Friday, August 31, 2012

Blue Moon

I like to look at the moon whenever it is bright, whether it is full or not. Tonight it will be full, for the second time this month, a phenomenon known to astronomers as a blue moon.


It’s not actually blue. After reading about it, it’s apparently just something that happens once every two and a half years or so. At first, I thought it was a bit silly to be going on and on about this, because obviously whatever’s going on in the sky isn’t referencing the human-imposed measurement of time. It just happens to be doing what it’s doing, and since August is a long month, it just happens to be waxing toward a full moon again while it still happens to be August.


But what about lunar calendars? In the solar calendar (the one we follow is called the Gregorian calendar, named for Pope Gregory XIII, who ordered the tweaking of the previously used solar calender named for Roman emperor Julius Caesar), our months have 31, 30, or 28 days apiece, and every four years we add one day to our year, and call it a Leap Year. Lunar calendars (such as the Hebrew calendar or the Buddhist calendar) measure their months by the moon and by the seasons. Twelve moons make one year, three moons per season. 

But this particular astronomical occurrence is a thirteenth moon, which adds an extra month to a lunar year.


Since many different cultures used a lunar calendar before changing to a solar calendar, there are many different ways to deal with the extra “leap” moon in a year that had thirteen instead of twelve. Some cultures watched the seasons and others the stars to determine when this leap month should be inserted. One group of First Nations peoples living in what is now Canada simply began their year when the salmon spawned and counted the time for ten months, then left the time that followed uncounted, until the salmon spawned again.


Despite the name, a “blue moon” is not actually blue. It’s still the moon. It doesn’t change color just because our man made calendars regard it differently than other full moons. There are times when the moon looks like it is a certain color, but that’s usually because something else is in the way. The moon looks blue most often when smoke, soot, or ash is between us and the moon. The 1883 eruption of Krakatoa blasted enough debris into the sky to make the moon look blue for two years afterward.


So why do we call it blue if it’s not? We can’t say “once every two and a half years or so when there’s thirteen full moons in a year instead of twelve.” But how did it come to be called “blue” in the first place? Like many things in our culture, the reason can be traced back to the Church.


The date for Easter is traditionally the first Sunday after the Northward equinox (or March equinox). On the years when an extra moon appeared, it was up to the Church to tell the people whether the moon was indeed the Easter moon or if Lent would be extended an extra month. They called this extra moon belewe, meaning “betrayer.” I can’t seem to find whether it was called this because it betrayed the hopes of those waiting for Easter to arrive or if it was for some reason named for Judas Iscariot, the Betrayer. Either way, it’s easy to see how it became "blue;" just sound it out: be-le-we. Blue.


We say “once in a blue moon,” but we mean “once in a great while.” The time period is not defined. So maybe the phrase shouldn’t refer to the precisely calculated occurrence of a thirteenth moon in a lunar cycle, but to the less precise occasional obscuring of the moon by dust in the sky.

However we define it and whatever we call it, a full moon shining in the sky is a wonderful thing to behold. Enjoy the moon tonight, no matter what color it is.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's Too Hot to Think of a Title

It’s too hot to write.


The drought the state has been experiencing has led the local government to impose water restrictions for the first time in ten years. The only impact this has on me (since we don’t water the lawn in the first place) is to make me feel guilty when I’m rinsing something in the sink or taking a shower.


To make things, worse, the weather tried to play a terrible trick on us last week. It was gorgeous and cool, and every day either looked like it would rain or did rain, at least for a few minutes. I had the windows open for three or four days, and the air conditioner off.


But all that is over now.


I was very excited for autumn. It was tolerable to sit in the living room, where there’s no air flow, because there was a lovely breeze blowing in through the window.


Today we’re supposed to get record heat.


The laptop is too hot to keep on my lap.


It’s too hot to write.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Ordering of Narnia

One of the first things you do when you get married is to move all your stuff into the same place. So, shortly after my husband and I were united, I set about uniting our book collection. My paltry handful seemed like nothing beside the pile of tomes that he had already acquired. I was arranging the bookshelves by author, matching up which of Tolkien’s and Shakespeare’s works we had duplicates of.


And then I got to C.S. Lewis.


“What’s this?” I asked, putting down the box set of his space trilogy and picking up another boxed set. “The Chronicles of Narnia,” he answered. “But why is it all... wrong?” I gestured at it in confusion, and picked up my own boxed Chronicles to compare. “It’s not wrong, it’s just in a different order,” he corrected me. I paused for a moment and then asserted, “It’s wrong.


In October of 1950, Clive Staples Lewis (“Jack,” to his friends) published a novel for children entitled The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Though he never thought he would write a sequel, in the five years following, he wrote and published six more books that took place in his fictional world of Narnia. The series has sold over one hundred million copies in forty-seven different languages.

People like it.


But like many other things imported to America from Britain, once it got here, the Americans managed to muck it all up. The first American publisher, Macmillan, confused American readers immediately by numbering the books. Since they left them in the original order of publication, in 1994, when Harper Collins got the rights to publish the series, they decided to reorder the books chronologically, based on an excerpt from a letter written by Lewis to an American fan.


Today, we use the word “fan” to indicate when we like something: “I am a fan of The Chronicles of Narnia.” But it’s actually an abbreviation of another word, fanatical, a synonym of “crazy.” As in, “People can get quite fanatical about the order in which the Chronicles of Narnia are read.” From the violence of our arguments, “fanatical” is a pretty appropriate word to use.


Anyone who bought the series in a box set (published by Macmillan) before 1994 asserts that the correct way to enjoy the books is by discovering the lamppost in the wood with Lucy, then delighting in the triumphant return of the Kings and Queens to aid the rebels, then enjoying a journey of exploration to the end of the world, then following the signs to the lost prince, then a flight from Calormen, then world-hopping by way of the Wood Between the Worlds, and finally fighting The Last Battle against those who would mislead the faithful with a false Aslan. Those who bought it after 1994 are convinced that the reader should start with the beginning of the world and proceed in order to the end.


It’s probably pretty easy to see which side of the argument I come down on.


My biggest problem with the chronological order of things is that The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tells the tale of the children’s journeys into Narnia, their efforts to free it from tyranny, and their own time as wise and just rulers; The Horse and His Boy takes place during the golden age of their rule. So in order to read these books chronologically, a reader would have to stop reading in the middle (well, near the end, anyway) of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, read The Horse and His Boy, and then go back and finish the first one.


The second objection that I have is that if you read The Magician’s Nephew (which tells the story of the creation of Narnia and one boy’s interference with it) before The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the mystery of the lamppost is no longer a mystery to you, since you will know exactly where it came from and why it was there. Also, it’s hard to continue reading a series if you don’t enjoy the first book, and since The Magician’s Nephew is my least favorite in the series, I’m always afraid that it will put off someone who has not had a chance to realize what an awesome world Narnia is.


Thirdly, the series in its original published format is already mostly chronological. The first four are in chronological order, and the fifth is a semi-sequel, a story that could only have been written by an author that was very familiar with the world he had created. And lots of series get their origin stories written long after the first book is published. You wouldn’t sit someone down that was completely unfamiliar with Star Wars and make them watch the prequel trilogy first, would you? (For those of you uninformed in the utter failings of George Lucas, doing such a thing would be blasphemous.)


Myself and a friend of mine were having a very intellectual argument about it the other day. It consisted mostly of “I’m right and you’re wrong,” “No, actually, you’re wrong...” Since we weren’t getting anywhere, I decided to bring the argument to a close: “there’s most likely nothing you could say that would convince me of your being correct,” I told her. “So since this isn’t an issue of ‘friendship deal breaker,’ let’s just agree to disagree.” She agreed, and laughed.


Finally, I would like to share a quote from the same letter that C.S. Lewis wrote to the fan who was asking for clarification about the order of the series; a quote that everyone, on either side of the issue, seems to overlook when asserting the author’s desire for the books to be read in whatever order. “The series was not planned beforehand... So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them.”1


Really, the only thing that truly matters is that people enjoy them. The Chronicles of Narnia is a wonderful series for people of any age. If you haven’t read it, do. Just don’t cheat and think that watching the movies is good enough. Now, that’s an argument in which, I think, every Narnia fan would come down on the same side.


1 Dorsett, Lyle; Marjorie Lamp Mead (ed.) (1995) C. S. Lewis: Letters to Children. Touchstone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Calling In

I always sort of envy my husband when he doesn’t feel well. Not because I like to be sick, but because he has the ability to do what he needs to to feel better again. There’s no way I can just make a phone call to tell my superiors that I’m not coming in and then roll back into bed to sleep again.

When I worked at my first job, it was always a pain to be sick when I knew I had to work because I always had to find someone else to cover my shift. It wasn’t usually worth letting anyone in charge know about it, since the general attitude was “so what? You won’t get fired if there’s a person here to work, we don’t care if it’s you or someone else.” The only way I could get the management to help me out with it is if I could hardly stop puking long enough to help them understand the situation over the phone.

Another place I worked later had a better system: for every shift they had the number of people necessary on the schedule, plus a “call-in.” If someone was hurt or sick or too hungover to get out of bed (this, more often than anything else), then the manager had someone on the schedule who was expecting to have to come in and work.

Today, the only person I can report my illness to is my mother. If it were a weekend, she could swoop in and whisk my children away so that I could get some restful sleep, unbothered by the sounds of screeching or crashing, or by the fear that I will walk out into the kitchen and over tons of broken glass. But since she has her own responsibilities, I’ll have to explain to my two year old the best I can that mommy doesn’t feel well, and try (in vain) to convince my six month old that mommy’s head hurts when she hears screaming and crying.

They definitely won’t accept something like, “I’m sick today, Boss, I can’t come in.”

Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Forget Something at the Grocery Store

How to Forget Something at the Grocery Store

Step 1: Do not write it down. If you make a list, you are guaranteed to remember at least a few of the things on the list, even if you successfully manage to leave the list at home.


Step 2: Make a list in your head instead. This works best if you have more than four but less than seven things you’d like to forget at the grocery store. Three things are easily remembered. Milk, eggs, bread. Not a brain buster. But four things: Milk, eggs, bread... what was that other thing? Oh yeah, butt paste. Chances are if there are four things on your list, you will forget at least one of them, maybe even two!


Step 3: Go to the grocery store without checking in your refrigerator, your pantry, or any of the recipes that you are planning to use in the near future. If you don’t realize that you need something in the first place, you are guaranteed to find out that you needed it only when you get back home.


Step 4: At the store, do not go directly to get the things that you need. Browse around. Check the prices for onions. Do you need onions? Check the prices for paper towels instead. That way, you might forget to go past the produce section at all.


Step 5: Ask yourself or any shopping companions (or if you’re up for it, any random passers by) if you’ve forgotten anything. Run down that list of things you had in your head every time, but mix up the order. Butt paste, bread, eggs, milk... milk, eggs, butt paste, um... wait, there were four things, what am I forgetting?


Step 6: When the checker asks if you “found everything okay,” reply in the affirmative, but make sure to tell them that you’re sure you’ve forgotten something and that they’ll probably see you back again within the hour. You’ll know you’ve done this correctly if you watch the cashier’s facial expression when they look at a nearby fellow employee to let them know that you’re another one of those crazies.


Step 7: If by chance you remember something that you forgot to grab while you’re still in the parking lot, on no account should you go back for it. Don’t worry, even though you’re driving away with the realization that you forgot the milk, someone will inevitably blow a stop sign or cut you off or drive fifteen to twenty miles under the speed limit in front of you while you’re on your way home, so you’ll forget that you remembered, and that totally counts as forgetting.

Step 8: Unload & put away the groceries that you ended up purchasing. This will put you in unavoidable contact with your refrigerator and your pantry, and maybe even those pesky recipes with their uppity lists of "necessary" ingredients.

Step 9: Enjoy that “ugh, I can’t believe I forgot the [insert forgotten item here] at the grocery store; I was just there!” feeling.


If these simple steps are followed, you cannot fail to forget any number of things at the grocery store. Keep following this blog for many other helpful how-tos, including “How to Call Your Brother to See if His Wife Has Any Jalape├▒os” and “How to Forget to Go to the Grocery Store in the First Place.”

Friday, August 24, 2012

Puzzling

My father doesn’t enjoy flying. He used to go on business trips occasionally before he retired, and so to distract him from the whole air travel process, he would buy a puzzle book. When your mind is trying to work out where to put the elusive 7 in a sudoku puzzle or trying to find a three letter word that may be spelled frontward or backward and be across, down, or diagonal, the stresses of waiting to board, taking off, landing, and waiting to deplane are much less felt.


There’s not enough time or stress in a trip for anyone to finish an entire puzzle book, so eventually, you end up with a pile of half finished puzzles underneath your bed.


My least favorite puzzle in the world is a crossword. I know some people love them, but I just can’t stand them, especially the ones in the newspaper. I can never put the clues together; all I get for a clue is something vague like the word “mold” and the fact that the answer is five letters long. At least in a puzzle book I can look up an answer to get me started. And then I always say something to myself like, “‘shape’?! How is that a five letter word for ‘mold’?”


I’d much rather do a Fill-It-In. A Fill-It-In looks exactly like a crossword, except it doesn’t have any numbers, because it doesn’t have any clues. All the words that go in the puzzle are provided, and you have to put them into it, based on one word that’s already there. It’s the fun of putting together words in a crossword without the added dread of trying to guess what the puzzle maker could possibly mean by “Danson and Knight.” I’ve even done a few Fill-It-Ins that had groups of numbers instead of words!


The best thing about puzzles is that they exercise your brain. You can sit around all day and work on anagrams, and be exhausted at the end of the day. It may not be push ups and crunches, but it’s still a work out!


There’s a reason why early video games were mostly puzzles. Go through a maze. Find the key that goes in this door. Answer the riddle or face certain doom. It may have been on a computer or console, but it still exercised your wits. It’s too bad that nowadays the makers of video games are more focused on making a game pretty than challenging the player’s mind.


I’m not going to say that puzzles are absolutely better than all video games, because I enjoy both activities quite a bit, and both have their separate merits. But there is one situation that a puzzle book will always beat out a video game, and that is when the electricity goes out.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chaising the Lounge

There’s a free high five in it for anyone who buys me this chaise lounge.



One upon a time, a friend of mine moved from her own place and in with a friend whose apartment was already furnished. She put many of her things in storage, including her dresser, couch, desk, and more.


My husband and I were living in a two bedroom apartment at the time, using the living room as a dining room/my husband’s study room and the other bedroom as a living room/my study room. This particular room was covered on 3 sides with huge windows, and about as long as the rest of the apartment was wide.


It was an awkward room for furniture. We had the TV on one end (blocking some windows), and our couch ten feet away on the other. It was too far away to sit on to play the PS2 (this was back in the days before wireless controllers, kids), and so we usually ended up dragging our chairs in from the dining table to sit on if we wanted to play video games.


To make an already long story a bit shorter, I offered to keep some of my friend’s furniture in our apartment so that she wouldn’t have to shove it all in the tiny storage unit she had rented. It wasn’t like we didn’t have room for it. One of the pieces of furniture she brought to “store” in our apartment was the most comfortable pieces of furniture in existence: a chaise lounge.


It quickly became my favorite piece of furniture in the apartment.


We put it against the wall within reach of the video game controllers. I could recline while playing FFX, I could relax while reading for class, or I could nap while I was meant to be studying. And even with the addition of the chaise lounge, the room was still comfortable to be in; there was enough room in there that it didn’t feel like the space was stuffed with furniture.


A chaise lounge is so much nicer than a couch for solo sitting purposes. It’s the perfect angle for relaxing, and perfectly comfortable in almost every sitting position. If you’re having a party and there are going to be more than three people looking for a place to sit, a couch is better. Our extra long couch can fit four adults comfortably, as long as those adults don’t also want to recline.


Don’t get me wrong, our couch is totally awesome (and handmade, too, a dual effort of my father in law, who handled the carpentry, and my mother in law, who handled the upholstery). One drawback of it, though, is that it’s all right angles, and a right angle is not necessarily a terribly relaxing position. To cut down on that, we have lots of big, puffy, non-right-angley pillows. Those help with reclining for a while, but I’m always having to change position and wiggle around and wreak violence on the pillows to get them to do what I want them to do. What I want them to do is to act like a chaise lounge.


A couple of months before my husband and I moved away, my friend bought a house, and for some reason she felt that she needed to have furniture in it. “An unfurnished living room is really more comfortable than one with furniture in it,” I lied, in my hopes of keeping my favorite seat. “I’m taking it,” she informed me. “Okay fine,” I relented, deciding to try another method of attack. “How much do you want for it?” She was firm. “I’m taking it.” My final appeal was made as they carried it out of the room: “NOOOoooo...” but she and my husband just laughed at me as I sat disconsolately on the floor where the chaise lounge had been.


Our current living room is stuffed with furniture. There wouldn’t be any room for the most comfortable piece of furniture in existence among the couch, its matching chair, my husband’s desk, his stationary elliptical bike, and the television rigmarole. The only way I can see it working is if we were to completely evict the couch from the living room and put it in the hallway.


It’s hard, when we don’t have any room for it (and therefore don’t need it), for me to see a chaise lounge on sale. I’m sure if anyone needed me to take care of their chaise lounge for a while I could make room for it.


Or if someone finds it in their heart to give me one (no leather, please), I will definitely give them a high five.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Work, Work, Work

A crafter’s work is never done.


Centuries ago, upper-class women spent their time in leisure: reading, doing charitable work, attending parties, and constantly making things. A quiet evening at home would be spent chatting or sitting quietly, but it was always accompanied by work of some kind, whether it was needlework, carpet-making, sewing, or knitting.


Women today do all of these things for fun (and I’m sure men do, too, although I haven’t heard of many that do). Many crafters have more than one crafting hobby; some of them both knit and crochet, or they make paper and soap, or they decorate cakes and put together silk flower arrangements.


It doesn’t matter what a crafter is doing, has done, or is planning to do. There’s always a project close to being finished, one that’s just begun, and another that’s in the planning stages.


I’m always sad when I finish a project. Especially if it’s a blanket or scarf (or something with yarn), I get into a routine when making it; I sit somewhere specific every time I’m working on it, or I watch or listen to something in the background. When I’m finished, that part of my day gets removed from the routine, and everything seems like it’s thrown off.


It’s a sad feeling.


But it’s exciting to start a new project, even if it’s completely different from the one I just finished. Soon I’ll have to start thinking about what to do next...

Thank you, Leftover Yarnghan, for hanging out with me while I watched the entirety of Downton Abbey like 8 times. I hope you live up to your purpose and make the bed in my mother’s guest room nice and snuggly warm in the winter time. You will be missed.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Things That Make Me Giggle: Nice!™

This is Walgreens’ new in-house brand. It makes me giggle.


An in-house brand is an off brand produced by a store and offered for a cheaper price than the fancy brand name products. Target’s in-house brand is Archer Farms, Best Choice and Always Save belong to Russ’ IGA, and you can find Our Family at Sunmart. Other establishments are a bit more honest about it, Kroger’s companies (including Smith’s, King Soopers, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, and Baker’s) sell an off brand simply called Kroger; Super Saver and Hy Vee also have in-house brands named after the store itself.
The thing that makes me giggle about this brand is not the name of it (though that is a bit silly, in my opinion), and it’s not the packaging (which will probably stand out on the shelves much more than whatever in-house brand they had before). The thing that makes me giggle about it is the little ™ behind the name.


“Nice!™”


What makes me giggle is that unless you look really carefully, the ™ looks like an asterisk.


“Nice!*”


What makes me giggle is that the first time I glanced at an advertisement for this brand, I read the ™ as an asterisk and my internal narrator spouted off, in the-fine-print-at-the-end-of-a-radio-commercial style, “Product is not actually nice. Product is quite rude. Do not buy product if you are looking for some simple kindness. Product will abuse you to your face. Product will insult your mother, and still sleep well at night after doing so. Product is actually rather badly behaved.”


And from now on, whenever I see a package of anything that is this brand, I will think of this and giggle.


And that’s what makes me giggle.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Alarms: a Help or a Hindrance?

Alarms are useful things. They are meant to protect us.


But do they really?

Banks have alarms, but that’s not all they have. They have armed personnel and thick vaults to protect what’s inside them.


Homes are certainly less secure than banks, but there are certainly tons of companies out there who would happily sell a homeowner an alarm for their home. A home has locks on the doors and windows, and if necessary, a safe somewhere inside to protect the most precious things.


Most cars now have alarms in them. The only thing they have to protect their contents is locked doors. If the car in question is in the middle of a vacant lot, there’s not much that will stop someone who has a big stick and is determined to get inside.


Alarms are useful as one of the difficulties that unsavory sorts need to overcome in order to make off with someone else’s property. But if there’s no one responding to the beeping, honking, and other racket that an alarm is making, it’s not of much use.


Things that bank and home alarms don’t do that a car alarm does are to go off when another bank or home goes by too loudly or too fast, or to go off when the wind blows too stiffly. The alarms at a bank or in someone’s home actually do provide the extra level of protection that they are meant to, because someone is paying attention when they go off.


The only people paying attention when a car alarm goes off are the ones that were, until it started going off, trying to go to sleep.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Too Early for Cake

This morning at five minutes to eight I was sitting happily in my pajamas in the dining room trying to teach my six month old what to do with a spoon.


When my doorbell rang.


Wondering why my brother would be ringing the doorbell instead of just walking in, I leaned backward and shot a glance at the front ‘better window than a’ door.


It was someone I could not identify. In that case, there was no way I was getting up to answer the door. It was early, I was in a state of undress, and my baby, if left to her own devices, would happily make a gigantic mess while I was up.


He knocked.


I’m not sure if he’d seen me leaning to check who was there, or when I leaned to look at the clock, or if he knew I was there at all. I knew he couldn’t hear me, but I called out, “Dude, it’s not even 8 o’clock. I’m not wearing pants. There’s no way I’m answering the door.” I then hoped he would go away.


A couple of minutes later, I glanced out again. There was no one there. I was finished feeding the baby, so I ran and pulled something on, then ran back to the door to see if there was anyone walking away. The street was empty.


This whole situation reminded me of a scene from one of my favorite British TV shows, The I.T. Crowd. The characters are discussing the hazards of opening the door when there’s someone on the other side, and one declares that at his house, they never open the door. “What, never?” another asks. “But what if it’s-” “This is London, Jen,” the first says, cutting her off. “It’s not someone with cake.


Now I have to sit around for the rest of the day and wonder why someone was knocking on my door at 8 AM. He wasn’t wearing a delivery uniform, just a random guy, so who knows what he wanted.


Lincoln, Nebraska isn’t nearly as dangerous as London, but I can probably be pretty certain that he didn’t have cake.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Just the Facts

There are tons of different places to get news in this information age. Aside from newspapers (which do still exist), there are news programs on television, whether it’s a reputable program on at 7 or 9 o’clock, one of the 24 hour news networks, or one of Comedy Central’s news/comedy shows. Some people listen to the radio, and every radio station does the news several times a day, it doesn’t matter if the other content is music or talk shows. And then there’s a group of people who primarily gets their news from the internet: major news network websites, bloggers, or wild hearsay on social networks.


Sadly, I fall into the very final category. My primary news source is what my friends are saying on facebook. My secondary news source is what my friends say to me in person. My husband and mother are people who get their news normally, and if there’s anything super-important that they think I need to know, they usually tell me.


After seeing a piece of news that I think is interesting, I don’t just leave it at that. I use google to investigate and look for a reputable website to back up the story. It’s not terribly surprising how often the story gets cleared up for me when I check into it, or is completely different than it was represented on my facebook news feed.


I’d rather listen to talk radio, but right now I am waiting for the election year to be over. Regardless of my political views, I can’t listen to political talk radio for very long before I start want to punch people in the face.


People get their news in lots of different ways. Some are better than others, if only because they are more reputable. But getting your news from wild hearsay on social networks isn’t bad.


As long as you don’t mind checking the facts yourself.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not

When were moving into our apartment in Boulder (the hippie capitol of Colorado), the leasing agent was talking over the utilities with us, discussing how much they generally cost per month. “And of course, there’s a flat charge of $X per month for trash and recycling,” she finished. “Oh,” I said, “recycling is included?” She gave me a look that asked what part of the world we had been living in that wouldn’t include recycling.


In places that are not Boulder, Colorado, recycling is a pain. When I was a kid, we recycled aluminum cans. It was my brothers’ job to squish them and put them in big trash cans in the back yard. Then they would sit for months or years before something else was done with them. Probably they were taken to the man who pays for them, in his semi trailer in the alley behind Kinko’s on 48th and Vine. (The cans, that is, not my brothers.)


I quickly got used to having a dumpster for recycling in Boulder. It was the same size as the dumpster for garbage, and filled up three times as quickly. The best part was that you didn’t have to sort anything. Glass, paper, plastic, aluminum, anything with a recycling symbol on it could be tossed into the recycling dumpster to be taken to a sorting center, and we could go on living our lives and feeling better about ourselves knowing that we were saving the earth.


I’m not a militant recycler. (I’m not a militant anything. Everything in moderation.) Just because I was enjoying finding out all the things I could toss into the recycling dumpster instead of the garbage didn’t mean I wanted to go join the crazies on the 16th Street Mall in Denver who walk up to random passers by, harassing them with things like “Don’t you love the earth?!” That’s a stupid question, Crazy. Of course I love the earth.


Now that we’ve moved away from a place where recycling is as easy as taking out the trash, I’m having a little bit of culture shock. Recycling in a place that doesn’t take it away from your curb as a matter of routine isn’t easy. In fact, it is very inconvenient. You have to dedicate quite a few hours to washing everything, sorting it, squashing it down (if it can be squashed), and hauling it off to a place that will take it away for you. If you don’t want to do all that (understandably), it costs much more than $X per month to have it hauled away from your curb. And even then, most places want you to wash, sort, and squish everything before they come and get it. There are some waste disposal companies in this area who don’t offer to remove recyclables at all.


I think that if it were convenient, many more people would recycle. If every waste disposal company offered it to every one of their customers for free (or at least offered incentives like this company), there wouldn’t be a reason not to recycle.


Eventually, the resources that this planet has will be used up no matter what we do or how much we recycle. That doesn’t mean we should use them up as quickly and wastefully as we can. Recycling is not going to save the earth. But it does help, even if it's just a little. Waste not, want not.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Reoccurring Stress

I am supposed to have the paper turned in sometime in the next five hours. The professor had given the class several weeks to complete this project, but I haven’t managed to see the movie yet. My friend and I are supposed to see it together, and he met me to go see it, but we ate lunch together first and then somehow got separated, only I ended up with his cell phone and mine is who knows where. I don’t know how to operate the thing and try to call several different people only to have confused conversations with all of them along the lines of “why would I know where he is? You’re the one calling me from his phone.” I try visiting his dorm, but his roommate is rude to me because he’s had to spend the day cleaning up my friend’s side of the room. It’s getting close to the time the movie starts, and since it lasts several hours, I’ll only have a little while to bang out the paper, which has to be something like a ridiculously unnecessary twelve to fifteen pages. I’m starting to freak out.

And then I wake up.


There’s a customer in the drive thru arguing about his bill, complaining that the whole process is taking too long, and trying to talk me into giving him free sides of ranch. It’s raining, I’m waiting for the guys in the kitchen to get me another crisp meat burrito, and the manager is trying to get me to help with the rush up front while ignoring my pleas for help with the difficult guy. The bossy girl who only has a week of seniority above me is guilting me; that if I’m just standing around I could help make some shakes for the people up front. And the drive thru indicator is beeping loudly to let me know that there’s someone else out at the speaker ready to order. Beeping, beeping in my soul.


And then I wake up.


I step out the door of my new apartment and lock the door, looking around me. The landing my door opens out onto is four steps down from the door of my nearest neighbor, and I can either go straight down a flight of stairs that leads to the basement or up six steps the other direction down a long hallway that opens over the ground floor front hallway. Since I haven’t lived there long, I’m still getting used to the maze of an old house. I pick a direction and head that way, passing lots of doors that might be doors or just walls pretending to be doors. I get to the exit, but for some reason I can never remember which of the two doors in front of me will let me out of the building and which will let me into that crazy lady’s apartment. I grab a doorknob and open it a sliver... crazy lady. Why do I do that every time? I hope she didn’t see me this time. I grab the other doorknob and gain the victory of finally being outdoors.


And then I wake up.


I wouldn’t mind reoccurring dreams if they were about good times and high fives. But I’m not a fan of the “stressed student on an impossible deadline” or the “harrassed fast food employee” or the “lost in an old house that has been converted into apartments/accidentally going into other people’s apartments” dreams.


I’ve had to live these moments. I don’t want to relive them in my dreams. Don’t I have enough stress in my waking hours that I should at least dream of quiet things? Maybe I’m dreaming of them because while those things were actually happening to me, I was wishing that I was asleep in bed. I’ll just try to have more good times in the future with plenty of high fives.


And then maybe I’ll dream about that instead.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Little Peace and Noise

A little peace and quiet is a good thing. Usually.


People without kids think that the more a child is be quiet, the better behaved that child is. And that’s true, to a point. In public, if you can keep your child from screaming and throwing food everywhere, you’re good. There are times, though, when silence is not good.


I’m not sure if every new parent goes through this, but my husband and I certainly did. Our oldest daughter slept in our bedroom until she was two. It was nice, because we always knew if she needed something, even if she didn’t cry for it. Our bedroom was very quiet, so every time we woke in the night, we would listen for the sound of her tiny breathing. I can’t count the number of times one or both of us got up during the night when she was a newborn to poke her in the nose and make her wiggle, just to reassure ourselves that she was all right.


Screaming isn’t the ideal state of being for any child. But normal playing noise is all right. As long as my daughter is singing a song about “Daddy’s at work, Gwama’s at work, Pappy’s at work,” I know that she is playing nicely and not, say, getting into any power tools or trying to leap off of any furniture onto any couch cushions. The second it gets mysteriously quiet, Mommy has got to stop working and investigate.


So a little peace and quiet is nice if you’re trying to sleep or see a movie or eat at a restaurant, but for me, the peace comes in the noise of a toy, the sound of a song, and the squeak of breath through a tiny nose.

Friday, August 10, 2012

From Here to There


“Oh me! Oh my!
Oh me! Oh my!
 What a lot of funny things go by.”
 -Dr Seuss, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

I drive my daughters around the city quite a bit, and I see something interesting every day.


I enjoy watching crazy people try to move furniture with small cars. The several geniuses I have seen doing this lately have been moving things like mattresses and box springs, easy chairs, and chaise lounges.


One of my hobbies is reading bumper stickers, and one amusing one that I saw yesterday said, “Home is Where the Harp is!” while another on the other end of the bumper, declared that the van was an “Official HarpMobile: you pluck ‘em, we truck ‘em!”


The funniest thing I have seen recently was while I was sitting at a red light. I saw another vehicle turning the corner, and I happened to catch sight of the driver out of the corner of my eye. Then had to explain to my two year old why I was laughing. The woman didn’t look young enough to be doing random ridiculously silly things. She didn’t look like she was amused, just looked bored, a normal “driving down the street” expression. She had long blonde hair, and in every other way looked like a normal woman, except for the huge black fake mustache she was wearing.




I giggled the rest of the way home.

“Today is gone. Today was fun.
Tomorrow is another one.
Every day,
from here to there,
funny things are everywhere.”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Online Explanations

Though it may be surprising to some of us, with our smart phones, tablets, and 24 hour a day access to the internet, there are some people who still know absolutely nothing about the internet.


Those of us with the world wide web hooked up to us intravenously sometimes forget that there are other things in the world. It baffles us that anyone would need a definition for things like wikipedia, twitter, or a blog.


The first time I tried to explain the internet’s most used encyclopedia to my grandmother (“It’s an encyclopedia, but anyone can edit it, so sometimes it’s wrong, but the best articles have references that you can check at the bottom of the page”), she gave me a look that told me she wasn’t quite sure that it was a good idea.


“A blog is like a diary, only it’s online,” my cousin told my uncle. “Well then what’s twitter?!” This was a harder question; I don’t tweet, but I get the gist. “It’s like a facebook status,” I began, then stopped. “It's... sort of like a blog, only you’re limited to a certain amount of characters, so you can’t say much.” I was more pleased with this explanation, but then it turned out that what my uncle really wanted to know was the difference between “twitter” and “tweet.” I explained that “twitter” was the website itself, and “tweeting” was the act of posting something on said website. He was satisfied.


It’s very difficult to explain something to someone who has no frame of reference for it, like trying to describe how to drive to someone who has never seen a car before.


There’s nothing wrong with not knowing about the internet. Maybe it’s us, the internet generation, that are the weird ones. We need to go outside (without our phones) and take a walk. Roll down a hill. Jump over a stream. Avoid cow patties in a pasture. The whole world is not on the internet.


There are lots of things that are way more important than what’s online.