Where’s my thing?

I hadn’t intended to spend so much time away from the keyboard, and it’s probably time for me to resume a regular writing schedule.

This summer I have been:

  • traveling
  • unraveling
  • cooking
  • booking
  • trashing
  • de-stashing
  • knitting
  • sitting
  • framing
  • gaming
  • watching
  • swatching
  • cleaning
  • gleaning
  • reading
  • feeding
  • drinking
  • thinking
  • walking
  • talking
  • spicing
  • ricing
  • altering
  • faltering
  • waiting
  • anticipating
  • entering
  • centering
  • renovating
  • innovating
  • breading
  • dreading
  • driving


  • surviving

The surviving is really the most important part, because without it there would be nothing else. So when I have gotten to the end of a day and I have not had an extra two or three hours in which to collect my thoughts and write creatively, I have usually chosen to go to bed and try to get some restful sleep. That’s not always what I get, but one has to try. It’s analogous to sitting at the computer (or notebook) and hoping for good writing to result. It doesn’t always happen, but it certainly won’t happen if you don’t even show up. So I’m taking care of myself. My friends who struggle day to day have also been taking care of themselves, sometimes just enough to still be with us. Força, folks. Força.

It’s also been a summer of goodbyes, as some of my campus colleagues are saying their farewells as they retire or move on to other jobs. Some transitions were anticipated, but others were not. I’m also working to welcome and integrate several new employees into our department, our college, our campus… and in some cases our state and nation. What a great responsibility to be entrusted with!

At home I have been working all summer — with the kidlets — to get rid of the things we don’t need and shape the things we do need into more appropriate arrangements for us. All of my four children are at least teenagers now, and some of the “childish things” of our past can be passed along to younger human beings. Our rooms and living spaces can also mature a bit with us. Each room is still in a bit of flux, but I am proud to say that we finally got rid of that stinkin’ ugly couch that was too short and too poofy-soft for anyone to comfortably sleep on. HUZZAH. It only took two months of planning and a day’s worth of emails and phone calls.


Okay, so, he’s a dog.

I am particularly excited about some room changes that should happen this week. A renovated and repaired dresser is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow; a consignment-store loft bed could be assembled this week; a new mattress to fit the loft bed could arrive ten days after the order is placed and an old mattress set will be removed from the premises (okay, that’s not quite happening this week, but I got the timeline information today, so it should still count in the imminently-occurring category).

We are working on our rooms because they are reflections of who we are and who we hope to be. We have filled Goodwill-donation bags over and over again with who we used to be.

The house is still cluttered, and our identities are still clouded. The future is filled with uncertainty, as it has always been. But we breathe, and we eat, and we write, and we try to sleep as we also try to discover who we are.

The title of this post comes from a kids’ show associated with a comedian I will no longer name. There was a particular episode in which the title character yearned to discover what his “thing” was after seeing the other members of his family display their different talents and passions. But it also refers to an instrumental performance by Rush, featuring Neil Peart, AKA The Professor. This evening I watched and listened to a seven-minute Buddy Rich video, shared by a Facebook friend, that awed me. I have been incredibly privileged not only to have attended several Rush concerts in the 1990s but also to have taken Eldest to one with me before the band retired. In honor of two of the geniuses of percussion, here is a video of “Where’s My Thing?”

The person who loved me and introduced me to Rush and to so many other things no longer walks the earth. We did so many things together, and had so many heartfelt conversations in person, on the phone, and via email. What happens to those experiences, those emotions, and those memories when we’re not able to reminisce with each other, to tell the beloved stories over and over? I suppose that you have to live on for the ones who have gone; you have to carry them with you as you go forward. And perhaps, when I am gone, they and my memories of them will finally be set down with no one to take them up. I hope that, somehow, they know that I carried them as long as I could, doing my best to finish their unfinished business.

So, here’s my thing. I’m going to help my colleagues, to love my friends, to write my stories, and to guide my children as best I can. As well as I can discern, those are my assigned tasks while I walk the earth. If you’re able to help, I welcome your assistance.


Shuffle shuffle

In the last week I have moved a lot of furniture and de-shelved and re-shelved a lot of books. I don’t know that I have gotten rid of very many items — certainly not enough items — but somehow I seem to have created more functional space in the house.

Well, you’ll see it if you look in the right places. Don’t look at the bookcase’s worth of titles stacked on the floor in the library. I would surely shelve those books if I had the space for another bookcase. Look, instead, at the rocking chair in which I can now sit, read, and even rock.

Don’t look at the flower-vases full of knitting needles that cover the top of Daughter’s desk (which used to be Eldest’s desk); when her New Dresser has been fixed up we can move her clothes from the Old Dresser to the New Dresser and the knitting supplies and projects can move to the Old Dresser and then her desk will be clear and she can write on it as soon as we clear out the piles behind the desk and find her a Chair.

Speaking of Chairs, however, I finally found the time — and made the space — to apply the upholstery cleaner to the Gigantic Chair we found at the thrift store (on April 14).


Anyway, don’t worry about the spinning wheel (mine) behind the director’s chair (mine from college) behind a desk (mine) that is covered with paperwork (mine) and a plastic milk crate filled with Nintendo DS games (not mine). The important thing to notice in the dining room is that I have re-shelved the books to better organize my materials on Jerome K. Jerome, research for a novel set in Hocking County, books about Formula One, New Woman fiction of the 1890s (and scholarship on it), musty science fiction journals from thirty years ago, world-language dictionaries, books about writing and editing, and (relatively) contemporary fiction. I’m also in the process of clearing the top of a dresser that houses, among other items, scrapbooking supplies and my kids’ school pictures, but it’s actually rather cluttered right now and there’s nothing to see here, let’s move along.

If you look at all the things in my house that are undone or not-quite-done, you’ll never be finished either. Better to look at the areas where small quanta of progress are being made. I’m reading books, taking notes, cooking dinner, doing the laundry, hanging up clothes (when I can access the closet), and taking the time to plan my days, pay my bills ahead of schedule, and even think a little bit. When I fill up a Goodwill bag, I take whatever’s in it to Goodwill and try not to bring more items home than I just donated. It’s all a process and I don’t have the time to beat myself up about it. Everything is going to change anyway; it eventually does. If change means that I need to move out, I should have fewer things to carry — or at least I’ll have a better idea of what I’ll want to bring with me.

Lately I’ve been doing more reading than knitting, but I expect this balance to shift in the next week. I’ll try to remember to take pictures of any finished items before they move on to their new owners.


Guest Post: Working Undercover For The Lamb

This is MiddleSon writing for this guest post, so if the writing inexplicably looks exponentially better, you have a reason why.

I’ve been summoned from the depths of the Hell to talk about something far more entertaining and far less hot: Rabbit holes. Literally, a rabbit hole is a hole dug by a rabbit, but rabbits don’t grow on trees, and even if they did, we don’t have any trees. That aside, a rabbit hole often refers to a situation that just keeps going deeper and deeper. Something new is found that requires you to go deeper down in the investigation, and it keeps happening till you hit the bottom.

In the case of the rabbit hole I was stuck in for about 10 minutes today, it involved They Might Be Giants, a band I listen to 24/7, but am definitely not obsessed with, Mom. As my mother was showing me her old blog posts, I had decided to search for They Might Be Giants, to see if there was anything else I could find out about her personal experience with the band. In the first post, I found that my mother had attended, not one, but two TMBG concerts in her lifetime. Having only known of one of these times, my next move was to find out which show the second one was.

I have been browsing tmbw.net for a while, and decided to find the show my mom had attended based on their “Shows” tab. Looking for more clues on the blog, I found a post from 2007, that had shown much enthusiasm for having tickets to a They Might Be Giants concert. With that many exclamation points, I had concluded that the 2007 show (of which I had previous knowledge) was the first show my mother had attended. I saw the post stating my mom had been to two concerts was posted in 2013, so the second show would have to have been from 2008 to 2012. I checked every year, finding the city in which my mother would always attend these concerts. After some searching, it was between 2008 and 2011. There didn’t seem to be any clues pointing in a particular direction, until I realized

A) The 2008 show was on my mother’s birthday, and every year, she’s always away. She could not have attended the 2008 show.

B) We have a They Might Be Giants T-Shirt from a show, and it wasn’t bought in 2007. Checking out a TMBG fan blog, the shirt was confirmed to have been sold at 2011 shows.

Knowing these two things, we deduced that my mother had attended the 2011 They Might Be Giants concert.

Some stories will end in morals or lessons that the reader can learn and apply to their everyday lives for their benefit. In this case, I would advise that you keep your receipts and concert tickets in a drawer somewhere, because when it comes to rabbit holes, a receipt will get you out quicker than a shirt that doesn’t fit.

Published in: on June 3, 2019 at 9:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Yogurt problem situation

While preparing to write this post, I opened the refrigerator. A large, sealed tub of vanilla yogurt — proof that I never cease to have good intentions — fell promptly to the floor and split open on its side. ALERT! YOGURT DOWN! Within a minute I had successfully transferred the yogurt to a safe, secure container. Why I’m not so eager to actually consume it, or the colorful and nutritious fresh berries I buy when I buy yogurt, I have no idea. And I’m out of berries because they went bad long before I dropped the yogurt. So now I need berries. WILL THE CYCLE NEVER END?

Yogurt berry parfait

Maybe this is what I had in mind. I do have granola.

Having solved the yogurt problem situation, I turned to the computer and was soon swept up in a research problem and ably assisted by MiddleSon. My first idea for a blog post involved the word “reset,” so I opened my blog in a second window so I could search to see if I had already used “reset” in a post title. I’ve been doing the blog for many years and while I occasionally come up with the same idea for a post over and over again, I would prefer not to repeat the title if I can help it.

After having searched for “reset,” I found this post in which I lauded They Might Be Giants, who happen to be MiddleSon’s current obsession. When I thought of the yogurt situation it didn’t take long to recall their song “Brain Problem Situation.”

With that song in mind, I usually visualize the Doctor Who fanvid based upon it. Tennant’s years are fertile ground for so many fanvids. I just spent several minutes looking for this version and must come to the conclusion that it’s no longer available on YouTube. With a mixture of sadness (that I couldn’t find the first video) and hope (that you’ll enjoy this one) I present to you this substitute, a Doctor Who fanvid based on the Weird Al song “White and Nerdy.”

Because They Might Be Giants were mentioned in the previous blog post, and I noted in 2013 that I had seen them twice, MiddleSon and I speculated upon when those concerts might have taken place. We were more than reasonably sure that November 2007 had been the date of the first concert, as I had recently unearthed not only the tickets in the original mailing envelope but also the set list I had written down at the show.

But before the two of us went down this rabbit hole, I had planned to write about the process by which I set aside almost a year of reading and notes to refocus on my original literary research interest. I retraced my steps to the beginning, where I shall start again.

I don’t know how exciting it is to read about someone starting over. I certainly write about that process often enough at every New Year, at every school year, and now at every Jewish New Year and possibly at every change in the wind direction. (Honestly, don’t you tire of it? Or am I the reason you don’t need to watch soap operas?)


It’s both exciting and frustrating to realize that I have to start over again and refocus. From one perspective you could say that I’ve lost time. You could also say that I can now see the original topic in a larger context and now do a better job of navigating the source material and commentary. One of those perspectives might be total bullshit, but I won’t know which one until much later. For now, all I can afford to do is read and think and write, and push forward in a productive direction. I can explain some other time about how Jerome K. Jerome led me to Olive Schreiner, who led me to Alan Paton, who eventually led me back to Jerome K. Jerome, but that’s a story for another night and another post.

Knitwise I still have to wash and “block” the baby blanket. Without that as an active project I have turned to making progress on yet another One-Row Handspun Scarf in turquoise wool, and the start of a soon-to-be-revealed sock yarn project. And when I’m not knitting I’m recycling outgrown kid clothes and moving furniture. Stay tunes, folks: everything old is new again.

Finding a needle in a box of dominoes

So, where were we? Ah, yes, I was moving around everything in the house except for the things I was moving out of the house. This weekend I had an extra day to move things around, but this morning I noticed that I was putting off the task as long as possible. That may be due to an extra term in the equation: before my birthday, a month away, I need to renew my driver’s license. And to receive the secure Real ID™ I need to supply my original, certified, birth certificate.

When was the last time I needed this document? Probably when I got my driver’s license renewed in my maiden name six years ago (but I don’t remember needing the certificate then, so it’s just a guess). So far today I have looked in the three likeliest places and come up short. For the next three weeks I’ll need to look through EVERY box that might contain paperwork in order to find it in time to get to the DMV.


I think it’s in that box over there.

What else did I do? I “cooked” for the Monaco Grand Prix and watched the Grand Prix and the start and finish of the Indianapolis 500. Indy Car races aren’t compelling at all now that CART and Peter are gone, but tradition compels me to check in, albeit briefly, for such a history-filled event. Nobody crashed on Lap One, Pippa Mann drove an excellent race by all accounts to finish 16th, and so it goes. I was a bit spoiled for the ending of Monaco due to a glitch with my DVR recording and the need to record a rebroadcast, but the race had an exciting finish. My man Robert Kubica continued his record of starting and finishing every race this season despite getting turned around by Antonio Giovinazzi. The Sky team are starting to take notice of his slow-but-steady progress at each race. Kubica won’t be the fastest this year, but he’s a success story all the same. Força!

What did I really want to do this weekend? Well, it would have been nice to have someone around to share the chores so I could relax with knitting or a book. Many hands make light work and all that. I could have taken the bike out for a few miles on the road, or just gone for a walk. Instead, my tasks kept me close to home, which is fine. Clothes were donated, bottles were recycled, cans were crushed, trash was trashed, bills were paid, and laundry was done.

I also tended to my bullet journal as I haven’t done for at least a month, laying out the June pages in brighter colors. I even purchased next year’s blank journal to highlight my commitment to this form of organization. Everything works once; we’ll see if this works twice.


These colors ought to brighten up the place.


Now with thicker paper!

Knitwise, I have finished reading a knitting-related book (Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater) and finished knitting the baby blanket that coordinates with the nursing shawl I recently made. I still need to wash and dry it so it’s all fluffy and soft-like, but the knitting and finishing work are done.


Behold, a blankie for Chloe!

It’s time to move on to other projects, and I have no shortage of them from which to choose. Shall it be the foot of the first sock of a self-striping pair? A Doctor Who Season 18 scarf made from insufficient amounts of discontinued chenille? Yet another One-Row Handspun Scarf? I also have been gifted handspun wool from my cybersister Lauren that I plan to wind off this week. She’s having a wonderful time with her new life en México, and I would like to work with her Laurenmade yarn in a way that honors her. Pattern suggestions will be happily accepted and considered. After all, I really ought to finish at least one project before I start another, don’t you think?

The domino theory

I’ve been struggling with the organization of my living space for approximately the same amount of time as I have been alive. (I’ll have to ask my mother about the first few years, but it’s quite possible that I arranged my alphabet blocks first by letter order, then by color.)

Alphabet blocks

Many years ago I was married to a man who, when I met him, had an apartment as neat as a pin. Granted, at that time Michael lived alone, had no pets, and owned exactly six books. (I counted.) I was absolutely flabbergasted as he proudly showed off his apartment. There wasn’t a stray hair on the couch. Each piece of furniture sat at right angles to the others. His small dining room table had a tablecloth and a simple centerpiece that was perfectly centered. His spices were alphabetized.

During the time that we were married, the situation changed a bit. We had different work areas and while he did not impose his neurotic levels of tidiness upon me, I did not allow myself to be adversely affected by his neurotic levels of tidiness. We also, eventually, came to be the pet-parents of twelve cats and a rabbit, which took a bit of an edge off the most neurotic levels. Though the cats and the rabbit were as tidy as their species could be, their actions could be somewhat unpredictable, and we slightly altered our human inclinations to accommodate theirs; Michael wound I-don’t-know-how-many feet of sisal rope around a pillar that connected the first floor to the basement. The kittens fell through the open stairs, then scampered up the rope-encased pillar to continue chasing each other through the condo. I count that as success.

It was within that living arrangement that Michael noticed a particular tic I had whenever I got emotionally or functionally logjammed. When everything seemed hopelessly stuck, I did a load of laundry. That seemed to be the only act I could count on to “unstick” things and allow me to focus on the next task — or decide what the next task would be. In fact, several years later, in honor of this particular conversation, I actually registered a website titled firstdothelaundry.com. (I never did a thing with it.)

In my mind, I was in a search for the first domino. I’m certain that you have seen videos of domino-toppling, part or not-part of videos of elaborate Rube Goldberg machines. After everything has been properly set up, you tip the first domino and everything proceeds from there. So, much weight is given to the ordering of the tasks needed to be done.

Rube Goldberg

This weekend culminated with a marvelous example of finding the first domino. For the last several weeks (if not months) I have been accumulating furniture for our (the kids and I’s) new vision of the house. An oversized chair was stuck here, a headboard was moved there, and our lives (and rooms) became more and more crowded.

One day last week I woke at 3:30am with an epiphany of how everything could be arranged differently to create the New House Order. All we had to do was agree to get rid of the couch, a worn-down leftover from a former brother-in-law. Then this could go here and that could go here, if only the children would agree.

But they didn’t. They liked the smelly, soft, squishy old couch and didn’t want to see it go. Mom’s plan was stupid, the couch would stay, and that was that.

So I let them live with it.

Last night — very late — I went on craigslist and found two pieces of furniture that would complete the whole scheme. I emailed the sellers and started making arrangements to purchase the final pieces to our puzzle.

In the morning I let the kids know about the processes I had started. There was a desk in Madison we needed to pick up, so could they please help me empty out the van and store the seats? And, oh yes, there was a corner shelving unit that would be perfect for the dining room and we could get that too.

We prepared the van, drove to Madison, picked up the pieces, and eventually returned home. It was a few hours later before the logjam broke with a pair of texts from MiddleSon: “Can we talk about the room more?/Up here?”

When I went upstairs, I saw the problem. Goodness me, the room shared by MiddleSon and Youngest was impassable. I couldn’t imagine how Youngest would even get to his bed, let alone sleep in it.

“Can we bring in the desk?” MiddleSon begged.

“Of course,” I replied. “First we need to take out the couch….”

I vacuumed the couch, then Eldest and I took it to the garage. Then I vacuumed the area where the couch had been before we put a cover on the futon mattress, dismantled the futon, and moved the futon to the TV room. While Eldest and MiddleSon reassembled the futon and added a pair of long-stored armrests, I moved MiddleSon’s bed frame, box spring, and mattress (and Daughter’s headboard) to my room and remade my new bed.

By the time Daughter emerged from her room after having completed a half-mountain of homework, three rooms had been drastically changed and new sleeping arrangements were in place. By the time I returned from dropping off Daughter at her father’s house, the new desk was ready to be reassembled in the boys’ room.

We still have many, many boxes to sort and items to discard as we move forward. I have to adjust to sleeping in a proper bed again after sleeping on a futon for the last six (or so) years. Nobody knows where the dog is going to sleep. But we have moved the first domino and toppled several others that needed toppling, so that is good.


I have left several spaces in this narrative because, due to an error I have not seen in all my years of blogging, I have been unable to save drafts of this post or publish illustrations. I hope that I soon shall be able to make this post complete in the way I have intended. Until I can add the pictures I hope that the more than a thousand words will suffice to tell the tale.

Update: After I restarted the computer everything seemed to work just fine. And this afternoon I worked on moving and tossing the cluttery items in Daughter’s room. Tomorrow, Eldest should be able to disassemble his old desk, move it to Daughter’s room, and reassemble it. Then he can unbox and assemble the new desk I bought him last weekend.

Published in: on May 20, 2019 at 9:24 pm  Comments (1)  

The long way around

Last week, construction began on a road that is part of my daily commute. Actually, it’s quite a small part of my daily commute: perhaps 150 yards. Nevertheless, the road work has forced me to find another path. (That’s actually what the big electric sign said the week before construction began: FIND ALTERNATE ROUTE. Not, “take County Y to County D until August 1” but “find a way around it yourself if you’re so local.”) Because there is no official posted detour, driving to work has become an episode of “Choose Your Own Adventure.”

My alternatives aren’t great. The better roads take me a few more miles than necessary, but the shorter routes are in much poorer condition than the road that’s being reconstructed this summer. And despite having lived in the same location for the last ten or eleven years (who’s counting?), I am much familiar with the outside twelve miles of my “country block” than whatever lies within the interior square mileage. Just in the last week I have discovered huge horse farms, a family cemetery, several houses that must be over a century old, and the campgrounds that bring so many summer visitors (and their guns and fireworks) to our area.


Lakes, giant lobsters, dragons; Wisconsin has it all!

This road closure has also re-routed several tons of Harley-Davidsons that growl through the tiny village within walking distance of our house, then open up into full roars in front of our house. This past weekend we had lovely weather on Saturday morning, and dozens of Harleys blasted by in full song. I hope their roar keeps the wildlife back from the road; I’ve seen frogs, turtles, Sandhill cranes, barn cats, coyotes, raccoons, opossum, and deer try to cross the road at this point, with varying degrees of success. Any encounter between them and a motorcycle would be an unpleasant one.

When I’m not taking new routes to work, I have been reading. I was disappointed in the monthly page count in my bullet journal entry, but I have been ordering and starting more books. I already have two lengthy books in the category of “finished in May” that will surpass the April total. In the last two months piles of books have arrived at work, arrived at home, and jumped into my shopping basket at Half Price Books. I have ordered them from Amazon, bought them from eBay, accepted them from friends, rescued them from carts of library discards, and borrowed them from the library.

I would need a dozen lifetimes in order to read them all, but so far that realization has not discouraged me from making further acquisitions. I have also run out of places to put books, but that’s not a deterrent, either. At the moment I’m still busy collecting and reading all the published works of Alan Paton; this experience has made me slightly more amenable to eventually re-homing works that are not by Alan Paton. It’s a start. The books I described as “on the way” in my last blog post are here on the Alan Paton Memorial Bookcase Shelf, arranged in order of publication. I’ll take a new picture, but after I had a little falling down on my phone’s eBay app last night — alcohol may have been a factor — I can report that several more Alan Paton works have shipped and are headed my way. Next week’s shelf will look different.


One book is new; three volumes replace those I borrowed from the university library this semester.

When the entire shelf is full of Alan Paton books, I’m not sure where the rest of the Africa-related books will go. These bookcases are themed with writing and the research for my own present and future writing. The second shelf carries reference material for a novel and a cookbook; the third shelf and the top of the bookcase bear source material for Jerome K. Jerome and the New Woman controversies of 1891. The fourth shelf is packed with scholarly science fiction journals from the 1980s and more Victoriana; the bottom shelf holds photo albums and binders I can’t access because they’re blocked by a rolling cart of hanging files related to Jerome. The adjacent bookcase is also more than full, with several shelves on their way to becoming double-stacked with literature and poetry anthologies, books on the craft of writing, a full shelf of resources for learning French, German, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, and Spanish, and the bottom two shelves are full of nothingtoseehere and can’tgettoitanyway.

But if liking some new things comparatively more means that I may be favoring some topics comparatively less, the space problem should soon be solved — as long as Mr. Paton doesn’t take up more than one shelf. (We’ll see what happens.)

This week also finds me, suddenly, baking and/or cooking for three separate events. Tonight I made a batch of brownies, Wednesday night I will make something else (yet to be determined, so I had better get on that), and Thursday night I should be back on my bread-baking schedule.

The brownies are to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Yarn-a-Latte, the knitting group I founded that meets at a local hotspot that offers both coffee and tanning. You’re welcome to drop by with or without a project in hand, and with or without a dish to pass. We’re pretty casual.


With just a few hours of the evening left to me, it’s time to choose. Do I write about what I haven’t gotten done yet — and can’t possibly finish tonight — or put off the writing in an attempt to hit some sort of benchmark for the day or even the month? (I’m not worried about the goals for the week; there is plenty of week left.)

I could finish reading a book to boost my page count for the month, as I only count the books I finish. Right now I’m about one-third of the way through In No Uncertain Terms: A South African Memoir by Helen Suzman. It’s a very enjoyable read, but finishing two hundred pages in two days seems a bit of a reach. I have only 150 pages left of The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater: Essays on Crafting by Alanna Okun. I’m not reading anything by Alan Paton right this second, although more of his books are arriving this week. The next one I have waiting in chronological order is his 1973 Apartheid and the Archbishop: The Life and Times of Geoffrey Clayton. That’s another 300 pages, but before it came his 1964 (or 1965, depending on the publisher) biography of Jan Hofmeyr. (It’s en route and may arrive this week. Amazon won’t tell me how many pages it has, but it does weigh 2.2 pounds.)


So far, such good reading.

That’s the long way ’round of saying I’m not close to finishing anything I’m reading right now, with the possible exception of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (page 74 of 230…oh, never mind).

In the area of Formula One, last weekend I actually watched all three free practices, the qualifying session, and the race of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Okay, two of the practices were foreshortened due to red-flag incidents, and my mind drifted off during the actual race, which was considerably less exciting than practice and qualifying. The point is that I watched them all and deleted the recordings from the DVR. Except for the Spanish-language broadcast I recorded from Univision so I could brush up on my racing-technical Spanish… rats. More to do.

But I got something done on my F1 cooking project as well: Azerbaijani chicken plov, which came out almost perfect, and which Eldest actually ate. He even made a suggestion for the “next time” I cook the dish, which is an extremely positive sign. On the other hand, his suggestions was to leave out the two onions, which may slightly impact the flavor and character and cooking chemistry of the dish. But I feel glad to have finally taken a step into researching and preparing Azerbaijani cuisine, so there’s that.


Chicken thighs and onions…


Yes, that is a HEAD of garlic.


Absolutely fabulous!

This weekend I also walked to raise money for the March of Dimes, saw Avengers: Endgame, survived a spring snow squall that melted within 24 hours, went to a Yom Ha’Shoah event at Congregation Emanu-El of Waukesha, did a little laundry, and (with Eldest) diagnosed and fixed my van’s overheating problem. (We are so proud of ourselves.)

In knitting news, I cast on for a baby blanket last week and have been making steady progress of 2-4 rows each day. This morning before work I pulled out my knitting and was surprised to discover that I had left my pattern at home. But I was just at the point where I could read my knitting and proceed accurately without the pattern. Which I did, for two rows.

It’s been a stressful month for me. I’m trying to make my choices very carefully this week (and next month). I could be upset but I choose not to. I could be angry but I choose not to. I choose to be careful and kind and full of hope.

Published in: on April 29, 2019 at 10:04 pm  Comments (1)  

It’s raining words

In the last 24 hours there has been a word explosion in my life. Jagged-ended syllables hang on my sleeves like shrapnel.

On Monday I finished an Alan Paton book that was published in 1969. The next book of his that I had on hand wasn’t published until 1981, and I was anxious to fill the gap. I went on an economical online book-buying spree and ordered half a dozen books that will not only fill the gap but fill an entire shelf that now holds half “books by Alan Paton” and half “books about Africa that were not, in fact, written by Alan Paton.”

Tuesday was too busy for me to worry much about what I might read next, but Wednesday brought an opportunity for me to visit a local library, where I checked out a memoir by South African politician Helen Suzman. I read the first chapter almost immediately. Later in the evening I picked up two more books from the thrift store that will soon be on my reading list.

On Wednesday I started receiving alerts that my various books orders were shipping, with estimated arrival dates. I continued reading the memoir.

But today….

A student I had never seen before walked into my office, and I correctly intuited that he was the same person who had emailed me several times over the last two years to ask for help in finding an editor for his manuscript. I agreed, and before I went home for the day he had already emailed me the manuscript.

When I did get home, there was a package in the mail — not an Alan Paton book, but two copies of my cousin’s latest book.

MiddleSon took a look at the pair of paperbacks and said, “I’m going to write a book, too. Longer than his.” He went off to his computer (but might not have started writing yet).

Almost immediately I received an email from Youngest. After a brief exchange regarding events related to his imminent birthday, he wrote:

Also, I’m writing a book. Would you like me to share the document with you?

At this juncture, somewhat alarmed, I paused to text Daughter to inquire whether or not she had a manuscript that she needed me to review.

The universe is screaming for me to put on my Editor hat again. I’m not sure I know what that looks like.


Reporter hat…

Editor_hat copy

Writer and Editor hats…


William Randolph Hearst hat.

Published in: on April 25, 2019 at 9:12 pm  Leave a Comment  


My last few weeks have been incredibly stressful, without much relief when switching from home to work and back again. I haven’t been able to sleep deeply, to knit very much, to read for relaxation, or generally to let my guard down for the whole of the month. I tell you, bad things happen when I let my guard down. BAD things.

It has been very, very hard to write. So I haven’t been writing. Mostly I have been doing puzzles on my phone: Words With Friends, Scrabble, Mahjong, Duolingo (if one could call it a puzzle), the New York Time daily mini-puzzle, and some App-centric games like Flow Free, Polysphere, and Puzzle Page, which has a combination of word, number, and logic puzzles to solve. Some days are better for crosswords and others are better for Sudoku, but this game has them all. (Note: I am not being paid to endorse this free game.)


Sometimes not so relaxing.

I use some games (Flow Free, NYT) to wake up my brain before I get out of bed. I use other games (Polysphere) to make myself see things from a different perspective, or at least I did before I completed all the free puzzles. I play the word games not to win but for social interaction; WWF gives you about four days without a move before it “resigns” you, but Scrabble lets you drift away indefinitely, eventually sending you gentle nudges to come back to the game.


This month has been a time of forgotten deadlines, crossed wires, mixed messages, and words that aren’t really words. At work people stop by my office for reality checks. I may not be the best service provider in that category of the industry, but I can tell them what I think might be normal. I hope it helps. I also hope they go on to get a second opinion.

I’ve been dragging things around the house and trying but failing to get rid of things and realizing that I really do have too many things. I bought a few more things and then wondered where to put them.

I did manage to finish a knitting project. I bound it off, wove in the ends, and eventually washed and blocked it. Then I looked in vain for the bag of gift bags that I’ve been maintaining for years. I can’t find it anywhere in the house. Since I started looking for it I have been to Walmart twice. Did I think to buy a gift bag there? No! Maybe that’s because I still hope to look in a corner I’ve already looked in a dozen times and suddenly spot the bag of gift bags. Why should I buy something I already have? But the gift bags have vanished.


Before blocking.


After blocking.

While I was all set up for blocking, with the extra leaves in the dining room table and all, I went on to block a shawl that my friend Christa had finished. She gave it to me at least a month ago, just to block. It may be a giftknit, so I won’t presume that I have permission to post a picture of it here.

I did, however, start another knitting project: a baby blanket in the same yarn and colorway as the nursing shawl shown above, for (eventually) the newborn daughter of the nurser. I have now started this blanket three times: once on the original number of cast-on stitches before I realized that I had one-third the yarn called for in the pattern, once on the recalculated number for a square version after I did a lot of math and realized that the number of cast-on stitches was in the form of 6x + 3, and once again when I realized that the real formula was 9x, where x must be an odd number. By the time I got to that point I wanted to lie down and take a very long nap. But as I have said before, sleep was not restful and naps were probably impossible. So I just kept taking it off the needles and casting on all over again. I’m on Row 2 now, fingers crossed. Things are looking up!

This evening I was going to bake a flourless chocolate cake for the gustatory pleasures of my knitting group tomorrow night, but I finally realized that it was chock full of nuts and I couldn’t make it for a group that contains a knitter with a severe allergy to nuts. I can’t make it for the folks at work, either, because on every recent shopping trip I left my carefully researched shopping list at home, meaning I don’t have the hazelnuts I need for the recipe anyway.

This week alone, a cell phone broke and was repaired, a car window fell into the door and was repaired, and another car died and was revived. If someone’s out to get me, they must be pretty darned close!


If you’re sensing a dismal pattern here, you’re not the only one. Fortunately there are a few twinkling stars in the sky that keep me going.

  • This semester I have helped to organize three major social events; the first went well despite several minor hitches, the second went off almost hitchless, and the third takes place tomorrow afternoon. I am glad when they go well, and I am also glad to be on the other side of them, taking to heart the lessons learned for the next iteration.
  • I just finished a knitting project, which gives me the chance to start a new knitting project.
  • I just finished a book, which gives me the chance to start a new book.
  • I found a way to reorganize the items in my bedroom that finally allowed me to open the curtains and let in the light.

Tomorrow after the party, and after the knitting, I can look for the hazelnuts and bake the cake on another night. I can start a new book, make progress on the blanket, and take a few steps forward before I’m forced back, yet again. The thunderstorms worry the dog, whom I can soothe. A movie will be released and a race will be run. I’ll walk to raise money for a worthy charity (follow the link to donate). I’ll read some things, bake some things, write some things, and get rid of some things. I’ll keep the faith. I’ll solve the puzzles and finally find the words.