Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cough Drop Comparison

I've determined that I can stop coughing, or at least slow the hack fests waaay down, by sucking down the cough drops like I'm chain smoking them. So on the way back from dropping the poppet at poppetcare, I picked up $10 worth of cough drops. Since I'm not really wedded to any particular brand--I actually happen to be of the camp that cough drops don't really work (unless you're sucking them down in a continuous-feed situation, apparently)--I picked up five different flavors and brands. So, taste test!

Brand #1: Ricola Lemon Mint Sugar Free

Very lemony. Slightly waxy finish. Pleasant to have in mouth.

Brand #2: Safeway Brand Honey-Lemon Cough Suppressant (Menthol Eucalyptus)

Medicinal; bitter foretaste. And after taste. Am not actually coughing while sucking, so cough suppressant function may be working; however, I didn't cough during the Ricola cough drop either. Wait, whoops: cough.

Brand #3: Halls Naturals Honey Lemon

Sweet; almost too sweet. Soda-sweet. Also lemony, but mostly sweet, with a hint of medicinal.

Brand #4: Hall Naturals Wild Cherry

Can't quite taste this one, which might just be the cough bystander, plugged nose. But the basic flavors are slightly-brittle-sweet and menthol bitter. Ooh--there's a hit of cherry. Combined with the bitter medicinal flavor, that cherry tastes like cough medicine. Either you're a cough medicine fan or you're not.

Brand #5: Ricola Green Tea with Echinacea, sugar free

Whoa, flavor hit. Not too sweet. Slightly tingly feel in mouth.

Winner, for this poster: Ricola Lemon Mint, followed by Ricola Green Tea. Next up: updates on my bid to grab the World Record for the Most Cough Drops Consumed in One Day.

Update: I ate between twenty-five and thirty cough drops today. A lot, but probably not World-Record-Worthy. Also, I am sick of cough drops.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Life in a Russian Novel

I pulled a muscle between my ribs coughing last week (note to self: coughing and bike-riding = bad combination). Then, while doing a last-minute grocery run, I managed to pull it even MORE, so that now it feels a) rotten, like a bad spot on an apple and b)painful as hell. Also, our furnace is making this high-pitched screaming sound. Also, it's snowy and cold. So I'm hobbling around our house, past our leaky, sweating, STUPID windows, the ambient air filled with a constant shreeeee, ever so often gripping the edge of a table or chair so that I can give a hacking cough without shrieking in pain. Although I think the jury is out on whether this position actually HELPS. So I'm starting to feel like I'm in some sort of novel about the existential hell of everyday life. Except, maybe, for the dialogue.

(Helen: "This candy tastes like a COLOR!"
Me: "Like what color, honey?"
Helen: "Like brown SUGAR!"
Later, Helen: "It tastes like applecots."
Me: "Mmmm.")

And let me tell you, reading TWO Russian novels at one time, while at the same time struggling with budgetary issues, is not really a good idea for your mental health. I tend to read my books in rooms, so in the bedroom I have adultery, betrayal, self-sabotage (yeah, GREAT marital-bed reading), while at the breakfast table I've got poverty, debt, murder, and madness. The debt stuff is killing me, too. I'm not even able to distance myself properly: instead of saying to myself how GREAT it is that Hub has a job, and is not losing it because he's out drinking all the time, and I don't have consumption, and I don't have to wash the laundry by hand at night while hacking away consumptively because we are completely out of changes of underwear--no, instead of being grateful, I start thinking about how FAR we could potentially fall. Nice. Thanks, Dostoevsky.

(Though, I AM glad that I am not tormented by fantasies of murdering pawn shop owners. I mean, Raskolinov could have prevented all sorts of trouble by just doing a little more positive thinking, wouldn't you say so?)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

With Gusto and Fun

So, it appears that next week my life will take a turn for the busier. Instead of just moping at home during Helen's daycare days, wondering why editors aren't calling and trying to work on my novel, I will be heading into the big city and doing work at a Prominent Cultural Institution (PCI). You will notice that I did not say my life will take a turn for the flush-ier, or that we'd be able to afford to replace the leaky windows in our front room: this work is unpaid. Technically, it's for students. Undergraduates, even. However, when I was moaning to a friend about this--I'm 37 years old and taking an unpaid internship! what the hell am I thinking?--she counseled, wonderfully, that I shouldn't care about that. I should just take this for what it is, a great opportunity, and do it "with gusto and fun." That's the best advice I've had in a long time, so I'm going to do my best to live up to it.

Of course I have misgivings, which I'm going to confide to the ethersphere in an attempt to exorcise them. My biggest fear is that this will lead to nothing; or worse, some other opportunity will come along while I've committed myself to this one and I'll have to pass on it. Or at least make a choice. I kind of hate making choices, especially when one side of the choice is "money and dullness" and the other side is "fun and poverty."

Other fears:
  1. This internship will lead to nothing, and will be an interesting but useless interlude.
  2. The awkwardness will never wear off; I'll be the 37-year-old unpaid make-work-er for eight uncomfortable weeks. Oh, hai. What do you have for me to do toDAY?
  3. The end will feel like the end of my last job before this one: I'll feel disappointed and not-chosen.
  4. I won't make connections, either for myself or others.
  5. I won't have any ideas; I'll just come in every day and sit obediently at my desk, and never do anything beyond what's asked of me.
  6. I'll have great ideas, but they won't catch fire: I won't be able to do anything with them, or convince others to pursue them (this is one of my life patterns. A BAD one, obv.)
But! I'll get to take the light rail every day (well, three times a week)! I'll get to go into the city, with my clippy-clop heels on; I'll get to feel like a part-time member of The Club, for a little. I have some wild hopes, too. I'm afraid to share those too much, but I'll lay one out: I hope this leads to me being in a position to help the people who are helping me now, by bringing me in.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Warm and sunny

So, the weather here of late has been category: spring. Sun! Balmy breezes! Highs in the sixties and seventies! It sounds positively beatific, right, especially if you happened to freeze your nose shut among the millions of people yesterday on the national mall?

Well. I'm here to announce that I can officially Complain About Anything. I have not been enjoying the warmth and the sunniness, not like I should. First of all, proper sun enjoyment requires a chaise lounge, and I am woefully without a chaise lounge. I do have deck chairs, but they're stacked for the winter. (Apparently, warmth is not affecting my natural state of laziness).

Other issues with the weather:
  1. Warm weather makes me want to garden. FAIL. It's January. No soil-turning allowed. No earth-moving, no plant-buying, no planting. I did scatter a few seeds on the ground, but I'm not able to take them seriously and actually water them.
  2. Warm weather makes me want to hike. FAIL. I'm sick. I can't even bike.
  3. See #2: I'm sick. The air is all surface-warm, with an undertone of chill: just like me. It's probably about to launch into a big hacking coughing fit. Just like me. Hack.
Days like this, it becomes painfully obvious that I still belong in the Midwest. Need to bitch about the weather? Check. Hanker for cold, gray, and miserable? Check. Pathological need to suffer a requisite amount before enjoying the miracle of rebirth? Check.

Revoke my Colorado Passport, honeys. Time to send me home.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

There should be more live music on television

#1. is there anyone on earth as cheerful-looking as Yo-yo Ma? There can't be. Also, I attended a master class he gave once where he came out smiling that smile and shaking the acolytes' hands, etc. With plastic vampire teeth in.

He took the teeth out for the master class, though. Most of it.

#2. Them oaths of office sure are a mouthful.

#3. Woot! We got ourselves a new president!

#4. Okay, gotta concentrate. Speech, etc.

#5. I feel a little like we're getting lectured by the principal. I DIG it.

Live from the Armchair Inauguration

....reporting faithfully for all of you who may have to, you know, work.

#1. It looks like it's fucking freezing up there. Lots of grim, grim faces. And very few hats, for fashion/respect reasons, I presume.

#2. DANG there are a lot of people there. A LOT of people.

#3. What's with the trumpets signaling the arrival of VIPs? That seems so...royal.

#4. Barbara Bush is a formidable woman. On a par with Julia Child.

#5. George Bush senior is looking, indeed, very senior.

#6. So THAT'S what Diane Feinstein looks like! I should watch more CNN.

#7. Michelle looks a little tense. Laura B, on the other hand, looks positively giddy with relief.

More posts to follow, if the spirit moves.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Virtue Projects

Kids: at the movies (thanks to their rockstar auntie)

Hub: on a run

Virtuous Projects: begun, but not completable without Hub

ERGO, time for lemon meringue pie. Mmmmm.

In related news, guess what's on the list so far for this week? Two things: butter, and choc. chips. Someone must be doing a lot of baking.

Also, I'm THIRSTY.

It's been warm all week, so I've been thinking about one of my favorite subjects: gardening. This thinking involves lots of doodled plans about how to carve up our boxy backyard into stunning and daringly artistic perennial borders. There are a lot of pieces of paper lying about with things like "mid-zone: rudbeckia/ daisies" and "grasses--yucca--no water," plus strings of circles and squares and scratchy pompoms. Even when I look at these paper scraps they look like clutter, but when I made them I felt the best combination of absorbed and productive. In the flow. And so I can't bring myself to throw them out, even though the chances of my using these as, say, a shopping list in five months when the rudbeckia/ daisies could actually be bought--or even better, as a blueprint, for when they come home--well, let's just say that's about as likely as me buying enough of any one plant to make this perennial bed look, you know, like a perennial bed. And not just a random assortment of plants wishing they could go back to the orphanage and get adopted by somebody else.

Also, on really fine days like today, I spend a lot of time moving strings of rocks around the backyard, to indicate the borders of my potential flower beds. Right now I have one loop extending around the dripline of our big blue spruce, and another stretching from the corner of our "shed" (it has no roof) to the brick path that goes along the side of the house. (Me, about the path: ooh! let's soften the edges with some decorative bunchgrass, and get some color going right along here with some scarlet gilia--Hub (voice dripping with his I-hate-the-people-we-bought-this-from tone): we need to redo that thing. Me: siiigh. It's fine.)

HOWEVER, today I have something more important to do: insulate. Yep, that's Virtuous Project #1. Lay fiberglass insulation down in the attic.
  • Long-needed home improvement that will increase the comfort and value of the house: 5 points
  • Difficulty of said project in low-to-medium range: 6 points
  • Will clear garage of several bulky supply items that have been clogging it for MONTHS: 10 points
  • Will make me feel like we are closer to having a usable master bathroom even though project has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with that bathroom, or any other bathroom: 5 points
  • Will make me feel like this gorgeous, can't-be-indoors-let-alone-cooped-up-in-the-dusty,-toxic-attic-crawlspace has been well spent: 10 points
Virtue points: 36, plus 10 bonus points for making our house more carbon-friendly. Someday. When we finish all of the insulating. Shut up. Total: 46

Other VPs include:
  1. painting the four strips of 8-foot molding we have leaning against the wall in our (unfinished) master bath (virtue rating 12)
  2. Nailing pieces of snowmelt-damaged drywall to the wall before they become further ruined (virtue rating 28)
  3. Paging through Pottery Barn catalogs to come up with a classy, timeless design for the master bath alcove tiles (virtue rating 3, and that's pushing it)
  4. Making dinner (virtue rating 5. Also: BORING)
  5. Finishing the laundry for the weekend, so I don't have to use my writing time tomorrow to fold and put away (virtue rating 4)
  6. Straightening the whole dang house (virtue rating -5, because I should be MAKING THE KIDS do it)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Scourge of my life: toenails and poptropica

So, the top things that cause power struggles between me and my oldest are:

1. Toenail cutting (his, not mine);

2. Baths-with-a-hairwash;


3. Computer games.

This last is just what you'd expect: I nag him and nag him and nag him to just PLAY some more games already. At least an hour a day, preferably more. Also, with his spine curved into the most contorted position possible. But nay. Like most seven-year-olds, he ignores his mom, in favor of such brain-draining activities as getting ahead on his homework and reading, learning Greek in his spare time, and...

Yeah. Okay. I kid.

We're actually doing better in the past few weeks (see NY's resolution #4: Be an appropriately warm, appropriately in-control parent: hey, it actually works!), especially in the computer department. Also, in the bath-and-a-hairwash, which I think is due less to my awesome parently skills than to the fact that it's now bath-and-a-hairwash, not shower-and-a-hairwash. He hated the shower.

However, I'm still open to any and all suggestions on the computer game front. Also, the cutting toenails front. Note: he's too old for the damn rhyme. And also, apparently, too young to do it himself (question: what did cavemen do to keep their toenails trimmed and in line? Because surely it didn't involve mothers, clippers, and weepfests. I'll try anything.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I don't know how it is in your marriage, but when it comes time for things like covering-the- windows-which-for-these-six-months-or-so-have-been-bare, Virgo is the one who is all, "Hey. What do you think about this color here for the front room? Sage, or spice? Which one do you like?" and I'm the one who is all standing awkwardly behind him, stifling a yawn while we page through screen after screen after SCREEN of curtains. And colors. And more curtains, in the same colors, only they're slightly different, so, hey, what do you think about these ones?

Just PICK some already.

Only, not the curry gold. Definitely not the curry gold.

I sort of kid. There's a subtext here: we have window coverings on some of these windows already; window coverings that came with the house. They're, like, gauze miniblinds or something. Not great, but fine. To me. I'm fine with them. To Virgo, however, they are tainted by their association with Those Who Came Before, specifically, the couple from whom we bought the house. Anything this couple touched, from the tile on the kitchen floor to outlet covers to the basement remodel, is Wrong and Must Be Changed, according to Virgo.

Since we've already spent approximately $20K in remodeling due to this principle, I'm VERY MUCH in favor of adopting the We Can Just Live With It principle instead. Therefore any discussion about something that needs to be done in or on the house devolves into a (usually unspoken) argument over whether we should Just Live With It or whether we should Suck It Up and Do It Right.


What, the interview? Oh yes. It went fine. Mostly. I still don't really want the job, which is good, because they didn't offer it to me. Yet.

What I do want: the museum internship I "interviewed" for today (I was one of two candidates and they want both). Only, I want to be paid for it.

See? Self-sabotage. I'm like Exhibit A for a Linda Hirschman essay on educated women who aren't living up to their potential.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nervous? No.

So, the thing is, I have an interview today. This is a good thing, right? For someone whose New Year's resolutions include "clear $20K after taxes and daycare by December 31"? Since last I checked, the best way to come into some money is to, you know, work?

It's a phone interview, so I have my interview station all set up in the back room: a mug of water, a sharpened pencil, my resume. The tableau looks very hopeful. Like I'm actually hoping to get the job.

Here's the thing, though: what I'm really hoping is that I will not bomb the interview, because that would be very unpleasant, but that also I will not get offered the job. What I really hope is that I will miraculously get offered a different job. Perhaps one that doesn't involve jobby things, like bosses.

Because I like to self-sabotage that way. Along comes this job, which is very good, in my field, with decent pay and a good location and definite potential for advancement, and all I can think is how bummed I'll be if I get it.

However, on the plus side: this means I'm not really feeling too nervous. Instead, mostly I feel blank, which could mean that when that phone rings at 11:30 I'll suddenly panic, choke on my tongue, and only be able to say "wow! that sounds really cool! wow!" Or it could mean that I'll be articulate and calm. Who knows? Check in later to find out!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

So, what's all this ABOUT, anyway?

So. After much hemming and hawing, a generous dose of procrastination, some sleeping on it, and then thinking it over, I'm here where I thought I would be a year or more ago: I'm starting a blog.

That's right, folks. All Melospiza, all the time.

Which brings me to my first blog-problem: what to WRITE about? I mean, I love reading about the minutiae of everyone's lives. Dogs and kids and pets and weddings and projects: it's fascinating. Until I get to me, and then I start yawning. God, Self, I say, does anyone really want to hear all that?

Actually? No.

But, here we are, so let me be as entertaining as possible.

First, the cast of characters:
  • Melospiza. That's me. 37, currently, uh, "between jobs."
  • Virgo. My husband. Father and fisherman extraordinaire. Also good at gifties, dishes, and "being employed."
  • Silas. My son, 7.
  • Helen. Daughter, 4. Almost 5, as she says (and I say, yes, honey, in about ELEVEN MONTHS. "That's what I MEAN," she answers.)
  • Costi. The dog.
  • The birds. They have names, which no one knows except me.
  • MIL. Generous, lovable, and OMIGODSUCHAPAININTHEASS. Also psycho. Which I mean in the most loving way possible.
  • SIL. Brave and beautiful, and my kids' favorite grownup in the whole world.
Second, the goals:
  • To make this damn place feel like home. After 12 years in a mid-sized town, we moved over the summer and now live in the suburbs of the Big City. Although I've stopped moping around on the couch about this (mostly), I'm still Sad.
  • To get a job. In order for the Melospiza household to be totally financially stable, I need to clear about $20K after taxes. Got that, Universe?
  • To finish the damn novel. For updates, see the panel on the right.
  • To work my way through my Best Easy Hikes book. That's 24 hikes, people. It can be done. With or without the chorus ("Is this surprise a HIKE, Mom? I HATE hikes! This is the worst surprise EVER!")
  • To do my best to be an "appropriately warm, appropriately in-control" parent, in the words of my latest parenting guide (The Friendship Factor, by Kenneth Rubin and Andrea Thompson. About way more than just friends [and says nothing about whether you should teach your kid to greet friends at the door and offer them something to eat and drink. Which may or may not have been the reason I checked it out in the first place.])
  • Okay, FINE. I'd like to lose three pounds. I'm going to do this by #1--working my way through the Best Easy Hikes book and #2--increasing the mileage on my runs.
Exciting, yes?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Is this thing on?

Terwilliger bunts one.