I am a freelancer in the publishing industry, so words are very important to me. I'm a leftist living in a world gone mad, so politics are very important to me. I'm an environmentalist living in a degrading world, so pick up your damn trash, get rid of your gas guzzlers, and don't touch ANWR, you self-absorbed capitalists!

Do leave comments: let's make this a conversation. If you prefer, you can contact me at friuduric at yahoo dot com.

31 May 2007

If It's Not One Thing, It's Another

Sometimes, I worry that I brag too much on this blog.

Sometimes, I worry that I bitch too much.

Sometimes, though, you just have to tell it like it is. And that’s what I’m doing today, readers, just telling it like it is.

Did I tell you that I started the coolrunning.com Couch to 5K program? I highly recommend it if you want to start running, but have no idea how to go about it. In fact, I lost 5 pounds in 2 weeks, without changing anything except adding running (and walking) in, three times a week. Boy! Did I feel more energetic throughout the day on running days. Amazing. Imagine what I would have been like after 9 weeks of this.

Notice I said, “would have been.”

Despite stretching before and after running, despite purchasing running shoes and new cushioned athletic socks, despite wearing my Dr. Scholl’s gel heel cushions, and despite taking it slow, I have torn my plantar fascia again. (I did it about 5 years ago when I overextended doing a sidekick in taekwondo. Needless to say, that was the end of TKD for me.) You can see what a torn plantar fascia looks like here.

After a visit to my podiatrist (who remembered me after all these years – is that good or bad?), I now am banned from running, elliptical training, etc., for at least a month. She told me to go out and buy arch supports for my sneakers and to tape my arch in the Lodi method, every day, from the minute I step out of the shower to the minute I lay down to sleep:

Because really, what is sexier in the summer than seeing someone’s heel* in flesh-toned elastotape, right?

(No, my ankles aren’t really that fat, it’s just hard to take a good picture of one’s own foot while balancing on the other leg. Sheesh.)

I bought my way out of the depression that is seeing a fabulous exercise program (with all its potential for weight loss and muscle toning) go down the drain by buying myself a pair of sandals**:

Dansko sandals, it’s what the doctor ordered. (Really, dansko is the best shoe brand for someone with plantar fasciitis.)

*'Cause we all know how much I love attention on feet, right?

**I wasn't going to buy a pair of sandals this year, because there are better things to spend my money on right before we go off on sabbatical, a time when the Consort will be paid at 70% salary and we're moving to a high cost-of-living area.

30 May 2007

Musical Genres

Have you ever noticed that Mexican Norteno music sounds incredibly similar to German Oom-pah music? (Visit the Web site for the famous Lost Tigres del Norte for an accordion-heavy taste.)

The Consort loves to listen to the Norteno music that we hear wafting from some apartments. The past few weeks (if he hadn't been in Nicaragua) he would have been in heaven. Our Somali neighbor, Kulatin, has hired some people to put up new siding on his house. People who love to tune to the local Norteno radio station. Rather loudly. I don't mind, though, because what really gets under my skin is the window-rattling bass that comes from speakerboxes playing (mostly) hop-hop and rap. (There are a few that play Reggaeton, and I like that about as little as I do hip-hop / rap. I just don’t like misogynistic music, no matter where it comes from.) How bad can music with accordions accompanying male voices warbling about lost love be? Heh.

Our neighbor doesn’t like the Norteno music. In fact, Kulatin doesn’t like very much about the men he’s hired to do the siding. And part of me is enjoying his discomfort. You see, whenever we do something—say, rake up the bags and bags of leaves from our ginormous horse chestnut tree in the Fall—Kulatin will wander over to chat. “So, how much do those bags cost?” (We buy city bags for the yard waste, and the city hauls them away to produce compost for city residents.) “So, how long did it take you to rake all those leaves, huh? Looks like a lotta hours. Me, I asked this guy with a truck, ‘How much you gonna charge me to take my leaves away? Fifty bucks? No way, man. I’ll pay you twenty-five.’ And he does it for me. No long hours in the yard, huh?” Then he gives us this grin, like, I’m just teasing you, you know?

Kulatin is king of “knowing someone” and finding a deal. Even if most of these guys take only cash, and don’t have insurance for their “employees” or a valid registration for their truck (as has happened to the current siding guys, who lost a couple of days when a passing police car asked for their papers).

This time, he’s been bitten in the butt with his gray market ways. The guys come and play their Norteno music for about an hour, then go away. A job that should have taken 3 days maximum is on its third week. They’ll sit and eat under the shade of the tree (listening to the music), and the crew boss tells Kulatin that “it’s so hot, we just need some beer, man.” Kulatin gives them $20, and they go buy some beer … and don't come back!

After telling us the beer story, Kulatin says he won’t pay them until they’re done. I think that’s a pretty smart idea. But I did say to him, the other day, “So, those guys don’t really like to work much, huh?” And I grinned at him, I’m just teasing you, you know?

29 May 2007

Thanks, Secret Pal!

With all the Friday excitement, and the Saturday return of the Consort, I haven't had a chance to thank my Secret Pal for the treats I received in the mail!

Continuing with this season's bag theme (I've been knitting and sewing up a bunch, remember?), my Pal sent me a ChicoBag: it's made of recycled plastic, and folds up into its own little pouch, so you can keep it in a pocket until you need it. There were also an assortment of taffys, that came in (I think, because when I opened my package, I dumped everything out) in a cute bumblebee drawstring bag (did you make that, SP?). The little blue box came with a windchime tucked inside (hung on a paintbrush across a vase for your viewing pleasure),and she also included two neat vintage buttons (I'll have to find a project to put those butone to good use!), and a Dover coloring book (which Trixie thinks will be great! -- But I think I'll be coloring some of them, too).

And, do you see that sock back there? The package included several sock patterns, as well as direction for making toe-up, short-row heel socks.

Yahoo! Toe-up is so easy! I don't know what made me afraid to try it before. And short-row heels are so pretty (compared to the heel-flap I've been doing). The yarn is the Brawny colorway of Spaghettoni. Maybe because of its name, but Trixie and I totally see a spaghetti and meatball dinner in this yarn: the browned meatballs, the red tomato sauce, the red pepper flakes, the oregano and basil, and, of course, the pasta! I'm already done with one sock, and have completed the toe of the second.

Thanks, Secret Pal! Your treats have kept my mind off the fact that the guy who crashed into our fence ended up not having insurance. (After talking to the insurance guy, I decided not to file a claim at this time. With deductible and the loss of our claim-free creadit [for three years], it just didn't make sense to file. This morning the Consort and I purchased all the materials twe need to start putting it back up ourselves.)

24 May 2007

Now THIS was Not a Drill

A few weeks ago, I shared the story of the SWAT team that came to practice on my street. Ha, ha, we all had a good laugh about me coming home to an armored van and a bevy of black-suited beetle-headed officers of the law with assault rifles.

Today, while working in the office, I hear police sirens, and they sound like they're getting closer. And closer. Then making that "BEEEooooop" noise that sirens make when they are turned off right outside your house. Being the neighborhood nosy-body, I felt it was my duty to go outside and see what was going on. As I step out the front door, I notice the flashing lights to my left, just around the corner. "Hm," I say to myself, "if I walk down the sidewalk, I might get in the way. Oh! I know! I'll just go out through the back and look out from my yard. That way I can satisfy my curiosity while not bothering the Law."

I step out onto the back porch, and, yep, I'll be able to get a good look at the activity, because there's a swarm of officers right by my back fence.

No--wait a minute--they aren't BY my back fence ... they're AT my back fence! Holy jimminy! What the hell happened?

The lovely Narcotics Officers informed me that there had been a sting operation, and the suspect attempted to take off when the jig was up.

"There're loads of hundred-dollar bills in his car!" one of them shouted to another.

Ummm, do you guys think I could take a few of those to take care of fixing my fence?


Get Thee to Bugmenot!

Go on. It's easy. Borrow one of their New York Times logins, because you really must go read this review of the new Newt Gingrich (and William R. Forstchen) novel, Pearl Harbor: A Novel of December 8th:

An Assault on Hawaii. On Grammar Too.

[Y]ou [will] find phrases like “to withdraw backward was impossible,” sounds like “wretching noises” to accompany vomiting, or constructions like “incredulous as it seemed, America had not reacted.” Although the book has two authors, it could have used a third assigned to cleanup patrol.

This is not a matter of isolated typographical errors. It is a serious case for the comma police, since the book’s war on punctuation is almost as heated as the air assaults it describes. “One would have to be dead, very stupid Fuchida thought,” the book says about the fighter pilot Mitsuo Fuchida, “not to realize they were sallying forth to war.” Evidence notwithstanding, the authors do not mean to insult the fighter pilot’s intelligence — or, presumably, the reader’s.

Go read the whole thing!

It's really entertaining. (And I'm not saying this because of Gingrich's political history. Although that makes this all the more delicious!)

23 May 2007

Dear Consort, #3

Dear Consort,

It sure was fun chatting with you over email and haloscan the other day. Sounds like you are having quite the adventure in Nicaragua!

But, dude, it’s time to come home.

See, yesterday morning, the router started acting up. You remember how it’s been fritzing out on us the past 6 weeks or so, mainly in the evenings (so that it wasn’t getting in the way of correspondence and Internet connection during work hours), and it would flush itself in a few minutes (so that we could technically still get connection during the evening, we’d just have to wait a bit longer between pages). Yesterday, it happened in the morning, so I called the tech director and left a message.

That afternoon, he hadn’t called back, and it was getting worse. Trixie was disconnected twice while she was playing WoW, and I wasn’t able to finish the work I wanted to get sent out.

So, I called back, and got the voicemail again. And I did what I knew I would. Yep, I threw diplomacy out the window and said something like, “I don’t know why we even go through you people, we should just get the DSL direct through Qwest because at least they have phone banks and ANSWER CUSTOMER TROUBLE CALLS!”


He called back this morning, and after saying “This is Txxx Syyy,” he was silent on the line. No apology coming from this guy. That’s fine, I wasn’t going to apologize, either! He gave me his cellphone number and told me to call the next time it happened. I replied that I didn’t think it was a very good idea, because it often happens in the evening. “You can call me in the evening,” he said. Ho-kay.

Two hours later, I got disconnected (it’s still this morning). I call him, and it sounds like he’s at home watching kids. He tells me someone else will call me right back.

They did.

You know who it was?

Chatty guy, your friend.

Oh my lorrrrrrrrd. It took about 20 minutes to finalize that he’d bring over a replacement router later in the afternoon. I told him I’d be gone from 3 to 4. He then called at 2:45 just to “touch base” and remind me that he knew I’d be out from 3 to 4 and that he’d call before he came later.

Well, it’s 8:45 and he hasn’t called. Which is fine. In fact, I wouldn’t mind if the router transfer didn’t happen until Monday...

...When you’ll be home, and be Mr. Diplomat,* like you always are.

Imperatrix, your Thank-god-you-aren't-running-for-office-because-me-and-my-big-mouth-would-ruin-any-chance-you-had-of-being-elected spouse

*This is also why I haven’t called the neighborhood police liason to discuss certain “happenings” next door, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep the reins on my rudestraight talk, and that would just end up making things worse. You’ll be having to call her, too, when you get back. Alright?

Nurturing Independence, through Food!

Impera came home from school on Monday very excited. She and her friends were talking, and decided that, on the last day of school (Monday June 4 at 11 am—talk about crazy bureaucracy!) they’d head over to the local diner after dismissal and get themselves some malts (the malts at this place are very very good, in case you didn’t know). I didn’t say anything, but I figured the next day some of the girls would report parents not too keen on the idea; you see, the diner is ten city blocks from school, and most of these kids get driven to and picked up from school—their parents don’t even consider walking to school an option (need I remind you that Impera walks the six blocks?).

Yesterday, Impera tells me that it sounds like a go (shows you how much I know). Except for one of her friends, whose mother said she’d need to talk in depth with the girl’s dad, because she wasn’t sure a group of 13-year-old girls going to the diner on their own would be a good idea.


Most of them have pocket money, thanks to the lucrative babysitting market available to this age group. They are all responsible kids, so I am confident they won’t be terrorizing the noontime crowd. So, what is there to conceivably stop them from doing this? I have no idea. Thoughts, anyone?

This plan reminded me of something I used to do at this age (in eighth grade). Three of my girlfriends and I would go to restaurants once a month, and then sleep over at one of our houses afterwards. It was so fun to pick a local restaurant, get dressed up, and do the whole “dining out” thing on our own. I have no memories of being treated badly by wait staff (and I’m one who would remember that sort of thing, believe you me!). I do remember one time, though, when we chose a restaurant a bit too expensive for us. We didn’t realize it until the bill came, and, although we could cover it, left us with about 15 cents to leave for a tip. We felt so terrible—we really didn’t do it on purpose.

(I got my due, though, a few years later when I was a waitress and got stiffed—as everyone in that business does, from time to time.)

22 May 2007

Keeping my Head Above Water

I still don't have a cord for the camera I borrowed, so the post I planned for today is unpublishable. So instead, I'l share some random links:

The Literature Map - I think it's funny how the names keep bouncing back and forth, as if the people the names are attached to aren't sure they want to be friends with the person whose name you typed in.

The Rare Book Room - Check out the Chaucer; even the tooled leather cover is a treat!

Wallpaper notebooks from Freshlyblended Press.

Real content to come tomorrow. (I think!)

21 May 2007

The White House, Talkin' Trash, as Usual

On Sunday, White House spokesperson Tony Fratto described Jimmy Carter this way:
"I think it's sad that President Carter's reckless personal criticism is out there," Fratto told reporters. "I think it's unfortunate. And I think he is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments."

Increasingly irrelevant? Let's take a look at what got the White House hackles up this weekend, shall we?

Former President Jimmy Carter sez:
"[A]s far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history."

Nobel Peace Prize-winner Jimmy Carter sez:
"We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered."

When asked how he would describe the Tony Blair - George W. Bush relationship, JImmy Carter sez:
"Abominable. Loyal, blind, apparently subservient."

These don't sound like the irrelevant ramblings of a reckless loner. These sound like the educated opinion of a true statesman, and it seems that the overwhelming majority of Americans (we're talking 75%, people) are swinging his way.

Some cranky old men are definitely worth listening to.

18 May 2007

Dear Consort, #2

Let’s call this essay: Frustration.

Ooo, but first, let me tell you what Impera made Wednesday night for my Mother’s Day supper. We had spinach dumplings smothered in pesto sauce. And for dessert: chocolate mousse! (Even I have never gotten up the nerve to make chocolate mousse.) It was all delicious, and very very filling. I took pictures, but because I borrowed a camera from a friend but forgot to pick up the cords, I can’t download them or post them. Just imagine it, if you can.

Okay, back to the theme. (Remember, it’s Frustration.)

First, you aren’t around.

Second, you know how I mentioned the girls and I are going camping this weekend? Well, I thought it would be a good idea to put up the tent Thursday afternoon and let it air out a bit, make sure it’s swept out and ready to go … you know, that kind of prep stuff. Now, you recall that we own the little 2-man (technically, it’s a 4-man, but they must be gnomes or dwarves to fit four of them and all their gear in there) tent that we bought before we traveled through Europe 18 years ago. But since we’ve been here at Mr. Duck U, we’ve been using one of the larger tents owned by your Program, purchased by the guy who started up the Program, and who liked to spend petty cash on things like Eddie Bauer tents and Jeeps. Because you and your students go camping at most twice a year, we’ve been keeping one tent useful here with us. Remember that? And, maybe you remember that you and your students went camping at some point this spring, and that you took the tent we use with you, despite the fact that only about half as many students as sign up for a trip actually show up to camp at any Program outing—despite that, you thought you might need it? Yeah? You know, the tent that was put back in the equipment room, I’m guessing, because it isn’t in the garage or in the basement? Yup, THAT tent. The one that therefore the three of us can’t use this weekend? *Sigh.* We decided we’d make the little tent work. Because we’re hopelessly optimistic that way.

After we all lay in the tent and gave it the thumbs up, I went inside to start supper. The asparagus and frittata dinner I said I’d make Thursday night. I promised. I took out the asparagus and reached for the egg carton. It felt pretty darn light. I opened it up, and instead of the six eggs I expected to find (the six eggs I counted and found to be more than plenty when I planned to make this dinner), I saw three eggs. Hmmm… Of course!—the spinach dumplings required eggs. Well, here is frustration #3! I scrounged around in the fridge, and found that half of the pseudo flatbreads (they call themselves “pita” but they are unlike any pita I ever saw) were still good, and the haloumi cheese my mother brought two weeks ago was also fine (since we hadn’t opened the package). There was one ripe tomato on the windowsill, and I had bought a handful of mushrooms to put in the frittata. So, I roasted the asparagus in olive oil, garlic, and sea salt; I sliced and fried up the haloumi; I sliced and sauteed the mushrooms in butter; I sliced up the tomato; and I warmed up the flatbreads. And we ate.

And then! A double-whammy frustration. I drove the girls to fencing, and as we approach, I noticed lots and lots and LOTS of cars parked along the side streets. “Oh, right!” say the girls. “This neighborhood’s Farmer’s Market starts tonight.” This means that I can’t park where I normally do, seeing as it’s the main strip down which the stalls are set up. So I dropped the girls off at the back door of the community center, and spent longer than I wanted to finding a place to park. Then I decide that I’d walk the market, see if I can find something quirky for my Secret Pal.

Consort, let me tell you something: the suburban farmer’s market may be lots bigger than our neighborhood’s market, but it is all (1) prepared food to eat on site and (2) potted plants. There was maybe one produce stand, but that’s it. Sheesh! What kind of a farmer’s market IS this? Not a well-rounded one, that’s for sure.

So, I hope you had fun staying with families at the fair trade organic coffee plantation. Was your Spanish adequate? We check on your itinerary every day, you know.

Talk to you soon,


17 May 2007

Why Is It? No. 37

Why is it that my facial moisturizer is SPF 15 and never gives me any problems, but when I put sunscreen on my face, even the teeniest tiniest amount that gets close to the corners of my eyes stings the bejeezus out of me for at least 30 minutes?


16 May 2007

Dear Consort, #1

Dear Consort,

This is the first in a series of notes I'll be writing you while you are in Nicaragua. I figure your e-mailbox will be overflowing with all sorts of crap that you don't filter out (despite my constant nagging), so if I try to keep you updated via email, you'll never see it. Maybe you'll think about checking the blog, who knows? (I know *I* would if I were in Central America and only had 15 minutes or so at a cyber cafe to check up on the important things in life.)

Trixie misses you already. She hasn't said anything outright, but lately she'll be sitting there and all of a sudden sigh and say, "Zephyr misses Dad so much. Poor Basenji!" (I don't agree with her, mostly because the dog is invariably curled up and asleep during these interludes. [Well, when she hears her name she wakes up, puts on her "pitiful face", and slowly lifts her front paw, on the off-chance one of us might remember that what we really wanted to do was pat her tummy.])

Impera -- ah, Impera. She'll miss you heaps by the end of the two weeks. Yesterday morning, after taking her time doing her morning routine, I asked her if she had emptied her part of the dishwasher. "I don't think I'll have time," she replied (it was 7:13, so she technically had 2 more minutes). I told her yes she did have time, because it was 7:13 and so she had two more minutes, so get crackin'! See? One week of this and she'll be missing you.

I have not been feeding the girls well. Sunday we potlucked, so they ate fine. Monday was the Fiddle Jam Session (which went great by the way; she had a blast, and gosh does old-time music sound good when a group of eleven musicians play together. But boy, I had no idea so many of her teacher's students were adults!) and fencing class, so I cooked a frozen lasagna, with no supervegetable. Yesterday, I had plans to make roasted asparagus and a frittata, but Impera asked if we could go to the bookstore to buy the other two books in the same series as Tithe, and, being a softie when it comes to book addiction, I said yes. Seeing as we only had a short while before she had to get to school for the orchestra concert, on the way home from the bookstore we stopped at Jimmy Johns and ordered sub sandwiches to go.

Tonight, Impera's cooking my Mother's Day meal. She asked for basil, heavy cream, and chocolate chips. Knowing her, I don't have to worry about all three being combined in one dish! Tomorrow, I promise I'll make that frittata. (Friday we'll probably head out camping, so in the first 7 days you were gone, we'll have eaten healthy twice, eaten grilled food once, eaten crappy twice, and eaten camping food twice. Not a good track record.)

The orchestra concert went very well. The chamber orchestra piece was good, too. But the music director forgot to put one person's name on the program list of chamber orchestra members. Think of all the seventh graders we know who play classical instruments. Think of the *worst* person he could have left off the list...

...think you know who it was?

...Yep, he left off Queen. Poor kid. Aaargh!*

Well, I better sign off. It's almost time for Impera's fiddle lesson.

We love you lots, and hope you're having a good time!

Yours forever,


PS: Because of the camping trip, don't bother trying to call at all on Saturday (not that we talked about you doing that, anyway.) (Plus, that satellite phone sux.)

*To the general readership: Queen is a socially immature kid who doesn't really fit in anywhere. She tries too hard, you know? Being left off the chamber list will just underscore for her how invisible she must feel most of the time. I wish I could hug her, but her mom doesn't like me and she's stopped coming to the book chats. *Sigh*

15 May 2007

Good Riddance

Jerry Falwell is dead at 73.

If the Christian god exists, I don't think he's preparing a very big welcome for someone who spent his life as a proponent of hatred and bigotry.

Well, maybe a big welcome--but not the kind you were expecting, I'd warrant.

14 May 2007

I Had a Lovely Mother’s Day, Thanks + A Rant

Yesterday started on the early side. The girls and I drove the Consort to the airport at 7 am. He was off to Nicaragua for two weeks—and, after spending the day checking on the departures and arrivals of his three-leg trip (hmmm, that sounds kinda dirty; three-part?, three-plane?), we can say with confidence that he arrived on time in Managua yesterday evening. (The girls counted it up later in the day, and it seems that of the past 5 Mother’s Days, he’s been on a trip or at a conference for 4 of them. This is no big deal to me, because I’m not HIS mother, after all.)

When we got back from the airport, Trixie made up some pancake batter, Impera cooked them up, and I ate them (well, I did share). Trixie presented me with a lovely painting she made, the Consort had left a gift for me to open (a very cool embellished top made by a local textile artist), and Impera presented me with a home-cooked meal, to be prepared on Tuesday or Wednesday this week (seeing as I am the sole adult in charge of planning meals for the next two weeks, this is a welcome gift, indeed!).

After a few hours where I putzed around reading the paper and doing the Sudoku, and the girls did some WoW adventuring, we packed a lunch and headed out to explore the Heart of Iowa Nature trail. If the trail is representative, then the heart of Iowa is pretty narrow and straight, let me tell you. It’s a crushed gravel path that meanders between fields for miles and miles. There were trees here and there, so we found some shade under which to eat our sandwiches, but really, I think we’ll be sticking to other trails from now on. I did see a male Baltimore oriole (scroll down a bit to see the male; what fluorescent orange feathers!) and an American goldfinch (IA state bird, you know), as well as many of my favorite local birds: red wing blackbirds. More putzing around, then we spent the evening potlucking with our friends.

In all, a very pleasant day, spent with two of my three favorite people.

This weekend, some of my free time was spent reading blog posts (because no day is complete without some blog surfing!). There were, as you can guess, many Mother’s Day posts. A few (of people I don't often read) really bugged me. I didn’t write about them over the weekend because I didn’t want to muddy my own very happy Mother’s Day.

Now that it’s the day after, however, I am free to rant. The blogs that bothered me were the ones where the blogger discussed the weaknesses of Mother’s Day (MD), to wit: if they were cooked anything, it would be food on the grill (because that’s all their spouse was comfortable cooking), so they end up cooking up a big feast otherwise THEIR mother wouldn’t get the MD she desired; the kids don’t really get a taste of ALL THE WORK the mother does during the other 364 days of the year (even mentioning an anecdote about a child who actually did mop the floor, etc, for MD, and when done, the child wouldn’t let anyone walk on the clean floor because he didn’t want his hard work to be ruined so quickly [implying that the mother’s weekly cleaning isn’t so respected, I suppose]).

First, what is all this about defining what you want as a gift? (The Sunday “Between Friends” comic was terrible in this regard: the little girl gives her mother a bottle of perfume, and although the mother thanks her daughter, she complains to herself that she had told her husband the kind of perfume she wanted, and this was NOT IT.) I believe that gifts are decided on by the GIVER, and the receiver should accept the gift graciously. I admit this wasn’t the case when I was growing up. There was the birthday gift that I chose for my mother one year. My father gave me some money, and I walked to the Fine Gift Shop on my own to pick something out: a little porcelain girl in a sweeping green dress wearing a sash with her birth month written across it. In typical childhood taste, I thought this was the most beautiful gift ever. I was so proud of my choice, and I was sure that my mother would like it. After thanking me in front of everyone, my mother pulled me aside and whispered, “I thought I told you I would give you enough money to get me a NICE present!”

I was crushed.

As a mother, I always respond “something you made yourself” when the girls ask me what I want for my birthday, Christmas, or MD. And I have treasured each and every paper ornament drawn with crayon on the back of recycled paper, poems decorated with little pictures, hand-stitched sachets, magnets with school pictures, etc. And really, once they’re adults, I won’t start asking for big MD feasts, either. If they want to make one because they enjoy cooking, fine. But no one should bitch that her kids don’t help with the meal for grandma, because grandma shouldn’t be asking for it. Period. To me, MD is a little kid’s holiday, a day set apart so they can tell their mom how much they love her.

Second, I have no sympathy for the “they don’t respect the work I do in the house” complaint I’ve read too many times on MD blog posts. If children have to work at something, they have more respect for keeping it up. My girls (10 and 12) each have a bathroom to clean. They each are in charge of several rooms to dust and rugs to vacuum. EVERY TIME WE CLEAN THE HOUSE. They still leave things all over the house, but so do I (I’m the worst clothes on the floor person in this house), and everyone pitches in when the house is neatened up, usually about twice a week.

From the time they were 5-ish, they’ve been in charge of folding and putting away their own laundry. Now, they are in charge of washing their own laundry. If they run out of clean underwear, they have to wear a dirty one while they run their load of laundry. One of them still folds her clean laundry, the other doesn’t. I think the slacker should fold it, but heck, if she wants to go around in wrinkled t-shirts, that’s her choice and it’s a battle completely not worth my time.

They empty the dishwasher, make their own lunches, and if they cook something, they have to clean up after themselves. If kids aren’t respecting the cleaning that done by others, get them involved.

Third, the “woe is me, my spouse doesn’t help at all” complaint holds no weight with me, either. The Consort does the food shopping, I do the laundry for both of us, we share cooking responsibilities. I’m not saying every relationship should work this way, but it works for us, and if someone doesn’t like the divvying up of chores in their household, they should TALK ABOUT IT with their spouse. Last I checked there’s no “Chores Men are Legally Not Supposed To Do” law out there. We’ve come a long way, baby.

I probably should have unpacked this post in smaller bits. Oh well. Rant over.

10 May 2007

To Those of You Who Thought I've Spent Too Much Time in An Ivory Tower...

…You were right.

Yesterday, I decided to sit and knit in a nearby park while Impera had her fiddle lesson. My favorite bench (the one in the shade) was already occupied, but there was plenty of room for me, too. The man already sitting there (I’d say he was in his late 50s) was accompanied by his two grandsons, who had a wonderful time playing on the equipment and wandering through the trees.

He was the chatty type, and he began with the expected, “So, what are you doing there, knitting?”

Then he promptly began talking about himself. This was fine with me, because I could then keep knitting, interspersing an “Oh?” and Wow!” at intervals.

He had led a very interesting life. He started as a band teacher, moved up into administration (in parochial schools, where they play fast and loose with teacher credentials). In 1987, he and his wife (also a teacher), answered a job ad for “someone with administrative and teaching experience, and open to adventure”—or some such teaser.

They spent the next ten years running a school in Peru. It was a K–8 school; after the kids graduated from eighth grade, the company (more on that in a bit) would pay for them to go to boarding school. The girls, he said, typically went to boarding school in France. He sent his two boys to a Benedictine boarding school for boys in Kansas.

The school, he told me, was paid for by a US copper mining company for the children of its executives.
Strike 1.*

His wife absolutely loved it there, he said. She taught in the school, and really enjoyed the fact that they had a housekeeper who cooked all the meals. “We could just say, 'Rosario, we’re inviting 50 people for dinner on Friday—Cook it.’ And she would.” Oh, but that wasn’t all: “We also had a gardener, and he was our caddy when we’d play golf.”
Strike 2.

They traveled throughout Peru, and only had trouble once. On a school trip to northern Peru, the bank across the street from the hotel they were staying in exploded. Terrorists.** “You know, in Peru, they know how to deal with terrorists. They die ‘accidentally’ in prison … they ‘get lost’ in the jungle … they drown in the ocean … Not like here. We sure could learn a lot from the Peruvians.”***
Steeerike 3!

Oops! Just look at the time! I must make my escapebe off to pick up my daughter from her lesson. Glad I won't ever see you againGoodbye!

*Copper mining is terribly destructive to the environment. Working for a copper mining company is sort of like working for Shell Oil Co. in Nigeria, or for Union Carbide in Bhopal. You get the picture?

**Shining Path.

***Note that I’m not implying I agree with Shining Path tactics. I just don’t think we should take the Peruvian military’s example as our own.

09 May 2007

Getting Back in the Saddle

We've all talked about it. The difficulty in blogging after taking a few days off. As usual, I've got ideas, but I can't get them from my fingers to the keyboard. You'll just have to make due with this nothing post today, so I can get the juices flowing.

Let's see...

Oh, yeah! The girls had a fencing tournament in Lincoln, Nebraska, this weekend. It was the first time I had ventured into our neighbor to the west (we have visited the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha several times, but that's just across the river, so it doesn't really count).

What a different world. It could just as easily have been October 2001 in Boston or New York, for all the patriotic messages and flag stickers we saw everywhere. I know I pick on Iowa often (heck, I even have an Io-whaaat? label for the blog), but golly gee, we are so much more open-minded than many of the states around us (and, to be fair, I also have an Io-aaaaah label). I don't know if I could live in a place that still lives the jingoism that reared its ugly head in the post-September 11 days.

And I'm sure it says alot about me as a person that I come back from a weekend away with a picture of a hotel room card sleeve, but no pictures of my offspring fencing. (But really, fencing shots all look the same after a while, and with that mask, it could be anyone under there.)

07 May 2007

You Know You're Old When...

...the music of your youth is now in the hands of marketers.

Hampton Inn Hotels are not this cool, people!

And I cannot believe that the song from my Sophomore Semi-Formal now sells SUVs!!!!

02 May 2007

Five Questions

Stew asked me five questions, and here are the answers:

You know a lot of music. How do you keep up with it?

Internet radio! This is a valuable source for new music, old music, and world music that just doesn’t make it onto the Clear Channel playlist (Clear Channel is the octopus that owns an incredible number of radio stations across the 50 states —they literally own the airwaves in some markets. I spit on them *ptui*).

When I need to concentrate, I listen to Groove Salad, the somaFM station that plays electronica.

When I don’t need to concentrate so much (say, when doing a 600-entry Reference section, or knitting, or sewing), I listen to RadioParadise.

Thanks to these two, I have been introduced to (and now own) music by Emiliana Torrini, West Indian Girl, Zero 7, Cesaria Evora, Ane Brun, Belle & Sebastian, Garmarna, Gotan Project, Grant-Lee Philips, Jess Klein, Kings of Convenience, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Mindy Smith, Neko Case, Ray LaMontagne, Telepopmusik, The Decemberists, The Innocence Mission, Feist, … to name but a few.

I highly recommend listening to these internet radio stations. You might want to hurry and do it because there is a battle in Washington right now about the future of internet radio, and if they lose, they’ll probably go off the air. The music companies want these stations to pay royalties on a per listener/per song basis, which would increase their fees to over $1 million (currently, they pay a percentage of their revenue—since these are small family outfits, there is no way they could pay fees higher than their income [did I mention they are commercial-free?]). For comparison, over-the-air broadcast radio stations pay no royalties (since they are for all intents and purposes advertising media for the big music companies). You can read all about the issue at SaveNetRadio.org.

I also visit calabashmusic on a regular basis. They offer a free single each week, and provide a stage for small, independent, world musicians to garner a larger audience. That’s how I learned about Sara Tavares and Pau D’Agua.

I'm always very impressed with your craftability. How did you learn to sew/knit/etc, and have you been teaching Impera and Trixie?

My mother taught me to sew. My godmother taught me to knit. I had no time for either of these during my late teens/early twenties, but started sewing again after college. A friend “reminded me” how to knit when Impera was about two. I taught myself to crochet about three years ago. I like having something to do with my hands that I can then use (hence, no painting, scrapbooking, etc.).

Yes! The girls do both. Impera has made some blouses for herself (I put in the collar), and Trixie just two days ago helped make a prairie skirt for herself (I’ll post pics soon, I’m sure). And they both knit:

How did you meet the IC?

In a class at Georgetown called “Scientific Worldview” taught by the fabulous Joe Early. It was a experimental class, science for non-science majors, but with a real lab section, and serious books (we read Richard Dawkins and Alfred North Whitehead). Both of us went into the class sure that we were going to ignore our previous science teachers’ pleas to continue our science education in college (the Consort in Chemistry, me in Physics) and stick to liberal arts instead (the Consort in Political Science, me in English literature). We came out of that class energized, and as double majors in our respective science and liberal art.

Oh, did I mention the Consort was engaged at the time? (I am such a bad, bad girl.)

If I'm remembering correctly, you may be part or all Belgian. The wonderful mix CD you sent me has a few songs in French on it. Do you speak French yourself? If so, how well?

I’m 100% Belgian, thank you very much. Born in Liege. I read and speak fluently, but my written grammar is not so good. (Really, though, what kind of a silly language adds a silent “x” to pluralize things like birdx, owlx, and pebblex?) We spoke it at home, I spent 4-6 weeks visiting relatives every summer, but I took Spanish in school. Therefore, when I need to write something in business French, I ask for help.

If you could return back to visit one era of your life so far, just for a little while, which one would it be and why?

That’s a tough one. If it’s just to relive it, I think I’d pick the first few months of getting to know the Consort. My god, we were so shy! But there’s nothing like that time when you’re getting to know someone, feeling butterflies when they call, or when you see them out and about; visiting in their dorm room; taking long walks; chatting until 3 in the morning; the first touch, sitting closer and closer (I’m telling you, we were shy!); finally thinking that yes, there does exist someone who really understands you—that time is precious. And the intensity! It doesn’t happen again. Once you’re really a couple, it mellows to a warm constant comfort. That’s very very nice, too, but it is a different sort of feeling. You can't ever recapture the first few months (with the same person, that is!).

Now, to continue the meme, I add this:
So if you want to play along and now be interviewed by me, please leave me a comment or send an email saying: "Interview me."
* I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
* You will update your blog with the answers to the questions. (If you don't have a blog, I'd be happy to have you do it in the comments)
* You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
* Then others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions and so on.

01 May 2007

Out of Sorts

I'm still here! But this week is feeling out of sync. The Sabbatical dread is kicking in, no matter how much I truly believe that we aren't behind in finding a renter here, finding a rental out there, etc. There are a few things I should have done by now (write a letter to the principal at the school the girls will be attending to make sure they're placed in appropriate level classes is at the top of my list; oh, and submit passport renewals) that I haven't done. There are too many errands that I need to do with the girls in this shortened week (get their hair cut, get prescription sunglasses for Impera & me, have the lawn mowed, have the house cleaned, etc.), and they've just gotten invited to spend the afternoon with friends. Should I be a mean mom and make them stay home and get some of these things done? I don't know.

I don't feel like I've got anything interesting to say. My mother's coming for a 6-day visit on Thursday (hence, the shortened week; everything has to be done by WEDNESDAY), and we all know how well *those* go for me. For all that I say I won't take things "the wrong way", everything is a judgment. It is.

I'm OK work-wise, but I know I'll get behind during the visit, and I don't have the time to "catch-up" beforehand this week.

I've goofed twice already this week with things I said that shouldn't have said, things I forgot that I shouldn't have forgotten. And believe me, my Internal Nag is not letting me forget it! Easy to say, "turn her off." I can't. Blech.

Stew has asked me some meme questions to answer, and I hope to get that done this evening. I'll have at least one good blog post this week then.

Sorry for the frazzling. Really, things aren't that bad. It just seems it.

Blech redux.