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Outside Providence

Updated: 2018-03-06T04:16:41.662-05:00


Gardens, New and Old


Inspired by Laura's musings.

We moved in May to a new house just 1/2 miles away. It's a little bigger than our old house, and we needed some more space.

Over the past 3 years, I've installed and worked on a garden at the old house. Here are some pics of it near its summer peak (the rudbeckia aren't blooming yet):

The new house has a different palette:

I call that tree in the second photo my truffala tree. I put in a few lantanas here and there, but they don't bloom big, and I feel like I need some big. But I hate impatiens and petunias. I bought some pentas for the containers and some platycodon plants to put ... somewhere. Platycodons look like this:

The light purple ones, not the reddish ones. I have only two of them. Hmmmm.



We've been racking up points on our Southwest credit card but have run out of places we're dying to go as a family, so I decided to use some of our miles to take my mom to Florida for a few days. This works out well. The schedule where I work is a bit off kilter, and I am generally giving final exams while all the public schools are on February vacation, then sitting around the house the last week in February. Sometimes I try to plan a vacation for us from Thursday to Monday, but this year I decided it was time my mom got away and had a vacation. She spent most of 2006 taking care of my terminally ill grandmother and then most of 2007-2011 caring for my bedridden terminally ill father. And now she is on a fixed income, with half my dad's pension and no social security because she never worked. This is her first real vacation in about 6 years, but don't cry too hard for her because she and my dad went to Hawaii three times from 2000-2005.

Anyway, we are here:

Seeing some of these:

and some of these:

It's been lovely, but we have to go back tomorrow. I've left my husband in charge. Last night we Facetimed and I asked him what he did all day, and he said "I got the kids off to school, then I went to work from 9:30-3, then I came home when the kids came home, then I took S to dance, then I walked the dog, then I made dinner. And now I'm *exhausted*." And after I stopped laughing, I pointed out that that is what I do every single day--and then, after dinner, I often prep class or grade.

So, he misses me. :)

Tonight he has his German-class friend over for dinner and German conversation. His German-class friend happens to be the husband of my colleague/good friend, who also happens to be in Sweden this term teaching, and their college-aged daughter is with her. So he's on his own till May, so it's good that we have him over sometimes.

From One Natural Disaster To Another


I've been reminded that the last time I posted was during Hurricane Sandy. And today we have Winter Storm Nemo. I live in Ground Zero for Nemo (southeast Massachusetts), and we expect over 2 feet of snow. Wheee. The kids just got into their first fight while playing Wii. Wiiiiii!What's news here?Gerbils - I have them. I got them in early December via a friend of a friend. My friend volunteers with FOAF at the Bronx Zoo, and as you can surmise, they are animal lovers. When FOAF inherited some gerbils, my friend adopted some of them. Then they were revealed to be of the same sex, and a boy was split off from the girls, and I said I'd take the boy and a new boy my friend would obtain. That went swimmingly, but my friend got attached to the boys, so I ended up taking a totally separate batch of 4 boys. One was white, and so I had to name him Walter (White). I decided to name them all after morally ambiguous characters, so the other three were named Brody (after the Homeland character), Loki (after the Avengers character) and Bowser (who is a bad guy in the Super Mario world of Nintendo). Have some pics:Brody and BowserBrody and WalterI am smitten with these little rats (as my husband calls them). They love me, too, but I think that's only because I bring them nuts to munch on.German - my husband has been taking German two nights a week at my university. He is having a blast and likes to coo to our dog in German. "Ich liebe meiner hund," he tells her. I don't believe I have ever heard "I love you" in German from him, but whatever. :)Children - My daughter is going through a Beatles phase that is kind of obsessive, but she does have the obsessive gene, so I shouldn't be surprised. She just started a new Beatles Tumblr to post and reblog all things Beatles. School is going fine. Math is proving to be her biggest challenge in keeping above a 90, but she claims she understands it well and just makes stupid mistakes. The big challenge of the past month was that she had to build a cathedral. She and two other kids in her class were assigned a cathedral and had to build it out of cardboard or foam board or something like that. Here is hers:Durham CathedralSpecial Education - Apparently, we are not part of this system any more. The team met this past week, and the school has declined to recommend any accommodations/services for him because he is doing so well, and they took him off the IEP. We haven't told our private psychologist yet, but she is going to go ballistic. It's hard though--she sees him once a week for an hour, alone. They see him for 6 hours a day with other kids. They work with kids who are struggling far more than he does. He is doing terrific. After starting off September with a serious video game obsession, we've managed to broaden his interests a bit and he now cares about 1. video games, 2. Mythbusters, 3. saxophone and 4. hockey. His grades are superb, if a bit underachieving, but this is a kid who is capable of getting the highest marks in every subject. He struggles most with writing, mainly because he dislikes it, but when he does write, he is hilarious. The class had to write a letter to the president about the national debt. They looked up the national debt clock and saw what the debt was, then they checked it again and it was still high, though it had decreased a little. Well, my kid, instead of writing a letter to the president suggesting he cut spending or raise taxes, was intrigued that the debt had decreased over the course of a week or two and figured out that if the debt decreased at that rate consistently, the debt would be eliminated in about 14 or 15 years, so that is what he told Obama--keep doing the same thing. Everyone was incredibly impressed by him. He is also going to play the Star Spangled Banner at the 5th grade concert (an honor, and one also shared by his sister, who played it at her 5th grade concert). He is also trying to decide which song/s to do for his solo. I think he will be allowed two. He apparently can play the Su[...]



I know I'm not the only one humming "Oh Sandy bay-beeee, can't you see? I'm in misery!"

Moved the cars across the street:

That's the view from my bedroom window. There is a tree all the way to the left, plus pines overhanging the driveway (also on the left).

We've all showered. I made food from the freezer last night for dinner. The bathtub's full of water.

Enjoy some Joss Whedon endorsing Romney:

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The Benefits of Private Education


A friend of the family lives 1.8 miles from the Catholic school where she sends her 7 year old son. The bus company just notified her that her son will be picked up at 6:33 am for an 8:05 start time.

No. Fucking. Way.

She's going to go medieval on the people who invented going medieval. Karma....

Liberal Arts and the Workforce


I'm often at odds with people at 11D over the role of some academic majors in helping people find jobs. I teach at a very career-oriented university, and I see a lot of practical career-focused teaching go on all the time. Over the past week, I found out that the higher-ups think that majors in liberal arts are actually a growth area, too, with strong hiring potential, which was kind of shocking to me. We're never going to have a History major or a Philosophy major, but there are ways that the university sees liberal arts contributing to the growth of the university.

But this just blew me away.

Charles Kennedy, a senior VP for research within the TV division, is going across the conglom to share some unusual theories regarding how the most popular entertainment of yesteryear provides clues to what could work today.

If Kennedy is correct, not only is there a predictable pattern behind why ABC series "Once Upon a Time" and "Revenge" struck a chord in recession-era America, but it's for some of the same reasons classics like "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Public Enemy" touched the same strings during the 1930s....

What Kennedy does might be best explained in terms of reverse-engineering: He studies the kinds of stories that succeeded in comparable historical eras in order to suggest how new programming can be tailored to resonate in the current marketplace.

I've always believed this about entertainment, but it's nice to see that a big business sees it the same way.

Slight tangent: In the thread I linked above, there was a discussion about the relevance of German. Two things:

1. In my week in Germany, I was never condescended to, and 
2. As a result of our Germany trip, my husband has decided to take a German class at my university, and it has 24 students enrolled in it. (I'd take the class, but I have child transportation issues at that time, plus I learn languages more easily than my husband, who needs more structure.)

East-West Extremes


My husband has a geotagger attached to his camera, so he can pretty well document where we traveled in Berlin. As you can see, we were in East Berlin almost exclusively. One day we went to Spandau to see the Zitadelle Spandau, and we had to change trains in Charlottenberg (hence the one hit there).

This is basically what I see whenever I travel:

(Photo of the Julius Tower at the Zitadelle Spandau.)

East Germany


The town in Thuringia where my ancestors/relatives are from bordered West Germany. My cousin took us to the location where the border had been. Appropriately, there's a farm, smelling of manure, and a McDonalds alongside the location. He said that he was one of the first people to cross the border because as an electrician, he needed to access the electricity across the border. The East German police almost shot him, and the mayor of the neighboring town had to speak on his behalf. He would have been 45 when the wall fell.

Although there are other family members in the town, it seems that they don't really intermingle that much. We met not only my cousin, his wife, daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, but my cousin's cousin and his son. "K" is in his 90s, and his wife is of Polish descent. She escaped to East Germany in 1944 (!) with only the clothes on her back. I still don't quite get that, but I guess East Germany was better than Poland at the time.

Under Communism, my cousins' electrician business seemed to flourish. And the town's main industries stayed because they couldn't really go anywhere else. However, when unification happened, the industries left the area and moved to West Germany. This disappointed my cousin (my father's 3rd cousin) because she wanted to go into that industry. Right now, Thuringia is the poorest district of Germany, I think I've read somewhere. It's a shame because the area we were in was so beautiful.

In Berlin, we ended up spending most of our time in East Berlin. It amazes me to think how much of the ground we covered was behind a wall for half of my life. One of our guides said, Russia took the best parts of Berlin. We did two tours, one a general walking tour and the other a bike tour of East Berlin and the Wall. I'm also reading Stasiland, by Anna Funder. The incredible amount of work that went into surveilling and controlling East Germans' lives is frightening.

I said to Amy in an e-mail that though I will never become a Republican, I do have a greater appreciation for why so many Russian immigrants I know are so fiercely libertarian and distrustful of any government program. East Germany was so clearly a failure economically and socially. The Communist totalitarian governments of the Soviet bloc exerted such control over individual lives and businesses that only the most obtuse and delusional person could have escaped feeling that government could ever be a positive force.

And I can see more about why people fear the redistribution of wealth. That was, obviously, government/fiscal policy in East Germany. And it failed. It's worth thinking about and analyzing why it failed, and how much of that was due specifically to the policies of redistributing wealth. But it's easy for me to see how the whys don't matter. It just didn't work, and I can't really blame the people who lived under that system for never believing that a bigger government could ever be a good thing.

From the East Side Gallery, photo by my husband:

Ancestral Home


For our 20th anniversary, I managed to make all the pieces fall into place so that my husband and I could take a week-long trip to Berlin. Why Berlin? Airfare was cheap, and it wasn't London (which I love but had been to twice) or Paris (which I am finally admitting is a city I don't love).

But there was a little thought in the back of my head. I've been doing genealogical research on my father's family, and I learned that his great-grandfather emigrated from Germany. I talked my husband into agreeing to an overnight trip to that small town in East Germany. He agreed. It was a 5-hour train ride from Berlin, and we decided to do it right when we arrived in Berlin.

A few weeks before we left for Germany, I found out that my great-great-grandfather had not only the 2 siblings I knew about but a total of 8 siblings, two of whom seemed to have lived into adulthood, both sisters. Armed with their last names, I sent a form letter, written in German with the help of Google translate and a friend, to every person with their last names in the area of their town. I gave them my address and e-mail address and a photo of my great-great-grandfather.

Within the week, I'd received a e-mail from the grandson of my great-great-grandfather's youngest sister. He is my grandfather's second cousin. Actually, his granddaughter (my fourth cousin) wrote the e-mail for him because he does not speak/write English. Hesitantly, I e-mailed back: "I don't mean to surprise you, but I am planning to be in your town next week." The response was surprising: utter and complete excitement. They insisted on meeting us at the train and inviting us to dinner and taking us around the town.

It was wonderful. They were truly wonderful, caring people who had never known their grandmother had siblings who emigrated to the US. It was 24 blurry (we were jet-lagged) but thrilling hours of talking and visiting other relatives and seeing the main spots in town. Here is one view of this beautiful town in Thuringia:

One of my cousins gave me two small porcelain heads made by his grandfather, a toy maker. I have to figure out how to display them. We were given photos and genealogical info and treated so nicely. I wanted to cry, not just for how generous they were but with how I wish my father had been alive to know about all this. I can't wait to share it with my uncle, who is on vacation in an internet-free location.

I'll write another post later about my feelings/education about East Germany, which is where we spent all our time. I was 23 when the Wall fell, and it's been 23 years. My relatives in Thuringia lived under Soviet/DDR rule. When we were in Berlin, we spent most of our time in East Berlin. I'm still trying to process all my thoughts/experiences.

Snot Nose


If you squeeze a button on the back of the nose, a gooey kind of snot-like substance bulges out of the nostrils. E, as you can see, bought two (at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, where else?).

I think the golden age of traveling with children is probably 7 to 11 or so. E was still pretty fun, except he is (according to my mom) exactly like me, and wherever he is, he wants to know when we're leaving and going to the next place. S turned 13 last week. Need I say more? Sometimes she's as giddy as a 7-year-old, and the other times she's as sullen as the Goth-iest of teens.

The Unpaid Work of the PTO Mom


Technically, I'm not a PTO mom, but this week I sure feel like it. Last Tuesday I chaperoned a field trip for the middle school. On Saturday I volunteered at our annual Spring Fling, which was moved indoors thanks to pouring rain. Yesterday, I served lunch for the Band Festival instructors. Tonight is a Band Concert. Thursday is Middle School Awards Night, and Friday is the Band Festival Field Trip to the Swim Club. Add to that a School Committee meeting last night and my volunteering to be on the committee interviewing for a new fifth grade teacher, and I'm putting in over 20 hours this week on school-related stuff.

Going out the window: any hope of cooking healthy meals this week. Last night was pizza. Tonight will likely be Wendy's. Who knows about Wednesday because I am pretty much screwed. I think I've been invited to a BBQ. Maybe I can eat and run?



Last night was my daughter's first rehearsal at a summer youth wind ensemble. Fortunately, a friend went with her, and two other kids from her school were there. This was important because after an hour or so of rehearsal, my daughter was pretty well convinced it was too hard for her. However, thanks to her friend being there and her being able to talk about the difficulty, I think she and her friend will persevere. She's only just eligible to join this ensemble; she is entering 8th grade next year, and the ensemble ranges from 8th to 12th grade.

Neither of my children has been challenged very much in their lives, and I desperately want them to have those challenges. It works better, because of their contrary natures and my husband's and my easygoing natures, for them to be challenged by others rather than us. But it is so hard to find things that challenge them and to motivate them to see the challenges through.

My husband would say it's genetic--we're both somewhat lazy and underachieving ourselves. And I can't really argue. Here it is, the last day of May, and I have a long list of summer projects, yet I can't seem to get myself up out of this bed and get started.... So much easier just to stay here and read.

Smart Kids


Laura's post on the six-year-old spelling bee contestant is coinciding with a nostalgia burst I've been having lately about my early childhood. I was a bit of a child prodigy in my little world, but with young, financially struggling parents, I didn't get homeschooled or anything like that. I drove my parents crazy with my curiosity and knowledge (Mom: "She drew on the wall!" "Gail, she wrote the alphabet, and she's only 2!" "But it was black crayon!"). My dad was working a few jobs and trying to finish college, and my mom was in her early 20s and spending all her time at her mom's house with her crazy (literally) father and 5 younger siblings, including a sister only 4 years older than I was. In a different environment, would I have been coddled into more prodigy-like behaviors? Who knows. In 1969 my mom was pregnant, my dad went to Woodstock, and I was more a curiosity than anything.After chatting with my 12 year old (almost 13) about something last week, I went looking for my old diaries and ended up going through that box of childhood mementos we all have. I went to a neighborhood elementary school for the first 3 years, spanning years K-3. (I was accelerated to 3rd grade 3 months into 2nd grade.) I have only a few scraps of memorabilia from those days: my kindergarten and 3rd grade report card; my 1st grade class photo. And very very dim memories. It reminds me how much memory is based on shared experiences that we discuss with others. My three younger sisters didn't attend this school; two hadn't been born, and the other didn't start Kindergarten till we moved the summer after 3rd grade. My mother always chuckles over this, the only bad "grade" I ever received in elementary school: OK, I got a B one term in science. I never liked physics.On Facebook I recently found a group for former students of the school. I've posted there asking if anyone remembers some of the things I do, can help fill in/sharpen these misty memories. I wonder if I stand out at all--the kid who was "smart," who skipped a grade. I learned real quickly in my transition from 2nd to 3rd grade not to step on anyone's toes by acting too smart, even though I learned in one week the same times tables it had taken the other kids 3 months to learn. My main memories are of the Christmas plays. I was in them twice, probably to get me out of the classroom because when I was there, I finished all my work early. My mom says that in one play I was asked to fill in last minute because another child couldn't perform. I had memorized all the lines in the play anyway, so I could fill in anywhere. All I remember was wanting to be one of the elves in the cute green costumes with the jingly bells. I would kill to find someone who remembered those plays and could tell me more about them.Yesterday I got a call from the "adjustment counselor" at E's school. She meets with him in a lunch group for social skills on Tuesdays. She thinks he would really enjoy some sort of acting class. He loves role-playing exercises, and he's goofy and really quite funny. It would be a great way to channel his energy, and memorizing lines wouldn't be a problem for him. I wish they had plays in E's schools the way we did when I was in school. We did 1776 when I was in 5th grade, and then Oklahoma the next year! There is a summer acting program nearby that takes place in 2-week sessions. But he hates doing anything new. But it would be a real trip to see him perform the way I always loved performing (and still do, to be honest, as a teacher).[...]



I've been reading The Secret Life of Pronouns, by James Pennebaker, and I've been looking at some reviews and his website and found a series of quizzes on one part of his website. Here are my results on the LIFE survey:Your responses suggest several things about you. Overall, there are four major dimensions to people's daily behaviors:Dimension 1: SuburbanitePeople high on the suburbanite dimension tend to live a more conventional lifestyle. Their home is their castle. They like to cook, do yardwork, and keep things clean and organized. Suburbanites like their cars, SUVs, and pickups. Young suburbanites watch MTV and listen to the occasional heavy metal. Those who are a little older tend to watch ESPN and listen to country music. The suburbanites also are somewhat more family oriented, conservative, and healthy in their daily behaviors.Your score on the Suburbanite dimension (which ranges from 0 to 13) is: 8. By most estimates, you would be considered MODERATE on this dimension -- neither too suburban but not too unconventional.Dimension 2: CulturedPeople high on the cultured dimension tend to get involved with all parts of life in order to better themselves and those around them. They often go to museums, do volunteer work, organize study groups and do a lot of writing-- whether it's letters to friends, personal journals, or short stories. Although they love to read, most would not be considered shy. Their musical tastes can be quite broad -- ranging from jazz and classical to hiphop. People high in Culture also like time to themselves. They also have an unhealthy appreciation of Macintosh computers.Your score on the Cultured dimension (which ranges from 0 to 13) is: 7. Overall, you are fairly MODERATE on this dimension. You aren't taking your yoga classes too seriously -- that's probably good.Dimension 3: SlackerPeople high on the slacker dimension tend to spend a lot of their time on their computer. They download music, chat, and play computer games at high rates. They like to play other games as well -- pool, poker, and occasional board games. Parts of their lifestyle are unhealthy -- lots of TV, fast food, smoking, drinking, and just staring into space. They also have a slight hostile streak -- with a higher than usual rate of arguments with friends.Your score on the Slacker dimension (which ranges from 0 to 13) is: 6. Good news. You are MODERATE on this dimension. You enjoy your time with computers and games but probably aren't obsessed with them. You like living on the edge occasionally but have an appreciation of a healthy lifestyle.Dimension 4: PreppiePeople high on the preppie dimension are concerned with how they are seen by others. It is important that they look good to others. They spendPreppies also seek structure in their lives. They make to-do lists, like their home and workspace clean and organized. They watch Oprah, Desperate Housewives, and reality dating shows on TV. Their music preferences are for pop and soundtracks. Women tend to score higher on this dimension than men. Not surprisingly, they rate themselves as agreeable, reliable workers, and not lazy.Your score on the Preppie dimension (which ranges from 0 to 12) is: 4. You are relatively LOW on this dimension. This often reflects the fact that you are relatively happy with your appearance and the ways others see you. You might have some tendencies to slob-like behavior. Hey, it never hurts to clean your room occasionally.That fourth dimension part really has me pegged. :) "tendencies to slob-like behavior"? LOL, yes. Off to take more quizzes....[...]

Education "Reform"


It's no secret that I am a fan the public school system. I think the system itself is good, though like all systems, there are going to be some weak points. I mean, there are some pretty awful doctors out there, but I think the medical profession is a pretty damned thing. Also, full disclosure, a friend's spouse works in Central Falls as a teacher.

But even without both those things in mind, you have to agree that installing a 22 year old as a teacher with no teaching experience in a troubled school district was a pretty lousy idea. I'm pretty sure they fired a perfectly capable, experienced chemistry teacher to give this moron a job.

To sum up, she started in August 2011 (ah yeah, August 2011, a month during which my friend's spouse was desperately looking for work after having been fired after 10 years as a teacher for no good reason other than "education reform"). So while they were firing my friend's spouse, they were hiring Emma Wise, who within 2 months was having sex with one of her students and buying him and his friends alcohol.

So, who hired such an incredibly inappropriate person to teach high school students? Why, Michelle Rhee, of course.

OK, not Rhee directly, but her organization The New Teachers Project. They train these people for 5 weeks then send them into a district like Central Falls, and what do they expect? Really?

This is education reform?

Destination Imagination


So, I have this kid who is diagnosed with Asperger's, which makes him socially awkward. He also tested as highly gifted, which pretty much makes for a nightmare in any school situation. If he is with people of equal level of learning, he is too immature for them. If he is with socially appropriate kids, he's smarter than they are. It makes for a conundrum.

So about a year ago, I decided that I'd like to start a Destination Imagination team. But in typical me-style, I put off thinking about it, mainly because of the work involved.

And this is where the adage about luck being a mixture of preparation and opportunity came in. I got E accepted into Davidson Young Scholars. I didn't quite know what would come of it, but if there was some sort of group that involved social gatherings of gifted kids, I wanted to be part of it. Unfortunately, no one in New England seems to do much with it. However, a DYS moved to my town. And he was in fourth grade, like my son. And his mom and I met and I found she was looking for something for her son to do, the same way I was. So *together* we started a Destination Imagination team in our town, 6 fourth-graders.

I find I really love DI. I like working with kids in situations where I don't have to discipline them, so I like after-school clubs and things like that. With DI, I love how the kids have to come up with the solution to the challenge themselves. And I love how it involves cutting and building and learning and teamwork. It should be ideal for E. Alas, E hates it. But why?


Well, believe it or not, it's because he doesn't know anyone on the team, and he wants to be with his friends. The kids on the team are all from the other elementary school in the district. In some ways, we're a victim of our own success, if the problem is that he has bonded with the kids from his school. :) On the other hand, he will be going to middle school with these kids in 2 years, so it will be good for him to get to know them a little.

And, also, I think he's in a situation he's never been in before--not the smartest one in the room. I think he hates that.

I am pretty sure that once we do the regional competition, he will love DI. The competition sounds like a lot of fun, and I know how to apply food and other treats to make the day a positive experience.

And next year, I will run a separate team just at his school. It's a plan, right?

The Juggle


Today was a major Juggle day. I had an 8 am meeting, then a 9:20 exam, then I had to leave to bring my daughter to the oral surgeon at 11 to get a wisdom tooth extracted.


The extraction went fine, and my daughter follows in a fine family tradition of high pain tolerance and is having few aftereffects. I have vicodin to give her if it hurts, but I plan to try ibuprofen first, and only if she says she needs it. The oral surgeon told me to give her the vicodin before the novocain even wore off. Really? And we wonder why we are so dependent on meds.

I brought her home, made her a protein milkshake with chocolate ice cream, milk, and protein powder, and then we curled up on the sofa and watched 3 episodes of Merlin.


Right now (Series 1, but yes, I am spoiled), I really love Morgana, who has a really awesome scene with Anthony Head (Uther) in "To Kill the King." And I like Arthur. I really like assholes who rise above their assholery to be good people when they have to. That story always seems much more interesting to me than a good guy who resists evil.

In case you doubted me...


Doubt no more. I really do write "title pages kill trees" on papers turned into me with title pages:


(The topic was a problem-solution paper on what to do about customer complaints about other customers breastfeeding in public in a restaurant. This is the kind of topic you give when you have students in the hospitality industry.)

Some Random Pics


I'm not a photographer like Laura, but I like to use the iPod Touch to capture things. We've been house-hunting lately, nothing urgent, just trying to find the right house while remaining in our town--not an easy task.

I liked what this family did with the ladder, using it as a way to display hanging planters.

One of the homes had a poster for Singing in the Rain I'd never seen before. The images of the three actors look nothing like the real actors.

The basement of this house was like a time capsule. This calendar was behind a workbench and never replaced.

A couple of more recent photos:
The exact place where I got married, right next to that lilac bush.

My dog traveling with us, *inside* the car, not on top a la Romney. FTR, we were in traffic approaching the Cross Bronx, so we opened the window a bit so she could get some fresh air.

E skates


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Let's see if that works. He's the one who almost falls right at the beginning. :)

Marriage is a luxury?


I hate weddings, really. There's so much to dislike about them. You have to dress up. If you're a bridesmaid, you have to dress up in something expensive that you'll never wear again (I've done it three times). You eat way too much. The music is Too Damn Loud. When I go to a family wedding, most of the people I want to talk to are outside smoking half the time. I angst over how much to write the stupid check for.

The celebration of the love of two people? Whatever.

So reading this post kind of bugs me because it reminds me how invested we are in A Wedding in this country. Anne points out all the problems inherent in such an investment and that this may be a strategy in the process of turning working class people against same-sex marriage. But basically, it sucks if having A Wedding is the only way you feel you can be valuable/worthy in this society.

I really really hope my kids elope or something.

Let's Go Red!


So, in a fit of insanity, I decided to take my son to a Cornell-Brown hockey game. This has led us down a horrible path of addiction (or re-addiction, in my case) to college hockey, culminating in a trip last month to New Haven (!!!) to see a Cornell game. We had awesome seats, too. This is the view from my seat.

Now my 9 year old wants to play hockey desperately, so we signed him up for ice skating lessons. He thinks he's Wayne Gretzky now. All I can foresee are the early mornings at the rink for practice, the cost of the hockey gear, and the fact that Sarah Palin and I might have something in common.

Social Protests


I've been having an ongoing argument about the #Occupy movement with my sisters, and it's made me want to explore some ideas about the nature of protest movements.

Simply put, my claim is that non-violent protests are designed as such to reveal the violent lengths that police/armies will go to in order to preserve the status quo. I'm not a student of literature about non-violent protest, so I am sure that has been said before, but people these days do not seem to REALIZE this essential truth.

That does not mean that protesters are TO BLAME for the violence perpetrated on them by police or armies. The police or armies could choose not to use violent means to disperse a crowd. They choose to use these means. I am afraid that what is happening is that people are becoming desensitized to the violence police are using. I also worry that the idea that the individuals are responsible for the violence inflicted upon them means that they deserve it.

As I pointed out to one of my sisters, the believe in non-violent protest needs to transcend political ideology. I may not particularly like the people who protest outside of abortion clinics screaming at women going inside to get an abortion, but they do have that right.

Farm Life


I've been home only 4 days out of the month so far. I never want to leave my bed again. After spending 10 days at my mom's when my father died, I went home, then turned back around a few days later to go on a family camping trip. My sister had planned this several months ago. We rented 3 cabins at a campground that we used to go to with our parents when we were kids. Two of my sisters and I took these cabins, and my other sister came up for the day with her husband, kids (including a 1-month-old), and my mother, who stayed with her a few nights. It was idyllic. First of all, my BILs are good at this camping stuff, and they had plenty of stuff. Whatever we didn't have, they had. Except a can opener, but then I remembered I'd brought a Swiss Army Knife. Second of all, my kids, who normally HATE anything like camping because it's "boring" found that camping was not boring at all when they were with their cousins. The kids ran and frolicked all over the campground while the adults sat around and drank beer. One of the afternoons, while my mom was there, my sister, mom and I went to the farm. I won't be too specific about the farm, but a few important things about it: 1. My mom's best friend's family owns it. The family matriarch is still alive at age 92, but her husband died 9 months before my daughter was born, and my mom's friend died when my daughter was a few months old (breast cancer). 2. My husband and I were married there. 3. It's a very special place to us and was, particularly, to my mom and dad. I took some pics while I was there, so I'll share. My mom's best friend had several siblings, but some are dead and some have moved further away. Their grandkids are scattered all over, and many of them have their own children now, as my sisters and I do. They have a guest house that is available to hunters during hunting season and to fishers during fishing season. They did more tourism in the past, when it was more of a working farm, but the remaining family members aren't quite up to that. Here are some pics: My dad always called this the "quintessential farm pic." A view from the front of the guest house. I've climbed that mountain. We were married next to that lilac bush. They're in the process of renovating the guest house. They removed two bedrooms and turned the space into a kitchen/living room combination. So when I saw the knotty pine they installed, I had to take a pic for Laura: [...]

My father


The past 2 months have been a blur. Most significantly, my father passed away last week 4 years after being diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer. You have to give him credit for surviving so long in such a damaged body. He was bedridden because the cancer had metastasized in his spine and rendered him mostly paralyzed. He also had had a triple bypass some years ago, a stroke when he was 50, and had renal disease and had lost function in one kidney.

A month before he died, his youngest brother died of COPD and cirrhosis. I was with my dad when he got the call; he was devastated.

My father was a science teacher who loved music, particularly rock and roll music. He made his own playlist for his end days, and it's filled with awesome songs. It's all on Rhapsody, which is an evil horrible difficult to use service, so I can't quite figure out how to export this playlist to keep, but when I figure it out, I will share it.

One other thing about my father: he was a devotee of intelligent design and a critic of evolution theory. His criticisms were fairly nuanced and scientific, not based on religion at all. In fact, he was pretty much an atheist, though even that was nuanced in that he was kind of convinced that we all had lives before the one we're living, and as babies we still had memories of those past lives that we couldn't articulate. When he first held my daughter, his first grandchild, he said, "Sophie, where you been?" He would later ask that question of all his grandchildren. :)

My dad posted on and later as a blog commenter, particularly on PZ Myers' Pharyngula, from which he was often banned for being a troll. On, I believe he often signed himself as "Pookie, the kid from space." That was because his theory of the origins of life was that life came to earth from outer space in DNA, which acted as computer programs of sorts. He believed that the mutations we see as random were actually coded into DNA. Thus, I couldn't believe the irony that this article appeared the week after his death. He would have felt so vindicated.

RIP Dad.