Monthly Archives: September 2007

Dark and Stormy Book Club, Take 3!

Bo has chosen a new book for us to investigate over at the Dark and Stormy Book Club!

cov-androids-200.jpgBo has picked Philip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. If that sounds familiar to you, that’s because it’s the book that inspired Blade Runner (which, by the way, is one of Mr. Chili’s all-time favorite movies). I’ve heard NOTHING but good things about the story, and I’m really looking forward to finding out for myself if all the good stuff I’ve heard is true.

I tried to pick up a copy of the story this afternoon, but the wretched big-box book store had EVERY story Dick had EVER written EXCEPT the one I wanted. I’m still a little pissed off about that, and am going to call my favorite (though not terribly local) bookstore this morning to find out if THEY’VE got a copy – and, if they do, if they’ll hold one for me.

Join us, won’t you? We really do have a great time – reading great stories and then discussing them with smart and funny people is FUN!

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Filed under Dark and Stormy Book Club, reading

Busy, Busy, Busy

Today is the last day of the term at the college, and I’m up to here in grading. What I’m really telling you is that I’ve got nothing of substance for you today because my mind is elsewhere. That being the case, I offer you this: Jeff Dunham. This guy cracks me up, and he’s putting on a Comedy Central special this weekend – check your local listings:

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Filed under admiration, funniness, Little Bits of Nothingness, television

A Maybe Not-So-Irrational Fear

My biological parents are back in the area code.

I don’t have a relationship with my biological parents anymore. Believe me: this is best for everyone involved, me especially. When I did have a relationship with these people, it was strained and abusive, and when I finally worked up the strength to break out of that cycle, I started becoming the person I was meant to be.

They used to live two towns over, in a part of the state that I rarely, if ever, had occasion to frequent. Then, about two or so years ago, they moved to a small town about two and a half hours away in the next state over, and Auntie and I breathed sighs of relief. No longer would we have to worry about chance encounters, and the likelihood of an unwelcomed knock on the door decreased significantly.

Well, they’re back.

They’ve moved back to the state because, according to a cousin, they weren’t getting enough attention in their new living arrangement. They had moved to be nearer to my father’s family – his mother and older brother – and I gather that they weren’t received in quite the way they were hoping. Regardless of their motives for moving in the first place, or for moving back, the fact remains that they’re nearer to me than I’m comfortable with their being.

The good side of this is that they’ve moved to a town that I’m in even LESS than the one they originally moved from; I’ve stopped in this new town only three times in the last year: two of those times were to meet my graduate seminar group for dinner. There’s a Lowe’s in the town, and Mr. Chili and I went there to buy a vanity cabinet for the downstairs bathroom – that was the third time. The chances of my running into these people by chance are pretty slim, although MeadMaker called me last week to say that he’d run into the mother in the local WalMart. He didn’t stop to talk to her – she hates him almost as much as she hates me – but it certainly threw him off his game for a bit. She has that effect on people.

The not-so-irrational fear of the title has to do with my parents’ proximity to my children. One of my many and fatal character flaws is the hateful and manipulative way I’ve used my children to purposefully wound my parents. According to them, I’d been plotting ways to keep them from their precious grandchildren since the day the stick turned blue, and the fact that I’ve followed through with that only proves how rotten a person I am.

The truth of the matter is that I come from a long and distinguished line of abuse and dysfunction, and I well recall being a young person witnessing the previous generations battle it out. I remember being driven home from forced visits to my maternal grandmother’s house when EVERY PERSON IN THE CAR was crying – Auntie and I from the terrible time we’d had, and my mother from the generous helping of verbal toxins she’d been given before we were allowed to leave (a skill which she picked up quite skillfully as Auntie and I got older). I remember the anxiety and the yelling and the ugly, hateful way these people interacted and I decided, as soon as they put Punkin’ Pie in my arms at the hospital, that I would never, ever do that to my own children. I offered my biologicals a choice; they could either do the work and have a healthy, grown-up relationship with me, or they could hit the road.

I’ve not seen them in almost ten years.

What concerns me, though, is the tenacity with which the mother clings to the idea that she’s been brutally wronged. She refuses to see that her behavior has brought this situation about (Auntie will back me up here – I’m not just being a spoiled girl who takes her ball and goes home when she doesn’t get what she wants. I am saving my children from the abuse that Auntie and I have had to work very hard to overcome). It’s this conviction which frightens me into thinking that the possibility exists that the mother would try to get to my girls through their schools. The idea of stalking hasn’t been entirely discounted as out of her ability, either.

Do I think she would go so far as to kidnap them? No, I don’t; and even if she did, my children know who their “safe” people are – who they can and cannot get into cars with – and my biologicals aren’t on that list.

Still, the thought occurs to me to send letters to school with the girls, pointedly forbidding my parents from any contact with my children, just to be sure.

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Filed under Parenting, Worries and Anxieties

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten DVDs I’ve bought but have not yet watched.

My favorite video store occasionally runs what I affectionately call “looting sales.” Usually, the banners proclaim FIVE DVDs FOR TWENTY DOLLARS!!

I mean, really: how can you NOT?!

My problem seems to be that my eyes are bigger than my stomach… no, wait.. oh, you know what I mean: I want the movies more than I have the time to actually sit down to watch them…

1. Babel. I bought this one on the recommendation of the reviews and the Oscar buzz it generated. WeedWoman borrowed it, watched it, and said it’s one that I’ll really enjoy, given how much of my life is wrapped up in working with communication.

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2. Million Dollar Baby. I’m not a huge Hillary Swank fan, but I do love Morgan Freeman, and Clint Eastwood as a director works for me. This one got a lot of Oscar attention, and I’ve had it recommended to me by people whose movie advice I trust, but I’ve also been told that it will make me cry.

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3. Tsotsi. I remember being fascinated by the trailer for this film, and bought it on those memories. I’m a big fan of great storytelling, and I’ve heard nothing but praise for the quality of narrative of this film.

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4. Crash. Here’s another one I bought on the strength of its Oscar buzz. It’s not a happy movie, though – or so I’m told – and I want to be in the right frame of mind to watch it.

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5. Notes on a Scandal. I actually texted Kizz from my cell phone while I was in the video store to ask her whether I should include this in the looting. Her response was something akin to “HELL, YES!!” This may be the first one I see from this list – I loved the preview and Kiz, whose opinion on such things I trust perhaps above all others, can’t speak highly enough about the performances by the two lead actresses. I may schedule myself a “do nothing” day during the inter-term break at TCC and settle in for a viewing.

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6. Blood Diamond. I bought this one because I love Ed Zwick as a director and because I remember Mr. Chili’s twin saying that it was a really great film. I’ll have to get over my general disdain for Leonardo DiCaprio, though…

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7. Children of Men. Another one bought for the Oscar buzz. I also asked the video guy which movie he’d recommend, and he blurted this one out without hesitation – the video guy is another one whose opinions I look to: I mean, really – who knows more about films than someone whose job it is to work with them? I also have a lot of suspicion that I could use the film as part of an English class unit that includes The Road: the feel of the preview for the movie made me think of McCarthy’s book.

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8. Syriana. This one was bought on spec. – I’m only going on the strength of the reviews.

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9. Hotel Rwanda. I LOVE Don Cheadle and would have bought this film just because he’s in it, but I also love rescuer stories. The rescuer stories of the Holocaust figure heavily into my lessons – I want my students to really understand that it is possible to stand up, even quietly, in the face of atrocities. We are all responsible for each other, and the more I can get that idea out there, the better I feel. This movie, though, is one that I’ll have to be in the right frame of mind to see, and I haven’t been in that frame just yet.

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10. Children of Heaven. Technically, this film doesn’t belong on this list because I didn’t actually buy it – (and no; I didn’t steal it, either!) – it was given to me by my former intern mentor. She used it in her summer class at the local university and decided that I HAD to have it. It probably goes second on the priority list after Notes on a Scandal: I’m curious as to why TM thought of me when she saw the movie.

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Happy Tuesday, Everyone!!


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Filed under movies, my oh-so-exciting life, ten things Tuesday

This Cracks Me Up

I’m a wordy geek, is what I’m sayin’.

I get to drive by some fields almost every day – they’re on the road between my house and the next big town over. Every year, the fields get mowed and the hay gets baled into these huge rounds. Some years, the rounds get loaded on to trucks and hauled away; some years they don’t.

This year, someone decided to have a little fun with one of the bales. I HAD to pull over and take a picture; this made me laugh out loud.

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Yeah, I know… it doesn’t take much to amuse me….

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Filed under funniness, Little Bits of Nothingness, my oh-so-exciting life

Dark and Stormy Book Club, Volume II

Bo, Seester and I have done it again – and we’re getting pretty good at it.

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Yesterday morning, the second installment of the Dark and Stormy Book Club Podcast was recorded. In it, we discussed and critiqued Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin. Go here to listen, then head on over to the website to participate in the continuing conversation – you know you want to!

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Filed under crossover, Dark and Stormy Book Club, reading, ruminating

Civics on Saturday – The Articles of Confederation

Thanks for the extension, Everyone! I’ve read the document and have a pretty good grasp on it, I think. Away we go!

My memory is such that a lot of my childhood is just gone. There are bits and flashes, but I have really no cohesive, coherent memories of any time before, say, the age of 18. I had completely forgotten that there was a founding document that came between the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Mr. Chili, when I mentioned it to him, matter-of-factly said “Of course, the Articles of Confederation. What was that? Seventh grade social studies?”

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See? THIS is why I’m glad I’m undertaking this little learning project.

Since I have no conscious memory of having studied the Articles of Confederation and, obviously, nothing of any substance to add, I’ve boosted the entire intelligent portion of this post from The National Archives:

Throwing off the British monarchy on July 4, 1776, left the United States with no central government. It had to design and install a new government–and quickly. As early as May 1776, Congress advised each of the colonies to draw up plans for state governments; by 1780, all thirteen states had adopted written constitutions. In June 1776, the Continental Congress began to work on a plan for a central government. It took five years for it to be approved, first by members of Congress and then by the states. The first attempt at a constitution for the United States was called the Articles of Confederation.

This first constitution was composed by a body that directed most of its attention to fighting and winning the War for Independence. It came into being at a time when Americans had a deep-seated fear of a central authority and long-standing loyalty to the state in which they lived and often called their “country.” Ultimately, the Articles of Confederation proved unwieldy and inadequate to resolve the issues that faced the United States in its earliest years; but in granting any Federal powers to a central authority–the Confederation Congress–this document marked a crucial step toward nationhood. The Articles of Confederation were in force from March 1, 1781, until March 4, 1789, when the present Constitution went into effect.

The Articles of Confederation were really all about states’ rights. There were provisions in the document for “a firm league of friendship” among the states “for their common defence, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare…” (remember this line -it’s going to come up again in about six years). The Articles ordered “free ingress and regress to and from any other state*” while mandating extradition of anyone “charged with treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor…” The document forbade any state declaring war or entering into any treaties or agreements with foreign governments – or with any other states – and kept the states from interfering with treaties entered into by the federal government. In Article XI, Canada was “admitted to, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union.”

After reading this document, I can see why it failed. While I think that states’ rights are important, the Union never would have survived without a much stronger centralized power structure – indeed, even with a federal government, the Union almost didn’t survive the Civil War. I almost see this in a classroom metaphor – every student is an individual and can be working to his or her skill level, but there’s a centralized power – the teacher – keeping everyone working toward the same general goals.

That we have a strong and well defined federal government, while still maintaining state sovereignty, is truly an amazing exercise. While it has its definite drawbacks – among them the issue of gay marriage and whether one state has to recognize the laws of another in honoring those contracts – it’s still a pretty damned good system. Precarious, to be sure, and requiring all our diligence to maintain, but pretty damned good nonetheless.

*when I read this line, all I could think of was this scene in The Hunt for Red October:

Capt. Vasili Borodin: I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman, and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a …”recreational vehicle.” And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?
Captain Ramius: I suppose.
Borodin: No papers?
Ramius: No papers, state to state.
Borodin: Well then, in winter I will live in… Arizona. Actually, I think I will need two wives.
Ramius: Oh, at least.

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Birthday Love

My best friend had a birthday on Wednesday, which we celebrated when she came to visit me today.

I’m not sure that I can adequately describe the place WeedWoman holds in my heart.  Despite my practice and skill in manipulating language, I’m never quite satisfied that the way I feel comes through in the words I have at my disposal.

There have been a few people in my life who have just belonged there – no questions asked.  Mr. Chili exudes a feeling of familiarity to me that goes well beyond any reasonable explanation: he just “fits.”  When Beanie was born, I had an instant feeling of recognition: she and I have lived lives together before, I just know it.  Bowyer and I “clicked” right away, and have been clicking ever since (yes, that annoying “tickitty, tickitty” is us…).

It’s much the same for WeedWoman and me – she belongs in my heart, and I in hers.  It’s an almost effortless sympathy: we understand each other, even when we feel like we can’t make the words fit; we seem to know, almost telepathically, when one of us needs the phone to ring; we laugh until we can’t breathe at things that no one else understands.  I just feel better when she’s around.

I wracked my brain for a suitable gift to give her to recognize her latest trip around the sun and to celebrate her presence in this life, but nothing came to me.  Since she’s struggling with food allergies, I couldn’t make her a cake, so I burned a CD of my Ten Things Tuesday remake list and wrote her a card.  I bought her lunch today.  Really, though, there was really nothing else that I could think of that would really honor her in a way that felt meaningful to me.

I believe that love shouldn’t be kept quiet so, in honor of my best friend’s birthday, I’m shouting from my little blog that a wonderful woman exists in our midst, and that I have the pleasure and privilege to call her “friend.”

I love you very, very much, WW.  Happy birthday, Sweetie.

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Filed under admiration, Friends, love notes

Guest Post!!

Another post from Auntie:

At this point, I should really start my own blog. I really don’t feel like I have enough time and soon, I’ll have less (editor’s note – my sister is going to be going to college in January!!!). Anyway, would you please post this as a follow up to the first one about driving tips? I even have a title:

A New Level Of Stupid

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Some of you may have read my first guest post on the subject of driving. If you haven’t, please do so now. If you choose not to, that’s ok too. But please – please – at the very least, don’t drive like the people I saw today.

I stopped for a woman and three small children who were in a cross walk. Two cars on their side of the road sped past them. Those drivers’ views were obstructed by a parked car but generally, if an oncoming car is stopped in the middle of the road, it means something.

That’s not the worst of it. THREE cars that were BEHIND ME PASSED ME ON THE RIGHT! Do the capitals make you see the point? Thank God that woman was paying attention and the children were good listeners. I wailed on my horn the whole time to: 1) alert the pedestrians of the morons passing me and 2) let the morons know that I was not stopped in the middle of the road because I felt like it, but because there were people there!

My friend just witnessed a 66 year old woman being hit by a truck and then dragged about 20 feet by the idiot who didn’t even realize he’d hit her. She lived, but she is in tough shape. Please be very careful when crossing the road.

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Filed under frustrations, General Bitching, Guest Post, Worries and Anxieties

What Love Is

Last week, Beanie had a hum-dinger of a nightmare. It drove her out of her own bed and into ours and, the next day, she was able to recall the high points of the dream. I reminded her that it was just that – a dream – and that she gets to control what she dreams about. I told her that dreaming was just like watching t.v.; if you don’t like what’s on, you get to change the channel – or turn the t.v. off. She said she understood that, but that it was still pretty scary.

We went about the rest of our day in customary fashion. After dinner, we sent the girls in to do their nighttime things – jammies, tooth-brushing, water bottle refilling, getting ready for the next day. We kissed them goodnight and headed out to do our Mommy-Daddy time which, like most nights – involved some tea and television.

Before I went to bed (we were watching the Red Sox, and my eyes were crossing), I headed into the girls’ room to give one last bit of love before turning in. This is what I found when I got there:

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When I tried to prod Punkin’ Pie out of Beanie’s bed and into her own, she sleepily informed me that she was going to stay right where she was. “I can’t go, Mommy,” she explained. “I promised Bean I’d be here if she had another nightmare. I don’t want her to wake up all alone.”

I really am raising good girls.

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Filed under admiration, Home and Family, kid cuteness, Parenting