Tuesday, November 30, 2010

last post of November

This is the last post for November. I mostly participated in NaBloPoMo (national blog posting month) missing only one day, and that due to a technical issue -- no internet access. I learned that it is really hard to write every day in a constrained format, like this blog. I found myself fishing for topics. In desperation, I almost broke some of my own ground rules -- I almost blogged about work, almost provided details about my personal life. I don't do that because this isn't a diary or a journal. While maybe only 3 or 4 people actually read this, it is still "public" as part of the internet. Will I participate again next year? I don't know yet. Maybe. It was a stretch, and stretching is good, sometimes.

Monday, November 29, 2010

the big office move

I am in the midst of the "big office move". I have been in the same office for 8 years. Before I came on board, it was a coat closet. They added a custom wooden desk, built to fit the space, and a guest chair. A couple of years later, they added heat/AC vents. The room is roughly 4.5 by 6 ft. Really small. At various points I have had as many as 5 PCs in there with me. Right now I have two PCs, a printer, a stereo tower, wall mounted shelves, two file drawers that fit under the desk.

Tomorrow I move down the hall to a larger office, roughly twice the size. I will have more than twice the filing space, and much larger wall mounted book shelves. It is still a small office by most people's reckoning, but it will be palatial to me.

To get ready for the move, I have had to wade through all my stuff, and pack. I can't believe how much dust had accumulated in that little space. And the stuff! I had $4.50 in nickels, dimes, pennies, thrown in a drawer. I had cough drops from five years ago. I had every phone list issued since 2002 (that's like 4 a year for 8 years), all thumbtacked on top of each other. I had a pager issued to me in 2002 and never used. I had floppy disks. I had cables for keyboards they don't even make any more. Menus for restaurants closed long ago. Layers and layers of stuff. I had warranties that expired in 1999. I had manuals for printers that had died ages ago. I cannot believe the things I thought I might need someday.

Hopefully I will be neater in my new space. More organized. Make better decisions about what to keep and what to pitch.

But somehow I doubt it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

non profit idea

I have been discussing, off and on for a couple of years, the idea of founding a non-profit with a couple of friends. We have wanted to have a more active role in solving some of society's problems, something that goes beyond writing checks, donating old clothes, or volunteering an hour or two.

the current idea that I am kicking around is Community Kitchen. This would be a community kitchen, food pantry, a place to get free or low cost cooking equipment, a collective for buying cheap food/spices, and a place for teaching cooking and shopping strategies. The goal would be to reduce the food divide that exists between rich and poor. We would take donations, sell a cookbook, and help people stretch their own existing funds/food stamps.

I think this could work, and could really help.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I find it amazing that after 3 days off from work, I am still tired. I feel this unbelievable lethargy. I napped today. And could nap again. I haven't done a ton of stuff the last two days. We went for a long walk outdoors both days. I did some grocery shopping. I did my reading for class. Did a lot of dishes. Watched a bunch of movies.

that's about it. It's like I've been storing up piles and piles of tired, and was just waiting for an opportunity to crash. I am guessing I need the rest.

Friday, November 26, 2010

movie night

very occasionally, we rent a pile of movies and have movie night. Tonight we have Paprika, an anime that predates Inception by about 4 years, but is very similar. Draw your own conclusions on that one. And Oldboy, which we are viewing next. I also have The Girl who Played with Fire (the swedish version), and Percy Jackson (because it looked so very very bad) to see this weekend.

the boy is upstairs with his own pile o films - including Patton and Reservoir Dogs.

Gotta love it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

in gratitude

I am sitting in my nice clean living room, watching the Macy's Thanksgiving parade. I have a cup of hot tea, a dog laying at my feet. The smell of turkey roasting in the oven fills the house. Soon family and friends will arrive to help celebrate the day. My wonderful husband walked the dog, set a beautiful table, and took out the trash. Our son woke up early, came bounding down the stairs, wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving as he did so.

I am grateful today for so many things. Food, shelter, occupation. Family, friends. Warmth, comfort, ease. My heart is full today.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Technical difficulties (no internet) prevented me from posting yesterday. So much for my month of blogging daily. Today's post is simple.


That's it -- just thanks, to everyone, for everything. The whole ball of wax. I feel heartfelt gratitude every day, even if I don't express it to one and all.

Monday, November 22, 2010

the season of gathering

This is the start of the gathering season. I love it. All sorts of excuses to get together and socialize, to catch up with old friends and to make new ones. There will be neighborhood parties, school get togethers, work parties, old friends visiting. We'll get the cards from folks we hear from once a year.

I absolutely love it.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

the love of reading

there is a facebook list, from the BBC, of 99 books you should read. I have read 75 of them. Reading has in many ways, made my life what it is. Learning to read opened up the world to me. I could go beyond my family, beyond my street, beyond my neighborhood. It was a revelation to me.

I did not come from a family of readers. We had a small handful of books in the house before I started reading. Reading was not encouraged; it was viewed as anti-social and anti-family. I actually think that that was part of the original attraction for me. I could be alone when I read.

I had no discrimination and no taste. I read everything I got my hands on. I was probably the only 8 year old who had read both Dante's Inferno and Bob,Carol, Ted and Alice. I read a slew of classics, because my Dad found a set of books in the trash -- volumes by Poe, Conan Doyle, Ibsen, Stevenson. I still have them. I read pulp paperbacks, every sci-fi book at the Severna Park Library. I read a lot of smut. I read magazines, cookbooks, a ton of reader's digest condensed books.

Books became my peer group; my beliefs and opinions changed with every book I read. I went through an incredibly greedy, selfish phase after reading Atlas Shrugged. Heinlein had me thinking fascism wasn't such a bad thing. 1984 had me convinced government was a terrible idea. I read The Jungle and did not eat a hot dog for more than 10 years.

Eventually, I established my own sense of self, and my own opinions. Reading no longer pushes me into one thing or another, but it still mesmerizes and entrances. I still am carried away by other places, by living, however briefly, someone else's life. I have never read anything that couldn't teach me something, even if the only lesson was the writer didn't know how to write.

I owe my first grade teacher a huge debt, for teaching me to read.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

apparently I am a pig

Apparently, I am a pig. I cleaned the oven today. it was disgusting. I also cleaned out and washed down the fridge. We had jars of things that expired in 2008. We had things I did not even recognize. We had a drawer we have never used, and that I didn't even realize was there. I have no idea how we go from day to day, and don't even notice how bad it gets.

Does this happen to other people? do other people clean more than we do?

Friday, November 19, 2010

harry potter

I am going to see the next installment of Harry Potter tonight, and I am as excited as a little kid. seriously. I spent some of my week re-reading the last book in the series in preparation. I adore Harry Potter for the same reasons that I loved Lord of the Rings. A fully realized world. A serious struggle between good and evil. The temptations and pitfalls of power. Choices have consequence, for good or ill. Likable characters. People are often not all good or all bad, but the usual mix of the two.

There is a lot more to this than a simple story to entertain children. And I absolutely love it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

this old house

We live in an old house, built in 1920. It is charming and really comfortable. It is also plagued with all the problems that old houses have. We have years and years of accumulated bad repairs, odd design choices, deferred maintenance to deal with. We have wheezy radiators, leaky windows, uneven floors. Now we have mice -- because it is impossible to keep them out of older construction. They have taken up residence in between the 2nd and 3rd floors, in our bedroom ceiling. Today the exterminator came, and hopefully that will take care of the problem.

I adore our house. I feel like it's HOME. It is exactly what I always hoped I'd have. But on days like today, I dream of a high-rise condo in a thoroughly modern building. No charm. But no mice either!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

no great thoughts today

I have no great thoughts today, so I'm just going to post a wonderful recipe for chicken pot pie. In the long run, chicken pot pie is much more useful.

Chicken Pot Pie (serves 3-4)

2-3 cups of shredded, cooked chicken
large can mixed veggies with potato
8 0z sliced fresh mushrooms
2-3 heaping teaspoons better than bouillon chicken flavor (you can use chicken stock instead of water in next step if you don't have this)
1 cup water
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 teaspoon herbes de provence
tbsp butter
2 tbsp sherry
ready made pie crust

preheat oven to 350
in a large saute pan, melt butter
add mushrooms, saute 4-5 minutes
add sherry, cook 1 minute
add veggies, herbes de provence
add chicken

in a mixing cup or bowl, add water (or stock) to cornstarch and stir.

add cornstarch mixture to saute pan. cook until thickened (2 minutes or so).

ladle mixture into small ramekins or small bread pans (i used disposable mini loaf pans), or in 1 large deep dish baking dish

cover pans with ready-made pie crust (you may have to cut to fit, reroll, etc). Make vent in pie crust. put pans on baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

sometimes the words don't work

I am writing a paper, and it just isn't working. Sometimes the words don't flow. Sometimes things just don't gel. Ideas don't rise to the surface. Leaden prose. Muddy thinking. Just a big fruitless struggle. Hopefully things will click before I have to turn it in on Thursday. I hate to turn in something that is just not what I wanted to do.

Monday, November 15, 2010

connecting the dots

One of the great benefits to going back to school has been something I think of as synchronicity. What it really is is a sense of connecting the dots. Things just seem to connect and relate more. I went to see Frankenstein, which connects to a course I took on Evil in Literature, and somehow relates to The Hastings Report and medical ethics, which somehow ties to conflict of interest and disclosure at the office, which somehow connects to the elections, which somehow connects to Anna Karenina and the elections in the book, and one of the paper topics for that book connects to The Scarlet Letter, which my son had to read this summer, and to a class I took on justice, and so on and so on.

It keeps me thinking, and it keeps me seeing things in new ways.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

science and ethics and frankenstein

We went to see my son's friend act in a high school production of Frankenstein today. The play stayed very close to Mary Shelley's book. It was an odd choice for a school play -- it's not a happy or upbeat story. It's got a lot of very long monologues. Much of the action occurs off-stage.

The best part, other than seeing our friends and their kids, was really the drive home. The play led to a really interesting discussion between me and the boy about science and ethics. It turns out that he has very definitive opinions about some recent advances, like cloning. We had a lot of real give and take, and real argument. It was a conversation between equals, and it made my day.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Friends Thanksgiving

We went to Friends' Thanksgiving today. This used to be an annual tradition among our friends, dating back to our college days, a last chance to get together before we all went home to our families for the holidays. Today reminded me why we used to do this. It is so good to spend the "holiday" with friends old and new. We didn't talk about anything, but we somehow talked about everything. We laughed our asses off. Ate too much, drank too much. But most of all, basked in each others company. I felt stress just fall away in layers. Uncomplicated, easy, fun. I am so glad our friends decided to do this again this year. And I am hoping we decide to do it again next year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

simple pleasures

Sometimes the universe just shines. Today I went for a walk outside at lunch. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. It's 60 degrees. In November. The purple and gold pansies in the flowerbeds are all still in bloom. A stray black eyed Susan managed to blossom in the carefully manicured beds.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

cooking is akin to magic

Cooking is akin to magic to me. I take a handful of this and that, apply heat, and transformation occurs. I love that. I can take almost nothing, and turn it into a meal that we all enjoy. It's also like magic in another way -- take good food, and a group of nice people, and alchemy occurs. There is conversation, warmth, love. I think that's why I like cooking for other people more than I like cooking for just myself. I still enjoy the cooking when it's just me, but the pleasure is just so much greater when there is a nurturing aspect to it. When I convey to others my love and care, through the medium of food, I feel fulfilled.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

a milestone of sorts

I just shared a milestone with our son, one I hadn't anticipated. We just wrote his resume. He's in 11th grade, so I really really didn't see this one coming. Who the hell has a resume in 11th grade? apparently everyone. I actually found several templates online to choose from, all for high school students.

When I was in high school, you filled out a form to apply for a job. Resumes were for professionals, not teenagers. What would we put on a resume? that we occasionally did baby-sitting or mowed a lawn?

this resume had sections for education, for experience, for honors, for volunteer work, extracurriculars, skills, etc. He is applying for an internship at the ACLU, to complement his other internship at Catholic Charities. That way he will have 5 afternoons a week in internship.

It will be a wonderful experience, and I really hope it comes through. But I felt like I had turned it one of "those" parents, the ones that over-schedule and lesson their kids to death. It feels wrong for a 16 year old kid to need a resume, or have one. Isn't he still a kid? Isn't he??

Tuesday, November 09, 2010


I was thinking last night, as I cooked dinner for my family, that I am more traditional than I would suppose. I've never really thought of myself that way. I don't wear makeup (except on special occasions or as part of a costume). I would rather wear jeans and a flannel shirt than a dress any day. I don't get manicures. I loathe the mall. I hate to clean. I say what I want. I have a successful career, but not as successful as I might have had if I weren't a wife and mother. I am not saying that in a negative way -- since I value the wife and mother aspect of my life much much more than work. But, when I think of what sustains me, what brings me joy and pleasure, work is very low on the list. Really, in my mind, I define myself by my "traditional" roles. I love my relationship with my husband; it lifts me and sustains me and brings me abiding love and pleasure. Seriously. Being a mother is one of the best things I have done, or will ever do. I have learned so much about myself, and about others, in the raising of our son. It forces you to see the world in other terms, with other eyes, every single day. And I really think this is a gift, and a constant joy. It is also one of the hardest things I have ever done, and this challenge has been good for me as well. Being a friend enriches my life on a daily basis; I can't imagine what life must be like without all these wonderful people in it. They are my chosen family and without them I would be bereft.Work gives me satisfaction, it makes me feel useful and productive, it challenges and interests me, but it rarely gives me joy.

So really, when I look deep into my heart, I find that my husband, my son, my friends are really the core of my life. That's pretty damn traditional.

Monday, November 08, 2010


It seems that every day I am reading about "values". The tea party wants us to return to "American values", but seem to be arguing for a return to 1950s America. Teenagers are often deemed to have no values. Liberals are also often said to lack values. Atheists lack values. Muslims lack values. On the face of it, apparently much of the world is lacking in a basic something, as defined by the press, and large segments of the American population.

Maybe we should start over and start teaching values. Kindness. Charity. Honesty. Let's keep the list short for now. If we focus on just those three, surely we can accomplish something. How would this work? Many people learn by example. So modeling the behavior might teach a segment of the people lacking in values. Others learn by doing, so they should attempt to practice these values as well. Some people learn by rote, so we should talk about these things, over and over, until those folks also get it. We can teach the youngest children, in simple terms, what it means to be kind, to be charitable, to be honest.

What about when people ignore these values, or act in opposition to them? how would we deal with that? It seems to me that we would need to show societal and personal disapproval for the behavior, in a kind, charitable and honest way. I guess that means that we wouldn't prefer to do business with these folks, or hang out with them personally. We might want to not give them too much attention when they are being unkind, uncharitable or dishonest.

Let's give it a try.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

group identification, not

I am reading Anna Karenina for class. We had a discussion the other night in class that is still bugging me. I don't like Anna. I like the book very much, but not the title character. I find her selfish, clueless and occasionally manipulative and evil. I was taken to task by a classmate for not being more understanding and for judging another woman so harshly. In essence, I should have more slack for other women, since we are oppressed together.

my problem is that a) I don't identify as an oppressed woman (and yes, I realize many women are treated unfairly and unequally, I just don't define myself that way) and b) the attitude implies that I should have more sympathy for injustices done to members of groups I belong to. To me this is a scary place to be, ethically. I oppose injustice. Unilaterally. By the argument made in class, I should have less sympathy for gay men and women, because they aren't my oppressed minority, and more for women, because they are. Makes no sense to me.

And even if I give Anna my sympathy, my pity and my understanding, which I do, it doesn't mean I have to like her. And I don't have to respect her actions, no matter how human they are. Yes, it is human nature to tear down the spurned ex, to make yourself feel better about your new choice. Doesn't make it an attractive behavior, or an admirable one. Deception and manipulation in order to see your lover, for whom you have an uncontrollable passion, is still deception and manipulation.

The argument also supposes that all women are the same, as if we were interchangeable blocks. I prefer to treat each case individually. There are women I admire immensely. There are women I like immensely. I don't see how I can like them all.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

a larger world

My world is so much larger than it was a few years ago. Through school, I have met a number of wonderful people, and have made some lifelong friends. Through neighborhood events and get togethers, we have added so many terrific folks to our lives. Over time, friends have moved away, and in keeping in touch, we have expanded the daily geography of our lives. I know what's going on in Kent, Ohio, in New Hampshire, in San Francisco. I care more about what's happening outside our borders, with friends in Germany, in Saudi Arabia, in Slovakia, in England.

The larger my world gets, the closer it all feels. And that's a good thing.

Friday, November 05, 2010

parental oddities

The other day there was an slight hiccup at our son's school. A boy hit a girl in front of my son; our son hit him back to defend the girl. And I was proud of him. I don't understand that reaction in myself. I oppose violence except in self-defense. I really truly do. But when our kid told me that he "couldn't stand by and let the guy hit a woman", I felt...proud...really proud. I told him that I was proud of the sentiment, but that he could have handled it a different way. Maybe stand between the two, or pull the guy away. But really, at heart, I was glad he socked the kid. What values did I absorb over the years that makes this so?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

empathy for those you dislike

I am trying, trying to find it in my heart to have empathy, sympathy for those I dislike. I'm not getting very far. I can get as far as assuming they aren't acting out of malice, but ignorance or from some well of personal pain. But I just can't get any farther. In the days after the election, I struggle the most. I just do not like Boehner, or most of the leading Republicans. I feel that they are going to hurt a lot of people by their policies, and actions/inactions. Repealing healthcare reform would be catastrophic for many individuals and families and will really benefit no one but corporate interests. I worry that smaller government will translate to disenfranchising the old, the disabled, the poor.

I will continue to try. Maybe I can work up to feeling pity for their misguided lives.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

a message to the Tea Party

Dear newly elected Tea Party folks:

If you really believe in reducing the debt consider ending the wars and bringing the troops home. We really don't need to buy so many aircraft, bombs, bullets, ships, missiles, you name it. And we really don't need to be paying Congressmen so much -- consider returning your paychecks to help reduce the deficit.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


All my promises are coming home to roost. I promised our son that we would buy him half a car, if he bought the other half. It's now parked out front. I promised him that we would take him to europe before he left for college. He's a high school junior. The tickets have been purchased, and reservations are made. I promised the universe that if he didn't go blind, and if he didn't die from ALD (which it turns out he didn't have, luckily), I would make sure to show him the world. He is going to Costa Rica in June.

I promised him that we would find a way to pay for college. I work at JHU, so we have a tuition grant for his schooling. I promised myself that he would be fairly self-sufficient before he leaves home. I still have some things to teach him before he leaves, and I am running out of time. Can he sew on a button? iron? change a tire? write a check? mop a floor?

I promised myself that he would know we love him. I think he does.

Monday, November 01, 2010

things are about to amp up

Having just finished the busiest month I can remember in ages, both at work and at home, we begin the "holiday season". We have Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon. And it is clear, at least to me, that even lots of fun social activities are tiring. Work is extremely busy, so I find I am working more than usual. School will just get busier until it ends in mid December.

I am already tired. I need to find a way to re-charge, and re-energize. I'm going to start up with yoga again this weekend, and have added meditation to my routine. I have been walking at lunch whenever I can. Maybe that will do it. I suspect though, that what I need is a long break, and a lot of sleep.