Reading in November

Currently reading:

  1. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl: a Gothic fantasy set in the American South. I decided to read this book after watching (and enjoying) the movie that was based on it.
  2. The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs: a memoir about the author’s attempt to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica from A to Z. I have a fondness for books whose subjects are arranged in alphabetical order.

Looking ahead, I doubt that I’ll reach my goal of reading 52 books for the year. I’ve finished 39 so far, though, and that’s more than I read in any one of the last three years. So, I’m just going to call this year’s number (whatever it turns out to be) an improvement and leave it at that.

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We’re All Adults

When it comes to my kids’ teachers, I always want to call them Ms. So-And-So, just as my kids do. However, I make a point of using their first names. I’m an adult, and that’s how adults address one another. That’s what I keep telling myself. But somehow it still makes me feel as if I were 40 years younger and very naughty.

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I Will Survive

Thoughts from this morning:

  • The election turned out almost exactly as I thought it would. We won the majority in the House, and we elected a diverse crew of new people to office in many places. But it was not quite the Blue Wave we had wished for. We lost ground in the Senate, and the outcome of some races makes us weep for the state of our country. All things considered, though, we did well. The Republicans have been playing a harder, meaner, slyer game than the Democrats have over the years, leaving us at a big disadvantage. But it’s a long game, and we are better positioned to win it now than we had been. Watching how Donald Trump behaved afterward, it’s obvious that he’s rattled. That’s a victory right there.
  • I’ve had the song “I Will Survive” stuck in my head for days. Ordinarily that would be driving me crazy. I like the sentiment, though, so it hasn’t been getting on my nerves too badly.
  • Later today I will finally meet Marshall’s teacher. I’ve developed a dislike for her from our e-mail communications. I sincerely hope that this face-to-face meeting will dispel the negativity. I need to believe that my son is in good hands at school, because he’s at an educational crossroads. He doesn’t like school, and he’s at risk of falling behind, but he’s smart enough to do well if he can just be made to care more. So he needs a strong, steady push this year, and we can’t do that alone.
  • I know a lot about falling behind. I’ve fallen behind in just about everything except work lately. So today I remind myself to take better care of myself and my family. There isn’t enough time for everything, but there is enough time for what we need. It’s just a matter of using the time better. I can do that.
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So Relieved

This morning, on the Facebook page that’s just for parents in my town, someone posted an opinion piece from the local newspaper. The piece was written by a local mother whose opinion is that the children of “H1-B1” workers from India are ruining her son’s education. It was wrong in just about every way. I was steaming about it all morning, and so was my husband.

I started to draft a rebuttal, but I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I don’t want to antagonize any of my neighbors, but at the same time, I couldn’t just let that kind of naked bigotry pass. Luckily for me, by the time I checked back on the post, many of my neighbors had already stated on no uncertain terms that they don’t agree with bigotry or hate speech. One of them said that she’d already sent a rebuttal to the paper.

Whew! I was so relieved. I still had my own obligation to speak out, which I discharged by voting up their comments and thanking them for their wonderful messages of inclusion and tolerance. But what really made me feel relieved was knowing that there are still plenty of decent people around, and today I’m feeling just a little bit more optimistic about the future of the human race.

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Learning Isn’t Always Pleasant

I haven’t had much time for perusing The New York Times lately. That’s too bad, because there are so many things to learn from it. Not only are the articles interesting, but it often offers up words that I’ve never heard before. For example, the 4/1/18 issue contained “hermeneutic” (a noun that means “a method of interpretation”).

On the other hand, not all of these learning experiences are pleasant. For example, the 3/25/18 edition contained an article called “How to Clean Money,” in which writer Malia Wollan used the word “palimpsest” (a noun meaning “a piece of writing material that gets used again after the old writing has been erased”). I’d heard the word before, but I couldn’t remember what it meant. I felt compelled to look it up, and that’s good, because I learned something.

But I learned more than I wanted to know. The author used the word in an icky context, which I’m going to share, because misery loves company.

At the microscopic level, because cash is so highly trafficked, it becomes a sort of palimpsest that records all the hands and back pockets and piggy banks it has passed through, accreting a kind of monetary microbiome. A study of $1 bills in New York identified a total of 397 bacterial species. Swiss researchers discovered that when they smeared bills with mucus from children with the flu, the virus lived for up to 12 days.

Ew. I already knew that money was covered with germs. The mucus part was extra gross, though, and I’m not sure knowing the lifespan of flu virus is a helpful thing. It just makes me want to avoid touching anything that might have come into contact with children, which is especially difficult if you have children!

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Poor Hummingbirds

During the summer my husband filled our hummingbird feeder and set it up outside our dining room window so that we could conveniently watch the hummingbirds feed. One day he brought the feeder inside for cleaning and refilling but did not immediately put it back outside. I was home all day, so I saw how this affected the birds. Every so often a hummingbird would fly to where the feeder ought to be, and then dart around for a few moments in what looked like a state of angry disbelief. I even saw a few of them (or the same one repeatedly) fly right up to the window and hover in front of it, as if looking directly at me. I’m pretty sure that that was the hummingbird way of saying, “WTF!”

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Those Lights Will Cost You

Our kids have a bad habit of leaving the lights on when they leave a room. Reprimanding them was having no effect, so earlier this year we started charging them 25 cents every time we discovered that they’d left a light on. The kids didn’t really understand money well enough for this to be an effective tactic either and, as I was soon reminded, you have to be careful pointing out someone else’s bad behavior if your own behavior isn’t quite perfect. I accidentally left the light on in my bathroom one day, and Marshall gleefully said, “Mommy, you owe me 25 cents!”

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Still Missing You

Dear Mojo,

I have been thinking about you, and about writing this letter, for a long time. One thing that had been holding me up was that I didn’t know how to characterize our relationship. You were not my “fur child.” I was not your “mother,” or even “your person.” You were a member of the family, but none of the terms for familial relationship quite seem to apply. You were my dearest, softest, purriest, most wonderful furry-friend-family-person-cat.

You were young when we brought you home, not more than a year old. You were a “used” cat. A family with children had kept you previously, and they had not taken good care of you. At the shelter they told us that you had had to be treated for a broken tail and a tack in the roof of your mouth. Poor thing.

Hearing that story, I thought at first that you must have been abused, but you never acted like an abused cat. I suspect that what really happened is that you fell victim to your own worst instincts. Knowing you, you tried to sneak into a room that was off-limits, and you got your tail caught in a closing door. You were always doing things like that. And I wouldn’t put it past you to eat a tack. You were always trying to eat things that were bad for you. Those people should have been more careful with you, truly. But even as careful as we were, I have to admit that there were a few times when I had to pull stringy things out of you. Both ends, Mojo. Both ends. You really were your own worst enemy.

When we got you home from the shelter, several things caught our attention immediately. For one thing, you were loud. You made so much noise just breathing that we could always locate you by sound. We thought maybe the tack in the roof of the mouth had caused nasal damage, but later we wondered if you were part Bombay. You looked like a Bombay, and they’re known for their snuffly breathing.

You also had stinky breath. Always. No matter what you ate. But in time we learned to live with it, even to like it. We also liked the heart-shaped patch of white on your lower abdomen. It was adorable. In one of my favorite pictures, Faithful Reader is holding you and pretending to paint that patch of white on you with a paintbrush. And of course, we loved your laid-back personality.

But you couldn’t stay young forever, and you eventually developed some age-related issues. By last December your digestion had gotten so bad that you had to be surgically cleaned out. You came back from the vet with one leg shaven (a “chicken-bone leg,” as I called it), and though you seemed fine emotionally and mentally, your body never quite recovered, even with medication.

By the end of January, you had decided that you were ready to die. You moved yourself into my office and could not be convinced to leave, even though we’d already moved everything downstairs for your convenience. So we moved everything back up and into my office. Not that it mattered. You weren’t eating or drinking. You were throwing up bile. You were not happy to have company. You were trying to die.

We were willing to let you die naturally, because we knew it was what you wanted, but Death didn’t come for you. That’s when I decided that I had to take responsibility for your death, just as I’d taken responsibility for your life. In the wild, you would never have lived so long. A longer life isn’t worth much if the end is spent in suffering.

So I forced the situation. I called the vet. I put you in your carrier. Then Faithful Reader and I took you to the vet’s office, and we asked them to put you out of your misery, because I insisted. Me.

I still feel awful about it. I still feel that you could have lived several more months, maybe even longer, if we’d only been willing to give you more treatments. But, just before the procedure, after you had been sedated and bundled up in a blanket, you looked straight up at me several times, as if to tell me something. I didn’t know what it meant. I’ve thought about it many times since, and the only meaning that fits is “Let me go.”

I wasn’t ready to let you go, but I did, because I loved you. I will always miss your snuffly breathing, and your bad breath, and your deep purr, and your soft fur, and how you used to say “hi” whenever I passed by, and how you always jumped in my lap when I was sad, and how you were always there, always yourself.



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Ghosts of Christmas

A few Christmas ornaments have lingered around the house since last December. I put the last of them away today. At least I hope that was the last of them. It’s already October. If it were any later in the year, it would hardly be worth the effort to put them away!

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Making Progress

I’m almost done with the 2017 photo album that I postponed earlier this year. I’ve been working on it a little bit every day lately. I think I’ll be able to finish it by the end of the week. Whew!

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