Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rolling over

Goodbye Christmas, it's nearly time for the new year. My mother-in-law started her drive back to Austin this morning. My cold is hanging on, just thinks my nose is a great place to be. The kids have been surprisingly easy to entertain. Sometimes our oldest gets a little unhinged when school is out. The lack of routine seems to set her off. But we got lucky -- not this time. They're back to school on Monday which seems too soon already. It makes my working schedule easier but still.

I am bored with myself and have resolved to learn something new. Spanish vocabulary perhaps. Nod suggested a phlebotomy course that I've looked at before. I don't think this is the time but I'll be sure and report if I fling myself into vein studies.

I finished The Help by Stockett and it was a book I enjoyed reading. The first chapter is an unpleasant experience so I wondered if it would be a "good for me" book that I would have to skim to finish so I wouldn't get too upset. But then the narrative shifted to another  character and there is plenty of sweet interleaved with the bitter. There are some weak moments but there is a lot of love and good observation there. I think the author can't resist pointing all her characters in a good direction at the end. I had a good time reading it and the afterword about the author's experience and investment is fascinating. I am wary of reading book reviews because I am going to go to a new book group meeting and discuss it! I'm excited! We'll see if I like this gang better than the last group I tried. They sound younger. The anticipation is great and we'll just see what develops.

I'm eating leftover cornbread stuffing with turkey and gravy and green chile. Happy sigh. I have to get to the grocery store to get the black eyed peas for new year's day. I think I have a smoked neck bone in the freezer to cook them with. I fed the cats and fish of the next door neighbors while they were away for a few days. When they got back they said we should do something new year's eve-y. We agreed that all of us are generally not midnight partiers. So we are all looking forward to an early happy hour after the kids are in bed. And the next day we'll have a brunch in the common house.

I am a bit fuzzy headed and still looking for new ideas. Send them when you find them.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tea and Cookies

Doesn't that sound good? Now who can I set to baking?

Intrusive songs:
"We Wish You A Merry Christmas", but not an anonymous caroling version, it's the Kingston Trio Christmas album version. All earnest, peacenik, young man-like.

"You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch" We watched the cartoon on Tuesday night and that actually got rid of this one (mostly). A nasty-wasty skunk!

"Angels From the Realms of Glory", not so bad really.

"Jingle Bells" by the Tijuana Brass. That's not mine, it's Nod's and he haaaates it. I only feel nostalgic delight when I remember the LP album cover my parents had. Mariachi trumpeters with shiny Christmas ornaments coming out of their trumpets. Happy sigh.

Health
Our collective cold may be receding without morphing into something worse. I went into the girls' bedroom last night and wedged a cushion under the head of Lexi's mattress. This was supposed to help her head drain so she would cough less. And whether my wedging had anything to do with it or not, she did cough less! We all slept better last night. I am still a rough-voiced vixen but my sore throat is a bit better and I feel less sorry for myself than yesterday.

Ovens
Just realized that by taking on two housesitting gigs for neighbors I have two extra ovens should I need them when the turkey is cooking. Heh. I never realized it before but luxury = spare ovens. Which reminds me I heard an insipid book review piece on NPR this morning (I accept that this is part of the inevitable buffet of holiday fluff pieces). The comment that got me was the assertion that luxury is not about money but about careful object choice and sincere home economy or something I really couldn't follow. Poppycock, luxury is explicitly about money and having something that most people don't have. The end.

Sparkle and Glow
Our tree is still beautiful. Plus Nod put the spare/unreliable strand of lights out on the little tree-in-a-pot outside and it's gorgeous! I strung up a paper garland across our living room. Because I didn't want to put tape on the painted walls it ended up being a limbo line for the adults. But Nod found a cuphook for the ceiling and now it's less of a finish line tape. He also hung stockings. I have more Christmas glitz than I expected, it's just exactly what I require. 

Movie fest continues
Watched It's a Wonderful Life last night. Realized too late that we should have chosen letterbox format - everyone's face was a little stretched. I liked it but not with the fervor of my early 90s self. Now it gets me more that George is stymied every time he tries to leave town. The horror aspect is amusing. It seemed to take a very long time to get to the "good part" with the angel. And can anyone tell me what that thing in the drugstore is? George makes a wish every time he goes past "I wish I had a million dollars" and then pushes the lever and when the flame appears he says "Hot Dog!" like he got his wish. I guess that it's a cigarette lighter for customers, at a convenient height accessible to children of course. And maybe the flint wheel doesn't light every time so that's the uncertainty/will-I-get-my-wish part? The Old Maid and the Cook should be that movie's alternate title, those are the two most cringeworthy elements from a modern perspective. What I still love: George's giddiness when he's restored and his eager acceptance of all the lumps along with all the good parts of his life. "Isn't it wonderful? I'm going to jail!" Like the joy of the reformed Scrooge. (Our Christmas movie fest included the Muppet Christmas Carol with Michael Caine. I liked it okay and might watch it again in the future if I could skip the songs. Paul Williams had nothing to be proud of there.)

More Cooking
Making chicken and dumplings tonight. I have a turkey and a plan (dry brining). I don't have much else for the Christmas day feast but we'll get it together. MIL coming today. Will shop for husband's tools today. He bought something for his mom so I feel like we're closer to done. Time to do a quick blitzkrieg on toilets and sinks and I'll feel ready to host.

Tea
I'm drinking Muscat and Oolong tea. It's a Japanese combination from my coworker. It smells intensely of grapes, like Concord grapes but there is only a slight winy taste to the tea. Very pleasant but as Toshi says, it's too pungent to drink with food. For my tea and cookies I'll have to have some weak to moderate black tea. I'll give some to the girls with milk and sugar cubes too, that's always a big hit.

Precious Sun
I lit a candle for the solstice and am glad to have it behind us. Onward through the cold months. Cosy thoughts to all and to all a good holiday.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Meaning and the Search for it

Blogging and the meaning of life
Reading blogs is all about control over my experience, and selecting what I read to my own taste. I get to read when I choose to, visit the writers that appeal to me. But as narrow and self determined as all that sounds, it's also a window. It brings me happy accidental discoveries. A blog post that gives me a bright close glimpse of another life is a metaphor for discovering the larger world.

How web hosting works
Whoopee's husband's illustration of how the web and web hosting works (squirrels in tin hats visiting trees).  
I love the sincere and hilarious attempt to understand. I think I get it more than Antonia does but I'm not quite there despite the cute squirrels.

Manifest This
Reverb 10 is a site encouraging everyone to "reflect on this year & manifest what's next". I don't like the verb "to manifest" used in terms of self actualization. (If someone is manifesting I expect them to be supernatural or at the very least a conjuror.) But I keep liking the thinking/writing projects created by their clever contributors. I've been reading them because Schmutzie, that fearless self telescoping word wrangler is doing them.  The prompt for 12/15: "Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010."

Mind blowing idea. I will try to corral my weak and wandering memory to do this. Remember the letting go of the bankruptcy and the old house. Finally being able to unclench in the new place, in early fall. New friends in our new neighborhood. The girls taking to music lessons like ducks to water. My husband going through his shame and failure and finding a new direction. Remember him rediscovering feelings of worth and satisfaction. Happily I will have my blog posts to fill in the gaps. And good god, that's 59 posts before this one! So remember to be proud of my beach worth of wordy sand castles. Here is Schmutzie's response to this prompt. 

Edited to add
I took the meat off of beef shank cuts last night. It was very educational, kind of difficult and a bit disturbing. I am hoping that my pot roast technique (braising in a covered pot with liquid for three hours) will be enough to make it tender. I have bones (with marrow!) left over that I think I should make stock from. Time to consult the Joy of Cooking.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crumbs

Random recipes for you. Homemade chicken nuggets from scratch. In case you need to do that. And I found rave reviews of this pot roast recipe. I just bought some shank cuts of beef and am going to try it with them. (There were no boneless short ribs on display and I didn't feel like having a discussion with the butcher.)

After all my media gobbling I have some commenting to do. I completed the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. I really liked the second one, to my surprise. The third one is a hoot just to marvel at everything they threw in. It felt like a food fight conducted with the contents of an entire Luby's cafeteria. And it made about that much sense. But there was some good clever writing when they got to the interesting curlicues of the story. I thought the horror element was surprisingly strong. Here's an intriguing article about horror in reference to two current Oscar contenders, Black Swan and 127 Hours. I don't want to see either one in the theater. I wouldn't mind seeing Black Swan once it's on DVD.

Back to Pirates: I was glad I had my finger on the FF button for some of the naval battle scenes that I found ho hum. But really the sum total was big dumb fun. Such a delicious cast: Geoffrey Rush, Mr. Depp, O. Bloom and I was charmed by my first exposure to Naomie Harris. She plays the voodoo lady/ocean spirit. I liked her better as a sort of Marie le Veau in the second movie. She didn't get to do much in the third. Except grow to be the fifty foot woman and turn into a shower of crustaceans. Oh Keira Knightly, Bill Nighy, Chow Yun Fat and Stellan SkarsgÄrd too, mustn't leave them out. Jack Davenport (excellent!) and the list goes on and on.

More Film
Watched the end of Catch Me If You Can last night with my husband. It's been a long time since we've watched anything together. What a good one that is. Leonardo Di Caprio is a gifted wayward teenager who learns how to impersonate people with a moderate amount of authority (pilots, doctors, lawyers) and forge checks in increasingly elaborate ways. Tom Hanks is the thoroughly uncool FBI agent who knows enough to track and sometimes catch him. And there's even a Christmas theme!

Books
I am disappointed that I have failed to like two more mystery novels by writers new to me. The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall (who gets extra points for his supercool name) was reasonably entertaining but I thought it condescended to its characters a bit. I finished it dutifully but don't plan to look for another one. A Fete Worse Than Death, post WWI cosy by Gordon-Smith. I wanted to like it but couldn't muster the interest to even get through it. Cardboardy I'm afraid. Currently I'm reading the latest in Kim Harrison's sexy witch series Black Magic Sanction. Her previous book was a bit limp. If this one doesn't pan out I'm going to go back and read the first three in this alternate magical Cincinnati series again because they were a hilarious good time. I'm also trying to read The Polyglots by William Gerhardi which I found on The Guardian's 100 Comic Novels list. It is a turn of the century satire and much of it I don't have the references to appreciate. But I may muddle through. As my Christmas present to me I bought some $25 hair spray conditioner (eek!) and the latest Terry Pratchett out in paperback Unseen Academicals.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cooking up Christmas

For Sunday's potluck I got inspired only an hour before and managed to turn out roasted potatoes and broiled chicken with yogurt and indian spices. They turned out perfectly but I was unable to enjoy them very much due to a side effect of the antibiotic I was on for my skin. I had a metallic taste in my mouth which got worse and worse last week. By Sunday it felt as though I'd burned my tongue on hot chocolate (a frequent childhood occurrence because who can wait for it to cool off?) and it hadn't healed yet. Called my doc yesterday and got switched to tetracycline which may have other side effects. The metallic taste is fading and I look forward to its complete disappearance, perhaps tomorrow.

Yesterday I baked bread. I've been doing five-minutes-a-day bread and it's been wonderful. I use 3 1/2 cups of whole wheat* flour and 3 cups of white flour. I am trying it will less salt and less vinegar because that's a lot. My 'yica' as Bee put it is back so I've been eating plenty of raw dough too. It's chewy yeasty deliciousness. Today I had a sandwich made from the bread I baked and I felt all artisanal. One more modification for the recipe, I don't think it makes enough for three loaves. I think it makes two and a half loaves, and I just want you to be prepared. *It's a little confusing because of the repetition of the words "white" and "wheat" but the whole wheat flour I like to use is King Arthur brand White Whole Wheat flour. It works in all recipes and is the shit.

The Christmas is upon me though I feel washed away by the tide rather than prepared for the journey. Brashly boozy egg nog was crafted and consumed last Friday night and we had a good 15 neighbors to sing carols. The kids were taken to the nearby rec center to run around with a babysitter for a couple of hours to facilitate all this. It was a nice time. I need to get our frequent potlucker Bob to teach me his melody for Green Grow the Rushes O, very different from the one we know.

We got a tree on Sunday, venturing out in the extremely cold wind. Got a deal on the tallest tree I think we've ever had. I assume they guy gave us a deal to get us to buy something and thus justify their time out in the freezing whipping air. The tree is a leetle big for our stand and there was comedy gold as Nod and I tried to get it inserted and upright. I laughed so hard when it fell over on him and all I could see was his legs sticking out from under the horizontal tree. It is fragrant and has great depths: one string of lights hasn't done much for it so it may be time to throw more on there. We've held off on decorating so we can do it as a family tonight. To appease my children who have wanted to put decorations since the moment the tree crossed our threshold, I told them they could put up ten ornaments each. Hearing that Lexi was starting to bargain for more, I told her that if she saw other ornaments she wanted to put up -- no problem -- she could just take the first ten off and put up the others. This has worked surprisingly well. I will put on the xmas music and distribute the eggnog and we'll have that tree glitzed up tonight.

A co worker told me she had finished her xmas shopping last night. She has an excuse, she will be traveling for the hols. I only progressed to definite fear about gifts yesterday but had not done any shopping. Well working with that fear, today I ordered a CD for my mother. It's piano music performed by Dick Hyman who I heard on Prairie Home Companion over the weekend. But it's Bix Beiderbecke tunes and I don't know if that will really be her thing. At any rate, it's better than an empty placeholder. Her birthday (Dec. 28) present is done. I got her a Fuller Brush Man letter opener (red plastic) and a really rocking card (golden retriever standing in Caribbean shallows: Seize the Day, Casually). Now I need to write her a sweet note and get the pkg ready to go out next week.

Oh and the family picture, we haven't managed that yet. And gingerbread cookies. And and and. Good things all and I will concentrate on these achievable goals that bring me pleasure. What a luxury that we don't have to travel over the holidays.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dressed

It took me three tries to get my torso dressed Tuesday morning. Third shirt was the charm. I felt pretty dim for needing all those attempts. Any ideas for taking wrinkles out of cashmere? I have a thin green sweater I wanted to wear but its months in the winter storage box have left it too crumpled. Hm Lucky magazine, whoever they are, suggests a medium steam iron but with a damp white cloth between the sweater and the iron. That sounds promising. I settled on a blue striped blouse and a nylon/wool, shawl-collared cardigan. The radio announcer said it was 14F when I woke up.Today I am wearing a new sharp shouldered jacket with a brown and turquoise print and really great ankle boots. Here's to Jennifer who handed me down her shoes.

Tickle in the back of my throat. Result of licking envelopes? Or harbinger of worse to come? Thinking about illness reminds me that over the weekend we had a terrible experience in Target involving vomit which I tell you now so you can skip to the next para. Lexi felt nauseated when we pulled into the parking lot. But then she seemed to perk up a bit once out of the car. I guess I should have turned around and taken her home. But I didn't so she curled up in the basket while Katy shopped with her birthday gift cert. Lexi had not been interested in lunch earlier but ate a late afternoon snack of raw spinach and nuts that she cracked. I don't know if it was the weirdness of that combo or a bad nut or leaf but eventually she barfed over the side of the cart. Lucky for the Target cleaners it was on the linoleum. Sadly for all of my fellow humans in that part of the store, it was green and gross. I notified a clearly disgusted camera counter guy that clean up was required and got the kid to the restroom. She felt better immediately. It felt like an unskilled parenting moment and an iconic parenting moment all at once.

I'm working through the Big Bang Theory first season. It's not as hard as that phrasing made it sound. I read that Wil Wheaton's been doing an evil Wil character there in season 3 and 4. I'm liking them, Jim Parsons is very talented. Having lived in Los Alamos, NM I can opine that physics geeks are generally more grubby and monosyllabic though I can respect the artistic choice to change that up. (Before I obtained my present employment I interviewed for a part time office position with the physics and astronomy department. Interviewing with the chair who had a crappy haircut, highwater pants and a worn thin plaid shirt, I felt right at home.) Watching tv show entertainment without the ads tempts me to down them all in a sitting like eating an entire roll of sweet tarts instead of just five or six. And the library is breathing down my neck. I've been so greedy to watch things that I have them stacked up now and am trying to find the time to see them and then get them returned. Whew such pressures.

Two preposterous names I made up: Pristicod Barebones and Bingo Pete. I don't know why B and P are appealing so strongly today.

My skin is much better. But now I am officially tired of taking the oral antibiotics because I have a metallic taste in my mouth. I noticed it a couple days ago and now am tired of it. Too bad since I'm supposed to take these until January.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A New Tack

My mother has a diagnosis now and is taking medication and starting to feel better... we think. What a relief. Her doctor thinks some internal lining is inflamed, either heart (pericarditis) or something else. It happened after her stent placement so possibly there was a bacteria or virus brought in during the procedure. Hurray for anti inflammatories and for her not feeling so short of breath that she can't do anything active but just sit quietly. She'll be up and chewing out contractors in no time*.

*If you need a home improvement project accomplished, my mother would be the ultimate supervisor to make sure it got done correctly. She demands results and has extremely high standards (I might say unrealistic stds). I would never want to work for her.

Office xmas decorations are up this morning. The power of suggestion is never lost on me and I am humming carols to myself. Our new office manager told me tales of her family's tradition of going to the forest in Alaska to cut a Christmas tree. Usually it was rainy (she's from Ketchikan, think weather like Seattle only more so, and only a hair's breadth from being Canadian) rather than snowy. She explained that these were always real middle-of-the-forest trees. So they grow in pairs with one flat side and a length of leggy, branchless trunk. In fact she said they were so one-sided that they would put heavy ornaments on the bare side to try and counterweight the tree and keep it from toppling over.

Our tree cutting outing three years ago was so perfect (softly falling snow, pink cheeked little children and all) that I doubt we could match it. I'll probably get a little tree at the hardware store, they have nice ones. I like to get a tree about two weeks from the 25th so not this weekend but next.

Should you need some vicarious foodie joy, go read Katyboo. Her lush descriptions of that tasting menu are very convincing. Crab and paprika had me particularly interested. On a more quotidian food note, I will bake another lasagne tonight. The first one was wonderful and this time I will have some to freeze! 

Yesterday evening was strangely shaped. Katy was invited at short notice to go swimming after school as a birthday treat for a classmate. I agreed and sent her off with her suit and towel. I had the classmate's name, her mom's first name and that mom's cell phone. But that's all, I didn't know their address or even their last name. Katy of course had a wonderful time and the mom called us with their address finally so we could collect her. Lexi got a solo piano lesson and then her teacher was headed downtown to see the festival of trees and took Lexi with her for a quick visit. I had about an hour of unexpected kid-free time, it was refreshing. And then I was glad to get them back.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Late autumn

30 were at dinner in the Common House on Thanksgiving. I was sure there would be more than our two or three families but that was a bigger crowd than I expected. There was enough of everything but not much in the way of leftovers (exception: store-bought pies). My turkey was beautiful and tasted fine I think. The other turkey roaster also made gravy which was perfectly delicious. I *can* make gravy but I regard it as an uphill battle and all I was willing to do was roast the bird this time. Nod announced, as he does every year, roast turkey is so good, why don't we do this more often? I got a few of my cranberries but at the end of the evening the dish was cleaned out. I may have to cook more of them before long. I did make sure to have a turkey sandwich the next day. And then our neighbors used the rest of the meat for turkey tetrazini and had us over for dinner. Excellent dining and socializing. Played Apples to Apples Jr with the kids. Had long lazy mornings on Friday and Saturday. Didn't sell any girl scount cookies.

My bra straps won't stay up. What's wrong with my shoulders? The occasional week of pushups seems to be keeping my bingo wings in check. But the shoulders must be wasting away. Tightening the bra straps *does* seem like the first line of attack. But if that doesn't work I'll be demanding pity for my poor little shrinking shoulders.

My mother went to the ER last week because she felt short of breath and awful. They tested to make sure it wasn't her stent or her heart. It wasn't. They took her off all but two medications. But still she feels crummy, short of breath and not well. I am talking with her every couple of days. I offered to go out there last night but she demurred. I want her to be feeling better.

Snow flakes fluttered this morning as I parked my car at work. It's nothing that will accumulate, just a taste of winter. Nod asked me to drive the kids to school this morning because of the cold wind. They have been walking every morning with a fifth grader neighbor. It's so simple to send them out the door and watch them walk down the block. But then I feel a bit queasy. It makes sense for them to walk the seven blocks to school. But it's hard to give up the certainty of delivering them to the school door. The three kids together, plus two more they meet on the way, are competent to get to school. But what if... Nod says it makes him worry (he's a worrier) and makes him want to give Katy a cell phone. I understand the unease but I think that's an overreaction. Junior high is soon enough for a cell phone!

Edited to add: Go here to read about lots of wonderful new cookbooks. Shauna is very generous with her prose as always. She makes all these books sound great, and they're having a giveaway though I'm not sure how long it lasts.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Abundance

Thanksgiving week. My goal is making my shopping list without getting worried about it. We're staying put and potlucking with those of our neighbors who are doing the same. Should be a fab feast. I'm going to build in some extras: playing games with the kids, a walk before pie, something else physical (juggling? marital relations? paper sculpture?). That way I won't feel like I'm majoring in drudgery. Sometimes housework seems frighteningly simple and appealing. Like easier than talking with other humans. Nope, no attempt to communicate across the gulf for me, I'll just wash these dishes. Good think I don't like cleaning much, so I can work on the eternal struggle to understand and make myself understood to the other primates.

Katy turns nine tomorrow at 8:30 am Pacific time. We had a good kid party at the campus bowling alley yesterday. I feel like I should be good at kid parties by now, we must have had nine so far at least -- where's my callous? It still feels hard. Nonetheless we survived and triumphed and the kids were a great bunch who probably would have been happy shooting rubber bands for two hours, plus a cupcake break and goodie bags. Which gives me an idea, the next party can be a rubber band olympics: shoot at targets, make rubber band balls, etc. 

Katy wants more cupcakes for her class tomorrow but while contemplating another evening baking and frosting them I realized that I am done. Maybe I can talk her into oatmeal cookies with 9's frosted on them.

Am trying the application of fig newtons to all my problems.
 I find having a package of them in my desk drawer makes life seem better.


I finished the very satisfying Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. Thank you to AM for the encouragement to keep on. By the end I kept thinking the book was hitting good spots to end but it kept wrapping up this and that loose end. I was glad we didn't follow Sammy to LA. His ride westward into the sunset was iconic enough. Delightfully circling, characters who create comic book plots sometimes enact them on purpose and other times accidentally. And both taking the passion and the inspiration of the stories seriously but on the other hand also undercutting the seriousness of "real life". I'm still thinking about it. I hope it was as fun to write as it seems. Chabon's defense of 'escapism' is a beautiful thing although I neglected to write it down before taking the book back to the library. To paraphrase, escapism is what comic books are accused of by their detractors. But what could be more necessary for an adolescent than escape into imagination?



I think I'm reading This Hole We're In by Gabrielle Zevin. It's funny but not broad enough to be reassuring. I'm not enjoying reading about the characters and their plausible crappy decisions leading to debt and stagnation and ongoing difficulties. But I feel drawn to the text, kind of queasily reading along. I haven't decided whether I'll finish it or not. I am there with those characters: well intentioned, wanting to get along, short sighted and plenty selfish. Makes me happy not to be living in Texas. My impression is that the TX version of keeping up with the Joneses is particularly high pressure. Memories of North Star Mall in San Antonio way back in the 80s.


To those in the American Thanksgiving part of the world: feast well and enjoy your gratitude. Get out of the steamy kitchen/dining room/tv room and walk in the cold air for a while.

Monday, November 15, 2010

At An Angle

Skew
I'm taking antibiotic pills twice a day now after seeing my doctor last week. The skin was continuing to get worse and not better. It was alarming. I'm a little disappointed to resort to the antibiotic big guns. I had been hoping that yogurt or the new moon or a different hormonal nudge would get my face to calm the hell down. But it was not to be cherie. So I've been taking this antibiotic for almost a week now and it's making me feel a little dizzy. Not bad, but off. As though the world had been dialed ten degrees to the right. I'm hoping for results. The area around my nose is a little better. But the results are promised after taking them for two weeks. So I'm planning to celebrate smoother happierskin in another week and a half.

Consensus
I'm learning respect. Yesterday there was a monthly community meeting to talk about budget (due in December) and other regular meeting stuff. Only four of us were there to begin which seemed a bit sad. We got two more people and six was a great improvement over four somehow. There was a discussion of some of the items on the agenda, a refusal to decide on the two substantive items. One person got some resentments off his chest and two things he said made me happier about the whole shebang. One: we're using the process we have in place to make decisions as a group as well as we can. It doesn't make us hypocrites if it's not perfect. He also said that in order to keep the main meetings as short as possible, they chose to have a committees system. That way the details can be hammered out in small groups of presumably interested people and brought to the main meeting just for decision. Are you sleeping peacefully yet? I found it reassuring that there was at least the intention of avoiding extra long main meetings. The we had another lovely potluck which resulted in six pots of soup and no desserts for the first time anyone can remember. Kind of a nice change really. But I realized that what we needed was a soup sampler bowl with individual compartments for five or six different kinds of soup. A specialty ceramic item for the intense potlucker.

Cat pot
I don't see how you could watch these without laughing. I am just using the internet (a.k.a. conduit for funny cat pictures) for its highest use.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Squawk

I guess the blah blah meta posts come about when the writer wants to see something new on the page but the muse is late with deliveries again. Let's see what I've got in my pockets. We community living hippies are disfunctional. We (most of us) haven't been attending organizing meetings and the budget it needs finishing and there's always something that needs starting or completing. However, we're very good at potlucks. Last night we celebrated the eleventh anniversary of the whole place. Even had some singing which was fun. But the discipline to try and organize life is lacking. The group explicitly chose to use a consensus process. And that just makes me think of endlessly spinning wheels. I'll be attending a committee meeting tomorrow night and then the monthly meeting on Sunday to at least support those who are trying to make things happen. It's a weird dynamic.

Just remembered that we're supposed to be taking girl scout cookie orders this month. I've sent an email at work. We'll tramp the pavement this weekend and see how it goes. Lexi is enjoying her Daisies meetings and Katy is still mad she's not going to her group this year. I think it's fair to trade off since I can only bear to do one group and Nod can't help at all in the evenings this year. I'll strike at fairness even if I inevitably fall short.

I've put up schizo curtains in my bedroom. We had paper shades on the windows since we moved in but last weekend I had the hardware and the gitupandgo to put up curtains. But I didn't have matching curtains. I have one long beige-y panel that reaches to the floor on one side. And a big floral on white pair that come just below the window sill on the other side. I thought it was kind of funny to put them both up. I thought I'd get a strong sense of what I wanted by being able to compare. But I like them both in their own ways. So now what? The floral pair are from the catholic thrift store and unreplicatable. The long panel is from Target and it looks recent enough that I can probably match it. So I guess I've talked myself into using long panels in our room and then I can move the floral over to the guest bedroom which only has one window. But I think I like the short ones best. I persist in waffling.

I have had some more moments of wondering what I am doing in this marriage. I'm not leaving but I am looking for some clarity. I would like to feel I'm not hitting myself in the head repeatedly. I sometimes wonder if I am afraid of competent people and feel better when I'm around the feckless. [The progress report is that Nod is successfully moving through this appliance repair courses and doing his part time job. He says he's encouraged by students who started a semester or two ahead of him who have come back to talk about the job's they've gotten since graduating. The latest crappy development is that his car blew a timing belt on the highway and we had to have a valve rebuilt so that's $2K we weren't budgeting for.] I concluded one tail chasing session with the thought that as long as my spouse isn't keeping me from being myself then I can keep on. It may be rocky and harder than it would be with someone more employed/employable. But at least I can feel like it's an adventure I'm choosing and not a dead-end grinding me down. That there's a pile of rationalization. But there's something to it. Still chasing tail. Ho ho ho.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Weenies

With scudding clouds and a wind to send the dead leaves swirling, the weather was perfectly Halloweeny. My long week was over on Friday and the costumes were done. I had a relaxed weekend and can carry on for lord's sake. The holiday was satisfying. After a party and going downtown and several blocks of trick or treating, Katy was battling me about knocking at houses which did not have a porch light lit. I can be arbitrary but really, it's an acknowledged rule. Our jack o'lanterns were wonderful. In fact I haven't had enough, I want to light them again tonight and sit outside with the kids. I don't like ghost stories but I suppose that would be the traditional thing to do.

The kids picked what they wanted to be and helped make their costumes this year. They enjoyed dressing up so much! I have pictures, will do the steps to get them up when I can. Katy found plenty of people who knew what a totoro was. And she didn't argue with those who thought she was a bunny. Lexi's enormous lollipop wand made her costume. The first thing I saw her eating out of her candy haul - an itty bitty box of raisins. She's waydorable.

It's blog posting month, I shall have plenty to read. And probably I shall baa right along and post more frequently too. But daily is not to be promised.

Our county voting office has a pretty good website. You can check to see if you are registered to vote. And where your polling place is; and get a sample ballot. But two of us scoured the site looking for the voting hours and couldn't find them anywhere. That's kind of an important piece of information. I emailed the clerk and trust they will update.

Now that the festival of sugar is over, what do we do with these pounds of candy? I am thinking of barter. I'll let the kids eat what they want this week but then I want them to trade me the remaining candy for...  Haven't quite got that yet. Maybe a movie outing or something. Hm.

Hurdles looming in November: snack for Lexi's Daisies meeting this Wednesday. Selling girl scout cookies. Katy's birthday party on the 20th. Thanksgiving with the neighbors, we'll be staying here. I wish celebration didn't feel like such a battle to me. I am not a natural hostess. I want to have events and throw parties but I don't know how to get help or make the preparation enjoyable.

From comments at the TV site (they talk about other popculcha but mostly TV) A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago,  my favorite concept Halloween costume idea. I wish I'd seen it:

"My three-month old niece was a chicken - in a foil covered  stroller and with flames around the bottom, so it looked like a pot. My brother and sister-in-law each wore an apron and a chef's hat.  It was a giant hit."

My favorite costume at the neighborhood parade was a volcano: hat with flames shooting up, a round grey cloak with red lava felt.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Dragon Gobbling

Dragon moon
Last night the full moon was hidden behind the clouds when I went out to take some library books back. I kept glancing up to see if it would emerge but I could only see the glow. We are supposed to get rain today and last night was a bit warm and the air felt gentle. No wind on the ground but clouds were slowly moving eastward. When I drove home the moon came out. Now there were breaks in the clouds. They were thinner lacier strips. Watching the bright white disc among the swirls I kept thinking of Chinese dragons playing with their giant pearl. In Chinese folklore dragons are associated with water: rain, rivers, oceans. (The wiki article mentions a Nike ad which showed LeBron James 'slaying a dragon' which was banned in China. Interesting culture clash. No St. George for them.)

I called Nod out to watch the sky with me. I told him that I felt like walking and looking at the sky all night, and singing and crying. It wasn't in the cards. We chatted and I soaked up the moonlight for a while longer. I feel like I'm thrilling to everything, I'm ready to take off emotionally. Then I set aside my wanderlust and went in and made lunches and was fairly responsible. I realized that I don't know many songs with moon related lyrics. I'll have to remedy that.

Extase
While driving to work this morning I sang along with the Fleet Foxes. At the crest of a hill, I saw a flock of black birds flying toward me, passing above the gold leafed trees, against the pink clouds. My heart rose and tears started to come to my eyes. I blinked them back and avoided the pedestrian and went on. I am on the brink, receiving everything with my psychic ears spread like fans. (It would be interesting dancing with fans sticking out from my head. The air resistance would be new and different.) It makes me wonder what my hormone levels are. And how I could get them to be here again.

I remember feeling like this in my teens out in our yard in White Rock, NM. I think it was late summer, the winds were blowing and my white cat was excited too, frisking about. I felt like we could almost mount up into the sky. My hair was blown about and the cat and I were running here and there. It felt like the energy of the earth was moving through me.

Gobbling
I'm reading lots of books at once and trying to watch movies. I miss TV too. I have a great lust to consume entertainment right now. First book is about the Pueblo Revolt, the uprising of farming Indians who lived in settlements called Pueblos (by the Spaniards and now everyone else) in and around present day New Mexico. In 1680, after more than a hundred years of Spanish occupation several of the Pueblos attacked in unison. The Spanish were taken completely by surprise and driven out for twelve years until the reconquest. Right now the author is describing a religious shift towards kachina (or katsina) ceremonies that happened at about the time of the revolt. (Katsinas are intercessors between the people and the gods. There are many and they bring different gifts and stories.) The author is describing petroglyph images from that time that may depict katsina figures. I hadn't heard anything that specific about the images before so I am soaking it in.

I've started Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. It's taking me a while to get going on this one. I loved the Yiddish Policemen's Union so I'm hoping I'll cleave to K&C as well.

I have a stack of mystery novels that may turn out to be disposable. The one I've started with is South Beach Shakedown by Bruns. I had to abandon a cosy (Green Grow the Victims, by Dams) that was set in turn of the century Indiana among Swedish and Irish immigrants. It played too fast and loose with the autonomy and authority of a respectable immigrant female. Disbelief could no longer be suspended.

[Edited to add: South Beach Shakedown was stinky. Not recommended. Fantasy rock n roll writer narrator and his ditsy ex who resolutely ignored large blatant clues for 3/4 of the time. And no humor. Onward.] 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dial it down

I was delighted to be told I was completely wrong about my toothache. Last week I leapt self pityingly to conclusions as the ache got worse and worse. On Friday morning I was told that the ache was due to the temporary crown being too high. Even though I didn't have pain when I bit down, just later up in my jaw. The technician spent a long time grinding the crown down. And it worked: I didn't have any pain over the weekend. Even better, no root canal or anything like that is in my future. They had to take impressions of all my teeth on Friday because my bite is so wack. I have a very open bite in the front (this means that if I take a bite of a sub sandwich straight on, my front teeth don't meet and I drag a bunch of stuff out of the sandwich rather than bite through it). I can compensate because my side teeth meet, so I just bite with the corner of my mouth and all's well. Apparently my back teeth also come together in a weird way.

So glad to be thoroughly wrong about the cause of the ache. What a relief to have that fixed.

On Schmutzie's blog:  "Mid-life crises should be sexier events. ...  We should glow like we're giving birth to giant, self-aware manifestations of our true selves. I should have lustrous hair and the chub of fruition." Damn right. Where's my glow?!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Yogurtkin

The -kin diminutive
Last night en famille we were talking about words and I mentioned that -kin indicated a dimunitive. Nod was surprised to hear it. I was convinced of it but could not come up with good examples. (I was sure 'pumpkin' was not an example of this usage. Squashes do not remind me of little pumps.) But think of nursery rhyme language: thumbkin, your little thumb. I joked with the girls that I could call them Katykin and Lexikin. "Because we're tiny!" shouted Katy. I shouted back, "I didn't mean to make you tiny!" They really are the petite kiddos but full of energy, resilience and smarts. Katy is at least showing some growth since last fall. She's still wearing some of her 6x pants but I am glad to see that they are highwaters on her now. Size 7 fits best for most pants. She turns nine next month.

But back to wordynerdiness. The OED entry taught me this morning that adding -kin was popular to create a diminutive nickname especially for men's names around 1200 to 1400. It also explains the origin of the nickname "Jack" for the given name John. (Jan-kin is nickname that evolved toward Jack.) Oh and it explains another old weird English name to me as well: Dickon, which must be Dick-kin, and stow those wang jokes. The OED tells us that there are other words from the Dutch or of "obscure origin" for which the 'kin does not indicate a diminutive: bodkin, firkin, merkin (hee), jerkin, bumpkin, etc. Pumpkin turns out to be an easier-to-say-for-English-speakers variant on a French name for a large squash: pompion.

Yogurt zealot
After trying to treat my skin with topical yogurt I have decided that it's not a cure all. It did calm down my irritated skin with one application. And I will keep it in mind for that sort of use. But daily application didn't seem to improve anything. So I do *not* have to don a homespun robe and travel the land teaching all and sundry about the healing powers of yogurt. That's good, I really wasn't looking forward to doing it. In conclusion, here's a short short story by John Scalzi about yogurt taking over the Earth.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Autumnal

In honor of the season of the year where we notice plants dying back and the chill in the air and contemplate our mortality, here's an article on doctors learning to recommend hospice care to patients. Whee! Well, I'm sorry it's not whee! but at least it is by Atul Gawande who writes like butter. He's touchingly honest about how awkward and painful this kind of communication with patients feels to him. He reports his off-putting attempt and then gets a hospice person to tell him better phrasing for these questions. The one that sticks with me is: "If time becomes short, what is most important to you?" Which is something we should be asking ourselves periodically anyway.

As for my own mortality, I have my teeth to remind me. After last week's root canal, I've been getting a toothache from time to time. The nurse told me that there should be no pain. Regular pain meds get rid of it but it keeps coming back. I suspect that things will unroll just like after the last root canal I had five years ago. There is bacteria in the root where there shouldn't be any and I will have to have the endodontist ream it out. I am not kicking up my heels at this prospect. Will see dentist tomorrow for crown fitting so will ask then.

It's been cooler (60s) and it rained Monday. Women on campus are wearing their new fall boots. In related news, I have come up with a new band name I like: Dumb Buckles.

Shauna, the Gluten-Free Girl, and her husband Danny are hosting a picnic at Dolores Park on Sunday, October 17. Here's her entry on their recent NYC picnic. "If you are anywhere near San Francisco this weekend, we are having another picnic on Sunday at noon. In Dolores Park. Bring some gluten-free food to share... We are asking everyone to show up with the words YES or IMAGINE on them somewhere." Could be fun! I'd bring ginger slaw if I was going. Hm, the forecast high for Sunday is only 57. Well, Dolores Pk is protected. And maybe it'll be a little warmer than that.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Octing

After a month of looking for it, I saw the first tree changing color on our street last week. I squealed and pointed it out for the children. This early maple is already spilling pink leaves on the sidewalk for us to crunch through.

The road refinishing on our street is finally done and it's time to get a celebratory car wash. Getting a little hard to see through the streaky dust on my windows. I am not about to wish for rain. This dry air is so delightful.

I read The Wolves of Wilhoughby Chase by Joan Aiken to my kids and they loved it as much as I hoped they would. Katy told me it was too exciting for bedtime reading. (And though I couldn't argue with that, I was sorry for the delay as I could hardly wait to get to the ending.) We got through it last weekend and now I know where my phantom egg eating orphan comes from. When I was starting to read Jane Eyre last Feb. I wasn't sure I wanted to read about her terrible time as a foster child and at the abusive school. I was sure I remembered an episode where a half starved student eats a raw egg from the henhouse to keep going. Then when I got through reading Jane I was puzzled because there wasn't any egg incident to be found. But it is Bonnie in WoWC who eats raw eggs, not Jane! Anyway, WoWC is good melodrama, everything is over the top and the descriptions are very sensual. At one point the girls have escaped from the orphanage/workhouse with the help of their friend the goose herder. Sylvia is tucked into a donkey-drawn wagon, under down filled quilts and then the live sleepy geese are settled around her. It sounds deliciously cosy and safe especially in contrast with the cold and deprivations they've been through. I wondered if it would all be too much for Lexi but she was interested in the story and just wanted reassurance from time to time that there would be a happy ending. There is and it's a good one.

Dull at work right now. I described the beginning of fall semester as a tidal wave. I think I'm sitting on a sand bar now, at calm low tide. But if I was really on a sand bar I could dig for shells or at least feel the sand between my toes.

Halloween costumes are in the works. I lobbied for Totoro over vampire for Katy. I decided I could live with her being a vamp if she insisted, but she didn't. Now how can we get a tiny red umbrella for her to hold? Lexi has known since August that she would be the Lollipop Princess from Candyland. I'm sewing a skirt that we'll put over a dress she already has and cover with paper lollipops. The crown will be the next piece.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Improbable Tasty Words

Improbable was Sunday's word of the day. It was a day of sun, bright blue sky, white and gray clouds that looked freshly washed. I got up and asked Nod how we could help each other exercise. He helped me get outside for a walk in the afternoon and then he got his bike ride in. The crisp air (low 70s) and sunshine felt so good. The northern european in me felt that this was the perfect temperature. I started jogging and did 15 or 20 minutes. I have never aspired to be a runner* so it felt very out of character. (*In fact on many occasions I have sworn I would never be a runner. Honestly this was probably an artefact of the cool air and need to kick up my heels. There's only a slight chance I might have to eat those words.) I may look up "Couch to 5K" just to get some stretch ideas and try not to hurt myself. Clarification: I have no desire to run a 5K. But damn, it's hard to beat stepping outside and running for accessible exercise. The paved rail trail near our house is the icing on the cake. Nod said it's mostly a drag having seasonal affective disorder. But on the other hand, we know that whenever he can take a bike ride in the sunshine he will be happy.

We've stopped poisoning the cat. Zing was throwing up everything for a week and after a vet visit didn't offer any clues or treatment besides a nausea suppressor, I decided it was the food we were feeding her. Rather, the cheap kibble that I had mixed with the more expensive kibble. Said cat is better now and it makes me feel good to think that at the least I eliminated it as a possibility. I'd like to keep my cute floofy cat, thank you.

Red nose blues
I've had to stop using my yeast derived face cream. My nose is red and sore and sprouting the occasional zit. I've been dabbing it with neosporin but after some reading this morning will stop. (Overuse of general antibacterial products tending to result in resistant bacteria. Oh right.) Next home remedy I plan to try: yogurt. I will apply it for ten minutes once a day. I may report results if they are exciting.

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And whoa -- I am pretty excited. One application this morning and already things are looking better. Instead of red and shiny all over I just have a deep pink area on one side of the nose. Yogurt = my friend.

Word Juggling for no particular reason Lawyers, Guns and Money  ::  Ladders, Gums and Nubbin

Dean of Libraries, isn't that a great title? The plural makes it sound like a Tarot card. Five of Wands, Two of Cups, Dean of Libraries...

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Books i've been reading: Tom Holt's humorous fantasy novels. He's a British writer and I read some of his first novels back in the early 80s (Who's Afraid of Beowulf and Expecting Someone Taller I remember as charming). I got an itch to read him again and couldn't find anything although I could see that he's written stacks of books that appear to be fairly popular in the UK. I visited the huge and extremely satisfying used book store Page One Too in Albuquerque and found some of his novels. After reading these two: Here Comes the Sun and Odds and Gods I am underwhelmed. In fact they made me want to read Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett who both write/wrote in the same genre and did it better (sorry Tom). Try some of his earlier stuff if you have a hankering.

My mother's been reading Diary of a Provincial Lady and enjoying it as I knew she would. She doesn't speak French so she's a little frustrated by those untranslated bits.

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Something on Twitter for you: Ruth Bourdain, a mashup of Ruth Reichl and Anthony Bourdain. Here's a quickie interview on Chow.com.

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A pretty tree decorated with a labyrinth.

Friday, September 17, 2010

NMing

Just checked in online for my Southwest flight. I'll be meeting my brother when I get to the ABQ airport* tomorrow at 4:30. Mom's still moving slowly and letting her bruises heal. It's nice RB can drive me instead of a taxi. I need to find out how he's doing lately. Last I heard he'd thrown over HVAC grunt work for roofing estimates.

*This link about "terminal art" was the best I could find related to the International Sunport. I expected that they would have some sexy photos of the floor-to-ceiling two story observation lounge or some of the other areas. But nothing like that. They are missing a bet and being too modest. I know AM agrees with me that it's a very comfy airport.

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The pilot took us around a towering anvil cloud out of Kansas City. At first a grey layer of cloud obscured the sun with just a chink showing sun bright clouds beyond. Then we  curved around and out into the sunshine. The clouds are such a provocation to my brain: they look like substantial sculptures. But they are just plumes and piles of water vapor. Snow, waves, mountains, curtains, clouds are nothing but similes.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Elided previously

Things I've been mulling over before typing about them: my mother's heart health crisis and Katy's first piano recital that did not go so well.

Mom went to the dog shows over labor day as per usual. This year Token, the small standard poodle, has pretty much opted out of obedience training. She likes the training actually but is not happy in the ring and Mom has decided there's not much point in showing her. Some dogs love to perform and some would rather not, thank you. Risa the plenty big curly coated retriever is the other contender. She's headstrong and not reliable but young yet so Mom has had high hopes. They went unfulfilled over the holiday weekend because Risa didn't pass even one of her classes. It's Utility, the most complicated class with directed jumps and scent articles, so this isn't unprecedented. But it is disappointing. When Mom was telling me about this she mentioned that she'd had some weird chest pressure when she was walking the dog over the weekend too. She was trying to shrug it off. I asked her not to forget about it but ask her doctor. Then on the holiday Monday she had it again, worse.

She said she felt better when she didn't run and then when she didn't walk fast. By Wednesday she told me she was "gliding" - moving carefully and smoothly so as not to feel the pressure. On Thursday she saw her doctor, was sent directly to the heart center and admitted for the night. They told her it was classic coronary artery disease. The next day they did a cardiogram, injecting dye to see exactly which artery was blocked and they placed a stent to clear the block. She was in recovery that afternoon and called me. I was very glad to hear her voice and surprised that she didn't need someone else to call. They kept her one more night and then sent her home. A doctor told her the artery had been 98% blocked.

She's been tended by her friends and neighbors who live on her street. They are kind of a tight bunch of senior citizens. I'm so glad they're all taking care of each other. I asked Mom if she wanted me to move my trip up a week but she said she would be okay and would be happy to see me on the 18th as planned. My brother is going to come down that weekend from Denver too. "I guess he's worried about me" she says. Yes, I think so.

Mom says it felt very surreal to be in the hospital being told she had heart disease and was to have a surgical intervention. I've also had trouble believing all this. As RB said, she's the thin, active one with the low blood pressure. But menopause put an end to the low blood pressure and her activity level doesn't come with any aerobic exercise beyond walking faster than anyone else I've ever known. We're all susceptible to heart disease if we live long enough.

Mom is recovering slowly from the procedure (they go in through a groin artery and access the coronary arteries from there). I'll see her in two days. Whew.

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Katy had her first piano recital and was totally unprepared for the experience. She had been taking piano lessons for all of 8 weeks and had never seen a music recital before. I didn't try to explain it much. She was bored with her piece (Over the Rainbow) by the time of the recital and had stopped practicing it. I didn't nag much because I have more important things to nag about.

On the evening of the recital I insisted that she wear shoes which was perceived as unfair. I had suggested she play through her piece earlier but that was rejected. When when it was her turn, she played the first line or so and then blanked. Even though she was looking at the music, she was very conscious of being in front of an audience and couldn't continue. Her teacher swooped in and joined her on the piano bench and they played the rest together. Katy went back to her seat (a row ahead of us, by herself) and sat stock still until the end of the recital when she came to me and melted down. She was very embarrassed. Several people came over to speak to her and tell her that she'd done just fine and tried to help her feel better. She had a hard time accepting comfort. I tried to get her thinking about the next time and how we could help her be better prepared. Her teacher and I talked to her about the next recital and what she could perform then. I left feeling stymied. Just like with her overreaction to criticism, I felt that I knew exactly the shame she was feeling. And my insight didn't help me to help her.

I looked up music teacher tips for recital preparation. A few days later I talked to Katy about what we'll do differently before the next one. (I think it's good to focus on the next time, getting back on the horse.) I also talked to her about how everyone feels uncomfortable when performing or just before.

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Last night it rained buckets and Katy was out running around with her best friend. At one point she asked to borrow my umbrella. They weren't leaving the complex so after exacting a promise that she would bring it back unharmed, I let her take it. When she got back half an hour later I asked for the umbrella and she froze, then her face crumpled and the wails began. She ran out to look for it but couldn't find it. She came back crying and stammering about how she "didn't mean to lose it!" I was annoyed for a bit. After a few minutes I got over that. I told her that as her daddy says, no one was hurt or bleeding, it was just an ugly old umbrella.

I said she was acting like making a mistake made her a bad person. We had talked about the restaurant routine of announcing "I made a mistake!" to cheers. And I said that I remembered feeling like she does but that I had learned better and I wanted to be able to learn from mistakes without feeling like they were the end of the world. And I believe she got it. I said we'd have to figure out how to help her practice making mistakes so she could get really good at it. It felt as though we'd gotten over a hurdle. We'll probably need to go over it many more times but it's a relief to know we could get there.

Katy's friend Maria found the umbrella and brought it back to me shortly thereafter.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Between the leaves

Notes from the end of August

Revelation
New office mgr at work. After a day where we both were seldom off the phone I showed her one of my scratch sheets covered with names and numbers and things to do and said "I finished everything on here! ...I think!" And she said that was amazing and she didn't know how I did it. She said she was struggling even using lined paper and numbering each item. And a quiet bomb of realization went off in my head. I could enter each caller on a different line! And check them off when I'd finished with them! I still admire my scratch sheets for the random doodle paper coverage that I was able to achieve. But I feel so much more organized now that I'm using a lined pad. What a self limitation that was.

English Civil War
A squishy historical era for me. Knew of Cromwell, learned and then forgot and learned again about the king's execution. Hard to frame - much more complicated to try and digest Parliament, the armies and so on rather than one royal symbol. Am reading Lindsey Davis's Rebels & Traitors which I would recommend although it is giving me the best grasp of that time that I've ever had. Davis has written characters who are affected by the events of the time. That does a good job of drawing one into the action. But there is so much to discuss and such a long list of persons and battles and events she covers that it breaks down. Long swathes of perfectly agreeable narrative and then back to one or another set of her characters. "Meanwhile, back on the ranch..." The seams show and sometimes I wish she'd laid aside the characters and just gone hypothetical and tutorial. "This is how people in Oxford during the last part of the seige might have been faring". I'm cruising through the thousand pages so by the end I will feel that it's kept my reading muscles strong. [I finished it. Ludicrous ending tying all the characters' fates together. Still I don't regret reading it.]

White
Last week a Detroit area blogger wrote how tired she was of the heat. "I am ready to wear something that doesn’t need to be white and absorbent." I can only agree. I put on an acrylic blouse this morning and walked the kids to school. It was grey and in the 70s, more rain is forecast for this afternoon. By the time I got back home I was steamy and realized it just wasn't going to get any better in synthetic fibers. Off it went and I am much happier in cream cotton knit.

Path of blue
It's cooling off here but we're getting rain and muggy before we see cool clear skies. Oh which reminds me, yesterday I saw a reverse contrail, something I'd never seen before. I had to stare at it for a minute or so to be sure what it was, a narrow clear blue path through a thin layer of cloud. Once I found out that it's not "comtrail" it's "contrail", Wikipedia told me many things. The reverse path through the cloud is called a "distrail" (they have a nice photo) and is the effect of hot exhaust consuming the moisture in thin cloud level. The contrail in contrast, is the water vapor laden exhaust condensing at high altitude.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Elements, idyll and correction



This would be a supremely satisfying amalgam of new media and a lifelong favorite. Mmmm.

Boingboing had my number yesterday. In addition to the above, they also featured this very catchy song about, well, being a dickhead hipster doofus. By linking to boingboing I'm sidestepping the appropriate material question. Be advised that if you don't like the word dickhead you don't want to watch a video entitled "Being A Dickhead's Cool".

This evening after potluck I watched the kids playing over by the treehouse as the sun went down. It looked idyllic. Less than fifteen minutes later I was called out to tend to Lexi because she had rolled off the garden cart Katy was trying to give her a ride on. Lexi's outrage and physical discomfort was soothed by bandaids, ice packs and helping me make oatmeal cookies (with choc. chips except for the four for Katy who is our odd chocolate avoider). Katy's upset and moral discomfort (at having done wrong and contributed to her sister's injuries) was red hot and her father's lecture didn't help much. But baths and cookies eventually did their work and everyone got to bed peacefully. Idylls just aren't very long.

Katy reacts to well-grounded complaints about her behavior with outrage or angry/despairing tears. She reacts like I remember reacting. I was used to being the good kid and whenever I transgressed and was called out for it I found it unbearable. I would burst into loud sobs and retreat. So I can empathize but I don't know how to get through to Katy in the heat of the moment. We want to tell her "x is wrong so please remember not to do that again". But all she hears is "you're wrong and bad because you did x". Any suggestions? Now that I've written that out I see I can try to get across that I am addressing the behavior and not her as a person.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Backalacka

Getting back in the saddle without much of a place to go. So I'll give the horse her head and see where we end up. Much water is under the bridge. The academic year is well underway at work and things have calmed down.

The girls like their new classes at the new school. What a relief. Nod and I are poised to ding at the teachers and ask for enrichment activities for our little smarties. Lexi especially needs more math. She did math which mostly consisted of copying numbers out and grouping last year. It was dull and repetitive and there's so much more she can do. Katy is enjoying her piano and violin lessons that she started this summer. She had a recital which was painful in several ways but very educational. She is reading music and playing with both hands on the piano. Her violin noises are rudimentary but I love the concentration on her face when she is finding the notes. Lexi has caught the bug a little and just asked me for a piano lesson. She'll try one next week.

My face is broken out in new and unexpected ways. The acne around the nose and mouth I am used to, but above one eyebrow? Quite different and perplexing. I don't think I'm going to try for medical assistance this time. Menopause can't be that far off, can it? Surely that will be one good thing about it. The PMS that accompanied this latest awful breakout was pretty spectacular too. I am lucky that I didn't get us in a car accident when I u-turned on a two lane highway at rush hour last Friday. Not a good moment. My decision making is back to its usual level now and I haven't risked any lives lately.

Have gotten rid of the lice and the fleas. Hoping that a third insect plague is unnecessary.

The cat is cute. Even when she runs out the door while we cuss at her. A week or so ago she ran out when we were leaving the house so she just had to stay out for a couple hours. She doesn't stray far so I no longer worry about losing her. But when she came back that day she had gotten the worst end of a fight. She still has scabs under one side of her jaw and a little one up by her ear. Nod mentioned that our lovable coward cat Jimbo consistently had wounds on his hindquarters when he'd been in a fight. Zing uses a different technique. But it makes me that much more determined to keep her in as much as we can. It's a cat rich environment outside our door.

 Zits are bad, bugs are appalling, cats are cute. I'm done for now.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Until done

It's August and those cicadas are with us after all. I didn't hear a one until after the first of August, they keep a tight calendar. It's baking here which is also right on schedule for this month. I am going to count the days until September 15 which is when we are contractually obligated to have cooler weather here in the NE corner of KS.

The northern Europe bunch did not curl up under the fans and refuse to go anywhere as I feared they might. They reached back to their Texas roots (at least the adults) and appeared to enjoy not having any Welsh drizzle whatsoever in the forecast. We went swimming at the outdoor pool and Lonestar Lake three times. Pretty ideal summer stuff. Sunday's lake swimming included being mobbed by itty little silver fish. We saw a school of 2 to 3 inch fish moving about roiling the surface of the lake. And then when we had forgotten about them they passed between Nod and I, a few of them leaping and bouncing off my shoulder. I shrieked, it was very entertaining.

I love my sis in law, she is brainy and mouthy and very competent. She's also complaining about turning 50 next year. I refused to compare crumbling infrastructure with her. We talked about tequila but only got around to some beer drinking their last night here. The kids got along well and everyone enjoyed the co housing model of nomadic children roaming about and playing. It sounds as though I enjoy my mother in law's company the most of any of us which seems a little odd. I hope the cousins can stay in touch in the future. This made me want to go see them in Wales of course. Which gets more unlikely each time I get to see them (about every two years). Frustrating.

New asst to the dir starting at work this week. Here's to new beginnings.

I tried again to read Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat and found it just what I wanted. PGW's debt to him is clear. The purple prose describing the beauties of nature and then author's own skewering of it feel familiar and very well done. A cautionary description of camping in the rain is just the sort of thing I think about when choosing *not* to go camping. It's funny because it's not happening to me! The friends have made it through a miserable night:

"In the morning you are all three speechless, owing to having caught severe colds in the night; you also feel very quarrelsome, and you swear at each other in hoarse whispers during the whole of breakfast time."
I also hooted loudly at a horrendously loud dogfight (just between dogs, not a human-engineered dogfight) being mistaken for either a vestry meeting or a murder.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Week's end

Much work accomplished at my job this week. I'm rather proud of keeping things going along there. What a relief to have part of this Saturday to myself. Thank you children for sidling off to a neighbor child's house to watch a movie this afternoon. Nod is driving that bus.I've picked up some of the living room and may vacuum after I get a handle on dinner. Whoop!

Next week our relations come to town, Nod's brother and wife and two boys from Wales. And my MIL is driving up from Austin. We're hoping the Douglas County Fair will provide needed thrills beyond downtown, a lake, campus and the occasional ice cream parlor. We'll see how many want to go to the Demolition Derby. I'm opting out and insisting on earplugs for any kids. But at least it's outside so the soundwaves have somewhere to go. I figure the Europeans will be pretty wilted by our heat and humidity. Swimming and icy desserts will be important parts of our plans. I love my sis in law, the cousins get along very well and I am hoping for as good a time as when we saw them in Austin two years ago.

Have you read the Bill Murray interview in GQ? I skipped the link the first couple of times I saw it. But was highly entertained once I cracked and read the thing. If you have enjoyed any of his performances in the past you will enjoy this article.

Time to eat something potato-y, I'm waffling between frittata and potato salad. Oh that's right the kids won't eat potato salad, that makes it easy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gravity of the situation

Can post, will do. All my little notes seems to be about physicality.
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I'm going to start with my decrepitude and write about my clicky kneecaps. Do your knees talk to you? My left one's developed a gentle two stroke krickcrack that I hear whenever I go up stairs (many times a day in our two level house and every trip from the parking lot to my office). Castanets? I think no, the sound is not that ringing, it's closer to dice clicking. And the right has a quieter single crunch that goes away after I warm up. (Now I'm thinking about the sounds ice cubes make in a glass. They sound so different when they're in an empty glass, before the drink is poured. And then once submerged, when they've melted halfway and can move more in the glass. That is a sound I would happily meditate to.) After a month of no exercise whatsoever I have started a few morning stretches again. I'm focused on the leg lifts that are supposed to strengthen the muscles on either side of my knees. I'm wondering whether that will do the trick (oh and losing four or five pounds might help too). Are clicky knees my new normal? Urgh. The only positive spin I can put on this is that it's another excellent reason to exercise. Nine years ago in Oakland I was going to a chiropractor for neck and shoulder stuff but also for knee pain (my worthless memory is refusing to tell me the exact nature of the knee issue). At one appointment the chiro used me rather like a guinea pig with a rare condition, showing a student chiro how my knee cap did a sort of swoop when I bent my leg, instead of sliding in a straight line. I guess I should be glad it hasn't just popped off by now.

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Apparently none of my slight imperfections are enough to preclude a gentle come-on by a young man at the nude swimming lake we visited last weekend. I must allow that it may have been Nod's charisma too, because this guy was chatting us up as a couple. We didn't have any use for him and while we answered his questions briefly, we swam off to deeper (yet simpler) water directly. I was so surprised by the idea of being chatted up and I told Nod I feel pretty much done with the ability to get a reaction with my physical appearance. I am happy I have a relatively strong and healthy body. I even rejoice in it sometimes. But that is separate from feeling like I can get anyone to want to "come up to my place some time". Nod was sweetly appalled and told me that if I want to bed someone else purely in the pursuit of my mojo I should do it. I told him I would take that in the spirit in which it was offered.

The naked lake swimming was wonderful. It was at a nudist/pagan retreat not far from here. So it was fun to visit just so I can say I've been! Very simple and outdoorsy place with cabins, a couple of larger buildings and a man-made lake. I've just read that it was built by nudists in the 40s and then was a Baptist camp in the 50s and more recently there has been some unrest at county meetings about goings-on there. It was a hot clear day with beautiful wisps of clouds to watch overhead. The lake water had that warm on top, cold on the bottom feeling that reminds me of jello layers. The company was too drunk and cruisy to suit me exactly, but it was a small crowd (a dozen besides us) and easy to ignore.
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Dan Savage "For the record: I’m happy to acknowledge that there are lots of good reasons to be monogamous and/or very nearly monogamous, e.g., children and other sexually transmitted infections." That's from last week's Savage Love column. I love it. He is recommending a book titled 'Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality' which posits that during human evolution monogamy was not the default setting. Whether that sort of speculation has merit or not, I appreciate the message that monogamy is a choice and a distinct effort, it's not something we should assume is easy or inevitable. 

Oh and now I've read a pan of the book from a writer I like a lot. Here's Jessa Crispin's reaction to the book. Her bit at the end about the authors' bias towards male sexual satisfaction is a slamdunk. Personally I am over speculative writing on the human evolutionary roots of modern behaviors and conditions. Did prehistoric cultural experiences shape us? Yes! Can we reconstruct them? No!
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In a recent dream I realized that I could choose to point my anxiety outwards instead of inwards. Instead of stressing and feeling very low and tired, I could work out spectacularly well. My brain is telling me it's ready for some muscle endorphins.
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Poked, a Painful Tragedy
One night after dishwashing, I sat myself on the couch and enjoyed alternating between a crossword (gnawing on the bones of a Saturday New York Times puzzle, no I never quite finished it) and a mystery novel. At one point I put my pen down to pick up the book. Wanting to keep ink off the cushions and to keep the pen from rolling back under the cushions, I stuck it, temporarily mind you, between two cushions. Point up. [Ominous thunder effects] The next morning I woke up before my alarm and decided I would float downstairs to read for a bit before beginning my ablutions. Over to the couch I go, bleary and without glasses. Sitting down I feel a sharp pain behind my left thigh -- aaaah! I am off the couch! There's the pen, point up, right where I left it. Laughed at myself despite small puncture wound. I am happy that *I* was the one who reaped the reward of that poor decision. What guilt if someone else in the family had sat on it. Pretty sure my tetanus shot is still current.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Exhale

It's hot now and muggy. The kind of hot and humid that makes cornfields go crazy. And makes people wilt into sweaty heaps. I imagine being in front of a giant mouth, the air feels like moist hot breath. My husband is going to the lake to swim as soon as I get home to take over the childcare. We went swimming there on July 3rd and it was great. It was overcast that day but our timing was on. A couple of showers came through and we enjoyed the rain on top of the lake. It wasn't enough to get our towels/clothes soaked. We played in the water for two hours before the deluge came and the rain really settled in. It's not rainy now and although the muggy slows me down I'll take it instead of the rainy days.


I was sick for the weekend but it was just a virus. Katy came down with something that might be completely unrelated because how can you tell when the symptoms aren't exactly the same? At any rate she's been feverish for four days. Nod's home with both kids on his day off today. It sounds like her fever's finally gone but I don't want to get my hopes up too high since I was up with her at 5:45 and she needed another dose of fever reducer* then. Come on Katy's Immune System!

*I typed tylenol but do I want to embrace that brand name as noun? and neither acetaminophen nor ibuprofen roll off the tongue although sometimes I need their specificity.

The latest neighborhood meeting scared me a little. There was a particularly divisive issue that got aired and there were hurt feelings and tears and I am getting tired of hearing the phrase "good for the community". It's a very interesting environment. I think I'm cured of wanting to buy in. As I told Nod, I thought living here would be more like how I imagine living in a kibbutz would be (based on very little information) with set rules and a rigorous governing system and significant requirements of residents. But this is more haphazard with good intentions and not a lot of follow through. The tendency seems to be for people to pick something to work on and volunteer at it until they burn out and it's abandoned. Not much structure at all to assign more than one person to a particular task nor a way to hand things off neatly when someone steps away. Nod and I are still enjoying all the good social stuff and trying to do our part to keep the balloon in the air.

That's an itty bitty image from Sushi Cat above. If you need even more feline pachinko goodness there's a sequel:  Sushi Cat the Honeymoon.

I've gotten several things moved forward today at work and so am feeling expansive and like I have time to do the blog thing. It's a little unnerving without our office manager. There are some things I have taken over but others I am unsure about. Nothing has exploded yet. Promotion seems to be in the offing. We are anticipating a deluge of a start to the fall semester, having lost an experienced customer service person. It's our busiest time of the year. But I'm looking forward to it. I always enjoy the change of pace (we're usually so quiet in this office) and talking with lots of instructors.

Going to London soon? Even if you're only going in your imagination, like me, here's a wonderful discussion of Things To Do. Read the comments as well. I'm salivating over lots of these ideas. If you go, tell me all about it. Looks like she has a follow up post now specifically about visiting London markets. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Before the forth

In Missouri
The last weekend in June we saw amazing butterflies including Zebra swallowtails and a beautiful black butterfly that I have yet to identify. There doesn't seem to be a "black butterflies" classification and I haven't stumbled across it in any of my web perusing yet. The wings were rich black, the single wedge shape of a Mourning Cloak. With just a narrow band of bright blue at the bottom edges of the wings. Glorious. The closest match I've found is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, black form. But I'm not convinced.

Nod and I borrowed bikes and rode south down the Katy Trail on Sunday morning. (Built on the path of the former Missouri-Texas-Kansas railroad known as the Katy.) While Honorary Aunt and Uncle amused the children with a mud fight. I had only walked on the trail before. It is a wondrously flat place to ride a bike. Because Nod has the heart of an adventurer and is a more confident map reader than I, we ventured off the trail to go by a bird sanctuary area and loop down by the river. The farm roads were almost deserted, it was a very good time for car-shy me to ride. Only one open window cussing from a driver! Walking the route we took would have been a miserable trudge in that hot humid morning. But on bikes it was great, we made our own breeze and enjoyed the green of the fields and the enveloping birdsong.

Not Recommended: Dannon Greek yogurt, plain nonfat. It's bitter and quite a disappointment. I avoid nonfat yogurt as a rule because I value taste and a little fat keeps me from feeling empty and crabby so soon after eating. But I thought Dannon could rise above the nonfatness. Not so, bleah. Plus the extra creamy texture promised by the "Greek" tag is not as pleasing as I hoped, it's reminding me of sour cream.

Hair Triumph
I asked my haircutter to make everything shorter and smaller and I really like the results. I had to ask her to cut the bangs back twice and it's finally the shape I wanted. Jessica in the past has made the back of my head look consistently chic and well textured. But somehow she never could get the front up to snuff. She'd scrunch my thick wavy hair and while it looked fine going out of the salon, I would be cutting my own bangs within three days time. Despite this tendency to make me look better going than coming, I treasure Jessica and her amateur astronomer heart and I hope I can be her client for years to come. I never have much confidence in explaining hair shapes to hairdressers. So I regard this win as mostly good fortune, put over the top by firmness. I just made my next appointment, when it really shouldn't be all that grown out. Here's to feeling in control of the hair on my head!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Forth

I made this big beautiful pie with whipped cream and berries on top for the 4th. I cussed at my pie crust but got that sucker into the pie plate in the end. It was very delicious. We are still awash in humongous cheap blackberries from the grocery store. It must have been a good berry year. And the berry farm south of town sent us an email that their blackberries are coming in this week too. I will not complain.

The 4th was rainy in a big wet way. We had our neighborhood potluck inside with no loss of jollity. Afterward many sat out on the porch enjoying the camaraderie. Until the blowing rain came in under the porch roof and spritzed everyone. The city set its fireworks off at 9:45 anyway. They stuck with their rain-or-shine policy. I heard the booms but didn't miss going to see them. The kids had pooped out about 9p (Katy shrieking and arguing to show me how not tired she was.) Nod went out (in the rain, remember) to see if he could get a good vantage point without going to the park downtown but it was not to be. Then he went to bed so he could get up before 5a and drive the super early morning bus.

The days before the 4th we went out to a fireworks stand that has free camel rides. Because even if you don't want any fireworks (a statement that makes no sense to my gunpowder tripping husband), what is better than a free camel ride?! The two camels on duty were very sweet and neither one bit or spat as far as I could tell. Besides her huge thickly-lashed dark eyes, I noticed that the female had very soft looking fur around her muzzle too. We talked about where we would put pet camels if we brought them home. (You'd have to get both, you wouldn't want one to get lonely.)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Boing, boing, dingdingdingding!

I have found a cute free pachinko game and I am going to have to ration myself. Sushi Cat!! It took me a bit before I realized that it was pachinko in a new guise. A wibblewobbly round cat guise. With Lucky Cat (Maneki Neko) bonuses! And groovy ska bkgrd music. Very little strategy, lots of watching the jiggly cat circle bounce. Total love. Here's an AV Club review, scroll down, it's the second game. Fond memories of my college roommate's pachinko game (dingdingdingding). Gravity and random rewards are fun.

In the morning I can go walking on a paved trail next to houses and a ditch creek. I only managed it once this week. I'm tired and dragging right now. Maybe I will catch up when Nod gets a real schedule in place. But back to the trail... I feel successful whenever I see animals. Monday’s haul: petite snails, a bunny, a woodpecker, a long tailed poodle, and a pair of hawks (I saw striped tails, maybe Sharp-shinned hawks or Cooper’s hawks).

On Saturday night my husband bravely went to the grocery store so we would have milk in the morning. When he came in he encouraged me to go out and see all the fireflies. I wandered out and could immediately see a few bugs lighting up near the houses, by the shrubs and trees. But when I got out to the trail by the ditch I was amazed. It was a multitude of tiny cool flashes, more than I've ever seen before. There was a great deal of communication going on out there. It was totally worth the three mosquito bites to see it.

I read Shauna James Ahern writing about how because of celiac, one bite of food with wheat in it can make her sick for days. But this sentence just sounded wrong: "90% of the serotonin made in our bodies is created in our intestines." After some googling I find that it is true after all. But the serotonin in the gut regulates the flow of stuff through there, not your mood. It sounds as though this isn't well understood at all yet. Harping on my belief that hormones rule our lives without our knowledge, it's probably got something to do with hormones as well!

The CDSea in England. Good art, man. An arrangement of thousands of shiny donated CDs spread out on a rolling meadow.

And for a parting shot: "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but Hell’s patio is resurfaced with a nice textured concrete. Contractor did a great job." That's from adamisacson via the Art of Darkness which is good for the Halloween vibe all year 'round.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gliding

Most of the money stuff got finished today by noon. What a relief to get that over with and start a fresh weekend. The humidity was so high this afternoon that walking outside my toes in my sandals were sweating. So much water in the air I felt as though I should be looking for the beach. (Perhaps beyond that next cornfield?) We had a pizza and beer picnic in the basement because it was so much cooler than anywhere else.The children did not imbibe but Lexi did have a good time learning how to use a bottle opener. Then we went for a walk. It didn't last long but there were wildflowers and red wing blackbirds and bunnies (large and small) and I truly couldn't ask for anything more.

I am thinking about backing away from serving as a eucharistic visitor for the church. As much as I would enjoy supporting our deacons I don't think I need another responsibility. I need some puttering time, doing little creative projects. Did I mention my giant dancing puppet frame backpack idea? I have a sketch and everything, I just need to find an old frame backpack at a thrift store...

If you like folding paper, imagine the fun of making paper airplanes. Now imagine that you craft your paper airplane and then generate the wave of air that it rides on. This looks like such fun. I've made my first tumbler but haven't gotten the hang of the wave part yet. Thank you to BoingBoing for the link.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Emergency

Flea Emergency
It's not just my new favorite hypothetical band name. After waking up with an itch and then soothing a child who woke up in the middle of the night with a flea bite I escalated our household to Flea Emergency on Tuesday morning. I do suspect that the nice people at UC Integrated Pest Management have dealt with more vast and disgusting emergencies than ours. But I had lain awake in the night seething and the situation could not stand! UC IPM recommends mostly using the vacuum cleaner and washing machine, with spot use of a pesticide if necessary. I've done seven loads of laundry now and will be vacuuming daily (! Let's just say that's quite a lot more frequently than my usual schedule) where the cat hangs out and around our beds. She's already been Frontlined but that just made them jump into the carpet apparently. Death to the itty bitty little fuckers.

The Big Bus
Nod passed his test, got his learner's permit and got to drive the bus yesterday. He confirmed that it did make him feel a bit like he was seventeen. He's finding the corners and giving hell to orange cones and the occasional curb so far.

A Week Late and Several Somethings Short
Happiest birthday last week to the divine Danish. I am cobbling up a strange handicraft which I will send you with much love. I'm sorry I missed the day. Hope you are well into your celebration of the early 40s.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cha Ching

'End of the fiscal year' is a flat phrase that gives no indication of the sweating and sifting that we are doing down here on my end of the accounting totem pole. The worky stuff is in full flower this week and I am excusing myself from posting anything pretty or confessional or intriguing for a while. There, that ought to get me writing again.

I will take a moment to recommend King of Heists. Nod is on a true crime kick and handed it to me when he was done. It's a quick read biography of the man who was the architect (and not coincidentally that was his first career) for the largest bank robberies in New York City and elsewhere in the 1870s. A mostly well written book about a truly fascinating time in American history. It reminded me of Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale with the discussion of the underworld and the teeming filthy conditions of the tenements of NY at that time. Contrasted with the whopping wealth of the thin upper crust. All maintained by the openly corrupt city government (thank you, Boss). It's a bit of a stretch but this time period is also close to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1881) which I have been contemplating courtesy of the cheesy goodness of the film Tombstone. Well, really just Val Kilmer's wonderful performance and his truly unique phrasing of Doc Holliday's lines. It was all happening at once, the end of the civil war, western land grab, gold rush, all that jazz. Lots of stepping on others to grab yours. I had never understood the sarcasm of Mark Twain's phrase "The Gilded Age". I just thought 'gilded' meant 'fancy' but of course he meant that the flash and pretty were only skin deep.

Nod's taking his bus driver license exam tomorrow morning. Wish him luck! He may be piloting a city bus this summer. It's his interim part-time employment idea while working out what course of education he will pursue: Master of Social Work or appliance repair. Quite a contrast, no? I am uncertain how to feel about these choices.