Thursday, November 29, 2012

woof, meow, cluck: a pet update

So, believe or not, there is a brief break in the tension around here.  I turned in my very last paper yesterday-- wait, let me say that again, lest you miss its import:  I TURNED IN MY VERY LAST PAPER YESTERDAY, my final project for the young adult lit class.  Except my thesis, of course, but even that is moving along.  Defense on December 10th. Pray.

But since I TURNED IN MY FINAL PAPER yesterday (did I mention that I TURNED IN MY LAST PAPER YESTERDAY?), and I'm still dang sick--which I haven't mentioned here, but I've complained about everywhere else, so why not let you guys know, too?-- I'm giving myself today off.  Ergo, you get a post.  And fair warning:  pet excrement discussed in detail in this post.  You've been warned.

The puppy first.  She is so adorable.  We are all in love with her.  She's so much more snuggly than our older dog.  Of course, we snuggle plenty with Jazz, too, just because she's been our faithful friend for eleven years now.  But Sadie would like nothing better than to wiggle into your lap and just stay there all day long while you rub her tummy and her velvety ears.  Well, except to spend the day fetching a tennis ball.

She's become completely obsessed with fetch.  We had black labs when I was a kid, so I know about this.  It's not new to me.  Cricket, the black lab we had when I was in high school, would fetch all afternoon when we had people over.  When one person got tired, someone else would take over.  Cricket never got tired.  Sadie is the puppy version of that.  You have to watch out for her, because she's little, so after about 15 minutes her chest is heaving and she's slowing down, but she will never take a break unless you make her.

So then we walk around the back yard for five minutes or so while she gets her breath back, and then start again.  If you stop, take the ball away from her and put it away, she sits and stares at it (or the place where you've put it) for about twenty minutes before she finally gives up.  Usually this means the ball is sitting on top of the woodpile, and she stares soulfully at it, whining a little (or a lot).  We call this Worshiping At The Altar Of The Tennis Ball.  You can almost see her think as she drags herself away:  well darn it they're not going to throw that thing anymore for awhile.  sigh.  I guess I better go find something to chew on

Also, (*drum-roll*) she is housetrained.  (and did I mention that I turned in my last paper yesterday?)  She goes to the door and whines when she needs to go out.  So as long as someone is paying attention, she is a big girl now.  No accidents in a couple of weeks.  (I am seriously knocking on wood right now)

Jazz, the elderly dog, is really good with her.  We were a bit worried, because Jazz has had trouble playing nicely with other dogs in the past.  She is not the kind of dog that you would take to a dog park.  She has initiated fights and intimidated sweet little lapdogs, and even occasionally bitten people.  We are very careful with her.

But after ignoring Sadie for the first 48 hours or so, Jazz has actually turned into a pretty good doggy mentor.  I think that's the main reason that Sadie made it through housetraining so fast (we were warned to expect it to take till six months at least, and she is four months).  Jazz doesn't do her business in the house, so Sadie doesn't either.  Jazz is definitely Alpha dog.  Sadie waits patiently while Jazz gets fed first, or goes through the door first, or gets a treat first.

I'm not sure I've ever told you about Cinder, our seventeen-year-old cat.  She doesn't look that old, but underneath her furriness, she is fragile and a bit decrepit.  And also losing it.  She stopped using the litter box (except just often enough that we know she still knows it's there).  But at least she only pees in one spot. (and yes, I did try putting a litter box in that spot, but she just moved over about six inches). So now we have Wee-Wee Pads (not kidding, that's really what they're called, which is the only thing that makes this bearable, if you ask me.  We get to have entire conversations about wee-wee pads).  It works pretty well, she hasn't had an accident off the pads since we started using them.

And the chickens.  It's cold around here, but other than their coop, we don't have any place indoors where they can live.  So Dean spent an entire weekend insulating their coop with styrofoam insulation, the kind that is backed with silver foil.  And we put up a heat lamp.  It is toasty in there-- and a little bit like a 70s disco bar.  That silver foil packs a punch.

Unfortunately, it packed a little bit too much of one, because the first time it snowed and the ladies decided to stay inside for the day, they discovered a secret voracious appetite for silver-backed styrofoam.  Once little bits of foil and styrofoam starting showing up in their .... well, you know...  we decided something had to be done. (We do call it the s-word around here, because what else are you going to call chicken poop? but this is a family friendly blog, so I'm being polite. sort of.) 

So once again the patient Dean spent his day off repairing all the damage they had done, and then tacking up visqueen (plastic sheeting) over it, which seems to have solved the problem.  I can't even find any peck marks on the plastic.  They're supposed to stop laying when the weather gets cold (or the daylight hours get short, you hear both theories), but so far we are still getting 4-6 eggs per day, so I think they are happy.

And that's the news from here.  Hope you are all doing well.  And don't forget to say a prayer/send vibes/whatever on December 10th for my thesis defense.  I'm trying not to be terrified.  But I kind of am.

and by the way, did I mention that I turned in my last paper yesterday?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

a thanksgiving post, I mean link

I feel bad having a grinch-y post up for Thanksgiving, but when I tried to write a better one, it kept coming out snarky.  So here is a link to the one I wrote a few years ago.  I've had a nasty virus for over a week now and I'm just starting to come out of it (thankful!) so maybe that is why I need an attitude adjustment.  Hope you are warm and snug with your loved ones today, or if you're not, that you have some other way to enjoy a nice fall day.  Hugs from me, and a virtual piece of pecan pie. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Cooking Grinch, part one

There are certain public opinions that become so strongly held at some particular time that they seem supremely self-evident, and those who disagree are automatically wrong.  For example (granted, a goofy one):  If you get a bunch of guys together and ask them if they wear boxers or briefs, all it takes is one person mentioning "tighty whities," and the discussion is ended.  No one is going to say that they prefer briefs once the "tighty whities" card has been played.  No matter that there are perfectly legitimate reasons to prefer briefs over boxers (boxers get all bunched up around your thighs, MadMax told me the first time he tried them)(although he wears them now).  The simple invocation of that phrase ends the discussion.

I feel a bit like that when I read the blogs about cooks who seem to spend their life in the kitchen these days making everything from scratch.  It has become the gold standard to bake your own bread, grow your own herbs, roll your own pasta.  In certain circles, if you say you'd just as soon buy Ronzoni, it is immediately assumed that encourage your children to eat chemicals and pesticides for after school snack, and for fun you probably pump pure carbon dioxide and methane into the air in your backyard, because that's what shipping your pasta from one side of the country to the other does.

I don't mean to disparage the whole foods movement, I think it's a great idea.  I'm even on board with it to a certain extent.  I don't mean to argue about the buy local phenomenon-- it's terrific.  (But I think you better pick where you live before you commit to eating only food that's produced within 100 miles of your home, because where I live, that means you wouldn't be able to eat anything fresh for eight (nine?) months out of the year.)

But here's my problem with the whole thing:  I don't want to spend that much time in the kitchen.  I am not one of those people who enjoys spending all afternoon cutting and chopping and simmering.  If I spent all afternoon in the kitchen, you'd have to peel me off the ceiling.  I don't hate to cook, but I don't love it either.  My spouse doesn't have time to cook, so we're stuck with me.

I'm good for 30-45 minutes in the kitchen before I get so bored I want to pull my hair out.  Which means that I am not going to make my own cheese.  I am not going to make my own vinegar.  I have absolutely no interest in churning my own butter, rolling out my own tortillas, or canning my own produce (tried it--three years in a row--and it is definitely not for me). I know these things are better when they're made from scratch.  You don't have to argue with me about that, I've tasted it with my very own mouth.  But at our house, we have to choose between food that can be made quickly, and mom going to the loony bin.  I choose sanity.

I keep wondering to myself, isn't that why we're in the 21st century?  So we don't have to spend our lives slaving away at all the little things that make life seem like pure drudgery?  Why would I want to chain myself to a stove?

But then I have to remind myself that there are (obviously) people who do get a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction out of spending hours in the kitchen.  And they probably felt guilty about it back in the 80s when everything was about "freedom from the kitchen," i.e., convenience food and twenty-minute meals and semi-homemade.  Just the way I feel guilty now because I really don't care if we occasionally have pizza delivered, or if I start my spaghetti sauce with a jar of pre-made marinara, or if I pull out a pan of Rhodes frozen cinnamon rolls when MadMax has a friend spend the night. (my lord, have you tasted those things? who cares that they're not from scratch?) 

But here are my exceptions to the 45 minute limit:  holidays, and cooking with friends and/or family.  And since those two often go together, I'm good this week.  Nell and I are making pies (2 apple, 2 pumpkin, pecan, chocolate pecan, cherry, strawberry rhubarb), grape salad, appetizers, and butternut squash (Nell's specialty, and she really is one of those who enjoys chopping and simmering) for our multi-family Thanksgiving on Thursday.  Have a great holiday.

One man's toxic sludge is another man's potpourri. 
 --Jim Carrey as the Grinch

Friday, November 16, 2012

and it's off to the readers

Just e-mailed the next revision to my three readers.  I'm so brain dead that's all I have to say.  Have a nice weekend.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reading Report: Looking for Alaska, plus other long-winded thoughts

If anything, this week is worse than last, because I went to Texas to visit my mom for the holiday weekend (no class on Monday).  The tickets were purchased months ago when I thought my thesis would be practically finished by now-- my original plan (made at the beginning of the semester) was to send it off to my readers on November 1st.  But I couldn't change the tickets, and it was a good trip, I'm glad I went. 

Now I have a paper due tomorrow, and I absolutely must send my thesis to my readers by Friday-- my advisor tells me I might be able to get away with sending it Monday, but it is generally the accepted practice to give your readers two weeks to read and comment, and I have to have my thesis turned into the graduate school a week before my defense. The defense is December 10, meaning I must have it turned in by December 3, two weeks before December 3rd is November 19th (next Monday), and if I'm going to have any time at all to edit it based on their comments, that means sending it to them this Friday.

SO WHY THE HELL AM I SITTING HERE TYPING A BLOG POST?  And that is an excellent question, but I'm still taking the YALit class, and I just finished Looking for Alaska, and I wanted to write something out while it's fresh in my mind.  Which takes a bit of backing up.

Last fall, when I was doing the independent study on Modernist poetry, I wrote my final paper on the first third of H.D.'s (Hilda Doolittle's) long poem cycle, Trilogy, which is called The Walls Do Not Fall.  She wrote it in England during World War II when it must have seemed that the world was ending.  It's about being a woman poet, a female visionary, in a world that has no use for visions, femininity, or poems.  The Walls Do Not Fall is about figuring out how to survive in that world--not how to change it (she moves on to that, at least partly, in the second and third sections), but how to manage living in that world as it is.

She has some specific strategies, such as choosing carefully to whom you will give your allegiance--in a hierarchical world, it is important to make sure that you are following the leader(s) you want to follow.  Like Joseph Campbell's image of the ladder on the wall-- you don't want to climb and climb and climb a ladder, only to find out that it was propped against the wrong wall and ends up someplace you didn't really want to go (I'm mixing stuff up here, H.D. doesn't know a dang thing about Joseph Campbell)(and I don't know much, either, other than watching a couple of his TV shows about the archetypal hero. I just heard the ladder example years ago from a therapist).

Anyway.  Back to Looking for Alaska (author-John Green).  It struck me that this is what I love about Young Adult literature.  Literary fiction for adults tends to be about analyzing the world, how awful it is, how there is no hope and and everything is futile.  Unless it is rebuilt from the ground up without sexism and racism and classism, there's nothing to be done but despair. But YALit, at least the good stuff, is often about how to manage living in that world--not how to change it, but how to find hope and joy and beauty in the world as it is.   

Looking for Alaska is that type of book.  Miles Halter decides he has had enough of his boring, nerdy life in public school and goes off to a prep school to find the Great Perhaps.  It has definite overtones of A Separate Peace and The Secret History, but it is its own book.  It's occasionally laugh out loud funny, often heart-rending.  It gets a little hokey at the end, even by my standards with my well-known love for hokey-ness, but still. Even though it discusses a very difficult issue, and the teens involved are thoroughly flawed human beings (aren't we all), it still offers a way of dealing with the world, of continuing on even in the face of some very bad stuff.  Rather than just ending in despair, it offers some tools for continuing to live. 

Good book.  Worth reading. 

Saturday, November 03, 2012


first draft finally finally FINALLY done and turned in. about three minutes ago. and only two days late. I'm going to bed to sleep 12 hours.  except I'm so wound up at the moment that I probably won't be able to sleep.