Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fairy Tale, Corrected

My husband just sent me one of those forwarded emails with a funny story. He doesn't do this too often, but in light of the recent discovery of the feminist fairy tales book, he thought it appropriate. Perhaps you have seen it already.


Once upon a time in a land far away, a beautiful, independent, self-assured princess happened upon a frog as she sat contemplating ecological issues on the shores of an unpolluted pond in a verdant meadow near her castle.

The frog hopped into the princess' lap and said: " Elegant Lady, I was once a handsome prince, until an evil witch cast a spell upon me. One kiss from you, however, and I will turn back into the dapper, young prince that I am and then, my sweet, we can marry and set up housekeeping in your castle with my mother, where you can prepare my meals, clean my clothes, bear my children, and forever feel grateful and happy doing so. "

That night, as the princess dined sumptuously on lightly sautéed frog legs seasoned in a white wine and onion cream sauce, she chuckled and thought to herself:

I don't fuckin' think so.


It's a sad day here, mourning Seymour, and this made me smile. I hope you smiled, too.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rest in Peace, Seymour

Our kitty died this evening.

Today was very hard. I felt like he really started to suffer today and it was hard to figure out how to help him. I spent a good amount of time just holding him, and I made sure the kids did the same. Finally this evening, when my husband and I arrived home, we spent a few minutes with Seymour together, then looked at each other and knew it was time to end the pain. The vet's office was kind, and my favorite of the two vets was there to help us.

M is taking it really hard. The two of them had a special little bond. M couldn't eat dinner tonight, and his sweet eyes are so swollen. We're letting M fall asleep in our bed tonight. But before lights out we made a list of M's favorite things about Seymour:

  • He was ours and we loved him
  • He purred a lot
  • He licked everyone like a puppy
  • He ate his food and drank his water with his paw
  • He would try to swat at the dog from behind the gate
  • He tried to sneak out of the house a lot in the summer
  • He'd sometimes relax in the bathtub
  • He had green-gold eyes
  • He'd sometimes drink water from the fish bowl
  • He absolutely demanded scratches
  • His favorite places were Mom and Dad's bed and Mom and Dad's closet.
I hope our big smudge of a kitty is playing in the fields of kitty heaven right now, basking in warmth. We miss him.

A Sister Story

I've been considering for a while which, if any, of the stories about my sister I should tell. Until I mentioned her infidelity and weird comments over M's birthday, I was mostly adhering to my policy of not talking about her (or any family member).

Recently my sister and her oldest son (21) had a huge fight. Apparently my nephew left in great haste, vowing not to speak to her again. My sister was very upset about this and told me some of the things my nephew said. He said some pretty horrible things.

I sensed however, that she had not given the whole story.

I talked to my nephew a few days later, and he told me some things my sister said to him. Goodness. Mothers aren't supposed to be so nasty to their sons. What she said to him trumps what he said to her.

My sister has this special skill of being able to say the things that hurt you the most in the heat of an argument. Really, the stuff that cuts to your core insecurities. That's what she did to my nephew that night.

She's done it to me, too, of course. The argument between the two of them has me thinking about something that happened way back in 1994, on Thanksgiving.

My husband and I were out west, visiting family for the holiday. Everyone was on top of this mountain in the southern part of the state, staying in cabins. My brother had arranged it all, and our family was meeting his soon-to-be fiance's family for the first time. Oh, what an impression we made.

It was also a few days before my sister's 40th birthday. In retrospect, I can see some mid-life crisis playing into the situation.

A couple weird things happened before the dinner even began. My sister was acting strangely about the telephone and was mad there was no long distance service on it. At one point she confronted me about how I had made a call to check my answering machine back east. I said I had used my calling card, and she stood there, waiting for me to offer it to her. I sensed something weird, so I didn't. Later I learned she was in the midst of her first affair and wanted to call her boyfriend. I'm SO glad I wasn't party to that.

Once we all sat down to eat, my brother, husband, his girlfriend (now wife) and I were at one end of the table. Various people were in between. My dad, his wife and my sister were at the other end. At some point, my sister started laying into my dad about how he loved the other kids (my brother, me) more, how he never did anything to help her, how much he has intentionally hurt her over the years, and so on. Totally and utterly ridiculous. Besides we were adults, and it was long since past time to just get over it already.

I heard what was going on, and I was really uncomfortable about it. It was so not true. There is such an age gap between all of us that we essentially grew up in different homes. She got some things I didn't get, I got some things she didn't get. Big deal. It's over, it's past.

My dad was just taking it. I hated seeing that.

My brother asked me what was going on.

Now, this is where I made my big mistake. I should have said, "I don't know," and kept my mouth shut. I didn't. I said to my brother, "Just her annual complaint that Dad loved us more."

My sister heard this and became enraged. She got up and stormed out of the house.

This is where I made my second mistake. I went after her.

I found her outside, sitting on some landscaping, wailing at the top of her lungs. Her husband and kids were milling about, not really paying any attention to her. I couldn't talk to her. I tried to say, please, let's just talk, but then she started hurtling the hurtful things. As I said, she knows how to cut to your most basic insecurities in the heat of the moment. She was doing all she could to be as hurtful and mean as possible.

Stop, I kept saying. But no matter what I said, she kept being as hurtful as possible.

Trying to talk to her at all was my third mistake.

I thought maybe if I looked into her eyes and got her attention I could get her to calm down. So I put my hands on each of her shoulders and said, firmly, "Look at me!"

This was my fourth mistake.

She looked at me, and while she did, she grabbed my left arm with her right hand – and bit my forearm.

Yes, bit. As in bite. Mouth. Teeth.

Thank goodness I was wearing a long-sleeved shirt. It protected me and her teeth didn't break the skin.

And she held my arm in her mouth and kept clamping down as long as she could. I started yelling for her to let go, and pounded her left shoulder with my right hand.

Her husband came over and decided I was attacking her. He grabbed my left arm – the one being bit – pulled and told me to leave her alone. For several seconds my left arm was in a tug-of-war between my sister's teeth and my brother-in-law's hand.

I finally broke free and ran into the house. I hid in the bathroom while my sister and her husband gathered their things and left, trashing me all the way. My husband and I left early the next morning.

We stayed in a hotel for the rest of the weekend, and it was nice to be away – do our own thing without the demands of family.

My sister and I didn't speak or communicate at all for about ten months. They were some of the calmest, least dramatic months I can remember.

We've never really talked about or resolved what happened that Thanksgiving on the mountain. I have no interest in hearing about what a victim she was.

By the way, this is a photo of my arm several hours after the incident. The bruising continued to develop over several days and it was weeks before I could push up my shirt sleeves without gasps and stares.

So this whole thing with my nephew? I'm not surprised, really. They've since started talking again, but my nephew is far more wary of her, his own mother. And that's sad.

Next time I'll tell you about the time she stopped speaking to me after C was sick. She was angry at me for not personally calling her multiple times a day during the crisis to update her because I didn't understand how worried she was. Seriously.

Now THIS is an Online Quiz!

Even though it needs to be updated with more current players.

Which Red Sox Player Are You

I came up as this guy.

Pitchers and catchers report in 15 days.

I'm Not the Only One Who Adores Burnt Caramel Ice Cream

I'm not so sure how I feel about the owners not paying their taxes and having customers bail them out, but artists rarely are good business people and it would be criminal if some of these flavors disappeared.

News about the Toscis bail-out was in the local (city) paper last week, and in the New York Times today.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Two Sides

I took a walk out on the beach today. The sun was bright and it wasn't too bitterly cold, especially for late January.

The ocean side was loud and angry. The surf was heavy and white with foam. Mist from the crashing waves sprayed in the air.

The bay side was glassy calm.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Message

We had a storm come through yesterday and last night. The winds were really strong; we had 1/2 an inch of snow on the screened porch. I was surprised we didn't lose power.

Leaving the house this morning, I saw this message on the porch table.

Rude and/or Short-Sighted

This job search continues to be interesting. I am continually amazed how rude HR departments are. Even at the smallest of startups, no response to inquiries, either initial or follow-up. Didn't their mothers teach them better? It may now be considered par for the course, but that doesn't make it right.

I've talked to a couple of startups wanting contractors. One said they'd had some trouble with continuity with previous contractors, and could I fix that? Um, the reason you have continuity issues with contractors is because you only use contractors. Bring someone in for one project with a really tight timeline, boot them out when it's done, repeat several weeks or months later when you need revisions or have a new project effort. There's no one to establish an overall vision for the documentation for your company, not even a simple style guide. The startups actually lose money in the long run this way with the time spent by each subsequent contractor to ramp up on the product and the technology. Not to mention the lack of consistency over time.

Technical writers can do more than "just" write end-user pieces. They can contribute to the development cycle by developing templates for specification documents, and then work with developers to edit those specs. They can work with user interface developers, partner with quality assurance and technical support, help out to make sure marketing material is technically accurate. And so on.

One company I talked to realized literally last week that they need some online help for their product. They want to launch it in April, so the deadline is end of March. They have no idea how they will integrate it, no developers with experience hooking in online help, no plan to test it, and no tools. I pitched myself as an experienced permanent writer with my part-time hours and what I could do. If they do find someone to take it on as a contract, they will need to budget for more that 40 hours per week of that contractor's time, and in the end, they will pay much, much more than if they hired me with a modified vision for the March deadline but a more complete and business-savvy plan for documentation over the long-haul. Which direction do you think they will go?

Back to it.

Birthday Wishes

Today is my friend blaugustine's birthday.

Go on over and wish her a happy 50th, won't you?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kitty, Again

More bladder control problems. Friday and yesterday he would at least move out of the spot once he lost control. Today he just sat in it until I realized and moved him, and most of his left side is wet.

He doesn't eat-he just sniffs food then turns his head away.

He seems to like being near us, but won't make much effort to move toward us, really.

Because of the bladder issue, we've kept him in a bathroom with his box, water, and a cozy sleeping spot (on the heated floor) the last two nights. Each morning when we have gone to get him, he's been laying in the litter box. He doesn't get up to greet us. He just lays there.

He's less and less himself, more and more spacey and distant.

The end is close.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

M*&@$%-F*&#$^& Virtual Waiting Room

Since we arrived home from the twins' birthday party about 1:30PM, I have been sitting online in the virtual waiting room in a possibly vain attempt to get tickets. We have over two dozen browser windows open on two computers. Games are sold out already, and some have only limited availability or obstructed view left. Ugh.

Last year, I was online right at 10AM, and waited for about an hour and a half with eight browser windows open to get seats to our third choice game. But we did get tickets.

The year before, I had a horrible flu, felt completely miserable, and forgot it was ticket purchase day until about noon. Once I remembered, I waited about two hours with just one browser window open - but managed tickets to two games that year (we only needed four tickets per game then - and the per person limit in these sales is eight).

Of course, the ticket scalpers online brokers already have plenty of stock for the games we are looking at. At four times the face value.

I've told the boys we are giving up at 5:00PM. This is ridiculous. There is almost no hope for the average fan.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kitty Rollercoaster

Yesterday, I learned how to give Seymour sub-cutaneous fluid at home.

Last night he didn't eat all his dinner.

He didn't eat anything this morning.

He lost control of his bladder on my bed today.

He almost fell over just sitting near me a few minutes ago.

But he still nudges me, wanting a scratch. No purring though.

I'm feeling very sad about this.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Last night, as I was driving C to choir, we noticed the rising moon through the trees. It was vivid orange. We took a quick detour to the harbor to check it out.

The tide was so low, you could have walked on the mud to the very end of the pier. The reflection of the rising moon glistened in that mud and on the water further out.

It was stunning.

I was furious with myself for not bringing my camera.

I've been taking my camera everywhere lately, but since I was just dropping C at choir, I figured I didn't need it. I had only my cell phone and keys. I tried taking a photo with my cell phone, but there's no quality to speak of.

Guess I have learned my lesson.

Interview Exhaustion

I've had three job interviews this week. I don't know if anything will work out.

As I left each meeting, I felt pretty decent. But as time has worn on, I don't know anymore. I'm second-guessing everything.

Not only is the actual interviewing tiring (being "on" like that), but the brutal internal post analysis is deflating.

Thing is, I'm absolutely terrified I'm not going to be able to find another job.

Realtor Euphemisms

The listing for the neighbor's house came out in the town newspaper yesterday. The tidbit that made me laugh the most was "Neutral appointments throughout."

Translation? "Thoroughly boring decor."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


A dear friend emailed me yesterday that she is planning a last-minute brunch on Saturday morning for her twins' second birthday (the actual day is today). Could we make it?

Hmm...Saturday....there's something about Saturday, I thought. I sat on the email for a bit, couldn't think of anything special about Saturday, checked with my husband, then emailed back and said, yes, definitely. What time?

10:30AM, she wrote back.

Okay, then, we'll leave here about 9:30AM, then, as they live a bit of a drive away. Settled. Looking forward to it.

Then this morning, it hit me.

Tickets go on sale at 10AM on Saturday morning.

The last couple of years this has meant sitting online for hours with multiple browser windows open before making it through the virtual waiting room. I am sure this year will be no different, especially with the win in October.

Basically, we have little hope of getting tickets unless we sit at a computer on Saturday morning.

I just want to bang my head against the wall.

There is Fight in Him Yet

Seymour is perking up a bit. The eating is still off, but he's meowing more.

I took him in yesterday for another bit of sub-cutaneous fluid. I asked if I could learn to do this at home (knowing full-well the answer is yes) but the vet hemmed and hawed. "Let's see how he does," he said. Gotta protect that daily charge, dontchaknow.

Of the two vets in the practice, this is the one I like less. The other one, Dr. B, has a better people-side manner and was very reassuring as Zoe was failing. I think I we will see Dr. B this afternoon when we go in again. I'll see what she has to say.

Meanwhile, Seymour has expressed his displeasure with us. He refused to sleep with us last night. Normally he's tucked in next to me so tight, he flinches every time I breathe. Then this morning he bit me when I gave him the antibiotics. We are adding in a potassium supplement, too, and he gave me quite the evil eye after I managed that down his throat.

He's still not eating much, or purring, but I imagine we'll get there.

He has found a patch of sunlight and is sleeping in it's rays right now. Sweet guy...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sweet Seymour

Last month, after getting our old man of a kitty onto antibiotics and wet food, he really perked up for a few weeks. He ate copiously, meowed more, even played with some toy mice. We congratulated ourselves on bringing him back.

But in the last week or so, Seymour almost completely stopped eating. Even when we warmed up his food, only bare nibbles were consumed. Then we noticed that he had pretty much stopped meowing. The occasional sounds were more plaintive and uncontrolled wails than communicative meows. On Sunday night it occurred to us that he had stopped purring, too. He, the cat who purred when you looked at him, and often loudly enough to wake the kids when they were babies, was silent. And his breath - oh, gracious, it's like something died in there.

I took our guy into the vet yesterday. After a careful exam (he's lost a whole pound in the last month! Even with the several weeks of better eating!) and a blood test, the vet thinks Seymour has renal failure. He couldn't see any growths in his mouth or throat. He might not be end-of-life, however. We're trying some things to see how he responds. First, more antibiotics to see if an infection is contributing to the situation. Second several days of sub-cutaneous fluids. If he bounces well from these interventions and starts eating again, we'll go forward with other efforts.

If not, we'll have other decisions to make. I hope it doesn't get to that.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Is Bigger Better?

My neighbor just called to let me know that their house is going on the market. The sign goes up later this week.

They are not planning to move far. In fact, they want to stay in this same town. The reasons she gave me for this is that they have been thinking for a while that they would like more space, so they thought why not give the market a shot (even though the housing market has been iffy to say the least) since interest rates are fairly favorable, and so on. They said they might not end up going anywhere, but thought they'd just try.

When another neighbor put their house on the market a couple of years ago, their reasons were similar. They moved out within three months. The market may be iffy, but it's not *that* iffy around here. In addition, we live on a small road with just four houses and it's very attractive to families.

I'm also curious about the "more space" reason I hear it more and more often. Is bigger really better?

This neighbor who just called me is in a four-bedroom colonial. Half the basement is finished space, half is a two car garage. First floor is a living room, dining room, family room and kitchen. They have a lovely deck, and so on. It's a family of four, so each of the daughters has their own room and they have an office/guest room. It's not a tiny house. How much space do they need?

It's all subjective, I know.

I do not want a house any bigger than I have now - it's not a tiny house by any means and it's smaller than this neighbor's. I want my family to know how to live together, to share space. A bigger house means more consumption of natural resources to heat it, light it, live in it. More stuff, more everything. I want to make the best and most efficient use of the space we have. I seem to be an anomaly in that approach.

While I have thought on occasion that a larger dining room would be nice, or different this or that, the desire was not and is not strong enough to make me want to move. If anything, those moments bring me back to brainstorming best and most efficient use of our space. A reaffirmation of my desire to use only what we truly need.

I see this bigger and bigger house thing happening often in our town, and it seems as much as reach for social status as anything. That's not a message I want to send my kids, either.

Another neighbor is a retired couple who have been in their house over thirty years. It's not a huge house - about the same as ours, I think. They raised their three children there, and have been extremely happy. They will put their house on the market sometime in the next couple of years, I think. The husband is dreaming of warmer climates for the rest of their years, and I don't blame him. These are the neighbors I want to emulate. The ones who stayed and made the best of a very lovely house and neighborhood, the ones whose roots are the deepest.

My husband's career may take us some place else, of course. That's different, and not (to my knowledge) on the horizon right now. Until then, I will stay in my just right house and try to be a good neighbor and teach the kids that the size of the house doesn't determine the (social) worth of the family.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Red, Red Wine

If you enjoy red wine, you must get yourself one of these gadgets:

Wine aerator.

My sister gave me one for Christmas and I was skeptical - but, oh my goodness, it makes such a difference.

Four Million...

...meters on the instrument of torture.

2485.48 miles.

I've been looking online to see if I can see a map with a 2500 mile radius from where I live. Must not be using the right search terms, though, because I can't find such a site.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Inside the Box

C participated in the PTA Reflections program again this year. Last year he did quite well, with his photo collage placing 3rd in the state. This year's theme was "I Can Make A Difference By..."

After some discussion, we came up with the subject "walking." As in fundraising walks. Something we do anyway. The title of the piece would be "I Can Make A Difference By Walking for Those Who Can't." Not the most unique topic, I thought, but it was his and it meant something to him, and that seemed more important to his efforts. C took my old camera to school with him one day and took pictures at floor level of kids walking by. Then he took two of the photos and manipulated them a bit on the mat board to create a photo collage. I thought the end was decent, and he was pleased with it.

We didn't hear anything about the program from weeks. I assumed (correctly) that C's didn't get any sort of notice and was just one of many entries. While bummer for him, I wondered what the rest of the entries were like. Finally in M's school newsletter, I saw a small item that all entries would be on display for three days at a third school in town. It took a little rearranging, but we went over to see what kids had done.

It was so disappointing. Seventy-five percent of the entries were science fair-like mixed media boards about recycling. Seriously. Then there were a some written entries on recycling. There were a handful of entries on other topics. It was clear that the judges didn't "get" C's entry because it didn't explain itself blatantly and obviously.

The entries that were chosen to go on to the state level were all mixed media displays on recycling. The content wasn't bad - it just wasn't particularly an effort at art. Reflections is supposed to be an art program! I know recycling is a hot topic right now, but it's not the only way to make a difference.

The whole afternoon got me thinking about "thinking outside the box." It's something we want our kids to be able to do, yet when they do, we look at them askance. Only the thinking inside the box- doing the same as everyone else - seems to get rewarded.

Likewise in this job search. I see postings for jobs that want "creative problem solvers." But suggest a work schedule or arrangement that is anything but standard, and it's shot down immediately.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Finds in the Bookcase

As part of my "since I'm home, I might as well clean up and clean out" effort, I went through the bookcases in the family room and kitchen today.

Yes, I have a bookcase in the kitchen. One of the few features I like in my otherwise outdated, desperately-in-need-of-a-remodel-else-we-risk-the resale-value-of-the-house (not that we are going anywhere any time soon) kitchen. I love cookbooks and have quite a number of them, so it's great to have all of them right there with me. Well, most of them. There has been some overflow to the rest of the house.

Anyway, I went through the kitchen bookcase and selected several to take to the swap area at the town dump, er, recycling center. Then I moved on to the bookcases in the family room.

There, in the family room, on the top shelf, all the way to the right, was a book from a college women's studies class. I'd forgotten I had it - and now is the right time for me to find it, parentally speaking.

The book is "Don't Bet on the Prince:Contemporary Feminist Fairy Tales in North America and England." Mine is the original hardcover edition, but Amazon has the 2nd edition in paperback available.

We did a section in that women's studies class on children's literature, and this book was part of that section. There is work in the book by Judith Viorst, Jane Yolen, Margaret Atwood and Anne Sexton. My favorite piece is the very short and to the point Judith Viorst piece. You'll have to go look for it, really. There also is a section on feminist literary criticism around fairy tales. It's a great book. I intend to start reading some of the stories to S immediately.

I remember another exercise from the class in which we took well-regarded children's picture books and evaluated them from a gender point of view. Things like number and frequency of girl characters, and placement of girls within the illustrations. My group looked at "The Polar Express." Great book, yes....for boys. If you have the book, go look at it. Tally the number of identifiable boy characters and girl characters. Look at the number of times a female speaks. How many times does a boy speak? Look at the illustrations. How many times are the female characters smaller than the males or placed physically below the males? Interesting, isn't it?

In contemporary children's literature, some of these things are blatant and some are subtle - some would say all of it is altogether meaningless. But it's not meaningless - it's all a part of how we communicate to girls in our society about their "place."

I've been thinking about this more and more as S gets more into books. Not only do I want to find more books with strong female characters for her, I want the boys to read a few more, too. I want all three of them to see and read stories with strong girls and balanced gender relationships. No damsels in distress in need of manly rescue for us, please.

Finding those books is the hard part, but I have been pleased to find a few. Right now, a couple of S's favorite books are Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey and The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funke. Both have strong girls as their central characters.

We just need a whole bookshelf more.

The Internet Generation

S calls her swim goggles her "googles."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Sure Sign Spring is Coming

(This one is for you, J)

Forget groundhogs. They're just overgrown rodents.

Pitchers and catchers are due to report to spring training on Thursday, February 14th.

That's less than a month away! Four weeks, two days. 720 hours.

Not that I'm counting or anything.

Stupid, Stupid Dryer

When we moved into this house almost seven years ago, we had to buy a new washer and dryer. Although the existing washer and dryer had been included in the purchase and sale agreement, the husband moved them out and was willing to blow the whole sale at the closing table over that washer and dryer. Nice guy. No wonder his wife was divorcing him.

The washer and dryer we bought at that time were fairly low-end and basic, but relatively energy efficient. The washer died two years ago, necessitating purchasing a new one, but since washers and dryers don't need to match (in spite of claims to the contrary from some clique-y women in this town), we decided to keep the dryer as is.

Over the years this dryer has intermittently ruined a few things. The drum doesn't fit uniformly all the way around, so tags and zipper pulls occasionally get caught. I've never been able to identify a pattern, so each of us has at least one item of clothing that used to have a zipper.

Last week, on what would have been a work day, I spent a couple hours cleaning out the closet in the boys room (I figure since I have this time, I might as well use it to good effect around the house). It had been so long since I'd done that, I discovered that C actually had only one sweatshirt that fit him. Oops. I readily admit that since S was born, I have much more fun with her wardrobe so the boys are occasionally wanting for some items, but I didn't think it had gotten that bad!

I felt fairly embarrassed for a while. I also remembered that C had a gift certificate for the place where he takes sailing lessons for...a fleece sweatshirt. I congratulated myself for remembering that, then found the actual certificate.

The next day, I took C over to pick out a fleece. He chose a black zip-up fleece. He loves it - and I think you know where this is going now.

C wore the fleece twice and I washed it yesterday. This morning when I opened up the dryer, a zipper pull fell out. Crap. I didn't immediately suspect the new one because there were two black zip up fleeces in there: C's and one of my husband's. But then I started pulling items out.

Yup, the new fleece. Ruined.

Stupid, stupid dryer.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Developmental Jump

Just in the last week, S's drawings have jumped from colorful scribbles to representational, usually recognizable things. This is her drawing of our family:

Heavy and Wet

It's snowing outside, and the kids are home from school.

It's heavy, wet snow, and it's making me nervous. One birch tree - albeit an unhealthy one - already has snapped in half with the weight of the snow.

When we had the yard cleared a couple of years ago, I lobbied hard to save three birch trees. From the road, this trio of trees made a nice visual ending point to the width of the house. I loved them because they were graceful and delicate. When we moved into the house, we had found them hidden amid scrub white pines and cleared space for them so they could have more sun. They were growing taller by the year, and I hoped would get really strong as years passed.

Last spring we noticed that one of them had died. There were no leaves on the branches last summer, no new twig growth. We considered pulling it down immediately, but I wasn't ready to break up the trio.

The middle of the birch trees was healthy and leafing well. It kind of made up for the scraggly dead one.

The third one was struggling. It leafed, but only just. It wasn't as vigorous as the middle tree nor as bare as the first tree.

It was this third struggling birch that snapped this morning, making a loud crash on the roof of the study before landing in the hydrangeas. I went out to investigate the state of the roof and pull the pieces of tree out onto the lawn. I noticed then that the healthy birch was bending severely, some branches almost touching the ground. I tried shaking snow off the tree with little effect. We may lose it before the storm is over.

Of course, the dead first birch tree is standing up straight and tall. With so few branches and twigs to hold snow, there isn't much snow on it to push it down.

I looked around the yard and there are other trees in danger of losing a branch or two. There are lilacs already bent to the ground, but they do that most storms and should mostly bounce back. The rhododendrons and azaleas look fine, as do the hydrangeas and red-twig dogwood. I decided there wasn't much I could do and came back inside.

The weather maps said we would get anywhere from one to eight inches here. I'd say we have three right now, and it's still snowing hard. It would be more if it weren't so wet.

Now I sit in the study, listening. I hear thuds of snow from higher branches fall onto the roof. Even though I know what it is, I don't like it. I anticipate sounds of branches falling and stop typing with each thud to discern if the thud is followed by a scraping sound.

Shoot, there was a thud and a scrape just now. Time for more investigating.

Friday, January 11, 2008

My Husband Rocks

In spite of an amusing possible lead yesterday, last night I was feeling quite discouraged about this job search thing. I received an email from the company with which I had the phone screen on Monday that they had convinced themselves they really needed a full-time person, thanks and good luck.


I worked other connections and was online most of the day searching, emailing, considering options.

After dinner and the usual kid bedtime stuff - Thursdays tend to be hard because everyone is ready for the week to be over already - I was feeling like I wanted a foufy alcoholic beverage. Something similar to what one might see in that notorious HBO series, but different. I wanted a lemon drop.

Late in the evening, I asked my husband if he would please make us a couple and come upstairs to veg out with me in front the The Daily Show. Then I headed up and started working in a Sudoku book.

I heard lots of activity in the kitchen and wondered what the heck was going on. These drinks are not hard to make - the mixer is in the fridge - but I didn't have the energy to go downstairs and ask, either. So I waited.

A few minutes later, he arrived with our cocktails. It turns out we were out of mix, and he had made them from scratch. He'd made the simple syrup, squeezed fresh lemon, etc. The drinks had an excellent pucker and lots of pulp. Yum.

And my husband? He's a keeper.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Seven Unusual Things About Me

Wakeupandsmellthecoffee has tagged me (again! :-) )to reveal seven unusual things about me. I also did an eight things last May, so I am trying not to duplicate details. It's hard. I don't feel particularly interesting or unusual lately. But here goes:

  1. My sister, brother, and I went the same elementary school and high school as the wife of a current presidential candidate. My sister was the same class year as this woman. My sister has made some interesting comments to me about her. None of that can or will be repeated here.

  2. My first job in high school was at Cloth World, a fabric store. I lied about my age to get the job.

  3. I should be taller than I am. I have scoliosis that was diagnosed in adolescence. It's an "s" curve, and when I am in a bathing suit in the summer, you can see it.

  4. I was in a car accident during high school. My friends and I were on our way to see U2 when, in heavy traffic, we were rear-ended. None of were wearing our seatbelts and we were extremely lucky to walk away from the scene. The first officer on the scene was surprised I didn't go through the windshield (my face did hit the steering wheel, though) as the woman who hit us was traveling fairly fast and I was braking hard at the time of impact. Her car missed my gas tank by an inch. Also complicating issues was that my friends (I was the designated driver) were all drinking "Killer Slurpees" at the time of the accident. You know, Slurpees enhanced with a distilled grain beverage of choice. We had this very alcoholic sticky stuff all over us when the cups sprayed on impact, including in our hair, and were definitely underage. We reeked. The cops could have nailed us but good, but thankfully did not.

  5. I joined the ski club in high school with every intention of going on a trip and learning how to ski. I never did. I didn't learn to ski until college.

  6. I have/had a step-brother who is 28 days older than me. I haven't seen him since high school. Neither of us were particularly thrilled with our parents' alliance (my mom and his dad) and maintained loyalty to the other parent. I used to hear about him every once in a while, but not for a long, long time.

  7. I am afraid to light a fire in the fire place. For no good reason. I know how. I've forced myself to do it. I just really, really, really don't like it and I get very jittery if I have to. Putting another log on an existing fire? Sure, no problem. But please don't ask me to light it.
I don't know who to tag. Hmmm. Ruthie, I think it's time for a new list from you. Blaugustine, too. I'm thinking about others.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Looking for the Open Door

You know that old saying, "When a door closes, another opens"? It's finding exactly where the open door is located that's the tricky part.

I know it hasn't been that long, but unemployment and associated job searching is getting old quickly.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Nervous Knots

I just had a phone screen with company. Man, haven't been through that in a long, long time. I was nervous. At one point, I said "New York" when I meant "North Carolina" and had to correct myself quickly. The company is partially located in New York, so we had just been talking about cross-regional organization when I made my error. Ugh.

But otherwise I think it went well. The hiring manager already knew I was part-time, and seemed open to it.

Keeping those fingers crossed.

Midwinter Beach Walk

Sometimes it's just about being in the right place at the right time... (click to enlarge).

That's snow and ice on the beach in the last shot.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Llamas in Suburbia

Way back when, in another time (the mid-90s), another place (another New England state), while my husband was finishing school, he spent a month or so working in a local hospice for one of his elective rotations. It was hard and powerful work.

Also during this time, his car was dying a slow, miserable death. It was a 1982 Volkswagen Sirocco, and it had seen some fun and interesting adventures. By this time, mileage was up in the 180,000 or 190,000 range.

During the hospice work, the car broke down yet again, and as the only way we could afford to keep it going (and we could not swing a new car at all) was having him do the work on it himself on the weekend, a fix had to wait and my husband had to catch rides as best he could during the week. Thankfully, there were some kind hospice nurses who lived in nearby towns who would oblige. (I think they were also pretty impressed that a young student would take the time to learn about hospice and work along side them in whatever capacity was needed.)

One of the hospice nurses knew the back roads in this small town we lived in better than we did. We were transient, after all, leaving in a few months, so what point was it to learn all those little roads? On one ride home, the nurse drove my husband down a side street past a small sheep farm. It was just off the main road, and we had no idea it was there. It may have been a small town, but it wasn't particularly rural, either. It was like a little secret. The nurse said her kids referred to this road as the "sheep way" and every time they drove in the vicinity, the kids would insist they go the "sheep way" so the kids could see the sheep.

My husband thought this was a sweet story, of course, and told me about it. Several days later, he drove me by the sheep (in my more reliable car) so I could learn the route, and from that day until the day we moved, if we had to go in that direction, we went the "sheep way."

About a mile or so from us now is a parcel of land on a small hill with a fence and a barn and a sheep and a llama. Yup, a llama. Alpacas may becoming more common place, but a llama in someone's yard is still a little unusual. We drive by this scene when we need to go to the pharmacy or the local Marshall's. My kids ask to drive by the llama sometimes, and telling S that we'll be passing the llama often can turn her mood to the positive. She loves that llama.

It's our own little "sheep way."

Over the last few years I've wondered what the heck a llama thinks about our climate. It's not quite right for a llama, really (I don't think). Although the summer heat doesn't last too, too long, it can't be at all comfortable. I don't think I've ever seen that the llama has been shorn, either.

This morning I had to drive up to the pharmacy and drove by the llama. As I approached the curve at which I could see the barn, I noticed the llama up and about and walking around leisurely. I'd never really seen it move much before. It's always sitting in the shade of the tree or the small barn. It struck me that the llama seemed happy. Huh, I thought.

Then, quickly, duh!

Of course the llama is happy! It's 10 degrees (F) out! With it's thick coat, it's comfortable, and closer to its natural climate!

Glad someone is enjoying the weather.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Where to Begin?

The last couple weeks are something of a surreal blur.

As much as I tried to enjoy the holiday in spite of the job thing, there was a gray cloud always hovering on the periphery.

I was in the post office on the Friday before Christmas and saw an acquaintance. As we were chatting I mentioned that I had been laid off (no one likes bad news, especially at the holidays, so I made sure to not say it first thing and approach it very casually – at least I tried to).

N: I was laid off seven years ago and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Did you get any severance?

Me: A little.

N: You should travel! Really relax and enjoy yourself before even thinking about a new job. That’s what I did and it was really great.

Me: How much severance did you get?

N: A year and a half.

At which point I about choked before managing to say that my severance was not quite so generous. She stared at me blankly – like she couldn’t comprehend that. Then I was called up to the counter, we said our Merry Christmases, and that was that.

I made a couple of contacts over the break, but knew I wouldn’t have a ton of time to devote given the kids would be home. I emailed some old friends about some other writing. Picking up a freelance article here and there may work out, but it’s not income I’ll be able to depend on.

Back to the holiday.

One of the more fun things we did for the kids had to do with the fish. Remember Pasta and Noodle and now there is only one? Well C decided that he wanted to get a new fish as a surprise for M and S. It was this elaborate scheme to go buy the fish after church on Sunday, hide it, and so on. But we did it, and just after M and S went up to bed on Monday night, C put the new fish in the bowl and went up himself. Little did he know what Santa had up his sleeve!

After the kids finally were asleep, we brought a ten-gallon tank up (complete with filter and light) from the basement and set it up, putting both fish in. When the kids came downstairs the next morning, they were very surprised, especially C. It was so fun to see his face.

The kids enjoyed Christmas day very much. I love that they still light up when they see the tree in the morning.

After Christmas, however, C’s asthma kicked in badly and we ended up at the doctor’s office on Wednesday. He’d started coughing a couple days before, and the cough was becoming productive. He’d been on his maintenance meds and a nebulizing treatments, but his pulse-ox had dropped to 91. He ended up going on a cocktail of another maintenance med, steroids, antibiotics and more rigid nebs for several days until we got him back to baseline. He spent Thursday on the couch – literally moving only to use the toilet. But by Saturday morning he was restless – and Sunday night slept over at a friend’s house. At a follow up on Monday, his cheeks were pink again, and the pulse-ox was up at 98. Phew, phew, phew.

So now it’s Wednesday, a new year. My resume is updated, I’m emailing just about everyone I know and asking them to keep ears out. I’ve applied for unemployment insurance. And I am nervous.

I know things could be much worse. I know. The last time I was laid off was in March of 1991. It was different then. There was just two of us, and our life was a tad simpler.

I don’t know what is going to happen. I am trying hard to keep a positive frame of mind (and telling myself it’s early yet to get discouraged).

Wish me luck.

Meanwhile, must rescue S from the Backyardigans. Anyone else find them oh-so-annoying? Not quite Barney level of annoying, but annoying.