Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Report

(I've been saving eggshells to plant seeds in. The Man has been playing around a lot with his new camera and thought the shells would make an interesting picture.)

I just want to make clear that I am a very responsible dog walker. I never leave home without a roll of biodegradable green bags--poop bags, for the lack of a more poetic term--in my jacket pocket, and I always scoop.

Well, almost always. Sometimes this time of year, if I'm not paying close attention, I lose sight of things. The grass around our neighborhood is faded and brown, often covered with leaves. From time to time when Travis is done doing his business, I simply cannot find it. I look and look, and it's like it disappeared.

I am only willing to devote so much of my day to searching for missing business. If I can't find it after a minute, I shrug and move along.

Today was one of those days. Travis did his business, I searched for it, couldn't find it. Only today there was a neighbor backing out of her driveway while Travis was going, and I felt like I couldn't just walk away. She'd probably seen Travis doing his business--you can't miss it, after all, when a dog's got number 2 on his mind--and if I just walked away, she'd think I was one of those terrible people who does not scoop.

And then what would happen? She'd probably post something on the neighborhood list-serv. To the woman in the red jacket with the adorable Cockapoo, PLEASE SCOOP YOUR DOG'S POOP. Well, I walk my dog every day, and every day I wear my red jacket, so everyone would know it was me, and I'd probably be forced to sew a huge P to the back of my coat.

Unbearable. Untenable. So you know what I did? I scooped a poop-sized portion of leaves. Scooped 'em right into my biodegradable poop bag, waved to my neighbor, and I went on my merry way.

I mean, what else was I supposed to do?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Soldier On

(My house, taken with the camera I gave the Man for his birthday--the camera is 90 years-old, and I like how it makes our house look 90 years-old, too. I got the idea for the camera, by the way, after reading the book the Man gave me for Christmas called Folk Photography: The American Real-Photo Postcard 1905-1930. I found the kind of camera a lot of the real-photo photographers used back in the day, the Kodak 3-A, on eBay.)

I have probably mentioned before that I'm pretty much a wimp. When I get sick, I am not stoical about it. I try not to whine, but I don't act the martyr, either.

The Man, on the other hand, refuses to admit when he's down for the count. He got the Something That's Going Around on Saturday. All he would admit to was that he might be getting something. That's all he admitted to on Sunday. Yesterday, he contemplated taking a sick day--only because he has hundreds accumulated, mind you, not because he's sick--but ultimately decided against it.

Today, although his cheeks are definitely hot and his eyes are definitely glassy, he has declared himself perfectly fit and healthy.

Jack, it would appear, takes after me. He got the Something That's Going Around on Friday. He did not deny it. He didn't milk it, but he owned it. Then, mid-afternoon on Sunday, he began asking me every five minutes if he still had a fever. I saw where this was leading. He was making the case for not going to school on Monday. And the fact is, he still had a fever, so we didn't make him go, though he probably could have sucked it up and gone.

Again, yesterday, mid-afternoon, the asking every five minutes: Do I have a fever? And yes, he was still warm. That is the way of this bug; the fever lasts and lasts. It's not a rock 'em, sock 'em fever. More like a 99.5 fever. But it's the kind of fever that likes to kick back and put its feet up. It's in no hurry.

This is a tenacious, pernicious bug. At some point, you just have to soldier on. Even me. I still felt bad on Saturday, but I decided it was time to get on with my life. I went to the store, I made pasta for Sunday night dinner. I decided I would go the next afternoon to the Mother/Daughter book club I'd been invited to by one of Jack's classmates to discuss my books. I swept the kitchen floor. I made pizza.

And so today it was decided that Jack needed to soldier on, too. We sent him to school, right after we gave him the Oscar for Best Performance from a Child Who Really, Really Wants You to See How Much He's Suffering and Realize What Cruel Parents You Truly Are. I promised I would come get him if he started to drag and needed to come home. I suspect he'll be fine. I suspect he will be surrounded by a bunch of other kids whose parents kicked them out of the house feeling not feeling 100% to the good.

Oh, but you should have seen him dragging his backpack and his trombone down the sidewalk at school when I dropped him off. Oh, that poor boy. I almost called him back to the car, almost took him home again and tucked him in his warm, comfy bed.



Thanks for all your prayers for David and Becky. I'll keep you updated.

Also: postcard people--I finally got some more sent out yesterday. Look for one in the mail soon!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Prayer Request

A dear friend of the Man's, David, has just been diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. He starts chemotherapy tomorrow. David's been having some troubling health issues for a while now, but his doctors haven't been able to figure out the cause. Recently, David starting wondering if he had diabetes, so went to get tested, and that's when it was discovered he had leukemia (and, oddly, the leukemia appears to have nothing to do with his other health problems).

David has asked me and the Man to pray for him. I know many of you who read this blog have been known to say a prayer or two, and I would ask that you hold up David for healing and courage, and for God's mercy upon him. His wife is named Becky, and I'm sure she would appreciate our prayers as well. David will be treated at UNC hospitals.

I know, too, that some of you who read this blog probably don't pray in the traditional sense (or in the nontraditional sense, for that matter), but I hope you might not mind sending out some positive thoughts into the universe on David's behalf. He can use all the energy and light we can send his way.

Thank you! Blessings!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Let's Pretend

I am sitting here pretending that I don't still feel sick. But I do. I feel tired and ill. I'm not completely out of energy, but I don't have much to spare. I've been grocery shopping today, and have just spent some purgatorial time dealing with Will's room, and it feels like time to nap, but weirdly enough, napping doesn't help. In fact, it seems to make things worse.

So I thought I'd take a break to blog, and then I'm going to go put groceries away and maybe make some soup while I watch my new favorite soap opera, Grey's Anatomy. I've been hearing about it for years, and when I saw I could download instantly via Netflix, I thought, 'What the hey.' Now I'm hooked. It's your basic hospital soap, but it's fun and likable and fairly preposterous. Lots of pretty people.

I've spent much of the week just sitting there. Also becoming addicted to other people's blogs. Sara over at Shiny Red Houses has culled her blog list to her absolute favorites (I am proud to say that Left-handed Housewife made the cut ). I decided to check out a blog she likes called Irretrievably Broken, and oh, good goobily moobily, I'm hooked. I swear, it's like reading a novel. In fact, over the last couple of days I've read the entire thing. This woman can write, baby. And even though her situation is so different from mine (essentially her blog is about life post-divorce and trying to co-parent with your ex), it doesn't matter. Amazing.

Then, through Irretrievably Broken, I found a blog called Here be Hippogriffs, also addictive. I just jumped right in with the most recent post, then began reading backwards compulsively. I have no idea who this woman is or quite what her deal is, but I landed on a post about her first husband that actually turned out to be about her turbulent early twenties and could not stop reading.

It's a little weird, I have to say, to land in the middle of these strangers' lives and get so caught up in their stories. I don't know what to think about it. Is it good to know so much about people you don't know? Is it in some way akin to watching a soap opera, in which other people's lives become your entertainment? Or is like checking out a good book of nonfiction from the library, in which you become involved with the characters (who are in fact not characters, but real people) and feel connected to them and somehow enlarged by their story?

I don't know. Do you? Does it matter? Is this the fever talking?

Time to go put away the groceries.

Edit (upon re-reading later): I should say that with many of the blogs I follow, I don't feel that soap opera feeling, but a lot of blogs I follow are more like slice of life/domestic diaries--here's what we ate, here's what I'm making, here's something funny the kids said. It's more like checking in with friends (and many of the authors of these blogs feel like friends, there is a back and forth, and sometimes snail mail) than reading a book. The blogs I mentioned in this post have a much more confessional feel to them, in which the whole life is brought out and presented for inspection.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Just a Little Quilty News

Although at this very minute I feel like I've been hit by a truck (there's Something Going Around, as there usually is this time of year, and as usual, Will brought it into the house, and as usual, I get hit twice as hard as he did), I did have a very quilty weekend. I started the above-pictured quilt last summer, then put it aside to work on another quilt, and then got caught up in some knitting projects.

But now I'm determined to finish it. And I'm almost there. Except for the fact that simply writing this blog post has me longing for a nap. That's getting in the way of further progress, yes indeedy.

I think I had other things to say. But the nap is calling me, the nap is calling ... Somebody send chicken soup. Somebody send ginger ale and crackers ...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Storm Warning

(My fiddle and its fabulous red case.)

I had big plans to go to the fiddle jam over at High Strung last night (per my New Year's resolution), but it got iced out. Like much of the Southeast (and now the Northeast), we've just had a lovely winter storm blow through. Not much accumulation here, but enough ice to get school canceled yesterday and delayed today.


It's a good time to think about spring gardening and cookouts and going to baseball games. It's a good time to get deeply involved in hobbies. Right now I'm working on one quilt, three pairs of socks, and a sweater. I practice my fiddle every night after dinner, and have been making homemade postcards (more on those later). I'm hoping to keep myself so busy and amused I'll forget to be miserable because the sidewalk is crusted with ice and the sun gives up around 4:45 and heads off to some place more interesting.


I've been thinking a lot lately about my old letter-writing days. I actually wrote a letter on Sunday, to my friend Kathryn in Alabama, who I'm always meaning to call. Early in the morning I think, 'Oh, let's call Kathryn today and have a nice chat.' Then I completely forget until around nine o'clock at night, which is eight o'clock at night in Alabama. Kathryn has three children; the oldest is 4, the youngest is not yet 1. Eight o'clock at night is a terrible time to call a person with three children under the age of 5. I resolve to call the next day, and the vicious cycle begins again.

It occurred to me on Sunday that I could write Kathryn a letter. As far as I'm aware, letters are still legal, although I'm expecting the Postal Service to go out of business any minute and that will be that. So I tore some blank pages out of a journal with paper that I especially like and wrote. Then I folded up the pages, stuffed them in an envelope, looked up online how much stamps cost these days (they seem to go up a penny every few weeks), and slapped that letter in the mailbox. Easy as pie.

I miss letters. I miss getting them, I miss writing them. I used to correspond with tons of people. Sunday night was my letter-writing night. I'd sit on my bed and gather my writing things around me, and sift through the pile of letters I'd received that week. On Monday morning I'd take the letters I'd written to the copy shop and make copies. It was the closest I ever got to keeping a regular journal.

I have one correspondent left, our old babysitter, who's now a senior in college. She's an English major with a thing for Jane Austen, so she's totally into letter-writing. And she has lovely handwriting, a bonus.

So I was thinking that maybe this year I would combine my resolution to draw more with my love of corresponding and see if I could interest anyone in a postcard exchange. Is anyone interested? You don't have to do homemade postcards (though it would be marvelous if you did), just promise to write back. If you want to, let me know. Leave your email in a comment, and I'll email you for your address.


Thanks for all the chicken feedback. I'm studying up on it. From what I've been reading, there's not a lot to it other than keeping the predators away. Oh, and convincing the Man. I'll keep you posted!


Thursday, January 6, 2011


For a year now, ever since it became legal to raise chickens in this neck of the woods, people have asked me if I was going to get me some. And for a year, I've said probably not. Amy asked me just a couple of weeks ago, and I raised my usual concerns: What do we do with the chickens when we go out of town, and how do we keep predators out of the yard? Our wooded suburban neighborhood has copperheads, our own fox family, and, oddly enough, coyotes. I'm sure there are a few raccoons galavanting around out there as well.

But I've been emailing with my neighbor Anthony, who's had a coop since last year, and he says he's only lost one chicken, to a hawk. I'm going to go visit his chickens this weekend if the weather's good, and then I'm going to think about chickens. A lot. Real hard.

I mentioned this to the Man tonight, and he did this thing he does when I bring up an idea he doesn't think is so hot, which is to smile and look interested while signaling total lack of enthusiasm with every friendly nod of his head.

So I did the thing I do when he does his thing, which is to sound oh-so nonchalant, like, "Well, I'm not even sure if this is something I want to do, and certainly not right at this very minute. In fact, I'm completely losing interest as we speak."

Then, despite his initial lack of enthusiasm, the Man will start thinking about chickens and get kind of excited. And in spite of my initial excitement, I'll start thinking about chickens and wonder if it's such a good idea.

Who knows where we'll end up. A new goldfish, maybe.

I have to say that I am excited about visiting Anthony's coop. It's good to know a neighbor who has chickens. You never know when he'll need to get rid of some extra eggs ...


Just a little more Travis. Here he is yesterday, his grubby old self:

And here he is after his grooming today, King of the Prom:

It's hard when your dog is prettier than you are.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An Ordinary Day in Winter

This was my view this morning as I sat on the couch and wrote. Do you see my poor little dog stuck outside? Why won't I open the door? Because I'm taking a picture, silly.

(Edit: I write a lot about my dog in this post. I think it a reaction to Jody's post about her dear departed Jessie, an ode that had me in tears this morning.)

It's Tuesday. The children are back in school, suffering. Jack is already asking how many days of school are left this year. I don't think they mind school so much; what they mind is having to get out of bed. Me, too.

My alarm went off at 6:55 a.m. The barest hint of light outside, not enough to make you feel like it was time to be up and at 'em. I have to tell you, the thing that undoes my farm dreams is the idea of having to get up early to take care of animals. I would love to have animals, but I want the nocturnal kind. Owls, maybe. Cows with a yin for late night TV.

Travis, badly in need of a trip to the groomers, is my sole companion during most of the day. After I drop off the boys at school and have breakfast, he and I trot around the neighborhood. We're usually out for about forty-five minutes. When it comes to mid-winter walks in the early morning, I have no pride. I look ridiculous, wrapped up in my many scarves and seventeen layers. But I'm warm, and that's all I care about.

When we get back, I make a cup of tea and sit on the couch to commence writing. I have a study upstairs to work in, but Travis isn't allowed upstairs, so I work downstairs. After Travis gets a bite to eat and a sip of water, he sits next to me on the couch and snoozes for the rest of the morning. He is either full speed ahead or napping. This dog has no in-betweens.

The porch is always a little sad in the winter, though I swept it the other day, so it looks more presentable than it has been lately. Sometimes, when it's warmer, I write at this table, Travis asleep at my feet.

I think the word for our yard right now is barren. See the big empty space in the middle? In a couple of months we'll be plowing it up. Mr. Eddie next door is lending us his tiller. We're going to do a big garden this year. I'm about to put in my order to Johnny's Seeds for potatoes and garlic and Bok Choi and all sorts of good stuff. Peas. Maters*. All of it. Winter is a fine time to think about spring gardens. You forget about mosquitoes and weeds and your own sheer laziness. It's all gravy when you're dreaming about your garden in winter.

(*Maters=tomatoes, in case you're unfamiliar with this pronunciation)

The winter garden, as such, has suffered some with our recent snow and the cold snap before it. The collards have risen to the occasion, but the lettuce pooped out, and the carrots didn't stand a chance. I'm going to try planting some more carrots in pots in late February. I really love the idea of growing carrots in pots. We have heavy clay soil around here, and carrots grown in a regular bed come out stunted.

I wrote for two and a half hours this morning, and I'll sit down for an hour this afternoon after I pick up the boys from school to pave the way for tomorrow's work. I'm revising, and so I'm taking out big chunks and putting new stuff in. I have to be careful. If I take out too many chunks too soon, the whole thing collapses and I'm not sure how to rebuild. But a little bit at a time is manageable.

In a few minutes I leave for my fiddle lesson with my new fiddle in hand. I love my teacher, but I sort of dread my lessons, because it's a very nervous-making thing to play for someone else who's actually paying attention. But usually once I get to my lesson, I have a good time. My days are often pretty devoid of people, so it's nice to have company. And to play music with someone.

Winter days scare me a little. There are long stretches of time where I'm not tethered to much but my own imagination. This can make a girl squirrelly. I do a lot better now that I have Travis. Who is, I believe, outside trying to eat my compost pile as I write this.

An experiment: a music video from YouTube--Mr. Guy Clarke singing "Homegrown Tomatoes," to get us through this winter's day. The sound's not great (I think this footage was taken in the '70s), but the song is a personal favorite:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year Book Report! (& other miscellaneous stuff)

I'm finally out of my pajamas. The day after Christmas, I stayed in my jammies until 4 p.m. But the last couple of days I've gotten dressed first thing. This is how I know Christmas is winding down. Suddenly I feel the need to do constructive things with my time. Long hours of reading are no longer psychically possible--the guilt factor (I'm not getting enough done!) has kicked back in.

Oh, but what reading I have done! I got a bodacious number of books for Christmas and have been dipping into all of them, too greedy to just stick with one. Here's a partial list:

*As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto (marvelous!)

*The Dirty Life: On Farming Food and Love by Kristin Kimball (a wonderful book, but has totally disabused my notion that I could ever be a farmer--too hard!)

*The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson (history that reads like a novel--thoroughly compelling)

*Picture This by Lynda Barry (my favorite comics artist; I asked for this book because I would like to draw more)

I also got books on cheese-making (I'm going to give it a try!) and generating your own electricity (through pedaling, mostly), and playing the fiddle.

We've had a very nice Christmas, but the boys are starting to self-destruct, another sure sign that it's time to return to regular life and send their sweet behinds back to school.

Resolutions? I've made a few. The annual resolution: Stand up straight. I have lousy posture, always have. I spent most of my childhood slouched over a book and have my own little dowager's hump to prove it. Essentially, I have been slouching for 46.5 years, but when I remind myself to stand up straight, I always feel immediately energized and much, much taller.

Otherwise, I would like to lose 25 pounds without dieting. I hate diets. But when I cut out sugar and up my proteins, I find that the weight comes off, slowly. I had a good run with this last fall, but for some reason I was psychologically overwhelmed by all the Halloween candy and fell off the wagon. Now I'm back on. I'll let you know what happens.

This year, I swear, I promise, I'm going to go to the fiddle jams at High Strung, our local music store. The jams are geared toward beginning fiddlers, and I've been told I would by no means be the worst. I really, really want to do this, but I've felt shy about it. But not this year! In 2011, I will jam.

I also want to draw more this year. I love to draw. I don't have any particular talent, but I enjoy it, but for awhile now I've had a hard time letting myself do stuff that wasn't productive. I haven't been very good at playing. I'm going to try, though. I'm resolved.

Well, it's time to go take down the Christmas decorations. You know, if someone put a flyer in my mailbox for a Breaking Down Christmas team, I'd hire 'em.

Happy 2011, everyone!