For the last seven years, I've been keeping track of my unread book pile in a post in Livejournal. I add books as I acquire them over the course of the year, and I cross them off as I read them. I have a Goodreads account that also keeps track of this sort of thing, but I kinda like the original.
At any rate, here's the list. It's very similar to last year's list, because I didn't read all that many books in 2013, and I tried not to buy toooo many books last year. It'll change over the course of the year, but I'm pretty good about noting when I get new books.
You will note that my mother is the source of many of my books. She almost always gives me her books when she is done with them.
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( Non FictionCollapse )http://www.amazon.com/Outlander-Novel-D
I think that this is my least productive livejournal year in the 11 year history. I suppose it was more or less inevitable, and I shouldn't really mourn it. Facebook fills a lot of the daily chit chat that I used to post here, and I sometimes don't feel like I have the time or energy to devote to the type of posting that I want to do. Still, it's not something I'm quite ready to let go.
I do enjoy this forum, though, and I feel like I should be keeping up with it.
The year is a mixed one for me. I've been updating my Flickr account, and the dominant theme of what I have chosen to document this year has been the puppies. They're just a joy, and Fusilli has been an overwhelmingly good addition to our life. He's the first show dog I've ever had, and while I was a bit wary about the idea of showing him, I've found that I really do enjoy it. It gives me an opportunity to spend a lot of time with him, and I think that our bond is pretty intense because of it. Not to say that Celosa isn't the most amazing, most wonderful puppy in the whole world. But Fusilli and I have our thing now. And it's a good thing. We've done three shows, and he's improved every time. And with each show, we work on training, which is never a bad thing with a puppy. He's almost 11 months old now, and his cords are beginning to come in. Soon he won't look like a puppy any more. But I'm sure he'll act like it for a long time.
In the last few months--aside from work with Fusilli--I've been really, really lazy. I haven't been going to the gym as often as I should. I haven't really picked up any major projects. I've not written or crafted or taken any classes. I haven't even read that many books. The only thing I can really recall doing in the last few months is playing Candy Crush on my ipad and computer. I finished that on Sunday. I think that maybe after that last major flare up in my life, I needed some time to hit the reset button and check out for a little while. And for some reason, I am ready to come back again and start doing things again.
This year seems like it's flown by, but at the same time it seems like March (when we got Fusilli), April (when I finished school) and May (when I miscarried) were forever ago. I was walking yesterday along the route I took to school for the the first four full months of the year, and it seemed like such a long time ago that I walked that route twice a week. But at the same time, it feels like I just left Taos, but that was in August.
Next week is more or less when I would have been full term if the pregnancy had taken. My due date would have been December 28. I'm pretty much ok with the state of things, though I was hoping that I were pregnant again by now. The worst part, I think, is all the questions and assumptions from other people. I hate the "are you still trying?" or "how's the baby making going?" or "are you planning on having kids?" questions. The sympathetic hugs when I have no idea what I'm getting hugged for are almost worse. I saw this post on Crooked Timber a few weeks ago, and I could relate wholeheartedly. My circumstances are different, but I've heard a good number of the same things in the last year.
Graham's club is moving downtown early next year, and I think he'll probably be working more once that happens. He's planning a couple of out of town tours as well, and he'll be going to school. I'm not quite sure what I'll be doing with my non-working time. I suspect that we'll try to get the expansion going, finally. We're both itching for space. Graham really could use a studio space of his own, and I'd love to have a library/office/craft room. Plus, extra bathrooms would be heaven sent. We have a design in mind that would turn our two bedroom/one bathroom 1000 square foot house into a three bathroom five bedroom 1800 square foot house. ,Graham talked to a builder/architect in September, and he liked our idea and the plan. Our little corner of Houston has taken off in the real estate market in the last two years, so we're pretty sure we can get a loan for what we want to do just based on the equity of the house. It's just a question of getting everything organized for it.
This has been a singularly strange year for me and Graham, but perhaps this is the sort of thing that happens to most couples in their first year of marriage.
I suppose the best example is the most recent. At the beginning of September, someone asked Graham to dj a party in late October. Graham immediately arranged to take time off work from the club for that night, and he started working on the party. He spent hours downloading music, working out playlists, thinking through what he thought the party called for. While the host knew that Graham played primarily electro-swing, Graham wasn't sure that was the best music for this particular party. So Graham started looking for some of the music he'd heard in the U.K, while he was there this summer. He thought that it'd be a nice opportunity to show off a different sort of music to a fairly large audience. While he didn't have many details about how long he'd be playing or in what order with other artists, Graham put many hours of thought into this party. And of course, last week, the party host contacted Graham to cancel the engagement. A day or so later, Graham released all of the music he'd gathered on his Soundcloud. (It's since been taken down because Graham wasn't happy with the quality of the set, but I think he'll put it up again soon after he re-records it.)
Towards the beginning of the year, I applied for a job that opened up at my work. Between submitting the application and the interview, I found out that I was pregnant, so I wasn't entirely sure that it'd be the best timed move in the world. But it was certainly a step up, and there aren't that many steps up in my organization so I saw it through. After the interview, I had all sorts of conflicting emotions about it, and I was even more conflicted when I found out that I wasn't going to make it to the next round of interviews. (Apparently I didn't have enough "experience". I asked the HR person how I'd get more experience in this organization, and she sort of shrugged her shoulders. Later, someone asked if I'd be interested in moving to that department to get experience. I looked at the pay cut that would be involved and politely declined.) Going through the interview process, I had to think about all of the things I would do if I had the position. It was an interesting exercise that made me flex my imagination quite a bit.
In April, I found out that I was pregnant. For six weeks, Graham and I spent hours and hours talking about the baby and the changes we'd have to make in our lives. It was a weird thing to do. We knew that everything in our lives was going to change dramatically, and we slowly began to absorb this new reality. We'd just told our families about the pregnancy when we went in for our first appointment and discovered that the twins I was carrying weren't going to make it. The five minutes when I thought I'd be having twins were some of the most surreal in my life. I was terrified and confused and excited and nervous and overjoyed and all sorts of other things all at once. And then they couldn't find the heartbeats and we went through three days of hell of not knowing. Finally, at the end, nine weeks and four days into my pregnancy, all of the hopes and dreams and preparations and ideas about this little life we'd been getting ready for were suddenly moot.
In late July, I was sitting in my office minding my own business when I got a cold call from a headhunter. Some prestigious institution in another state was looking for someone like me. Was I interested? Usually I say no, but this institution and this state were attractive to me, and I held on the phone. Two phone conversations later, I was flying to Dallas to meet the headhunter. And then I was talking to the institution and then they wanted to fly me out. Lots of scheduling conflicts and work crises made it so I couldn't get there until the first week of September. But it was a good visit, and I got a good feeling from the place. There were some drawbacks, sure, but by and large, it seemed like a cool job. The whole time, I was taking the "let's just see what happens" attitude about whether I wanted it or not. It never really occurred to me that I'd be their top candidate. But after I flew out, the headhunter called to tell me I really needed to think about what my answer would be, because she was pretty sure that they wanted me. She gave me the number that she thought they'd offer me. It was a lot, but it wasn't as much as we'd thought that it'd be for that place in that state.
So Graham and I spent a full week talking about what we want and what our plans are and where we want to be. We looked at every aspect of our lives and where we thought we wanted to go. Professionally, there's no question that it would have been a step up for me, and maybe for Graham, but that was an unknown. Financially? We were uncertain. The dollars were more, but so would have been the cost of living. And our study of the cost-of-living calculators indicated that the salary bump wasn't necessarily enough to make up for the change. But it was a lot of money. Lifestyle? We live 20 minutes from anywhere we want to be. I have a 17 minute commute on the outside. Given the geography of the place we were considering, lots of time in transport was likely in our future if we moved, especially for me from home to work. Family? We have a lot of chosen family near the place we were looking at, but no blood family. Olivia moved back to Texas literally the week I got the call from the headhunter. Jose will be back to Houston in a year. My parents are likely to retire soon to the ranch, so we won't see them as often, but that's an hour and a half away. Housing? We love our house and we've been thinking through the next steps for expansion, especially after the pregnancy. Our house has bumped up in value in the last two years due to a lot of people wanting to live here, and we think we can afford construction within the year off of home equity alone. The main driver in cost of living difference, though, between the two places was housing. Real estate prices were just breathtaking, and even though we'd have plenty of cash in our pocket if we sold our house and moved, we'd never find something comparable. And kids? More money means more security for them, but at the same time, there's tons of support and resources here. There? We had no idea. Still, kids are entirely hypothetical at this point. Celosa and Fusilli? It's not as hot there in the summer and there are lots of pooch friendly places. But I'd likely be out of the house more often.
It was an agonizing week, and it was one of the hardest decisions I'd ever had to make. We'd go back and forth and back and forth. One day, I was convinced we were about to start packing. The next, I was sure that we were staying here. I'd say something out loud and then declare myself crazy for even articulating the idea of giving X up. And that worked both ways. The good news was that it didn't look like there was likely to be a bad decision, since we were so on the fence. The bad news is that there wasn't really a bad decision that clearly showed itself.
In the end, I called the headhunter and thanked her for the work but said we decided we were going to stay here. Weird, weird, weird. If asked the day that I got the call from the headhunter if I'd take it if they offered it to me, I probably would have said yes, of course. Going through the actual analysis, though, was something else entirely.
And so, as we round into the final quarter of the year, we're more or less in the same place as we were at the beginning of the year. But not really. We've had lots, lots of thinking, lots of planning. And I think we have a much better idea of what we want both individually and as a family, going forward. We really had to articulate to each other what we want and what we value, and that was a good exercise. And so, like Graham's party that never was, we come out of the preparing for major life change with great stuff to work with going forward. And when we finally do have major life change, I think we'll be much better prepared for it than we were a year ago.
Last year, I'd gotten it into my head that I was going to turn the banners from my wedding into a harlequin quilt. Problem was, I didn't know how to quilt. I didn't even know how to sew, really. I have a sewing machine, and I know the very basics of sewing, but I've never been formally taught or really done that many sewing heavy projects. So, I pinned a lot of quilts I liked to my pinterest board, and I started research. My mom had made quilts for both of my sisters when we were little, and I remember it being a very laborious project for her, but she definitely encouraged me. In December, Olivia and I discussed quilting, and we poured over patterns in various books and on the internet. In March, I signed up for a four hour quilting workshop on Living Social, and I finally put needle to fabric. I really got into it. I realized, though, that I wanted/needed to work on a smaller, easier project than the wedding quilt as my first quilt.
Anyhow, in April, I found out that I was pregnant, and I saw the baby as a good a reason as any to start a smaller quilt. So I picked out a relatively easy pattern from the Moda Bake Shop, and I found some gender neutral fabrics. And one night when Graham was at work, I started cutting. I must have run out of time or needed the dining room table or something, because I put the fabric away shortly after I was a little over halfway through.
And then I lost the pregnancy, and I wasn't particularly interested in continuing.
But when I packed to come here, I grabbed all the fabrics I had for quilting and my sewing machine and boxes of notions and way too much fabric related craft stuff. I figured I had the room in the car, and maybe I'd progress a little.
When I started yesterday, I figured I'd just get the cutting done. I don't think I realized that I was nearly done with the cutting when I stopped, which may be why I put off moving forward. Cutting is not my favorite part; I'm in a constant state of terror that I'm going to royally screw something up. But forty five minutes after I started, I was ready to start piecing all these fabrics together. It took me about half an hour to finish the first block, and I figured out a few ways of streamlining the process, and the next thing I knew, I was done with the first set of blocks! I worked for a few hours yesterday, and I finished half the blocks. I went to bed feeling very proud of myself.
This morning, I woke up not feeling all that rested. I thought that maybe I just didn't get enough sleep or maybe I overdid it with all the walking and yoga, but I'm thinking now that I'm coming down with something. I'm hopeful that I'm able to fight it off before tomorrow's journey home.
At any rate, I went to the farmer's market this morning, which was lovely. I saw a few people I'd seen over the week, mainly people from the various yoga classes. But it's clear that the farmer's market is a social hub for the community, as it was packed and everyone was spending as much time chatting as they were buying food. I wish I'd made the market last Saturday for my provisioning while I was here, but I knew that there would be two items I'd be happy to take home with me: berrywine tomatoes and fresh mushrooms. The tomatoes are just to die for, and I bought a little over a pound for $4.50. The mushrooms are an amazing delicacy. There is a French chef who has been here for decades who, legend has it, knows mushrooms better than anyone in the FDA. He's able to find chanterelles and porchni, and the next few weeks are the perfect times to find them. I bought a half pound of each, and I thought that the $17 I parted with was well worth it.
When I came home, I finished the second half of the blocks for the quilt, and I felt an amazing sense of accomplishment. Everything seemed to fit together fairly well, and I didn't screw up the seaming or cutting too much, from what I could tell. I put the blocks in order, and I sewed four rows of blocks together, and I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.
I promised the pooches a walk, so we went into town one last time after lunch. There was some sort of arts/crafts fair going on in the plaza, but we didn't see anything that we needed/wanted.
We got home, and I started on the home stretch. There were a few areas where I needed to fill in a gap or two, but I was really pleased with how I managed to piece everything together so it fit. Only one row wasn't exactly the same lengths as the others, but I got creative, and I don't think anyone will be able to tell which row that was. Finally, I put everything together, and aside from mixing up the side borders with the top and bottom borders, it went without a hitch.
Throughout, Celosa sat underneath whatever chair I was sitting on. It bugged her no end that I'd move from the sewing machine to the cutting board to the iron, but she moved whenever I did. Fusilli spent most of his time outside on the patio, occasionally coming in to tell me that we needed to see something. And just about sunset, I was done!
Now I have to learn how to quilt. I think that this will be my next project after I finish this quilt.
After finishing the quilt top, I started straightening up to get ready to leave tomorrow. We have a long drive and I don't want to do too much packing tomorrow. But we also paused to make a last dinner, using the chanterelles, we made a pork chop and polenta with a wild mushroom sauce and a side of baby bok choy. Good stuff.
And now, we pack some more.
I slept 10 hours last night, which is ridiculous, but it's also probably needed, especially after I practically dared my body not to sleep that long with what it went through yesterday.
I got up at around 9:15 and ate breakfast. Again, Fusilli was so enamored with the outside that he missed breakfast, and Celosa was the only one around to help with the washing up.
We wandered around the back yard a bit, and played chase. Graham and I "talked" via a text app that we've downloaded called "whatsapp", and I learned that he'd successfully made it to Oxford. His first gig was tonight, and apparently it went well.
After a bit of writing, I got myself organized for a solo excursion to town. I'd been to the shopping area several times already this trip, but always with the puppies. I wanted to go at least once on my own. The puppies were deeply suspicious when I got my things together, but they were ok with everything when I pointed out that they get treats AND the house to themselves for awhile. And I promised them fun when I got back.
I didn't have any particular in mind when I ventured out. I knew I wanted to stop at Steppin' Out, which is one of my favorite shoe stores anywhere. I have a pair of black ballet flats that are falling apart because I wear them all. the. time., and I need to replace them. None of the potential replacements in Houston met up with all of my picky criteria. Other than that, I had no agenda.
It's a little over half a mile from the house to the center of town, but there are shops and restaurants and other establishments almost along the entire way if you take the main road. I took my time, and I stopped where my fancy took me.
I was sad to see a few establishments that had been there for years were gone, but it seemed that Taos had more going on than it had in the last few times I'd been here. The recession hit the town hard, and it's never been on par with other resort / tourist towns, because it's not an easy place to get to. But it seems to be bouncing back a little. Certainly there seemed to be more new places open than old places closed. I took that to be a good sign.
I wandered through a few shops, noting a few "stop back later if I don't find anything else" spots. A pair of pants in one place, some cashmere fingerless gloves for Graham in another, a polka dot skirt in a third. When I got to Steppin' Out, the perfect pair of ballet flats happened to be on sale only in my size. The retail gods were smiling upon me. Having already checked out the square with the pooches, I headed to another area of the town center and wandered into Spotted Bear (no website), where over the years I'd picked up some items that are still in my wardrobe. Again, I had no particular agenda, but the owner spotted me fingering a top, and she decided to help me. The store has a LOT of clothes, but she knew every item in her inventory, and she steered me to items that seemed to be cut especially for me. EXCELLENT customer service, and I ended up buying a top that I probably will wear for the next 20 years.
Having spent more money than I had really anticipated, I finished my journey through town without stopping much. I did check out the menu at Adobe Bar at the Taos Inn, as I think their patio would accept puppy dogs, but otherwise, I just sort of wandered without stopping. My journey from start to finish was roughly about 2 and half miles, but it didn't feel all that long, as I paused a lot along the way.
When I got back to the house, I ate some leftover green curry chicken, and I informed the pooches that since they've been very, very good, they get to go on another excursion. We hopped in the car, and drove to the mountain.
Taos Mountain is just a stunning piece of geography, and I always feel like it is a sacred space. The south face is owned by the pueblo, and as a result, it's undeveloped. Unlike other ski towns, when you look up at the mountain at night, it's not dotted with lights of homes and other developments. It's unblemished. The ski valley is on the other side of the mountain, and it's a nearly 20 mile journey from town to the ski area. The drive is quite beautiful, across the mesa, through a few small communities, and then following a mountain stream up three thousand feet to the base of the ski area.
The puppies and I stopped at first along the stream, and we got out for a small hike, maybe half a mile or so, along the stream until the trail went over the water and to the other side. We weren't geared up for traversing water, so we turned around and went back to the car, pausing for a moment to admire the stream. There were mushrooms all over the place, and they were HUGE. I wish I knew enough about fungi to have known what was safe and what was dangerous, but I was terribly excited for the upcoming farmer's market on Saturday, where surely people more expert than I would have mushrooms for sale. Celosa is better at going forward, but Fusilli is more adventuresome on hikes. Celosa just wants to GO, no dithering; Fusilli wants to see EVERYTHING, and makes some side trips. It was fun.
After we got back to the car, we went to the ski valley itself. Not that many people were there, though a few of the shops were open. We walked through the commercial bit, and then went towards a trail that I always loved to ski back in the day. It's a long, long trail that isn't very steep but gets you from the back side of the mountain back to the bottom. Skiing it, you always have to get up sufficient speed to make it through some of the flatter parts of this trail. As a result, it's a fairly decent trail for hiking, because it's not hideously steep, especially given that we're now at 10,000 feet. And it follows that same mountain stream, so it's really beautiful, especially frozen over in winter. Since I was last skiing over a dozen years ago, though, they'd put in a chairlift along this trail. I don't know why I was so surprised, except in the yearly excursions from about 1992 until 2002, I don't remember them doing any real major additions to Taos. I mean, I'd heard that they finally allowed snow boarders about two or three years ago, but a new lift? Ok. (Looking at the map now, it doesn't look like the lift goes that far.)
Anyhow, the lift didn't really mar the beauty of the trail, and the pooches followed it up for a quarter to a half a mile before Celosa said she was getting tired. We stopped for water, and then made our way back down again, stopping to answer inevitable questions from some tourists. When we went back down again in the car, Celosa asked if I could open the back window a bit. Since her daddy wasn't around to object, I acquiesced, only a crack, but she was pretty happy about that.
We stopped in Arroyo Seco, a small town at the base of the mountain, and walked around a little, before heading back down to town. I stopped at Cid's for a piece of trout I'd seen in the display earlier in the week.
I now have two pooped pooches. I took a bubble bath when we got home, and Celosa slept next to the tub while I bathed. Fusilli barely had the strength to go outside. They helped me with the trout (especially the skin), but it's been pretty quiet since our adventure.
Tomorrow, I'm going back to yoga, but I've decided not to go to the flea market in Santa Fe. I just don't really need anything (especially now that I've purchased that top and those shoes). I probably will walk to yoga and then stop along the way back at a few places, and I've really gotten used to my rhythm here.
In the meantime, an evening of quiet relaxation is just the right thing for tonight. And so I relax.
We made salads last night and settled in for an evening of writing, closing the house down early because of a nearby skunk that I didn't want the puppies to get to know. It was actually a pleasant day though I couldn't really say we did anything.
Today, though. Sheesh.
We woke up early and played chase for quite some time. Yesterday, I could have sworn that Fusilli was the faster of the two, but I think that Celsoa has been letting him win. Today, though, she turned on the afterburner, and she put the distance between them that they had yesterday, in different order. She's also more cunning. She'll stop and make him go around the long way, or she'll turn where he'll miss. His cornering isn't as precise as hers is, either. At one point, they ran back inside from outside, and he ran chest first into the dining room table leg, bouncing off. I stopped him to make sure he was ok, but he complained that I was letting her get away.
They're great fun to have here.
At noon, I informed them that I had shit to do, and I gave them treats and told them to enjoy their afternoon without causing too much of a ruckus.
After yoga, I got in the car to make the voyage to Ojo Caliente. Ojo Caliente is a natural hot spring miles from anywhere, and someone brilliantly put a spa there in 1905, I think. There are two ways to Ojo Caliente from Taos. One is using the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, which you may have seen in a few movies, most recently, Paul. The other is going through Pilar, climbing down into the Rio Grande Gorge, crossing a much smaller, lower bridge, and then climbing up again. One way is paved and relatively safe the entire way. The other has four narrow miles of unpaved, un-guardrailed, terrifying switchbacks that could have you plunging into the rocky gorge at any second. Guess which way I chose? Oh yes, and there was a nasty thundercloud behind me that was threatening to kill me by making the road slippery on top of treacherous. Any relaxing effects of the yoga class were mitigated the second I pulled onto the gravel part of the road. I'm not sure that I cleared 8 miles an hour that entire four miles. When I got to pavement again, I thanked the gods and Volkswagen, and I foolishly followed Google maps instead of my instincts. Google, five miles before the hot springs, had me turn down a dirt road that was literally falling apart. I stopped listening to Google when I came across an impassable mud puddle that was going to make my car stuck for years. I turned around, went back to the highway, traversed until I saw a sign, and five minutes later, I was pulling into the spa.
The spa feels like a spa. I mean, a spa in the olden days, when people were sent to spas to recover from tuberculosis or the like. It's based off of some mineral hot springs, and people travel from all over to soak in the waters. I'd forgotten to pack a bathing suit when I came, but I had a sports bra that more than did double duty, with a pair of short shorts, no one was the wiser. I had an hour before my treatments, so I chose to spend 15 minutes in each of the three mineral pools that were open. I started in soda, moved to iron, and finished at arsenic. The lithia spring wasn't open for some reason, and I wasn't particularly interested in the process of getting mud on and then off of me. I think that soda and iron were my favorites, but that may be because they were the least crowded and slightly warmer than arsenic. There were a fair number of people there today, but I didn't feel crowded. I very much relaxed in the pools.
At 3:20, I wandered over to the desk to wait for my massage and scrub, and a lovely woman named Marcela took over my body for the next hour and a half. She rubbed and she scrubbed and I could feel all sorts of tension just melting away from me. It was a perfect amount of time, and I was feeling just wonderful when she told me that she'd prepared a shower for me so I could get the rest of the rub material off of me. Lovely, lovely afternoon.
I drove back to Taos using the non-terrifying route, and feeling guilty about the amount of time they'd been left alone, I got the puppies some knuckle bones from the butcher at Cid's. They were overjoyed to see me, and they showed me that aside from a few crooked rugs, the house was in good shape. Celosa took her bone for immediate chewing, but Fusilli had trouble deciding what to do. He went outside with his, chewed for a few minutes, and then he buried it. Then he forgot where he buried it. Then he remembered. Then he brought it under the apple tree for chewing. Then to the deck. He was very much a little busy body about it. After an hour or so, I had to take the bones away from them, because I could see that fights were brewing.
And so we spent the evening writing and cooking and fighting over bones. I'll probably go to bed early-ish, as I'm still feeling relaxed (the half bottle of wine is helping me along that front too).
Graham seems to be having a great time in London, and I'm so glad for that. I miss him terribly, and I wish he were here, but I know that he's doing an awesome thing.
I'm going to have difficulty explaining to the pooches that we have to go home eventually.
At any rate, for a variety of reasons, it didn't make as much sense for me to go on tour with him this time around. But I didn't want to stay home while he was having a blast, either. So, I called my mom to make sure the house was available, and I made arrangements at work to take off this week. And on Friday, after work, the puppies and I kissed Graham and wished him the best time ever, and drove to Rhome, Texas where we stayed at a Motel 6. Saturday, we woke up early, got in the car for ten hours, making friends with motorcycle gangs along the way, and arrived in Taos in time for a quick grocery store run and a lot of running around in the cool(er) mountain air.
If Graham blends in London, I blend in Taos. I have somewhat hippie sensibilities, along with a practical streak. I found myself not the only one in a prairie skirt and Birkenstocks at the grocery store the other day. It's a town that I could live in easily if I could figure out how to pay the bills. I always feel a sense of belonging here, and every ounce of stress that I'm carrying seems to melt off my body.
I have no real goals while I'm here. I made a vow to myself that I would not play any computer games while here. I want to take the puppies up to the mountain to go hiking one day. And I want to take myself to the spa at Ojo Caliente for some TLC. I sort of promised myself that I'd try to make a yoga class once a day, but I'll be ok if I miss a yoga class for something else. I want to take the puppies on longish walks while we're here, even if we don't make it to the mountain. There's a farmer's market on Wednesday at the pueblo, I'm told. And I want to go to the flea market in Santa Fe on Friday. I saw a sign for a craft fair on Saturday in the plaza. Though there are some awesome restaurants here, I'd rather cook more than go out.
And I want to write. Last fall, I took a fiction class at Inprint, and I found that I wasn't really horrible at it. I didn't have time in the spring, with classes at the School of Public Health, to keep writing as I would have liked, and this summer, I've been more preoccupied on other things. But, I knew that creative writing was something that I wanted to explore a little more seriously with a little more discipline. A week to myself in one of the environments where I'm most comfortable in the world with nothing else to do seems like a good a place as any to impose that discipline.
So far? Not as successful as I would like, but I'm going in the right directions. Yesterday, I was pretty beat up by the travel and the altitude. (I almost always get headaches the first day I'm here, but this trip has been fairly decent.) So I took it easy. I finished a book that I'd been reading. I cooked some delicious salmon and couscous and spinach. I drank a half a bottle of wine. (I'm finishing it now.) I walked the puppies to the square and back. I did some straightening up around the house. I settled into my home for the week.
Today has been a little more successful. I went to a yoga class, which I was a little nervous about. I think it's been about five years since I've been in one, and I was afraid I was going to make many mistakes. But the instructor and my classmates were great, and I felt very welcomed and I remembered what it was that I liked about yoga. That I'm pretty flexible helps. I also went to the hardware store to pick up some annuals and a hand weeder to get rid of some dandelions. The annuals won't last that much longer, but they're on sale, and the two pots on the deck were barren. My parents will be up here in two weeks, and I wanted it to look nice for them. Fusilli helped me get rid of some of the dandelions, and Celosa supervised. I caught up on some reading. Later, I walked to one of the grocery stores for some ingredients for my Thai green curry chicken. And even later, the puppies and I saddled up for a longer walk. We would have been out even more, but a nasty cloud looked to be coming our way, and I didn't want to get caught in the rain with them. We cooked dinner, and we were pretty happy with our efforts. I'm sort of focusing on foods I like to cook, but Graham doesn't really like.
And now, I'm sitting down to write. And I've written quite a bit. More than I've written in awhile. It feels good to put my thoughts down, and I wish I had more confidence about this whole process. I suppose most "writers" don't. And the ones that can make themselves go through it to the other side are the ones that get to take the quotes off the title.
We'll see if this week helps me do that a bit.
SB 5, among other things, bans abortions in the state of Texas past 20 weeks. It also requires that physicians who work at abortion clinics be credentialed in a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic. It also requires that all non-pharmacological abortions take place in an ambulatory surgery center. Effectively, this bill would shut down all but five clinics in a state the size of France.
This monstrosity came up because Rick Perry is under the delusion that he can win a Republican nomination for President of the United States. The state legislature only meets for four and a half months every other year. That ended at the end of May. But it can be called back for a special session for so-called "emergency" legislation. The legislature came back to supposedly work on redistricting, because the courts still weren't happy with the Texas maps. But halfway through the session, Rick Perry made whatever decision he made about his future, and did a bunch of noxious "pro-conservative" things, like veto the Texas version of the Lilly Ledbetter act. And put abortion on the agenda.
For a variety of procedural reasons, Democrats were able to kill most of the provisions of this bill in the regular legislative session. But the special sessions have different rules.
So the bill easily went through the Senate, and then on Thursday, it went to the House. And that's when the call went out. Hundreds of women from all over the state descended upon Austin to testify on the bill in committee. 700 women signed up to testify, and they went until four in the morning. The committee chairperson at one point called the testimony "repetitive", but that didn't stop women from telling their stories over and over again. The bill did get out of committee and went to the House, and the Democrats did everything they could to delay and add amendments and otherwise make this horrible thing not so horrible. This process led to another Republican horror statement about rape, with Jodie Laubenberg saying that "In the emergency room they have what's called rape kits where a woman can get cleaned out," in denying a "rape and incest" exception to the 20 week ban. In the meantime, more and more Texas women came to the Capitol to get their voices heard.
Time was running out. The special session ends today at midnight. And if the legislation doesn't pass by then, then it's dead. There were some nice procedural barriers, in the legislation had to be read a few times before the final vote in the House. And yesterday at around 10:40, it passed and was kicked back to the Senate. There was a 24 hour waiting period before the Senate could take up the measure. And at 11:18 a.m. Senator Wendy Davis began her filibuster as her last chance to save Texas women from a horrible fate. (And the State of Texas from years of litigation, as I imagine that the injunction paperwork is being drawn up as I type.)
I've been pro-choice since the first time I gave such matters thought. I got into an argument with my 6th grade religion teacher about it the first time the subject was brought up in school. No matter how much she explained it to me, I could not grasp that I (who'd just started having periods) would have to have a baby if somehow I got pregnant. I first got involved with Planned Parenthood formally in 1992 during the Republican National Convention and the descent of the Christian Coalition upon our local affiliate. I've been a leader at Lobby Day for four sessions. (This year was the first I'd missed in nearly a decade.) I've been a clinic escort. I've chaired fundraisers and sat on committees. I've given some pro bono legal advice. I've marched in the Pride Parade with Planned Parenthood.
This isn't to say that I don't understand or even respect the other perspective on abortion. I just strongly believe that each of us should be able to make our own choices about such things.
Until this year, though, I never really had to think personally about abortion services. I'd practiced safe sex all of my adult life until January 2012, when I went off the pill for the first time, and Graham and I decided to try to have a baby. Having always been "good", I just assumed that I'd be pregnant immediately upon discontinuation of birth control. That didn't happen. In July, I started taking more pro-active steps, like checking my basal body temperature and charting my various fluids and generally understanding my own reproductive system a little better. I started putting "appointments" on the calendar for the optimal times to have sex so I'd get pregnant. In November, I went on a drug for a few months that was supposed to help with my luteal phase. In January, I had an x-ray taken of my uterus to see if there was any blockage. In March, I started acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine along with some other vitamins.
This is to say that I really, really, really wanted to get pregnant.
In mid-April, we were just about to take the next steps to seeing fertility specialists when I peed on a stick and it was positive. We couldn't believe it, and I peed on a stick for six days in a row to confirm that yes, I was pregnant. We were over the moon.
I called my doctor, and I didn't have an appointment scheduled until my 8th week of pregnancy, which was May 20. We told selected friends and family. We started trying to figure out how to reconfigure the house. My boobs started growing(!) and getting heavier. I'd have lightheaded spells. I was suddenly tired all the time. We bought a few baby items. And we just impatiently waited for May 20 to get here so we could see the baby.
Finally, four days after my 40th birthday, Graham and I went to see the doctor. I was 8 weeks and 2 days pregnant. We were so excited! The nurse came in and took a lengthy medical history, and we hurried through because we just wanted to get to see the baby. Finally, I stirruped up, flashed my cooch for at least five people, and was stuck with the magic wand.
It took awhile to find the placenta. And I remember saying "phew, there's just one!" But the nurse said, "not so fast." And the next thing I knew, Graham and I were staring at not one, but two yolk sacs. There were twins! But they were small, the larger one almost a week smaller than it'd should have been, and the smaller one even tinier. The nurse said that maybe my dates were off. But I'd been downright anal about record keeping. I knew what my dates were. Then, she asked the student if he'd get the doctor. That's when I knew that things weren't going well.
The doctor didn't take much time. He took a look, told me to get dressed, and we met in his office a few minutes later. He explained that he had trouble finding a heart beat, but he wasn't sure if that was because they were so small or because something was wrong. He cautioned us that this might not be a good pregnancy, especially for the smaller one. But he referred us to a maternal fetal specialist that had better equipment and might be able to see more clearly what was going on. Graham and I left the appointment in a state of shock. Twins! But will they be ok? Holy shit, we're really pregnant! But they were so small! Maybe it's going to be ok. Maybe it's not going to be ok.
I was able to get an appointment with the specialist that same day, and I went by myself to his office. I didn't know until later, but he and my father are close colleagues, and my father thinks that he's the best there is at his job. I just wanted to know if my twins were going to be ok. The drill was more or less the same. Strip down, legs up and open, and wait for the insertion. His screen really was clearer than the other, and we could see the embryos better. He found a very faint heartbeat on one of them, but it was extremely low for what it should have been. The other may or may not have had a heartbeat. In addition, I learned that monozygotic, monoamniotic twins (identical twins that share an embryonic sac) are very rare and very high risk. He told me that we should wait a few days and check again.
I went home as confused and upset and numb as I've ever been. This had been one of the most roller coaster days of my life. And for the first time, I started thinking about abortion. What if they lived but there was something so wrong with them that they weren't going to make it? Obviously, there were some developmental problems early on, but what if they were severe, but not severe enough to trigger a miscarriage. What if the big one makes it but we have to terminate the little one? How does that even work? I knew that if something was terribly wrong with them, I'd want to abort, but this was something I'd wanted so much and worked so hard for. It was emotionally draining.
I started looking for signs that I wasn't pregnant any more. Did my boobs feel lighter? Did I feel like I had more energy? Was I cramping? None of these were conclusive.
When I went back to the specialty doctor's office on Friday May 24, I wasn't sure what I wanted to see. A strong heartbeat on both was my top scenario, but I knew that wasn't likely. What would I do if there were still a heartbeat but it was still low? What if one but not the other? I also knew that even if things looked good(-ish) that I wasn't out of the woods. There were still genetic scans and 31 more weeks of pregnancy where something could go terribly wrong. This happy, breezy pregnancy that I'd had for 8 weeks was gone, no matter what the outcome of the sonogram.
With my mother and my sister at my side, I found out that the heartbeats had stopped on both embryos. I wasn't going to have to make any decisions.
Graham came immediately home from Flipside, and we spent the weekend together waiting for me to miscarry.
On May 29, I had a D&C and was officially not pregnant again.
I REALLY don't want to talk about this. This was hard to write. It's hard to think about. I'm better than I was a month ago, but it's still pretty raw.
There are a few people who know about this, but it's not something I was yelling from the rooftops. It's extremely personal and painful and private. But the Texas legislature and governor don't really care about that sort of thing. They want to politicize this. The want to insert themselves in the discussion I had with my husband and doctors and family. I thought with dread about the sonogram the state of Texas would make me have to if I had to terminate the pregnancy. In this process, I'd had four of them. But the state of Texas doesn't think that's enough, and they would have forced me to have another, meaningless test just to shove (literally) the point home that they are in more control than I am over decisions in my uterus. That bullshit can't be dealt with right now, but the stuff that Wendy Davis is fighting can.
I'm over 40 years old. ANY pregnancy I have is by definition high risk. I WANT to have a baby. But I also know that I'm more likely to have something go wrong later in the pregnancy than younger women. I am grateful that the genetic screening can be done earlier, but there are some things that aren't going to come up on the MaterniT21 or equivalent tests (which are done around 10-12 weeks). I live in a huge, dense metropolitan area, and I think that the clinic close to me will survive if this bill passes. But the waits will be ridiculous, the lines will be long, and there won't be enough clinicians to serve the population.
This is extremely personal, but it's also too important for me not to talk about. I'm not interested in sympathy or expression of sorrow for my loss. I'm interested in a fight to ensure that women in my state--that I--have the resources that we need to take care of ourselves. Support Wendy Davis in her filibuster, and fight .
Sometimes pet owners feel like the worst people in the world.
Graham's working tonight, so the puppies were terribly excited to see me when I got home. I hadn't seen them since early this morning, and I decided that we'd enjoy the outside as much as possible while it was still daylight. They played chase and ran around a little, and then Celosa retreated to the deck to chill out. She was so pretty and calm and serene, that I decided to take a few pictures of her.
In the meantime, her brother was exploring the yard. He go off and sniff something, and then come back to try to get us to check it out. He'd then go back out again.
Soon, he came trotting by with an eggshell in his mouth. I'd seen it on the deck and noted how tiny it was earlier. I quickly pulled it out of his mouth, threw it under the house so he couldn't get it, and sent him on his way.
Celosa and I resumed activities.
A minute later, I looked up in to the yard and saw Fusilli diligently chewing on something. He's never paid much attention to the oleander leaves before (and they're everywhere), but he was sitting under one of the trees. They're pretty toxic, so I went over to see what he was chewing.
I removed the leg of a baby bird from his mouth.
This baby bird was not the recent resident of the egg, or if it was, it'd grown considerably since vacating the egg. I had no idea where he found it or what state of decomposition it was in when he found it.
I quickly picked up the puppy, high tailed it to the bathroom, and poured hydrogen peroxide into his mouth. I haven't had to use this method in awhile, but it worked like a charm. Poor little chap was so trusting, so eager, so willing to please, he gulped down the hydrogen peroxide I shoved down his throat like a champ.
And then the upchuck. He didn't know what hit him. It was just awful to watch. The treats his daddy gave him right before he left were there. Plus a lot of foam and bile and other remnants. And then he threw up again. And then once more for good measure.
The happy, playful puppy of just minutes ago was sick and upset and terribly confused. Celsoa and I could do nothing but watch and offer encouragement and soothing noises.
He retreated to the bedroom for a minute, and then I picked him up and took him to the water bowl. He drank voraciously. He refused a treat.
His heart told him, "yes, I do want dinner." His stomach told him, "whoa there, buddy, are you sure you wanna rush things?" His stomach won.
For the first time since Fusilli came home, Celosa ate without someone hovering over her food.
It's been about a half-hour now, and Fusilli's stomach has decided that it's ok to eat. Still, it's not the voracious, "this is my last meal" rigor that such occasions usually warrant. It's a cautious, "will this stay down?" approach.
I know he'll be fine, and my actions may have been a slight over-reaction. Poor baby.
It turns out that Sky has cancer. She's been in chemo for awhile now, and she's been staying with our neighbor's mom. (He is also Noir's family, and there are three other cats and another dog in their household.) I don't know how well she's responding to chemo, but I imagine that this was a bad shock to the system.
At any rate, she's as ok as a pooch can be in this situation.
A picture of a badly injured dog pops up. And in the comments section, a friend posts "I'm pretty sure that Graham and 'stina know this dog." Dammit. I did.
About an hour ago, Graham called me asking for a neighbor's number. Skye, the great Dane across the street, was out of her yard, and we don't have her owner's number. (Skye's owners, btw, are also Noir's official owners.) We do have the number of another neighbor who has their number, so he wanted to talk to her so she could talk to them. Graham tried to catch Skye, but she was either too scared or too excited or too gun-shy to go anywhere near him. He tried treats, he was really soft with her. He called her. Every time he got close, she bolted. Whenever he followed, she sped up. He realized that if he chased her, she'd just run faster. Graham realized he wasn't going to catch her, so he needed her owners right away.
Graham vented on facebook about the whole thing.
Half an hour, 45 minutes later, the facebook notification from my friend popped up. A great Dane had been hit by a car in River Oaks and could anyone identify the bloody dog in the picture. The signal was boosted. Two separate friends saw Graham's rant on facebook and the picture. And both friends got in touch with both of us, hence the image hitting my inbox.
It took me awhile to find information, but I finally found a number for the person who posted the picture, and I called. Skye made it all the way to the River Oaks Shopping Center. And several people tried to catch her, but she wouldn't come. Finally, she got hit by a car. The lady I talked to was the manager of a pet business, and it sounded like she was instrumental in organizing immediate care. There was a vet's office not too far away, and they picked her up immediately. At the very least, Skye has a broken leg. I gave her my neighbor's name and address and said that we'd do what we could to get in touch with the vet's office.
I called Graham and gave him what information I had, and he said that the neighbors were just getting home, obviously in a panic. He relayed as much information as he could (without getting angry), and they took off to the vet. I hope she's going to be ok.
The likelihood of something like this happening to one of our dogs is slim, as they don't hang out outside unsupervised. One of us is usually with them when they're outside, and they're not particularly interested in not being with us. Even on the rare times when the gate has been open, they haven't shown much interest in leaving. They both have tags, and Celosa is chipped (Fusilli will be chipped soon).
Still, this doesn't mean that accidents don't happen. My parents' first puli, Pisco, died because he was hit by a car. He had horrible separation anxiety, and once, when my parents left for some event or another, he opened the sliding glass door, got out of the yard, and went to look for them. He got hit on a busy street near their house. Fusilli is still new, and he might decide to get some bug up his butt about entry or exit to the rest of the world, and I really don't want to go through what Skye's parents are going through right now. Celosa in the accident was enough of that for me.
So this weekend, we'll go through the yard like a fine toothed comb and look for any exit points. Skye got out not because the fence was insecure, but because she could crawl under the house. But she couldn't remember how to crawl back the way she'd come. I know a few spots that need some attention. It'll piss off the cats, but they're pretty good about figuring their way around things.
Of course he has no idea that he did it, or how to replicate it. He was being chased by his sister at the time and didn't stop to think about the mechanics. But a few days from now, he'll get it better.
And then, the only refuge will be the bed. That's usually at around three months or so, so he has a few weeks on that.
I keep meaning to note his mile stones more here. I did that with Celosa and Crianza, and those recollections are so useful with Fusilli.
At any rate, he grows, and gets along great with his big sister. They're laying on the floor next to me, side by side. And they enjoy the hell out of each other's company.
I'm so glad that we got him for her. She gets annoyed with him very seldom, and she's very patient. She's also having a blast playing with him. He's bigger than she was at that age, but a little quieter. They don't bark at each other like Crianza and Celosa did when Celosa was this age.
He's a voracious eater, finishes his bowl in about a half minute. He's always irate that he goes straight outside after a meal, and can't muscle Celosa out of her bowl to grab her food. Celosa sort of rolls her eyes at this.
He's terribly cute, and we're awfully glad to have him. And we're so grateful that Celosa is here to do the hard work with him. If she rubs off even a little on him, he'll be an amazing pooch.
I haven't been to Mexico in probably 20 years, and I'm actually getting pretty excited about the prospect. I've never been to Isla Mujeres, but I spent tons and tons of time in the Yucutan when I was a kid. Aeromexico used to have a deal where kids flew free with an adult, and for my parents, Mexico was the easiest vacation to take. You could leave the house and be on the beach about four hours later.
We went to a place called Akumal most of the time, which I wrote about 9 years ago. It's about 75 miles south of Cancun, and it was a coconut plantation before they started turning it into a resort about 40 years ago. It's not a resort in the sense that it's at all organized. There are a bunch of condominiums and small hotels and casitas arranged along the coastline, with a few restaurants, a small grocery store, a dive shop, and an amazing bar on the beach. We'd usually stay in one of the condos, since I think they were less concerned with the number of people than just renting out the unit. That they had kitchens was a selling point too, because we'd cook in for breakfast and some dinners. We'd take cassettes with us, and there are some songs of the soundtrack of my youth that are associated with Akumal. At night, we'd play with the hermit crabs we'd find on the beach and bring "home" or we'd play gin rummy or otherwise entertain ourselves. It was too far away from any towns for television signals, and I don't think there were phones in the condos. We were cut off entirely, but we didn't mind in the slightest.
The beach is sugar white, and there are tons of coconut trees. (There was a blight in the 90s that killed most of the trees, but I believe that they've recovered quite a bit since then.) About 200 yards off the beach, there is a coral reef. Which means that the water is amazingly calm, and mothers of kids under the age of ten don't worry too much about their kids playing in the ocean. My dad always said that the water was so clear that you could not only see your toes when you were standing in it, but you could see the dirt in your toenails. And of course, the reef was gorgeous, with lots of pretty, colorful fish and lovely corals. I believe it was a national park. My parents would hang out at the bar and talk to the others there. My dad once spent an afternoon just chatting with Ridley Scott (having no idea who he was) about whether or not the Hunt For Red October would make for a good film. ,The kids would play on the beach or in the water. It was an amazing way to spend time. I really loved it quite a bit.
Tulum, Chichen Itza, and Coba were all archaeological sites that we went to as well. I desperately wanted to be Indiana Jones, and in those days, we could climb over any structure that was standing. We'd scramble on the pyramids and temples and dare each other to get close to the cenotes. I actually went into college thinking of becoming an anthropology major because of those trips (and to the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City). It was with great pride (and some fear) that I climbed el Castillo at Chichen Itza when I was ten years old. Tulum was closest to Akumal, so we went there the most. There was a little tourist market there, and we'd look at all the souvenirs, conning my parents into letting us bring something home with us.
There were also a few lagoons, where underwater rivers in the Yucutan would meet up with the ocean. One was right in the Akumal complex, called Yal-Kul. We'd go there to snorkel at least once or twice a trip. It was deeper than the reefs by the beach, and there were some amazing fish there. I once spent 15 minutes following what I thought was a dolphin, until it turned and I realized it was a 4 foot shark. I've never swum so fast in my life after making that discovery. I don't think I was in any danger.
I went to Mexico City and Acapulco and to some of the border towns in the Valley also when I was a kid, including my grandfather's funeral. I loved those trips as well, but I didn't know them as well as I knew Akumal in the Yucutan. Mexico City was for years my favorite city in the world.
The last time I went to Mexico that I can think of was in 1992, when I was 18. I was in college, and I went with some friends for Spring Break to Mazatlan. It wasn't anything like the Mexico I knew. Everyone spoke English, the hotels were like fortresses, and everyone was American. I had fun, I suppose. I partied at Senor Frogs. My first one-night-stand happened on that trip, with one of the nicest guys to introduce a girl to such things. I learned a lot about myself. But it could have been anywhere, not necessarily in Mexico. I went to Tiajuana also when I was in college, but again, it wasn't the Mexico I grew up going to.
Afterwards, Mexico sort of fell off of my radar. There were a few times that I thought about going, but I never wanted to do something like that trip to Mazatlan again. There've been a few family trips down to the Valley in the last 20 years, but it's gotten so dangerous on the border towns that even locals don't cross much anymore. In 2006, my dad and sisters went to Mexico City for a quick weekend trip, but I was dealing with a broken heart and didn't want to go anywhere then. My mother-in-law was living in Guanajuato when Graham and I first started dating, but she moved back to the US a year later, after her husband passed away. I keep thinking about going on a trip to either Copper Canyon or Michoacan for the butterfly migration with my mom, but those are hard trips to organize. I think my sister Olivia would probably like those trips as well, but I don't know.
This trip is purely for fun, not culture or experience. I suspect that I won't have to speak much Spanish, though I am looking forward to it if I do. I don't think we'll be leaving the resort much, since everything is included in the fare. My purpose in being there is to celebrate my friends', and we'll have a good time.
But I'm getting excited about going back to Mexico after all these years. I suspect that the ocean and the beach will be familiar, and tons of memories will come flooding back as soon as I take a look at the water.
As far as I could tell, there was something wrong with just the case, not the screen itself.
So I started hunting online, and I figured out what parts I needed on ebay. They were not ridiculously expensive, and definitely were better than getting a new laptop.
They got here last week, and I was still not sure what I was going to do. Take them to microcenter and have the tech people there repair my laptop? Call one of my more tech enabled friends to help me?
Nope! I found a step by step instructional video, and armed with my ipad and a screwdriver, I took apart my computer and put it back together again. Working laptop for about $50!
Not really a big deal for a lot of people, I know, but I was pretty terrified throughout the process. I screwed up one connection on my first try, but I was able to hunt it down and fix it, and now I know what to do if that ever happens again.
In related news, I took a quilting class a little over a week ago, and it turns out a) I don't suck and b) I actually liked it. I'm starting a project next week! The not sucking part was a surprise, but so was the liking it. I was a little worried that the many, many (many!) steps involved would be too labor intensive for me. But I think it's something that I could easily get into.
In semi-related news, I have four more classes before school is over, and so far, it looks like I'm doing ok! I don't know why I was so convinced that I wasn't going to finish. I do, actually. It's because I haven't finished so many times before that I sort of have it in the back of my mind that I won't fisnish now.
But most importantly, Fusilli discovered a MUD PUDDLE. Oh what fun! After its discovery, he went to it every time he went outside. And he was terribly put out that people kept removing him from the mud puddle. But no worries, he knew where it was! Even the Christmas tree cutting party sign on top of it didn't deter him! The mud puddle was amazingly fun!
Antique Weekends, and Graham's mom is visiting. So we took off on Saturday with my parents to see what there was to see. We weren't looking for anything in particular, but we did find a new coffee table for the TV room. The dealer builds furniture out of old barn wood, and the table was just stunning. For some reason, he was having trouble selling it, and he'd slashed the price to get rid of it. The wood was outstanding, and we were happy to take it off his hands. Our coffee table in the TV room is a little battered, and it'd actually work better as a side table for a room at the ranch. Since my mom had been hunting for the side table, this worked out perfectly. I think that Graham's mom liked the antique festival, though it was as chaotic and overwhelming as ever.
Aside from some of the bigger furniture that the dealer had, there weren't a ton of items that I coveted this year at the festival. We saw the dealer who sold us my engagement ring, and she had some lovely items that I could easily add to my jewelry box. And there were a few items that I could have seen re-purposing and selling later on, but by and large, I didn't leave the festival unsatisfied. I suspect that would have been different if the high end tents at Marburger farms had been open, but they don't get going until Tuesday. Fusilli hung out in a crate while we were gone, and after some initial "oh woe is me"s, he seemed well rested when we got back.
Fusilli's cousin Zapata turned out not to be as enamored with Fusilli as the other way around, so he stayed in the closet (by his choice) except when the coast was clear. And even then, there was always a danger of being attacked by the ferocious puppy, so he was wary. Zapata did the same thing the day after our wedding when he got overwhelmed by the number of people in the house. We couldn't find him at all, and it turned out that the closet seemed like a safe spot. That Fusilli can't yet climb stairs makes the closet in my parents' room even more appealing as a hide out.
Zapata and Celosa did go running with mama on Sunday morning, and that was an adventure too! Celosa discovered a HUGE pile of stinky fresh cowshit and she rolled and rolled and rolled until she was covered! Almost as much fun as a 9 1/2 week old puppy in a mud puddle. Zapata helped with the cow shit, and she wouldn't get out until mama stopped her run, went to the dogs and physically got them out of the pile. Celosa thought it was so much fun that she didn't even mind the post cow shit bath.
Other than the antique festival, there wasn't really much done. We spent a lot of time outside, because the weather was so perfect. Celosa and Zapata joined me on the hammock for awhile, but Fusilli thought that hammocks are boring. You just sit there! You don't DO anything. So he preferred to frolic in the grass and chase his daddy and find the mud puddle and otherwise cavort and have fun.
I think Graham's mom enjoyed not having a massive wedding to prepare for, so she could relax while we were at the ranch a bit more this time. It's still pretty cold in Wisconsin, where she lives, so she enjoyed being able to sit in the breeze outside without needing more than light clothes. It was beautiful, with green grass and wildflowers everywhere, and the temperatures didn't get too high. I think I might have gotten a little sun.
But of course, the focus was on the puppies. Celosa is a very good big sister, though she does get annoyed every now and then. Instead of hiding in the closet, she chooses to tell her baby brother NO! and then hop somewhere that he can't reach yet. He's pretty good about getting the picture. And so far he hasn't destroyed anything or focused on anything too inappropriate. And housebreaking seems to be going well. He's getting into the habit of peeing every time he goes outside, and I really think that he tries to tell us when he has to poop, even if we're not good about picking up his signals. The thing we need to work on the most is leash training. He HATES the leash.
A few months later, we were on our way to Irma's house for one of her periodic "puli parties," when we got into the accident.
We saw Irma later on in July at the big dog show, but she was busy showing Eve (Celosa's litter mate, also known as "Piroskai Original Sin"). We did get to meet Snitch (who was in the Q litter and has the best pedigree name "Piroskai Quidditch"), who was just an adorable 9 month old puppy at the time. No word of a litter.
And so we waited. We exchanged birthday greetings with Eve in December 2011, and I checked in on the possibility of a litter in January. Nothing on the immediate horizon, but there were plans to breed the next time everyone went into season. Then we went about planning out the wedding. Given that we had all the wedding plus kitchen renovation things to do, we thought that a puppy later in the year would be best at any rate.
In July 2012, we were asked to do the Debra Duncan Show as part of the promotion for the dog show in general. And when I say we, I think everyone understands that I mean Celosa. I was just there to hold the leash. Celosa did GREAT on TV.
"We" also volunteered for the "Meet the Breed" part of the dog show, where each breed has an hour to interact with the general public. Pulik are notoriously not particularly interested in "the public," and of course, the public is very interested in pulik. But, Celosa is an unusually friendly puli and rather likes meeting strangers. She was welcomed with open arms, and she was GREAT with the questions and pulling and pictures and everything. While we were there, we found out that Eve had a false pregnancy about a month earlier.
In October, we went to a puli party and had a grand time! (Celosa is in the middle of the photo below.) I talked at length to Kudos (Kudos to Chance) and Lexi (Kloak N Dagger) and Kai (Kowabunga), who are all Crianza's littermates. Kai and Lexi look so much like Crianza that it almost hurts to be around them. Celosa thought we should go to more parties with pulik, and she even tried out some of the agility equipment in Irma's yard. We also found out that Irma was planning a breeding soon. Another couple had recently lost their beloved puli, and they were hoping for a puppy as well. They were very much wanting a boy, while we would prefer a girl, given how great Celosa and Crianza had been.
Shortly afterwards, I joined the "Happy Global Puli Tales" group on Facebook, which is very international in its reach. I discovered there that while homeless pulik are pretty rare in the US (though there is a puli rescue here), they aren't uncommon at all in Eastern Europe, especially Hungary. I LOVE the group. It's one of the first dog groups that I've ever been around where everyone understands each other so well. Our issues are pretty unique. Over time, I'd fall in love with pulik that were looking for homes, but usually in places it was cost prohibitive for me to get them.
Finally, in late December, four years to the day that I found out about Celosa, I exchanged birthday greetings with Eve. In her return greeting, I found out the amazing news that puppies were expected in about three and a half weeks! Of course, there were no guarantees, and who knows what the litters would be like? But chances were very good we'd be getting a puppy soon. The waiting sucked. Celosa was an oops puppy (she was planned, but everyone thought that the pregnancy didn't take), so there was no waiting for her to be born and THEN to get old enough to come home. Here, we had to wait FOREVER for the puppies to be born. Ok, it was a little under a month. Fusilli was born on January 22 to Mojo (Mojoman Put a Spell on U) and Lola (Lollapalooza) with three brothers.
All boys? At first, we weren't quite sure. We thought we wanted a girl. Of course, my beloved Relampago was my soul mate, and he was wonderful to me. But both he and Zapata had aggression issues that we weren't quite sure about. And both Crianza and Celosa was just amazing. We realized, though, that socializatoin had a lot to do with it, and our puppy would be amazingly social no matter what the sex was. We decided to take one of the boys.
In the meantime, I and most of the Happy Global Puli Tales group fell in love with Adam, a puli that had been either hit by a car or impaled and found on January 5. He was found on the side of the road somewhere in Hungary, and he was rescued by an amazing vet student who works for FAPF (Foundation of Animal Protection in Füzesabony). The photos of him were gruesome, but he had an amazing spirit, and Caroline did an amazing job bringing him not just back to health, but to LIFE. People in the States and Australia were trying to figure out how to get him to their respective countries. We all watched as he recovered from a pretty bad gash in his front shoulder, and he became more and more active in the videos that Caroline would post. Two weeks ago, he went to his forever home in Finland, and fortunately for his international fan base, his new owner posts videos of him frolicking in the snow.
Additionally, some puppy mill in Missouri got out of the puli business and sold her entire stock at auction on February 16. (Seriously, Missouri can go fuck itself when it comes to puppy mills.) There were a lot of puppies in the auction, and there was considerable debate on the boards about whether it was a good idea to rescue the puppies (and therefore give money to the mill) or not. Ultimately, two rescue groups in the midwest got them, and they're still being homed.
Meanwhile, we would get weekly reports on Fusilli and his brothers. We looked at the pictures and wondered which one would be ours? Irma always ties the Hungarian flag colors (red, white, and green) first, and then there was a blue. All four were roughly the same size, and from the pictures we couldn't tell much. Celosa was the smallest of her litter, and she had a light blue Crianza's was white. What were we looking for?
Irma invited us to visit at just under four weeks old (February 16). We knew that the other couple was also coming, and because they were most clear about the boy thing, they were getting the first pick. They were also going to be having a (human) baby soon, so we suspected that their criteria was a little different from ours. Still, we knew better than to fall head over heels with one that day.
I'd never seen a puli that young before. They'd just that week started moving around and making their opinions about life known. Graham and I gravitated towards the blue and the green. Green had looked at us first when we walked in, and blue was just a sweetheart. Irma told us that Green was the most active, and he did seem to squirm a lot. Blue climbed up on my neck. Green fell asleep on Graham's chest. White was the most laid back of all of them. And Red was something of a combination of Blue and Green, sweet but also active. Red also had a little tiny white spot on his chest, which reminded me of Chispa. I sort of avoided falling in love with Red because he sort of looked like the type that someone else would pick. He was the first born, and he was pretty distinctive.
Lexi, the puppies' grandmother, was there with Lola, their mama. She looks so much like Crianza it's almost frightening. I realize that most people can't tell pulik apart, much less see how a puli would look or not look like another puli, but the K litter was quite remarkable. Lexi could sense that Graham was drawn to her, so she hopped on his lap, breaking his heart a little.
Irma told us to think about the two we liked the best, so we didn't get attached to a puppy that the other couple would pick out. Since we weren't sure which one we liked best at any rate, that was an easy charge. We came home debating the issue, but didn't really have much in the way of conclusion except that we were pretty sure that we'd be happy with any of them.. We'd see them again in two weeks.
Irma always has a party to socialize the puppies at 6 weeks old. This is how we met Celosa for the first time four years ago. Lots of people come (mostly the entire local puli community) and we get to play with puppies and have a good time.
And then this happened:
He spent five minutes crawling around my skirt and on my legs and getting his tummy rubbed and otherwise saying "pick me! pick me!!" Without talking about it much with each other, Graham and I started gravitating more and more towards him.
Finally, when it was time to go, we talked to Irma and said actually we really liked Red a lot, and if he were available, we'd love to have him. If not, we thought Green had the most personality. We drove to the ranch from the party, and we had no idea who was coming home with us.
Two days later, we got an e-mail from Irma letting us know that the other couple had picked White, so Fusilli would be Red. We were really happy how it worked out. I suppose we could have let facebook and LJ know about all of this then, but we'd been keeping quiet (except on Happy Global Puli Tales and in person) so long, we sort of liked the surprise.
In the meantime, Irma continued with socialization. A troop of Brownies came over a few times the next week to hold and play with the puppies, so they got used to children. And Celosa cat-sat Jacques and Noirette (another story for another time). Fusilli continued to grow.
The timing for Celosa we think is pretty good. Before Crianza died, she was quite outgoing at the dog park. She played with anyone who came near, and she lived pretty much without fear. The first few times without Crianza, though, she wasn't a very happy puppy. She stuck with us, and didn't talk to many of the other dogs. Over time, she got a little more adventuresome; she talks to pretty much every person at the dog park. But her play with lots of other pooches has never been quite like it was when she had a canine she trusted guarding her. She also has this weird chatter that sort of sounds like a howl/cry. Of course, she only uses it when she's out and about and in public and it seems to have gotten worse in the last few months. I think she just gets nervous (and she had the trauma of losing her sister and the accident happen pretty closely together). At the same time, she loves to play so much. She harasses both Chicken and Zapata into play every time she sees them, and lately, she's been trying to engage the cats in play.
On Tuesday, we went back to Irma's house to pick up Fusilli. He was an absolute wiggle worm. He'd been separated from his brothers to get his first bath and to wait for us to get there. He seemed terribly excited to see us, hopping up on his hind feet saying "pick me up! pick me up!" I could barely get pictures of him because he was moving so fast. He ran around a little outside to get rid of some excess energy, said goodbye to his brothers (two who will be in the area and I'm sure he'll see relatively regularly), and got ready to go to his new house. As he's in the "S" litter, his registered name is Piroskai Silly Pasta, and his call name is Fusilli. (Crianza was "K," so she was Piroskai Krianza, and Celosa was "O" Piroskai Osa es Celosa. Relampago was Prydain Stardust. We don't talk about it much.)
So far, it's been pretty good. I don't think she was really prepared for something like this, but who is? They've gotten relatively well, and Wednesday morning, Celosa discovered that Fusilli can play. That made her like him a lot more than she did earlier. It took Crianza four days to play with Celosa after bringing Celosa home, and I was expecting it to take about as long for Celosa and Fusilli, but they got down to business fast.
Celosa can be a little irritated that he's ALWAYS there, but she can also jump on the couch/bed/chairs to get away if she wants.
He's a joy and a love. He cuddles and wiggles and is always underfoot. He's pretty smart and likes to chew on things, so we get creative with ice and rubber toys and other chew-able things. He's terribly active, but he's also terribly cute.
Graham's mom came for a visit on Wednesday, and she's been an awesome help. Fusilli hasn't been alone for much time at all since coming home. My parents came over on Wednesday night, and we had fusilli for dinner in his honor. He and Zapata seemed to get along. This weekend, we're going to the ranch for the first time, and I'm sure he'll love that. I'll take lots of pictures and hopefully get a flickr set or two organized.
I had my third day in London half drafted, but I've other things to talk about so maybe I'll get it later. Perhaps I'll have some sort of Lenten vow (on top of my "work out every day" and "eat less crap" vague notions) to post more and London can be recapped then.
Today, though, I talk about school.
Back in 1997, I started the classwork for a Masters in Public Health. That spring, I took Epidemiology and Biostatistics. I was halfway through law school, and I was overjoyed to be studying something that didn't make me angry and depressed and just plain miserable. My school was a hippie school. Grading was qualitative rather than quantitative. Public health people are by definition do-gooders. And I got along with my classmates much, much better than I did with those at the law school. Granted, I was still taking two interesting courses over at the law school (as well as an internship with the Harris County Attorney's Office). But, I could just breathe better at the School of Public Health.
That summer, I took a healthcare policy course while still at the County Attorney's Office, but for pay! Pitiful pay, but pay nonetheless.
And the next fall was the semester that I look back with awe. I took 20 hours of classes: 17 at the law school (which included a research position with one of my professors) and 3 at the school of public health. Plus another 10 or so hours of work for the county. How the fuck I did that, I will never know. But I was highly motivated because I wanted to get the hell out of law school a semester early. And I did. I graduated from law school in December 1997.
The next semester was all public health. Four lovely classes: Administration and Public Health, and Social and Community Aspects of Behavioral Health and my awesome awesome awesome Overview of Environmental Health. And a really cool seminar on Dialog, Deliberation and Democracy. Oh, and the bar exam. I loved, loved, loved my classes, but by the end of the semester I was truly burned out. And I couldn't find a job. I had three more credits to finish up, plus a thesis, and then I was done. But I didn't have it in me. I'd been to four elite institutions of higher learning from the fall of 1991 to the spring of 1998. I'd written more papers than I can count. I'd studied and worked and labored and done everything I could to learn. But for some reason, I couldn't get this one paper out of me.
I went through a year and a half of pretty awful depression. I wrote a paper on healthcare compliance for credit somewhere in 1999, but I just couldn't get motivated to work on my thesis. I tried a few times, but I just couldn't find a topic that worked for me. Most of my efforts were spent looking for a job.
And so, when I was offered a job in December 1999 and moved to California, I always sort of thought, Ok, maybe I'll finish later on.
I moved back to Texas in 2002. And I tried again two or three times. I got pretty close in 2007, but then a paper came out that covered everything my thesis was going to cover. I got dejected.
Somewhere in that year, I got a letter saying that I was going to be dropped all together if I didn't register that semester and if I wanted to come back, I'd have to reapply. I decided to let it go.
Fast forward the early part of this decade. A few friends had recently gone back to school to finish up projects that had been started decades ago. My brother leaving for graduate school had parted by daring me to finish my masters before he finished his. At a Planned Parenthood event a year or so ago, I'd heard from a current MPH student that the thesis was now optional, and you could take a class instead. Finally, my friend James restarted a degree he'd started in the early 90s. Most of his current classmates weren't even born when he was last in the program. My husband decided that he would like to go back to school too.
In September, having seen all these signs, I made an inqury at the School of Public Health about readmission. I got an immediate e-mail back telling me that I had four days to reapply. Holy crap! I quickly got a hold of my old advisor, who retired last semester but is coming back to teach this semester. And he wrote a letter of support. I got all of the other documentation in right in the nick of time.
And the next thing I knew, I was back. The requirements had changed. Instead of 36 hours of class, I needed 45. But they now accepted more courses from the law school than they used to. I was four hours short, but I needed to take this culminating experience class and an ethics course anyways. I met with someone in student affairs who helped me fill out the paperwork that I needed to demonstrate that I'd taken everything I needed to.
I was in New Student Orientation on January 8. And I've been in class for the last five weeks.
Today, though, was when I truly felt back.
Public health is a really broad discipline. It can be anything from data analysis to community intervention to policy development to working in a lab. We generally choose an area of inquiry, while having a passing knowledge of the rest of the discipline. The capstone class is supposed to be a synthesis of all of the learning that we've spent our Master's study on. There are a number of projects that we work on in the class, but we also are tested on the five core subjects of public health: epidemiology, bio-statistics, environmental health, health promotion and behavioral sciences, and management and policy sciences. We have handouts that are basic reviews of the courses, but our professors encouraged us to "review our notes from those classes" to prepare for the tests.
Needless to say, it's been over 15 years since I've taken any of these classes. I honestly started to panic.
Fortunately, I'm anal, and I have all of my papers from my previous masters study on my computer (plus all of college, all of Oxford and all of law school). Bless my environmental health professor who made us turn in summaries of the lectures after each class. And apparently, I wrote nothing for Social and Community Aspects of Behavioral Health, because I have nothing.
So though I barely remember what a Chi-Square is or how the hell to do regression analysis (or hell, even a standard deviation), I began to sort through stuff last week. I decided that since I do the management and policy stuff every day, I'd ignore that and hope I wasn't missing out on some new theory. And I went through the environmental stuff pretty quickly, really remembering how much I loved that class. It was when I got to the behavioral stuff that things started to click. I remembered specific lectures, and I remembered getting excited about a variety of theories. Then, epi started coming back to me. Of course I remembered the well and John Snow (not a Game of Thrones reference), but I also started seeing stuff in the review material that I deal with peripherally every day: Clinical trials and research methodology. Various rates and cohorts and case studies and more. I looked at biostats, but I decided to punt on that aspect for now. I had enough other stuff to worry about.
So I studied for the first time in 13 years. Really studied. The last time I studied for anything was the California Bar in 2000.
Our first quiz was today. It was done on the learning management software (this is new to me) during the first 30 minutes of class. And the results were immediate. I was well above passing. We have to pass two of four of these tests to pass this course. I'm much more confident that I'm going to have my masters in May than I ever have been. I still have a ton of work to do, and I have to pass my ethics course as well. But, I'm feeling good about this.
And my over-education will be complete.
For now anyways.
For the last six years, I've been keeping track of my unread book pile in a post in Livejournal. I add books as I acquire them over the course of the year, and I cross them off as I read them. I have a Goodreads ccount that also keeps track of this sort of thing, but I kinda like the original.
At any rate, here's the list. It's very similar to last year's list, because I didn't read all that many books in 2012, and I tried not to buy toooo many books last year. It'll change over the course of the year, but I'm pretty good about noting when I get new books.
You will note that my mother is the source of many of my books. She almost always gives me her books when she is done with them.
( FictionCollapse )
( Non-FictionCollapse )
We settled into a lovely pattern the next morning. Graham would get up before me, and he'd wander around our immediate surroundings in search of coffee. I'd steal the rest of his blankets and snuggle in for a few extra minutes of sleep. That first morning, he found a coffee shop around the corner called Anita's run by a man from Kosovo. It turns out that Kosovar people are still pretty psyched about Americans, and the owner of the shop chatted with Graham a bit about how grateful they all were to Bill Clinton. Graham actually was in the military back in the early 90s, and nearly went to Kosovo at one point, so he was conversant on the topic.
By the time he got back, I was ready to embark upon an adventure.
We dressed, and consulted our maps. I'd made a google map f our hotel's location, the location of the clubs, and places that we might want to see. This map proved invaluable throughout the trip, especially because we could zoom in on our immediate location and see what was around there.
The British Museum was a ten minute walk away, through a University. We sort of stumbled upon it, walking in through a back door, and we didn't realize we were actually in the museum until we got into the massive atrium that surrounds the reading room. We'd gone through a few exhibitions, but for whatever reason, we thought we were in a subsidiary building.
I stopped at a kiosk for a scone (with amazing butter!) and we consulted a few floor plans. My object was Egypt, since I've been reading the Amelia Peabody books for well over 20 years. Graham's interest was more Rome and Greece. We were pretty lucky, because outside of Rome, Greece and Egypt (and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York), we were in probably the best place in the world to see artifacts from those countries.
Our timing was almost perfect, too. We were about 30 minutes ahead of most of the tour groups that descended upon the museum en masse and with little regard for the other museum goers.
After orienting ourselves, we turned into an exhibition hall and came face to face with the Rosetta Stone. I've been in the same space as important artifacts and pieces of art before, and I've always been suitably impressed, but this one is so important to human understanding that it was a little breathtaking to be standing right in front of it. Of course, it was surrounded by tourists at almost all times.
There were halls upon halls of rooms from Egypt, and the artifacts were extraordinary. Lots of sculpture, lots of parts of rooms. HUGE pieces of rock. I didn't realize when we first walked in that this was just part of the Egyptian collection. The mummies were in a different part of the museum.
And the Greek stuff was equally impressive, if a little funny to read about. There was a little plaque somewhere describing how there was "discussion" about the appropriateness of some of the artifacts being there. "Discussion" is a bit of a mild description of a debate hat has been going on for nearly two centuries now.
Still, it was hard to argue that the pieces were in disrepair or otherwise in bad shape because they were in a Museum in London rather than on the Acropolis in Athens.
The Roman collection wasn't as extensive as the Greek and Egyptian. We went upstairs to hunt that part of the exhibit. And while there were plenty of artifacts, a lot of them were clearly acquired over time rather than directly from the source by the Museum's own scholars / looters. My guess is that the Italians weren't as keen on exploration as the Greeks and Egyptians. Still, there was plenty off really awesome stuff for my Romaphile husband to gawk over, and we spent a happy time pouring through statues, arms, pottery and other assorted items from the Roman era. I was happy because the mosaic collection was quite extensive, taking up an entire stairwell in part of the building.
We wandered the rest of the museum with less purpose, just letting the exhibits come to us as they caught our fancy. We lingered a little bit in the European collection, and we spent way too little time in the Middle East, except when we found all the mummies in the secondary Egypt part (which I adored).
It was nearly lunchtime when we figured we'd absorbed as much as we could, and so we figured we'd eat in the museum cafe. I found a sandwich, and Graham some chicken. Lunch was passable, but we'd come to regret it in about an hour.
After lunch, we sought out the gift shops, but we didn't find anything that really caught our eye, so we ventured out into the pretty day.
Pulling out the map, we realized we weren't that far from Covent Garden. Of course London's streets are maddening in their ability to change name three times in the course of half a block. And in their inability to stay straight for any decent amount of time. And the lack of "blocks". 3000 year old cities and their lack of central planning.... But we were really happy that Graham sprung for a data plan on his phone, so he could always access the map and figure out where the hell we were. We did a pretty good job of navigating overground through tourists and locals at lunchtime.
And soon enough I had to resist reenacting scenes from My Fair Lady, because we were passing the Opera House and at Covent Garden. It was charming and touristy and all decorated for Christmas. Street performers were all over the place: an opera singer in the lower level, some guy with a boom box and some props making crowd members dance to Village People on the steps of St. Paul's Church. A string quartet at some point. And there were stalls and shops open all over the place.
Instead, we found a place to have a coffee and planned out our next move, enjoying the bustle around us.
London really feels like a city. There are people all over the place. The streets always seem full, and I don't think I saw more than a half dozen parking places in all of the places we went in London. A ton of the places we went were quite touristy, so there were people from all over the world around us. But even without the transient visitors, we thoroughly got the feeling that London was an international city. Certainly everyone spoke English, and a good hunk of the population looks Anglo Saxon. But a good hunk does not. But on the other hand, Graham, of Anglo Saxon ancestry, blended beautifully with the Brits. Apparently, the olive tones in my complexion was more pronounced in a place where there aren't as many olive skinned people. That's ok. I blend very well along the Mediterranean. Graham, I fear, would not.
We decided our next step would be Harrods, and this would require a tube ride, our first since leaving the airport. A helpful nearby map directed us to the tube, and in what turned into a humorous "will it never end?" commentary, we decided to take the stairs to the Underground instead of waiting for the lift. All 192 stairs. At least it was down.
Harrods. Yes, it's a department store. Yes it's ridiculous. But my god that food court! I went in search of the only thing my mother specifically requested: decaffein
And then the meats, the beautiful, beautiful meats. A humorous exchange between Graham and one of the butchers near some beef:
Butcher: May I help you, sir?
Graham: No thanks. Just drooling.
Butcher: Mind the glass.
In another section, a turkey was all trussed and prepared, presumably for homesick Americans. The red currants garnishing the turkey were a nice touch. I'm guessing that there aren't that many cranberries on the island. We'd more or less forgotten about Thanksgiving until seeing this, and the butcher asked us when it was.
We ventured to the toy section after leaving the food halls. I had read that they'd made the toy area gender neutral, and I wanted to see how that all panned out. It was great! Extravagant and full of stuff, like the rest of Harrods, but lovely to walk through. Some parts were still pink, because the packaging for those toys (*ahem* Mattel) was pink. But it certainly didn't feel like they were pushing girls in one direction and boys in another
Of course, Graham and I were drawn the most to the ridiculous Harry Potter section. It was like catnip. Authentic scarves, jumpers and cardigans from all the houses. Wands from every conceivable character. Maps and prints and random scraps from all the movies. Horcruxes, snitches, flasks, broomsticks, and marauders maps. It was ridiculous.
And of course we spent a ton of time there.
Later, we wandered through the electronics, and we saw some of the movie memorabilia on sale in other parts of Harrods. And after that, we sort of wandered aimlessly, eventually finding ourselves in the basement at the foot of the Egyptian staircase and the permanent memorial to Princess Diana and Dodi. It looked unchanged from the last time I saw it in 2005, though it's beginning to feel a little dated. I'd forgotten about it until we stumbled upon it again.
After Harrods, we headed back to the hotel for a nap. It was mid-afternoon, and we were still jet-lagged and tired from the night before. We'd walked a considerable amount that first day, well over 17,000 steps according to my pedometer. But we were sure to set an alarm so we didn't sleep too much.
It was dinner time when we woke up, so after getting re-dressed, we embarked upon a quest for food, deciding to head back towards Camden and where the club was the night before. We walked up and down the Camden High street looking at various restaurants and pubs, and we ultimately settled upon the Lyttleton Arms, which turned out to be absolutely perfect. It was a warm and cozy, with plenty of seating and fantastic service. I got cider and Graham a glass of wine, and we settled in for a lovely meal.
They were doing a lovely fixed price menu, so I ordered off of that, starting with Chicken and Chorizo skewers with red pepper dressing that were to die for. It took all of Graham's self-control to not devour them. For my main, I ordered free range Glouchester Old Spot sausages on this amazing kale mash with red wine gravy. I'd heard about the Glouchester Old Spot from some pork people here in Texas, and they were mighty tasty. The kale mash, though, was to die for. I immediately started searching for recipes online as soon as I got back to the hotel, so as to ensure that I could make something like that later. Graham had the Shropshire Roast Chicken with herb butter, red wine reduction, and fries. To die for.
I splurged for dessert and ordered an apple and rhubarb crumble with custard, and I do not regret a solitary bite. We really had a lovely experience there. Our waitress was attentive and nice, and she wrote "Happy Thanksgiving" on our bill. We stumbled back to the hotel sated and happy, though a little wet as it rained a bit on our way.
Of course it did, this was London.
And so, I document again.
London was absolutely fabulous and more than we could have ever hoped for.
It was touch and go for a little while on whether we'd go, or whether we'd both go. I was pretty insistent that Graham make the trip no matter what, because it really was an amazing opportunity for him. But, my own status was a little iffy. Due to a contract being about half of what was expected, we had funds for one of us to go comfortably, but two of us was a stretch. At the last second, my parents kindly gave us frequent flyer miles for one ticket, and we were off!
We left on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. My mom was flying to San Francisco that same day to see my sister, and we ended up hanging out in the airport with her for a few hours because her plane ended up being delayed.
Due to separate tickets, Graham and I weren't seated together, but no one else ended up sitting in my row, so Graham moved in, and we sprawled. It wasn't a particularly eventful flight. I slept a few hours, but not enough to really qualify as a real good night's sleep. But soon enough we were landing at Heathrow, and Graham and I got to go through customs together for the first time. I beamed "we're on our honeymoon" when the customs guy asked the purpose of our trip. It was cute.
The tube ride into town took awhile, but it wasn't bad. The last stop on our line was "Cockfosters," and every time the lady announced it, Graham giggled. And then I admonished him. The American couple sitting across from us did the same thing.
Our hotel turned out to be very close to the Euston Square tube stop. Graham had downloaded a tube map to his phone, and it helpfully navigated us through King's Cross (sorry, we never made it to platform 9 3/4), onto another line, and to our hotel. I'd found the hotel on Priceline by searching around the neighborhood that Graham's performance would be in. This place turned out to be perfect. It took us about four minutes to find it from the tube stop, and we were checked in to our tiny studio by noon. It was a double bed, chest of drawers, some shelves, and a wardrobe. But the wardrobe also had a microwave, mini fridge and sink. There was a small table and a folding chair, and all of this fit into a room smaller than my office. The bathroom was equally compact yet functional. Perfect definition of "efficiency."
Graham and I unpacked, and we set forth to explore the neighborhood.
I don't think that we were any particularly defined neighborhood. Euston was nearby, as was St. Pancras (which I always want to pronounce as the organ) and Kings Cross. It seemed that Camden started on the other side of the railroad tracks. And though we sort of knew that it was very close, we never felt that we were IN the Regent's Park part of town. It was really nicely located, since there were two tube stops within minutes of the hotel, and they were on different lines, so we could head out in multiple directions. And later, we ended up walking several places directly from the hotel without having to use any transport.
After orienting ourselves, we set off in search of food. The airplane swill was worse than usual, and we were hungry. After looking at several Indian menus and a few small sandwich shops (and hearing Graham's laughter as I declared that I REFUSE to eat Mexican food on this particular island), we stumbled upon a pub that looked promising. I ordered the fish and chips, which were good, but I probably should have ordered the pork and cider pie, since this pub was touting it's pie making ability. Still, a pint of cider with some decent food in a pub was certainly appropriate for our situation.
At this point we started feeling the travel, and we knew we had a long night ahead of us that would eventually end around 4:00 a.m. So contrary to ordinary accepted jet-lag fighting methods, we decided to mid-day nap for a few hours before Graham had to get to the show.
I woke up and finally made my outfit decision. I'd brought at least three things that would work, but I still was a little disappointed that the dress I'd ordered (ironically, from the UK) hadn't gotten to me in time for the show. I ended up wearing a pink cashmere sparkly cami with a black lace mullet skirt along with a black cashmere wrap and a feather headdress I'd bought at the Renaissance fair the week before. Graham, of course, looked hot in the pants from our wedding, a black checked shirt, and a cap.
We needed to get there a little early so Graham could work out the logistics of how the show would work. It turns out our hotel was PERFECTLY placed. We just had to walk up the road about ten minutes (running into an honest-to-goodness urban fox on the way), turn right, and suddenly, the Koko theater was there, lit up and ready for the show. Scalpers saw us and immediately started making pitches to buy/sell tickets. The club where the after-party that Graham was djing was right across the street from the theater, and as soon as we walked in, they knew who we were. The manager of the club gave Graham access to a back room, so he could store his laptop and dj gear during the show. And Ed, the guy who'd organized the after-show, introduced himself.
Afterwards, we went to a coffee shop for a chai latte and orange chocolate tart (me) and regular latte (Graham). Of course, Graham couldn't sit still, so he went back over to double check on something.
When it looked like they were letting people into the theater, we walked over. We were directed to a person with "the list" and of course, she couldn't find us. So she called someone and then looked at us and said, "I'm supposed to say 'howdy'."
The theater was gorgeous. It opened in 1900, and it was still gilded with gold and red. The seats were mostly gone, but there were bars on various balconies. And there were tons of different levels and nooks and crannies.
We got some drinks at the bar, and then we ventured outside with the smokers. Graham immediately made friends, and I don't think I've ever seen him so comfortable, even among people he's known and loved for years. He chatted with people of all stripes, and everyone was amazed at how we'd flown across the pond for this show. Of course, here, as opposed to the US, everyone knew Caravan Palace and electroswing, so he was in a crowd that was friendly to his cause. But still, it was amazing to watch my husband work the non-inconsiderable crowd.
We ran into Nick Hollywood, who was responsible for our being there. Nick is a dj and record producer, part of Freshly Squeezed records. He and Graham struck up an internet friendship over electroswing awhile back, and he had a lot to do with this particular concert. When he announced on facebook that Caravan Palace would be playing in London for the first time, Graham joked on facebook that he'd love to open for them. Nick answered, "play the after-party!" and the next thing we knew, Graham was on the bill. It was a treat to meet Nick and to thank him. Our being in the building was a pretty awesome thing, as the show had sold out months ago, and we just waltzed on in.
We settled in for the show on the top level of the theater, where we could still see the stage, but we weren't in the mass of people. There were plenty of people who'd taken our strategy, though, so we certainly weren't alone.
The first group on was an Italian trio called Swingrowers. Guitar, singer and dj. Their singer seemed overwhelmed that she was part of this bill, but she was really awesome. Lots of energy, lots of fun. I knew a few of theirs songs, and I really liked the others. After a few years of being the only electroswing household in a city, it was pretty awesome to be not only with other enthusiasts, but SEVERAL of the musicians and producers that put it together.
Between acts, Graham went to get some swag from the show, a tee shirt and a poster. He came back a little baffled. The guy selling the merchandise not only had heard of Graham, he'd heard some of his music on soundcloud. That sort of put this whole "you're performing for people who love this stuff" thing into perspective. Other guys he'd met while moving through the theater were promising to go to the after-party.
And then Caravan Palace.
This group is responsible for the electroswing thing in my house and, by extension, for the success of my husband as a professional dj. I don't remember how Graham found them, but one day, I came home and he said "listen to this." I listened. I thought it was amazing. I spent days watching their youtube videos and I stole music from Graham's itunes. Graham hunted high and low and found everything he could on the internet. And then he started looking for more music with a similar sound. And then he djed at Flipside 2011, and then started getting gigs in Houston and Austin, and shortly afterwards got a residency at Prohibition. History, rest, etc., etc.
While a lot of electroswing is remixed in a studio by a producer, most of Caravan Palace is live performance, with amazing musicians and an unbelievably talented singer. I was just transfixed by the show. I couldn't believe how they could play and play and sing with such energy. I was dancing my ass off way up in the rafters, and the crowd below was going insane. It was an amazing performance that I'll remember well as the rest of this unbelievable night. Here are two You Tube videos that people took that night (one, two), but of course, they don't compare to actually being there.
When the concert ended, we went back over to the Purple Turtle, the club. Originally, Graham was going to be the first dj of three booked for the after-party. But Swingrowers decided that they wanted to go first (probably so they didn't have to stay on until 2:30 a.m. given they had a show the following night too). So Graham got moved to be the "headliner" at the top of the bill.
Again, my husband worked the room. He found some of the other djs and electroswing folk, including one that went out of his way to invite us to a party on Saturday night because he enjoyed Graham's djing so much. Graham knew him from the internet and had recently put the dj's music on one of his recent soundcloud mixes. A lot of djs and producers in Europe like what Graham does, and automatically send their music to Graham when it comes out. He's established relationships in half a dozen countries, and if we'd had more time, I think we could have put together a show in Paris and probably somewhere in Germany.
He chatted a little more with Nick and the manager of Caravan Palace, who asked for Graham's contact information. Everyone was so blown away by the idea that we'd fly across the ocean for this night. We explained that it was also our honeymoon, which got some oohs and congratulations. But still, Graham's commitment to the genre got all sorts of points. The music, of course, was awesome, and the crowd got to about 150, 200 people about an hour into the show, including all of the Caravan Palace band members. I was pretty happy that we got to thank them for the show personally.
After Captain Flapcap, Graham went on. It was 1:30 in the morning, and the concert had been over about two and a half hours. The hard core were still there, but it was a school night, and Thanksgiving wasn't the next day for these people.
Graham set up a Texas flag in front of his rig. And he was off. His set was fast paced and designed to get as many people dancing as much as possible. It was a challenge, because this was a knowledgeable crowd. He wanted to please, but he didn't want to play the same stuff that a) the other djs had played, and b) stuff that everyone had heard over and over again. Of course, the good stuff tends also to be the popular stuff, and obscure doesn't necessarily mean outstanding. But Graham managed to find that center, and there was a hard core group that didn't leave the dance floor for the full hour.
I made some friends, too. The word had gotten out that we were on our honeymoon, and some girls thought it was terribly romantic. They hugged and kissed me and they danced with or near me for most of the night. This meant, of course, that the guys that were interested in these girls (and some in me!) were also nearby. It was terribly fun. Two Frenchmen coordinated an attack, not realizing I was married to the dj. Graham said it was sort of funny to watch people hitting on me from on stage.
He said later that he was nervous for about a half-second, but as soon as he started djing, it all went away. A year and a half of djing two nights a week, sometimes more, almost every weekend, helped. Plus, he was just loving every moment of it. By the end of the evening, everyone was covered in sweat, but I think everyone loved it. Graham gave his Texas flag to Ed, the guy who'd put the show together. Ed was floored, and Graham pointed out that he lives in Texas, and it's fairly easy to get another one for us. The owner of the club noted that Graham was probably the first American to ever play there.
Since it was so late, we left the club shortly after Graham's set was over. The walk back to the hotel didn't seem to take much time at all, and we were both still just amazed at this amazing night we'd just had.
I don't think it would have been possible to be more perfect. Everyone was so welcoming and nice to us. The music was great. Graham was amazing. I got to dance to my husband's European debut, and we still had another three days.