Friday, August 31, 2007

The way to a girl's heart

A.: Hey, you're looking all skinny! Except for those great big shorts you've got on.

S.: (grins!)

Mind you, skinny is a relative term. When I got pregnant, I weighed more than I ever had in my life, 55 pounds more than the weight I think of as "mine." But as of today, I'm back at the weight I was before I conceived. I've lost 17 pounds in the last three months, by moving away from depressive eating and moderately increasing my exercise. And yeah, my shorts are kind of falling off of me.

I can't tell you what a relief that is.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Me and the Iditarod: not gonna happen

At dinner (not dessert!)

Z.: I found some cookie to eat.

S.: That's because I didn't wipe down the table.

Z.: Why?

S.: Because I'm a lazy housekeeper.

Z.: Why ah you a lazy husky?

First day, new classroom

I'm home from dropping Z. off at her first day in her new, infant-free day care room. Everyone but Z. is 2 1/2, and Z.'s half-birthday is Sunday. There was no changing table in the classroom! Wow. A bright new era dawns.

Since A. doesn't start back at school until next week, we dropped her off together. Dropping her off was fine. The room is beautiful, and the teachers had the best, most fabulous toys out for first-day drop-off distraction. The other three kids from her infant-toddler room were already there, so all the promised people were reassuringly present. The assistant teacher was floating last year, so Z. already knows her well from when she covered in Z.'s infant-toddler room. The head teacher blinked at our cloth training pants, but it was only a blink: "okay, we've had cloth before." And the binky-free trip to school went unprotested. Really, nothing could be better.

Except every waking moment of the eleven hours that led to getting her out the door. Z. usually goes down around 9:30, after her bath. Recently, she's been getting up about once and needing to be firmly directed back to bed, but she does go and that's usually the end of it. She's been under the weather for a few nights, so she's been getting more cuddling down, and I think that, on top of a late nap, was what set us up for disaster.

Last night, she popped up seven times between 9:30 and midnight, with tears and coaxing and threatened time outs each time. When I got to bed at 12:15, A. was in Z.'s bed, and Z. was doing everything she could to keep her Mommy in bed with her--in other words, to keep herself awake. I took over, and it was more of the same with Mama until I dredged up the Cuddle of Last Resort.

The Cuddle of Last Resort is a cold-season manoeuver, for when Z. is too stuffed in the nose to sleep flat. I get myself propped up on pillows and she drapes herself over me. The problem with this for me is that I can't get to sleep when she's touching me and I don't even really get sleepy on my back. We haven't used this one in a few months and she was considerably lighter then--put enough toddler weight on your chest and it gets hard to breathe.

It took her a good 45 minutes in this position before she finally dropped off. I crawled into my own bed at 1:30. The alarm went off at 6:00. We got Z. to school at 8:30, and it's only a four-block walk. It was pretty much solid tantrums--about getting out of bed, about eating breakfast, about finishing breakfast, about ponytails and hairclips, about teeth-brushing, about another book, about getting dressed--until I cottoned on to what she was saying:

"I'm too cwranky to go to school."

Yes, everyone, I set us up for this morning's mess by keeping her home when she was cranky last year. I am still paying for that one.

Lucky for us, Z. is proud of being a big girl. When she was finally cuddling in Mommy's lap, I told her that when she was one, it was okay to stay home from school because she was cranky. I told her what wasn't strictly true: that when she turned two she started going to school even when she was cranky.

And so, we coaxed her into her training pants and her shorts, got her new librarian shirt on her, re-did the ponytails, got the sugar bugs off the teeth and the sandals on her feet.

She's off at school. There are no babies in her classroom now. She's not a baby anymore.

And it was my turn for tears walking back down the hall.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007



In Memoriam:

Ilsa, my diva dog
October 8, 1995-August 29, 2006

She died last year on the night before school started.

We scattered some of her ashes earlier this summer down in Southern Maryland, the place of some of her happiest days. Today we buried what we kept--by far most of them--and placed some stones from the St. Mary's River over them, in the shady spot near the gate where she used to lie in the periwinkle so she would be the first one to greet you when you came home.

Z. and I had some talks today about how when you finish crying you feel better. She asked me "Now do you feel happy dat Ilsa dayeed?" A. translated this as: "I know Ilsa died, but are you feeling better now, Mama?"

And actually, seeing those stones when I came through the gate, even though my heart twisted a little, I did feel better. I've missed her waiting for me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Military Connections?

Jody asked us about our military connections. She had in mind the frequent claim that mainstream Americans have little contact with the soldiers now serving in Iraq. My connections to the military are a little thin on the ground in real life, but thick in my now defunct intellectual career.

So, real life first:

  • My paternal grandfather served in the Navy in WWII. He served in the Aleutians, as part of the military contingent on merchant marine ships, so he actually saw very little combat.
  • My father chose to avoid the draft for Vietnam by joining the army reserve. He had reserve duty that took him away from home for weekends during the earliest years of my childhood.
  • When I was small, my family lived for two years on Saipan. Even in the mid-70's, WWII was such an overwhelming part of the terrain and culture of the island that that war felt just as present to me as the Vietnam War that was still winding up. I have been to the site on Tinian where the Enola Gay was launched; I was 4 at the time. That was the same age I saw the footage filmed by Marines of Japanese civilians jumping from Suicide Cliff, fleeing from the US invasion. In their defense, my parents didn't know what was coming. But you know? Suicide Cliff was a place we went by pretty often, so it didn't quite go over my head.
  • M*A*S*H was one of the few shows we could see on television on Saipan. I know this isn't particularly real life to a grownup, but to me at 3 and 4 years old, it was a substantial part of my sense of how the world worked.
  • I registered for the draft as a conscientious objector. I know, I know, I know--I was eighteen and a feminist and in the peace movement.
  • I was in the peace movement. It was a little late in the day, but I spent a couple of summers and a good part of a school year canvassing for SANE/Freeze and did a lot of protesting during the first Gulf War. This is an antithetical relationship to the military, but a relationship nonetheless.
  • In my last year of college, I went to a going-away party for the brother of a friend who was joining the military, and all of his ex-army friends were telling stories. I felt like I was a guest in a different culture, and I was.
  • When we were in Madison, the president of our little synagogue, who was a psychiatric nurse in the reserves, was activated for service, an event that shifted the community's sense of investment in the war.

Intellectual career next:

My dissertation was on the topic of how women in the baby boom generation write about the trauma of the Pacific theater of the Second World War. I've spent a lot of time with soldiers' and sailors' memoirs, and with the novels that came out of that experience initially, with various histories and secondary literature, and of course all of that all over again with the way it comes back in the next generation, so I've spent some time on the similar literature that comes out of Vietnam, as well. I've also read so many Hiroshima stories that when Jonathan Safran Foer went there in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close--a book we sort of strangely read out loud to each other in the car--I interrupted A. and inserted what was going to come next from off the top of my head and got it pretty much right.

That's a good 8 or 10 years of my life spent reading, thinking, and mostly not writing about the military, but the military of my grandfather's and father's generation, and all this even though I would say that (like Jody) I feel hostile to the entire idea of standing professional armed forces, whether volunteer or conscript. I tend to think of my interest in terms of my early exposure to the war while living on Saipan. I tend to think of my hostility in terms of a family history of qualified pacifism and having grown up on Capitol Hill, at what everyone assumed would be ground zero when everyone assumed the attack would be nuclear.

Thinking about this, it strikes me that what I have connected to are the wars of the previous two generations that touched everyone, because of the draft or because--in the case of the Cold War--of the grip they had on the culture while they were being engaged. This seems like an argument that the draft does make more people pay attention--a point that Jody, along with Senator Rangel and others, have made. But I guess I'm throwing in my two cents there, too: if we're going to go to war, let's share the burden.

Your thoughts, guys?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Summer Days

My life has been spent on the academic calendar. It's only the past two years that I've had a year-round job, and since I'm my own boss, even that feels like a bit of fiction. Because I'm married to a teacher and used to be one, the summer is still the time of year I think of as dedicated to recuperation from the ravages of the school year.

I am also a seasonal affective disorder sufferer, so my year cycles through low and high. I am likely to be depressed by December and January, even in a good year, and I haven't had a good year in quite some time. This makes me a much better early-season gardener than a mid-season one. By the time the bulbs start to bloom, I am desperate to see the ground returning to life and beauty, so I watch for the crowns of my perennials with the eye of a scavenger.

I feel no similar desperation about keeping the jungle at bay in July. If it grows, it grows, and around here July is much too humid to do anything outside but swim. And August! Forget it. August is for doing as little as humanly possible, preferably in New England.


But as long as there is air conditioning (and in a bookstore in a humid town, there must be air conditioning!), I get things done in summer, usually in bursts of phone calls and fits of organizing energy. Actually, that's how I get things done no matter what time of the year it is, but during the summer I have bursts of bursts, and need less time to flop and catch my breath in between.

This summer has been something of an exception. I have had one notable accomplishment: I hired a bookkeeper. I have yet to give her any of the stuff she needs from me, but I did hire her.

The other high points of my working summer were, for me, occasions for congratulating myself on having hired and promoted well. I had relatively little to actually do in pulling off the fabulously successful HP7 launch party, and the "Best of" honor that we were given is down to my event coordinator more than to me. She's the one who envisioned and organized the festival that got us noticed in April.

Having hired and promoted well, having been freed from most of my child-care duties while A. was home, I have more or less let things go along without me for a couple-few months while I spent most of my energy on getting my emotional life together in various ways.

That work was long overdue, but it's far from done and there is one week left in summer. I'm worried about the fall. I'm worried that I haven't made enough progress, and I'm worried that what progress I've made was only possible because of the conditions of this summer. I know I'm in far, far better shape than I was this time last year. But I haven't tested that much.

It's almost time to go back to school, and I don't know if I'm ready yet.

(Illustration by Z. [detail])
(The orange spirals are Z. and Mama, but I don't know which is which.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gather with the pixies

Once again, your inimitable host is throwing the the whiner's ball this week. Uh, yes, that would be me, S.

Alla y'all are welcome to bitch and moan, newcomers and veterans alike. Brits and anglophiles can whinge if that's your preference.

Variation on a theme

Twinkeul, twinkeul, liddel stawr
how I wondeuh what you
twinkeul, twinkeul
Medium stawr
Dat’s me
And den I get to duh big stawr
twinkeul, twinkeul liddel stawr

I got to hurry up before I grow too old

Happy birthday to the late, great Joe Strummer, someone I now associate with Paul Wellstone, because I heard about each man's death in the car while listening to NPR, and had to pull to the shoulder each time until I was fit to drive again.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sartorial adventure

A.: Look Z., Mama got you a shirt.

Z.: Glasses!

A.: Do you like the library?

Z.: Yes!

S.: It's for kids who like the library. Here, do you want to hold it?

Z.: Yes! (starts pulling up shirt she's wearing).

S.: Do you want to put it on?

Z.: (pulls down shirt she's wearing, reaches for new shirt) Can I put it on my head? (holds shirt in one hand, taps her curls)

S.: Sure.

Z. pulls shirt over her head and arranges it so her face shows through the collar, balaclava-style. A sleeve flops over her crown.

Z.: Why is dair a syurt on my head?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Will you tell me duh storewy

...about Mama and [Diva Dog] wauking in duh woods?


S.: Well, Mama and Diva Dog were walking in the woods and we found a good place to put up our tarp for the night. So we got under it and we tried to go to sleep, when we heard a "Crash! Crash! Crash!" in the forest. And what was it?

Z.: It was uh beawr!

S.: That's right, it was a bear. And what did Mama say?

Z.: Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away!

S.: And the bear went away! Everything was quiet. But then Mama and Diva Dog heard "Crash! Crash! Crash!" again in the forest. And I held Diva Dog's snout so she wouldn't growl, and I said ...

Z.: Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away! Go away!

S.: ...and we didn't hear that bear any more. But the next morning, what did I find?

Z.: Duh beawr's food! And Mama left dat beawr's food right dair, so duh beawr could take dat food home to da forwest, and duh beawr could put dat food away. And dair awr no kitchens in da forwest.

(Illustration by Z.)
(It's not meant to be anything in particular.)
(A budding Rothko, no?)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Listen to this space

Inspired by ppb and Jo(e), I just did some neighborhood freecycling for an mp3 player. I'm picking it up Monday, so I'm thinking you'll hear me singing Z. goodnight sometime next week. I'll try to get her to sing along!

Hey, everyone, it's Elul

Just got this from my rabbi ... well, one of my rabbis. It's not quite a Toddler Logic bit, but I thought it was still worth passing along.

Elul is the month in the Jewish calendar that comes before the Yamim Noraim, the High Holidays, and it's devoted to t'shuvah, or turning: forgiveness, mending hurts, letting go of what's hurt you in the past.

Apparently, from what I've been putting up recently, I am planning on spending Elul figuring out something about getting my spiritual life together. But I'm mostly pretending that I'm not, okay? So don't point it out to me too much. (A little bit of pointing out would be alright, I guess.)

From "Snake Talk", A Traveling Jewish Theater

Enough of the oy veh! path. Now we are going to fix it. Now we make a new path. So. You take a shovel, you take a ground hacker, you take a hairpin. If all you got is a hairpin, take a hairpin and start digging. Dig in all directions, up and down, right and left, in and out. Not in a straight line. Nothing natural or interesting goes in a straight line. As a matter of fact, it is the quickest way to the wrong place. And don't try to pretend you know where you are going. Because if you know where you are going, you have been there, and you are going to end up exactly where you came from. Okay. So now we are digging. All of a sudden you bump into a stone. Oooh, it's so cute. Un-un. Throw it away like a hot potato. You are going to bump into lots of stones, geologically fascinating; stones of blame, resentment, self-pity. Oooh, from these I could build a palace. Forget it. You build from them, what you got is a prison. So you bend down, you pick 'em up, you throw 'em away. Dig a little, pick a little, throw a little, turn; dig a little, pick a little, throw a little, turn...

Now this is where you got to pay special attention to getting lost. If you are not lost, you are in trouble. Lost? Good. Sit down, blow your nose, and wait. Sometimes you got to wait for a very long time. Until a bird or a stranger comes along with a message. And do you know what you are supposed to do while you're waiting? You are supposed to do...nothing. Nada, zilch, nothing. And if you can do that, if you can do nothing until the right thing comes along, then you have mastered the hardest part of all.

Okay. So now you are back on the road, nice and easy, no rush, no push, and you take one little step, you take two little steps, you take three little steps, you take... watch out! WATCH OUT! You are about to fall into the puddle of empty manifestation. Here on the fourth step you are meant to fall down, not once, not twice, not occasionally, but on every fourth step. The ground opens up, the wind blows, a branch hits you in the head, you trip on stones, you twist your ankle, your heart breaks, you've got to fold the laundry and they have closed the two left lanes. All of the forces gathered together to stop you. And some people, when it happens, they fall down and they lie there for the rest of their lives. But some people learn to fall down/get up. Now that is one move: fall down/get up.

Okay. So now you are on your own way and you notice that with every step you straighten up a little bit. And it hurts. All of the places you've been bending over that got stuck. And don't try to avoid it hurting. Because if you do, you will never straighten up.

Okay. That's it. That is how you do it. You dig, you bend down, you throw away, you go in circles, you get lost, you wait, you listen, you do nothing, you fall down/get up; and inside, you unfold.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Feeling a little wrung out

So I'm going to take a few days off.

There may be some hike journals or toddler logic if the inspiration strikes.

Otherwise, see you in the comment fields, and I'll be back on Monday.


Check out this link for more info, but here is a case where progressive Jews can join the Orthodox in putting pressure on a husband who refuses to give his wife a get, or Jewish divorce. As long as he refuses, she can't remarry. There are better ways of preventing this situation from arising in the first place, but they aren't accepted in the Orthodox world. The boycott is.

Don't buy from

(And please note that websites with other spellings of "sukkah" or "sukkot" are not related.)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This is how bad things are around here

A. tells me that today, Z. woke up from her nap and said "Sometimes Thomas is a train."

And we both knew immediately what Thomas is the rest of the time: the rest of the time, Thomas is the bandleader for Pink Martini.

No dilating drops!

Today was back to the eye doctor, for a visual field test and photos of my optical nerves. The visual field test was sort of the equivalent of a hearing test where you put your hand up to show you heard the ping. You do one eye at a time, with a plastic patch covering the other one. You stare into a yellow light at the back of a space-age-looking bowl. There are flashes in your peripheral vision, some so faint as to make you think you imagined them, and you press a button each time you see one. Repeat on other side.

This happens in a darkened room, and the good news was that my eyes were dilated enough just from this process that I didn't need drops for the photo.

I now know what the insides of my eyes look like. They are orange-pink, veined, with a darker spot in each. They have a fetal look about them, actually. They don't look much like anything capable of perception.

What a strange thing a body is.

Anyone else have encounters with their insides they want to share?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Do you swim faster

...if your ex-girlfriend is in the laplane next to yours? Do you make sure to keep swimming well after she's done?


Yes, you do.

Good news!

Anyone else out there doing a little dance about Karl Rove's imminent departure?

And, BZ posts about the recent National Havurah Committee Summer Institute that we just missed. He spreads the word that the NHC is making a commitment to financial accessibility, and I know this little non-profit pretty well. It is a huge fundraising project they're undertaking for an organization their size. I've talked the Institute up to some of you in the past--we couldn't make it this year for financial reasons, but it is a Good Thing and we'll be back next year if we can swing it. I'd love to seed it with friends in future years, and for some of you--like us--this project could make a difference. If you have connections out there in the Jewish world or the progressive religious world, and those connections have cash for this kind of thing, would you please buzz on over to the NHC site and let them know?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Without words

I've been taking stabs at writing about swimming for a couple of days now. I'm finding that instead I wind up writing about other things, topics that haven't wound up on the blog and which I'm not sure need to show up here, either. And while these long-winded, abortive drafts proliferate, I don't ever get around to swimming, the thing I wanted to talk about in the first place.

So I've realized that this is a post that matters to me, and will be all the better for my leaving it to my hindbrain for awhile: days or weeks or months. A couple of other posts have taken convoluted routes like this one--there was one I wrote about friendship a week after Helen's memorial that incorporated half-assed stabs I'd been making at the topic from before I started blogging. And the post I put up on singing for and with Z. benefited from my coming back to it and back to it over the couple of months it was incubating.

However, one thing that I think I'm trying to figure out how to get around in writing about swimming is not just how much of my life it is attached to--though that is immense--but also how I use the laplanes as a wordless place that my brain can fill with words in the most tumbled-around way. I am paying attention to my body--my stroke, my muscles, the floaters in my eyes, my breathing--and the words in my head must cope and comply with that rhythm. They don't have my head the way they do when my head is in the breathable air, so they loop back on themselves more, they trail off, I let them go and pick them up again when I can, they dance and swim their own selves; and when I am swimming, I am more able to handle the emotions that I usually try to corral with words. In my time, I have swum miles fueled by sadness and anger and fear and anxiety and bewilderment and joy. Coming out of the water, I find the words have sometimes come together, or dispersed--the first situation is a gift; the second, also: if the words are gone, what was setting them off didn't matter so much after all, it was just something I needed to get out, and I did.

Knitting is a similar kind of quasi-meditative activity for me, though it is one in which words act oppositely, probably because I think about my form when I swim, but not my technique when I knit. I knit talking. I knit reading. I knit walking, even--all I need is a pocket big enough to hold the ball of yarn. The rhythm of my knitting is steady and relentless and my thoughts get pulled along; I knit words right into the fabric my fingers are making. Knitting keeps my brain going in sentences and paragraphs, and I follow my thoughts interminably. I have entire conversations with myself while I'm knitting, I have disquisitions on whatever it is that I cannot currently dislodge, and I seldom seem to get anywhere. It is not an accident that I find staff meetings and after-dinner conversations and waiting rooms to be the ideal settings for knitting. Whether I experience it as pleasant or plodding, if time becomes long and meandering, I want to fill it with rows and rows of yarn. The only emotions that I have used to fuel entire sweaters are grief and love.

But I hardly ever write about knitting. I think in six months of blogging (today exactly completes my sixth month) this makes my third post about knitting, and although taking up typing as a hobby has cut into my knitting time, that still severely underrepresents the amount of fiber I have made my way through. But as much as the activity pulls words into its wake, I just don't often feel like I need to attach any words to the action itself, so I don't have a string of half-started knitting posts cluttering up my dashboard.

But swimming ... I hope I'll get back to it.

Hey, S., we haven't heard about potty training in awhile!

Oh, yeah. That.

Well, we were cruising along, doing great, filling sticker charts at an alarming rate, and then we stalled. We no longer found the process engaging. We found that this past week, on the whole we were much happier wetting out training pants than stopping for the potty. We found our boring old stickers boring, boring, boring. Our moms were getting tired of fighting with us, and also getting tired of changing shorts and training pants.

Our moms were also aware that day care starts in two and a half weeks.

So we are having a bare-tushy weekend.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cheap content

Not only do I come up on top of this search, but my feed shows up, too, halfway down the page!

la da dat dat da da la da da da

I love that it was someone in Omaha that found me this way--land of my ancestors!

Hike: Max Patch Summit

5/14/98--Max Patch Summit, 87.3 miles (from Fontana)

Cooked and ate supper at the creek, arriving at the summit with full belly and full water bottles. The timing couldn't have been more beautiful -- the sun was a prefect orange circle fading into blue-grey beyond and just above the mountains, which ringed us in all directions. Max Patch itself took my breath away -- the grassy foothills rolling up to it, dotted with shrubs, boulders, and patches of raspberry. I'd expected a variation on the "grassy bald" I'd seen at Cheoah, but this was a completely different kind of mountain. It seemed like an entire countryside -- decidedly American in its wildness, but reminded me of the rolling hills of the English Lake District.

Counting in the roadwalk from Mtn. Moma's this was another day over 17 -- again, my longest. I started off with a good yogi -- a banana and an apple from a woman who couldn't give us a lift because of the German Shepherd in the back of her car. Diva Dog loved being back on the Trail and I loved being out of the Smokies. The Trail has resumed its life as a footpath, not a muddy riverbed, with solid, duff-covered dirt under our feet.

Wildlife on the Trail today: 2 toads, one of the common American variety, one redderr and bumpier; fields of poison ivy; fields and fields of trillium; the first wild strawberries I've seen in fruit; lady's slipper orchids--stunning; a puddle full of tadpoles; white and variegated violets near Groundhog Creek Shelter. Former wildlife on the Trail: a very dead snake on the road from Mtn Moma's and a beautiful, huge spring-green butterfly that looked much more exotic than any of the others we've seen. Editor's note: this was a luna moth. Never alive, but wild enough: a conical, white, buzzing structure on top of Snowbird Mtn -- turned out to be an FAA homing device.

Hike: Tri-Corner Knob Shelter

5/12/98--Tri-Corner Knob Shelter, 55.6 miles from Fontana, 219.1 from Springer

10% of the Trail completed today. It was a beautiful day, too, not too long to go, not too hard to hike, and stunning views for my efforts. Got off to a late start b/c I loafed around camp, enjoying breakfast in the unbelievable warm sunshine. Not much else to report, though--life was beautiful, the living was easy. I can tell the story of yesterday's lunch, tho'--I cooked me some ramen at Mt. Collins Shelter. The shelter squirrel, working the day shift to the shelter mice's night shift, decided it was interesting and came to watch. I told him--or her--to go away, in various terms--he or she would back off, then approach once more, and so it went until, as I was packing up she or he approached my chocolate. I threw small sticks at it, which only worked once because it could see that I didn't intend to hurt it. I went over and shooed it to a corner. It once again approached my dessert. It took a piece and scurried off--I told it "no," I harbored unworthy thoughts that chocolate would prove as fatal to squirrels as to dogs. I lamented that this particular chocolate--sent to me in a maildrop from a friend in England--should contain hazelnuts, undoubtedly appealing to a shelter squirrel. At last, I returned to my packing, having protected my remaining sweets. The squirrel, well-fed and unpoisoned, returned. I threw larger sticks, with no more lethal aim than before. It continued towards my foodbag even though this now meant approaching quite close to me. This was too cheeky, so I took a deep breath and hissed, loudly. Suddenly, the squirrel couldn't get away from me fast enough.

Hike: Icewater Spring Shelter

5/11/98--Icewater Spring Shelter, 43 miles (from Fontana)

The trail only got worse this morning. Actually, it only got worse until well into the afternoon--the whole damn treadway could use bog bridges from Russell Field to Indian Gap. It sucked at my boots, it seeped in the eyelets. It spattered as high as my knees. I was using my hiking poles as much probes--it was up to 8 inches thick of Miserable, just a trough (as someone wrote in the registers.)

Hiked as far as Mt. Collins Shelter, right on Setback's trail, then she headed on for Newfound Gap and Gatlinburg, to check on her ailing hiking partner. She hasn't shown up at the shelter yet, so I guess that means they're heading back up to Virginia. I wish them luck and easy trails.

I enjoyed a 2-hour lunch that ended in blue skies. Still had a few miles of mud to plow and slide through, but by the time I got across Newfound Gap I was finding trail I could live with. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

The wind in the Smokies is intense. It sounds like the ocean. It will gust up and slap the side of the mountain, often just above or below me--I hear it more than I feel it. So this morning, even though it was only cloudy and not raining it sounded like a tempest crashing through the trees.

Crossed Clingman's Dome, highest point on the Trail, but visibility was so low it wasn't worth bothering with the Tower. Ah well. There will be more mountains, that's for sure. --MC

Hike: Double Spring Shelter

5/10/98--Double Spring Shelter--29.2 miles (from Fontana)

Rain. Mud. Slogging. All the livelong day. I did catch up with Setback--she sheltered ahead of me last night and I got a late start this morning, so it wasn't 'til the shelter that I found her. Man, I wouldn't have been saying all of that about no weekenders if I'd made it to Spence last night--it was full, and it sounds like Derrick Knob was, too. And tonight I think we've got 9 or so.

I think I was woken by a bear last night--I heard snuffling and breathing and decided not to turn over to see.

I am not liking the Smokies. They call the AT a long, green tunnel but here it's been a long, brown puddle. --MC

Hike: Russell Field Shelter

Where to begin--the trip to Nashville convinced me I should definitely be walking right now, not anywhere near automobiles, so even though today wasn't the greatest hiking, well, it feels like home.

A big, big thank you to the folks at the Fontana Motel and even bigger thanks to the owner of Loving Care Kennels. She drove me (and Diva Dog) to Pigeon Forge and then dropped me off at the rental car place. There my troubles began. The car had windshield wipers that stopped on the upswing. Its air conditioner blew lukewarm air. It was an automatic and it stalled at a traffic light. And it died in Knoxville, less than an hour and a half after I picked it up, and part of that time I'd been on the shoulder, waiting for a hailstorm to pass. I left it with the tow-truck guy for the Pigeon Forge rental people to pick up, rented a new car from Enterprise and was on my way.

It was great to see my family all in one place, and it definitely made me proud to see my brother with diploma in hand, so it was worth it, but it was a long round trip. My parents left me off at the Fontana Hilton after midnight, a hiker again.

Note: being in a real city is almost easier than being in a Trail town--especially wearing town clothes. It's like being on vacation from hiking, not like racing around trying to fit "civilized" errands into your hiking schedule. I didn't really need the reminder of how much weight I'm losing, tho'--those clothes fit three weeks ago.

Alright--back to the hiking journal. It was a dry day and a sunny afternoon, for which I was grateful because it didn't look like it would go that way. The Trail seemed pretty quiet for a weekend--in fact, I'm alone in the shelter tonight--one other northbound thruhiker, a girl named Setback who has had a few, and a southbounder whose been on the Trail since June 16th. I can't even imagine, it's so different from the way I'm hiking. A few weekenders, but nothing like my first "I hate weekends" experience, which surprised me, considering it is the Smokies but I'll take what I can get.

I saw two deer today--no, 3, actually--and a lot of tracks in the Trail near (of course) Doe Knob. I also saw 3 horses, mounted by 2 humans. On the AT. I'd been warned, but it didn't make me any happier to have to hike over the trail they'd messed up.

Overall, I'm not too impressed with the Smokies--the trail, after the initial climb, was muddy and hard to slog through. Horses? People? Certainly overuse. There was a nice stretch of newly-cut trail after Ekanatha Gap that made me pretty happy, but I can't imagine it will stay that way for long --MC

Eye update/My life as a suspect begins

No surgery!

Which means the pressure is normal, for now, and the asymmetry in my optic nerves is not pronounced enough to cause the doctor concern. My little paranoia about how I was feeling more pressure in the right eye* is just sinus stuff.

I'm sorry I couldn't let everyone know yesterday, but my pupils looked like dinner plates for at least 4 hours after the doctor put the extra dose of dilating drops in so she could see what she needed to see even though I was jumping around like a certain two-year-old of my acquaintance bloodline. It made driving home a challenge and looking at the computer screen impossible.

But I am now an officially-diagnosed "glaucoma suspect," a phrase that makes me feel like my phone is going to be wiretapped. I'm going to need regular monitoring more or less indefinitely. I start by going back on Tuesday for baseline visual-field testing and a photograph of my ever-so-slightly, not-a-big-deal, we-won't-worry-(yet) lopsided nerves. After that, it will be every six months until she has a sense of how quickly it's progressing.

Just in case all this good news is misleading: it is progressing: there is pigment in the drain of the eye. If the drain clogs, the pressure in the eye will rise. But I'm not there yet. And all the monitoring is so I won't get there.

*There is slightly more pressure in the right eye--but apparently you just can't feel intra-ocular pressure.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Parents of toddlers!

Any Peggy Rathmann fans out there? If you haven't seen this site you really oughtta.

(And a nod to Lo for making me think of hamsters!)


I'm going to give it a couple days to see if I like it once I'm more used to it.

Mostly, the font on the text just had to get bigger. And then the colors were so fun to play with....

Monday, August 6, 2007




came out of here:


When it's actually clear of weeds, this is a native azalea surrounded by giant solomon's seal, sensitive fern, and wild ginger. Hey, I couldn't tell that from the photo, either. (I'm leaving it small because the light was low when I took it and if I make it any bigger the camera shake will make you dizzy.) Most of what's obscuring the azalea is a volunteer tomato plant.

I had seen the tomatoes and sort of weeded around them earlier in the summer, but I had no idea about the cukes. They have not been supported in any way except by growing over the tomato and then onto the azalea. Yep. We have so many weeds they are staking each other by force of jungle. We have volunteer tomatoes every year from the dogs stealing tomatoes and eating them in various corners of the garden. But they've never produced fruit early enough to ripen.

I love these little untended gifts the garden throws my way. When I lived downtown, I would love watching the petunias growing in the chinks between the bricks in the sidewalk, under the windowboxes where they'd been planted the year before. Even the fussiest plants that we mail order specially don't know that about themselves. They go ahead spreading their seed around just like any other weed. I have a couple of gorgeous, big, glossy hostas that figured they'd hop a few yards over from my neighbor's place to mine. They settled in practically under the big holly, where I never would have planted anything on purpose, and they're doing just fine. By now I think I have three or four blackberry lilies, only one of which I actually planted on purpose. But blackberry lilies! Who could object to a blackberry lily, wherever it happened to plant itself?

The idea of a volunteer is so lovely. Something desirable that just crops up, not wild but not planned, coming into being not through any effort of your own--or maybe only the secondary result of effort you put in intentionally earlier, and maybe somewhere else. The honor the store won last week is a bit of a volunteer in that sense. We were just doing what we do, and how lovely...this thing arrived on our doorstep.

The several former students I have on my staff are another sort of volunteer. I did put effort into those relationships when these young women were still girls (though at the end of their girlhoods), and they have turned up again, grown, and resuming those relationships in a new setting and on somewhat different terms. But still, the initial work was long ago and for a different purpose.

In Mona in the Promised Land--a book you should go out and read immediately if you haven't (yes, of course I mean you, silly!*), and if you have read it you should go out immediately and read it again--Gish Jen thinks about volunteers this way:

In fact, he is the first of many loves that will crowd her official life--unoffical plantings that will thrive for their neglect. And eventually she will learn a name for them, a word for plants that spring up on their own. Volunteers. He is like one of these--plants she will in time learn to appreciate, even as she lets them go to seed.

I'm wondering about the volunteers in your life.

*except if you are E., because I think if you are E. you must have it memorized by now.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Mut8nt Meme-R4

Goldfish tagged me for this meme, which is a brand-new variation on the Random 8 meme. Now, she tagged me for it on either the same day or the day after I did the Random 8 meme, when I felt I had already exhausted my tagging possibilities--and that was before Jody posted on how she feels about randomness!


So here's the deal: I'm going to put 4 names up at the end of this, but consider them mild suggestions. If your name isn't there and you'd like to tell the world your recipes, volunteer in the comments and I will edit the post to add you in. If your name is there, and you think this would not be fun, then do the exact same thing about unvolunteering and all trace of obligation will disappear. I will even delete your comment if you like.


Here goes:

The rules:

1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 4 recipes they especially like (ethnic or regional recipes and quick meals are especially nice).
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 4 recipes.
4. Players should tag 4 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

I chose these recipes because they are all easy, and are all recipes that originated elsewhere, but which have morphed since coming into my cooking repertoire. I have a tendency to tweak, in the kitchen and with fiber.

Recipe for a messy daughter

one bar of Ghir@rdelli's bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
one small bowl that fits into
one larger bowl, double-boiler style
items for dipping: we have had success with strawberries, cookies, pretzels, candied ginger, dried apricots, honey bunnies. Really, there isn't anything we haven't had success with. It all gets eaten. It all gets the daughter messy.
one daughter (a son may be substituted). If you increase the number of offspring, I suggest increasing other ingredients.
water as hot as your tap can possibly make it
waxed paper or parchment paper

This one is freely adapted from the Joy of Cooking, which tells you to do all this unnecessary crap with candy thermometers and using extra pieces of chocolate to regulate the temperature. I say: hooey. If it's melted, you're fine.

Put the chocolate in the smaller bowl. Put the water in the larger bowl. Put the smaller bowl in the larger bowl. Wait, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is melted, dip your stuff and put it on the waxed paper. When it's dry, eat it. Or put it in the fridge for later (let me know if you manage that one.)

Avocado soup

If you read my recipe for pie, you might have received the impression that I'm not very invested in exact numbers in recipes. This will confirm that for you.

I got the original version of this from someone in Dog Park ten years ago or more.

3 ripe avocados
1 or 2 cucumbers
plain yogurt of whatever degree of fat you like
scallions, maybe, if you have them in the fridge
fresh dill (optional, esp. if you're Jenny)
a little cumin, maybe
I think the original version had ice cubes?
salt to taste
Two big bowls
blender or food processor

Separate the avocados from their peels and pits, cut into chunks and put in a big bowl. Peel the cucumber(s), scoop the seeds out with a spoon, cut into chunks, add to bowl. Press garlic into this mixture--you know how much garlic you like, but I usually think two cloves is plenty. A. would probably put in three. Dill and scallions, likewise. If you're going to try it with ice cubes, add them, too, I guess. Put all of this through the blender in batches with enough yogurt to keep everything liquid, transferring each batch to the other bowl. Add more yogurt if it's too thick. If it's really too thick, add water. Put a little cumin in if you like. I dunno, 1/2 a tsp? You can always add more if it's not enough. It's good if you have time to leave this in the fridge for an hour or two, but I'm seldom that organized. I usually add salt at the table.

Vegetarian Chili

AKA, what we had for dinner tonight. There are a lot of ingredients in this, but not much chopping. Everything is a pantry item, so this is a good back-up plan meal. It is possible that AJ in JP will still recognize a central core of this recipe from her version, which we learned from her when we all rented a cabin in Maine a million years ago (well, six).

1 medium carrot, cut in coins
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1-2 slices jalapeno pepper, like you get in a jar for hoagies, finely minced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 cup green olives w/pimentoes, cut so most are halved but don't kill yourself
2 cans diced tomato, with juice or only slightly drained
1-2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 can chili beans, drained
1/2 cup tvp
3 tbsp sliced blanched almonds
2 tbsp olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a big skillet, add carrots and onions and saute. When the onions start to look translucent, add garlic, jalapeno, and spices. Saute for a minute or so more, add olives and tomatoes. Heat through, add cocoa, stir, add chili beans. Let everything bubble along until it's starting to look thicker, 10-15 minutes. Add tvp and almonds. When tvp is plump (2-3 minutes) it's ready to serve w/grated cheddar or jack cheese. We sometimes get extravagant and make cornbread, which is excellent, but it's also fine w/corn chips.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This one is a variation on the Moosewood New Classics recipe; apparently (from the soy powder, at least, if not also the flaxseed) I adapted it for my pregnancy diet--so Co and Furrow and (un)relaxeddad, this is for you! (And veggie chili is also good for protein during pregnancy.)

1/3 c. soy powder
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 c. oat flour (I think you can put rolled oats through a blender instead)
1/3 c. ground flaxseed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
small bowl

2 sticks butter, softened
1 c. sucanat (or brown sugar)
2 eggs, room temp.
large bowl

4 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 c. lowfat yogurt
1-2 tsp. vanilla extract
small bowl

3/4 c. chocolate chips

2 loaf pans

Preheat oven to 350, grease loaf pans

Mix together dry ingredients and set aside. If you don't have soy powder/oat flour/flaxseed, make up the missing volume with whole wheat.

Mix the bananas, yogurt, and vanilla together and set aside.

Blend butter and sugar, add eggs. Add banana mixture. Fold in dry ingredients, 1/4 at a time. Fold in chocolate chips.

Bake 50 minutes or until a knife comes out of the center clean of batter (chocolate residue is okay.)

Now, is it your turn? Jenny, ppb, Magpie, (un)relaxeddad, I'm tagging you. Feel left out? Feel uninspired? Feel free to make adjustments in the comment field per instructions above.

What's up with word verification?

Is word verification broken on blogger broken right now, or what? I just checked my settings, and they haven't changed--still set to yes. I've definitely gotten at least one spammy comment, too. Anyone else?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Betwixt and between

I went to shul today. It used to be that I wouldn't have needed to say that--I'm in town, I'm fit to leave the house, of course I would be in shul on a Saturday morning. But I've, oh, I could say I've gotten out of the habit, but that would be a lie of ommission. I'm having a crisis of faith, if you can use the word "crisis" for something that's been going on for a year or so. I'm having a crisis of worship, too. Last High Holidays I had to leave in the middle of the first evening of Rosh HaShana because the liturgy reduced me to a weeping mess. My dog had just died; my water table had been a little high ever since Z. was born; all I could do was contemplate the faces of people whom I might have to mourn in the upcoming year. These are two names that didn't occur to me:

Helen Hill
Lana Schwebel

Both of them much too young. Both of them suddenly, through the wreckage of coincidences piling on coincidences. Both of them people I had not seen in years, but whom I was, in some basic way, trusting the universe to take care of, in the way you do when old friends are out of touch.

After Helen died, I heard pretty much immediately and after steeling myself to do it for a few weeks, I made it to shul just in time for the closing prayers, stood for kaddish, sobbed my way through, left immediately.

I guess I'm in better shape now. I heard the news only two days ago. I made it in time for the Torah service, took Z. and spent a little time with the other parents in the playground minyan, came back for closing prayers, stood for kaddish, did not cry, left immediately.

I've been Jewish for fourteen years. It's still less than half my life. In that time I've said kaddish for a lot of people, though thank god, none of such a close degree of kinship that I would be required to do so.

In saying kaddish for Lana today, for the first time in my life I formally mourned another Jew.

The kaddish is a responsive prayer, which is the source of its power. It's not alone in that: there are a few other prayers that also require a minyan (they are all responsive) and if you don't have ten Jewish adults, as jarring as it is to skip them, there is not a lot at stake if that happens for a week here or there. However, if you have lost someone sufficiently close to you, you are required to say kaddish for them daily for eleven months. If you undertake this obligation, you must join a minyan every day for that time, and synagogues struggle to gather minyans for mourners. It's a powerful connection to community.

It's not the mourning ritual of anyone on either side of my family. It is almost nonsensical that I would have said this prayer for the three of my four grandparents who died since my conversion. None of them would have counted in a minyan. But the other aspect of the kaddish being responsive is that you when you say it, you are leading the congregation in prayer. This is, in itself, considered to be a Good Thing, reflecting well on who you are and therefore on the people who raised you and influenced you. In saying kaddish for someone, you are showing the community and god that this person made you a better person. It is supposed to help the person with god during the year that their soul is being weighed--and that's why you stop after 11 months. You don't want to imply that god needs to take the entire year to make up god's mind.

Lana is the first person for whom I said kaddish who would have known all of that without my telling her. It was the first time I said it without also imagining the explanation I would need to make to the person I was grieving.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

For Lana

Peripatetic Polar Bear recently started commenting on this blog, so I did what I do when someone starts commenting, and added her feed to my reader. In reading back through her posts a little ways, I saw that she had recently lost a friend in a bus accident in Siberia. Since I was catching up on something a few weeks old already and I'd never commented on her blog before, I didn't really know what to say. I didn't say anything.

Today, I got word that Lana, my old friend from graduate school, died recently in a bus accident in Siberia. I feel tongue-tied about this still--her voice and her face are in my head, and I can't even imagine the words--and also there's nothing I can say about Lana that ppb hasn't already captured. Please, especially if you knew her--and I know some of you did--please, drop by The Ice Floe.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


August. Phew. August is our designated "all quiet on the home front" month. Every weekend from the beginning of June until just this last one, either one or both of us were out of town or we had people staying with us. If I had to say, I'd guess this is why my garden is in such bad shape.

It is also why I am only now finishing this post that I started writing in my head way back the week before the traveling started, when Seahorse wrote this about returning to music after silence.

Both A. and I had weekends away from Z. in the Time of Traveling. Mine was the weekend of Helen's memorial--the second weekend in June--and it marked the first time I was away from Z. overnight. I correctly anticipated various things about this--her acting out, my aching breasts--but there were a couple of things I didn't even realize I missed until I came home. One was her specific weight in my arms--while I was away, I had carried toddlers who were lighter than she was, and she felt so heavy! But so reassuring.

Another thing was song.

Unlike Seahorse, I'm not a musician, and I haven't had damage to my hearing (okay, no non-routine damage), but depression kills my ability to connect to music. When I left my teaching job to finish my dissertation and found myself isolated--1,000 miles and a time zone away from almost everyone I knew--music faded out of my life. Honestly, it had been fading for awhile. The year before we left for Madison, on September 11, 2001, I switched my radio to NPR and pretty much left it there for three years.

The album that brought me back to music was Rhythm of the Saints, and more exactly "Born at the Right Time", which made me cry every time I listened to it, and then I would hit repeat to cry again: "Eyes as clear as centuries/Her silky hair was brown." If I knew nothing else about the baby I was carrying, I knew she would look like that (and she does). Mind you, this was during the last trimester of my pregnancy, so crying in no way indicated a change in the state of my limbic system.

Something you may as well know about me is that I can carry a tune but cannot reproduce one. I would have told you I couldn't sing at all if a musician I knew in college hadn't told me that I was always off by a third. I was singing harmony, consistently. Weird, hunh? When I was preparing for my adult bat mitzvah, a lower-school music teacher I knew gave me a few voice lessons, just so I wouldn't embarrass myself. He confirmed the harmony thing and from him I also learned I was a soprano, which surprised me. (It shouldn't have: As Lo and E. and a few scattered lurkers know, on the phone my voice is indistinguishable from A.'s and her voice is a beautifully trained soprano.)

I incorporated this new knowledge into my life insofar as it made me more confident when I occasionally signed up to lead services, and that was that until Z. was born.

Then song erupted. Z.'s name scans the same as a name in one of those semi-bawdy songs that circulates on playgrounds. We made up verse after verse to sing to her in the stroller and the car and on the changing table. I've always made up sort of absurd songs to sing to A. or my dogs, but with a baby the opportunities abounded. As time has gone on, singing became part of Z.'s routines. When it is my turn for bedtime, I sing her to sleep, trying hard to hit the notes in my head, not the notes my voice is inclined towards.

The first thing Z. wanted me to do when I got home from the airport after my weekend away was to sit down with the Philadelphia Chickens book and sing every song in it, and Snugglepuppy 3 or 4 or 8 times--I don't know how many repetitions she actually wanted, because we had to eat dinner before her appetite for Boynton and Ford was exhausted. She sang along in her tiny toddler voice, a little hesistantly, but pleased to be putting each word in its place in the line...the words are running along in her head, and she's starting to get them out.

Z. is singing! She sings snatches of songs all the time, many of them from day care--songs we never taught her. She sings along to her good-night songs every once in awhile, with an effect that I'm told is eerie when heard from the other side of the door.

And she sings along to cd's in the car. Any song with a wordless part is hers; Bubbletoes is a favorite: we have to pipe down when Jack Johnson gets to the "luh-duh-da-da-duh-da's," because dat's Z's pawrt:

...It's as simple as something that nobody knows that
Her eyes are as big as her bubbly toes
On the feet of the queen of the hearts of the cards
And her feet are infested with tar balls and...

Now we are quiet and from the carseat comes:

La da da da da da
La da da da da da da
La da da da da da
La da da da da da da

La da da da da da
La da da da da da da
La da da da da da
La da da da da da da da

I hope she will always be singing.

What Niobe wants...

One of the Rhymes with Javelin rules appears to be that if Niobe proposes something, I will bite.

You're Thailand!

Calmer and more staunchly independent than almost all those around you,
you have a long history of rising above adversity.  Recent adversity has led to
questions about your sexual promiscuity and the threat of disease, but you still manage
to attract a number of tourists and admirers.  And despite any setbacks, you can
really cook a good meal whenever it's called for.  Good enough to make people

Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid

Now what I want to know is how many times Niobe had to take it to get one so perfect?