Monday, March 31, 2008

Post Break

The weather had a balminess to it that called to everyone to be outside to take in the early spring energy. I took a quick, uphill/downhill walk, swept off the back porch, found a porch chair and watched the sunset. I realize now that I do need a few more household items --- a table and chairs that are waterproof and deck-worthy. I guess that explains why, as soon as Valentine's Day is over, stores swiftly usher in the seasonal furniture.

I tried to leave work early today because I had a very full day, no lunch break, and too much stress --- the kind of mental stress that makes you want to be catatonic for a few hours, or at least take a nap. Since I usually work more than an hour longer than I need to every day, it feels unnatural to leave any earlier than I usually do. Developing a keen sense of time, routines and habits begins to sink in as one gets older. When I was a teenager, I hated routine. I hated lists. I hated a life that was absent from spontaneity. This had something to do with living with a very organized, completely unspontaneous, list-dependent parent. Now, I see that the perfectly organized time compartments that fill a day wouldn't be the life I know without them.

Yesterday, I made a list before I went to the grocery store, something I very rarely do, something that makes me feel like I am giving in to the trappings of a normal, pre-planned life, kind of like having a pre-need funeral contract. It was kind of an experiment I wanted to try, to see if I actually planned the meals and bought only for what I planned, whether I would save money. I spent about $30 less than I usually do, and I bought a few things that weren't on the list. The store that my list and I patronized has carrot-cake ice cream. I didn't have to labor over what I was going to cook for dinner. It was actually kind of amazing. A pre-need food contract. I think I like it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

And Teeks

Trying to rebuild a household takes years, when you've left one and left essentially everything behind. Suddenly you've got no slotted serving spoons, no cacti, and no tall, pine, corner TV cabinet. That's why I've bought a lot of second-hand stuff. A bird builds its nest one straw at a time, I keep saying. One of the first second-hand items I bought, when I embarked upon the re-creation of my household, was a chair. It's not just any ordinary chair. It's a chair I would consider "antique-like," with a wooden frame that has a design like a wooden lyre on its back (picked up from Mr. What Not, as mentioned below). The chair looks like one that belonged in a set my grandmother had in her dining room. I re-covered the seat with a tapestry I recovered from my other grandmother's house after she died. So, the symbolism is pretty cool, and the chair, I think, is nice on its own, minus the grandmother references. The chair was just the beginning. Now, eight years later, I cannot really fit any more household items in the nest and it keeps growing, and I keep shopping at second-hand stores, flea markets, and "antique" places. Which brings me to my point. Today I confirmed my theory about the fine line between "junk" and "antiques." Is there a difference? I think actual, valuable, beautiful antiques are passed down through the familial lineage. Most of the stuff people peddle as "antique" is broken, scratched, worn, faded, and costs at least $375. The other second-hand stuff (who knows what age it is) is broken, scratched, worn, faded, dirty and costs $25. Anyway, for the past few years I've been hearing about this "antiques fair" that happens on the last Sunday of every month in the warmer months. Today we decided to go. It was very cold. Most of the items were overpriced. We came away with two tiny Star of David juice glasses (again, purchased exclusively for sentimental value), two rings, and a small wall-hanging with two pockets decorated with two embroidered peacocks, almost undoubtedly made in India, and $23 less than we arrived with. Our hands smelled like old stuff when we left. Old stuff, as in, years of dirt, cobwebs, rusted metal, moth balls, stale air, and something else I can't quite identify. Old-stuff smell.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Used Furniture

Today we decided to look for vintage/antique/old stuff and, possibly, a sewing machine. We re-visited the What Not Shop (not hyphenated). Previously we purchased such What-Nots as silverware ($1 for a handful of silverware, including some silver spoons and tiny fondue forks); a bright red, metal step-stool, which we use as a computer station ($30); a vanity with round mirror ($75); and a wooden chair ($25) that I re-covered. Today we found an old sewing machine for $15 that comes complete with a cabinet in which the sewing machine folds. None of us knows how to use, thread or run the sewing machine, but I hope we can find someone to come over and show us. The sewing machine I got from my grandmother caught on fire when someone showed us how to use it about four years ago, and now I can't remember where all the threads go. Internet directions have proved to be unfruitful so far. If the sewing machine fails, we have a passable TV table with an upside-down surprise inside that just might have the capacity to make us curtains or pillows someday.

Yesterday, on our way back from Columbus, we circled the block in Zanesville twice when we thought we saw an antique store that was open. By the time we circled around the block and parked, the store was just closing. It was one of those businesses with multiple dealers. The antique shop next door was also closing, but she let us in and we all found some useful and interesting stuff: a dark-purple oval tablecloth that looks like a reversible jacquard blanket; elbow-length gloves; and teacups with saucers.

Spring Break

We took another trip to Columbus, the second in about seven months. Why? People ask us that. It's not too far from home and there's a lot to do there. What? People ask. This time we explored German Village (brick overabundancies, and beautiful), the 32-room bookstore in German Village, COSI (children's interactive science museum), Easton Town Center (shopping district that's ridiculously large), Franklin Conservancy and Botanical Gardens (house of plants) and the hotel pool (really huge for a hotel pool). COSI was way too crowded to safely navigate or enjoy; the botanical garden was almost too crowded to enjoy. We returned to the sushi bar (a restaurant that I believe is called "Sushi Bar;" either that or "Japanese Oriental Restaurant") and Easton Town Center (we still haven't seen the whole shopping center, despite this being our second trip). It was a typical family vacation --- map-dependent adventures (Columbus is relatively easy to navigate, but bringing a co-pilot is useful), good food, squabbling children, parent exhaustion, desperation, shared bathroom, foreign territory ...... return home (cat hungry). Ah, vacation.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Being Wrong About Writing Stuff

One of the dangers of talking about how to use good grammar happens when the purported teacher makes a mistake. There will always be a mistake. Well, almost always. Take "Clever Nickname on Blog That No One Will Ever Use," for example. Does it mean no one will ever use the blog? Or does it mean no one will ever use the clever nickname? The writer intended for it to mean that no one will ever use the clever nickname, but it's not written that way. To be correct and specific, it would have had to say, "Clever Blog Nickname That No One Will Ever Use." I guess it could mean both. I'll just have to be satisfied with imperfections, my own and others'. I guess that's why I don't often draw attention to grammatical mistakes; instead, I cringe inwardly when I see an apostrophe out of place or other, similar blatant error. By the way, would it be others'. or others.' ??

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Words, New.

Today I write new words in a new space. How fresh and exciting, I think; especially believable given the circumstances of which I have decided to embark. My blog could be used against me for potentially tragic ends (mostly for the extreme lack of privacy I placed myself in), or to satisfy the curiosity of the most involved readers, or for nothing at all. I choose to believe the latter and write for myself.
Last week I attended a workshop to improve writing skills. It was like a reckoning. I'm going to have to look up that word later. I'm not sure if I'm doing the right things with it. At any rate, the speaker/writer giving the workshop touched on things that consistently bother me about other peoples' writing. It was odd how much seldom-felt joy I experienced when he explained the concept of compound modifiers, relating to when the writer needs to use a hyphen between two words that act together like one adjective and are placed before a noun, as in seldom-felt joy. And not rarely felt joy. It was grammatical bliss. People think I'm being petty when I harp on the painful specifics like compound modifiers. The funny part about it was when the speaker asked, "Does the concept 'anal-retentive' contain a hyphen?" (Short pause.) "The answer is, 'Yes, it does.' There's a T-shirt that says that, by the way." I think I had tears in my eyes. I hadn't been that happy about grammar in a long while.

Here's some stuff that I wrote somewhere else, before I started the Clever Nickname blog:

March 5
It was another gray, cold, wet day in Morgantown. I felt numb with grayness and the silence of the deathness of winter. I felt a mysterious floating sensation as I walked around today, like I could let myself not be fully there and not feel so much. I don't feel that way very often. Maybe it's because I got way too much sleep the day before. I have hope for spring. I took a walk at lunchtime the day before yesterday. It was warm, windy and a little sunny. This time I had company. One who never gets out. One who said she NEVER walks. EVER. Not even if she has to travel one block. But she walked. She talked to a passing dog and a tiny boy who wouldn't ride his bike because it was a Transformer, not a bike. I finished reading New Moon yesterday and started on Eclipse. I'm having a hard time identifying with someone who falls in love with a vampire. Maybe I'm too old to appreciate the giddyness of love. The all-consuming feeling that happiness exists only in the reflection of the eyes of the object of her affection. That would be sort of like a distorted mirror.

February 11
Today I noticed that not much noteworthy happened. It was so much like any other day. I thought about framing today in a way that made it, oh, the slightest bit interesting. If I did that, it would go something like this.
It was blisteringly cold today. I felt lucky to have a garage, in which my car keeps a nice cool temperature of about 55 degrees, like a cave, even though the outside temperature just on the other side of the garage door is about 45 degrees lower than that. I toured the Seneca Caverns caves once, and the tour guide said that caves always stay the temperature of the shell of the earth, a cool 59 degrees, unaffected by the blazing sun of August or the frostiness of winter. Such is the beauty of my garage.
I found out that the company I ordered a book from on Amazon failed to refund my account for a book that I bought and never received, even after the company said they were "truly sorry," but they sold the book to someone else at the same moment I bought the book, and that it would refund my account.
I spent most of my day at work responding, out of obligation, to someone who is cantankerously difficult, possibly just for the sake of being that way. Why be difficult? Why be grumpy? Why be assertive and combative? Maybe the poor guy has spent a good part of his lifetime with people who have treated him with contempt.
One interesting thought that came up today, when doing some research at work: When someone in their 40s recalls one particular year of their life, it is usually a blur, as it consists of about one-fortieth of his life. When a five-year-old recalls a year of her life, it is one fifth of her life, and therefore far more impressionable. It was explained that that is why we can recall so many more accurate memories from childhood. Obviously, children are more impressionable than adults, but put in that perspective makes it more obviously, and perhaps painfully, so.

February 3 -- Atonement
Not so good. I expected an elaborate story of making things right, but it was a giant disappointment.

February 3 -- I took a walk today. It was bright and sunny. I went a long way. I talked a lot. I had someone with me. We talked. The things we talk about seem to go in circles. We came to a walking trail that went in a circle, so it seemed perfectly suited to what we were talking about, what we have already hashed and re-hashed. Each circle was an eighth of a mile. The thing about going in circles is that if you are walking in circles, each time you go another lap you know you have made progress, even though you're walking the same circle. It doesn't feel that way when you keep talking about the same tired subject and never feeling like you're getting anywhere. This time, I felt better about it. Funny how going in circles can make you feel like you're actually getting somewhere. My walking friend got a little dizzy after the third time walking in a circle. My friend's endless patience goes round and round.

January 19
Finally, Sweeney Todd has come to town, probably more than a month after its release. Since we've got three theatres in town, I figured it would be at one of them; but not so, week after week. I thought about driving an hour and a half to see it, but couldn't quite get myself to do that. It seemed suspiciously collusional that the two major theatres would get the movie on the same day, so long after its release; and that they also are both showing Atonement, starting yesterday, so long after its release. Maybe it has to do with the Golden Globe Awards.
Unfortunately, one member of my entourage does not want to see Sweeney Todd. I don't want to force the R-rated killings on her, since she's only 9. She liked the other Johnny Depp movie with all the beheadings, though. Sleepy Hollow. It's early in the morning and I'm having trouble retrieving the words I want from the depths of my feeble brain.

October 8, 2007
Someone was rude to me today! Not just rude, she was aggressive and mean. A fellow female. Unnecessarily rude. It was a long conversation, not just some random, thoughtless rudeness. I had to think about and analyze this, since it's been awhile since someone talked to me this way. I thought about other times that women were rude, assertive and arrogant to me. Mostly I think back to high school. I thought about the times when other girls tried to make me feel insignificant. Sometimes, it involved, possibly, I'm pretty sure, girls who thought I was invading their territory. Their territory would be boys who they liked. This incident today wasn't over some boy. But I do believe I have come to the conclusion that this person felt like she had something to lose. I've just come to think, for the first time, that maybe people are mean because they feel threatened or they need to protect themselves against hurt. There was one time after high school, when I was working in a restaurant. Another waitress criticized me, in the kitchen, during a busy time, for putting the knives in the dishwasher in the wrong direction. I usually put silverware in with the handle down. She said that anyone with common sense would put the blades in upside down so no one else would get hurt. But how can you tell the knives from the forks and the spoons if you put in all the handles down, I wondered. She could have used some diplomacy and tact, rather than assaulting my sense of the common. Or my sense of right from wrong. Even the way I re-tell it can't be said with as much rudeness as she said it. I'm not very good at insulting or criticizing people because I want to avoid causing hurt. I can't think of any way I could have threatened the knife lady. Maybe she just had a bad day and didn't want to get poked by a sharp knife facing the wrong way in the dishwasher. I think about that not every time, but every once in a while, when I put silverware in the dishwasher. Especially when I see someone else put forks and knives, pointing up dangerously, in the dishwasher. It wasn't just me. I am not an idiot. I just don't understand why people have to be mean and try to make other people feel that way. Do they realize it? Do they do it on purpose? Why?

October 4
Today would have been my grandmother's birthday. I believe she would have been 101, but my math might be a little off. She died in 2001, just a few days before her birthday. Or after. It's one of those events I associate with September 11, 2001. My aunt, who lives 1,000 miles away, called me at 7 a.m., her time. I was the one who told her about the Twin Towers. She was the one who told me about my grandfather helping to design the heating and air cooling system in the twin towers. I remember my grandmother telling me about the buildings when I was about seven years old. It made me want to live in New York City when I grew up. That didn't last long. My aunt told me that when she was a teenager and the towers were being built that my grandfather took her into the lower levels of the building, and I can't remember how many floors below the ground it went, but there were many, many of them, and she said it felt like she was going into the center of the earth. When I told her what happened, all I knew was that a bomb or something caused an explosion in one of the buildings. That was before the buildings came down. Her split-second reaction was that the event was going to delay the possibility of getting a flight to this side of the country. She's a fast thinker. She did get to come. My grandmother died a few days after she and my uncle came to visit. Fatalistically strange how that happens sometimes. Even though she was in her mid-90s, I still wasn't prepared for her death. I felt an emptiness that lasted a long time, even though I knew she couldn't live forever. She was often the only person who would be available to talk when I needed someone to talk to. She was always over-interested in what I had to say; everything was always wonderful or beautiful. She said, "Ohhhhh ..." a lot, with extreme drama, with head pointed downward and exaggerated facial expressions, as one of her standard reactions to anything less than WONDERFUL or BEAUTIFUL. Her energy level usually met or exceeded the manic level. Most of the conversations and things she said were so ridiculously funny but she didn't mean for them to be. I could never reproduce them they way I wanted to, no matter how I tried. My sister reminded me of a funny conversation I had with her on the phone about 20 years ago, when she was in her 70s. We were talking on the phone and she was having trouble hearing what I was saying. I said to her, "You don't have your hearing aid in, do you?" She said, "What?" I asked, "Do you have your hearing aid in?" She answered, "What?" I answered with my same question, a little louder this time. "Do you have your hearing aid in?" "WHAT?" "GRANDMA, DO YOU HAVE YOUR HEARING AID IN?" "WHAT?" "DO ... YOU ... HAVE ... YOUR ... HEARING AID????" "I can't hear you, dear, I'm not wearing my hearing aid. It makes everything too loud." It was just like a Who's-On-First or Bert-and-Ernie-I-can't-hear-you-I've-got-a-banana-in-my-ear kind of thing, except that it wasn't scripted.

September 27, 2007
Sushi, mangos, yogurt raisins, wasabi peas and chocolate milk for dinner. And then there were pecan cookies. OK, I had the cookies first. Amazing how easy a good meal can be. And how bad a meal can be with lots of time commitment through preparation and planning. And vice versa. You just never know. I started reading Chocolat this week. I have Five Quarters of an Orange waiting for me at the book store. I have about four books I've also been reading. That's how exciting life is. Eating and reading books with titles associated with food. I've also been walking a lot and planning and trying to de-stress. My eye doctor explained to me Tuesday about how a scar I got on my eye causes one tiny portion of my eye to have good vision. He said it's the pin-hole effect. I remember my granddad teaching me that when I first needed to get glasses, about 25 years ago. He showed me how I can make a tiny hole with my fingers and look through it if I ever forgot my glasses. Unfortunately, it doesn't work too well if you have very bad vision. The hole has to be pretty small. Too small to make it worth the while. The doctor told me my corneas were beautiful. He elaborated for what seemed like an unusually long moment, complimenting the health and beauty of my corneas. I wanted to tell him to stop, or my corneas were going to blush from embarassment, but I couldn't. That's my excitement for the week. That, and that the car damage is a lot worse than it appears. When I got hit last week, and I was waiting for the paperwork to come back from the policeman, a pleasant, uniformed guy came to my car window and handed me a business card for an auto body shop, telling me he thinks I am going to need it. I wondered how he happened to be there. My back and neck have been hurting for the entire week since the day after the accident. I didn't think I was hurt when it happened, but I was hurting the next day and the next day and the next day and the next day and the next day and the next day and the next day (that's today). I made a doctor's appointment today to get that checked. Since I don't have a doctor, I am a new patient, and it takes longer to get in when you're a new patient. At least it does around here. Surely there's a doctor out there, just waiting and eager for new patients to see -- TODAY or TOMORROW. Maybe not. I am always cautious when I drive. I couldn't have done anything even beyond extra cautious to avoid this accident. I wasn't taking a chance on a left turn or stopping a little too suddenly. I wasn't pulling out in front of someone and I wasn't pulling in or out of anyplace. I was completely stopped. I couldn't have even gone anywhere to avoid the driver from hitting me because someone was right in front of me at the light. I asked the guy who hit me what happened and he said he didn't know. I don't know what that means. I guess he wasn't paying attention. He had his wife with him. We waited around for 40 minutes for the paperwork from the policeman and she stayed in the car the whole time. I think she was mad at him. All this detail about a minor-sounding rear-end collision. The guy who hit me said he was amazed at how calm I was.

September 12
Everyone was talking about how beautiful it was today. The cloudless sky was brilliant, next to the green, green trees. The air was dry and cool and it was the perfect temperature. The skyline was a dark, deep blue, and everything had a happy light. I took a walk at lunch today by the river. The guy with the bike and the giant radio strapped to his bike went by a couple times. He keeps it turned up. I've seen him there other days at lunchtime. There were some stay-at-home moms and dads with their small children, and people dressed up in work outfits. Once I was in line at Subway near there, for lunch, and there were about six people with a range of obvious, career-defining fashions: construction worker, complete with hard hat and sunburned face; lawyer with distinguished-looking suit and tie; person in fast-food uniform; and inspector with uniform. I felt like I was in a 1950s book about careers. What to be when you grow up. You might all end up at Subway for lunchtime.

September 9
I found the Mason Dixon Park today by wandering toward Pennsylvania. There were about 25 horses of all different breeds standing around waiting for people to take rides on them. There was a reunion there and loud country music was playing. Most of the men wore cowboy hats. There are a baseball field and places to camp there. It was hot and muggy. The people I came with were not happy about being there. We watched four Lost episodes today.