Sunday, October 23, 2011

good reads

I actually started this whole post as a list of random autumn stuff we're doing...but it was boring even me, and it's about my own pedantic life! The usual school's going great we visited an orchard and fed the sheep and can't wait for halloween there's a chill in the air is thanksgiving really just a month away? sort of stuff. I really don't need to elaborate further do I? Well, maybe with a cute picture of Anya feeding the sheep...

But anyway, on to other topics. Right now there is a thunderstorm raging outside. We've had such a dry autumn so far, and few storms (despite several windy days) that the flashes and crashes of lightening and thunder feel unfamiliar, even a little unsettling. It's the perfect sort of evening to curl up with a cup of hot something-or-other (cider, tea, spiked cocoa, take your pick) and read a good book, preferably of the escapist variety.

A few weeks ago I checked out Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer (and several guest essayists) from the library. It's tremendously interesting, and boy have I learned a lot about NGOs and the nature of humanitarian aid organizations. I've gained a lot of respect for Bill Clinton as well; he's been very involved there. It's also unexpectedly inspiring. You'd think that a book about such a horrific disaster in a country so ill-equipped to deal with it would be despondent, but it's not. Throughout the book rings the theme of resilience and determination of the Haitian people to take charge of their own country and build it back better.

Still, Haiti After the Earthquake is a fairly heavy book, and one night last week I decided I needed to read something less grounded in reality. It was too late to go to the library, so I browsed our shelves here. We don't own many books, actually, so my choices were limited. I found a paperback copy of Wuthering Heights. I've never actually read Wuthering Heights, though it must be my copy (can you imagine Stuart owning it for any reason?). The receipt was still in there, with a purchase date from my senior year of high school, so maybe I bought it then and just never got around to reading it.

Well, I'm reading it now and I'm not sure what to think. Except for the main narrator - Nelly the maid - the characters are all broody and selfish. For most of them, their lives are defined by a childhood of abuse, neglect and alcoholism, with a hefty dose of mental illness. And because this is a mid-nineteenth century English romantic novel, let's throw isolation and incestuous overtones into the mix. The lot of them need therapy, or at least a decent social worker. I know, I know. It's not fair to criticize a novel like Wuthering Heights from a modern perspective. (Or is it? Some of you Lit majors out there, feel free to chime in!) At the end of the day, I think I prefer Jane Eyre.

Still, I'm glad I'm reading Wuthering Heights. It is a classic after all, and there is something deliciously indulgent and escapist, if slightly adolescent, about a story with such unrestrained passion and misery. I know I would have loved it when I was 16. I should have read it then!

Monday, October 17, 2011

run, mama run

It's been a stressful past few weeks, to be honest. Daniel had his surgery at the end of September, then Stuart had to travel for work twice in the first two weeks of this month, then Daniel was sick a couple days last week, and on top of all that I took on a couple of paying gigs at the school of music. None of these things on their own are really all that bad, but all together it's kind of a lot, and this weekend I just felt it all hit me after the fact. I felt anxious and stressed and a little bit like I'd lost a sense of normalcy.

In the midst of this, I started having trouble with my running shoes. For the past two years, I've been happily running 3.5-4.5 miles at a stretch in my VFFs with no issues whatsoever. Suddenly, a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that a couple of my left middle toes would get tingly and almost numb within the first half mile of a run, and then I had to compensate either by running completely barefoot - which I can't do yet for more than about a mile or mile and a half because the bottom of my feet aren't conditioned for it - or by changing my stride to favor my left foot, which in turn gave me shin tension in my shin.

I've never had running injuries worth speaking of, but I don't want to start. I decided it's time for some new shoes:

These are New Balance 10 trail shoes. Our health insurance has a nice rebate program for athletic shoes, plus there was a discount at the running store, so the purchase felt justified. I ran 4 miles in them this afternoon while the kids were at their respective places of education, and it. felt. great. I love these shoes. They have the same thin vibram sole as my VFFs, but with a wide toe box so my toes have room to spread out as needed.

It's not just the shoes, though. I needed that run today to help work the mild anxiety and stress of the past few weeks out of my system.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


How about some fall clich├ęs?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

a letter to my refrigerator

Dear Refrigerator,

Although we do not have an especially close relationship, you and I, I feel as though I should write to you and have my feelings out before you leave us for good. I hope that doesn't happen for a while, but lately you've been a little touchy, so I'm afraid we should prepare for the worst.

You came with the house, which we bought seven years ago. I don't know how old you were then, and at the time I didn't care. Home ownership was such a new and exciting stage in our young lives, the age of the appliances in our vintage kitchen didn't seem to matter. You are certainly newer than the kitchen itself, which still has its original white-painted metal cupboards with chrome hardware and porcelain sink. But you are not especially young.

Most worrisome, Refrigerator, is your shuddering gasp of a death rattle whenever the compressor shuts off. Over the last year or so it has gotten louder and louder. I know you are tired. I know you want a way out.

But, Refrigerator, please don't die. Not yet. I've adapted to your quirks. I've learned, for example, not to put anything in the back of the top shelf unless I want it frozen solid. I've learned to forgive the moron who designed the placement of the temperature knob to be in the perfect position for being knocked out of whack every time someone pulls out a jug of milk. It was probably that guy's first day on the job, and he didn't know that the appliance he designed was destined to live in a kitchen so small and poorly arranged that opening the refrigerator door would require that the table be scooted between 6 and 12 inches to the west, so help anyone sitting there actually eating a meal. I don't mind that the tracks for the cheese drawer have broken so the drawer never goes in straight. I don't even mind that we've had to put duct tape on the door to hold the shelves in three different times now. I suppose it was our fault for having too many condiments stored there.

But this morning, when the door wouldn't close at all, and we discovered that yet another piece had broken, rendering the bottom shelf crooked and unstable, requiring us to prop it up with cardboard pieces cut crudely from a box and covered with yet more duct tape, my husband Stuart and I had The Talk. We discussed what we would do when the inevitable happens. You see, replacing you is not so simple a task as just going to a retail establishment specializing in durable goods (as they say in economic speak) and buying a new fridge. The fact is, we want to expand and remodel the kitchen to accommodate the needs of our family. I don't mean to be harsh, but like the kitchen, you just aren't big enough for us. Unfortunately, there isn't space right now for a refrigerator any larger than you, so for now, you're all we've got. We've started to talk with a design firm, and we're moving ahead with the idea, but it's going to take some time to secure detailed plans and funds (oy), and until then, we need you to try your hardest to keep your chin up and keep cool. Literally.

If you leave us before we are ready, Refrigerator, we are screwed. We'll have some unpleasant choices to make, and quickly, because if there is anything in a household you can't live comfortably without for more than a day or so, it is the refrigerator. There are laundromats for when the washing machine goes, space heaters for when the furnace kicks it, and boiling water on the stovetop to pour a bath if the water heater crosses over, but short of buying bags of ice every two hours or running to the neighbor's house every time someone wants a glass of milk, you can't live without the fridge. If we have to replace you, we'll be forced to choose between buying a fridge too small for us that fits in your space, or buying an appropriately-sized one that doesn't yet have a kitchen to live in, which means we'll either have to move it or the table out to the living room until the remodel/expansion happens. None of these are attractive options.

So for the sake of my sanity, Refrigerator, hang in there. Stay with us until we figure this out. Please!