good timing.

I was having trouble getting out of bed. I had plans, and I needed to get going, but still I stayed in the warm. It was a beautiful Saturday, but too cold for yard sales. Josh had a show in Boone that night. My hometown was right on the way, and I was planning on dropping in on my brother's family. My niece was turning eight, and I figured I could just swoop in for the birthday party on my way to Josh's show. Everyone loves a swooping aunt. I hadn't mentioned anything about visiting to anyone. I was going to buy a bottle of chocolate wine, which my mom and I had agreed was probably gross, but that we'd secretly like to try. I had lots of things to get together before I left, and it was a long drive, yet I was having trouble ordering my body to throw off the covers.

The phone rang. My mom. She asked if I was at a yard sale. We talked.

I lay back down again. So instead of driving to their house, I'd drive to the hospital. My dad had had a stroke early that morning, and he was in intensive care. Now, more than ever, I really needed to get my stuff together and drive. Still I stayed put. The news should have dispelled my inertia, but somehow I felt even more glued down than before.

Before Josh's grandfather had died, he'd been sick for several months. He would fall and they'd take him to the hospital. He had a couple of surgeries. Every time we talked to Josh's mom, the situation sounded grim, but we suspected that was partly because of the state of mind of the news-bearer. We made it out to see them one weekend. We sat with his grandparents in the living room and chatted. His grandfather drifted in and out of sleep in his chair, answering questions when we asked, but mostly just listening or dozing. He was wearing a chest brace of some sort that kept him up sitting up, even as he seemed to sink into it. When we started getting ready to leave, he pulled Josh aside to have a good talk about the future.

While he was by no means a spring chicken, he seemed stable. We left feeling better about him being with us a little longer. A few days later, he died. Grandmother told us that he mentioned our visit several times. It was just good timing. There had been weekends when we could have gone to visit, but we didn't. Had he died after one of those weekends, we would have forgotten what we had done, only remembered what we hadn't done. Either way, we got a life lesson in seizing the day.

I thought about our good timing while I continued to lie in my bed in Raleigh. Somewhere in Morganton, my dad was lying in a hospital bed. I had already been planning to stop by, whether they knew it or not. Good timing.

I got up. Time to go.


harry potter and the ridiculously-named stew.

I am a terrible hypocrite. The best thing to do if you ever find yourself saying one thing and doing another is to 'fess up to it on the internet. Then, haivng acknowledged your faults, you can continue being a hypocrite all you want. After all, you told everybody in the whole world about what you did, and what more can anyone reasonably ask?

Here's what I did. After I nagged and whined about how Josh's library was going to take over the house, he started going through them and getting rid of some of them. He put them in a stack for me to take to the used book store. I looked through them and instead of putting them in the "Bookstore" bag I keep for just such purpose, I put them in the "For Sandra" stack instead.

One of the books was a cookbook called Great British Cooking: A Well-Kept Secret. It's geared toward American cooks, and so as a part of enticing would-be buyers, all the recipes have very silly names, so as to make them seem more exotic (Singin' Hinnies, Gooseberry Fool, Angels on Horseback, etc.). The introduction starts off with an excerpt from Virginia Woolf and continues with a series of jokes about how bad British cooking is.

Josh found this at some yard sale or thrift store, I suspect with the thought of giving it to a coworker of his who hails from the British Isles. Of course, that was a goofy, if well-intentioned idea. It would be like giving me a cookbook of Southern American recipes adapted for British cooks. I don't use very many cookbooks at all, because the internet is full of recipes with pictures and reviews from real live home chefs. But I decided that I might as well cook one British recipe, to decide whether the book might be worth keeping. I looked through most of them and picked out one suited to my kitchen - meaning that all the ingredients were things that I already had in the pantry or the freezer.

This is an important consideration for me. I talk cooking with another lady, and I once asked if she had any good meatless recipes. She sent me something with mascarpone in it, and I had to explain that I was more interested in things that I could make with basic pantry staples, which mascarpone was not. I want delicious recipes, but I also want something that makes sense for everyday eating.

Anyway, what I picked out and what I made was Chiddingly Hot Pot. I promise I did not pick it out for the name, because most of the dishes in the book had similarly ridiculous titles. As it turns out, this dish is also included in the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, where the author claims it's referenced in chapter 15 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It's basically just beef stew. But it's good beef stew. It was easy to make, and while it did require a couple hours to cook, most of that is baking time, so I was able to go see if the dish was actually referenced in Harry Potter.

It seems like the compiler of the Harry Potter cookbook may also be picking recipes just for the silly names, because the actual book just says that someone was eating a "stew." Oh well.

Chiddingly Hot Pot
By Jane Garmey

2 lbs. stewing beef, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbs. flour
2 Tbs. oil
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper
2 medium-sized potatoes, sliced in rounds
3 cloves
1 Tbs. tarragon vinegar*
1 oz. melted butter
Approx. 2 cups beef stock
Preheat the oven to 325° F.
Dust the meat with flour and brown it in the oil in a frying pan over low heat. Remove the meat and fry the celery and onions in the same pan for 3 minutes.

Put a layer of onions and celery in the bottom of a deep casserole, then a layer of meat and after that a layer of potatoes. Season each layer with salt and pepper and add the cloves and vinegar. Repeat the layers and finish with a layer of potatoes. Brush them with the melted butter and add enough stock to reach just below the potatoes.

Cover the casserole and cook for 1 ½ hours. Remove the cover and cook for an additional ½ hour to brown the potatoes.

Notes: I left out the salt, because I was using canned beef stock, which has plenty. I also didn't have any idea what tarragon vinegar was, so I used apple cider vinegar and threw in a bit of parsley that was languishing in my fridge. Tarragon, parsley, whatever. I also did both the sauteing and the oven cooking in a Dutch oven, so it was sort of a one-dish meal. You could even say it was a hot pot!


sense and sensibility.

I guess nagging works, because Josh started culling his books last week. It's hasn't been so bad. Really, all he's doing is organizing them, and there are so many duplicates and obvious discards that without even trying very hard, he has managed to get rid of 20 or so. And that's after only having gone through two shelves! Now we only have to do the books in the five shelves left in that room, plus another five shelves scattered around the house, plus the several stacks on the floor and finally the books that are still in their thrift store "THANK YOU" bags.

We talked before about how he was going to organize them and came to no conclusions, but as soon as we started going through them, natural categories emerged. Most of them will just be arranged alphabetically by author, but he also has a lot that are edited, like poetry and short story collections. Then there are a lot of reference books, textbooks, and antique books, which will have their own sections.

I recently did my own reorganization recently, so I was full of helpful advice, which was immediately rejected. While Josh and I both have standard-issue human brains, his is apparently a different model. In terms of organizing, we have drastically different approaches, and while his is absurd and wrong and, worst of all, inefficient, I backed off and let him design his own library his own way. We also talked about how he would decide which books to keep and which to toss (by toss, I mean take to the used book store for credit). My own criteria was based on whether or not I would ever actually read the book. After all, the point of a book is to read it, and if it is not going to get read, it is not fulfilling its book destiny, so I should pass it on to someone who will read it. Josh listened to me politely as I talked about book destinies, and then he said that he had two criteria for keeping a book: is it beautiful and is it true? And just so you know, "true" does not mean "factual," no, no, that would be far too objective a thing to measure.

It all sounds like some vague hippie nonsense to me, but again, it's his room. I feel very pleased with myself whenever I hear the awful phrase "man-cave," knowing that my man would rather have a library. And I have been pleased to see that whatever test he uses, he mostly gets rid of the ones I consider easy tosses, for instance a coffee table book about gnomes that I was aghast that he brought into the house. As it turns out, it is beautiful, but not true.

There are other books that he keeps and I can't fathom why, and not just because I don't exactly understand how to determine truth and beauty the way he defines it. I guess that's the problem. He doesn't define it, he just experiences it and knows. I questioned keeping A Survey of European Civilization, arguing sensibly that whatever information was inside was likely available on the internet, constantly updated and not taking up space inside the house. He is never going to sit down and read this book, so on the day that he decided he wanted to know more about the topic, he could bring up the ol' googler and learn to his heart's content. His response was to read a random paragraph to himself and then start talking about what he'd read, plus all the other things he thought of because of it. Reading is just a way to spark his brain, as if everything he inputs is merely a springboard for his imagination. And I wanted to crack open his head at that moment, not just because he doesn't make any dang sense, but also because it sounds CRAZY in there, and I kinda wanted to see it.

It's all very well and good for a practical and straight-forward woman like myself to fall in love with a poet and dream about our lovely curly-haired babies who will take on the world by using both halves of their brains. But when it comes to the daily business of living with a poet, it turns out that some people are poets because their brains look like Dali paintings inside. How he ever finds anything in there, I'll never know. But I do love that man, and something about the way he judges books makes me feel beautiful and true by having passed his test.


spilled ink.

My boss called me into his office to look at a bug he wanted me to investigate. Our program's printing capabilities weren't working on the Mac. Printing in general is a sort of lost area of our application. It hasn't worked quite right in a long time, but so few people use it that no one complains that much. Either that, or people have been suffering silently for years. Neither possibility is difficult to imagine.

I went to his office, and he tried to print two different documents. Nothing happened. Yup, that's a bug. I went back to my desk to see if it worked any better on Windows. I opened up a file that I had been using earlier to test something else. It had maybe seven lines of text in it, just a bunch of junk. I told the program to print, and the little bubble popped up to tell me that a document had been sent to the printer. I went over to the printer and saw a giant stack of paper sitting on top. Someone had certainly done a lot of printing. Having just finished up my taxes this week, I wondered if someone had a particularly complicated situation that might require every IRS form ever created.

I took a peek at one of the pages in the giant stack of printed paper to see if I could at least deliver it to the owner. What I saw was the print-out of a couple of giant files, in fact the very ones that my boss had been using to test printing in his office. Oh. I guess printing was working just fine, it was just pretending not to work. I took them to his office, where we both had a good chuckle at his expense, and I dropped the whole stack in the recycling bin.

You know, printing used to be hard. You used to have to take each individual letter that you needed and position it just so. It used to be someone's job just to do that one thing all day long. What used to be a tedious and deliberate process is now something that we manage to do accidentally. Silly me, I just printed off fifty pages that I didn't even need! I swear, we're just surrounded by magic.


enemy of the good.

Once, I let slip to a coworker that my neighbor, Gail, had a lot of animals. In fact, my exact phrasing might have been "animal hoarder."

"What?! Have you reported her?"

Reported her? Such a thought had never crossed my mind. That seems like the kind of thing that might create neighborhood hostilities. I suppose I could go with an anonymous tip, not giving my name and also wearing a fake moustache while making the call (just in case). Besides, Gail is a nice lady. Not that nice ladies are incapable of doing things that the authorities should know about, but this wasn't one of them.

While I wonder sometimes whether Gail's living arrangement is healthy for her, I never worry about the animals. I will probably never know what all she has living inside the house, but the dogs that tumble outside in a shaggy bundle every afternoon to bark at my dog all seem to be fine. Are they up to date on all their shots? Probably not. Are they bathed regularly? It's doubtful, but then again, I bet the dogs prefer it that way.

These animals were exactly one step from death before Gail swooped in and added them to her brood. She likes to go to a small local shelter one county over, where they do not have the space or resources that our urban county shelter has. That shelter pretty much has to wipe out their whole occupancy every single week. All those dogs were facing being put down, and now they have a home. They have food, shelter, a good-sized yard, and a person who loves them. It probably would be better for everyone if those dogs were spread out over more homes, but that option is not on the table. Lots of things would be better for the animals, but none of those things are actually being offered.

I read an article not too long ago about how many rescue organizations and no-kill shelters make it hard for people to adopt animals. They ask a lot of questions, do in-home visits, and often reject prospective pet-owners because of seemingly random and irrelevant reasons. Some of them require that owners only work part-time. These well-meaning animal lovers just want to make sure the pets go to good homes. But as a result of the intense application process and high rejection rate, a lot of people give up and go to an animal breeder instead. Of course, that makes me sad for a different reason. Go to the pound! It's cheap and incredibly easy to walk right out with a great animal. I know that people like to have the option to choose a specific breed, but my feeling is that once you actually have an animal companion, it turns out that it was just the one you wanted.

Reporting Gail would be letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. The problem of pet overpopulation is too big to be excluding people who want to help. I explained all this in a hurry to my coworker, and by the end of it, I had her convinced that Gail was just a crazy, but nice, animal lady who was rescuing dogs from certain death so they could live in a happy doggy home. It is not the perfect dog home, but then again, it's hard to say that a human would be able to define that anyway.


free with a one-night stay.

Thing 1: Shoes
Mike showed up in his work clothes. One of Josh's old high school buddies, he was planning on staying the night with us. He came straight from his job at the bank, so he brought a change of clothes but forgot to bring any shoes besides his dress loafers. Josh has a bunch of shoes that he doesn't wear much. He buys them at the thrift store because they're $3.50 and they fit and because he can't get over the fact that some people apparently wear a pair of shoes once and then get rid of them. He pulled a pair of brown Adidas out of the closet that looked brand new and told Mike to just keep them. No, really, dude, it's fine.

Thing 2: Player Piano
At some point during the evening, we all went up into the library. Mike's visited a few times, but this was the first time he'd ever been in this room, this book-lovers sanctuary. Josh's book buying has slowed down as of late, but it still goes on at an unsustainable pace. Besides the completely full shelves, there are stacks of books on the floor that haven't quite made it into the (unimplemented) organizational system.

"Wow, next time I want a book to read, I'll just ask you," Mike said.

"What kind of books do you like to read?"


I went over to a specific shelf, the free shelf. We often upgrade our books when we find a nicer copy of one we already have; the extra copy goes on this shelf to be given away to anyone who might want it. We're not big sci-fi readers, but I did find a copy of Player Piano, so I handed it over to Mike.

Thing 3: Maps
The next morning, Mike was taking a self-guided tour of the living room. This happens a lot - visitors just walk around looking at the weird things that we have surrounded ourselves with. He enjoyed reading the entry about Hitler in our set of 1934 dictionaries (the entry concludes with his 1923 imprisonment), he remarked on the sheer number of clocks, and he also noticed the maps. One he liked in particular was of Europe by Blaeu. These maps are a neat style. Aside from the geographical information, they also have little vignettes of people from different areas featured on the map, showing them in traditional dress. Plus, sometimes there are pictures of sea monsters in the oceans.

I bought this map in a set of several at a yard sale. I had sent some duplicates to my sister, but the rest of them had been sitting upstairs since I bought them, waiting for frames. Without a thought, I offered him the rest of the maps to him. I have enough maps on the walls (not that I won't ever put up more!).

I guess the point is that we have a lot of stuff, and it's true that we accumulate more than we end up using. A lot goes back into the secondhand market. But we give away a lot of stuff, too. It's so easy to be generous when things cost so little. And when it turns out that someone we know could use something we just happen to have, it's like fate that we bought it in the first place.


chili chili bang bang.

It was time for the Fourth Annual Company Chili Cookoff. Despite having been here for five years, I've never participated. The first year, I didn't have a good chili recipe that I could go to. I'd hate to stake my cooking reputation on something untried; I'm far to square for that. So I said that I would find a good recipe before the next year.

That was pretty much my excuse for the next three years, too. I made chili a couple of times at home, but they were nothing special. Why couldn't we have a contest where I knew I could knock their socks off? Let's have a chocolate pie contest! Or biscuits! Shrimp patties! These are things that I can do.

I was not planning on participating this year either. This year was a little special, because the guy who organizes the chili cookoff was leaving the company, and the event was schedule for his very last day. Earlier in the week, he sent out an email saying that the contest might be cancelled due to lack of entries. So of course I felt bad that there might not be a contest at all, and I gave in.

Our company is not big enough for it, but I wish there were multiple categories to compete in. We have one vegetarian dude, and he always brings a meatless version. But he never wins, because how can he? How can he hope to compete against other chilis which have two, sometimes three kinds of meat in them? I mean, if there were more vegetarians, he might have a shot. But there aren't, and so he doesn't.

I wish there was a category for no-meat, another one for one-meat, and finally a meat-tastic group. I knew from the beginning that I was not interested in buying sausage and steak tips and smoked pork. I mean, sure, if you're going to spend $30 at the butchers, then you can win the chili cookoff, but that didn't seem fair.

But whatever, I guess the fun is in participating. Or something. Josh once went to a chili restaurant that served some special Texas variety called Terlingua Chili. He raved about it, and I filed that fact away in my memory until I had to come up with a beef-only chili recipe that could compete with steak tips and sausage. Not that I actually believed it would be competitive, but when you have no chance, the best you can do is something totally different. Feel free to apply this philosophy to other areas of your life.

Terlingua Chili

Okay, so I cheated a little. I cooked the ground beef in bacon grease. But I had the bacon anyway, and I used it to work on training Remix to "stay." She is bacon-motivated.

I thought my chili creation was fantastic. It has a soft and smoky flavor followed by a sneaky heat. That was the serrano peppers, which were simmered along with everything else, but then removed. I'd never cooked with serranos before, and I had to ask the produce manager which ones they were. Two serrano peppers at $1.99 a pound comes to four cents. I paid in cash.

I still knew that I was not going to win, but I at least felt like this was a solid entry. And I still had something of a chance: in addition to the taste contest, there is also a prize for the best-named chili. I guess I cheated on this part, too, because I googled the phrase "chili name pun" and the internet gave me "Chili Chili Bang Bang." Thank you, anonymous internet commenter! Then I spent far too much time making up a goofy poster to hang above my CrockPot. All the other slow cookers were more modern, with digital timers and removeable crocks. Mine looked like the one your mom gives you when you get your first apartment, which it was.

I did not win the taste contest. I did not win the naming contest. I did win the "Oldest CrockPot" contest, which was more unofficial.

I hung the poster up in my cube, where it makes me giggle every time I look at it. Okay, I didn't win, but I did get a good recipe and a fun poster out of it. And also a valuable lesson about the value of participating. Or something.


laundry duty.

"Do you and Josh do each other's laundry?"

As she asks this, I am folding a pair of boxer shorts, so I guess the question is answered. She and her boyfriend are planning to move in together. They are looking for a house, which I guess is the fun part, and talking about laundry, which is probably not. He told her already that he thinks they should each do only their own laundry.

"Well, when laundry needs to be done, it gets done," is my response. She looks shocked, and I don't know why. I can't figure out if I sounded like a whip-cracker or a doormat.

We don't have any official division of labor. There's no chart with our names and a list of chores. We are both capable of recognizing when something needs to be done and we are equally capable of taking care of it. We are also both slobs, and so some things are allowed to slide for a while. Since our toleration for mess is similar, this doesn't create a problem. My sister, the other slobby one, married a man who had a very tidy mother. While he wants things to be clean, he doesn't necessarily want to spend his time scrubbing baseboards. They must have made their peace over this. Their house is not particularly clean. Equality is awesome, y'all.

I remember when I lived with roommates, the division of chores was an issue. One roommate wanted us to each be responsible for ourselves. In her system, each person would buy their own food and wash their own dishes. I didn't like this system. For one thing, it seemed reasonable that we could share some staple items, provided we each contributed in restocking. I mean, were we each supposed to buy our own toilet paper? This did not extend to specialty items, like fancy foods or alcohol. But by all means, have some of my milk, it's fine. I also thought that washing each individual dish as it was used was inefficient. However, my more communal system does require everyone to chip in of their own accord.

It didn't quite work out to anyone's ideas. But we were all pretty non-confrontational, so while there was grumbling, there were few actual fights. Still, there was enough tension about it that when I moved out, that was one of the things I relished most about living alone. Only then do both systems work together. All restocking and cleaning acts are communal, because there is a commune of one. I could wash the dishes or leave them, and the only person who cared was me.

But there has never been that kind of tension between me and Josh. I already wanted a team system with my roommates, so it seemed even more obvious that a romantic couple living together would be that way. Even the census forms we filled out indicated as much; we registered as "partners." These dishes need to be washed, so wash them. This laundry needs to be done, so do it. And it seems to have worked out fine. I have never felt resentful about the things I do, and I feel grateful for the things he does.

Every once in a while, I will wish that he did a little something more, or rather, something differently. Sometimes when I come home from work, the dog's water bowl is empty. Now, I always feed the dog. But he is home during the day because of his schedule, so he usually walks her. We didn't sit down and discuss this, it just worked out that way. But the water is something that needs to be monitored, rather than something that can be done on a schedule. So I just asked him to please check on her water before he goes to work, because sometimes it was empty. He said absolutely, sorry for not doing it before. And that was it. I mentioned before that he would do laundry when he needed clean work clothes (which is more often than I would need to do laundry), but I was resentful that none of my clothes ever made it from the hamper into that load of black pants and black shirts. I mentioned it to him, and the next time I folded a pile of clothes that he had washed, I found several of my things in there.

I'm not trying to say that our relationship is superior to anyone's, nor that we will never have squabbles over household contributions (we had quite a fantastic blow-out during the cleaning frenzy leading up to Christmas - crying and name-calling). Lord knows how well this will hold up when there are children, who are walking mess-machines. We just have a system that works for us right now because we both want it to work.

The snooty part of me thinks that if you're arguing about laundry before you even move in together, it's a bad sign. However, I did not voice this thought to her, because I have made a lot of improvements on the filter between my head and my mouth. Plus, there's no reason they wouldn't be able to work something out that makes them both happy. Maybe they'll be celebrating their 50th anniversary, each still washing their own clothes.


buck oh eight.

Sometimes, when my will is weak, I stop at McDonalds on the way to work for a cup of coffee. It is a waste of time and money to do so. I have coffee at home and tea at work. McDonald's isn't even actually on my way; I have to drive a couple of stoplights past my usual turn to get there. But I do like the coffee and the whole ritual of making an unnecessary stop for a little treat.

Also, I sorta like just going to McDonalds. Besides the coffee, one thing I like is the cross-section of America you can find underneath the golden arches. There are tables of retired men, who drink their tiny senior cups of coffee while reading the newspapers and chewing the fat. There are young professional types like me, though most of them evidently work at offices that require a bit more effort in the appearance of their employees. Truckloads of construction workers stop off on their way to a site. Half of the staff behind the counter is bilingual, and they switch effortlessly between languages depending on who is ordering.

I was waiting my turn in line. The guy in front of me, a scraggly middle-aged black man in a faded sweatshirt and jeans, ordered a coffee. All sizes of coffee are a buck at this particular Mickey D's, and so the total was $1.08. He had a single and a five. To avoid breaking the five, he asked his friend if he had any change. The friend did not. I sensed an opportunity to be a nice person, so I stepped forward and offered a dime from my coin purse. By that time, the clerk already had the dude's fiver, so the larger bill was going to be broken anyway. Oh well.

The man got his $4.02 back. He gave me the two pennies, which I expected. And then he stuffed another dollar into my hand. Apparently, giving out dimes could possibly be a very good investment opportunity, reaping an immediate 900% return on investment. I tried to say no, because it was completely unnecessary. Plus, it sort of took the shine off my nice gesture by rewarding it. But he was insistent, saying, "You might need it someday." I shrugged and relented. I wondered if it was important to him that I not think he needed it today, just like it was important to me for him to not think I piped up with the expectation of a reward.

I ordered my coffee and paid my own $1.08. I stuffed the extra dollar into the Ronald McDonald House donation box. Pass it on, pass it on.


thaings bin tuff.

I'm about to divulge some super-secret information here. So listen up, and I will tell you about a secret message inside my house.

Yesterday, you learned about the map of my property which hangs proudly in the house which it illustrates. You also learned that I bought the frame secondhand. The frame is hand-made. If you turn it around, you can see the where they stopped staining the wood. They did a good job, certainly better than most anything I've ever made.

When I bought the frame, it was displaying a painting of a little girl standing in a field of sunflowers. That description sounds very nice and soothing, but the picture was not. There was something creepy and sad about it, like it was a picture of little Jenny from Forrest Gump hiding from her drunk and abusive father. I couldn't find a copy of it online, though I did find many nice pictures of little girls in sunflower fields. Art is art, and maybe this picture was meant to be depressing, but I wouldn't want it in my house.

As it happens, it is in my house. The picture was printed on some kind of sturdy cardboard, and so I kept it to be the backing and just covered up the front with my map. I will probably never have to look at it again, because the map is sorta fragile and I'm not going to risk damaging it by removing it from the frame. However, the creepy sunflower girl picture is not the secret.

The secret is on the back of the sunflower picture. There is a message, presumably written by whoever gifted the homemade frame and picture. I reproduce that message exactly for you here.

Happy V. Day. I just won't you to know that I love you so much. Sorry if some times you don't think I am showing it enough. Becuase I say things the wrong way. I am trying my hardest every day to say things the right way. I know that thaings bin tuff for you and me but I know that we are two strong people who wont a happy famiely. I know you are trying. So am I. I know we can make it. Deep in my heart I know I married a very special wife and going to be mommy. Who try's her best. I also know you are doing a great job in beeing a good wife. It is tuff but you can do it you are a lot stronger then you think. So give your self alot of credit. Thing's will get better because together we can beat any battle together because we are a strong team.
Love your,
I am spoiled, because I date a poet, but I have to agree that the fella had a tendency to say things the wrong way. Well, he made a nice frame, even if his writing skills weren't great. Hey, he is trying, and that's not nothing.

It is easy for me to come up with a horrifying picture based on this message. Something about the combination of terrible spelling, a troubled marriage, and a baby on the way paints an image more vividly sad than the little girl in the sunflowers. But that's not fair. I have an official personal policy to assume the best when I'll never know one way or the other. The story that I invent around this message only affects my mental state. So let's just all assume that these two kids worked it out and their baby grew up to win the Nobel Prize.

This is the kind of thing you end up with when you shop at the thrift store. Pretty much everything has its own little history, though usually it's not written in sharpie on the back (though sometimes the Goodwill price is). And now you know one of my house's secrets. Feel special.


you are here.

It is a well-documented fact that I love maps. When you blog, all sorts of useless information gets documented. No one was ever able to put down in writing the location of the Holy Grail, but at least future generations will know that I really like maps, hate cantaloupe, and that once I got locked in a Goodwill dressing room.

How much do I like maps? Well, I have one in pretty much every room in my house, including one of the bathrooms. You might find this to be excessive, but I promise that each map is different. If you are not a map person, you may think that a map is a map is a map, but that's just not true. It's not just that they show different locations, which they do, but they are different kinds of maps. They communicate the concept of geography in different ways, depending on their initial purpose. So my topographical map is different than my elementary schoolroom map, which is in turn different from my geological survey map.

The very first thing that you will see upon entering my home is a map. It hangs in the foyer, facing the front door. It is a map of the very property on which you stand.

When I bought the house, the previous owners gave me a landscaping plan that had been drawn up, but never implemented. It was a grand plan, done by a real professional landscaper. It is hand-drawn in pencil and ink, dated September 25, 1989. The house was built in 1984, so it's likely the first owners had this done. And then they never implemented this grand scheme of foliage. I'm glad they didn't. If they had, I might not have even bought the house. What enticed me were the trees, and while the interior of the house is truly marvelous, had the exterior been dotted with variegated ligustrum and dwarf abelia and white caladium, I might not have looked any closer. I would have said, man, that looks like a lot of work. Trees are beautiful landscaping that require no upkeep.

So they gave me this diagram, along with a set of house keys. Likely, the previous owners had given it to them and they didn't know what to do with it but keep it. It was rolled up and flattened, having been passed down from owner to owner, all of them too lazy or too tree-hugging to put it into effect, but not willing to get rid of it.

I thought it was pretty neat, a totally unexpected part of the home-buying transaction. A couple weeks later, I serendipitously found a rustic wooden and burlap frame at Goodwill that fit perfectly, and I hung it up in my new foyer. I just thought it was a cool drawing, but then later, I realized it was yet another map (I'm a little slow). Josh says it was a weird thing to display, but it seemed glaringly obvious to me. Maybe it is weird, but it's also fantastic. Really, how many people have a hand-drawn map of their land? It's so specific; you could put a "YOU ARE HERE" sticker on it. I like my maps to show places that I love, and I love this tiny piece of the world.

Someday, I will probably leave this house. At that point, I will have to make the hard decision whether to pass the map down to the next owner. I am already resisting the idea. Right now, it is a map of my property, but then it will be a map of my first home (sentimental maps!). How will I know that the next people will appreciate and love this drawing the way that I do? They may have great taste in houses, but they may not be map people, and even if I gift them the frame, they might just shove it in a closet somewhere, or worse, throw it away.
I guess I'll just have to keep it. Oh well!


the revolution.

Note: A dude at work lent me book by Ron Paul, The Revolution: A Manifesto. He is a True Believer. I try really hard to avoid discussing politics at work (okay, anywhere), but I let my guard down and got pulled into a conversation and then I was given a book (that's how much I dislike discussing politics - I think of it as something I have to guard against). Anyway, this is my response that I sent to him in an email. After I finished writing it, I thought I might as well throw it up here. Which may be a mistake, as it seems to be starting a political discussion.

I have no problem with ending the war on terror and the war on drugs. By all means, reduce our military drastically and stop with the undeclared wars. Legalize pot. What we've been doing has not been working, so let's try something else. As for the stuff about the Federal Reserve, I know next to nothing about it, so I don't feel qualified to say one way or the other.

I do have a problem with ending the social safety net. The system is imperfect, not sustainable as it is, and it may even encourage dependency like he says. But I'm not willing to say that government does not have a place in taking care of the poor. He says that before we had these programs, then the poor were provided for by other people. It's quite a nice picture - remember when the government minded it's own dang business and we all just took care of each other? I have no doubt that Paul and many people he knew did work for free or reduced pay. But that is anecdotal evidence and gives no indication of how well this provided for the poor. I talked to Mike the other day, who said that with a reduced tax burden (as well as not having the idea that they are helping the poor through their taxes), people would care more for each other. I'm just not sure that's true. He called it cynicism, but I call it realism (but that's exactly what a cynic would say).

Part of the reason that I am so skeptical of the rosy picture Paul painted is because I recently read a rebuttal of his statement that that the Civil War was unnecessary, that Lincoln should've just bought the slaves. One of the books that he recommends in the back is The Real Lincoln, which is along these lines. This is just...wrong. Here is the debunking, in four parts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I know I'm responding to stuff that was not in the book, but my point is that I don't trust Paul's version of history, even history that he personally remembers. Memory is faulty, and his perspective is one of white male privilege (gah, I sound like such a liberal). That's not his fault, of course, but to assume that his perspective tells the whole picture is ridiculous.

He does not say much about the Civil Rights era. He does sort of gloss over Jim Crow as an unfortunate side effect of people have the freedom to govern themselves, which sort of made my eyes cross. He does not say how he feels about the integration of schools. Rand Paul got in some trouble for saying he would've voted against the Civil Rights Act. Those things were local government acting on the will of the people. Sometimes the will of the people is racist and wrong, and we need something to step in and say no, guys, we can't do it like this. Whether government should play that role, I don't know. I'm not sure who else would, but it's hard to imagine because I have grown up in the world where that was part of government's place. I just have a hard time saying that the federal government stepping in and taking away the right for states to set voting laws that prevented whole segments of the population from having a voice is necessarily bad.

Government is just people. We get some things right, we screw other things up. Just like individuals, we're all just guessing what the right thing to do is. Anything that gets too big has the tendency to become corrupt and inefficient, because it's just a magnifier of all our worst traits. I guess that's a concentration of power thing, but government is just one example of that (see also: corporations, unions, religious institutions, probably others).

I think Ron Paul is a good man, and I'm glad that someone is saying these things. Our government probably is too big, but I don't necessarily want his version either. His base is young, and it may be years before his real influence is known. I was already planning on voting for him in the primary, though you have to admit the other choices are not very inspiring, when they're not outright repellant. But the more I see of the world, the more complicated it gets. I am suspicious of anyone who says there is one answer to everything.

Thank you for lending me the book. It's good that I have a firm grasp of what he is saying, rather than hearing everything secondhand.