Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Family Camp Song

We returned from a few days at Family Camp on Saturday. Once again, I felt stirred to follow the questionable lyric proddings of my poetic muse, and this song for the Talent Show is the result. There is a cell phone video which I will do my utmost to make sure never gets shared here.

The OP Family Campers
by Katherine Chapman

Tune: Battle Hymn of the Republic
Inspired by speaker's (Karl Thompson) description of being a "circuit-riding preacher" and the first two lines of the old gospel song.
Lyrics sung by yours truly; accompaniment by Steve on the syllable "doom" - like "batter the doom drums" from Agamemnon, but more light-hearted, like plucking a bass fiddle. Additional "dooms" and charming hand motions by Tertia. Intro and vamp between verses is eight beats on "doom" - as close to bass as a tenor can get: Do Sol Mi Sol Do Sol Mi Sol -- and then improvised throughout on bass-ish/tenor-ish lines and keeping the beat as much as you can when you've only practiced it twice. Daniel begged off from making it a family act (and nailing the bass) by being appointed the MC of the talent show, and Quarta bailed because singing "doom" in a trio was beneath the dignity of a rising 9th grader. Soprano was trying very hard not to giggle or forget the lines, and even with the scratch sheet of lyrics in front of her ended up switching a few unintentionally. Here is how it was supposed to be:

The OP family campers come from all across the land -
With their hammocks in their hatchback and their bugspray in their hand.
They paddle in the murky lake, play volleyball in the sand -
   In Wamic, OreGON!

Glory, glory hallelujah!
Come on, children, we'll canoe ya -
Lots of fun times will come to ya
   As Family Camp goes on.

This August we converged upon the tiny town of Wamic,
And we all hope the Morris' boat won't sink like the Titanic -
But the ice cream stand is open soon so no one needs to panic
   After the great BANANATHON!

Glory, glory hallelujah!
Come on, children, we'll canoe ya -
Lots of fun times will come to ya
   As Family Camp goes on.

In the heat of the afternoon we go down the waterslide -
We eat cookies, fruit and pancakes till we're 50 inches wide!
Board games, golf and carpetball -- we play them all with pride
   In Wamic, OreGON!

Glory, glory hallelujah!
Come on, children, we'll canoe ya -
Lots of fun times will come to ya
   As Family Camp goes on.


It came to my attention after the fact that some people pronounce Wamic as "WAHmic" and if that is the accurate pronunciation, I meant no disrespect. Certainly, this girl grew up in Akron and Canton, Ohio, and a bit of the nasal on the short A's is a good antidote to appearing too pretentious, which we would certainly never want to do, especially at Family Camp. The mockery of the pronunciation of Oregon was perhaps a little more intentional. I count it a success, as I heard the tune being whistled and hummed on the evening air as the crowd dispersed.

The Bananathon itself was an eventful one, as two of the three teams had their canoes sink right off the start, but alas! my lyrics were already written and the muse had departed by then. Perhaps next year's poem will be a mock epic styled after "The Charge of the Light Brigade." Or a spiritual, "Down by the Waterslide." But it doesn't pay to overthink these things. Who am I kidding, it doesn't pay, period!

I need to go put ointment on my mosquito bites.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


At long last, a Randomday post. Randomness has not been, by any means, in short supply lately, but it has been of a depressingly political variety.

Nice picture above is of my little visitor who kept chirping while I fed the cat the other day. I think it may have recently graduated from the nest in the Camellia tree, and didn't seem to have much fear of either humans or felines. Granted, Smudge is not much of a threat, but still.

If you search Pinterest looking for "borsch" and hoping to find a quick recipe, did you know in the first 20 or so results you get half that are recognizably the famous Russian soup. The rest of the first batch are mostly other recipes that might also appeal to the same market. But after that, the results are weighted in favor of Hieronymus Bosch. I enjoyed that. I plan to make a fairly simple borsch recipe to take to fellowship dinner tomorrow with some of the beets from our Grace's Garden basket, and then Monday I may make this recipe with the turnips.  I would like to turn the entire 2016 election cycle into a vast Hieronymus Bosch landscape painting, but I'm afraid that's above my pay grade. Especially now, since I don't have a pay grade anymore.

The plum tree was pruned last year (inadvertent plum pun), and has not produced a significant yield this year. However, in the spot near it, at the end of the driveway, we have our most productive cucumber vines ever, and some respectably productive zucchini.
Summer marches on, with August here and the drumbeat of back-to-school beginning. I am infinitely relieved I do not have to get ready on the teacher end. It has taken more out of me than I realized, these last 16 years. I never could contemplate the prospect of daily teaching without high anxiety, in the month before it was actually upon me.
 Among other things found when I began tidying up my Latin things: the Venerable Bead. It was a relic I found on the floor when I was cleaning up the former 2nd grade classroom 8 years or so ago, back when I had a designated Latin classroom. I taped it onto my Celtic map of Europe right about at the location of Jarrow, and never really had anyone ask for an explanation. The map stays at school; it's the best one I've ever found for teaching Caesar's Gallic Wars. I can now dispose of the Bead, since its story has been told.
I took a picture of my breakfast making a face at me a month or so ago. Tertia thought it was hysterical too. She probably thought the egg was making "the scream" face because the mushrooms were too close.

Steve's sister Kristine has been visiting her mom this week and we've had some time with her as well. Clark County fair began yesterday with free admittance to the pancake breakfast; we didn't make it until 11:00 (we were never planning on breakfast there anyway) because the van had three screws in one tire and needed to have two tires replaced, for proper balance. So yet more to add to the expenses column as it seems all of our recent conversations involve me wondering "Why are we so broke?" But anyway, the Fair was fun as it always is, we came home and visited a while with Kristine, and then cooked up Mexican food for dinner. Kristine is on her way back to Arizona now, where it's much hotter than here.

We've been fighting the flea infestation, which is weird since Muffball is an inside cat. That's another expense: $76 for a 6-month supply of Advantage.

The raccoon has not been seen for over a month. This is a good thing. We have a nest of yellow jackets over the front door that has been resistant to two cans of raid and a yellow-jacket trap... although all three have taken their toll. My entertainment this summer has been to check on how many are caught in the trap, at least once per day.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

"Vote Your Conscience" and other Radical Notions

"Vote your conscience" is now, apparently, the most radical and un-American thing a Republican can say; at least according to the Trumpists who are hoppin' mad about the speech truthtellin' Ted Cruz gave last night. It's also precisely the reason I've supported Republicans for the last forty years. I wasn't old enough to vote in the '76 election, but rooted for Ford, then Reagan and every Republican nominee for president since him, until this year. And the reason was conscience: specifically, the Republican Party offered a home for those opposed, by conscience, to killing unborn babies (how can that even be a controversial position, I always wonder), and continues to do so while they are frozen out of the Democratic party.  I'm still a functional Republican, I suppose, until a viable option for conservatives materializes, and will support Republicans in local and statewide races; my party has just been hijacked by forces beyond my control, and they've sold my email address. I have been obligated to report as spam the fundraising appeals that have started to come in from Donald Trump and Ivanka Trump. So first off, let's get rid of the "no true Republican" fallacy and the "either-or" fallacy that are being thrown around so much. Forty years is twice as long as Donald Trump has been a Republican, and almost three times as long as the longest of his three marriages. And Hillary Clinton has already won the election, barring a completely unforeseen twist between now and November: she won when Trump won the nomination, and I don't think there's anything I can do about it, except vote my conscience. Certainly, she'll win in Washington State, where I didn't even have the option of voting for anyone in the primary who hadn't already dropped out of the race.

I've never been the biggest supporter of Ted Cruz: he strikes me as a little too divisive and a bit fakey in his speaking style, and I still don't think he could really unite the country enough to win the actual presidency. All of that is exponentially more true of my concerns about Trump. But in any case, Cruz gave a principled speech, locked into the convention corner as he was, and it didn't deserve boos. Not in America, where we know about conscience. Not from Republicans, who have defended conscience rights from the beginning. Here's the text of that speech. And indications are that Trump orchestrated the response just from spite and narcissism, when a truly gracious winner would have ignored it and accepted the decent spirit behind it. After tonight, the controlled environment of the RNC convention is gone, and any chance for Trump to unite the party along with it. What does it say that Trump never attempted to mend fences with John Kasich, the governor of the state hosting his convention? What does it say that Bob Dole (election cycle of 1996, 20 years ago) is the only living Republican presidential nominee to support Trump? To me, it says that most party leadership is going through the motions, doing the decent thing as they see it, knowing they've already lost. It also doesn't lay to rest the nagging worry that Trump is fundamentally a liberal saboteur whose intent is to hand the election to Hillary. It's probably not true, but can we trust him?

I have a great deal of respect for Mike Pence, and I think he was a good choice for VP. If the ticket was Pence/Trump instead of the other way around, I think I could vote for him, As it is, I doubt Trump would be a micro-managing president if elected, and I can't fault people who vote for the ticket in hopes that he would delegate the real policy work to decent people. But more likely, I think Pence will be the scapegoat who gets the blame when the Trump campaign goes down in flames. I've seen that before, too.

It comes down to another c-word, character. Bill Clinton was president for 8 years, and we objected to his character then. But he at least was ashamed of his lapses. Trump has bragged about his indiscretions, and never apologizes for anything. The never-Trump movement still has a point. More so now, as people become more informed about his foreign policy, which strikes me as truly disturbing.

As I've been musing about the election cycle and the lack of good candidates, I keep coming back to the thought that, even as I feel disenfranchised and shut out of the process, historically, you had to live with the king or emperor you had for life. We have a system that limits the damage even a terrible president can do: four years, maybe eight, and two other branches of government leaning on you the whole time. And we have a choice. We can vote our conscience. We can take character into account. It's America. We can vote for whoever we want.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Political Tuesdays: What I Saw at the Hostile Takeover

2016 may be the year I become apolitical.  But first, I have to blog this out of my system and close all those open windows in my browser.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to dissolve the bands of loyalty which had previously connected us to a grand political party, and to assume, among the Pokemon Go players of the earth, a relatively blissful ignorance and apathy about the downfall of civilization as we know it, a decent respect for the dozen or so readers of this blog requires that we declare the causes which impel us to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that the Republican Party has been hijacked by the overweening narcissism of one man; that Donald Trump does not represent the values and ideals associated with the Republican Party or with conservatism as a political philosophy; and that, being endowed with the rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, no free and independent American may be forced to blindly support the presumptive nominee of the Party to the detriment of her own conscience.

I realize that people of good conscience can and do disagree about where to proceed from this point. Personally, I still hold a flickering candle of hope that some of the Never Trump delegates I sent to the state convention will go on to Cleveland and be part of a peaceful counter-insurgency that will appoint an actual Republican candidate who stands a chance in the fall election. Otherwise, my vote is completely wasted, as is usual in Washington State. But I realize this is a very faint hope indeed.

Some will vote for Trump while holding their nose, because they fear Hillary more; some wholeheartedly support him because they actually believe he's serious about saving them from illegal immigrants or bad trade deals, or whatever it is they fear. I will try not to judge, if they will respect my freedom of conscience here. Simply put, I can't support any candidate who endorses abortion; that clearly eliminates Hillary, and Trump is equally clearly not credible on this issue. That leaves me a much sadder person, but it's oddly freeing at the same time.

In a more selfish vein, I am simply not able to take the constant anxiety. I don't see either candidate as fit for office, but I'm used to being the party out of power; the shame of being associated with such an unstable and self-centered candidate as the Donald, even if there is no chance of his winning, is enough to make me withdraw from politics altogether. Wherever I turn for amusement or distraction, I see a caricature of this buffoon: he's Nick Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream ("Methought I was enamored of an ass!") He's Anger in Inside Out, complete with orange hair:

He's evil rich Biff in Back to the Future II. The list goes on: if we don't want America to turn into Trumpville, we need Jimmy Stewart to turn things around and filibuster until people come to their senses and do the right thing like they never did in the primary. I realize I'm mixing my metaphors, but I was a literature major and there's a lot more where that came from.

Now, here's where I clear my browser, and believe me, it needs it:

Monday, June 27, 2016


Daniel's 22nd birthday is today. And he just graduated from college, and he's getting ready to head out to Washington D.C. and the Capital Fellows Program in September. We're pretty excited for him, and proud of all he's accomplished. If you're in town this weekend, there's an open house at our house from 2-5 on Saturday.

Following tradition of the last few years, Daniel grilled for his own birthday; today it was chicken in an apricot/honey marinade and salmon in a citrus and chili marinade; grilled asparagus and grilled corn on the cob. I did potato salad and a blackberry pie for dessert. It was all very nice.
The argyles are finished and were presented. By this time it was not a surprise, other than the fact that I finally finished them! We also bought him a pair of  Chaco sandals, which he requested and I drove to three different Portland shoe stores looking for on Saturday. It was an adventure. I aspire to be hip enough to shop for shoes in Portland on a regular basis.

Other exciting events of today: a raccoon was hanging around early this morning when Steve left for work, sniffing around Smudge's food bowl, which was empty at that point. He returned in broad daylight today when Daniel was on the back deck, and when I came along and growled at him to move along, he did not display what I thought would be the proper respect for humans... he bared his teeth at me and did not retreat. I ended up turning the hose on him and he climbed a birch tree, and there he stayed for the rest of the day, grooming his paws and taking over what I think was a jay's nest to nap in. He is the uppermost of the two dark blobs in this photo. Stay tuned. I'm hoping he moves along without the confrontations becoming a daily event. The bared teeth were a little creepy.

I really need to get cleaning for the party Saturday. 16 years of Latin books and files are still spread out over the living room floor. They are gradually getting sorted and somehow I'll find room to store them. I still feel like I need to have a big retrospective post about my years of teaching, but it's all still too exhausting to think about. I'll settle for clean enough, and process later. In my mother's Latin for Americans test booklet, which I've had for over a decade, I found a mimeo copy of a letter she wrote to friends in 1968, when I was 9 months old and we were living in the Netherlands. It was a beautiful treasure that I don't remember ever reading or knowing about before... maybe I'll scan or type it in to share here in the future.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Randomday and the Final Final

I am grading my last batch of final exams, ever. I might be tempted to feel a bit melancholy, were it not for my aching neck and the fact that the difference between the ideal and the actual is so vast.

Sentence translation, where I am currently stalled:

e.g. Christus, "Nemo servus," inquit, "potest duobus dominis servire."
(Christ said, "No slave can serve two masters.")
Student writes: Christ said, "Serve no one, but serve the Lord double."

e.g. Omnis, qui diligit, ex Deo natus est, et cognoscit Deum.
(Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God.)
Student writes: He said to all, God is out of nothing, yet God knows all.

Sixteen years is enough; someone else can do it now, and I wish them very good success with it. Shortly I will regroup my nerves and soldier on, deducting a point for every wrong word, verbs and verbals count double, but squeezing in as much grace as I can manage. I do love my students, but sixteen years of middle school is enough. They will all be civilized by 10th grade for sure. I hope by then I've recovered what's left of my health.

Tertia is away at her school play. It's a student-written production, incorporating high school theater students, time travel, and Shakespeare. We saw it last night and it was a hoot. Tertia's role is small but she plays it with heart. That's pretty much her in a nutshell.

On the subject of things I should probably have emphasized more carefully with my special needs daughter, the other day she was walking home from play practice and I picked her up on the way. She had a Dutch Bros straw cup with a watery substance that she was drinking from. I asked her about it. "I just found it," she replied. I may have panicked slightly at this point. She had found it, less than half full of something she said was lemonade, on the box where the button for the crosswalk was. And it was a hot day, and she was thirsty, so... Well, we are counting on her guardian angels for this one, and I think she knows not to do that again.

Tuesday on the way to school the "change battery" indicator blinked on. So on the way home from school I took it to the dealership where they diagnosed that yes, the battery was failing. Fortunately the dealership is a short walk from Barnes and Noble, so I spent a pleasant hour and a half getting lunch at their cafe and reading. Who knew going to the dealership for unexpected work could be so...refreshing?

We are having a heat wave, with temperatures almost reaching 100 today. A few days ago on our walk, Steve and I had some ripe cherries, and then even found some early ripe blackberries. When inside temps go over 80 I start melting and asking for the AC. And I'm significantly less ambitious to do tedious work like word-by-word translation corrections. Three more pages of those to go, and then the sayings and mythology matching questions. I'm going to finish making a pitcher of mint tea and eat some raspberries before tackling it again. Or maybe even put it off until Monday.

For a few short weeks, we had all family members at home; Peter is off doing his 2 weeks training with his unit now, but will be back after that. This will probably be the last summer with all family members around. Daniel is off to Washington D.C. in the fall for an internship. Right now, he and Steve and Quarta are playing Minecraft. Quarta has a Chicken Run style enterprise, with chickens laying eggs that drop to a holding pen, where they hatch and grow until they are tall enough to get cooked by the lava blocks just above them, providing her an endless supply of "cooked chicken." In real life today, she baked a giant, pizza-sized chocolate chip cookie.

Tertia is now back from her performance, where she received a very pretty pink and white rose from a fellow cast member.

Well, I have randomly blogged my way to the point where it's too dark to grade finals with natural light, and so I might just finish one last page and read in bed instead.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Lazy Blogger's Garden Tour, Part 3

So, I think I've established this year that I'm a lazy blogger, and after this final installment of my series you'll agree that I'm a lazy gardener, too. I favor herbs and pretty flowers that are hard to kill, and that spread easily, and don't usually die of neglect in the hot and dry stretches of summer. The key to my "success," such as it is, is wise choice of climate. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where it's cool and rains a lot. If you can limit the slug infestations, you're pretty much home free with this philosophy.
Case in point: Nigella Damascena, also known as Love-in-a-Mist. We dumped a bunch of seeds by the raspberry patch a few years ago, and they have thrived.
 Lobelia, one of our favorite annuals.
 Lobelia again; Steve bought these this year. We don't plant a lot of annuals normally, but there are some exceptions.
 California Poppies, going strong in the sunny garden behind the garage. There are also some wallflowers in the background and plenty of Lemon Balm mixed in.  All of these are completely naturalized in this spot.
Hardy Geraniums; they have been in our front flower bed since the previous owners moved out 17 years ago. I guess that makes them hardy.
 Here's a little-known gem of a flower; Rose Campion, which has fuzzy silver leaves and those extremely hot-pink flowers; it reseeds itself from year to year. It can get a bit scraggly looking toward the middle or end of June, but it's just a charming flower.
 My front porch planter with a bicolor ivy geranium and a sweet potato vine. My front porch is another example of when I like to buy a few annuals.
 Lithodora, bought this year from the Walmart plant section. I think it is a newer variety of Lithodora, because the older kind is monochrome blue:
Very tiny flowers but a beautiful little blue treat in the front rock garden by the fence.
 Speaking of little blue flowers, here are some remnants of the Veronica blooms.
 The Clematis is just now blooming on the fence. Steve has been busy over the last week, painting pickets and replacing the parts of the fence that were smashed by vandals after Christmas.
 Here you have our south-side bed in not very great order, but a case in point for the lazy gardeners; parsley, nigella, rose campion, forget-me-nots, daffodils, and probably some lemon balm all mixed together.
And the golden raspberries, just coming into season. Life is good!