Sunday, December 23, 2012

Thanks, Ladies!

While I am still slightly sloshed, relaxed and typographically chatty, I should take the opportunity to give thanks for my dear girlfriends (sorry, guys!) who have made this past year such a pleasure...  In no particular order, they include:

S Dawg, my sister, whose politics irritate me, but who is always willing to talk...when she actually answers her phone.  She may be crusty at times, but she is and will be always my sister and for me a source of interesting stories and intellectual enrichment, besides a site of familiar mental and emotional processing--don't underestimate the importance of someone who will comprehend why you wore jeans instead of a dress to church, as you covered your legs in ink sketches on Saturday night which hosiery couldn't conceal Sunday morning.

Rachel, wife of the NPV and my dear friend, who not only redeemed my middle name for me this year (after I'd spent 37 years disliking it), but also was the first person to nod with understanding when I explained my theory of American social class (particularly with regards to romantic relationships) to her.  Such a kindred spirit is a treasure.

I am overwhelmed by valuables!  Susan (and, by happy association, Steven) continues to maintain our established friendship despite the continuation of my crazy work schedule and the onset (and near completion) of her pregnancy with another of my small honorary nephews.  I am so grateful for married friends who continue to include me in their coupled lives, and imbed me as an "aunt" in their familial worlds.

Speaking of which, Paxifist has supported me and my youngest brother in prayer this year!  She is someone whom I've telephoned at ridiculous hours, for whom I've left repeated panicked messages on the phone, and she faithfully follows up.  Bob may not know it yet, but Paxifist is a prayer warrior in his support team.

Leah, who, like Paxifist, has been a moral and emotional support despite her parenthood of a bright and active boy.  Gracemom, who adopted my honorary niece this summer, who became an estate sale coworker this year.  Debby, my sister in law, whose originality and sweetness are always a bright spot in my life.  Heidi, who gave birth who another of my honorary nephews, whose grandmother's youthful nude pop-art self-portrait always makes me smile.  Mel, my estate-sale boss, reminds me that "office jobs" are not necessarily to be preferred to our hobo existence.  My mother, my aunts, other female friends far and near and acquaintances. So many encouragers.  I am truly blessed.

Buzzed Blogging, Inebriated Kitchen Cleanup

I think old age tends to reveal a person's character.  True, geriatric problems, including hormonal and other changes, can produce emotional conditions that a person hasn't suffered before, including unreasonable fear, but as a general rule as one's physical strengths are reduced, and physical weaknesses become more pronounced (if not the major factor in day to day existence), one's true being is revealed, whether good or ill.  If you are combative, bitter, selfish, that comes to the forefront.  If you have a deep, sweet core, that leaches out as you lose the anchors that connected you to contemporary life.  For instance, as both my grandfather's sister, and then my grandfather, were suffering from Alzheimer's, they lost the ability to recognize those they'd known, but they were delighted in little things, pleased at smiles and kindnesses, whereas I have visited other people in retirement homes who were downright nasty once the pleasant veneer of health was stripped way.   To a limited extent, this may be true of what happens when someone ingests alcohol.  Barring my friend the NPV, who would die (he can't process alcohol; it immediately poisons his system and he'd be in the emergency room if someone spiked his punch, if not laid out on a slab in a morgue), for most of us the usual barriers drop when we've had a little much to drink--it lowers the social inhibitions and one's true character is revealed.

I had a large frozen margarita at lunch (the local blue laws only are in effect until noon on Sunday, then one is permitted the regular weekday debauchery) with John and my mother after church.  I've already cleaned up the kitchen and here I am blogging--two fundamental characteristics of mine thus revealed: OCD and literary loquaciousness.  The visitation and rosary for his mother are this evening in Macon, the funeral tomorrow.  He and Mums understand why I am foregoing both--it triggers too many profoundly sad memories for me to handle it.  My grandfather's 96th birthday would have been on the 19th, and his death and that of Daddy are inextricably linked in my mind.  I know it sounds weird, and odd moreover considering that I am delighted John is my stepdad, but I really missed Daddy being there at the wedding yesterday!  I know it wouldn't have taken place without his death, but he would have enjoyed it so much!  We all gathered at noon, moseyed to the pews within pulpit spitting range, and Mums told me (as I was walking down to the front of the sanctuary with the other attendees carrying the camera she gave me) that I was going to be "best woman" and stand at the front with her during the ceremony. I was motioned into the correct position by the pastor, in a sunbeam (which meant that I couldn't see the congregation of 30 or so because of the sun in my right eye--OK as I was able to concentrate on his words and the bridal couple with my left) and stood up front (hopefully not looking squinty) while my dear friend Susanna took over photography duties.

I was so glad that Susanna was able to attend!  Not only did she end up driving me, my sister in law, and the bride herself to the church, she took pictures when I was otherwise engaged, and she helped out with the organization and cleanup from the reception, which was a catered lunch, with a proper, and tasty, wedding cake, at my mom's house.  Given that both of my brothers, nor my sister (who was unable to attend, given her work schedule and finances) listen to me in any meaningful way (though they love me, and would go to the ends of the earth for me if I were ever in dire straits), it was nice to have someone around who was kindred spirit, who could take the place of Daddy for a while in terms of personal expression of joy.

It may be strange to feel so alone at such a unifying occasion as a wedding, or equal parts sad and happy on such a thoroughly good day, but I was thus affected.  Other than Susanna's much-appreciated company, I missed having someone with whom I could genuinely share the emotional profundity of the event, to whom I could pour out the simultaneous joy and misery that I was feeling, enhanced by the death of John's mom--I HATE DEATH! Anyone who treats it as "normal" ought to be briskly kicked--missing Daddy, and Granddaddy, and yet happy that John is "officially" my stepdad.  Well, as my father would say, "there it is".  Mums and John are on their way to Macon, and I'm going down for an afternoon nap.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Wedding, A Funeral, A Dog, A Cat and A Candy Coupon

My mother’s fiance’s mother died yesterday morning.  They were to have had the small wedding ceremony by her bedside at noon tomorrow (she had been bedridden at home for months, with 24-hour care, and they had wanted her to be able to see her remaining bachelor son get married), but because of this change from mortal to immortal the wedding venue has been shifted to Mums and John’s church, and the funeral mass will take place Monday morning in Macon.  Besides the huge change of losing a parent and getting married within a couple of days (and at an oh-so-low-stress time like Christmas, to boot!), Mums and John have inherited his mother’s extremely neurotic German Shepherd mix.  She was a rescue dog, and despite having been in a safe and loving environment for several years now, still spends half her days trembling in fear around most people.  My mother says she’s going to have to smear her legs with bacon grease to win her over completely, but the fact is that she has made great strides in gaining Heddy’s trust over the last few months—Heddy will actually let my mother pet her, whereas she rushes off in terror when she sees me.  But indoor dog ownership adds a whole layer of challenge to the newlywed adjustment, and I know that my father would find the whole situation hilarious, as Mums flatly refused to let him get an outdoor dog for years because she’d be the one caring for it, and now she not only has to adjust to John’s 11 bicycles in the dining room (a level of obsession which makes Daddy’s boat-mania look quite mild), she’s going to be catering to a high-strung canine who must be released and reassured multiple times a day.

Judith the cat came to my Christmas party last Saturday.  Given that people were coming in so frequently, we’d just left the front door ajar several inches, and halfway through the evening, when I was chatting in one of the back rooms, a cry went up from the front: “KYP, do you own a black cat?”  I told them she lived upstairs, and frequently dropped by to visit.  She was obviously a little nonplussed by all the people, but still accepted pats from several children before wandering into my room to investigate my unusually clean and uncluttered space.  I let her nose around for a while before letting her outside—no doubt to face her arch-enemy from next door, Mr. B’s orange and white cat, with whom she was facing off, tail puffed, when I left DC yesterday.
One staple for my annual Christmas party is Stouffer’s lasagna.  It’s really good—why make it from scratch when you can pop it, frozen, into the oven and it comes out delicious and table-ready 95 minutes later?  I was under the misapprehension that the nearby Safeway had it on sale, and so went to that store for the first time in perhaps 8 years, remembering once I walked in the door why I never frequent it—poorly maintained, poorly staffed.  Though they weren’t actually on sale, the Stouffers were a reasonable price, and the frozen food section didn’t look dirty (in ironic contrast to the fresh food area), so I went ahead and got two party-size lasagnas and one macaroni and cheese, just to mix things up a bit.  At the register (service with a snarl), I received a $10 coupon, good until Dec. 23.  No minimum purchase, just basically a credit—probably because I hadn’t been to the store in so long, they wanted to lure me back by any means necessary. So, yesterday afternoon, just before I left town, I went and spent the whole thing on candy—three packs of gum, three boxes of Nerds, and a container of Junior Mints.  I never buy candy, but since it was basically free, I went sugar-crazy!  Plus, it was basically the only thing there that wasn’t something I could get cheaper, better, and organic at Trader Joe’s.  Which is a German-owned company, one of my party guests told me.  I wish I could buy stock in it, but last I checked it was privately held.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guns & Answers

Most of the Democrats I know are extremely sweet people—they want everybody to be nice, and they think that people are good at bottom (and if only they are educated and legally restrained, all will be well).  But most are thoroughly inconsistent in their logic and limited in their information.  For example, my boss, who is rabidly anti-gun, asked me to bring my gun to the sale we had this last weekend, since we had tens of thousands of dollars worth of jewelry.  I looked at her like she was nuts and flatly refused: “I’m not bringing a handgun into DC!”  She thinks I have a license and that it’s somehow universally accepted, and she most assuredly doesn't know the district firearms laws.  Then, of course, everybody on both sides of the aisle was horrified by what happened in Connecticut last week—flags have flown at half-mast around the city and the Washington Monument since Friday’s massacre. 

All these well-meaning people are talking about denying folks with mental illnesses guns and limiting the ability to purchase ammunition.  My questions: since practically everybody in the US is on some form of pharmaceutical, who determines the cut-off point for crazy?  Since women are disproportionately represented in the depressed category, and yet also inversely likely to participate in violent crimes (and yet need a non-muscular means to defend themselves against those who would make them victims), how is any anti-gun legislation fueled by a backlash against the possession of weapons by those suffering from so-called mental illness going to avoid being, at its bottom, fundamentally anti-woman?  And, just because you are depressed, or even because you have a developmental disorder, does not mean you are going to go out and kill people, either individually or en masse.  Something deeper, more insidious, is at work.  Why penalize "consumers" in this way? 

Really “meaningful” firearms reform should involve social imbedding of the acquisition process!  One is known by the company one keeps, and as was amply demonstrated by this weekend’s events, people who lash out violently at others are usually estranged from family and society.  If one was required to have two witnesses support one’s application for weapon’s acquisition, with the understanding that those two people had to be felony-free, and if you committed a crime with such weapon within a five year period of its purchase, would lose their right to recommend another for ownership for a year or so, I guarantee both Democrats and Republicans should be pleased with the result.  Those who are responsible to others, whether or not they’ve had to deal with various emotional issues at different points in their lives, are less likely to betray the confidences they hold.  And just because you’re depressed doesn’t mean you should be penalized, or deprived of the right to defend yourself.  Just because government officials and celebrities enjoy the benefits of well-trained, arms-bearing protective services doesn’t mean that ordinary Americans of either sex should have to go without their individual self-protection.  Although I didn’t bring my gun to the estate sale, I did buy a small axe there, which kept behind the jewelry counter, and now carry in my car.  It’s just my size, and very sharp.  Frankly, given the miniscule caliber of my handgun (which I’ve never fired, even at a shooting range), the axe is much more deadly!

On a less combative note, my friend Susanna just emailed me a lovely long letter today regarding my posts from the beginning of this calendar year, which led her to several questions, to which I’d like to respond.  Susanna, see answer to question #7 in particular for a good time to get together!
1) Did your sister get her nursing license (In a January post, she was studying for some tests towards that)?  Yes, S Dawg has been working as a nurse since the beginning of the year, and has already paid off all her school loans.  I am constantly impressed by her abilities—her energy level and efficiency, not to mention her intellect, are way beyond mine! 

2) Are you still working on a mystery novel (ref Feb post)?  Yes, it’s about 25 single-spaced pages at this point.  I’ve taken the last two months off from writing, but will return to the project in January, after I complete my ESOL certificate (I paid for an on-line course a month ago, and need to do it!)
3) Did you make it to Colorado in Sept to visit cousins (I would assume no, but I am still curious)?  No, alas.  Plane tickets to Denver were almost $500, and that for a weekend.  I ended up spending a while on the phone, and my cousin finished the Grandmommy quilt scrapbook (two volumes, almost 90 pages) just minutes before she left for the airport to fly to Georgia.

4) Did you really go to ComicCon in San Diego (you wrote about that in February, but I didn't hear any more about it)? Sadly, I didn’t get to use the tickets, because, again, plane fare and hotels would have cost me more than $1000 for the four days, and I was really impecunious at the time.
5) Are you still writing a novel with Sheila? (Her blogynym) And is that the same book as my question 2?  Yes, and yes.

6) Are you currently roommate-less, or do you still have the temp nudist Naval Academy midshipwoman (she sounded fascinating - you could tell me more about her. Unless there's nothing to tell or it was too unpleasant)?  Roommate-less since she left!  I would rather talk about all the many other interesting ladies I’ve met this year!  I did have a full house of fascinating people for this year’s Christmas party, which took place this last Saturday.  Friends from many walks of life came, and one (with my permission) brought a guy she’d hoped to set me up with…
7) Has your mom gotten married yet [in the June posts, it sounded like it was coming shortly ("6 weeks" (or was it 8?)), but then you mention "her fiance" in a November post again, I believe]?  The wedding is slated for this very Saturday!  His elderly mother is bedridden at home, and a few of us in the immediate family plan to gather by her bedside with the couple and the minister, and have the ceremony there.  Would you like to come for cake and lunch afterwards?  I think the time is high noon.  Give me a call!

8) Are you still doing the trivia team? I'd love to hear more about that! How did you get involved with it? Who participates? Is it all kind of trivia?  My attendance with the trivia team has been spotty this year.  We all took off one quarter because we had too many commitments elsewhere, but we re-started in the fall.  I joined a couple of years ago after a girlfriend from church invited me, then she started dating and got married and moved away, but I kept on.  The other girls (we are an all-female team, after the guys who’d been a part at the beginning baled on us) are ten years younger than me, but that actually helps, because they watch TV (American TV, that is!) and I don’t.  It’s a max four-person team and the questions cover everything under the sun.  The top three teams get gift certificates to the bar, which helps cover our snacks on the odd occasions when we finish well.  It’s a nice social outlet, and I like my teammates, only one of whom is a Christian.  They are sweet to include me.
I was scheduled to go to GA today (which, incidentally, was Dex's 50th birthday--the congratulatory text I sent him didn't arrive, so I emailed), but my stomach wasn't settled, I was too tired, there were too many errands to run beforehand (including some procrastinated-on cleanup from the Christmas party!), and both my driver's side brakelight and my headlight have gone out!  So I'm planning to leave early in the morning.  Me, my axe, and my dirty laundry, flying fragrantly down the road.

Monday, December 10, 2012

New Pastor/New Passage

For the first time in my life, I am older than every single member of the pastoral staff at my church.  The congregation voted by a 97% margin to accept the search committee's recommendation for senior pastor, a young man from Scotland who's been one of our assistant pastors for several years, who we were all hoping would be the pick, as his sermons are always clearly focused on Jesus.  He's in his early 30s.  The newest assistant pastor is in his mid-20s, and the older is just a year or so younger than me.  It's a whole new generation.  They are all guys I respect, to whom I've given an assumption of seniority, not only because of their office, but because they are all married with several children, and mostly taller than I am.  I've retained from childhood an assumption that when one is adult one is tall, and usually a parent.  Since I am short and childless, I am eternally youthful!

The Georgetown craft sale went pretty well, though poor Anita made only a third of what she earned last year.  She and I and another girlfriend are supposed to have a show at the latter's home tomorrow night, but thus far, out of almost 200 invitees, only three have responded affirmatively--and one of those was the hostess and another was me!  We three queens of jewelry may be sitting around eating the snacks we've assembled and emptying the bottle of wine we've opened by ourselves.

The house we are setting up for this weekend's estate sale was owned by one of the first female spies to work for the Office of Strategic Services, the World War II forerunner of the CIA.  She spied against the Germans in Egypt, and married a State Department official who later became a Middle East ambassador.  Their library of Arab-world related books is pretty impressive.  I recognized many of the authors from my Georgetown graduate days.  Next up for our company, immediately after Christmas, is the sale at the former Korean embassy.  If I had a lick of creative literary sense, I could turn this all into an espionage thriller....

Monday, December 03, 2012

Cat Tales

There were tufts of orange and white fur littering the stoop when I got home from work this afternoon.  Obviously, the ongoing cold war confrontation between Mr. B’s cat and Judith, the black cat who lives upstairs from me, had escalated sometime during the day to actual fisticuffs, and the former feline ruler of our apartment complex had come out the worse for wear.  I asked Mr. B how she was doing, and he said she’d lost fur around the neck but wasn’t really injured. Her pride is probably pretty bruised, though. 

Judith and her owner moved in this summer.  She is let outside for part of most days, and usually runs to meet me when I get out of my car, which is a real emotional boost when it’s been tough or tiring away from home, to see this dark furry creature barreling down the steps toward you, purring loudly.  She also has simply walked in to my apartment several times when I opened the door, nosing around the piles of lamp parts, fabric and jewelry components and chasing the dust bunnies out from under the furniture before I start to feel the allergies coming on and usher her out the door.  She’s a very civil cat, and running around outdoors has been good for her physique—when she moved in, she was on the tubby side, but she’s slimmed down since. Because she was overweight, though, her tummy bags several inches, and the loose part swings back and forth when she trots, which is funny to watch.  She’s delightfully furry, flexible and slightly mushy, like all good kitties.  I’ve wanted to get a picture of her with the large the orange pumpkin that someone bought months ago and left whole on the stoop, but every time she’s near it I don’t have my camera, and the one on my phone is poor.
I never feed her, because I want her to know I am good just for love, not eats, and given the level of enthusiasm she displays around me (up to meowing outside my door for attention) I think she’s fine with this.  I looked her over this evening, and her hide is also intact—looks like Mr. B’s cat didn’t land a paw.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Belated 38th

Yesterday was my birthday.  I didn’t wake up until 5 PM.  I was tired.  Nobody in my family remembered it was my birthday, though I was listening to my accumulated voicemails on the drive back to DC this afternoon and found that my art dealer boss had not only called to wish me well, he’d sung the entire Birthday Song, in tune no less, on a message yesterday morning.  So sweet.  My mother could be forgiven for forgetting my birthday, since I forgot hers earlier this year, but she had to nag my siblings by text message to get them to congratulate me on the occasion. Bob called first, then my sister.  They both regaled me with the medical happenings of the day, from the administration of an activated charcoal dosage to a prostate exam workshop. 

Ah, the prostate.  For a nonmedically-employed spinster virgin, I know way more than I should about prostates and the curious history of the treatment of what is now discretely referred to as erectile dysfunction.  Aside from my one-time application to work at Osbon Medical Systems (a firm specializing in vacuum-pump inflation of that certain portion of the male anatomy: a technique perfected, and then, in a brilliant stroke of lucky timing, sold off by its inventor just before the advent of Viagra), I hadn’t devoted any time to this subject, but then I chanced to check out Pope Brock’s 2008 book Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam, as my audiobook for the drive south for Thanksgiving.
A biography of “Doctor” John Brinkley, a snake-oil salesman of superlative skill, with less talent with the scalpel, but no less enthusiasm for all that, Charlatan chronicles how Brinkley came to convince hundreds, if not thousands, of desperate men to allow him to insert freshly-harvested goat testes into their own scrotums, debilitating many of these unfortunate fellows far more than their original sad conditions, and costing at least 41 their lives.  And yet, as Brock points out, there were other, better qualified, “real” physicians who at the same time were pushing sexual rejuvenation techniques almost as strange, which were subscribed to by many of the rich and famous.  Their occasionally-misguided researches eventually led to the synthesis of testosterone, and to other gland-related breakthroughs, whereas Brinkley’s broadcasts in efforts to bolster his quack enterprises gave birth to innovations in totally unrelated fields, specifically: advertising, public relations, modern political campaigning, and contemporary country music. 

But it did leave me wondering: who was the person who thought up the notion of injecting female human blood into rabbits to determine whether the woman was pregnant or not?  Who made the connection between the rabbit dying and the woman being pregnant?  Or is that an old wives tale about medical practice of yore?  I think a fascinating history course would be an overview of the development of medicine, and how we have come to define medicine as it is today, how some ideas have revolved in and out of favor in both “legitimate” and what I’ll delicately call “peripheral” medical practice, and how there is always some sucker out there willing to spend good money on cure-alls and powders promising him he'll be a god, at least from the waist down, after application.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rip van KYP

I've spent the last three days in bed, thanks to a common cold.  Most of that time, I have been dizzy, then unconscious.  How can anybody sleep for almost 24 hours at a stretch and then repeat the process thrice?  I've done it.  Today I've stayed up for six hours thus far.  Thank God I am at my mom's, so there's someone to check occasionally to make sure I'm still breathing. 

Thanksgiving, other than the encroaching cold, was very good.  I had Meal One with Paxifist and her family Wednesday night, then Meal Two with my dad's side of the family in Charlotte on Thursday.  I was the only representative of my branch [as my mom was over at her fiance's, Bob was hunting (and studying 'tween deer with his iPad in his treestand), Nate and his wife were at her mom's, and S Dawg en famile were in Rhode Island], and there were none from my dad's brother's, so it was a considerably smaller gathering than usual.  Still, it was wonderful catching up with cousins, and the food was fantastic.  The cold germs had made some inroads by that point, so after dinner I took a couple hour nap, then continued on to Augusta.  My mom and her fiance and I drove down to Middle Georgia for Meal Three on Friday at Grandmommy's.  I slept in the back seat both ways, and after dinner.  When we got back to Augusta, I went right to bed, which began the three days of mostly sleeping.

It's probably exhaustion, on top of the cold.  I might be a slug by nature, but this is beyond the norm.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Work Interlude, Pinkie Toe Break

If death and hell are in the power of the tongue, life and heaven are within the purview of the pen.  I had my first meeting with Mr. Lollard today.  I looked through the guide to the family archives, which fill more than a score of grey acid-free cardboard boxes on wire shelves along the walls of the basement office, and then talked with him for an hour about what he wanted to include, how he wanted to proceed.  Basically, I encouraged him (as he is home alone with his wife over the holidays), to begin thinking about holidays and celebrations past.  The book is to begin with a tale he made up while serving overseas, which has come to be a family favorite—and from the context of that tale flows details that will thread through the whole history.

I don’t think that you can write well about anything personal in which you are not emotionally invested, though it is true that whatever you may find emotionally moving may not shift others in the least.  Certainly, you need to have a more than superficial purpose in creating a family history—merely relating a series of stirring episodes, without having any deeper intent, might not even excite the reading next generations, but it certainly won’t impart any lessons to them.

Enough pontificating. The end result, at least for the first quarter of next year, is I’ll be working for the Lollards 2 days a week until such a time as it becomes necessary for me to increase that commitment and upgrade to a full-time position.  Before Mr. Lollard has several pages written down, there’s no need for me to try to work independently, and we both agreed that it will be several months before we have a clear picture of where things are going.  I’ll be continuing to work for the estate sale company in the meantime, though on a slightly reduced schedule; so, for better or for worse, I’m not “divorcing” that job as rapidly as I’d previously expected.  In a way this is good—I will get to be a part of the former (and future) Korean consulate sale in January—though it also means that I may well continue to be scraping by for the foreseeable future (though less close to the bone because of the two-day proper wage earning).

Metaphorical bones being scraped; real bones are faring worse.  I certainly won’t be doing any heavy lifting for the next month, as I have broken the pinkie toe on my right foot, the same foot whose ankle I badly sprained only a month ago.  I’ve got my bruised nubbin of a tarsal taped to its neighbor, but WebMD says it could take 4 weeks to heal.  It hurt so much when it broke (I hit it against a chair leg, there was a “snap” and it stuck out at an odd angle) that I was inarticulate for a couple of minutes.  Right before bed on Saturday, too.  The top of my foot is blue.  I was so good this past week and had actually gotten to the gym four times!  And now, with this latest injury, I’m unable to exercise again.  I am comforting myself with ice cream, peppermint drops, and miniature M&Ms.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bob, Bond & A Breakup

My crotchety Navy brother, Bob, is threatening to spend Thanksgiving alone with Guinevere.  My mother’s fiancĂ©, John, asked about Guinevere’s identity, and Mums responded that her distinguishing characteristic was her ability to lick her own posterior.  John concluded that she was either a contortionist with peculiar personal hygiene habits or a cat.  Guinevere is, in fact, a formerly porcine feline, whose sole interest in my brother is as a potential provider of table scraps.  Whereas there are other cats who simply like to hang out, and come running for ear rubs alone, Guin is a purely selfish and superficial furry beast, whose god is her stomach.  She is not actually Bob’s cat—she belongs to his roommate—so in other words, were he to remain in Charleston with this gluttonous and narcissistic little animal, he wouldn’t even be spending the holiday with a “related” pet.  I called him to tell him he ought to come down to Augusta so that we could watch the new James Bond movie together. Everyone I’ve talked to who has seen it has liked it, and I’d rather go with someone than watch it alone.

I feel a bit like I’m breaking up with a long-time boyfriend!  I told my estate sale boss the other night that I was considering a full-time job offer from the Potomac couple, the Lollards, whose library I inventoried this past year.  She was surprised and somewhat hurt, though I had respectfully told her several times over the last eight months that I couldn’t continue to work indefinitely at the penurious wage she pays me—in fact, she may not realize that the only reason I was able to continue at the estate sale job for this long at all was because of the book cataloging gig, which paid well enough that I was able to break even for much of the year (until the latest round of health insurance premiums and federal taxes came due).  Still, I certainly wasn’t able to save anything, and my charitable contributions are at their lowest in years.  Breaking up is hard to do: there’s stuff at my house, and in my car, that belongs to the estate sale company, and items of mine in her van and at her house, mixed in with the paraphernalia of other consignors.  Leaving that job is like undergoing a divorce.  A relatively amicable one, but it’s still difficult to sort through the piles of “yours” and “mine”.  I don’t think she truly understands how essential I have been to the smooth conduct of the business over the last three years, and won’t until I’ve separated myself from the work—I can’t say I am going off the payroll, because that’s not ever been set up—all of us on the team are still treated as contractors, and paid by occasional check.  I do want the best for her and the company, and so it has been frustrating to see advice about establishing a payroll system, raising wages and providing health benefits essentially ignored, as has been my counsel to use a computer program to inventory sold items, rather than hand-writing lists at checkout. 
It’s all very well and good to sing the praises of extra-cubical jobs, where you aren’t stuck in an office all day, but are doing something interesting and different week to week.  But I need some predictability in my income, not to mention a considerably higher, honest-to-goodness living wage.  A girl’s gotta eat.  A single girl who is homing in on age 40 needs to think about saving for retirement, too.  I also have longed for employment which uses my intellectual skills, which have gotten pretty rusty since graduate school.  And I need to have regular hours, in conditions where physical injuries aren’t commonplace.  The research and writing job (a sesquicentennial history of the Lollard family) seems to promise to meet many of these wants and needs.  I told Mr. Lollard that I would like to have a trial period, to see if he and I got along in our one-on-one work, before I began full-time, and he agreed to this.  We’re supposed to meet Monday.  Full-time employment could start in January if all goes well.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Asia's Italians

I went to the housewarming/birthday/post-divorce party of a professor friend last night and met some interesting characters from her department between the drinks table and the chilled shrimp hors d’ouevres.  One was a linguistics professor from Spain who taught in Greece for years before earning her doctorate and spending almost a decade at the University of Hawaii.  We ended up talking about Korean drama, which she said is extremely popular all over east Asia, with some Japanese fans actually learning Korean they are so obsessed (hmm, sound familiar?). As a fundraising contribution for some worthy cause, a Korean student of hers in Hawaii had offered a two-hour video-clip enhanced seminar, complete with Korean food and drink, to explain kdramas.  The professor was one of five to bid on it, and the winners were all entranced.  She told me that I was the first person in DC she’d me to express an interest, but that I did was simply proof of its wide appeal—she had previously assumed it was just popular amongst the people in the Pacific because of their geographic proximity.  I responded that although I was not on Facebook, I saw at the bottom of the DramaFever homepage a lot of “likes” from girls in hijab, so it was popular in the Middle East, too. 
Would you disassemble a piano if your contact lens dropped between the keys?  And if your parents arrived home to find the piano in pieces, how would they react?  The wife of my friend’s interior designer (considering they’ve been friends for years, I hope he is not charging her designer prices!) told me that when she got her first pair of lenses, back when they were ruinously expensive, she was practicing and one fell out, into the piano.  She took it apart.  And what was more remarkable was that her parents didn’t freak out when they came home to find keys all over the carpet.  And she did have the presence of mind to reassemble it after she found her lens. 

Lastly, I talked with the daughter of several generations of Muscovite lawyers, a professor herself, with a teenage daughter and a toddler son.  She said she’d always assumed that the whole difference between boys and girls was nurture, not nature, until she’d had her son.  He’s been a little ball of testosterone from birth.  Drat those genes!
Culturewise, the Spanish professor told me her opinion of Korean men: “They are the Italians of Asia. Very emotional.”  Also handsome, and, she implied, more trouble than they are worth.  After all, American guys really are the best on the planet.

Speaking of American men and their culture, both of my brothers have succumbed to their inner rednecks and become deer hunters.  Only my Atlanta brother has had any success thus far, whereas Bob claims that the best call to attract the wiley beasts would actually be a recording of traffic noise, since deer are frustratingly elusive in the woods but always seem to show up, grazing in unconcerned herds, on the sides of busy highways.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Apres Le Deluge

Every day of last week, our octagenarian client quavered, in a strident New Yawk accent, about each item in the house, in turn loudly berating her ancient lover, her shrunken South American spinster housekeeper, and a desiccated little African American gentleman who’d served as her minion for four decades, ordering them to move this, remove that, pack such and such, unpack thus and so. Little pleased her, and what had been decreed one moment was reversed dictatorially half an hour later.  She even went through the pantry to check the expiration dates on the canned goods.  Not only did the house contain more than 15,000 square feet of space—three kitchens, five bedrooms, five full bathrooms and four half-baths, a ormolu-laced mirrored ballroom lit by a Waterford crystal chandelier the diameter of a king-size bed, and a billiard room—it was still full of paraphernalia from her two careers as an Avon saleswoman and then as a sought-after interior designer, and every single item had to be approved for disposal by her, personally.  For months we’d been encouraging her, gently but firmly, to pack up that which she planned to redistribute to four other locations—two condos (one in Florida), a storage facility, and someplace else—and here it was Monday, the morning before Hurricane Sandy was to come roaring ashore, and she was still very much in residence, willfully deaf to my bosses pleas to remove herself and her belongings from the premises.

I’d spent Sunday night over at my bosses, sleeping in her daughter’s room, watching my Korean dramas on my laptop after I’d finished tagging and pricing the jewelry that we’d been given for the sale.  There was a good bit of it—though only a couple of fine pieces—highly saleable costume for the most part.  We’d packed up all of our stuff from the sale we’d finished off Massachusetts Avenue that evening, stuffing the last bits into the corporate minivan around 7 in a cold drizzle.  All the tables were in the car, and the owners of that house, who themselves wouldn’t be leaving for Florida for another ten days, bid us what seemed to be a fond farewell—I shook hands with the husband, and the wife insisted on bussing both my boss and me on the cheek.  Yet once we were home, about 9 PM, my boss came upstairs and plunked herself on her daughter’s bed in a flummoxed state.  She’d just gotten off the phone.  She’d been screamed at by the woman for fifteen minutes—she said she wanted to call the police “on the person who’d done it”, she cried thrice that she felt “raped”, and insisted that she’d never, ever, recommend our company to anyone.  Our egregious fault?  One of my colleagues had used part of a roll of toilet paper squirreled away in the master bedroom.  The upstairs’ bathroom was out of tissue, my colleague needed to use the facilities sometime during Sunday’s hectic sale, and so she’d peeked into the bedroom, spotted the paper, and taken the liberty of using a few squares.  Oh my goodness.  The horror.  The violation of privacy and the right to property.  The sin. The shame.  Mind you, this was the same woman who’d fussed when she’d found out we’d put our lunch in her fridge while we were working.  I’m not saying that she should have fed us peeled grapes and bonbons during the setup and sales process, but denying us basic necessities, like a small space in the refrigerator and toilet paper?  She was wacko.
So, we moved from that one kind of wacko—the woman who wanted to file an official complaint because of toilet tissue theft—to another.  We had four days to set up the mansion sale.  Four days to organize, tag and price the contents of a space which usually would have occupied the better part of a month.  We worked all day Monday, flat out until the storm shut off the power at 9 PM and we had to find our way to the lower level by means of cell phone screen glimmer and a couple of scrounged flashlights.  The owner and her geriatric significant other retired to the one bed upstairs, and my boss and colleague and the housemaid and I made shift in the basement.  There’s nothing like unfolding a duvet in the mostly-dark to make oneself a pallet on the floor and spotting an enormous spider nestled in its folds.  Fortunately I managed to stun it with my shoe and my Yugoslavian coworker finished it off.  We raided the bar thereafter, and Masha settled in to tell the story of how she and an American friend visiting eastern Europe during the early 1970s withstood an attempted sexual assault by a drunken Austrian ambassador and his wife.  Masha is a pistol, and she talks like a machine gun, with expletives stuttering out like high-caliber rounds.  She reminds me a lot of my sister, actually. Bitter, hilarious, intelligent, attractive, and occasionally profoundly sentimental, she can charm and verbally eviscerate by turns.  She’s both inspiring and also thoroughly exhausting to be around.

Maybe it was the drink, perhaps it was the long day, maybe it was Masha’s frenetic energy, but I didn’t have any difficulty falling asleep, nor with going back to sleep after the burglar alarm went off several times in the wee hours, while the storm continued to rage outdoors. 
The electricity was out all day Tuesday. We worked until we could no longer see our scissors and painter’s tape, then went back to my bosses house to price another basketful of jewelry.  Our departure was delayed half an hour by the fact that the corporate minivan’s alternator had gone out, and we had to abandon it overnight in the driveway.  There were trees and power lines down all over, but we didn’t have a clue about the true severity of the storm in other regions until we turned on the TV that night.  New Jersey and New York traumatized.  I repented of my remarks about the weather people exaggerating the potential of the storm—for once, they got their forecasts right.

Thank God the power was back on at the house when we returned Wednesday morning.  We worked flat out, finally pushing the reluctant owner out the door at 1:30 AM Friday morning.  She kept demanding we put entirely unreasonable prices on her possessions ($12,000 for a secretary that an antique expert we called in said was at best worth $1,800), and taking item after item out of the sale and packing it away.  Back at my bosses house, I typed and printed out signs until 4 AM, and then I was up again at 7:15 and back at the sale house by 8, putting them up.  There were already customers waiting. 
The sale itself was huge.  I prayed a lot for peace and patience, both within me and among the customers.  Thank God He saw us through—at one point, my boss chased down a customer who shoved his way past her elderly husband at the door, and successfully demanded he leave immediately—I was in the jewelry area, but I could hear the shouting from the front hall.  By Sunday evening we were all wrung out, though plenty remained in the house.  It was cleaned out Monday by a platoon of moving men.  Cumulatively, I worked 75 hours on that one house.  In a week.  And my boss was there every moment I was. 

“I think,” my bosses hospital chaplain husband remarked as we were breaking down and packing up the jewelry area Monday morning, “That she [the owner, who collected her Lewis Comfort Tiffany candlestick from my display, planning to pack it, along with three whole truckloads of additional items for shipment to storage] suffers from mammonitis.”  “I think it’s also called ‘affluenza’,” I responded.  “No,” he said.  “You can recover from affluenza.  Mammonitis kills you.”  I conclude that it’s like secondhand smoke—even association with someone who indulges in it can sicken.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pre-Storm Bulletin

All the meteorologists and most of the population of the greater DC area is abuzz at the approach of the “Frankenstorm”, courtesy of sometime-hurricane Sandy coming up from the Caribbean and a couple of winter systems sweeping down from Canada.  I think this new affectation of naming weather events (not moving, relatively discreet systems like hurricanes, but particular events, real or imagined) is a bit silly, and indicative of the desire for drama in the weatherperson community, which thrives on anticipation of disaster, and the subconscious desire to be filmed while screaming into a microphone while wind, rain, snow and debris whip crazily around one’s body.  I have not followed the masses to the store to stock up on water and toilet paper, there being enough liquid and Charmin in my house to last me for a while.  I do anticipate having to eat several gallons of ice cream should the power go out, but at least that will be the only casualty in my refrigerator.  That and my thighs will be too big to squeeze into my pants.

My scare of the week came not from weather, but from the incompetence of the technicians installing my new AC unit (which-surprise!-does not work. I am still attempting to sleep in 80 degree heat). I got home at 11:50 on Wednesday night to find my apartment door standing open three inches.  The back hall light was on.  Visions of thieves and serial killers danced in my head, and I briefly considered calling the cops.  But I held my cell phone in one hand, swung the door fully open, and hallo-ed into the space without response, noticing that all my electronics were still present.  I left the door open while I explored the rooms (there’s relatively little space for anyone to hide, given my packrattiness) and noticed the installation of the new AC (at that point, I didn’t realize that it was as useless as the one it replaced).  Disgusted, I returned to secure the front door and found that the knob and the bolt were both locked—the idiots had simply not shut the door before they’d locked it!  Which is about as useful in keeping a place secure as the application of brakes while a car is in midair is in slowing the vehicle (something I can vouch for personally).  Of course, neither my resident manager nor the apartment office had their answering machines on.  I went to bed.  And stewed gently all night.

The estate sale work is wearing us down.  I’ve put in a trio of dozen-hour days this week, and next week, when we are supposed to put together a sale in a 16,000 square foot McLean mansion (its 200-guest ballroom has a Waterford chandelier bigger in cubic footage than my kitchen), promises to be worse.  Besides the usual hassles of item setup, we’ve had to deal with hovering in-residence owners, and next week’s octagenarian owner is quavering over the destination of every single item in the house (no kidding—she was going through the pantry to check all the expiration dates on the canned goods!).  It’s enough to drive one mad. Turnout for the last two sales has been middling, and sales have reflected this.  People are paranoid about the weather, for one thing.  For another, in resident-owner cases, the owners want to go around and comment on all the prices—this morning, the lady of the house yelled at my boss for selling her desk for $400. “But we paid $600!” she wailed.  It’s a used desk, and the buyer actually tried to get us to drop the price further, but we’d held firm.  And meanwhile, though she wasn’t aware of it, the costume jewelry which she had given me, declaring it was worthless, had netted over $300.  So, if she’d just sat back and waited, instead of second-guessing our pricing, she should have been pleased with the results. We all get emotionally attached to our possessions, and the benefit of having people like us come in to arrange and sell stuff is that we can tell what is actually valuable versus what the client has become convinced is valuable.  The twain are frequently different.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Eyeball, Chair

Rachel and the NPV had three couples and me over last night to celebrate one of the couples recent wedding, which few of us were able to attend, it having taken place two time zones away. We all brought snacks, and the new bride, Serena, made kettle corn for us.  Her husband, Lad, ate a large quantity of it, and also of Serena's wonderfully fudgy brownies.  I understand now how it is possible to gain 15 lbs. in one's first year of marriage! 

A couple of years ago, I acquired a carved Victorian chair with casters on the front at one of the first estate sales I worked. I spent the whopping sum of $12.50 (plus tax) on this thing, whose upholstery, well, kindly put, was a disaster. I had grand plans for it.  First, I'd remove the casters and get my brother to raise the front legs. Then, I would reupholster it, turning it glorious.  It didn't turn out like that.  First, everyone else in my family hated the chair, which spent months in my parents' garage after my brother declared he'd do no surgery on it.  Eventually, I decided to haul it back to DC, where I paid a local woodworker to fix the legs. Fifty dollars for the shoddiest workmanship I've seen. I would have done better with an ax. (My family would say "yes, you should have taken an ax to the chair"). Be that as it may, I recently acquired a better chair, and have no further need for this Frankenstein's monster in the corner of my living room. So, I put it into this weekend's sale.  In the basement, to be exact, with a $35 price tag on it.  And this afternoon, when we were closing down, I found out that it had been stolen!  There was only one way out of the basement (through the house), and someone had nicked the bloody thing.  Of all the stuff to abscond with... 

I went to the young people's evening church service today, since I'd only made it to Sunday school, not worship, this morning.  It was a really good lesson on Job, though introduced by the overly enthusiastic little staff person who burbled about the total awesomeness of the speaker to an embarrassing extent (a trait she demonstrated two weeks ago as well--I am not exactly sure how to respond to her bubbly boilerplate "welcome newcomer" email to me asking me to have coffee. I think I might be tempted to squelch her, and unreasonable, almost idiotic cheer is simply her personality type--I shouldn't begrudge her. It would be like kicking a puppy.)  Afterwards, I spotted Serena and Lad on the other side of the room and went over to harass them.  I was joking around about being a senior citizen, laid up by various ailments, when Lad remarked, with total sincerity, that it reminded him of when our former senior pastor's eyeball fell out.  Serena and I both looked at him in shock--"When did this happen?!"  "You know," he said, "When he got a detached cornea or something and had to spend six weeks in bed."  I just about died laughing.  Assured him that a detached retina was in no way similar to having your eyeball fall out.  Ahh, young friends. Old friends. We are all goofy together.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Comment On Comments

I realize it must be frustrating for my half-dozen readers suddenly to be unable to leave comments, but Blogger disabled the imported comment function at the beginning of October, and I haven't had time to figure out how to re-activate the domestic version.  If something really strikes you, you can email me. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Life, Death And Travel

Grandmommy’s 90th birthday party was a long-overdue family reunion on a happy occasion, kind of like Thanksgiving, but warmer, and with relatives coming from much farther away.  My cousin Honor presented the two-volume quilt/memory book which she and I had been working on for months—I harassed everyone in the family to send in pictures and stories, and she did the real work, assembling everything that was emailed to me into a beautifully-laid-out scrapbook, 88 pages in all.  Furthermore, she scanned the completed project and posted it online, so that we all could enjoy it.  She’s not a rocket scientist for nothing!  Her husband, who has requested the blogonym Didymus (I think I will refer to him as “Diddy” for short), was a huge help and encouragement in the effort.  They are awesome.  Honor did all the photography for the party—she’s phenomenally talented.  She and my friend Rachel would be instant friends if they ever were to get the chance to meet, I believe, but as Diddy and Honor live in Colorado, I don’t know that this will happen anytime soon.

Grandmommy got the one birthday present from the whole family, but she gave each and every person who came an individual gift!  That is Grandmommy in a nutshell, writing some almost twenty  individual notes telling each person what they meant to her, not neglecting the four great-grands or the two non-family members who came as guests of guests. 

My brother Bob had picked me up at the Columbia, SC, airport Friday night, and he was in a rare conversational mood on the ride home and late-night larder-raiding that followed.  He regaled me with tales of autopsies—one suicide, one murder, and one natural death, all with their own peculiarities.  It seems that pathologists compare everything to food (“pre-mortem clotting looks like [edible substance], while post-mortem clotting looks like [a different edible substance]”]. He had a great time, and actually got to participate.  It’s really remarkable what pathologists can figure out from examining a corpse, and how some things you’d think would kill you won’t while others will.  For instance, the autopsy on the stabbing victim showed he had a terminal auto-immune disease which was attacking his organs—although his family might think his life was cut drastically short by violence, it was in fact not that long before he would have died of undiagnosed natural causes.  The heart of the man who’d suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism had two sets of scarring, one old, one new, showing that he’d had a heart attack sometime in the distant past, then another in the time immediately preceding his death—from the latter the pathologist deduced that there had been a “shower” of tiny clots which had caused a minor attack a bit before the big one had broken off and killed him.  The last autopsy was that of a woman—apparently a fairly common method of female suicide is to make up one’s face nicely and shoot oneself in the chest.  Bob was interested to see that aside from the traditional “v” cut to open the chest cavity, the pathologist also cut out the tongue, roots and all, to examine it.  All the internal organs, once extracted and tested, were tossed into a large orange biohazard bag, and then the whole, in the bag, were dumped back into the abdominal cavity.  I didn’t think that the organs would necessarily be placed back in order, but, like my brother, I was a little boggled by the fact that they are deposited, chopped up and bagged, in an autopsied body.  Well, we are all only so much offal, anyway.

My travels back to DC were as eventful as the trip from, but in a much more pleasant way.  Mums sped me to the airport in her little silver convertible, and I was through security and at the gate in plenty of time.  Then they announced that they had oversold the flight, and they were looking for a volunteer to give up a seat in exchange for a $450 certificate.  I thought for about twenty seconds and then volunteered.  The certificate is good for the purchase of any one ticket on US Airways, domestic or international; I have to use it within a calendar year.  They got me on a later flight with a layover in Charlotte.  First, the plane was late, so we were late boarding.  When we were seated the pilot apologized for the lack of air conditioning and said that the issue that was keeping the AC from working on the ground was also preventing the engines from self-starting, and we were going to hear a loud noise as we were essentially given a jump from an external power source.  The flight attendant went through the safety procedures, the pilots attempted to start the engines, and then they made the announcement that there had been a major electrical failure during the attempted jump, and we might want to deplane because of the heat while they were consulting a mechanic.  Some people were grousing, but I really appreciated that the pilot was prompt, and upfront, with telling us what was amiss and ensuring our comfort.  We all filed back indoors (I had gate-checked my suitcase, with my computer inside, and so was sans K-dramas for this unexpected interlude) and waited for the verdict.  I could see the silhouette of a mechanic in the open door of the aircraft, as it was dark out by this point, and I wondered what was being decided.  My connecting flight to DC was supposed to board at 9:40 and it was 8 pm by this point.  Happily, after only twenty minutes or so, they announced we were good to go, and we all went back across the tarmac and climbed aboard.  The pilot told us what they’d done—they’d just turned the whole thing off and back on again, rebooting the system, like a recalcitrant computer or balky copy machine.  And everything worked, even the AC.  He assured us they’d checked and rechecked everything, and they were confident all was in order.  We made it to Charlotte without trouble, the one fly in the ointment being that we arrived at a gate at the end of the “E” terminal, and my connecting flight was leaving out of a gate in the “B” terminal, which was clear the other side of the airport.  Even without a sprained ankle, that’s a hike.  I made it to the “B” gate just as the connection was starting to board, so I didn’t get a chance to grab anything to eat.  During the flight to DC, I distracted myself from my empty stomach by talking to the nice young newlywed National Guardsman in the exit row seat next to me.  Good conversationalists have been the norm in my seatmates this weekend, a boon when one is without internet access in a place where the only reading material is the quarterly airline magazine and a couple of duty-free catalogues.

Parking for the two-days-plus-a-fraction cost $60, but with the $450 ticket voucher I feel like I came out on top, expense-wise.  I think I also may write a note to the airline telling them what a good job the first crew this evening did.  So many inconveniences and mechanical challenges are endurable if you are told (like we were) exactly what is going on, and are permitted to wait out the resolution in relative comfort.  The courtesy of this crew on Sunday more than made up for the lack thereof in the customer service agent Friday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

At The Airport

One of the problems with air travel these days is that once you’ve gone through security and discovered that indeed, as feared, your flight has departed without you, and, after weeping in front of the passenger assistance desk for 30 minutes, being told that the next two flights are sold you, and the earliest they can get you to your scheduled destination (two hours’ drive from your Grandmommy’s 90th birthday celebration, to begin at 1 PM tomorrow) is 12:30 PM tomorrow, it is physically impossible to shoot oneself, or better and more dramatically, to commit ritual seppuku in the center of the “C” Concourse.  I was sorely tempted to rake the edge of my federally-issued picture ID across my throat to see if the rumor about the emergency use of plastic-card edges as weapons was true, but instead I made my way moistly and dejectedly to the ladies’ room, where I discarded the crumpled paper napkins I’d taken off the disobliging U.S. Airways woman (I confess I didn’t feel much guilt about omitting the traditional “thank you” when we finished our frustrating tete-a-tete). I washed my hands, put on a pair of granny-style wrap-around sunglasses, and applied a stripe of bright red paint to each pale and trembling lip, then walked to the gate where the flight to Columbia, SC, rather than the desired flight to Augusta, GA, is due to leave at 7:20, an hour after my original flight will have reached Bush Field, on the edge of the swamp south of my hometown.

My mother had arranged for the wife of her assistant pastor to come pick me up at the Augusta airport, and I’d called her several times to update her on my travel woes.  She then volunteered to come all the way to Columbia, in the dark, to get me, rather than have me rent a car I couldn’t conveniently return, and I was so mortified by this generosity I burst into tears again. I phoned Mums to let her know what was going on, and my sister suggested that I call my Navy brother in Charleston, to see if he could get me instead.  Bless him, I forestalled his Friday five-o’clock indulgence with my request, and he sweetly agreed to meet my plane, thus sparing the pastor’s wife.  I told him to save some of the booze for me, because after today, I need it. 

It’s the little foxes that spoil the vineyard; today has been chockablock with minor annoyances, which I should have handled with more grace than I did.  The weather has been fabulously fall, though, and I am really looking forward to seeing the family tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Xrayed and Fondued

The radiological tech presented me with a CD of xrays of my right foot this morning--toting films has come a long way from the days of oversized folders holding large sheets of silvered plastic.  Having dug around in my wallet for a considerable period (like a lot of people's, I suspect, it isn't stuffed so much with cash and credit cards as with old receipts, notes on paper scraps, and business cards from people long forgotten), I managed to unearth my insurance card, and thus equipped I went to an urgent care clinic first thing, to assure myself and others who'd been badgering me to get my foot checked that nothing was seriously amiss.  It's pretty swollen, and my foot feels loose, like the bolts at my ankle have been sheered off, and it's just swinging free, but even a non-radiologist like myself could see clearly on the computer that my bones were intact, though the tissue swelling was visible, ghostly around the solid white.  The physician on call, who looked about 14, gave me a list of orthopedists should I continue to have problems--I may have torn a ligament, he said, but the xray wouldn't identify this.  While I was getting vetted, I went ahead and got a flu shot, despite swearing them off several years ago after that horrible reaction, because my insurance sent me a voicemail saying that they'd pay for it.  How much of the rest of this visit they'll pay for is unknown.  I have an enormous deductible, but at least I didn't have to fork over a $75 emergency room fee.

My friend Leah and I went out to the Melting Pot for a Girls Night Out yesterday.  My lackluster experience at the restaurant some four or five years ago seems to have been unusual, as both the food and the service were superb.  We two had such a good time talking over our multi-course meal that our waiter gushed that we were the nicest customers he'd had since he'd begun working there, and insisted on bringing us complimentary champagne to accompany our dessert.  After 2 1/2 hours of dining, we practically waddled out to the car--I don't think I've eaten so much at one go in months.  And in a bonus 20% of the evening's revenue went to breast cancer research.  Again, I was reminded how grateful I am for old friends!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Doings and Undoings

One of the traits I wish my father hadn’t passed on to me is that of frequent accidental self-injury.  I missed a step on the stairs to the parking lot this morning, and my right lower leg emitted a loud and unpleasant crunching noise as I quickly descended to the asphalt.  I don’t know that I’ve broken anything (thanks to the obsessive milk-swilling), but my ankle is swollen and aches, and the tissue stitching the bones together has stretched so the foot actually feels loose. Steven and Susan invited me over for pie tonight, but I’m staying in, and in bed, for the rest of the day, missing trivia as well.  My sunburn has mostly healed, but there is a large patch of purple scars on my left shin, which was the worse affected.

I went to the young adult fellowship at church last night.  A Korean pastor is leading the group as our senior church pastor has left for another ministry, and the Scot who was in charge of the larval singles is now filling in the main adult-church role.  I will probably be spending more time in this evening church setting than in the morning services over the next month, as somehow our estate sale schedule has us doing sales on four consecutive weekends, starting next Friday.  This Friday I’m to fly to GA for Grandmommy’s 90th birthday celebration.  I just hope my leg won’t be in a boot and I won’t be hobbled by crutches for the trip.

Saturday Rachel and Patricia and I went to the Maryland Renaissance Faire.  I supplied the costumes.  There were easily over 10,000 people at the event, and the weather was lovely.  Besides the always-entertaining jousting, they had an archery demonstration, with explanations of the evolution of the bow, and how (in my interpretation), arrows were the medieval equivalent of pencils, requiring five sets of specialized skills to make, but used up in quantity in seconds in warfare, when archers were flooding the enemy with ten arrows a minute, from 150-lb bowstrings (the latter weight evidenced by shoulder skeletal remains).  Aside from the interesting details about bows and swords, we enjoyed the entertainment at the multiple outdoor stages, and window-shopping the various handmade goods.  The fried Oreo booth that had impressed Patricia and me with its greasy midway ambiance last year had been completely remodeled into a drinks stand, and there were a variety of vegetarian and reasonably healthy (not fried and/or on a stick) offerings in the food areas.  I had carrot, potato and beef stew in a bread bowl, which was actually pretty tasty.  Most of the craft booths’ wares were incredibly expensive, but the beekeepers’ were reasonable, and I bought a dozen beeswax candles (to put in my underwear drawers) and a gallon of Killer Bee honey (wonderful caramel flavor).  My annual Christmas party is scheduled for December 15.  I plan to use some of the honey to make my traditional baklava.  Yum!

It’s fascinating how, when you get interested in a particular subject, it seems to begin appearing everywhere.  Not only have I started seeing South Korea more often in the news, and there is the new pastor is at church, but our estate sale company has been interviewed to do a sale for the former Korean consulate, which was expropriated by the Japanese during their occupation of the country in the 20th century and eventually made its way into private hands, whence it has just been re-purchased by the South Korean government.  That sale should be fun!  Must expand my Korean vocabulary beyond a dozen words before then…

Monday, October 01, 2012

Eighth Blog Anniversary

Today is the eighth anniversary of this foray into the blogosphere, a landscape considerably eroded by the Facebook tsunami, before whose onrush I refuse to bend.  I've averaged about 140 posts a year, despite my considerably reduced output of late, when I am overwhelmed by work and distracted by DramaFever. 

Happy in singlehood for several years now and always intimidated by the prophet Samuel, who warned the Israelites against their selfish demands for a king "like everybody else", I have long avoided expressing any prayerful desire for--just maybe--having a nice guy come along for me.  Sure, I have ongoing spells of the usual superficial "gosh, he's HOT" flashes (I haven't yet become subject to the "gosh, I'm hot" flashes), but serious prayerful petitions I haven't submitted.  I guess I'm more than a little afraid that they might be answered affirmatively.  And I sure as there's a hell below and a heaven above don't want some rotter.  But I did, in a humorous manner, actually ask my Bible study on Wednesday to pray for me a husband "of Korean extraction", as I've become enamoured of the phenotype.

And I've got such a good group of married friends, who are faithful to include me in social activities despite that I'm close to being one of the only unattached people they know!  On Wednesday I met my honorary niece Grace for the first time (she's only just come from China) and discovered she loves "horsey" rides. Her proud parents took us out for dinner that evening. Thursday night Rachel and the NPV and I went out for pho at a good restaurant near their house, and I got a Vietnamese moon cake for dessert at a nearby sweet shop.  Then I spent Thursday and Friday nights at Susan and Steven's because my air conditioning unit died and it was 82 in my apartment--and I'm not a person who sleeps well in the heat. Saturday the outdoor temperature had dropped to the pleasant low 70s, so I was able to open my windows and enjoy a pleasant breeze.  Sunday, I had lunch with the Wiggle family, Merry, June and little Augustus, who has teeth, and when he got tired went over to his quilt-lined playpen and made "put me in" gestures--and once in, lay down immediately and went to sleep.  I've never seen a little kid do that before. He's a general sanguine little soul.

But, I also got some unwelcome news Sunday.  Susan and Steven got word from the Marine Corps powers that be that they're to be shipped out of the DC area, just a few months after my latest small honorary nephew makes his appearance.  I told them that if they get posted to South Korea, I'm going with them. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Events (Not So) Far Off

I went down to GA Sunday a week ago, and after I'd washed a little over half of the trunkful of laundry that I hauled down with me, Mums and I drove to Dublin to visit Grandmommy.  Physically, she is in great shape, but it's an emotionally rough time of year for her because of the second anniversary of Granddaddy's death September 10.  Mums and I reflected that it seems simultaneously ages since the sad summer of 2010, and like it all happened just months ago.  Despite my coming down with a migraine (the first in a very long time) the three of us women played two games of Scrabble, and Mums won both times, with Grandmommy and I switching off for second and third spots.  Mums is a brain.

After breakfast the next morning, we decided that we'd head for Fernandina Beach again this year (we stopped in St. Simon's Island for lunch), and we stayed at the same hotel, and, towards the end of our visit (which we extended by a couple of days), in the very same room!  This year, instead of the rest of the rooms being rented by a dieter's convention, there was an old soldier's reunion--a field artillery unit from Vietnam. 

We walked for an hour on the beach the first night there, racing a quartet of kite-surfers down to the southen pier--watching them fly over some waves and ride other breakers into looked like so much fun!  And plenty of exercise for the arms--I could see their shoulder muscles straining under their wet tshirts.

We walked on the beach again the next morning, north this time, and then went into town to antique, and I bought a lovely vintage dress and a couple of new hand-embellished hairbands, while Mums searched for odd garden ornaments to sneak into the overgrown foliage around the house of her erstwhile fiance (she wanted to see how long it would take him to notice it).  But by mid-morning, I'd evidenced a severe strain at the back of my left knee--possibly from the beachwalking, that I ended up having to sit down at almost every store we entered, and looked like a Crimean War veteran the way I hobbled around.  We started to have lunch outside, but a tropical deluge ensued, and we grabbed our iced tea and hustled indoors to drier seating.  Of course, the rain stopped and the sun came back out just a few minutes after we retreated from the courtyard, but the food was delicious anyway.  At the urging of a local artist, we went on a sunset cruise around the bay, and got to glimpse, from afar, the wild horses on Cumberland Island, and the nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay (the captain recommended we offer a "one finger salute" to the overhead Chinese and Russian spy satellites), and the old brick fort on Amelia Island (where apparently the in-character male volunteers follow around shorts-wearing female tourists, muttering, "Hussy, wouldn't even hire her as a washer-woman!").  It was lovely, and a whole new perspective on the area, with lots of dolphin-sightings.

Friday we explored some more and antiqued some more, as my leg was back to normal, and then had a posh dinner on the porch at a restaurant we enjoyed last year.  I had a pear cider, which was delicious.  I was back at the hotel, watching an episode of the Korean serial "Playful Kiss" (the plot would ver much have appealed to an 18-year-old me--I am glad I am long disabused of the notion of putting up with crap from emotionally-abusive guys in the hope that they will finally be won over by my sweetness and fall in love with me) when my girlfriend who just moved to Seoul pinged me on Skype.  We ended up talking for half an hour, half-way around the world from one another--she gave me a virtual tour of her apartment by carrying her laptop around so I could see everything.  It was so cool!  And I tried out some of my baby Korean vocabulary on her.  She said the alphabet is pretty easy to learn--like Russian, you'll quickly learn to pronounce most words, even if you have no clue what they actually mean!  I know all this is online, but I'll go to the library to see if there's a print version I can borrow to teach myself.

Saturday we went kayaking in the intracoastal waterway south of Amelia.  Perfect weather, fish doing stone-skipping jumps--apparently a single leap into the air was insufficient to express their piscine joie de vivre, and they bounced along the surface twice or thrice before disappearing back into the water.  A treeful of great egrets, march grasses thick over razor-edges of thousands of oysters (unfortunately contaminated by runoff from the seven golf courses on the nearby island), tiny crabs darting sideways along the mud, a clear blue sky, cool breeze from the ocean, and no bugs!  We rowed to the ocean (1.5 hours) and pulled up our boats on an inviting sandbar, walking around protected dunes to see the sea, and an enormous mixed flock of seabirds on the seaward side.  After just a little while (it was low tide, and I didn't want to disturb the birds, so I didn't get into the water), Mums and I returned to our kayaks and started the paddle back.  These kayaks had a much larger hole in the tops than the ones she and I used back home (possibly so even larger-sized renters "wouldn't feel trapped"), and they had little adjustable blocks down on either side of the elongated cockpit to rest ones toes.  So I ended up sitting in a sort of squat the whole trip, the bottom inside of my calves exposed to the gently shining sun.  Which, as I found out that night, was quietly, sweetly giving me the worst sunburn of my life.

I'd slathered high-octane sunscreen all over my face, arms and upper body, and I'd worn a t-shirt and capri pants, but I didn't even think about my legs getting much sun exposure.  But by Saturday evening, I observed a 3x8" scarlet welt on each lower leg, horribly painful and growing more so by the hour.  Pain killer got me through the night, and as we dressed for church (we went to a tiny PCA congregation that meets in a middle-school gym) I was so grateful that I'd brought a long, soft, ankle-length dress for the occasion.  I slept more than half of the way home, popping ibuprofen like candy and applying lidocaine-laced aloe to the burns.  Neither seemed to help much--my ankles had swollen, too, so it was excruciating to walk.

I spent the next two days in bed.  My ankle bones reappeared on the third day, and I drove back to DC--the welt on my left leg blistered on the nine-hour trip up.  The blisters went away yesterday. Today, the first layer of skin peeled off both legs, and they again look like raw hamburger, and ache, but they are slowly getting better.  I now know that when the sticker on my medication bottle says "avoid prolonged sunlight" they are not fooling around. 

Friday, September 07, 2012

Local Events

Mr. B got married this evening.  As I am wont to do, I was napping at ceremony time, and so missed the wedding itself, though I made it to the after party.  I felt considerably handicapped by my lack of Spanish (pretty much everybody there, including the bride, was Chilean), but managed for a bit in English and then went back to my building to intercede between Mr. B's cat and a new resident's feline, who were exchanging swear words on the stoop.  I petted both of them and advised peaceful coexistence, but since when has a cat listened to a human?

I did my first home visit for the estate sale company.  I'd never actually been on one before, so this was throwing me into the deep end with a command to sink or swim.  I swum. The house was in Alexandria. Superb location, exquisitely clean. But there were only eight pieces of furniture in the entire house that she wanted us to sell for her, and a decidedly modest number of smalls, including a set of Lenox china, some odd cups and saucers, and some pressed glass chilled shrimp servers.  Most of the furniture was "country" style and pine, neither of which does well in DC.   I did mental math as I was perusing the house.  Bookcase --$100 (if we're lucky--they haven't been moving at all lately). Pine cabinet--ditto.  Drafting table/desk--$200.  Baskets--$50. Painted breakfront--$400 (again, if lucky--it was country style). Contents of breakfront--$400. Oak side table--$250 (it was really cute). Antique oak cabinet--$400.  Dark Victorian wood table--$300 (what we'd ask for it--what we'd be likely to get was closer to $150).  Battered pine box--$200 (sometimes people really go for the "distressed" look).  Large glazed ceramic planters--$150. Clothes/shoes--$300.  More baskets--$75. Puzzles--$50.  Artwork: $400.  Four lamps, one hideous and another not working: $250. Other miscellaneous office and kitchen items: $400.  Tot all those numbers, and you've got a figure that's way below $5000, much more so below the minimum $15,000 estimated sales we need to justify taking on a house.  And she didn't want anything brought in, and she didn't want to pay for moving the items off-site. So there we were.  I turned down the sale. 

On the way to the appointment, I passed a high school with the usual bulletin board advertisement of a fundraiser.  Selling mattresses.  I've heard of schools selling candy, baked goods, wrapping paper and plants, but I'd never seen a mattress sale fundraiser before.