Wednesday, March 30, 2011

la gratitude est la mémoire du coeur

I realized -again- the other day that I love my life. I am grateful for the whole divorce debacle. I will stop well short of saying that Math-Rat was right to do what he did, because he was wrong in every particular. What's true is that I've managed to thrive, in large part because of my friends but to some extent because of strength I didn't know I had. So, yay for us!

I'm grateful that it's going well with Ohoud, the exchange student. She's just a 23-year-old girl, for heaven's sake. She's very afraid of my animals. We haven't gotten into a rhythm yet. She got lost in town yesterday, which scared me (and her) to death, because she doesn't know enough English to tell me where she was. But I showed her that the cats don't have claws, that they're soft, and that if you walk toward them assertively enough they will get up and move. I'll wake her up earlier tomorrow so that I can drive her to school and she doesn't have to walk God-knows-where. It's a start.

I'm grateful that I am healthy and getting stronger. That's a huge thing, and I know now to never take it for granted. I think I'm not doing the AIDS Ride this year, which is sad. However, I'm getting stronger, I'm swimming, I'm training for a 5K, and I'm ready to take my bikes to the shop for a tune-up. All is well.

I have a really cool job, and really astounding colleagues. Most days, I wake up and smile because I get to go do something fun.

And -sadly for the rest of you parents everywhere- I have the best, most astounding children on the planet. I am grateful for that, as well.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Drowning in Paper

I'm drowning in paper, here, and I'm bloody done with it. I'm not good with paper, apparently, and I'm at least decently good with electronic documents. So, since I'm clearly impaired once it enters my house, my goal has become to get rid of the paper that comes into the house in the first place.

Minor rant..... WHY can't I pay the water bill electronically? Seriously, I can make my church donation electronically (should I be so inclined, which I am not). If they can figure it out, I'm thinking the city Public Works department can figure something out. There is a rickety system, for which they charge you almost $4 to pay on-time, and then they only accept Mastercard, which I don't have and won't get for the sole purpose of paying more for the water bill. Whew. That's off my chest ;)

I have now canceled receipt of 10 catalogs. (Yikes.) All my bills have been coming electronically for a long time -although some of them still send paper copies of the bill, too. I have to get that sorted out. I have tried to cancel the free newspaper, but since 12-year-olds deliver it, success seems improbable. I've canceled most magazines, more out of embarrassment that I don't have time to read them rather than from any sense of environmentalism or organization.

Now, let's think about electronic document storage. Once I electronically pay a bill, I would like to retain electronic evidence that I DID pay it. So I want to save the e-mail that confirms payment. Obviously, I can create a google document from the email. But that stores a hideous copy -one of those 5 pages to save a one page e-mail message deals. So, I've been printing the email, immediately scanning it, and then recycling the piece of paper I used for literally 30 seconds. That's sick and wrong. What am I missing here? How do you do this?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Greening of Sixth Street

The weather WILL improve, right? It must. I insist. And given my certainty, I am working on plans for the yard. Here's the current situation in graphic form. Nothing is drawn to scale, but it's about 60 feet wide and 120 feet deep.

The Current Reality

It's aggressively rectilinear. That sidewalk down the middle leads from nowhere to nowhere, although soon I hope that there will be a kitchen door roughly where the sidewalk ends. I like nothing about this set up. It invites no one in. There are spectacular views of the neighbors' trash cans in all directions. It's gross.

So, I came up with this:

Draft 1

The garage, which is a "someday project" will be a one-car garage, but on the side it will have a shallow room, protected by sliding doors. This will be a seating area/potting shed sort of thing. In the meantime, though, I can plant the raspberry canes to form part of a fence, to stop the walk-through traffic, block the view of neighboring trash cans, and ... give me raspberries! The walkways will either be brick or that mulch stuff. The firepit will be brick. The tulip magnolia tree is sited to be visible from the family room and to further block icky views. But I was still not quite satisfied.

Here's draft 2:

Draft 2

It seems like the walkways make a little more sense. The space is divided into "rooms," but they all sort of flow into one another. I'm not sure about that space in the back, now, though. What is it?

Anyway.... Comments? Thoughts? Improvements?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Come, Let's Change the World

So, here's a thing -and I'm nervous about it.

The back story:

Andrea wants to work for social justice... blah, blah, blah. You've heard about this before.

Also, Andrea has a house that's shamefully big for one person. And wants company, to boot.

The logical thing is for me to share my home with an exchange student, right? I've got nothing BUT spare beds at this point, after all. And honestly, I think that having someone around, while it will be a little bit of extra trouble, will also ground me in some important ways. Therefore, I've signed on. My exchange student will be a slightly older student (by which I mean early 20s at most), who is already a bachelor's-prepared social worker at home. So, we'll have a lot to talk about.

Eventually, that is. Right now, she has almost no English. She's here preparing for the TOEFL, and is in the first of 12 class sessions one can take prior to the exam. So, communication consists of a lot of nouns, where she picks something up and looks quizzical -clearly asking for the English word for that thing. (Although, when she saw tofu, her expression was more like "what the bloody hell???")

The more interesting twist on this, though, is that she is from Saudi Arabia, and is very religiously conservative. She is completely veiled, with only her eyes showing. If my son or male friends come over, she needs advance warning so that she can re-veil. She traveled here with her uncle, who had to meet me and pronounce me fit to serve.

Well, now. I suppose I have conservative little corners of my psyche, but pretty much my politics and theology and moral decisions all land me on the left side of the aisle. I am, or claim to be, tolerant of a wide range of viewpoints, though -although I get persnickety when those viewpoints don't make any rational sense. I exempt religiosity from the "must make intellectual sense" requirement because faith is about something else.

But.... THIS religion, to my way of thinking, stigmatizes and truncates half the population. Not that Catholic Christianity doesn't do that, too -but there is a huge leap between that and this. My tolerance does not extend this far. And if I could find the MEN in charge of enforcing this situation, they would get a piece of my unveiled mind, let me just tell you.

But she's a faithful believer, and my problems are not with her. Moreover, I believe that, when people don't understand each other's beliefs, the right thing to do is to put a real human face to "the other." Get to know them.

That's how we change the world.

But first, I have to clean the house.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Whole Lot of Dailiness

Yeah. That's a picture of me.

And if you believe that....

But I was in the pool this morning, for my 1/2 mile swim. While it turns out that 1/2 mile is not long at all, it is long enough that your mind turns to other things. And I was musing about my return to physical fitness -which is a long-term project if ever there was one.

I haven't had the easiest two months ever. But they're over, and it's time to get back to work. And, what's more, I've been here ("Here" being in terrible shape) before and managed to get back into pretty decent condition. All it is -and I know you know this- is a whole lot of doing the right thing today. Today just pick up this weight and put it back down a few times. Or swim this lap. Or...whatever it is that you do. Having done that, you've done enough.

It's not as though you could put "get fit" on your calendar and just take care of it today and be done with it, right? I think a lot more things go in that category than I had imagined.

Just eat like a civilized person tonight.
Just put that book away where it belongs.
Just contribute to your savings account for that trip you want to take.
Just say the right, kind, compassionate thing.

Just do it.