Friday, January 30, 2009

Parental

Another enormously readable and engaging article by Atul Gawande, a
doctor who writes for The New Yorker. I get a strong impression of
intelligent compassion from his writing. In this article I enjoy the way
he gives an insider's perspective of the U.S. health care industry and
then pulls back to compare and contrast it with the American
transportation network or our national telephone infrastructure. Or a
leaky, pirate ridden hulk, ha.

I was surprised to find myself choked up at his description of how the
British healthcare system has evolved. He sketches the background of the
national health system, starting with the big push just before and
during WWII to meet national health needs (while doing a few other
things at the same time). It was not the switch from an inadequate
private system to a nationalized system that got to me. It was the
matter-of-fact description of the evacuation of the cities before the
war began that made me tear up and is still affecting me. There is
something so parental* in that effort. (* not the first adjective that
comes to mind when I think of what I want in a government.) I mean that
it was a sweeping decision undertaken to safeguard vulnerable people. My
childhood reading the Narnia books probably gives me an extra emotional
tie to the story of the evacuation to the countryside.

I got to the article via kottke.org, home of fine hypertext products and
a chatty sort of idea smorgasbord hosted by a graphic design geek living
with wife and baby in Manhattan.

It was bitter cold at the beginning of the week. Right now I am looking at blue sky and sunshine and I am grateful. Monday and Tuesday were gray and never left the teens. I was pretty bitter. One evening I was picking up and making kids' lunches and found I was most comfortable in our downstairs rooms wearing my turtleneck, wool sweater and fleece jacket. At least there was no north wind discernable in the living room.

Lexi has a bad cold virus thing and has been home from school since Wednesday afternoon. I have enjoyed my daytime momming today. I sewed her a doll (note to self, this takes three hours) and skipped my shower. Lexi is still pretty puny unfortunately. She's perky enough to enjoy watching tv but gets tired easily and has to wipe her nose fifty times an hour. The fever seems to have receded today. She's napping right now. Get better sweet noodle!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Good and Difficult

Nod and I had a heart-to-heart on Friday evening. And about time too judging from my previous entry. We sent the kids downstairs and shut the office door and had it out. After some tears and reassurance on both our parts we felt much better. I’m not divorcing him. He’s not going to off himself. (Never his suggestion, just my darkest fear seeing how bummed this tax hut job made him.) There is a plan. On top of that, Nod’s got a job interview today. I’m invoking new winds and change for the good.

We’re on a slide and we’ve set aside our unrealistic hopes for large windfalls to reestablish our finances. We will probably be out of this house by June. (It will be a short sale, as is, to one of those “we buy ugly houses” groups, the bank will get a bit shafted.) Nod will have some of his credit card debt consolidated. His credit will be ruined for five years or so. (I assume that our collective credit won’t be that hot either.) It’s sort of bankruptcy lite.

I got very happy thinking about moving to a rental in this school district. The possibility that we could cut our losses and make changes is very heady. Nod needs to get a real job with a steady income. (Still a challenge, I can’t get too excited.) And then we can be regular straitlaced citizens again. Getting ahead of things, I’ve drawn a map of the elementary school district and started looking for rentals. I have never felt very confident looking for living space before. But surely my weighty accumulation of age and wisdom will help.

In the news from Albuquerque, my mother tells me that she had a good meeting with her real estate agent last week. Her plan is to hold off until 2010 before trying to sell her house. And even then she’ll shop around for a place she actually would want to live in before putting her house on the market. Or alternately she‘s open to building an apartment on the lot and having us move into the main house. That is a lovely offer. It would certainly be a new set of stressors. I don’t want to live in KS forever but I am currently not in favor of taking over my mother’s house. I pledge to reassess in March. Everything should be on the table so we can make the most mindful decisions.

2009 is shaping up as a year of difficult decisions. I hope that some of them will be very good decisions. But I think they will take a lot of work.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Squawk

So money is tight. Tighter? More dire. Nod is working in a tax preparer kiosk in the Wal-Mart. I call it the TaxHut. He tries to be amused but he is ashamed so won’t chuckle like I want him to. Why does he waste his time being ashamed of himself? Jesus God life is too short.

Lex Luthor is our name for one of Nod’s money manager acquaintances. Lex was saying at the end of 2008 that he was going to liquidate a bunch of money and start a solar energy plant in the Mojave Desert. He wanted Nod to work for him, buying little solar tech start ups in order to acquire new cutting edge technology to work with. It was all very dramatic and rosy. I am proud of Nod in that he did not chuck everything else to plan for that eventuality. Currently Nod says it seems that Lex may be stepping over some fraud lines in his doings. We do not expect anything from that quarter. Damn, a deus ex machina financial windfall would not have been turned away.

So Nod needs work. And he just hates going to work every day. He resents knuckling to any authority. He doesn’t do well with consistent methodical activity. What can he stand to do? I have no idea. I have married a neer do well after all. He’s got his good points but if he ultimately proves to be unemployable I will not have the life I expected to have. We’ve been scraping along. If we can’t even scrape then I am not certain what’s going to happen.


Various sounds of disgust. Time to work on that budget again. I wonder if I would be any better organized if I'd gone to a Montessori preschool?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All Shall Be...

All Shall Be Well; And All Shall Be Well; And All Manner Of Things Shall Be Well

By Tod Wodicka

I read this novel in a week which is fast for me these days. I picked it up at random in the mystery section of our public library. I don’t know why it was there unless I was misunderstanding a significant chunk of the plot. The title jumped out at me and I had to give it a try. While reading I kept chuckling and reading bits to my husband. I don’t have the book to hand at the moment so you are spared my greatest hits quotations. But you do have my heartfelt recommendation.

And off on a tangent: the title is a quotation from Julian of Norwich. She was an anchoress, a nun walled up in her room next to a church in the late 1300s early 1400s. It was a way of being a hermit, retreating from the world and mortifying the flesh to be closer to God. They were both mocked and revered. Some people went on pilgrimages to speak with them. Beyond that I can’t give you the history of anchoresses. I knew a little bit about Julian because of the song “The Bells of Norwich” by Sydney Carter which was recorded by some friends of mine in the Bay Area (but I can’t find a link so you’ll have to listen to someone else’s version. Thank you, Tim Walters, for this and a slew of other weird connections.) The lyrics piqued my curiosity enough to go on a Google quest and I did some reading about Julian. We don’t know her name before she had her visions. ‘Julian’ comes from the Church of St. Julian in Norwich England where her cell was. Her visions were strikingly original, among other images she saw Jesus as a mother and the entire universe in a hazel nut held in her palm. The novel’s title is her most famous quotation. As you can tell, she tended to the positive. The novel also quotes her statement about how sin was invisible to her, she could only see the pain it caused in the world. Some of her writings make me feel strange and elevated, and make the hair stand up on the back of my neck.

The quote is used as the novel’s title but also as a piece of graffiti perpetrated on a desk by the feckless narrator and referred to as a medieval banality. The narrator is a medieval reenactor, he spends most of his adult life in handmade sandals and a ratty tunic. He is quite clear about needing this retreat from the real world in order to function. Having had some personal folk nerd experience and friends who participated in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) dress up activities, I felt right at home with this shmoe. The book also made me want to listen to some Hildegard von Bingen chants. Of course I have a CD somewhere in my collection. Another tangent: for an idealized adventure in SCA land, read the fantasy novel Folk of the Air by Peter S. Beagle (1986). I think reenactment is always much nerdier than fiction.

I enjoyed reading the book and am finding it difficult to describe the tone. It is about an unsuccessful person being nevertheless fully human. There are family issues and I suppose a swarm of ideas about what makes a good life. I found most of it very funny. Go forth and read it, if that is your fate.


Recently I also finished The Rich Detective by HRF Keating who has written one million mystery novels including the Indian Inspector Ghote series. I liked this one -- British police inspector with the true drive to defeat a murderer -- just fine. I couldn't find a sequel and so picked up a Ghote book on my last library pass. But I can't stomach the dialect, despite all the good blurbs on the back cover, it feels patronizing to me.

Here's hoping the next book I read makes me laugh.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Up for Air

Hello there. Where have you been hiding? I've been working with my head down for a week or so. The beginning of the semester has had me on the run. It's mostly fun -- answering instructor calls and helping them get their courses online at the start of the semester. Here's to more regularly scheduled slacking soon.

I'm going to Cali! The tickets are bought and the Danish will be my hostess to a Valentine's day getaway in San Fran. I'm excited. Now I need to tell everyone I know and see if anyone wants to do a little meetup then. Mmmm, happy anticipation.

My 4 year old showed me some arm circles that her Stretch-n-Grow exercise teacher has them do (once a week at preschool). I did two sets of ten one morning and my triceps have been yiping every since. Lexi has a fine future in store as a personal trainer.

Of course I think she should learn to blow her nose first. She's had a cold and is freaked out by the suggestion that she should blow. So she just wipes underneath her nose until it's red and raw. This is just a little bit frustrating for Nod and me. But we can't blow her nose for her. Surely she'll grow out of this soon.

That's all I have time for today. More soon. Remind me to tell you about the Medieval reenactor novel.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Growing light

I'm back at work, the xmas tree is gone and the needles swept. I am ready for some goodness, some sweetness and light this year. I'm trying to stay focused on what I can do. Maybe I'll even try asking for a little help this year.

The holidays in Texas were warm (aaaah) and surprisingly good. My best Christmas present was palling around with my sister-in-law. We had such a good time hanging out over the holidays at my MIL's house in Austin. Renee is funny and goofy and effective and smart and bent. I loved the chatting and the exercising and she expressed concern and wanted to know how I was feeling about things. Like friends do! She showed me an episode of her favorite British tv show. It was great having a friend, all in-person like. Together with husbands we went out for margaritas one afternoon. (I only tasted the margs. I drove and drank about a gallon of iced tea watching them imbibe. Still lots of fun.) I realized that afternoon babysitting is better for my MIL -- she gets to enjoy the kids, not just fret while they sleep.

I am cell phone-less at the moment because I lost my charger at MIL’s and she just found it yesterday. I think I made the mistake of leaving it unattended in the dining room and someone put it away. Next time I will hide it under my pillow. I’ve ordered one and expect it will get here around the same time as she sends mine back. Oh well. Apologies to anyone whose calls I’ve missed. I hope to be reconnected in the next 48 hours.

I am eating too many chocolates each day. I pledge to keep it up. I finally finished Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White. Lordie -- it took all vacation until after new year's day! I am not a slow reader but I could not get through that sucker any faster. Victorian serial fiction does not equal a modern 300 page novel. I'm glad I read it. He's touted as the first British mystery writer. It's pretty melodramatic and not as satisfying as Dickens but certainly a page-turner. I didn't walk away from it after all. Now I am reading a modern 300 page mystery to clear my palate. Atlanta Graves by Ruth Birmingham. I'm finding it fun and quaint as ten year old popular fiction is. And this one I will finish by the weekend by damn.