Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oh Girl, It's Been One Of THOSE Weeks!

Hi, it's me, your slack-assed blog-buddy.

So, Soap Opera Update: the big birthday party went off beautifully; the birthday girl had a fabulous time being fussed over and sung to by (possibly) the loudest gang of miscreants assembled. I did NOT go gently into that liquid state I was dreaming of; there was too much to do, and I wanted it all to go smoothly. So no drunk hostess, which is probably for the best - less calories to work off at the gym, right?

Monday night I attempted to upgrade my browser to Windows Explorer 8, which apparently is TOTALLY incompatible with my aging, almost 5 year-old computer (and doesn't that piss you off, that expensive shit like a computer is obsolete in less than 5 years? Can you see my middle finger raised aloft, Mr. Gates? What, is it hard to see for the forest of middle fingers?). After installing the IE8, my computer promptly did it's finest James Brown Breaking Down imitation: ("I can't do no more!") there was no internets to be had, and all her inner workings were Gorilla Glue gunked-up. Neat, huh? I dragged my moronic behunkus off to bed at 1 AM, only to rise at 7:30 to escort the herd to school (well, ok, part of the herd - one calf leaves at 7:00 now - the steer sees him off. Not sure how or why I'm calling my family cows - I could be a little punchy yet.), and get back to the business of trying to fix my mess.

After 3 fruitless hours on the phone with my internet provider, Hewlett Packard, and Microsoft (where the guy hung up on me), and three System Restores which didn't restore much, I knew it was time to wipe the slate clean (oh Christ, another metaphor!), and send the computer back in a time warp to it's beginning. Also known as System Recovery, and it means a lot of re-installing headaches, because after 5 years, where have all those Registration numbers and passwords, etc. gotten to? Luckily (in this case), I'm a bit of a packrat, albeit an organized one, and the whole caboodle was tucked in a bag that I'd stuck in the desk, so not too bad of a headache, but the bundled BS that came back up on the System Recovery made up for that!

Long story short, I spent all day yesterday getting the Portal of Internet Goodness back up and looking reasonably normal. It only took 12 hours of un-installing, re-installing, re-booting, etc. to get there, but at least Santa can do his shopping for Christmas now, and the kids won't miss out on their Saturday morning "Dino Run" game. Life is good.

Tomorrow, Bea and I head for the coast, on our tri-yearly (is that right? No, more like quarterly, only maybe not that often. Are you with me?) trek to Newport to see Doc and get assorted cats their shots, meds, what have you. It's an all day thing, but we save a LOT of money on the vet bills, and the care is superior. So suck on that Academy East Animal Hospital - the people who thought it might be good idea to check a cat for FeLv when he was presented with obvious poisoning symptoms. Because god forbid they would get their "piddies" dirty looking into the scary cat's mouth. You would think with a Vet School right up the road in Raleigh, at NCSU, you could get good care around here, but nope, nopety, nope. All they want to do is run a million expensive tests, and then waffle over the diagnosis, presumably so they can run some more tests. Bastards. I can guarantee, that even if one of my cats has some surprise issue tomorrow, it will still cost me less, for both cats, than if I had take just one of them to a local vet. And it's a road trip with Bea, with a lovely lunch in either Beaufort (a very cute town), or at the Sanitary Restaurant, a horrid name for a place everyone eats at; David Sedaris talks about going there in his book, "Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim" - I'm sure you can imagine the fun he had with a name like that!

So how the hell are you guys? I'm terribly out of the loop, though HALLELUJAH!!!!! the kitchen is finally painted, and the big party is past me, so now all I have to freak out about is getting my Christmas shopping done - piece of cake, comparatively speaking!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Procrastination - It's not just for breakfast anymore

Two weeks until the big party at my house - the one for my mom's 70th birthday. Oh hell yes, it's total mayhem, so what else is new? But at least no one has the swine flu (currently) (knock on wood). also, nothing like having a two week deadline to get that damn kitchen painted! It's actually kind of peaceful painting - it's something I can control, unlike all the douchebags (did I say that outloud?) who have yet to RSVP my invitation. They aren't my friends, but apparently they aren't my mother's friends either - grrr, assholes do vex me! Kind of hard to know how much seafood to order when you still have 20 invitations outstanding. Can I just yell "ASSHOLES" once? Thanks, I feel better now.

Well, okay, maybe not.
I had a hormonal meltdown last week - didn't hurt that the husband was an ass on our anniversary weekend - he has that kind of timing - but I went mental. It was kind of scary, even to me. I was fingering sharp blades and thinking dark, dark thoughts, which is what not sleeping for three weeks will get you, my lads.

I talked to my sister and she thought I might need to get on board with some progesterone and hydroxy-triptifan (it makes serotonin, which makes you sleepy), since it sounded like I was knee-deep in the glamourous world of peri-menopause. Because it's such affirming thing to be a woman, as it is, right? She's probably right, and a little research confirmed it, so now I'm smearing progesterone cream on myself eery night and popping hydroxy-triptifan capsules before bedtime, and guess what? I still can't sleep at night. I think I might be hard-wired to be a vampire. I think I might also be stressing over getting this party off the ground - it's how I roll - I haven't hit the Jimmy Crack Corn portion of the program yet, but I'm sure I will soon.

Oh crap, and it's Halloween this Saturday. I love Halloween, but I just don't have time for it this year. I told Chanda that I wished we could just hide out at her house, watch movies and eat all the candy we're supposed to give out. She was jiggy with that, but I don't think the guys will be!

Ah well, I guess it's back to work now - I can only procrastinate for so long, right?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Lips Are Sealed, Dammit

The problem with blogs is that they're open to the world, so I can't lean over and whisper the latest dirt to you, dear reader, because the dirt-ee might be tuning in.

Dammit.

Because there is so much shite going on all around me right now, and I would love to spill, but I might just get my somewhat diminished and toned, but still bulbous ass into trouble. So I can't. I have to just sit here, staring at the screen, going, "Ah damn! Nope, can't write about that! Might be incriminating evidence in a court of law. Nope, it'll be my luck that she'll pop in here, so I can't dish about "Miss C", either."

I can tell you that planning and executing my mother's 70th birthday blowout will probably mean I won't be seeing my extended family again until the 11th hour of the Christmas holidays, because I'm going to need to take a leave of absence once it's over. (So probably no Solstice party kids, sorry, but it's on a damn Monday anyway - who would even come?) I haven't received a single RSVP for said party yet, which means (maybe) it'll be a small party (I hope), but OMG, if you'ld seen the guest list, either way, it's going to be a clash of cultures. I'm thinking maybe I should hire a band, to cover the uncomfortable silences and lack of mingling. What was I thinking? If I get the flu will I still have to be hostess? (Answers: Who the hell knows, and yep, most likely.)

Oh, and ask me if I've done SHIT to get the kitchen finished.
Funny you should ask: um, nope. Nada, el zippo. And guess what? Jimmy Crack Corn, ya'll!

I'm just swimming in the apathy right now, and dang it, it's like bathwater - I really don't care if I prune up in here.

So if you really want to know the dirt, you'll have to send your email, and I'll send you the unpublished story of who might be doing jail time, and what "Miss C's" latest caper is, because OMFG kids, who needs cable, around here anyway?

***Yet Another OMFG Update***
-one I CAN post-
The Hub man has been sick with a fever that doesn't want to fully respond to Tylenol or Motrin. Other than the fever, there hasn't been a lot of other symptoms, especially respiratory-based symptoms, just really tired and feverish. He went to the doctor today, and guess the hell what? Yes, the most obvious answer here is that he has the H1N1 virus, aka the Swine Flu. Does that mean we have to quarantine the whole house now, or just him? Does this also mean that he can't bogart the TV remote for the duration? Funny, thing, this kind of cheers me up!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Shhhh...

Hey, keep your voice down, I don't want to attract any attention.

Forgive me Father, it's been - how long? 5 months since I blogged. Wow, time just zips the hell on by, when you're out of the house and knee-deep in La Vita Loca. Or more accurately, La Vita Broka. But as nice as huge piles of cash would look, lying around the house, I can't complain.

Life IS good.
The guys are doing well in school, making friends and good grades.
The Gorilla-man (aka, the hub) and I are solid. Getting ready to celebrate 18 years this month. How the hell that happened? Beats me - I'm just working for the weekend, you know?

I'm also almost 30 pounds slimmer and a lot stronger than I was back in May.
When I joined the gym in mid-May, I could barely reach down to tie my shoes, I got winded walking a block, and I felt like I was suffocating everytime I lay down to sleep. Now, I'm busting ass for an hour and a half at the gym 4 times a week - getting the heartrate up and lifting weights, and I feel better than I've ever felt before.

Bea has been right there as well, though she goes at night and I go during the day (except for Saturday and Sunday, when we go together). I think she's lost about the same - I know we both have funhouse mirror perspectives about ourselves, but I can tell she's gotten trimmer, more compact. We are just getting better and better all the time, and by this next spring, we are going to be a pair of buff bitches. "Yeah, that's the ticket!"

I've thought about coming back in and writing - I like writing, and when I do it consistently, I can see how much better I get at it. But the hours of time spent socializing with other bloggers, while interesting, insightful, fun even, it's time away from my real life. When my eldest son told me last spring, "Wow Mom, you sure spend a lot of time on the computer blogging. You must really like it," I had the wake-up call. Because there is nothing more important to me than making sure my kids feel like they have my full attention when they need it, and honestly? Being in the blogger groove was making that mission statement a bald lie.

I miss you guys, no, I really do. I want to find a way to continue blogging, but not compromise the job I do as a mom and a wife, and a friend. I can't guarantee I'll be here every week, or that I'll be on top of reading your posts as soon as they publish, but I will be there, albeit late (So what else is new, right?!)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Blathering and Dithering

So yeah, the first week of kicking ass and taking names, also known as dieting and working out, was pretty good, but since then nada, zip, zilch, zero progress. I think I'm still making up for the shit I ate (and guzzled) at that Memorial Day party, which only serves to piss me off further. But enough of the Fat Girl Diaries - I'm sick of me bitching about it, so let's move on, shall we?

The last two and half weeks of school are going at a snail's pace. I think there may be a cog stuck in the space/time continuum, because SURELY it should be June 10th by now. And could they, the ubiquitous, yet faceless THEY of public educational institutions, possibly refrain from asking for yet more money to fund yet another stupid travesty of time and funding wastage - ie: class parties where everything has to be store-bought and preservative laden, lame-ass 5th grade musical productions nobody even volunteered for, but they have to show up for and perform in after school hours are over, buying some piece of lawn furniture in the name of the 5th grade, like they're seniors in high school. Does this sound like Educational Retardation to anyone else? Excuse me, I have to scream primally for a moment-

I whipped through a re-read of the last two Harry Potter books this past week, and now I'm reading "Albion's Seed", by David Hackett Fischer. This book was published in 1989 by Oxford University Press, but I'd never run across it before. I would have loved to have this guy for a history professor, since most of mine were dripping bores. This has to be the most entertaining book of history I've ever read, but I know you're asking, "Yeah, okay, but what's it about?" Alright, let me backtrack.

We were in Barnes and Noble a couple of weeks ago, on one of those Girl's Night Out occasions. I picked up four books in five minutes and was trying to find some rationalization to not buy any of them, seeing as how the money would have come out of our grocery budget, and kids need to eat, even if grown ups don't. So I sat down, on the floor, because the Crabtree Valley B&N has NO DAMN CHAIRS (what the hell IS that?), winnowed out the TS Eliot "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats" (I did already have a copy, even if it's pages are falling out), and "The Annotated Brothers Grimm" (because I do have about 4 different variations of Grimm's already, although a Grimm's scholar can never have too many copies), "The Joseph Campbell Companion" (which I bought because I thought it might help me avoid sharp objects pointed at my throat - not so much, strangely) and started to read "Albion's Seed - Four British Folkways In America".

In my ongoing family history research it's not unusual to hit walls where the data banks out there have nothing to offer up. I've found that going to the history books and getting insight into what's going on during a specific period can often yield a way around those stumbling blocks. This books covers the colonization of America by four separate cultural groups from the British Isles, and how those distinctly individual groups shaped the regional cultures we have even today. The four groups are:
  • East Anglia to Massachusetts: The Exodus of the English Puritans, 1629-1641
  • The South of England to Virginia: Distressed Cavaliers and Indentured Servants, 1642-1675
  • North Midlands to The Delaware: The Friends' Migration, 1675-1725
  • Borderlands to the Backcountry: The Flight From North Britain, 1717-1775

Fischer says in his foreword that only about 20% of Americans can trace their ancestry back to any of these groups, but that their early influence set the tone for how this country has developed, and while later groups of immigrants do affect the culture in those areas, they are also subject to a certain amount of assimilation from the culture already present.

Someone asked me once, while we were vacationing in Wales, whether the United States actually has a culture of it's own, other than the omnipresent consumerism. I wish I'd had this book then, because while I knew that America does indeed have several regional mini-cultures, not all of which are British-based, it's hard to articulate that, especially to someone whose country would fit into the state of Texas. We are the size of several countries, and our culture reflects both that size as well as the mixing pot of ethnicities we come from.

But back to the book. I had to have this book, because three of the groups discussed in it are in my family tree, and I'm still trying to figure out where and when those ancestors got here, as well as tracking their migration in the early days of westward expansion.

Example: I'm am at odds with some of my fellow researchers of the Toy family, as to the name origin, and the time frame of it's point of entry into America. Based on a very flawed and limited resource genealogy done in the 1950s, most researchers of the Toy family think the name was tagged onto a Swedish patronymic tradition when the English Quakers showed up in the 1680s to colonize what is now New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Looking a little further south towards Virginia and Jamestown, I found evidence of the name Toy there as early as 1642, and that group had ties to families of the same name in Bristol, England and Carmarthen, Wales, but they didn't stay in the Virginia colony for long; there are records of women with that last name marrying into other families, but very few men. Where did they go, and why did they leave that area? "Albion's Seed" actually answers that question - the elitist hierarchy that governed that area made it impossible for anyone of common rank to move up socially. Even if they had a large and successful plantation, they would have been shunned by the families of "Old Virginia", who were descended from the younger sons of English nobles, and maintained a feudal caste system in that area, keeping the poor uneducated and indentured as much as possible, and providing opportunity only for those of a certain social rank.

Reading the part on the Virginia Cavaliers was lurid, and horrifying. It's not hard to see why anyone of common stock would want to get the hell out of Dodge. Obviously, my roots are not in that tradition, because I was nauseated and incensed by the accounts. An indentured female servant was often casually raped by her master, so that she would have to work a longer indenture to "make up" for the time she spent being pregnant, and that was after she was stripped and whipped publicly. Rape was considered on the level of petty theft in this society, and there wasn't much concern for the rights of anyone who wasn't of the elite.

Right now I'm reading about the Quakers, thank god, which is like a drink of fresh water after the misery of the Virginians. It's interesting to note that while a large number of Quakers show up in the Delaware Valley in the year 1682, there were already settlements of Quakers in that area. The Quakers were prosecuted far more violently in both England and America than the Puritans ever were, and droves of them came to the New World to find religious freedom. Unlike the Puritans, who had zero tolerance for anyone not of their faith, the Quakers actually encouraged religious pluralism, and lived peaceably alongside neighbors of different faiths. Their governing laws lay the groundwork for our system of government, and their work ethic, firmly in the middle between the Idle as a Status Symbol Virginians, and the Work Till Ye Drop of the Puritans, is the basis of the middle class work ethic our parents grew up in. Even their Midlands dialect is the foundation of a large part of our common speech in this country.

I haven't gotten to the Puritans (okay, I skipped them, because they really are kind of a drag - blah, blah, God's Will, blah, blah) yet, but the Scotch-Irish are next, and I'm sure they're going to be a rowdy bunch. They're the other big influence on the American Way - those stubbornly independent, frontier-loving, don't-put-much-stock-in-larnin, man-I-hate-crowds-and-the-government folks. Maybe it's just me, but I love the backwoodsmen. Think of Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln; they are all either backwoodsmen or a product of the defiant spark of that culture.

And now that you've all gone to sleep, or drifted off to read something far more lively than me spouting off about history, I reckon it's time to call it a post.

And yes, there will be a pop-quiz later, just to see if you were paying attention.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (and a few recipes)

In a week's time, I've been to the gym 7 times, an hour each time. I only lost about 5 pounds, because we ate Italian at Piccola Italia's (my stomach's spiritual Mecca) on Saturday, and my younger brother threw a cookout on Sunday. At least I didn't gain, right? My older brother made these incredible drinks on Sunday that I didn't even try to resist, they were that freakin' good. He called them "Mighty Good", and I'm inclined to agree!

A Mighty Good Drink
large glass w/ice
2 oz orange vodka (I think he might have added more)
a splash of triple sec
fill about three quarters with Tropicana Strawberry-Orange juice
top off with orange juice
garnish with either a giant strawberry or an orange slice.

At our parties everybody brings something to share, which makes the food more eclectic, and helps keep the cost down. Our host provided the ubiquitous burgers and dogs, my "Mighty Good" brother made a bean salad, another guest, Mrs. M. made her famous potato salad, and my mom made strawberry shortcake for dessert. My contribution was a Whore-d'oeuvre, as we like to call them: Caprese Salad. It's an easy thing to whip together, and it's glamour lies in using the best ingredients.

Caprese Salad
On a large platter arrange thin slices of fresh mozzarella
top with thin slices of ripe tomatoes
distribute evenly a generous helping of coarsely chopped fresh basil
sprinkle a bit of garlic powder, salt and pepper over all of it,
then pour very good olive oil over all, and sprinkle a bit of balsamic vinegar over that.
serve with fresh crusty Italian bread

So you can see why I didn't lose much weight this week, although as Bea put it, "think of what we would have gained if we hadn't worked out all week". so it's back to the gym this week, and a diet of salad and more salad. I'm trying to drop enough poundage in the next three weeks, that I can go on vacation and not worry about dieting.

Oh my effing god - what is happening to me? I'm writing about going to the gym! How is that good reading material? Who am I and where did the aliens put my real self? Aaughh!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

As The Pendulum Swings

Well hello!
I'm up out of the cellar today, the black funk having passed tornado-like, leaving flotsam and destruction, but everything important is intact. The husband person has been very supportive and kind lately; I think I might have scared him. I know I scared myself.

I'm reading "Reflections on the Art of Living - A Joseph Campbell Companion" this week, while I wait for my super groovy history book, "Albion's Seed", to arrive. I figured I could use a little perspective refresher, and Joseph Campbell is my kind of guy, having arrived at his personal philosophy via a life-long study of world mythology, and just following his muse. This particular book has an emphasis on the Grail Quest, as it pertains to finding meaning in your individual life. I love the fact that he never talks like some high-falutin' guru, trying to sell you on his version of snake tonic/ spiritual perfection. That always raises my suspicion, along with my hackles. He says things like, "doing what someone else wants you to do, is slave morality", and "if you can see the path you're on, then it isn't your path, it's someone else's". A man who tells us that getting lost is the first step to finding your way - how could I NOT love him?

And speaking of following the crowd, I up and joined a gym today. I know - ME??? Join a gym? After that spiel of going "el solo lobo"? I woke up this morning, pushing maximum density, and thought about going to join a gym. My first reaction was claustrophobic - "I'll be trapped! I'll be joining the crowd, etc." Then my rational, used-to-be-a-slim-girl voice spoke up: "And sitting on your ass, in the house, all during the hot, humid summer, doing Ho-ho curls, is going to do what??"

So I went and joined, and in true Ms. Q fashion, I immediately wanted to go out to lunch for a cheeseburger, because as the Buddha of Juicy Rationalizations (Ms. Q) would say: "I joined the gym, I'm paying the money, won't the weight just come off now?" And I've always laughed at her, but now, now "I'm looking down, Shrek", and I can't see my feet, and it isn't quite as funny. (okay, it's still a little funny, especially when she says it, but then she is a comic genius, or is it just me who thinks that?)

So now I'm a gym-rat. Imagine that, and then let me know how big my ass looks in that work-out gear, or even more likely, how scared the others will be when I show up in bag-lady gear (ass still pushing the boundaries of our neighboring countries), because I'm too cheap to buy sparkly new, perky work-out clothes, replete with matching scrunchy?

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Emo Ranting (And now I'm going to go sulk in my room)

I'm lying here, in a puddle of my own self pity. I can't seem to drag myself out of this funk, shower off the self-indulgent wallowing residue and DO something about all this apathy. My apathy, my husband's apathy, my children's apathy - I can't take it all on, and I don't want to. But neither do they, and the effort of making them just take care of their own pile of stuff to do wears me out, leaves me angry and desolate at the same time.

Don't tell me what to do, even if you mean well. I have enough people telling me what to do right now, and that isn't really helping. I'm introspective enough to figure out what's going on, eventually anyway, and phoenix-like, I'll rise again. But will they? It's hard to fly when someone's hanging onto your wings, crying, "But what'll we have for dinner? Where are my underwear?"

See, need isn't the same thing as love. Need is grasping, clawing, selfish. Love is nurturing, unselfish, giving. We might need to be needed, but it doesn't take the place of love. Love replenishes us, need sucks us dry. Need often tries to pass itself off as love, but it's perpetual hunger always kills what would have thrived with love.

(Wow, was that vague and rambling enough? Dead giveaway that I'm teetering on Batsa right now, isn't it? I wish I could be more concise, more philosophical, more like the duck's back of Buddha, letting all the shit roll off and going "Ohm", but it ain't happening, not right now.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Work? On a day like today?

It's way too nice to spend my day indoors, painting, (Ah Juicy Rationalization, how my procrastinating heart doth love thee!) so gardening was the order of the day. I'm really just tickled that we even have anything other than chickweed in the beds this year, so a lovely Tropicana rose is pretty exciting.
We planted this bed on Jasper's final resting place. We thought the "Jappernese" maple was a nice touch, not only for it's name, but because it's short, scrappy, and red, just like Jasper was. She would have loved posing in among these flowers, no doubt. Alas, poor Chubby.
The stray who showed up last spring and decided to stay is doing well. I named him Simon, but his whole name, at this point, is Simon Snowshoe Ohyeah Fatboy. Also known as Mr. Fuzzy, he is a welcome addition to our declining numbers (ahahahaha! Sorry, I couldn't help it).
Jezebel and Mrs. Puff share a little girl talk on the back fence, because who doesn't love the smell of compost in the morning?
I think this beauty is a Mr. Lincoln. Contrary to the old 70s song, my honey DID promise me a rose garden. It's just a lot harder to deliver when full sun is at a premium in your yard.
I'm working on something right now - I don't know how well you'll like it. My head is already 600 miles away from my body, what with our annual pilgrimage to Pennsylvania coming up, and I thought it might be fun to take advantage of that fixation, combine it with my obsession for historical data and use it to write something fantastical.
Yeeeaahhh, I know - I'm having a hard time picturing that description on the back of a paperback too. But who knows - "could be lunch meat, could be peaches" - Look Who's Talking

Monday, May 11, 2009

Because This Is How Lazy I Am These Days

Hi, this is me, the laziest blogger ever. How lazy can it get, you might ask? I'm posting a letter, fer crying out loud! Granted, I'm going to be a lot perkier when writing the Cuz, because, well, she brings it out in me, kind of like how I desperately need a beer after visiting my deeply religious, teetotalling relatives, or the way I tend to utter random swear words, when passing a particularly large and pompous church. What? Everybody doesn't do that! Seriously?

Anyway, my thanks to the Velveeta Wingnut for her inspiring presence! Oh, and I cut out the parts where I was talking about animals, nudity, sex, and food, in a sort of food processor kind of amalgamation. Because I care.

Hey Woman,
I don't know what the hell my problem is these days - the kitchen is coming along, though I think we're going to hold off on the counter tops until next year, when we can afford to do solid granite, vs trying to lay granite tile. More money, but less bullshit, ya know? But the painting is coming along - about halfway done - the humid weather makes it hard to paint walls, so this week will be another big push to finishing that part. House updates - yikes - I know you
know what I'm saying!

But yeah, I've been in this funk for awhile now. Partly the whole losing several cats this past winter, partly I'm just feeling like a damn ancient whale - fat and old!!! WTF? How does this kind of shit happen? I'm thinking of joining a gym, that's how desperate I am - and I've NEVER joined a gym before. Film at 11.

We're going to be up in PA June 14th-21st, Sunday to Sunday. I want to go up to Buffalo on the 19th of that week, to see my aunt, and take the kids to the Allbright-Knox Art Museum (and hit the grocery store/ butcher shop while I'm there. Oh bright and shining TOPS MARKET, what siren call your aisles sing to me! Oh FEDERAL MEAT MARKET, how I long to stand in silent wonder, gazing at your dazzling array of beautiful meat, to smell your homemade kielbasa and hot dogs!)

BUT I digress -

So when do you want to get together that week? Do you want to go to Kittanning or should we try Butler this time? I've never been to the Butler Historical Society - don't even know if there is one, actually! What are you looking for?

Oh, I knew I had something for you. I found a reference to a Jeremiah Bonner, who was a blacksmith in the Armstrong County area, in the James Whisker book on PA gunsmiths. Isn't he one of your ancestors, or is he just a relative? Either way, I thought it was interesting, and thought it might be pertinent.I'll bring the book with me. I admit, I have a thing for blacksmiths!
By the by, nope, never received the Bowser book. I do remember you ordering it. If your desk is like my desk, it might just have gone to the black hole. I was thinking of dropping into Mechling Books, since they're near Butler. I want to ask them about prices for publishing a couple of different things, about family bible restoration, and maybe pick up a few books from them, if they sell them out of their store, as well as ship them. So if you can't find it, I can
always get a copy from them - I don't think it was a pricey book.

I don't have a ton of research to do this trip, although I could go to Kittanning again. The Snyders I'm tracking seem to have been in Armstrong county by 1800; a Valentine Snyder (nickname, "Felty") in Buffalo Twp (1800 census), and then him and two younger guys in Toby Twp, in 1810, one of which is Peter Snider, which was my grandmother's great great grandfather. So I've tracked back to her 3x great grandfather so far, and then the trail goes to Prussia, which apparently is one of the provinces of the Palatine region. Did you know that? I
sure as hell didn't!

I received an email from a guy in Franklin, PA who actually read the TOY family compilation - go figure! His SIL's grandmother was a first cousin to my grandfather, and she had some info I didn't have. Groovy, even groovier that anybody read and found something in that massive tome! But the goocher is, this guy's last name is SNYDER, which, while it's a lot like SMITH, in terms of commonality, still, he's in the right place to possibly be related. He did sign off with a
"God Bless You", which always puts my pagan neck hairs up, but he might have some useful links, who knows?

Anyway!!!

Just let me know when and where you want to meet up, m'kay? We just have the parental units going with us this year, so I might even be able to leave the kids with them, unless you WANT me to bring the whole circus, 'cuz your mom's going and she wants to see everybody, or something like that! I'm squeezy either way.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know - I'm supposed to be out in the kitchen, painting right now, dammit! All right, fine - I'm going!


Sheesh!

(So do you feel kind of voyeuristic now, dear reader, from getting a peek into my personal correspondence? I feel positively nekkid now - which isn't really as titillating as it sounds, sadly! But I'm working on it!)

Monday, April 27, 2009

We Interrupt This Blog To Bring You A Life

Yep, that's right - I am ass-deep in the here and now people, with very little time for the ether. I've written posts, while I'm standing half asleep under the watering can that passes for my shower these days (old pipes flaking are kill-ing me - there are days I could gleefully take a sledgehammer to my plumbing, but then I'd have no shower spray to doze under, and so it goes) but the distance from the shower to the computer is obstructed by some sort of time warp; you can't get there from here, so those poor posts withered on the mental vine, like water-starved cantaloupes.

I quit volunteering at school. I can't say why I quit, because litigation is a rampant, rabid animal in our downwardly spiralling society. Suffice to say it was a hard decision and even now I'm bitter and depressed about what had to be. But I'm moving on, because what the hell else is there to do?

We took the boys up to Washington DC during Easter break and made the fatal error of arriving smack dab in the middle of the Cherry Blossom Festival and a marathon going on at the Mall. I swear to you, I've never seen so many GD strollers and mini-monsters in my life. It seemed like each set of Uber parents/freaking idiots had three toddlers in tow. Because three year olds get so much out of being dragged through a museum, or two or three, and you know that Mom and Dad saw absolutely nothing but that same three year old, running six paces ahead through heavy crowds. People: that is why there are Children's museums in the world - so you can teach little kids how to go to the big museums. The Smithsonian has 14 museums - to see even 3 or 4 in a day requires longer legs, and more maturity than the average toddler possesses. and guess just how much of that trip to the museum those toddlers are actually going to remember? That's right - zippity do dah, nada, zilch. So what was the point?

I started the long awaited overhaul of my 1950s/redone in the 80s kitchen last week. Money is tight (is that really news to anyone?) so we're doing most of the labor to keep the cost low. I started with the paint, because it's the easiest and gives me the impression we're moving right along. The ripping up of the floor and the countertops will have to wait until summer, when the fascist regime's annoying schedules have abated for a few months (You did know I was talking about public school and their anti-family bullshit, right?) and we can live without a kitchen for a few days. It's going to be beautiful, even though right now I still have mauve (I shit you not!) counters and pink floor tiles, and I hate pink - oh my god I hate pink! When it's finished, the counters will be black granite with a stainless steel backsplash; the floor will be industrial grade black linoleum (because its easier on the feet, CHEAP, and belongs in a 1950s house) polished to a high shine, and the walls will be a lovely sap green (Home Despot called it "Scottish Isle") and the cabinets will be "Asparagus" green. The funny thing about those colors - they're really close matches to what was originally in there, before the rat bastards who lived here before us came along, made the kitchen mauve, and nailed giant nails into every damn wall in the house. I'm pretty sure I'll be cursing their name anew when we pull up the tile in the kitchen - they didn't think to tile under the appliances, because they were lazy DIY rat bastards with no taste or work ethic to speak of. And this is me, holding back the vitriol, because Oh Mein Gott in Himmel - you would hate them too, if you could have seen this house when they moved out.

Oh yeah, and I'm working on archiving an old family scrapbook of history, that I can't just do the way I want to, because there are too many family fingers in the pie. Because hell isn't complete without a little familial meddling and the omnipresent phone calls from my mother, whose special talent is calling right at the time of evening when Honey and I are thinking, "Hey! Let's get naked and get in love, baby!"

Riiinngg!

So this is me right now - a little frothy with the hate, but trying to focus on the positive. Oh, and definitely going out to buy a new phone, so we can SCREEN, dammit! "But other than that, I'm perfect!" - "Weird Science"

How you doin'?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Perspective

I woke up today grumpy. The drip, drip, drizzle of rain and the gloomy dark of 7 am (now that we're on DST) made me want to call in, keep the kids home, go back to bed for an extra burrow.

But I got up, because it's Friday, and tomorrow will be time enough for sleeping in.

I drove the kids to school, listening to an old Jackson Browne album; never a good call if you're trying to cloudbust the mental thunderstorm, because that man is dark. But it fit my mood.

I came home, thought about writing, then thought better of it.

I surfed. I read.

Why was Maggie Dammit posting again so soon?
This was why:

Paul NZ said...
Dear friends of Braja, my name is Paul (Prananatha das) and I'm a close friend of Braja's from NZ. I'm currently staying in Mayapur. It is with great sadness that I must inform you all that Braja & her husband Jahnu had a serious car accident on the way to the airport. This is NOT a joke. Their taxi collided head on with a truck at high speed at aprox 6am yesterday morning. She and Jahnu are in the ICU at Kolkata Apollo hospital. Braja has suffered a broken arm, facial injuries and possible hip injuries. She had plastic surgery on her face yesterday. She is conscious. Jahnu has suffered broken ribs, punctured lungs, punctured liver, broken legs and arms and has a fractured skull. He has not regained consciousness since the accident. He has a 60% chance of survival. We all devotees here in Mayapur are very shocked and saddened by this event. We are praying for their swift and complete recovery and ask with folded palms that you all will add them to your prayers. I am here in Mayapur till Sunday 15th March and will follow this blog as much as possible and send through information as it comes to hand. Yours in service to Lord Krsna and His devotees, Prananatha das, Sri Dham Mayapur.


Suddenly my gray skies and grumpy mood mean exactly zero in the bigger scheme of things. Please send her a good thought today, or go by and wish her well in person. And then hug all your loved ones today, because that sweetness we crave in this life? It's right there in front of you.

Braja at Lost and Found in India:
http://lostandfoundinindia.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Alas Poor Chubby

October 1990 - March 8, 2009
Jasper Louise, aka Chubby Ann, died this past Sunday evening, after a rapid decline in health this past week. She was never the prettiest or the most lovable cat, but she was loved nonetheless, for her quirky sense of humor and her assertive personality. She was buried in the front yard, in a private twilight service, and laid to rest with a peanut donut between her paws, and a Japanese maple overhead.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
It's just been one of those weeks, you guys. I'm sure you know the kind: dying animals underfoot, requiring round the clock attention; children on a bad brat kick, because you're not paying attention to them (grrr); I've caught Bea's cold, or something like that, and to top off the fun here at the Edge, my left eye is all red and swollen up. Pink eye? Pollen? Excessive crying messing up the tear ducts? Who the hell knows.
Plans for Bea's Not My Birthday Party/Vernal Equinox Celebration are moving ahead. If you're going to be in the RDU area on March 21st, and want to come, let me know. The more the merrier! After Ms. Q's visit this past weekend, with a rainbow of Izze fruit sodas in hand, we've decided that Izzes might be the perfect mixer with vodka for the big day.
Apologies all around from me: I've been a bad blog friend this past week, what with all the hoopla going on. Forgive me, I will be trying to catch up this week.
Bea, the girl who used to blog, is armpit deep in beaus right now. I know - she's all bemused by this turn of events as well! I keep telling her that she should spill the dirt with all of us, via writing a post (hint, hint, Bea!), but she's keeping her cards close to her much sought after chest these days. Tell her you want to know all the dirt, won't you?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Letter to an Old Friend

(Because this is where my mind is at these days)

Dear _____,

It's funny, I was just getting ready to drop you a note, and here's one from you! I've been pondering the haiku, and wanting to write one, but my head is just not there right now. Jasper, my oldest cat at 18, is, I believe, in the last throes of dying right now. I'm mostly okay with it - she's ten days older than God, for crying out loud - but it's still the end of an era and kind of depressing, to watch her "go gently into that good night" before my eyes, leaking her life on towels laid in strategic spots. Not my best poetry writing kind of mood (although it's apparently good for prose!), unless I'm going for the teen angst type, ya know? So I'm going to owe you a haiku, as soon as the funk clears.

I was thinking of the question you put to me, the other night - what do I do? I never feel like I answer that question very well, not because my life isn't full or busy or satisfying, but because it's hard to explain that money isn't part of my equation for happiness, especially since we as a culture have come to think that one equals the other. I don't deny that I blew my academic chance, that I shoulda coulda woulda done more with what potential I was given. I never had the tools necessary to do well in school - hell, I never did homework, never wrote a paper any sooner than the morning it was due, and what a chip my parents gave me about the educational system! Nonetheless, as an adult, and as a parent, I can see where I went wrong, and decide to not make that same mistake with my own kids. I always knew I would have children, even though I was ambivilent about having them. I think I was 34 when The Professor was born - not exactly a career mom, starting that late (and there are more than a few sagas to fill in that time). But I had always felt that if I was going to have kids I wanted to really be a full time mother. Art did take a back seat to mothering, but I've often thought that maybe I'm just not crazy, or self absorbed, or driven enough to really be a serious artist. I mean, doesn't it seem like a lot of the career ones are kind of wacked and unbalanced? My childhood was such a roller coaster ride that unbalanced doesn't really appeal to me.

So back to the question: what do I do? I am:
> a full time mother, who really loves being that to it's fullest sense.
> an educational volunteer with 2nd-5th grade children 6+ hours every week.
> a history researcher, family historian and history buff
> a writer, of both family history, and a blog, where I try to hone my literary skills in a forum with more accountability than journalling.
> an artist on hiatus, though that is changing as the kids get bigger and I have more time.

These are all things that make me happy doing them, but I understand, that to the corporate world, I am considered to be a failure; that working without monetary compensation equals failure. It bothers me sometimes, that I don't measure up, but I realize also that I've never wanted to measure myself by the same yardstick as the rest of the world, which does make it easier to thumb my nose at the negative nay-sayers.

I had a vision as a child. It was a dream, but it's portent has never left me. I wondered for years why a dream at the age of 4 would haunt me into my adult life, and then I read "Black Elk Speaks". Black Elk had a vision dream when he was a small child that defined, for him, his purpose for living, and upon reading his story I knew what my dream had meant. The things I do, the things that define who I am are all expressions, or fufillments of that dream. I might not measure up to the warped standards of a consumer-driven society, but I am whole.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Just a Happy Little Post

Whew! That was a heavy last post. Thank you all for your lovely and insightful comments. I half expected something a little harsher - and that's what traumatic conditioning does to you - so it was quite uplifting to have you all at my back. Have I told you recently, just how wonderful I think all of my readers are? Your feedback sustains, delights, and amazes me on a regular basis. I love ya'll!

And with that segue way, so very reminiscent of what my husband sounds like after a few drinks, here we are at the drinking portion of the program:

I think it was well past this point last year when Bea and I started our Saturday afternoon cocktails series, and no doubt, you've wondered if we've climbed aboard the wagon, what with the dearth of liquor pictures. Fear not gentle readers, (does anyone else here love Miss Manners as much as I do?) the Captain has turned off the no drinking, no smoking (what do you do? Adam Ant - Gack) sign and you may now move about the cabin, drink in hand.

We've been on a red wine kick lately, because Honey hears it's good for the ole ticker. Bea has always been a red fan, so I've been letting her lead us in selecting varietals (Oooh! Tea and scones! Very grand wording for such a cheap bouteille!). Usually a glass of wine is enough to give me a splitting headache, but the Pinot Noirs have been a delightful exception, so glug, glug, glug, ya'll!I think my drinking companions might not be enjoying the photo-op; note the knife being held like it's a middle finger. This is a direct result of Honey hanging out with the men in my family, for whom no picture is complete without an obscene finger gesture, or at the least, an unzipped fly. In a rare fit of practicality, Bea has actually dug a coat out of the closet and put it on. This is big people - do you have any idea how hard it was to get her to wear shoes, much less put a coat on? The girl's a damn hippie! And on an unrelated note, I was out walking the other day and spotted this little feral cat. I love the eyeliner on him/her (I think it's a her - the head is pretty small for a feral male), and with that coat, this could almost be one of those African wildcats that the domestic breed is supposed to be descended from. She's watching the boys intently, which is how I was able to take this shot at all. I guess a herd of boy elephants can be a good thing, but you didn't really hear that from me, okay? Ahh, an idyllic moment! This is one of those moments you really want to take a picture of, just so you can wave it in their faces later, when they're fighting like savage dogs, and say, "See? You do too like each other!" Kids...woof. Is it five o'clock yet?

I've been woefully slack in my reading this week (of blogs; I did finish an Ursula LeGuin novella and series of short stories, and started reading Dr. Dolittle to the boys - all three boys. That husband of mine...!) but I am determined to get caught back up with all of you.
But first, I have to go to art class with the fourth graders and finish my face mug! It's a little embarassing how excited I am to do that, especially since I've been peddling books to kids for three days at the school book fair - you'ld think I'd be sick of all those kids, but nope!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sowing Different Seeds

Maggie's new site dedicated to domestic violence has me looking down rabbit holes that go deep down into the past.

I don't really consider myself to be a victim of abuse, though I guess, technically, I am. I grew up in the days when it was considered perfectly okay to spank a child, or yell at them, presumably carte blanche. We were spanked, slapped across the face, told we were liars, even when we told the truth, told we were stupid, and none of that seemed excessive, compared to other kids we knew, and their family life. The thing that seemed really out of hand, really frightening, was the fighting between my parents.

My father was a walking powder keg of rage in those days, and my mother never bothered to read the signs before she jumped all over him, only to lie down in the face of his rage and allow one of us to bear the brunt. It was a toxic combination, and we learned early to disappear when they began their dance. Their fighting caused us to draw closer together, to depend on each other, and I think that was our salvation, but all that rage still took its toll on each of us individually. They crippled us with their words of worthlessness, they convinced us we could only fail at whatever we tried, so why try at all? Even worse, they pitted us against each other with their petty favoritism, undermining what little strength and comfort we had with the lure of being that exception, the favorite.

As a child of eight or nine, I would quietly escape into the silent dark of night, and looking up to the stars, I would pray earnestly for my real people to come back and find me, to rescue me from this place that surely, I didn't belong in.

It was a different flavor of teen angst to realize that this was where I came from, where I belonged, what I was destined for. Might as well indulge in teen-aged drinking, and hey, it's the 70s, let's experiment with a few drugs. Who cares if you fail school? They sure didn't, so why should I?

For a really long time I screwed up everything I ever tried to do in my life, because that's what little self-fulfilling prophecies do. I can't say that I've turned my life around 100%, because I don't think I'll ever feel like that's the case, but I did make a conscious choice to not emulate my parents' disastrous dynamic in my own marriage. And when I became a parent, the shoe, so to speak, was on my foot, and I was damned if my children were going to grow up feeling only conditionally loved, or lacking in potential, or frightened of their parents. I know I'm not a perfect parent - is there really such a thing? I lose control of my temper, I yell at my kids, I make bad calls; but I also apologize when I'm in the wrong, and allow them to voice how they feel without censure. We have a rule in this house: no name calling, and it applies to everyone. Respect is a two-way street - I can't expect it from my children if I don't practice myself.

I can't change or rectify every mistake I've ever made in my life - there is no going back. I may never recover belief in myself, I may always be damaged internally, but I can refuse to inflict that same fate upon someone else. I can stop the cycle. I can't change my parents, but I can try to understand them, and recognize that they were once undamaged too. I can focus on their good qualities and ask them to recognize their negative ones when they surface. Sometimes they cling to their denial, but other times they surprise me with their open regret and desire to rectify. It's rare, I'll grant you, but it does happen, and there is great healing to be had from those moments.

There is a shift of power that comes, when your parents reach their geriatric years. In many ways we become the parent to their aging child. There is a temptation to pay back those childhood debts, in some sort of twisted tit for tat, but whatever karmic debt they have accrued, it is my hope that I will be a better, kinder parent than they were.

Appended to add: I thought about this post a lot; whether to write anything at all, how much to say, how others might react to this. I tossed and turned all night, fretting it. I'm not happy with how I've skimmed this topic, but I don't feel that I can be more in-depth; partly because it isn't just my traumatic childhood, partly because I have dealt with a lot of my anger, and I'm not estranged from my parents or family. Not yet. I sent this post to Bea, with the title, "Is This going To Ruin Christmas?" She agreed that there is a choppiness to this post, a series of omissions to the tale, a glossing over of the darker details, but she also agreed that there is good reason for that. It isn't just my tale, but more saliently, I don't consider myself to be a victim, primarily because what I have written here has been said aloud, to my parents, my siblings. We are not a family of well-kept secrets, rather, the dynamic might better be compared to running the gauntlet. My aim in writing this is not to dredge up a lot of past flotsam, but to point out that, just like Cary did, in the DV post, that abuse occurs everywhere, we all carry scars. It's what we do with those scars that makes the difference.

And I'm still wondering if I've explained myself fully.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Head in a Book, or Two or Three

Bea has been reading the Twilight series, by Stephanie Meyers, which means, cheap bastard that I am, I'm reading them too. I tore through the first three, bitching the whole way, and now I'm waiting for Bea to finish the fourth. She's enjoyed them far more than I have, but I'm a book whore, so I'll read anything. It's taken until the fourth book for her to get tired of the series, whereas I was saying, "Oh, come on!" after the first, although it didn't make me put them down; you know, the whole book whore thing again.

Maybe I'm just too old to relate to a teen novel, although I never felt that way about the Harry Potter series, and I just reread several of the Little House books for discussion with my 5th grade reading group, and my only beef with Laura Ingalls Wilder is that she never really explores the language, she simply narrates. But it's a fascinating slice of life to have lived through, and it's meant for young readers, so I let her off the hook.

Maybe it's because I just re-read Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is one of the most lyrical novels I've ever read. He weaves the lives of his characters, with their diverse weaknesses, needs, and fears, through a spellbindingly creepy storyline. He neatly and concisely brings the separate parts together, wraps them up and places a bow of profound philosophy on top. I didn't have the same reaction to his short stories, especially the space-themed ones, which reflect the pessimism of the Cold War period they're written in, but reading SWTWC is sublimely different. I find myself re-reading passages aloud, because they're so beautiful and poetic, I want to caress my ears with them again and again, like sliding a fine silk scarf over your head, just for the feel of it.

But back to Twilight and why I wasn't impressed. This is a four book series that really should have been only two or three. (I haven't read book four, so I can't say anything about it - yet!) I get the distinct impression the publisher played a part in deciding how long this series should be; you know, so they could sell more books, make more movie deals, maybe a line of clothing and backpacks. It's not a new concept: I told Bea how this series reminded me of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan, which was written as a serial for a magazine. He got paid by the word, so he wrote "noble savage" and reiterated Tarzan's innate superiority over the natives ad nauseum, because it made the novel spin out longer, and he made more money.

The main characters, Bella and Edward, go back and forth over whether they should even have a relationship for two freaking books. It was akin to reading three seasons of Grey's Anatomy scripts; you know, the push-me-pull-you that defines Meredith and McDreamy's relationship, the reason I gave up watching that show. They can't ever make up their minds and stick with it! I had problems with Bella from the beginning, though. She tells us right off that she's a super responsible person who's always had to be the parent for her dipshit of a mom, but we never see any evidence of that responsible part of her character, other than handling dinner for her dad, so why did the author even put that in there? She also makes Bella out to be this major klutz, which I guess is supposed to make the trumped-up stories she tells her dad throughout the books more plausible, but I can't help but wonder why any vampire would find her remotely attractive, if she's that ungainly, and what does it serve, in terms of pushing the story forward, to make her a loose cannon physically in gym class?

Introducing of a trio of "bad" vampires right near the end of the first novel to act as the catalyst seemed clumsy, and tacked on, and it didn't improve my feelings about it to have that trio serve as the catalyst for the next two books. I call it "Vampyre ex Machina", and it's as flimsy a device now as it was in Greek tragedies. It's one of my arguments for why the first two novels should have been condensed into one much tighter volume. For a bunch of folks who've been around for over a hundred years (some much longer) they sure can't put one and one together. It took until the end of the third novel for the vampires to realize the same damn "bad" vampire was behind all the mayhem in that novel - you think maybe becoming a vampire does something to their gray matter? That they're mentally challenged vampires? No, it's just sloppy writing.

I can also see the point many feminists are making about this novel, how Bella is a terrible role model for young girls. She really is. Okay, so she and her boyfriend are chaste, but their relationship is anything but equal, and she's the one who allows that. Phrases like, "he pulled her into his lap; he held her face in his hand forcing her to look at him" were written so many times in this series, that I swear to god, you could find something to that effect on almost every page. Bella is a walking advertisement for abuse, and there is nothing in her sketchily drawn past that would account for her masochistic tendencies. I feel nothing but exasperation and irritation for this character - she is selfish, self-pitying, thoughtless, irresponsible, and for the life of me, I can't understand what anyone would see in her. Sure, those are all traits common to the average teen, but the author made it a point to say she was otherwise, the motivation of which is still unclear to me. I would strongly caution anyone with a daughter reading this to have a serious discussion about relationships, and use Bella as the prime example of what NOT to do.

So now that I've gotten all my negativity over this series out, let me point out some of the positive aspects of these books.

I think Twilight's premise is intriguing; the idea that there would be vampires who didn't want to be monsters on a perpetual serial killing rampage throughout the centuries is a fresh and original concept. Anne Rice deals with it briefly in her books, in the character of Louis, but she presents him as an aberration, and something of an outcast. I like the way Meyers gives us insight into how this clan of vampires became "civilized" via Edward's story of how Carlisle becomes a vampire. I like the way she introduces the vampires to us, within an old Indian legend. In fact, the Quileute Indians and their culture form the strongest, and most plausible parts of these novels. Even when the Quileutes reveal their supernatural response to the vampires' proximity by turning into werewolves it isn't hard to suspend my disbelief. The character Jacob Black is, from the very beginning, the best developed and most identifiable character of the entire series.

The introduction of the vampire clan Volturi in Twilight is expanded upon in the second book, New Moon, although I would have liked to see them enter the story a little sooner than right near the end, employing Meyer's favorite "Vampyre ex Machina" formula yet again, resulting in another seemingly hasty and ill-conceived ending. The transformation of Jacob into a werewolf is probably the best part of book two, as he continues to be the best drawn, and most likeable character in the series.

The third book in this series, Eclipse, is the very best of them all, and it's because the characters we've been reading about for two previous novels, finally gain some history, giving their actions clarity and motivation. The Quileute legends also deepen and expand, as does our understanding of the werewolf pack. Even Edward, a painfully old fashioned boy with quite the stick up his butt, loosens up and acts like less of a tyrant, and more like a man deeply in love. Eclipse benefits from much a much tighter storyline - it's action packed, and the story moves along much more smoothly and enjoyably, making me think the author either finally hit her stride with this one, or this was the one novel the publisher stopped trying to fragment for monetary purposes.

The film Twilight did a better job of streamlining the story, and defining the characters than the books did. The director chose to show early in the film vampires attacking normal people, allowing us to speculate who those vampires are, and opening the door for the insertion of the "bad" vampires who show up near the end. The film also downplayed Bella's responsible allegations, allowing her to simply be an average teen, and only briefly touched on her clumsiness. Edward was far more likeable in the film; we're given glimpses into his motivations, so he doesn't come off nearly as cold or pompous as he does in print. The cinematography was beautiful, and the eerie other-worldliness beauty of the vampires was perfectly rendered. The soundtrack will no doubt be de riguer for all teen girls, and it wasn't half bad-sounding to an old broad either. If you're on the fence about reading this series, go see the film - it takes less time and delivers a neater punch, in my estimation.

But then, like I said, I might just be too old to really appreciate this series.

I think Gypsy did a review on this a few months back, and not having read the series, I wasn't able to give an opinion. Having just gone back to re-read what she said, I see we're on exactly the same page, which doesn't surprise me - Gypsy is like Buddha, only a lot sexier!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Waiting For The Shoe To Drop

So,
"I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains,
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountains"
-Closer to Fine, Indigo Girls

And so far, I don't have strep or mono. So that's good news, but I'm still waiting to hear about dying from a terminal disease, via all the blood tests they're (the doctor's office)going to run. The Professor (my 1st born) has been sick with a sore throat and fever this week, which apparently is sweeping the public schools in this area. I'm wondering if my recent brush with death wasn't this virus; so does that mean I'm the girl who cried "Wolf!", or rather, "I'm dying, can you make dinner?"

Maybe, unintentionally. I could still be dying, you know.

So to while away the hours, waiting by the phone, I decided to edit some pictures I took while up in Virginia last month. Bea, Ms. Q, my sister-in-love, and myself all headed up to the Tidewater area to stay at the flawless B&B known as Bea's parents' house. It's a gorgeous place, right on the river, and just watching the sunset with a glass of Pinot Noir in hand was exactly what the doctor ordered.

I ran some of my favorites through the colored pencil filter in Photoshop and put them up here side by side, so you can see the transformation. I love that filter!
Well, at least I tried to place them side by side - Blogger doesn't always do what it's told, as you can see!

If you want to see some more awesome pictures of this part of the world, check out The Bantering Bibliocrat's month of photos going on right now. I've always loved and expected a certain dry wit from Gene, but his pictures, his way of looking at things is just wonderful. Check him out, and tell him Becky sent you!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

You Think, You Worry

"You worry, you think - it's a vicious cycle." -Victor/Victoria

As my appointment with a real doctor gets closer (as opposed to the Doc-In-The-Box variety, which could well have been imaginary - I was hanging with both the Care and the Swear Bears that day, remember?) I find my stomach unexpectedly performing gymnastics routine, in spite of the fact that the Olympics were last winter. Dude!

I'm always afraid of going to the doctor's office. I'm paranoid that somehow they can look at me and see every bad thing I've ever done; at least the ones printed on my face, the rest are tattooed elsewhere, like on my ass, or in my lungs, and they know.

(I'm sorry, did I not mention I was completely insane today? My bad - yeah, uh, heads up, the girl is kind of batshit today, m'kay?)

I tell myself it's all going to be fine, even if it isn't fine. Bea tells me the same thing, when I'm on the phone with her, telling her how my stomach did a perfect split in it's routine the other day.

Bea: It's going to be fine, stop worrying.
Me: I know it's going to be fine, you don't have to reassure me that it's going to be fine. You don't have to say anything, you know.
Bea: Jesus! So, what am I supposed to say? Nothing? Just let the silence hang and fester?
Me: Yeah, something like that. Or tell me a joke - something!

She's so patient with my batsa crap, but then it is a two-way street, isn't it Bea?
Isn't it?
Bea?
(Damn, I forgot she was on hiatus from the blogosphere. I'm just in here, talking to myself. Neat. Does this post make my ass look nuts? And please, don't be honest!)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Delicious Fishes

There are moments when I catch a wisp of wistfulness for a life less ordinary.

Don't get me wrong - I love my life. It's a full and happy life, when I consider and add up the sum of the parts, and divide that by the possibilities. Sure, we could have more money and things, but would they really make us any happier than we are right now? I don't believe it. I have the now-rare luxury of not only being at home with my children, but also having the time to pursue writing, painting, an obsession for historical research, as well as the surprising joy of working as a volunteer tutor. I am rich indeed, in things more vital than spending money and shiny cars.

But sometimes, when the bustle of the boys is off at school and work, and I'm here in the rippling pool of silence, glimmers of dreams from the bottom of my mind resurface. Old half-forgotten fantasies swim up and catch themselves upon a fishing line I didn't even realize I'd cast out. Reeling in these catches I see them for the sodden boot, or old tire they are, and throw them back with a rueful laugh at what swims in the depths of my mind. But looking deep into the pool I see, swimming at the bottom, an elusive silvery school of fish who glint and shimmer with delicious potential, and I'm suddenly, ravenously, hungry.

And yet, I have said I am happy, content, so why search and crave for something more that perhaps would ruin my desire for what already is? The answer lies deep within me, perhaps even within all of us: an innate dis-satisfaction with wholesome fare, a desire for piquancy to flavor our perceptions, even at the risk of upsetting our philosophical stomachs, and retching forth that which sustains us.

We are all so much more than we appear on the surface, the shoulda coulda wouldas layered like so many coats of lacquer; each a separate chapter, regret, or dream of our lives, our selves. They combine to create an outer shell that gives no hint to the diverse layers it's actually made up of. Here, on this page, I am the same as I would seem to you in person. I have no patience for subterfuge, to be other than I am. But I confess: I have a secret longing for the sweet meat of those dream fish, spread upon the cracker-like layers of my inner selves.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Me And My Big Mouth

You know how I said, back in December, that I wasn't sick or in crisis? Yeah, not so much, apparently. All during this past fall, leading up to Christmas, I've been feeling really tired, or "punk", as the old man likes to say. I thought it was just stuff going on; my aunt's illness, the insanity that was the first weekend of the Christmas holidays, the comings and goings, that were just wearing me out, making me feel down. After all, depression is my old friend, someone who comes to visit a couple of times a year and gives me the excuse to binge-eat. But being depressed doesn't account for the blowfish that's passing as my neck these days, or the low-grade fever that puts roses in my cheeks like I'm a Victorian damsel wasting from consumption.

So I went to the doctor. Okay, so I actually went to the Doc-In-The-Box, because I haven't had a proper doctor in a few years, yearly healthcare switch-a-roos making it hard to keep the same one, and I admit it: I hate going to the doctor.

I sat around for two hours in the dry desert heat that passes as room temperature in that place, reading Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (an apt title for the situation, no?). The nurse came in and stuck me with the needle three times, trying to get blood. When she couldn't get more than a splash, she decided I was dehydrated, and they sent me home. Yeah, that was worth it. With my two now-bruised arms, a fever, a goiter on my neck, and the Care Bears starting their delirium dance in front of my eyes, I shakily drove home.

It's at this point I decided a real doctor might be a good call, because Jesus Christ! Who the hell has to stick you that many times and still can't get blood? And who wouldn't be dehydrated in a place that felt like high summer in the Sahara?

Unfortunately, a real doctor's office won't just let you come on in - you have to get an appointment, so now I'm biding my time until next week. This entails a great deal of lying around and being grumpy, because A) I'm a lousy patient. It makes me batsa to do nothing and there is no such animal as Rest in a house with three men, two of whom never shut up, B) Even though making my bed is enough to wear me out right now, I can still manuever housework and dinner faster than my well-meaning husband, who freaks out if he has to scramble eggs, and oh-my-god it took him an hour to clean up the kitchen after a dinner of stir-fry, for crying out loud! No lie - he actually wrote down how to boil eggs. Even the kids were all, "What the...?" at that one.

So I guess the moral of this story is: oh hell, I don't know - does it have to have a moral? Should you put any stock in the words of a woman who is currently hanging out with the Swear Bears? (Kiss My Ass Bear just put I Love You Bear in a half-nelson - never could stand those insipid little pastel bastards - punch him again, man!)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hindsight Doesn't Amount to a Hill of Beans

They were the only litter of kittens we've ever had (well, their mother had them, but you know what I mean). I was there at their birth and loved them like they were my own children. I couldn't bear to part with any of them, so we kept them all and doubled the number of cats in this house.Yesterday I walked down to Bea's house to retrieve a ham from her refrigerator. One of the boys, Squeak (the one on the right, above), started to follow me down the street, miaowing. I stopped, turned around and scolded him: "Dammit Squeak! Get out of the street before you get hit by a car!" His mother, Feather, ran across the street and herded him to the side of the road, and I continued on towards Bea's house. I got the ham, stopped to scratch Zoe's head (she once was a cat in my temple to Bast, and I'm very fond of her), and headed back home.

From the street up at Bea's I could see there was something in the road, but I couldn't remember if there had been a pile of pinestraw there or not. As I got closer, I saw Feather standing at the side of the street, miaowing, and the heap in the street became the body of Squeak as I drew closer.

The wash of grief and guilt almost drowned me there in the street as I picked up his beautiful little body, hoping against hope for a breath of life, but he had left us all. It had taken me less than than 5 minutes to go to Bea's and back, and that was all the time it took for him to leave us.

Beautiful like a Maine Coon, sweet tempered and loving, Squeak had been one of our favorites. For the Professor, he was the only cat in the world.I went to school early and got the boys. We had family coming over later and the boys needed time to process what had happened. We buried him in the garden, near the catnip bush, so he could always be near us in a place he loved.And life goes on. In spite of our disbelief, in spite of our dwindling, irrational hope that he would be there to greet us this morning, he wasn't, and life, seemingly roughshod, continues on.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Milk Carton Metaphor

January is my traditional, seasonal time of darkness, and true to form, I'm standing at the edge of the abyss. I have no good reason to be standing here, there's no string of recent tragedies spurring me towards the hurtle down the rabbit-hole, yet here I stand, looking down, thinking of jumping.

This is the part of me that is perpetually the Gothic teen, garbed in mourning, obsessing over death. She's been grounded for years, and rarely is allowed out of her room, but sometimes she sneaks out the window to smoke a cigarette with her bad influence friends, showing up at my door in the early morning light. Like any parent, I'm pissed at her disobedience, but I'm also pissed at myself, for my inability to control her.

Before the Mom Years it was easier to deal with her, give her room to vent, but now I keep her under wraps, fearing her influence over my children. The few occasions she showed up to babysit for me always ended with the kids emulating her extreme behavior, and god knows we don't need another child in this house of mostly men. So I've kept her shut up in her room, sulking, refusing food, and playing Evanescence at top volume, but today, she has escaped.
Have you seen this teen?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Oh Crikey, Another Photo-Op

Yeah, yeah, I know it's pushing on into January - I have the extra year on my age to show for it (Whoops! did I just admit I had a birthday?), but I just couldn't resist putting up a few pics of what we did over the holidays, because who doesn't love to look at yet more holiday photos?
The mushroom fairy my sister made, with her very own mushroom!
The kids are getting big enough to wonder why the windows are dark in this picture. Surely it isn't that Mom was up when Santa got here? I love the way the tree glows with the luminescence of 9 million lights (an exaggeration, but not by much!)
The guys were spying on the girls up the street, and the Bohemian made his hat fit the job. He cracks me up the way he can rig just about anything. Oh and the fact that he's a hamosaurus too - look at that mug!
The undercover agents but on their bad-assed personas.
The new Mushoonga swords are awesome to play with! Can you almost hear the lightsaber noises I'm making?
"And I see your Schwartz is as big as mine!"Yeah, I let them watch Spaceballs recently. I like to think of it as giving them a much-needed lesson in machismo, as well as stand-up material.
And while the guys get a little exercise, taking out all their aggressions on each other, Mom makes yet another batch of cookies! (I think I must have made more than 12 batches of different cookies over the holidays - god knows, my gut would corroborate that.)"I'm going to push myself away from the bourgeoisie table of life and say, 'No more jello (or cookies for that matter) for me, Mom!' "- Peggy Sue Got Married)

Can I just say that I loathe the color of my kitchen? When we finally get around to re-doing it, about the time the floor falls in, or the countertop chips even further off, I'm going to eradicate every drop of that heinous dusty rose/maroon the previous owners chose. The 1980s color scheme of federal blue and dusty rose makes the orange and avocado green of the 1970s, or the pink and turquoise of the 1950s look downright chic and savvy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Blah-Blah, Let Me Sum Up, Blah-Blah

I sit down at the computer and my mind goes blank. It's really a pain in the ass, because when I'm standing in the shower my mind is churning up all sorts of ideas, and how the hell do you write them down in the shower? By the time I get out, towel off, and get dressed, it's all gone.

dammit.

In spite of all the events (100th birthday of a recently dead person, 50th anniversary of my parental units (OY!), a massive solstice party, and general Ho-ho-ho-ing) that were going on the weekend before Christmas, somehow I was able to suspend my anxieties and need to control the uncontrollable, and actually have a good time. That may sound silly, or inconsequential to you, but to me it was grrrreat! I can usually work up a good stress on command, over just about anything, but this year I adopted the "Jimmy Crack Corn" philosophy and let somebody else do the worrying.

After hosting 36 people for the Solstice on the 21st, having a dinner party for 10 people on Christmas Eve seemed really easy, almost effortless, comparatively. I am good at it, but anyone could be, given a little planning and organization.

The very best part of this past Christmas was just hanging out with my guys. The last two weeks were so relaxing that we were all more than a little grumpy this morning, having to get back to work, school, etc. "Only three more months until Spring Break, guys!" I cheerfully informed my tearful tween and his morose, younger sidekick.

(Sometimes it's horribly and sadistically satisfying to cop a positive attittude in front of the kids - don't judge me if you don't have kids, and if you do, seriously, give it a shot - it always cheers me up!)

So how are you all doing?