Friday, January 30, 2015

The Status of Humanity

I have been glued to this Facebook page for the past week.

I know, me?  Facebook?  Can't be happening, right?  But it done happened.

I first found out about the story last weekend.  A newly adopted, one-and-a-half-year-old yellow lab got spooked and bolted from her new mom in a parking lot in North Brunswick, dragging her leash behind her.

The new mom and foster-mom looked and looked and looked, but they couldn't find her.  The dog, named "Marie," ran off on Thursday, and only on Saturday did they happen to spot her.

On Sunday, there were no more sightings of her at all.

The situation was complicated by the fact that the foster mom and the shelter from which the dog had been adopted were based in Staten Island, NY.  They didn't know the area, and there were parks and lakes and neighborhoods and strip-malls galore (welcome to Central NJ).

The dog could literally have been anywhere, and a dog that is naturally skittish and now frightened and on the run... it felt completely overwhelming to me, and I was just reading about it, for heaven's sake.

And of course, on Sunday night, the weather forecast was predicting a massive blizzard.  And there had been no sign of the dog all day.  I was so bummed out about it when I went to bed on Sunday night that I decided that I'd go to North Brunswick and look too, in hopes that I might be able to offer some kind of help.

I know, I'm a cat-person.  But dogs have a lot of pretty wonderful qualities too, and anyway, this was a shy and skittish dog, and I always have a soft spot for the shy ones of any species.

I didn't see anything, of course, but later that afternoon, someone did, and that helped boost everyone's spirits enormously.

Because this is where Facebook did a truly good thing: it brought together an amazing community of people.  Seriously.  Whenever I start thinking that maybe people aren't very nice or don't really "get it" or I get discouraged about "Humanity" (with a capital H), I'm going to remember this Facebook page.  And maybe even reread it from time to time, actually.

When the adoptive mom or foster mom posted a status update that clearly registered frustration and increasing discouragement, people's kind and generous spirits kicked in.

"I know you're going to find her!  Today's the day!"

"I'm praying for you and keeping you and Marie in my heart."

"You're amazing!  Marie is counting on you, and I know you'll get her home."

And that wasn't all.  People began spreading the word.  On Monday afternoon, as the countdown to the blizzard was on, the Facebook page gained over 500 likes in the space of about 2 hours.  By the time I came home at noon on Monday, more and more people had begun to look, and later that afternoon, the dog was spotted again (in the neighborhood where I had actually been looking myself, ironically).

As if the situation didn't need any more complications, the area in which Marie was lost is an extremely dangerous area for any animal.  Route 130 is 2-lanes, each direction, with lots of strip malls and side streets--it's the kind of area where no one is driving particularly slowly and no one is expecting to see a dog on the loose.

The area where Marie was spotted was also not far from the junction with Route 1, another major highway, with 3 lanes in each direction.

Much to the dismay of the searchers, whenever Marie was spotted, she began to run.  Towards the road.  The fear was that she was actually crossing back and forth across Route 130 during the day and night.

When the travel bans went into effect on Monday night, I think everyone signed off with a worried mind and a heavy heart.  Marie hadn't been found, and they were predicting 15 inches of snow, with temps in the low 20's.  The only hope was that, because she was last seen squeezing through the fence into a restricted area of a PSE&G facility, perhaps she had managed to find shelter.

But then, Mother Nature did the right thing.  We were spared the blizzard, and the next day, the searchers were back out in full force.

In all of this, you need to bear in mind that the foster-mom was travelling to North Brunswick from Staten Island daily, and on Monday, she actually made the trip twice: she went home in the late afternoon and, an hour later, someone spotted the dog, so she drove back.  And she stayed until it was impossible for her to stay and look any longer, because the bridges were going to be closed and she could no longer be on the road (NY and NJ's governors each declared a State of Emergency in anticipation of the nor'easter).

On Monday, in the aftermath of what turned out to be a non-blizzard for NY and NJ, more and more people began to look for Marie.  They brought grills to the areas where she had been sighted in order to cook bacon in the hopes of luring her out.  They set up look-out posts.  They began contacting friends and co-workers and animal rescue specialists.  They set up a cell phone app to function as a walkie-talkie channel, so everyone on site could communicate quickly.

And on the Facebook page, there wasn't ever a single troll.  Not one flame-out thread or angry interaction.  Even though people brought their own perspectives and concerns and personalities to the page, the tone was never anything but helpful and supportive and encouraging.

They worked towards forging a sense of community with a common goal: to find and save this sweet dog.

When a few realists felt they needed to voice their concerns, they did so gently and respectfully, and the optimists and spiritualists respected that gentle respect and responded in kind.

No one denounced anyone for having a different opinion.  Everyone listened to each other.  Everyone supported the cause.

And last night, seven nail-biting days after she ran off, Marie was found.  And captured.  She went to the vet, and she's doing okay.

Score one for humanity.  Score one for Facebook.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Mix

This has been the last week before classes start for the semester, so it's been a time to get things done that I probably won't be able to do again until... well, spring break, actually.

I made lotion.  I made mayonnaise.  (More importantly, I didn't confuse the two.)  I made whole-wheat pasta (ravioli and fettuccine), all of which will probably be gone by this time next week.  I actually finished a sweater: I'm dubbing it one of the "War and Peace" series, since I worked on it while reading and reading and reading... War and Peace.

I tried to do a plumbing home-repair, and I botched it.  Or, as I prefer to describe it, the tub faucet needed to be fixed so I really fixed it good.

It's kind of funny because it's the exact opposite of what happened last January.  In January of 2014, a rogue repairman entered my home and botched the job royally, so that I had to fix his work.

This time around, someone will have to fix mine.  It's the Great Cosmic Give-and-and Take, I guess.

Speaking of that, I was happy this week because something happened that enabled me to repair a slightly damaged relationship from the past.  Not to dwell on it, since it's over and done with, but in the past, a situation arose in which I had a major misunderstanding with someone towards whom I had never had any ill-will whatsoever.

Quite frankly, the problems arose because of other people.  "Hell is other people."  Sartre was really onto something there, wasn't he?  It sure does seem that there are a lot of trouble-makers out there sometimes.

The situation happened long ago, and things had righted themselves, so there wasn't really any problem between us anymore, but the nice thing that happened this week is, I had an opportunity to help the person,and I did, and things worked out well for them because of my help.

There's really no better way to let someone know, "Hey, you know that... thing... that happened?  Well, it shouldn't have, and I wish it hadn't."  Actions really do speak louder than words, and I for one am quite sure that, if the person had any lingering doubts about my good intentions and good will, they don't any longer.

And that's cool.  So that made me happy.

The other thing that made me happy was actually a consequence of my botched repair job.  When it first happened, I was bumming.  Seriously.  I had wanted to fix it, I thought I could fix it, I thought I had fixed it at one point (irony of ironies), but then... NO.  Ugh.

So there I was, sitting on the bathroom floor in a state of angry despair, processing the sad truth that I was going to have to call a repairman, when in walks my sweet kitty Juno.

Here's the thing about Juno.  She was abandoned in the summer of 2013 in the vestibule of an animal hospital.  Her previous people put her in a carrier and left her.  (I have to believe they were just at their wits' end and didn't know what else to do, and that they wake up each morning wishing she was still with them.  I just don't know how anyone could not love my Miss Juno.  It just isn't possible.)

At the time that she was abandoned, Juno was pregnant.  Hugely so, in fact-- she gave birth the night that she was found by the rescue shelter.  And then, as always happens, all of her little kittens were quickly adopted, but since she was a little over a year old, she waited and waited.  (People love to adopt kittens: "older" cats--aged one year and up--often wait longer to be adopted.  For no reason: they're quite wonderful.)

Juno was a bit shy (sort of), but then, shy cats are my specialty.  So I adopted her last March, on the first day of Spring.  Which also happened to be International Day of Happiness.  (No, I'm not making that up.) 

The point of the story is, despite all she's been through, Juno never lets the world get her down.  She is just about the most cheerful kitty you'd ever want to meet.  She's willing to make friends with new people, she loves a good meal, she loves to play... she's funny and friendly and happy.  Always.  End of story.

And in the same vein, she doesn't let anyone she loves stay unhappy either.  When she saw that I was bumming, she strolled into the bathroom in her determined little way and began talking and talking and talking until I finally had to laugh.  (When Juno meows, she uses her whole face--I call her my "wide-mouthed Meower."  It actually looks like she's smiling when she meows eagerly at you.)

As I was laughing at Juno, I realized, here's an animal who has every reason to be bitter and mistrustful and skittish and mean, and... she's not.  Not at all.  She's just happy for the good things, and cheerfully expectant that there will maybe be more of them.

And that's how she goes through life.

So on the days when life offers a mix of good and bad, I find that I tend to think of Juno, and that always makes the day seem a little less mixed.

Friday, January 23, 2015

War and Peace (The First Half)

I started rereading Tolstoy's War and Peace last fall because I'm working with a student on an independent study of the novel.  I first read the novel in college (nearly 30 years ago), for a class that I was taking, and I couldn't help but wonder 1) how much of it I would actually remember, and 2) whether I would like it as much as I did back then--because, truth be told, I really did like the novel.

The thing with War and Peace, obviously, is the length.  Even 30 years ago, before e-everything and Twitter and whatnot, people were generally not inclined to read a novel that is--depending on the print size of the copy you're using--about 1500+ pages long.

I have no idea what that would be in terms of file size.  I suspect that reading it on an app that doesn't give real page numbers would be... disheartening, to say the least.

Although I had a snobbish acquaintance in college who claimed that "not a single WORD of War and Peace is wasted" (and I'm not sure how he knew this, because he didn't read it in Russian after all--he conveniently forgot that he was reading it in translation), I doubt anyone else out there would make such a claim.

Henry James coined the phrase "loose baggy monsters" to refer to the genre of the nineteenth-century novel, and he specifically references War and Peace in terms of this description.  (However, if you click on the link and begin to [try to] read James' own prose, you'll see that he really had no cause to be hurling terms like "loose" and "baggy" and "monster" at anyone else's writing style.  Ye gods, man.)

So I picked up War and Peace again last fall, read about 200 pages, and promptly got distracted by the world at large.  I decided that this week--my last week before classes start--was a good time to return to it and try to make some serious headway on it.

I'm now over halfway through the novel and I'm surprised by 2 things: 1) how much of the novel I really do remember, even though I read it nearly 30 years ago, and 2) what an "existentialist" text it is.

I put the word "existentialist" in quotation marks, because no, obviously, it isn't like reading Camus.  But at the same time, all of Tolstoy's major characters are struggling to figure out the meaning of their lives and a sense of their own purpose in this larger entity we call "life."

They struggle to do so against the backdrop of an aristocratic society marked by frivolity, scandal and excess: in effect, they live in a world and move in social circles in which their lives are not supposed to be "occupied" by any kind of meaningful work.  They are rich; they have leisure-time.  To want to "do" something with one's life is to suggest that you don't value the significance of your own place in the upper echelons of the Russian aristocracy.

Put quite simply,  War and Peace is about Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812.  At the center of the novel is the figure of Napoleon himself, a man with a decided sense of purpose (world domination) and one who, unlike the protagonists Prince Andrei Bolkonski and Pierre Bezukhov, never seems to lie awake at night wondering "why?" or "what's it all for?"

Tolstoy uses the vehicle of war to highlight and work through the dilemmas that haunt the characters in times of peace.  The two concepts--war and peace--are thus not opposites so much as intertwined variations on a theme.  Tolstoy does this kind of philosophical intermingling throughout, by constantly questioning the relationship of the particular to the universal, the relationship of the individual to the collective.

Tolstoy draws interesting--and sometimes rather strange--conclusions, but at times. his technique reminds me, in a roundabout way, of Clifford Geertz's concept of "thick description"and its applications in contemporary cultural theory.

Put simply, Geertz argues that "thin description" is a factual account.  So, using Geertz's own example, if a cultural anthropologist happens to be documenting my social interactions and witnessing me wink at you, that gesture might simply be documented as the action of contracting an eyelid.

This is true; this is the fact.  This is, in Geertz's argument, a "thin description."

A "thick description" recognizes that a wink is potentially more than the contraction of an eyelid.  What it "is" and what it "means" are more nuanced and complex.  To accurately describe my act of winking at you, an anthropologist has to understand the context in which it occurs: am I flirting with you?  have I just made a joke, and am I worried that you might not take it as a joke? am I making a joke at the expense of someone else and signaling to you that I consider you "in on it" with me? 

To attempt to account for the act and meaning of a fact ("she winked") in terms of its social contexts and nuances is to engage in "thick description."

Tolstoy's novel is fiction, obviously, but it's historical fiction, so what I find most interesting about it is the way in which he works on the line between historical fact and imaginative recreation.  He uses historical documentation to structure and shape his novel, but even as he does so, he comments on the fact that, "what happened" can never really be "known," because there's a decided difference between looking back retrospectively on the events of one's life and living them "in real time," as we would say today.

Thus, in Book Nine, Chapter 12, the character of Nicholas Rostov recognizes that "nothing happens in war at all as we can imagine or relate it" (717).  When you think about it, this is a really odd comment for a writer to include in a (1500-page) novel that is all about imagining and relating the story of a war.

Tolstoy's point, I think--and this is the idea that I'm finding most interesting in rereading the novel--is that the narration or artistic representation of an event both is and is not "the event" itself.  It is how we come to see an event, from the perspective of hindsight, on the basis of the things that, in retrospect, are deemed "important." 

In the example of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, Tolstoy remarks that all of the things that we now "see" as essential, determining factors in that war--"all these hints at what happened, both from the French side and the Russian, are advanced only because they fit in with the event" (762).

As Tolstoy's narrator observes,
The cause of the destruction of the French army in 1812 is clear to us now.  No one will deny that that cause was, on the one hand, its advance into the heart of Russia late in the season without any preparation for a winter campaign and, on the other, the character given to the war by the burning of Russian towns and the hatred of the foe this aroused among the Russian people.  But no one at the time foresaw (what now seems so evident) that this was the only way an army of eight hundred thousand men--the best in the world and led by the best general--could be destroyed in conflict with a raw army of half its numerical strength, and led by inexperienced commanders as the Russian army was. (761-762)
Tolstoy situates the tendency of history in an everyday context: "There are always so many conjectures as to the issue of any even taht however it may end there will always be people to say: 'I said then that it would be so, ' quite forgetting that amid their innumberable conjectures many were to quite the contrary effect" (762).

"I knew this would happen."  "I could have told you that."  "I saw this coming, but no one listened."  If you have any doubt of the universal truth of Tolstoy's claim here, just scroll through a  Facebook comment thread in the aftermath of a monumental event.

The function of the "peace" portions of Tolstoy's novel, then, seems to be to highlight the paradox of history: no one "knows" what will happen, because we're too busy living the actual happenings themselves.  But when we look back, we see a clear sense of meaning and purpose--an existential trajectory.

So it seems to me that, in representing his protagonists' existential questioning of the meaning of their lives, Tolstoy is suggesting that they are asking the wrong questions of themselves--they are looking for answers to questions that are, by definition, unanswerable in the moment in which they are being posed.

In effect, you can only "know" the meaning and purpose of your life, Tolstoy suggests, by... living it.  And the character and texture of the choices that you make as you do so will look very different in the moment in which you make them from the ways in which they will appear days, weeks or even years down the road.

The "truth" of life itself--and of a life in particular--lies in the intersections of past and present, individual and communal, war and peace.  This is what I'm reflecting on as I work my way through the second half of the novel.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Chilly Saturday

I awoke this morning to the knowledge that I would need to head out and run a few errands that absolutely had to be run this morning.  I insert that stipulation because, when the thermometer reads 15 degrees (Farenheit), it's hard to believe that any errands really "need" to be run.

But these did, so I did them.  And I must say, it was very heartening to be greeted by all kinds of people who knew that we were all collectively freezing on this chilly Saturday and who decided that the best way to cope with it was with the warmth of cheerful camaraderie.

Everyone was upbeat.  From the guy in the unheated farmer's market who told me, "I don't work here, I'm just standing here stealing from the space heater," to the guy who actually did work there who said "very good, very good!" to every request I placed and laughingly noted how every electronic device he needed to record the transaction was buried in interior coat pockets next to his body.

From there it was on to the store with the guy with the Australian accent--I'll admit, I've encountered him before and I probably enjoy talking to him (in all kinds of weather) precisely because of his accent.  He just sounds so good-natured.  You could privately regale me with stories of how he's in fact the world's biggest jerk and I must say, I probably wouldn't believe it.

There was nearly no one at the grocery store.  I don't know why: I guess no one really needs anything when it's that cold.  I suspect the thinking is, if you don't have it, you don't need to freeze to death to get it.

All told, my errands consumed a cheerful hour and a half, and then it was home to lunch and tea and the warmth of a roaring fire in the fireplace. 

I spent the afternoon in blissful defiance working on Desert Flower.  I'm only making it in a single color, though (maroon--or, if you prefer fancy color-descriptions, I can call it "merlot") and I'm using a nice silk yarn.

Why make a short-sleeve sweater in January, you ask?  Because sooner or later it will be spring.  Really.  I believe, therefore I knit.

Lest you worry that I've gone off the rails, though, I'll also acknowledge that I've started another project, Shire Aran.  Ah, yes, you're thinking now: that looks more like it.  By which you mean, no doubt, that it looks more like a January-project.

I also discovered several patterns that were inspired by Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (yes, really), so I'm making a couple of scarves.  I'll post pics just as soon as they're blocked and looking pretty and I have the software for my camera installed on the new laptop.  (I have to find the disc.  I think I know where it is, I just have to go look for it.  Soon.)

And on that note, I'll conclude by remarking that this entire blog post was written from the comfort of my couch.  Such is the wonder of a laptop that really is wireless (as opposed to one that was always only ever potentially so).

Friday, January 16, 2015

Changing the Low Tech

I bought a new laptop this week.

I know that may not sound very earth-shattering, but before you scoff, you need to understand that my old laptop was purchased in  2006.

Yes, that's right.  I was using a laptop that was 8 1/2 years old.  No, I didn't really have another computer.  I have one in my office, but I don't really work on the computer in my office.

You're probably thinking something along the lines of the question I was recently asked by a friend: "But... doesn't it run... kinda... slow?"

Well, that really depends on what your tech standards are.  Let me walk you through my morning ritual, and you can be the judge.

Typically, I get up to the sound of my happy little kitty Juno meowing the verbal equivalent of, "Cmon!  Cmon!  Get up!  I really want to see you!!"  She usually isn't allowed access to me because I'm flanked by my other two kitties, who tend to sleep on or next to/on me.  Smokey would probably let Juno approach, but Freya will not.

So when I get up, I'm usually laughing--because if you could see my little Juno and how excited she gets at the very thought that I'm getting out of bed, you'd laugh too.

From that point onward, my first priority has always been to turn on my computer and then go feed the kitties and brew the coffee.

Once I've done the latter two things, my computer is usually ready for me to enter my password. (Unless it decides to freeze or hang, which it didn't do all that often, really.

Once I've entered my password and clicked "Enter," I have time to do things like make the bed and empty the litter box and pour my coffee and open the shades and get dressed (just to clarify, I get dressed BEFORE I open the shades) and wash my face and comb my hair.

By then, my computer is fully booted up and ready for me to open email.

I guess on some level, yes, to most people, that means my old laptop is running kinda slow and I may or may not be insane for tolerating such nonsense.

Quite frankly,  I think I didn't notice because, over the years, I just added a new morning task to my morning ritual, so that always filled the time just fine.  No need to worry about the laptop.  It'll get there when it gets there.

Imagine my surprise the other morning when I turned my new laptop on and it was immediately ready for my password.  I mean, immediately.   I didn't even have time to turn around and head out to the kitchen.  There it was, asking for my password... right away.

So I entered it and hit enter and got up from my chair, and once again, color me stunned: it was already ready for me to begin... using it.  Just like that.  In less than a minute.

I sat there in bewildered surprise and mumbled things like, "But I don't even have my coffee yet...".

Needless to say, this has meant that I now need to revise my entire morning ritual.

I can't say I'm overly surprised.  I was aware when Microsoft announced that they would no longer support Windows XP that I was living on borrowed time.  But I'll also confess that a small part of me rejoiced, because if they didn't keep updating Windows XP anymore, to me that simply meant that there would be less added to the mix to slow my laptop down.  I bought a whole 6 months of extra laptop-time right there.

But there were moments.  Like when I tried to run a trial version of Acrobat XI last spring.  I really thought that at some point during the installation process a window would pop up and say, "You're kidding, right?"  

As one of my friends said, "You can actually hear the little computer chipmunks in there, running on their treadmills, trying to keep up."

And students would upload files that would open just fine everywhere else in the world, but my laptop would convert them to 200-page documents that had a single line (something like "poifii679ng%^werttyy*") printed in the middle of each page.  

Sigh.

Ultimately, I'm a creature of habit, not a creature of gadgets.  Don't get me wrong, I like a cool new software program same as anybody (hence my ill-fated effort to "play around" with Acrobat XI last spring), but really, I couldn't care less about the latest devices and their purported marvels.

If what I have works, I tend to stick with that, and I'll simply try to use new software on it.  But as you can imagine, there's a whole technology industry out there designed to thwart people like me.

People who grew up being told that if something "works" or was "still good," you didn't need a new one.  New things were for emergencies and necessities.  Buying things just to buy them was considered foolish.  "You're just squandering your money"--that's how it was explained to me, back in the day.

It's a different world.

I think that, in the case of my laptop, I would have purchased a new one a bit sooner, but there was an emotional aspect to it as well.  I bought that laptop the summer my dad died.   By which I mean that I bought it and brought it home and set it up while I was in process of providing hospice care for him.

For a long time,  I couldn't even face the thought of getting a new laptop.  I would get even a bit defensive about that laptop--it had an emotional resonance for me that I suspect most computers and devices don't often have for the people who purchase them year after year. 

So when I began to realize that it just wouldn't be feasible to keep on keepin' on with the old laptop, I set myself a very clear point in time to make the switch: I'd wait until I'd cleared most of the major hurdles to promotion to Full Professor.

On the one hand, the choice was a pragmatic one, because most of the stuff I needed to access as part of the application process was on my old laptop.  Although I could easily transfer it all to a new laptop, there's something about knowing that you know where absolutely everything is and how to manage it that makes a lengthy application process a bit more manageable.

On the other hand, the choice was one that was designed to address the emotional component embedded in the old laptop.  It had been purchased at a watershed moment in my life; unfortunately, it was a negative watershed moment. 

But that was something I could remedy, if I timed the purchase to coincide with a new phase and a positive milestone in my professional life.

So that's what I did.  And because I waited so long, I'm not only enjoying the speed and the ease of all kinds of technology, I'm savoring something that truly is new, not just something that's a bit updated compared to last year's model.

But all that said, it's been a week in which there's been a lot more time spent in front of a computer screen than I usually allot for myself, so to compensate, I'm off to spend this cloudy, wintry Friday afternoon the way that (in my opinion) wintry Friday afternoons should be spent: making soup and knitting.

Because in my world, the only thing that beats low-tech is homemade and handmade.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rose Garden

I've had this song in my head all day long.  It's a song that was engrained in me from early childhood. 

You see, my mom occasionally adopted some unusual parenting strategies.  Whenever we became overly whiny or irritable about not getting our way, she'd begin to sing, "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden."

"I beg your pardon,
I never promised you a rose garden.
Along with the sunshine,
There's gotta be a little rain sometimes..."

If you've never heard the song, I can promise you, it's very difficult to continue a litany of complaints when someone insists on singing it to you. 

I remember that when I occasionally tried to insist, my mom would simply sing louder, to drown me out. 

"When you take you gotta give so live and let live or let GO-oh-oh, woah, woah, woah... 
I beg your pardon..."

If you've never heard the song, never fear.  I have the perfect YouTube video for you.  Take a moment.  You won't regret it.   (Or if you do, the feeling will quickly pass.)


What I love about this video:

I love to imagine Lynn Anderson in her dressing room, asking her BFF, "Does this dress make me look like a parakeet?" And when her BFF pauses to think of how exactly to respond to that, Lynn simply says, "I don't give a shit.  I love these sleeves.  I'm wearin' it."

I really do regret that I've chosen a career path that basically dooms me to a life of outfits without sleeves like that.   You can't teach Jane Austen or Dostoevsky with those sleeves-- and personally, I think that's kind of a shame.

That said, I must also acknowledge that I don't have the hair required to pull off wearing a dress like that.  I would look like... a blighted parakeet.  And that's no good.

I love to watch the people in this video and remember a simpler time when it was okay to 1) have a really bad haircut--AND an ill-fitting outfit, 2) not wash your hair every single day, and 3) "dance" only with your arms and only from the elbows downward (even when you're holding your arms over your head).

That said, I love the guy in the white jacket who's shakin' his head and dancing his heart out.  He's having a great time.  He didn't promise anyone any damn rose garden and it's all working out fine for him.  At least, that's the sense I get when I watch him dance. 

There's also a rather angry-looking woman in a fur coat who seems to have decided to dance her way through the emotional fallout from her last bad breakup.  And a cameo by a Wednesday Addams look-alike appears midway through the video--also a nice touch.

Finally there's the woman who testifies to the time-honored truth that it really doesn't matter if you wear coke-bottle-glasses.  If your skirt is short enough, no one will notice.

But in the end, nothing beats the guy who turns on the TV and then slowly but steadily begins groovin' and singing along--and to the instrumental portions of the song, no less. 

I mean, any one can sing along to the lyrics.  You have to be in the Rose Garden zone to sing along to the instrumentals.

And meanwhile, he has to keep hovering over the TV, of course, because there's no remote control. 

Ah, the simpler times.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

She's Back

In case you couldn't tell, the last couple of weeks were holiday-busy.

Not to be a party-pooper, but this year, I'm kinda glad it's over.  I just never really got into the spirit this Christmas, for a whole lot of reasons, and by the time it was all said and done, I was kind of glad it was all said and done.

I know it isn't feasible, but I can't help but think that it would be nice if we could occasionally arrange to have Christmas at some other time of the year, perhaps a bit spontaneously.  So, I could decide sometime in June, for example, that it's "Christmas," according to me, simply because I'm in the Christmas-spirit.

This would also mean that radio stations couldn't hijack their play lists for 8 weeks and play nothing but Christmas music all the time.  Does anyone really like when they do that?  I mean, really like it--not just put-up-with-it-because-you-feel-forced-to-pretend-to-like-it?  I really don't see what's wrong with a simple 2 weeks of Christmas music.  When it starts in November, I just don't need it.

But all that said, I did take pictures of various and sundry Christmas gifts, so I thought, what better way that to start the year than by reminding everyone that I'm not now--nor will I ever be--a photographer?

Here goes:

I decided to be creative this year and make a stuffed animal (along with a couple of blankets) for my neighbor and her children.  My neighbor did service above and beyond the call of duty when she followed the ambulance to the hospital on a particularly bleak night of my life last April, when I had to be hauled off of the floor of my bedroom because I accidentally ate food I was allergic to and needed to stab myself in the leg with an epipen and call 911.

She didn't know what had happened, until the ambulance guys told her.  She didn't want me to not have a ride home when I stopped projectile vomiting.  She said she wanted to make sure I was okay.

In short, an instant friend.  Right there.  BAM.  She nailed it.  This isn't a Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood kind of neighbor.

Her husband checked on my cats, because, even when I have a blood pressure of 70/60 and I'm coping with a sudden onset of anaphylactic shock, my priority is my kitty cats.  So, as a "gag," I made her a grey kitty cat.  (She has dogs.  Yes, I know, cats are better but... she has dogs.  One of her dogs behaves kind of like a cat, though, and he's grey, so I think that kind of covers it.)


The minute I finished it, Smokey felt it was important that the world see just how far short it fell from the perfection that is an actual grey kitty cat.  Quite frankly, I think he was kind of jealous of it.  (He has nothing to worry about, obviously.)


I also made a scarf, and although at one point, I thought keeping track of the lace pattern might actually be the thing that sent me over the edge and into the kind of medicated, knitting-needle-deprived lockdown I might some day need, I finished it.

It really isn't a particularly complicated pattern, I just kind of suck at doing lace-work.  I might get better at it some day, but right now, I tend to tell myself that it's a goal to be saved for "retirement" or "some thing like it."

Truth be told, if I spend my retirement driving myself nuts working on lace patterns, I'm not sure what I'll think of retirement.  I suspect I won't like it.

I also took the time to bake some bread.  This is a really good Ethiopian Honey Bread, that I used to make all the time, but that I haven't made in several years. (I think the last time I made it was when I turned 40, in 2008, and threw a little birthday party for myself.)

It's a bread that Ezra (and several other friends) used to love, so I decided to make a huge braid of it to share for New Year's.

I've also decided that this is my New Year's resolution for this year: to get back into baking bread a bit more regularly.

I used to do it quite often, but then life got in the way, and I stopped.  But it really is kind of fun, and it makes the house smell rather wonderful, so I think I should do it again as a way of celebrating the fact that it's 2015.

I also decided to get creative and make a wind-chime using shells that I collected over the summer.  It turned out okay: I gave it as a gift, but I have enough shells to make one for myself, so I think I may do that during some dull moment in the upcoming winter months.


Right now, though, I'm going to enjoy the fact that I'm back where I belong, the holidays are over, there's a fire in the fireplace, I have a stack of books to read, and a bunch of knitting awaits.  This is what January weeks are designed for.