Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's and Naps

Vintage New Year's card available here.

Back in South Carolina, and definitely happy to be here, although I already miss my family. The drive home was infinitely interesting; Indiana had had a snow shortly before we hit the state line, and the roads were pretty touch-and-go for a while, until Indianapolis and its habit of actually salting its interstates saved us. Kentucky was snowy, too, which was very pretty. Tennessee was just damp, which was less pretty, and full of angry sleet. 

The mountains of North Carolina decided to surprise us with a happy snowstorm, which turned most of the cars on the road at the time into panicky, swerve-y creatures. Jason is a calm driver, but their behavior was making even him nervous; and God knows driving in the mountains makes me nervous in the most ideal conditions. We were a little wall-eyed by the time we actually arrived home; we basically spent about an hour being gloriously, blissfully not in the car before falling over into bed.

Yesterday was girls'-day-out shopping times at the mall, followed up by seeing Les Miserables. I really liked this particular movie take on it, although I will say that there were times that things felt a bit too staged and grandiose for a film. It was mostly a visual problem, and only occasional. Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream", though, is brutal. She not only nails the song, but almost the entire thing is done in a single long take, focused in a close-up on her face and nothing else. It's the perfect staging for the song, to let Fantine's misery shine without diluting it with any other imagery. It turned out to be a five-Kleenex movie for me. 4/5, my only quibble being some visual elements feeling sort of forced and fake. And also for the several large, bluntly placed butterflies fluttering around when one of our main characters is singing. We get it, guys. She's a Disney heroine. I was waiting for bluebirds to sing along with her.

The shopping part was great. In fact, I am all snuggled up in a new blanket from yesterday right now. It is the warmest blanket, people. Warm and soft and snuggly as all get out.

Jason and I are enjoying our last couple days off before we both head back to work on Wednesday. This mostly means we are napping if we feel like it and eating snack mix and I am enjoying my Starbucks gift card from Christmas entirely too much.

Working on New Year's Resolutions. I'm not sure why I do these; I suppose it's just good to have goals, even if I don't really end up succeeding at them all that often.

Tonight is the obligatory New Year's Eve party, which looks to be an awesome time, and tomorrow once we get home I'm just going to do a pile of food-prep for this week (baking sweet potatoes so we can cut 'em up and throw them into stuff as we need them) and nap.

Because while on vacation, one can nap if one wants to.

Turns out? We want to.

See you in 2013.

(Yes, I realize that's what everyone is saying right now, but it amuses me and I think I'm clever.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Make a Wish

Vintage Christmas card available for purchase here.

Merry Christmas!

Be good to one another. I'll be back later.
I hear a certain little girl beginning to stir, and she has an awful lot of presents to open...

Monday, December 24, 2012

In This House

In this house there are too many presents to count, a little girl watching old Disney VHS tapes with fresh eyes, my husband drinking "coffee of opportunity" (whatever's left when everyone else has had some), a discussion over vegetables, nobody is getting any more wives, Jason, and life is good.

Christmas Eve is pretty cool so far, although I guess it's only 9 AM. But I think we're just gonna get better from here.

In this house, there's a little girl I haven't seen since Easter, a girl who greeted my arrival by throwing herself at me, my sister and I rocked out some of the last of the wrapping (including "scrap wrapping" a present using the leftover bits of wrapping paper in three different colors, which I think is really our great masterpiece), my brother and I talking books, and soon this house will have even more people in it.

We'll do my father's side of the family tonight, which means, awesomely, that I will get to see my little cousin's wife! I call this man my little cousin even though he's only three years younger than me. Some things never change.

In this house, there's a little girl.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


27,000 pageviews! Color me excited. I like a nice even (large) number.

Maybe I should set up some kind of fun thing for 30K or 35K... or maybe I'll totally plan to do that, forget, and then try to plan one for 50K. You never can tell with me; I'm a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in, I don't know... cheese or something.

Jason and I are getting ready for the holiday madness, although to be fair the madness started sometime around Thanksgiving and has simply been inexorably ramping itself up. The upside is that we are basically done with getting presents for people; the downside is that we're totally not even remotely done giving them.

Currently reading: The Heroes, by Joe Abercrombie. Abercrombie is a somewhat up-and-coming author who specializes in a version of sci-fi/fantasy that makes clear that there isn't always a happily-ever-after, even when fictional mages and kings are involved. Jason and at least one other friend of ours and I devoured his first trilogy, and I am less than 100 pages from the end of The Heroes.

I started it Wednesday.

The books are being called, somewhat truthfully, "scroundel lit" or "gritty fantasy". Nobody's really a good guy, there's an awful lot of mud-streaked faces, and well... war. Nonetheless, if you can take your sci-fi/fantasy with some serious darkness in it, I highly recommend Abercrombie's work.

Currently Panicking About: Christmas. Isn't everyone? Or, I guess, your holiday of choice. I am always panicking about something, and I suppose Christmas is as good a reason as any. Jason and I are traveling this weekend, so there's all sorts of logistics I can imagine the worst about. Which makes me glad I worked today, and Jason was home to do the actual planning and logistics. It's easier for me to not panic if I can't actually see what I can get worked up about.

Especially when traveling in a car, I have some issues. Also when traveling in a plane. Or on a bus. Or cruise ship. Possibly even on a speedboat.

You know, there actually isn't a form of travel I don't worry about.

Don't worry, though; I have located the closest Starbucks within range of every single stopping point we may have, so at least I'll be so caffeinated I won't be able to sleep through my worries.

That'll help.

We have a friend house- and cat-sitting for us, so I've got that bit of contentment to distract myself with occasionally. You know, when I'm not busy trying to decide which Interstate will be the most crowded and full of people who don't know how to drive and what if the road is slick and oh man what if somebody goes the wrong way down the highway which people totally do all the time.

Anxiety disorders are fun for the whole family! There are so many things to panic about, and I will find them all.

It's very exciting.

Pray for my husband's mental health, guys.

He's about to be stuck in a car with me... for eleven hours.

Merry Christmas, oh light of my life and love of my heart.

How this man still loves me when we arrive at our destination is anyone's guess.

On a lighter note... or possibly just a just-as-weird, different-subject note... it was decided at family Christmas last night that when I have children, we are going to tell them that Santa Claus doesn't like cookies and milk so much as he likes nice cheese plates and glasses of wine.

Very large glasses of very good wine.

Or, you know, whatever kind of wine Mommy drinks.

I've started writing again, after failing NaNoWriMo miserably, and so far I'm on track. Wish me luck keeping up with it during the holidays... I'm going to still try to get my three pages per day while we run here, there, and everywhere.

What can I say?

I'm an optimist...

Until I'm in the car. After that, all bets are off, and there are deer everywhere just crouched at the side of the road, waiting for us to blink.

Sneaky ruminants.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Always Remember to Thank a Teacher

Editorial cartoon link here.

A teacher may stand for your child when they are in need.

It's essentially the same thing I put on facebook, and yet...

Everyone wants there to be a "magic fix". We are mired so deeply in the need for justification and for there to be an easy equation of "If we do this, the bad stuff won't happen anymore," that we can't see the forest for the trees.

It's deeper than that, and deep down, we know it.

Without acknowledging the complexity of what goes into such a tragedy, we will continue to hack at the Gordian knot with a kitchen knife.

The problem is not God being taken out of the schools. I loathe that idea with a passion, because i loathe the concept of a God so unloving that He would allow carnage to occur as, what? Some kind of punishment? Was He punishing the six-year-olds? What sort of explanation is that?

It's not because there are too many guns or not enough. A gun is nothing without a finger pulling the trigger. Don't mistake me on this; I am not comfortable with guns, and am a staunch advocate for better regulation of the firearms industry. I support a ban on clips with more than ten bullets and a ban on assault rifles being sold to the public.

But I also have friends who own rifles, and pistols, handguns and shotguns and all sorts of things. I have loved ones who hunt. I have loved ones who have taken me to a shooting range, invited me to try it out despite my discomfort. They have tried to educate me. They are knowledgeable, and careful, and work hard to combat the idea of gun owners as crazed killers just looking for their chance.

A gun is nothing without a finger to pull the trigger, but it is designed for one horrible purpose nonetheless. To cause harm to a living thing.

There isn't any one problem.

The truth is that we don't know how to fix this. There isn't any one way. Our culture glorifies violence too heavily, ignores or victimizes the mentally ill, makes needing help a kind of shame. We glorify and demonize firearms in the same breath. We are clearly wrong, and have been wrong for much longer than most people want to admit to. There is no "good old days". The "good old days" are just the time when the terrible things weren't reported, depending on who they happened to. The "good old days" are just the days when it was easier to pretend, when the memories are rosier and your mind wants to focus on the positives and not the negatives.

All that said, there is something much more important to do.

Go thank a teacher for the under appreciated and overwhelming work they do, often underpaid.

Go thank them for three hours after every school day spent planning their lesson for the next or helping out students in need. Go thank them for every time they've bought a kid a backpack when they couldn't afford one, every time they've been there to buy lunch for the kid who goes hungry. Thank them for their patience, for their work, for serving the greater good of the community.

Thank them for standing between children and the world.

Thank Victoria Soto for hiding her children, for being the one thing that stood between them and horror.

Thank the teachers of Sandy Hook who lived, and those who died. Thank those who read to their students to keep them calm while gunshots popped in the hallway, and those who tried to confront the gunman and lost their lives in the process.

Don't say his name.

Say the names of those teachers, and their students.

Say them over and over and over and over again, until they are the only names left in the news. Until we have forgotten him.

Until we remember that the most important thing we can do now is make sure we remember them.

Friday, December 14, 2012

We Interrupt Your Regular Programming

I was going to do a 5 Things post today, but there are bigger things. Today, in Connecticut, a man opened fire on an elementary school. He killed children, he killed adults. Children had to run past the bodies of their classmates on their way to safety. Cops told them to close their eyes and put their hands on the shoulders of the kid in front of them, to follow the sound of the adults' voices.

This is the second shooting in in less than a week.

This is the eighth mass shooting in the U.S. this year.

When I was a kid, Columbine happened, and I remember being absolutely floored by it. I had never, not really, thought about how someone could come into my school and kill me, and it might be that guy nobody liked or it might be that guy who was fairly popular and hiding his all-consuming rage. It could be anyone.

A couple years later, when I was in middle school, my name popped up on the "hit list" of someone who was a couple of grades older than me, someone I didn't even know. The list was found and the person suspended. I was put on that list due to being friends with someone the person in question did not like. School shootings happen, and we don't know how to keep them from happening.

We put in metal detectors, we suspend students we find with hit lists, we try to keep unrelated people off school campuses, we read the psychological reports of the shooters over and over again, looking for the magic button that will keep it from happening again.

There are children in Connecticut today who are learning in the worst possible way a fact we try so hard to hide from them; that there are people in the world, in this country, in your own county and maybe down the road from you... there are people out there who just want to hurt you.

They may not even know you. It doesn't matter.

They just want to see how much pain they can give to the world.

Those children, or at least most of them, had no understanding of this truth yesterday, last night, this morning.

Now they do.

Pray, if praying is what you do.

Light a candle, meditate, send good vibes into the universe do whatever it is you do to wish the world a better place than it is. If only for the sake of people whose lives have changed in a split-second, who have lost their children, their parents, their siblings, their uncles or aunts these people who have lost their people.

They could use whatever love, support, consolation, or sorrow you have to share with them.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

14 Days Til My Illinois Christmas Commences

Yes, I know our reflection is in that image. Sometimes there are things I do to amuse myself that make no sense to anyone else. This was one of those times.

 I'd like to tell you I haven't really posted this week because things were just so exciting, but... that wouldn't be true.

Busy? Yes. Exciting? Not particularly.

We are most of the way through our piles of Christmas shopping, which considering it's only two weeks (!!!!) until we'll be back in Illinois to see my family... is probably a good sign. I'd like to be 100% done, but... turns out that I have a superpower, and that superpower is finding a way to tell myself 'I'll do it later.' I am like a procrastination hero. Somewhere, there's a medal. Or, you know, there will be - once they get around to making it.

I am neck deep right now in daydreaming about our plans for dog-ownership. It's kind of sad. I am actually wistfully comparing prices for food bowls and dog beds, harnesses and leashes. One of the local foster/shelter places had some gorgeous pitt bull mixes outside Petsmart today when we were there, and it was hard to walk away from them. Of course, it's hard for me to walk away from any animal in need, which is why it's so nice to have Jason there to insist of that annoying common sense stuff.

We're holding off on being serious about our dog-search until January, since at that point we won't be traveling for at least a few months. I didn't want to find the perfect dog, adopt them, and then have to turn around and immediately board them at a kennel or ask a friend to take them. That just seemed... like it would be kind of mean to the dog in question.

I have had an eggnog latte today already, but I think I am going to go make myself some more coffee. Seems like one of those days.

Also, it was something like 70 degrees earlier when we were out doing some Christmas shopping. Whenever I am homesick for Illinois, or have any qualms whatsoever about our decision to move to Greenville... I want someone to link me to this post, or remind me about it, or something. Seriously. Seventy degrees on December 9th.


I like that number.

I'll leave you with some Christmas music. One of my favorite singers doing one of my absolute favorite Christmas songs - this is Ella Fitzgerald singing "We Three Kings (of Orient Are)".

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chicken Livers

On my drive to work, as I sweep into the little town I actually work in, I drive past what was probably an old factory, or warehouse. It's red brick like so many things in this part of the country, a huge building maybe 2/3 the size of a Super Walmart. It's been empty for a long time, I'm guessing.

It has a smokestack with some kind of brush-like tree growing out of it. Kudzu and vines and things are growing up the brick sides, the green sort of startlingly bright against the faded red bricks. The big slide-up doors you might use to back a truck up, to be able to load the merchandise going out into the world, are not closed and haven't been at least since the first time I saw the building.

Inside is dark, and I don't know what's in there. I don't exactly make it a habit to find out.

I'd be kind of interested, though, if I wasn't absolutely certain the place is probably crawling with poison ivy, or oak, or whatever. Poison something.

There is rusting machinery out in the area around it, though; they've moved some right up against the road, so now there are back-hoes and a couple of big trucks like the ones my dad used to carry corn or soybeans during harvest. Everything is covered in rust.

Everything looks like if tetanus had its own heaven. When good tetanus dies, this abandoned building - these rusting trucks, the handle on a door pushed open some time ago, the grating over a vent or up in the smokestack - this abandoned building is where it finds its eternal reward.

I never see anyone there. I don't know if anyone does anything with it. It's next to where the train used to run through, but you don't see trains either anymore, not at that point. The town is debating putting up a walking/running/biking trail similar to the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville over where the trains no longer run. For now, it's wild snaking takeover plants like ivy and kudzu, rusted ghosts of machinery, and the building itself, still completely solid.

Spray-painted on the side of the building are two words. The letters are mostly even, although spray-painting is not an exact science so there is a pronounced wobble here and there on a curve or straight line. It's not stylized. These are just words, for better or worse. Just two words that mean something to someone in the town I work in. Two words they felt were so important they needed everyone who drives past on the road to see them, take them in, consider the source.

Two words that someone in this grand old world felt were of utmost importance. Two words they decided could not be lost, but must be left for the sake of history.

The words are this:


Just that.

Make of it what you will.

The possibilities are endless.