Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best of 2009.

Of course it's a partial list, I know that!

Technology: What technology made my heart sing this year? I'm so glad you asked:

  • my new iMac, which is ineffable.
  • Mac Book Pro: it's better than bad, it's good!
  • Various software and freeware: Final Cut Express and Screenr, Spezify. Fun for everyone.

Live Music: My most memorable live shows included

  • Regina Spektor
  • The Pretenders
  • Benny Green (jazz)
Los Angeles: Part one of the Los Angeles Project took place, formally, this past October. Highlights included:

  • Mulholland Drive, the San Gabriel and Santa Monica mountains, Topanga Canyon
  • The fishermen: at Royal Palms beach on a choppy, brilliant Sunday; off the Hermosa Beach pier on a Saturday night
  • The Getty. Creamy and delicious.

The West: Most of our trips this year were in the west (the rest of the west, aside from California). Each of these trips was splendid in its very own way:

  • Wyoming: South Pass, sunny both ways, and the Clark's Fork of the Yellowstone and environs.
  • Montana: Bozeman and Red Lodge (or Red Cloud Lodge, as I like to call it)
  • Seattle, to visit the historian's daughter, partner, and new baby boy.
  • Idaho: of course. For all the reasons, and more.

Retreats: Leaving one's home, in order to retrench, renew, recuperate, refresh, which I/we did par excellence in

  • Idaho, all summer, practically. I hope we get to do it again.

Reading: This year, I read--aside from the never-ending pile of detective novels and police procedurals--and loved:

  • The City & the City, China Mieville
  • To the Lighthouse, V. Woolf
  • Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

Movies: I already named some of my favorite movies of the year in my annual premature list:

  • The Hurt Locker
  • Bright Star
  • Eternal Moments
  • Summer Hours
  • A Serious Man. To the above, I add
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is fantastic.

Fashion: this year I am enjoying wearing

  • raw-edged ruffles, with a little
  • sparkle, preferably all in
  • gray.

Triumphs: things we conquered this year included

  • the mice (a provisional victory)
  • last semester (a definitive victory. I've recently decided this.)

Perhaps it goes without saying that the first eight months of 2009, during which I was on sabbatical or it was summer, were peerless: I wrote, I read, I made movies. I don't know if these months were, taken as a whole, the best of the best. But they were amazing. They were excellent.

Forecasts for 2010:

  • In 2010, I plan to take better care of myself.
  • I will make more music, and
  • I will make more video essays.
  • I will enjoy all my beloveds--family and friends--because they are my beloveds.
  • In 2010, I will write more poems, and
  • I will invite more people over.
Most of all, I want to remember 2009 as a year in which I loved and spent time with my family, loved and spent time with my friends, made many and varied verbal and visual artifacts, traveled, and cherished the lucky life I have. My life is full of blessings, and you, dear readers, are a part of that. Here's to you in the new year, happy, healthy, and full of sass. Bless.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

September yada yada yada the darkest part of the year.

OR: The Year in Pictures, la troisième partie.


We had a last Labor Day hurrah in Idaho. Hurrah!


Tiger RIP.


Ain't nothing but a beach thing. Hermosa Beach.

Possibly the raison d'etre for the L.A. Project: finding the Bartlett Motel, where my family stayed for six weeks when we moved there. I was fourteen. This motel had no swimming pool. We told the time by daytime game shows, sitcoms, and soaps, and we were damn good at it. Lomita holla!


Risked the Continental Divide and also Rock Springs, WY, where many a better man's (and woman's) dreams have gone to die, to visit our friends George and Maureen in Clark. 'Twas swell.

I am thankful for my sisters and brother (sister E here, representing).

I am thankful for my aunts and uncles (darling Aunt Sal, also representing).

I am thankful for my whole family in all its nooks, crannies, and permutations, actually.


Events of all stripes--dutiful (finishing the semester, grading, fretting about grading), infelicitous (the sick), felicitous (I won an XBox!), and festive (tree, present-buying and -making, craftacular)--all culminated in the arrival home of this young man:

and we just couldn't be happier for him to hang up his suit and stick around for awhile.

Tomorrow: the Best of 2009. As promised.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The year in pictures (part 2)

[In which we carry on with a scintillating retrospective of my life me me me me me in the months of May, June, July, and August. Attentive and regular readers of this blog will supply a counterpoint to these blithe narratives about the impending end of the sabbatical. WOE.]


There were a lot of grandchild birthdays. A LOT.

Eden's, for instance.

And Deacon's.

And Alex's!


In June, we were in Idaho, first with my folks to refresh our memory about opening for the season; then with my oldest dear friend. Nothing like it.


We were in Idaho. Wildflowers, rivers, birds. Sun moon rain. I wrote, slept, read. There were bats. The filth and the fury! It was Miriam's birthday, in Scotland, her fifth.


We went to Seattle to visit the historian's daughter, and it was beautiful and amazing as ever in that excellent town.

I had a birthday. Jenna and Rachel had a birthday (where are these pictures? Inquiring minds want to know!)

I had to go to work again. No, let me try that again: in times like these, I was pleased to find that I had a job still waiting for me. With students! and grading! and, more to the point, commitments I
had made when blithely still overestimating my enthusiasm
and/or capacity for extra commitments. No, let me try that again:
Back to school! Pencils, notebooks, my colleagues. WORK, hence

TAGS: retrospective, photos, Seattle

Monday, December 28, 2009

The year in pictures.

(HTMS: still ripping ideas off shamelessly [thanks, c jane]).

[Full disclosure: for those of you fact-checking, I acknowledge that the events described in the text and/or the images may or may not have "occurred" in the actual "months" indicated. But why are you "fact-checking"? Stop it!]


I was still on my sabbatical, hence had time to take moody pictures in my kitchen of stuff like this. It was cold, I think we can all agree upon that.


It was our anniversary, the 10th. We went to Carmel and tore it up, quaint beach town-style.


Dear Mr. Weather, Although this snow on the blossoms was poetic, I think that you failed to consider the fruit. Sincerely, htms

[also, Carter's birthday!]


I hung out with grandchildren, started making movies, panicked about my manuscript, doubted my worth in the great scheme of things, etc. &c. However, I also obtained the iMac of Power. So that was pretty good.

More months to come, in days to come. Also: The Best of 2009. Before 2009 is over, and that's a "promise."

"TAGS": months, calendar, retrospective, promises

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An ache in it.

Starting out the month of December with a week of sick--yes, I'm still whining about that--means that the rest of it is all compressed. All the festive, the baked, the decorative, the get-together-ness. Not to mention the grading.

This December has had and will have some big events in it. My son is coming home from Singapore, for instance, in just three days. In just three days, two years of his remote presence will be concluded, and he will be here to laugh with us, to eat meals, to see movies, listen to music, sleep with the dog. Last week, his older brother defended his master's thesis. We attended the defense and listened to the evidence of his accomplishment, his learning, his scholarship.

And then there are projects: my daughter raised a bunch of money with some of her friends to renovate and redecorate a room at the Ronald McDonald house. Another daughter finished up a successful semester at school, while working really hard to earn not quite enough money. And the transitions: another son just got a new job and is moving to Virginia. And Scotland daughter is very far away with her two beautiful daughters, and her husband who just got made the bishop of their ward.

I don't write very directly so often here about my kids and grandkids. I love them all so much. I am so proud of all of them. That--all that feeling, how powerful it is--that could be everything there is for me. It sometimes feels like my heart could break, over and over again, with the hugeness of it.

This week the mother of a son's good friend died in her sleep. She was only a little older than I am. I read her obituary today and saw the picture of her when she was a little younger. She was beautiful. She was a knockout. The story of her life--what she did, her accomplishments, what and who she leaves behind--I feel overwhelmed by these thoughts right now.

What is life for, except to live it? What is life for, if not to be overtaken by these loves?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Give me a G! Give me an R! Give me another R!

What's that spell? Grrrrr . . . . ading.

I like to have a method for everything, the people, and I know you like me to have a method too, so I can blog about it. Here's this semester's method:

1. Make a grid, with the students' names, the various categories for which there are possible points, a column for total points and a column for the grade. This is what's known as a "gradebook." They make them in both print and electronic versions. I like to make my own.

2. Put points in the grid that I should have been tracking all along, but why? when I can do it now?

3. Lie to myself in a grandiose, extravagant, and not-remotely-attached-to-reality fashion about how long it will take me, viz., "Oh yes! It will be done by Friday" (posted on Tuesday).

4. Buy a Christmas tree. Decorate it.

5. Add many new blogs to my Google Reader. My old blogs were getting a little sparse, a little threadbare (yes I'm talking to you if you don't post very much I hate you Facebook).

6. Define milestones. For instance, grade a whole set of this. Then rest. Then grade a whole set of that. Then go to a movie. Why rush? There's no need to rush. Christmas is, like, next week. That's days and days away.

7. Check the Facebook updates of people who are finished grading. Curse them. And love them, but: curse them!

8. Have a small crisis of self-worth. It goes like this: why did they (the students) do (pick your disappointing student behavior--fail to turn in X, scatter their group project documents hither and yon, fail to complete crucial, culminating project Y, etc.)? I am a terrible teacher. Their failings are my fault.

9. Regroup. Strategies for regrouping: toast. Cookies. Mid-grading blogging. Repeat step 8/step 9 sequence as necessary until all milestones (see step 6) are completed.

And yet, having completed a milestone, I am feeling rawther cheerful about the grading. Hello, I must be going to a movie. More grading later. Ta ta.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fa la la la la la la la la.

1. Crafts extravaganza.

In which the first seasonal episode (surely the last!) of egregious overspending at the craft store leads to a swell morning with grandchildren.

Retro buttons, dressmaker pins with pearly heads, styrofoam cones. Five grandchildren, ranging from age 2 to 6. That's right, sharp objects and small children. Four children and two adults made button trees, which are, I think we can all agree, damned cute and very merry.

Cloves, oranges, a nail for pre-poking the holes for the cloves, tea light candles. That's right, another craft including poking. The kids mainly vetoed this, the pomander craft. They wanted to move on to the cookies. And really, who can blame them.

Sugar cookies (Dr. Write's recipe, thank you very much as it worked beautifully and tasted great), icing in three colors (white, red, green), and about a dozen different kinds of sprinkles. Can you really have too many sprinkles? I don't think so. Each kid decorated about six sugar cookie trees, with optional icing-sprinkles-icing-more sprinkles layering. Also, intermittent cookie eating.

Lunch: paninis or peanut butter and honey or peanut butter and jam, or all three. Carrots, chips, grapes, oranges. Root beer. This was a big hit.

2. I really should be grading.

In which I yet again procrastinate moving from pre-grading (organizing scores, seeing what I have and what I don't, and yet again sending the "did you forget . . .?" e-mails which I swear swear swear to myself I'm going to stop doing) to the grading, and buy a Christmas tree.

It is beautiful, I only had to discard two strands of lights after having first tested them to see if they worked, and they worked, and then I put them on the tree and they didn't work. But that only made me a little sweaty. And now it is gorgeous. My grading will occur in a much more festive atmosphere. And it will be finished by Friday. Oh yes! It will be finished by Friday.

See for yourself:

TAGS: crafty, overspendy, festive, O tannenbaum, pre-grading

Monday, December 14, 2009

Vive la difference.


As I was washing my face before bed, I noticed that there was lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of cold water. Which was not getting warm. And thus, a house-capade which led us to the inescapable conclusion that our hot water heater was not working. A pilot light had gone out, which we--and by "we," I obviously mean "the historian"--could not get lit. Thus, a call to a plumber, but not until morning, because on the water heater, it says, and I quote, "If you cannot light the pilot light, call your pilot light lighting professional. But not until morning."

And thus, a slow fume on my part about turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer, things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world &c &c. Not to mention the toilet in the hall bathroom needs a whole new mechanism thingie. Not to mention we need weatherstripping everywhere and probably new windows. Not to mention the mice.

And thus, a conversation in the dark, 12:30-ish a.m.

Me: So, you're saying that you don't think the house is just f***ing with us. You're saying, stuff sometimes breaks, so then you just fix it. And that's just how it is.

The historian: Yes. The latter.

TAGS: chaos theory, second law of thermodynamics

Friday, December 11, 2009

Some awesome things.

20 beautiful libraries from around the world. (via go fug yourself, a continual fount of awesomeness)

A plethora of end-of-the-decade lists. (on kottke)

The above awesome things have inspired the following thoughts:

1. The Main Library in Salt Lake City is also beautiful. But it definitely has some competition.

2. Oh how I love lists. If I weren't occupied with other things, like buying buttons, pins, and styrofoam cones for the upcoming grandchildren craft extravaganza, and also about $100 worth of other stuff at the craft store that I totally needed, I would be making end-of-the-decade lists, too. Maybe I still will. I will add it to my "Shit I need to get done" list.

3. I won an XBox in a contest!!!!!!.

TAGS: win, beautiful, lists, buttons, craft store, $100

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My agenda is full.

Still to do:
  1. Grade everything. Literally. I'll be grading you, in fact. I hope you've turned everything in.
  2. Bake. Everything. Literally.
  3. Buy metric ton of butter for #2. Ditto sugar and flour. And sprinkles.
  4. Buy styrofoam cones and colorful buttons and dressmaker pins for button tree project (craft morning with grandchildren).
  5. Decorate.
  6. Transform home into welcoming place for returning missionary son. Wash his sheets, for instance.
  7. Make sure home is mouse-free for returning &c.
  8. Read desperately jargon-y theory book for theory book group.
  9. Propose possible new mission statement for theory book group: "Read more detective novels!"
  10. Get rid of nagging cough.
  11. Candy making.
  12. Make many, many homemade Christmas gifts.
  13. Execute grand schemes of homemade Christmas food gifts for friends and neighbors.
  14. Go to library for something good to read.
Well, I really don't have time to be blogging, even, what with all the above to do. I can't imagine why I feel kind of cheerful, despite all that. Last day of classes? Perhaps.

TAGS: end of semester, awful but cheerful, the goose is getting fat, crafts, butter, buttons

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


I don't know if anyone noticed this at all, but today it was very cold outside. Also, super snowy. I noticed this from all the windows in my house whence I checked out conditions whilst waiting for it to be safe for me to drive, or for the approaching hour of my first meeting, whichever came first.

Meanwhile, a mouse ran up and down the corridor, considering with apparent interest the humane mousetrap with a fresh peanut butter-coated saltine in it, without ever actually crossing the threshold of it. Without becoming "trapped," as it were. Running up and down the corridor, in plain view. All, "I love this corridor with its fresh scent of peanut butter and saltine. So much better than that cold-ass field out back!"

Meanwhile, I checked all the humane mousetraps every twenty minutes or so. I have so much faith in them! And so many mice to trap!

I'm still getting used to going outside again, after my long confinement in the House of Contagion. Very cold, for one. Snow-packed. Disorientingly bright. I need a pair of those Victorian sunglasses, the kind that protect your illness-addled brain from The Brightness.

Meeting, meeting, and the drive home. I came home to find that we had caught the (a?) mouse. I made dinner for the second night in a row, so that's something. We ate the very last one of the Chad-procured tomatoes. I let it sit quietly nestled in its bag for days and days, which turned out to be the optimal condition for it ripening to absolute perfection. We ate it with our baked penne and it was a last lucky hit of summer. The ne plus ultra of tomato, in December, on a snowy night.

Meanwhile, another mouse has been running up and down the corridor, disdaining the humane mousetrap while admiring its fragrance, congratulating itself on its excellent taste in shelter.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Alive, but only just.

Part one. This week I have dragged myself out of bed to

1. shower twice
2. make tea
3. open and close the door for Bruiser
4. go to one long, long long long long long long day at work
5. go to one short meeting the next day
6. fetch the remote.

Part 2. The last several mornings I awoke and thought, I think I might feel better. Then, sometimes just five minutes later, I thought, nope. Sometimes I actually got out of bed and made my cup of tea before this second thought came to me.

Part 3. DayQuil has not vanquished this insidious ailment. To get Biblical, which only seems appropriate for this affliction, DayQuil is as grass before the wrath of it. The affliction, I mean, not the Bible.

Part 4. I look horrible. I feel horrible, but the people, I really look horrible, and that just doubles down the whole demoralizing deal.

Part 5. Here are the things I have cooked this week: toast. tea. canned soup. leftovers. I'm not sure how you get better on a diet of that.

Part 6. Sometimes I thought Bruiser was taking care of me by laying with me, but then I realized he was mainly laying with me in the afternoon when the sun was streaming in the window. In other words, he could care less about me and my illness. He only cares about himself and his sun needs.

Part 7. And do my sinuses still ache? and do I feel dehydrated and congested? and did I sleep like I was dead this afternoon? and do I have meetings I should probably rouse myself to attend tomorrow?

And do I have faith that I will get better anytime soon?

TAGS: the lurgy, advanced whinging, no end in sight, symptoms, the people cry out for justice


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