Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Courtesy is ...

When a toilet seat you've purchased two weeks ago breaks when you sit on it, it's polite to clean it before you return it to the point of purchase.

At least wipe off the drippy stuff and the little curly hair.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mother, Son

I'm sicker today, with a long work week ahead.  Wish me luck.  The good news is that the rest of the fam is getting better.

The boy was particularly sick last night.  I stayed up, watching while he slept.  I haven't been that worried about him, or felt the need to do that, since he was about half his current size.  I expect as he goes out into the dangerous world, I'll worry about him even more.  A rational part of me understands that any sense of safety and security I feel or feel that he has while he's in our house is false security.  Still, it's a peaceful feeling, and one I'm sure I'll miss when he leaves home.

At the same time I'm excited to see what he does with his life when he's completely on his own.  This is the one area that I think he worries more than me--I think he fears he'll flounder.

I think he'll be brilliant.  Not immediately.  Even the brightest, most motivated of us had to start with uncertainty, with little or no experience, with little or no confidence.  I know I judged my own first steps into the 'real world' really harshly, comparing myself endlessly to what my parents had achieved during the various stages of their lives.  Even the way they started out, with little or nothing, left me in awe, because they escaped Communism and survived in a nation without a good grasp of English, never mind employment qualifications.

The boy has to jump some hurdles I never had to face at his age.  I think, if anything, that'll make him a better, stronger person than me in the long run.  And that's a great thing.  My DH and I had always hoped that our kids would be stronger, faster, smarter, and more adaptable than we are.  I don't think a person like that can be patched together with genetics and upbringing (though those things help.)  I think a person has to make themselves, to become the adults that they hope to be.

That's all fine and good, but last night, watching his quick, shallow breaths as he slept uneasily with a hard fever, I wanted to protect, and help, and shelter him.  That won't ever go away.  He'll always be my son.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Bright Side

I'm at the library doing writing research-y kind of stuff. Coming down with a cold. Feeling disheartened about the whole marketing thing. But I love to write. I will always love to write.

I finished writing a short story yesterday and it felt great. I was all smiles all over the house, practically farting happy faces that floated around like soap bubbles.

It's a beautiful day, and I have time to write this evening. Getting snurky and my throat hurts? So what. Marketing is hard? Tough. I can make myself some tea, settle on the bed and immerse myself in story.

I have a very good life.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Business of Work

The house has been needing an overhaul for a long time, and we've finally been able to put some serious work into it.  The boy is prepping my office for reconstruction. I've been refinishing some of our badly-neglected woodwork like the window seat and windowsills.  The girl and my DH are keeping the rest of the chores up while this happens.

I've been trying to introduce the boy to the concept of an eight hour work day.  He hasn't gotten it yet.  Fortunately, I've got three days off in a row next week, so I'll be able to supervise more realistically--letting him know when his breaks and lunch fit in, helping him stay on task without needing a step-by-step breakdown, helping him learn how to be self-directive and learning to pay attention to details.  He's already getting better.  Areas I've asked him to clean out have needed only a little touch-up.  Only one spot really needed serious work after he'd cleaned it, but that was only because he didn't listen to instructions (using chemicals instead of clean water to prep an area for refinishing, so I had to wash it again.)

He's growing up fast, and I think he'll start to realize his own progress and grow even faster when he learns how to learn.  

This is a really rewarding time to be a parent.  I'd like to take pride in creating a functional human being, but I can't take credit for very much except some rudimentary teaching, but even that ... in so many ways, he's created himself.  I just gave him a few materials, and away he went.  
If only the house could clean itself over time ... hmm.  That gives me a story idea.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Squash Heaven

I made a yummy soup today because I had a bunch of squash of reasonable size in my garden.  Finally!
Here's the recipe.  Warning--these are Kami-style instructions.  I don't usually measure very much.  

Kami's Squash & Potato Soup

4-6 average summer squash
4 medium potatoes
3 tbsp butter
about 3 tbsp flour
2 cups milk (at least 1 percent though I guess it might turn out okay with skim--2 percent or whole will make a richer soup)
a dollop (a tsp or tbsp) of olive oil (optional)
dill, salt, pepper and garlic to taste
optional: 1-2 dashes each cumin, ground allspice, ginger
optional: grated cheddar cheese, bacon bits and/or sour cream (or yogurt) for garnish

In a medium or large sauce pot, roughly cut up the squash and potatoes, add water until they're just barely covered.  (Make sure you have plenty of room to add the milk/roux later--if you don't, use a larger sauce pot.)  Bring to boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Add olive oil if you want, salt and pepper.  Simmer until potatoes are soft.  (Do not drain the water!  It's part of the soup.)  

In a small sauce pot (must hold at least 2 cups liquid comfortably!) melt the butter.  Add flour in small amounts until there's a somewhat crumbly texture when stirred, but it settles into a molten puddle after a moment.  If you add too much flour, add a small amount of butter, but don't stress about the texture too much--it's not terribly important.  Cook over low heat until the flour begins to brown.  (For more detailed instructions, look up roux in cookbooks.)  The scent should be rich, like buttery biscuits.  Remove from heat.  While stirring, add the milk, and then return to heat and turn up to medium.  If there are large lumps, use a whisk to break them up.  Bring slowly to a boil, stirring constantly (as you would making pudding on the stove--avoid letting a bunch thicken at the bottom because it'll start to brown and then burn.)  The milk/roux mix should reach peak thickness when it starts to bubble.  

Add the thickened milk/roux to the water/squash and potatoes and stir.  Since both are hot, the soup should remain at or quickly return to a simmer.  Add dill, garlic, and more salt and pepper.  You may use the optional seasonings instead, or in addition to the dill and garlic.  Taste.  The soup may require more salt than you anticipate because of the unseasoned roux, but don't give in to temptation and add a whole bunch of salt at once.  Come into the flavor a pinch or two at a time, and be sure to cleanse your palate--that much tasting can wear your tongue out and you can make this much too salty on accident.  (One fix for salty soup is to add more potatoes --it's best to let the soup cool on the side, boil the extra potatoes until they're soft, drain, and then add them in.)

Garnish with cheese and/or bacon bits and/or sour cream and/or yogurt.  

Other fine touches/variations:  
You can brown some onion, then add the potatoes and summer squash to the hot pan and let them mingle for a few minutes before adding the water.  This works nicely with celery as well, and celery/onion combo.
Paprika, sour cream and fresh chives make a very dressy garnish.
You can substitute the potatoes with cauliflower for a really nice change of texture and taste.
Celery salt works nicely in this soup too.
Fattening addition--substitute some of the milk with a little heavy cream.

Note:  The roux can take a while to make.  By the time it's done, the potatoes and squash should start to fall apart nicely, leaving only small chunks by the time you combine them with the roux/milk.  I think the chunks are wonderful, but if you want, you could easily turn this into a smooth puree.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Long days, and darkness comes sooner

We had a big day today, the boy, the girl and I.  At the end it doesn't seem like that much, but we're all pooped.  We barely got through it all--as the season turns the days grow noticeably shorter.  It already smells like autumn.

We got a shovel, bought three automotive belts on two trips (and returned two,) got a toilet part, and a shovel.

We installed the correct belt (finally) on the rototiller so that I could prep for leeks and kohlrabi (I know, I know, I'm about a month late.)  I managed to condition soil in a 20'x20' plot, which is a nice start, before it got too dark to work.  
I got the part into the toilet so that we'll have no more ghost flushes several times an hour.  Ah, silence.
And the boy and I cut down a not-insubstantial tree, both to thin our woods (for health, the tree was sick) and for firewood.  I'll mark more trees for thinning/firewood sometime in the next few days, with strict instructions not to cut them down w/o my supervision (with cell phone in hand in case there's an accident.)  One that I'm hesitating on has dead tips of branches all over it and dropped all around it on the ground, but it appears to be recovering.  It's a very nice-sized tree, so I would hate to lose it, but if in infects the others, well, I'll be a lot more sad.  I'll try to discover what ails it, but these things are notoriously tough to do.

Tomorrow will be another long day of hard labor, and then in the evening, writing!  But now, to bed, and my half-hour of reading.  My latest book:  How Not to Write a Novel.  I borrowed it from the library, and I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Your Police Force and You

I had an interesting discussion with a coworker of mine yesterday that got me thinking.

I believe that high school children should be taught:

About arrest and powers of arrest--not just mentioned, but they should be tested on it.
About rights and responsibilities while communicating with police officers--everything from a meeting them on the street to arrest.  Not just Miranda rights stuff, but practical advice and steps they can take to avoid injury and legal issues.
About police work, especially things like duty-to-act, use of force, and securing an area that may not be intuitively obvious, and will affect what will happen to you when police are on the scene.
And especially about personal safety when in a situation where there are police officers called to the scene.

I don't care about creating obedient little citizens who do everything a police officer says.  I don't think anyone wants that.  But I do care about people understanding enough about what police work is about to handle themselves--not just from the rights/responsibility standpoint, but safety.  I don't expect the classes to teach how to be safe in every situation where a uniform appears, but a few added percentage points on the grand scale of survivability would be nice.  After all, we're not perfectly safe from predatory humans, or car accidents--but self-defense awareness and defensive driving will give you an edge.

This is in response to an article about a man who was shot by police.  Regardless of whether this is deemed a 'good shoot' or not or whether he believed the officer was a bad guy disguised as a policeman or not ... the man is dead.

 I want my kids, and all kids, to have all the information they need to make an informed choice.  Maybe they will make the same choices, and be at risk from the people sworn to protect them, even die because of bad policing or because a bad guy impersonated a police officer.  But I want them to have choices--real choices, options, knowledge, and an understanding of the consequences of the choices they make.  I don't want them to die at the hands of a good police officer simply because they didn't understand how policing works, or chose to believe in a fantasy where all cops are bad ...

Which reminds me of an aside.  There are people who seem to believe that they have unlimited rights on their own property, including using a gun to warn off a police officer who is trespassing on their property.  (I'm not saying that this is what happened, though many commentators seem convinced that the pastor had every right to carry and even draw a gun on a police officer because he was on his property.)  Of course we don't have unlimited rights on our own property.  Child abuse, spousal abuse, kidnapping, rape, torture ...   We don't have the right to do anything we want in our own homes, and police have to be able to deal with investigating disturbances somehow while infringing on as few rights as possible.  That interplay is not as simple as some people would want you to believe.  They may not understand, or not want to understand why situations like this aren't easy to judge, even if we knew exactly what happened.  I don't believe anyone, including the officer involved, knows (and no one may ever know) what went wrong.  

Anyway, it's not too hard to understand why education is so crucial.  When someone collapses in cardiac arrest, are you more likely to be able to perform CPR when you've already learned how to do it, or, not knowing CPR, will you be able to do it while the 911 dispatcher tries to explain it to you on speakerphone?  It's not rocket science, but ...

When you're scared or angry, you usually can't choose, or learn, or even think very well.  You react.  The best thing to do is to have your choices already made--to know in advance what to do.  Hopefully, when the adrenaline is flowing, and all you can hear is the rushing in your ears, you'll remember your class lessons.

When you're pulled over for a traffic stop, do you:
A. Get your driver's license and registration out.
B. Get out of the car and approach the officer.
C. Get out your gun or other weapons so that they're in plain sight.  Be sure to wave them around so the officer sees them, and refuse to cooperate until you see an official badge and picture ID.
D. All of the above ...