"We Three"

"We Three"

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

California, here I come...

A few years ago, my significant other's parents visited us from New Hampshire. They were nervous as cats in a room full of rocking chairs the whole time they were here because of earthquakes. Gee. Every year, the east coast gets pounded by mega-storms, so big and numerous, they have to name them, alphabetically. We just kind of shook our heads, and let them tremble, while trying to keep their Chesapeake water spaniel from perpetually cleaning off the top of the coffee table with his tail. Despite what the world sees in the "happy cows" commercials, earthquakes are pretty rare for most of us. And pretty mild, too. There have been two in my lifetime that were strong enough to do major damage, so that's one every 30 years. And the death toll in Louisiana and Mississippi already exceeds the number killed in both those quakes. The world is a dangerous place. Things can change on a dime. Good reason to be really grateful today, and send a prayer to those souls on the Gulf Coast, that this will be the only storm to roar through, this year.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Higher education and I, redux.

I thought I had all this stuff nailed. College is a breeze, just find out what the teacher wants, and give it to him/her. Except that critical thinking is different. Here, I am supposed to think for myself, right? Well, right, and wrong, too. Because I still have to think like the teacher, too, to accomplish my goals, which include a good grade. Our first paper, and there are many in this class, was a short analysis of Mark Twain's essay The Turning Point of My Life. In it, he theorizes that we have no free will, that our lives are predicted by two indicators, temperament and circumstance. All men are watches; some are fancier than others, but watches anyway. Wind a man up, and he will do what he does. He bases his argument on his own experience and extends that out onto the rest of us. Well, it's humorous and pretty pompous, too. And not true, at least not in my experience. The whole thing hinges on temperament being both inborn and unchangeable, the way old Mark's apparently was. Mine was so deeply buried in defense mechanisms, the poor thing was a dead duck before I was five. And a lot of this going-back-to-school thing is yet another attempt to find out who I was supposed to be in the first place, before I had to be everything everybody else expected me to be. And I am still finding that everyone else has an idea of that, still. I actually said what I thought in this paper, and after Joel gave us a little pep-talk about how character-building it is to get a D on your first paper as I sat there cringing, I was relieved to see that he gave me a B+. This was because, despite the explicit instructions not to include any opinion, he could see that my argument was a "thinly veiled criticism". Well, duh. It's critical thinking, right?

Monday, August 29, 2005

My Country, T'is of Thee...

Strange to think that those terrorists who so deeply wounded us thought we would just lay down and die. Certainly they never read any of our history, never knew that we wrested this country from the grip of England and evil King George. I just read our Constitution, and it is a thing of beauty. I can see why people study law now. The Law of our Land insures that we get to keep those things we fought so hard for back in 1776. Our "founding fathers" were young men with great minds. The balance of power they provided for works just as they planned, insuring we will never be swept away by a Hitler. No police state, either. I am learning a lot in Political Science. Everyone should have to take this course. Our democracy is a pluralist system, basically motivated by special interest groups. It makes me happy that I joined AARP, who are lobbying now to stop our current evil George from doing damage to the Social Security system. There is no law that prevents us from electing a boob president of this country. Perhaps it is time for an amendment, the 28th, that requires personality testing of the candidates, so we can weed out the megalomanics like George before they can charm the Heartland and steal elections. Where is Thomas Jefferson when we really need him? All he did was diddle his slaves, the female ones, that is. Otherwise, he was wise and steady and would never send our young men to the other side of the world to attack a sovereign nation on a rumor of threat. I want a president who is smarter than I am. Is that so much to ask?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The thing about Sundays...

Not my favorite day. Once upon a time, my big German grandmother, Ida Mae, would arrive early in her Studebaker to take me, just me, to mass. The rest of my family would still be lounging around in the pajamas, wiping syrup from their French toast off their smiling faces while I was wadding my skirt up under my knees and bearing Grandma's scowl whenever I rested by bottom on the pew behind me. In later years, Sunday was hangover day, trying to smile through pounding pain, which I, after all, aptly deserved. For a while, about at year, I went to church happily every Sunday morning, where Rev. Mary spoke eloquently of an all-loving God, and I would swell up with spirit. Then they began their campaign to buy property, begging me for money, and I stopped going. Now a meditation meeting is my spiritual wake-up call, not until 11 am, though, and bed-changing/laundry/studying take up the rest of the day. Maybe a walk in the neighborhood, later, when it cools down, and then, water the lawn. I woke today to a headache, perhaps an hommage to all those hangovers? Whatever, I am not the happiest camper in the tent this Sunday.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

All hail the local fishwrap...

New thing added to morning routine, which till this week included: rise, stretch, pat dog, stretch again, toodle into bathroom, pee, brush teeth, wash face, plug in curling iron, toodle into kitchen, grind beans, brew coffee, toodle back to bedroom, deodorize, dress, make bed (after kicking dog off of it), back to bathroom, curl hair, makeup, find glasses and check for raccoon eye, microwave muffin, pour coffee, toodle into office to write in blog. Whew! That's a lot, and that's just the first 15 minutes of my day. Now, I also have to read the newspaper, which I also had to subscribe to, so before I can sit down here to noodle around, I have to sojourn to the end of the driveway (and didn't it used to land on the porch?) to pick up our local paper. This is a requirement of Political Science, and while I can see his point, I am still a little frosted. Newspapers are often: old news, biased, and full of very bad news I really don't need to know, like the apartment fire that left 16 souls homeless last night, started by carelessly discarded cigarettes, or the Hollywood producer and 9 year old daughter who died in Lake County in very bizarre circumstances. And I am compelled to read the obituaries, because, after all, they are there, and I may know one of the dead people. And now I am not amused by Dr. Dean Edell's rendering of the day's comics, because I have already read them. Sheesh. Forget that I got a student discount. Once this four months has passed, this wrag is history!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Infamy lives on...

I see from my handy-dandy this-day-in-history window thoughtfully provided by my ISP, that today is the anniversary of Krakatoa's big bang. That makes sense to me, as today is also the birthday of one of my ex-gentleman friend's. Now, wouldn't it be nice if there was a drug that could just ply the highways of the hippocampus, where all those memories are tucked away, and selectively cherry-pick away at all that unneccessary data just laying around, taking up space? Like I need this on my mind, all day long. And he isn't the only one taking up room with superfluous information; there are a raft of dates lacking in current significance that I would dearly love to pitch in the circular file. I remember the birthdates of every single man I dated more than twice. Well, except the next to last one, Mr. What-the-Hell-Was-I-Thinking, aka The BIG Mistake. I know it was in May sometime, but the date has evaporated, which you think would be good, except that I keep wondering all month if that is the day. I know, I'm seriously demented here. I am learning in Abnormal Psych that much of my behavior is questionably borderline maladaptive. I'm actually kind of proud like that. There's a lot to be said for doing one's own thing.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I am finally riding the school bus.

When I was a kid, our little town had the only high school in the west county, so 1/2 the student body was bussed in. I always wanted to ride the school bus, but we lived in town. I got to walk to school, or ride my bike, in those interim years when it wasn't a dorky thing to do. As I remember, those years didn't last very long, fourth grade, maybe. Anyway, after the trauma of wasting a lot of valuable gas and stressing out about being late, parking by a No Parking At Any Time sign, and winding up with a $40 parking ticket, I decided to try the shuttle to college. It's one of those short buses, the kind the challenged people always get to ride in. OK, this works for me. I'm sufficiently challenged to qualify. I worried I would not find it; I am a left-brained sort of person (I know this now because we did the test for it in Abnormal Psych, when I intertwine my fingers, the left thumb is on top), and I don't have very good spatial skills. Cannot read a map if my life depended on it. Well, I parked at the downtown mall, turned the corner out of the garage, and there it was! It's just a hop-skip-and-jump from school, and they run two continuously all day, so I don't have to loiter around with the crowds, waiting for it. And I meet all kinds of fun people who are going to college, too. Met a delightful woman, in her 40's (an already a grandmother) who is completing her nursing degree at the excellent nursing school. She also was very enthusiastic about being back to school. These little skills, like finding the shuttle bus, are the really challenging things that give me hope that I am going to conquer the academic world. Oh, and my PoliSci teacher passed me and said hi to me Tuesday, by name! I'm famous, too!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The college rulebook.

1. Everyone wears jeans. Gals wear them tight and low-slung. Guys wear them baggy and low-slung.
2. Everyone has a cell phone.
3. Don't be too early to class, as you will then bump into the end of the class before yours.
4. Try really, really hard not to answer all the teacher's questions. Sometimes someone else actually knows the answer, too. ( And sometimes, you are wrong. Imagine that.)
5. Laugh and smile a lot. People will like you if you do.
6. Notice that there are other older people like you around, and they look pretty dumb if they try to emulate the youngsters' dress, so just be yourself.
7. Whatever happens is what is supposed to happen and it will all turn out fine at the end, so no more worrying yourself into a great big stress pimple on your chin, no, no, not any more.
8. Don't pack up your book bag till class is over. It is rude.
9. If you have to spend every moment of every day studying, school is not an option. There has to be time for play, too. Balance is the key. Well, duh.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Secrets of a antiquarian college student.

I am getting this thing. College, I mean. My first huge hurdle was the parking, and I now have a plan and it is succeeding. Today, my class starts at 10:30. By then, there isn't a space left within 30 miles of school. So I park at the mall by Macy's and catch the shuttle. Now the problem with the shuttle is that it drops us in the middle of the campus, way far away from my building, and my sense of direction is pretty dismal. I had to very carefully pick my way through campus, marking trees and buildings, and pray that I would remember the way back and not flounder around like Hansel and Gretel. And tomorrow, I arrive early enough to get one of the five or six remaining spaces in a lot far, far away. Oh well, I need the exercise anyway. I wrote my first paper for Critical Thinking, and surprise, I thought critically of the narrative we read, a pithy little diabtribe by Mark Twain, called The Turning-Point of My Life. He states, in his inimitably pithy way, that man has no freewill, not a whit. All decisions in life are predicated on two things: Consequence and Termperament. Consequence is out of our control. Temperament is innate and immutable. Therefore, we are like watches; wind us up and we do what we do. I disagree. I am just about the only one in class that does, including the teacher. True, it is a compelling argument. But Twain's whole premise falls flat because he bases it solely on his own experience, which he then projects out onto the rest of humanity. I could write as compelling an argument for freewill, based on my experience. Funnily enough, when I stated this is class yesterday, teacher Joel countered with "what about his examples?" To which I replied "Adam and Eve? Give me a break! Mark didn't know Adam and Eve!" No dummy here. Well, if I am wrong, I am magnificently wrong. But it seems to me that the whole point of Critical Thinking is to think, critically. That means I don't have to buy every snake oil salesman's pitch. And I just don't buy this one, even when stated with eloquence and that biting Twain humor. Sure hope this is the right way to do it. If not, I just shot myself in the foot.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Solo tripping...

There are a lot of wonderful things about living alone. Like, I always know where the scissors are. Of course, if I can't find them, there isn't anyone else to blame, either. And if I decide to have a waffle topped with strawberries and whipped cream, lots of whipped cream, there is no one to shake their head and roll their eyes when I also decide to have mocha almond fudge ice cream for dessert. But the best thing, the very most-wonderful thing, is that I get to practice being happy. It is a fallacy to believe that I will ever be happy in a relationship if I can't be happy by myself, right now. Happiness is strictly an inside job, a decision I make on a moment-to-moment basis. I get to work on that every day now, from the moment I wake with Boo's nose on my cheek to our parting moments when I turn out the light and skootch him over to the other side of the bed. Mornings are busy, four days a week, when I am packing up the red book bag and heading off to school. Afternoons are currently full of reading and outlining and studying, with small breaks often, to refresh the neural networks, let them cool down a little. Evenings that I am not out at a meeting are often television banquets; House on Tuesday nights, Monk on Fridays, Desperate Housewives on Sunday. Really, how very trite this all sounds. But, I am abysmally happy most of the time, really. Walks in the neighborhood, a trip to the gym, an afternoon at the movies with friends, it is really very easy to be happy. Chopping up veggies for a stir-fry, washing the car, folding laundry, stretching out in a bubble bath, all are moments of bliss. And then there is that moment in the afternoon, when I am spread out all over the bed with the laptop, school books, notes everywhere, and the rainbow maker stirs into action, and my room is ablaze with tiny rainbows dancing all around me. Grace.

I think, therefore I am.

During one of my inanity breaks from studying, during which I pledge to do nothing of any redeeming quality, or at least nothing that requires a whole lot of thinking for I am, after all, resting my brain, I watched a rerun of Star Trek, the Next Generation. I just love Jean-Luc and his attitude. "Make it so." Right on! Anyway, in this episode, Dr. Beverly Crusher, that gorgeous redhead, is experiencing that her crewmates are disappearing around her. The captain and officers keep reducing the number of people on board; even Data, who is a machine and therefore never wrong (wouldn't that be lovely), agrees with them. Beverly never doubts herself, which is amazing thing no. 1. But amazing thing no. 2 is that Jean-Luc believes her, too, even though it is not his particular view of reality at the moment. Now, wouldn't it be lovely if we could all experience that kind of validity in our lives? I remember being the one screaming at the top of my voice about elephants in the living room, and everyone else shaking their heads and recommending therapy. Who can say that what they personally experience is or isn't reality until she is validated by another? And shouldn't everyone? Ah, a deep question. I am probably thinking more deeply here because I am becoming better educated. I am even taking a class in thinking. Anyway, Beverly does come to realize that it is she that is caught in the alternative reality, and she takes the leap into the vortex to return to the real Enterprise. I want to be more like her, for sure. Brave and thoughtful and self-assured, even when all around her is disintegrating.

Friday, August 19, 2005

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

So I didn't get into that meteorology class and lab, but I am still learning about the weather, in, of all places, critical thinking. I am 2/3 through this very long series of articles from The New Yorker, called The Climate of Man. It is an expose on global warming, and it is not good news. Now, I listen to talk radio, and I surf over to CNN.com once in a while, and I have not heard that the permafrost in melting, so much so that old vegetation trapped there is rotting and spewing methane into our atmosphere. The old earth is hotter than she has ever been in 420,000 years. And George W., who is admittedly not the sharpest knife in the drawer to begin with, keeps pushing legislation to drill for oil, more oil, offshore and in Alaska, so we can keep emitting greenhouse gases to add to the problem. Which is why I never voted for that idiot. Oh, and the original definition of idiot is one who doesn't pay attention to government. I think Geo. fits neatly into this category. Geo. pays attention to Geo. Monte, my political science teacher, has already pointed out that this president has taken more vacations than any other in history. Yeah, even more than are officially documented. I think his intellect is on permanent vacation. OK, so I'm a little stirred up here. Like Geo., I will not be here to reap the real devastation of global warming. No, that will fall on my children, and their children. I do not drive an SUV, but I do think it would be wonderful if they all wore the bumper sticker quoted in the article: Hi! I'm changing the climate! Ask me how! No wonder college students protest. We get to learn things that our media somehow neglects to tell us. OK, I am reading this article from a media source, but let's face it, how many people read The New Yorker? Probably, everyone should. And maybe there are other sources out there I have not been looking at, too. So, I am really an idiot, too. Former idiot. Yes.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Further adventures of higher-education me...

While I was parking next to a No Parking Anytime sign on my second day at college, I met up with a delightful young man who was lamenting about the parking, and said there are 40,000 students enrolled this semester at our sweet, little community college. You know they have taken a page from the airlines, and oversold the spaces. Well, better a ticket than be late for class. My teacher for abnormal psych is a young Vietnamese woman who looks like a 12 year old gymnast. And she is delightful. Plus, she has everyone pegged already. There will be no slackers on her shift. She had each of us introduce one another, as well, but we had to stand in front of the class to do it. Madison, my partner, was a hoot and we were a hit, because we really talked. She is a Harry Potter fan. How could it get any better? The smarmy men with their little black books were still endeavoring to give them away, and not having a lot of success. These kids don't want an antidote to intelligence; they're in school to learn other stuff. Good for them. So I got my parking ticket, $40, but it was worth it. And part of that will be refunded because our political science teacher found that we had been overcharged almost $20 on the text. Another trip to the bookstore, sigh. Oh, and I opened the Campus Trial Pack (for her) I got when I bought my last text book, and found the following items: Thermasilk shampoo; ad for Proactiv acne cream; coupon for Take 5 energy bars; 75% off Cosmo; a "Join the National Guard flyer; AOL disc for 1,175 hours free; Citi VISA application, 0% APR; Dove Body Wash; a package of Top Ramen; and Colgate toothpaste. What a deal!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Separation anxiety? Whose separation anxiety?

Boo and I have this little discourse every morning as I ready to leave for school. He gets more and more whiny the nearer the moment comes, so we have this conversation:
Me: "OK, it's almost time to Mommy to leave. You're a big boy and you can stay here and guard the house."
Boo: "You're not leaving me, again?"
Me: "Mommys go to school. Dogs don't. You'll be fine."
Boo: "You've got to be kidding me!"
Me: (Picking up keys and sunglasses, dead giveaway,) "Be a good boy, now. I'll be back real soon." (Throwing of extra-special bacon treat towards the kitchen, away from the door.)
Boo: "No, no! Don't go!"
Me: "Chill!" (Sound of door shutting)

OK it's a little pathetic. But if you could see the look on his little black face, well, it's heart-wrenching. As I write this, he is sprawled on the floor directly between me and the door. When I leave, I literally slink to the car and back out of the driveway really fast. It's best to make a clean getaway, and ignore any anguishing yelps coming from the front room. When I am home all morning, he curls up on the bed and doesn't move till lunch. I'm sure he does the same thing when I leave, right? Right. I think I will leave the radio on for him today. Yes, that's the ticket.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The view from the inside is different.

I always thought college was so cerebral, the classrooms filled with deep thinkers engaged in, well, deep thoughts. What a surprise to find them filled with kids just trying to fulfill their General Ed requirements so they can progress to their chosen fields of employment. But I digress. Let me begin with my drive to school, one I am of course familiar with after 6 weeks of class this summer. Fall is not summer. The access street to my building's parking lot was, well, a parking lot. I escaped the parade and parked behind Wolf's Coffee, a block away, an escape I found when attending night school there. That meant I got to stand at the crosswalk in my khaki Dockers and sweet little black sweater with all the girls in their raggedy jeans and sweatshirts. Once again, I had lost my manual. Then we all ran the gauntlet of all these old men (even older than I!) in their natty pinstripes passing out the New Testament to all takers, so we could be well armed with the antidote to all that dreaded intelligence and knowledge we were seeking. They all had that vacant, benevolent expression tinged with fanaticism. Very scary guys. I found my first classroom, right around the corner from my former one. Loved the teacher, Monte, perfect name for him. He was the quintessential college prof, hair just a little too long, scuffy beard, a bit on the Pillsbury Doughboy side, wearing cords and a sweater vest. He is passionate about political science, and even I felt somewhat inspired. He had a nifty way of taking roll, by having us fill out recipe cards that included our hobbies and favorite movies (Brazil, a Terry Gilliam wet dream). He read them out, and we all got to know each other, a really good idea. Homework was the first two chapters of the text. And my other Monday/Wednesday class was philosophy 5, critical thinking, conducted by Joel, another fireplug of a guy, more tonsured (well, he's mostly bald) and he wore a sportscoat that had seen many semesters. His method of taking roll was to pair us up and have us introduce each other, another ice breaker. I got to profile Gina, who is related to a famous opera singer, and works on Henry 2, the county's search and rescue helicopter. I told her I often waved at her on the weekly visits to our town on the edge of the world, where visiting people were always driving off the cliffs or into the redwoods. Homework was one chapter of the text, and a narrative argument by Mark Twain. Oh, and everyone in Joel's class was there because of the GE requirement, except me. I love to write, and all our assignments are papers, some that will be done in collaboration with others. I'm not very good at that, so maybe this is what I need to learn. I finished my first day in the bookstore, where I was able to finally shell out $122 for my abnormal psych text (I had the money, they just didn't have the book till yesterday). Lucky me. Anyway, I love both these classes, surprise. Politics are not my cup of tea, usually. Now I will learn all there is to know about our government, and it looks like not all of it will be complimentary. Good to know. I don't have very many compliments for it myself.

Monday, August 15, 2005

What are they doing on the other side of the world tonight?

I was channel-surfing last night to find something to fill that 8-9 PM slot before Desperate Housewives and came on this concert on PBS. It was a little different, as the conductor wielded a violin instead of a baton, and the women musicians were dressed in what I thought were ballgowns, that later turned out to be native dress. Oh, and the music stands had curlicues on them. Very weird. I liked the music in the beginning, classical and well-rendered. But I just knew this long-haired guy in the funny waistcoat was Lawrence Welk reincarnated. And he was in a way. At the pledge break, I found out he was Andre Rieu, the Flying Dutchman, and the concert was being held on the soccor field in Limburg, wherever the hell that is. Andre spoke between the musical interludes, and it was not English, but didn't sound like German, either. I sort of discerned that it was Dutch, from his name. No dummy here. Well, everyone seemed to be having a hell of a good time at this concert. When they played Vienna, City of My Dreams, a thrilling waltz, people swayed back and forth in their seats, the ones that did not get up and dance. The orchestra swayed, too. In fact, the orchestra had a whole lot of fun up there. And the snob in me said, "this is not what concerts are all about." But the kid in me said, "this is what concerts should be like." And wouldn't you know it, Desperate Housewives didn't come on till 10. After an hour of potboilers like the march from Aida, even with gorgeous horses prancing around the field, I was bored with Andre and had to flip over to CSI for my William Petersen fix. But I did flip back during commercial breaks and found that Andre has been all over the world doing his schtick, and has earned enough to live in a nifty chateau. Where have I been?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

It's a jungle out there.

That's my life, a Randy Neuman song. Or is it Newman? Whatever. I watched Monk Friday night, of course. Just love that delightfully neurotic guy. Often, he is just funny with a little bit of angst thrown in; I mean it can't be easy to live with obsessive-compulsive disorder, though it certainly is a lot neater than my life. But this time, it was downright tragic. Dear Monk believed for just a second that his beloved Trudy was still alive, and regressed deeply into his disease. It was a moment that was painful to watch, and made me grateful that Tony Shalub's acting ability is being recognized with an Emmy nomination. Anyway, that moment explained a lot of things about why humans go crazy, in all the myriad ways we have. It all comes down to fear of feelings. And as Randy has but it so succinctly, it really is a jungle out there, full of pitfalls and things that want to take a bite out of you, and consume you, soul and all. Somehow I thought that would change if I did, got sober and stopped being my worst enemy. It didn't. We in AA call it "life on life's terms". Whatever way I look at it, it is just rude. It doesn't work to drink at it, or to lock myself away: in a marriage; in a job; in front of the computer; even in motherhood. The beast just waits for me to go shopping. So I teach those who I am fortunate enough to work with that stuggles (also know as feelings) are not bad, just uncomfortable, the way I am uncomfortable when pushing away at the dreaded sled at the gym. And in the same way, I can build spiritual muscles, so that when the stuggles come up again (and again and again and again), I am strong enough to endure them until they (inevitably) pass. Because it seems that it is necessary to walk the gauntlet every so often, so that I can be really grateful for the times when the path is strewn with flowers. Out there, in the jungle.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Into each life, let gratitude fall!

I have been feeling low, physically and emotionally. So it has been time to take care of myself. I do all the right things, and still feel lousy sometimes. It's the weather, I tell myself. Well, it could just be all those years I have piled up behind me, too. So, time to get really grateful. Getting grateful helps me to see what is good about my life, and leave all the little annoyances in the dust, where they belong. So here is a gratitude list for today: my washer and dryer, that let me keep everything sweet and clean, anytime I want; my Boo, last person I see at night, and first in the morning, and dear beyond belief; that wonderful motion-sensitive light on the side of the house that lights my path when I come home late in the evening; my amazing kids; all the bright and beautiful sober friends who are just a phone call away whenever I get especially crazed; my Ford puddle-jumper that zips me wherever I need to be whenever I need to be there; my Higher Power, that spirit that lives within and warms my heart when I get too cold, and helps me stay out of judgement of others, a dangerous (and favorite) place to go; cows, of course, source of (yum) ice cream and let's put it together for Dreyer's, who make a new slow-churned version with 1/2 the fat and 1/3 the calories. Now, there's something to jump up and down about. And I am grateful I still can jump up and down, and put on my jeans standing up, too. Life is good.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Another mystery cleared up...

Those three dots that I am so fond of (see above) actually have a name; they are called an ellipsis, at least I think it is singular, though that is strange, since they are so obviously plural. Whatever. I have finished the little tome on punctuation, Eats Shoots and Leaves. It was laugh-out-loud funny and oh so illuminating at the same time. And I discovered that "hifalutin", or if you wish "highfalutin" actually was not invented by Gabby Hayes in the old Roy Rogers epics. That's one I want to add to my thesaurus for sure. I had to read this book with a dictionary by my side, and the afore-mentioned word was not in my very old Oxford version; I had to look it up online. It was kind of a down day yesterday. I have been feeling like some dread dis-ease was pending, so I was hunkered on the couch savoring re-runs of ER and Judging Amy, with Boo curled up beside me and a Diet Pepsi within easy reach as I read. (I am a Gemini, you know, a double Gemini. It takes a lot to keep me in one place at one time. ) OK, I have now used most of the punctuation I learned about. I am not much of a fan of the dash, but I make up for it in hypenated words, often connections of my own making. And colons are a little stodgy for my taste. They show up more in business correspondence and text books, though the author, Miss Truss, seems to think they are just weightier semi-colons. There's a debate I can skip.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Love of language lives!

My daughter just gave me the best book. It is all about ... punctuation! Yes, those little squiggles and lines that pop up every so often between the words are making a big splash. It's called Eats Shoots and Leaves, and features a panda on the cover. Just look at what happens if you insert a comma; it changes the whole framework, right? Now, I read. A lot. And I will sacrifice good writing for a terrific story, though I draw the line with Danielle Steele, whose every other sentence begins with "but", thus letting the air out of her balloon and leaving it to lay flaccid on the ground. And some writers are really terrific, like John Irving. Yet, he has this love affair with parentheses that drives me nuts. And Joyce Carol Oates is the queen of the sentence fragment. Emphasis only, Carol! OK, I'm picky. I am also a writer, of sorts, and I notice these things. I deliberately omit the Oxford comma, the one before the "and" in a list of things, thinking it is redundant, and my psych teacher would happily re-insert them. It's a matter of style more than rules these days, except when submitting papers in college. Whatever, I am happily proclaiming myself as a fellow stickler and endeavoring to follow the proper use of the apostrophe in all things. And I want you to know that this whole entry was produced with the use on the British "full stop" in place of that old American "period". So there!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Back to the bookstore, part IV, or maybe V

Just back from the JC bookstore, where I accomplished one of two tasks, and bought the second of three books I need for this semester. It appears that my professors are flakes, who could not get their ducks in a row. This was my fourth or fifth trip, I forget. Imagine my dismay when I saw the slot above Sect. 1677 was already empty! How could they be sold out already? And, actually, the books had not even arrived yet! Don't they know I need to have them now, so I can get a jump-start on the semester, and read at least the first few chapters? Of course, I did that last semester, and wound up with a different teacher, and different text, so it was like a total waste of time and energy, not to mention the angst at not understanding every other word. I was reminded by my roommate that this is why I am a student; if I understood it all, why would I bother to learn it at all? Good thinking. And at least the bookstore is manageable, not like the one at Cal, as big as Macy's, the one in San Francisco, where, if I don't take note, I can get all turned around and not be able to find my way out. And these two books together cost less than the one I bought in June. Knowledge is invaluable, anyway. Right. And let's not even mention the fact that my class schedule, which tells me which section I am in and hence which book to buy, evaporated out of my purse. How does that happen?

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Safeway sojourn...

Yes, I went to (soul-sucking) Safeway yesterday. There are just some things one cannot buy at Trader Joe's or Costco. Like Bisquick. Probably Bisquick is not politically correct, but it is the foundation of my favorite breakfast, Belgian waffles with strawberries, bananas and Cool Whip. Ok, you can buy Bisquick at Costco, but only in the 99 year supply size. And no Cool Whip there, at all. Summertime is when I warp into waffle mode. I try to do all my major sinning at breakfast. Somehow I think that calories consumed before noon don't count. I mean, they have all day to diffuse, right? And now is when the really yummy fruits are out, all stacked up in plump little heaps. Like peaches, another waffle-topper. Strawberry waffles are wonderful, but peach waffles are sublime. A little dusting of cinnamon sugar, maybe some slivered almonds, it just doesn't get any better than that. And try finding waffles or pancakes at Denny's or even at your favorite bistro as light and fluffy as Bisquick makes. OK, whole grains are good, but they make lousy pancakes, tough, heavy, sodden things like sponges. Some things are just not meant to be anything but what they are. I'm not even going to mention the Cool Whip, except to say I used to be addicted to it. I knew this because I would get all nervous when I ran out of it. Now, it visits me only during waffle season. And sometimes, it even grows green fuzz from neglect. That's progress.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Let's hear it for the crepe-hangers...

What is it with some people? One advised me that I didn't really have to put my parking sticker on my bumper, thus ruining my paint job, after I had already done so. Another told me, breathlessly, that the salad I had just consumed at my favorite quickie restaurant was treated with chemicals. And then there's my mother, the professional crepe-hanger, who will take any tiny opportunity to tell me how very foolish and stupid I was in any given situation I have the misfortune to tell her about, which is why I restrict my conversations with her to food and the weather. Of course, no one asked me if I wanted their opinion in the first place. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone just said "do you want to hear what I think?" before inserting their foot in your mouth? Oh, it would be heaven. There are few people on earth that I have given that privilege. Well, there's one, and even then, she is judicious in her words. Which is probably why she has my permission to advise me in the first place. So, I am practicing saying it myself. It is my moral imperative to become the person I want others to be. How wonderful am I here, anyway!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

It's up again...

That thing about Truth. I was reading my textbook for Critical Thinking, and realizing that other people have pondered this particular question, too. Like, is there a capital T Truth? Or is there just everyone's version of it? And I was thinking, well, yes, there is. You could film it. The camera would be an impartial observer, right? But then, everyone who viewed the film would still filter what they saw through their own experience and agenda, and there we are again, in that murky place known as subjectivism. Sad, but true. My mother and I will never see eye to eye, never. Sigh. Boy, I am really looking forward to this class, where we get to turn everything inside out and blow it up or minimize it, and philosophize about it. I have always wanted to be one of those sagacious persons who sits in the corner cafe and pontificates on the meaning of life. I even have the beret, complete with little pull-tab on top. No more Sterlings, black cigarettes with gold filters, and no more petit sirrah, either, but, hell, espresso works, too. Which reminds me of the time my daughter dressed up as a beatnik for Halloween, all in black and we made her a book cover titled The Wounded Tulip (not original, right out of Auntie Mame), and everyone still thought she was a hippie. Beatniks were much more cerebral than hippies, tres avant-garde and much hipper. OK, so I am all over the place today. Lots to think about here. And not a day to think very much. Back to the seedy mystery novel and my Diet Pepsi. Cool.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

It's a Leo kind of thing...

My daughter was born at 6:36 am, 26 years ago today. She is a double Leo, and, true to her sign, has been on fire most of her life. There was an earthquake that morning, centered directly under the hospital. I was not surprised. And she was late; my original due date was July 15. Despite that, she was small, only 6 lbs. 12 oz., a full 2 lbs. smaller than her brother, and I was embarrassed. Nevertheless, I prepared her in case she shot up like I did, telling her how great it is to be tall. She isn't. Instead, she is just the right size, blending in with her peers in a way I never did. Well, her red hair makes her a stand-out, for sure. When her father and I made the ultimate sacrifice and spent a weekend together at Cal Student Orientation, we could always find her in the crowd of students whenever they brought students and parents together. It is a rare and wonderful privelege to usher a new life into the world. And it has been a joy watching her grow and prosper, taking pride in her attributes, and assigning her less desireable traits to her father. Well, I'm pretty wonderful, but not perfect, you know.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Penguin lessons...

I don't think I will ever be able to complain about my life again. Kiddo and I saw The March of the Penguins yesterday. I mean, just living in Antarctica is a trick, but the stress they endure to propogate their species is beyond the pale. What magnificent creatures they are, sleek and eloquent, well, when they are standing still. I kept seeing that image of Dick Van Dyke schlepping around with his pants around his knees in Mary Poppins whenever they walked, very funny. After their 70 mile trek to the breeding grounds, they perform an elegant courtship ritual. When the egg comes, things get tricky. Mother must transfer it to Dad, and many don't make it; they freeze instead. That was the first teary moment. The mothers then trek back to the sea, while the fathers tend the eggs through the most God-awful weather on the planet. More eggs bite the dust. If a mother is eaten by seals while feeding, that chick dies, too. And poor Dad, he doesn't eat anything for 4 months! Who thought up this system, anyway? When Mom returns, they do that little transfer, with the chick this time, and Dad waddles off to feed, now more than 70 miles because the ice has spread. Later, both parents get to share in their progeny, for a short moment before they both waddle off, leaving the chicks on their own. The good news is that the sea has come to them, so no long trek. And the new ones get a reprieve of five years playing in the ocean before they begin marching inland every year. Amazing. Well, I guess it beats the cicada, who hibernates for 17 years, emerges, sheds its skin, and enjoys maybe three weeks of life. What is that all about?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Coffee blues...

Now, coffee is my last addiction, since I gave up Diet Pepsi and Cool Whip, years ago. And I am a little picky about what coffee I will drink. I buy fresh-roasted beans at Costco, because it is still warm and smells incredible, plus, it is only $3 a pound. How could it get any better? Well, recently Costco didn't have any of my usual Sumatra, so I tried the Ethiopian, which was wonderful indeed, just different. And the next time, still no Sumatra. Now I was unhappy. And I bought the Columbian Supremo, which I like a lot, too, but it's just not the same. And I thought probably Costco knows I like the Sumatra and stopped making it just to pique me. Then I remembered; once upon a time I worked for a coffee importer. Coffee is grown in the southern hemisphere of our little blue ball, and the new harvest season begins in their summer, which is our winter. So Costco may have just run out of Sumatra beans, and I just have to be patient until the next harvest, and it will come back! Imagine that. This was not about me after all. What a relief!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Vitamins for my superego...

Good deeds are so much fun! I spoke to my first class of drunk drivers last night. This is a public information commitment for AA, and it is a challenging one. Our traditions state that we are a program of attraction, not promotion and we maintain a position of public anonymity. Nevertheless, it is sometimes necessary to inform the general populace of our existence, and so many of these offenders are sentenced to AA meetings, so AA sends speakers in to let them know what we offer, what to expect and what not to expect. I went to my first AA meeting all by myself, and it was a strange and somewhat harrowing experience, stepping off into the unknown. There were all these tough-looking guys milling around the entrance, smoking, so immediately I was forced to run the gauntlet just to get into the room. I came late, just before the meeting, and left early. People looked pretty much like ordinary folks. I worried about being dressed for the occasion till I got there and found that anything would have been appropriate. Some people wore business attire, others work overalls, most casual California clothes, jeans and chambray shirts and pricey athletic shoes. No one wore trenchcoats. They clapped a lot, and men talked about (gulp) their feelings! Not only that, they hugged each other after the meeting. The man I talked to when I called the hotline showed up, and gave me his Big Book and a loaf of bread! The only thing I remembered was the closing chant, keep coming back. That was enough. I did. So I shared this experience with these people last night, none of whom were particularly happy to be there, and I kept it light and amusing but real, too. And my partner, dear Roger, did his fervent story, and was magnificent. And it was a total success; we both stayed sober. And just to make it even more eventful, one young man followed us out and asked which meetings we recommended. The world needs these people to get sober, and maybe one of the thirty in this class will make it. It was a day to remember, for sure.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

You can't go home again, not ever.

I drove to the coast last night, down the river road that winds like a tortured serpent along the water. There were plenty of cows to wave at, rusty red Herefords and later, stocky, compact Black Angus. A great blue heron was in the pasture with them, posed on one leg. The deja-vu thing was unnerving. A whole bunch of feelings came over me on that drive: angst, a little regret and finally relief that I would be leaving again in a few hours. I stopped in Duncan's Mills to check out the new emporium and antique shop, which was filled with murky paintings and garage-sale discards, very little that smacked of real antiquity, all priced for the affluent tourists who ply the road on weekends. At river's end, I stood on the cliff and watched the seals on their little isthmus at the mouth, laying in the lowering sun like fat slugs. Lines of pelicans flew in like 747's and congregated along the river there, too. It was all so familiar, and not mine anymore. Then we wended our way up the steep hill to the old house. The garden has bushed out and now truly is a jungle. All that rain last winter and spring didn't go to waste there. I ate dinner there, in the window overlooking the river, at a different table and in a different chair. Somehow I had pictured it as it was when my furniture lived there, as if it would follow me and still be in the little yellow house when I got home. Boo was delighted that he could wander around outside without me hovering over him and spent most of the time exploring his old haunts, a great sacrifice, leaving his usual post under the table anticipating tidbits. At the end of the evening, we drove off away from the sunset and the old friends and the little town on the edge of the world. It is much farther away than I remembered.

Monday, August 01, 2005

If it looks good, isn't it?

I grew up in a picture postcard home, all clean and sparkly. Look in any window from the outside, and it was Hallmark card time, family all gathered in the family room, roaring fire, rosy red wallpaper with cabbage roses rampant, braided rug, and 21 inch Zenith flickering. It was a different story inside, where Dad seethed and Mom bit her finger raw trying to control her rage. Mom's thing was a bottle of Thunderbird in the cupboard that housed the potatoes. She reached for that stuff every night before supper, just a glass or two, never more. Everyone wished Dad would drink. Dinners were a mine field, eaten with haste, which was a shame; Mom was a good cook. Food was one of the few ways we were nurtured, and it is one of my issues even now. So, I reproduced this aura of wonderfulness in my life too, tried to give it that patina of acceptability. It didn't work for me. Wonderfulness is not in the things around me. It is an inside job. I forget that when I pay one of my rare and brief visits to my ex-husband and his wife. They are fine people, and they have a House Beautiful home, decorated and arranged and antiseptically clean, radiating taste and wealth. My house is not like that. I am still in the shabby chic mode we all attained in our first digs: Cost Plus bookcases and cane chairs, hand-me-down dresser and futon sofa. Of course, I have a dynamite Dell and a laptop and a whole bunch of printers and when I have money, that is what I prefer to spend it on. I rent. Sigh. Most of the time, though, I think I am a success in my life. I have a plethora of friends, amazing adult children who I love, a darling little dog and a sweet parakeet, an income that just arrives at the end of every month, and I love going to school and learning; it is a dream come true. So, it might not look like it from the outside or from the perspective of the "American dream", but I am successful here. Really.