Monday, December 28, 2009

We interrupt this vacation

For a short message from work. That message is: you're still employed (thankfully), so get in here.

After five days of Christmas break, full of food, family, fun, and inexplicably huge amounts of wine, I'm heading back in today and tomorrow. Part of me is sort of clutching my head and groaning (you want me to do whhhat?) Part of me is glad to get away from the struggles with the Wii and the Leapster. And the sensible, logical part of me is glad to get back to the desk and be reminded of things before I take another five days off and forget it all completely.

Here's where I would like to do a short meditation on the value and beauty of work, only it's before six a.m. and I'm too groggy for that. Instead I'll just wish everyone a happy day--especially those of you who don't have to sit at a desk today.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holiday Meme

It's cute. Also, I happen to be a little tired. Did you know that coughing causes brain damage? I didn't google it or anything. I just happen to have discovered this from personal experience.

Eggnog or hot chocolate? Mmm, yes please. My yearly limit of eggnog, though, is about two glasses, whereas I can have hot chocolate every day.

Does Santa wrap the presents or leave them under the tree? Santa wraps the presents in a special unique-to-him wrapping paper. Because we're sneaky like that.

Colored lights on a tree or white? Colored.

Do you hang mistletoe? God no.

When do you put your decorations up? When we get our tree, which depends on the tree-cutting schedule of the Forest Service. I usually drag out the advent calendars by the 1st, though.

What is your favorite holiday dish? I like them all, although the one I can only have when my Mom makes it is pearl onions in a cheddar cheese sauce. Oof, that is good.

Snow: love it or hate it? I love it unless I have to drive in it.

Can you ice skate? Yes. When I was 13 I could do that thing where you glide on one foot with your other leg lifted behind you, but now I have to focus on just going around and around and around, and then my feet start to hurt and I give up.

What is your favorite holiday dessert? In my house we have three kinds of pie, which I like but I wouldn't say are my favorite. Plus you can get these other times of year. Maybe Christmas cookies, which people only make and distribute this time of year?

What is your favorite holiday tradition? Singing Christmas songs. Unfortunately this is often foiled by my newer Christmas tradition of getting a cold every December.

Candy canes: yum or yuck? It's just that they're so sticky. And stick-like. Plus I get sick of the flavor by halfway through.

Favorite Christmas show? Fanny and Alexander. Which we never, ever watch. Our family watches the Simpsons Christmas specials instead. Sometimes the Nutcracker.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kitchen, bitchin, & other territorial struggles

So, like other people, I (belatedly) read Elizabeth Weil's NY Times article about her marriage with a mixture of fascination and sympathy; like many other people, it made me think about my own marriage a little differently. A lot of what I thought was, I must admit, "wow--you fight about THAT" and "whew--that's NEVER been a problem between us." Obviously, part of this is the nature of describing intimate fights to other people (would you feel a bit smug, for example, if I said that one of big simmering issues in my own marriage right now is whether the room currently housing our TV was designed to be, or was ever used as, a dining room?)--however, how a couple handles sensitive territorial issues, such as who does what in the kitchen, sits at the root of how they interact in all sorts of other ways. Hanna Rosin's passionate response (and associated comments) to Weil's article is an example of this. And for the most part, I think, Hubs and I play well with others when it comes to the kitchen.

It helps that we have fairly distinct spheres of duty, so we don't need to uh, instruct each other. Hubs handles pancakes, taco salads, and spicy salsa (I know, I know, it's straight from the 1950s mom-dad playbook); I do almost everything else, food-prep wise. We both do coffee and dishes, and we have come to an agreement about The Best Path for both activities. No "letting the dishes soak" except on special occasions; no undue uptightness about the blade cleanliness of our cheap knives. This means that either one of us can make the coffee or do the dishes without the other one silently steaming about how the other person Never Does It Right. Hubs tends to keep the refrigerator wiped down, too, something that for me is an all-day labor involving sorting through antique condiments and for him takes five minutes and leaves the food storage area much more appealing than it was.

As we run our kitchen, so we run our lives: neither one of us is especially finicky or slovenly. We don't tend to obsess; nor do we feel the need to impose "my way or the highway" rules on most activities (one exception: bedtimes. I have tend to think my life will disintegrate if I do not get to bed exactly eight hours before my alarm clock goes off, and I also worry about how many hours the kids sleep. To little avail, BTW.) We try to give each other reasonable amounts of space, both in terms of hobbies and in terms of, say, parenting strategies. As much as possible, we try to enjoy each other's company and that of our kids. We try to make things stable yet fun (in theory, anyway).

Now. If only I can figure out how to adopt this ability to nurture shared but respectful space in how I interact with my kids, I'll be all set.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Favorites

Last night we had dinner with my mother-in-law, who, after a brief holiday, once again lives in the same city as we do. In fact, she now lives closer to us than she did when we lived in Fort Collins. Those of you who have been privy to my mostly petty struggles with her over the years will understand when I say that if I'd known, two years ago, that we would move seventy miles away only to have her closer than ever, I might never have agreed to leave in the first place (I think that "moving away from MIL" might have been in my "pro" column when I was trying to get my mind around moving.)

Well, in the past two years, she has mellowed, I have mellowed, and I'm now basically glad to have her only a stone's throw away (a stone thrown by a seven-league giant, besides). Here are my favorite things about living near my MIL:

1. As she gets older, and more in need of help, it is SOOOO much easier to help her when she lives only fifteen minutes away.

2. Once again she can do random fun things with the kids--and now that she's so close, it doesn't have to be all three grandkids. The special, one-on-one relationship that she had with Silas in his first few years can rekindle a little, and maybe she can spend some special time with Helen as well, just the two of them.

3. When we drive her home after dark (she doesn't drive at night anymore), it's just the right distance: the car has time to warm up, I can listen to a decent chunk of a radio program, and yet it's never so far it feels burdensome.

4. Okay, I'll admit: free in-a-pinch babysitting.

5. For the first time in about ten years, she seems relaxed and happy. This is good. This is very good. When MIL's not happy, ain't nobody happy.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Minus three and falling

Got my balaclava out for my run tomorrow. Because I'll be running, dammit, even if it's 8 below.

Meanwhile, behold: You can't buy this patchiness in a store.

Stay warm!

Monday, December 7, 2009


Just in case I might have been worried, back in October, about getting into the Christmassy mood too soon, what with the 12 inches of snow and all, and then being sort of past the whole Christmas thing come mid-December, when chances were that the weather would be 60 degrees and dry...well, no more need to worry. Since the snow is still here, or was here and is here again, or is here and is coming tomorrow also and also the day after that...or something. We're in the Season. White on white, and cold, mama.

Yesterday we went up and cut a tree from Golden Gate State Park (by permit!), and by "we" I mean Hubs, Silas, and Sister-in-Law + Nephew, because Helen had a cough and I decided to prudently stay home with her. And also get some laundry done, and clean the house, and um, oh yeah, avoid driving sixty miles in a winter storm warning. I love being out in the snow and cold, but not if I'm in a vehicle. "Call when you get there!" I said cheerily, and put on the water for another pot of coffee. "Drive safe!"

It's a fine tree, a fir, 11 feet and 10 inches tall, so it fit in our living room with two inches to spare. It was also reported to be a fine hike, if we use Ernest Shackleton's definition of fine. That is, it was long, cold, windy, snowy, and cold, and while I actually think that would have been kind of fun, doing it with kids, especially "I hate hikes" Helen, would have started out notfun and proceeded straight to Death March.

The good news about staying home was that I managed to keep so busy that I didn't think once about the purchasing part of Christmas. Which means that we're still on square one: giftfail. Which means the chances of me being one of those poor souls running out to the Quickie Mart at 10 o'clock on December 24 just bumped a little higher.

So: happy holidays!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Favorites

On my lunch hour today I took a much-needed break and went for a hike. At one point I was walking through a fault-block valley with only the footprints of deer and coyote in the snow around me. Horizon to horizon, for several miles, what I could see was not much different from what Jesse James and his teenage buddies saw when they were running through this area a hundred years ago. For a few minutes I could even feel the wind blowing through my head, which maybe doesn't sound pleasant but which is the opposite of stressy-stress regular life (trust me).

Then I got back in my truck and returned to work, where I checked Facebook and noticed a common theme among all my old English-department cronies, most of whom now teach. For example:

"MR was just told by a colleague that has been keeping track of how many essays he's read and graded this semester and it was 379. That's more than one essay a day for an entire year. And this is ONE semester. The punch line? After all of that revision? Still bad essays."


"SS is staring at a stack of 50 essays to be graded by Monday at 8:00 a.m. But first, coffee. And maybe, if I can find a random leftover one around here, half a xanax so I don't have the desire to kill the students I know will ignore everything I've said all semester :D.

Etc. Since every so often I feel moody that I don't still teach, so these posts are a nice reminder of why I am so, so, so, so glad that I didn't go that route.

My top five reasons why I'm glad I don't teach:

1. Reading 379 essays (and counting!) a semester.
2. GRADING those 379 essays.
3. Absolutely having to be at work at a specific time several times a week.
4. Having to perform every day.
5. Ugh. MORE grading.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Holiday shopping

Last night, as I lay awake staring at the ceiling, I thought about gifts, and specifically how many of them we haven't bought yet, and how it's practically Christmas already and how come we do this every year even though waaay back in October I had the wonderful idea of dividing the fall into chunks and using each chunk to buy presents for groups of people--October was going to be Aunts and Uncle month, November was going to be Parents and Siblings month, and December would be Getting the Last Minute Gifts Especially for Kids month.

Well, yeah. That didn't work. We're still stuck on those Aunts and Uncle (totally unrelated: what if anything do you recommend as a gift for a person who is a) diabetic; b) doesn't cook or like healthy food, such as fruit; c) lives alone anyway; d) has a serious too-much-stuff problem; e) doesn't like bath-y self-pampering products? Because I'm stumped, again).

The main problem here is that I am just not a gift-y person. I think it's a personality flaw. I listen with awe and a sort of wistful envy as organized and creative gift-givers talk about what they're giving to everyone from their irritating father-in-law to their childrens' teachers, and I nod my head and think, Yes! What a wonderful idea! And then I get to Target and try to emulate it, and I walk up and down the aisles, looking at all the piles of gleaming stuff. At first I think I'm going to have success--slippers! I'll get everyone slippers this year! and what a great picture frame! And those piles of designer throws are so tempting!

But then the doubts start worming their way in. Does Dad even need slippers? If he doesn't have them, is that because he wishes someone would get him some, or because he isn't the kind of guy who wears slippers? And this soft fake-fur lining is nice, but is it $29-more-than-other-kinds nice? And isn't that the stuff that repels water in a weird way, so that if you put them on after the shower your feet stay wet for a long time? While we're at it, is $49 for a picture frame really worth it, plus isn't it kind of an expensive crap shoot to try to buy decorative items for another person? Finally, those throws look nice, but everyone knows they're too small and too thin to be anything but decorative clutter, and here we are, back at the "never buy decor" dictum again...and thirty minutes later I'm heading out to the car empty-handed except for a sinking feeling of defeat.