Sunday, October 31, 2010


You all will be happy to know that when the heavy poop comes down, I'll be ready to add a dash of flavor to the otherwise indigestable post-apocalyptic food... I cleaned out my spice cabinet this evening, and discovered (in addition to the new bottle of vanilla I just bought, under the impression that I was totally out)...THREE more full bottles of vanilla extract, several bottles of real almond extract (and one bottle of the fake stuff), one of peppermint extract, two bottles of lemon extract, and a bottle of anise extract. I can only surmise that they've been multiplying in the dark at the back of my kitchen cabinet--well, there is alcohol involved...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Baked and Toned

Toned (despite a smoked turkey leg) and sepia toned.

I'm exhausted. I slept 12.5 hours last night, worked all day (estate sale, since Anita's out of town and I didn't feel like freezing my buns off alone) and tonight I plan to go to bed again at 8:30 and sleep as long as possible...I can't go to early church because the Marine Corps Marathon cuts me off from civilization between seven and ten. If they've opened the road before 11, I may be able to go to the late service.

My heat has finally been restored to functionality...not that I'd had it on, because I like to sleep with it cold, and I've been gone all day, every day. But it has been below freezing outdoors, and when I arrived at the estate sale this morning, the temperature indoors there was 62, so I turned on the heat. By mid-afternoon, with the sun pouring through the windows (contemporary style house, lots of glass), we were broiling in our own juices, and I had to switch on the AC.

I was going to go to a Halloween party this weekend, but I'm just too tired to go back out once I get a shower. At least I got to dress up once in October, for the Renaissance Fair!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Downsizing, Upgrading and Rearranging

As of yesterday morning, I no longer have a television. Truthfully, I was not using it as a television before, just as a glorified video screen on which to watch movies from my large DVD collection, but I decided to put it in an estate sale and see if I could get some few dollars for it. I got the set (a 28-inch analog behemoth that weighed between fifty and sixty pounds) for free years ago from Dex, whose neighbor was getting rid of it. Now, I’m collecting dollars, slowly, from such random sources to purchase a new, larger, high-definition flat screen TV, which I won’t use as a TV either--still, it will make for a far superior home theater experience, and take up less room, despite its greater width.

All of Daddy’s remaining clothes and shoes are also at the sale in Bethesda. Any money gleaned from them will also go toward this hypothetical entertainment system. I think he would approve.

Except for the odd rainy day, the weather’s been beautiful, and I’ve taken advantage by walking to school. Autumn means the crabapple trees are laden with thick clusters of rosy, inedible fruit, and ornamental landscapes are being changed to reflect the cooler temperatures. In other words, it’s pansy season.

Tuesday afternoon, when I turned into the Key Bridge Marriot parking lot, a huge yellow rental moving van with a hydraulic lift on the back was stopped in the No Parking zone. Aboard were dozens of those steel bakery carts, the square-column sort about five feet tall with ten shelves which are rolled out of industrial-size ovens stacked with trays upon trays of loaves of fresh bread, croissants and pastries. Instead of baked goods, these were stacked with flats of blooming pansies, probably 500 plants per cart. Several of these loaded carts were already sitting on the sunny asphalt, while another was descending with a fat man on the lift from the truck. When I walked back from school hours later, the truck was gone and all the pansies were installed in the flowerbeds.

I love fall walks. There are drifts of yellow and tangerine leaves on the stone steps leading up to campus, the sort of picture that might be turned into the basis for a wonderfully complex jigsaw puzzle.

My sister has just diagnosed me as an extrovert, a label I never, ever, thought anyone would put on me, though it is true that lately my social life has been particularly active. Not only have I been keeping busy with TAing (my first student came to see me for help during my office hours this week!), and with estate sale work (we are booked solid through the beginning of 2011!), I’ve had friends over for dinner and tea, and gone over to other friends’ for dinner and tea, and driven to the Maryland Renaissance Fair (in costume, of course—my friend is supposed to send me a picture), I also helped out with a friend’s wedding reception.

I missed the exciting denouement of the service (the kiss) because I had to duck out early to make sure that the sliced cheese that Susan and I had carefully arranged on large platters was out on the tables in the fellowship hall with the plastic wrap removed before everyone started flooding in. There was no bouquet-catching (bloody or otherwise), but it was a truly happy occasion for me and for the more than 150 people who assembled to fellowship and wash down the cheese, crackers, grapes and nuts with apple cider and ice water. There was white-iced spice cake and flame-colored roses and gerber daisies. Beautiful and fun, with little waste of food or energy, the whole event was planned in less than six weeks, since the Marine groom is likely to be shipped to Afghanistan soon, and the bride wisely chose to forego some celebratory details in favor of more pre-separation married time. There were still flowers and candles aplenty, small children warbling during the service and running around at the reception, heartfelt toasts to the happy couple, and—in lieu of the usual paper guest book—the groom’s mother had pieced a quilt of fabrics representing the interests and experiences of husband and wife, which, stitched together into a new creation of blended beauty, was bordered in white, a plain area for those who attended the wedding to sign in permanent marker with their best wishes and congratulations. I thought this a lovely image and gift to bless their marriage.

I continue to downsize and rearrange my possessions, with an eye to upgrading not only my household technology, and my creative output (maybe not jewelry, yet something attractive and lucrative!), but also my connections with my friends. I want to have more people over to visit, to make my living space open and comfortable for guests. The first major test of my progress towards this goal is my upcoming Christmas party (already slated for early December, before everyone’s holiday calendars fill to bursting), to which I’ve invited a large number of sweet people, each of whom has been so kind to me this last difficult year. I think I may even set up a tent with hot refreshments and a space heater out in the apartment courtyard if my little apartment reaches overflow capacity. I fell asleep last night dreaming about this. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


My trivia team won the week last night, thanks to yours truly, who remembered the most trivial smidgen of trivia--film-related, of course--for the bonus question in the final round, which put us over the top by a single point. Nobody else got the bonus, which made me feel pretty good...that, and having my key lime pie (my indulgence of the evening) paid for by the gift certificate prize. I then went to the gym for two hours to expunge the effects of the pie.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wisdom Hath Builded Her House

The professor for the Medieval Russian History class I am assisting was off at a conference today, so I was responsible for teaching the class of 37 students, or rather leading this intellectually ragtag and somewhat unmotivated bunch in a discussion of the Domostroi, a sixteenth-century samizdat of sorts which remained popular for several hundred years after its initial appearance during the reign of Ivan the Awesome.

Thanks to prayer and preparation, the hour and twenty minute session went well, from my point of view. I got a little less than half the members of the class to speak up (an extraordinary number, given their usual laconic spirit), and we covered most of the material that I'd wanted to mention, though it wasn't in depth, because maybe five of the 37 have any biblical literacy whatsoever, and so most of the in-text allusions were lost on them. I mentioned Joseph's service with Potiphar (we were talking about the role of the slave-steward in wealthy Russian households) and only a handful pricked up their ears with any understanding of what I was talking about.

What I found shocking was that the American translator of the manuscript, who spent a dozen years tracking down the original manuscripts, ascertaining alterations in the text (there was a short version and a long version, and addtional material was added over the years--the identity of the original author or authors is still disputed, though it has been attributed to Sylvestr, a Kremlin priest) was clearly not so familiar with the Biblical sources herself. For example, in one footnote, tracing a quotation to Corinthians, she says that Paul is referring to an Old Testament passage (from Exodus) and "exaggerated" the numbers involved, when he is clearly referring to quite a different passage (in Numbers), where the information syncs up. Does she truly think that Paul, a student of the famous rabbi Gamaliel, would be so careless or impolitic as to misrepresent scripture, making three thousand into twenty-three thousand at the stroke of a pen--an error his contemporaries would have immediately seized upon to discredit him? Furthermore, she does not recognize the clear parallels between Sylvestr's letter to his son and the Book of Nehemiah, given the personal history of the Orthodox priest (FYI, Orthodox priests can marry and have families) in rebuilding Kremlin churches at the behest of an imperial ruler. I would have loved to explore this in detail with the students, but I knew it would be completely over their heads.

So, we talked instead about marriage customs, the preservation of personal honor, wife-beating, religious practice, diet, and locking up the household valuables from light-fingered slave/servants. I told them what the professor wanted me to emphasize about the arrangement of the household along monastic lines, with the father/abbot at the top, the mother/abbess beneath him, and the steward operating below and between them and their numerous children, retainers, and dependents. We discussed the practical advice aplenty, and even some rather repulsive recipes, besides instructions for the creation of a variety of meads. And turnip dishes.

I hope the children learned something. I enjoyed myself.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hidden Treasure, Bloated Rat Carcasses, "Good Vibrations?" and Shoulder Pain

On Sunday, it had been a month since Granddaddy's death, and tomorrow it will have been four months since Daddy's. I'm keeping VERY busy, although I've decided to quit the weekly jewelry vending come Christmas. I've lost a considerable amount on un-sales-remunerated booth fees over the last three weeks, putting "unpaid" to my growing conviction that this particular hobby has reached the end of its lucrative career. I'll still be fixing items for friends, and doing commission pieces, but I'm hoping to deplete the better part of my inventory between now and the new year. I'm appealing to friends to host sales, and am looking forward to my annual Georgetown fundraiser.

My left shoulder aches because I got my flu shot today and forgot to do the usual post-injection gyrations to keep the muscle from seizing up, so there's pain clear down to my wrist. I expect a good night's sleep to put all to rights.

The estate sales have resumed, and one finds such unexpected things while rooting through other people's a vibrator and a dead rat. The vibrator, was, I hope, a tasteless gag gift, being still in its box and tucked far under a bathroom sink. So gross. Almost as gross was the bloated rat carcass in the middle of the cellar floor at another house. Now that the putrid body has been removed, I am going to break out my stash of N-95 masks and long sleeved shirts to retrieve the treasures from below--and there are some beautiful things, it being the old home of two gay antique dealers.

I continue to be grateful for all the friends who call and email to check on me. I do continue to have bouts of melancholy, and am somewhat lonely at home with no one to keep me company, but I have had a succession of visitors over to eat and talk, which is pleasant. I am making some real progress at last on my dissertation, although I will not have Chapter 1 finished by this Friday!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Cat Emissions

So, (this is last night) I’ve just gotten off the phone with my mom, who’s suggested that a doctor would consider me an excellent candidate for a hysterectomy. I’m 35, right? SHE may have totally given up on the usefulness of my reproductive organs, but I haven’t. Not yet. Not entirely, anyway. Now, I’m sipping a Sangiovese and raspberry lemonade concoction that I’ve tossed together in a gold-lined cup with “Forever” in gothic lettering on the side (my nod to Picardo and The Society of S) and thinking about flatulent cats.

Oh, yes, I’m babysitting for a delightful pair of farting felines, while their family is away at a wedding. I don’t mean that to sound—if you’ll pardon the expression—catty at all. They are sweet, sweet kitties. Friendly, affectionate, soft, sleek fur, bouncy—the sort of animals even an ailurophobic might grant were alluring (albeit from a distance). But they have one teeny, weeny, fragrant flaw: occasionally (it’s not constant or too frequent, thank God) one or the both of them will let loose a silent, noxious expulsion of profound stink. They’ll be winding around your ankles in an ecstasy of happy purring and suddenly this…odor…undulates upwards, and you think “Whoa, what DID the cat just drag in?” Hopefully, Bonnie and Clyde (the fuzzy beasts in question) will outgrow the gas-passing (they are only six months old). Their human mamma has them on a combination of probiotics and special tinned catfood, which has helped with other digestive issues.

It’s pleasant to be distracted by such a minor, hilarious problem as flatulent cats. Just this week, the parents of two friendly acquaintances have been diagnosed with potentially terminal conditions. And yesterday I received a CD of Granddaddy’s funeral service from Grandmommy. My cousin Daniel wrote an excellent reflection on his wife’s blog about Granddaddy’s influence on his life (and his remark about how everyone ought to own a cat!)--their blog is much nicer than mine because of the beautiful pictures in each and every post! The very real weights of mortality slide onto my shoulders and those of my friends with little warning. But thank God with the real comfort that He is in control. Otherwise, just going forward would seem a condemnation rather than a blessing. You’ve got to take the farts with the purrs and fur.