Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reboot Christmas

I'm writing this now, a few days after Christmas, so that I can hopefully keep it in mind enough to help me avoid another Christmas like this one in 2011.

Not to blame my family or friends, but once again, Christmas was disappointing... I am grateful that I didn't suffer the crushing depression I so often felt in December in my 20s, but any attempts to make Christmas worthwhile or meaningful just failed miserably. It can't be done. It is one long round of unmet longings, of excess and expense that makes no-one but children happy.

I know it's a different set of disappointments for everyone, but in my case, it's a month of frantic activity and checklists that culminate in... nothing. It's isolating, a stripping away of the work routine that keeps me plugged in to society and content, and having stripped away that schedule and left me with nothing useful to do, leaves me bereft and dependent on the hospitality of family members who never built up any traditions to give us some structure for the holiday.

Having just written that paragraph, an epiphany has just occurred to me: why don't I hold the Christmas gathering next year? I've always assumed as the Single of the family that my role was to arrive at a larger house with a supplementary side dish, a dessert, and gifts. But what if I were to host the thing, to direct the course of the day instead of hoping for someone else to arrange something enjoyable for all?

I say this with anarchy in mind... because the best, most memorable holidays I have had are the ones that resemble a sitcom plot for a Christmas episode. Primary example:

For decades our family has gone every Christmas to our relatives in Batesville, AR, because it was the habit of our childhood. We would sometimes escape the slight claustrophobia of my Grandmother's house (where nothing much was done beyond meals, TV, naps and conversations) by going on an errand to the Super Wal-Mart. One year my mom, sisters and I all went together, and in an uncharacteristic move, bought some sodas and sat in the little corner food court after our shopping. We ended up sitting there and talking for over an hour. We realized that we didn't really want to leave and go back to the house... that we didn't really enjoy these Christmases in AR because we never did anything fun... and that we all felt the same way. It ended up being a long group therapy session, and even now over a decade later, we will still talk fondly about that time in the food court at Wal-Mart.

It wasn't that we didn't love and enjoy my Grandmother, and that we didn't like seeing my cousins (who were always the big drawing point for us)... it was the very separation from that tradition that was memorable and a turning point for us as a family. This was before my sisters had kids, and we hadn't yet realized that it could be enjoyable sitting around and talking, just the women of our family.

I guess the conclusion I'm arriving at here, is that as much as we need the traditions of the holiday for structure, we also need to scrap them on occasion. Baking cookies every Christmas can be an enjoyable habit... but the minute it becomes a burden, it needs to go away for a while! I stopped holiday baking for several years when it ceased being fun; well, this year I had a longing for making sugar cookies and decorating them, and so I stocked up on cookie cutters and sprinkles and went to town on the baking for gifts. I also ended up making over 25 dozen sausage-cheese balls over the month of December.

So I think I want to scrap both the (subconscious) traditions/habits of the last few decades (or the lack thereof)... and maybe be the host next year. I may just make pasta, I may have no presents but a movie marathon, I may have only a tiny tree for decoration or every room covered in ornaments and wreaths... there are no rules beyond trying to create some new traditions (Zero-dollar gifts... homemade gifts... sushi and cheesecake...) to help take us out of this misery of disappointed expectation.

I like my family. I don't have any stress being around them, they don't torment me or get drunk or cause unpleasant scenes or drama, and I am deeply grateful for that. But I think we can use a reboot.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Word du Jour

Paraprosdokian (from Wikipedia)
making the rounds... not sure of the origin!

A paraprosdokian (from Greek "παρα-", meaning "beyond" and "προσδοκία", meaning "expectation") is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

Ø I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

Ø Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

Ø The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.

Ø Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

Ø If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.

Ø We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

Ø War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

Ø Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Ø The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Ø Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

Ø To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

Ø A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

Ø How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

Ø I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks.

Ø A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it.

Ø Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "If an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR".

Ø I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

Ø Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Ø Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

Ø Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?

Ø Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

Ø A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

Ø You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

Ø The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

Ø Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.

Ø A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

Ø Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.

Ø Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.

Ø Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

Ø There's a fine line between cuddling, and holding someone down so they can't get away.

Ø I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

Ø I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila.

Ø When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

Ø You're never too old to learn something stupid.

Ø To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

Ø Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

Ø Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

Ø A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.

Ø If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people have more than one child?

Ø Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The 2010 Christmas Letter

Christmas 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

After 10+ years of Christmas letters, I finally have had a year that has really provided me with something to write about!

... In Which I Become a Homeowner

In April I finally bought my own place! I had been looking for over a year for a house, and in fact put an offer on a short sale property in July 2009. After over 7 months with no updates and no response from the bank making the sale, I gave up and started looking at condos, which turned out far better than I expected. I now live in Brighton Village, a small, brand-new complex right next to Nipper's Corner (also known as Brentioch by some of the locals; between Brentwood and Antioch, obviously). I had the great luxury of picking out my floorings & some fixtures, and now have the joy of a condo where everything except me and my possessions is brand-new. I do miss my old neighborhood terribly - the first month or so I was a little depressed and I kept driving back to Cool Springs on the flimsiest excuse.

I was also fortunate in that my condo was high up on a hill, which proved a great advantage when the Nashville May Day flood came roaring in less than a week after I moved in. For all the tragic losses of people and homes, it has been an absolute joy seeing how charitably the city responded. Nashville really does take care of its own, and even now I still love hearing stories of how people immediately pitched in, helping both neighbors and strangers to safety and then helping to clean up the destruction. My mom and dad's basement flooded and there was some damage, but my family and I were all safe (if inconvenienced), thank God!

I still have a lot of work to do; I turned the master bedroom into the Office/Computer Gutting Station/Library/Craft Room/Guest Room. Since my bedroom is just for my clothes and sleeping, I took the smaller one; I'd rather use the bigger bedroom for living in! After taking several months to get some nice bookshelves built (not built-in; I want to be able to take them with me to my next place!) I have finally put away all my books, which have remained in boxes for over 6 months now. What luxury! Then paint a couple of accent walls in the Great Room, and all my pictures can be hung up. It will be nice to have a (mostly) completed home. I still have some bigger pieces of furniture I hope to get.

... In Which I Become a Cat Lady

About 6 weeks after I moved into my new place, I finally took the plunge after years of waiting and got myself a couple of kittens. They are 2 grayish/brownish tabby twin sisters, and I named them Daisy and Bunny (although they are frequently referred to as my Lazy Daisy and Dumb Bunny). When I went to visit and see if I liked them, I discovered that they were born on the day I moved into my new home, which I considered a good sign! I still can't tell them apart unless they are right beside each other (Bunny is skinnier) or I can see the color of their collars. They make me glad to go home at night... although their medical bills? Not so much.

Daisy is proving to be my smart girl; when told NO or scolded, she usually meows wistfully but stops misbehaving quite quickly. She also comes when I call (if she isn't doing something particularly absorbing) which is unusual for a cat. I was giving her antibiotics for an ailment for a few weeks, and now whenever it's time to give her a dose, I call for her, she meows and comes running and stands by my side until I pick her up and give her a dropper-ful of medicine. She also likes being cuddled like a baby, or to curl into my neck and shoulder. She saves her energy for later, unlike her sister.

Bunny is my quicksilver girl; she is incredibly fast and has almost a morphing ability to get into my closet when it's open for a couple of seconds (where she dearly loves to pull clothes off of hangers). She's braver than Daisy and not as easily startled; at the same time she's slower on the uptake. A few months ago I had to give both of them medicine, and while Daisy (initially) would make a run for it and hide the minute I got out the medicine each morning, day after day Bunny would just sit and look at me with an expression of "What's that you got there, mommy? I've never seen that before... Will I like it?" She also adores playing Fetch with fake mice.

Believe me, I am being RESTRAINED in my description. I can talk about them endlessly. And do!

... In Which I Become Editorial

I had an unexpected opportunity arise this fall when I started looking into the world of public domain publishing. There is an author I adored as a child named Gladys Malvern, who wrote almost 4 dozen Young Adult historical novels. Her books went out of print years ago (she wrote from the 1940-60s) and so it has become difficult to find her books except in the occasional library, or for sale online for up to $150 for popular titles. I started scanning copies of the books into PDF files a couple of years ago (after checking them out through Inter-Library Loan at Vanderbilt) and have about 20 of my favorites preserved.

Recently I reconnected with an old high school choir friend through Facebook who has his own publishing company that specializes in reprinting and repackaging classic books in the public domain, and asked how hard it was to get out-of-print titles reprinted. One thing led to another, and I ended up signing a contact with him to serve as an Associate Editor and reprint the eligible Malvern titles! We hope to bring out the first book in Spring of 2011; it is one of her most popular titles, Behold Your Queen!, a novel about Queen Esther from the Old Testament. I am very hopeful that it will sell well and we can start bringing out other books in the coming years. I really believe that my fondness for history came in large part from reading books like these when I was young, and I would love for them to be available to my nieces and nephews.

... In Which I Become Insured

At the end of the summer, I was asked to increase my hours at the American Economic Association from 20 to 30, which made me eligible for medical insurance through Vanderbilt University as a full-time employee. This made me very happy! Not having had insurance for the last 3.5 years has been occasionally scary, although I am grateful that no significant medical expenses arose during that point. Now I regard my insurance as a treat, like a pedicure or a shopping trip: "Ooh, I can get that mole checked out now! I can get my eye exam! I won't have to pay to go to the chiropractor anymore!"

It has meant fewer hours are available for my House Calls Computer Service, and for a while there I was so overwhelmed with both jobs that I stopped taking new clients. But it has evened up now, and I finally adjusted to the additional hours. It wasn't as stressful as it might have been, since I adore my co-workers; I am really lucky to have such an agreeable group of people to work with! I am glad I do get to continue doing both jobs; it keeps me from getting bored or burned-out.

... In Which I Behave As Usual

Church Music: Still singing!

Crafts: Still stitching!

TV: Still watching!

Nieces and Nephews: Still sitting! Not that they really need it anymore... *sigh* the youngest one is 7, the oldest 17! Except for Greta's girls, who STILL live too far away.

I hope that you and your families have a wonderful Christmas season, and that 2011 is a great year for you.

The Lord bless you and keep you
The Lord lift His countenance upon you, and give you peace;
The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. Amen!



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More recent travails

  • After years of anxiety about an excessive backlog of unwatched DVR recorded shows (TiVobligations, credit James Lileks) I have only added to my burdens by becoming even more addicted to British TV programming that has accumulated on my laptop. Do not inquire how I came by this glut of entertainment; only know that I am not acquiring anything that can be legitimately purchased or rented in the US! I have days worth of shows I really do want to watch (I recently got my hands on some episodes of The Goodies which hold up remarkably well) and yet, summer and rerun shows are over and new American TV shows are once again refilling my TiVo. Alas! There is not enough free time.
  • The kittens are thriving, despite having rather more delicate filtration and digestion systems than I would wish for... both of them are finishing up treatment for microbial parasites, and one of them is having antibiotics in addition for a nasty bladder infection. You would scarcely know they are sick at all, so full of frisk are they; they have begun to resort to Blatant Manipulation to gain access to my room at night. Daisy lurks just out of sight behind a corner, and as I come around to my room, flings herself onto her back like a drama queen and shows her belly, as if to say, "isn't this the most adorable belleh you have ever seen? How can you resist petting this?" Yet I am adamant. They are too bouncy to stay asleep all night. I know perfectly well they have been sleeping all day long and just want in my room for more playground territory.
  • Working full-time (or, full-timeish) has seriously impaired my home business. I have had to stop accepting new computer repair clients, since I have difficulty finding the time to take care of the ones I already have. But the job is great, and finally having full insurance again (after 3.5 years without) is completely worth it. But it feels wrong to say no to new clients; I so badly needed them in the past that to turn someone down now feels like a waste.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Is Islam a wolf in sheep's clothing?

Someone sent this to me today, and it gives me pause. CAN THESE STATISTICS BE PROVED? Because if they are correct, then there is a potential for the end of Western Civilization.

I have to remind myself that Communism was perceived as great a threat as Islam in its day, and yet now it is almost a joke. (Although it only had a shelf life of 100+ years, and Islam has been around for centuries.) In other words, this current fear of Islam might all just be society's need for a bogeyman.

Anyway, I am posting this as part of the dialogue... and pray that it is wrong. I did check Snopes and it hasn't made it to the site yet.

Islam in Laymans terms
Adapted from Dr. Peter Hammond's book: Slavery, Terrorism and Islam: The Historical Roots and Contemporary Threat

Islam is not a religion, nor is it a cult. In its fullest form, it is a complete, total, 100% system of life.

Islam has religious, legal, political, economic, social, and military components. The religious component is a beard for all of the other components.

Islamization begins when there are sufficient Muslims in a country to agitate for their religious privileges.

When politically correct, tolerant, and culturally diverse societies agree to Muslim demands for their religious privileges, some of the other components tend to creep in as well.

Here's how it works:

As long as the Muslim population remains around or under 2% in any given country, they will be for the most part be regarded as a peace-loving minority, and not as a threat to other citizens. This is the case in:

United States -- Muslim 0.6%
Australia -- Muslim 1.5%
Canada -- Muslim 1.9%
China -- Muslim 1.8%
Italy -- Muslim 1.5%
Norway -- Muslim 1.8%

At 2% to 5%, they begin to proselytize from other ethnic minorities and disaffected groups, often with major recruiting from the jails and among street gangs. This is happening in:

Denmark -- Muslim 2%
Germany -- Muslim 3.7%
United Kingdom -- Muslim 2.7%
Spain -- Muslim 4%
Thailand -- Muslim 4.6%

From 5% on, they exercise an inordinate influence in proportion to their percentage of the population. For example, they will push for the introduction of halal (clean by Islamic standards) food, thereby securing food preparation jobs for Muslims. They will increase pressure on supermarket chains to feature halal on their shelves -- along with threats for failure to comply. This is occurring in:

France -- Muslim 8%
Philippines -- 5%
Sweden -- Muslim 5%
Switzerland -- Muslim 4.3%
The Netherlands -- Muslim 5.5%
Trinidad & Tobago -- Muslim 5.8%

At this point, they will work to get the ruling government to allow them to rule themselves (within their ghettos) under Sharia, the Islamic Law. The ultimate goal of Islamists is to establish Sharia law over the entire world.

When Muslims approach 10% of the population, they tend to increase lawlessness as a means of complaint about their conditions. In Paris , we are already seeing car-burnings. Any non-Muslim action offends Islam and results in uprisings and threats, such as in Amsterdam , with opposition to Mohammed cartoons and films about Islam. Such tensions are seen daily, particularly in Muslim sections in:

Guyana -- Muslim 10%
India -- Muslim 13.4%
Israel -- Muslim 16%
Kenya -- Muslim 10%
Russia -- Muslim 15%

After reaching 20%, nations can expect hair-trigger rioting, jihad militia formations, sporadic killings, and the burnings of Christian churches and Jewish synagogues, such as in:

Ethiopia -- Muslim 32.8%

At 40%, nations experience widespread massacres, chronic terror attacks, and ongoing militia warfare, such as in:

Bosnia -- Muslim 40%
Chad -- Muslim 53.1%
Lebanon -- Muslim 59.7%

From 60%, nations experience unfettered persecution of non-believers of all other religions (including non-conforming Muslims), sporadic ethnic cleansing (genocide), use of Sharia Law as a weapon, and Jizya, the tax placed on infidels, such as in:

Albania -- Muslim 70%
Malaysia -- Muslim 60.4%
Qatar -- Muslim 77..5%
Sudan -- Muslim 70%

After 80%, expect daily intimidation and violent jihad, some State-run ethnic cleansing, and even some genocide, as these nations drive out the infidels, and move toward 100% Muslim, such as has been experienced and in some ways is on-going in:

Bangladesh -- Muslim 83%
Egypt -- Muslim 90%
Gaza -- Muslim 98.7%
Indonesia -- Muslim 86.1%
Iran -- Muslim 98%
Iraq -- Muslim 97%
Jordan -- Muslim 92%
Morocco -- Muslim 98.7%
Pakistan -- Muslim 97%
Palestine -- Muslim 99%
Syria -- Muslim 90%
Tajikistan -- Muslim 90%
Turkey -- Muslim 99.8%
United Arab Emirates -- Muslim 96%

100% will usher in the peace of 'Dar-es-Salaam' -- the Islamic House of Peace. Here there's supposed to be peace, because everybody is a Muslim, the Madrasses are the only schools, and the Koran is the only word, such as in:

Afghanistan -- Muslim 100%
Saudi Arabia -- Muslim 100%
Somalia -- Muslim 100%
Yemen -- Muslim 100%

Unfortunately, peace is never achieved, as in these 100% states the most radical Muslims intimidate and spew hatred, and satisfy their blood lust by killing less radical Muslims, for a variety of reasons.

'Before I was nine I had learned the basic canon of Arab life. It was me against my brother; me and my brother against our father; my family against my cousins and the clan; the clan against the tribe; the tribe against the world, and all of us against the infidel. -- Leon Uris, 'The Haj'

It is important to understand that in some countries, with well under 100% Muslim populations, such as France, the minority Muslim populations live in ghettos, within which they are 100% Muslim, and within which they live by Sharia Law. The national police do not even enter these ghettos. There are no national courts, nor schools, nor non-Muslim religious facilities. In such situations, Muslims do not integrate into the community at large. The children attend madrases.

They learn only the Koran. To even associate with an infidel is a crime punishable with death. Therefore, in some areas of certain nations, Muslim Imams and extremists exercise more power than the national average would indicate.

Today's 1.5 billion Muslims make up 22% of the world's population. But their birth rates dwarf the birth rates of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and all other believers. Muslims will exceed 50% of the world's population by the end of this century.

It occurs to me that this may be a bit of illogical reasoning; that Islam is responsible for the deterioration of these countries with higher Muslim populations may be reversing the cause and effect; what if the countries with weak or deteriorating infrastructures are more likely to attract Islam, rather that Islam being the cause? My grasp of logic is tenuous and ill-defined, I know...

It's the Little Things...

I regularly listen to a BBC Radio 4 show (via podcast) called The Now Show - sort of a Daily Show, but all UK-based. (I now know a RIDICULOUS amount about their current political situation!) Anyway, they were recently talking about allowing various groups and organizations to set up their own academies, including atheists:

Mitch Benn: "I know this is probably gonna get me kicked out of the atheist's union, but I think I'd miss it if you completely dechurchified schools. But anyway they should still definitely sing hymns in assembly. Atheist hymns, obviously."

(sung to the tune of "All Things Bright and Beautiful")
All things bright and beautiful
All creatures far and near
All things vast and miniscule
Just happen to be here

There was no great creator, there is no grand design
The Universe is getting on without all that just fine

All things known and still unknown
We can or cannot see
All things are just 'cause they are
Not my own beliefs, obviously! but still funny nonetheless.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Monday, August 09, 2010


I have become the cliche of an aging spinster: I am now a Cat Lady. I am not yet a Crazy Cat Lady until I get at least 2 more, possibly 3. My apartment is littered with cat toys and various scratching devices which are of minimal interest to Daisy and Bunny. Nothing will ever be as satisfying to scratch as the sofa and armchair. Fortunately both are holding up fairly well.

I still can't tell them immediately apart in appearance; Bunny has a silkier coat and Daisy has a rounder face, but I can STILL get them wrong until I see their collars! Bunny is immediate, Daisy is leisurely. When Bunny would like some cuddle time with me, Daisy would prefer to pick a fight. Daisy prefers to nap around my neck, while Bunny will curl up on a footstool by herself sometimes.

They make me very, very happy. When I wake up in the morning, I would much prefer playing with them than going back to bed. I take much pride in the fact that they are healthy and putting on weight rapidly (as if I had anything to do with it beyond putting food out at consistent intervals!) The real giveaway is the fact that now I can't do needlework anymore; at least not until they become less destructive and more sedentary. And I don't seem to mind in the least!

As a result of the sudden cessation of needlework, TV has become rather boring. I could sit for hours in the evening watching tv while I made things, but now without something creative to work on with my hands, it's really not enough to keep my full interest! Although I still sit and watch because the kittens insist on a certain quota of lap time.

Bunny is fascinated by the bathroom. The shower is just plain interesting (but she's too wobbly still to hop up without losing balance) and the toilet... well, she has fallen in at least once that I know of. Yes, it was HILARIOUS. It didn't hurt her in the slightest. They chirp and squeak sometimes; Bunny is an alto and Daisy a soprano.

Bit by bit they tear down a little of my Structure daily. A phone cord chewed into segments. A water bowl tipped over in the kitchen. Litter kicked around on the linoleum. Scratch marks all over my shins from attempting to climb into my lap. Anything within reach is theirs for the taking. It's just a matter of time until they can reach the counters. And they have a secret hidey-hole in the Tupperware cabinet. They found a 3-inch hole the allows them to squeeze in and out. I have to wash anything from that cabinet if I want to use it!

I remember what it was like when I could put something down and it would stay there until I moved it. Now it's all about putting things away, and hoping I haven't forgotten something they can reach. They are my little 5% sample of what it is to be a parent. The vet bills, the cat food, the worrying that they will get hurt, the toys, the time they need... I know, probably not even 5% of the equivalent of a baby. But it may be the closest I get.

THANK GOODNESS. I'm exhausted!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


I have concluded that it should be a tradition to give Pet Showers for single people who decide to get pets. I have spent a small fortune on the nursery supplies for my impending babies!

I decided years ago to get myself a pair of cats when I got my own place. When I moved in to my first real home at the end of April, I resolved to give myself a month to settle in before finding some kittens. A friend's neighbor started looking
for a home for a pair of inseparable tabby twin sisters, I saw the pictures and since I love me some tabbies, I went to go see them.

They're all kittens should be - small, sweet, purry and meowy. Blue-eyed and so identical that I really do expect that they are real twins. I discovered that they were born on the day I moved into my new place - that's about as good a sign as it can get!

In the weeks since then (while I waited for them to be big enough to come home with me) I pondered names. The names I had picked out 7 years ago suddenly seemed as though they belonged to a previous season, and no longer applied to who I was now. So I pondered amusing and intellectual names like "Schadenfreude" and "Gemütlichkeit", but then realized that these were entirely too difficult for people to pronounce (including myself) and Schadenfreude was a rather mean-spirited name to saddle a poor kitten with!

I want them to be sweet, affectionate kittens, and so they need sweet names. So I went with "Daisy Delphinium" and "Bunny Rose", Daisy and Bunny for short. And so much stuff they need! Food and litterbox and collars and tags and toys and scratching posts and sprays and surgeries and shots and beds and gates and who knows what else I've forgotten. It's like I'm stocking a nursery for my impending babies, but because they are only pets I'm not entitled to gifts. ;)

And I am worrying a lot more than I should... so much I want to train into them, like not clawing furniture, and letting me sleep at night, and stuff like that... I probably won't have children now, and so these may well be my child substitutes! I went and picked out collars today, and got nametags in case they run away; I almost worry that I'm not allowed to get these sort of things until I actually pick them up, as though I might jinx the process.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tangible Work

Yeah, yeah, I know it's been 10 weeks. But really, should I post even when I have nothing worthwhile to say?

BTW, I think the ability to form complete, cogent ideas with well-chosen words in under 140 characters may become a whole new form of poetry, like haiku. We (western civ) haven't created a new form of poetry in some time; we're about due! So I wholeheartedly embrace Twitter, which teaches economy and brevity.

OK, so the topic at hand here is craftsmanship. I started listening to the audiobook for Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work yesterday, and it is really resonating with me. I've talked before about my delight in needlework and creating tangible things... well, I still feel that way about it, but now as I re-read that old posting, I realize that the nature of my work has changed a great deal since then. I still "herd invisible bits and bytes" around all day... but I have a TRADE now, as opposed to being a sysadmin for a corporate office. I go to people's houses and fix their computers, printers, networks, etc. I lay my hands on a device and seek to make it function properly. Yes, I did that before... but the gratitude and relief is so much more palpable from my current clients, and I feel so much more pride in the services I provide.

Shop Class as Soulcraft talks about that very thing; in a far more intellectual and academic way (the writer has a doctorate) he makes a case for the value of creating useful things, and being able to fix them. He also talks about the deep satisfaction that comes from doing a tangible job, the intellectual stimulation of figuring out how to work around a variety of problems and variables through gained experience, and the sense of community that you develop as a tradesman that is entirely missing from the "knowledge work" that everyone seems to aspire to nowadays.

He also talks about how the Shop Class is disappearing from school curricula and so a whole generation is growing up without knowing how to fix anything useful. It immediately reminded me of my shop class in 7th grade at J.T. Moore Jr. High, and my teacher Mr. Wyss. At the time I didn't realize, but that was my favorite class in the 2 years I was there... and for that matter, in ALL my schooling I have the fondest memories of that class.

See, I wasn't supposed to have the slightest interest in Shop. I was an Artistic Intellectual with vague musical and theatrical aspirations, and so building a bookshelf or knowing how a carburetor worked was just a random thing I was required to learn by the public school system. Shop had no practical application or virtue that I comprehended. But how much I loved the things we did in there... and I became competent at so many of them! Silkscreening t-shirts, building a bookshelf, wiring and building an unlovely (but functional) lamp, learning architectural drafting and drawing my own ideal houseplan, taking apart a lawn mower engine and learning how all the parts worked... I loved ALL of it. I don't remember a single thing we did that I didn't find interesting. But how little I appreciated that gift Mr. Wyss gave us then!

In retrospect, the 2 classes I enjoyed the most at Moore were Shop, followed by Home Economics with Mrs. Boysen, because we were always working on something tangible. Those classes "didn't count," of course, but I poured far more of myself into them, and my eternal difficulties with my peer group never seemed to be an issue there. These were things I could be certain of and were always interesting. I made good grades in all my other classes because I was smart enough to get by... but when I think back on English and History and Math and French, I feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction and shame, because I never felt like I was really learning or retaining anything, and I KNEW that I wasn't really interested in any of it.

I still have that bookshelf I made in Mr. Wyss' class; I keep my cookbooks in it on top of my fridge. I also have the old folder from Mrs. Boysen with the carefully handwritten recipes she had us write out for biscuits and how to boil pasta correctly and white sauce. I've actually had to refer back to that biscuit recipe on occasion! I even have the drawstring bag made from an old towel with my machine-embroidered monogram on it from her class. I had such pride and satisfaction in the things I learned in those 2 classes, and they were the only things I ever shared from school (with any pleasure) with my parents.

It was a surprise to me 10 years later that I had a knack with computers... I had no interest in the sort of science and math that I dimly understood had to do with computer science. I managed to get through high school without taking a single computer class (and was proud to have done so, for I was Artistic!) I had the great good fortune to stumble onto Apple Macintoshes my first year at college, and ended up as a student worker in the computer lab on campus. Even years after I didn't understand that my comprehension of how to mess about with computers was a worthwhile thing... it was just something to do to make a bit of money, and nothing I had any interest in pursuing as a career. It wasn't until I gave up on theater and history and academia as a future in my mid-20s and got a job on the Belmont campus in the computer store that I began to see that I genuinely enjoyed futzing around with computers, and had a gift for it. Even when I was offered the job at William Morris as the tech support for the Nashville office, I cried because "it was the death of my theatrical dreams" and would probably destroy my soul. *snicker* What a pompous young idiot.

Now all of those experiences have woven around and I am happily making and repairing things, increasing my knowledge by experience, fixing computers for people. I still read History, have a theatrical personality, and fancy myself an intellectual... but I am a satisfied, proud Tradesman by profession. I consider myself a most fortunate woman.

Thank you, Mr. Wyss. Thank you, Mrs. Boysen.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Social Networking = Small Town Life

I have my days of despising technology and contemplating asking the Amish to adopt me; to get away from the speed and exhaustion and frequent pointless/wasteful aspects of 21st century life... but then I see something lovely that makes me glad I live in a time where I have a conduit like the Internet.

My friend TJ (to preserve her anonymity) had a car accident this week, and shared it on Facebook. Here is a transcript:

TJ: Funeral, then a visitation, then wrecked our pathfinder on the way home...praise God that the kids and I were not hurt.
Thu at 5:15pm

Amen! All Glory be to God for protecting His precious children. I praise God for your safety. We love you!
Thu at 5:16pm

Sorry to hear your news T...glad to hear that you guys are safe!!
Thu at 5:43pm

Oh no! I'm glad you guys are ok.
Thu at 5:47pm

Oh No!!! Thank God all of you were safe. Let me know if you need anything.
Thu at 5:51pm

Glad ya'll are okay!!! Did the weather influence the accident?
Thu at 7:22pm

So sorry...what happened?
Thu at 7:29pm

So sorry to hear about your accident but glad everyone is okay!!!
Thu at 7:43pm

TJ: Hit ice on our road and ended up going off the road, down the ditch and hit some trees that then spun me sideways. I totaled the front...so....looking for a new car again.
Thu at 8:00pm

WOW! So sorry and SO glad you are OK.
Thu at 8:24pm

Glad to hear that you and the little ones are okay, but so sorry about the car. I know that must of been scary. I'm praying for you.
Thu at 9:19pm

so thankful you are all ok!
Thu at 9:19pm

WOW. That truly sucks. Do you have some kind of transport in the meantime? let me know if you need some chauffeuring!
Thu at 10:26pm ·

Glad y'all are ok!! Now the pleasure of searching for a car. Love you!
Thu at 10:53pm

WOW! Glad you guys are ok. Double WOW!
Thu at 11:24pm

Sorry to hear that! We just got home too and man was it scary icy! Glad you and the kids are OK!
Yesterday at 12:02am

girl...sooooo happy that you guys are okay....sorry about the car...it's a drag, I know.
Yesterday at 7:54am

Great to hear that you all are ok, T. We've got a very nice minivan we could sell you pretty cheap. It's real sporty in the only way minivans can be, and I am pretty sure I could talk M. into selling it!
Yesterday at 8:26am

TJ: D., may have to have you work on my neck. T., can you put sporty and minivan in the same sentence? We always seem to find cheaper vehicles in Clarksville, just don't want to make the drive.
Yesterday at 10:23am


TJ: Cool, my first concussion....pics of the car to come tomorrow.
Yesterday at 2:16pm

I thought you said you were ok! A concussion is not ok! I'm so sorry!!! Do you need any help?
Yesterday at 2:43pm

What in the world?? You really are hurt! How are the kids?
Yesterday at 2:46pm

TJ: Don't need help (although that's debatable). Mostly I just have some nausea and a little dizziness, it's mild, at least no pounding headache. The kids are fine, I just hit my head on the window at the end of my "ride". K., I might need a ride on Tuesday! :-)
Yesterday at 2:54pm

Wow, so sorry. Glad you are "okay." Let me know if I can help in some way.
Yesterday at 3:15pm

Well, there goes your football career.
Yesterday at 8:04pm

So sorry to hear about your accident! I hope you're going to be all right.
Yesterday at 8:58pm

Was it that bad? Were you by yourself?
Yesterday at 10:03pm

let me know if you need anything - transport, groceries, etc.!
4 hours ago ·

Y. saw the car... was surprised it was you..and I ditto what S. said.. let me know if you need anything.
about an hour ago

Here we have an instant response to a problem/need. 10 years ago, my friend would have had the car accident, and only a few people might ever know (if she happened to call them for assistance.) I should mention that this friend lives further out from town than anyone else I know. But now, by putting out this small but significant piece of news, the affection and support of her friends is made evident. The pleasure of offering assistance is made available to all of her friends, and she is encouraged by their concern and gladness for their safety.

In a small town, this sort of news might get around quickly, and the support of friends and neighbors gained by word of mouth. But since the development of the suburbs and their sprawl, the majority of people have become more isolated and lost the support of community life. Now through social networking on the internet, we seem to have regained a little of that community support. As long as it eventually translates into actual, face-to-face connections and tangible support, Facebook (frivolous and often inane as it is) is proving to be a benefit and a blessing.