Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Out the window of the Hilton.

Dr. Write and I made it to the big city. We ate amazing food at the Union Square Cafe, and now? Now we are exhausted, so we are watching Sex and the City, in a stupor.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Or not--I have piles of black skirts, black, white, and gray shirts, jeans, black tights, ready to pack . . . how boring can you pack? Sheesh. Next, I will add my two pairs of black boots. Gaaa. Maybe I'll paint my nails black and wear black lipstick.

New York City: look out. The Salt Lake Contingent is on the move. Wearing the least exceptionable clothing possible, unless another wardrobe concept (that's Wardrobe Concept®) presents itself. Maybe I'll do all the magic with scarves. And earrings.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Critical factors in the Jazz win over the Spurs.

1. I left the room when the Jazz started to play bad.
2. I stood up rather than sitting down when the score got too close (easier to leave the room if necessary).

and, most importantly,

3. used the remote to mute Craig Bolerjack, because when you couldn't hear his voice, the Jazz played better.

The Jazz may want to think about that last one. They may want to do a little informal research of their own.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Stressed out? Anxious? Need to calm down?


1. Make some tea and drink it while reading a big fat paper. Talk over the interesting stories with your companion.
2. Talk to your daughter in Scotland.
3. Finish reading your Scottish police procedural.
4. While you're at it, fall asleep for a little while or an hour and a half. If possible, have your dog take this nap with you.
5. Go to the dog park where the melting snow sluices off and out of the park like a harmless flood.
6. Make a supper out of vegetables and also have some apple crisp.
7. Contemplate the list of stuff you still have to do in the next two days.
8. Watch part of the Screen Actors Guild Awards show because it's important.
9. Decide to get up early tomorrow.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


1. put together teaching portfolio.
2. not freak out whilst in NYC, because it is big and I am small, it is groovy and I am not, it is large and contains multitudes and I, I might be puny and kind of a wimp.
3. remember that NYC and conference therein are an opportunity! a big fun opportunity!
4. pack economically.
5. get all work done before leaving Wednesday morning.
6. take down Christmas tree before Feb. 1.
7. stay calm.
8. read Scottish thriller to stay calm.
9. send three packets of poems, the ones that have come back from the short-sighted editors with bad taste, out before I leave on Wednesday.
10. remember not to not have a good time in NYC.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Who do you love.

Or what? My daughter the makeup artist (and so much more!) tagged me to post three things I love, not to include my husband, my children, or Diet Coke (everyone loves those!). Here are three things I love:

1. I love the movies. I said to my friend the poet Jennifer once that I thought I loved movies more than literature. "I think we all feel that way at least sometimes," she said in a reasonable tone. There are times at the movies when I think life just doesn't get better this: when the way the opening frames unfold makes me feel like sitting up and paying attention with every cell in my body, or like I can relax into total bliss. Remember the beginning of Trainspotting? When Renton and Spud are racing along the pavement, and Renton, in voiceover, says, "Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family, Choose a fucking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. " Remember that? I loved that. [note: for those who love me but don't love that language, please forgive me. But I did love it.]

2. I love cooking a feast for my family. I have a little book that, come to think of it, my daughter the makeup artist gave me; in this book, I plan the meal, including sometimes the platters and bowls upon which I will serve each dish. I write recipes that I have devised in the process of cooking the feast. I label the event and sometimes the date. I love the planning, the shopping, the feast itself, and the aftermath, even, when we sometimes do three loads of dishes in the dishwasher. The historian is an excellent collaborator, making the house fit for company while I cook. We both clean up, and he is endlessly tolerant of my post-game analysis. "Wasn't that sauce amazing? I think everyone loved the salad. It was cool to have three desserts, didn't you think? I think everyone had a great time, don't you?" Plus--the leftovers.

3. I love it when Bruiser runs. Last night, after it snowed a little during the evening, the historian and I took Bruiser out for a walk. Because it was dark and not very many people or cars were about, we let him run without holding his leash--he's become more responsive, not as in days of yore when he would bolt out the front door and play keep-away endlessly. He'd draw up to a fence or a low-lying shrub or a lamppost or a mailbox to sniff it diligently, deposit three drops of pee, and sniff again. Then he'd wheel around and run for one hundred feet or so, pause to check out our progress behind him, locate another sniffable object to investigate and mark. It was a lovely half hour, watching a completely happy dog take off in search of the purely beautiful, cold, fascinating world.

I feel that Abbey, counterintuitive, assertively unhip, Dr. Write, middlebrow, and gilian should declare their loves. No spouses, children, or beverages allowed.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bonne anniversaire to the historian.

Here are ten of my many birthday wishes to the historian:

1. that the most progressive possible Democrat wins the nomination, and then the White House.
2. that someone in his life gets it together to create a calmer, gentler, less chaotic household.
3. that he gets plenty of nice days to take a bike ride. Soon.
4. that when we show up to eat out, the restaurant has excellent, innovative vegetarian options.
5. that the grandkids give him doughnuts for a birthday present.*
6. that the good health he deserves for living so well and so mindfully be his in full measure.
7. that we have many gatherings with the whole family this year at our house.
8. that his clothing be sweatshop-free.
9. that he will take the opportunity to turn up the volume when he plays jazz on the stereo.
10. that bluebirds sing when he walks by, flowers nod at his passing, and fish leap from the river, because he is so swell.

Happy birthday!

*Mission accomplished--the grandsons chose a box of doughnuts to give to their Papa.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Listen up, people.

Something's got to give. It's late January, and the vestiges of Christmas, well, they're about to bury me. My desk in my study is eight books deep on every square inch, and where it's not eight books deep, it's art implements or old cameras or other kinds of whatnot. Ribbon, giftbags, tape, scissors. That's because I needed to move the books, art implements, old cameras and whatnot into the study so there could be Christmas in the living room and kitchen. But that was weeks ago, and now there's clearly some serious cleaning and organizing to do and I cannot seem to summon the will to do it. Tomorrow is the historian's birthday, and I need to get his presents sorted. But Christmas is still in the way.

This is leaving out entirely the whole Christmas tree situation. Which is not good.

Where are my inner resources, people? Are they somewhere buried under the books, art implements, cameras and whatnot? Or has Christmas eaten them?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Better jobs than mine (part 39).

People, it was cold today, particularly during the part of the day when I was walking to my car, and thereafter. Cold, as in "cold." But it was all good, because after an extremely warm greeting from both Bruiser and the historian when I got home, the mail came, and there was a Sundance catalog. Good for browsing, good for venal envy, good for a good time before tossing it into the recycling bin.

Near the end of the catalog was an item: Paradox Pants. How, you may ask yourself, can mere trousers be paradoxical? Simple: they are "soft yet strong, fashionable yet functional."

Trendy yet timeless? Cute yet insufferable? Smart yet stupid? Maybe, cropped yet full-length? Come on, play along: ------- yet ---------. Dingy yet distinguished. Dorky yet delectable. Dopey yet Sleepy. Clearly my great powers of language manipulation are misplaced, misspent, misapplied, misused. Also: undercompensated. Undercompensated yet unappreciated. Wait, that's not a paradox.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Holiday roundup.

Today I:

1. got up and ate raisin bran.
2. answered a few student e-mails.
3. improved the design of a week-to-work schedule for one of my online courses, although I'm pretty sure the design isn't actually improved, and there will still be confusion. Time for a sabbatical.
4. went to see a movie with College Daughter (Mad Money, which was what it was, and nothing more, which was just fine with me--it had to be seen for various reasons, including Diane K., who needs someone to write her a better movie, already!).
5. came home and ate leftover soup for lunch.
6. took a very small nap.
7. started a novel, Wash This Blood Clean From My Hands, a French thriller (in translation) by Fred Vargas, a woman, and it's good, as well as one of a series, all good news.
8. read the novel obsessively.
9. made and ate a modest supper.
10. went to a jazz concert, which had some high points and less than high points.
11. came home and ate a cupcake, which was what it was, which was delicious, which was just fine with me--it had to be eaten for various reasons, including the fact that every day goes better with cake.
12. made a handout explaining how to create an e-portfolio for one of my classes.
13. posted this blog post.

I didn't: clean up one damn thing in my house. Write a new poem. Watch tv. Take down my Christmas tree. But it was a pretty good day, all the same.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I know, no one cares,

but I made a delicious salad for dinner: it was
  • a bunch of arugula from Chad the farm entrepreneur and winter vegetable purveyor--so it was very rough, not all delicate like spring arugula, with some of the leaf tips kind of bronze-y--
  • two clementines, peeled and sectioned,
  • raw unsalted pistachio nuts, and
  • a slice of toasted, dried out, rubbed-with-garlic, then broken-into-pieces country French loaf, also known as "croutons."

Twas all dressed with olive oil, a splash of champagne vinegar, salt and pepper. Just so you know, it was delicious.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

For the record.

The last four games of Scrabble I've played, I've lost to running son, other teenage boys, my niece, and the historian.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Things I like about my job (January edition).

1. Two weeks into the new semester I am still mostly caught up.
2. There are only two semesters in the year.
3. The second week means only about seven weeks till spring break and maybe just twelve or thirteen until it's all over.

4. And the students. Of course. Gosh! The students.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The interesting bits.

I'm reading a novel, Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively, a writer I've been only dimly aware of. I picked it up because Maureen Corrigan talked about Lively briefly on one of those end-of-the-year discussions of the best books of the year, on Fresh Air. This isn't the book Corrigan mentioned--this one won the Booker Prize in the late 80s. Anyway, I'm not crazy about the book so far--the main character, the narrator, seems to be smug and rich, condescending, and (worst of all!) a self-confessed terrible mother! (Yes, my feminist readers, this speaks volumes about me, I realize.)

However: I'm forging on because of these two passages which really spoke my language:

"We open our mouths and out flow words whose ancestries we do not even know. We are walking lexicons. In a single sentence of idle chatter we preserve Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse; we carry a museum inside our heads, each day we commemorate peoples of whom we have never heard. More than that we speak volumes -- our language is the language of everything we have not read. Shakespeare and the Authorized Version surface in supermakets, on buses, chatter on radio and television. I find this miraculous. I never cease to wonder at it. That words are more durable than anything, that they blow with the wind, hibernate and reawaken, shelter parasitic on the most unlikely hosts, survive and survive and survive."

and this:

"Children are not like us. They are beings apart: impenetrable, unapproachable. They inhabit not our world but a world we have lost and can never recover. We do not remember childhood -- we imagine it. We search for it, in vain, through layers of obscuring dust, and recover some bedraggled shreds of what we think it was. And all the while the inhabitants of this world are among us, like aborigines, like Minoans, people from elsewhere safe in their own time capsule."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fake blood.

1. Johnny Depp is quite amazing--scary, compelling, vivid--in Sweeney Todd. So are Helena Bonham-Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Alan Rickman, and various other more minor players, including the kid who plays Toby, Edward Sanders.


2. Whosoever claims that the blood, gore, and throat-slitting of this movie is somehow not scary or dread-filled, is campy or played just for fun, is either way more sophisticated than I am (probably, it wouldn't be too hard to be more sophisticated than I am) or has seen too many scary, bloody, gory and throat-slitting movies.

I had to watch whole scenes/songs by not watching them. I actually thought this movie was quite powerful--but I couldn't watch the bloody parts. And not only was it bloody, it was dark. Very dark and nihilistic. Like, so dark I might be thinking about some of it for quite awhile. Or maybe having horrible, bloody, gory nightmares about it, despite what some sophisticated superannuated types may say.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My sincere apologies to all herbivores.

It's possible that you, my dear reader, have already viewed this hilarious clip about bacon. But I think it's also possible that many of you have not. I found it on dooce (essential reading, by the way), but it was my Scotland daughter who kept nagging me to watch it. I thought I felt too low to laugh. She was right, I was wrong. I laughed, and so will you.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Here's the poem I took to my group yesterday, with some revisions based on their feedback:

For days on end it snows

I’ve had enough of this quiet, woven of baffled fans,
sleep, and everyone gone. Out of our bed, I want a nest

made of newspaper, dogs, books, children, music and chatter.
In the night I wake, expect to hear her huff and shift.

At the end she lay her head on her paws. For as long
as we wanted, we could still stroke her soft ears.

Downstairs, a bedroom no one sleeps in,
the bed unmade, discarded socks dimly remembering

their former feet. The bird once trapped there, beating.
Medallions, pennants, trophies. I ready myself to order it.

I should open the door, let everything out that wants out,
let stillness settle before I arrive with my heave and flow.

On the lawn up the street, snowmen, four of them,
still and cold. On his walk, our other dog abruptly

bristles and growls at them: something amiss,
a new series of masters, white overlords aligned

suddenly in the yard he used to sniff and prowl.
I always loved waking to what had fallen in the night:

first thing, she’d bury her face in it,
then lie down, the snow like a mother.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Nothing on.

Currently, I'm watching Mean Girls. Actually, I'm in the other room, so technically I'm not "watching" it. I'm blogging. Also, I have put away some clothes and started a novel and taken a little nap with Bruiser. And had a cup of hot chocolate. With marshmallows. Now I feel a little sick and possibly a bit overheated.

College daughter watched Extreme Home Makeover and cried her eyes out, and now she's recounting the whole sad, horrible story. What the hell.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

I have a few questions.

1. Is there someone who's planning to take my Christmas tree down for me, or help me decide what to do about the poinsettias, or who plans to enfold my shiny little Christmas objets in tissue paper? Because I could use some help with that.
2. When will there be a movie (preferably a comedy) that I can watch without effort and still feel happy at the end of it?
3. Is Bruiser lonely? He seems lonely.
4. Am I missing something, or have I eaten at all the restaurants in SLC and now they seem stale and unimaginative?
5. Is the world more full of incompetent people than it was just a couple of weeks ago? Or is it that all the systems they have for doing practically everything have taken a turn and become really, really bad?
6. Why is it just pasta polenta rice polenta pasta around here?
7. Why did the people at Wild Oats let me leave without the butter, the cheese, and the mushrooms that I paid for?
8. Is it just me? Because it seems like maybe it's just me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

The house isn't empty, but there is an emptiness in it.

No movie tonight--we had to fuss around getting to a restaurant that wasn't too crowded, and I felt so very put out, like a child, that I just didn't want to see Margot at the Wedding. In fact, I might never want to see that movie. We were home by 8:30. Bruiser was whole-body-waggingly glad to see us. College daughter was out with her friend. Our bed is kind of nestlike, with the historian gently snoring and the dog curled up between us. I realized earlier today that one time I miss my son is when I pick up my cell phone, because I usually texted him sometime during the day, and now I won't, and he won't be texting me either. Or when we lock the door when the three of us--me, the historian, college daughter--are home. No one else will be coming home tonight. Watching a crappy movie on television. Should just go to sleep. Will, soon. Getting the television to a volume that is still audible but won't disturb the historian--I'm pretty good at it. Should just go to sleep. Will, soon.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Getting through the days after.

1. Drank a whole pot of tea with milk and one cube of demerara sugar per cup.
2. While working, listened to a lot of music I've recently acquired or downloaded--Mavis Staples, Martha Wainwright, Colleen (Les Ondes Silencieuses), Mike Wexler, Rufus Wainwright, DJ Rekha, Cat Power (her Covers recording).
3. Answered a kajillion student e-mails about trying to add my classes.
4. Reordered the discussion topics on my online course.
5. Wore new earrings.
6. Tried to stay warm.
7. Laundered while working.
8. Finished giving late grades (no more nagging e-mails from the e-Registrar Overlord of Failure to Give Grades).
9. Oatmeal with raisins for breakfast.
10. Tried not to brood, which is challenging, as I am a world-class brooder.
11. Rejoiced over the fact that my nervous stomach pains are abating.
12. Missed Betty's huffing and sweet dog smell.
13. Looked at the pictures from yesterday several times. A lot of times.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Indicators that my organizational strategies might not quite be working for me.

Today, I found myself at the Martha Hughes Cannon Building on North Temple, State of Utah Vital Records Department, ordering and paying for three copies (one for me, one for his dad, one for him while he's traveling) of my youngest child's birth certificate for something like the 6th time in his still rather short life.

But who's counting.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Artifacts from my personal history.

My dad passed these photos along to me--thanks, Dad!

I'm the one on the left--the other is my second cousin Connie. (At least I think she's my second cousin.)

Here I am, wearing the national costume of Japan.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A new human art.

This afternoon, I went over to running son's dad's house to help with the packing. The dad and his wife are very organized and philosophical packers, far more so than I am. They know excellent ways to pack everything, from shoes to socks to dress pants.

For instance, they believe in keeping a photocopy of documents (passport, birth certificate, immunization records) in each separate suitcase. They know how to roll socks and how to roll the garment bag. Shoes? each wrapped in a separate bag (so as not to mark the clothes or scuff each other), but put at the bottom of the bag, because they're weighty, and you don't want them weighing down the clothes, plus they form a base at the base of the bag. I did not pause to reflect how many times I have put shoes any old wherever in my bags. I do not have a philosophy of packing, but I could see how such orderly, considered packing might lead to other forms of order and consideration. So it was good running son had this tutelage and mentorship in the art of leaving this country, his friends and his family, to go to a foreign land.

Running son's dad went on an LDS mission to Argentina, Buenos Aires, back in the 70s. He lived through a coup and the craziness of the post-Peron years. It was a transformative experience for him in nearly every way. Today, I enjoyed watching running son and his dad transform chaos into order, every single thing he would need, just about, for two years into just three bags; seeing the dad teach the son a minor art, preparatory to the major one.

Things you need to pack carefully away when you're going to be gone for 2 years: all Nintendo systems and games. Choice concert and other important tee shirts. Utah Jazz player jerseys. Your various sports medals. Your dvds and cds. Your library card. Your old beat up belt.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The best thing I ever bought (part 1).

How did I manage to get to this point in my life without realizing that, when you get home from a hard day on high heels, putting slippers on is not just comfort but more like therapy? Say your feet have sad, sorry issues, dating back to childhood when they were forced to wear very cute but not wholly comfortable shoes, and going on through adulthood, the same old thing? But then you put on slippers, and all of a sudden your feet have a breakthrough, an insight into their condition that allows a new lease on life. "Faux shearling! All over and under! That glorious scuffing sound, as if made by an old person, on her way to make a tidy cup of cocoa!"

Thursday, January 03, 2008


The bad news is, Betty is sick again, and it probably means she won't be with us much longer. She has new tumors, this time on her spleen--we saw them on an ultrasound. Also, a mass in her thigh that's also probably a tumor. When we took her to the animal hospital for the ultrasound, we also noticed an infection on her front leg, which turned out to be an abcess, which could well stem from a compromised immune system. She was anemic, her gums very pale--it seemed like this all happened in, like, a weekend.

So she's had a blood transfusion which she seemed to be "holding onto," as the vet phrased it. So that's good. They infused her with antibiotics for the abcess, and we're continuing that process, but for the moment it's still pretty ugly, still draining. And the thing about dogs and an ugly draining wound? Apparently it's delicious, because they want to lick it.

This afternoon, after the long-ish holistic reading/bagel/pizza/assessment party, aka the 2010 assessment, I came home a little on the exhausted side, ready to take a little rest. I am having my traditional post-holiday collapse, with a little cold on top, just to make life special. I lay down with the dark little thriller I'm reading, a novel by Arnaldur Indridason called Jar City, set in Reykjavik. I kept dreaming possible directions for the plot, very wintry and subarctic, all accompanied by an anxious music of licking.

When I woke up, I took Betty outside. She wandered to find the perfect spot to pee, then found another spot to bury her face in the snow, then roll in it. Big snow-loving girl. She's happiest in the winter, in the snow.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Occupational hazards; or, Pedant, c'est moi.

From the New York Times Sunday Book Review, a letter from one Robert Epstein, no doubt a medievalist of great merit:

"Edward Hirsch's review of Simon Armitage's new translation of 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' (Dec. 16) welcomes with such sincere enthusiasm a book that will no doubt bring new appreciation of this great poem that only a pedant would quibble with details. I am that pedant."

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

In 2008,

I plan not to be exhausted. Ever.

I plan to launch no more young people on major ventures, thereby having to buy them 8 white shirts and 8 pairs of dress pants and small first aid kits and get them expedited passports. Or anything like this kind of preparation, or heartbreak.

I plan to keep the new couch [cue angelic choir] dog-nibble free.

I plan not to overbake for parties--if anyone wants a large pan of surplus buttermilk brownies, holla!

I plan to appreciate my parents more, because they are awesome.

I plan to get out of the house and walk around the block or a few blocks, nearly every day.

I plan to enjoy Betty while she's still around.

I plan to have my Christmas tree down before school starts.

I plan to cut way back on over-reacting.

I plan to see more movies, because I'm always pretty sure I'm not seeing enough.

I plan to play the Haydn Klaviersonaten, Band I, sitting on my piano.

I plan to paint the bedroom.

I plan to read novels, poetry, and select nonfiction (up immediately, Jar City & Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason; Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively; Wash this Blood Clean from my Hand by Fred Vargas; also Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins).

I plan to let go of things. I plan to take fewer things personally.

Also: I plan to capitalize on my 2007 successes, which include seeing my friends more regularly and acquiring more comfortable seating throughout the house. I plan not to backslide in a robust social life and good chair acquisition.


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