Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I just got an email from Barnes & Noble suggesting that I get a jump on my holiday shopping, and oh by the way someone in my life might enjoy reading this:

I can kind of understand their recommendation, because I am a fan of horror fiction, and this cover made me jump.  "Spoken from the heart"?  The photo shows a creature who might like to remove my beating heart from my chest with her fingernails. 

Seriously, does poor Mrs. Bush not look like she vants to suck your blood, here?  Who on God's green Earth was her stylist, and does this stylist live above ground?  Why didn't anyone SAY something - or was this the best of the options? Good grief, with friends like that, she doesn't need enemies.

But if she has any enemies, they are likely to start wearing garlic.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

in which I revisit my brief academic career

Mr. Sandyshoes, in temporary residence at the excellent Oceanography department here at MWCU, gets seminar announcements from the Geology Department as well. He forwarded one to me today. The advertised lecture was about marine sedimentation, and I thought, what the hell. That's a language I used to speak. I should go.

However, I felt as though I had a neon "IMPOSTER" sign on my forehead. It has been almost twenty years since I was in grad school for geology. From time to time I take out my degree just to remind myself, yep, it happened, and this is a real and true thing that came out of it. Then I shake my head in bafflement, put the official paper back in its official file, and get on with the laundry.

Today, though, I dashed off a flip facebook status about planning to sit in the back row with a pillowcase over my head, checked the online campus map, put on my shades, and headed out.

It's nice to live such a short walk from the university. Sure I was lost within ten minutes, but I was lost inside the right building. I walked the hallways a bit, unconcerned about being a couple minutes late, as arriving after the lights went down would lessen the likelihood of anyone jumping up to point at me and shout "HEY! You don't belong here! You should be at the grocery store!"

I passed classrooms and labs, displays and bulletin boards -- the usual Science Building stuff. One small office I walked by was shared by six grad students, each bent over their desks. The stress was palpable even from the hallway. In that brief moment, I had two strong and conflicting impulses: to shudder -- God, I remember how much that sucks -- and to do this. I'm not proud of that one, but there you go. Schadenfreude. It can be funny. At least I'm pretty sure that twenty years ago, my stressed-out officemates and I would've thought it was funny.

Thus cheered, I entered the seminar room, sidled over to an out-of-the-way seat, and settled in to see if any of it would make sense.  Happily, much of it did.

One of the things I've always loved about geology is the vocabulary.  So many delicious words!  Bioturbation, box cores, piston cores, isotopic dating, concretions.  Turbidite.  Paleointensity.  Worm tube.  (Heh heh.  I said "worm tube.")

Audience manners, I noted, have not improved over the years. You're going to tuck into a big crunchy apple during a professor's presentation? Seriously? Unless it's a "brown bag" seminar (implying bring your lunch), that seems kind of rude, no?

Something else that hasn't changed:  the mid-talk sleepiness.  I have never fought so hard to stay awake as during department seminars in grad school.  You try everything.  Coffee, of course.  Also rapid breathing, rapid note taking, blinking, not blinking, pinching yourself.  I used to fantasize that if I were made of money, I'd donate a lecture hall to a science department, and include a private room for myself behind it, where I'd put a really comfortable recliner from which I'd watch and listen to talks with complete freedom to close my heavy eyelids any time.  The talk could be fascinating, but the dark room, the white noise from the slide projector fan... what?  It was the 1990s.  They used slide projectors then.

Quit looking at me like that.  You have your fantasies, I'll have mine. 

Anyway.  I understood enough of the talk to be emboldened to attend another one.  Maybe I won't even be stealthy about it.  But I promise not to bring an apple.

two in a row

Monday, October 18, 2010

today's earworm

When I worked as an environmental consultant in Brattleboro, Vermont, there was a young woman in the same office who was having boyfriend trouble. I can't remember the details -- it seemed like there was no kind of trouble I wasn't having myself, in those unhappy days -- but he didn't treat her as well as he ought, and she left him, though it broke her heart to do it.

He made things right, they reunited and eventually married. This was the song they first danced to at their wedding. I'm surprised I remember it actually, as I had a few week-old Bean with me at the wedding who spit up repeatedly, requiring many exits from the reception and three complete changes of clothes, and I could probably have used a change myself by the time the night was through. Those early weeks of nursing are not for the faint of heart.

Anyway, it was a lovely song then, and it's lovely now.

My friend and her husband live in the White Mountains now, own a building company, and have three boys. The youngest are twins. I expect that's not for the faint of heart either.

We're not in close touch any more, but I hope all her days are best days, still.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

3rd grade homework

One of the Bean's current assignments is to "begin saving some interesting items from your recycling box!"  Evidently next week they will "create something" from these "interesting items."

I hope and trust that further guidance will follow, or I will be forced to conclude that third grade teachers just like fucking with parents from time to time. Not that I could blame them.

Mr. Sandyshoes is the one with the family full of artists; this is totally his jurisdiction.  Naturally, he is away this week. 

Ugh.  I always hated doing shit like this in school. Styrofoam ball solar systems, shoe box dioramas of life in a covered wagon, ugh, ugh, UGH.  Whenever possible, I chose the essay option.  I would rather have written a 30 page report on the history of the space program than create a single aluminum foil spaceship.

Also, what "interesting" is there in the recycling bins?  It looks to me like she's going to have to make something largely out of wine bottles.  I'll do my part by making sure she has enough of them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

house and home

We are renting a three-story Tudor which sits prettily on a small corner lot with a neat front yard and the back garden made private by dense vegetation between neighbors and a fence on the street side. Thick, tall rhododendrons block the front and side windows. There is an enormous white pine, an herb and flower garden, and a hot tub in the back. The driveway is very narrow. Since the dense hedge of sharp-leaved holly alongside it scratched my arms to ribbons on Day 1, I have decided street parking is the way to go.

It's a very different setting than at home, where we have a neighbor on one side, nothing but woods on the other side and behind, and a treed island in the circle between us and the neighbor across. Here, houses surround houses on streets laid out in a tight grid. Some blocks are charming, some shabby. Everywhere has sidewalks and bike lanes, low speed limits and lots of stop signs. (After a couple of weeks here the Bean asked me, "Mommy, are there really stop signs every 15 feet in this town?" I guess I had been grumbling about it.) The density is nice in some ways -- it certainly feels less wasteful than the acre+ subdivision zoning we're used to, and the neighborhoods have histories which if I lived here, I'd want to get to know -- but not so nice, in others. It's noisier, obviously. I really, really like quiet. I savor it, at home, and when I am home again I am going to savor it all the more.

It is strange, living in someone else's house, with all their stuff. We have settled in, but everything still feels not-quite-right, and we won't be here long enough to make it so.

The girls have been given the third floor as their play space; it's cool to play at the tippy top of the house, and by happy coincidence, that room has the fewest antiques. For a bedroom, they are sharing the one opposite ours on the second floor. They're doubled up in a queen bed. I wasn't sure about that at first, because they have very different getting-to-sleep and waking-up styles. At night, the Bean needs quiet, and the Peanut is almost incapable of quiet; you can guess who's the early bird and who's hard to roust. But they felt strongly about having each other close in this unfamiliar place, and with the other bedrooms on different floors from the master, this seemed the best option. It hasn't been entirely trouble-free, but working things out is good for them, and I think they'll treasure the memory of When We Shared A Room Even Though You Sometimes Drove Me Nuts.

We spend a lot of time in the back of the house, an addition to the original structure, which has a sunroom with the TV/DVD player, and a cozy library where we've set up our desks. Well, Mr. Sandyshoes has the proper desk. I am perching at a corner table. I tried out the desks in the other two studies (yes), but the wireless is strongest here and, well, I need those Daily Show clips to stream smoothly, damnit.

I am still not used to the noises this house makes, or the shadows cast by its big dark furniture and the foliage which seems in constant motion outside the windows. It is impossible to move around quietly through the main part of the house; every floorboard makes a deep squeak. In the darkness, I see movement where there is none, and hear sounds I can't identify from rooms with nobody in them. More than once, very late at night, there has been a kind of brushing sound from the main part of the house while I worked in the library. One night, with the girls long in bed, I walked by a hallway and a light was on that hadn't been on earlier. I turned it off. Next time I walked by, it was on again. The next night it happened again. This was, of course, while Mr. Sandyshoes was back in Massachusetts for a week. Were I easily unnerved, I'd have been pretty unnerved.

I miss my shamelessly huge home theater screen and sound system. Movie-watching is so awesome at home.

I miss the Atlantic; but I love the mountains and big national forests that are everywhere here, and the great Pacific right within reach.

I miss my pantry, clean, bright, and stocked to keep us going through the zombie wars if need be. Paradoxically, in order not to accumulate too much stuff here, I feel like I am shopping all the time.

I do not miss having a bathroom right off my kitchen. Having it down the hall is a really, really nice difference.

I have learned that I do not like dark cabinetry, half-ring dresser drawer pulls, or kitchen counters made of tile, but I do like a Tempur-pedic mattress, a gas fireplace, and a good radio in the kitchen. The kitchen radio seems an obvious thing, but I don't have one at home, and now it's on my wish list. Sadly, I have no hope for a Tempur-pedic of my own, as Mr. Sandyshoes hasn't taken to it. (I won't even comment on a gas fireplace. He wants a wood stove, and I hate them, and round and round we go, but we'll end up with a wood stove.)

He has taken to the hot tub, though, and what's not to love about that? Well, besides the electric bill. I'm not sure I could stomach that part of owning one myself, but as the nights get chillier, soaking in the heat under the stars makes not-quite-right feel just fine, for a while.

Friday, October 08, 2010

unanticipated hiatus

Fear not reader(s), we are alive and mostly well.

We have been traveling a fair bit around our home-away-from-home, and it is wonderful to spend some time on the west coast.

Still and all, Noted and Blogged has been feeling a tad Lonely and Depressed. I am coming out of it though. No way out but through.

Back soon.