An Unexpected Day Off

I called into work this morning to find out if I’d be coming in at noon again, and found out I could stay home. Well, the extra money might be missed, but at least I enjoyed the first snow day of the season.

In fact, by the time I woke up, the overnight snow still dusted the foothills, and it continued to snow off an on. Late morning, the wind came up, making me very glad for  insulation and double-paned windows. Hearing trees whip and the occasional apple blown into the siding was fun, but I can’t imagine the days when the cold would have slipped right through the window frame and eaves.

And there’s something about the weight of a snowstorm, with the wind and the mist, that not only makes me happy to stay inside, but have a productive inside day. Well, after I finished dawdling online—though I did get the three books I finished this weekend, unless you count Thursday, which would make it four.

reading mitt

If I hadn’t had to update the program, you could have seen the bread too! I ate it instead.

So I put on my finished reading mitts, and got into The Man from Beijing, which is…interesting, in a word: the prose is spare, and I imagine in Swedish, probably artless; but the social issues behind the plot are so simplistic, it’s making it hard to read. And yay! after clearing out the freezer, we found the yeast, and I made bread. Yes, homemade bread.

Well—strictly speaking, bread made from scratch, because I did use the bread machine. I have made homemade bread from scratch without that device, all the way from hand-kneading to oven. But with it’s “super rapid” setting, it finished in just two hours. I want.

Fresh bread, lemon-ginger tea with honey, internet, and a book, all while watching the snow fall from in front of the fire?  Best October-weather-change day ever!


It Turned Into a Meditation


Didn’t mention, but probably should have, mentioned I’m going to a cousin’s wedding this weekend. After all, it’s eating up two of my usual blogging days.

Despite all previous evidence to the contrary, I though on this trip, I would have been able to keep up with all my self-appointed tasks. That is in part, after all, why a laptop with extended battery power was so desirable. When you grow up in the middle of nowhere, you’re always anticipating long trips.

It may have happened. But just as I’d decided to pull out my computer and write about something—I’m not sure I remember anymore—we heard some terrible news from home.

Not personal news, as though that means much. It’s a small community. Small enough that “things like this don’t happen here” to apply, simply because people are too scattered to be prone to the kind of random violence cities suffer from.

This wasn’t random violence in any way, except that it happened victims just as innocent.

It’s the story you hear all the time in the papers and on the scroll bar of television news: nothing that makes the front page except locally, and nothing to develop an entire segment of precious TV space . Trust me, you’ve heard it before. I know it bothers me to see so little attention to such stories, since it’s often overshadowed by any celebrity doing anything.

I hate to say it, but it’s not much more or less shocking to hear than any of those other stories. I’ll think about it longer, it will be impossible not to, in such a small town. I don’t regret that. Often you never hear the follow-up as though it’s not important. But it’s harder to hear this story with names I know, people I’ve met. Not that I could change anything, have made any difference.

What is there to say? I don’t want to name anyone, focus the story. Give the family what privacy they can have. I don’t know details, and I almost wish I wouldn’t ever have to know more. That’s easier, of course, and why no one wants to talk about it.

Not long ago, my brother sent me a link to a list of stories to “restore your faith in humanity.” I love those stories. Just not so soon after something like this.


Crazy, Crazy Day

Swiss house under demolition (so internal stru...

Image via Wikipedia

I pulled myself out of bed promptly at six this morning. So early that the sun wasn’t up yet, nor even the cats—though they did slink around the corners a bit. It’s a nice time, and for once I had the house to myself. This could do wonders for my mental health.

Having a goal made the endeavor far more palatable. Not that it was much of a carrot, it still gave me purpose.

I revised my short story. It’s not a good story, and never was, but hopefully it’s a little better. Got some of the little edits in, playing with paragraphs and sentence structures, that sort of thing. Most importantly, I filled in a sort of missing scene. The story itself had no indication that this scene existed, much less missing, but it builds the step between the ignorant beginning and the “epiphany” of the climax. Nothing quite so grand actually, but it’s far too late after my early morning to remember what the term I want is. Oh, the shame!

Then at 7:40 I got the call to sub. Maybe I planned the early wake up as me time, but it certainly made it possible for me to get to school that quickly. And it was the last day I needed this month to pay the bills.

And at 4:30, my brother and I had to head toward the theater to set up the movie. But brother had locked his keys in the projection room. And when he finally called other brother, he found that the other set of keys was in other brother’s car. Which my mom was driving, since other brother is out-of-state. So we went home. I remembered to pick up my jacket if it got cold again at night (it didn’t) and my glasses to focus the movie. We got back to the theater and brother got started setting up the movie, and my friend came over to hang out since we hardly ever see each other. Brother was kind enough to let me get away with this. Friend and I made fun of a certain book that she had lent me from her sisters’ collection.

Now, we could have finished the day off like this, the three of us: setting up the movie, and watching it (to check for errors of course). Except M.P.A.T. schedules “blocking” (play practice) at the theater on Thursday evenings. I forgot to inquire as to why this is so.

I had to go and walk about on stage while trying to read my lines and several actors not present.

It wasn’t much fun. I’m the only newbie on set; as brother put it, I “haven’t been in a play since kindergarten.” I told him that was a little excessive, because who could count kindergarten pageants plays? Other than possibly parents. Nothing against kindergarteners here. At any rate, I can’t enunciate and I don’t know what to do with myself on stage. As every other person in the cast has, I think, several years experience at least, I found this to be hugely embarrassing. Maybe not hugely. And even ’embarrassing’ doesn’t convey all that much, as I get embarrassed by almost everything. Although at least I can finally spell the word.

We finally cleared out the play paraphernalia (that is to say, the metal folding chairs on stage) about 8:30, at which point brother and I were finally able to eat dinner. An over-backed bake-at-home pizza. It was hot though, and dad delivered honey too, so it was almost palatable.

Brother helped me actually set up the movie—run the film through the projector and flip most of the switches. And we finished the rest of the flip switching by eleven.

Crazy, crazy day, I tell you.

Disrespecting Icarus

I do not remember when I first learned the story of Icarus. I do remember exactly what I thought of him, which was, essentially, that he was an idiot.

No, there really wasn’t any sympathy involved. Rather, I empathized most with his father, who had to watch his son fall to his death. I never quite understood why someone would not be willing to follow simple directions that would have allowed him, in this case, the joys of flying without the whole falling part. They do say it’s not the fall that kills you—but you still end up dead.

Which goes to show, I suppose, that I’d have to identify myself with Hestia…goddess of the home and hearth. Well, I’m about as forgettable as she, although should someone write a Homeric hymn to me, I wouldn’t warrant even five lines*. But then again, I try to avoid walking in front of buses, and my family has always done well longevity-wise.  Still, though I spend much of my time at home, that doesn’t mean I actually look forward to tending the hearth.

Of course, I’ve been taking the application of the archetypes of the Greek myths rather literally. A metaphor will break with you stretch it too far.

I would be far more adventurous if it weren’t so expensive. But I have had a few chances to spread my wings, as it were, with travel. Only once though, “internationally.” And almost always I had to rely on family. My only venture past the US border came when I visited my grandparents in Roseau, Minn. It’s a very tiny town, only a few miles of the border. So one cloudy, blustery day, my brother and I convinced my mom to drive us up to Canada. Unfortunately, it was closed.

Well, actually, we did get in. But it was Sunday, and though we drove through two good-sized towns, nothing was open—excepting an A&W Root Beer restaurant where we stopped for lunch. The only place we could find to get “souvenirs” was a gas station minimart. I got a little crystal-covered cat-bangle watch.

One of my main reasons for being such a homebody, I admit, is because I tend to recognize the similarities of a place and people before the differences. I really have to work to understand—or even to realize—why people wouldn’t get along. For instance, that day in Canada, though everything was closed, and we only drove through, I didn’t see that many differences. Well, they did use the Canadian dollar, which I couldn’t convert, and all the speed signs were in kilometers per hour, which I couldn’t convert either. I’ve never been good with math.

But there were a lot of big box stores, even if they were different from the common ones in California—which they are in the Midwest and eastern US anyway. But just because the names are different, the places really aren’t.

Growing up I spent most of my free time (and not-so-free time) reading. I still read too much, or at least checking out too many books from the library. I’ve never decided what my favorite genre was. I love all the different fictions, really. And most kinds of non-fiction: biographies, histories, sciences, etc. Really, I can’t think of anything I don’t like to read. But this is where the Icarus-Hestia myth comparison just doesn’t work for me. For instance, though staying home reading is probably very “Hestia,” what I read gives me a way to explore parts of the world I will never experience (like Victorian England), and then a new way to interpret the world when I am adventuresome.

So, yes, though I still don’t respect Icarus’ decision to be stupid, I never mind learning more about…well…anything!

*Yes, I wikied it. That is a verb by now, yes?

Because Fiction Has to Make Sense

I seem to find nonfiction much more interesting. I still read plenty of fiction, of course. Particularly mystery series, like the Gideon Oliver series, which is awesome. Aaron Elkins can delelop a character that will occupy only two pages of the entire book, and I will know that character more throughly than some main characters…I will not name names–usually books with characters like that are forgotten easily.

Anyway, I’ve always been more prone to picking up books at library sales and used bookstores in the nonfiction section. These are the books that are most likely not to be read, but also far more likely to be kept. I can go back and read and skim, flip through and re-read more often. I remember them more. And I think I might just enjoy them more.

Today I went to the library–surprise!–intending to just drop off two books that I’d convinced myself to give up, but of course I found my way in, and out again with three more books. All three from the nonfiction section.

The first book I picked up, though not one I checked out, was about barbed wire through the ages. Below that was wallpaper throughout American history. Just above was a Sears catalog from 1908. Oh the things you can find in the library!

One shelf over from came the self help books from organizing time and workspace and another shelf, parenting.  Actually, my first forays into nonfiction came from the self-help section. Like most teenagers, I thought I ought to be depressed, and therefore liked to read about it. The most basic of depression books tend to be about how not to be depressed, and so I ended up with books like “Depression for Dummies.” Another oddly ironic title, however, it still didn’t last long.

From the heath care self-help books I moved on to the how-to-write section. I should note here that I rarely, if ever, read these books in order to take their advice, but more out of simple curiosity into what the writer’s thought about their subjects. Most, naturally, consisted of what is known as “common sense” despite its rarity, and yet some authors could be surprising eloquent about how best to punctuate a sentence.

Grammar books can be awesome. I suppose I shouldn’t use such a careless adjective twice in one post, but it fits, and I don’t need too hard to think of something else. It’s likely why I focused on the editing side of things. I have no trouble with judging. As for grammar books, however, I stole one from my parents that was fun to read, but terribly out of date. For the layperson, and everyone else, though, there is Eats, Shoots & Leaves. By the way, did you know that some people don’t believe in the ampersand? Fascinating. (Seriously, read the link)

Mostly, right now at least, I’ve been focusing on histories, biographies, and architecture.  Actually, mostly architecture, house plans, The Victorian Country House, things like that. I love architure. If there wasn’t so much math involved, and it didn’t involve so much schooling, and if I’d know anything about it before graduating high school, I would have become an architect. When I’m driving through town, I look out for the houses, they way they’re built, the style, the era, the condition. I just really love architecture, particularly of older homes. I really don’t know why. But the library has lots of books just on house plans, and ideas on kinds of houses, and I just keep checking them out.

I may be a dork because I like the Sims, but at least it lets me pretend to build houses.

An even better park of the ampersand comments, here. I suppose nobody actually follows these, but really ought to. It’s far better than anything I come up with. Which, I suppose, is always why I’m linking to that site.

A Long Unwinding

Off the rest stop

Off the rest stop

Often, when I am interacting with a new group of people, within the first few meetings, I will ‘brag’ about the oddest things.  One subject that I nearly always find a way to broach is that when I went to community college, I had to drive 14 hours each way to get home (told you).

Just today, I drove only about an hour to meet my dad and brother. And ever since I’ve not made that drive, I’ve been missing it. Part of the reason I bring it up so often is simply because such a drive seems so horrific to people. But I loved it. I miss it.

I would get up about 4 or 5 a.m. and head out to the freeway, going north at the same time everyone else went south. It was lovely.  It would be totally dark, and my side of the freeway abandoned, while the other was solid with headlights. It’s rather easy to feel just a little superior in that situation, or maybe it’s just a little small of me to feel so. But anyway, I’d drive, nearly alone, all the way to the next freeway (138)  to connect to I-5. It’s straight and flat and totally empty.  There is an itty bitty town, with a very old gas station, but other than that there’s little other than the occasional homestead until the massive connection to I-5, which is really only massive counting the tons of concrete that must have been used. And in comparison with the emptiness before. At this point too, it’s still dawn but you can’t yet see the sun, because you’re in the foothills. You can even see a bit of the old(er) Grapevine.

I love the Grapevine, I really don’t know why. Whenever I catch a reference to it, I don’t know, it makes me grin.  Just my mom knew a lot of the history of the area, having grown up in the area (sort of) at any rate, she’d tell us about it during the drives to Grandma’s house (the same, or similar, drive to the one I’d make, only my parents, naturally, took two days to drive it).

So anyway, I’d get to the Grapevine, which isn’t so difficult to drive now, and it’s always nice to be going that much faster than the semi-trucks. Their speed limit was only 35 or 45 mph, I think. Very slow. But they had their own lane. And it would be fully morning at this point.  I love the mountains too. Always have.  Even here, it makes me nervous sometimes driving out of town, that the mountains are so far away.  I don’t think I’d like the Great Plains. Anyway, naturally, the Grapevines=mountains. Very steep, wonderful, glorious mountains. I’m a fan. And during the spring…if you’re driving in the right direction, it would look very green (coming the other way, I suppose, the hillsides didn’t get as much rain).

Coming down out of the Grapevine, I think every time I made the trip, it would be dim. I don’t know whether fog or smog I never paid attention, but by the time you’re out of the foothills–which is a great section in itself, you can see the trail of the 5 by the headlights and taillights for miles–the sun was usually out of sight, and it would just seem…dusky. And you’d drive by an Ikea warehouse.

I tended to divide the trip into sections. Before the Grapevine, the Grapevine, and directly after the Grapevine, all of which I’ve described. Then there’s the straight section until the section of Stockton and Sacramento. In between, it’s straight and yellow.  Usually it’s flat, but there’s a section in the foothills, where it’s still straight, and up and down. Stockton and Sacramento are nice because they have more lanes and more visual variety. More interest with the driving too, although that’s a less happy variation in driving.

After Sacramento it’s flat farmland again until Redding. I like the foothills before Redding too. There are some great mountains that you’re driving into, and in the foothills it’s more up and down driving too. And a few casinos and car dealerships that change night into day, if it happens to be that dark when you’re driving by. Anyway, the hills around Redding are basically yellow grass (usually) with some kind of oak trees (I think) and very little shrubbery. It’s very dramatic, and lovely. Of course, I really like the scenery along the entire trip. Fortunately.

After Redding, of course, we go back to the local highways, and they’re scenic too. But all the way along I’d tick down past the same road signs to keep track of my progress. So know I always expect Red Bluff to be closer to Redding than it seems now, in comparison.

So, I’m sure no one needed that kind of point-by-point summary of my drive. But basically, where I’d intended to go with this was that I enjoy such a long drive. I guess I just have the right kind of mind for such a long trip. For me, really long drives, like the 14 hr one described, are relaxing. Like meditating…kind of. Only there’s no loss of consciousness.  I don’t get bored with the driving, even without cruise control.  I just find it very soothing. And by the end of it I’m exhausted, but I’m not stressed.

I rather miss that kind of unwinding. And the scenery.

Once I got to my point, it didn’t take long for me to make it, did it?

For the Title Alone

Yet another post because I came up with a title I liked.

This is definitely the opposite of when I try to write fiction, when I can be just as incoherent, but cannot create titles. At all.

But you know I’ve been reading this book  by M.C. Beaton, which she is writing under another name that I have not bothered to remember, in her same genre–mystery–with the same unlikable characters.

Which is weird, I usually only like books with likable characters. Books, TV, movies, ect, if I don’t like the characters I just don’t bother. Or I bother everyone else about how terrible and or ridiulous the book/show/movie is. But anyway, Beaton’s characters are unlikable, and irritating. But in high school, I read most of the Hamish Macbeth series…all, in fact, of the books my library owned, and enjoyed them. Recently, during the summer, I went through this libraries collection of Agatha Raisin books, tried a Macbeth mystery, and couldn’t stand it.

When I’d read the Macbeth in high school, I couldn’t stand Agatha Raisin, who is middle-aged, heavy-set, ursine with beady eyes.  See–it’s a memorable description, but so very mean.  That was the part I didn’t like.  All her characters too, seem to have love troubles throughout their series. But they are so ridiculous about it I get fed up, and give up. Admittedly, the characters are no more stupid than real life people doing the same thing. But I lose patience with them too. So I’ve liked the Agatha Raisin books recently enough that I could pick them up again despite the characters. (I must say, the characters are not badly drawn, just irritating, annoying, and mean. I don’t like mean. They’re generally unlikable, as far as I can tell, even to their friends.)

But like I said, I picked up a Beaton book, under another name, for another series.  And why does an author write under a pseudonym when just underneath, it has the author’s real name? This is a new series. And it’s “M.C. Beaton writing as ___!”  I just don’t get it.

Anyway. This new series takes place in Victorian England. Naturally.  Where else could you show off how delightfully ahead of her times the heroine is? Urgh.  There were plenty of intelligent women during Victorian times, and many of them were more enlightened than the period wished women to be. Nonetheless, there was a culteral reality to their attitudes, which most modern authors blow right past. Admittedly for mysteries especially, most authors will not probably spend years on their research, but is it really that hard to at least relate to histories realities?  In the subject of history itself, I’m not a fan of cultural relativism, but I think genre literature might benefit from at least a touch of it. Then again, it was the Victorian era, maybe today’s authors are attempting to emulate the gothic, lurid romance adventures of the day.

At any rate, the main character of this series is basically an upper-class, young, attractive Agatha, only she’s just as irritating. Lady Rose, is of course, a female activist horrifying her parents with her politics. To not be sent to India, she’s formed an engagement of convenience, whose other half she is conveniently in love with. Pardon–not so conveniently, neither will admit it. Oh, and he’s a policeman. (Um, Anne Perry?)

Now that was mean.

Still very typical of the modern day Victorian mystery. There are conventions of the genre, and even in 43 pages most of the highlights have been hit. Perhaps the trouble I’m having is that this particular book is not the first in the series. I’m not sure how far in it is, but we’re still being bombarded/smacked in the face with poor Lady Rose’s tribulations in being an activist during Victorian times…and the victim of an attempted assissination! She just can’t catch a break. And her companion, who I can’t quite recall, is either a former prostitute or a former actress–Victorian times, does it really matter–however, this at least, doesn’t seem to bother her parents. The parental units, by the way, are of course fully and foolishly intergrated into socities norms, and therefore not worth the words. Fortunately, Lady Rose managed to rise above her beauty and upbringing to be smart.

Back to the mystery. Never mind, I don’t want to talk about that because it’s kind of ridiculous actually. Only lady lovelier,  than Rose in her first season, the daughter of a Parson, is murdered looking like Lady of Shallot, and because she asked Lady Rose for help, someone is trying to kill poor Lady Rose while she shops for hats.

Ahh.  I’d almost forgotten the impetus for writing this today, at only 43 pages.

For Lady Rose’s protection, she and her companion are shipped to somewhere else in England that I cannot recall. They are fortunate to be able to catch a nap in a Pullman sleep car.  And we get a lecture on Pullman lasting a paragraph, complete with quote by Ambrose Bierce, about what happens when he dies. I really don’t care. No matter how quotable Ambrose Bierce may be–and he is very quotable.

Note: Wiki’d it.  Turns out this is an Edwardian mystery.  Who knew?  Still don’t like it much, and I still think it reads like a Victorian mysetry.  Ah well, I still intended to read it. Maybe it’ll get better. I’m at  nine hundred words and I don’t care to think about it anymore.