Archive for the ‘the fantastic’ Category


Posted: 15 July 2011 in the fantastic
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Today I taught a class of six Saudi women on a short exchange program to the university.  I had a glimpse of my old life, the one that remembers how to pronounce Riyadh, and though I missed it, I was delighted to be right where I was watching them peel back the edges of research.

We slipped into the stacks searching for a book on Princess Nora and when they found it their faces lit up.  They didn’t have the casual “that’s cool, whatever” attitude my regular groups of 18 years old have, which was a teensy reward in itself.  As I stood there, watching them search for books on the fly with shiny new ipads, I was struck at how far I was from every other place I’ve ever been.  From the six year old who swore she’d be an ambassador, from the college student who never used the library once in 4 years, from the foreign service officer who swore she’d never look back, from the grad student who was baffled that all of this information was online and yes, from the librarian who just wanted to spend the afternoon finishing her staff evaluations.

Today, I used an ipad to find a book on Princess Nora, watched a short video about her, found a biography and searched for a review about the book while I stood in the stacks, took a picture of a book I wanted to read later and cleared the holds from my account so I could check it out before I went upstairs.  My daughter has been born into a world of awesome.




Not for the squeamish.  You might as well just stop now.  Look, don’t write me later to say you didn’t want to, need to, know.  I’ll take all your points.

2009 may be the year of the hippie at our house.  Of course, I say that with plenty of earthy tolerance and love, since I am already halfway there regardless of the year.  We’ve started composting, or at least, are trying.  I can’t quite get the hang of my new tumbler and admit a certain exasperation that I just can’t go out there every day, add a few eggshells, and viola!, fertile soil!  Regardless, I’ve gathered finely crushed leaves and am collecting the kitchen waste and I have high hopes that summer will yield some compost, if not something suitable for compost tea.

2009 also brings us the neti pot.  I know you are a convert, that you love it and that, gasp, you’re scandalized we’re so late on the sinus cleansing wagon.  You’d think, for someone who has as many migraines as I do, that we’d have tried it already.  What brings the dawn of a new day to our home?  D has been sick for a week with a terrible, hacking cold.  She discovered the neti pot at the drugstore and promptly brought it home, cradling it in her arms as a certain source of salvation.  She’s still sick, but that thing is wonderful.  Sure, my essential oils are great when you need to sit over a bowl of steam, but this little pot pours water in one side of your nose and out the other, taking debris, mucus and sinus pressure with it.  On the downside, I can’t help but fear I might drown and the saline is a little terrible (but in that nice way), but I think we’ll let it stay.  PS.  I am not the zombie woman in that video.

In exchange for trying the neti pot (despite having escaped the cold thus far) D had to agree to try Instead.  I warned you.  Don’t say I didn’t.  Instead wouldn’t have come into our lives if it hadn’t been for a poorly timed waxing appointment that couldn’t be canceled.  Waxing involves a sort of frog position and certainly isn’t the time to be dripping blood or wagging a string to the four winds.  I mean, ugh.  This woman already has to spread hot wax all over my bits, I doubt she wants to avoid a string.

In desperation we headed back to the drugstore where we poked cautiously at the Diva cup.  The cost was a turn off though, considering that we had no idea if it would work or if I would…like…the sensation.  So we settled on the disposable instead, wedged that sucker up inside, and I held my breath.

No literally, I held my breath.  I didn’t want to pop the little pink rimmed cup out (as one poor reviewer had) and I didn’t want it to suddenly slip during an aerobic waxing session.  I walked carefully, sat very still and hoped for the best.  And you know what?  That thing is awesome.  No more chaffing from unfriendly cotton torpedoes.  On the downside, there’s not enough research to determine possibility of toxic shock and you do have to eventually remove the thing, so it isn’t for the squeamish.  But again, it’s hands down amazing as far as low maintenance lady business goes.

D agreed to try it in exchange for me putting the little spout up my nose.  I know, you wish you lived here, we’re such scintillating conversationalists.  But you should try it.  Really.  The Instead.  Or the neti pot.  Or the composting.  Peace, baby.

Points for everyone.


Posted: 1 January 2009 in joy, the fantastic

I don’t have many rituals.  In fact, when pressed, I can think of only one:  I like to take a candle when I stay in strange hotel rooms alone.  Does that even count?

New Year’s has a pack of rituals (eating greens for wealth and the like) and we’ve engaged in some of them from time to time.  D grew up lighting a bayberry candle on New Year’s.  I think the quote is: “A bayberry candle burned to the socket brings food to the larder and gold to the pocket.”  Each member of her family traditionally placed their candle near a favorite possession or in a favorite room.  All the candles were lit, a wish was made by each, and the person whose candle burned out first would see their wish come true in the new year.  D is known for having fast burning candle luck and until this year, her candle has traditionally beat mine into a waxy pulp.

I’m convinced she puts hers under the vent.

This year was different.  My candle raced from wick to puddle of nothing in just seven hours.  (I never said it was a quick ritual.)  We’ll see if my candle wish comes true this year.  D swears her wishes always do, but as we’ve determined, she probably cheats.

In general, I like to spend New Year’s Day doing things that set the pace for the upcoming months.  I like to cook, eat thoughtfully, enjoy the outside air, and pass the time doing things I enjoy.  I baked a loaf of bread, I made my wife coffee, I sawed some wood for sawhorses, I read, I washed in a steamy shower, I talked to friends and family.  I also cleaned a bit, though the Chinese caution that in cleaning you could sweep your luck away.

My Element Encyclopedia calls for cleaning as a means to protection in the New Years.  In lieu of a voodoo luck spell, I give you this:

1.  Clean the house completely on New Year’s Day, removing every speck of dust.
2.  Carry the sweepings to a crossroads and discard them.
3.  This renders the home immune to bewitchment and malevolent magic during the year to come.

Points for your own rituals.

You know those mother-in-law jokes?  I thought they were fiction.  You know, some disagreeable chap can’t figure out how to get along with his own family let alone one he has married into.  And while his new mum is somewhat bossy, his shtick about high expectations has taken fibbing to a whole new art.  Ha ha.

I admit I grew up in a white picket fence sort of family, where mothers get along famously with the women who birthed their husbands and the husbands smile lovingly upon their wives’ mothers.  Sure, there is the occasional sniping behind closed doors, but it’s rarely undeserved.  Folks get along and, as such, there isn’t much lamenting over the in-laws.

For the first few years that I was married to D, I assumed I was the problem when it came to my mother-in-law.  She didn’t like me for dozens of reasons, none of which seemed to be important but one: I was too Fancy.  Maybe it’s that picket fence showing through, but I suspect it was my expectation that there be a place to sit among the…stuff…and that the children be washed and that some sort of utensil be provided when eating.  I tried to be less Fancy, but the fact that I was clean undermined me every time.

The first time I met her family, I couldn’t quite understand her reticence to bring me inside her mother’s den.  I couldn’t imagine why she wanted to make sure I peed elsewhere, wasn’t hungry and wouldn’t need anything to drink.  Then we got inside and I learned why.  There are toys in every nook and cranny of the house her mother shares with D’s sister,  brother-in-law and three kids.  There are stains and dirt.  The backyard isn’t visitable and, for the most part, curtains are kept drawn.  Whole rooms are blockaded for one reason or another – furniture storage, fragile items, a hole in the floor.  There is no place to sit, not without moving school projects, plates, matchbox cars and discarded barbie outfits.  I don’t go in the kitchen.  I don’t inhale deeply.

I know this is a sign of deep depression.  Her mother has a string of indicators and given the circumstances, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that D’s sister and brother-in-law struggle as well.  When you’re coping like that, it’s too difficult to keep the house normally while taking care of the kids and themselves.  Something falls through the cracks.  Depression is ugly.

This Christmas visit was noticeably better.  I only shoveled away one armload of things in order to sit down, the curtains were open and her mother was out of bed and alert.  It was, in fact, the only time I’ve ever visited her mother when she hasn’t gone up to sleep in the middle of the day.  But, as the day wore on, some of the traditional oddities still were in play.  I was still too fancy.  No serving utensils were employed and several  forks had to be wiped down and shared among the family.  I’m still not allowed upstairs and, although her mother assured me the bathroom was clean, D insisted (wide-eyed) that it was most definitely not.  This leads me to the point.

I peed all over the leg of my jeans.  Oh yes.  Sometime midday I realized that I could not hold it any longer.  Usually there’s a Christmas day visit to IHOP to sustain us (and to use the bathroom) but this time her mother was awake and holding court so I was desperate to find an alternative.  We took the dog for a walk in the woods nearby so that I could find a secluded glen in which to drop trou and make the rest of the day more bearable.  I did and it was, but for the giant stain on the cuff of my jeans where I…missed.

Yes, I spent Christmas day with my mother-in-law covered in pissed on jeans.  Yes, I’m that fancy.

The rest of the evening passed fairly quickly, my niece’s popsicle stick Parthenon survived, despite nearly being sat on several times.  My mother-in-law confined her bitter sniping to her son-in-law, sparing me the worst of her disdain, and we made it through the entire visit without either one of us bursting into tears before during or after, which is a probably a first.  And at long last, I’ve been taken down a full notch to lower case fancy after having peed on my own jeans during a major holiday celebration.

Points for everyone.


Posted: 12 December 2008 in joy, observations, the fantastic

The first day of winter isn’t here yet and i’ve already started looking forward to spring.  there are classes to take, pictures to snap, houses to look for, lots of newness.  I think that’s what I miss most about having a job that changes every two years, it’s the newness that’s both enchanting and nerve wracking.

Nevertheless, we still have to get through the shortest days of the year before I can start pretending it’s spring.  Something that makes it better?  Unusual phenomenon – like the full moon at perigee.  Tonight it should be bigger and bright now than it has been since 1993.  Here’s hoping for clear skies.

Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg

Posted: 25 November 2008 in Food, the fantastic

I don’t know how I lived through Thanksgiving without this gem in my life.  It’s worth it, as Snoop starts talking about white and black pepper around the 2:30 mark.

Let It Snow

Posted: 24 November 2008 in joy, music, the fantastic

It’s almost that time again.  I deeply love to sing simple songs and, athough I’m not particularly religious,  most of the songs I know are christmasy.  (It’s a good time of the year compared to, say, July.  I don’t know many patriotic songs.)  While there are several carols I like, the simple lyrics and melody of Let It Snow are my favorite.  It gets bonus points for not being church focused and for having add on verses that you don’t hear often.  This evening as my wife was downloading a cd of holiday music, she discovered seven successive versions of Let it Snow.  She mocked me and I shrugged.  What can I say?  I like to sing along.