haiku

A cold wet surprise.

The lime looks like a wee whale

Swimming in my ice.

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Buzz Buzz Buzz

Rum Punch Haiku

Color of sunset.

Swimming nutmeg right on top.

My, the ice melts fast.

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Blowing It

I was woken up this morning by the sound of the conch.  It sounds kind of like those long plastic things that people blow at soccer sporting events, a sort of low toot-toot that bounces off the water and right up the hill into my ears.   That little “toot-toot” tells me that there’s a fisherman with something to sell.  This morning the fellow was in a tiny row boat, alternating rowing along the shoreline and tooting the conch.  Talk about effective marketing.  If I was thinking of cooking tonight, I’d run down and try to catch him.

I wonder if this fisherman catches his fish in this tiny boat.  Perhaps so.  Most fishermen use boats either with sails or motors, nowadays, except that it is becoming common practice for men from St. Vincent to come over in the night and steal the outboards or even the boat and the outboard.  This, as you can imagine, is a major economic bummer, since an outboard motor costs a lot of money.  The man who is the caretaker of this house and a fisherman since a kid has lost 2 outboards in the last year, and a boat.  No, actually they found the boat in St. Vincent, which he said was a miracle because usually the thieves puncture the boat and sink it.  It was “mashed up a bit”, but good enough to bring it back home on the ferry.  Sadly, Irvin doesn’t fish anymore, and people here say he’s started drinking instead.  I told him he needed to park his boat in his living room for safety.

Crime is, alas, part of the scenery here.  St. Vincent, the neighboring island, has crime statistics equal per capital to Colombia and El Salvador, mainly because of  the drug trade that moves through these waters.   Crackheads do stupid things to each other when they are high, and then steal stuff to fuel their addictions.  Non-crack heads who have tasted the quick payout of pawning a stolen phone or computer vs. toiling for months in the hot sun (when they can get work) are hard to reprogram into being a “good citizen”.   We used to sleep with the windows and doors open, so the lovely sea breeze could blow through our room and wash out the mozzies.  Now we bolt ourselves into our house, and Anders sleeps with his phone and a long hard piece of wood under his pillow.  One night the first week we were woken up at 3:30 am by the sound of a car driving up our driveway, and then male voices coming up the stairs.  Anders called 911, and got the dispatcher on St. Vincent, which really wouldn’t have been any help if we had been in real trouble.  But the voices turned around, got back in the car, when they, most likely, figured out that this wasn’t the house with the party they were looking for.  Thankfully, violent crime is not a problem on this island.  Yet.

That being said, we think nothing of walking late at night through the little village below us, where people sit in the palm trees after dark.  Or pull up a table and turn soda bottle cases on their side for a seat, and play dominos in the light from the one street lamp.   I have to admit the scene is a bit disconcerting when I first come upon it that first night of our vacation, voices wafting in from the dark grove of trees.  But then, what else is one to do when there is no tv at night?

And the sound of the waves is so lovely.

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Eye Candy For Today

Nothing much to say.  Just that sunsets are perfect.

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Frangipani and Fireflies

The lack of rain has one silver lining.  The frangipani trees are in full bloom.  The trees are rather dead looking, even in the best of health, with only the ends putting forth a nosegay’s worth of spectacular blooms with equally spectacular aroma.  But because the lack of water, the caterpillars that usually chow all the leaves and blooms are nowhere in sight.  (Here’s a picture from last year.)

The rainstorms that have arrived have coaxed flowers into bloom, and have welcomed the local fireflies.  I’m not sure where the lightning bugs have been hiding, or whether, like the flowers, the water somehow wakes them from a slumber, but I don’t care.  The flits of yellow light dancing in the woods bring back memories of my childhood.

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