Tuesday, July 30, 2013

end of summer

It's not really the end of summer, but it's starting to feel like it.


Swimming lessons wrapped up last week, which was bittersweet. I loved the swimming lesson routine; it gave us something to do every morning, the kids had a great time and learned a lot, and I got a good 20-25 minutes of lap swimming in while they are in their lessons. Just that little bit of exercise really helped me be a nicer person for the rest of the day.


We also had a visit from my cousin Steph last week. She lives in Kansas, so we don't get to see her nearly enough, and we made the most of our time with her here - eating good food, running races in the park with the kids (her idea, not mine, and by the way Daniel is fast...I wish they had track and field for 7yos), and just hanging out.

But Steph had to go home, of course, swimming lessons are done, the weather has remained bizarrely cool, even chilly at times (I think the high on Saturday was something like 63), our beach trip to see Stuart's family in June seems like ancient history, and it just feels like summer is hurtling toward the finish line before we're quite ready. We have all kinds of fun to squeeze in before it's too late.

Yesterday, we went to see the butterflies at Olbrich:


Today we went to the Cave of the Mounds, which was very exciting for all of us. I haven't been on a cave tour in years, and it was the first time for Daniel and Anya. (They got free tickets for both of those things as prizes from the library summer reading program. Score!) Next week I'm taking them to Kentucky for a week, and we may stop at the Indianapolis Children's Museum on our way down.

Don't get me wrong. In some ways, I am looking forward to school starting. I have spent nearly every waking minute with my children, and while they are delightful in many ways, their relentless requests to play-a-game-with-me and read-to-me and can-we-go-bowling-please-please-please-why-nooooot? are frankly exhausting. Also, I have had very, very little time to myself and essentially zero opportunities to do anything meaningful on the professional front. I should be putting together a professional website and lining up gigs  for this coming school year, but I haven't done anything along those lines. I feel guilty for being lazy and having such lackluster ambition.

Soon enough, though, the weather will cool off for good, the pool will close, I will have to buy approximately 1,583 Ticonderoga pencils and a pair of sneakers for Daniel (whose only shoes that fit properly at the moment are flip-flops), and I will find myself in an empty house packing summer shorts in the hand-me-down bag with an ache in my chest, wondering where the time went after all.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Happy birthday, toe!

Today is my little brother's birthday. He has earned the nickname "Uncle Toe" from Daniel's toddler days when he couldn't pronounce "Joe" quite right.

Anyway, Joe is spending his birthday working at a relatively new job in a new city. I wish I could make him a cake, but we're too far apart right now, so I guess the cake will have to wait.

No matter how old we get, my little brother and I are always silly and goofy together. So happy birthday, Joe. Boogers!!

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Tomorrow morning I'm going to church with a friend of mine. He is getting a degree in international public policy now, but studied viola at a conservatory in college. We've performed together a couple of times rather informally, and when he asked if I would play with him for a church service of course I said yes. We'll be playing Hindemith's Trauermusik at some point (perhaps the offertory? I'm not even sure). It's not an especially long or difficult piece, but it is poignant. The end has always struck me. Hindemith takes the tune "Old Hundred" originally harmonized by J.S. Bach (or, for church-goers out there, the doxology tune Praise God from whom all blessings flow or All creatures that on earth do dwell...), reharmonizes it with some crunchy dissonance, and adds mini-cadenzas in the solo viola part. 

I was practicing this evening, and running through that end part made me nostalgic for some other hymn tunes. I love the old traditional hymns with their rich, full harmonies, best sung in four parts with a resonant pipe organ leading the way. So I dug up my Mennonite hymnal that I bought in college when I took organ lessons (seems so funny you can get that on Amazon!) and ran through a few of my favorites. I'm at a point in my life where I'm not particularly religious, but there is comfort in those familiar tunes.

I started thinking about music as memorial. (I took a whole graduate seminar on this very topic, one of the best classes I ever had.) Hindemith wrote Trauermusik quickly as a memorial to a king who had just died, but whenever I hear it, I think of commemoration in a more communal sense. All creatures that on earth do dwell...

You see, today is the one-year anniversary of the Aurora shootings. And just one week ago, George Zimmerman was acquitted for murdering Trayvon Martin.  These are two very different crimes, of course, with seemingly unrelated issues around them being discussed. At some level, though, it comes down to the grim reality of gun violence in our culture and, tragically, the victims caught in the crosshairs (if you will).

All these heavy thoughts were occupying my mind tonight as I scribbled in fingerings and worked out the frequent tempo changes in my music.  I think it's just coincidence that we're playing Trauermusik at this particular time (we're also doing a Stammitz concerto for the postlude, and I assure you it's not nearly as profound). For me, though, it's a private memorial.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

keep calm and carry on

I've been unable to think about much the past week besides our problems with Voldemort The Neighbor. Stuart and I have worked really, really hard not to let this consume all of our emotional energy, but it's hard. It's  draining to live next to someone who works so very hard to be so very difficult, and even though we know it's not our fault and that we haven't done anything wrong, it still feels like walking on eggshells every time we go outside or park the car in the driveway or discuss something as simple as how can we get the washing machine delivered without pissing her off? because she is so viciously territorial and paranoid and oh! so very, very petty, and convinced that our sole purpose in life is to stomp all over the common property line in the middle of the joint driveway just to spite her.

You know how there are people who never, ever complain, no matter how hard life gets? I'm not one of those people. I complain about all kinds of things, big and small, and you know what? I think it's okay. I even think that complaining is healthy, to a certain extent. I mean, we all need to vent sometimes. And I don't mind when friends of mine feel the need to complain to me about their weird neighbors or their latest parenting challenges or spouses' annoying habits or what-have-you. I try not to be excessive and keep my perspective and be self-aware. I may not always succeed with those things, but I never claimed I was perfect and at least no one can accuse me of keeping it all bottled up inside, can they?

But sometimes when I get on a complaining jag I have to step back and remind myself that it could be much worse. I know I have a good life and I am grateful for it. Sometimes that doesn't help a whole lot, and instead makes me feel extra guilty for complaining in the first place. The effort it has taken to hold onto perspective in our current situation, though, has really made me reflect on how much worse this could be. For example, we never had much of a relationship with this neighbor, so it's not as though we lost anything more than the ability to speak cordially to each other (actually, I think I've always been cordial; the same can not be said of her.) I know people who have gone through divorce, the messy, ugly, heart-wrenching kind. I know people who have been through hell and back with family conflicts in which the anger goes much deeper and takes much longer to heal than what we are experiencing now.

(I had to remind myself of these very same things yesterday when I got pulled over for running a stop sign. Not a good start to an already precarious week, let me tell you.)

Thinking about all that hasn't made this situation any less sucky. The suckage abounds, I assure you. But at least we are able to take a deep breath and step back and remind ourselves that we can get through this. We can keep calm and carry on. Because it could be much worse...let's just hope it doesn't get to that point.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

conflict resolution

Stuart and I find ourselves in the middle of an unfortunate situation involving a joint driveway and the next door neighbor. It's not appropriate to go into specifics here, but suffice it to say, we are dealing with a person who is not acting rationally. She is downright hostile, in fact, and it has been extremely difficult for both me and my husband to keep a handle on the stress and anger this situation is causing us.

There are all kinds of unpleasant people in the world, of course. We just have the bad luck of sharing a driveway with one. One thing that makes this so stressful is that we need to do some pretty major renovations next year, and the current problems with the neighbor and the driveway make us wonder if it's even possible. We've been advised to find an attorney (I've got a list of recommended people to call that I'm working my way down).

It's also been suggested by several people that we move. As if it were that easy to sell a house and find another suitable one nearby within a certain price range and hope you don't just end up next to another crazy person. (It's hard to imagine, but she could be worse, I suppose. Like if she were a drug dealer. Or a registered sex offender.)

Because location is everything. We love this neighborhood and fit in well here; we're not the only people with a clothesline in the backyard and vegetables growing in the front, not by a long shot. We are surrounded by lots of lovely parks. We are a few minutes' bike ride from all kinds of places that are important to us, like the farmers market, our community garden, the swimming pool, and more parks. And right now, what is possibly most important of all, the kids' school is excellent. I'm not yet ready to give all that up just to live in a bigger house with our own driveway.

Not that I haven't done a few searches on zillow, mind you. We also have neighbors looking to upsize from their 2-bedroom house, and they're having trouble finding something for the same reasons we would, should we decide to move.

I'm afraid the situation with the person next door is going to get worse before it gets better. In some ways, we made progress this week, but by now the conflict and animosity between us is so well-established, we are utterly unable to communicate without third party involvement. We're functioning about as well as the U.S. Congress.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

random updates

1. Worms. So we now have a little worm farm. At least, I think we do. After a bit of online research, I bought a medium-sized heavy plastic storage box, drilled a bunch of tiny air holes in it, wet down some shredded newspaper, added some leaf mulch and grass clippings, and dropped the surviving worms in there along with some strawberry tops and carrot greens. I'm not very confident that this will work, in part because there were only, like, three worms that were still moving when I dumped their little cups into their new home. I guess if everything in there just gets all rotten and stinky I can dump it into the compost pile and try again with a fresh order of night crawlers.

2. Appliances. Everything has been crapping out on us lately. A few months ago it was the car. Then the 20-year-old washing machine quit getting things clean. I mean, it filled up with water and moved around and made a bunch of noise before draining it all out, so presumably everything was still functional, but all the clothes and sheets would still have flakes of dirt and grime stuck to them when I hung them out on the line. It had also been leaking for years and was gross, so we finally decided to replace it and the decrepit dryer (also two decades old, and took just about that long to dry every load, even the small ones). For as much laundry as we do, even when I can bypass the dryer and hang stuff outside, I'm hoping this saves us some energy costs!

As if that weren't enough, a few days ago the lid to the coffee roaster came apart a few days ago. This roaster was designed to last two years and we've had it for six, which means we've gotten hundreds more roasts out of it than we thought we would, and when you compare the cost of roasting your own green coffee beans in bulk vs. buying fairly traded freshly roasted coffee beans at retail price, it paid for itself long ago. (Lest you think coffee is some kind of froofroo luxury indulgence, you must not have children who rise with the sun well before 6:00 every goddamn morning, nor have you met me at that time of day before I have drunk my three cups of espresso, or what Stuart and I call Life Force.) Alas, the model of roaster we had was discontinued a while back, so Stuart had to buy a whole new one. Hopefully it will last as long as the previous one, if not longer.

We're kind of holding our breaths to see what goes next. The fridge has been emitting an alarming death rattle for years now, but we don't want to replace it until we can redo the kitchen...

...which brings me to 3. Pending lawsuit from the neighbor. Actually, there's no lawsuit. At least, not yet. There should never be one because we have not caused damage or even done anything wrong. But we are in the unfortunate position of living next to and sharing a joint driveway with an uncooperative, hostile, and irrational person who is convinced we are constantly trespassing on her property. Should we do an addition and kitchen remodel to the house next year, things could escalate pretty fast, so we are currently looking for an attorney to get some preemptive legal advice. It's exhausting and stressful. I just hope the fridge lasts until we figure it out.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

got worms?

Yesterday the kids and I took a trip to our local library. We got there at the tail end of a special program called "Wormapalooza!", which was being run by a friend of mine. We were too late for the worm races or wormy crafts, but there were some live earthworms leftover to bring home. So now Daniel and Anya each have a small styrofoam cup with some dirt and a couple of worms apiece. I tried to convince them that the worms would be happiest in their natural environment (i.e. the garden) but they would rather keep them as pets. (Aside: am I depriving my kids of some essential part of childhood by not allowing them to have any pets? Is that why they have become so attached to these worms?)

This morning I was kind of afraid the worms would die, so I fed them a few scraps that would have otherwise gone into the compost pile outside. I suppose I've become somewhat attached to the idea of pet worms myself. Hey, if it doesn't work out, I can always dump them in the yard, where they are probably better off anyway.

How does one keep worms long term? I've heard of worm composting in containers, but the only person I've spoken to at any length about it had the misfortune of feeding his worms old brussels sprouts and the resulting odor was so putrid they thought they had a gas leak and called the utility company's emergency line before they figured out it was just worm gas. I do not want this to happen to us.

Any tips out there?