Wednesday, January 27, 2010

R.I.P., Mr. B

Mr. B is gone.

And nobody really cares.

Mr. B was our Beta fish, which as far as I can tell is just a high-falutin' goldfish, but meaner. Mr. B wasn't mean, but that was because he lived alone in a glass bowl and didn't have anyone to be mean to. According to Jack's fish expert friend, Aidan, who helped us pick out Mr. B, if we'd put another Beta fish in with Mr. B, Mr. B would have gobbled him up.

I have no idea how Beta fish reproduce, given their proclivities for tearing each other to bits.

We bought Mr. B several years ago, and he made the move with us from our old house to Spencer Street. He lived in a bowl on the kitchen counter, where he was ignored by everyone but me. I fed him three pellets every other night, and kept track of his feedings on the magnetic erasable board on the fridge so I wouldn't forget.

Mr. B seemed genuinely fond of me. In fact, for a fish and one so roundly ignored, he seemed like quite a sociable little fellow. When I walked into the kitchen, he gave a couple of excited laps around his bowl. He knew I was there, and he was glad.

Despite his quiet ways and his friendly nature, Mr. B was a burden. Every time we went out of town for more than three days, we had to find a fish-sitter. Typically, this job went to our wonderful next-door-neighbor, Mr. Eddie. The Man and I made clear to Eddie that Mr. B came with a DNR order--Do Not Replace. That was our fear: That Mr. B would die in Mr. Eddie's care, and Mr. Eddie, in the tradition of tender-hearted fish-sitters everywhere, would run out and buy a new Mr. B, and then we'd have to find fish-sitters for three more years, and it would go on and on.

Mr. B lived a long life for a Beta fish, and from what I could tell, a very boring one. I felt sad when I realized he was dying--he'd gotten pale and wasn't swimming around very much at all--even though I had no idea what in the world Mr. B had to live for.

And then, one morning, he was gone.

Well, not gone-gone. The Man had a traumatic experience with our last fish, Gilbert, who seemed to be dead as a doornail when the Man tossed his little fish body into the toilet, but started swimming around like Michael Phelps when he hit the water. So when Mr. B passed, he lay dead in his bowl for a full 24-hours, because this time the Man wasn't taking any chances.

Jack got a little teary-eyed when he heard Mr. B was no more, but he recovered in approximately 46 seconds. Will was totally nonchalant, like, huh, whaddya know?

I still haven't erased Mr. B's feeding schedule from the magnetic board on the fridge. Maybe it would make Mr. B's passing all too real if I did.

As surprised as I find myself to say it, I'll miss the little guy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New from the Mountains

The Man drove up to the mountain house on Sunday, just to see how it was enjoying the fine winter weather. He left later than he had planned, so it was dark when he got to the house. A strange, gushing sound greeted him when he walked inside. He turned on the lights and saw water stains creeping up the dining room walls. The house was very, very cold, even though we'd left the furnace on when we closed the house up for the winter, to keep the pipes from freezing.

And then, when he walked into the bathroom, he saw it: the toilet had exploded.

The toilet had exploded because the heat had stopped running and the pipes had burst. The bathroom and dining room were flooded. The horrid red, indoor-outdoor carpet that covers the first floor of the house was a sponge.

It sounds like bad news, doesn't it?

Well, it was bad news for the Man on Sunday night. He had to sleep in a cold, wet house with an exploded toilet. He put in calls to the heating people and the insurance people and hoped that they'd call back on Monday, even though it was a federal holiday. He ran the space heater in the bedroom to knock the chill off, but turned it off when it was time to go to sleep. He kept waking up all night to worry about things.

Oh, but there's good news. The Man crawled under the house Monday morning and got the heat back on. Folks returned his calls. A great guy named Richard from Restorations, Inc., came out and cranked up his wet/dry vac. The Man gave Richard the key to the house and came home.

That's what I love about the mountains. You can give a complete stranger a key to your house without a second thought.

Insurance will probably pay for most, if not all of the damage. More good news: We get a new toilet! The old one was pretty cruddy. Even better news: that horrible indoor-outdoor carpet will finally get pulled up, and if the floors don't buckle, we can refinish them. This has been on our to-do list for awhile, and now the insurance company will pay for it. Whee!

So, really, there are a lot of silver linings in this particular cloud. Maybe best of all, I get to go around saying, "Our toilet exploded!"

And that, my friends, is fun.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Not much, you?

I don't actually have anything particular to say today, but I have a need to say something. Hello. Is it cold where you are? It's been freezing here for the last two weeks. Yesterday I felt like I did nothing but eat. Finally I realized I was eating because I was cold. My body was fueling up like nobody's business. It doesn't understand that it is a middle-class North American body surrounded by all the food it can eat. It thinks: Cold=Winter=Eat food whenever and wherever you find it, because who knows when you'll find it again.

I think today I'll turn up the heat a degree or two.


Yesterday I had coffee with a woman I just barely knew in college. In fact, I'm not sure I did know her, but I knew her face. As it turns out, her son is a student at Our Fine Middle School and is on the Battle of the Books team with Jack. So she e-mailed and said, Coffee after drop-off some morning? And I e-mailed back, Sure!

She was very nice and down-to-earth, and I enjoyed chatting with her. But she dressed like a grown-up, and that threw me. Most of my friends tend to dress on the funkier side of the fashion line, and I dress like an eleven-year-old. It was strange to have coffee with someone my age who wore a silk blouse, slacks and sleek, stylish loafers with a bit of a heel.

One day I'm going to drag all my shoes out of my closet and take a picture and post it. All my shoes are big. Chunky. I wear a lot of Danskos. I have a pair of girly biker boots. Sleek loafers are beautiful, but I would feel wrong in them. Still, there's part of me that feels like those are the shoes I ought to be wearing.

But have you ever put on shoes that weren't you and spent the day in them? By the end of the day, you feel like crying. All day long your feet have been giving the world the wrong impression. All day long you've been an imposter.

A girl just can't live that way.


I think that's all I have to say for now. It's supposed to warm up to 55 degrees this afternoon. Shall I run naked through the backyard to celebrate?

No, no I shan't.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sew and Tell

(My new friend, Betty)

I took a sewing class on Saturday and am pleased to report I hardly learned a thing. For once, I was not the incompetent bumbler in the back row wondering why everyone else had it all figured out when I didn't even understand how to use the scissors . No, dear reader, this time it was someone else who hadn't quite mastered the art of cutting a straight line. Someone else who wasn't clear on how to cut on the bias. Not me.

What a relief.

The class I took was called "Welcome to Your Machine." As the recipient of a lovely Kenmore for Christmas, I decided it was finally time for me to learn how to sew for real. I've been fake sewing for several years now, and the results have been pretty okay. But it's time for me to really learn how to do what I'm doing.

Turns out, I know more than I thought I did. So for once in my life I was one of the perky, oh-so-blase, oh, I've done this a million times class participants. And that, my friends, was worth the price of admission. Total thrill.

One important thing I did learn: How to clean my machine. As it so happens, you're supposed to clean your machine and replace the needle every four hours of sewing. I never cleaned my old machine. Only replaced needles when they broke. That might explain why it got so inconsistent toward the end.

I actually feel sort of guilty about it now. I feel like I should apologize to my old machine. I've said a lot of lousy things about how cheap it was, how unreliable. I may take it out of the closet and give it a good cleaning, just for old time's sake. Not that I plan to ever use it again. Upward and onward!

Did you notice Betty, up top? My sister-in-law gave her to me for Christmas. She's wearing the scarf I made in class. I don't know how much clothes sewing I plan to do (mostly I'm in it for the quilts), but the thought of dressing up Betty does seem fun. I think I might make her an apron, in case she wants to take up cooking.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sweater Weather

(Above: My Dad's Christmas sweater, by me)

I almost didn't take my walk this morning. Not only is it still in the low 20s out there, when I looked out the window at 8:20, my usual walking time, I could see the wind rattling the trees. I don't mind the cold--I've got lots of winter gear from my days in the mountains--but I can't abide the winter wind. Who can?

So I headed up stairs to make beds and plow a path through Will's room. I put on a sweater and my fuzzy leopard-skin slippers and braved the attic to store some miscellaneous Christmas stuff.

I did my best to ignore Travis the Dog, who whined at me from the bottom of the stairs. It was time for his walk, and he wanted to know what the hold up was. He cares not a whit about the wind. He has territory to mark, dog leavings to sniff out, and by jiminy, he needs me to get him out and about on his rounds.

Normally I'm pretty good at avoiding the guilt trips my dog tries to lay on me (I'm less successful when it comes to my children, sadly). But I could feel the slightest edge of morning anxiety poking its finger at my side, and that's finally what got me headed out the door, wind or no wind.

Morning anxiety is my family's stock and trade. I suppose it's just a chemical imbalance we've been saddled with, but my father, my brothers and I all have it. Exercise and dog ownership have gone a long way to eradicate mine, but over Christmas I went almost three weeks without a walk, and by the end of last week, I could feel the anxiety creeping back in.

So off Travis and I went, and as I write this my ears are still cold. But my soul is well, and my dog is happy. My ears will just have to suffer.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year

I'm back.

That cold I mentioned in my last post? Took me down, baby, took me down. It started off mildly, one of those colds you think you can beat with a round of vitamin C and a lot of grapefruit juice. Ha! You know when I finally felt better? Yesterday. That's right, my friends, the cold lasted three lousy weeks.

I hate those kind of colds.

But I feel better now. Travis and I just got back from our morning walk--forty brisk minutes in the 20-degree cold--our first walk in--yes, you guessed it--three weeks. I just cleaned out my e-mail box and in a little bit am off to buy a sharply-discounted 2010 calendar.

I have to say I'm happy to have Christmas behind me. I'd hoped this would be the year we'd simplify things, but with my parents' coming, that wasn't going to happen, and having a cold kept me from always making the wisest decisions. Let's say I spent more money than I'd planned to. And I decorated more than I planned to, and cooked and baked more than I planned to ...

What I'm saying is, this wasn't the most spiritual Christmas I've ever had.

But now it's the new year, and I feel good again, though my jeans are tighter than I like. I have some big writing projects ahead of me, but not much travel until the end of March. Resolutions: Stand up straighter. Go to the Tuesday night fiddle jam over at the music store at least once. Have more people over to dinner. Seek community, in spite of myself and my proclivities and predilections.

That's it. That's as resolved as I get.

I am going to try to post more often, and soon I'm going to post a picture of the sweater I made for my dad for Christmas. Guess what? Not only did it fit perfectly, it was beautiful. A knitting victory after my awful defeat at the silky hands of a lace shawl. So the year ended in interesting ways--with me sick and tired and stressed, but also amazed that sometimes things work out exactly as you planned them.

More soon.