Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Political Tuesdays - The Year We Became Tribal

Trigger warning: I will be talking about 2016 politics in this post. I will not use foul language myself but I link to videos where Democratic operatives do. And I'm distressed enough about the election that I'm rambling a bit, so this is long and snarky. 

This past week I was finally driven to Twitter. I must admit, it's perky on the dark side, like a vast amphitheater classroom of ADHD students lobbing one-liners to celebrate the downfall of civilization. I felt quite at home, especially after adding RogueClassicist, MobyDick and Shakespeare to my feed. It's a better way of keeping up with the multiplex of October surprises than CNN or Facebook, and probably more accurate. For example, I found the epic Tweetstorm of Marybeth Glenn within my first day on Twitter, and found myself wishing I had written it.

Free the Delegates is actively pursuing parliamentarian efforts to remove Trump as nominee:

I know and respect Thomas Balch, and signed the petition without hesitation.

And today, links to the undercover videos of Democratic operatives engaging in dirty politics and of course, dirty language.  and video 2

All of this is fascinating but not exactly relaxing. I think the whole nation is suffering from election fatigue, and both parties have such execrable candidates that we are looking at both of them, deciding that they do not "spark joy," and trying to figure out what third world country we can donate them to. (Strange analogy? You try organizing your wardrobe this year without thinking wistfully of using the same techniques to dispose of unwanted politicians!) Failing that, I'm afraid we're stuck with Hillary. Trump was never going to win. I am more and more convinced he was the ultimate sock puppet candidate, either manipulated into running or intentionally running as a spoiler to ensure Hillary's election. Hillary has always had deep ties to special interests, especially fronts for the corrupt Chinese government. Trump seems to have a similar relationship with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. If either one is elected, American independence suffers.

I've worked on losing campaigns before, but never when there was the added element of shaming via social media. It adds a bit of tribal warfare to dirty-politics-as-usual, and I can't help feeling that the American people are the losers. I don't see anyone emerging as a strong leader in this election cycle. Maybe that's a good thing, and maybe we need to be able to mock our Presidents rather than worship them. But I'm genuinely fearful that the next President will face challenges of a WWIII kind, and I don't see Clinton as wise and decent enough to handle them. And certainly, the American people are so fragmented over whatever slogan the most recent mob has whipped up that we have lost the ability to unite when unity is needed.

Also in the never-before category: I have a fairly simple, ethical rubric for choosing candidates, although up until this year it was pretty rudimentary. I voted for the pro-life candidate, which was almost always the Republican. (Pro-life Democrats went extinct at the national level in approximately 1988). If the candidate was, as I occasionally suspected, not terribly pro-life, I still voted Republican as the best way of bundling my vote's power with a larger group. I may not have supported the eventual nominee of my party in the primaries, but by the convention I was always convinced that this was a man who at least loved America and was committed to doing his best to govern in a wise way. But this year, I can't trust the nominee of my own party to be decent and sane... let alone keep his word about appointing pro-life judges. It's never happened before, but I have a very bad feeling about this... as if Trump is the Death Star of the Republican party... and there has never been a moment when I've felt the least bit that I could overcome that to vote for him. Sure, I sympathize with my fellow party members who feel differently, and I respect their right to vote their conscience, as all of us must do. I think it's a little as described in this essay. I do not blame anyone for following his or her conscience. But if it's truly a choice between two evils, say Tiberius or Nero, which is worse? In this election, I honestly can't tell... competent but utterly corrupt and cruel, or insanely narcissistic, given to bullying and sexual harassment and uninterested in anything but self? I choose neither, with the slim and vanishing hope that the GOP might replace Trump and lose with  honor rather than dishonor, or that Evan McMullin might force the election to the House. It's sad... like this parable.

So here's my analogy. I'm boiling mad at the inept leadership of the RNC that Reince Priebus has given. There were any number of chances to stop Trump: best would have been at the very beginning: "Sorry, Mr. Trump, but you haven't agreed to release your tax forms and agree to an investigation into your past to see if there are any scandals lurking there. You also don't agree with the Republican platform on a minimum of 75% of the published platform. You can't run as a Republican." Or at the convention: "Yes, grassroots Republicans DO have a say in the process, and we would never dream of shutting them out in the hopes of presenting a false front of lockstep unity behind this candidate that two thirds of the party can't stand." Now that those who have been #neverTrump all along have many occasions to say "I told you so" (but Priebus is still not listening), I feel like a door-to-door salesman (Trump oil?) has barged into my house and is now insisting he owns the place. Would you not be willing to fight tooth and nail against such an incursion? I've imagined it with other institutions I care about and helped to build up... the school I taught at for 16 years... say Kim Kardashian barged in and declared herself headmistress? Or my small OPC church... say the Hari Krishnas from down the street moved in and declared themselves the legal residents and owners. I can't imagine anyone involved in leadership at any institution just rolling over and playing dead in similar circumstances. If the GOP goes down in disgrace, Trump just goes back to living in a tower with his name on it, and the alt-right, which I'd never even heard of before this spring, becomes the dominant faction in what's left of the party. I want Priebus to own his failure to protect us all from the Trump Trainwreck.

No bellyaching about dirty tricks and rigged elections. You gave them the advantage by not protecting your grassroots. They would have steered you better. Indeed, they tried and you ignored them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


For the first time in many months, maybe the first time all year, I'm linking up to Ginny's Yarn-Along, which is a great way to be inspired by other knitters' work and show and tell your own. I have not been knitting as much as I like this year, although it's still more than I've been sewing and quilting. I'm hoping that, with Fall weather here and having more free time since I'm not teaching anymore, I'll be able to crash out of my knitting slump and enjoy some creativity. So first off, here are the socks for Steve that I finished on Monday:
 The yarn is Online Supersocke, which I've never used before. It's a colorway that's supposed to make you think of butterflies, and it's a little splitty but a nice sturdy yarn to work with. I finished up the super-stretchy bind-off Monday evening while watching the last episode of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell with Steve. This is a book I read years back and it was fun to see it visualized. Now I want to read the book again.

Yesterday was my birthday (It's Hip to Be Square is my theme song for the year). But since I was born in Europe, I've always been able to take advantage of the time zone difference. Steve made my birthday Pad Thai Monday night, right before I had to dash off to volleyball class with Quarta, and then we relaxed in front of the TV for the rest of the evening. On my birthday proper, I decided to go for broke and cast on TWO pairs of socks in one day. I'm all about overcommitment. On the left is the toe-up start of Stashbuster Spirals, my favorite scrap sock yarn pattern. And on the right, another pattern I've made before, but this time I'm following the directions and knitting them top-down. Hermione's Everyday Socks in Three Irish Girls. I would have made more progress if I hadn't also looked up how to do a Twisted German Cast-on. So now I have projects for each of my two sock bags, and I just need to resurrect and finish some long-time hibernating projects on a larger scale. And maybe really start that T-Yarn rug I'm planning.
For the rest of my birthday, Steve and I left the girls to eat macaroni and we went out to Cactus Ya-Ya, a Mexican/fusion restaurant I hadn't been to in about 10 years. I had Baja fish tacos. Yum. And leftover ice cream cake when we came back home, and watched episode 2 of Designated Survivor. I'm ready for some binge-TV watching and knitting.

But lest you think I haven't been reading anything, my most recent books list follows: I've finished Spark Joy by Marie Kondo, The Survivor by Kyle Mills/Vince Flynn; currently working on SPQR by Mary Beard, The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan, Apollo: the Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, Full Force and Effect by Mark Greaney/Tom Clancy. And my Latin project continues, as I investigate deponent and defective verbs for my latest installment in my completely unofficial series on the Duolingo forum. I still haven't found a better textbook for learners than Henle, and I'm aiming to work through the 3rd and 4th books of that while continuing free lessons. Yep, retirement is great so far. I might even get my house clean and tidy. And knit my entire queue. Just kidding about one of those.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

That Soup Recipe from Sunday

Full disclosure, this is NOT a picture  of the soup I made for Sunday's fellowship dinner. I never thought to take a picture of that until it was all gone and people were asking for the recipe. This is a picture of a Pumpkin and Mustard Greens Colcannon Soup I made five years ago, and it looks similar to what I made Sunday. So I guess you would call this picture a... wait for it... stock photo (soup chef's pun there).

Let's call this one "October 2 Soup" or "Fall Vegetable Potage" or just "That Soup." I'm just not getting the clever naming vibe today. It was the result of a need to make a soup for the church dinner and the knowledge of what I had a lot of in the freezer and the vegetable bin. Here's my recipe. All information is approximate and from memory.

2-3 T butter
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T minced rosemary
1 clunk chicken stock (about 1 quart)
3-4 C pumpkin puree (mine was frozen in a quart bag)
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 turnips, peeled and diced
2-3 C cauliflower, chopped
3-4 C frozen chopped mixed greens (or 6-8 C fresh)

Saute onions and garlic in butter; add rosemary. Add the stock (Peter invented the term "clunk" in his preschool recipe book for Mother's day, I presume because of the sound a container of frozen stock makes when it falls into the pan... and by the way, Peter's recipe for Potato Soup was actually pretty good, even at age 4) and then pumpkin, potatoes, turnips and cauliflower. Simmer until all vegetables are tender, then puree, either with an immersion blender or in batches in the blender. Add mixed greens (mine were probably beet, turnip, mustard, and Swiss chard, and I used kitchen shears to snip them down to more bite-size).  Transfer to crockpot. Add liquid to reach soup consistency, if needed (I had to add about 1 C water and then I added about 2 C milk. You could certainly use cream if you wanted it richer). Season to taste and cook on low until hot and ready to serve.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Randomday; Housekeeping, Substitute Teaching and Parties, Oh My!

 I like to have a clean house, but cleaning large spaces, like entire living rooms, overwhelms me. So I tackled the tall storage cupboard in the kitchen a week ago... the one that I hadn't touched in about 6 years. At the top are all the stamp collecting hobby supplies.
 If you save all the important papers long enough because you don't want to have to file them, they become unimportant and you can toss them. Genius! Now, as originally intended, there is a shelf for the stuff of each person still at home, and a place to charge our electronics, and a place for household organization, and I'm stowing some of my Latin stuff there too. I found Steve's lost headphones too, hiding in plain sight. If only all of my organizing jobs could be broken down into such relatively small bites.
 And here are some Latin cards, more than fifty years old. I thought I recognized my Dad's handwriting, but he had always pretended to be no good with languages and have a terrible memory. Which, I guess, is why he felt the need to make flash cards. I had had them with my Latin supplies all these years but never had time to organize them when I was actually teaching, but it was a fun way to spend a few days now that I'm not teaching. Here's how I organize my flash cards for Latin: alphabetically by category, and the categories are: 1st declension nouns, 2nd declension masculine, 2nd declension neuter, 3rd declension masculine/feminine, 3rd declension neuter, 4th declension, 5th declension, oddball nouns; 1st/2nd declension adjectives, 3rd declension adjectives; pronouns (my Dad had made cards for every pronoun, so I just alphabetized them); 1st conjugation verbs, 1st conjugation deponents, 2nd conjugation verbs, 2nd conjugation deponents, 3rd conjugation verbs, 3rd conjugation deponents, 4th conjugation verbs, 4th conjugation deponents, irregular verbs, special verbal constructions; adverbs, conjunctions, prepositions. As I have told my students countless times, it all breaks down into Nounland and Verbland, and if you organize yourself and review your vocabulary, perhaps following my 3x5 rule (3x per week, 5 minutes at a time), the greater part of your battle will have been won. Now I have a neatly organized cigar box full of Latin flash cards with a theological emphasis. Again, a small container to organize, but it took quite a bit longer than the cupboard.

Oh yes, and I also defrosted and cleaned the fridge last week. Unfortunately the icemaker is no longer working despite several attempts to reset it. If I can find a small, enclosed area to clean a few times every week, I might actually be able to have a clean house for the first time in years!

I substitute taught the 3-5th grades for three days this week. I had forgotten what the younger kids are like. I had fun with them and some of the 3rd grade girls even gave me hugs! Middle schoolers never do that. Even so, the sheer quantity of small bodies for which I was resonsible for three hours each day made me utterly exhausted when I came home, and each day I had to have a nap. This confirms two things for me: this was the right time to retire and not have to teach every day, and I am one of those people that Donald Trump would condemn as having "not enough stamina."

The 5th grade had some sentences in their assignment like "Puellae pueros amant." And this prompted the quickest students among the girls to gasp and say "ooh, gross!" I told them they could use "like" to translate it instead of "love." And one said, "But that's even worse!" I had forgotten what 5th grade is like.
Tertia's 17th birthday party was a success last night, I think. We sent her off to school with invitations enough for both special ed classes and a few extra. It was charming that some of her friends who aren't in special ed came, had lovely manners, and played Uno and Apples to Apples with her. Because mothers worry about these things, and it's nice to see she has genuinely nice friends of all abilities. We had Little Caesar's pizza and fancy cupcakes, and tomorrow I need to give her a lesson in how to write thank-you notes. Quarta pitched in to make the games flow nicely, and she's going to help her sister put together a costume for "fandom day" on Monday, which kicks off spirit week at River.

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.