Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Truth or Lie?

Four years ago, I went to Newport, Oregon to see a play and meet an actress who had been cast in the pilot of a TV show I was trying to get produced.

The trip was my introduction to the Sylvia Beach Hotel. I adored the place from the moment I stepped in the door. Like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, The Sylvia has been loved into a kind of genteel shabbiness that manages to be comforting and comfortable at the same time.

You gotta love a place like that.

Anyway, the night of the play I was ready early and decided to walk down the street to a beachfront restaurant for a glass of wine.

I was feeling pretty good as I strolled along wearing a new black dress with a bright scarf wrapped around my shoulders. It was, miraculously, a good hair day and my makeup had turned out unusually well.

I think I was simply high on life. The whole trip felt like a grand adventure, probably because the idea of getting the pilot off the ground was not just exciting. but completely surreal.

Around the corner and just off the street stood a portico that sheltered the entrance to the restaurant. I ducked in and took a seat at the gleaming pine bar. A friendly young bartender produced a glass of good Pinot Grigio and chatted with me for a bit.

As we talked, an older man made repeated trips in and out the door, bearing a huge arrangement of flowers, then several gift bags and brightly wrapped packages, then impressive silver candlesticks. He lovingly arranged each item on a table by the windows, happily surveying the scene after each addition. The staff, all of whom seemed to know him, scurried around solicitously, clearly helping the man prepare for a very special occasion.

By the time the man appeared at the door with a magnum champagne and crystal flutes, my story-sensing antennae were at full alert. This time he spoke as he passed by.

“Hello,” he said. “You’re so full of life it’s a pleasure just to look at you.”

Now my bullshit antennae leaped to attention.

I smiled narrowly, murmured “Thank you,” and turned back to my Pinot Grigio.

“I’d be honored if you would join me in a glass of champagne when I finish my chores,” he continued.

I glanced up at the bartender, who seemed to be sending me some sort of signal with his eyes.

“Thank you,” I replied politely, “but I have wine.”

“I understand, but I hope you’ll change your mind. It’s safe to drink with me. Ask any of these guys,” he chuckled and waved toward the bartender and host.

All but dancing, the man settled the champagne in a chilled silver bucket that had been placed on the table by one of the waiters. When he smiled, his bushy eyebrows waggled over his eyes, giving me the impression he might be slightly scandalous but certainly not dangerous.

“I’d like to share a drink with a beautiful woman this evening,” he added as he breezed back out the door. “Think about it.”

As the door closed behind the man, the bartender leaned toward me and spoke in a low whisper.
“Go ahead. We’d consider it a real kindness.”

To my surprise, the handsome host leaned in to join the conversation.
“George is absolutely harmless. We’d all appreciate it if you’d have a drink with him,” he said quietly.

The door burst open again, and “George” swept in, carrying a simple brass urn. As we watched, he carefully placed the urn in the exact center of the table. Finally, he ripped the foil off the champagne bottle with a flourish and expertly twisted off the wire cage. The cork released with a satisfying “POP.”

I turned away, but it took only a moment for my curiosity to get the better of me. When I glanced back, a flute filled with champagne rested beside the brass urn and George was filling a second. When that glass was full, he raised it in what looked like a toast to the urn, and then drank the entire contents in one long, slow swallow. His eyes never left the table.

Next, George picked up the urn and the remaining champagne flute, and slipped quietly and resolutely out the door and toward the beach.

Not a moment after the door banged shut, the bartender and the host stepped close again. With a minimum of words, they told me George’s story.

His wife had died 10 days earlier. During her mercifully brief illness, the two of them had agreed that there would be no funeral after her death. Instead, George would bring her ashes to their favorite table at their favorite restaurant, toast her with their favorite champagne, and then scatter her ashes in the surf.

After the ashes floated away, their plans called for several friends to join George for a selection of his wife’s favorite foods. He would then distribute her final gifts to these friends, the people she loved most in the world.

Before I could digest this amazing tale, George materialized at my elbow. He eyes looked wet, but other than that, he was perfectly composed.

“The guys probably explained when I was gone,” he began, “and I hope you don’t think I’m a jerk. My wife made me promise to keep living. It’s sort of like I’ve got to live now for both of us. She wanted me to celebrate beauty and joy where ever I find it.”

George took several deep, calming breaths and continued. “She didn’t want me to be sad. I don’t think either of us knew how hard that would be. But I promised, and I’m going to do my best to celebrate every day for the rest of my life. I’m going to laugh and play and be thankful.”

“And, when I’m lucky, I’m going to drink fine wine with beautiful women,” he added.

George handed me a glass of champagne and picked up his own. We raised our glasses to the urn and drank silently.

When our glasses were empty, George and I stood together, my hand on his arm, for several minutes. Neither of us spoke but the energy that passed between us was more substantial than words.

Suddenly, the flow of energy stopped and it felt like our exchange was complete. We hugged like old friends before I stepped out the door into the dusky evening.

When I passed the windows in front of his table, George was lighting the candles and preparing to receive his guests.

I walked across the street to the beach and meandered through the sand back to the Sylvia, contemplating the kind of love that could inspire such promises.

That night at the dinner table, one of my stories was about drinking champagne with a stranger and his late wife’s ashes.

No one believed a word of it.

Truth Is Stranger than Fiction

One of my favorite hotels in the world (or at least the parts of the world I’ve seen) is the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Nye Beach, Oregon. Even I readily admit that the Sylvia* isn’t right for everyone, but oh, how it is right for me.

For one thing, it’s old and creaky and you can hear the plumbing gurgle when someone on another floor flushes a toilet. For another, there’s a “house” cat or two that roam around according to their whims. On my first visit, one of them greeted me from my pillow when I checked into my room. There’s no swimming pool, no hot tub, no room service. Not even a phone in your room.

So what is it, you may ask, that makes me love the place so?

Well, it’s 45 feet from the beach. 45 feet straight up. Yes, this funny little place perches on a bluff over the ocean. If one were so rude as to spit off one of the balconies, they could spit on the beach. (Kids: don’t try this at home.)

Each of the rooms is named for a writer and is a world unto itself. Willa Cather has a private entrance through a cottage garden teaming with perennials. E.B. White has twin beds. One rests beneath a window through which you can see the ocean (if you’re a bit of a contortionist). The walls in Alice Walker are covered with a mural that takes my breath away.

On the third floor there is a library crammed with books, both old and new. In the mornings, the smell of coffee drifts down the stairs, enticing guests to wander up. In the evenings, mulled wine waits for those who gather around the fireplace to read, chat, or lounge on the library’s generous balcony.

And all of these things are lovely. They are not, however, what brings me back every time I get half a chance. Instead, I am lured to the place by the dinner game, Two Truths and a Lie.

Every evening a delicious, delectable, delightful meal is served, family style. Guests are seated at large tables and introduced to one another. After a bit of get-acquainted chatter, The Game begins.

One at a time, each person at the table is asked to tell three stories about themselves: two true that are true and one that's a lie.

The other guests then try to figure out which is the lie. Questions are allowed, and the storyteller must answer all questions truthfully.

The results are hilarious.

Somehow or another, even shy people are drawn from their shells by the camaraderie of playing detective with a group of strangers.

And the stories. Oh, the stories you hear at the Sylvia Hotel. I’d swim raging rivers and crawl across sharp pebbles to hear the stories told at those tables. People describe things they’ve never admitted to their own loved ones. They reveal their hearts and sometimes their souls. They share themselves—truly share themselves—with their dinner companions.

The questions are at least half the fun. People give away so much by the questions they ask—their attitudes, their prejudices, their longings. This part of the game is often pee-your-pants funny, as storytellers struggle to tell the truth without giving too much away.

After you’ve played The Game a time or two, you discover that most often, the least interesting story is the lie. Truth is oh-so-much stranger than fiction. And the truth is, dinner at the Sylvia is a delight to look forward to again and again.

*I don’t know the folks who own the Sylvia and no one paid or even asked me to write this.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Inspired by Corey

Corey Amaro never fails to inspire me. You too, may be inspired by her site, Tongue in Cheek.

After reading one of her "Childhood Memories," I made a sign to hang on my bathroom mirror.

As Corey so elegantly reminds us, we all have the ingredients. All we have to do is serve them up.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Storm on the Pond

The pond is full of trash and mud and turbulence tonight.

Less introspective people may see my beloved pond as merely a catch basin for an elaborate flood control system (very important here in Missouri, where the topsoil is thinner than Nicole Ritchey).

I see it as a daily source of inspiration and reflection.

We had a torrential rainstorm this afternoon. This wasn’t cats and dogs, it was elephants and hippos.

Rain smashed into the pond’s surface so hard the splashes collected in an opaque mist above the water. Enormous concrete spillways funneled runoff from the entire neighborhood into the pond. Water rushed down the lawns, driveways, and streets, carrying with it topsoil and garbage of every description.

A dark ribbon of filth unfurled itself from the mouth of each spillway. Somewhere about the middle of the pond, the ribbons melted into one another and the gray-green water took on the look of hot chocolate.

With water streaming in from so many directions, ripples overran one another until it was impossible to tell the difference between the cause and the effect.

All this continued until the rain stopped and the streams narrowed into trickles. Eventually, the trash floated away and the mud settled to the bottom. In time, the reflections emerged again.

As I watched, I realized the pond's drama is a lot like my own. Frantic activity stirs up the mud in my head and heart until I can’t really see where I am or where I’m headed. It's not until I find the stillness within that the garbage can float away and the mud can settle.

Hope I remember all this the next time storms rage inside me.

Retiring Judge Jerri

Wandering the blogosphere in the last few days has electrified my senses, inspired, energized, and renewed me.

There is so much talent, so much raw beauty in this strange new world. People everywhere are conquering fears, thriving despite enormous odds, reaching out to others in faith and love. They’re also writing vividly, capturing beauty with their cameras or brushes, and creating joyful lives.

To tell you the truth, it depresses the living hell out of me.

I can’t stop negatively comparing my own writing to what I’ve read. Can’t stop contrasting what I’ve done with my own life to what others are doing with theirs.

Can’t stop regretting that I waste so damn much time.

I know, I know. You’re totally right. This kind of self-defeating thinking stinks.

It’s useless and just plain wrong to compare myself to others. Well or poorly, it doesn’t matter. It’s the comparison that’s a mistake, not which side of the seesaw I imagine myself to be riding at any given moment. But some of the writers’ voices are so strong, so well defined that I despair of ever knowing myself that well or ever being that flat-out courageous.

Still, by diving into this new world, I am opening myself to possibilities. Others are showing me ideas beyond my current imaginings. Who’s to say I might not someday do the same for someone else?

All I can do is try. Right now, I’ve got to get out of my head. It’s getting a little crazy in here.

Gonna go make some fabulous coffee (thanks to the Fully Caffeinated One) and bake some of the best muffies in the world.

World's Best Muffies

This recipe is from Creating a Stir, a truly wonderful cookbook benefiting the children of Kentucky. People jump for joy when theses little treasures come out of the oven.

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 t vanilla (the recipe says extract, but that’s a travesty. Use the good stuff.)
½ cup all-purpose flour (use unbleached)
1 cup chopped pecans

Combine eggs, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl, stirring well. Add flour and nuts, stirring well.

Spoon batter into miniature muffin pan cups lightly coated with vegetable cooking spray.

Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes.

Makes 3 dozen muffins

Adding fresh or dried fruit makes these little guys extra yummy. We like blueberries, dates, craisins, or dried cherries. This morning it’s going to be dried cherries.

What do they taste like? They taste like MORE!
H.L. Mencken

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Rise Up for Pluto

Don't tell me Pluto isn't a planet.

Don't tell my son, either. When The Boy was young, I often told him that I loved him "all the way to Pluto and back again."

Making up silly ways to describe how far away Pluto really is was one of our favorite games.

We read encyclopedias and such to learn about this tiny rock so far from the sun.

(Yes, Virginia. My children grew up back when the Earth was still cooling. We didn't have access to the sum total of human knowledge piped into our homes through the internet. We used quaint things known as books. Made from dead trees. Really.)

Now you can go to the Planetary Society for more information.

Yahoo News says the internet is full of "Save Pluto" stuff.

Gonna go order me a t-shirt right now. Pluto or Bust!

How do you think that'll look plastered across my middle-aged bosom?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Lost in the Condom Kingdom--Part III

Several years after I visited the Condom Kingdom, the issue of condoms came up (sic) again. My teen-age son acquired a serious girlfriend, his first. When I mentioned this to friends, they asked whether I had gotten him prepared for safe sex. I pointed out that they were only kids; protested that they'd only been seeing each other a little while; rationalized that I was the mother—this wasn’t my job.

But in the end, I sucked it up and talked to The Boy.

It was hardly our first discussion on the matter. We’d had talks as he grew up, but now it was different. For one thing, it was no longer theoretical--this was for all the marbles. I took a deep breath and brought it up while we were driving to Target. I gave a brief summary of the situation and offered to buy condoms for him, gamely pointing out that I wasn't giving my approval, merely being responsible.

He greeted the idea with snorts of contempt, saying that he wasn't so lame that his mother needed to buy his first condoms for him. I gently suggested that one or two from a vending machine was not what I had in mind. He asked if 20 would be enough.

Swallowing hard, I allowed that it would.

When we got home, I walked upstairs, muttering and shaking my head. From the radio in my room, I heard Dylan singing, "And the times, they are a changing."

It was just too perfect. I laughed till I cried.

Still lost in the Condom Kingdom, after all these years.

Lost in the Condom Kingdom--Part II

When I was 8 or so, my cousins and I went on a treasure hunt through the ditches along the highway that passed in front of my house. The highlight of our adventure was finding a long, not-quite-opaque, balloon-like object we couldn't identify. We brought it home to our mothers, who were horrified.

I still remember the looks my mother and my aunt exchanged as they scoured our hands and arms with Tide and a scrub brush. Their faces alternated between reluctant amusement and something pretty close to disgust. Although no one would identify the object or its function, we were warned on pain of death never to touch such a thing again.

And I never did.

In fact, until that night at the Condom Kingdom, I’d never even seen one of the things again. Never even realized what it had been.

When I could breathe again, I related this story to my friends. They simply could not believe that a 40-year-old-woman had never knowingly seen a condom, and they felt morally obligated to educate me.

We stayed at the Condom Kingdom for hours. We made friends with the staff. We bought a single rose with a bud fashioned from a red-wrapped condom, and a lifetime supply in outrageous colors, shapes, sizes, and flavors.

Other than the rose, which fell victim to my son's curiosity, none of the condoms ever left its wrapper.

Oh, all right, we did open a glow-in-the-dark model just to see if it really glowed. Actually, you'd have to call it more of a shimmer, and if you ask me, having something like that waving around could really spoil the mood.

The evening—and the romance I was headed for—gave me quite an education.

One I never will forget.

Lost in the Condom Kingdom--Part I

This is a tale of generation gaps, true friendship, and glow-in-the-dark birth control devices.

If you’ve been reading along, you probably know I got divorced about 12 years ago. Divorce is almost always ugly; this one was hideous. I didn’t react well at all. In fact, I pretty much made myself the guest of honor at a year-long pity party.

Eventually, I snapped out of it. Some time later, I fell in love. (With my divorce attorney, but that’s another story entirely.)

To celebrate this amazing turn of events, two friends and I went to a concert in the park. We sipped wine and ate a decadent picnic as music drifted over us and the sun streamed through the clouds, setting the lake on fire. It felt as though I'd just been let out of prison.

My friends began to lay odds on when I was finally going to "do it," and I protested that I wasn't anywhere near ready. They asked if I was prepared for safe sex, and I said I wasn't sure that sex could be safe at my age.

They suggested strategies for having "the talk" with the man in my life. I pointed out that if the talk required strategies, perhaps I did not know this man well enough to let him see my spider veins.

They talked lingerie.

I talked turtlenecks.

We laughed so much that people around us rolled their eyes and muttered meanly to themselves.

An hour into this adventure, the gods began pelting us with raindrops as big as fists. We grabbed the picnic stuff and ran for our lives. When we fell into the car, those two middle-aged juvenile delinquents decided that a little retail therapy was in order--that a trip to the Condom Kingdom might jar me out of my reluctance to take the leap. From the back seat, I screamed in protest.

Dripping, disheveled, and two-glasses-of-wine-to-the-winds, we burst through the door of the little store in question.

When I spied a display of actual condoms, I took a hard look and slumped against a wall, howling with laughter as the DVD player in my head replayed a scene from my childhood.

Heard It on the Radio

10-minute Energy Saving Secrets

Just finished another radio interview for one of my books, 10-minute Energy Saving Secrets. Once again, I was introduced as a home improvement "expert." As funny as that is to me, it must be true. After all, I heard it on the radio.

Seriously, after lots of years and more than two dozen books, being introduced as a home improvement expert is still a surreal experience.

You see, one day I was a suburban soccer mom, full-time wife, part-time writer, and dedicated avoider of all things involving tools or the word “fix.” The next day I was writing books on home maintenance and decorating.

The transformation didn’t really happen overnight, it only feels that way because painful memories fade. Sort of like childbirth, or the year you were 13.

The process started when my marriage blew up and my place in the world disappeared into the chaos it left behind. I had been married for 16 years and had worked for my husband for seven of those years. The day after the Big Bang, I woke up smack in the middle of the Swamp of Sadness with no husband, no job, and no idea of what to do next.

To further complicate this sorry tale, our son was in the middle of the physical and emotional fight of his life. Following a head injury in a car accident, my healthy, athletic, scrappy 10 year old was befuddled by the dozens of seizures he was having every day. Well, that and the boatload of anti-convulsants he was taking to stop the damn seizures.

My response ranged between rage, terror, and despair. Any time the kids were asleep or at school, my internal channels were tuned to WCRY—all tears, all the time.

I finally came up for air one sunny morning and decided to look for one positive thing. My bedroom needed to be painted but I had never come up with a color my husband would accept. In a flash of rebellion I realized it could now be any color I wanted. I set about painting it (pink!!!!) with my own two little hands.

Surprise of all surprises, I loved it. Loved seeing the progress, loved feeling competent and confident. Also loved waking up without puffy eyes and a pounding head. Plus, painting gave me plenty of time to think.

Other than the kids, the biggest challenge facing me was maintaining the house. I considered selling it, but the kids loved our neighborhood and wanted to stay. And so I decided to take on home repair with a vengeance. To start, I bought several books on home maintenance and refused to hire anyone to do anything I could possibly do myself.

In the early going, I made every possible mistake. Even so, I felt a little stronger, a little more sure that the kids and I were going to be okay with every project. Each time I fixed something around the house it felt as though I was fixing something inside myself, something much bigger than a garbage disposal or a garage-door opener.

This next part is bizarre, but I swear every word is true.

The day finally came when I decided to get a job. As I took out the recycling later that very day, a classified ad caught my eye.

The ad was seeking a home improvement editor and writer. The employer was the company that published the books I was using to teach myself about home maintenance. Their offices were about a mile from my house.

Before I could chicken out, I gathered some writing samples and marched myself off to the publisher’s office. I told my story to the director of the department, divorce drama and all. I even admitted that I had learned everything I knew about home improvement from his company’s books.

Brave soul that he is, Bryan Trandem hired me. While I worked for that publishing company, I wrote and edited dozens of books. Heck, I still write for them from time to time.

Flash forward about 10 years. By now, I’ve written about everything from lighting pilot lights to building decks. And I know this stuff. Cold. I can lay ceramic tile, wire a lamp, and stick my hands inside a toilet tank without fear. (Without rubber gloves, even!)

I’ve learned almost every bit of it the hard way. (There doesn’t seem to be any other way for me.) One of the things I’ve learned is that I truly love showing people they’re capable of far more than they know.

Along the road, I’ve done a little TV, a whole lot of radio, and made personal appearances across the country. I can tell you 5 things you can do today to reduce your energy bills and what tools you need to fix, paint, or decorate just about anything.

None of that stops me from barfing every time I speak in public or looking over my shoulder to see who they’re talking about when they introduce the visiting “expert.”

Maybe someday I’ll wear that word comfortably. For now, I’ll “Just keep swimming.” And learning. And writing. And talking on the radio.

BTW—For those of you who wonder, my son is doing very well these days, thank you. His seizures are under control and he has a driver’s license, a job, and his own apartment. And what of my “wasband,” you ask? Well, he married his secretary 11 days after our divorce was signed. If you ask me, they both got exactly what they deserved*.

(*If this last bit sounds the teeniest bit bitter, remember: Bitter Is the New Black. Just ask Jen Lancaster.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Dogs and Mothers

Mother angst has been in the air this week.

My daughter came to KC to visit. The mother of a good friend died. My own mother found out she needs surgery. I read Blackbird and Still Waters by the fabulous Jennifer Lauck. (Highly recommended reading, by the way.)

Good God, even Project Runway was about mothers this week.

Maybe this stuff is always with us and I'm noticing it more because I'm working on a story about my own mothering experience.

Who knows, but here's the story so far. . . .

Wouldn't mind being called a dog if all dogs were this cute.

Dogs and Mothers

When a sour pickle feeling rippled across my shoulders and down my arms, I knew he was there. I could feel him lurking on the far edge of the staircase, just beyond the bleary circle of light cast by the chandelier shrouded by a dirty canvas drop cloth.

Whatever my son was after, I didn’t want to hear it. It was three in the morning and I was exhausted by the emotional battle our lives had become.

Maybe he’d go back to his room if I didn’t acknowledge him. Maybe if I breathed slowly and kept rolling creamy ivory paint onto the dining room ceiling, I’d escape yet another skirmish. Keeping my back to the stairs, I shifted my weight on the ladder and glanced toward the darkened windows.

In their reflection, I could see Evan sprawled out on the stairs, wearing a black Guns and Roses t-shirt and sky-blue flannel boxers covered with penguins decked out in red-and-white ski hats and scarves. His eyes were reflected, too: tiny, venom-filled black pupils surrounded by innocent blue.

Neither of us could sleep. I was passing the time by painting the dining room ceiling. He evidently had decided to entertain himself by torturing me.

“Just keep painting,” I told myself. “Just keep painting.”

A sibilant inhale signaled game on.

“Arf, arf, Mom. You really are a dog,” Evan sneered. “No wonder my dad left you.”

The ugliness in his voice nearly knocked me off my perch. Covered in sheetrock dust and paint, I could hardly argue the point.

I deliberately constructed a neutral look before turning to face him. (First survival rule: Never let an angry 12 year old see you sweat.)

“Evan, if you ever turn the force of your imagination to good, there’ll be no stopping you.” I was proud of how even—almost cheerful—my voice sounded.

“That may be the most inspired bit of meanness I’ve ever heard!”

He upped the ante with a direct shot to the gut: “Well, it’s true. You’re fat and you’re ugly and your hair is awful.”

No denying it: I certainly did not look my best at that moment, whatever my best might have been. Insomnia had once again driven me into the arms of my new obsession—home improvement. I was wearing worn-out sweatpants and a grubby t-shirt and had a red bandana tied around my filthy hair.

Not a good look for me.

Not a good look for anyone.

In the middle of that night, it didn’t matter to me what I looked like. What mattered was keeping busy, doing something productive, out running the panic growing in my gut.

There was, however, no outrunning my son, once the very light of my life and now the bane and pain of my existence. There was nothing about me he did not enthusiastically and constantly criticize. The mere sound of my voice made him angry, and no paint on earth could cover the pain of that. For either or us.

That night I kept my cool remarkably well. When he got tired of poking me with the sharp sticks of his words, Evan drifted off to his room. Sometime slightly before dawn broke, I did the same.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Life at the Edge of the Pond

Life is good here at the water's edge, but it's also bewildering, challenging, and downright scary sometimes. Writing has always helped me make sense of the world, and so today I've become a blogger.

I've spent most of my 52 years on the planet as a writer, a reader, and a woman who thinks too much. These days I'm also a Seeker and student of Yoga.

I have children (two). I've been a wife (twice), and divorced (twice), but I've created a family only once.

My first marriage took place when I was 19 and still believed I might spontaneously combust if I had sex before I had a marriage license. As it turns out, raging hormonal curiosity is a very poor reason to get married.

I'm not sure my reasons for remarrying at 24 were a whole lot better, but that marriage lasted almost 16 years. Whatever else it brought, my second marriage brought my children into my life. And that, without question, is a very Good Thing.

Being single in mid-life is like a multiple-choice quiz where the correct answers change depending on the day. (Sometimes on the time of day.) Among the potential answers are: liberating, comfortable, frightening, adventurous, self-indulgent, tiresome, and exciting.

I could go on and on. No doubt I will, later. For now, it's enough to say, "Welcome to life at the edge of the pond."