Thursday, March 27, 2008

I've been tagged!

patti has requested that I list 10 random things about myself:

1. I was mugged once while walking downtown in a major city U.S. at night with a female friend. After one of the muggers snatched my purse, I chased the muggers down, wearing a dress and high heels. After running after them for several blocks by myself, eventually a cop on a motorcycle heard my shrieking from a distance- he zoomed to the vicinity of my pursuit, and shortly thereafter, the cop and I nabbed the muggers. This was probably my finest moment.

2. I won an essay contest in high school and appeared on TV for 30 minutes (filmed in DC) with a NY Senator as a result.

3. I have helped native American ranchers in Montana herd cattle on horseback in the Rocky Mountains.

4. I have never been married.

5. Marriage was never a part of my childhood dreams.

6. The job I've had since college was my childhood dream.

7. I will shop in Thrift Stores only on "50% Off Day."

8. I sucked my thumb until I was 12.

9. I got braces when I was 10. They were necessary due to fact number 8.

10. One of the most horrifying events of my childhood was the time one of my braces came off in the YMCA swimming pool while my school was there for swimming lessons (which I already despised before this occurrence). Although painfully shy, I had no choice but to tell the instructors what had happened. They blew their whistles, cleared all the kids out of the pool and started diving for my wayward brace. It took hours, seemingly, and they were eventually victorious. The horror I experienced at age 10 is as fresh today as on the day it happened.

Monday, March 24, 2008

a whirlingbetty Easter

When I returned home late Saturday night, there was a message on my answering machine (yes, I still choose to use an old-fashioned answering machine) from a friend, J. She was inviting The Child and me to Easter dinner the next day. Short notice, eh? This is her front door.

This is a closeup of her Easter wreath. J is an older woman who plays many roles in my life, although I've known her less than a year. (I remember her roses being in bloom when I first walked up her garden path.) She performs the roles of mother, grandmother, sister, confidant, child (yes, she's entitled to her "needy" moments), rock (as in source of strength), and comforter. I did not expect her last-minute Easter invitation, but The Child and I had no plans, really- I was just going to take him to an indoor waterpark on the other side of town. I hadn't been sure what we'd do about Easter dinner, but The Child cares little of cuisine so I wasn't overly concerned.

This is the idyllic setting of J's house. It's in a wooded area across from a bird sanctuary. All of this is just a few blocks from our house- a big plus for the travel-resistant whirlingbetty.

These little gems were basking in the sunlight in J's front yard on Easter Day.

In the bird sanctuary, this populous patch of yellow wildflowers held court.

Here is The Child posing with J's bespectacled and finger-pointing nephew, S. S provided a striking contrast to The Child. S has a complicated list of issues going on- for me it's impossible to determine whether the boy is simply ill-mannered or whether his ADHD medication is rearing its ugly head. At any rate, he proved to be impossible for his attending adults to control. I left the dinner appreciating my comparatively angelic son.

This is J's Easter dinner table, set long before the guests arrived. Her house is loaded with character, inside and out. The first time I set foot in her house, I was taken aback by her many collections, of spoons, ceramics, flowers, photos, fine dishware, teacups. Now I consider the collections quaint and fascinating, now that I'm over the shock of it.

Here is one of J's place settings, complete with bunny napkin and party favor. The food was what one would expect an older person to prepare- ham with pineapple rings and cloves, buttered peas (cooked a long time), asparagus (obligatory, of course, and buttered and cooked a long time), mashed potatoes (you guessed it- buttered and cooked a long time, but at least they were homemade), rolls (you guessed it- white- The Child was thrilled by this rare treat), cranberry jelly and Sierra Mist on ice.

Here's the coup de grace: homemade chocolate cake decorated with peeps and malted milk balls, served with J's special jasmine tea which she bought in China. J is a retired schoolteacher, divorced, with a very worldly past. The more stories of her adventures I've heard, the more I appreciate connecting them to the mementos scattered about her home.
It was a whirlingbetty kind of Easter.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

in a bit of a funk

These guys aren't really in a funk- they just know how to pose that way. Actually, The Child and his overnight guest had a fun weekend. Knowing I'd be a drag, I told The Child he could invite a friend over. They entertained each other admirably.

The threat of shutdown of the organization I've worked for my entire adult life has finally taken over my mood, at least some of the time. The effects in my life would be far-reaching. Until this week, I had maintained an attitude of, well.....denial- but prominent articles in the local newspaper warn of possible impending shutdown. Having it spelled out in black and white tends to have somewhat of an impact.

Maybe, if it does happen, I will finally write about what it is that I do for a living. But until then, I intend to stick with my original blogging intent: to attempt to forge an identity which does not include my job title.

My sister's cancer surgery has been cancelled due to the unexpectedly rapid growth of the tumor on her tongue. Removal of the tumor at this point would apparently require the removal of too much tongue tissue. So they've installed a chemo port in her tongue and yesterday she was in Dana Farber in Boston receiving various types of infusions of toxic medicine for 16 hours. All I can say is, I hope she believes in conventional medicine a lot more than I do. Faith is everything.

And I believe in spring. Here it is, as evidenced in this photo taken yesterday. (I didn't intend to memorialize the garden hose, but I didn't notice it until now.)

This bold bellwether was the first to bloom. Actually a crocus, it serves to remind me of the rampant buttercups of my youth, as well as the soon-to-appear daffodils which will forever remind me of my dear friend W who died with the daffodils 4 years ago in April.

Happy Easter, everyone.

Friday, March 14, 2008


I read the above pictured news story this morning about U.S. students' math deficiencies. Some of us like math; some don't. I personally have a soft spot for math.

Today's article rings true for me since I have a son in elementary school. His teacher last year had a master's degree in math, so I backed off when I noticed that The Child didn't seem to know his multiplication tables. He brushed it off, claiming that his teacher had taught him some sort of scheme which I didn't understand for "coming up with" math facts.

Well, now I wish I had stood my ground. This year, he seems to have forgotten that scheme which replaced multiplication tables. I now fear for his future.

Is it possible that there really is some validity to NOT teaching basic math facts? The longer I live, the more I realize that indeed, anything's possible. But I also have learned to speak for myself.

I have fond memories related to math from my school years. I was good at it and I loved it. What little self-esteem I had as a child probably resulted largely from math.

In New York State where I grew up, public education was top notch. Each course was offered in levels, and I was in advanced math, with challenges aplenty. As early as 6th grade, I was being offered college-level algebra problems.

My parents didn't have a clue how to solve such problems, but my big sister's husband, who was actually a math major in college at the time, did. He didn't give me the answers directly but he taught me how to come up with them myself. It was a thrill to solve a difficult math problem- even more so when I was the only one in my class who got the right answer.

After my sister and her husband split up, I missed his help, but he had taught me to fish, as it were. One time in 8th grade our school's math department gave all of the classes an extraordinarily difficult problem. I spent a long time on it, and when a friend called me on the phone for help, I broke down and gave her my answer.
Later that night when checking over my work, I decided upon a different answer. I didn't tell my friend though, figuring I had helped her enough since I had even given her the steps involved.
The next day, the school was turned upside down when my friend, known to be somewhat slow (especially in algebra) proved to be the only student with the right answer. The math teachers had never expected anyone to solve it, least of all this particular student! We never told anybody what happened, and our math teachers scratched their heads over that one for a long time afterwards. It was especially baffling to them because no other student had the right answer!
My job requires no mathematical ability, but I enjoy working with numbers whenever life calls for it. I spend a ridiculous amount of time on my budget, and I am an eager bookkeeper at The Child's school bookstore. I just finished doing my tax returns. I do own a calculator, and I use it to check myself. I derive pleasure from working with numbers, and still experience that old sense of accomplishment after I finish.
The Child doesn't know what he's missing.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

not about the weather

Lately I have written about nothing but the weather. That would be fine if I had nothing going on in my life besides acts of nature.

There are a few other things, though. My sister, who lives 800 miles away, has been diagnosed with cancer for which she is facing a 10-hour surgery next week. Being a single parent, travelling to Boston to help her is highly impractical, so I'm standing by, waiting.

I am still being sued by The Child's father for full custody and child support (even though he has never paid me a dime of child support!), and I am facing 2 dreaded court dates in May. This court case has been going on for a year, so I ought to be used to it by now. I'm not.

Then there's my job. The organization to which I have dedicated my life and labor since college is likely to shut down on April Fool's Day. I've always read that men derive their identity from their jobs, but I can state with absolute certainty that there are women thus afflicted. The field I'm in is notorious for job scarcity, and there are no more opportunities where I live. Because of my above-mentioned court case, I am obligated to remain in this city.

The above-pictured house is financed by a 15-year mortgage, which means the monthly payments are sky-high. Working at Wal-Mart will not cover my mortgage.

Then there's The Car. I am the proud owner of a 1991 Honda Civic. You know, they say that those little Civics are not good bets in crashes, but The Child and I have always been 100% safe in that car. The Car broke down once, only once, and that was last summer in the parking lot of the Rose Garden where I was dumping recycling. My house is situated on the same Rose Garden, so I had to walk but a few yards to get home, where I waited in air-conditioned comfort for the tow truck.

The Car is in the shop today. The Car always knows when it's convenient to show that it needs attention. I don't have to go to work today, and The Car's key began struggling to turn the ignition switch yesterday. Today was the best possible day for me to rise long before dawn to take The Car to the repair shop and then walk home 2 miles in time to walk The Child another 2 miles to his school bus stop. Had this occurred last week, I'd probably be institutionalized by now.

So although my original intent was to present The Car as yet another "issue" that I have to deal with, actually, The Car is on my side. It's cheap, reliable, considerate and cute.

And if I really stretch my perception, there's a positive side to all of this. The job loss will create an unprecedented opportunity for adventure. My sister's illness provides reminder of the fleeting nature of life and the wisdom of living each day to the fullest. The court case takes the problems between father and son out of my hands. So far, the father's unreasonable behavior has resulted in no visitation rights, not even supervised, which makes The Child happy. If I really wanted to, I could refinance that 15-year mortgage to a 30-year with lower payments, but I choose to hold onto my current loan with its 4.5% interest rate.

And besides, I've always wondered what it would be like to work at Wal-Mart.....

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Blizzard of '08

OK, I stand corrected. Spring is NOT here, and winter prevails. This is the most snow I have witnessed since my childhood in upstate New York.

The blowing of the blizzard has added to the effect of the snow, creating impressive drifts.

My chances of traversing this driveway anytime soon (in my low-to-the-ground Honda Civic) are slim to none.

It would be easy to lose the dog in such massive snow. After a brief romp he was ready to retreat to his warm bed.

I thank my lucky stars that my house hasn't suffered a power outage like some houses in the area have. Amazingly, my cable and internet access are also unaffected by the extreme goings-on outdoors. And in an act of utter defiance, the amaryllis began blooming today.

Monday, March 03, 2008

spring thaw

Three days ago, this was the scene outside of my front door. Most of us around here have grown weary of the storm warnings and weather alerts. Still, there's no denying the pristine beauty.

This was what my house looked like.

Today it's challenging to find any remaining snow or ice. I placed The Child's snowboard and saucer sled back in storage.

Notice the narrow ribbon of stubborn snow on the edge of the woods. Is it my imagination, or is the grass looking slightly green?

Most of the world outside of my house today looks like this- devoid of any hint of winter. I spied a chipmunk scurrying about, hopeful that his world was coming back to life. I imagine his legs were a bit stiff, but his speed belied that notion.