Wednesday, December 29, 2010

water and ice

Day Five of not needing to leave the house was yesterday; in a matter of moments, I have to start thinking about heading into town for choir practice. Sigh. Although I will have a lot of fun tonight, I’ve had so much fun way down at the taproot level that I’m loathe to go.

It was warmer today than it’s been lately, and I made several forays outdoors – taking the compost and trash out, and checking the mail. It was warm enough to take the camera. Without further ado:











Monday, December 27, 2010

sh*t my dad taught me

Three years ago today, my dad died of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

DMF football

Dad at age 18 or so, I believe.

Dad was a scholar and an athlete. After graduating from Princeton (Phi Beta Kappa), he attended Harvard Law School. Over the years – particularly after he retired to his home state of Vermont and ensconced himself in a big house – he amassed more books than anyone I’ve ever met. As far as the ALS goes, he first realized that he had a problem when – at the age of nearly 69 – he noticed he had trouble benching his customary 250 pounds. Six months later he was dead.

back of photo says feb 68 001

my big brother, dad, me, my big sister.

By the time I was five, Dad taught me…
1. how to carry scissors and knives: loosely, pointed down.
2. how to throw a punch: keep your thumb outside your clenched fist.
3. how to shake hands: firmly, and make eye contact.
4. how to sneeze: explosively. Let it out. Raise the roof.

In middle childhood, Dad showed us that…
5. you're never too old to laugh your ass off at Inspector Clouseau.
6. you can never have too many books.
7. there is no such thing as a too-large serving of ice cream.
8. exercise feels good.

november 1983 sarah

dad and me my sister in a rare moment of mirth.

Lessons of adulthood ranged from the mundane to the profound…
9. it's cool to paint rooms something other than white or off-white.
10. it's never too late to find love.
Dad and Peggy Get Married 013

me, dad, my sister, three months before he died, at his wedding to (literally) the girl next door.

11. it's cool to reconnect with old classmates.
This one came as a surprise to me, because my father suffered from the unfortunate combination of a natural reticence, and bouts of clinical depression, exacerbated by a spiritually annihilating job as a corporate attorney. When we were growing up, my mom (a natural-born leader and truly social being) “owned” the friendships. Dad was more of a loner. But after he retired, he methodically – pre-Internet – tracked down summer camp friends, elementary school classmates, and long lost family members. He attended every high school and college reunion possible. Dad was an only child, but he had a slew of first- and second- cousins whose company – indeed, whose very existence (for reasons we’ll never understand) – was denied to him. Those messes didn’t get cleaned up until after he retired, but once they did, he visited with everyone he could get his hands on.  He would have loved Facebook.

12. the main point is to enjoy life – not to please other people.
Ahhhh, the biggie. It’s possible Dad may not have explicitly intended to teach us this lesson, but he sure did. I see it in how my siblings and I have each taken – more than once, apiece – these massive leaps of faith in the directions of our dreams. I don’t think my dad felt, as the sole bread winner for a family of five – that he had that luxury.

thanksgiving 1983 001

the bread winner, thanksgiving, 1983


Rest in peace, Dads.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

happy boxing day

Today I shall showcase some of Santa’s gifts. First up: the LED headlamp.


Kevin’s modeling it as he replaces the dimmer switch in the bathroom with a regular switch. Please admire the purple walls while you’re here. I resent the “energizer” logo on this thing, as back in the day when I did corporate environmental management consulting, Duracell was a treasured client. Boo hiss, Energizer! Yay, Duracell!


The manly toolbox.


Kevin put the new lighting fixture up in the bathroom today, and glued the granite backsplash to walls (hence the random assortment of heavy objects, holding the backsplace in place). Can you see the icky brown burn-type marks on the ceiling from the heat off the old incandescent fixture? Whoever invented popcorn finish should be taken out back and shot. Oh, this is the originally-purchased fixture, by the way. Kevin solved the problem of how to mount it when the studs were not conveniently located, by putting up a spare piece of baseboard up first. Works for me!

My plan to Not Leave the House continues to be implemented without a hitch. Running, incidentally, does not count as “leaving the house”. Leaving the House is defined as, getting in a vehicle. That said, I wound up doing today’s run on the treadmill. I’m just Not Into Cold Weather these days. Wuss.

I might enjoy it more if there were a ton of snow and I could go out snowshoeing, and I’ll have a chance to figure that out…tomorrow! Cause we’re about to get a boatload of snow dumped on us. We moved all the vehicles around, got the windshield wipers flipped up off the windshields, loaded up the wood box with firewood, and brought my extensive rock collection off the front porch (so that I wouldn’t end up accidentally shoveling them off into purgatory). Kevin made the requisite milk run. We’re good!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

half an apple pie down the hatch, and it’s not even bedtime

Merry Christmas, everyone! Or, as a college acquaintance of mine puts it, Merry “"Dominant Culture's Gift of a Day Off to Non-Christians"! My epic project to re-ground myself by Not Leaving the House is going well. Ahh, home sweet home. OK, we did go for a tiny little walk, but nothing big.


One of the highlights of the day was skyping with our brother/in-law and niece, who showed us many of her Christmas presents. I thought it was so much fun I whipped out the camera to show you. (You can just make out Kevin’s head at the very bottom, from my laptop’s webcam.) Lizzie’s eight.

Hey, Lizzie, wanna see what I looked like when I was your age?

1975 xmas - DHF & SMF

Nice pants, right? Be glad you missed the seventies, kid. You would not BELIEVE the clothes we wore then. Those pants are nothing compared to the psychedelic pairs.

After my Dad died, nearly three years ago to the day, I wound up with custody of all my grandparents’ photos of us when we were kids. I spent a while yesterday going through one of the albums, marveling at how little and sweet we all looked. Even my parents – they’re so YOUNG! It’s trippy, being older now than they were in all those pictures.

Some of the highlights of the gift-giving season today:

  • a six-gallon shop vac. SO ROMANTIC! This will make the next time the basement floods go a lot more smoothly.
  • an enormous toolbox – which only looks like a present to Kevin. It’s really a present to me, because it empties out the junk drawer in the kitchen, giving me more room for…
  • cooking implements! I remember in college my friend Tom telling me about how his grandparents had arrived at that level of comfort with life and with each other that all his grandmother wanted for Christmas one year was a rubber spatula. I got me one of those, ayep!
  • a cast-iron skillet and griddle – which we immediately put to use making breakfast.
  • chocolate in a variety of forms; can’t go wrong there…
  • fancy gel pens -  “ideal for lefties!” (because of the quick-drying ink) - so that Kevin can continue to liberate his inner left-handed self.
  • and…drum roll please…
  • a coupon for “half of a bitchin’ massage table”.

I believe it’s time for the second half of the pie. Good night! Sweet dreams!

Friday, December 24, 2010

christmas eve



We slept in til 10 this morning. It was heaven! I left the house only to take out the compost, pick up the mail, and bring more firewood in. Kevin got inspired and started in on the downstairs bathroom renovation project. Remember that? He’s been working on the baseboards lately:


He continued that today, and he also started to replace the lighting fixture:


First up – removing the old one. We quickly realized that the fixture we’ve bought to replace it is to be anchored to the wall in two spots only a few inches apart – unlike the one hanging by a thread, above, which was mounted to studs. Hmmm…do we take apart the wall and reinforce it with a two by four? Do we go shopping for a different fixture? For now, the old one’s gone, and the new one’s back in its box, in purgatory.


Christmas music makes Maggie even sleepier than usual.

Kevin also put the toekick and handles on the vanity drawers and door:


…and installed the shelving in the little alcove next to the shower. For now, the shelves are made of plywood scraps leftover from the garden shed re-roofing project.


My contribution to the day: I attempted to decorate the cat.


She would have none of it.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

hum dilly lah…


That’s what I hum to myself, when I hum. (In lieu of a useful post title, in other words.)  This is the “before” shot of my attempt at making a wreath. Not gonna do that again.


I lack the patience, coordination, or something. Blegh. Anyone want a wreath wire thingy? You can’t have the pruners. I need those.


I’m kinda bored with the photography possibilities these days. It’s just kitty porn. That’s Charlie, expressing his gratitude for the woodstove.


It’s snowing.

Off to sing.

Monday, December 20, 2010

coming into focus

P1030783 croppedP1030789 cropped
Part I: The new glasses came in! Thank god. The old ones are at left – new ones at right. You can hardly even tell they’re purple. Hey! That’s just like me! I fool you with ordinariness ‘til you get up close, and realize – too late! bwa hah hah! – that I’m all … well, the type of person who wears purple glasses. The old pair, incidentally, are a dark pink, which you can’t really see til you get up close, either. Damn, I’m subtle. I’ll probably use the new ones as the backup pair, and have the new prescription lenses made up for the original pair, which I kind of prefer, since they’re practically invisible. I know, if I were cool, I’d have hipster cat-eye frames, but let’s review: I’m not cool. Neither is my optometrist, because they didn’t have any cool hipster frames.
Part II: 2011 Resolutions are firming up.
Running: I’m aiming for three half-marathons over the course of the year, to start as early as possible, meaning, I’ll have to find one that’s semi-local, and not so popular that I can’t sign up late. See, a late April/early May half marathon training plan has me doing the longer runs in potentially icky situations. It’s not so much the snow and ice on the roads that’s the issue. The problem is that the roads around here are narrow and windy, with no shoulder, and there’s the potential for snowbanks on the sides, combined with curving roads with short sightlines…it’s the cars, in other words. It’s just a few long runs I’m concerned with, as I can tolerate up to five or so miles on the treadmill OK…let’s count our blessings: we HAVE a treadmill. Yay!
I am not aiming for a full marathon this year. Instead, I want to hit a half-marathon capacity as soon as possible, and then ride it for as long as possible.
Other fitness goals: I reallllly should be lifting weights. Blegh. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Gyms are evil, too. But there’s no reason not to work out with the limited number of free weights we have lying around the house. Grrrrr, blegh, etc. (It’s important to start off with a good attitude, don’t you think?)
Reiki: just do a bunch of it. Forcing a shape onto this – like “I will teach X number of people Level 1 Reiki by such-and-such a date” runs counter to my instincts.
Random: I’m seriously contemplating volunteering with the ‘girls on the run’ program this year. This is a program wherein you indoctrinate share the fun of running with – grade-school aged girls. Empowerment, confidence, all that good stuff.
There’s more bubbling under the surface, but it’s time to inhale some calories before heading off to choir sectionals.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

setting the christmas tree on fire

What Christmas preparations are complete without fiddling around with defective Christmas lights? When I was growing up, we never had lights on our tree. I don’t know why – I guess we all collectively didn’t like ‘em or something. Or perhaps my parents were afraid they’d set the house on fire. That never happened, but one year my first grade teacher set the classroom tree on fire. That might be because it had actual candles in it, this being in Switzerland and all, where apparently electric lights are for wusses.

Where was I?

The Christmas lights. Oh, well first I ran five miles on the treadmill (I just didn’t have the heart to deal with 20° weather). And then I went and got a tree stand that would actually fit this baby. Sadly, filling buckets with rocks…tends to split the bottoms of the buckets. Dear Santa: we’d like two buckets, please… Oh yeah, the LIGHTS. Get to the point. We gave up on repairing one strand after removing and replacing two broken bulbs, and fiddling with all the ones that wouldn’t light up. Nothing really made much of a difference, and we just went with the two other strands we have that do work…


This next one’s blurry, but I really like anyway, so here it is…by the way, I just lured you in here with the post title; there will be no blazing trees here, pyromaniancs…


The final result:


Aaaah, much better. The cats haven’t bothered much with it. Yet.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

welcome, sweet balsam


This splendid beauty is currently standing in a bucket of water weighted with as many rocks as possible. It’s too large for our Christmas tree stand! And that’s why it’s not decorated yet, as shifting it into a new stand is easier done when it’s unadorned…that’s tomorrow’s project.

As is the five mile run.

And doing homework for choir.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

in and out of focus

I’ve had a truly interesting week, but it hasn’t been a photogenic one, and it’s not really amenable even to description. I’m still in the mulling it over phase. But, knowing that my devoted fan base will lose heart without a regular update, I’ll muddle through.

Over the weekend, when we were in New Jersey, I noticed that I kept removing my glasses, and then putting them back on, unable to get comfortable. At one point – this was at night, riding shotgun in the car – I removed my glasses and covered my left eye. And I was astounded at how blurry the road signs were. See, my right eye is far-sighted, and my left eye is near-sighted. As a kid and even all the way through my twenties, I could easily completely tune out either eye with my brain, and just focus the eye that made sense given the situation. The chalkboard at the front of the classroom: left eye. The road sign a few hundred yards away: right eye.

I’ve also got astigmatism. That’s when – due to an irregularity in the curvature of my lenses – I apparently have trouble focusing on fine details. Oh, and straight lines, like the top edge of a wall as it hits the ceiling, can seem a bit curvy to me.

So I’ve known all this. I figured, I’m getting to that age where I hold books a bit farther away than I used to – my brother-in-law just got progressives – maybe it’s just time for new glasses, maybe I need progressives, who knows. So once we got home, on Monday, I called my eye guy and on Tuesday morning (yay, power of positive intent!) they fit me in.

Oooooh, turns out I have an even COOLER problem! My eyes have a tendency to diverge – when at rest – from one another. In order to keep them focused on the same thing, I have to bring them together. Actually, this is normal, we all do it – just imagine bringing your hands right in front of your face: you will have to cross your eyes a bit. In my case, though, my eyes have to move not only horizontally in towards each other a bit more than “normal”, they also have to move in the vertical plane. Trippy! So yeah, I definitely need a new prescription, that uses the magic of prisms to move the image a bit over-and-down (or maybe it’s over-and-up; I’m not sure) so that rather than me using my brain and eye muscles quite so much, the glasses will do the work.

(Incidentally, I like this optometrist and his staff so much that that basically, I just told the glasses lady, “pick out some frames for me” and, as usual, she completely nailed it. I’ll be sure to post pictures of the new pair when it comes in. They’re PURPLE.)

(But I digress.)

After seeing my eye guy, I ran errands and such. And as soon as I got to the Safety and Sanctuary of Home, I kinda collapsed. It was like I finally got that this has not been my imagination: my eyelid’s been twitching for a few weeks now, and my whole face has been hurting, and I’d just kinda ignored it until – OK, picture me getting all melodramatic – I Could Take It No More. Fetchez le ibuprofen!

On Tuesday, I almost-completely-finished painting the bathroom and did other virtuous home-based things, all while listening to podcasts from “Speaking of Faith” and some Reiki people out of Australia. That night, we had dinner with friends. A lovely time. They asked me all about this sabbatical thingy I’m doing, and I tried to explain it, and one of them summed it up for me beautifully. He said it sounds like I’m a frequency-holder for the Aquarian age. Whooooooaaaahhhhh. That sounded Exactly Right, even though I’d be hard pressed to explain to you what it actually means. And then later, he sent me an excerpt from Eckhart Tolle’s “New Earth” – a book I actually have and have partially read – that explains the whole frequency-holder thing.

Ooooohhhh….that’s like immersing my soul in a hot tub. Yes, please!

See, if I were a good blogger, I’d now explain what a frequency-holder is. I’m a gonna make you google it, instead. What I was saying that prompted Gurudharm (our friend; he’s Sikh) to make that comment was something along these lines:

What seems to make sense for me right now as a General Life Strategy, is to not worry so much about changing the planet, one Fortune 500 company at a time (my 20’s and early 30’s), or community-development /civic engagement involvement stuff (my most recent paid employment). What makes sense these days to me is, being sane, reverent, paying attention, and not worrying so much about the Trying, the Accomplishment, the Resumé Food stuff. What matters to me these days is the quality of my vibe. I know that sounds all woo woo – bring on the flowing purple caftans – but honestly? That’s what I’ve got going on now. I think I can do more good in the world living from this place, than I can with all the effort-ing I used to engage in.

(The downside of this General Life Strategy is the occasional fear that I have Dumpster diving in my future. But let’s not go there.)

On Wednesday, I was pretty sure there was some kind of metaphysical link between my cool and freaky eyes, and this whole sabbatical, but I couldn’t bring it into focus, pun either fully or not-at-all intended. What did I do Wednesday? Who knows. That was ages ago. Oh, I had chorus at night and THAT was a blast.

And that brings us to today: my first official day volunteering as a Reiki practitioner at the hospital. That was way cool. Imagine! I get to put my hands on people and Just Be! 

And then I did some Santa related errands, which I can’t tell you about.


OK, that’s all for now. Here’s some kitty porn.


They’re each at 12 pounds. That means that collectively, they’ve lost more than either of them now weighs.

Monday, December 13, 2010

life without a landline

A few days ago, our internet connection eloped with our phone service. No invitation, no warning, they were just gone, baby gone. (We use Vonage, which piggybacks on the internet connection.) We lose our internet connection every once in a while, but it usually fixes itself within minutes. But after several modem reboots, and no sign of improvement, I finally whipped out the trusty cell phone to see if I could get a connection. I could! Hooray! But only when standing out on the deck, in 12° weather. Brrrrr. Eventually I got through Comcast’s automated crap, in which they try to sell you on additional services before finally allowing you into the inner sanctum of Live Human Beings (LHB’s). Do I look like the kind of person who wants the special NFL package? Me? The one who has twice scored a touchdown for the wrong team? Grrrrr. Anyway, I finally got the LHB, and she waved her magic wand, and diagnosed the problem as the modem. As in, no internet and no phone until this was fixed.

Since we were about to take off for a visit with Kevin’s family over the weekend, we figured we could survive the two days it was going to take to get a technician out. He showed up this morning. Turns out we had problems on all levels, ranging from the modem itself, to the connection on the roof where the cable comes in off the pole, to the pole itself. He dealt with the first two. He swapped out the modem, and then got up on the edge of the roof to position something properly that had been held together with…I kid you not…a bungee cord.


WTF?! I’m not sure which of the various contractors and technicians we’ve had out to the house over the last year fixed something with a bungee cord. And how did neither of us notice? This is in full sight of several windows.

Anyway, we’re back in business.  And – special bonus! – the technician reminded me to do something I hadn’t bothered to do with this TV, which we’ve had for just over a year now – let it scan through the system and look for all the channels it can get. Because guess what: our cable provider doesn’t bother to encrypt its signals for the three networks and a bunch of others. Not the digital, and not even the high definition digital. So all of the sudden, we get excellent service! Which we don’t pay for! (We canceled our TV service because we worship the holy trinity of Netflix, Hulu, and Just Read a Book.)

So THAT was cool.

Meanwhile, the weekend. The great thing about family is, the opportunities for warm, personal connections with the folks who’ve known you the longest.


Yep. Here’s Kevin and his brother Tom, bonding by ignoring one another. That’s just like me and my sibs! Hooray! The following night, we practiced doing skype video chats while sitting within sight of one another. Geeks! Geeks!



I showed my nephew how to do self-portraits. We had a great time!

Oh, and I used the Garmin Forerunner 205 for the first time. Thanks, Cousin Emily, for telling me about how it was on sale for 167% off at amazon!


I had mixed success with it. My goal was to program it to beep after seven minutes, wait a minute, beep again, and lather rinse repeat that for the amount of time it would take me to run five miles. (You know, cause I take those walking breaks.) So, wading through the teensy menu screens, my first thought was that would count as “an alert”. Ah, silly me! I dutifully programmed it to beep after what I thought would be seven minutes. There was something in there about 1 minute, too, so I figured I had it all figured out.

Off I go. Pant, pant, pant. I glance down at the thing as minute seven approaches…approaches…and goes right on by without beeping. Shit. I start punching buttons. Grrrr. Then all of the sudden, beep beep beep beep beep beep. It’s not stopping. beep beep beep beep SHUT UP! SHUT UP! I HATE YOU! Grrrr. I turned that puppy off, all the way off, and back on. And it still remembered exactly where I was on this run – it hadn’t reset the distance, the time, or anything. But at least it was quiet.

I rummaged around in the menu system some more. And that’s when I realized that what I probably wanted was under “Training” – “Intervals”. AHA! So I set it all up. But I must have messed it up – because nothing happened. By now I was kinda pissed off, but I really didn’t want this to ruin my run, let alone my day. I resolved that I am a college graduate, and I can read, and I will figure this out, and in the meantime, I’m gonna RUN, so that’s what I did. I didn’t figure out how I’d messed it up until my cool down walk. (You have to click on the little “Done?” thingy.) On the plus side, I know exactly how far I went, and learned how when I’m running along a busy street with no sidewalk and no shoulder, I pick up my pace quite a bit. Who knew?


This baby has more features than I will EVER use, but it’s a step up from my previous interval assistant.

AND, it’s just in time for treadmill season!






In other news, we actually set foot on the Island of Manhattan on our way home, to visit with more of Kev’s cousins and what not, at Macy’s, where one branch of Kevin’s family is in its third generation of employment. The last time I ventured forth to The Big City was 2004. I’m a hick, what can I say. Here’s proof of my bravery:



That’s Macy’s. P1030759

I got a kick out of this parking lot – it’s a lot like the drydock facilities at Newport Beach in California, where my brother keeps a Zodiac.

OK, this country girl is going to go watch her some “House” on free high definition TV, thank you very much.