Thursday, April 28, 2016

Throwback Thursday

Twenty-six years ago today, a lot of people ... the number was hotly and endlessly contested ... gathered on the Mall in Washington D.C. to "be counted" for life. I was there at the Rally for Life 1990. Here's the C-SPAN archived footage, in which I strongly doubt that I appear. I was backstage, wearing an apron, a red STAFF t-shirt, a walkie-talkie and as close to 80's hair as I ever got. I was on the team that planned it. Tent rentals, mugs, pins, bumper stickers, meetings with Secret Service, Park Police, FBI background checks, arrangements for VIP pickup and transport, hotel accommodations, 1st aid stations, portapotties, the press pen, audio hook-ups, table rentals. Jacki, bless her dear Arkansas heart, and her massive Rally notebook. No sleep in more than 24 hours. "Water. Water. Water. Water." "Tell the truth! Tell the truth!" and a stonewalling press corps. All of this, before the internet, and before readily available bottled water. It boggles the mind.

It remains a hugely formative event in my life. Here are my two most iconic memories from that frenzied time: I got to drive around the grounds of the Washington Monument, from station to station, in a golf cart, after dark. I cannot express how cool this was.

And I was frisked by Dan Quayle's Secret Service agents. See, I discovered that you don't want to be running anywhere close to a Secret Service agent and their protectee (who was onstage talking at the time, I think), even when you were told to escort the audio guy to the press enclosure fast because he needed to set up the link-up to the White House for President George H. W. Bush's address to the crowd, which was scheduled just as soon as Dan Quayle finished his speech. You don't want to be running, or even walking fast and looking nervous about getting your guy to his place on time, because if you are, the big guys with shades and earpieces will be all around you and even in your pockets before you know what is happening. Actually, it wasn't bad; I was just startled and they must have decided I was 115 pounds of not-threatening pretty fast. And the audio guy, whoever he was, got through too.

It was being part of such a complex, massive event as this that taught me not to be afraid of big, complex challenges, and that if you are patient and organized enough they aren't quite so daunting. But no one is rushing to plan another Rally.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Life marches on, Randomdays come and go, and the blog has been neglected. This picture was taken on Palm Sunday, during the 12-hour window where both boys were home on Spring Break and we made it to church and Teresa kindly took our picture for the bulletin board before Peter had to head back.

These days, I find myself caught in a half-world between empty-nester and mother of teenage girls. I miss the boys terribly, but the teenagers at home remind me it's not such a great thing for kids to be in the nest all the time, and it's a good thing for them to grow up, and I hope they will. Daniel is barrelling full speed ahead toward college graduation; Peter is balancing college with plans for his military training, involving things like jumping out of helicopters. Tertia is in 10th grade in the local public high school special ed class, and Quarta is in 8th grade at Cedar Tree.

Added to this is the bizarre sensation of being a dinosaur, about to retire from teaching after 16 years. Other people ask what I will do. Because I'm not really old enough to retire, and apparently I don't look it either, so I guess I'll take that as a compliment. You have to remember I only got into teaching... kind of accidentally. Yes, that's it, the Accidental Classicist. Here's the short version: Y2K. I was homeschooling Daniel for kindergarten, Peter was making a monthly trip to the ER (that's another whole blog post), Tertia was an infant who required weekly therapy and a lot of specialist medical appointments, and we were new in town with no close friends. I burned out on homeschooling after only 6 months of that, and I knew Daniel was going to be the easy one of the three. And Cedar Tree was meeting as a homeschool co-op just down the street; in fact, we bought our house from the outgoing pastor of that church and one of the founding leaders of the school. So when we enrolled Daniel in the school, I knew I would have to work a few hours a week to qualify as part of the co-op. I listed my literature, writing, and French backgrounds, music, and the fact that I had studied Latin myself in high school. Sometimes I wish I hadn't. That was the only skill they were interested in at all. And here I am sixteen years later, well and truly typecast.

It's not such a bad thing. I love Latin. I genuinely like all the kids I teach, unfiltered as they are. Even the ones who write satiric tone-poems about how much they hate Latin and find me insufferably boring. But every time I start getting melancholy about leaving, something happens, vide supra, to affirm that I've stayed more than long enough. I wish there was a way to get graduate level credit for all the work I've done over these years. But I'm no longer an early-thirties mom with young kids to get through school. Life moves on. I'm hoping it's not too late to be a stay-at-home mom for a few more years.

Random things since my last blogging: we watched The Martian, The Peanuts Movie, Zootopia, Laura, and The Intern. I've joined Goodreads and am trying to figure out how not to have it flood my inbox with updates. I've been working on re-imagining the L-shaped brick garden bed, left over from the foundation of the old barn, as an herb garden. Some of the fennel, dill, and caraway seeds from my spice cabinet are sprouting. Cilantro and cumin too. I keep working on pulling up bindweed... it's like the Hydra. I've been trying to sort out the 4-5 kinds of mint in the mint bed and get them growing separate from each other. Apple mint is the one that grows the most vigorously and, of course, I like it the least. It's spider season inside; I keep the vacuum handy in the living room with the attachments to suck the spiders off the ceiling. It averages 4 a day. It's allergy season outside; April is the cruelest month. We had beautiful weather for several days, then the last few we've had heavy rains. Smudge didn't even show for his morning food yesterday; he was probably in one of his hiding spots. He was back last night and this morning, though. No sewing and very little knitting has been done. I have been spending a great deal of time worrying about the disintegration of American culture and the downfall of Western Civilization, and trying to find signs of hope in the current political situation. 

Yesterday I found this lovely quote on Tatoeba: 

Books are ships which pass through the vast sea of time. - Sir Francis Bacon

I traced it to what I think is its source, although it is a fragment of the whole sentence: 
Literae celebrari debent, quae, tanquam naves sulcantes oceanum temporis.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Little Blue Flowers

They are called Veronica.  This time of year they come out and look remarkably pretty by the front fence.  It is a ground cover that we bought years back, and has spread nicely each year, and when I find myself sitting at my computer worrying about the state of politics or 7th grade, or the latest nastiness on the internet, I can go outside and kneel down and take a picture of them and it somehow gets a little better.
I kind of wish they would last all summer long, but they don't.  I will have to find other little blue flowers to meet that basic human need in July.  But maybe by July we will have figured out how to fix the smashed-in parts of the fence.

Peter was home for his spring break 2 weeks ago, then Daniel was home last week, and they are both back at school now.  Quarta is off in Olympia at the Teen Pact legislative camp with her 8th grade class; it is just Tertia and Steve and I at home this week.  I already gave the 3rd quarter final exam to Quarta's class, and have only 7th grade to worry about this week. Then spring break begins for us, but we are not planning a road trip anywhere.  I hope to be caught up on my grading pretty soon.

I haven't been knitting or sewing much, but I'm filling my time with language study and curriculum writing.  It's a little more enjoyable and addictive when you are your own boss, learning what you want when you want, and interacting with people who aren't forced to be in your class and resentful of it. Besides Duolingo, where I have become a regular but unofficial advocate of Latin, there is Memrise, where there are now two courses based on my Latin for Duolingo course.  And recently I discovered, a fascinating database of sentences in many languages.  And based on some of those sentences,, another site dedicated to "gamifying" language learning.  It feels a little sad to be looking at my final quarter of school teaching, and I'm sure it will be hard to let it go. But so many opportunities exist online, and I have been in the middle-school track for longer than any of my students have been alive... and it's time to move on.

Vinca, Violets, Rosemary, Forget-me-nots, Lithodora, Lobelia, Hydrangea, Lavender, Jonny-Jump-ups... and maybe more that I haven't discovered yet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dinner for the Ides of March

The Republic may be crumbling, but we're going to eat well.  How else to celebrate the Ides of March but with an ancient Roman dinner, in the style of Apicius? We have here Parthian Chicken, or a modernized version of it, with Lovage and Cumin sauce.  Lentils with mint and coriander, and a salad with a dressing that could be Roman.  And blood oranges, of course; as Quarta pointed out, very appropriate for the Ides of March.

I freely adapted various recipes based on Apicius for the chicken; I made a sauce with sauteed onions in olive oil, sweet wine, garum (fish sauce), honey, ground dried plums and raisins, chopped green lovage and toasted ground cumin and caraway seeds.  I slightly pureed the sauce with an immersion blender - I wonder if that's ever been done in ancient Roman cuisine before? I salted and peppered the chicken and poured the sauce on top, then baked it at 375 for about an hour, covered for the first half and then uncovered.  The combination of lovage and cumin is distinctly Roman and the sweetness of the sauce evens out some of the unfamiliar flavor combinations in a very nice way, I think.

The lentils were cooked first, then I added chopped parsley, mint, and cilantro, ground coriander, garum, vinegar, honey and salt and pepper.  It's a bit like Indian Dal, if you've had that, but with a sweeter flavor.

The salad was just sliced cucumber, radishes, red onion and carrots and the vinaigrette was olive oil, red wine vinegar, dried mustard, a very small amount of garum, salt and pizza seasoning.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Notes from the Convention

So Steve and I attended the County Republican Convention Saturday.  I was a delegate and Steve was an alternate, eventually credentialled and seated as a delegate from our precinct (so we could sit together after the first 2 hours).  I was a delegate 16 years ago, in the 2000 election cycle, when Tertia was a baby and I was eager to defeat Al Gore and his "extra chromosome right-wing" arrogance.  That was an anxiety-producing election cycle, at least at the end, but the convention seemed pretty boring.  George W. Bush was the clearcut nominee by that time and I was happy about it.  This year's convention had its boring stretches, but there was an undercurrent of intensity and urgency that kept it interesting.

You may have gathered by now that my sympathies are with the #NeverTrump movement.  There are those Republicans who say we have to support the party's nominee no matter who he is. But I think this is more like a hostile takeover, and there is a narrow window of opportunity to shut it down before a serial liar, adulterer and narcissist takes over the party and destroys it in the process.  And if you disagree with me about the narcissism and say it is not our place to diagnose from afar (because the lying and adultery  are well-documented), I invite you to peruse the Wikipedia entry for Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Donald Trump in mind.  And, although it may seem sensationalistic, this article which makes the connection.  If we don't want Trump to become the dictator of the Republican Party, this article is worth reading to see the range of strategies being embraced by different Republican leaders. I like Bill Kristol, Danielle Pletka, Eric Cantor and Ari Fleisher's takes on the situation best. Not many seem enthusiastic about Trump who are in leadership positions. Of course, some grassroots people don't trust the leadership, by definition. I would urge them to rethink that contrarian position, and consider the long-term effects of a Trump nomination. And if they are in Ohio, which is a winner-take-all state, I'd urge them to vote for Kasich even if he's not their personal favorite. And if they are in Florida, also winner-take-all, consider voting for Rubio rather than letting it go to Trump. My personal hope is that we can go all the way to the National convention with no clear nominee, but with delegates who will represent the party rules as required in the first round of balloting, and then vote to nominate someone who can actually unite the party and bring in some new people as well.  Does anyone leave perfectly happy in every regard? No, but that's how politics works.  It's not for the fainthearted, or the selfish.  And there are some stands you have to take. Such as no unstable narcissists in positions of world power, and don't make your party a laughing-stock and therefore irrelevant, just because you're angry.

So at the Convention, my strategy was to vote to send delegates to the State Convention who would be pledged to support candidates other than Trump. And, once the balloting began, it was encouraging to see that that was the main strategy of others.  Before that, I was a little discouraged.  Because apparently in the 16 years since I last was active at this level, my support for a mainstream candidate like Rubio or Bush brands me as one of those "moderates" (said with a shocked face by a longtime friend I ran into there). I never thought of myself as a moderate, but that's what you are, I guess, if you never really like the "outsiders" supported by the people who are reflexively angry at the "establishment" (i.e., the people who have been Republicans longer than Donald Trump has). But even though Cruz is not my favorite of the remaining candidates, I'll support him in the general if he is the nominee. For me, the primary issue is and has always been the right to life; the others take a backseat. Both Cruz and Rubio are solid on the pro-life issue, and so is Kasich.  Trump says Planned Parenthood does "wonderful things." But this is turning into more of a rant than it already was.

It was interesting as the many rounds of balloting progressed.  There were maybe 5 people who listed Trump as their favorite, and one of them was only because she used to be a Carson backer and he threw his support to Trump. The Trumpbots didn't make a lot of headway.  I was left with the impression that we were sending good, ordinary people on to the State level, and they would use their native common sense and decency to promote sensible decision-making and choose more sensible, decent people to make decisions at the national level.  Where it might really matter this time.  It's kind of like crowd-sourcing, I guess. And as was pointed out, the allocation of delegates in the Republican Party is much more democratic than in the Democratic Party, where someone like Sanders can win a major state like Michigan and still fall behind because of superdelegates pledged to Hillary.

We ended up having to vote to extend the convention twice, so that all the balloting could be finished and the platform amendments voted on.  There is a process in place for all of it, and no matter how tedious, it was encouraging and enlightening to watch it in action.  I hope it will be all right in the long run.  But it will be a nailbiter.  I will need to have a lot of knitting handy.  My argyles are much farther along than they were before Saturday.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Argyle Progress

The first argyle sock is at this point.  I did the two repeats of the diamond pattern, then I worked a heel flap over the first half of the stitches, then turned the heel, and most recently I picked up 17 stitches on each side of the heel flap and worked the first row of the final diamond repeat on the instep.  Now it is a matter of decreasing the gusset stitches and finishing the final diamond repeat.  I feel the momentum is on my side!  If this pair works out, I might eventually attempt to size up the chart and make a pair for Steve.

What I am reading: I have two audiobooks going at the moment: The Titan's Curse by Rick Riordan, listening to that with Quarta on the school commute; and The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan from the Wheel of Time series.  It's got 300 and umpteen chapters and it will probably be something to work on for the next two months.

Regular reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.  It hasn't changed my life yet, but I haven't really done any, other than killing flying ants. Does that count?  I finished Sejanus by David Wishart, in his Marcus Corvinus series of mysteries, and promptly checked out The Lydian Baker, which so far is much less political.  After Sejanus, I guess you need a break.  I also recently finished Rick Riordan's new book, Percy Jackson's Greek Heroes, which is a fun, wisecracking take on mythology, and is pretty much the logical conclusion of the way I annotate Myths of Greece and Rome for my 8th graders.  I also just started The Legend of the Rift, the final book in the 7 wonders series by Peter Lerangis. A horrid thought occurs to me; will I be able to justify reading all these YA adventures and Roman historical fiction next year, when I am no longer teaching Latin to middle schoolers? Or will I have to grow up and read adult best-sellers or classics of indisputable literary quality?  Nah.

Linking up to Ginny's Yarn-Along, where there are both masterful knitting projects and intriguing books to add to your queue.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Yellow Monday

 This Monday was brought to you by the color YELLOW.  (Does this sound like Sesame Street?) Our daffodils are looking quite nice, and one of these  bouquets needs to come in to school with me tomorrow.  It was supposed to be today, but, well, it was a Monday.
 Here are the daffodils in their natural habitat. Tertia took some in to her teachers today and wants to take more tomorrow.
Not yellow, but the camellia tree is very pretty right now.
And look! A box of Arizona citrus showed up on my doorstep, expressed from my parents. I will need to make lemonade.  This is a good thing because all 4 of us currently in the house came down with a cold yesterday.  Yellow is therapeutic all by itself, but some lemonade will be lovely.

We have had the flying ants swarming for the last week, coming in through the eaves and into the upstairs bathrooms through the vents.  The ant traps have not quite done their work yet.  This morning I was reading in bed at 5:30 or so, and an ant crawled across the lit-up screen of my Kindle. It was a rude awakening.  My scalp has been itching ever since!

On Saturday we had the Latin Olympika at school; it was a Cedar Tree sweep once again.  I feel a little guilty, having such highly competitive students.  But I sure didn't make them that way, I just teach them. Everyone seemed to have fun, and I think my students were all well-behaved.  In other Latin news, today I posted a new lesson on my unofficial Duolingo course. I have been making a Memrise course to go with it, and now another user has taken it on to enter the sentences from my course as well, So... if you always wanted to learn Latin and want to give it a try in a fun and non-threatening setting, here's your chance.  It's nowhere near as engaging and interactive as a true Duolingo course would be, but I pride myself that it's the next best thing.  I have been posting these for nearly a year now.

Both boys will be having their spring breaks in the near future, unfortunately not overlapping by much; and then the rest of us have ours, although we have no plans for world travel.