Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Bring on the Predictions: We’re in the Granite State

My Iowa assessment worked out pretty well and so I should be coming into New Hampshire feeling confident, or at least more confident than some of the candidates (looking at you, Governor Big Mouth).  Alas, I think there is is a lot of uncertainty in the Granite State.  The Democratic contest is an easy call; the state’s blue voters will feel the Bern and Senator Sanders will walk away from New Hampshire with a victory just north of 15 percentage points over Hillary Clinton.

For the Republicans, the outcome is less clear.  Even accounting for the dropouts of Huckabee, Paul, and Santorum, there are still a whole lot of choices available to New Hampshire Republican voters, a group who are less religious and more moderate than Iowa Republicans.  New Hampshire primary voters are traditionally last-minute deciders and most polls show that even as we head into election day, 30% of them remain undecided.  The same New Hampshire polls show that Trump is holding his lead, though it’s shrunk since Iowa.  I think that Trump will hold on among New Hampshire voters, but it won’t be a 20 point victory.  He’ll win first by 5-7 points, though I won’t be surprised if the win is more narrow or even if Trump comes in second.

A Trump victory clears the way for Kasich in second place, and I think that’s where he will land, by a few points anyway.  

Conventional wisdom is that Rubio’s Saturday debate disaster won’t cost him much but I think it will cost him second place,  and he’ll slot in third, but just barely behind Kasich.  Bush and Cruz will be next, both in the low double digits, not much apart from one another.  Christie comes in sixth with the high single digits.  This may cause him to pack it up and return to New Jersey; it will surely cause the money to dry up.

Speaking of dried up, Fiorina and Carson are done as of tonight.  The chance that they hold on to get South Carolina seems pretty slim given the fact that both are out of cash.

That’s how I think it will shape up.  What you got, New Hampshire?

Monday, February 08, 2016

Front Porch in February

Mild though it may be, it’s still Winter and the February front porch is stark for the season.  The snowman flag has come down, because I’ll not encourage any more nonsense on that front.  Snow clearing supplies remain at the ready because I may be hopeful that snow is over for the season but I’m not stupid.

The table has a blue cloth and basket full of pinecones because pinecones always look like Winter to me.

There’s a polka dot-ribboned heart wreath on the door.

The cafe lights remain.  Though the days are getting longer, the wrestling season means that we are still prone to getting home after dark.  The lights welcome us home and that’s most happy.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Real Life Conversations at School: Girl Power edition

The backstory:  My 7th graders are working with historical documents from the Louisiana Purchase era, including a series of letters President Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Senate about the purchase.  They are reading and analyzing the documents and trying to understand both how the documents  help us to understand the time period we’re studying and its differences with our own time period.  The letters are addressed to “Gentlemen of the Senate,” and one of the groups (3 boys and 1 girl, student M) were perplexed…..were there not “Ladies of the Senate” in 1803?

Me:  No.  Remember, women were not permitted to vote and they would not have been allowed to serve in the Senate had they sought to do so.  Women got the right to vote in 1920 (I opted not to explain Jeanette Rankin…..this group was already rather stunned).

M:  How many women are in the Senate now?

Me:  Well, how about you take a guess?  How many Senators are there?

Quick math revealed that there are 100 senators.

M:  50.  I think there are 50 women in the Senate.

Me (gently now, because this bright girl has no earthly notion of sexism or discrimination against women because of their gender):  There are 20 women in the Senate.

At this point, all the air left the room, as M looked at me and considered what she had just been told.

Me (still gentle but feeling like this reality must be understood):  That’s the most women who have ever served in the Senate.

M (looks at me intently):  Well, that’s a reason to support Hillary Clinton for president, isn’t it?

Me:  Yes, M, it is indeed.  It is indeed.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

New Bloom Thursday: Week 6

I’m impatient to see big progress in the amaryllis, much as I am impatient for the arrival of Spring blooms.  Quite frankly, I’m impatient for all sorts of things….I’m looking forward to Spring Break and packing away my Winter clothes.  I’m looking forward to March Madness basketball because it gets me that much closer to the start of baseball season.  I thumb through my gardening catalogs and I’m impatient to start Spring planting.  I think about the summer and I’m impatient to plan an adventure with T, to make some college visits with JT.

And here is where impatience runs up against my heart.  A look into my not-too-distant future reminds me that in just over two years, my baby will be moving out and heading to college.  That’s exciting and it’s what I want for him but it’s also such an unfathomable development.  Where did the time go?  How is it that I once had a bundle of soft, sweet baby and now have a tall and strong, sometimes still sweet, nearly-16-year old?

Impatience for the things that are coming puts me at risk for not appreciating the here and now.  So I’m going to stop and admire the amaryllis as it looks today.  There is time enough for the future tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Real Life Conversations with JT: Culinary Genius edition

The backstory:  I like to cook and I’m a good cook so it’s rather an irony that I gave birth to the world’s pickiest eater.  As he’s grown up, JT’s become less picky and whenever he discovers something new that he likes, he’s prone to acting indignant, as if this food has been purposely denied him for years.  The truth, of course,  is that I’ve avoided something for years because the whining about it is more than I was willing to endure.  Case in point: walnuts in chocolate chip cookies.  Though it is my most favorite cookie, I have avoided making them for 12 years, since a three-year-old JT spit a mouthful of walnut chocolate chip cookie on the floor, gagging as he did it.  Last weekend, I threw caution to the wind and made the kind of cookie I like.  JT tried them.

JT:  What’s in those cookies?

Me (cautious):  Walnuts and chocolate chips.

JT:  Those cookies are straight fire.  You’ve never made them before and you should make them again.  

Oh, the charms of a teenage boy.

Monday, February 01, 2016

2016 Iowa Caucus Predictions

Tonight is the Iowa caucus and this afternoon seems like a good time to offer my predictions.  I believe that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic count but it will be closer than her campaign will like.  She’s got a good organization on the ground in the state and her behind-the-scenes white paper policy positions will motivate voters who really care about those issues.  They’ll come out to caucus on a cold Iowa night and she’ll win it by 2-3 percentage points.  But Sanders will do just fine and his prospects in New Hampshire, neighbor to his home state of Vermont, are good.  This contest isn’t over yet.

The Republican caucus vote seems like more of a crap shoot.  I know that Donald Trump believes that people who will wait in line three hours to see him in person will surely put in time for the caucus but I don’t share that belief.  Though he’s made some missteps in the last few days, that won’t bother his nutcase supporters; Ted Cruz has done the organization legwork in Iowa and he’ll prevail tonight, winning by 4-5 percentage points.  Number two will be the Donald (pun intended) and third place will go to Marco Rubio.   Bush, Christie, and Kasich will all perform poorly tonight.  But they will likely stay alive for New Hampshire, where all three have better prospects thanks to the fact that New Hampshire’s vote is a primary, not a caucus.  Because it’s a primary, New Hampshire Republican voters are a more stable lot than the Iowa caucus Republicans (how is that for damned by faint praise?).  So those three live for another few weeks.    But the same can’t be said for the remaining Republicans.  Surely, the Iowa results will drive at least one of them out of the race.  Will it be  Rand Paul?  Ben Carson?  Carly Fiorina?  Rick Santorum?  Those jackals are on life support before caucus results are counted.  Afterward, well.....tick-tock.

I’ve been grateful that I don’t have to teach about politics in this 2016 presidential cycle.  I like all the Democratic candidates but as both a citizen and a student of politics I have been horrified by the Republican display.  I think that the party is breaking up and, like most break-ups, it isn’t pretty to watch.  Neither side is conducting themselves well.  On NPR’s Sunday edition show yesterday, a group of young Republicans expressed the plaintive hope that their party would begin to stand for things rather than against.  That’s a sentiment the party should surely embrace.  Alas, that’s not yet begun.  So the Republican brawl continues and will play out in the coming contests.  I’ll be here with observations and predictions.    Here we come, 2016 contest.

In the Backyard Neighborhood: February 1

On the first day of the year, the backyard was experiencing a mild day, one in keeping with our rather temperate Winter.  Last weekend’s massive snowfall changed that up quite a bit, with nearly three feet of snow on this corner.  Just a week later, there’s been plenty of melting, thanks to some sunny days and the return of Winter mildness.  Yesterday, the sun shone and the temperature rose to nearly 60 degrees.  It’s not often that I drive with the window cracked when there is snow on the ground, but that seems to be the kind of Winter we are having.

Piles of white snow can be deceiving so it's hard to know how much of the icy white crystals remain. But it was more than I wished to brave, so all the pictures were made from the back deck.

Even when it’s cold and snowy, I find February to be a lovely month.  Sixteen years ago, a sweet baby was born to me in February.  Its 28 days feel that much closer to the arrival of Spring.  Even this year, with an extra day of Winter, there is a tantalizing sense of seasonal change just around the corner.  This corner of the yard is drinking in the snow, getting ready for some Spring blooms.

That’s happy!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Book Report

For the last ten years, I have kept a list of each book that I have read, mostly because I find lists pleasing and also because I like to remember when I have read a particular book.  I often re-read books at specific times in the year and knowing when I’ve read a story before helps me to provide some context for the different pleasures I find in the world of familiar books.

And make no mistake about it —— books are one of my greatest joys in life.  Over the years, books I have read and the characters in those stories provide companionship and comfort; context and advice.  They are a big part of the person I’ve become as well as the person I want to be.

For 2016, at the end of each month, I plan to post a review of one of the books I have read in the month.  Most will be new books, some will be old favorites.  This month’s book is Celia’s House, written by D.E. Stevenson, an English author from the mid-20th century.  I have most of Stevenson’s books and love them all.  Celia’s House was first written and published in 1943.  It’s the story of a rambling old house in Scotland and the family that lives there.  

Unfailingly, Stevenson’s novels are happy stories filled with charming, regular people.  Celia’s House is in that tradition.  The novel begins with a detailed description of a home in Scotland as elderly Aunt Celia contemplates how much she loves the landscape of her family home.  Upon her death, she leaves the beloved home to her great-nephew Humphrey on the condition that he raise his family there and ultimately leave the house to his own Celia, a daughter yet-to-be born.  

Humphrey follows instructions and the novel unfolds over the next 30 years as another generation of family grows up and loves the home just as Aunt Celia did.  I like my novels to have happy endings and all of Stevenson’s novels fill that requirement.  Along the way, they are filled with quirky, cheerful, regular people; enjoyable reads every time.  This one was no exception; a happy read that reminded me of the power of home.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Winter Light

Having grown up in California, when I moved to places with more varied climate, I learned to embrace the seasons.  I quickly came to enjoy them.  I found the transitional seasons of Fall and Spring especially pleasing; perhaps because they feel like seasons of anticipation.  Now, more than 25 years since I moved east, the seasons are an enormous part of my world.  The cold and the warmth; the dark and the light; they shape my days.

Even a relatively mild Winter such as the one we are currently experiencing can be a slog.  We brace ourselves to head outside, wrapped up in jackets and scarves, pulling on mittens and hats to keep the cold at bay.  When there is a sunny day, I turn my face up to the clear sky and the sunlight, feeling like a turtle who longs to sun herself.

Come January, I begin to track the sunlight.  As the dark, cold days pass, the light slowly grows a bit longer and I thumb through my garden catalogs.  In the mornings, when I bundle into the cold car, I remind myself that soon enough days of flip flops and t-shirts will arrive.

Years ago, my favorite Miss Read book reminded me that come February, the days have grown long enough for a walk in the fading light after supper.  So in January, I mark the passage of cold days and look to the salvation of February, when the daylight gets stronger and Winter’s hibernation begins to ease.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

New Bloom Thursday: Week 5

Historically, this is the point in the amaryllis growing season when I begin to fear that my bulb is a dud.  It’s in a sunny window; I’m following all the directions, but things seem to be a bit slow to come along.

But a look at photos and reports of my previous amaryllis bulbs reminds me that patience is the order of the day, a lesson for amaryllis growing that is applicable to the rest of life as well.  Last weekend’s snow is still piled everywhere.  The melting is coming along nicely, thanks to sunlight and temps above freezing.  The relative warmth has me thinking of the coming Spring.  I’m giving the amaryllis a daily pep talk so that it remembers to join me in these daydreams of blooms and new life.  In its quiet vibrances it’s telling me, “soon, dear, soon.”