Cammy Burning

I tried, I really did!

Knowing I was going to be outside today, I slathered on the sunblock as I have been trained to do since before I went to kindergarten (by that time, my grandmother and my mother had both had skin cancer. In the case of my grandmother, it was two rounds with melanoma).  I had the bottle with me for reapplication, and, after a couple of hours, I stopped, and slathered on more.  At the time I was patting myself on the back over my apparent victory against the sun since I wasn’t even starting to freckle!

Except for the part where I managed to miss a band around my upper arm, which is now lobster-esque.

Now, it’s not like I’ve never been burned because I missed a spot before–that’s happened.  I had a particularly obnoxious incident in which I missed spots down the back of my calves before going out to follow Dad around the golf course one day (there was no using the foot rest on the recliner that night–upholstery fabric + sensitive skin = bad).  But when that’s happened it’s generally been in a “single application of sunblock” scenario.  This is different.  This means I managed to miss the exact same spot.  Twice.

Really?

And I have to be outside again tomorrow to mow the damn lawn so I’m going to have to cover this spot for that, and no matter what I do it’s going to hurt and be irritating.

(If you imagined that sentence whined in the same voice as Luke’s infamous “But I was going to Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!” line in Star Wars, you would not be wrong.)

Portrait of a Time Vampire

The new-toy feel has yet to wear off of my camera (mostly because for the better part of the time I’ve owned it, I’ve not had time to play with it), and I’ve been going a little nuts clicking away (actually it’s more like, clicking away, fiddling with settings, clicking away, switching lenses, clicking away, fiddling some more…).

Hey, Sacagawea! Look over here! Say cheese!

All this bad amateur photography creates an awful lot of total crap to sort through.  This is way more time consuming that it ought to be.  You’d think I could just chuck things and move on, but no.  I keep thinking of salvaging things (despite the fact that the photo was not composed well to start with and the fact that I know that I don’t have re-touch software package installed anywhere handy and the fact that even if I did, I kinda HATE retouching photos on the computer).  So I sort, and re-sort and the amount of crap decreases at a snail’s pace and before I know it….shit, it’s after 11pm and I have to go in to work tomorrow.

There’s actually something in this picture. No. I swear.

So, because I ate up so much of my time on this time vampire, I will cut this post short and attempt to distract you with images (not good ones, but I’m hoping your monkey brain will kick in and say, “ooooh, pictures!”).

This guy likes to chill around the pond behind the house and pick off unsuspecting fish.

Adventures in Home Fabric Dying

Last year I dyed some fabric for a costume using coffee. The results weren’t exactly what I’d hoped for, but for whatever reason it got me very interested in natural fabric dying. I did a lot of reading up about it and decided to try something else fairly easy and inexpensive. I learned you could make yellow dye using onion skins and since I generate a lot of onion skins on my own, it seemed an ideal choice.

My grungy old chemise

I had an old costume shirt lying around. It had been made I in a hurry which means it was made badly and being cheap white cotton it did not wear well. It had absorbed red dye around the arms from a vest I wore with it and had general grime all over. Allergies keep me from being able to bleach it, so I figured that if I couldn’t clean it maybe I could just dye over it.

Vinegar and water prep solution

 

To prep the fabric I first simmered it in vinegar and water (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water) for an hour.

Onion skins and tumeric for color

 

 

 

 

 

Then I took the fabric out and got the dye bath ready. I had saved a couple months worth of onion skins so I just tore them to small bits and added about twice that volume of water. I also added a generous sprinkling of turmeric for extra color. I simmered all this together for about an hour, then strained it and put it back in the pot with the shirt.

The strained dye bath

 

 

I simmered the shirt in the dye bath a little over an hour. I stirred it frequently to make sure the color was fairly even. Then I emptied the pot into my sink and rinsed the shirt till the water was running more or less clear.

The final product. Unfortunately the dying process didnt' get rid of the red stains.

 

 

In the end I got a brilliant gold color. This was sort of exciting because getting bright colors from natural dyes is usually the hard part. Unfortunately I’m not sure this color is going to look good on me—I had really been going for a pale yellow. Still, it was fun and I’m now eagerly devising my next dying adventure.

It Would Be Better With Schadenfreude

I had some news at work today, which, due to my own rules about NOT revealing details of ye olde bill paying job, I can’t really go into.  Suffice it to say that a long standing issue (the stress from which has impacted me in a negative way and really does contribute to the volume of posts I neglect to make) has finally gone away.  It’s not the only issue or a fix all, but it’s a big one and it’s gone.  Tonight I drink beer, eat guacamole and celebrate!

The only thing missing from this resolution is Schadenfreude.  As with most issues, nasty human behavior was at the heart of this problem.  At many times over the past year, I’ve really felt myself wanting to see people taken  down a few pegs for their behavior.  I’ve always had a streak in me that was guilty of Schadenfreude, but this grew from something that I could either push down where no one would see,–or which I could eventually talk myself out of (because, deep down, I know it’s mean of me to take delight in others’ suffering, even if they deserve it)–into a monster.  Justice with a side of secret, guilty delight was no longer enough.   I’ve started to think I’m rotten to the core for not just wanting to know that some kind of  justice prevailed, but for wanting to witness it, enjoy it, bask in it.

Perhaps it’s Schadenfreude for someone else that I am denied the pleasure of seeing the fall I’ve been so eager to witness.  The resolution of the issue today comes about quietly, simply, and without the guilty party suffering at all.  I’m half relieved that I didn’t get sucked into the dark-side of celebrating while someone else suffered.  Maybe there’s hope for me to mend my black-hearted ways.

But then there’s the part that’s just feeling robbed of some serious joy and entertainment.

Stopping by the woods for a cup of coffee

Would we drink coffee with Robert Frost?

Kristy: Yes. I don’t love Robert Frost, but I definitely like Robert Frost. And there’s something to be said for being an American writer from the 19th century that I like, because there aren’t many of them. I don’t have any books of his poetry laying around, or any strong desire to own any, but when I do run across his poetry I enjoy reading it. (But not that “two paths diverged in a yellow wood” one. Like most American school children I was beaten over the head with it too often. And I still resent an elementary school teacher telling me that my interpretation of it was wrong.) Even more, I enjoy teaching it. It’s straightforward enough that you can pick up any one of his poems, read it, and know what it’s about. I appreciate his use of gentle rhythm and rhyme and simple language. All qualities I think are underappreciated by literary scholars and writers alike. And on the other hand, there’s enough depth to his poetry that if you’re in the mood to go in and pick it apart there’s plenty to work with. So yeah, I’d like to buy the man a cup of coffee and just have a chat with him. I’d like to know what he thinks about contemporary literature–he’s described as a predecessor of modern poetry, so how does he feel about how it ended up? I’d like to know if he really, REALLY meant it when he said there was no deeper meaning in his poems or if he was just fucking with us. Or just annoyed with literary critics (an understandable feeling). You get the sense that he was a writer you could have a normal conversation with, which I don’t say about many poets, so I’d like to see if my theory there is correct. (Also, today’s his birthday, so I’ll buy him a baked good as well).

Cammy:  The part of me that isn’t much of a poetry fan is not exactly itching for this particular coffee get together.  But, when I think about, it as far as poetry goes, Robert Frost’s stuff is far less offensive than most of what I was exposed to.  More to the point, outside of the particular piece Kristy noted above, no one was trying to force any of it down my throat.  In fact, I think it helps that, as Kristy says, most of his works are kind of side lined in favor of the “deep” shit that I can’t stand.  So, sure, I’m in.  If only to salute him as a poet who doesn’t make me cringe at the mere thought of his work.  I may not be able to contribute much to the grander literary discussion, but I’m cool with listening in and lighting the birthday candles.

Round and Round

One of my paths home from work (I have several–options help me avoid traffic…and make it easier to lose people trying to tail me), takes me through mostly residential neighborhoods.  For the most part, this path is calm, uneventful and utterly unremarkable.

Except for the house with the path.

On a particular corner where I make a turn, there’s a house of no noteworthy description other than the well-beaten foot-path that seems to run around the perimeter of the lot.  Not some kind of landscaped decorative thing, no, this is just the bare kind of path you see when feet beat out grass, weeds and everything else that might dream of coming up.

My first suspicion was that this house had a dog, and probably one of those radio-frequency invisible fences.  This kind of path is completely typical of the paths I’ve seen beaten around the back-yards of friends with dogs who like to pace and circle their domain.  Usually big dogs who are either so protective of their humans that they are constantly on patrol, or so eager to escape that they are looking for the chinks in the fence.

But, I discovered about a year ago that there was no golden retriever or black lab behind that path.

There were just two kids.

I happened to be turning there on my way home last spring when I noticed a little girl around 8 or so, hauling hell-for-leather around from the back of the house.  I always keep an eye peeled for kiddos out running around when I’m driving through the neighborhoods (and a good thing, too–I’ve avoided the loose basketball in the street tragedy more times than I care to think about).  I was concerned that she was going to barrel right on out in front of me.  Instead, she hooked a right and continued running….right around the path in the front lawn.  She didn’t appear to be chasing anything, but I couldn’t be sure since I went on my way, assuming that somewhere ahead of her there had been a beloved family pet.

But it happened again.  Same girl, same full-bore run.  And then again.  The third time there was a little boy who was maybe 5 or 6 running too.  Not with her, and not chasing her, but with the same kind of odd determination, running that same path for all he was worth.  No alteration, no pause.  Just pumping arms and legs.

Through the winter I saw them less, in part because I was so busy that my work schedule kept me from driving home in daylight.  But a couple of weeks ago…there they were again.  Both kids, out running in circles.

There is just something really weird about this to me.  I mean, when I was a kid there was some amount of running ’round and ’round the house, but that had more to do with chasing one another, or in some way playing a game or accomplishing something.  And on occasion, when my brother and I were too wound-up, Dad would yell at us, literally, “Go outside and run around in circles until I tell you to stop!”  And we would giggle and go make a few quick loops around the two trees in the front yard before going, “Daddy, can we stop now?”  Which generally Dad was fine with–but told us to just stay outside and out of his hair for a while.  My brother and I sure didn’t make enough of a habit to wear a path (Mom would have been pissed at that), and go at it like we were training for the cross country team while still in our elementary years or anything.

And the kiddos only made it more weird this week.  We had rain, solid, steady, heavy rain for the better part of last week.  And– I shit you not– I drove home one day, wipers on full….and those two kids were out, running that path around the h0use.  One in a pancho, the other in what what looked like a Cars raincoat.  Round and round.

I don’t know if their parents have big dreams of summer Olympians or what.  But, I guess they don’t have much trouble getting the kids to sleep at night.

 

My Own Personal Epic

Going to movie premieres used to be a big thing in my life. No, not real Hollywood premieres with celebrities and shit. Just opening night at the local theater. Along with Cammy and our mutual friend Megan we went to a lot of opening nights. Often in costume. It was generally awesome. These outings used to include Mexican food, until the fateful night when we drank too much iced tea at Don Pablo’s then went to the first Harry Potter film. Several of us suffered from near fatal bladder over-filling. (I hadn’t read the books. It was a kids’ movie. I expected it to be 90 minutes tops. And by the time I realized it wasn’t, things were too exciting for me to leave.)

 

It’s been a long time since those days. I haven’t been to see a movie on opening night in a while. But The Hunger Games was awesome enough I thought it warranted a return to old behavior patterns. So a group of my colleagues and I made plans to attend. (We briefly entertained the idea of a Thursday midnight showing, but several of us had to teach on Friday morning and well… we’re old now). No costumes this time since my colleagues here are a little more straight laced and well, I had no costume ideas anyway (Though in retrospect the Bajoran Dabo Girl outfit would have done well for this. Cammy knows what I’m talking about.) By mostly sheer coincidence we did go to get Mexican food beforehand, and that’s when things started to get a little dicey.

 

Turns out several of my friends have never been to a movie on opening night before. They thought showing up fifteen minutes beforehand would be totally fine. Such innocents. This, and the fact that he had just finished his dissertation the night before and was justifiably brain fried, caused my friend J to be late for dinner. So three of us who had already finished and paid our bills before he arrived, left to get seats while he and our mutual friend K stayed to eat.

 

It had been raining on and off all day. I had actually meant to bring an umbrella but realized I’d left it in my apartment when I got to my car and decided I didn’t care. I was wearing purple so even if the color ran out of my hair (yes, this is a problem) it would be okay since my hair is also purple. At the restaurant I did hear someone say something about a tornado warning, but I didn’t think they meant a current one. After all, we’d been getting the sort of slow, steady rain which typically does not result in such things.

 

But as we made the short drive to the theater we did notice a particularly ominous looking cloud and as we arrived at the strangely empty theater (I got a parking spot right by the door) we heard some soccer moms dropping off their kids talking about a tornado warning. At this point we all checked our phones and simultaneously realized we had all missed the urgent text from the university informing us of said tornado warning. Oops.

 

Well, we were already at the theater, and it seemed as secure a location as any, so we went on in. We had just been allowed into the theater and scored good seats (my current city of residence has no theaters with stadium seating, so you have to work for good seats like in the old days) when an attendant came in and told us that because of imminent tornado threat we had to go to the hallway or bathrooms. I can’t for the life of me figure out why those locations were safer, given the large glass doorways in the hall, but we complied. That’s where we were when J and K finally joined us, with all the valuables from K’s car (including J’s dissertation). They said it was looking fairly insane outside.

 

That’s when the hail started. I thought I had seen it out the doors (lacking a self-preservation instinct I was the one who kept leaning out of the alcove we were positioned in to look) but M went to the ladies’ room and said she could hear it hitting the roof. I could also see that the precipitation, whatever form it was in, was coming down hard at a 45 degree angle. This is when J, a practiced Midwesterner with enough tornado fear for both of us informed him I was making him nervous will all my looking. (This didn’t stop him from continuing to use me as look out mind you.)

 

At some point I looked down the hall and it seemed the ground and all the cars I could see were covered in a white film. Convinced I must be seeing things I walked down the hall for a better look. No, I was seeing correctly—there was at least half an inch of hail accumulation. I have never seen hail like that. It was simultaneously awesome and terrifying (as I considered buying two new windshields.)

 

Through all of this we kept looking at each other and looking at our watches asking, “So… we’re still going to get to see the movie, right?” and “If we don’t get our seats back I’m punching a tween!” Ten minutes after the movie was supposed to start word went around we could go back into the theater. A ten year old girl who had been dragged out in the middle of an earlier showing rushed back into her theater yelling, “I’m coming, Peeta!” Somehow it was adorable. We hurried back and got seats one row behind our previous position. Not bad enough to raise a stink over.

 

We’d gotten all settled when an attendant came in and informed us the watch was not lifted. He wasn’t going to make us move, but it was his job to inform us that we would be safer in the hall. I stayed put.

 

Finally, thirty minutes after show time they came in and announced they would be starting the movie shortly and they were going to skip the previews. The tweens applauded. The geeks lamented the loss of hope at seeing a Hobbit trailer. And then the movie started. And there was much rejoicing.

 

Afterwards we verified that our cars were undamaged (they were), we drank some delicious cocktails, and I was coerced into inviting people to my house to watch last night’s episode of Fringe (which it turns out was largely preempted due to the weather. Grr.) It was a long, exhausting evening. It was nothing like my movie premiere outings of old. And somehow? It was just as epic.

 

This Time Vampire Might Crash at any Moment

This post will be brief because I’m terrified that this week’s time vampire is going to interrupt it any second.

Monday I came home from work and went to turn on my laptop. It wouldn’t load. It just gave me some weird message about an image error. It had done something similar at Cammy’s after an update, but all I had to do was restart it and it worked like a charm. Not so much this time. I restarted and it went to the dreaded Blue Screen of Death. Another restart and I got it to load in Safe Mode. I had it restore to last known good configuration. That didn’t help either.

I finally figured out thanks to error messages and some google foo that the problem was my antivirus program. But, of course, it was malfunctioning in such a way that it wouldn’t uninstall either. So I had to manually uninstall. Ugh. Which took about an hour.

After that I had the computer up and running, but without an antivirus program. Swell. I figured out that there was a newer version of the same antivirus program available free from school. Hoping it would work better I downloaded and installed that.

And everything was fine until this morning. When it crashed again while I was out at my favorite tea shop after an unfun doctor’s appointment. This time I had even more struggles to get it to even load in safe mode. Had to run all sorts of diagnostics (all of which said there was nothing wrong—if there’s nothing wrong why won’t the DAMN THING WORK?) Fortunately after the diagnostics it did let me run the start up repair and loaded. But then I foolishly shut it down (my battery was dying and I had a splitting headache and wanted to go home.)

I got home and surprise, surprise, it wouldn’t load. At least this time I was able to load in safe mode without much hoopla and ran system restore. I got it working again. But for how long?

Clearly there’s something wrong with the whole thing, but I don’t know what and I can’t figure it out. It’s so freaking frustrating.

If there’s an upside to any of this it’s that I backed the whole computer up last week. So as frustrating as all of this has been, it hasn’t been nearly as devastating as it could have been.

Wash, Year One

One year ago today I drove to the PetSmart on the outskirts of town. I bought the cheapest cat carrier I could find, a large sized litterbox, litter scoop, food and water bowls, a bag of Science Diet, a bag of Greenies and a couple of cat toys. Later that afternoon I went to my friend L’s house and picked up an adorable orange ball of fluff. His temporary mommies were a little teary to see him go, but promised to visit. Then we drove around the block to my house.

Wash spent the first hour he was at my apartment searching for the escape hatch that was bound to take him back to L’s house. He didn’t find it. He eventually gave up and played with the toys I bought him, but truth be told he wanted nothing to do with me. Having spent enough time with cats I knew not to push it. I actually left for a little while to let him get acclimated. That night he tentatively climbed up on the bed with me after a while, only to be terrified by the sound of a passing train. He spent the rest of the night under the bed.

During those first couple days I tried desperately not to get attached. He had been living on the streets but didn’t have the behavior of a feral cat. The only clue at all was two other kittens of similar ages and descriptions found about the same time in the same apartment complex. My guess is someone dumped a litter. But at the time there was an add online looking for his owner and I was taking him to the vet to get checked for a microchip in three days. I told myself I’d be fine if an owner turned up. I was happy to have him, but it really wasn’t a convenient time for me to get a cat. And if he had a family that was missing him he obviously belonged with them. I really believed I was fine with the idea of giving him up until I was driving him to the vet that Monday. I looked over at him and he made one of his adorable little squeaks (he never has learned to meow properly and he has no clue how to hiss) and I thought, “what if I don’t get to bring you home with me today?” I nearly burst into tears.

Turns out I had no reason to worry. No microchip. He did think the microchip scanner seemed like an awesome toy, but no one would let him play with it. He was so excited when the vet offered him a little dish of canned food that he didn’t even notice when she gave him a shot as he ate it. When he stayed overnight a few weeks later for his little “procedure” he had charmed every tech in the place. Three women were crowded around him cooing at him as I took him home.

Yes, my baby’s a ladies’ man. He’s alternately a sweet little snuggle bunny and the jerk who punches me in the face when I don’t feed him often enough. But he also has magical anti-depressant powers and is largely the reason I have survived the last year. A few traces of his rough beginning remain: he will eat anything left unattended. And I mean anything. His favorites are peanut butter and anything made with chickpeas. Oh yes, he’s my cat. Sometimes he plays a little rougher than he means to—not his fault Mommy isn’t another feral cat. He loves to play with toys, plot the demise of the birds outside, and eat. And I like to think he likes his mommy pretty well, even though she doesn’t feed him enough and goes to work when she should be snuggling with him.

All told, he wasn’t the cat I was planning to get and it wasn’t the time I was planning to get a cat. But he was clearly the cat I was supposed to get.

Happy anniversary little Wash. Let’s hope we have many more to come.

I Look at You, And I Get Homesick

The above is one of my favorite quotes from Farscape. For the life of me, I don’t know why I like it so much. There’s nothing super memorable or moving about the scene. In it, Crichton tries to explain away his willingness to work with his mortal enemy based on the fact that his species looks fairly human. Therefore talking to Crais is the closest he’s going to get to “guy time” with another human male: “I look at you, and I get homesick.”

But I think it is an apt description of the way familiarity, no matter how vague, can evoke the feelings of home. I found this with one of my coworkers who we will call, for purposes of this blog, M. M is from South Georgia. She has a heavy southern drawl and tales about her father’s backyard wine making operation and her grandmother taking gin soaked raisins for her arthritis. I’m not from anywhere near South Georgia. I’m not even from the Deep South. But I was raised by a Texan and a woman from South Louisiana. My mother also recommends gin soaked raisins for arthritis—and she’s a nurse! From a family standpoint I tend to think I’m as Southern as they come. Not Tennessee Williams Southern and not Jeff Foxworthy Southern, but something else entirely that you don’t see on television. And sometimes, I talk to M, and I get homesick.

Because now I live in the Midwest. And there are wonderful things about the Midwest, but it’s different. Compared to what I’m used to people here seem standoffish. No one ever smiles if they pass you on the street. The food is bland (and racism is at a level I’ve never witnessed before, but that’s another matter). My program seems to be full of people from the Midwest and the Northern Midwest, which is another region entirely, but just as foreign. I love most of my colleagues, but sometimes I feel like we speak a different language. We also have very different experiences (except for my one friend from Detroit who is the only other person I’ve ever met who was taught to kick out a tail light in elementary school. That’s another story too.)

M and I started grad school at the same time, so our first year here we had a lot of classes together. And since we both took the bus to campus we tended to get to class early, and we had a lot of time to talk. Later we were assigned to teach the same class, wound up with overlapping office hours, and had a lot more time to talk. M is an amazing person to begin with and I like to think we’d have been friends without the shared experience of being southerners, but it’s certainly helped. It’s like when I lived in Peru—I speak Spanish just fine. I would and could go entire days without speaking a single word of English. But sometimes I would be sitting in a restaurant or an airplane and hear someone next to me speak English, and it was so nice to be able to speak English for just a few minutes. That’s how it is talking to someone “from home” when you’re in a foreign land. That’s why it’s always been so refreshing talking with M when one of us says something about our family and then adds, “Well you know…” Because I do know. It’s nice to know when M says, “Well you know what the expectations are, being a Southern daughter,” that I know and she knows and someone gets where I’m coming from. All the good and bad that goes along with it.

M has just received an amazing job opportunity. One that fits perfectly with her experience and expectations and will allow her to get paid while doing her dissertation research. Unfortunately this means she’s moving this Summer. I’m thrilled for her. And on some level I’m a little sad for me. As it so happens, a lot of my friends are moving this Summer and next year will be different for me in a lot of ways. But somehow that little self absorbed part of me is extra sad about M leaving, because from now on I know when I get homesick I’ll be homesick alone.