Monday, February 28, 2011

Music Monday: Survivor

Eye of the Tiger.

Does anyone else remember QUBE? I remember going to a neighbors to watch MTV. This was one of those first videos. I am quiet certain it was popular at sporting events and dance classes too. The song is an anthem of the 80s.

I remember Rocky running to the song in one of those movies.

Now I hear it in bars on the juke box and sometimes I feel a punch of nostalgia in my gut or I get annoyed. Depends on the day. 

I have been thinking about this song every time I look at our goldfish, Frankie. Frankie nearly died this week and now she is back swimming around that bowl like a champ. I guess it was only a near knock out, she pulled it out at the last second.

H was taking E to school and L was running around doing whatever it is she does in the morning and I was upstairs considering what I was going to wear, when I hear L yelling, "Mommy where is the fish?"
I responded that she was in her bowl.

Only she wasn't. She was laying on the counter, next to her bowl near the candle.

Not breathing. H, who had just gotten back,  scooped her up and put her in the bowl, then she did this weird twitching thing, lay on her side and kinda floated near the bottom. I decided it was only going to be a matter of time.

We were sad, H took L to school and I lamented to friends via Facebook and Twitter that the fish was dead. I was sad. I know it is just a fish, but she is no ordinary fish. She is really aware of her surroundings and she is friendly. I eat lunch at the breakfast bar and we bond. You would be surprised how good a listener a fish can be. Also let's face it, I am not allergic to her. This is a key detail. I can love my fish with no nasal or skin reactions.

I never really had pets growing up.

Early in our marriage H toyed with going to flight school in Arizona. We got a bunny. Some bunny to keep me company. She was so cute. We got her from a breeder, before we knew about rabbit rescue. H picked her out. I was all about a Rex with rusty satiny fur, but H fell for the little lop and we took her home.

Bundles was amazing fun. She was cute and cuddly and was a great pet. She had the run of part of our basement. As she got older, we decided to get her a friend. This time through the Ohio House Rabbit Society. Reuben had been a rescue from in Cleveland. Poor guy had been abandoned at a construction site.

It was not love at first site and Bundles and Reuben did not bond right away but just as I thought we were going to have to send Reuben back north, they reached an understanding. Reuben basically decided the food was good here and if the price of good food was letting the smaller female bunny be in charge, well so be it. Beats getting eaten or run over by a backhoe.

 I loved these bunnies. Reuben passed when L was a newborn. I am not sure I was paying as close as attention to him as I should have been, with a new baby and all, and he got a fatal ear infection. Having him put to sleep was so hard. I cried. I loved his gentle personality and his stand offish ways.

Bundles lived until L was almost 2, which made Bundles 10 years old. She slept most of the time towards the end. She did still like her outside time, was totally afraid of the loud squealing human who yelled - "I love you bunny" into her hutch and she passed peacefully in her sleep. L loved that rabbit and H and I dodged the death question by saying Bundles had taken a long trip. This came back to haunt us a few times. Ever so often, L would ask, if Bundles had gone on a trip, why hadn't she written a postcards. Then when my MIL passed away, L called us on our crap, "Hey did Bundles take the same trip Oma is taking. Is that why she hasn't written any post cards."

 I grieved for these bunnies and I told H no more pets. I just cannot emotionally deal with the lose. I try like crazy not to bond with these creatures.

Long story short, we watched a friend's fish and we ended up with 2 fish and a snail, which died. Bless H for dealing with this. Then a neighbor is moving cross country and gives us Frankie, who is an amazingly hearty fish it would seem. 

So hearty that she basically came back to life. I swear that fish was not breathing on the counter. After we put her back in the bowl and she had basically a couple minutes of what looked like seizures, I decided the smart money was on her being dead in a few hours. 

Not so. She is merrily swimming around that bowl, like nothing happened. She was still for a few hours and then back to splashing us and eating like a pig.

On Facebook I posted this and I mean every word:

The fish is now swimming around the bowl, after "playing dead." Is it wrong to be annoyed - be dead or not... I cannot cope with fish who pretend to be dead.
 So while I am glad our fish is a Survivor. Made of some pretty tough stuff, I am also reminded why it is hard for me to be a pet owner. The near death drama on Wednesday was really upsetting.
Just as last month I struggled with Snickers being gone. She disappeared during that monster snow storm and it was almost 5 days before we found her. I was so sure that cat was going to be dead. I could not fathom why she would run away, especially since she picked us. She showed up and wouldn't leave and no one else would take her despite my best efforts. I would have her in the house in a second. I love that cat. She is spunky, has an amazing cat-in-ality and is fun. She also makes me sneeze like no one's business and I get a skin rash in all of 5 seconds after I touch her. She too is a survivor. She was near deaths door when she arrived at our house. She was hungry and full of worms.
I had begun to give up hope until our neighbor posted on the neighbor association's Google Group, that they had her and had provided her some shelter during the wicked cold temperatures.
So in the span of two months our pets, pets I swore we weren't going to have, have managed to cause us much shock and dismay and I suppose, if we look for the silver lining, inspiration. The will to survive is strong, in bother Snickers and Frankie.
I still say, playing dead, as a fish is dangerous business. It almost earned her a one way flush.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Music Monday: Trains

I have been sick. Actually L and I both.

Increasingly my metaphor for the dynamics of life is a train. A train that does not stop. Maybe it slows to a crawl, but once on the train, it is hard to get off, switching cars is an option, but the train of life stops for no one and yet it can also pass you by.

When I am sick I am often very much aware how much of a run away train life can be. I was trying to keep up and frankly it is a losing battle last week. I am forcing myself to just relax about all the loose ends around me and just focus on getting back in tip top shape.

Then if we think about everyone being on their own trains, the metaphor becomes a pre-algebra problem. If train A is traveling 50 miles per hour and train B is traveling 48 miles per hour and they are 10 miles apart, at what time will they collide.

You get the idea.

I think as a writer we often like to think that our stories are taking place in isolation, writing is an isolated pass time. We huddle up with our pens and paper and go-go, but alone, solitary.

Life is not like that, it is like a roundhouse, with trains going off in all directions, the switching yard allowing trains to transfer tracks. Sometimes we join up with other trains, adding cars to the line and sometimes we let cars go, leaving them in the round house or a station.

I am not a linear thinker, not by a long shot, but life, time has a linear progression, just like that of a train. Time goes forward, there is no going back.

What I am really working towards is you are on the train, unless you plan to jump off, you have to make the best of a cars you have, certainly work towards new cars if that makes you happy, but I think the wise money is on accepting that the train is going forward with you on it, if there are trials in live, the only way out is through. No sense in considering the non-possible solutions.

So if the train is heading to Marrakesh and you don't want to go, you better be prepared to join someone else's train, hope a switching yard is up ahead, or be prepared to give Marrakesh a chance. Some train rides are long and dusty and sometimes you get stuck with a gaggle of geese or children.

I don't suggest you jump off the moving train. My money is on learning to be your own engineer and then being prepared to tough out the tough patches most of all invest time in learning to enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Crafty kids: Beeswax candle kits

So I decided the kids and I would make Valentine gifts this year. With back to back snow days, we took the afternoon to get a head start on Valentines.

I ordered these kits a few weeks ago. One was the Valentines Collection and the other Winter Set. It yielded us sheets of purple, red, pink, dark blue, lite blue and white beeswax. The sheets were 20 cm squares.

A long string is included, for creating cut to fit wicks.

I broke out the Valentine mini cookie cutters and we got started. 

All in all we made an impressive number of candles and after a few experiments, each of us settled on the form that worked best for us. Some turned out really well and others were a bit rough.

In general you start with one sheet of wax and either cut it out to make 2 tapers (pattern included) or you can cut the sheet in half or thirds and make fatter candles by seaming it together.

Once you have the sheet cut to the desired size, then you need to position the wick and smoosh it tight. You can heat the wax with a hair dryer according to the directions, but I found the heat from my hands was more than ample to soften the wax enough to make it roll-able and no longer crumbly.

 I found using a blunt kitchen knife was useful when creating a smooth, snug seam.

From this point you can be finished or add another layer of wax, using the knife to press the new piece tightly against the seam.

This candle is made with one sheet of wax, cut in half and seamed as described about. At this point you can smooth the top slightly with the knife and add embellishments as desired.

I found using the mini cookie cutters to be the easiest way to create embellishments. (note: you must be patient and press into the wax firmly. The kiddos struggled with this and I had to help them along.)

All in all a very fun snow day project, for one and all. We have a few sheets of wax left over, but in all we made a fair number of candles.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Music Monday: Happy Valentine's Day

I have said in many venues before and probably on this blog as well, that most writers have a central theme, some question that keeps them up at night, which they will spend their entire career trying to understand, they are doggedly determined to sufficiently answer this question.

I have one or two such central themes or questions which drive my writing. I would argue the Anita Shreve, is a writer in our time who exemplifies this desire. Her books have widely different settings, but if you take a step back, she is still struggling with a central question. I don't think she has answered it yet.

I think Dave Matthews likewise has a strong and pervasive theme running through his music. He is interested in the nature of love and not just the hearts and flowers parts of love, the syrupy pop song parts of love. Love can turn as ugly as it is beautiful. Is it any wonder that songs he wrote in the late 90s still resonate with us today. He has toured non-stop.

So today I wish you all much love and laughter and remind you that sometimes it really is about the space in between.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Music Monday: NIN- Head like Hole

I will admit it, in addition to being contrary, I am a closet punk rocker. I like the irreverence of punk. I like the fact that they challenge our sensibilities musically and politically.

This weekend I was at an event and the discussion turned towards our civil rights in a variety of contexts.

I happen to like my civil rights as outlined in the much forgotten Constitution of the United States of America. (shockingly - so many American could not tell you what that document actually says. Furthermore many of those Americans hold elected office or other positions of power.)

Ironically this document grew out of some wealthy men's desire to not pay any more taxes to the jolly King of England. That said, it outlines some pretty fundamental rights. Rights that each citizens is entitled to as a birth right. As a citizen, these are rights that are yours. (I happen to think that with these rights come great responsibility. We suck at this part of equation, in case you were wondering.)

We increasingly seem willing to just deal those rights away in the name of "diversity" or "security."

In a discussion this weekend - it was offered that my rights are not being violated when I fly and have to submit to a public groping. Flying is not a right, it is an option. In short my friend feels that the airlines have the right to say I must submit to the trampling of my Constitutional rights, if I want to avail myself of their product. (Truth of the matter - the airlines have no say here...)

Hmm - I disagree. Flying is a mode of transportation. In most cases the airport is owned, fully or partially by a local municipality. (or some regional authority) (read: tax dollars, ergo as a tax payer, it is an asset of the people for the people.) The FAA is a governmental body as is the TSA. Fully funded by my tax dollars. If anyone should have to follow the letter of the Constitution, I think it ought to be governmental bodies. They should be held to the highest and most restrictive standards.

As Americans we deal away our rights, because I think we are too busy with stupid reality TV to be fully immersed in our responsibilities. In short, we have heads like a hole. We are willing to bow down to power hungry politicians, corporations and say "yes Master" because we are too busy doing nothing to care. Taking a stand would mean actually forming a well balanced opinion, thinking about something bigger than ourselves and growing  up.

Another reason we are willing to deal these rights and responsibilities away is we do not educate our children to understand what our rights and responsibilities are. We have become a nation of lemmings. No one is willing to take a stand. We are no longer concerned with what is right or wrong, we are concerned with what is easy, cheap, and/or noncontroversial. We are loathed to say "no" to anyone, so we say, "yes, maybe, I don't know or care, just hurry up and go away."

Flying may not be a right. I will agree, it is an option. It is an option which should be weighed on its merits. It should be subject to market forces and NOT GOVERNMENTAL thievery of my rights as outlined in the document which is the basis for the legal system of this country.

No One - and I mean not even Uncle Sam has the right to grope me or my children in public for any reason - other than the very narrow exceptions allowed for in the Constitution. You may look, within reason, but you may not touch. (That exception is folks, if I commit a crime and you have proper court sanctioned documentation to look or overwhelming evidence that I likely committed a crime. Last time I checked purchasing airfare was a commercial not criminal decision.)

Let's step away of the idea that airline tickets are in someway special, in terms of commercial goods. Let's assume for a moment the jihadists who flew the planes into the twin towers were devotees of Coke. Let's say they bought it by the case. Coke could, in an effort to keeps its brand name free from taint and to prevent future wing-nuts from involving its product in terrorism and the death of 100s of people, institute a scanning procedure prior to purchase. Prove you aren't a terrorist and then you get a can of  coke. There would be scanners in the grocery store, strip searches before you pop the top. No scanney, no drinkey. The commercial decision to purchase corn syrup laden beverages would be in effect be criminalized as airline travel has.

(At this point I am sure you think I am crazy.)

I admit, this is absurd. So let's tackle something more germane. Timothy McVee leveled a federal building with a U haul and some fertilizer. Last time I was at the feed the store, the clerk might well have been undressing me with his eyes, but he did not subject me to radiation, take pornographic X-rays of me, nor grope me. But using the logic of the TSA and the Obama administration, fertilizer is a weapon and is deadly, people who buy fertilizer must be terrorists and therefore must surrender their rights in order to make a purchase and feed their roses. Gardening is an option. Well fed roses are an option.

You do not have to be groped to rent a car. Cars could do as much damage as a plane if loaded with the right amount of C4. Last time I was at Hertz, no one groped me. Renting a car is an option.

This song was written and performed when I was in high school/college. Sadly I must say the holes in our national heads have grown collectively larger in the time since.

I, for one, think it is time to stop the blood flow, don't you? We are not lemmings. We are capable of better. My example here today is but one small example of how our collective indifference is slowly eroding some  of the freedoms which are part of what makes us Americans.