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A Poem for Sunday

February 13, 2011

Those Winter Sundays
- Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. 

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house, 

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Sometimes in a poem, a single line stands out and slays you. In this one, every single line from the start builds up the poignancy and power of the final two.

Oof. Just oof.

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in which I confess to being an anglophile

February 10, 2011

A few distinct traces of my British past:

  • I’m frequently told I have a “funny” accent
  • I have yet to encounter the question to which tea is not the answer
  • There are 2 dishes I can make from scratch in my kitchen at any given point in time, no matter how neglected the food shopping gets. One of them is a curry (the other is adobo)
  • I still carry a torch for Sherlock Holmes, but only because Mycroft is a bit daunting
  • I can’t say “knob” with a straight face
  • I eat my fries (chips) with either mayo or malt vinegar, never ketchup
  • I love the rain and gloomy weather, as do my wellies
  • Every single computer/mobile upgrade I’ve ever done included the making of a shortcut to the BBC

So, without further ado, here are two BBC standards that brought me moments of hilarity this week:

1.

From the BBC – by John Cleese.

Announcement:

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.”

Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France’s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbor” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels.

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, Mate.” Three more escalation levels remain: “Crikey,!” “I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

 

2. 

"Exterminate! Exterminate!"

Why settle for a snowman when you can build a Snow Dalek?

The blizzard and resulting snow day made for some excellent faffing about in the backyard. My assistants (2 boys, 1 yorkie, and a snowball-making machine in the form of 5-year-old girl) want to add Cybermen and K-9 to the geek menagerie. I want an Ood because I enjoy challenges and jiggly bits. Bet you a fiver the assistants win.

Ice Fishing in February: A Guest Post

February 5, 2011

My dear friend, Robert Wesolowski, is a self-described: Former Boy Scout, former sailor, former banker, former husband(s), current business consultant.

I think you’ll find that he neglected to include: Current ace photographer and droll wit.

1.Easy drive to the end of the world. Arrived at 0645 to catch an airboat ride to the islands. The airboats look like the same contraptions they have in Florida without the high seats and with a touch of frostbite.
At 0646, I receive a text message that the approaching front has kicked up a quartering wind. The airboat guy is afraid that he will end up in Buffalo so he has cancelled all frostbite rides. I am to go to the airport.

2. It is 0715 and it has turned into day. The airplane looks more secure than an airboat and the pilot looks very young, but he is taller than the marker that said, “You must be taller than this to fly an airplane.” It made me feel better about his skills.

3. Spacious interior seated two across if you are intimate with the person sitting beside you.

4. Take-off was uneventful. Translated, that means we did not crash. We did slew sideways, crease the top of a tree, and bounce up and down. The flight was just 10 minutes. I was able to complete 8 rosaries.
Beautiful views of the peninsula and then the lake and Bass Island. I kept looking at the ice. Well, not the ice, but the open water and the fissures between the floes. “Worrying the beads” has a whole new meaning to me.

5. Curb service was great at the island airfield. The group picked me up with this rig. All the gear was stored in the trailer that doubled as a bus. You can see a storage box on the front of the ATV. When they mentioned that the box doubled as a flotation device with a second box on the back of the ATV, the beads began whizzing in my pocket.

6. First thing to do was to drill holes. You need them to fish, I guess. Did I mention that I don’t ice fish? When you drill through the ice, water splooshes through the hole and the beads in my pocket whiz because I can see what the ice looks like. It gave me a whole new sense of “pucker” as I hate cold baths at any time, not just when I am swathed in 6 layers of clothes.
Three holes… one for the line, one for the fish finder, and one because all good things come in threes.

7. The fish finder is one of many pieces of important equipment. It tells me that I am standing on ice in thirty feet of water. It doesn’t tell me how far from shore I am. It lets me know when a fish follows my lure. It tells me that I don’t know what I am doing.

8. Ice fishing is all about male bonding. It is a group activity where the group goes out on a frozen lake and scatters. The beads are starting to slow.

9. Being out on the lake is breathtaking as long as you do not look at the ice. If you look at the ice, the rosary beads speed up. If you look at the shore, you realize that you cannot swim to shore if you go through the ice. The beads speed up. So you look back to the hole and the fish finder and begin breathing again.
The approaching front has slowed fishing and the wind kicks up. Sustained winds of 10 mph with gusts to 15 mph. I am thinking fireplace… in a cabin… on shore.

10. First fish of the day is a white bass. Just over a foot long, the species is gathering in large schools in anticipation of the spring spawn. The females look like little footballs. The walleyes are feeding on white bass.

11. First walleye is taken, beads slow and stop. Concentration is focused on the fish finder and my line. This ice fishing thing looks promising.

12. I finally catch a walleye. The rosary has not only saved my life but it made me an ice fisherman. It was an “average” fish for Lake Erie, about 4 or 5 pounds and 24 inches long.
For a newbie, the fish was perfect. The wind seemed to die down and the shore got closer. The ice still looked like crap but I no longer noticed it.

13. Big fish of the day was ten pounds thirteen ounces, thirty inches long. Scott was happy. The fish? Not so much.
Fish fry for dinner. But not Scott’s fish. His went into a bag for the taxidermist.
The group caught limits every day from Tuesday through Saturday. A number of fish were in the ten pound range.

14. The storm that hit the East Coast with thirty inches of snow grazed Ohio with three to four inches of snow. However, the front brought winds of thirty miles an hour… and snowdrifts.
I laughed when I saw my car in the parking lot. The drift was four feet tall. Snow ran around and under my car, halfway up the door. When I was finally able to open the door, my battery was dead.
Snow packed the wheels giving the car a thrum and a shaking movement when I started to drive, and for the first 90 miles, I felt like I was still on the lake.

15. East bound on I-94, heading home. Tired but happy. A faint odor of fish is wafting off my ski gloves, deepening my smile.
Life is good.

Well, hello, fancy meeting you here…

January 27, 2011

It occurs to me that it’s been far too long since my last post, and if it weren’t for the frequently updated Twitter feed, I’d have to sit down and seriously answer the question: How long must a blog be idle before it’s declared legally dead?

Well, for what it’s worth, you have my sheepish apologies along with all the leftover holiday fruitcake (FedExed by aunt in Chicago and now extra crispy). Good bribe, eh?

Now that that’s settled… how have you been these past seven months?

As for me:

  • I read tons and wrote 2 poems total (good output if you consider how much time I’ve had to put into training for my new career as trapeze artist/pole dancer)
  • I learned how to make baklava from scratch (after copious tears and gnashing of teeth)
  • I’m now a Virgo and finally compatible with myself
  • The boys have grown several more inches, some of which are around the waist and feet (I can now borrow their jeans and shoes)(Sorry, fashion police)
  • The family zoo has dwindled by one Russian tortoise– Bebop died (he was a good soldier to the end; loved julienned carrots and Tchaikovsky)
  • For reasons only she can know, 5-year-old niece has taken to conversing with the wee dog in a British accent

And finally, life carries on and continues to amaze us all with its ability to surprise, delight, and challenge. It is always better than we hope for, even when it gets rather difficult. In the immortal words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

A belated Happy New Year to all. Make new beginnings, cherish old ones, keep doing what makes you happy… whatever it is, make it good.

Homeworkland, a dreary place

May 14, 2010
tags: ,

Sometimes the boys and I doodle while working on ze endless math homework. They love learning new things, but the repetition required to master the concepts becomes exponentially more grueling once they’re home and could be playing outside instead.

As for me, I hated homework the first time around. Having fun with it helps. A lot.

Story of My Life: A Venn Diagram

Love + Geometry = Complicated

Brevity is the soul of homework.

Send me some of your doodles. David is going to middle school next year; more math. We could use some laughs.

in which I make a list

May 13, 2010

It’s the fifth consecutive gray rainy day in Kalamazoo, so it’s either start building an ark or entertain myself with utter silliness.

The incomparable Dorothy Parker wrote this caption for Vogue in 1916: Brevity is the soul of lingerie. Yes, she was absolutely marvellous (follow link for more quotes).

Not at all in the tradition of the venerable lady’s wit, I’ve come up with my own expanded list. My apologies to Ms. Parker and Mr. Shakespeare.

Other Things Brevity is the Soul of:

  • prison sentences
  • tax audits
  • open mic on Goth Night
  • Macarena dance-offs
  • accounting spreadsheets
  • DMV queues
  • any Michael Bolton song
  • conversations with salesmen
  • community college commencement speeches
  • Oompa Loompas
  • homework (contributed by David & Gabe)

I am from cherry blossoms and a great Elm

April 22, 2010

It’s been a rough couple of days… my grandfather died on Tuesday morning.  My mom called from Chicago to tell me that he passed away peacefully as she and my aunt were tidying up his room. He was 86.

I never knew my grandfather on my Dad’s side (he died when my Dad was very young), so with Lolo gone, I’m completely grandfatherless– a grandfather orphan.

Moments after the news had settled, I tried to think back to that morning to see if I had even a psychic inkling that something was awry, but everything had gone as usual: I woke at 6, the kids went to school at 8:30, I was at work by 10. I had absolutely no idea. For some reason this made me saddest of all; that someone so essentially part of me could just slip away unnoticed.

But Lolo had a long and fruitful life. He made traditional Parols for his children and their families every Christmas. It cheers me that he died happy, in the company of his daughters.

And then as if commissioned by synchronicity, one of my sons brought home this poem he’d written at school:

I am from cherry blossoms and a great Elm
From Japanese curry and rice
I am from a big white house with a big table
I am from the green grass, the freshly mown grass
I am from Christmas
I am from creativity, from my Mom and Dad
I am from productiveness and lovingness
From wash your hands and mind your manners
I am from being spiritual
I am from Chicago, Illinois
I am from a hall in a tall house where we all are

David Y. (Age 10)

When I was ten I spent the summer at my grandparents’ house in Urdaneta. They had an old-fashioned artesian well, and every morning it was my job to fetch water for the chickens they raised in the backyard.

Now at 34 I know about as much as a 10-year-old when it comes to what the future holds, but I do know that (like David) I am from many things, including my grandfather.