Wednesday, July 30, 2008

hm, what? oh, right... hello there.

Ah. Nice to be back.

I have been totally immersed in Facebook. I'd had an account there a while ago, but suspended it due to lack of interest. Since then, it seems, almost everyone I know has gotten on board, so I recently reactivated my account... and have been unable to do anything else online for nearly two weeks. Fun though! I've reconnected with people I haven't been in touch with in 20 years.

As with all these kinds of things, I spend a lot of time on it at first and then taper off. I think my initial burst of activity there is subsiding and I can get back to bloggity-blogging. I'm dumping Twitter, though. Facebook status fills that niche for me.

Some observations, in the meantime:

I hate the name "cuil." Pronounced "cool"? "coo-will"? Whatever. I hate it.

Who the fuck cares what Jon Voight thinks? This is the best the Washington Times can recruit? Pffft. Also, I thought these were the same folks who routinely complain about "Hollywood elites" (whatever that means) spouting off political opinions. Go figure.

Sen. Ted Stevens, proponent of Alaska's famously expensive Bridge To Nowhere, has been indicted. Among other things, it appears that an oil contractor paid to remodel his house in exchange for some legislative influence. (Nice! We had to finish our own basement.) But the best thing about Stevens is still that he called the internet "a series of tubes." I love that. Love. That.

Monday, July 14, 2008

You grow it, I'll mow it.

Ah, mowing the lawn... or is it "cutting the grass"? Of course it is cutting the grass no matter which way you say it, but some people -- must be a regional thing -- don't say "mowing the lawn."

Well, I do. And, Saturday morning, I did.

Probably almost an acre of our lot requires mowing. When we moved here, it was mostly bare patches of packed dust and rocks, some nice moss, lots of fast-growing weeds, and a few sad scraggly patches of grass. Mowing that mess was a miserable job, but it had to be done in order to look slightly less awful. It wasn't one of those lovely maintenance-free Cape Cod moss and pine needle yards that need no upkeep because they are just as they ought to be. Ours had experienced at least a decade of benign neglect, except without the benign part. The previous owner didn't care much. Curb appeal was not a concern under Cape real estate market conditions in 2000, when sellers couldn't lose. Now, of course, you can't even think of putting a house on the market without considerable upgrading, outside and in. We thought about it a few years ago, when it seemed we might move to the west coast. A realtor all but laughed out loud at our perfectly functional but 1980s-pink bathrooms, which we have higher priorities than to redo for ourselves, but which wouldn't fly in today's buyers' market.

I digress.

Over the years, we (by which I mean Mr. S., but "we" by extension, because he would never have gotten to do all this stuff had I not been handling the gestation and subsequent general maintenance of our lovely offspring) have dug up, amended, filled, graded, turned, seeded, watered, seeded, watered, seeded, top dressed, seeded, and watered increasing areas of the yard. We worked from the house outward, so for a while it looked like there was just a bit right outside the door that was cared for -- a bit that grew annually, as if to give neighbors and passers-by some hope that someday it might all be presentable.

In our early discussions of where to plant grass vs. ground cover vs. shrubbery (if I owned a nursery, I would call it Roger The Shrubber. Tag line: "nothing too expensive!"), it became clear that we'd probably end up with a lot of grass, and that it would need cutting. S'fine, I said to my husband. You grow it, I'll mow it.

Well. That man can seed. So now we have nice grass (though not the bizarre emerald green kind that screams I CAN'T STOP! I'VE BEEN FERTILIZED AGAIN!), and I try to hold up my end of the deal.

Mowing appeals to me. Back and forth, back and forth, then when you're done things look great. I like yard work that turns off the brain. Mowing and raking are right up my alley. But sometimes Mr. S. wants the clippings bagged (what?). And sometimes our hand-me-down mower won't start. And sometimes, when it's very hot and humid, I mow for a while and then get to feeling dizzy and as if I might throw up. What a wuss! But it's true. I wilt and feel sick.

Then there are the mystery injuries. Last Saturday I did the whole front yard, no problem. Did most of the back, then had to restart the mower and it wouldn't. Somehow, in my increasing, um, vigor with the pull string, I really injured my hand. I didn't notice until later that my whole right index finger was purple. Later still, it swelled up impressively and I couldn't bend it. The swelling's mostly down as I type now, but it still hurts to touch it, and I can't use it for much. Braiding little girls' hair, for example, is out of the question, and using a pen or pencil is tricky.

We are investigating new mowers. I don't want a rider mower -- I think they call them "lawn tractors" now -- although it'd be fun to plow the driveway with it in wintertime. But we have a lot of trees to go around, and eh, even if we had space to store the thing, it just seems like too much. Walking back and forth isn't the hard part of the job, and now that it's grass instead of dust and rocks underfoot, it isn't even unpleasant. So, a regular mower it is. "So do we really need a 'self propelled' one?" says Mr. S. "Um, YEAH," I say. (Hello?!) "Why would we not want that?" The Sears catalog says the standard push mower is good for 1/4 acre or less. Even allowing for my being a bit stronger and/or less easily duped than the average Sears catalog reader, it seems crazy not to get a mower that helps more with the pushing part. Less time spent mowing means less gas burned, more time for other things. To me, it's a no-brainer. He shrugs, and comes up with his reason: "Exercise?"

I have no answer for this except, oh please. Ten years from now -- because let's face it, 1) nobody's getting younger, and 2) if the 275,000+ miles on our last car is any indication, we will not be buying another new lawn mower until the one we're about to buy absolutely craps out -- how angry am I going to be that for the sake of a hundred bucks or so, he was willing to turn a not-unpleasant chore into an ordeal, under the guise of "exercise?" The mere suggestion is maddening. I hope my silence conveys this.

Needless to say I will have to keep a close eye on the lawn mower purchase.

In the meantime, I think we've got the yard shaped up quite well, actually. We kept a lot of the moss, which I quite like. Grass, ground covers, shrubs and flowers have all been established in appropriate places. Mr. S. has worked really, really hard, and it shows. Most of the season, something is blooming. One of my favorites is a beautiful hydrangea that was barely a foot tall when we bought the place, and which took off like crazy as soon as we gave it some real soil to grow in. It has deep purple blooms: Most hydrangeas around here are light blue, pink if you lime the soil. Every year, I forget that this one is purple, and when it blooms I say "wow, the hydrangea is really purple!" much to Mr. S's amusement. I think he looks forward to my expressing surprise about it. I must seem like the proverbial sheep that's surprised by the sunrise every day. Ah well, at least I entertain him.

Come to think of it, that's also the color my finger got, after the pull string debacle.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

boost 'em

Starting today, in Massachusetts, children under 8 years old or shorter than 4'9" are required to be in a child safety or booster seat when riding in a vehicle.

The requirement used to be for kids up to 5 years old or 40 lb. Because of how the seatbelt lies across or potentially digs into one's body, it makes more sense to go with height (I hope they make nice booster seats for diminutive adults).

It floors me how many kids I see riding around completely unrestrained, never mind with the right kind of seat for their dimensions. I really thought we'd gotten smarter than that.

(Aside to those who can't understand all this safety "hysteria" because they never even wore a seat belt as a kid and nothing happened to them? Congratulations! Unfortunately, the plural of "anecdote" is not "data." If, say, emergency room nurses and doctors ever come out against a bill like this, I'll certainly give that my full attention.)

Friday, July 04, 2008

T - 53 days and counting: Happy Independence Day!

And wave them we did.

Our little town has a cute parade of floats made by different groups, [hopefully just some of] the town fire and rescue vehicles, boy scout troops, etc., etc. Kids can decorate their bikes or scooters and ride in the parade, so we got the Bean's and Peanut's rigs all decked out in red white and blue, and hit the road. There were streamers, bows, sparkly stars, tiaras, flags, you name it. I was very, very glad we had cloudy skies and temps in the low 70s. Doing this same parade in searing heat and sunshine feels more "forced march" than "happy stroll." But today's parade was delightful, and we barely broke a sweat. It felt a little odd when someone thrust bottles of Poland Spring in our hands, saying "ICE COLD WATER!" as if we were in the middle of some great athletic feat, in danger of collapsing from the strain at any moment. They must've had it leftover from the road race held earlier in the day, from which I'd naturally kept a very safe distance.

It also felt a little odd that I know by name so many of the people we passed. I was fairly anonymous here until my Bean hit the school system and I joined the local "Moms' club," and now it seems everyone I see is familiar to me from one activity or another. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, so many familiar faces around town means a lot of people to chat with, and I truly enjoy that. Friendly acquaintances are important to me. However it also means that I really, really have to keep my snark under control, which, let's face it, isn't always easy. Not that I habitually badmouth or berate people by any means -- I don't. But for instance: my insurance agent was being kind of ditsy about arranging the new car's coverage... not returning my calls when she said she would, asking the same questions over and over again, and generally bringing out my impatient, "how hard can it BE, lady?" side. My expectation of that kind of interaction is that I will say things once, and the professional on the other end of the line will use a pencil and paper or whatever technology suits them, and, you know, record the appropriate details. Or better yet, that because I am a long time customer, there might be an actual folder in their office with my name on it, to which they could refer for needed information. You think? Or am I setting the bar too high?

But I digress. Point is, this person I was admittedly getting kind of terse with on the telephone and went to meet in person turns out to be involved with one of the schools in town, and of course we know some of the same people, and of course these aren't people I necessarily want thinking that I am some sort of frayed and raving bitch. They're good people. I'm a good person too, impatience notwithstanding. So while this small town familiarity is warm and happy, it can also be dangerous for someone like me, who has yet to fully master the urge to spit barbed wire and nails when provoked. I don't expect this conflict to go away any time soon. If I were going to outgrow the nail spitting, I would have already. Sadly, hope for greater maturity in that regard dims with each passing year.

In any case, after the parade, ice cream and field games: sack races, egg toss, all that. The Bean wanted to do the egg toss with me until she figured out it meant throwing a real egg, at which point she wanted no part of it. Mr. Sandyshoes tossed an egg with a friend, and they did pretty well, but not well enough. At some point, you have to switch from underhand to overhand throws to make the distance, and then it's much harder to control. There was some real competition from kids in baseball uniforms. Next year though, look out.

Then, after a brief tour of the portable toilets from which the Bean recoiled in horror rather than make use of, it was time to head home. I was looking forward to some quiet anyhow, after all the shouting and sirens and egg toss bullhorn. On to a lovely, uneventful rest-of-the-day, and the popping sound of distant fireworks all through the evening.

Hoping your 4th was good fun as well!

Oh yeah, and hands up all who'll miss Jesse Helms. Anyone? Anyone?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

today's tune

Playing in my head this morning, before my eyes were open, and with no reason at all I can figure:

As songs go, this is not a terribly painful one to have on endless loop. I actually like the studio version a lot better (this sounds like a record playing too slowly), but that video has embedding disabled. Feh.