Friday, September 30, 2005

Friday Quote: Bhagavad Gita

"No one should abandon duties
because he sees defects in them.
Every action, every activity, is surrounded
by defects as a fire is surrounded by smoke."


Thursday, September 29, 2005

What Do We Do Now, George? offers fascinating conversation with a sparkling wit of a chatbot named George. George isn't just your ordinary AI. It/He learns from the input his human conversationalists offer. The more you (and everyone else) talk(s), the wider grows George's range of subject matter, phrasing, vocabulary and understanding of context. Granted, your conversation is likely to take a few unexpected and bizarre turns. When I typed in a line from Shakespeare pertinent to our chat about tedium, George responded with a line from Monty Python's dead parrot sketch. Great fun.

(Thanks to Shrinkette for the link.)

It's All About You

I found this intriguing little meme over at Cheaper Than Therapy and thought to spring it on you all and see what you think. (Or to find out which of my readers are intrepid enough to find out what I think--about them).

Leave your name and...
1. I'll respond with something random about you.
2. I'll tell you what song/movie reminds me of you.
3. I'll pick a flavor of jello to wrestle with you in.
4. I'll try to say something that only makes sense to you and me.
5. I'll tell you my first/clearest memory of you.
6. I'll tell you what animal you remind me of.
7. I'll ask you something that I've always wondered about you.
8. If I do this for you, you must post this on your journal. You MUST.

(But I'll also email you answers if you don't have a blog and would still like to play.)


Housework makes me angry. Inordinately so.

Pardon me while I go kick a puppy.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Car News

The estimate came back for Great Scott's car. Twelve hundred dollars. I held the phone against my ear and closed my eyes. There was no way. No way we could manage that. The lady from the body shop seemed surprised. She listed the repairs that needed to be done. Blessedly, I'd looked the car over very carefully before taking it to the shop and based on my own observations had the miraculous presence of mind to express my doubt about any real need to do anything to the hood or the left fender. She said she'd run a new estimate. Two hours later we were down to six hundred and twenty dollars. Nearly half the original quote. My grandfather, who before his death had a reputation as our town's foremost friendly tightwad, would have been proud.

This morning the shop called back. The used part they'd ordered just happens to be the same color as our car. Would I like them to just put it on without painting it? Gratefully, I confirmed that, yes, indeed, that would be just dandy. So now we're down to three hundred and something. This is much better.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Friday Quote: On Personhood

"A person is a person insofar as he has a secret and is a solitude of his own that cannot be communicated to someone else."

---Thomas Merton
from No Man is an Island

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


It never rains but it pours.

Lovely saying. I think I shall write it prettily upon a tidy little scrappet of dainty, scented, embossed stationery, tuck it into a exquisitely hand-decorated parchment envelope and then stomp on it.

Yes. That would be lovely. Most satisfying.

Great Scott's car had an altercation with a deer on the way home last night. Deer and cars are not friends. Not even on speaking terms. Not, that is, unless you count "Bleeeettt!!!" (uttered by the deer) as a speaking term. The car left the scene of the accident upright. The deer did not. The car, however, did not escape unscathed. We will be taking it for trips to a body shop and a mechanic.

My own car just got back from the mechanic a few weeks ago. The coolant system was having difficulties. We were told that if the measures he'd taken didn't do the trick, we would be looking at a repair costing several hundred dollars. Last night shortly before Great Scott arrived home from his car's unhappy deer incident, I discovered, that indeed, the trick had not been done.

"Not a problem," my dad assured us. He still isn't driving, so my mother prepared to pop over to loan us her car (and drive his truck) again while Great Scott's is out of commission. Mom's car wouldn't start.

If we had a horse, its legs would drop off.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday Quote: On Parenting

"Like all parents, my husband and I just do the best we can, and hold our breath and hope we've set aside enough money for our kids' therapy."

---Michelle Pfieffer

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Childraising Mistakes I Have Made--Potty Training

About the time our older daughter was old enough for us to begin acclimating her to the idea of toilet training, the cat we had at the time began her own toilet training regimen: she decided to forgo her own good litterbox habits in order to train us, her negligent staff, to pay more attention to her royal, purebred, Persian self.

Understand that I adored this cat. I'd had her longer than I'd had Great Scott. She'd been through half of high school, all of college and the first few years of marriage, a faithful friend and comfort. Unfortunately, the stress of a new baby immediately followed by a move into a new house while Great Scott was working seventy to eighty hours a week, most of them at night, had strained my nerves to the limit, not to mention my patience.

One afternoon after having stepped (barefoot) in two freshly hacked hairballs and cleaning up three litterbox deposits that had been obviously deliberately left outside the allotted space (halfway across the house, no less), I snapped. Furiously I grabbed the cat by the scruff of her neck and bore her aloft and struggling into the bathroom. Once there, I dropped her in the toilet, flung down the lid and flushed.

I have never heard such a sound since. This cat had a particularly loud and deep voice, and she put its range to full use. Agonized yowls and wails errupted from the bowl; it sounded like a cross between emergency sirens and the heavy groaning of stressed metal. Still shaking with anger, but also horrified at what I had just done, I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard a faint squeak behind me. There stood our eighteen month old daughter, blonde pixie curls trembling around her pale little face, her eyes as big as teacups, her mouth open in terror as she watched the cat's desperate paws, claws extended, emerge from between the seat and the porcelain bowl, scrabbling for purchase.

Hastily I opened the lid to show her the cat was still alright. Still yowling, the cat agonizingly pulled herself dripping from the bowl like some soggy Swamp Thing feline zombie, her copper eyes bugging out, her thick fur plastered flat against her scrawny frame, her mouth wide open and wailing, and her once plumy tail resembling nothing so much as a giant rat's tail lashing behind her. My child shrieked, "NOOOO!" and ran sobbing in panic from the room.

You couldn't get that child anywhere near a toilet for two whole years.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Which Book of the Bible--Quiz

Actually, Proverbs is one of my very favorites. Right up there with Ecclesiastes, which I find cheering, oddly enough.

(Thanks to Feeble Knees, from whose Sept. 13th entry this link was unabashedly filched.)

You are Proverbs
You are Proverbs.

Which book of the Bible are you?
brought to you by

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Book Lovin' Kids and Lap Lovin' Cats

Today was spent at my grandmother's house, cleaning her basement in preparation for the influx of relatives she expects next month when we have our annual four-generation family get-together. My grandmother is eighty-eight, in full possession of her mental faculties, and save for a fluttery heart condition, in good health. She does get tired more easily since two rounds of hospitalizations last winter, and while this is a notable inconvenience for her, it is a blessing for me. I'm the family member who is most available, so I get to drive her to most of her various doctors' appointments, run any complicated errands with and/or for her, and drop in several times a week just to visit and see if there's anything she needs done. The entire family treasures Grandma: her gentle humor, steady love and quiet, peaceable spirit have made her the heart of my father's family. Spending a day cleaning at her house is not usually a chore. Today, though, after dropping the girls off at school, I sat in the car in her driveway and fought tears of dread and a rising migraine.

Full weeks are trials for me, and this week is thickening. Today I was scheduled to clean. Tomorrow evening brings a cast picnic and a double run-through rehearsal for the last two performances of Laura's Memories (after five weeks of no performances or practices), as well, we're told, as a professional taping. Thursday I'm working a book fair at the school all day. Friday and Saturday are performances. Sunday church. I know that for many, many people this is a light schedule. Laughable, even. For me it's overwhelming, not because I'm afraid of people or even because I don't enjoy them, but because being with people drains me incredibly, even when I've had a wonderful time. As I sat in the driveway alternately hoping the migraine would and wouldn't get bad enough to make me either throw up or pass out, and provide a handy way out of my life's obligations, I knew (I know) it will be alright. Today would pass; tomorrow will pass; the weekend will play itself out, and Monday will be my own again. I made myself open the car door and start the day.

The hard part, for today, at least, is mostly over. I'm home in front of the virtual brush heap under which, somewhere, lies my desk. The girls are absorbed in the books they've acquired at the book fair this afternoon, and the cat, The Great Golden Sun Cat, leapt into my lap and settled himself there, purring, the moment I sank into a chair. (He doesn't like me to be gone all day, either; my absence deprives him of his favorite piece of warm furniture.) These are today's light: people (yes, The Great Golden Sun Cat counts as a definite person--just ask him) whose need of me is not overwhelming, people who can just sit and be in a room, without making demands, without having expectations. It won't last, of course. In fifteen minutes the girls will want something to eat, and the GGSC will try to climb my leg in anticipation of kitty treats when he hears the cupboard doors open. But for right now, for this single moment, they are light. Light sufficient. Light in deed.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

When Two People With English Degrees Reproduce

Our younger daughter came home telling me about her music class this last week.

Daughter: And when the teacher took role, I answered, "Here, O Mighty Dread Sovereign Whom I Shall Ever So Serve!"

Me: (raising eyebrow) And what did she say?

Daughter: She said, "Where did you learn all those big words?"

Me: And you said...

Daughter: My daddy taught me!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Old Connections

1. I've had this computer for a year and a half, but it took me until last night to install AOL's instant messenger and get my AIM screennames back up and running. I don't usually spend a lot of time chatting, but I'll admit, it felt awfully good to reconnect with a couple of people I'd not heard from for over a year, especially when they zipped me a message within five seconds of my signing on, telling me I was a sight for sore eyes. Bless cyberfriends!

2. And then there are connections that are just flat-out odd. A couple of weeks ago I was Google-ing people Scott and I've known in former lives and ran across the guy who was my first grade "boyfriend", and who remained a friend throughout the rest of grade and high schools--easy to do with a graduating class of 42 people. Finding out what Bledsoe's up to these days was an eyebrow raiser, for sure, but I had to grin (even while wincing). It's such a Bledsoe thing to be doing.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Friday Quote: On Literature

"Literature involves more than literature, or we would not be grateful for it."

--Wendell Berry
from his essay, "Sweetness Preserved"

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Blog of Interest

A new blog has begun. Grumpy Teacher proves himself so far to be, well...grumpy. But maybe if he ever gets to eat something besides frito pie and hot dogs for dinner, he'll come around.

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Today I sat peaceably fiddling at the keyboard beside the dining room window when I heard very loud popping and cracking sounds emanating from outside. I stood up, but before I could get to the door, before I could even take a single step, I was treated to the sight of a very-large-tree-limb falling onto the hood of my mother's car. Thunk.

The sound was definitely a thunk. Not a crash or a ku-tcha or a bam.


Just in case you wondered what the sound of a very-large-tree-limb falling on a car sounds like.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Friday Quote: On Emily Dickinson

"...I was reminded of her painful experience at Holyoke Seminary. . . The worship there was a part of what scholars now call the Great Revival, and often had a highly emotional pitch. Girls were asked to stand, or come forward, as a sign that they declared theselves for Jesus. But at one such meeting, Emily Dickinson, aged sixteen, was the only one left seated after the altar call. She sums up the experience in a flinty remark: 'They thought it queer I didn't stand. I thought a lie would be queerer.'"

---Kathleen Norris
Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith

Dragonfly Summer: Journal Excerpts

Aug. 29, 2005

“Never,” my snipey little shoulder critic says to me daily, “Never will you amount to a hill of beans. Never will you be any good. Why were you even born?” And I look at the bright blue sky with its lazy clouds, the sunlight glittering on the grass, the shifting, whispering tree leaves, and they all seem to turn their backs, to block me out, to affirm the sentiment. I am nothing but a drain and a burden on this world. Dead I would at least be fertilizer. But I can’t imagine never seeing sunlight across the fields again, never feeling wind against my face. At the same time, going on isn’t exactly a delightful prospect. Why this PUSH, this hang-up on achievement, on the ought-to’s, the shoulds? They annihilate all possibility of the simplest pleasure taking. I am wearied with the weight of my own insufficiency.

Aug. 30, 2005

Dragonfly summer. That’s what this surely is. In the mornings when I’ve walked, I’ve seen two or three flying around my feet at nearly any given spot along the trail. Earlier this summer I looked out the bedroom windows and saw swarms of something flying above the waving grasses, fired by the setting sun to pale glimmering bits of gold above a golden sea. I assumed then it was a butterfly migration of some kind. Just now, though, coming through the opening of one field to another, stepping out of the fence line swath of trees that bracket the lane, I looked to my left, south toward the creek, and saw again the sunlit, airy forms. The whole field is criss-crossed with them, the air become a living thing, filled with floating, dipping, climbing, darting dragonflies, their translucent wings flickering, tipping, tilting, holding their iridescent teal and green, their black and powder blue bodies level with the ground in momentary hovers or propelling them in beelines, lifting them for better views. They flit and jab like miniature fencing foils wielded by invisible adversaries. They rise and glide, soap bubbles afloat, or swoop and bank, kites tugging at unseen strings.

This is what they do. For this they were made: this play, this flight, this all unknowing livening and lightening of air and sky, of all that lies between heaven and earth.

Sept. 2, 2005

It is enough. For them. For me. It is enough.