Friday, November 30, 2007

Six Guilty Pleasures Meme

Thank you, Becky, for tagging me for this one.

A. Six guilty pleasures no one would suspect you of having:
1. I’ll never forget the day my former boss said to me, “When have you ever been to a baseball game?” and I left him speechless by responding, “I go to Yankee Stadium at least once a year.” I guess no one would suspect me of enjoying the fun of an afternoon eating hot dogs, drinking beer, and keeping score. And I’m happy now to be living basically equidistant from two ball parks: Philly and Baltimore.

2. Listening to (really, really loud) music and singing along (really, really badly) while driving (really, really fast) on empty country roads. I can’t indulge this one too much around here, though, because despite having tons of country roads, I have to worry too much about the Amish horses and buggies.

3. Speaking of music: country music. I hated it growing up, but now I like to listen to it, because of its story-telling quality. I prefer old-timers like Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings, but Garth Brooks is fun, too, and I adore The Dixie Chicks for many, many reasons. I’m mad at those who have adopted country music the way the American flag has been adopted to represent a false, meaningless patriotism.

4. Doritos with French onion dip. You wouldn’t think I, Ms. Organic, would love something so false and junky, would you? So, so bad for so, so many reasons, but just so, so good.

5. Obscenely expensive soaps and bubble baths. I know there are people in this world who could probably feed themselves for two months on what I’ve been known to spend on these items. Sometimes, I feel (ever-so-slightly) guilty about that when I’m settling down in a tub full of organic, lavender bubbles poured from a fancy glass bottle and later washing them away with organic lavender and oatmeal soap, but not for very long.

6. Obscenely expensive and silky lingerie. I guess I love contrasts, but I don’t think there’s anything that can make a woman feel more sexy than to wear something really, really nice under a pair of comfortable old blue jeans and a soft, faded t-shirt (especially at a baseball game, after showering with obscenely expensive soap). I loved that part in Eat, Pray, Love when she’s in Italy and buys all that lingerie.

B. Six guilty pleasures you wish you had the courage to indulge:
1. Quitting my job to backpack around some exotic country for a year. I’ll never do it, though, because I’m perfectly aware that it sounds wonderfully romantic and adventuresome, but that I’d be whining like a baby with the first blister, and I’d be suicidal over something like dysentery. And I’d ruin it after six months by spending every day of the next six worrying about whether or not I’d ever get another good job once I returned home.

2. Quitting my job to travel around the world on freighter ships for a year. Wouldn’t have to worry about the blisters, then, nor the dysentery (most likely, if I kept to eating the food on the ship), but that worry over getting a job when I got back would still be a problem.

3. More than two cups of coffee per day and drinking it after 2:00 p.m. My fear of insomnia (being way too familiar with long, sleepless nights) is just too strong, despite the fact I absolutely love coffee.

4. Hot chocolate or hot Ovaltine topped with real whipped cream to accompany my Eggs Benedict or pancakes every morning for breakfast. First, I’d need to hire a full-time cook, because I’m not about to do so much as even whip cream every single morning, and, second, I don’t particularly want to become the Goodyear blimp within a year’s time.

5. Homemade dessert every night. Same problems (need to hire a cook and weight gain) as having my ideal breakfast every morning.

6. Taking a nap in the middle of a work day. I wrote about this once; I still can’t bring myself to do it (although I have once or twice when I was sick).

C. Six pleasures you once considered guilty but have now made peace with:
1. Taking a taxi instead of the subway in New York (although the subway is often more interesting to the voyeur writer in me)

2. Staying in a hotel that is quite a few steps above a Microtel

3. Custom-made bookshelves (Bob is still incredibly guilty as we wait six weeks for the Amish man we hired to do this to complete them. I’m not the least bit so and can't wait to get them into our library)

4. Buying whatever food I want with no regard to price

5. An occasional night of Doritos with French onion dip for dinner and ice cream for dessert

6. Spending an evening all alone with a good book while slowly sipping a glass or two of good sherry

If you haven't done this one yet, I'm tagging you (you know who you are).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Beowulf and Cholera

Every so often, I marvel at the (I don't even know what to call it: audacity? stupidity? madness?) of Hollywood. I mean, sometimes I really wish I could have been there when some group of people happened to be sitting around, shooting the breeze, and someone suddenly said, "I've got it! Let's make ____________ into a movie!" Actually, it's a good thing I've never been a member of one of these discussions (well, at least, during the over thirteen years since I last took a hit off a joint. Before then, who knows? Maybe I, too, would have been leaping at the chance to make Sally, Dick, and Jane or something into a movie). My response would be, "Are you out of your friggin' mind?!" (Thus, maybe "madness" is the appropriate word).

I can't believe that this Christmas season, we've got not one, but two movies that fit this bill, neither of which you'll catch me racing to the theaters to see. The first of these is Beowulf, with none other than Angelina Jolie starring as Grendel's mother. Yes, I am sure it's uncanny how many people read the epic poem for the first time to be haunted by Jolie-like images of Grendel's mother. Tell me the truth now. She's exactly what your imagination conjured up, isn't she? Nothing more ferocious to a bunch of Medieval heroes than the woman who's toting around hundreds of adopted children while keeping pretty boy Brad Pitt on a short leash these days. As my sister Lindsay so aptly put it the other day, "I'm so glad Beowulf is finally out" (thus proving that my sarcastic nature runs in the family).

Beowulf is one of my all-time favorite pieces of literature. Granted, I haven't read it since I was twenty-one, and it's high time for a re-read, but between the ages of seventeen and twenty-one, I read it three times (twice for school and once for fun). I don't know about you, but I found my high school English classes to be extraordinarily boring, full of Shakespeare I was too young and inexperienced to understand and appreciate (come on. Why teach Romeo and Juliet to someone who has yet to experience the madness of her first requited love?); the worst, rather than the best, of the likes of Mark Twain and Edgar Alan Poe; and unimaginative textbooks and teachers who had no idea how to make these works relevant to sixteen-year-olds. To this day, I can tell you that only four other things that I had to read in my American high school (my English high school was a different story. I loved my English class there) were things that I truly enjoyed reading at the time: Spoon River Anthology; The Good Earth, Goodbye, Mr. Chips; and A Clockwork Orange. (By the way, I once had a friend of mine say to me when I narrated this list to him, "Were you schizophrenic in high school?")

Beowulf definitely stood out among the crowd here. We read it senior year, and up until that point, I'd never been exposed to anything like it. Anyone who's read this blog for any length of time knows that I must have been a knight in one of my previous lives, my fascination with castles and dragons being what it is. Although I couldn't read it, the Old English language grabbed my attention, as well. Till then, I'd never thought much about the evolution of language. I was intrigued from the moment our teacher began to introduce it to us. Then I started to read it. To say the twentieth century disappeared like a mere mortal in Grendel's mother's lair would be an understatement.

The magic of Beowulf, though, is that it's just that: magic. We are left up to our own devices, our own subconscious interpretations to bring it to life. Grendel is my very own monster, and I know what he looks like, but I'm sure he isn't yours. His mother is worse than the worst mama bear protecting her cubs. My dragon is bleak with a sad fury, not the type you see baring teeth and dancing in a Chinese New Year parade, as he might be for someone else. How dare anyone ruin my pictures of them by committing them to film? It's sacrilege, pure and simple.

Speaking of magic, anyone ever heard of magical realism? Any others of you stupid enough to have watched that pathetic excuse for a film version of a book The House of the Spirits, like I was? I hope, like I, after that experience, you saw the light and weren't the least bit tempted to see the film version of the oh-so-wonderful Corelli's Mandolin. After all, you'd realized that, despite the fact film seems like the perfect medium for magical realism, some things, once again, are best left up to the imagination. So, why on earth would anyone take Love in the Time of Cholera and make it into a movie? Granted, it's not One Hundred Years of Solitude, the grandfather of magical realism, but still.

I don't need to go see the movie to have a pretty good idea of what those in the film industry will have done to my favorite Garcia Marquez novel (another one, coincidentally, I've read three times) in order to try to make millions off it. I can just picture all the sex and the seductive whores and a complete missing of the boat when it comes to capturing the complexity of the novel and its exploration of all the many types of love we humans experience. Even People has trashed this one.

I have a confession to make now, though. I'm being very hypocritical. I'm the person who has always said, "Don't tell me how awful an author is unless you've read him or her." I obviously haven't seen either one of these movies. Maybe I should. Maybe Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother will add a whole new dimension to the text. Maybe Gabriel Garcia Marquez should have started with films rather than with novels. Then again, if this is what the merging of film and literature has led to, maybe I shouldn't have given up smoking pot all those years ago.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Photo Entry

Fall finally came to Lancaster, and I managed to get a few shots before the huge winds and drastic drop in temperature took it away. This is the tree in our front yard. Before we moved here, we were told it was beautiful in the fall. Until about ten days ago, I was beginning to have my doubts, but I see I need to work on having a little more faith in what others tell me.

This is the same tree and the front of the manse. That window in the peak just begs to have a mysterious figure standing in it and then disappearing, doesn't it? I'll have to see what I can do about that.

This is the side and back of the manse. We're so popular, we have a parking lot in our back yard.

This is the church. Bob's in there somewhere.
These are our neighbors. No one's invited me out to play yet, but they don't mind when I go wandering around on their property.

So, here I am, proud of myself for getting pictures on my blog, and then I discover Ian's been busy making his own YouTube videos. Nothing like being put to shame by your little brother.

More Rattling Chains or Are They Jingle Bells? As Well as a Meme

Well, since we're being forced to move into the Christmas season, whether we're ready or not, I've finished my ghost story over at Things that Go Bump in the Night. (Stef, this is the one I promised to send you.) I posted it from beginning to end to make it easier to read, and I'd love some feedback (have even conveniently included questions for readers to answer to help with this). And don't worry. I won't be hurt if the only feedback you want to give me is, "Forget ghost stories." Meanwhile, until I get that feedback, I think I'll write a few Christmas ghost stories, but don't worry, yet again: I won't subject you-all to those. Now that I'm done revising this story and have completed Cam's roundtable discussion (wasn't it great?), it's back to a regular blog-posting schedule right here for now.

What the Eye Doesn't See Meme

Becky created this meme, for which I am an ideal candidate. Unfortunately, she created it so long ago, many of you may have forgotten all about it. You can refresh your memory over here. In the meantime, here is my list of five advantages to being extremely near-sighted.

1. A great excuse -- being a contact-lens wearer and going places without solution, lens cases, and glasses is the perfect excuse never to have to spend the night anywhere I don’t want to (in my single days: that “iffy,” hinting-he’d-like-me-to-spend-the-night date’s apartment. A few years ago: my father in-law’s place when it was snowing up a storm Christmas day, and he was wondering whether or not it was safe for us to drive all the way home. Now: clingy friends of Bob’s and mine who we know will keep us up all night with all their woes. You get the picture, I’m sure).

2. Christmas tree lights -- there’s nothing cooler than looking at a multi-color-lighted tree sans glasses or contact lenses. The lights turn into blurring, soft, wheels, and they monopolize the tree, so that tacky ornaments are invisible.

3. Handing over the car keys -- my night vision is particularly bad, and I’m not a big fan of driving at night (especially now that I live in an area where horses and buggies go roaming around after dark). I happily hand over car keys to anyone willing to chauffeur me with the excuse that I’m likely to get us into an accident with my poor vision. This also means I can drink alcoholic beverages without having to worry, since I’m rarely ever assigned “designated driver” status.

4. Instant intelligence – people really do seem to think that those of us who wear glasses are smarter. I don’t wear my glasses all that often, because they bother me (never seem to sit comfortably on my nose, fog up when it’s hot and muggy outside, attract dirt, slide off if I work up a sweat, etc.), but when I’m feeling the need to counter-balance my blond hair, I’ll put them on.

5. Payback – I have one of those husbands who doesn’t seem to be able to find anything on his own, always needing my help to find anything he’s lost and often expecting me to drop what I’m doing to help him. Every so often, I’ll take my glasses off to pull on a sweater, wash my face, look at a Christmas tree, or something, forgetting which table or counter I put them on, and I literally can’t find them (yes, I’m that blind without them). He has to drop whatever he’s doing and come find them for me. Hmmm…maybe I should do this more than every-so-often.

If you’re blind as a bat and have spent most of your life lamenting how horrible you look in glasses, I’m tagging you to give this meme a whirl.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Roundtable

It's up! Cam has posted the first installment of our blogger roundtable discussion. Check it out, comment please, and praise Cam to the hilt. It was lots of fun to be a participant, but lots of work for her, as you will be able to imagine once you start reading. You'll note that I blather on more than anyone else; thus, I was the one who made her job twice as hard.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I'm Still Addicted to These Things

Thanks to Charlotte for this one. Apparently, she and I could pose for a double portrait. Those of you who have ever seen me at a party, sitting quietly, just observing what's going on around me, obviously have no idea what a show-stopper I really am. Must be that I'm also just such a kind person that I simply choose not to compete. I mean, when you know you could so easily overshadow everyone else, why bother?

Who Should Paint You: Roy Lichtenstein
Larger than life, your personality overshadows everyone in the room
A painter would tend to portray you with a bit of added flair!
What Artist Should Paint Your Portrait?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Not Exactly Pastoral

I am so, so glad no one has yet invented whatever needs to be invented in order to be able to read others’ minds. I remember once, somewhere (either on the radio, TV, or some magazine), encountering a discussion about mind-reading. Some woman was talking about how she so wished her husband could read her mind. My immediate reaction was: are you nuts?

I’d love to see how quickly my marriage might dissolve if my husband could actually read my mind when, for instance, I’m trying to relate the fascinating conversation about the relationship between algebra and geometry I had with one of my authors today, and he doesn’t even bother to put down the newspaper to pretend, at least, he’s listening. Or how about when he wants high praise because he cleaned a bathroom, emptied the litter box, and went to the post office to buy stamps on the same day I paid all the bills, went grocery shopping, took the car in for an oil change, and spent an hour online looking for a story that might help him make a point in his sermon next Sunday? Oh, and did I mention the fact I also worked eight hours that day? I don’t think you need to be a mind-reader to take a stab at figuring out what might be going on in mine at such times. They’re the sorts of thoughts that have “one-way-to-divorce-court” stamped all over them.

I’ve had occasion as of late to think of something that might be worse than a mind-reading husband: mind-reading parishioners. I can’t quite decide what, exactly, would most cause them to want to drive their pastor and his horrible wife out of town. Would it be the fact she can’t possibly be worthy of the position, because no “Christian” woman would have such thoughts? Perhaps it would be the fact that no good man could possibly be married to someone so mean. I like to fantasize that it would be fear, fear that this woman can’t possibly have their numbers like that, can she?

Actually, I’m sure they would be afraid. However, they wouldn’t be afraid of my ability to peg them. No, they’d be afraid of my multiple personalities. Even in this quiet, innocent little part of the world, people have heard of Sybil. Let’s take a look at some of the recent examples that exemplify two very distinct personalities inside the head of one pastor’s wife. Just for the heck of it, we’ll call them Mary and Jezebel, shall we?

Woman with little girl in tow rings the manse’s doorbell at 9:00 p.m. on a very chilly night. She’s having car trouble. She has no money. She needs a place to stay.

Mary: Oh, how horrible! That poor woman! Imagine being stranded in the middle of nowhere with no money and nowhere to go. Invite them in. See if they’re hungry. Let’s get out the “emergency funds” and give them $100.

Jezebel: Oh, give me a break! Even I, one of the most movie-ignorant people in this country, have seen Paper Moon. Can’t you come up with something more original than car trouble and a little girl you have to feed? Who’s that other person sitting out there in the car? Hit the road. We haven’t got a cent for the likes of you.

The pastor and his wife are at a hayride and bonfire party sponsored by one of the members of the church. Some of the kids are crowding around the pastor, teasing him and telling him he’s a bonfire. A few of the women of the church look at him knowingly and say, “That’s because you’re so hot.”

Mary: Oh, how sweet. We haven’t even been here two months, and people are already comfortable enough to tease him like this.

Jezebel: Yeah, and if any of you tries to sink your nasty little claws into him, there’ll be hell to pay. This is one pastor, if I can help it, who won’t be running off with any organists.

Parishioner informs pastor and his wife that next Saturday is the day that all of the oldest members of the church get together to have a little party and auction. She’d like the pastor and his wife to come, especially since this little group has begun to dwindle due to illness and death.

Mary: Oh, how sweet! And how sad so many of them are ill. What should I bring?

Jezebel: Well, there goes yet another Saturday. Are we ever going to get to have a Saturday to ourselves? I can’t think of anything I’d rather NOT be doing next Saturday. Will these invitations to mind-numbing events never cease?

Pastor and his wife are at another church function. Wife is extraordinarily exhausted and just wants to go home. Pastor is not picking up on any of the various hints she’s been dropping to indicate thus. Finally, she bluntly says, “We have to go,” at almost the exact same moment some woman in distress asks the pastor if he might have some time to talk with her soon. He says “sure” and proceeds to suggest they talk now.

Mary: How wonderful I’m married to such a nice man who’s so willing to help all these people when they need him. I’m glad they have someone to talk to them; it’s so important, and he’s such a sympathetic listener.

Jezebel (restraining foot from kicking his shin as he suggests they find a quiet place to talk): Why can’t he ever say “no” to anyone? And how dare she come along and take him away just when I finally had him halfway out the door? I have half a mind to just go off and leave him here.

So, you see, others with mind-reading capabilities might be a bit of a problem for someone in my shoes. I can’t remember if that radio report/TV show/magazine was reporting on its becoming a reality or not. I certainly hope not, but if it was, I want the equivalent of caller i.d. blocking for my thoughts. Being sent to the nearest mental institution is not exactly how I envisioned the “Pennsylvania Phase” of my life.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

So, I Lied, But I Have a Crazy Idea to Make Up for It

I know, I said I was back about a month ago, but I've really only been about half back, haven't I? Everyone else has been busy celebrating NaBloPoMo, and I seem to have been celebrating NaNoBloPoMo. Oh well, it can't be helped. I've just got too much on my plate right now: still unpacking, conferences for work, and now I'm getting ready finally to go spend some time with my sister and nieces. I promise I'm not gone for good. Every so often, I'll still be posting, I will finish the ghost story over at Things That Go Bump in the Night, and, occasionally, I will still visit each of your blogs and maybe even leave some comments. One day, maybe as a New Year's resolution, I will get back to a nice routine, and my blog posts will once again be more frequent.

Meanwhile, I'd like to throw out a crazy idea to everyone. How about an international blogger meet up in Philadelphia, PA next year (say, in August)? I'm not at all familiar with Philly yet, having had no time to explore it (hell, I haven't even had any time to explore Lancaster yet), but I figure it might be a good place to find a museum (I do happen to know that the library is fabulous, so maybe we could meet there. It might even be an "event" the library would sponsor: The Gathering of Book Bloggers. Of course, then I'd have to lie again and pretend I'm a book blogger) or something where we could all meet. If anyone is interested, I'm willing to do the exploring and to set it all up. We can meet in the morning, and if no one is getting along by noon, we can all go our separate ways, or if things are going well, we can keep hanging out with each other (kind of like a blind date for drinks rather than dinner and a movie). Then, maybe this could be an annual thing, and I'll have an excuse every year to go somewhere really exciting.

If you can't possibly come to Philly next summer, in January, Courtney is in the process of arranging a meetup in New York around AWP for a little prelude to the Philly meetup. I'll be there, probably insisting we all go to the Hungarian Pastry Shop, inconveniently located way up on the Upper West Side, and whining about how much I want to live in the city.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


Excuse me for a moment while I rave about our new house, which isn’t new at all, age-wise, having been built sometime in the 1880s. Anyway, all I can say is: Bob had better keep his job, because I love this house. Despite still having plenty of unpacked boxes and not being able to find a thing (even unpacked things, because I can’t remember what I thought was such a clever place for them, when I unpacked them, utterly exhausted at 9:30 p.m. sometime two weeks ago), I already feel right at home. This was obviously the sort of house I was made to inhabit, the interior reminding me quite a bit of the house in which I was raised, except it’s bigger and older.

And I don’t just love this house because the first Sunday we lived here somebody other than Bob and I was mowing our lawn, and we didn’t have to pay for it. Or because the automatic ice maker wasn’t working, and I wasn’t the one who had to call Kenmore to get a repairman out here, or because I just chose paint colors I wanted for the downstairs rooms, and, voila! they were all painted by the time I arrived. No, I love this house because of what it is: a marvelous old house that has re-awakened the ghost-story writer in me (we have a walk-up attic that seems it was at one time the maids’ quarters – a dusty old place with a hallway that mimics the one on the second floor and two rooms off to either side. I’ve placed a big basket chair and a small table at the end of this hallway, right in front of the peaked window that looks out the front and over the huge spruce in the yard. Can you think of a better spot to take a notebook and pen to write? It’s not heated, but I’m hardy when it comes to temperature and will take a sleeping bag up there with me until it gets too cold even for me). Strange knocking noises in the dining room just have to be a ghost, right?

Not only is it a marvelous old house, but it’s also the sort of house I always wanted with its big front porch and nine-foot ceilings. And I’m living right, smack-dab in the center of “town” (such as it is. The real town is Lancaster proper, and I suppose this used to be a village of sorts, surrounded by nothing but farmland). We have hardwood floors that aren’t ruined with wall-to-wall carpeting. We have a space at the end of the upstairs hall with a window just perfect for a reading couch. The dining room is the biggest room in the house. How can someone who thinks food is one of life’s greatest pleasures not be thrilled about that?

I don’t want to sound too unappreciative of our former home, which was a very nice place as well. The problem with it, though, is that it was a very nice place for someone like all our neighbors – the sorts of people who seem to like nothing better, after a long, hard week at work, to spend their weekends cleaning, painting, decorating, gardening, renovating, and worrying about every scratch and knick on the exterior and interior of their homes. That would not be Bob and me. We like to spend our weekends reading books and the Sunday New York Times (which to our horror, we’ve discovered we can’t get delivered here).

I fell in love with that house, too, but I fell in love with it on a very superficial level. It had this beautiful window in the living room, and the living room led into a huge glassed-in sunroom (which we decorated with artifacts Bob had collected while in grad school in Santa Fe and came to call the “Santa Fe room”). Off the Santa Fe room was a swimming pool. It all sounds very glamorous and appealing, and it is if you’re just visiting it for a few days, but not if you’re trying to live there. You see, if you don’t live with one and have to take care of it, you don’t realize that things like swimming pools have to be vacuumed and that they’re sullen teenagers who, when they feel you’ve been ignoring them too long, enjoy doing things like suddenly turning green with algae the week of your pool party. Huge glassed-in rooms have windows that seem to want to show off their dirt if they’re not washed on a regular basis. It was as if the house had a pair of sparkling green eyes that had attracted my attention the minute we first saw it, drawing me away from the rest of its body and making me forget that I really like deep, dark, soulful, brown eyes – the sort of eyes that have a pipeline to the heart. The house I’m in now has deep, dark, soulful, brown eyes.

When we first moved into our former house, we were newlyweds who’d never lived with each other. So what’s really nice about that house is that we grew up and together in it. What’s also nice about that house is that it helped me get to know Bob, whom I now know much better than I did when I was busy being charmed by a pair of green eyes. I know he can’t bear to get rid of anything. That house, despite having this absurd 4-car garage (the former owner had been a pilot and had built on extra garage stalls, so he could build and house his own plane) never had the right kind of storage space. And I was too lazy busy with my all-important work and travel schedule to weed and take care of it all.

The other problem with the old house is that we were house poor when we moved into it. I was only 31 when we got married, and although I had my doubts, still wasn’t sure that my biological clock hadn’t just been temporarily broken and that I might not find myself desperate for children by the time I was 36 or so. And we wanted a room to call a “study” where we both could write. Thus, we had to have at least three bedrooms: one for a baby, one for us, and one for a study. We were living in Stamford, CT at the time and to think we were under the delusion we could afford such a thing there is laughable. But then we discovered this little town that hadn’t yet been “discovered” (it since has, in abundance, and huge houses are popping up all over the place like pimples on a teenager’s face). If we pushed the limits of what we were planning to spend on a house, we could get this sparkling-green-eyed, 4-bedroom colonial that seemed about 100 times the size of the studio apartment I was renting at the time.

We’d sunk all our money into a down payment and mortgaged ourselves up to our necks, before I noticed its flabby beer belly (kitchen that probably still had the original appliances from 1959, the year it was built, with an oven that couldn’t easily be replaced when it broke, because wall ovens are no longer made in that size), its dirty fingernails (wallpaper and wall-to-wall carpeting that was old, dingy, stained, and, in some of the bedrooms, shoddily lain), and its nasty habit of spitting in public (bathrooms that had issues similar to the ones in the kitchen). Within a week of moving into the house, the dishwasher blew up, the pool filter stopped doing its job, and the water tank sprung little pin-hole leaks. Paying for all these things added new meaning to the term “house poor.”

We had no money, and we are not handy do-it-yourselfers, so we didn’t do what most people do. We didn’t remodel or redecorate. We just moved all our stuff in and placed it on top of what was already there. Then we went back to reading books. When we finally did feel we had a little money to remodel or redecorate, things like swimming pool liners needed replacing, or a tree fell on the deck (not once, but twice!) so that it needed major repair, or pipes froze and flooded the basement, or families of squirrels decided that our garage was prime real estate in squirrel land. We dealt with all those disasters and were too exhausted to do anything other than pick up our books and read.

Bob, the more romantic member of this pair, will tell you how much he loves that house, what a wonderful house it is. What I love is the fact we grew up in it together, that it was a great place to get to know and love each other better. We learned that we were the sort of couple that would come together when we woke up to discover the roof was leaking into the laundry room. I learned that Bob is a Master when it comes to researching contractors and repairmen and getting them to do wonderful work. And that house is now in terrific hands, with one of those neighbors who is not the sort who likes to spend his weekends reading books.

Meanwhile, I’ve got to get back to taking junk lovely sentimental artifacts up to that huge walk-up attic. Oh yes, and I do have to tell you that this house does have one fault. It wears glasses over its soulful brown eyes, you see, because it’s situated right on the Lincoln Highway, a road that an adventuresome soul can take all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. People tell us we’ll get used to the roar of the traffic one of these days. I certainly hope so.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Where's the Kitty?

Got the camera, got the directions for downloading photos onto computer, got the photo before the kitten was an eighteen-year-old, toothless and drooling cat. This is a particularly good photo, because it shows not only the hidden Kitty (I must say, Francis blends in with quite a lot around here. You should see him disappear on the hardwood floors), but also the hand-made quilt we bought at the library auction the first week we were living here.

This was the same library auction where I was heard to declare before we went, "We are not buying anything. No new things come into this house until we're done unpacking and know what we need." You may have spotted us later that evening with a rug, an office chair, and this quilt. But, you know, it was all for a good cause: we were supporting the library. Besides, it was really unfair for them to have a patchwork quilt when I'm a complete sucker for patchwork, and we were the only people not likely to have one already, this seemingly being the quilting capital of the world.

Answers to your questions:

Why, yes, of course it's his bed. Bob and I have taken to squeezing into old-towel-lined boxes on the floor every night.

The bed is unmade, because we just couldn't disturb him, not, of course, because the bed quite often goes unmade in our house.

Rattling Chains

Well, the chains haven't really started rattling much yet, but they've sort of moved onto the scene over here today. And talk about the difficulties of re-working a story. I realized I had an entire paragraph in the absolute wrong place in my first installment. I hope the story makes sense by the time I'm done.

Meanwhile (she says all smiles), I'm beginning to suspect we have a ghost in the manse. More on that later (gee, I'm leaving you hanging all over the place today).