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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Frickin’ Ticks!

I’m a little paranoid about ticks sometimes, but apparently not often enough to prevent myself from getting bitten. Yes, it has finally happened. Without any doubt, I have been bitten by at least one tick in my life. That’s him in the picture above.

Problem is, I don’t worry as much about ticks in October. They say that nymphs are only active through August. They say that in the fall it’s only the big ticks you have to worry about. Big ticks are easy to spot.

But what they say is not entirely true. That is not a small tick. It is almost certainly a nymph. I was fortunate to have spotted it, because I wasn’t checking for ticks. I just happened to be looking at something on another part of my leg when I noticed a dark speck near the back of my knee. And when I say speck, I mean it. It was, as you can see, smaller than the individual letters of LIBERTY on the dime. My husband had to use a headlamp and magnifying glass to see it properly while removing it for me.

We had already been through a tick removal with Livia. We were calmer this time. We knew what to do. We had the right kind of tweezers. The removal went smoothly, so smoothly that the tick was alive and well after being plucked from my leg, though not for long. After the photo shoot, my husband squashed the little bastard. He says there was no blood. That makes me feel a little better.

A couple of days later, Marshall found something crawling on his hand that looked very tickish, too, only quite a bit smaller than the one in the picture above. I believe it was a larval tick, which is also something that you’re not supposed to see at this time of year. How did he get it on him? Well, he had just touched some mulch next to the walkway to our house. The idea that this part of our yard is infested with ticks is almost unthinkable for us. Sure, it’s probably just a larva, and they rarely carry disease. But still ew! And it means that there is literally no part of our property, walkway and driveway included, that we can be sure is tick-free.

Frickin’ ticks!

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Crafty in a Pinch

I tend to overpay for Halloween costumes, because I do so much of my shopping online. I’m willing to pay for that convenience. Still, even I have limits. Livia and I needed antennae for our costumes, and all the antennae I found online were ridiculously expensive. I refuse to pay a lot of money for something that is, essentially, a cheap headband with some wire attached to it.

I’m no Martha Stewart, but I can get crafty in a pinch. We already had headbands, so all we needed was some kind of wire. I figured pipe cleaners would do. Normally we have pipe cleaners on hand, too, but we had run out. So I bought us a big package of pipe cleaners in assorted colors.

We had so much fun picking out colors to match our costumes, and figuring out how to attach the antennae and make them strong enough to stay vertical. Here’s what we came up with.

The Finished Product

I’m glad now that the antennae were so expensive online. Had they been cheaper, Livia and I would have missed out on this fun project. The finished product is surprisingly sturdy, too. Livia has been wearing her antennae on and off for two days, and they’re holding up well. I’m really happy with how they turned out. It’s good to be crafty in a pinch!

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How I Met My Book

I’ve read a lot of books about used bookstores lately. One of those books (The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell) was particularly critical of Amazon, and rightfully so. The more I understand about market forces and the inequitable wealth distribution in our country, the less fond I am of Amazon myself. But it’s not going away, at least any time soon, and that’s something with which we must all come to terms.

Anyway, this got me thinking about how I acquire my books. I do get some from Amazon, but not all, not by far. Though I don’t recall where I got every book I’ve ever read, I do remember the origins of quite a few, and I have acquired books in just about every way that they can be acquired.

I thought it might be fun to write about the origins of certain books that have come into my life. So this post is the first of what might become a series of posts. I will start with the way in which I received most of my first books: hand-me-downs.

Most of my oldest, most cherished books are hand-me-downs. If you examine the spines of the children’s books on my shelves, you can tell almost immediately which ones have some real age on them. Pull them down and open them up. Odds are you’ll find the name of at least one previous owner. Among the names you’ll see are my aunt T, who died when I was a child, and my cousin K, who got some of her books from our mutual cousin S. My brother’s name also shows up from time to time. And while none of the books contains my mother’s name, she says that my oldest Nancy Drew books probably came from her childhood collection.

While all these old books are cherished, as attested to by their continued presence on my shelves, they’re not all favorites. I don’t think I’ve ever read Hitty, which once belonged to Aunt T. I read The Water-Babies (also one of hers) a few years ago, and I despised it. I could never part with it, though, so it still lives on my shelves.

My library of hand-me-downs has some strange gaps in it. Why do I have T’s copy of A Wind in the Door but not A Wrinkle in Time? Why do I have only one Little House on the Prairie book and only one Dr. Dolittle? I remember reading more from both series as a child. What happened to Heidi, which I’m almost certain I owned, and to my mother’s dozens of Nancy Drew books? Did I inadvertently destroy some of them? Did I give them away? Did I let my parents put them in the attic where they were slowly nibbled away by mice and other pests?

It certainly is possible that some of my books met their doom in the attic. I remember crawling around up there once, perhaps as a young teen. Mice had gotten into some of the boxes. I rescued a bunch of books that hadn’t yet been chewed to pieces, but I believe most of those had belonged to my parents and my brother. I’m not sure if any of my books were ever up there. My memory doesn’t have the answers for me. I simply do not remember.

Of the books that I still own, one of my very favorites is Tales from the Arabian Nights. I wrote about it a few years ago. I still think it smells great (papery and slightly spicy), but it aggravates my allergies. Like many people, I seem to have a mild reaction to old paper, though I don’t know if it’s the dust, the dust mites, or the paper itself. That’s OK. I don’t handle the book often. Mostly I just love it for the images that it formed in my mind, and which I still have today, of the fruit-shaped jewels that Aladdin finds in the cave with the magic lamp. The text is well-written and a joy to read, so I will probably read the book again some day, and sneeze.

Other inherited favorites include . . .

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (this book has an inscription. It was given to my aunt by her aunt, after whom she was named, “with worlds of love” in 1960)
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • The Kate Greenaway Treasury
  • The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith
  • The Rescuers (and other books from the series) by Margery Sharp
  • Dominic by William Steig

The more I read about used bookstores, the more I realize that my personal library has little value to anyone besides myself. Kids rarely want their parents’ books, and few of mine would draw collectors. Most of them aren’t first editions, signed copies, or in any way historically interesting, plus they’re showing their age. The Tales of the Arabian Nights‘ lack of dust jacket, poor overall condition, and presumed lack of intrinsic value all mean that, when I die, it’s probably going to be thrown away. Nobody else is going to want an old, very foxed and tanned book that makes them sneeze.

But we’ve lived happily together all these years, the book and I. I guess dying together wouldn’t be such a terrible thing. Until we go, I’ll keep sharing my love for it (and books in general) with anyone who will listen.

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It’s a Promise

My mood took a terrible tumble at some point during the summer. It affected everything, even my ability to think coherently and to craft intelligible sentences. Consequently I wrote very little and posted almost nothing here on my blog.

I tried, though. I kept trying to write, as evidenced by the number of unfinished posts in my drafts folder. The number has been hovering around 40, and even got as high as 45, and yet almost nothing got published.

A few weeks ago, it was like a switch turned on in my head. Suddenly I felt better. Suddenly I actually wanted to take care of myself and spend time with my children and clean my house. Is this how other people feel all the time, just sort of generally cheerful as they go about their day? Because I have to say, it’s very pleasant and conducive to getting things done. I hope it lasts.

Anyway, while I’m in this great mental state, I want to get as much done as possible. I’ve already caught up on a lot of things that I’d let slide over the last few months. Now I’ve finally got some time and energy to devote to the blog. At the very least, I’m going to clean out my drafts folder. That’s my promise to myself for today.

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There’s a Difference

I just want to point out that there’s a difference between refusing to vote for Republicans and promising to vote for Democrats. No Democrat is guaranteed my vote. Just because I’m taking a moral stand against the Republican party doesn’t mean I’m automatically going to vote for any person who calls themselves a Democrat. This distinction might cause me some moral dilemmas in November, if any of the Democrats turn out to be unsuitable candidates, but I’ll deal with that when and if it becomes necessary.

Other people are apparently not making similar distinctions. I’m concerned by how many people I’ve heard say that they will vote for their party straight down the ticket. The implication is that they will vote for anyone, as long as that person is in the “right” party.

That’s not cool. Don’t vote for Republicans if you don’t want to, and don’t vote for Democrats if you don’t want to, but at least take a long, hard look at the candidates of your party before you hand over your votes to them. It’s just as important to know who you’re voting for as it is to know who you’re voting against.

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That’s Rough

Yesterday, as I was looking something up in the dictionary, I stumbled across this beautiful-sounding word: furfuraceous. Doesn’t it seem soft and furry? Don’t you just want to cuddle with it?

Probably not. “Furfuraceous” has nothing to do with fur. It comes from furfur, the Latin word for “bran,” and it means “of, containing, or resembling bran,” or “scaly.”

Ugh! It’s like asking for a kitten and getting a crocodile. It’s like snuggling up to a soft blanket and coming away with a rash. I don’t like its deceptiveness, and honestly, I have no need for it. There are other words that work just as well. Maybe I’m being a little rough on it, but better rough than furfuraceous! 😉

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Angry Voter Here

When it comes to voting, I’ve always tried to keep an open mind and not make judgments based solely on a candidate’s age, appearance, race, religion, gender, or political party. To put it another way, I’ve always sincerely tried to pick the candidate who seemed best for the job. Though I am a registered Democrat, I consider myself to be independent and, until recently, I was not averse to voting for people of any party, including Republicans.

But no more. The Republican party has become rotten to its core. It’s not just Trump and his constant attacks against Democrats, the free press, women, minorities, and our allies around the world, while he cozies up to dictators, undermines all sane environmental policies, and takes from the poor and the middle class to give to the rich, himself included. That would certainly be enough, but it’s not all. It’s also McConnell and his dirty tricks, like refusing to vote on a duly nominated Supreme Court justice and showing his contempt for Democrats and for women by putting down Elizabeth Warren (“Nevertheless, she persisted”). It’s Ryan’s cheerful, smug smile as he backs policies that he clearly knows are bad. It’s Flake and (up until his death) McCain, Murkowski and Collins, and other Republican senators who seem like sane and decent people on the surface, but who only take the moral course when it plays to their positions, or when they have nothing to lose. It is all of them, and more. I am done being disappointed in them as politicians, as people, and in the case of Murkowski and Collins, as women. I expect nothing good from any of them anymore.

Yesterday Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of the Senate about her allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I don’t know if she’s lying, or mistaken, or telling the truth. I don’t know how much her story ought to factor into the Senate’s decision. But she deserved to be not only heard, but to be listened to. Yet, before she even got to D.C., some of the highest members of our government (including McConnell, Graham, and Trump) had already publicly stated that they had no intention of actually listening to her or allowing her story to have any affect on their decision-making. Their minds were already made up. They were going to support Kavanaugh no matter what, because they need him for their agenda, and to satisfy the demands of the Power and Money that backs them. That is wrong. It is rotten, rotten all the way to the core. And as I listen to Senator Grassley right now, at this very moment, explain why they’re going to vote today, without doing a proper investigation, I am so thoroughly disgusted by all of them that I feel physically nauseous.

So, my apologies to any decent, moderate Republicans (if there are indeed any left) who are running for office. I will not vote for you, not in this coming election, and probably not for years to come. Your party is sick. It is misogynistic and anti-science and greedy and racist and dangerous to our democracy and deadly to our environment and even, on some levels, downright treasonous. Until and unless you fix it, I refuse to give you any more consideration than Republicans like Lindsey Graham gave to Dr. Ford yesterday and today. That is to say, the whole Republican party can just fuck off.

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Summer 2018

Dear Kids,

As today is the first day of fall, it seems a fitting time to recap our summer. It was a typical summer in some ways, a strange one in others.

You went to summer camp this year, which was typical. But Livia decided to perform in the talent show for the first time. Unfortunately, she didn’t tell us she was going to dance to “Fight Song” until a couple of days before the show. We let her watch the YouTube video with her chosen dance over and over again, but she simply didn’t have enough time to fully prepare herself. I think she realized on the day of the show that she wasn’t quite ready. But, I have to say, when her name was called, she fearlessly went to the stage and danced until the music was done. She seemed disappointed over her performance afterward, but I was totally impressed. The only kids who were really prepared were the ones who obviously had been taking dance lessons, and even they goofed up. Most of the other dancers froze and/or bailed early, but not my girl. Wow!

We didn’t take a family vacation this year. We were still too traumatized from last year’s vacation. We wanted you to have some fun, though, so we took you on a two-day trip to Great Wolf Lodge shortly before school started up again. Daddy  feels like he’s burnt out on GWL now, but you loved every second of it. You told me that you want to go back again soon.

The trauma was there with us at Great Wolf Lodge, at least for a little bit. Daddy went into our hotel room to check it for bedbugs before we brought our stuff in. Having found a speck of crud, he called me in to investigate, too. So you two stayed outside the door, which we left ajar, and every so often, you’d say, “Can we come in yet?” You kept asking, and we kept replying, “Not yet!” Of course we did ultimately let you in, but not until we were absolutely certain that there were no bedbugs!

I bought you each a set of luggage this year. My parents bought me luggage when I was about Marshall’s age. Decades later, I still own and use some of the pieces, so I consider luggage to be an excellent long-term investment. Your new luggage sets arrived in time for our trip to Great Wolf Lodge. You were super excited to pack for themselves. I told you how much of each thing to bring, but you insisted on bringing more “just in case.” You were so cute. And you loved being able to roll your own bags around. I hope your luggage will hold up as well as mine did. If you want it to last, you should probably stop using it like traffic barriers in your room, though.

I’m sorry that we didn’t spend much time outside this year. Between the fear of ticks, the vicious mosquitoes, and the oppressive heat, I just didn’t feel like it. Already I feel the cooler temperatures calling me outside. I hope we will be able to take a lot of walks this season.



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