Saturday, September 24, 2016

Buddy Walk, 2016

I took Tertia to the Portland Buddy Walk today. We've been going there for several years and she always enjoys it. It was a little subdued for her today because she has a cold. I was a little nervous today because the Burlington mall shooter is still at large and could have decided to come south and shoot up a bunch of peaceful people wearing orange shirts, but thankfully did not. (Moms worry about these things. They really do, even though they know how silly it is. I understand now so much better than when I was 17. It's been a tough year to be a mom, all over the world. Maybe it always is.)
But Wonder Woman was there to protect us, plus Portland Fire and Police officers. So we were good!
This is the band they had this year. Costumes were all white and silver, with lots of spandex, even the guys. It was very Portland.
Stormtroopers also seemed to be on patrol in the interest of public safety. And the speaker was Megan from "Born this Way", which I have only seen 2 episodes of, ever, but I would like to binge-watch it if I could.
 It is not often you see Storm Troopers using hula-hoops.
He has to roll it around his wrist because I assume his armor doesn't let him wiggle his hips enough. But that would be fun to watch. Speaking of wiggling hips, the MC, Tony Starlight, had a fun take on "I can't stop this feeling anymore." It was "I can't get these jeans on anymore," and sang of the pitfalls and perils of middle-aged spread... maybe you had to be there. I found it amusing.
You have to love friendly pirates who let you borrow their hat for the photo. Say "Arrr!"

Saturday, September 17, 2016


Randomday... go! (15 minutes timed blogging)

 Cleaning the floor last week, I also swept out the storage cupboards in the mudroom and paired up all the men's shoes I could find there. I posted this picture on Facebook but without much success. Steve has claimed E, I've thrown out H (which had a hole in the sole), and still waiting to hear from the boys about whose is whose. I'm just going to make my best guess and dump them in their rooms, I guess.
 Sheet pan dinners are in, and this one looked pretty when I was putting it into the oven last Sunday, so I took this picture. Olive, veggies and garden herbs with a little salt and pepper, added to the frozen chicken breasts. It was good with brown rice and lentils, green beans, and a big salad.
Quarta's first day of 9th grade on Monday. That was the day my sister in Virginia scared the whole family by having a heart attack (apparently not a classic heart attack, but a coronary artery spasm). I was once again relieved not to be teaching, and it has continued that way this week. My sister is doing fine and recovering; I believe her prognosis is pretty good. Quarta has accomplished a lot in her first week; I've accomplished virtually nothing in my first week of retirement.

The rains have started today (typical Northwest, once school starts, Saturdays are rainy days and all the weekdays in September and often October are beautiful!) Quarta has a "barn dance" this evening and thus we can't watch Dr. Who, but Steve and I may watch the second episode of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell if video streaming works in a reasonably timely way.

I have been knitting on some socks for Steve... and I don't think I've ever taken a picture of them. I'll aim to get back to documenting my life a bit better on this blog, and aim for some actual work progress photos next time.

Monday, September 12, 2016

An Anniversary Trip

Today is the first day of school; it's also the first first day of school in the last sixteen years that I haven't been teaching. It feels great... and weird. I have a half-empty nest; both boys are launched, more or less, and I may not see them for a matter of months. My youngest is in her first year of high school. My teaching career spanned a very full 16 years; that's a third of my life. My pregnancy with Quarta was during my second year of teaching. So to cope with the disorientation and a bit of melancholy at not being in the thick of the whirlwind of teaching, here is my retrospective on the trip I took out to meet up with Steve and see Daniel off on his internship, over Labor Day weekend... which just happened to be Steve and my 24th anniversary. That's half of my life. I just now realized that. I guess one of the benefits of being retired is that you finally have time to do the math.

Bei-Bei the baby (well 1-year-old) panda eating a stick of bamboo. While Steve and Daniel drove out to the East Coast starting on Monday of that week, I flew out early Friday morning. After a very sound sleep on a comfortable hotel bed, we took a trip to the National Zoo on Saturday. I hadn't been there in decades, possibly since the early 80's, but I may have gone in the early 90's when I lived in the area. Daniel had never been. It was even better than I remembered... back then the pandas had never cooperated with my viewing time and all I ever saw of them was Hsing-Hsing's back as he slept. This is obviously a new and promising era in the saga of the National Zoo pandas, and the experience of her supreme cuteness (she also gobbled down an apple as we watched) may have been worth the price of the trip right there.
And I think this is Bei-Bei's older sister, Bao-Bao, playing and tumbling over the decor in her den.
Also high in the cute-factor is this Fennec Fox. You know, it was really fun to go to the zoo and see the beautiful and cute and fascinating animals, and the cute and ornery and fascinating kids, and not be the least bit stressed about the kids. I could get into this idea of not having to be the responsible adult all the time.

Most of our meals were in and around the Mosaic District in Merrifield, not far from the Dunn Loring Metro station and walking distance from our hotel. This brand new and very posh shopping area would have been unimaginable in the days when I was commuting daily from Dunn Loring. The Metro stop itself was only recognizable after you got really close and saw the entrance; the parking structure was not there 25 years ago at all, and only two buildings that had been in the general vicinity looked familiar at all... it was certainly not convenient to anyplace trendy. Steve had the bizarre experience of going by the address of the house he had lived in before we were married and seeing that it had been torn down and two new houses built on its lot.

Sunday, we attended McLean Presbyterian Church, which was where Steve and I met and were married, and where Daniel will be doing his internship. The church has changed a lot since then, but the essentials are the same, and the people have that lovely Virginia gentillesse that may strike a cynical newcomer as too good to be true... but it's legitimate. Interesting ironies of church life abound; Daniel's work experience supervisor is an old friend who led singing and played guitar back in our day; his host family are sweet people - he was the organist at our wedding and she was in choir with me. They also found a link I wasn't expecting; he had been on a missions trip to Chile with our good friend and favorite handyman, Scott Janku, who has made countless improvements to this old house. And it was great to reconnect with those friends who weren't out of town for the weekend.

We went to the National Cathedral, hoping to hear a choral service, but it had been cancelled, so we just enjoyed a leisurely tour of the stained glass windows and the gardens. Then we headed up to Fourth Presbyterian, where Steve grew up, for the evening service. Rob Norris, although retired as head pastor, happened to be preaching and it was a treat to hear him. Steve also connected with former Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders, including a gentleman who's been leading church youth since the 1950's.

Monday, our actual anniversary, Daniel left early to head down to Norfolk for a friend's wedding. That left Steve and me to wear our feet out (or maybe it was just my feet that weren't up to it) by going all over the American Indian museum and the American Art Museum/ National Portrait Gallery. There is a mezzanine level where they have "intermediate storage" of works, all crowded together and not so carefully curated, that might be in long-term storage (I'm thinking the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark). We ended up going top to bottom and spent the bulk of our time on the 3rd floor and mezzanine, recently restored to its Civil War era grandeur (we're told it was the site of Lincoln's 2nd innaugural ball). But we dutifully saw almost everything that we could.
Tuesday morning we had time to pay a visit to Mount Vernon with Daniel. It was a lovely day and a good time to benefit from all the historic presenters... they know their stuff and it's always nice to let them teach you. The house is impressive (I particularly like the bas-relief of G.W. as Cincinnatus in the study) and the farm and gardens are great to wander through. I particularly appreciated this prayer of George Washington, which was displayed by his tomb: George Washington's Prayer for his Country. We wouldn't be doing half bad even in this current political climate if we took this seriously. We ate at the restaurant on-site, and then it was time for Daniel to drop us off at Reagan National Airport and continue on to his retreat center for the Capital Fellows program. Our flight left after 5 Eastern time and we got back to PDX just a little after 8.

I intended to write this up quickly as a way to fill time this morning, but it ended up taking all day, off and on. An anxious day with concerns about my sister's health, but I think ending on a mostly positive note. I leave you with our group selfie as we were waiting to enter Mount Vernon.

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: