Monday, December 02, 2013


Four more days until the end of the semester, and I feel like this photo of my Santa Quilt, purposely faded in intensity so I can doodle my quilting designs on it.

I took it in today to class, tucked in my pink briefcase right behind their new Precis Assignment, the Checklist for their Research Paper packets, and the three-page Peer Review handout.  Since I spent Saturday morning in Urgent Care getting diagnosed with Bronchitis Induced Asthma, and then getting a breathing treatment and receiving four medications (all together now: I Believe in Pharmaceuticals), after an hour of waiting at the pharmacy, I was pretty tired, so went home, swallowed a glug of cough syrup and went out like a (drugged) light while Dave put up the outside Christmas lights.  At least someone is productive around our house.

I was most concerned because we'd spent Thanksgiving with a friend with a low-functioning immune system, so I asked the doctor, "Am I contagious?"  "No," he said.  Relief.  And so we swing into the holiday, with lights on the front of the house and me wheezing in between inhaler hits. 

So, that faded Santa is a good representation of how things are around here.  This afternoon I crunched down a cough drop during class to keep the coughing at bay while they read through the handouts, one by one.  Then we got to the Peer Review.  The stats:
  • Twenty students still on the rolls.
  • Three have stopped coming.
  • Five didn't have the requisite three-page minimum on their essay, so couldn't participate.
  • Twelve students spent the rest of the hour, trading papers, evaluating.
  • I doodled on my faded Santa, a satisfying diversion.

We came out to the most glorious sunset, and two of the girls sighed audibly at the brilliantly colored sky.  I snapped, then posted, photos on Instagram, then drove home on the back roads, avoiding the horrific freeway traffic.

The latest news from the Educational Front is that our Dean has been canned.  Well, he has until June on his contract, so there have been "Reporting Reassignments," which doesn't affect what I do one whit, except that I don't see him slinking around the Tutoring Center, hobnobbing with the staff as much.  The last time I saw him, he was dressed like an upscale bum: half-shaven, casual clothes, his dreads grown out again, and sneakers.  I made some comment that he looked comfortable today, and he said, "I try to dress up as much as my faculty does."  So even though I had to overlook that snotty comment, I did sort of like the guy, but he's a goner, while I still wear pearls and nice clothes and have my weensy little adjunct job that involves coming to class when I feel like staying home in bed, but I did solve a Santa-quilting problem, then was taken out to Pho for dinner by my light-stringing husband.

On the whole, not a bad day.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Dave's gone for a bike ride, I've spent hours on Pinterest, and it seems this quiet morning is restorative for both of us.  Blessings abound: nice place to live, nice home, great children and grandchildren, good relationships among extended family, learning how to live with those daily aches and pains and thorns of life.  We're also happy for our work, both the work that brings in money and the work that doesn't, and that it gives us something to talk about on our morning walks.  Laundry, the Great Leveler, teaches me to be grateful for tasks, but also greatful that I can entertain myself beyond counting up the completed household chores. 

I also am grateful for the mundane: the new drill that works great, comfortable shoes, good blogs to read, clothes without patches and holes, wall-to-wall carpeting, my Apple TV and a comfortable sofa from which to watch movies.  My mundane may be different from yours, but I'm hoping that your Thanksgiving Day is a good one, filled with thoughtful moments of gratitude.

(Like being grateful I'm not camped out front of Target right now, like the folks I saw last night.)

Happy Thanksgiving, 2013. 

Monday, September 09, 2013


I read this article on the 99-Percent website some time ago, titled A Master Plan for Taking Back Your Life.  I think I bookmarked it to use with the class I was teaching at the time which included a book on what the internet is doing to our brains.

The article notes that every act that chips away at our willpower diminishes our ability to resist temptation and focus our energies.  There are multiple decision points in the act of reading on the web, each with their benefits and their accompanying Lernean Hydra-like links, dooming me to a distracted exhaustion.

Just as Charlie, my nephew's daughter, won't leap about the kitchen for endless hours, according to the article, we, too, should think about chunking our time into 90-minute intervals, taking a rest in between.  I find that if I slither onto the web in the morning, sucked into by email, then the New York Times headlines, then blog reading, I look up and it's nearly lunchtime, and my day has gone an entirely different direction.  When my children were at home, the day was compartmentalized by school schedules, their activities, and church meetings.  Since they've left home, my day has been defined by my tasks, rather than me thinking about how I want to structure it.  The digital interaction that seems now imperative needs to be factored in, rather than ignored.  This 90-minute idea could be a good habit to grab; new habits for our new digital world. 

Friday, September 06, 2013

Shifting Perceptions

In our house, it's always been Dave who doesn't notice things.  It's kind of a relief, because he doesn't notice when the dishes aren't done, or the house is dirty--those kinds of things.  No pressure housewifery.  But I always say I could leave his birthday present in the middle of the floor for months and he'd just step over it, not seeing it.

So I was pretty surprised the other night when he walked in the kitchen, looked out the window and said "What happened?"  I was standing at that window, preparing dinner.  I turned to him, "What do you mean what happened?"  He pointed.

And outside the window, the tree that is tall and reaches up to my sewing room and which I look at every day had lost a major branch.  It had perhaps cracked in our recent storms and had fallen to the ground.  Huge. 

And it was me who had not noticed it. You can see the hole, below, and the stub of the branch poking into the empty space.

It's another way to demonstrate how I feel lately, with everything shifting under my feet.  I was contracted to teach Tuesday/Thursday in this new semester, but AFTER the first day of school, the Dean's secretary sent me an email asking me why I wasn't in class that Monday. Apparently they'd switched my classes and had neglected to inform me. (And no, they didn't apologize.)

The students showed up that second day (Wednesday) with all their books, but it they were all wrong.  They weren't my books, but the ones listed on another class.  We're now headed into the third week of the semester and every Monday I have to remind myself that I'm teaching that day, not Tuesday.  

Whereas before I used to love books with great pathos, now I feel like they pull me under, and I didn't listen to any all summer long, while I recuperated from foot surgery.  I can't find things.  I don't have the energy to really dig into some deep drawer-cleaning-out.  I used to be the BEST drawer-cleaner-outer.  My children make jokes about our garage, and could I please get it cleaned out before they have to?

I don't really know how to describe how I feel except to reference it to the summer before I went to college, when I sat on my bedroom floor, cutting out clothes for fall, knowing that all lot of things were going to change in my life, yet unable to see what they were.  In hindsight, of course, I went off to college, got married the following June and never again sat on that floor with scissors and pins and patterns.

We always think of only adolescents changing.  Or of toddlers learning to walk.  Or Twenty-Somethings morphing into the most delightful adults, having pushed (as my daughter would say) the "Grow Up Button."  But on the cusp of sixty, the frame through which I perceived the world through my fifties seems ill-fitting, out-of-shape, like it was meant for someone else, yet I don't know what I will use next.  I could write something here about not seeing the forest for the trees, but after this week's experience, maybe I can't even see the trees, with their fallen branches. 

All I can do is wonder what's coming next, the ground unsteady beneath my feet.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Women and Men, listening

It's Not About the Nail from Jason Headley on Vimeo.

My brother sent this to me. It does make women look like idiots, but Dave laughed and my brother said yep--it's exactly how men feel.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Russian Choral Music


One of the weirder side effects of my recent surgery was the Russian Choruses that played in my head sporadically.  I would lay on the bed and hear the music and wonder what in heaven's name my husband was listening to downstairs.  On other occasions I'd heard the phone ringing over and over and over and wonder where he'd gone to.

The technical name for this is paracusia, or auditory hallucination, and while most cases are neurological in nature or associated with mental illness, occasionally some can be triggered by drug use, or overuse of caffeine.  I have to chalk it to the pain killers they gave me, or perhaps the after-effects of anesthesia, or just being bored out of my mind while laying on the bed, foot elevated, with icy toes.

So last night, in honor of this effect, I watched The Hunt for Red October, and enjoyed the Russian choruses.  But I have thought about other aspects of this.  I had a friend die several years ago and not long after, I heard her voice as I came out of a dream, calling me.  The night before last, I dreamed my daugher and I were at camp and had to put on a pancake breakfast for 200 and had nothing but one bag of pancake mix and a waffle iron, and then I heard my son Matthew's voice, asking me to tell him what I wanted at the grocery store and then he proceeded to make out the list for me.  As I came out of that dream (more side effects of the pain killers were vivid and sometimes disturbing dreams), my rational mind took over and the youthful Matthew had morphed to the man who just came off a week-long Scout High Adventure trip and could easily manage a pancake breakfast for a crowd.  I relaxed out of that stressful dream and thought about him.

I have heard others talk about having conversations with people that have passed away, and how comforting it was to hear their voice.  Somewhere in this house, I have a cassette tape (can I even play it now?) with the sounds of my family, from the fetal heartbeat of my first child through to a clip of an interview my husband did in Riverside for the local radio show.  I have saved phone conversations on our answering machine from nearly two years ago, when many called to talk to me when I was diagnosed with cancer.  My husband is a good sport about forwarding through these nine messages to get to the one that just came in.

In our foodie world these days, I have read many pieces about the connection between taste and memory, certain foods and events, but haven't read much about the effect of hearing your mother's voice on your answering machine, telling you she is concerned about you and hopes you are doing fine. 

Now, in our digital age, I don't really know how to save these voices, preserve them for later listening.  So I can only hope that somewhere in my infinite mind, a tape recorder is going, and will play them back for me when I need them most.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Distraction Paradigm

My colleague and I collect cartoons related to student life.  There's something that could be called the Distraction Paradigm, which is what happens when a student is distracted from the original task to something more pleasurable and loses control of the time spent.  That's usually when we professors hear things like "This took me like, forever, to finish!"  or "Do you want to know how much time I spent on this paper of yours?"  (It's always MY paper, even though they wrote it.)

While sometimes I'll arch an eyebrow and say something like "Sounds like a time management problem to me," after reading the book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, I now approach this more directly, asking them how many devices they had next to them or consulted while they were writing.  The above cartoon is an excellent example of the problem faced by students.

Or by any of us.  While writing this short blurb, I deviated away from the writing several times in order to check the exact wording of the title, the spelling of another word, the meaning of yet another.  And since being laid up with my foot, I now welcome distractions as I'm not trying to get anything accomplished, other than laying here with my foot up doing nothing, wondering if I should call interrupt Dave and what he's doing in order to come up here and vacuum the cobwebs off the ceiling in the bedroom.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Treetop View

This is the view from my bed, upstairs.  It's a treetop view, and I like seeing the green when I look out the window.  Apparently seeing green is also good for healing, if you are a medical patient, which is also good for this week's task of healing from the elective foot surgery I had on Tuesday morning.

Trying to keep equilibrium in life is a challenge, and things like surgeries and diagnoses, car crashes, unpaid bills grandchildren visiting, and visits to grandchildren and family can all pull a person off their balance.  Some of these are good things (grandchildren!), but I'm not a fan of the wobbly things that make me feel like I'm trying to use crutches in the middle of the night while on Big Pharma.  (And no, I didn't have most of those awful things in the sentence above.)

Another side effect of surgery (and, according to my friend Heather, chemo) is that brain fog that descends.  Because of that, this post will be blessedly short, because I'm pretty sure I'm sounding like all my ducks aren't lined up in a row. Or something.

Friday, May 17, 2013

I Should Say Something Significant

I should say something significant at this juncture in my semester, with the hefty research papers all graded, the giddiness of the students yesterday as they attended the last class, their interchanges as they worked in their groups, and their class evaluations neatly stacked up on my desk, but mostly I'm just tired.  I carried some of their euphoria through the evening, but as Dave and I visited, the euphoria escaped from me like air out of a balloon, and after loading up their essay grades on the class website I took myself to bed.

I should say something significant, but mostly I just feel relief that it's over, done and all the things I have worried about happening this summer can rightfully take their places front and center, not obscured by deadlines and lesson prep and grading and the disruption of teaching an evening class, although after talking to Heather, I pretty much had a cakewalk compared to what she does in her 6 to 9:30 p.m. Biology class at her college.  My hat is off to her and to all the other community college professors, who metaphorically water two-acre fields with only a pitcher of water.  Truth be told, I think all educators (our name for ourselves) feel pretty much the same way, of having to do too much with ever-shrinking resources, both in time, money and personal reserves.

I should say something. . . but I'm pretty much out of words.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

This Is Water

From the well-known commencement speech by David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide two years later, a victim of depression. But while this makes the clip above more poignant, he was a brilliant novelist, a superb teacher (I've used portions of his syllabus as inspiration for mine) and a family man who contributed much to the world.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Just for the record, we are a definite beater-licking family, as was the family in which I grew up.  Sometimes we were bowl-lickers, too, getting out the rubber spatula to scrape the sweet sticky batter off the bowl, a prelude to the cake rising in the hot oven.

On the strength of that memory, but not limited to that remembrance alone, I can say I was lucky to have a Good Mom.  Wangling seven children along the path of life can't have been easy, but she, with along with my father, got us all through kindergarten, then grade school, then Primary, Mutual, married (and sometimes re-married), and we all know how to write decent thank-you notes, although probably not all of us do. Yet, she still loves us all.

Thanks, Mom, for everything!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Follow-Up to Paper Post

A recent Vimeo, found on this *link* says it all.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paper Freak

I am a paper freak. 

I love stationary stores.  My best friend in 4th grade, Lynn Mabey, let me go choose a sheet of every piece of paper from the discard stack that her father had given her.  I notice the color of my students' white papers--yes, they are all different and distinct. (And on a side note, I also drive them crazy when I notice that the font they use in their running header is different than what's in the body text "because the e is more closed up, and the L has a bigger serif" but that's another post.) My dream cupboard would have markers of every kind to color-coordinate with papers of every kind.  I love thick, weightier papers, and the idea of letterpress cards and stationary sends me to the moon. 

I line up birthday cards on the fireplace mantel and leave them there the whole month of my birthday.  So far, only two of my children are still in the will for sending me birthday cards. 

Dave knows better than to forget the card on Valentine's Day.  It's not just the thought (which often is prompted by endless reminders) but it's the ability to slide open the envelope, read the handwriting, and yes, then prop it up on the mantel.

So you can imagine how fun it was to discover that someone has built an entire ad series around needing paper.  Here's a couple of the videos:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

 Ignore the advertisements and pleas. Just enjoy the music, the song, the day, no matter what's going on in your life.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

On a Day Like This

What do you serve for dinner on a day like this?  It's a day where the food needs to be hearty and warm and go down easily in between the tears.  Soup?  Spaghetti made with that good sauce from Trader Joe's?  Chocolate needs to be in the picture, better schedule some brownies for dessert.  A whole pan, so more can be cut up and carried in the car on the way to the funeral.

What do you do on a day like this?  The news came early this morning, my husband weeping as he tells me of his brother-in-law passing away in the morning.  I am strong.  I don't cry.  I get more information later, that my husband's sister was sitting at Bruce's bedside, having been awoken at 4 a.m. by her daughter, each taking two-hour shifts through the last few nights.  They sat there, his breathing diminishing, faltering, until at 6:30 it ceased.  A quiet, in-sleep, in-home death.  One we all would choose if we could.

On a day like this, I finish up the quilt and the angelic quilter lady agrees to a rush job and later, much later, after I sit numbly at the computer, and I become not strong, do I realize how Bruce's death diminishes our family.  This is not a new idea.  I felt it when my other brother-in-law died, when my husband's parents died, when my grandmothers died and it has been expressed by writers since time began.  It just feels new, each death bringing with it memories and associations and words that can not ever now be spoken.

On a day like this, I clean out a cupboard and jar breaks.  I look at it, get the dustpan and broom, wander to the mailbox, ask the neighbors to throw the papers on the porch while we're gone and then the quilter drives up, bringing me my quilt, making me cry again.  Because.  Because on a day like this we need hands to hold us, hearts to share our sorrow.  And something easy to eat for dinner.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inauguration Day 2013

This was one of my favorite moments of the Inauguration--when President Obama paused to savor the moment.  That, and the poem.

Lunch after the swearing in, with recipes linked in (wish I could have seen pictures!):

I think the red potato horseradish cake sounds interesting and delicious.

Now I'm watching and waiting to see what Mrs. Obama's ball gown will look like.  The first lady ball gowns are always one of my favorite exhibits at the American History Museum, right up there with Dorothy's ruby slippers and Julia Child's kitchen.

Here's last time:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Last Days in Oregon

Friday morning, Dave headed over to his conference, after meeting some graduate students in the hotel for breakfast.  His building was across the street from where we stayed, and I learned later that the hotel was the site of several Oregon State Beaver Booster meetings (gymnastics that afternoon, and basketball the next morning).

I was picked up by Beth, a longtime friend, as we had met many years ago at a scientific conference our husbands were both attending and have seen each other nearly annually since.  She offered to take me on a quilt fabric shop hop. After letting me up off the ground and untwisting my arm from her iron grip, I reluctantly agreed.  That's a joke.  I jumped in the car like an eager (Oregon State) Beaver. Here we are in Salem; that's her in the bright yellow raincoat.  She's an Oregon expert.


We entered and I felt like I'd entered a Magical Kingdom, quilt-wise.  So many ideas!  So little time! More on the quilty blog, if you're interested.

We drove through the beautiful Oregon countryside on the way to our next stop.  The sun had come out and the greens were glowing against the soft blue sky.  Every area of the country has their own version of these colors, and they are different from each other in specific and subtle ways.

This shop specialized in Civil War reproduction fabrics, as evidenced by the antique dress in the front window.  I wanted to take down the phone number and address, as I was trying to beat my son at Foursquare (a social media game which requires that I check in at each location, earning points so I can finally beat him for once), and the person minding the store didn't know the address, nor the phone number.  To get the address, she poked her head outside and looked at the number on the front door.  There weren't any cards at the register with the other information, so we both resorted to looking it up on our smart phones.  Kind of a high tech way to find out low tech information. But a cute shop, nonetheless.

We hit The Pink House for lunch, and it was just as you might imagine it inside, with tables tucked around in all different rooms of the house.

We went to another quilt shop in Philomath which was in a converted movie theater. This was the upper steps to the projectionist's booth.  When you entered, the main register and cutting counter were the former concessions counter, where they might have sold you Jujubes, drinks and popcorn for a movie.


More beautiful countryside.  This is where Beth's daughter and children come to pick berries--blueberries? I think.

Our last stop was in Corvallis, where this store had some fabric I'd been searching for.  I felt blessed, I picked up a few more fat quarters to say thank-you.  Such a sacrifice!

Here's Beth choosing some wares to take home.  We were partners in crime. We stopped by to let her dogs run around a bit, and so I could look at her latest projects.  Then after a quick hello at her daughter's house (and to meet Beth's cute grandchildren), she dropped me off at the hotel.  Dave came back soon after, and felt pretty good about his presentation, which I was happy to hear.

We liked where Beth and Bill had taken us the night before, so we went to dinner at the same place again.  This shot is looking down into the prep area, from the bridge on the second floor.

The next morning, we ate breakfast and prepared to drive back to Portland to catch our flight home.  I was intrigued by these hanging lamps and wondered what they would look like from below.

I found out.

Back outside there was a frosting of ice everywhere. We found good uses for the room cards we'd forgotten to turn in: scraping the windows.  I have to say that Dave was a professional at this, like he'd done it before.


The drive was beautiful, in a way different than anything I would see at home in our mild temperatures.  I was amazed at the beauty found in a gray and white palette.

We made it Portland, boarded a regular plane to San Francisco, where we changed into a baby jet, and flew north off the runway. The pilot took a lovely arcing turn around the Bay and I shot these pictures on my cell phone through thick plastic windows.  You have to imagine the loveliness of seeing the San Francisco Bay Area this way.  Dave and I both have great affection for this area: it's where we met, where we lived in our early marriage, and we have many memories of the city of San Francisco.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Capitol City--Salem, Oregon

Slow start this morning with our fabulous breakfast at the Benson, then we retrieved the car from valet parking and headed south to Corvallis.  It is lovely country, with lots of agriculture, trees, green fields and along the way a sign marking The 45th Parallel--halfway between the equator and the North Pole.  We've crossed the Continental Divide and now the 45th, by car. 

So this is the State Capitol, and we thought it looked remarkably like an LDS temple, complete with gold statue on top, but you didn't hear it here.  The original, classical domed capitol building burned down in 1933, I think, and this interesting cylindrical shape replaced it.

We wonder if we are allowed to go and in see what it looks like, thinking of the armed guards and metal detectors at our local city courthouse.  Nope.  We just walked right in. 

There is a grand entrance hall, with steps up to the right and to the left.  We walked up the steps behind Dave.

It was the House of Representatives chamber, with its very cool carpet of trees.

 Looking back across the hall to the Senate chamber. 

We walked over there--their carpet has leaping fish and wheat sheaves.

Looking up into the cupola.  The state motto is Alis Volat Propriis, which means "She flies with her own wings."  I asked the volunteer in the gift shop what that meant, and she looked blankly at me, until I suggested, "Perhaps Oregonians are independent and self-reliant?"  "Oh, yes," she said.  


We liked the murals around the hall.

And I liked what this said--that "in the souls of its citizens will be found the likeness of the state."  Lots of food for thought in this one.

The State Library is the first building on the left of their state mall.  I thought of my sister-in-law Annie, a librarian.

And some cool tree branches finished up our stop in Salem.  A quick bite to eat, then we drove to Corvallis, found our hotel and Dave practiced his talk for tomorrow, where he is the keynote speaker of the conference.  We had dinner with friends at one of those lovely places where everything is sourced locally and freshly made.  We finished up by sharing with a three-berry cobbler, a very good way to end our day, I think.