Friday, May 29, 2009

Two Roads Diverged into a Green Wood

Two roads diverged in a green wood, on a trail above my parents house. Why? Because they are installing a water main and have ripped up the main trail, so the new one is marked with construction orange pieces of plastic to guide the walker.

I followed this trail, all apologies to Robert Frost, to where it disappeared into the undergrowth, then looped down onto the gold course cart path for a few paces, and made it the landmark all of us children walk to when we visit Mom and Dad: the stream. The spring run-off has amplified this creek into a noisy, babbling stream which I could have heard from some distance away except that Sheryl Crow was singing All I Want to Do Is Have Some Fun in my earbuds.

My parents are on a different schedule than I: up whenever, nice breakfast, my mother will make/answer phone calls (yesterday there were many since it was her birthday) while my Dad goes down to his art studio to paint, then a walk mid-morning along the Ogden River. Big, late lunch, then working on various tasks, reading--perhaps a nap--until evening, when the blinds are raised because the sun has gone down and we have a snack. I think when I'm not here, they watch a movie, then maybe the news, then bed. Pretty dang active folks for 81 and 83.

But my rhythm is off, as rhythms always are when visiting or being visited. People, relatives, friends interrupt our optimum routine and while there are times we can reclaim it for a while (like this morning's walk) basically it's time to let others disrupt, interrupt and intrude our boring, static schedules.

Mom always said a change is as good as a rest, and maybe she was on to something. After the visit/visiting, there's a deliciousness in reclaiming the routine, a safety and sameness that click-clocks along our day. We know what to do, what time to do it, and the structure strengthens our doing, helps us cross of our To Do List tasks.

Thank heavens for disruptions, or we'd miss a singing stream high up on Ogden's mountain, a forested way marked with fluttering pieces of plastic, Sheryl reminding me that all I want to do is not have just fun until the sun goes down, but instead, work with my father on his memoir, celebrate a Happy Eighty-first, see my mother's blue eyes, jump in line with my father's energy, see the newest painting, laugh over lunch with some aunties, in other words to matter to someone, to connect, to love.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Crisis du Jour

I spackled, my husband sanded, I primed, I painted and that was last night. This morning, before heading out to a neighboring state to see my parents, I spackled again, and painted again, all trying to remove the hard edge where the old tile was as the new tile would be about a half-inch lower. I was ready for this day's project to be done: tile, sink installation, clean-up.

While the tile guy's working on the tile, the plumber arrived to make us $300 poorer, no wait--that wasn't it. He arrived to put in our new sink and faucet. (And make us poorer.)

Testing one-two-three in Plumber Land means fill the sink with water. As I'm walking down the jetway to board the plane, my phone rings with the news from my husband that the sink leaks.

Leaks? It's brand new--out of the box brand new.

Yep. When the plumber was testing the sink, it started leaking. There's a crack on the underside and several stress cracks in the enamel. But on balance, all the faucet and sprayer look nice and they made it all fit. So Call A to Call B to Call C and he calls me back later that afternoon with the news that the new sink will be here tomorrow and can they put it in Monday?

Oh, sure. We're doing the windows that day too--the more the merrier. I was happy about that news actually because the guy in the airplane seat near me told me about his cousin's woes of redoing their floors and it took nearly a year with this crisis and that crisis. I had visions of washing the dishes in the bathroom for months while they hassled and figured out my sink issues. But Monday? Monday's fine.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Vision vs. Reality

I have an older house--not the kind that people drool over when they drive down the street--but the ubiquitous California ranch house, one of many in this 33-year old neighborhood. It's update time, and we finally saved enough to redo the countertops and the windows. Yes, one week apart, but all in one swoop--chaos.

The vision: a smooth sweep of countertop, dying into the window, just like it was before: all one level everywhere.

But after tear-out, they discovered that the Ceasarstone would not be as thick and therefore I could not have one-level countertop. The guy (who speaks pretty good English) and his helper (who speaks only Spanish) say "You gotta problem." I say, "No. You have the problem." They call for back-ups and reinforcements.

I would call the Mr. but he's teaching a class. But he has about as much experience as I do, as we've never done this and have lived in this house nearly twenty years. So I call the Girlfriend, who is an expert on this. "I don't think it would be a problem to have a little ledge, she says. "Really?" I ask. "It will be fine," she says. Okay.

While I was on the phone with Girlfriend she tells me about the latest (weird) wedding invitation she'd received in the mail. (We vie with each other to see who gets the weirder invitations.) It was housed a slender box which opened to reveal a scroll, with a sort of Princess and Prince Charming theme complete with castle. I said, "You've got to feel sorry for the guy, right off." She agreed.

So I'm amiable when Kurt, the co-owner of the company came over, as well as the Tile Guy. (I'm doing a subway tile backsplash for those of you who know what that means. I didn't, before I started all of this.) He explains it to me, and we talk heights and window ledges and touch-up painting. It's then that we discover that Tile Guy thought the tile was going only behind the stove, when I thought it was going all along that wall. Okey, dokey. We try to solve this one out, and Kurt raises his hand and says calmly (I was calm too. I promise.) "We'll work it out."

I remember once a long time ago in another marriage when I was working with the architect on designing a dream house. She told me, as we worked out a precise little plan for the sewing room, laundry chute, cupboards, etc., that "It would never be built like it is on paper. There's always a difference between Vision and Reality."

Okay, so Visions have to modified to work in Reality: I'll have a teensy ledge, instead of smooth sweep into the window. But that groom will be stuck with his Precious Princess forever.

I'll take the windowsill dilemma.

Monday, May 25, 2009

iPhone Drawing

Clever use of an iPhone app, I think. Now watch it happen. (Yeah, okay, after the obligatory ad imbedded in this link from The New Yorker.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Three Days in Peru

I've spent the last three days in Peru. Not literally, but the Peru of my youth, when my father took a leap of faith and a deanship position for a business school in Lima. And the Peru I just spent time in was filtered through his eyes, his journals and his concerns and successes.

I went through the 100-plus page section twice in a row, first straightening out the cupboards, then restocking them with previously cut sections to add back more of the flavor. This experience of editing his memoir has been a real gift to me from my father, as I am beginning to understand--in a sliver of a way--some of what he went through (and helps me understand why the children and family aren't at the center of the writing--that will be in Mother's journals and letters. Heads Up, Mom. You're next.).

The family is there, but at the core. The great peripheral is ESAN, the business school run by Stanford University, swirling in a great stew of faculty and staff issues, the constant conundrum of financial support, the incredible trips, the conferences and meeting of a wide range of all different types of people from government, missionary, academia, and local. What a leap it was for our family--for all seven of us--to follow our parents into a different land and culture for two years.

We are richer for it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hanging Out in 1984, Bored Stiff

For the final in English 101, I included a portion of an article printed in the New York Times contrasting reading in a book and reading on the web. The article didn't discuss blogs, but instead the distractions posed by web reading, and the non-linear way it pulls a reader through material. Since I'm a teacher, I ended where it champions book reading.

The students had to first annotate the excerpt for the argument, then in a written answer discuss the argument and support.

The answers were all over the map, as about half of them couldn't discern the argument in this short (1 page) piece. {Note to self: lead with annotation in the next term, and with a discussion of argument.}

I was intrigued with one young man's rationale for why his age group (discussed in the article) doesn't read, as opposed to the older, wrinkled, and nearly dead folks who do (that would be people like me, you see):
"In this article they state that a fifth of 17-year-olds said they read for fun and in 1984 more 17-year-olds read for fun. Most people in 1984 really didn't have much to do back then, so of course more people are going to read for fun. Now that we have better technology people read on-line. Time has changed and more and more people rely on technology more then books. Although books could help on certain subjects."
There you have it, misspellings, errors and all. Take it from the authority: if you were hanging around in 1984, you weren't having much fun.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

The Lanyard, by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that’s what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Friday, May 08, 2009

More Laughs

Okay, I'll stop for a while as I really don't think blogs with tons of videos are much fun--would rather read words and see pictures and parse ideas. (Yeah, I know you can tell how old I am by that statement.)

But I happened on this list of "Ninety-nine Things You Should Have Already Experienced on the Internet," that is to say, if you are with it, you should have caught these items on YouTube.

I have other favorites from this list, of course, and I'll post them every once in a while. Those who are "with it" will have already seen them. The rest of us will be brought up to speed, I guess.