Sunday, July 28, 2013

Riffday: it was ninety-nine cents!

1. We hiked 10 miles with 4300+ feet of elevation gain (and loss, which is almost worse) yesterday.  Not kidding.  Would I kid about something like that?  I can walk today, but barely.  Once my knees (and hips and quads and feet and etc) quit aching, I'm sure I will appreciate that I got to see such incredible views (and they were incredible), but at the moment, I sort of just wish I wasn't sore.

2.  But I can't post pictures tonight because I'm on the road again and the camera is at home.  I'm on my way to meet up with Julie (hey!! twice in one month!) and Karen (whom I feel like I've known forever but have never actually met).  Will report back, and maybe even post a picture or two.

3.  Dean and I played in church this morning--the offertory and the "special music."  He plays guitar, I play flute.  We look very sweet and couple-y up there, and no one ever knows that we might have nearly killed each other over deciding what to play and how to play it.  We did a couple of John Michael Talbot songs this time and they have been running around in my head ever since, even in the face of a concerted effort to dislodge them by listening to P!nk and Len and Imagine Dragons while I was driving along in the car.

4.  Another thing I listened to was the audio version of "Beethoven's Shadow" by Jonathan Biss.  Biss is a concert pianist, and if you're at all interested in piano or Beethoven or classical music in general, it's a must-read (or must-listen, as the case may be).  It's also really interesting if you enjoy an intelligent discussion about art, or the development of an artist, or listening to an artist talk about his work.  And it even scored points for getting me to think about writing, in a cross-pollination sort of way.  There are similarities (and vast differences) between what he does when he sits down at a piano to interpret a great piece of music and what a writer does when she sits down in front of a blank page, and making the mental comparison (even though he never mentions it) was fascinating to me.  Highly recommended, although he sort of lost me toward the end. (and if you're an Audible member, it's free through the end of the month in their "Happy Christmas in July" promotion.)

5.  I took down the poll as soon as we got home from vacation (eyesore!) but I forgot to say how it turned out.  Y'all are remarkably reluctant to respond, I must say.  That post had 38 counted pageviews (which means there were probably 25% or so more than that), and only 7 of you responded. *shakes head*  As will surprise no one who has been around me for the past couple of years, I can't remember what the results were.  I know, I know, there were only SEVEN votes. Four, one, and two, but I can't remember which response was which.  So, my first poll was what they call an epic fail.  Except I did learn that you, my dear readers, don't like to participate in polls.   At least, not here.

6.  Several times now I've wanted to discuss vigilante-ism in popular novels because it's starting to bug me.  Seems like practically every novel I've read this summer (and several more over the past couple of years) has someone taking the law into their own hands and blowing away the bad guy, accompanied by a very high-minded, elevated moral tone about how it's the right thing to do.  I so thoroughly disagree with this that I'm having a hard time getting through the novel I'm reading right now (The Hum and The Shiver by Alex Bledsoe) even though it's otherwise really, really good.  You know me well enough by now to know that the last thing I want is to start a political discussion here, but *cough* George Zimmerman *cough.*  The reason I'm sticking this in a single paragraph near the end of a boring post is because I don't really feel competent to write an entire serious post on the subject. But I feel pretty strongly about it.  In books, it's always someone who is really wise and experienced so that somehow they know who the people are who deserve to die, but in real life, it's rarely all that clear, and it just ends up with neighbors suspiciously eyeing neighbors as they stockpile AK-47s in the rec room and take pot shots out the back window.  Stop it already.

7.  PellMel has been hitting the thrift shops to outfit her new apartment.  She shared apartments with other girls in undergrad, but this is her first time having to put it all together herself.  She's found some great deals.  I've been with her a few times, but I discovered that they often have large used book sections and we all know the last thing I need is more books.  Put the book down and back away from the book section.  Danger lurks everywhere.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Summer in Montana: The Hike of Shame

It might tell you much about the exciting life I lead as a blogger that even while this was happening, I handed the camera to PellMel so I could have photographic evidence and write it up later.  :-P

So, when our hike got cut short the other day due to bear activity, we decided to do part of another nearby hike.  I think I've told you before that I'm afraid of heights (see #7 here, for example).  The beginning of this hike is next to a 120-foot drop down to a busy road.  It's terrifying--to me.  Not to anybody else in our crew.  But I did it several years ago, so I thought it was going to be OK.

But no.  We got about 50 feet out and I started to panic.  Dean did his best--walked next to me on the drop-off side of the trail, coached me through it, offered to hold my hand (me:  but then we'll BOTH GO OVER).

Finally we had to turn back.  I felt like an idiot.  It's not that bad--the trail is about 6-8 feet wide, and as you'll see in the pictures, there is a heavy-duty cable covered by a garden hose that is bolted into the side of the mountain.  Although in my defense, I didn't turn back until we got to the end of the cable.  The cable ended because, my family pointed out, the dropoff isn't as steep at that part.  But it was still pretty damn steep and my stomach was having none of it.  Or maybe it was my phobic brain.  Or something.  anyway, here are a few pictures, including one of me where I ducked under the cable and tried to smile in a brave, plucky way.

This is looking back just before I gave up and we turned around
Look close--you can see the garden hose in the upper left--that's the trail,
then the drop off down to the road

PellMel took this one just by pointing the camera down.
The garden hose-covered cable is on the right, and that's a bit of
the road a hundred feet down on the upper left

See how brave I look?

MadMax and PellMel, clearly NOT BOTHERED by the height
-and behind them the ongoing trail with no cable and oh, yeah, sure, less steep sides

You know, it just doesn't look that scary when you see it in pictures.  But I was terrified.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer in Montana, or "Why We Put Up with Nine Months of Winter"

Warning:  There are a gazillion pictures in this post.  If you want to look at it, you can probably click and then go get a cup of tea while all the pictures load.  :-)

We have a family tradition of hiking the Hidden Lake trail in Glacier National Park every year.  Not many people who live around here do it, because it is the most popular hike in the park and it is always crowded with tourists.  But we usually do it in late August or early September when the crowds start to thin, so it's not too bad.  This year, PellMel is moving to Bozeman in a couple of weeks, so we had to go ahead.

This was supposed to be the picture of all the tourists, but it didn't turn out very well-- if it were a better picture, you could see little bitty people all the way back to the visitor center:

But in spite of the crowds, there are lots of reasons why it is the most popular hike in the park.  For example, bighorn sheep in the parking lot:

There are plenty of wildflowers:

And it's not a very difficult hike.  It goes steadily uphill for about the first mile, but then you're just walking along a trail:

There are gorgeous views everywhere you turn:

There's enough snow to lob a few snowballs:

PellMel and MadMax practicing their skills for next winter

And there is plenty of wildlife to see, like marmots:

and picas (he's exiting the picture on the right, they move so fast it was hard to get a good shot):

and the crowd favorite, mountain goats:

Then, when you get to the top, there is yet another spectacular view:

We were going to hike down to the lake, but it was roped off this year:

So since our hike was cut short, we decided to end by doing the first bit of the almost-as-popular Highline trail, which leaves from the other side of the road, where I made a complete fool out of myself.  Stay tuned.  Tomorrow, Summer in Montana:  The Hike of Shame.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

vacation thoughts, continued

So ... no surprise-- family reunions bring on hard core nostalgia.  There you are with people you've known your whole life, you've done Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter egg hunts and birthdays and pizza and weddings and a few funerals, we've had kids and adopted kids and married and divorced.

And just to really bring on the nostalgia, there we were at that conference center where we spent time every summer growing up.  There were some fireworks across the lake the first night we were there, which took me right back to being so mad one morning to wake up and hear that my older sister and Debbie (who had been sleeping on the screened porch) got to see fireworks across the lake, while the three of us younger ones sleeping in the bedrooms missed out.  Just like that, I was right there, five years old, jealous, and pissed.  Ha.  You'd think I could come up with a more flattering memory, but there's the one I've got.

When I was younger, I don't think I fully realized the value of family, of being part of a tribe.  I probably still don't, but I know I was fascinated and buoyed up by spending time with them last week. When I was younger, I had so much invested in establishing my own identity, some special uniqueness that turned out to be not all that special or that unique.  Now I can look around at my cousins and appreciate how much we are alike, and how rare our particular combination of faults is.  [aside: You know, the teacher from my editing class would argue that "special uniqueness" is redundant, but I don't think it is.  Well, OK, maybe it is but it still works in this paragraph.  Maybe.]

There we are with our blond eyelashes (which never get fully coated by mascara no matter how hard you try), our cerebral interests, our collective introversion (we figured this week that there was one extrovert per family, which is a good thing or we would have all retreated to our rooms and never come out).  Most of us have a tendency toward bitchy crankiness that covers hearts utterly loyal and unfailingly willing to help, the same snide and sarcastic sense of humor, and (damn it) chronic headaches.  It's comforting to know you're not some weird anomaly.  (or if you are, at least you're not the only one.)  When I was younger, I wanted to be some sparkling combination of amazing individualized traits, now I'm just happy to know I'm not the only one dealing with my particular burdens.

And then there was the trip to Chicago.  I call myself a native Texan, but technically, I'm not.  I was born in Philadelphia while my dad was teaching at a college there, and we moved to a town about 30 miles west of Chicago before I was two.  We didn't move back to Dallas until the summer I turned seven.  But since most of our extended family was in Texas, and many of our vacations involved trips to Dallas to visit them, we always knew we were just temporarily displaced while we were living in the North.

Anyway. Chicago. The first time I went to a movie, we rode the train into Chicago to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.  Or maybe it was The Jungle Book.  I'm not sure, but I remember the train ride and being too hot.  And then for my first two years of college, I went back to that school 30 miles west of Chicago where my dad taught, adding more layers of memory.

The Chicago waterfront is an entirely different thing now than it was back then, but even then I always loved going to Chicago.  In college we would get on the train and head into the city to go to Uno's for pizza, or the Hyatt for the dessert bar, or to Marshall Field's for frango mints (back when that was the only place you could get them).  My friend Dré and I rode the train in one time for the matinée of the stage version of Evita and then went out for lunch at some restaurant at the top of a building somewhere, I don't remember which one.  We thought we were quite the sophisticates.

Now, there are all kinds of cool things to do and see at the Chicago waterfront.

The Bean at Millenium Park (otherwise known as the Cloud Gate)
Like every other tourist there, we took a zillion pictures of ourselves

At some point last week Crosby Stills and Nash's "Southern Cross" played and I was so swamped with nostalgia for the early 80s that I could barely stand.  Which seemed kind of funny.  I've never been one for sentimentalism or nostalgia.  I've never wanted to go back to my childhood or be 25 again or god knows not 14.  But it hit me hard last week.  It was a simpler time, yes?  Maybe the reason I've never longed for the past is because I always thought the present was better. If you're a woman, there is no time period in the history of our planet better to be alive than the last fifty years.

Nowadays, I'm finally not so sure that the present is better.  Things were a lot less complicated back then.  Or maybe it's just seems that way because I was younger and less complicated myself.  Either way, it hit me hard last week.

When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
Cause the truth you might be runnin' from is so small
But it's as big as the promise, the promise of the coming day

Think about
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me larger voices callin'
What Heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten

I have been around the world
Lookin' for that woman girl
Who knows love can endure
And you know it will, and you know it will yes

Monday, July 15, 2013

Riffday: Greetings from the friendly confines

Hi!  We got home late Friday night (Saturday morning, actually), and spent all weekend recovering.  I've only done one load of laundry so far so you can imagine the piles of laundry that are still waiting to be done.  Eventually.

We started out in Oregon at the wedding of the son of some dear friends.  The wedding was beautiful, and the bride and groom were beaming with happiness.  Nice to see that when it happens.  We wish them well, from the bottom of our hearts.

Then on Saturday, Julie UrthaLun drove up from Eugene and we spent the afternoon and a good bit of the evening talking non-stop (there is a picture here).  We wandered around the Oregon state capitol and walked around the riverfront park and talked.  It is always fun to see a blog friend in person and have a real talk, and she had good insights into some things I've been thinking about.  Wish we could do that more often.

So then we hopped on a plane and flew all day to Chicago, got a rental car, and drove an hour and a half to Northern Indiana, to a conference center we used to visit when we were kids.  It was time for my family's tri-ennial reunion (tri-ennial means every three years, right?).  My sisters and almost all my cousins were there, with their spouses and families. We let various parents, aunts, and uncles tag along, too, if they're nice, but mainly it is The Cousins.  We have a blast.

It was a great week.  Ahead of time, I always wonder what we're going to do during our family reunions, but that is never a problem.  The week flies by.  Mainly we sit and talk.  Sometimes we go for walks, and many games are played and jigsaw puzzles completed, but those are mainly excuses for more talking.  Our family game is Rook, and we are a bit demented about it.  I only played the last night, but if you went in the meeting room any time after lunch, there was almost always a Rook game going.  Any other Rook players out there?  two decks, call your partner?

Dean, MadMax and I went into Chicago one day.  We saw the Chicago Symphony rehearsing outdoors at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion; we spent several hours in the Shedd Aquarium; we took a water taxi on a gorgeous afternoon across the marina to Navy Pier; and we climbed an ungodly number of ramps and stairs to get to our seats in the nosebleed section at Wrigley Field so we could watch the Cubs get stomped by the Angels.  It was a fabulous day.

We also go to see Debbie, of Stop Her She's Knitting.  We have practically been part of each other's families since we were toddlers.  If you click here, you can see the pictoral evidence.  I have almost forgiven her for taking my picture while we were out on a morning walk, pre-shower and in the midst of the worst humidity I have had the pleasure to experience in decades.  Only someone near and dear to my heart could get away with that.

So now we're home, facing mountains of laundry and trying to get up the energy to get things done in the midst of a summer heat wave.  Hope you are all enjoying July!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

the fruitcake years: what I learned

So one of the things I did during those years was to join a number of women's spirituality groups.  One of my favorite themes for these groups was something along the lines of "Women's Ways of Knowing."  We talked about the special accuracy of feelings and emotions, and how sometimes you can know things without being told, and how sometimes intuition, hunches, and gut feelings can lead to more accurate knowledge than logic and scientific reasoning.  We talked about how those ways of knowing and understanding are undervalued by our culture, and how those of us who think intuitively as opposed to analytically can be at a disadvantage in an argument or disagreement with someone who wants to coolly use logic and statistics to prove that we are "wrong."

One of the best things I learned while I was investigating all that stuff was not to undervalue the way I think.  Sure, someone who is more "rational" and more "logical" can talk circles around me and argue me into the ground, but I no longer fold under that kind of pressure.  These days I know myself well enough to know when my inner sense of what is right is ... well, right. Or at least worth pursuing. I may decline to continue the argument, but I no longer give in.  I'm damn stubborn that way.

Looking back twenty-ish years later, the distinction we made in those women's circles between the two types of thinking seems overly simplistic now.  First of all, because it doesn't make sense to me anymore to divide types of thinking along male/female lines.  I know plenty of men who can think intuitively and who value their hunches; I know plenty of women (including me) who are more than capable of being analytical and learning higher level math and scientific reasoning--it's just not my default mode.

But also because there are many more ways of thinking than just two. We need all the types of thinking we can get when trying to make a difficult decision or meet a new challenge.  I would never make a major decision (like a job change or a move) based solely on a gut feeling that it was time to change.  The gut feeling might be the nudge I need to start looking around and consider various options, but now that I am older and maybe slightly wiser than I used to be, there's no way I would just have a hunch and turn in my resignation letter the next day. I'm not even sure I would have done that when I was nineteen (but I might have).

That being said, there is still a difference between intuitive thinking and sensory thinking.  Jung used that polarity--the continuum between gaining knowledge through intuition vs. sensory data--as one of the scales of his famous personality measures, now commonly measured by a test called the Briggs-Meyers.  I just googled around and read some descriptions of this, and I'm not sure I agree with some of them.  But I'm discussing it anyway.  You are forewarned that I am not an expert of any type on this stuff.  In fact, I probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about. It just interests me.

Take the example of walking into a room with several people in it.  Everyone will see the same things:  a woman wearing a blue sweater sitting on a brown sofa on the left, a man wearing a charcoal gray suit and navy blue tie leaning against the back wall, a child sitting on the floor to the right playing with small toys.

A person who leans toward sensory thinking will remember exactly that--the physical details of what she sees.  A person who leans toward intuitive ways of knowing may not remember the color of the sofa or whether or the type of shoes the man was wearing, but he might unconsciously put together the exact same visual data and get a feel for the "mood" of the room-- tense, angry, irritated, relaxed, happy.  The sensory person might notice that the man is facing away from the woman and is tapping his toe insistently.  The intuitive person infers that he seems ill-at-ease and might be nervous or mad about something.

Of course, nobody is entirely one way or the other.  But people who lean toward the sensing pole will want "the facts, just the facts."  Those who lean toward intuition will be willing to extrapolate and interpret-- in fact, they won't just be willing, they will be unable to stop themselves because that is how they "see."

A sensing person will come away with a physical description of the room and the people in it, the intuitive person will turn away thinking, wow, you could cut the tension in that room with a knife.  The intuitive might already be spinning possible stories about why there is so much tension in the air (are they the child's parents? are they angry because of something the child did?  are they tense because they are waiting for something?).

And since I am one of those intuitive people, I can tell you that we're often right.  (Although based on my own experience, I will add that even thought I am often right about the mood or attitude of a group of people, I am less likely to be right about the story I spin to explain it.)  Intuitives can be a valuable resource for sensory people because we notice moods, attitudes, and emotions that the sensory people miss.  Just like the sensing person is a valuable resource for me because I often don't remember the physical details of my experience.

But I can also provide that balance within myself--using my innate tendency to see things intuitively to inform my ability to think analytically.  Which has been a pretty cool thing to learn over the years.

Monday, July 01, 2013

I'd rather be a comma than a full stop (and a poll!)

The next fruitcake post is half-written but I haven't found the energy to finish it yet.  It is so freaking hot here.  It's supposed to get up to 96 today, and since it so rarely does that, we don't have air conditioning.  We just have 27 fans going round the clock, and let me tell you, they are not enough.  Excuse me while I go plunge my head into ice water, and then I'll come back and finish.

So, what else is going on around here.

I just finished a six-week online course on copyediting.  It was surprisingly fascinating to me.  I signed up on a whim, thinking it would be a good set of skills to have given the things that I'm interested in, but not ever imagining that I would want to be an editor.  But as I worked my way through the lessons, I realized that it is exactly the kind of stuff I'm interested in.  I've got a manuscript of my mom's to work on (an old one, I'm not nearly experienced enough to tackle her new one), and if you know of anyone else who might need editing done and wouldn't mind having an apprentice editor do the work, e-mail me (the link to my e-mail is on my profile page).

There was one point where I wasn't sure I agreed with the instructor, so I'm taking opinions.  I just figured out how to add a "real" opinion poll.  Let's try this--it's over there in the right margin.  And I have absolutely no way of knowing whose vote is whose, so this is completely anonymous.  Vote with abandon, or let me know what you think in the comments.

Here is the situation:  You've labored over a manuscript for months, poured your heart and soul into it, and it is your baby.  You take your courage in both hands and send it off to an editor for polishing.  The editor finds a sentence that she doesn't understand.  Which would you prefer to see in the margin?
A.  "Unclear"

B.  "I'm not sure what you mean by this sentence.  Can you clarify it, please?"

C.  "I think I understand what this sentence means, but I'm not sure.  If I'm confused, the reader might be, too.  Can we work together to clarify it?"
Make your choice over there in the right margin before you read on.

I've done some editing for people before, and one of the main things I learned in this class is that I have been way too abrupt in communicating with the author.  I assumed that it was better to just bluntly and efficiently state what I thought needed to be changed, because that is what works best for me as a writer (after three years of having my papers graded by academicians, I have had LOTS of recent experience with this).  But after reading this instructor's guidelines for dealing with your clients, I'm starting to see that most people would rather have their editorial feedback more gracefully phrased.

The course instructor says option A is bad (sounds like a teacher correcting a student), B is better, and C is the best (non-confrontational and non-blaming, and accepts part of the responsibility for fixing it).  I guess I can see that, but as a writer, I would definitely prefer A.  Options B and C are wasting my time and hers.  Just tell me what needs work and I'll work on it.  Also, B and C feel slightly condescending to me, like she feels like I need to be handled, or manipulated into agreeing with her.  Option A feels like one professional to another-- this is what needs work.  (note that none of the three options says exactly what is unclear-- and that would be the most helpful of all.)

But her point is that most people prefer more gentle criticism.  In other words, people are different, and what works for me is not necessarily going to work for anybody else.  And I am quite possibly in the minority here.  Hence, the poll.

Maybe this correlates with talking on the phone.  I hate chit chat.  It's one of the main reasons I hate talking on the phone.  You can't just say what you need to say and hang up, you have to talk about the weather and where you're going on vacation, etc etc.  When I used to have to make PTA phone calls, I would pray to get people's answering machines.

Hmmm.  It's occurring to me that I'm kind of bitchy.

I think I will have to work on this.  (that is a backhanded way of apologizing to the people whose work I've edited, in case you couldn't tell.)  Maybe before I edit for anyone, I will have them take this poll.  Also, I had to completely change my blog format so you could see the poll, and it now looks ugly, which is bugging me.  But I can change it back later, right?

Other things I learned:  It is now incorrect to put two spaces after a period.  I knew that was true for online writing (not that I can change, because hello thirty years of typing two spaces after a period), but I didn't know it was true for any other kind of writing.

In the phrase "can't help but" ("I can't help but think you've worked too hard") the but is redundant and should be deleted. ("I can't help thinking you've worked too hard")

Continuous/continual:  continuous means continuing on without interruption (their continuous chatter was driving me crazy), continual means continuing with interruptions (continual rain showers throughout the day, i.e., intermittent).

Farther/further:  farther refers to physical distance (his house is farther away than hers), further refers to psychological or other non-physical meanings (no further work was required, our friendship could go no further).

And that barely even scratches the surface of what we covered.  Since I am a word addict, I loved this class.  There are a couple of other ones in the same vein, I may take more.

What are your favorite words to mix up?  How do you keep them straight?  What are your favorite words to misspell?  (mine are occurrence, embarrass, and reconnaissance)  And don't forget to respond to the poll!