Thursday, April 28, 2011

Storm Status

If you’ve been watching the news, you probably know that Chattanooga was hit by a nasty line of thunderstorms. They hit Wednesday morning just after Luke and Ariel left for class. When Ariel got to the university, she and all the other students had to go down to the basement because a tornado had been spotted. Luke had an exam. His professor said that they weren’t going anywhere and if the tornado hit, they should hold on to their exams.

Matt, Jake, and I were at home. We watched swirling winds from our front window. (Yes, we should have been in the basement. I’m too cavalier with storms because I love them so much.) We watched our very old magnolia tree dance in the wind. We watched the roses brush their buds on the grass. We watched the rain blow sideways—that should have been a sign. I know better, having been through a tornado and a hurricane before. But we watched. When it was over, we were without power. Then someone knocked on the door. Jacob’s friend Trevor and his dad were asking if we were okay. I said, “Sure. Why?” They said, “You haven’t been outside, have you?”

We went on a walk. Our neighborhood looked like a war zone. All of the streets in and out of our neighborhood were closed by fallen trees and ripped power lines. Power poles were torn in half. Houses were a mess. One house—somewhere between 100 and 200 yards from us was speared by a massive tree branch. It went in one side of the house and came out the other.

And that was just the leading edge of the storm. The rest of the storm came later. More trees went down, more houses lost power. I’ve heard that 200,000 homes are without power in SE Tenneessee and N Georgia.

At first, we were just bored. So we played board games. But the storms made it very dark, and it’s not easy to play by candlelight. Besides, we had to be ready to head to the basement at a moment’s notice. In my boredom, I walked the neighborhood again until a neighbor scolded me, “You realize they’ve spotted another tornado, right?” After that, I decided to clean and organize Cal’s toolbox. (I told him afterwards. He’s not excited.)

When the storms were finally over (BTW, we had weird flat hail, which was bigger than quarters and we saw lightning and was purple and lightning that was red), we were very thankful that we had no damage. The magnolia lost a big branch, but it’s standing and looking defiant.

We came inside and remembered that without electricity, our sump pump doesn’t work...we ran downstairs. The basement was flooding. (This is very bad because the electrical panel of the heater shorts out and it costs $500 to replace.) Cal called my dad and asked him to find a generator. We started a bucket brigade. Candlelight will never be romantic again—bailing out your basement by candlelight leaves a bad memory, especially when one of your two buckets breaks.

Thankfully, my dad found a generator. The last in the store. We plugged it in and started the sump pump. Which sucked out the water. There was a catch though. No one knew how long the generator would run on a tank of gas.  And the gas stations can’t pump gas without electricity. So we made a decision. We’d run the sump pump for 10 to 15 minutes ever hour all through the night. I have problems starting a lawn mower so Cal had to do all the restarting of the generator. (Poor guy—he’s running on coffee and exhaustion this morning.)

We thought the bad news was over. I went into Matt and Jake’s bedroom at bedtime (no one had been in there because it was dark), and I stepped into a big puddle of water. The Oriental rug in their room was drenched. The floor was soaked. The rug and scads of towels are now sitting in the bathtub.  It turns out that winds had blown the rain under the window. Lovely.

Now we’re waiting for the power to come back on, hopefully soon since the rental fees for the generator are a pretty penny. And hopefully the phone lines and internet service will be restored. We do have cellphone coverage now although the reception is spotty, calls get dropped, and sometimes they just fail.

But mostly we’re just thankful that we and our home have been spared. A town only a couple of miles away is devastated. A mile wide tornado plowed through the town and shredded it. There weren’t enough ambulances so they had to set up a triage unit at a local school. The town has been declared a disaster area and no one is allowed in, though there are rumors of widespread looting. The governor is supposed to tour the area by helicopter sometimes today.

(I’ve taken photos of some of the devastation, but I’ll have to post those later. Even to get this posted means trying to find a location where someone has internet access.)

(We do have mail service and got a notification today that once again we are victims of identity theft—we had a terrible experience with this five years ago. All of our accounts were frozen until we could prove that we didn’t commit fraud. Thankfully, we aren’t being held responsible this time.  However, we’ve been told to verify our credit report—accounts may have been opened in our name, etc., etc. Kind of hard when you don’t have regular phone service or internet.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mid-Life Crisis

My husband will turn 50 in June. When I mentioned this at breakfast one morning, Jacob said, “Dad, that means that you’re closer to the day of your death than the day of your birth.” I pointed out that we’re not guaranteed any day, let alone year.

But it did get me thinking. I think that Cal and I should have a mid-life crisis. I’d love a convertible red sports car. Cal and I could argue over who gets to drive it. I think I’m the best driver in the family, and he thinks he is. (The kids say that we’re both horrible West Coast drivers—Los Angeles traffic will do that to you.)

After the car, we could go to Gstaad and learn ski jumping. I’d love to feel like I was flying and sense the wind rushing through my hair.

We’d need new clothes too. My daughter would be thrilled—she thinks I need to be hip. The problem is at this point in my life, I have too much hip to be hip. Cal has a neon blue/yellow Caribbean shirt he could wear, but I don’t think that’s hip either. So we’d both need a new wardrobe.

We’d buy an uber-trendy loft apartment in some refurbished warehouse. And we’d have to trade in Jezebel for a Labradoodle named Bella. (Don’t get me started on the vampyre thing.)

You know, as I look over this list, it seems to me that it’s pretty expensive to have a midlife crisis. Instead, I’ll be content with my minivan (with a possessed electrical system), I can stick my head out the window while Cal’s driving and feel the wind in my hair, my clothes are fine (I can always sew something avant-garde), I love my 1940s bungalow (although I could do without the little fix-it projects), and I could never exchange Jez...and especially not for a Labradoodle.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I have a love/hate relationship with WalMart. I love their low prices (especially now that food prices are obscene). I hate just about everything else from the crazed WalMart hide and seek players (nothing like having a 60 year old scruffy man jump out from behind an aisle to engender fear) to the cashier computers that quit working after all of your purchases have been rung up and the machine has to be rebooted and you have to start from scratch.

Normally, Cal makes the WalMart trek with me, and we call it our WalMart date. But Cal was out-of-town this Saturday and I had to do it by myself.  I steeled myself for the experience. I hit the gardening section first looking for jalapenos and basil plants. (I tried growing basil from seed, but the stupid squirrels dug through my pots, ate the seeds, and tossed the expensive dirt all over the place.)  At any rate, I found jalapenos. And discovered that WalMart is not always cheaper. They wanted $5 for a single jalapeno plant that they’d forgotten to water—no thank you.  The basil was the same.

My next stop was the photo center. I had about five photos that I needed to print up for the church bulletin board. We frequently have a handful of photos that need to be developed so Cal says, “You go find groceries, and I’ll do this.” For which I am grateful (you’ll see why in a minutes). But he was gone.

I eyed the computerized photo kiosk warily. (I have a very sordid history with photo kiosks—they don’t like me.) The printer was HP manufactured. I like HP. They made my laptop and it always works properly so I trust HP.  I approached the kiosk and insert my media. It recognized my media. Excellent. I pushed a button. Nothing happened. I gently pushed the button, allowing maximum contact between my finger and the touchplate. Nothing happened. I jabbed the button. The screen ignored me. I jabbed it over and over. Nothing. I wanted to curse the machine and all of its ilk. But this is not the first time this has happened. For reasons I can’t fathom, touchscreens don’t work for me. They never have. (Cal and the kids find this uproariously funny. I don’t. Especially when I crash the whole computer system—it’s happened more than once.) This is why Cal or one of the kids always runs the kiosks. But I was by myself. I tried it again. Nothing. Then I spied a special pen on the side of the kiosk. I grabbed it and touched the screen. Voila. The system lived. I got everything inputed and the machine printed my receipt. I took it to the photo cashier and paid for my photos. So far, so good.

I went back to the kiosk to scan my receipt and get my photos. I scanned. The machine told me to see a sales associate. I scanned again. (Clearly the first scan was an error.) Same message. I tried it multiple times. Same message. I snagged a sales associate, who scowled at me. I explained the situation. She scowled more. Then she asked if I’d paid for the photos. I said, “Of course,” and showed her my receipt. She scowled more deeply. “You shouldn’t have paid for them first.” I thought about telling her that’s what the machine told me to do, but I figured she’d only scowl more.

She found the salesperson/tech guru for the photo department. He looked up my photos, which didn’t exist. We reinput my photos. Which still wouldn’t exist. In fact, after me no one’s photos existed.  The Hispanic man behind me shrugged and rolled his eyes. The tech guru told us that his wasn’t his fault. He ranted about the evils of HP. I pondered whether it was my fault. (Back in the day, I worked at Harcourt. And I crashed the company intranet. Apparently, the IT guys traced it back to my computer. They had to reboot the entire system from tape drives and an entire day’s productively was lost. The third or fourth time it happened, my boss sent me to the eleventh floor to hide while the tech guys came to my office again and had a hissy fit.)  I decided the WalMart tech guru didn’t need to know my history. At this point, I was waiting for a break in the HP rant so I could ask for my money back. Then, my photos appeared. The tech guy shoved them into my hands. I said, “Thanks.” And I hurried again from the kiosk before something else happened. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the photos were missing the tops of the heads of people.  (It wasn’t that way in the pictures that I took.) I think it’s a conspiracy. I think the Harcourt computers shared their stories about me to other computers. And they’re all eeking out revenge. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spin. Slop. Pause.

My appliances came!! And I will have you know that I installed the washer machine all by myself. Of course, it wasn’t too hard. First, we didn’t buy the riser, which lifts the washer to a higher level. (There’s no way I’m spending $300 for a metal drawer.)

I hooked up the water lines; I hooked up the drain lines. Then I tried to push it into place. It didn’t budge. I think it laughed at me. The new washer is one of those front-loading high efficiency machines, which has a concrete block in the bottom. So I called the boys—engineering boy who told his brothers what/how to move it so that it would snug in, strong as an ox boy who did the bulk of the physical labor, and comic boy who made jokes about breaking the machine. Once they got it in, I ran a load of laundry.

I stuffed our comforter and pillow shams into the machine and started it. The machine has a glass door so you can see the laundry being washed. I sat and watched it. Comic boy joined me. It was amazing, very soothing. Spin. Slop. Pause. Spin. Slop. Pause. I know what I’m going to do the next time I run into a plot problem. And when I’m a famous writer (ha) being interviewed and I’m asked, “So, Connie, what do you do when you run into a plot problem?” I’ll answer, “I watch my washing machine spin.”

Sadly, the dishwasher doesn’t have a glass panel. It didn’t even come with an owner’s manual. So today I’m going to have to call the General of Electric and request an owner’s manual. I like to have them so I can read how to cancel a washer cycle. When I turned it on to check for leaks, it wouldn’t let me cancel the washer cycle and I had to run it through the entire cycle. Very Frustrating...time for me to go watch the washing machine spin.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Pox On All Appliances

I’m sorry that I didn’t get a post up on Monday. But Monday was a bit busy. You see, I discovered that our hand-me-down dishwasher had a problem. I’d been suspicious since the machine began making sounds that you hear only in war movies—it whistled and whined like a blitzkrieg. The kids (and Calvin and I) were known to start the dishwasher and say, “Let the bombing commence.”

So, I should have checked the dishwasher. I should’ve made sure everything was functioning properly. But I didn’t. Sometimes I want to live in that na├»ve world where everything is good. Besides if something went wrong I’d know. Right? 

The first sign was wet socks. I like to wear socks when the floors are cold. But when I walked to the kitchen sink, my toes got wet. I hate wet toes and slushy socks. So I put on dry socks. And ignored the implications.

The next day, my socks got wet again. I called Matthew, who’s this month’s dishwasher loader, and reminded him that water is not a toy and shouldn’t be flung about in a giddy manner. He told me that he was pretty sure he hadn’t been giddy or flinging water. I gave him my stern look, made him wipe the floor, and dismissed him.

The next day was warm. So I wasn’t wearing socks. I don’t like hot feet either. (I have a narrow comfort zone—73 degrees.) I walked into the kitchen for a glass of iced tea, and my toes splashed water. I had to admit the obvious. We had a water problem.

I got a towel—I have a whole collection of worn towels in the laundry room for sopping up wet floors. Clearly, I’ve had to do this much too often.  I mopped up the floor and discovered that the linoleum had succumbed to all the repeated soakings—it ripped like a wet paper towel. Interestingly, the ugly 1970s avocado green linoleum underneath is in great shape. (Is avocado is a fashionable color right now?)

Once I got the water up. I checked the new garbage disposal. The last leak (only a couple of weeks ago) came from a seal rupturing on the old disposal. I was hoping for something easy like a connection that needed to be tightened. But the new disposal and the cabinet were dry. Hmm.  Not good.

I got a screwdriver and took off the bottom panel from the dishwasher. Guess what? Water. And mineral buildup. If you aren’t experienced with water issues, mineral build up means that it hasn’t been a one time leak.  It’s been going on for a while. But I’d preferred my nothing’s-wrong bubble. Now it burst.

I turned on the dishwasher, lay on the wet linoleum, and shined a flashlight into the hidden dishwasher depths. And then I saw the drip. And it wasn’t coming from any connections. It meant pump problems. Which I cannot fix with a roll of duct tape or Gorilla glue. (Don’t you just love Gorilla glue?) 

After muttering imprecations, I dutifully reported to my husband that we needed a new dishwasher. He asked if I thought that he wanted to hear this news. I told him, “No.” But I explained that denial wouldn’t solve the problem (just ask my toes). He wondered aloud if the dishes should just be done by hand by our minions. I reminded him that we did have our tax return. I did not mention that the refusal to purchase a dishwasher would be met with civil unrest among the minions.

Now we await the arrival of our dishwasher on Thursday. Calvin gleefully pointed out that he would not be home to install said dishwasher because he would be out of town.  So I recruited my dad. On Thursday, he and I will install the new dishwasher.  And the new washing machine—the old one saw fit to die too. But that’s another story...a pox on all appliances, all appliance engineers, and the evil person who thought up planned obsolescence. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Your Personal WalMart Shopper

My mom came home from the hospital yesterday!! But before she came home, the dietician and gastroenterologist had lists of what my mom was allowed to eat. I made a big list since I was with my mom when they visited. When my dad came to the hospital (we sat with my mom in shifts), I gave him the list.

He looked it over and said, “It’s going to take me hours to find all this stuff. Could you come with me?”

So I agreed. After all, sending a man into WalMart with a list of weird things is asking for trouble. Yes, I’m sexist. But I also know WalMart—ignorant floor workers and really odd ideas of organization. For example, why would anyone stock rice milk next to unfrozen popsicles? Only WalMart.

When my dad arrived 20 minutes early yesterday morning, I was eating breakfast still in my pajamas. And he announced that he had to be back at the hospital in an hour.  I had to get dressed, drive to WalMart, shop, checkout and drive back in under an hour...no problem.

I changed and pulled a brush through my hair (which is all that I normally do). I drank my coffee in the car—and only spilled on the bottom of the car, not on myself. This takes real skill since I didn’t have time for a travel mug.

We arrived at WalMart. I checked my watch and put on my New England face. This means that I will brook no distractions and will be as rude as it takes. First stop, the pharmacy. We snagged whey protein and nutritional replacement shakes. (ugh.)  Then we went through household goods. My dad raised an eyebrow. I said, “It’s a shortcut to the back of the store. If you shop from back to front it’s faster, most people go front to back.” Yes, I actually spend time thinking about these things.  We started filling up the cart with everything from extra sharp cheddar to lactose free ice cream to milled flax seed. At one point, my dad said, “Why don’t I push the cart and follow you? And you can shop.”  You know, Cal does the exact same thing. I wonder what that says about my shopping habits...

Finally, we finished and made it to the checkout. My dad took our cart to the Twenty-items-or-less cashier. She scowled. We had way over 20 items. But the only other checkout open was on the other side of the store. I told myself to channel New England.  So I ignored the scowl.

When we walked into the parking lot, it had taken exactly twenty-two minutes. I’m sure that must be a new personal record. I’m thinking of hiring myself out as a WalMart speed shopping counselor.  What do you think?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bad Classics

Several weeks ago, I asked for suggestions on classic books that I hadn’t read. Thanks for everyone’s suggestions. (I ended up starting The Picture of Dorian Gray because it was shorter than the rest. Bad reason, but with everything going on I though short was better.)

In the midst of the comments, we started discussing what determines a classic, what makes a book a part of the canon of great literature. And, of course, we don’t always like “the classics.” So this is my question for you all today. What classics have you read that you haven’t enjoyed? And why?

Here are mine.

1. The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. (My least favorite book ever—I hate pronouns without referents.)

2. The Aeneid by Virgil (It seemed like a total rip-off of Homer’s Illiad)

3. Tess of the d’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy. (I’m pretty sure I read this in high school, but I don’t remember anything about the plot. All I remember is wanting to poke my eyes out.)

4. La Modification by Michel Butor. (I had to read this French modernist book in French. I had no idea if I understood the story. So I found an English translation and read them side by side. I still couldn’t figure out the story. The only thing I know is that some woman rode a train a lot.)

5. The poetry of a famous poet who shall not be named, lest you be tempted to look him up. (Why do I hate his work? Because he was a professor of mine and a wretched individual, who never seemed content unless someone was crying in class. His favorite technique was Xeroxing people’s papers, passing them out, and saying that it was the worst tripe he’d ever read—tenure protected him. He was an equal opportunity villain and did everyone’s paper, though he seemed to target sorority girls more than anyone else. Of course, it never seemed to occur to him that not everyone’s paper could be the worse thing he’d ever read. But logical fallacies weren’t strong suit. Being heinous was.


BTW, my mom’s showing signs of improvement. If all goes well, she may be home by the weekend. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hospital Horror

My mom is still in the hospital (day 13). The good news is that I’ve now found another elevator, which actually works. It’s a bit hidden so the only people who know that it’s there are the nurses and the long-term visitors like me. The elevator is fast because almost no one rides it.  The bad news is that the doctor told my mom she might be there another two weeks. But that’s not the horror.

Last Friday (though it could have been Thursday—the days blur together), I heard some screaming. Now this wasn’t too strange. There’s a patient on the floor who moans and screams all the time. At first I thought it was post-anesthesia confusion. But it went on day after day. And the tone of his screams was more of anger than fear or pain. Even with the heavy doors closed and the tv on, you could still hear him carrying on. If I were one of the nurses, I’d seriously consider an extra dose of morphine for this guy. (Aren’t you glad I’m not a nurse?)

But the screaming we heard this time wasn’t his screaming. So I opened my mom’s door. At this point, the screaming had stopped, and I couldn’t tell what had happened. I left the door ajar. And soon, I saw three very big, very angry, very nasty-looking security guards. My mom who’d I’d helped move into a chair so she could see the goings on said, “Oh, dear.”

Of course, my writer’s mind thought a crazed gunman might be on the loose or a psychiatric patient had escaped. And even though it was time for me to go home, I stayed with my mom. I couldn’t let a crazed gunman wander into my mother’s room.

About 15 or 20 minutes later a hospital official in his expensive suit showed up and walked down the hall.  Then several men in even more expensive suits appeared. My mom said, “Lawyers.” She was right.

The wing went on “lock-down” and everyone had to stay in their rooms. Things got confused. Nurses, housekeeping, etc., all forgot to do things. We knew something was up.

The next day we found out what. Across from my mom’s room, was a room with a man who wasn’t very happy. And, apparently, was a misogynist. Though whether this was clear beforehand, I’m not sure. I suspect if the hospital had known they’d have assigned him only male nurses. But they didn’t.

So a sweet female nurse (my mom and I both know her) went into the room to help the man. And he kicked her in the face. It was not an accident. She had to go to ER.

Last week, Susan commented on my blog about bad nurses being good nurses who got burned out.  I totally understand that. Now especially.  If it were up to me, the man would get a quadruple dose of morphine, zipped into a straight jacket (do they make straight jackets with legs?), slapped with a lawsuit, and moved to a prison ward.

Of course, my mom and I worried about the nurse. Yesterday (or Saturday) she was back on the floor. My mom gave her a big hug. She gave my mom a big hug back...and she comforted my mom.

What happened to the evil patient? No straight jacket, no extra morphine, no prison ward. He was assigned a male aide. Then, two male aides. Now he’s gone. I’m not really sure what happened. He may have been discharged, but I’m hoping he was moved to the prison ward. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hospital Watching

Ten days ago my mother had surgery. The surgery went well, but the recovery is slow. So she’ll be there for a few more days. It’s been interesting to sit with her and hospital-watch. Some of the hospital personnel are tender and compassionate, and some are there for a paycheck. Sometimes I’ve had to go get a nurse after my mom has called them three times to hook up her drains (one really great nurse showed me how to do it so we don’t have to rely on the bad nurses). Other times a nurse will say, “Would you like me to rub some powder onto your skin so it doesn’t chafe?” I have tremendous respect for the nurses who show such compassion. Thank you!!

Of course, I can’t help but notice all the hospital weirdnesses.

1. This hospital has demon-possessed elevators. One is always going out of order. Today I got in one elevator and it wouldn’t work. The doors wouldn’t close and numbers wouldn’t light up. A male nurse got in the elevator and I said, “Um, this doesn’t work.”  He sighed heavily.  Then he kicked the elevator door joints and smacked the electrical panel. To my surprise, the elevator stared right up. The nurse smiled.
            (I’ve taken the stairs a few times, but they lead through a restricted area so I only use them when I’m ready to scream.)

2. This hospital is a rat’s maze. I even passed a nurse today who was lost. The hospital is made up of at least two wings that were joined up after they were built—the floors don’t always match up.  And, as they say in New England, “You can’t get there from here.”

3. The parking situation is abysmal. There are lots scattered hither and thither without much intersection. So you have to go from lot to lot. But after going to the hospital day after day, I discovered a parking nook. It’s an odd space that seems to be off the beaten track of the parking garage—everyone seems to miss it. And it’s right near the main entrance! In case you’re interested, I’m not telling you where it is.

4. The TV remote controls can’t go backwards. So if you miss your channel, you have to go through 70 channels to get back to the one you wanted.

5. Okay, this is the height of weird. The restaurant in the surgical waiting area has absolutely great coffee—and I’m an unrepentant coffee snob.  I’ve never been to a hospital where they had good coffee.  There’s not much that can’t be ignored with a cup of hot, dark coffee covered by a foam of whipped cream.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why I People Watch

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m a people watcher. (I suspect most writers are. In fact, that’s what makes them such good spies—at least, according to the International Spy Museum.) Sorry, that was a digression. I come from a distinguished line of people watchers. My grandfather used to arrive at airports a good ninety minutes before someone’s flight was due so that he could sit and people watch. It’s no surprise, given that he used to work for the Underground during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.  You see, this is why I became a writer—I had to put those people watching skills to good use.

Airports are great for people watching. Even better are restaurants. In fact, I usually try to face away from the other patrons so that I won’t be tempted to watch the couple fighting in the corner. The young man breaking up with his girlfriend—it’s obvious that he chose the restaurant so that she wouldn’t cause a scene. Etc., etc.

When Cal and I went to a restaurant on Monday, I put my back towards the other diners. But the other diners weren’t the problem. The waitress was.

Now let me set the stage. This wasn’t a cheap restaurant. It was a very nice one (someone gave us a gift certificate). The kind where the wait staff wears black and says, “Yes, Ma’am.” So you expect a certain quality of service. Like beverages. Our waitress didn’t seem to think that we could be thirsty. The weird thing was that she seemed to think that the empty tables might be. She filled up glasses at empty tables with iced tea. Then she walked away. When she came back a few minutes later, she poured the iced tea back into the refill pitcher, swirled it around and refilled all the glasses. (I think that’s some kind of health code violation.) The couple across from us gave up and filled their own glasses with an iced tea pitcher that had been left at another waiter’s station. Eventually, we got some iced tea. Though she almost fell on the way to our table. For some reason, she tripped on the wall-to-wall carpeting. Later, when we asked for coffee she brought us three pitchers of cream after we told her that we didn’t want any. She served me a cup of the vilest stuff that ever masqueraded as something derived from beans. And while she had a cup for Calvin, she didn’t give it to him.  He had to chase her down because she didn’t seem to hear him when he spoke.

After the meal, I considered talking to the manager. The waitress seemed seriously stoned. But the manager was nowhere to be found. And then I thought that maybe the waitress was mentally ill, and the manager was trying to help her become self-sufficient.  And I didn’t have the heart. But she really did look like an addict. And now it’s going to be my fault if she ends up poisoning someone...  You know, there are some seeds of an interesting story there. No wonder I people watch.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Next Time, I'm Totally Coming With You.

Several weeks ago, my son Luke exercised his second amendment rights and bought a rifle. A long-barreled bolt action .22 or something like that. (I hope that’s correct, I know nothing about guns.) On Saturday Luke, Ariel, Jacob, and Matthew went to a friend’s house to go shooting and to sight Luke’s rifle. The friend’s family owns a large farm. I asked Luke if such a thing was legal. Luke said, “Mom, he lives in Dade County.” Dade County, GA, has an unofficial motto, “Every man does what is right in his own eyes.” (But this post isn’t about libertarian politics. Or about the fact that current political debate is about whether a person should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon into a bar. To my West Coast born self, it seems like a no-brainer. But...) Anyway the kids all shot Luke’s rifle—no animals were injured—they shot flip targets. Even Ariel loved it.

Of course, then came the what-shall-we-do-now.  What tops the scent of gun powder? Spelunking. Chattanooga area is littered with caves. In fact, two people died this week while caving—they fell into an underground river. (Thankfully, I didn’t know this and I didn’t know they were going caving until after they did.) Of course, they loved caving. Rappelling into the deep blackness. I’ve been told they didn’t actually rappel. Whatever. I call ‘em like I see ‘em. So, they rappelled into the cave. Matt actually sat on someone’s head in the process. But once they got inside the cave it was amazing (so I’m told). It had three rooms. With stalactites and stalagmites.  A dead animal described as a “furry snake.” And Jacob claims to have seen real bat guano. Though that is a disputed fact.

Some of you may be wondering what my response was to these exploits. At first, I did the traditional mother “Oh, my, was that safe?” Until Calvin said, “How can you say that? They get it from you.”  When I was a teenager, I lived in Hawaii and I actually caught and rode a sea turtle. I’m also an “adventurous” skier. Since Cal had a point, I laid aside the faux worry and said, “Wow. How cool! Next time, I’m totally coming with you.”

Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Five

I’m no longer keeping track of how many days I’ve been sick—it’s a ridiculous number. Anyway, I’m back to reading after having my fill of Netflix, synopsis writing, and query tidying.

I finished Jane Eyre yesterday. I had plowed through most of it very quickly. And then I hit the section where Jane meets St. John (if you haven’t read the book, it’s the name of a man who’s her cousin and wants to marry her). Ugh. That section dragged on and on. I had to force myself to read it. Of course, as soon as Jane bailed on St John, the narrative picked up and I was hooked again. I suspect Ms. Bronte could have used a bit of judicious editing at that point. (I know, I speak sacrilege to some—sorry.)

Now I’m trying to decide what to read next. My only two rules are:
1. It has to be a classic.
2. It can’t be Russian. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Russians. But they make me so depressed, and that’s not fair to my family. My plan is to read the Russians when the kids are grown.

I’ve read a ton of classics—I was a lit major back in the day when each class required the reading of one to two novels/oeuvres per week. It was like drinking from a literary firehose. But there are still so many great books that I haven’t read. So in the manner of the Friday Fives, which I haven’t done in a longer time (Sorry, Andrew), here are the choices that I’m considering:

1. Don Quixote—Cervantes (When Ariel was assigned this for a class, she read portions aloud to me. Hilarious and clever.)

2. Vanity Fair—Thackeray (I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Thackeray.)

3. Tender is the Night—Fitzgerald (I’m a FSF fan, but I haven’t read this one.)

4. The Moonstone—Collins (Arguably the first mystery novel ever written)

5. The Picture of Dorian Gray—Wilde (I love Wilde’s wit.)

Readers, help me, which shall I read? BTW, if you have a personal favorite that’s not up here, feel free to list it. If I haven’t read it, I’ll consider it.