Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We went to Charleston (to Bob's house), ate probably a quarter of a cow's worth of steak, and Nate gave his wife a brace of dueling pistols with walnut grips as her Christmas present. A good time was had by all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Skating Through

I went ice-skating this evening for the first time in years. Lots of fun, once I got the right size boots--I even remembered a bit of backwards technique, but not how to stop, so I had to settle for decelerating in circles. Fell down only a few times, and then not in full career--I've had lots of practice falling, so I didn't hurt myself.

Stopped at home for only an hour yesterday on my journey from Mebane, NC, to Macon, GA--long enough to dry a load of still-damp clean clothes (thank you, Paxifist!) and change vehicles. Mums and I were in Macon by 6 PM, where my aunt had the curb, the driveway and the sidewalk lined with luminaries. My brother Nate and his wife, Alexandra, had driven my grandparents from Dublin--they'd arrived much later than planned, because Nate had had to do a major plumbing repair on Grandmommy's kitchen sink before they left, involving the replacement of more than 15 feet of almost wholly clogged cast-iron pipe with new, larger plastic. He'd spent hours crawling underneath the house, first trying to snake the drain, then tracing the extent of the problem. My brother is amazing--like Daddy, he can do anything around the house, and do it well. The sink drains better now than it has in over a decade. Grandmommy said, "Nate was such a blessing to us." Yes, he is--and those years working as a plumber and carpenter in Atlanta certainly weren't wasted! Granddaddy, ever the packrat, claims that the broken metal pipes lying in the yard can be re-used, "they just need to have the sand flushed out of them." It's not sand (I inspected them)--it's sludge the consistency of concrete, and there's no way to budge it (the opening through which the water was slowly draining was the diameter of a pencil, the muck having closed off the rest of the 2-inch pipe during its 50 years of use). I hope my uncle manages to get the junk to the dump before Granddaddy hatches some other salvage plan.

Granddaddy had an excellent time at my aunt's Christmas party--he teased the young folks and repeatedly stole (or attempted to steal) my cousin's wife's Santa hat. Grandmommy held her newest great-grandbaby, the much-cooed over little Edward, who slept through all the festivities. I got buttonholed by the father-in-law of an in-law, a horticulturalist with Asberger's, who proceeded to tell me all about edible plants, including a variety of Biblical gourd, that can be grown in areas averaging less than 10 inches of rainfall per year. After the party, Mums and I drove Grandmommy and Granddaddy back to Dublin, and we all retired to bed once Grandmommy had showed off her Christmas cactus (a present from my Boston aunt), and the three-foot-tall tree in the living room, decorated with handmade ornaments, colored lights, and a white floss and paper angel that has perched atop every tree in the house for the past half-century.

This morning, Granddaddy was thoroughly confused. He was convinced that Nate and Alexandra, the visitors of the day before, had been his old shipmate and his wife from Minnesota, and kept asking why they'd had to leave, if they'd said goodbye. The shipmate in question has now been dead about five years--a sweet man, whom I enjoyed getting to know at one of the last USS Portland reunions Granddaddy and Grandmommy attended, in Dallas, TX, about ten years ago. I don't think Nate resembles the old fellow in the least, but Granddaddy was sure that he'd been there.

Grandmommy says, rightly, that God's been giving her a lot of strength to deal with Granddaddy's confused spells, and that the anti-depressants he has been prescribed have been a Godsend--Granddaddy used to get very upset when she'd try to explain how things actually were, but now he takes it with a general good-humor, joking, like he did this morning, "It's not me that's confused, it's everybody else that's confused!" I just hug him and tell him I love him. Frequently, the vague spells will be interpolated with episodes of complete mental clarity, and it's disconcerting--is it just strong patterns re-asserting themselves, or has everything actually clicked into place? At age 93 (Granddaddy's birthday was this past Saturday), he's earned the right to be spacey, but it's tough to witness someone you love losing their marbles, even if they themselves are a whole lot less miserable about it than they were when the symptoms manifested at first. Physically, he is still in great shape, which sometimes makes the problem harder to handle, because he thinks he can do what he's always done--change the oil in the car, for instance, though he loses track of what he's doing half-way through the process (which resulted in having to have a wrecker tow the leaking vehicle to a service station recently for $200 worth of repairs). Grandmommy is awesome--she said today that she knows that other people have it a whole lot worse, that she is so grateful for the people who call, particularly those relatives that have had to deal with similar issues in Granddaddy's siblings.

I am really grateful to God for my family--we've all got our handicaps, but they are a relationally solid bunch, sticking close when the going gets tough. And ready to identify and fix the problem when it's something correctable, like when old pipes get clogged.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Vivid, Sugar-Fueled Prose in the Offing...But What About the Cons?

Dex loved my baklava, but he misattributed it (emailing BOTH Susan and me with thanks) and so a marriage proposal to yours truly was not forthcoming. Darn. I have told him that if he drives over from Atlanta to see me during Christmas break, I will make him his own personal panful, but I'm not holding my breath. I do need someone to go see Sherlock Holmes with, too. Perhaps I can bribe someone else into accompanying me--there are other men willing to squire a girl to the cinema in exchange for sweets.

Am spending tonight with Paxifist and Deacon Paul, since my best efforts to get out of town, and away from the sixteen inches of snow that fell over the weekend on Arlington, were insufficient to pull my car out from under its personal snowbank and up the icy hill that is Calvert Street and through the rush hour-level interstate traffic which crawled along at 35 mph for hours on end. After 7 hours in the car this afternoon, I decided that turning in at Mebane (rather than spending another 6 hours driving on to Augusta), was the prudent choice.

I am sugared out. Not only have I eaten a goodly amount of the two panfuls of baklava that I made for Saturday's blizzarded-out Christmas party, today I have also dined on cookies (Paxifist had a plateful waiting for me) and spooned in a peppermint Blizzard acquired from a Richmond-area Dairy Queen. Gack. But yummy, all the same. If I were prone to diabetes, I'd be in a coma right now.

Susan and Steven and I had confirmed via eVite over 24 people for our holiday soiree on Saturday. And then the snow began falling. And kept falling. And then the Metro shut down, the roads became impassible, and we had to change the venue. The guest list shrank to seven as everyone not within a few hundred yards was snowed in. Everyone, that is, except the NPV, who proved his Michigan-born chops by showing up a bit tardily, clad in rugged snow boots and a sense of Yukon-mountain-man accomplishment, having trekked all the way from Vienna, VA, digging out stranded motorists along the way.

Sunday evening we had a sort of second party, as some of the guests who'd been unable to make the previous evening's cosy festivities came to help us eat the salmon and shrimp which had been marooned at Steven's apartment on Saturday. He and Susan sauteed the shrimp in champagne and cream and ladled it over pasta, cooked the salmon in some delicious combination of honey and dill and shredded it onto toasted baguette rounds topped with a thin layer of cream cheese, and did something else ingenious with a vegetable. We had (more) baklava and homemade pumpkin pie for dessert.

The Foreign Service Exam is coming up at the end of February. I have two months in which to cram an incredible amount of preparatory studying. Deacon Paul has lent me a book on life in the Foreign Service and the thirteen basic parameters on which applicants are judged. Thirteen HAS always been my lucky number!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sweet Tooth, Books and Headache

I had one of the worst migraines of my life last night. I thought I'd just eaten something that had disagreed with me, as I got more and more nauseated as the afternoon wore on, but this turned out to be presage of a headache. Before I left work (30 minutes early, after only 8.5 hours of sales), I was in the bathroom genuflecting before the porcelain god, puking up bile. Lovely image, I know. Gosh, it was nasty--I haven't felt that bad in ages. I would cheerfully have trepanned myself if that would have done any good, besides ripping my hair out in handfuls. Took two extra-strength Advil (I would also have eaten poisonous caterpillars if someone had told me they'd get rid of the pain). It was at or below freezing outside, but I knew I had to be alert enough to drive myself home, so on a coworker's advice I rolled down my window. The motor gave out--the pane wouldn't rise more than an inch from its pocket, no matter how I hauled on and coaxed it. So, willy-nilly, I had some impressive windchill the half-hour commute home. My face was numb, but the good result was I was no longer barfy. In bed by 8 PM, dead asleep for 14 hours. No nausea or headache today. I feel great.

I had a game-night with Olivia, her roommate, and the NPV on Wednesday--we played Carcassone again and this time I got trounced, deliberately. [Just you wait, Henry 'iggins!] Having returned The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (a justifiably lesser-known Douglas Adams) I borrowed another of Olivia's book collection--the Evelyn Waugh newspapering satire Scoop, which I finished this morning. Amusing, in a mild, genteel way--having cut my teeth on P.J. O'Rourke, I found it less side-splitting than a previous generation may have, though still worth a read. The NPV recommended Waugh's Black Mischief, which is next on my reading list, sometime after I finish the second Mark Cohen mystery Bluetick Revenge, the sequel to the Fractal Murders, which has proved excellent for distraction when I am spending an hour on the incline-trainer at the gym. Mums sent me a copy of David King's new Red Star Over Russia, which I also read this morning, which explains why I am so behind-hand with my to-do-list for today.

My sweet-tooth should be satisfied, somewhat, starting this evening, when I put together a pan of homemade baklava for Susan's, Steven's and my Christmas party tomorrow night. I do hope that I get to go to the market tomorrow, but the forecast is currently calling for almost a foot of snow between now and then...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Annum Horribilis?

Mums surgery on Wednesday went well, and she was home from the hospital by Friday evening, crediting her early release to the diligent application of makeup--if a woman puts on lipstick, she always looks better.

Tuesday I started my new part-time job up in Bethesda. Wednesday I had the all-day show at the Episcopal Day School, then Thursday I was back in Bethesda again, and Friday, when I was only supposed to work from noon until 4 PM, I actually ended up working until 1:10 AM Saturday morning--thirteen straight hours. On Thursday, Rachel, my boss, had advertised the half a houseful of contemporary (some handmade, all expensive) furniture and accent pieces that we were to receive via movers at 3 PM Friday, and we'd been fielding calls and drop-in shoppers since the moment the ad appeared in the Washington Post, assuring them that it would be on the floor and priced at the moment we opened at 11 AM Saturday morning. Well, 3 PM came and went, and no movers. Rachel called the consignor--a widower in his 40s whose late wife had decorated their mansion (he couldn't bear to live in the house anymore, had moved into an apartment, and was consigning all the furniture)--and he'd gotten the dates mixed. Panic and prayer ensued, and the movers agreed (thank God!) to reschedule for later in the evening. Beltway traffic at rush hour is infamous, and the truck hit it full-on. Rachel, her boyfriend, the only other employee who could stay late and I went out for dinner and were back in plenty of time to clear the rest of the available floorspace for the load on the truck, which didn't arrive until 8:30 PM. Rachel's boyfriend had to leave about 9 PM, and we three women were shifting furniture, handing mirrors, rearranging lamps and carpets and so forth until well after midnight. I left at 1:10 AM, knowing that it would take me at least half an hour to drive home, and that I had to get up at 7:15 in order to make it to the market on time.

A sadness of the evening was when the consignor was helping us to unpack, and discovered that the dresser he was selling was still full of his wife's things--Coach purses, silk scarves and gloves. He started to cry. It was awful. Poor, poor man. To be in your forties and to have lost your spouse, someone you had simply expected would be with you into old age, is dreadful, but perhaps no more dreadful than any other great sorrow that comes to us frail human beings. Two of Anita's closest friends lost their fathers to heart attacks in the last two weeks--one was raking leaves in his Charlottesville, VA, back yard, the other was at home in Armenia. I hate death and loss, illness and debilitation.

And, selfishly, I hate the pending loss of Susan as my roommate. Steven wants to marry her this coming summer, and however much I approve of him, and am happy for the two of them, I am already suffering spells of desperate loneliness as I anticipate her departure. I had hoped that I would not be left by myself, and though I knew that sooner or later some fellow would recognize her excellent qualities (they couldn't all be clueless, I reasoned aright), I had prayed, in my own grasping way, that it wouldn't be until I was somehow getting settled, too. And here I am, as the song says, again on my own, in a peculiar limbo, and in the midst of a flare-up of my OCD, unsure where I am going to be in the next six months, whether I should stay in DC at all, what would be best and healthiest, given my shaky emotional condition and my just slightly improved financial state.

This year has been a series of blows, none fatal, but all painful and disorienting: from Mums' illness, chemotherapy and surgeries to my joblessness, my father's fatigue, my grandfather's deterioration and Grandmommy's concern over him, my misplacement of my affections, the confusion over my scholastic future, my worry about the strength of the marital relationships of my friends. I feel like I've been reeling from assaults on my temporal foundations, that I haven't learned as much spiritually from the process as I might have. I am sorely in need of encouragement. If I had a husband or boyfriend, I think I would be spending most of my time curled up in his arms, saying only "hold me," else not speaking. Is a man willing to do this, or is this also a fantasy? I'm not sure I could bear right now to think that it is. It would be grand to have someone who would be willing to pray for you, but otherwise shut up and not give useless advice--sometimes, just sitting, patting someone's back and listening to her is the best of love's gifts.

I'm starting to get teary again, and the library is going to close in 20 minutes. Gold's Gym closes at 8 PM on Sundays, so I can't exercise like I wanted to. I'm reading Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita for the first time and thoroughly enjoying it--it's perfect for the 1:15 commute on the Metro to Bethesda.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Indigo Knees and Cold Daylight

I woke up at 3:43 AM, and couldn't get back to sleep this morning, so I worked on my computer for two hours (I HATE not having Internet access at home--I would have kept on, but there were things to do that required a web connection to complete), then dressed and walked to school while dawn broke. I'm starting to make a habit of this earlybirdyness, and it's disturbing, because my nightowledness has not disappeared accordingly. So (except for this weekend, when I was making up for my last week's mad work), I've been averaging about 4-5 hours rest a night, when I am, as I told my brother when we were heading across country on 6-7 hours a night, "an 8-10 hour girl" (to which he responded, "no, you're a 12-14 hour girl." But, I digress.) Thus, I'm sitting in the window of the Saxby's coffee shop two blocks from the Georgetown front gate and sipping a gigantic skim chai latte and eating an apple fritter. It's a treat, and they have a five-bar open wireless connection. The icy outside air is cooling my sweater-clad back, and my insides are warm from the tea--a surprisingly pleasant sensation-combination.

Two trips to Augusta ago, I went shopping with my mother. I hate shopping, but this excursion was mercifully short and successful. Because (at least prior to the consumption of today's apple fritter) my gym-use has paid off by trimming my tail, I was able to find three pairs of jeans that fit. Three! We were at Ross, so none was priced at more than $20, and then of course it was Senior Citizen Discount Day, so Mums got an extra 5 or 10% off. However long I spend at the gym, it will never affect my height, and jeans-designers must think all women are 6', instead of my proved-average 5'4", so all three pairs were way long. I got them hemmed at a local cleaners' in DC, and now they are perfect. But one is colored with natural indigo dye, and this had an unusual effect on my person.

Readers all have figured out that I am quite uncoordinated, frequently falling down, tripping over obstacles, dropping things. This has happened on such a regular basis throughout my life that nowadays I don't even notice when it happens, or not to remember it for more than a few minutes, til the initial throbbing and/or bleeding stops. So when I was getting undressed for my evening shower, I thought at first I'd bruised my knees. But they were blue all over, and so uniformly. Took me a second, but then I realized that my knees were indigoed from the jeans. It was something of a relief.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Mad (and Madly Successful) Week

I worked more than 50 hours in four days at Georgetown this week, hosting the Sixth Annual Phi Alpha Theta Arts and Crafts Sale. In contrast to previous years, it started slowly (for Georgetown--what would be spectacular for everywhere else on the planet) and then picked up pace day by day. Friday, when I was alone staffing the table, people were literally waving money at me because I was so overwhelmed by customers. So, though cumulative sales were more modest than in previous years (this despite an extra day), the overall effect was a happy one, and I was pleased and tired out all at once. Thank God it rained/snowed Saturday, because I needed time to recover.

This week I start my new part-time sales job at a gallery up in Bethesda--it's pretty much full-time for the holiday, and then drops back to more friendly-to-full-time-dissertation-research hours in January. I'm happy to have even minimum-wage work--not being able to afford to feed myself was getting tiresome. And the environment is pleasant, the mean age of the other salespeople 75, and the prospects for continuing to sell my own jewelry designs through the store good (they just sent me a check for four pairs of earrings vended in the last month). Maybe I'll also have time to wander the area (full of trendy little boutiques) and find other willing retail outlets.

Wednesday is an all-day (8 AM to 8 PM) show at St. Clement's, an Episcopal day school in Alexandria--my friend Leah (who helped me all Thursday a Georgetown) set up this gig as a fundraiser for her son's school. I've got to replenish my earring supply between now and then, as Friday's customers thinned my inventory considerably. And there's a couple of necklaces that I've been dreaming of making--one with multicolored pearls and Swarovski crystals is twinkling seductively in my mind's eye.

So, I'm crazy busy. No word yet from literary agents. I'm editing (for $$) a fellow grad student's paper.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Last Week in Pictures!

My Surprise Party! The Pirate Family with Susan, Katryn and me.

My grandparents met their third great-grandchild, little Edward.

My honorary nephew Clark celebrated his first birthday in fine style. His "Aunt" Katryn gave him Dr. Seuss books!

Thanksgiving dinner on the sunporch. Did the Norman Rockwell picture feature quite so much wine?

The newest addition to my collection of honorary nieces, Miss Georgia Ramirez. She's a little doll at four months old.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cirque de 35 Ans

Today was my 35th birthday.

I got up for lunch (insomnia last night kept me from dropping off until 4 AM), checked my email (none of my siblings remembered my birthday) and then went back to bed. My parents took me to Cirque de Soliel's Alegria show this evening, and afterwards we went to the grocery store and bought whipped cream and 4 kinds of ice cream, then sat in a silent trio at the kitchen table and did today's newspaper Sudoku.

The parentals just went to bed. I'm going to pop a couple more zinc lozenges (I'm battling an encroaching cold) and toddle off bedward myself. Am I getting old?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Burn Notice

My DC/AC car power converter overheated Tuesday just outside the beltway on I-95, and I charred two stripes on my left index finger on it (the plastic had turned molten inside the power port, so it's a wonder the car didn't ignite, ruining all my clothes and my entire jewelry collection). It's uncomfortable to type, so this will be brief.

Thanksgiving was terrific. We met up at the new "family compound" outside Asheville, NC--my father's brother and his wife, instead of downsizing for their retirement years, just moved into a 4-story, six-bedroom, five-bath mountain retreat with enough sleeping space for a host of relatives (they'd been building it for 2 years, planning it for five--my uncle used to be a general contractor). Many of my cousins had turned the holiday into a long weekend (all the bedrooms were occupied, including the "kids room," with its three bunkbeds for the small fry), and permanent invitations were extended to all and sundry--"Just let us know a week ahead" (I know where I'll go now when I feel like "running for the hills" away from DC!). All thirty of us ate dinner at a George Washington-style single table (1-inch plywood on sawhorses) on the long sunporch overlooking the valley and the Appalachians. Maybe next year the other seventeen or so immediate family members who couldn't make it will be there! A good time, and a good meal, were had by all--it was the first time in seven or so years I'd made it to any family event on my father's side (including weddings and the one funeral), and I'd missed so much--there were new (second) cousins to meet in person, relocations to catch up on (my cousin James and his family have been living in Leesburg for the past three years, and I didn't even know it!), and new in-laws to meet (my oldest cousin has married a Michigan firefighter and relocated to a township 45 minutes Southwest of Detroit; given that his father is the local firechief, I may now be practically "related" to the NPV. Heh, heh.). And there were great stories to hear. I wish I had inherited my paternal branch's yarnspinning skill!

Clearly, my finger soreness is not bad enough to keep this post short--but I'd best quit before I'm forced to. So, more later.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I’d Make a Lousy Spy

My fantasies about being the next James Bond were short-lived, existing for only an afternoon or so in 1984, when the Mondale/Ferraro vs. Reagan/Bush campaign was heating up, and the Evil Empire was still a perpetually frozen tundra punctuated by the occasional onion dome and surrounded by barbed wire, ragged wooden watch towers, and grey men with machine guns. That hot, Southern summer afternoon, I was playing by myself on top of a dirt pile in our yard (my father was in the midst of installing a French drain system on the back of our steeply-graded lot, and what might have been lawn was a mess of ditches, piles of red Georgia clay and coils of perforated black plastic pipe), imagining myself as a secret agent, when it occurred to me that my acting skills were nil, and if asked by a sinister SMERSH operative in an ill-fitting suit and ugly shoes what I was doing skulking around Moscow in a trench coat, I’d immediately ‘fess up. So being a CIA agent was out for me, career-wise. But I always considered my observational skills to be above par. As of Saturday, I can no longer boast of being so perceptive—I was taken completely unawares by a surprise birthday party Susan and Steven had planned for me, this though some of the costumes in my closet were missing (being worn by people at the party, it turned out!), something I subconsciously noted as I was getting dressed to go out to (what I thought would be) dinner that evening, but to which observation I attached no immediate importance.

Saturday, the market was dead. Not a sale in sight. Anita and I debuted a new display system, and the set-up was attractive, but there was no one walking through to attract. And a fellow marketer, an Israeli photographer, spent about twenty minutes at our booth railing on right-wingers, using the same hysterical tone and pejorative perspective that he attributed to those “evil racists.” Conspiracy theories make me tired, whichever end of the political spectrum is originating them. (I was further exhausted, though in a nice way, by an hour-long interview that I did with a free-lance writer for a local paper—I thought she was going to write about the jewelry business, but it turned out that she was more interested in the Russian angle. Hope I didn’t say anything obviously stupid, since our conversation was taped!)

So, when I got home from the market, I was longing for time alone, thoroughly dreading the “really nice restaurant” that Steven had said he and Susan (and our friend Katryn, who’s staying with us for the week) were taking me to that night. Was there any way I could get a rain check on the crystal, china and steak, I wondered? Katryn just listened to me stomp around muttering about this, and was sympathetic and non-committal. I even called Susan to ask if Steven might consider postponing, but she said he had reservations for 6:30, and we were actually going to Medieval Times, rather than some five-star joint downtown. The prospect of yelling at armored men riding horses and eating chicken with my fingers—and not having to make polite subdued chitchat in genteel surroundings—cheered me considerably, and Susan encouraged me to get a nap beforehand. I took a shower and went to bed. Didn’t sleep, but it was good just lying down in the quiet.

About 6, Susan rousted me and told me that we were going to dress up for our evening out. Just for fun, in costumes. She and Katryn were so enthusiastic that I joined right in—Katryn in a Renaissance-style purple gown I got years ago from the University of Michigan theater department via eBay, Susan in a Jane Austenish cranberry and cream dress, and I in a queenly wine velvet frock which I’d finally had fixed just weeks ago (I put my heel through the hem at a Christmas party in 2006 and had just had it hanging around, damaged and undrycleaned, ever since).

I’m probably the only person in the history of surprise parties to have spontaneously suggested that she wanted to go to the place her friends are trying to get her—on the drive to meet Steven at his apartment building, I asked if we had time to see the party room there, since Susan and I want to have our Christmas bash this year in a place with a little more elbow-room than our tiny apartment, and we just hadn’t had a chance to inspect this possible new venue. Susan asked Steven when he met us in the parking garage if we could see the room, and he said sure—it might be under renovation, but we could check. So the four of us took the elevator straight up to the top floor. When we opened the door to the room, and all these people in costumes and masks yelled “Surprise!” I thought we had accidentally stumbled into somebody else’s event, and tried to draw back, embarrassed. But my friends continued into the room, somebody said, “Happy Birthday!” and then I recognized people. Oh, my.

It was so nice—one of my honorary nieces and five of my honorary nephews were there, friends from my old Bible Study, church, undergrad university—folks drove in from as far away as North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and even flew from Switzerland and the Czech Republic (business trip happenstance, but still…). And even my dear college roommate (newly graduated from law school and passed the VA bar) had come, with her new guide dog. It was so great to see her after a full eight years of silence (not a result of hard feelings, just time and distance). I teared up a couple of times talking to people, conscious that for all my financial poverty, I’m really rich in relationships. Just this past Wednesday night, I couldn’t sleep, and so I’d decided (instead of my usual whiny “please God, help me” or “forgive me for [the latest repetitive screwup]” prayers) to just thank God for all the great friends and family he’d put in my life, and here so many of them had come together to wish me a happy birthday! It was awesome. There was a potluck supper (loads of food) and chocolate cake and cupcakes for dessert. The cupcakes had little plastic toppers in the shapes of smiley-faces and butterflies, which turned out to be rings—a big hit with the small fry, who ate their cupcakes and then went around the room pretending the rings were magic.

There was a giant birthday card and a collection of normal-sized ones (half featuring cats—hmm, I wonder how they knew I like them?), many with gift cards, and one addressed to “Fireball,” which is Mr. B’s nickname for me (he didn’t get to come, but he did send the card). Sweet. Taylor, a member of my Scrabbling circle (who also comes to trivia Monday nights) gave me a lovely bouquet of flowers, and the only stranger at the party (the friend of a friend; he told a rather good Polish-Russian rivalry joke) presented a bottle of wine. Besides the six children, there were twenty-eight people there, not including me! I think a good time was had by all—I certainly had a superb time chatting with everybody, catching up with people that I hadn’t talked to in months or years, grinning my fool head off.

After we’d cleaned up, Steven, Susan, Portia, Katryn and I went down to his apartment and drank a bottle of champagne, each of them toasting me, and then I toasted them collectively. I have an unsurpassable collection of friends—they are kind, forgiving, enthusiastic, energetic, and interesting. That they put up with me, and seem amused by my antics, listen to my moaning and rejoice with me at pivotal moments is a source of ongoing amazement to me. Many are godly, sources of spiritual comfort and encouragement, siblings in my Church family (whatever their Christian denomination); all have stuck with me through good times and bad (some have walked with me through extremely dark episodes, holding my hand literally and figuratively at moments when I felt repulsive and unlovable). Each one is a dear, precious to me for his or her character, cheerfulness and charity—and their generosity has been not only expressed toward me, but also toward hosts of other souls in need of friendship and solace. You guys demonstrate Jesus’ love, and I love you all for this. Again, thank you for a great 35th birthday celebration!

Embarking on the second half of my alotted three-score-years-and-ten doesn't seem a woeful prospect anymore!

[Pictures will be posted when I get them—in true KYP fashion, I dropped my camera getting out of Susan’s car in the parking garage (I found it, lying unharmed on the concrete, after the party) and so I didn’t get to take any photos myself. Lots of other people did, though.]

Friday, November 20, 2009

Screaming Teenage Girls at Twilight

New Moon was a lot of fun. The theater was packed (there were two showings at the same time, and both were sold out). Leah and I stood in line for 35 minutes and ate cinnamon ice cream, then snagged good seats. I have never been awash in so much estrogen--there were perhaps 15 guys in the whole 150+ seat room. When Robert Pattinson came on screen, there were shrieks of adoration from all around. When Taylor Launter took his shirt off, I do think some girls swooned entirely away. I was as amused by the audience as I was by the movie, and the movie had a lot of good funny lines. Much crisper, neater consolidation of the book material this time around. I'll probably go with another girlfriend or two to see it while it's still in wide release, and I most definitely will eventually own it on DVD (though probably not until it goes below $6 on can wait). A great chick-flick.

I turned in my grant proposal yesterday.

Leah has arranged for me to do an all-day jewelry show the second week in December at her son's school. I look forward to seeing how well Anita and I do at Georgetown and then the week after at St. Whatsisname's. This afternoon I created, printed up, cut out and distributed 750 postcard-size flyers to staff and graduate student mailboxes for the Georgetown show. I need to distribute about that many more Monday morning before I leave for GA--I only got to one building. And thus far, I don't have any volunteers to assist me, other than the sweet Leah and Anita's husband.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Not So Crappy

The IREX people have extended the grant application deadline to November 20. It seems I was not the only one experiencing technical difficulties with the site yesterday (and, their email implied, yesterday wasn't the only day such problems had occurred). Thank God. This will not only give me the chance to upload what I have done, but to complete any other categories I've left incomplete, and correct any errors in my virtual paperwork. I am vastly relieved.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crap, Crap, Crap!

OK, so I spent all day (truly productively) on Friday drafting the IARO grant proposal, a printout of which I drove over to my advisor's house at 4 PM. (Then I took him to the liquor store because he was out of cigarettes, but that's another story.)

Saturday, before and after a slow day at the market, I spent a while on editing, Sunday I worked on the bibliography, and Monday the thing underwent more revisions and I met with my Russian recommender (who carefully submitted the required form after quizzing me on the project in that language). Today I finished up making changes, incorporating my advisor's comments, and spent more hours culling and consolidating the bibliography. In the end, I had about six single-spaced pages of works to be consulted, half primary sources.

By 3:30, I was done, and logged onto the IREX system to upload the necessaries. I hit the "save and return" button on the very first subsection, and the server shut down. I don't think I, personally, killed it, but whatever and whoever responsible, it died. And remained dead. The application and all supporting documentation were due at 5 PM.

I prayed, and I telephoned. Neither of the two people responsible for the program were answering their extensions. I left messages on both voicemails. Then I emailed the general contact address, attaching the documents I still lacked in Word format and explaining what had happened. Since I didn't get to hit the "submit" button on the online form, who knows what they'll be able to access, or--let's be honest about this--what they'll be willing to access.

I'm actually remarkably calm and content about the whole technological fiasco. I did what I could--I had everything together on time, a feat considering I'd just heard Thursday that the application was due today. I've effectively got my new dissertation proposal drafted, so that's one more piece of paperwork out of the way. And I just don't have the energy to get upset--I spent hours yesterday crying (not about the application! Repeat after me: "Men are clueless slime."), and my tear ducts are toast. One's eye makeup does go on awfully easily on swollen eyelids, though--an unexpected side-benefit of misery.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dissertation Forward!

I finally met with my advisor Tuesday (our schedules simply haven't matched up heretofore), and he was not only willing to hear my dissertation revision, he was enthusiastic about my new topic--and he knew only a smidgen about Pirogov (mainly the man's proponence of women's rights). I am tickled. More than that, I'm seriously excited. Pirogov was fundamental to Russia's disease control efforts (he published on cholera), an early surgical anesthetist, and an educator who fell afoul of traditional anti-Semitism when he praised (in print) a Jewish orphanage in Odessa. And about a zillion other things. And I'm going to write the first (the Definitive) biography of him in English.

Money, is, of course, the only obstacle standing between me at the realization of this keen ambition. The International Research Exchanges Board grant application (pretty much the one on which all Russianists rely--I don't think you'll find a professor of Russian History anywhere in the United States who has not received a fellowship from them sometime in his or her career) is due November 17. That's Tuesday. I've got to construct a formal dissertation proposal, get the relevant parties to sign it, and create a grant proposal and travel plan between now and then.

Actually, I have to get the research proposal done tonight, after I've finished my scheduled meeting with my Russian conversation tutor (she knows I'm unemployed, so she's taking me on as a charity case), because my advisor says he won't write the recommendation letter without seeing my proposal, and then he needs the weekend to compose the thing.

Wee bit stressed at present, but in a good way--I feel like I am working toward a real, worthy goal. And two other professors have already told me that they are more than willing to testify to my language proficiency (Russian and French). The French recommendation has in fact already been submitted! (I'm on campus, caught the professor at the right time, and she sat down with me in her office and had finished it in a few minutes).

So, God willing, this will work. Steven told me the other day that he and Susan have been praying that somehow my dissertation would be able to be finished. It looks like we'll be finding out! Look out, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia (and possibly), Germany, I'm on my way.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Applications and Placement

Dex is back from Peru and will shortly be collecting his Sprint Smartview, which means I won't have Internet access at home, so I'd best take blogging advantage while I've still got it!

I feel like I'm in a quicksand of applications. After the rejection--however kind--by the first agent I approached with "Two Motherlands," I took Dex's advice and headed off to the library to pull from a list of other possibilities. Just like the job applications I've been trudging through online, each agency (if they are in fact accepting new clients, and not exclusively by referral!) has its own guidelines as to what they are looking for, and what they expect prospective authors to send them to pique their interest.

It's kind of like going through college applications again, except that 1) there is much more information required, and 2) you don't know what makes for a successful candidacy. With college applications, I could count on being admitted to at least one program, but with job and manuscript applications there's no such assurance. It's kind of like dating. You could be perfect on paper, so to speak, but if the other doesn't fall in love with you, it's a no-go.

Although my best efforts have been heretofore insufficient in gaining either employment or publication (or romance), my Monday night Trivia team is experiencing a pleasant period of success. Last week, we finished 2nd, and last night, we came in first. Which meant that my margarita both times was free. And I'm doing better at darts. Which is to say that I usually hit the board these days, rather than the floor, walls, or other players. We are all happy about this.

Monday, November 09, 2009


Enough with the catty comments from the relatives. Yes, I am a packrat, and a clumsy person, too. All the agent correspondence was via email (see? no paper rejection letter to hold onto), and there were no obvious "this is how you use this" directions on the lat machine (so I can be forgiven for pulling the bar behind my head, can't I?). Give a girl a break.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Wrecks of Various Types

I haven't had a car accident, thank God! But I did almost take off my own nose on Saturday evening. Susan had shooed me out the door when I said I was debating between taking a nap and working out, and I am glad she did--I spent 45 minutes on the Stairmaster, 30 on the exercise bike, and then another half an hour on a hybrid glute-buster apparatus that really worked up a sweat (not that I was bone-dry after my previous exertions). My legs having been toned, I went to the Lady Gold's room to work on my arms. The last machine was one with a bar that you could pull down either to your chest or to your shoulder blades, and after a couple of pulls to my back I decided to move to the front. And cut it a little close. The agony. I thought my nose might be broken, and was surprised when it didn't start pouring blood. You wouldn't think that a nose as small as mine could hurt so much. I think it's just badly bruised, though I couldn't breathe much through it when I went to bed last night. The internal swelling has since subsided, judging from the fact that I can now take in air without opening my mouth like a fish. Poor little nose.

After I slammed my schnoz (an incident nobody saw in person), I decided I'd exercised enough for one day, and so I grabbed my keys and waterbottle and headed out into the parking lot. Where I fell in a pothole. It was really more of a "pot-bowl" because the asphalt was sagging several inches down into a depression, rather than cracking. There was one witness to that graceful move, but at least he refrained from any snide remarks. I might have bitten his head off, otherwise. And choked to death on it, given my luck at the time.

Better providence awaited me at home, where Steven and Susan were (unbeknownst to me) preparing a five-star repast of stuffed salmon, garlic bread with rosemary, sauteed greens, and butternut squash. And wine. Oh, my. Our friend Amy came over at 7:30 and the four of us had a relaxed candlelit dinner, and then sat down to watch Star Wars, which Susan hadn't seen since she was about five.

This morning, I took Mr. B with me to early church. I think he was a little flustered by all the paper included with the bulletin (though it's less than previously, as now the weekly updates are distributed via email), and the large-print version of the order of service just added to the stack that he shuffled uncertainly. The collective responses may have thrown him a bit, too--although there's often an "amen corner" in small Bible churches, you don't find the unison reading of formally-worded confessions and professions which are dear to the hearts of Presbyterians. Still, he said he enjoyed it--he really paid attention to the sermon, and remarked afterwards that he liked the preacher--but he wasn't interested in attending Sunday School, so when the service let out we chatted with a few folks and then I took him home. And I went down for a nap. Susan got me up at 2 with the news that lunch was waiting--she and Steven had again produced a nice meal, this one of pork chops, rice, salad and ice cream. Ahhh. My nose would have twitched with pleasure if it weren't still throbbing.

Speaking of good food and wrecks, Amy and Susan and I drove up to Bethesda Thursday evening to attend the most-local stop on the CakeWrecks ("This time, it's personal") "World" Book Tour. We left home 30 minutes before the event started (GoogleMaps said it would take 21 to get there) and arrived half an hour late. There was an accident on the Key Bridge involving a GUTS bus. Jen and John, the authors of the CakeWrecks blog, are clever, friendly and funny in person, too--we got to hear the tail-end of the Q&A session. And then there was (of course!) free cake. And then the opportunity to meet the two of them. Susan and Amy, not being Wreckies, took themselves off to the bookstore cafe to wait for me, while I waited to be called into the Presence. Due to my tardiness, I was close to the back of the line, and given there were about 200 people there, and that Jen and John (kindly and appropriately) took time to talk to each one, it was pretty late before I was done.

Saturday was the first weekend since almost April that Anita and I were actually at the Arlington Market together. The gorgeous, sunny and cool weather didn't work in our favor, however, as all of the DC area seemed to be out walking, jogging, biking or hiking, but not shopping at our little market. We packed early, which meant that I was home in time for a late lunch, and had the luxury of deciding whether to nap or exercise. And you all nose the rest of the story.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

World's Nicest Rejection

I heard back from the William Morris agent this afternoon. I got what could well be considered the nicest first-time submitter's rejection ever. In part, it read:

Needless to say, this is a fascinating historical document. Unfortunately, after reading the manuscript I have to conclude that this will be an extremely difficult book to place with a traditional trade publisher. While the back and forth exchange is an incredible window into these times & places, the lack of a true, binding central narrative will make this work extraordinarily difficult to market to the general intelligent lay reader. I wish I had some relatively easy solutions to this problem, but I can't come up with any, and therefore I think it would make most sense to pursue an academic publication in the US.

Again, I'm so sorry I don't see myself being able to make this work, but thank you very much for your consideration and for the opportunity.

I'm impressed by the kindness of the whole email, although I am thoroughly disappointed by this setback, and I do think that the book does indeed have a "true, binding central narrative," which may not have been obvious from reading just two chapters. Be that as it may, there is work to be done--approaching academic publishers with what is, at its base, an exploration of what God did in the life of a 20th century communist Russian family. This may be a tough sell.

Or should I try to talk to another agent? I truly think the book should be mass-marketed, not produced by a university press with limited distribution potential and high per-volume cost. I could use a neat dose of wisdom right about now...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Off to the Gym

Government job online applications are their own special form of hell, with more than double Dante's circles, and within each of these spheres, more sub-spheres, like cloves in a head of garlic. It would take any reasonable person hours to complete the process; for a somewhat unreasonable person like myself, that time is exponentially extended. I just finished one application that took me days to assemble--partly because the system crashed on me yesterday morning, when I'd plugged in about half the information, and though I'd been hitting the "save draft" key religiously, it not only didn't save the latest version of the draft, it ate all the previously-inserted data, except for my name, address and telephone number! Susan was home sick yesterday and had to listen to me rant. Poor girl!

One of the checks finally arrived in today's mail! Still haven't heard anything from the book agents.

The weather is superb, bright, clear and cool, and I'm going to revel in this by going over to the gym this afternoon, rewarding myself for my mental exertion by producing some physical sweat. Mr. B has said he wants to go to church with me and Susan this coming Sunday, so that's another reason for rejoicement. And Steven told me and Susan when he dropped by last night that the two of them are taking me to a nice restaurant the weekend before my birthday: another anticipated happiness!

Alright, time to burn some calories (all those mini Snickers bars some diabolical soul brought to Sunday School this week...)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Valedictory Victory

The NPV had never been beaten, single-handedly, in Scrabble during his entire residence in VA. And so it was Wednesday night, at the end of what was perhaps the last of our forty or so Scrabbling tournaments, that I managed to eke out a five-point win. As another girl who has played the wordsmithing game with us told me, "it was a proud day for womankind."

Dex having lent me his Sprint mobile wireless device, I have already applied for one job with the "guvment" and am partway through a second application for an analyst position with another agency. Though in Peru, Dex continues to send me Craigslist postings for oddjobs. The man is incorrigible. He looked downright shocked Wednesday night when I suggested I might move out of the area (who on earth would be his walking partner?!), and so I suspect a stepped-up campaign to root me in Arlington.

The checks have still not arrived in the mail (do they eventually?), nor have I heard anything from the literary agents. Last night was pleasantly spent with Portia, a friend from the Philippines, who told an entertaining tale about the Secretary of State having a yen for one of the locally famous Georgetown Cupcakes, sending her security detail into paroxysms of stress trying to locate the business (don't these people have GPS?). Which teapot-tempest ended with one of the detail asking Portia out for coffee.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Checks in the Mail

So, I'm freezing the proverbial buns in an overly-air conditioned alcove in the Adams building of the Library of Congress and wondering when, or if, three paychecks that I'm due from three different consignment places in the DC area will arrive in my mailbox at home. I'm expecting enough cumulatively to pay the rent, but their not arriving has put a crimp in my style (they are way overdue). That and the fact that it's rained three consecutive Saturdays, meaning neither Anita nor I have been able to set up at the market, mean I am really short on cash. And of course this would be the time I need to replace my headlight bulb, get pants hemmed, buy groceries, and so forth.

The NPV is moving out on the Orange Line later this week (the Wiggle having gotten married and departed), and purposes to clean out his freezer feeding me this evening. Susan and Steven have a date night tonight, but as recompense for my missing the exquisite lasagna he was making for the three of us (apparently I was to be included in the dinner arrangements, though I didn't know this yesterday!), Steven treated me to lunch at the communist Pho place in Rosslyn today, before he dropped me off in front of the LOC. My friend Paul (hereafter known as Dex) plans to leave his "connect to the internet from anywhere" device with me before he goes off to visit the parentals in Peru tomorrow. So, the males of the species are being pretty darn decent to me today. Would that it were so every day!

Still haven't heard anything from either of the literary agents, though I did (my mother tells me) get an effusively conciliatory snail-mail letter from AAA, in response to a hot email I sent them after returning from the roadtrip out West. All the hotels they recommended were great...except one. An edited version [removing name of the offending business, as AAA swears they are going to change their ways] of my scathing review:

Dear AAA,

My brother and I just completed a cross-country trip, driving from the state of Washington through Oregon and California, then across the southern section of the North American continent via Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, finishing in Georgia. We used AAA guides and maps for much of the trip, relying particularly on the hotel/motel lists contained in the relevant 2009 Tourbooks for recommendations on where to stay each night. For the most part, these were excellent and accurate, assuring us of clean, comfortable and affordable accommodations along our route. There was one glaring exception, however, that we wished to bring to your attention, with the hope that you will investigate and possibly revise or revoke your endorsement of the motel in question.

On Friday, September 25, we were heading toward Yosemite National Park, California, and decided after an hour or so of after-sunset driving to stop for the night. The motel we pulled into was Ye Olde Hole in the Wall. The Tourbook rated the motel 2 diamonds, and noted that nightly rates ranged from $59-$149. We requested a room with two beds, and were informed that the regular rate was $145, $135 with AAA or military discount. This was a steep price, unaccountably so given the basic double room which we were given, and the fact that there was no breakfast included in the cost. But we were tired, and decided that there was little other option.

Room #201 (despite the number, located on the first floor of its building) was designed for wheelchair accessibility, but the motel must have assumed that its mobility-impaired guests were also visually impaired and would not notice problems with lack of cleanliness, as the lowest several inches of the shower curtain were grey-green with a thriving mildew colony, visible even though the lighting in the bathroom and room were generally poor. The towels (the guest book having little in the way of listed amenities, and much in the way of warnings about stealing the linen) were flat, not fluffy, which did little to disguise the stains which afflicted them. The sheets, also, were not white, and bore the ownership stamp of another hotel!

It being a warm night, we decided to turn on the air conditioning, and discovered that the wall unit was unplugged, and in fact the device seemed to be manually adjustable only by plugging and unplugging. It was not until the next morning that we found a digital temperature-box on the wall (it was hard to see in the dim light, and would not have been accessible for any wheelchair-using guest), so we were unable to test whether this mechanism actually worked—probably not if the wall unit were unplugged. Though we had to plug in the air conditioner, we had to unplug the refrigerator, because the thing was making disturbing ticking noises, like a bomb in a low-budget movie. Incidentally, when we unplugged the refrigerator, we noticed that its plug interfered with that of the microwave, which shared the same wall outlet, leaving the prongs of one device only half-way inserted—a fire hazard in a facility surrounded by woods in a region perennially affected by devastating forest fires.

In summary, we did not feel that Ye Olde Hole in the Wall was at all deserving of even the 2-diamond AAA rating, nor should it be able to claim (proudly displaying the plaques on the check-in office wall) that it is even “AAA approved.” Thank you for your consideration in looking into this matter.

Sincerely yours, [etc].

AAA tells me that the pseudonymous Ye Olde Hole in the Wall will be contacting me directly. They'd better grovel, the filthy s—s. Getting another check in the mail, along with a profuse apology, would be nice.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Literary Efforts and Birthdays

My cousin Esther is also an aspiring writer. She's seven years younger than I, living in NYC in Brooklyn, in a neighborhood which--she told me on Saturday--has more small-town feel than any other place she's lived. She knows her neighbors, and can walk or take the train everywhere. She's writing a book of fictionalized family vignettes, produces regular posts for a parenting blog (she laughs that she's the only non-parent on the site, but they pay enough to make it worthwhile), and cobbles together enough cash to live doing other writing odd-jobs.

I told her about my own writing efforts, and we traded a few tips--she's getting her MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington in just a few months--and commiserated over the problem of not being able to say something neat and concrete when asked that inevitable question, "So, what do you do?" She said she's frequently at events where she's surrounded by Bright Young Things who have just published their first novel, or released their first album, or achieved some other initial milestone, and there she is, spending 8-10 hours every day, holed up in her apartment, writing, without anything concrete to show for it. Well I can sympathize.

Today, via the Georgetown University Office of Scholarly and Literary Publications, I have submitted the Two Motherlands query letter and text-samples to the William Morris Endeavor agent I chatted with this past Thursday. I really hope and pray that he falls in love with the project and finds a publisher who will be similarly infatuated. I emailed Ira and asked her to start considering what hypothetical percentage-split the two of us would take from any revenues (apart from the agent getting 15% off the top, of course). Best to get this ironed out before either of us have seen a penny.

Still haven't heard a peep about the children's book submission to the other agent, but that's not unexpected. Everyone tells me that the children's book market is the most difficult of all publishing areas to get into, and here it was my first attempt. But I pray for a miracle in that area, as well--the idea was certainly original and winning (with the potential for multiple sequels--practically a necessity in this day and age!).

Silent Bob's 27th birthday was yesterday, and while I sang "Happy (87th) Birthday" to my dear Grandmommy on Saturday (a day early), I totally forgot to wish him many returns, disgruntled or otherwise, before he left for Charleston Sunday afternoon. So, happy belated birthday, little brother.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Road Trip(s), Continued

Susan, Steven and I hit the road after the Wiggle's long-awaited wedding Saturday morning, hoping to see the leaves in the northerly sections of the Atlantic seaboard. We ate dinner in Gettysburg, stayed overnight on the PA/NJ border, then continued on through NY and thence to CT, where we hate a leisurely late lunch on the water, watching the sailboats and a pair of swans glide by. We even got to spend an hour or so with S Dawg and her family, hanging out with my adorable goddaughter and her spaniel-eyed small brother, who loved the aprons I brought them. We ate supper at the "original" Mystic Pizza in Mystic, CT, which was fun, and then spent the night on the other side of the Hudson River before spending a cordial couple of hours with Steven's sister, mom, and 9-year-old nephew (and the most obese cat I have ever seen in person in my life). And then we braved the hell that is I-95/New Jersey Turnpike (short tempers, insane tolls and all) on our way back to DC. I had a good time, but would have enjoyed myself still more had I not been carsick for much of the trip. I don't do well on twisty mountain roads, and especially not when in the back seat. Steven kindly kept the rear AC at 65 to help stem my nausea, but it was rough. The food and the company, and the pretty countryside did compensate.

Yesterday, after meeting a literary agent from William Morris Endeavor (who assured me that he'll look at the Two Motherlands manuscript), I drove down to GA. It's been great to go to the gym with Mums again, but I'm surprisingly depressed by my brother Bob's decision not to spend his birthday with us tomorrow (the actually birthday is Sunday, but we're going down for lunch with my grandparents in Dublin on Saturday)--I'd been looking forward to taking 27th/87th birthday pictures of him and Grandmommy together--but he's got to go back to Charleston to get his new house in order. I was just really happy about the prospect, I guess.


Group of friends surround the bride and groom. My brother said he didn't care to see shots of "your cheerful Presbyterian friends," but perhaps my other readers will enjoy it!

Beautiful leaves. Most hadn't changed yet, but this view near "the Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania" (too expensive to see!) was promising.

Brad's new apron was a big hit--he and his sister insisted on wearing their new gear to preschool cooking class the next day.

Flower girl! Rita sorts her sunflowers and marigolds on top of her swingset platform.

Brad attempted (with eventual success) to feed Fahrenheit the rabbit a marigold while the family-sized bunny nosed around the dying garden-beds sampling cabbages, tomatoes and other delectables.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Fifth Blog-Anniversary

Holy Cats! I missed my anniversary again. The first of October marked the fifth year I've been blogging hereon. And I've got what? Ten regular readers? That's two that join per year, on average. CakeWrecks, this ain't!

So, I just submitted my first formal book proposal to a real, honest-to-goodness literary agency. And it wasn't even the query for Two Motherlands--that letter's written, but the English manuscript has to be revised (again!) to parallel the Russian text (which has gone through 2 revisions in the last month with an editor at Zvezda publishing house--he recommended rearranging sections so it sounded less academic without compromising the content, which is all to the good), and so since chapter-samples are frequently requested along with a query letter and synopsis, I've got to wait. The submission I made was of a children's story I've written. I hope that the agent (the friend of a friend) finds it appealing, and can persuade publishers of the like.

Jewelry sales continue slow, but not as slow as formerly, for which both Anita and I are vastly grateful. I have meetings set up tomorrow and Friday with the two art-consignment stores where I sell (one in Alexandria and another in Baltimore) to switch out my creations with fresh stock. Oh--I'm back in DC temporarily [got back Saturday morning after what turned out to be expensive car problems (are there any other kind?) and must return to GA to retrieve my car and give my mother back her SUV].

Am currently at the Library of Congress researching Pirogov. It's beautiful and windy outside, and I'm freezing to death indoors, despite precautionary longjohns. Cold or not, I've got a lot to do, because the LOC is closed on Monday for something non-PC like Columbus Day, drat it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Trip Summary

Bob and I got back to Augusta this afternoon. We spent last night in Birmingham, Alabama, and the previous one on the Oklahoma/Texas border. Sunday night we were in Williams, Arizona, on Route 66, just 60 or so miles from the Grand Canyon, which we unfortunately didn't get to see, because the car had overheated Sunday morning in the Mojave Desert (the ambient temperature was 107 F, and the engine went well over 100 C, boiling antifreeze onto the pavement when we stopped for gas), and we decided to forego the stress of slow driving miles from civilization and head directly homeward. Of course, the car ran cold (80 C) for the next 1800 miles, after Bob and I spent Sunday evening online pouring over solutions to the overheating issue and he "burped" the radiator Monday morning. Be that as it may, we saw a lot in California before we both began obsessing over the readings on the temperature gauge.

Friday, we drove across the state through Chico, where beer aficionados all know the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is located. I am not a beer aficionado, but Bob is, and the brew-house tour we went on was quite interesting. After acquiring t-shirts and other useful memorabilia in the gift shop, we ate a late lunch/early supper at the adjacent restaurant (brewing leftovers are fed to the cows which end up in steaks and burgers on the brewery tables), and then went on, through the surprisingly small middle-of-a-corn-field town of Sacramento into the mountains near Yosemite. California mountain driving is daunting enough in the daytime, and at night it is terrifying. Quick blind turns, un-guard-railed drops, unbanked curves--it's stomach-churning. But we made it, sweaty-palmed and exhausted.

Saturday we hiked about 5 miles (and 1500 ft ascent) in Yosemite. Awesome views. And again, no bugs. I was glad I'd spent so much time on the Stairmaster at Gold's Gym--there was no way I would have been able to make it up the mountain otherwise. After the hike we drove south to see the park's largest grove of sequoias. Much of the mountainside had burnt recently, and we were covered with grey dust, ourselves and the car, inside and out--we didn't quit coughing until we were almost out of the state. Central California assaults the nostrils--cow manure, skunks, smoke, chemicals, grapes, cheese farts (that's what it smelled like), and dirt--travelers plunge from one olfactory miasma into the next. It's not for the faint of lung.

We had sunshine our whole trip, no insects, and no accidents. It was Providential, really. And Bob and I got along beautifully--though he did start making snide remarks to Mums the minute we got in today, telling her that the most annoying sound in the world was me complaining about "only getting 8 hours of sleep," and how the fastest thing on the planet was me "cobra-striking" the alarm clock. Brothers. I swear.

Sample pictures:

Lieutenant Bob in Seattle

Mink Lake, Olympic National Park, Washington. We saw no minks. But we did see a lot of big blue dragonflies, none of which would pause long enough for me to get a picture.

Pacific seashore, Washington. I was not responsible for the rock piles, but I thought they were rather nicely done.

Tree-hugger, Redwood National Forest, California

Bob, Redwood National Forest, California

Pimp My Ride in the Park: the Mercedes at Yosemite

Yosemite Bob runs uphill.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I *was* going to upload photos of Bob 'n' me 'mongst the redwoods, but I left my camera in the car when we checked in to the Howard Johnson and (as I'm already suppered and showered) I don't feel like going out to retrieve it. Suffice it to say, it was hard to forego cursing the memories of the logging companies who destroyed so many of the magnificent old trees before a citizens group formed in the early 20th century to preserve what was left.

After dodging down, and down, and down twisting road 199 from Grants Pass, OR (where we passed the Fire Mountain warehouse--ooooh!), we came into the Redwood National Forest, and the treetops began disappearing into the sky as we wound through the green cool dimness at their massive bases. We went off the main drag and rolled slowly through the old growth, the moonroof open, staring upward in amazement at the 1000-year-old arboreal splendor. We eventually parked and walked around snapping pictures of our smallness--Bob got one shot of me hugging the grey trunk of a tree as tall as the length of a football field. My arms didn't stretch even a sixth of its circumference.

We're stopping tonight in Eureka, CA. We got Chinese takeout and a gallon of skim milk for supper and sat on our beds watching part of a sound-and-picture unsynchronized broadcast of Hellboy II: The Golden Army while we ate and abused cow juice. Tomorrow we're sipping our way through wine country, and then it's on to the Grand Canyon and thence home.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Below Portland

Bob and I stayed last night in Port Angeles, WA. One of his navy buddies recommended a Thai restaurant downtown (a block or two from the "Dazzled by Twilight" store), so we ate heathily and well before turning in to a tiny bluff-top motel (two wee twin beds and lime tile in the bathroom, but clean) about 9:30. Bob went for a run along the shore, while I showered and hit the hay. I was flat--after 4 hours of waiting at the Augusta airport Monday afternoon, I postponed my ticket to the 5:45 flight the next morning and called my parents to come get me. Tuesday, I drove a junker to the airport at 4:30 (I've never been in such an ugly, smelly automobile--it was the vehicular equivalent of that couch I slept on in Russia this summer), parked it in the lot, left the keys under the front seat and the doors unlocked (so my parents could retrieve it later) and didn't fear that any self-respecting thief would make off with it. Even those who steal have their pride. I got to Seattle at about 11 AM, and Bob picked me up in his "pimp my ride" classic Mercedes. It's got chrome wheels with the trefoil logo on it, and looks like the sort of thing a druglord might drive, the windows rolled down and gangsta rap shaking the block. Leather seats (heated, if your bum gets too cool), moon roof, tilt-adjust headlights, and so forth. It's sweet. We went into downtown Seattle and met my friend IEC for lunch at Pike's Chowder. I had the salmon chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Yum. Weather was perfect, and the Space Needle was short--it hovers about half-way up the skyscrapers. Bob and I drove through Tacoma to Bremerton to finish packing his apartment, and headed north about 5:30, reaching Port Angeles at sunset. Depressing little town, but more picturesque than most on the Olympic Peninsula, which is rich in natural beauty (where it hasn't been logged, which leaves swaths of bleached tree-bones rotting like Ezekiel's valley vision until the new plantings take over) but poor in all human material conditions.

The peninsula dwellers are trying to leverage the vampire angle to bring (if you'll pardon the expression) a little fresh blood into their down-at-heel communities. There was another branch of the retailer "Dazzled by Twilight" in Forks, a one-stoplight little community where the hotel's billboard said "Edward Cullen Didn't Sleep Here," and there was a "Twilight Lounge" in addition to a sad little hand-scribbled board outside a clothing shop: "Bella shops here." Stephenie Meyer has probably single-handedly galvanized the tourist industry on that corner of Washington State. I was rather surprised to note that there really is a Quileute Reservation outside of Forks--one wonders if the tribal council is being harassed by over-eager fans about any extant werewolf legends! Bob and I didn't stop in Forks--we'd gone hiking in the Olympic National Forest, and were happy with the natural reality, and he was anxious to get as far south as possible, away from Washington's dreariness and into warmer climes.

We've stopped below Portland, Oregon, for tonight. It's after 11, and Bob's already asleep, so I'd best sign off. Tomorrow, we're looking forward to more hiking among ever more incredibly huge ancient trees--the California Redwoods. Maybe the Pacific won't look so grey down there as it did in Washington today.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Crappy Weather

I'm stuck in Augusta. Thunderstorms in Atlanta have cut that airport's arrival and departure capabilities to a third of the usual, and (given that Hartsfield is one of the world's busiest airports and the main Delta hub) this means that everything all over the Southeast is delayed for hours. My plane was supposed to leave at 2, now the stressed-out young men at the Delta desk say they'll have an update--an update, mind, not a departure time--for us on the weather situation at 4. People who were scheduled to leave at 12:50 are still sitting next to me, so this does not bode well. Will I make it to Seattle today? If at all, probably not at a reasonable dinnertime. I'm starving, and don't feel like paying $6 for a hotdog at the single airport concession stand.

Augusta Regional Airport no longer the embarassing little hole that it was. It's still minature (two gates!), but the whole has been rebuilt, down to the granite countertops in the post women's restrooms and free wireless facility-wide, large picture windows overlooking the tarmac. Quite nice. Service still questionable, as it seems a previous Delta flight was cancelled, and the businessmen in the waiting area are complaining.

Bob and I are supposed to meet a friend of mine for dinner in Seattle at 8. I told her to pick the place--the sun will have already set, so the dining view is less important than the content of the meal itself. Dress code is not a worry, as this is the West Coast, and informality is the norm.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Seattle, Here I Come!

Barring incident or accident, I should be arriving in Seattle later today (Monday) about 7:30 PM. I've never been all the way out to the West Coast [the closest I've gotten was a western tour 23 (gulp!) years ago, when my parents took the four of us kids out to Salt Lake City, rented a car, and drove through Montana, the corners of Montana and Idaho, down through Utah, into Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and back to SLC, having traveled 2400 miles on the road in just two weeks, hiked all over (Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, the Petrified Forest), looked out on the Grand Canyon and ridden a train from Durango to Silverton Colorado and back]. It's beautiful out there, and I've always wanted to go back to these briefly-visited spots and on all the way to the ocean.

So, when Bob offered to fly me out to meet him in Washington state so I could road-trip back across country with him in his newly-purchased 1984 Mercedes (I hope it has air conditioning), I jumped at the chance. To get to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time, walk along the rocky shoreline, glimpse a bit of Canada...and then drive down the coast and visit various national parks and tour some California vineyards (if we're lucky) before crossing Death Valley, cruising through Vegas (we don't plan to stop, we just want to see "the Strip") on our way to the Grand Canyon (Bob was 2 on our last visit, so he doesn't remember much) and maybe roll up to Denver (where we have cousins--there's a Chinese restaurant there my parents ate at 30 years ago when they went for a medical meeting, and I want to see if it's still in business--Mums said the food and ambiance were great), then through Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and home...well, let's just say it should be an adventure.

I'm taking my laptop, so if there's free wireless anywhereabouts, I'll try to update you all on our progress.

Friday, September 18, 2009

George W. Bush Was a Fool?

Readers can observe for themselves that I have not written much about political issues, especially in the past year. I have in fact tried to think as apolitically as possible given my presence in the history department of a major private university, which means that I have been bombarded, willy-nilly, from all sides by soliloquies on the narrow-mindedness, insensitivity, lack of intellect and so forth that are assumed to be inseparable from the character of political so-called conservatism. Without at all compromising the integrity of the secret ballot, I can solemnly assure you that I was the only person, graduate student, staff or faculty member, in the entire Georgetown history department who voted for McCain. And the fact that I went to the inauguration and genuinely rejoiced in the spectacle of the peaceful transfer of democratic power was in no way contrary to my convictions. Barack Hussein Obama is my president, too, of course. I had hoped for the best.

Prior to the election, Silverman delighted in a few occasions when he had been able to “out” me to others in the department, particularly over the topic of abortion, on which side he knows where I stand. Nadya is a fellow Russianist in my department, a Russian citizen who I don’t believe has the right to vote in this country, but who still was an ardent Obama supporter, and one day, while the three of us were standing next to the front desk, he told her that I wouldn’t be voting for the man because he was pro-abortion. Not wanting to get into a complex discussion with Silverman over the reality that I am not a single-issue voter, I merely nodded, and Nadya told me that she supported the Chicago-based senator because she believed that he would be a better foreign policy maker.

Well, indeed he is, for the Russians. I’m really disturbed and disgusted over the White House announcement yesterday about not continuing the missile-defense initiative in Poland and other Eastern European countries. Poland, in particular, has been a staunch US ally since the end of the Cold War, and provided a useful counterbalance to less US-friendly states in the burgeoning European Union. Timing the announcement on the very anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland (Americans may have forgotten that, courtesy of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, after Hitler’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, “beginning” World War II, the Soviets quietly rolled into the country just three weeks later, taking over the remainder and bringing the Terror to bear, but Poles certainly have not!) was extremely poor judgment. What, pray, do we hope to gain by this move?

“Pooty,” as a World War II veteran in my Sunday School class refers to the Russian Prime Minister, is no friend of the United States, and though liberal-minded political scientists and cable-network news-puppets may decry the “hawkishness” of “unrepentant Cold Warriors” there is none so hawkish nor unrepentant as the soulless Mr. Vladimir P. His iron fist may be in a velvet glove, but he’s brilliant and he’s ruthless, and he wouldn’t enjoy his current position without these New (old) Russian characteristics.

I love Russia, but my affection rests among ordinary people and does not extend to those in the central government. I love Poland, too. I was there in 1992 as a Sister Cities student ambassador and then again as a language and culture student for the summer of 1996. Both the Poles and the Russians have been poorly treated throughout history, but in the imperial and Soviet Russian case, it has been mostly self-inflicted misery, whereas in the Polish case it has been as a result of external enemies, Russia foremost among them. And now we’re setting the stage for more bullying of gallant Poland by the eastern bear. Why?

It can’t be for financial reasons, because heaven knows Obama’s no fiscal puritan on the domestic front. It seems the man is hellbent on ruining our relationships with our most loyal plucky little friends abroad (Israel, Poland, etc.—I’m waiting to see what he does to tick off the British) and kowtowing to the “international community” (dominated by China, Russia and other folks with no governmental love for the United States), in the na├»ve hope that—what? That we’ll be liked? He’s already caved on the North Korea six-party talks (which probably weren’t going to do anything anyway, but at least they kept some pressure on the nuclear nut in Pyongyang, and made China have to interact with five other countries rather than coordinating Koreaward diplomacy only to suit itself), and would the Israelis even trust him to back them up rhetorically if they (the only people with the chutzpah for the job) decided to do a bit of bomb-dropping on Tehran’s uranium-processing facilities?

I am not suggesting that our president has any venal notion of "selling out" his country--you don't run for the highest office in the land hoping that your position will be disgraced during your occupation of it. But his international relations expertise leaves much to be desired, and his decisions more questions than answers. I can't help but think that, on a governmental level, our long-time allies must be wondering whether its worth the candle to be a "friend of America" these days--it just might be an invitation to immolation.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Mums fainted this morning about 8 AM. She felt odd and yelped—panic in her voice—for me before she collapsed into a chair at the kitchen table. I rocketed out of bed and rushed downstairs to find her leaned over with her cheek on the wood, all dewy with perspiration. I patted her gently on the back and she came to. She weighs less than 100 pounds now, and if a strong puff of air wouldn’t exactly carry her off, it would go a long way toward knocking her over.

She was able to sleep more than 2 hours last night, but barely. This is more rest than she’s enjoyed in months, and the wear of wakefulness shows on her drawn face and in the pronounced vibration of her hands, which shake as she brings half-cups of apple juice to her lips, trying to get some calories into her tiny body. She weighed around 120 a month ago, all muscular and vigorous then (though she was quite sick) and the change is shocking. I am looking forward to the weight loss stopping (right now, 2-3 pounds are falling away daily—surely this can’t go on for long), and hope that the good meals that my father’s been cooking up will start to put some meat back on her small bones soon.

Daddy’s given us each a walkie-talkie, so even if I am upstairs (as now) and she is down, we can communicate. I need to go check on her—there’s no noise from the kitchen (not that she would be banging around with pots and pans in her present condition), and given this morning’s faint, I don’t want to be away long from visual contact, in case she wilts without warning, before she can press the “talk” button.

Prayers appreciated, and I have greatly appreciated the calls (passing the well-wishes on to Mums), though subsequent ones to my cell phone I’ll not hear, since the battery’s dead and in my rush to get down here I seem to have forgotten my charge cord. Any telephone calls intended for me should be directed to my parents’ house number. I won’t be able to chat long—being pretty tired myself—but it’s nice to know we’re remembered and prayed for.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Really Home

Mums came home from the hospital yesterday afternoon, which was a vast relief to all concerned. She was starting to feel the prison aura of the place, where the only excitement was looking forward to the potato or mushroom swill that arrived three times a day, the only exercise solitary turns down the corridors. The IV pole had turned into a shackle, the uniformed nurses, no matter how kind, became little more than wardens, warning her of her limitations and dire consequences if she presumed to overstep them.

For dinner last night, Daddy cooked us steak (so tender it could almost be cut with a spoon), and we had baked french fries and butter-soft asparagus. Steak, potatoes (well cooked and without the skin) and the equivalent of English "mushy peas" are low residue foods and allowed to Mums. And they beat the heck out of gruel, taste-wise.

She continues to have unwelcome reactions to her pain medications--last night, when sleep was so fondly sought, being finally in her own, noiseless bed (instead of in the motorized monster that hummed and groaned in her hospital cell), the stuff kept her awake and nervous. Daddy came home from call around 9 AM today, and the three of us decided that mid-morning naps were in order. I slept for almost 4 hours (crazy dreams). Mums still couldn't rest, but tonight Daddy's going to give her an alternate prescription, so hopefully that will turn the trick. She's getting upstairs and down easily, and this afternoon sat outside on my folding chair while I clipped the climbing roses, which were full of yellow-orange hips, healthy green weeds, and dead thorny branches. We both needed the fresh air and sunshine.

She's been strickly forbidden (doctor's orders--the first time I've ever heard a doctor say such a thing) to "do anything even resembling exercise." "I know you're gung-ho," her surgeon told her, "And I don't want you to lift anything for the next three months." She's not even allowed to walk quickly. I think this'll chafe in short order, but it's only three months until her next surgery, and then hopefully she'll be allowed to return to full physical activity, kickboxing included.

In other good news, my brother's wrecked truck got totalled out, or so is the initial word from his insurance company. The truck was ten years old, and to fix it was going to cost more than it was worth (and take up to a month, which was his sole concern, being anxious to get out of Seattle ASAP). He's waiting on final confirmation of the company's decision, but it looks like he'll be renting a car to drive cross-country. Lots of pretty scenery 'twixt there and here.

Friday, September 11, 2009


My mother insisted that I go to the hospital reception desk and request that a security guard walk me the 200 yards to my car parked in the visitor lot, and to tell the truth I wasn't sorry I acquiesced. It'd be downright embarrassing to survive all sorts of adventures abroad, not to mention six years in DC, only to be mugged in what is essentially my hometown.

I was up at about 5:30 this morning in Arlington, finished loading my car, and was on the road by 6:50. I parked in the hospital garage at 4:15. Mums looked pretty good, despite being squeezed into a dim, furniture-crowded sixth-floor room. Thin, sleepy (thanks to a double dose of painkillers administered this morning), but comfortable. She's been upgraded from a liquid diet to gruel (semi-solids), and is actually starting to get a bit hungry for real solids, though her diet henceforth will be severely curtailed (no fiber). She's still hoping to be released Monday, but it may be delayed until Tuesday. We went on several strolls around the corridors, her pushing her quint-wheeled IV stand and walking carefully. I read her my children's stories (she wonders if there is a market for such so traditional) and promised to bring Scrabble for tomorrow. I shan't set my alarm tonight.

I chickened out on playing soccer and teaching Sunday school. I'm just too stressed out to add anything to my schedule, and once deciding yesterday AM that I was needed in Augusta and would be leaving forthwith, I had an incredible amount to do, and little time in which to do it. Soccer was immediately out. For one thing, I had to give Anita our jewelry and tables and displays and so forth, all of which was in my car (she lives half an hour away from me), I had library business (downloads, a checkout, informing the LOC of my absence so they wouldn't send my Pirogov stuff back to the stacks), taxes and bank deposits and packing and two commissioned pieces that I'd said would be ready on Saturday and which I'd counted on having Friday to finish... Just nuts. I'd already been in tears much of Wednesday evening (the two hour Sunday school training meeting barely scratched the surface of all the safety procedures for and learning abilities of the kindergarten set--I'd not been too gung-ho about the prospect at first, and the challenges mounted up until I was literally itching with panic), and then Thursday AM, right after I'd talked to my mom, my brother Bob called to say that some idiot had made a left turn right in front of him, precipitating a collision and the near-totalling of Bob's truck, in which he'd been planning to drive cross-country starting in just less than 2 weeks. Of course the fellow (who was issued a sheaf of citations by the responding law officer) didn't have insurance on his borrowed car, which he was driving with an expired license. Lovely.

I don't handle stress well. Even though these things haven't involved me directly, they've affected those I love, and I'm frustrated at my own impotence to set things aright. Now, maybe if I were being more steady with my Bible reading and study I'd be better equipped to pray and chill, but as it is I'm tied up into a futile snarl of emotional knots. I feel useless and overcommitted all at once, desperate for income but thwarted in my weakening efforts to secure it.

Susan's suitor left her a dozen fuchsia-red roses leaning up against our doorframe last night. When I took a load of stuff to my car at 10, they weren't there, and when I went out again at 10:30, there they were, all florist-fresh and delicate. There wasn't a note, so I figured (correctly) that they were for her, and put them in water until such time as she would wake up and arrange them properly. But for one brief, light moment, as I was hauling supplies and laundry out, I did hope that they were intended for me, the sweet, fragile thought of some kindly unknown.

Thanks to all who are praying for me and mine--we need it.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Radical Remodeling

Mebane, NC. I'm sitting here in Paxifist's office space waiting for paint to dry. Grey magnetic paint--the rest of the dining room is a refreshing shade of pink (Paxifist insists it is purple, and it is indeed more purple than PeptoBismol, but not quite what I'd term lavender...). We plan to over-paint the grey section, so that it'll be indistinguishable from the rest of the wall save for the alphabet magnets clinging to it.

Yesterday, we tore out the smells-like-sweating-horses carpet (installed by a previous owner in a high-traffic eating area--bad enough without the superimposition of three little boys under age 5!) and peeled off the floral wallpaper border next to the crown molding. This latter proved somewhat hazardous to yours truly, as I stabbed myself in the left palm with a spackling knife before I figured out that soaking the border with a water pistol (fun!) at a distance and letting it sit for a bit was a far easier method for removal than scraping. Aside from my attempted self-stigmata (it's off-center), there were no other injuries, though we were using assorted sharps and heavy flats to slice the carpet and the underpadding and then pry out the staples (somebody was staple-happy thirty years back) and the carpet tacks. Ugly linoleum tiles under it all, but this will do until a more attractive floor is installed--at least it can be cleaned. Anything is better than carpet in a dining room.

We got to bed about 2 AM last night. At 8 this morning, Paxifist and I were up, and her husband and three boys packed off to the zoo while we girls went to work patching holes, taping windows and doors and otherwise prepping for painting. Since, it's been about a 16-hour day full of puttying and painting. Paxifist posted pictures of the process on her blog (see link above). Nice shot of a dishevelled but cheerful female wielding the water pistol.

All of this frantic remodeling kept my mind off the fact that my mother was being carved up on an operating table down in GA. The surgery this afternoon took about 5.5 hours. She's OK, doped up on painkillers, and should be in hospital for about a week. I'm supposed to drive down to GA Sunday to take her home Monday and help her get around the house those first two weeks (my Dad is booked solid with call days and can't get off). I know she's glad to kiss chemotherapy goodbye, and we are all praying for her rapid recovery.

Tomorrow, I'm scheduled to drive back to DC. I've got to go to Sunday School teacher training Wednesday night, then Thursday I'm playing in my first intradepartmental coed soccer game after a full day scanning at the Library of Congress, then Friday there's another social event after another LOC day, Saturday is the Arlington Market (hopefully madly profitable after a slow Labor Day weekend) and then Sunday my first day as a teacher for the four-year-olds and then home to GA for convalescent care.

Both Paxifist and Leah have approved of my children's stories (patiently listening to my readings), so the next step (one of several things I'm planning to accomplish in Augusta besides translation of several Pirogov biographies, making jewelry for two major shows we have coming up in October, and applying for jobs) is to illustrate them and see about getting them into print. Let's just say I'm keeping myself and I-95 busy.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Susan spent almost 12 hours at work today, getting ready for the next week's advent of her new students, all 110 of them. I spent hours at Georgetown, where the registrar's/bursar's/dean's offices have yet to get it through the computer system's overloaded brain that I am taking off this semester and needn't be charged for classes.

I also stopped by the History department, where I talked with a number of fellow Russianists, including Kevin, the beautiful, superbly muscled no-personality one. I've tried for the last year to find a spark of something interesting in him besides his obvious external attractions, but he's dull as dishwater to talk to. Doesn't have much of a sense of humor that I can tell (or perhaps just not one that's remotely similar to mine). Today I saw that post-summer camping in Siberia, he's more lovely than ever, all perfect nose and blue eyes and moderate stature and Southern accent and big biceps (and a new, close-clipped, grey-strewn beard), but he doesn't seem to have any more pepper in him than he did in May. It's a pity, really. He's bright, but somehow too earnest. And I'm indisputably un-serious and scatterbrained and yet not the belle type. Sigh.

Speaking of nice-looking male specimens, I found to my horror Sunday afternoon that my Russian acquaintance (she whom I met on the plane from Moscow who is engaged to marry the divorced man twice her age) was not interested in discussing her own dubious romantic position (as she had intimated we would be doing), but in setting ME up with another forty-something Russian! He was there with us as the friend of her fiance. He seemed nice, and he was in fact pretty cute. Pleasant to talk to, with a good sense of humor. And smart--he's an engineer at the biohazards lab in MD which was the first in the world to ID the swine flu that everyone's currently freaking out about. But he's divorced, the father of a little boy, and Jewish (not Messianic) and as I told her in the ladies room (the sole 2 minutes of the whole afternoon we were alone to talk--her fiance and his friend toured the National Gallery of Art with us, rather than heading off on their own, as I had expected), "I feel sorry for him, too" (after she told me that she felt sorry for him, that he simply "hasn't found the right woman" and that for this reason they were trying to set the two of us up), "but I'm not going to marry him because I feel sorry for him." Good grief. You shouldn't even date anyone out of pity. It's a bummer, though, that he's not a Christian, which puts him permanently on the ineligible list. We talked guns a bit--he likes to go to the shooting range, and I think he might invite me--and had the same opinion of the dreadful avant garde film that we sat in on for about 5 minutes in the gallery theater. He's been in the US since he was a teenager, so I can't even hold the usual prejudice of Russian male chauvinism against him. It's so much easier to avoid "if only" thinking if the person in question has some other repulsive characteristic, from physical mushiness to foul-mouthedness, but he seemed without any obvious defect. Argh.

I'm working on conquering my own physical mushiness. Spent an hour on the stairclimber Saturday evening and today, worked out my arms on the machines in the "Lady Gold's" room, and sweated buckets. I discovered I can read large print books while hiking on the stairclimber, and that this passes the time far better than anything else (than, say, staring around the room at the other gymrats, or attempting to read the closed-captioning on the sports and news channel TV screens), and keeps my mind off the fatigue.