Thursday, July 30, 2009

Post #202

I just signed in and saw that my last post was #201. Who knew? I'm also almost at my two-year blogiversary, which I will probably sail right by and only realize later.

Speaking of anniversaries, as of today, the Man and I have been married for fifteen years. Last night he said, "I bet we've only had fifteen fights our whole marriage," and I agreed, as to not instigate fight number sixteen. Actually, I'd put the estimate closer to thirty. About twice a year we have major blow-outs, usually right after I've had the thought, 'Wow, we're so happy; I can't think of the last time we've had a fight.' Then, kapow! Something triggers a disagreement and we figuratively duke it out. Our fights don't last long, and they're usually resolved by the Man walking into the kitchen where I'm angrily scrubbing pots and pans, standing solemnly to my side and saying, "I know you're sorry that you were mean to me, and I know you didn't mean it, so I forgive you."

It works every time. I guess I'm just a sucker for a silly man.


The lace. Sigh. I've knit twenty rows in three days. I find that if I knit more than two rows at a time, I slowly start pulling out all of my hair and cursing the children. I ought to have this sucker done by Christmas 2013. Pictures will be posted.


We're off to the mountains this morning. This is the travelingist summer I've ever had--Kentucky, the beach, Chicago, and now Mitchell County, NC. We've heard rumors of a barn dance down to Little Switzerland and are excited to check it out. Well, the Man and I are excited. Jack's wary, and Will has made us aware that he doesn't dance. No way, no how.

In general, Will is in a contrary mood right now. We've hit that point in the summer where everyone is getting a little cranky. The boys are bickering a lot. Jack is bossing Will around and tell him to shut up, Will is biting Jack on the leg. Lots of boys spending time in their rooms. They claim they're not looking forward to school starting up in a few weeks (three and a half--oh my!), but secretly I believe they're ready for a shiny new pair of shoes and some quality time away from the family.


I'm happy to report that I have not had a summer funk so for this year. That makes two years in a row. I think it must have something to do with the kids getting more independent, or else the allergy medicine I've been taking.


Okay, must finish packing. Our official departure time is ten, which means we'll be hitting the road by noon at the latest (earliest). I'll see you next week!

Monday, July 27, 2009

I Am Knitting Lace. Why Am I Knitting Lace? Please Stop Me From Ever Knitting Lace Again!

I just got back from my fiddle lesson. It was a frustrating session. The song I'm learning, "Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine," has one little run of notes that just eludes me. I'm learning by ear, which means I don't have written music to guide me. When I remember the right order of notes, I forget the rhythm, and vice versa. My teacher tried all different ways to help me get it, and a couple times I did, and then I'd lose it again.

At one point, after I'd practically collapsed from frustration, he said, "You're a perfectionist, aren't you?"

Reader, I was shocked. Anyone who has ever seen the inside of my car (or my attic, or my laundry room) would be shocked. A perfectionist? Moi? And then it occurred to me: Maybe I'm the worst kind of perfectionist. Maybe I'm the kind of perfectionist who thinks she's an imperfectionist, an uptight gal who believes herself to be loosey-goosey.

I don't know. I'm going to chew on this a little more. In the meantime, I've started knitting a lace shawl. If I'm a perfectionist, knitting this shawl will likely kill me. I'm 15 rows in, and I'm already faking it. I've cast on at least three times already, and I just can't bear to start again. But I really, really want to knit this shawl. I want to uncover the mystery of lace. I want to be able to make beautiful shawls for friends and family alike. I want to knit a shawl without screaming at my children, "Leave me alone! Don't you realize how HARD this is?"

Here's what I've learned about lace so far: Lace is insanity written up in a pattern and published in a magazine. Believe you me, I'm going to drive myself crazy knitting this shawl. But I spent $42 on the yarn (it's handpainted silk, it's beautiful), and I'm not giving up. Ever. In fact, I'm feeling slightly obsessed with my lace knitting, with getting it right, no mistakes, no gaping holes. Hmmm ... could I be a perfectionist after all? Or just plain nuts?

Don't answer that.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Our Current Insanity

On Sunday, The New York Times ran a long article about the dangerous use of cell phones while driving. It featured a young man who ran a stoplight while on the phone and hit another driver, killing her. He was convicted of manslaughter and given community service.

You know what really gets to me? Sometimes this guy still uses the cell phone while he drives. He knows he shouldn't, but sometimes he just can't help it.

That's because he's an addict.

Lawmakers won't pass laws against cell phone use while driving because they know it will send the public into an uproar. Give up our phones while driving, even though we know that talking on a cell phone makes us more dangerous than drunks behind the wheel? Never!

We're all a bunch of addicts.

You can't sit in a waiting room or stand on the sidelines of your kid's soccer game without hearing the click-click-click of people checking their e-mails on the blackberries or Twittering or texting or talking away on their cell phones. When we were at the beach, I saw two lovely thirteen-year-old girls riding their bikes down the shoreline--and texting as they rode.

Yesterday, in Maureen Dowd's NY Times column, she cited a professor whose studies show that using digital devices gives the user a "dopamine squirt." Dowd wrote, "That explains the Pavlovian impulse of people who are out with friends or dates to ignore them and check their BlackBerrys and cellphones, even if 99 out of 100 messages are uninteresting. They’re truffle-hunting for that scintillating one."

I have this vision of the future where everyone walking down the street is texting or reading texts and everyone in the museum, the library, the restaurant, the school room, is doing the same thing. What am I talking about? It's already happening!

I find it all depressing. There's a lot about digital technology that I love. I love Google. I love Blogland and podcasts. I think that the communities that exist only online can be real communities, and I feel that my Blogland friends are real friends. But I fear what we're doing to ourselves with our devices when we can't turn them off even when we know it's dangerous to use them.

And I worry about those two girls, texting away on their bikes, ignoring the beautiful sunset taking place right beside them. What memories will they take into old age? What kind of life is it when you spend all your time seeking out digital connections but not real, live experiences? What kind of culture will kids who grow up spending all their time texting, instant messaging, and twittering create? What kind of art?

In Chicago I hung out with a dear friend who has strong feelings about institutionalized religion (he's agin it), and I'm not always crazy about it myself. But I do have to wonder if there's a connection between our collective loss of belief that life has a larger meaning than just satisfying our personal wants and needs and the way so many of us fritter (or twitter) our time away. I also wonder if our seemingly lack of awe about the universe is connected to our dwindling respect for the fullness of language (if u know wht i mean ;)) and the idiosyncrancies of lives lived locally, communally and in real time and space.

I don't know the answers to those questions for sure (though I have my suspicions). What I do know is, if you can't drive without talking, even though you're perfectly aware that you're four times more likely than someone whose blood alcohol level is .08 to cause an accident, you have a problem, and you need help.

We all do.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Back Again, Again

The older I get, the longer it takes me to recover from my travels. I got back from Chicago last Tuesday night and didn't feel myself again until Friday. My recovery was slowed somewhat by the fact that I felt like I was coming down with something, which is how I've felt all summer. I saw my doctor on Thursday, who is of the opinion that I have allergies. He suggested a daily dose of Claritin, and so far that seems to be helping.

Anyway. Chicago. It was a good trip. A few librarians squealed when they saw me and asked to have their picture taken with me. It turns out a little of that goes a long way, but who am I to complain? It was nice to be noticed.


The soap opera in our lives right now involves the nuptuals of an old friend of the Man's from college. Let's call him Bill. Bill is getting married. Again. And he wants the Man to be a member of the wedding.

When the request came last spring, the Man forgot the age-old rule, Never say "yes" to any request until you've thought about it for 24 hours. Say, "Wow, that sounds great, but I have to check with my _____ (wife, husband, therapist, personal trainer, priest, what have you)."

Thus last week the Man found himself on the receiving end of a xeroxed, two page, single-spaced letter from the 28-year-old Bride-to-Be (Bill is 43), filled with the precise rules and regulations for being a part of her wedding, including the requirement that all members of the wedding show up on site two days prior to the wedding to begin the preparations for the Most Important Wedding Ever.

Now, this would be bad enough, but there's more. Bill's first marriage was to a woman that the Man and I are both very fond of. We are also fond of their three children. We were appalled when Bill left his family a year-and-a-half ago because he no longer harbored romantic feelings for his (now ex-) wife. It went against everything we believe about marriage, fidelity and family.

So why did the Man agree to be in this second, monster wedding? Because he's a polite guy, and he was shocked that Bill was getting remarried so soon after his divorce and, quite simply, he did not have his wits about him when the request came.

Because the Man is all about personal honor, he won't let himself bow out now. But he's going to call Bill and tell him he can't come to town two days early. I suspect he will be dropped from the wedding party like a hot potato. He'll still attend the ceremony, which makes me happy, since I think it's going to be a big, honking freak show and I want to hear all about it.

And then I'll start taking bets on how long Marriage No. 2 lasts ...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thursday Report

Spent an hour weeding the garden this morning. The beans and peas are over and done with. The lettuce is a distant memory. But those cukes and zucchinis just keep on coming and the tomatoes loom large.

I found a huge green caterpillar eating a tomato this morning. I plucked the tomato, caterpillar and all, and put it in a jar so I could show it to the Man later. I punched a hole in the lid. I don't know why. This caterpillar is my enemy. He's probably not even a caterpillar. He's probably a nematode in caterpillar clothing. He's beautiful and horrifying all at once. He needs to go, but I'm not an executioner.

The Man, on the other hand, will have no qualms sending the caterpillar to his doom. The Man speaks lovingly about how he'd like to take a shotgun to the rabbits out back (now that the rabbits are eating my flowers, I'm beginning to share the Man's zeal). He's not sentimental about critters. Or at least he talks a good game. Has the Man ever shot a rabbit or a squirrel or any living thing? No, of course not. Deep inside, the Man has a very soft heart.

But I do not believe his kindness extends to green caterpillars who eat our tomatoes.


I'm going to Chicago on Saturday and coming back Tuesday night. I'm going for the big, national library conference, where I will be a very small fish in a very big pond. I get a little nervous, thinking about how thoroughly I will be ignored as the librarians swarm around my much more famous peers. There is only one way to deal with this situation: Find the very shy people and be kind to them. We shy people need to stick together.


The children continue to sleep in. This is because they are staying up until all hours of the night. We send them upstairs to bed at a reasonable time, but they just can't stay put. Their throats are parched and dry--they must have water! Turns out that they forgot to each lunch, and now they're so, so hungry. Just a little snack?

It's time to come down hard. Only I'm going out of town, and the Man, Mr. Tough Guy, is a big talker with nothing to back it up. He sort of expects the boys will go upstairs at 8:30, brush their teeth, and settle into sleep without him even needing to bring up the subject. He gets caught up in his own projects and forgets bedtime. He decides that the boys really need to watch the big game.

But when I get back in town, I'm going to lay down the law. Serious bedtime routines will be imposed. Up at 8:3o, not to be seen until the next morning at ... 7?

Hmmm ... maybe I'll wait til we get closer to school. Because it's hard to beat a quiet morning in the garden.


If I don't get a chance to post before my trip, I'll see you next week, hopefully with all kinds of good stories about life in the big city. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 6, 2009

I'm Back

Actually I've been back for a week, but I came home from the beach with a bug and took last week pretty easy.

The beach was the beach. You get there and are overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. You frolic in the waves, recline on the shore, obsessively collect shells, even though you're not actually all that interested in shells. You feel the luxury of a whole week spread out in front of you where you don't really have to do anything but eat and read. It's bliss, it's wonder, it's what you've always dreamed of--

and by Wednesday, you're ready to pack it in. Every year's the same: you can't help but hit the Wednesday trough. By Wednesday, you've had a whole lot of family togetherness and the mood is beginning to sour. Voices are raised, threats are made, no one really likes each other, and getting down to the beach seems like an overwhelming project that may just not be worth the trip--

but by Thursday the crisis has passed. By Thursday you only have two days left, and suddenly you realize how you've come to take the beach for granted--how could that be? Thursday morning you wake up extra early to drink up all the remaining beach hours in. You take long walks along the shore and realize you haven't been in a car all week. What a treat, not to drive.

Friday is a mix of pleasure and packing. Saturday is a rush out the door to make check-out time on time (which is 10:30). On Friday night, the Man ran out to the little convenience store close to our rental house and saw folks leaving the island, their cars packed, and thought that was a genius idea. Enjoy a full day at the beach on Friday, pack at your leisure, throw the kids in the backseat around 10 p.m. and get gone. We're going to try that next year.


While we were at the beach, Will decided that he was a dog named Andrew. It turns out that Andrew, unlike Will, obeys commands. It's easy as pie to get Andrew to brush his teeth and put on his pajamas. Andrew is a dog who listens to his masters. We rewarded him with treats and a lot of head-scratching.


So the beach was good, but it's good to be home, especially if I don't open any closet doors. The state of my closets and the attic is dire, but it's really too hot to tackle them, don't you think? Yes, I know you do, and that's why I like you so much.