If you see a whole thing - it seems that it's always beautiful. Planets, lives... But up close a world's all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life's a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Further Misadventures in the Land of Dirt and Rocks

Today is an amazingly beautiful day.  The type of day that would convince you spring was not just around the corner but actually here if you didn't have a calendar telling you it is still January.

I've been wanting to explore our new neighborhood since we moved in and thought today would be a perfect opportunity.  There is a large park right near us that I have visited once or twice since I moved to SouthLite.  It looked too long (and difficult) to walk to (although it will be an easy bike ride) especially with Pupzilla, so we set out in the car.

As I expected it was a busy day in the park, since everyone had the same idea as me.  However we did manage to find a parking space without too much trouble.  Pupzilla was beside herself with joy.  She has been cooped up in the house for too long.

I had been fooling around with some new apps earlier in the day and figured I'd continue to play with them on our walk.

 Pupzilla on the couch (pre-walk) shot with Instagram
 My living room shot with Pencil illusion
My lounging feet shot with Pencil illusion

The park has roads and bike trails and walking trails criss-crossing through it.  It is also an historical sight so there are monuments to see as you walk.



We were having fun but work was calling me back at home and Pupzilla has looking pretty tired and in need of a thirst-quencher.  I realized that one of the things I liked about walking in the park instead of on one of the many trails nearby is that everyone kept their dog on their leash.  There were a lot more dogs (and people) then we ever see on a trail, but no one was off leash and this put my mind at ease.

As we headed back to the car, we saw a small family coming towards us with a dog and I decided to step off the path, put Pupzilla into a sit, and wait for them to pass.  The path was very narrow and the dog looked young and frisky and I thought it best to be prudent.  However, as they slowly made their way towards us, a single gentleman with an older dog walked up behind them.  So as both groups passed us the young dog was on left side of the path (furthest away from where Pupzilla was patiently sitting) and the older dog passed on the right, right in front of us.  I already had Pupzilla on a very short leash and when I realized the dog was passing right in front of us and putting his or her nose near Pupzilla, I pulled her even closer.  Unfortunately it was not close enough.  

As many of you know, Pupzilla is not good with other dogs and we do everything we can to keep her away from them.  She has been in several fights but always the dog has done something that set her off.  I've never known her to attack without provocation (not always deserved provocation but at least I know what to be wary of).  This time she just attacked this poor dog's snout with no warning and no rhyme or reason.  I pulled her off and the whole thing was over in less than a minute but she did have this dog's nose in her mouth and bit him or her.  The dog seemed fine and the two of them were over it but I was shaken.  I apologized the minute it happened.  The man looked me straight in the eye with pure hatred before walking his dog down the road.

I don't blame him.  Neither he nor his dog did anything wrong.  I would hate a dog (and its owner) who bit my dog without provocation.  I know enough to cross to the other side if I see someone holding their dog off trail but that is because I know what dog-aggressive dogs can do.  He obviously didn't.

So I feel awful for the dog and for him.  I am also worried about what this means for taking Pupzilla on walks in the future.  Is she getting worse as she gets older?  What if we were on a trail with an unleashed dog?  I want her to get exercise and I know how much she enjoys being out of the house but the anxiety of not knowing what she will do if another dog approaches makes me want to keep her home. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's All Fun and Games Until Somebody Gets Locked In the Bathroom

b is away this weekend.  He flew to Large Southern Hub City to teach his first wilderness first aid course.  He was a little nervous before he left but is doing great.

Today was the first BBB in the new house.  We read Truth and Beauty.  I expected a large crowd but there were several last minute cancellations.  I wanted to have a fire in the fireplace but it was a warm day.

I baked these cookies.

They are delicious but perhaps a too peanut-buttery for my guests? I have way too many leftover. I also made my sure-fire brownie recipe but some guests arrived before I had finished mixing the batter and I messed it up.  I think I made fudge.

One guest brought a lovely loaf of No-Knead Bread she had just baked and luckily I had some aged cheddar on hand.  That was a big hit, along with the grapes and cherries.

So the day was beautiful, the house was lovely, the food and guests superb.  We had a rather lively discussion as we had very differing opinions on the friendship portrayed in the book.  Things were winding down and people were making ready to go when one guest got locked in the bathroom.  At first we just heard a lot of knob turning and it took us a while to realize she was truly stuck.

Another guest, known for being handy around the house, tried to help.  Soon we were all gathered around the bathroom.  We slid the key back and forth under the door but could not get it open.  I got a screwdriver but was quickly informed that it would not make a difference.  The doors in our house have all their original locks (from some time in the 1940s).  They are quite quaint but, it would seem, temperamental.
 The offending lock.
The offending key.

My guest ended up climbing out the window and into the backyard.  After everyone left I called b. Obviously there was nothing he could do from Large Southern Hub City but he is generally my starting point for all problems.  I then called a locksmith.  Turns out there's a franchise locksmith called "Pop-A-Lock" that shows up within 30 minutes to unlock your door (the Domino's of the locksmith world).

A very nice gentleman arrived at my door in 15 minutes.  He ended up having to climb into the bathroom window (which seemed much harder than climbing out of it) and managed to get it open with the key.  I was hoping he'd have to at least use a tool or something.

In other news, this song has been in my head all weekend.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

RBOC: Update Edition


  • We are two weeks into the semester and my To Do list doesn't fit on one page.
  • I have many social engagements lined up for the next few weeks which really won't help my To Do list problem.
  • I'm on a search committee for two positions and the first two candidates are coming in the next two weeks.
  • I have found the first negative of our new house and it has 6 legs, antennas and reminds me of some bad times in my childhood.  b and I are going to the store tomorrow to find ways of destroying said creatures.  Two have been spotted and killed so far.  Both were killed by humans and not felines (just sayin').
  • The birth has finally happened.  It was my longest one so far.  I spent 27 hours in a hospital and got about 4 hours of sleep in a 48 hour period.  However everyone is doing well and I am very happy to NOT have to fall asleep with my phone beside my bed for a while.
  • I went to a self-defense workshop taught by my tai chi sifu today.  He teaches about one workshop a month.  Sometimes it is push hands, sometimes it is tai chi sword, and sometimes it is chi gung.  This time it was self-defense, which mostly consisted of learning how to fall.  It is important stuff but I can't say I liked it.
  • b and I are in a bit of a martial arts quandary.  I think want we want really doesn't exist anymore.  Certainly doesn't seem to exist in SouthLite. 
  • b and I went to see The Social Network tonight.  We enjoyed it.  Afterwards I was craving cupcakes but b had the brilliant idea of going out for cocktails and chocolate mousse.  Yes my friends, this is why I married him.
  • On tomorrow's agenda is : gym, food shopping, sitting in front of a fire and getting some work done, eating ribs cooked by my sweetie.  Life is good.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Prime Real Estate

Cats are particular about spaces.  Most cats share spaces but dominance (or the cat-equivalent) can sometimes be assessed by who gets the best space the most.

My cats don't share...anything.  They even have their own kitty litter boxes.  They are forced to share food but only because when I tried to create a his and hers, he ate both.

In the new house the kitchen window is the favorite spot.  It is best when there is sun but loved regardless of the weather.

Smudge must like this house a lot because she has not been backing down, especially when it comes to the window seat.

Consequently space is now shared.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Owning Your Own Time

When I talk to women who are actively mothering one of their biggest complaints is the lack of "me time."  Being responsible for a small person (or persons) severely reduces the amount of time you can claim as your own.  This seems like a no-brainer until you actually experience it.

The early days of new motherhood are usually overwhelming and surprising.  You're not sure where you're time goes but you are busy falling and being in love.  While I wouldn't say that love fades, there does come a point where you expect to get your life and at least some of your time back but you don't.

Motherhood is also frequently discussed in terms of conflicting demands.  Whatever else you are supposed to be doing (or want to be doing or are compelled to be doing) in addition to mothering your child(ren) is suddenly done less or less well.  Generally speaking, mothers feel their job/craft/art/passion is not getting the attention and time it deserves.  Unfortunately, no matter how much you give them, neither are your children (or at least so it seems).  It is not surprising, therefore, that time for yourself gets the shortest end of this three-sided stick.

But what exactly is "me time?"  For some women it may be the time given to their craft/art/passion (rarely the "job" but possibly the career); for others it is socializing time; possibly shopping or self-care (many women I speak with fantasize about baths and pedicures); for some it is leisure pursuits such as reading or exercise; for some it may even by spending time with their child(ren) that does not include responsibilities.  However I don't think "me time" is defined by an activity or a set of activities but rather by the ability to own your own time; to set a schedule or itinerary around your own desires and needs and not someone else's needs or agenda.

Whether you use "me time" for something that exclusively benefits you is probably irrelevant.  I think it is the power to decide how your time is going to be used and to be able to follow through on that decision.  I think it is the ability to make that decision without guilt or shame or without mentally rejecting the guilt or shame associated with it.

As painful as the adjustment to an empty nest was for me, I am now realizing how freeing it is to truly own my own time.  I count myself particularly lucky (and privileged) to have a career that further extends the agency I have to create my own schedule.  Academia comes with a lot of challenges but a definite perk is that most of my agenda is self-created.

I live with one person who, as a competent adult, does not rely on me for basic necessities nor does he expect me to alter my schedule to meet his needs.  While compromises are made for the sake of the relationship and companionship, his daily needs are not my responsibility; my time is not his to dictate.  Even when Angel became old enough for this to be true for him, the years of mother-training and the obligation I felt (and if I'm completely honest, still feel) towards him and the relationship, did not relieve this burden.

My pets do rely on me for the necessities of their daily life but their needs are so meager that they do not significantly control my time.  And as I mentioned, my job has a great deal of flexibility.  My students certainly demand of my time and attention; the responsibility I feel towards them shapes the way I allocate my time.  Likewise other demands of academia (i.e. committee work) effects my daily schedule and can significantly decrease my sense of "me time."  In fact my stress level is highest when I feel my time is spent on other people's agendas instead of my own, even when I buy into these alternative agendas.

This issue of "me time" has come to the forefront of my thoughts because I've spent the past 2-3 weeks anticipating a birth.  When I am serving as a doula and my "client-mom" is in her window-of-delivery, I don't feel I can really call my time my own.  I feel reluctant to make certain plans or obligations because I want to be available for the birth.  I need to think about what I am doing and what I would need to reschedule should she go into labor that day or the next.  Everything I expect to do (or want to do) on a given day can be completely obliterated without any real notice.  This is something I got used to when Angel was small but I realize now that I have very quickly become un-used to it.

The schools here in SouthLite had about a week of closures due to the last snowstorm.  This effected me only slightly.  It delayed when I could teach my first class and curtailed my activities to my house instead of my office for one day.  For a friend and colleague with school-aged children, it rearranged her entire week.  Another week has since passed and she still has not recovered.

I love being a doula in part because I enjoy being needed.  I like helping people and it is a very concrete way of being helpful and supportive.  For approximately 10-12 hours I can give someone my undivided attention and it can make a huge difference in how they experience their birth.  I also like the time spent with clients leading up to the birth.  I like helping women sort out their feelings and thoughts on birth; being a sounding board and an educator; and mostly importantly, helping to relieve some of the stress and anxiety many women experience anticipating labor.  However the more accustomed I get to owning the majority of my own time, the harder it gets to freely give that up for another person.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pizza Night

This afternoon I made potato leek soup and tried my first bread in the new house.

Then b and I tried out 3 different cast-iron pizza recipes.

The first was a variation of what b has learned on NOLS trips.

The second I found on one of my favorite food blogs.

The third was a faux-deep dish that b found here.

It was the winner. 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

An Ominous Start To The Semester

The spring semester started this week with two snow days.  Unfortunately my first class (which only meets once a week) was cancelled.  This is one of my favorite classes to teach and I was looking forward to getting started.  A bigger problem is how to make up for the lost day.

In part due to the delayed start and in part due to my entire winter break being eaten up with the move, I have not felt prepared all week.  I enjoy routine and structure and had been happily anticipating its return.  Instead the week has been spent with a great deal of uncertainty: will the university be open or closed?  will my pregnant teen mom go into labor or not?

I have a very anxious doula client (who is as sweet as can be) and she is due this week.  We have been in and out of the hospital and induction has been scheduled and cancelled.  I have arranged and rearranged my schedule around her anticipated delivery and still there is no baby.  While this is all within the range of normal, I didn't realize how disruptive it would be at the beginning of a semester.

The delayed start was not all bad however.  In keeping with this year's word, I was able to prepare many of my spaces this week.  I finally cleaned and organized my office at work and am loving it more than ever.  I also managed to set up my home office, and like everything else in the new house, it is far superior to my last one.  Perhaps more importantly, I cleaned off the desktop on my computer and cleaned out both my bag and my wallet.  There is something about having all that clutter around me; having to sort through flotsum and jetsum every time I try and do the most menial of tasks; that drives me crazy. Now everything is neat and clean and accessible.

The final space that needs to be cleaned up is my car.  Buying the second car for b means that the car we originally bought for me has once again become my car.  Over the years it has acquired junk from both me and b and in the week of the move it became filled with last minute items.  b has promised to clean it out and clean it up for me this weekend.  Once that is done all my spaces will be as I like them.

On a related note, when we rented this house we were excited to have a fireplace again.  However we were disappointed to realize it was gas.  At the top of the growing list of 'what we will do if we buy the house' was converting it back to wood-burning.  Last weekend b unsuccessfully tried to get a fire going and, in reporting the absence of any gas-flow, asked the landlord if it could be converted back.  Although surprised that we wanted wood instead of gas, he was happy to comply. Yesterday he came over and within half an hour we had the fireplace we wanted.

Tonight I stopped on the way home to pick up some wood.  I got home to find b already sitting in front of a roaring fire as he had thought and done the same thing.  Our home space is now complete.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oxtail Stew And Oreos

I am loving my new kitchen.
 Pupzilla loves it when we cook but even more when we drop.
Temperatures have dropped and we are expecting snow and ice.  Oxtail Stew is perfect for this weather.
 Still craving the red meat.


 The Brute loves the kitchen too.
My friend and colleague turned 50 today.  His wife threw him a surprise potluck dinner.  I made this oreo cookie recipe




Tuesday, January 4, 2011

After A Few Minor Setbacks We Settle In

Settling into the new and improved House of Dirt and Rocks has not been without its share of bumps. Most of these bumps have come in the past 48 hours.  Two days ago, after a very restless night that deprived b of most of his sleep, Pupzilla relieved her stomach of all its contents.  Shortly afterwards we noticed that she had broken out in hives and a large cyst was found on her ankle. Many hours and dollars later, the emergency vet confirmed b's original diagnosis of an allergic reaction to what was most likely an insect bite (we suspect a spider).  She was given medication and lots of fluids (as she was pretty dehydrated) and sent home to rest.

The next morning b made the critical mistake of requesting a drama-free day.  He went off to work and I went off to run multiple errands.  One of the errands was to drop off the keys to our old house. Also on my list was to make an extra copies of the keys for the new house as the landlord had only given us one set.  Somewhere on my meandering route around SouthLite that one set of keys dislodged themselves from my keyring and escaped.  I discovered this hours later when trying to get into the house with bags of groceries.  I spent the next hour retracing my steps to no avail.  b thought he could get into the house and left work to give it a try.  His love of cat-burglar movies paid off and he successfully broke into our own house.   Unfortunately that didn't solve the key problem and I had to drive an hour and a half each way to the neighboring city where my landlord lives to get a new set.

Last night, although exhausted from all these shenanigans, I stayed up to work on my syllabus. Just a short hour after my head hit the pillow my phone went off.  It was my latest doula client. She isn't due for another 10 days but was convinced she was in labor.  I was dubious.  I met her at the hospital where we waited for over 3 hours (due to someone else's emergency c-section) for the midwife to inform her that she was not in labor yet and send her home with words of encouragement.

In spite of the last 48 hours, I am happy to report that we are happily settled in.  There are still pictures and curtains to hang and a scary mudroom to organize but we have working appliances (well some just barely...there are a few purchases in our future) and the boxes have been both emptied and carted away.

Behold the House of Dirt and Rocks (aka The Tikki Lounge):

Front View
Back View (what once was a shed)
Backyard
Back View
Side View
b's Latest Love
Pupzilla Settling In
Kitchen
More Kitchen
Bar
Pupzilla on her couch
Hallway
Smudge in the office
The Brute in the bedroom
Scary Mudroom
Empty Guest Room
More Empty Guest Room
More Scary Mudroom
Pupzilla patiently waiting for me to stop the picture-taking nonsense and finish making dinner.