Lily and Violet and Me: A Birthday Countdown Post

I've been writing about the Palm sisters for nearly ten years. Eventually something will come of it. Perhaps. This was from...2011? I should stop renaming files. Anyway, my supper tonight reminded me of them, except no whisky or cookies.


In the kitchen, Jack asked Violet, "Has the game begun? You wanna pretend nothing is happening so we'll enjoy it more when it does?" He was frustrated, and a little drunk.

"I was wrong. I mean, I didn't explain myself very well. Please give me a chance to do that later on?" Violet reached up and put her arms around his neck. "I'm not playing a game with you, Jack. I just have a complicated way of thinking things through sometimes. And we had such a great evening together, let's make sure we enjoy the rest of it, even if we can't get those two crazy kids out of here yet."

He kissed her lightly. "I love getting these little tastes of you, Violet. But they're making me hungry."

She laughed and said, "Let's have a snack now, and satisfy our appetites later." She went to her refrigerator and started pulling things out at random: salami, smoked provolone, olives, grapes, until Jack stopped her and said, "Are we having a snack or fortifying ourselves for battle?"

Violet said, "Oh. Oops. Well, okay, but here. Let's put these cookies on the tray. There always have to be cookies."

She started to carry the tray through the swinging door, but Jack stopped her. "Come here." He wrapped his arms around her and said, "None of my Italian aunts were sexy like you."

"Well, of course not, silly. They were all over thirty." She planted a quick kiss on his cheek, then grabbed the tray and went out before he could react.

Jack thought to himself, "Does everyone think I've only ever been interested in women half my age?" He sighed. "Well, they aren't going to think that anymore. The Queen of Seaview has me in her sights." He grinned at the thought. And decided he had a thirst for more of Robert's obnoxiously expensive whisky.

When they entered the sitting room, Robert was stretched out on the couch, and Lily was poking at the fire. Violet laid the tray on the coffee table and sat down on the loveseat with Jack. He pulled her a bit closer and put his arm around her. Lily smiled, but said nothing except, "Ooh, is this the good salami from the city? Here, Robert, try this. Wrap it around a piece of the cheese."

Robert shook his head and looked around at him. "Sometimes you all eat like you just got off the boat. And none of you has ever even seen the coastline of Italy."

"Hey, that's right," Jack said. "You're the only one of us who's ever been there. You get a look at Abruzzo? Dean Martin's family is from there, too, you know?"

"Yes, Jack, in fact, I made a special stop there just to visit the cemetery of Dean Martin's ancestors." Robert rolled his eyes. "No, I've mostly visited the north. But I did see a bit of Sicily not too long ago, where half of the rest of Seaview's great-grandparents are buried. Not that I was visiting cemeteries..." His mind wandered back to a mountainside terrace, a bottle of red wine, a lovely widowed signora who offered him her company one summer was hot down in the valley, but the cool mountain breezes were delicious, and so was Annamaria.

He and Jack exchanged a look. Jack refilled his glass. Last night he only pretended to drink as much as his young theatre crew. Tonight, it seemed like a good idea to tie one on. He held the glass up to Robert, who lifted his own, and said, "Salute."

They both knocked back their drinks and Robert refilled them. Lily and Violet ate cookies and watched.

"These cookies sure are good with this whisky, Violet," Lily said.

"They sure are, Lily. I wonder if the Scotch distillers thought about that while they were crafting their recipe."


All systems are go

Yeah, I'm not super good at the title thing. A sort of linear focus might enhance "readership" or whatever, but, whatever. The Birthday Countdown begins! And I am going to do something I enjoy now and then, share bits of thing I've written in the past. Actual serendipity has caused me to have indigo in my head lately. I keep running across references to it, and this bit of writing from 1997 appeared yesterday while I was searching for something else.

To think I was 32 years old then! I hadn't yet given birth to the Youngest Beauty! I marvel at this. Hmm, and that means I weighed only about 120 lbs, as well. Best not to dwell on that.

mood indigo, 1997
muted music floating up from the room below
dancing, swaying, tipsy together across this creaky floor,
and you, whispering tasty lies, nibbling my ear,
tellling me all those things every wide-eyed girl
in her best blue dress yearns to hear
The Sinatra recording is from In the Wee Small Hours, his first concept album, and it was just around that time I first heard it and...was kind of disappointed. Everyone told me it was so amazing, and I didn't really enjoy it very much. But last night I was listening to Nice and Easy, and thinking about how as I've gotten older, my Sinatra taste has changed and expanded. Now it occurs to me he was still alive then! Gosh.
There's always just been something very groovy about a man in his 40s; in command of who he is and what he enjoys about life, but lately, I'm growing more comfortable with the idea that a man in his 50s might still also be pretty all right.
Epicurus said, "It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life." Can any of us honestly apprehend and apply this philosophy without having first had "that mood indigo?" People try selfishly, but they leave parts of it out. Hopefully, they grow wiser with experience. I think we can continue to develop inner reflection while still (and more) fully appreciating and embracing our personal relationships.

liliales birthday countdown: 2011

So here it is, the final day before I mark a new trip around the sun. Last year felt just awful, most of it. I won't dwell on that. I was worried I might not recover, but it's kind of how things were before; always a certain percentage recovers. The percentage is a bit lower each time, so I'm a bit internally maimed at this point, but, as I am a sort of stellar human being, what's left can still be concentrated into its own awesomeness.

Back in the midwest, a region I was happy just driving through once or twice a year. But we get to live in a big house that all works well, and I get to garden in a big yard with a swimming pool in it. Last year was all about turning it into a home. 

I wrote several good essays last year, reflecting on aging and a few other things. They're not edited or perfect; just good and, I believe, interesting thoughts. Varying lengths. 

We define sexy

The same in any era

Last year's birthday post (probably my favorite of this list)

Like if it was Bill Holden, is what I'm really saying

A long thing about Twitter, with random photos added. Oddly, after such a short time, much of it would apply to Google+.

My first long bit of blather about Bill Holden

image from
image from



liliales birthday countdown: 2010

In 2010, I got a plot in the community garden. It is like an allotment, if you are familiar with those, in that you have a (20 ft x 20 ft) space with which you can do pretty much whatever you like, as long as you don't use unnatural pest sprays or fertilizers, etc.. But it's unlike an allotment in that you have it for only six months, then they plow it all under and you have to start completely over the following April. Previous gardeners do have first right of refusal, so you can keep the same plot for years, if you like.

I got to the town hall before anyone else to sign up for the newly freed spots, but didn't know how it all worked, so I didn't go inside until a few others had arrived. Still, I got to choose my spot, and it was a great one

People thought the way I planned it out was unusual, though I'm not sure why. And anyway, it was a patch that had been well-worked and well-loved, and everything grew beautifully, even artichoke plants. I have lots of posts on here showing off my progress and harvests. And there are some lovely photos of the wild beauty I managed to create—foster?—here.

The garden was 3 miles away, and I didn't much enjoy the drive to and from it; it was the kind of 3 miles that takes 20 minutes, but it was still grand. 

People on Google+ like to talk about being geeks or nerds. This decade, that's the thing to be. I don't label myself anything except maybe "dilettante." But if you know me from G+ you might get a kick out of my 2010 Holodeck update. (The Men of My Holodeck Fantasies; a thing I've been carrying on about for nearly a decade.)

But this is the post I most want you to read. What I see, what I know is there. It's short. And still meaningful to me. 

liliales birthday countdown: 2009 part two

It isn't all I remember. 

When my baby son turned 11, I took him for a checkup, and to get his immunization boosters. I made appointments for my other two sons, as theirs had gotten behind, and they needed boosters, as well. 

But we never went because me, the man, my oldest brother from Canada, and my two younger daughters went on a road trip to Kansas City in the middle of August to see my dad one last time before he died, which was about two weeks later. 

Let's be tao about this. Another good memory I left out was that in early spring, those two girls and I drove to Pittsburgh to check out the sites and attend a Morrissey concert. We had a great time. I hoped to make these trips an annual event but they got busy with their lives and jobs, so. 

Soon I'm taking a road trip with my middle son to visit them. Life is funny this way. 

liliales birthday countdown: 2009 part one

If you have time to read the three blog posts at these links, I feel certain you'll enjoy them. 

My new name

Always looking back

Always looking back, part two

I don't remember 2009 very well, to be honest. We went to Assateague Island for a camping trip. I made a slide show of that and put it on YouTube. And the man and I visited the Shenandoah Mountains, which was awesome. I would like to spend much more time there. We visited Monticello, as well, which I very much enjoyed. 

I don't know why the slideshows are not as high a quality as they were when they were first uploaded. That's a bummer.

Also that year, I had a calendar of buildings in New York, and I tried to take a family member each month to see the featured one

That's all I remember. 

Here are some sweet photos from this week, 3 years ago. 

liliales birthday countdown: 2008

I spent most of 2008 trying not to be depressed. And I'd gained a little weight the year before so I put myself on a plan to lose it before my 25th high school reunion. I lost 9 inches in the places that count in 12 weeks. Stayed that way for awhile, but over this past year I gained it back, and this winter I gained a little more so I am going to have to do that again. Anyway.

There are good things to share about that year. The two girls and I took a road trip to Kansas City for the reunion. We had a great time. Our family also visited Gettysburg that summer, and did some good hiking in the woods around our new region, though I was still missing the woods that overlook the sea near Atlantic Highlands. We did get over to the beach a few times, and in the fall, I invented something called Pudding Fest 2008. And the man and I saw The Police in concert in Philadelphia.

Also that year, I met with some online friends in New York, to welcome one who'd come here from England for a visit. I actually met up with some of those friends several times over a 5 year period; it was basically my social life. As I've never had a social life otherwise, no one feel bad about that. It was neat. 

Another fun thing that year was emailing Metromint to tell them there was no flavor in the Orange Mint I bought at Whole Foods. They sent me a whole case of mixed flavors, and a t-shirt. 
So here's some other stuff. 

The girls and I in Kansas City, June 2008 If you go to my Flickr page, the photos of me in the Delaware River, the family Gettysburg trip, winter woods, and the sort of abstract green things from a park are also all from 2008, despite what it says. I keep meaning to fix those, but get to only a few at a time. I guess I'll make new sets based on years or something.

A blog post I wrote to my mom that year It's good, and poignant and stuff. You should read it. 

And two of my favorite photos of me were taken that year. Actually, most/lots of my favorite photos of me were taken that year. Here are two. 




liliales birthday countdown: 2007

In 2007, I planted a lot of tomatoes and peppers and had them all strung up nicely along a fence, and then we moved again. This time to a neighborhood with plenty of boys for my sons to meet, so that was nice. It was a half mile walk to the grocery store and some other shops, and near lots of history and cool stuff. But it was on the other side of the state, so far from the beach. 

This time I was nearly as positive about it as I had been with our Tinton Falls house, like possibilities were rising again, and there was talk of the future, and I started making plans to earn money to buy the house, setting some firm goals. That was in August. By the end of the year, the "plan" had changed once again, and I headed down a steep path of depression I've only lately started to wake up from. I know now I'll never again be quite what I was or who I was, or I don't know. All that stuff. Unless you have specifically and categorically experienced the cheating of life I'm referring to but not naming, you have nothing but useless platitudes to share, which are wasteful and cruel. 

But of course the earth still revolves around the sun, etc. 

Anyway. Earlier in 2007, I got my new car, my first utterly new car, as all the others had been about a year old, and drove it off the lot with 4 miles on it. That was thrilling. 

Here's a picture of my car. It needs an $800 air conditioning repair, but I still love it, after 66k miles. 

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And here's a lot of lighthearted blather from 2007 that starts at one point and wanders around to some other points, but it's kind of a dear little view of what is inside my head when I'm "young." The comments are good; they're from back at Vox, where there was a real neat sense of community.* Instead of finishing it in parts, I incorporated a more sensible portion of it into something else I wrote later. 

*It felt like a physical neighborhood, though online. Perhaps it was just slightly before its time, and now it's too late. But imagine Google +, if you understand and appreciate that place, with blog doors and windows in it, and color and sunshininess. 

liliales birthday countdown: 2006

We had only a little over two years in the house I thought was to be my home, and in early 2006, moved again, this time to a rented house with a pool in Lakewood; a Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish enclave a little farther southwest. We were kinda isolated there, but I tried to tell the kids it was just another short-term adventure we were taking. 

I fixed up the landscaping a bit, and planted a few things. We swam in the pool. Here's a short blog post about one of our hot days there. 

A few months before this, my friend Yvonne disappeared from my view, never quite knew why. She isolated herself and stopped speaking to anyone I knew, as far as I knew. I saw her once sometime later while out with a friend visiting from another state. She gave a short sharp nod and hello, and moved on. 

Ironic then, our new house was only 15 minutes away from hers, instead of nearly an hour. 

I have 170 photos from 2006, which do I share? 

Here's the fish we found when we were cleaning up a leafy area of the yard shortly after we moved in:

Here's my youngest son, doing what he does best, at Valley Forge:

Here's my youngest daughter at the Central Park zoo:

Me in the woods:

And the dragonfly which inspired one of my favorite little stories:


liliales birthday countdown: 2005

This one is a bit of a cheat. I'm not sharing a blog link from this year only, because they were transferred here with a whole month on each page. You could go find them if you were compelled to. The picture links are broken, though. 

In 2005 our world changed a lot. It was awesome, then it was awful, then there was some awesomeness in the midst of the awfulness. Which was awful. Oh, and I turned 40. 

Here's me shoveling snow in early 2005: 


And here's all the poetry I got written that year, but also it was the first year I tried NaNoWriMo, so that was a neat thing. 

Sipping Gotham

New York Harbor
slice of lime

I walk differently on New York streets,
everything hums erotic vibrations 
through the soles of my feet. 

Carnival of Words

Looking at you in a funhouse mirror
It's shatter-proof, smear-proof
distorted nevertheless

On a carousel spinning,
Artificial breeze soothes
Ride over too soon.

Ferris Wheel stops at the top,
car rocks and I sway, 
unsteady and unnerved til you point out the view
It's wide and breath-taking
and I never want to come back down. 


Slave to your will, or mine?
I can lean back and close my eyes,
or grip your shoulders and draw a sharp path
straight through your pupils.

The shouts are all shut up in my head
and I do not force them out by throat and tongue,
rather with fingernails, teeth, taunting pressure
holding, locking you into position;

It's always at least a draw 
where the spoils are shared, exchanged,
given in love and taken by need—
like rain, or shelter from cold.

This is from the prologue of my first NaNoWriMo attempt. I say attempt because I can write 50k words in a month, but never seem to write a complete story...

I couldn't help myself. As she headed for the newsstand, I scribbled on the back of a receipt I found in my purse and then got up, walked past him quickly, dropping the receipt at his feet, and kept on going out of the park. My heart was racing, but I didn't look back.

The note said, "Meet me in front of Trump Tower in an hour." And he did.

He just walked right up to me and spoke, "She's visiting an old school friend, and we're getting back together for dinner at 7."

I said nothing, just pointed toward Central Park, smiled, and took off across the street, as he followed behind, jogging a little to keep up.

I had never before spoken to him in person, and just didn't know how to begin. It seemed so important to get the words exactly right, even if they were meaningless. So I remained silent until that began to feel absurd. We had a few hours, this one day out of forever, not to be wasted away on shyness.

"An eternity in one long breath. That's how the days seem right now. Like we're all exhaling, and when our lungs finally empty, and it's time for drawing in again, well."

I stopped, realizing I must sound a little crazy, speaking the truth hardly anyone dared voice aloud these days. That's me, from shy to overly vocal in one careless move.