Saturday, January 29, 2011

Feels Like 1989?

With a title like that, you could be excused for thinking you were headed into a post about big hair, the Cure, and other hazards of the '80s.  But I'm actually thinking about politics.  For the last few days, the moment I awaken I've scrambled downstairs to check in with NPR and see how events in Egypt are unfolding.  These sorts of political movements are a long-standing interest of mine, both professional and personal.

In the spring of 1989, I was a senior, preparing to graduate UCLA with a degree in political science and history.  That quarter, I was enrolled in a graduate seminar called "Problems in Communism"  and when Chinese protesters took to Tianammen Square we suddenly had live evidence of the problems of communism.  Chinese nationals, mostly graduate students in the sciences, poured into our seminar class, used the professor's fax machine to communicate with their fellow students in Beijing, and we all held our breath and hoped for a flicker of political freedom in China.

In that class, I wrote a final paper about the German Democratic Republic.  It was a paper in which I argued that the changes in Hungary would make their way to East Germany, as the citizens of that nation sought the freedoms and consumer goods of the west.  The professor wondered if I was being over-optimistic about the appeal of washers and dryers.

By September, I was in graduate school studying political science, when change rapidly arrived in Eastern Europe.  I would awaken each morning of that November to news of more people in more places sliding the iron curtain open, and acquiring the freedom of westerners.  I was reading and writing about Solidarity in Poland and Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia and we were all discussing how much a world of 24 hour media made these revolutions possible.  It was a glorious fall.

A little more than twenty years later, there's more than 24 hour media to aid peoples seeking political change.  In the last five years, the internet, and its attendant prospects for social media and instant communication, have spurred protests in Iran, events in Georgia, changes in Tunisia, and now something is happening in Egypt.  Whereas change in Eastern Europe invariably meant a transition to western-style democracy for the former Soviet Bloc states, it's not at all clear what Egyptian democracy might mean.  It could be a government led by Mohamed El Baradei.  It could mean the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Middle East is a political powder keg, which makes events in Egypt that much more compelling.

And so I wait.  I read updates at Juan Cole's website.  I check out the New York Times.  I follow a few newsworthy Twitter feeds.  I listen and read the news at NPR.  But mostly I think of the Egyptians and offer them my hope for a better future.  Which feels a lot like 1989.  I guess that some things never change.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Customer Service edition

The backstory:  We are once again coping with a cast at Sassafras House.  One of the bigger challenges is bathing, which requires that the cast be kept dry.  JT offered to take a break from bathing for 3 weeks but I deferred on that option.  Instead, we wrap up his arm in a plastic grocery bag to keep it dry while he showers.  Thursday night, as I was ready to bag his arm, we had the following conversation.

Mama:  Have you got the bag?

JT:  Will that be paper or plastic?

And at that, I burst into laughter.  Then I opted for the plastic bag.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Exercising My Constitutional Rights

In the years I was exiled living in rural Nebraska, I endured some very cold temperatures.  On one particularly memorable sunny day, I drove by the time and temperature sign at the town bank and it read -10 degrees. 

It was noon.

For anyone, let alone this California native, that's just damned cold.   To Nebraskans, however, it was just another day.  If I had ventured to remark upon the cold to a native Cornhusker they would have shrugged and then pointed out that it was colder back in '86 when the wind blew at 40 miles per hour and the temp was -15.  The people of that state had a remarkable ability to remain unaffected by any kind of weather.  I used to envision a  Nebraskan standing at the gates of hell with a non-Nebraskan, one who would remark that it sure seemed hot, only to have the Nebraskan respond.  "Hot? It's nothing compared to that July day in '95 when we had the Chicken Festival.  That was hot."

Here in New Jersey, people complain about the weather.  And by complain I mean a near non-stop whinging and moaning about conditions outside.  There is no dismissive response, no claim that it was worse back in the winter of '02.  Complaints receive instant commiseration.  Fact is, in New Jersey we have a right to complain.  It's right there in Article I of the Garden State constitution, "As misery loves company, it it the recognized right of all New Jerseyans to moan and complain about anything they find troubling."

Yesterday, I drove to school in a snowstorm, scraped a few inches of icy snow off my car in order to drive home on slick, slushy roads, and then had to get out the snow blower just to park in my own driveway, I was of a mood to complain.  And, God bless New Jersey, she was ready to listen.

My school called a snow day at 11 pm last night, with 6 inches of snow on the ground and the white stuff falling at a very steady clip.  This morning features a winter wonderland of rather epic proportions.  We've gotten a total snowfall of 18 inches in my corner of New Jersey.  The local news is reporting that it's the snowiest winter in 62 years.
It's actually rather beautiful outside; the sun is shining.  I have the day off and a snow blower, so I can probably get things set to rights easily enough.  Still and all, I wouldn't mind a few snow-free weeks as winter considers winding down.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The other day, JT was reading through part of his academic planner.  Amongst the dates and weeks and study tips are a series of pages outlining desirable virtues:  patience, kindness, etc…..they're all there.  JT was reading the list and when he got to loyalty he proclaimed, "What?  I'm not a freaking' dog."

The timing and tone of this proclamation could not have been more perfect.  Yet another piece of evidence that I brought home the right baby from the hospital.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Passing the Buck

I could write something today or I could just direct you over to The Beast, which has written up a 50-person list of people who well-deserve our loathing.  The very best part of the list is the punishments derived for the guilty. So appropriate that I plan to outsource all of my revenge fantasies to these folks.  They are gifted.

My favorite is number 5.  Unless it's number 17.  Or maybe number 4, which I rather adored and wished I had written.  Okay, I'll admit that every entry made me giddy with bitterness.  Just how I like it. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Extra Credit

Last week, when it was clear that JT had broken his thumb (it's a tiny fracture on the growth plate) he wanted to be sure that he received credit for the break.  Apparently there is some giant ledger in kid-ville, one that tracks broken bones, and he wanted to be sure to get his name marked down.  Twice, thank you very damned much.

Assured that he did, in fact, receive his credit, he nursed his swollen left thumb and went on with his business.  Last Friday, we finally had the appointment with the orthopedist (and it says a lot about me that I have a pediatric orthopedist on the speed dial).  She looked at the thumb, looked at the x-ray, ran Thumbelina through some thumb bending exercises and pronounced the dreaded words: this thumb needs a cast.

It's on for three weeks.  The arm must be bagged up for bathing (though JT did pledge to skip showering if that was more convenient); it's a pain to put on his winter coat, and shoe tying once again requires assistance.  It itches and will no doubt smell dreadful before this is all over.
 All things considered, we know that it could be worse.  But we'd still like some extra credit.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Over-Sharing x Five

The other day, I was asked to name five things I couldn't do without.  I figured the question should be taken seriously so I said things like my son and books.  And that's true, of course.  But upon reflection I've come up with an updated list.  One that doesn't reflect well upon me and reveals just how seriously shallow I am. 

1. Hot  wax….and if you have to ask, then bully for you.  But some of us need wax to maintain control over surly eyebrows.  And perhaps elsewhere.  But that's none of your damned business.  Ahem.

2.  Underwire……seriously, this here is a miracle item essential to my well-being and upbeat nature since the 7th grade.

3.  Washer, dryer, and dishwasher…..God's trifecta  of happiness for the cleanly-inclined.

4.  Jack Daniels....I don't drink all that often (and never alone because, honestly, I don't need to add that sort of trouble to my already precarious existence).  But some days call for a cocktail.  'Nuf said.

5. Tylenol PM...which is the sole reason I am able to sleep at night.  If some study revealed it to cause cancer or liver failure or some other troubling condition, I would be so seriously fucked.  Then I'd pour myself a hefty tumbler of Jack Daniels, toss back a couple of the magic pills, and sleep off that unwelcome news.

There.  I feel relieved.  You feel either horrified or smug.  Maybe both?  But that's gotta be why you come here in the first place, I figure.

And I'm happy to oblige.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Four to Six Inches

That would be four to six inches of midterm exams:
 And also a snow day to help manage this mess.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Anthem of the Sassafras Mama

Before I read her editorial in the Wall Street Journal, I heard an interview with the Tiger Mom, Amy Chua.  Her advocacy of high-achievement child-rearing horrified me.  Then it reminded me of an incident last spring, when I volunteered to take one of JT's classmates along with us to a local baseball game.  The classmate, a child born in the United States but being raised by a family born outside the western world, was unfamiliar with the sport.  JT had baseball practice before the game and so his buddy, let's call him X, and I and I sat in the sun, read our books, and visited about baseball while JT wrapped up his practice.

As we walked to the car to head off to the game X asked me, "why would you play baseball?"  And I responded by asking about what he does with his free time (he doesn't play a sport but I knew that he takes lessons in violin, studies a foreign language, and goes to chess classes).  And when I asked about those activities, hoping he would tell me he does them for fun, X instead confirmed my fears as he explained, 'I do those because my mom says that I should."

Not my sort of childhood.

Like many parents, I have encouraged my son's interest in a variety of activities.  But, unlike the Tiger Mom, after that introduction, I've followed JT's lead and let him select the activities which have provided fulfillment to him.  I don't pack his weekend and after school hours with so-called enrichment.  Instead, I encourage him to play.  And by play, I mean play: run around outside, ride his bike, dig in the dirt, and otherwise explore the world.  He attends a school filled with the children of driven parents and sometimes, when they ask what JT will be doing over the summer, I respond by saying, "I run an old-fashioned childhood so he's going to be a kid."  I mean it.

It may very well be that in failing to secure his fluency in another language and violin, I have doomed JT to a life outside the walls of the Ivy League.  And if so, be it.

What I want for JT is not a series of accomplishments from a childhood given over to lessons and resume-building.    Instead, I want for him a life filled with creativity and a rich imagination; a life inspired by a thirst to know and understand more.  I want him to do his best and to please himself; to be proud of his real accomplishments and mindful of his privileges in life.  I want my boy to figure out how to learn from failures and mistakes.  I want him to be resilient and confident.    I want him to love learning for the sake of the power of the ideas, not for the grades.   I want him to be a whole person, not a series of grades, test scores, and numbered achievements.

I want JT's childhood to be the foundation for a happy life.  And sometimes happiness is a lot harder to find than perfection, a reality that I think is lost on the Tiger Mom.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Found Day

As a result of an icy forecast we've gotten the day off from school.  As of this writing, temps are hovering at freezing, an icy rain is falling, and the streets are precarious.  While I'd already enjoyed a three day weekend, this surprise day off is awfully welcome.  I spent the better part of my weekend writing midterm exams, catching up on end-of-term grading, and getting organized for the next semester.  By yesterday afternoon the floors and bathrooms were clean, the sheets had been changed, the laundry was caught up, and the pantry was stocked.  In short, I was ready to face the week ahead, if not feeling particularly rested.

So today is a welcome break from routine.  Exams will be delayed and I'll likely have to spend most of next weekend grading.  But no matter… will unexpectedly be given over to relaxation and rest; a little bankable break to stock up for the busy week ahead.  That's happy!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thoughts on the Promissory Note

This time of year, the time when we pause to mark the life of Martin Luther King, often finds me enmeshed in thoughts of the long arc of justice.  I'm thinking about the lead-up to the American Civil War and events 100 years later, especially the Civil Rights Act.  I'm mindful of the fulfillment of the 14th amendment's promise in the form of selective incorporation of the Bill of Rights to the states.  King is central to all of these thoughts because he led the movement to finally bring the promise of the Constitution to fruition.

These aren't accidental thoughts.  I teach U.S. History and American Government  and the Civil War and American rights and liberties are the topics we are studying about now.  That didn't happen on purpose, but the accident of the timing is not lost on me. 

We don't have classes today because of the Martin Luther King holiday.  I will see my students in the week ahead but it's in the context of midterm exams and so for the next few days we won't be discussing King.  We will do so when classes resume.  In History class, my students and I will try to wrap our minds around slavery and the war which resulted in its abolition.  In Government classes, we will consider the Supreme Court's final rejection of segregation and that same Court's consideration of policies like affirmative action and other national attempts to atone for the exclusions of our past.

Before it's all said and done, my students and I will listen to the "I Have a Dream Speech" as it was originally delivered.  We'll talk about what it meant when it was first given and what it means now.  We'll read "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" and watch some of the film footage of the events in Birmingham.  We'll talk about the promise of liberty present in the Constitution and what that  demands of us today.

Though I am sometimes disappointed in my nation, these discussions always fill me with hope about fulfillment of the same promise sought by King.  I'm lucky to spend my days with students who are eager to understand the world they've inherited.  They are young men and women who anticipate making things better, who intend to move us a few steps forward toward fulfillment of Mr. King's dream.  That's a very good thing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Village Critic

Next month, JT will turn 11.  A few months after that I will mark the start to my sixth year as a mama on her own.  Five years into my single parenthood experiment, I've learned to cope with the solitary nature of the job.  Sometimes, when the time comes to make a decision, I talk it through with friends and family; people who know and love JT and whose judgement I respect.  It's an enormous comfort and help for me.  That is not to say that I question my own judgment.  I don't.  But talking through my options is often welcome and I'm incredibly grateful for the people who make that happen for me.

Even so, the fact of another party remains.  My ex and I don't have a good relationship with one another and we don't communicate much.   We are mutually to blame for that; mostly I work around it.  But at times, say when I wonder if my child broke his thumb, I get really frustrated at what I perceive as a lack of support from her end.  Instead, I face the prospect of criticism.  Last fall, when JT needed emergency dental surgery, she got angry that I hadn't informed her soon enough.  Never mind the reality that she's not the daily parent in his life and, as a consequence, didn't factor in to the decision (or, for that matter, the care JT needed in the aftermath)….she certainly felt free to offer her criticism of how I had handled things. 

On Friday, as I debated whether or not JT needed an x-ray of his thumb, I was aware of the prospect of her criticism.  Always unwelcome and never helpful, it is nonetheless ever-present. 

It is easy to dismiss the notion that it takes a village to raise a child.  But, in fact, it's easier to raise a child if the village helps.  I have the village; I have it in spades.  But I also have the village critic.  And that's what rankles.   I soldier on because that's the only option I have.  But as the years pass, as I rapidly approach that point where I've been a parent on my own longer than I was a parent with a partner, I increasingly resent her interference.  If she is not here to help --- and she emphatically made sure that she isn't --- than I wish that she'd just get out of my way.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Earning Full Credit

When JT was 7, he broke his leg.  It was a rough start to the second grade, but he mended well and by December he was back to running around like a regular boy.   And though it consumed us at the time, weeks and weeks go by without a remembrance of that once-broken leg entering my consciousness.  That's a good thing.  Still, it's not every kid who broke his leg while riding his bike and JT occasionally tells the story of his broken leg, usually to great dramatic effect.

On Wednesday, while he was playing outside in the snow, he took a tumble, got his finger caught in his lacrosse stick and came inside with an urgent announcement, "I need some ice for my finger."  The injured digit is his left thumb.  It swelled quickly and a bruise began to form.  I took him to the doctor that afternoon.  JT could move his thumb and make a fist and the doctor said, "Ehhhh.  It's probably fine."  We went home to a regimen of icepacks and ibuprofen. 
Yesterday, I took him to the doctor again; this time I asked for an x-ray.  He has full movement in his thumb (in fact, he never lost it) but the swelling and bruising had continued.  I was confident that he was fine (his constant motion and non-stop chatter certainly implied as much) but an x-ray was the only way to be sure.

And, in fact, the thumb has a very slight fracture.  Officially, it's a "Salter II fracture of the dorsal medial aspect of the proximal phalange."  Those of us without a medical degree would say he's got a fracture in his finger.  The Salter II aspect means that it's at the growth plate.  Frankly, I think it's a little cheeky of the thumb-bone to have a growth plate, but it does mean a visit to the pediatric orthopedist next week.

For now, the recommended treatment is to continue the ice and ibuprofen.  JT had only one concern, which he blurted out to his doctor, "Does it count?"  By which he meant, "can I really call it a broken bone?"

Assured that it does in fact "count" the boy carried his injured thumb home.  Full credit for two broken bones over the course of his 10 years on earth.  If that doesn't impress his fellow middle-schoolers, I don't know what will.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Though he has plenty of books, baseball cards, and new toys, JT invented a game which featured used dryer sheets, a half-broken paper airplane, pencils, and tape.  He hung his sculpted masterpiece from the doorway and was amused by it for well over an hour.
It might be one more sign that my kid is a little weird.  But I'm going to call it creativity instead.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mother Nature Delivers

Nothing quite serves the lazy blogger as well as a snow storm.  We got somewhere between 6 and 8 inches of snow last night and a so there was a snow holiday from school today.  Old man tree was happy.
Perhaps he could not see the body in the yard?
On closer look, that body looks remarkably familiar.
And loud.  Very loud.  Happy snow day!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Snow Forecast

There is a snowy forecast in store for us and today at school, well before a single flake has fallen, the students will be consumed with the prospect of a day off.  Midterms are next week, we've all got material we still hope to cover, but the prospect of a day off from school will trump all of that.  I always appreciate the enthusiasm of my students and on a day like today, that's a very good thing.

Update: And don't even get me started on the students angling for a second snow day on Thursday, this before we've even gotten the day tomorrow.......because the snow it isn't yet falling.

Update II:  At 8:50, with snow starting to fall, we've got tomorrow off.  Woot, woot!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lessons Repeated

This morning, my government students will be full of the news from the weekend's events in Arizona.  Representative Gabrielle Giffords was already known to them; the race was on a list of competitive Congressional races that we all followed last November.

The shootings, the deaths, and all that such violence entails will likely consume our attention.  As I always do, I will caution my students to follow reliable news sources and to avoid getting caught up in the panic of a 24 hours news media.  I will point out our need to peacefully and respectfully disagree with one another. 

I'm troubled by the vitriol in American political dialogue.  I remind myself that this feature of our political life is neither new, nor rare.  That's not necessarily comforting.  And today's name-calling is made worse by the existence of a 24 hour media world.  In a world in which we never stop talking, we are at risk for finally saying something regrettable, stupid, or downright dangerous.  We could choose to dial back the volume, of course.  But we haven't.

And in the meantime, lost in all our discussions of the nature of the political dialogue is the reality of the ease with which we can all obtain guns.  After the Virginia Tech shooting, I was convinced that we would finally have a national dialogue about the dangers of easy access to guns.  But that didn't happen.  It's already looking to me like we'll skip that hard discussion this time around. 

And I guess that's what I find so unsettling.  There is no doubt that the nation will talk through every angle of the mess in Arizona.  But will we learn anything?

Update: My friend M pointed me in the direction of today's Gail Collins' editorial in the New York Times.   Collins is writing about the ease with which we can obtain guns in the U.S. and she's suggesting that's not such a great idea. To which I say that friend speaks my mind.  Let's hope that Congress is listening.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Past and Present

I have a soft spot for all the Miss Read books, but there is a special place in my heart for Thrush Green.  I first read it in 2006, in the midst of some very great unhappiness in my life.  Within a few pages I was settled into the pleasant world of the town of Thrush Green, a world of England in the mid-20th century, a place seemingly far away from my very modern, unhappy life in New Jersey.

And yet not so different that I couldn't sympathize with Ruth whose heart had been so recently broken.  The story takes place on May 1st, the day that the Curdle fair comes to town.  And when she awakens on that morning, for Ruth "…the feeling was not so sharply cruel on this particular day."

When I first read those words, I longed for the day when sharp cruelty wouldn't greet me come the morning.  Miss Read wrote that for Ruth, "It was as though a veil had been dropped between the dreadful picture and her mind's eye.  She could see it all, down to the smallest detail, but the picture was dimmed, the impact was gentler, and her own feeling less agonized."

I've long-since reached that point; that place of a dimmed picture.  But I'm still unsure of what comes next.  I know that I can't read ahead to the end of my story.  But I long for the happy ending that Ruth found.  In the meantime, I remember what Mrs. Curdle says at the end of the book: "I've never been to Thrush Green yet without feelin' the better for it."

And so I go to Thrush Green. And feel the better for it.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Leave Me Alone edition

The backstory: One afternoon this week JT and I heard a Fresh Air interview with Mark Wahlberg, talking about his new movie "The Fighter."  In the interview, Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked Wahlberg about his mother.  I though the question was interesting and so I asked it of JT.

Me:  When you're a big famous grown up what will you tell people about me?

JT:  I'll tell them that you annoyed me a lot when I was a kid.

Okay, then. Let's hope the kid doesn't become famous.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Smart Mouthed

There are very few occasions in life when being a smart-ass proves to be an advantage.  So it was with great happiness that I learned of JT's winter break homework assignment: develop some parody cards. Finally, an assignment where our family's talents could be brought to bear.   JT's parody cards are pictured below:
He made cards for Caught Wheels (Guaranteed to get your wheels stuck in road hazards);  Snuffles (Bet you can't blow just once); Mike 'n Yike's (Yikes! You will get something scary in every box); Fool Aid (One glass = 100% of your stupid for a day) and my personal favorite……Flopps baseball cards.  That "darn" like to kill me.
Priceless, these little gems of my boy's imagination. And evidence that being a smart-ass can occasionally pay off.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Show Me the Snacks

After a few months of hiatus, Vending Spree was updated last month. As always, it's well worth your time to pop on over and have a read.  Consider it my belated holiday gift to you.

I love Vending Spree.  If you don't, you should keep that information to yourself as it will cause me to value you less.

I am not kidding.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Real Life Conversations with JT: Talking Smack edition

The backstory: Over winter break, we played a lot of cards.  We're a competitive family, so that can sometimes be tricky.  But still we play. And play. And play.

Me:  Do you want to play cards while we eat supper?

JT:  Sure.

Me:  What game do you want to play?

JT:  It doesn't matter to me.  You go ahead and pick the game I'm going to beat you at.

And, indeed, he did beat me at that game.  Twice.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Tree Removal Unit

JT hoped that I would consent to keep our Christmas tree forever; Tiger and Lucy concurred.  Besides the obvious (my mom is coming to visit in February and if she arrived to a tree still up in the living room, the shock might slow her down when it comes to catching up our laundry), the main objection I had to this arrangement was that the cats have become rather emboldened with regard to said greenery.

Lucy really loves Christmas trees and she spent a lot of time underneath the full boughs of this year's tree, pretending to be the commander of the forest.  Tiger had taken to batting the lower branches, and showing them who was boss.  Both cats had given an effort to climbing up the tree and sitting in the lower branches. 

As the tree grew drier and the cats grew braver, it was easy to see that a disaster was in the offing.  One of them would climb in the tree and lay in wait to attack the other and then the whole tree, the ornaments, and the lights, would come crashing down.  Most likely in the middle of the night.  To great caterwauling.

So on Sunday evening the tree received its eviction notice.  Just pulling it out from its corner was a rather tenuous affair, as the tree wobbled  dangerously.  But JT and I righted it, removed the ornaments and lights, and then hauled the now defrocked tree to the back deck.  On Monday, I threw it on the mountain of snow in the front yard to await a trip to the town mulch pile.

Yesterday morning, as I came downstairs, the cats were sitting in front of the back window, looking with longing at the tree, now on its side on the back deck.  I have to say that I too will miss it.  It was the most beautiful tree that we've had, the center of a very happy Christmas, and a magical reminder of the the power of believing.

Monday, January 03, 2011


Last year, as the the new decade got started, I spent some time thinking about how I could view the start of a new decade as a fresh start for myself.  I'm getting a little long in the tooth for fresh starts, but I need to believe that age needn't control our hopes and dreams for the future.  And so I vowed to make a greater effort to expect more from life and to spend more time concentrating on the incredible blessings of my world.  Mostly, I've made a success of that effort.  Some very good things happened last year.  So I've decided to make a list of the biggest blessings of my 2010.

1.  Trip to Alaska with my family…..especially seeing Glacier Bay and managing the zip line adventure without humiliating myself.

2.  New bathroom!  A consequence of a bad thing (the leak in the bathroom) was that the problem was solved and I got a new bathroom out of the solution.  Stressful, but very happy in the end.

3.  New living room furniture!

4.  Gym membership….soon enough, I plan to write about this, but let me just say for now that the ability to work on gym-quality equipment has made me for a great change to my workout life.  Which is most happy.

5.  My sister's visit for my birthday.  KO's whirlwind trip was quite the celebration.  Even if I am as old as rocks.

6.  Taking on some long-term house projects, making a success of them, and feeling really, really proud of myself.

7.  Cooking always makes me happy; in the past year I learned to make ganache and whip cream.  Being the sort of person who often has the ingredients for both on hand is lovely.

8.  My Life List and the permission it gives me to think about my future.

Not bad for one year.  I'm making plans for 2011 and in my world, that constitutes progress of a most significant nature.  It means that I'm less afraid of the future, which may very well be the biggest blessing on this list.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


Not an approved use of one's 10 year old.  But really quite handy.  I just hope it doesn't invalidate his warranty.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

January 1, 2011

For the last few years, I have marked the first of each month with a photo and posting about something that grows in my garden.  I wrote about my big tree in 2008, in 2009 it was the hosta patch by the garage, and last year, I wrote about my apple and pear trees.  This year, I will write about the clematis vine that I am training to grow on a trellis in my backyard.
What these trees and plants have in common is that they are all things I've always wanted to plant or be responsible for.  My backyard is one of the most enjoyable parts of my home.  Each month of the year, it brings me pleasure.  Often, it also brings a very welcome surprise.  The garden is a comfort and a joy when life sometimes seems difficult.  It is one of the greatest blessings in my life.

I've written before that gardening is pleasing to me because it reminds me of the virtue of patience and the healing that time can bring.  A day in the garden is always a good day.  And on the first of the month for 2011 I will invite you to join me in the garden, where we can watch the clematis vine as it grows and climbs up the trellis.
Winter is a time of rest for most plants and the clematis, which was planted last spring as part of my life list projects, is clearly at rest.  But things will change as the year unfolds.  I'm looking forward to that.