Tuesday, January 29, 2008


My favorite mystery novelist is PD James. Unfortunately, I like her so much that I've already read all her books, which leaves no new ones. Argh!
So in a fit of nostalgia, I have been rereading a few. It's funny, I didn't notice during the first reads, but she kind of has her own pet words that she trots out in every novel. Words that are strange, and seem out-of-place. Perhaps they're Britishisms, I don't know.
I keep repeating them in my head, and making a little check mark when I come across them, yet again, in her book.
Perhaps they're a puzzle: she drops them in at various points, like talismans, so that the reader hears these words and thinks, Ah, yes. This is indeed PD James.
Here are the words:
Moue. a pouting grimace. Usually she says "A moue of distaste". Which is a lot of expressions for one mouth.
Rictus. the gape of the mouth of a bird. Usually she says "The rictus of despair." SO Jamsian.
Minatory: menacing; threatening.
These words are just odd. And they're practically in every book. Is it a nervous tic? Intentional? Playful?
SOmehow it makes me feel affectionate towards her, like catching someone picking their nose. It's kind of endearing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

true love

In the time I've not been posting, I went to a training for this crazy thing I'm going to start doing.
I know, I know, I'm just a super swell, enlightened person. Thank you. I'll take the medal later.
No, but seriously, I'm really excited to get started. I'm going to work with a hospice organization in North County. For those of you who don't know, hospice is a philosophy/method of caring for people who are dying. Rather than emphasizing curative means or highly intrusive procedures, it emphasizes pain management and comfort. So if you know you have a terminal illness, you can work on dying with dignity, rather than enduring our medical system's sometimes dehumanizing regimens.
Anyway, part of hospice is volunteers who come hang out with patients. I'm going to be one of those. Well, me and Lucy
The training was cool, though much of it involved somewhat dry facts. But the discussion of real cases was super interesting.
And then there was the heartwrenching excerpt of PBS's Frontline we watched. It was called The Undertaking and was a look at the deaths of three people. One of whom was a two-year-old.
I had a really hard time watching it. I'm not going to be working with pediatric patients--the organization I signed up with doesn't have any--but still.
The mom was holding on to her little boy, talking about how much she was going to miss him (he had some genetic abnormalities that had hindered his development and health from birth, so she knew what was coming).
He was Lucy's size.
What struck me was how I knew I couldn't understand what the woman had gone through, caring for a little boy with such difficulties--but I could imagine how, if I were his mom, I would love him just as much as Lucy. That I would miss him, too.
Once I managed to get myself under control, I thought about that mother's love--the love we all get when we give birth and grow into the maturity that requires. It's a pretty crazy thing. It's easy to sentimentalize it, to talk about it all misty-eyed, but it's a scary and transformative thing, to really love someone else, just because they are a person, and have value, and need you. Not because they can give you kisses, or grow up, or have talents, or even talk normally. Just because they are human.
Watching that video, I realized how Dyami's death, or my death is kind of an intellectually wrenching thing to think about. Lucy's death--now that's completely impossible.
When she was younger, I remember hearing about someone else's child dying, and I thought--I might have even said it out loud--how hard that would be, seeing all that work come to an end, without seeing the fruit of it. IE--all that comforting, the middle-of-the-night wakeups, the diapers, the tiredness, with none of the payoff of kisses, walking, and sassy backtalk.
Looking back, though, I'm astonished at my selfishness. Yes, I know what I was thinking, and I still think that, somewhat, although now that the rewards have started coming, they're much richer than I could have imagined. But I know Lucy so much better now, and it's not just about getting back what I've put into her. It's more about her, about her specialness, and innocence, and possibility.
So bravo to that Michigan mom, who let go of her child, and who loved him dearly while she could.
And think of me, and pray for me, as I prepare to get my first assignment (it will probably be another month yet, before that happens). Pray I can turn some of that selfless love around and give to some other people.


What is there to say?
Over the last few weeks, I've thought about posting. Really. I've had some zinger ideas, too. Like that one...you know, where, I um..
Well, there was that idea where--hmmm.
But there's always something to write, right? Because there is? Something? Anything?

I'm so out of practice. My brain muscles are atrophied. In their place: stainless steel range model numbers and granite trivia (who knew you put a piece of plywood, cost, approximately $50, underneath the granite? I did! How many CFMs does your range hood have? Mine has 600. So there!)
Anyone want to talk about bulnose corners?

Monday, January 14, 2008

wish I had pictures

Of my house, that is.
Most of our kitchen is gone. Kaput. Finito. Desaparecido.
Sink? Gone. Cabinets where I put dishes? Removed. Tile counter? Buh-bye.
I went over today and gathered a harvest of long-frozen meat I'd stashed in our freezer when we left.
We are not coming back any time soon.
The water destroyed 80% of our cabinets. Since the other 20% were not that nice to begin with, and the white tile counter always looked kind of gross (thanks, white, unsealed grout!) we just scrapped the whole thing.
My mom has been redoing our layout and ordering cabinets in her spare time.
She needs a check to pay for the cabinets pretty soon here.
We're talking major buckage. Sure, a lot of it will be given back, but the # of decimal places involved is making a tad nervous. Since we also have to pay for the fancy new copper pipes they threaded through our house.
But we'll have a nice new kitchen when we're done.
My newly greened self is feeling guilty for the construction we've planned. The thing is, the cabinets were all water damaged (even the non-moldy ones were 20 years old and not that nice to begin with). So we're justified with killing new trees, right?
Please tell me I'm feeling needless guilt.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

too many doomsday scenarios

Just finished reading Collapse, another one of my fun "The World Is Going To Hell In a Handbasket! Have a Nice Day!" light reads. It was very good. Hard to pick a fav fact: perhaps the e-waste getting shipped to China for little kids to pick apart? (Hey, thanks for that mercury and lead poisoning, America!) or the church in Iowa surrounded by fields...the church now sitting several feet (I'm remembering 10, but that seems crazy) above the surrounding fields because of topsoil loss? Or that though we keep telling the developing world to covet our standard of living (through the World Bank, and more convincingly, Baywatch), if they actually take us up on it, we'll all go to that aforementioned handbasket much quicker?

Anyway, I'm going to have to slow down on the doomsday scenarios. I was just looking at the Netflix new releases page and saw this movie:
"With Earth's life source -- the sun -- dying out 50 years in the future it seems the planet's days may be numbered ..."
At this point, my eyes bugged out and I thought, Holy crap! I thought we had a little more time! At which point I kept reading:
"in this sci-fi thriller starring..."
I know, I know, it wasn't exactly a plausible situation, no? It's just my mindset lately. Due to a little too much doom-and-gloom reading.
But we should be vigilant anyway. Just in case.

Friday, January 4, 2008

not-so-voluntary simplicity

I got all excited about a book I'd ordered off of PBS, Voluntary Simplicity. Title sounds like everything I've been thinking about lately, right? And it arrived, and I glanced through it, and signed.
Because it was boring.
Well, boring to me. I am a book snob, I guess, because I like non-fiction, but not all non-fiction. Ie, not non-fiction that's very theoretical.
The premise of V.S. is that there are so many ways to do it that how can you describe any one way in any detail? One must just talk generally about how the world is being revolutionized by V.S. movements, and how that's going to solve all the worlds' problems, and it's going to happen Soon!
The book was written in 1981 (albeit updated in the 90s).
Since it has written, we've increased our consumption, as a nation, exponentially.
So I didn't put a lot of stock in its predictions.
Also, the little survey they included at the end kind of turned me off. (Snarky conservative Christian commentary coming. Abort! Abort!) The authors surveyed V.S. devotees to find out about their lifestyles and why they pursued simplicity. One of the question asked about which "personal growth" practices you adhere to: A) Traditional religions (ie, Judiasim, Christianity, Buddhism), B) Psychotherapy (Jungian, Freudian, etc) C) Meditation/Zen/etc D) Other (Encounter groups, mind-altering drugs, etc)
My objections:
A) Lumping all "Traditional Religions" under one big category. When 90% of the world belongs to these "traditions", and most of our history and civilization has developed alongside them?
B) Calling religions "personal growth" practices. As if faith were all about personal growth. And not about God. Or ethics. Or faith. Or tradition. Or community. It's sort of like a stunningly self-centered view of what religion is for. Sort of like me saying that it's great to have kids just because of how much it makes me work on my issues. Sure, having kids makes me confront my issues, but is that the only benefit? Is that the primary benefit?
C) Sorry, but how hippy-dippy is it to equate mind-altering substances with all of the other options listed (ie, religions, meditation, or psychotherapy). Sure, there are artists who have explored the limits of the psyche due in part to their use of drugs, but it's a little extreme to do so. The risks of drug use to one's personal growth and health might seem to outweigh their mind-expanding benefits. So it's at least a wash.

Anyway, now that my ranting is over, I have been thinking about simplicity a lot lately. Mostly not-so-voluntary simplicity. Because we left our house and 90% of our posessions and moved in with my parents.
Now my parents have a pretty posh crib. Granite! Custom cabinets! Goat cheese with port wine sauce! It's not a gigantic house, but it is bigger than ours. And we have a bedroom/bathroom all to ourselves, as well as a room for Dyami to put his computer.
But still. We have no drawers. We don't have our own kitchen. Bathroom is across the hall. There's not a lot of space in our bedroom--not really enough to sit on the floor very comfortably, for example.
I'm surprised by how little it matters. We have extra help with Lucy, which is worth much inconvenience. We have extra time with family, which is fabulous. We have enough clothing and space to accomplish what needs to get done. And having less stuff makes it easier to live in a smaller space. (I'd already noted that in our home...but we're really talking much less stuff).
It's also a lot more efficient, having two families in one house. Half the heating costs. Dinner prep shared. Food shared. Laundry time shared. Effort spread across several people.
I don't think my parents want us here long term. (Right mom and dad?) I don't really want to camp here long term. And I'm sure the rough edges of living with another family in such close quarters will show themselves sooner rather than later. But the benefits are real, and are quite interesting.
So much of our striving in this country is devoted to the Single Family Home ethic. And our open spaces are getting covered over with tract houses, paved for traffic-clogged freeways, and we're all killing ourselves to afford ridiculously high mortgages.
What if our lives could be, well, simpler?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

the rentals

We've been living with my parents off and on for about two weeks. This has gone very smoothly, except for the two times we tried to go back home, only to leave almost immediately (our longest stretch back home was about 27 hours).
The rats in our attic have apparently created a rather swiss-cheese consistancy to our pipes. One does not want to imagine what kind of flora and fauna are now growing up there, courtesy the dampness.
The exterminator was at our house this morning.
Hopefully the plumber is coming to do a re-pipe estimate tomorrow morning. This is an improvement, since the original appointment was next Tuesday.
I have no idea how long we're going to be at my parents' house.
I need to get my parents a very large bouquet.
I need to have a very large glass of wine.