I finally finished the stupid book. I think I renewed my library copy 3 times. I had only about 50 pages left to go for the past month, but my entire family visited at the end of December; I set it aside and just now got back to it.
My summary? The catch-22 is that I spent hours reading it only to find it was a waste of my time. Too bad I have such a compulsion to finish books.
I read another WWII book in September/early October: In Harm's Way. Now that, my friends, is a book. It's about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis, "The Worst Naval Disaster in U.S. History." It criticizes the military somewhat like Catch-22, but it's all true. I was riveted in part because my great uncle, Raymond Koppang, was one of the crew members who died in the disaster. We don't know how he died, but my hope is that he died immediately when the torpedo struck - did not survive to face the shark attacks, hypothermia, dehydration, and other hideous tortures of the open sea. Imagine the awful feeling of learning that life vests don't work after a couple of days because they get waterlogged. The delayed rescue, because of a series of oversights, cost hundreds of lives.
In Harm's Way was the book I was reading when Polly was in the NICU. Great, light fare for the post-partum mom! The nurses approved of HPR's book choice much more. (He would read aloud to the wee Roo.)
Despite my love of books and career in publishing, I have never belonged to a book group. Just haven't been able to commit to the time schedule. But on a recent breeze-through of the library, I noticed the One Book, One Philadelphia selection, What Is the What, right there on the shelf. I'm only on page 14 and I'm already devastated and hooked.
So, two group-y book things in the four months. Too sleepy to make a clever conclusion, so off to bed I go . . .
I am 38-and-three-quarters years old. This morning I organized my sock drawer.
For the first time.
Why hasn't anyone ever told me how much fun it is to organize a sock drawer? Or if they did, why didn't I believe them? Here was my old system:
a) Throw socks into drawer.
b) When a pair of socks is needed, dig in drawer. Find appropriate pair. Pull them out amid a jumble of tangled tights/leggings. Cram everything back into the drawer and attempt to close it.
Today, I took everything out, set aside the hosiery, then replaced, from left to right: heavy wool socks, medium-weight socks of color, lightweight trouser socks (skin tone), then white athletic socks. I threw out solo stragglers.
For my hosiery (which I rarely wear but am not ready to get rid of) I assembled a white cardboard storage box from Ikea. Leave it to Ikea to sell a box that requires assembly. 11 nuts and bolts. Anyway, I went through all of the hosiery and tossed out mismatched legs.
Mismatched legs in hosiery, you ask? How can that be? Frugal Midwestern secret. If your nylon gets a run in just one leg, cut the offending leg off (of the nylon, smart-ass). Then when it happens on another pair, cut that leg off and wear the two good legs together. This trick really only works if you're brand-loyal, so the halves match. I am not brand-loyal. I'm glad I'm not a celebrity, because it would be very embarrassing if someone were to go through our trash and find the scads of pathetic abandoned one-legged pantyhose (gah - hate that word).
Then Polly-roo needed me, so I haven't done the final step of hosiery in the box and finding a place for the box.
Baby steps in my continuing attempt to get rid of clutter and have a place for everything. Wish me luck.
Tomorrow I'm going to do another day-in-the-life to record a maternity leave day for posterity.
Holding my baby as the snow falls down.
Also, cat on lap.
I nearly shared a message at Quaker Meeting this past Sunday. It didn't make the cut because I wasn't convinced it was divinely inspired. Also, I wasn't sure whether I should say "ass" (the best translation) at Meeting or go with a more benign term. A blog seems to be the perfect medium for messages that don't quite make the cut on Sunday. And saying the word "ass." So here it is:
HPR told me a joke in Bulgarian. It's a play on words, so I'll have to do some explaining. First, the joke.
Novelist Ivan Vasov and painter Nenko Balkanski are hiking. They reach a scenic spot with views of mountains, forests, and a lake. Vasov looks around, inhales deeply, and says "Gusti gori, Balkanski!" Immediately Balkanski jumps in the lake.
Here's the explanation. Whereas Vasov said "A tangle of woods, the mountains!" the same words, spoken, can mean "Your ass is on fire, Balkanski!"
It's a silly joke, but as I thought about it, it occurred to me that it's a nice yin and yang for environmental activism, and beyond that, how we might conduct our everyday lives. Appreciate your surroundings and get your butt in gear - take action. Action without focus can be futile busywork, and appreciation of beauty without action gets nothing done.
(You know the rest of the quote. If you don't, I'm sure someone [Steve?] will be happy to leave it in the comments :)
I'm trying to come up with a descriptive phrase for our neighbor's band's music. Surf metal on speed? Power punk wah-wah metal? Give it a listen and tell me how you'd classify it. Either way, it makes for a rad blend with my milquetoast* classical background music when Stinking Lizaveta rehearses on the days I work from home. Polly likes it, too.
This article from JamBase declares that the band members themselves call it "doom jazz," which is kind of fun, but to me doesn't quite tell the whole story (leaving out, for example, the maniacal pulse of most of the songs). There are a lot of good descriptors in this paragraph:
Their newest long player, Scream of the Iron Iconoclast is their most exhilarating smorgasbord of heavy jazz transgressions and psychedelic wipeouts yet, with raids of metal menace, jagged post rock, mutated blues riffs and drummer Cheshire Agusta's esoterically woven, technically crunchy drum patterns that signal a sonic clutter in the middle of a black hole. Joined by Yanni's brother Alexi Papadopoulos - whose rapid fire upright electric bass lines force out the soul of Stinking Lizaveta's rhythmic bedlam - their live shows induce a lumbering hypnosis to the eyes, ears and minds of the crowd, especially when Yanni howls into his pickups and grinds his teeth against them.
*HPR's description of WRTI's classical playlist. We love the station and are members, but it's mostly for the evening jazz.
Just as I'm in nostalgic mode, I get an email about a new leadership foundation for Bulgarian youth (specifically girls and Roma youth). I was involved with Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) after my first year teaching in Bugaria. And some of my former students are pictured in the Roma Camp 2003 Gallery [Elena, white shirt, picture 08; Iliya, pictures 12, 14, 17, and 18], which took place in Pazardjik (the town I lived in from 2000-2002). So if you're feeling charitable, please donate. These camps are well-run and make a big difference in the lives of the participants.
For stomach-related nostalgia, I made one of my favorite Bulgarian foods earlier this week. The weather's got to warm up soon, right? When it does, you'll be ready with this great chilled soup recipe.
Tarator (Bulgarian cucumber-yogurt-dill soup)
1 cucumber, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pint (16 oz) plain yogurt
6-8 sprigs of fresh dill, chopped
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
~1 cup water or several ice cubes
salt and pepper to taste
Combine cucumber, garlic, yogurt, dill, and olive oil. Add water and/or ice cubes until soup is desired consistency. Season to taste. Serve chilled, topped with walnuts. This recipe is good to double. It's also pretty hard to mess up, so you can experiment with quantities of the various ingredients to get the combination you like. I ate two bowls and might have had more had there been any. Afterward Shmoo wanted to play "tent" (sitting on the couch with a fleece blanket pulled overhead). With the three of us under the tent, the air got pretty garlicky. So make sure the one you love eats it with you, or suffer the consequences.
PS: Did you catch that I inadvertently used HPR's real name in the previous post? Oops. Not that it really matters . . .
5. Secular tie: Walking in a Winter Wonderland and Sleigh Ride, the latter because I can replace "you" with "Shmoo."
4. Angels We Have Heard on High
LOVE the alto line! I mostly sing soprano these days because my sight reading is crap. But singing the alto line last weekend really choked me up.
3. O Little Town of Bethlehem
I love the mystery suggested by the melody.
2. Comfort, Comfort Ye My People
The meter changes throughout this hymn, which makes for a really interesting rhythm. And some great lyrics:
Comfort, comfort ye My people,
Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
Comfort those who sit in darkness,
Mourning 'neath their sorrow's load;
Speak ye to Jerusalem
Of the peace that waits for them;
Tell her that her sins I cover,
And her warfare now is over.
1. When All the Songs Were Sad
by Lindsey Horner and Susan McKeown, from the 1997 album Through the Bitter Frost and Snow. I could have selected five songs from this album alone. I couldn't find the lyrics online anywhere, so in lieu of a link I transcribed them myself:
The church bells ring their music at midnight
To warm the hearts of cold, silent men
Heard in the town on loneliest evenings
As beasts lay in their stores just like stone
I plowed on through the streets of the city,
Wrapped head to toe against bitter cold
No angels sang out over the skyline
Never did man feel so alone
How should I not bring you roses
As you lay down in the straw?
A spark of fire from cold in the darkness
Cast shadows never seen before.
Amid the bleak and cold midwinter
When all the songs were sad once more.
Go to the barn on Christmas morning
Down on their knees the creatures will go
See them as the long night is ending
A country legend heard every year.
At water’s edge the river turned mighty
It pulled me in and carried me down
Weighted full of care I breathe deeply
Never did such grace feel so near
Back when the world was much older
And time stood still for an hour . . .
That blazing star sailed through all the darkness
And warmed me ’til I reached the shore
Amid the bleak and cold midwinter
When all the songs were sad once more
When all the songs were sad once more.
Whom to tag? El-e-e already did something similar, as did kwh (December 3 post; I can't figure out how to permalink it), so how about Erin,** Jennifer, Niki, and Night Editor? I would tag Xiobhan, too, but she's right in the middle of a story. HPR, Froggie, and Robyn could, too, if they feel like weaving it into the themes of their blogs. (And since Robyn grew up Jewish, her perspective would be interesting!)
*No thank you: "Jingle Bell Rock" and what ever that "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" song is called.
**Erin, I have a draft of the book post that you tagged me on way back in November. My problem is that I mull more than I write. But I will get to it before too much longer.
PS: Any readers without blogs are welcomed to leave their lists in the comments section.
This is HPR's Nana. I tried to be the one to take the photo to have HPR featured in it, but Shmoo got his fuss on if I wasn't holding him. Not even Ms. Ella Fitzgelephant could placate him. Exhibit A:
But I though HPR should be in the photo with his Nana and Shmoo, so I took Exhibit C:
These were taken Memorial Day weekend (can you see the remainder of the pink eye Shmoo was kind enough to give me? And the scab on HPR's forehead from Shmoo clocking him with a picture frame? Biological warfare and blunt physical violence–this is our pacifist Quaker child?)
Nana is on the steep decline. She will probably live only a few more days at most. She's in her mid 80s and has had a couple of strokes in the past year. But she has remained at home, with hospice stopping in every day. (In fact, she made marked improvement after hospice started visiting. A testament to the power of social interaction.) She is fiercely independent. She raised HPR's dad and uncle while taking care of HPR's grandfather, who was in a wheelchair with MS.
I have a couple of favorite Nana stories. The first is that she joined the Navy during WWII on a sort of a dare. Someone said to her "you're too little–they'll never take you!" So she had to prove him wrong, and did.
The second is how she tells of acquiring a prized possession, her dishwasher. "My husband said 'over my dead body.' . . . [pause of perfect comedic timing] So he died, and I did."
Until recently, Nana mowed and weeded her lawn and snowblew (showblowed?) her driveway as well as her neighbor's. At the end of the day she would sit in her 3-season porch, smoke a cigarette, and drink a can of cheap beer. She made mountains of perogies (the best I have ever tasted) and gave most of them away. I ate so many of her perogies when I was pregnant with Shmoo that I think we should tattoo "made by (great-)Nana" on the back of his neck.
Rest well, Nana.
UPDATE! July 5: Nana is doing much better. Turns out it was probably a stomach flu. Also, I found out from HPR that Nana was in the Navy, not the Army, and have edited the text accordingly.