Archive for the ‘misadventures’ Category

What to do? What to do?

June 4, 2015

Yesterday I saw an article about the traditional eight-hour workday and for some reason I was drawn to read it despite the fact that I haven’t had an eight hour workday in years; depending on how you look at it I’ve had either a twenty-four hour workday or I haven’t worked at all, except for a few violin lessons on the side and a children’s fiddle group that’s really more like a glorified hobby.

Here’s the article:

https://blog.bufferapp.com/optimal-work-time-how-long-should-we-work-every-day-the-science-of-mental-strength?utm_content=buffer30de2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

For twenty seven years, six days a week from pre-dawn till late evening, I was tightly bound by the non negotiable demands of up to four overlapping schedules, all of which were subject to major change without any notice whatsoever.  I felt like a hero for managing it all and did not welcome comments from the Patient Man about how with only a little effort on my part it could easily be streamlined: “Just make sure all the music lessons and sports all start right after school and end at the same time every day, right before dinner. You could get them all on two days a week and then you’d have three days free. Wouldn’t that save you a lot of time? No? I guess you just like driving down there seventeen separate times every day. It seems to me that you’re making yourself an awful lot of extra work but if that’s the way you want to spend your time I guess that’s your problem.”

For as many moms know, to impose your own structure upon the children’s schedules is very stressful and unless you are Iron Mom  it doesn’t work anyway. So you cease to try. That can be an easy decision for someone like myself, who as a youngest child was conditioned from birth to fall in with the plans of others anyway. Nevertheless, this accommodating spirit exacts a price when after twenty-seven straight years of on-call taxi driving and short-order cooking and putting out everyone else’s fires your own organizational mental skills are just … gone.  When after the children abandon you and you suddenly find you have both time available and tasks you need to do, you just can’t put them together. Without the constant prompts of the emergencies of others you find you cannot initiate anything. Those connections in your brain are just not there any more.

And so here I am cast up useless, weak and shivering on the far shore of motherhood, no longer capable of self-direction, with only the last retreating wavelets of the youngest child’s senior year lapping at my toes before I must pull myself to my feet and trudge off into the wasteland of not being needed at all for anything and not being able to think of anything to do on my own once I get there.

And that is why I have been looking for suggestions on how to structure my day. Well, that’s not phrased quite correctly; the Patient Man would very rightly laugh at that one (see above). I have been looking for any suggestions that might enable me to be able to once again create my own structure.  Yes, Patient Man, I did once upon a time have the ability to organize my own day. Briefly, twenty eight years ago.

The article pasted above is written for the office workplace, not the homemaker, but it looked to me as if the ninety minutes at one task followed by twenty minutes of rest, then ninety minutes at another task followed by another twenty minutes of rest, etc., would probably work well for me at home.  I thought I’d give it a go.

For the first day’s schedule I decided not to choose tasks which have their own rhythm anyway such as laundry, cooking or workout videos. Instead I chose a few of those small, one-time tasks which you really want to do but somehow can never seem to fit in between the many important things you have to do (such as laundry, cooking and workout videos).  I glanced around the house and chose a few such tasks at random:

 

  • Reprint the Albright Family Tree (my fictional people) and tape it on the wall in a secure and level manner, replacing the crooked one that curled inward about six months ago. It has to be printed in six separate sheets and spliced together, so it’s not as simple as it sounds.
  • Go to Lowes and buy herbs and tomatoes and plant them in the garden I have already prepared.
  • Put away the plastic bins of cookie cutters that have been stacked behind the kitchen table since February.  Also wash everything that was in the open top bin, because I think a raccoon came into the house and rummaged around in there.
  • Make a start in the dumpster that until lately was our basement.  This will have to be a timed task rather than a itemized task because there is no place to begin and no end in sight and really no way to measure progress.
  • Finish the ironing and put away the ironing board.
  • Write a short sixteen measure fiddle thing I promised someone about ten weeks ago.


And here is my proposed schedule in bold, annotated in italics with what really happened:

Starting at 11:00 because I’m too excited to wait until tomorrow. This schedule doesn’t look like so much! I am ready with plenty of energy and determination and with so much coffee in my system that I have to clench my jaw to keep my teeth from chattering. I shouldn’t reward myself with the fun tasks right away, so I think I’d better start with the cookie bins and the ironing. If I finish early I’ll straighten the laundry room too.

11:00 to 12:30 – work period (cookie bins and ironing)

11:11 – Okay, that was embarrassing.  The cookie bin project took eleven minutes, including replacing all the plastic bags and sterilizing anything the raccoon might have touched.  It conveniently ended right at 11:11 so I could make my wish (yes, I’m a thirteen-year-old at heart) which is “Health and Happiness, Wealth and Success, and Love, for all my children.*” Honesty compels me to remind everyone that the bins have been sitting on the floor for FOUR MONTHS.  It took ELEVEN MINUTES to clean them, reorganized them and put them away.

Now the ironing.

It’s summer, so I’m putting the school button downs to the bottom of the pile and starting with the odd stuff.  First an apron inherited from my mother, a vintage piece in a colour of green that has not existed since the 1970s. The ‘vintage’ imitations that are becoming popular now are not even close.  The apron is printed in a rather loud pattern of skunks and posies and the shape is somewhere between that of a maternity smock and very large scrubs. Odd to think how oversized and matronly I once thought this apron was. Actually it is very chic and retro and I love wearing it.

Next a tiny white apron of battenburg lace, the kind of perky little thing that springs to mind when you hear the word “apron.” It was left here by Young Maria Callas, who wore it as part of her costume when she sang Marzelline in Fidelio last  year.  I remember she had to wrap it around her waist twice so the tails of the sash wouldn’t drag on the floor.  I hold it up and look at it.  I’m not sure it would even fit around my neck.  Ugh.  I starch it thoroughly and hang it next to the skunk smock.  Isn’t that just a metaphor for my life: feeling so good about myself and then something perky comes and stands next to me and after all I’m just a big green skunk smock. Upon consideration I take the little apron straight upstairs and hang it in YMC’s closet.

Uh-oh, next a favourite striped shirt belonging to the Patient Man, a shirt which very recently I swore my eyes out that “I have NOT seen, and why don’t you check your closet again?” Perhaps that one had better go straight upstairs too, and hide in the back of the closet between two shirts PM never wears.

Oh no.  Here’s my very favourite skirt ever.  I’m not sure it fits anymore.  Maybe I’d better add the exercise videos back in after all.

Two dress shirts. Why? Dress shirts are supposed to go to the cleaners.

A casual tartan button down of Yale Man’s, so new it’s still crackly. Marked Wrinkle-Resistant, but apparently not when it has been buried under a stack of laundry since Christmas which is when I think he left it here. I probably owe it to him to at least run the iron over it quickly.

It’s getting warm in the laundry room.  I should have done this yesterday when the high temp was only 45.  I open the screen door, but quietly, not in the way I deliberately bang it sometimes when the neighbors are outside with their tiny yappy dog, which I do that so the dog will bark and annoy them. Then I wait till they get it to stop and I bang it again.  This is justified because they are the kind of jerks who leave the dog outside when they are not home, which is most of the time, which means that I have to be very careful not to bang my doors or even go into the backyard because any noise at all activates the dog for the rest of the afternoon. I’m the kind of jerk who only cares about this because it annoys me, not because I feel sorry for the dog (I’m pretty sure he’s enjoying himself out there) and I like them to have to suffer their own damn dog’s yapping when they’re trying to relax on their day off.

Ah.  12:29. Time to turn off the iron.  Five shirts, two aprons and a skirt.  I did not get nearly as much done as I had thought I would; ironically this makes me feel better after the embarrassingly short eleven minutes it took me to deal with the cookie bins.

 

12:30 to 1:00 – rest period (30 minutes because it covers lunch)

 

At 12:31 on the dot one of the adult children, one of those who moved away and left me adrift and structureless, calls for a lengthy phone consultation which lasts until 12:43.  Bien sûr. Children do not outgrow their “mom-is-sitting-down” sensors.

 

1:00 to 2:30 – work period (buy garden plants and plant them in prepared beds)

 

1:02  – I catch the Pokerface Joker heading upstairs to take a break from his SAT math review.  I decide to drag him  back so I can do SAT vocab flashcards with him for fifteen minutes because I love words and I enjoy playing with the flashcards.

Then the remote adult child calls again for some further discussion.

1:29 – I’m able to think about heading to Home Depot for the plants.

I go there and buy plants, seeds, and stakes.

2:15 – I get home. The Patient Man is home early.  Oh, that’s not going to disrupt anything at all.

I carry the plants to the backyard.

Ugh.  The garden bed isn’t quite as prepared as I thought it was.

Totally forget about the scheduled 2:30 to 2:50 rest period.

 

Extract rototiller from garage and get it started with Patient Man’s help. Extract the Pokerface Joker from his video game break and cause him to rototill the garden boxes.

Plant garden consisting of:

  • 3 Roma tomatoes plant
  • 1 Beefsteak tomato plant
  • 40 Walla Walla onion sets
  • 3 basil plants
  • 2 rows of carrots

Reflect that this is actually quite a lot of work for a very small amount of food which I could easily buy fully formed as needed at the farmers’ market for very little money – and which, considering the vagaries of weather, travel, insects, and my own forgetfulness, may or may not ever come to fruition.

Skipped the 2:30 break so decide to go directly to a 15 minute rest period an hour late, at 3:30.

What are the odds the Patient Man will catch me resting, even though he is downstairs in the garage and I’m being very, very quiet?

Yup, 48 seconds into first game of Bejeweled Blitz, Patient Man strides purposefully into room and looks pointedly at the computer screen and says, “Oh.  I guess I didn’t realize we had stopped working.”

 

2:50 to 4:20 – (work in basement)

 

I think about going down there after my belated, disrupted, totally spoiled, cruelly truncated break. But if I go down there and start sorting things, Patient Man will want to know why I’ve changed plans and gone to work on something else when I had been right in the middle of working in the yard.  I would show him the 90-20 minute cycle plan, which clearly schedules both jobs, but he would either not get it or pretend to not get it – although he’s the one who always complains I never have a plan.

I go back to the backyard although I’m really finished there. I walk around doing nothing.

 

4:20 to 4:40 is scheduled for a rest period.

Not falling for that one this time.

Instead, I go directly to:

4:40 to 6:10 – work period (family tree and music writing)

This was earmarked for getting the family tree ready to reprint.  I scheduled it late in the day because I don’t know how to change the ink in my printer and the Patient Man would be home to do it for me.

But now Patient Man is setting out the sprinkler system for my garden, which I really do appreciate, so I don’t think I’ll bring up the ink this evening.

I’m also supposed to write the sixteen measure thing during this time, but what if I get caught wasting time writing more fiddle music when I already have over two hundred pieces of music that all sound exactly the same?   

I sit down in the porch swing to admire the sprinkler system.

6:10 to 6:20 – a beverage.

Yes.  I’ll have a beverage.

6:20 – dinner prep and serve

Sure.  I can’t imagine anyone will object to this.


Alrighty then, time to call it a day.

I think this schedule thing is really going to bring new meaning to my life.

See you soon,

<KK>


*Love goes last, not because it’s the least important, but because the words flow best in this order. Also I know that second comma shouldn’t be there but that’s where I pause.

The Letter V (A-to-Z Challenge)

April 28, 2015

A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle

Note:  As Provence is in the region of Vauclaus, and as the Peter Mayles lived in a house with a Vineyard, I feel that there are sufficient Letter V’s associated with this selection.

When I was a child I always eagerly awaited the arrival of the Reader’s Digest.  As soon as it arrived I would seize it and scan the right hand column of the table of contents, hoping to see humorist Will Stanton’s name there. I loved him. I believe – and I would like to look into this further but I don’t have time right now – that he was the one who wrote a story about an episode involving an American diner and a French waiter.

If I remember correctly this was basically a conversation recounted in the first person by the fictitious American, in which he and the waiter try desperately to communicate in basic French phrases.  Of course each phrase is most slap-stickishly misunderstood and even more hilariously misspelled using similar sounding but totally inappropriate English words.  I particularly remember one line where the waiter bows obsequiously and murmurs “Tray of Beans!”  Now, thanks to my many years of careful study of the French phrases employed by Hercule Poirot, I understand that this was obviously a joke on “tres bien” and so I can easily see why it was funny. I don’t know why I thought that it was funny then as I had not yet met Monsieur Poirot, but it simply slayed me. Desperate to share the joke I carried the magazine around and inflicted this story on each person in my family individually, making them drop everything and listen while I read it out loud, and every time I got to “Tray of Beans!” I would first break into titters and then into guffaws and then I would fall helplessly onto the floor laughing uncontrollably, unattractively, ungracefully and all by myself, because no one else thought it was funny at all.*

I am hopelessly enamored of the French language and it is the cruelest of ironies that Fate gifted me with a congenital inability to pronounce correctly even the simplest of French words.  I think it’s partly physiological — I’m pretty sure that to produce the tones intrinsic to the language requires a sinus structure that is not present in my head, and perhaps a smaller and more flexible tongue, and also a much stronger and more coordinated musculature of the lower face — and also partly psychological — I’m just way too self-conscious to even try making those beautiful, sonorous Gallic noises, much as I swoon at the sound of other people making them.  In my second year of college I was given a French song in my voice lesson and my tentative honks and infantile mews caused my voice teacher, the kindest man you can imagine, who was accepting to a fault and never laughed at anyone, first to go all wild-eyed and twitchy behind his beard and then to break down entirely. He was so sorry, afraid he had hurt my feelings, but I totally understood.  Languages in general are not my strong point, but French in particular is just not going to happen.

Still, I fantasize about living in France (perhaps as a mime) and here I found A Year in Provence to be very encouraging. On a casual first read it seemed to that Mr. Mayle and his wife plunged into living in France in exactly the way I would be likely to do if left unsupervised (that is, recklessly, on a whim, with no forethought whatsoever) and that it was only once they had arrived and settled in and he was casting about for something to keep himself busy that he conceived the bright idea to write a hilarious book about his experiences, kind of as a hobby, a little project on the side, something to fill the long afternoons.**

On second read, though, it is obvious even to me that A Year in Provence was certainly not only in the works, perhaps already under contract, but that it was no doubt the whole reason for the move in the first place and that framing it as a spontaneously plunging into a new experience was carefully planned as a major theme of the first few chapters, in which although Mr. Mayle does not know the language well and both misunderstands and mispronounces his way through the first few months, he is able nonetheless able to negotiate the activities of daily living in French.  Here’s the clue: after a while as you read you realize that these activities – visiting markets, gossiping with the neighbors, being available all day for the builders, making excursions to neighboring towns, seeking out the best places for lunch, finding out all about truffle hunting –  could only be the daily activities of a man who has the flexible schedule of a writer and the assurance that when he assembles all these experiences into manuscript form he will certainly be compensated most lucratively.  That’s alright, that’s the way sensible people do things.  Spontaneous activities run most smoothly on a roadbed of painstaking preparation, as I have been reminded often by the Patient Man (but not in those words, which he would think were not only an incomprehensible but a downright silly way of saying it).***

The book lures you in, though, seduces you with the idea that maybe you could really just up stakes and move to France yourself.  Is it any wonder that everyone envies a writer?  I wonder what else I could do remotely via computer from a farmhouse in the French countryside.  Medical data transcription?  Email fraud?  A pyramid scheme? Cold call insurance sales?  Tech support – no, probably not tech support.  One more reason to get cracking on the next Great American Novel, I guess. It could be a step to the Great American Living in France Novel.

See you tomorrow for Letter W,

KK

*None of them speak French either.

**Actually I’m probably the only reader who ever interpreted it that way.  As I said, I do not have the gifts of forethought and planning and I so desperately wish that things could work out nicely without them that I’m always on the lookout for success stories of this type that I can share with the Patient Man and this probably coloured my initial reading.

***It’s amazing how many years it took me to figure out, for instance, that the very simple picnics being unpacked so casually on the lawn (oh, I’m sorry, the Lawn) at Tanglewood were the result of much planning, shopping, cooking, baking, garnishing, coordinating, accessorizing, packing and presenting.  All my picnics seemed to consist mostly of paper plates and plastic Walmart bags escaping to fly around annoying the old money.  I still don’t have the knack.  I mean, I can shop, plan, cook, bake, garnish, coordinate, accessorize and pack, but when it comes time to present I get nervous and drop things and then off fly the paper plates again.

The Letter U (A-to-Z Challenge)

April 26, 2015

U stands for Undecided

Throughout this challenge books have been practically flinging themselves out of the bookcase shouting, “Pick me! Pick me!” and more than once I have read through two or three candidates for a particular letter before coming to a decision and then re shelving the runners up, telling them that while I loved them and thought they were special and all that they weren’t quite what was wanted at this particular time.

Then along came letter U, not that unusual of a letter, more common than, say, X or Z* or even Q, which I had no trouble at all with.  Part of the Great Book Purge of this past winter included sorting the surviving books into bookcases by genre and then alphabetizing them by author.  So I went into the library (location of fiction and selected science fiction) and squatted down by the third shelf from the bottom on the far right toward the end of the T’s, to see what I could find.

There was one single book.  Brazil, by John Updike.  Sorry, but I don’t love John Updike.

I scanned the shelves for authors’ first names.

Umberto Eco.  I have three of his books, but I’m afraid they barely escaped the Great Book Purge because I just find them to be so much work.  I finally fought my way through The Name of the Rose a few years ago but The Island of the Day Before totally baffled me and I haven’t found the energy to tackle Baudolino.  I’m not sure why I even have Baudolino.  I must be subconsciously trying to pretend that I’m more literate than I really am.

To titles, then.

Under the Tuscan Sun.  Enjoyed it, but not really that much there to talk about.

So I started thinking about characters. Umberto suggested Humbert Humbert…Lolita? No.

I went around to the other rooms.  Between the children’s bookcases I discovered no fewer than three copies of Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.  Unfortunately, none of us liked Earthsea at all.  The only reason we have three copies is because it was on three kids’ reading lists at different times and we could never find any of the copies we already owned so we thought we’d better grab another one just to be on the safe side.

There was only one thing for it.  I took a trip to the Goodwill.

Bent over sideways and leaning in closely to peer at the books I sidled along the shelves.  First I checked for authors. No one I didn’t already have, and here I’d just like to mention that there were no fewer than eight Umberto Eco books in pristine condition (ha! it’s not just me!) and at least a dozen Earthseas of the edition sold by purveyors of required summer reading, so apparently we aren’t the only ones who don’t feel the need to keep those around the house either.

Then I crept around again, this time checking the titles.

When I spied not one but TWO graceful capital letter U’s in metallic gold script on the well-broken spine of a fat pink paperback I thought I had hit the jackpot for sure. I leaned closer and squinted. The cursive font was so fancy as to be practically unreadable but I believe the title was Ursula’s Undoing.  I took a look at the cover and sneaked a peek inside but I’m sorry to report that the enormity of the bosoms and the luridity of the cover art were NOT entirely justified artistically,** at least not sufficiently for this challenge.

Remembering how I had been able to justify to myself talking about The Three Musketeers for the Letter S, I expanded my search parameters to include any title or author in which the letter U was involved in any capacity.

Dune caught my eye, and with fully one quarter of the letters in its title being the letter U it more than qualified under the new rules but I somehow wasn’t feeling science fiction-y today.

Cider House Rules was there (two internally placed U’s) and this gave me pause but only because I didn’t remember seeing it at home and I know I have it.

Of course there were shelves’ and shelves’ worth of the ubiquitous Jude Deveraux.  I’ve never looked inside a Jude Deveraux book and today was no exception.

Then I saw Snobs by Julian Fellowes.  I really liked another book of his I bought a few weeks ago that I can’t remember the title of just now. I bought Snobs, but to read later.

Then I gave up on Letter U and just started grabbing things for fun.

A biography of Louisa May Alcott.

Joys and Sorrows by Pablo Casals which I thought Yale Man might like.

State of the Union by Douglas Kennedy which I’d never heard of but it had an interesting picture on the cover. It looked like it could easily go either way*** but as the books at Goodwill are just a dollar each there’s not much harm done if something you buy turns out to be a stinker.  And, a bonus, it could qualify for Letter U if nothing else turned up.

An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor which I also might own already but I think not so I put it in the cart.

Jodi Picoult’s Sing You Home because sometimes I want to not-quite-mindlessly kill two hours but I’m not really in the mood to watch a movie.

The Jewish Book of Why, because I hadn’t seen it before and it looked interesting.

The Headmaster’s Wife  by Thomas Christopher Greene  because I’m a sucker for any book cover featuring brick buildings, fall foliage and a distant, solitary figure half hidden in the mist.

Then I saw it.  Down on the bottom shelf where they put the tall, heavy textbooks.  Convin & Peltason’s Understanding the Constitution.

Bingo.

This is a book that will be good for me.  It will be character building and ego-bolstering and educational. Unfortunately, there is no way I’m going to be able read it by this evening so, for today anyway, here endeth the Letter U.

One of these days I’ll let you know what I have learned about the Constitution.

See you Monday for Letter V,

KK

*Although I’m kicking myself around the block for not saving Gatsby for letter Z, as it is dedicated “To Zelda.” That would have been astute and clever and entirely acceptable.

**Here, as most of you will have noticed, I modify a line delivered by one of Mr. Blackadder’s aging actors. I’m not sure I’m actually required to mention that, but one time I made the mistake of reading the comments on a news article in which one commentator used an iconic movie quote and another commentator immediately pounced on him, saying that he shouldn’t pretend he made it up when he was actually stealing it from a movie.  The first guy said he wasn’t pretending since it was obvious that everyone would recognize it.  The second guy said he was going to report him for plagiarism.  This, of course, is why no one should ever get involved in comment sections.  Anyway, now I’m nervous that if I don’t attribute the Blackadder spoof someone will report me.  Or worse, they’ll think I think I made it up.  When I was five years old I thought I had made up a nice little song on the piano, and it turned out to be a Minuet by J.S. Bach.  I’m still embarrassed by that one.

***It is bound in textured craft paper, which I find is often a bad sign.

The Letter J (A-to-Z Challenge)

April 16, 2015

J is for The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Julian Jaynes.

J is also for Uncle Junior, who way back around Letter E supplied me not only with a suggestion for the Letter J but also a short description which he hoped would entice me into reading it:

Please PLEASE make the letter J be Julian Jaynes. (How can you go wrong with TWO J’s?). He wrote the BEST EVER serious book. “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”. It is way over the top my favorite book of all time. He was a Yale Psychology Professor who, in the 1970s, wrote a startling theory about how and when humans became ‘conscious’ and what that means. And, interestingly enough, it is very readable.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_Jaynes

He even has a chapter on people like Ellen White with extraordinary consciousness.

 

When I received this email I thanked Uncle Junior (who is my youngest brother, fifteen years my senior) and explained that I was only using books that either I have read and internalized enough to have formed some sort of opinion on or at least have a personal story of some kind attached to them. Besides, although he claims that the book is very readable, one has to understand that Uncle Junior has about seventy-five IQ points on me.  No, better make that fifty points. I’m no slouch. But he is particularly brilliant.

But then right after Letter H two situations converged: I had a packed weekend and my brain got very, very tired.  As I said, I’m no slouch, but I have been constantly at the beck and call of up to four children for the past twenty-seven years and I am afraid that this has taken its toll on my mental stamina.  Please don’t get your back up, I’m not saying that raising children is a lowly occupation or that that it chips away at your intelligence.*  Many women can do it all: raise well-rounded, high-achieving kids, have a brilliant career, keep a gorgeous home, have personal hobbies.  I myself had to pick one and I picked the kids.  They seem to be turning out alright so at least there’s that.  But, and this is a big but, I am afraid that my brain may have atrophied a little in the process.**

Now the kids are mostly grown and I’m facing some unpleasant truths.  For instance, I used to be a champion multi-tasker and I thought at the time that this was because I was clever and capable.  Alas, it turns out it was only because I was constantly being interrupted and handed multiple tasks to do.  Left to myself now I will start a task and keep working on it slowly, waiting for someone to stop me and give me another one, and when this doesn’t happen I just keep plugging away, ever more slowly,  without really knowing how to stop or how to decide to go on to something else.***

I’ve been finding this a little disturbing.  So over the past few days I cheerfully accepted all the activities and tasks that were handed to me, but unfortunately no one said, “Oh, hadn’t you better also get to that A-to-Z Challenge project of yours?”

Which meant that I didn’t.

And so it’s Uncle Junior to the rescue!  I here append the disclaimer that not only have I never read The Origin of Whatever in the Bi-something-or-another Mind, I have never even heard of it.  I would go ahead and read it this evening**** but I’m afraid I have to work on Letter P for tomorrow (right?) and any spare thinking time has to go into filling in the place holders for Letters K, L, M, N and O.*****

I do hope you enjoy it.  Please someone let me know if you think I’d like it too.

See you tomorrow for Letter ?

<KK>

*But in fact I’m pretty sure that it does chip away at your intelligence, but only in the nicest possible way.

**Again.  I’m not offending YOU!  This is about ME!

***Did you see Pleasantville?  I’m the soda jerk polishing a hole in the counter because the assistant never showed up.

****I have to warn you that Uncle Junior, who insists upon having a very optimistic opinion of my intellectual abilities, sometimes thinks things are much more understandable than they really are.  I confess that although I do enjoy nearly everything he recommends, sometimes I grasp only a tiny bit of what the writer is actually trying to say as I’m mostly enjoying the rhythm of the sentences and the interesting and unusual vocabulary and the illusion that I am a very smart person indeed to be reading this really smart book.

*****Hopefully they won’t stand for Kill me now, Let’s just get this over with, M is for obsolete Mommy who can’t write, Never again, and Oh that’s it I quit.

A to Z Challenge: Books I Like and Why You Should Like Them Too

March 31, 2015

You will have already noticed that I am a technopeasant.*

It is obvious from the facts that I’ve chosen the most basic blog format-thingy available, just plain blue and white, and I haven’t even filled out my ‘About’ page or added a picture and I’m not even sure that when I share the good news that I’ve posted again I do so by using the correct link. I am also unable to tell people – even people who ask! – how to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ my blog.  When I set the thing up initially I bumbled around making mistakes which eventually landed me with an address I didn’t want and a username that I think is stupid and I have no idea whatsoever how to fix this, but none of this has been a real problem because all I really want to do is to write a couple thousand words two or three times a month and put it out there for interested parties to read.

This bumbling did get me into a kind of irritating situation, though.

One of the first things I did was to (sort of accidentally) both ‘like’ and ‘follow’ the very first person who ‘liked’ my debut post.  I ‘liked’ him because it seemed rude not to respond in kind when he had ‘liked’ me, and I ‘followed’ him because he invited me to do so and I assumed that this also was going to be reciprocal.  Over time it has became obvious that this invitation was only a follower-gathering ploy on his part, possibly an automatically generated one that he pays a fee for, but because my technopeasantry skills do not extend to ‘unliking’ someone, I’m stuck with him.**  [Update: I finally managed to jettison him – by clicking ‘following’ which ought to have been obvious – and replace him with someone much more interesting who also happens to review science fiction.  The two should not be confused.]

However.  There are people who say that everything happens for a reason.  I’m not sure about this, but I do know that every road you go down – accidentally or on purpose – takes you past interesting things you would probably not have seen otherwise.  So even though I’m not at all interested in the daily postings of details of this person’s life, not interested in the self-published sci-fi ebooks he reviews, not happy with the fact that every single time he so much as turns on his laptop I’m electronically alerted in five different ways, I am happy to say that one interesting and valuable item did drop unexpectedly into my lap because of this otherwise irritating experience.***

That valuable item is the A-to-Z Challenge.

The A-to-Z Challenge is an invitation (well, an opportunity to sign up) to air my knowledge and opinions on any topic I choose for twenty-six straight days.   The daily post subjects have to follow the alphabet but that’s not really all that restrictive for a nimble rationalizer like myself.  They are also supposed to be short, which might actually become a problem.  I’m also supposed to somehow ‘tag’ the A-to-Z Challenge personnel and post some links or…something…which obviously is going to be a problem, but I know I signed up properly (except for posting my blog address in a way that brings you to the page that shows my one follow-ee, rather than my own posts, and I can’t seem to fix this, and I keep sending emails inquiring as to how to fix this and no one answers me) and so hopefully one of the Challenge hosts will actually show up and read my stuff.

And if they don’t, that doesn’t really matter to me.  Twenty-six straight days!  A reason to talk about things I love and to pretend to be smarter than I actually am for twenty-six straight days.  I’ll take it; I’m all dressed up and ready to go and I don’t care if I’m not actually at the official party as long as I get to dance.

I choose to write about “Books I Like and Why You Should Like Them Too.”

I reserve the right to bend, twist and otherwise manipulate the official rules of alphabetization.****

I reserve the right to have unsupportable opinions.

I reserve the right to go off on tangents.

And as always, I reserve the right to be pompous.

You’ve been warned.

A-to-Z Challenge posts begin on April 1.

See you then!

<KK>

*This is a statement of fact and not a coy invitation for you to think that I’m helpless and adorable.  I don’t do that sort of thing. On good days I fear –  and on bad days I know – that the most cursory soul-search would reveal that I only pretend to be above this sort of thing because I can’t pull it off, in the same way that I pretend to hate pretty pastel dresses because I know very well that when I wear pastel I look like a moth dressed in a butterfly suit.  You know what I mean.  Watch the next time you go hiking with a group of young people.  There are girls who can feign helplessness and immediately get picked up and fussed over and carried shrieking and giggling over a stream, and then there are girls who can stand there all day imitating those helpless shrieks and giggles and all they’ll get is an impatient over-the-shoulder shout of “Oh come on, we don’t have all day. Just cross it already!”  I don’t have to tell you which one I was.

**I was able to ‘like’ and ‘follow’ because I was presented with a little message that said “Click HERE to like and follow!” My skills do run that far. Oddly, though, I’m not receiving messages telling me to click HERE to unfollow.

 

***No, I’m not at all afraid he’ll read this and have his feelings hurt.  He doesn’t read my blog.


****Let us take for example the book A Separate Peace by John Knowles.  I might put that under A, S, J or K depending on what letter happens to be free.  In an extreme case I might even put it under letter P.   Of course I know it belongs under either S for Separate or K for Knowles, but what if both letters S and K are already assigned and I don’t want to sacrifice either of those books?

Wind Bashing Apology Post

March 6, 2015

Last week in a February funk I behaved snarkily to the wind quintet combination.   I said they were only tolerable in the springtime along with all the other chirpy things, and I may have compared them to a screaming toddler.  Well, as I said, it was February.

Actually I quite like wind instruments.  We had a wind quintet play at our wedding.  Well, it was really a wind quartet because we didn’t know any horn players well enough to ask them to travel to California but among our nearby good friends were a clarinetist, an oboist, a flutist* and a bassoonist.  I say, they were among our good friends.  Hopefully they still are.

Even if I weren’t in apology mode I would tell you that I very much admire orchestral woodwind players, a group that includes the players of all sizes and keys of flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons. These play solistically all the time; that is, there is only one instrument to a part, each player is totally on his own, and this on an instrument with carrying qualities and a distinctive tone so that anyone listening knows exactly who is responsible for it.  One thing I impress on young string players in a youth orchestra situation is that they must never, ever, EVER turn and smirk at a wind player who has come in wrong.  Strings – except for section principals – do not understand the kind of courage it takes to play a woodwind instrument in an orchestra.  In a major symphony there may be a section of twenty-two first violins arranged at stage front, playing in unison, and although each violinist’s body language implies that he is individually responsible for holding the whole show together, let me tell you that each of them is relying on the principal to bring them in.  If he brings them in wrong, they will throw him under the bus.**

But I digress.  This is supposed to be about the woodwinds.

In contrast to the string players, who sit in packs at the front of the stage reaping a great deal of glory for an investment of relatively little personal risk, the woodwind section is buried in the middle of the orchestra (behind even the violas!), each individual player responsible for coming in on time with huge solos full of chromatic and rhythmic difficulties which he always seems to play with effortless fluidity despite being hindered from making excessive interpretive body motions by the fact that he must keep both hands on his instrument and his instrument centered in front of his body.***  Oboists, flutists, bassoonists, and clarinetists all have so many solos woven throughout everything that we don’t even really count them as solos, which doesn’t seem fair.  When they play correctly we take them for granted.  When one of them comes in wrong we all know exactly who it was.  A woodwind player does not have the luxury of faking away a false entrance.  If a string player has not been counting and thinks it might be time to come in but isn’t sure, he can balk: approaching the string with gusto but not making any noise until the entrance is confirmed by those around him.  No one will really know for sure, because if he was wrong he can easily change a false downbow entrance into a shrug, rolling his neck and tilting his head like he was just relieving a crick, and if it was an upbow entrance he might move his hand quickly from fingerboard to pegs, leaning discreetly to the side and tapping the bow lightly on the strings to pretend that he was checking his tuning.   A false woodwind entrance, though, can be nothing but a false entrance, a bright toot embarrassingly misplaced.

Last weekend Yale Man was playing principal cello so we went to his concert. First up was the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, which I listened to once in Survey of Music and have never felt the need to listen to again.  Sitting there a little glassy-eyed, just waiting for it to be done so we could get on to Beethoven Five, I was startled to hear the sound of a single, very familiar cello and I quickly looked up and focused. There was Yale Man playing a little solo of four measures or so, a tiny beautiful gem with trills, arpeggios and all sorts of good stuff, his cello singing out all alone through the packed hall. The Patient Man and I nudged each other and grinned the whole time and even the Pokerface Joker nodded twice in approval and gave a thumbs up.  It was a really big deal, and if I had known ahead of time it was coming I would have been a nervous wreck on our son’s behalf. I seem to be digressing yet again but I’m not – my point is that here we were bursting with pride over four measures of a principal solo, while virtually every single note an orchestral woodwind player plays is just that exposed and identifiable.

Perhaps it is this constant individual self-reliance that makes the woodwind section seem to be a collection of individuals, sixteen or so independent persons sitting straightforwardly in a line, each facing the conductor head on rather than circling the wagons in the way the strings do.  They do not seem to have the solidarity of the brass players at the back of the orchestra, who look like a football squad and act like class clowns in the back row of English class.****  One imagines that if the trombones came in wrong they would all crack up laughing and then high-five each other, and that a wrongly entering trumpet player would carry it through with alpha-dog confidence, leaving the rest of the orchestra to wonder if perhaps he hadn’t been right after all.  In contrast, all the woodwind players seem to be such sensitive people.  One fears that the clarinetist who toots out wrongly during a rest might crawl under his chair to die, and that a flutist might drop her flute and fall weeping into the arms of her friends. A bassoonist who miscounts might look pained behind a brave facade and then go home and write tragic verse.  One hates to even imagine what an oboist might do.

Okay, one more story about me***** but this one is actually relevant.  It’s rare that a violinist can incur the extent of a conductor’s wrath, but I’ve done it, and so I know how it feels.  I was fourteen, cocky about winning the second-to-last chair in the second violin section of the local college orchestra; I was too lazy to count and too cool to watch the conductor.  In my first concert we played some classical symphony that ended with several chords.  The spaces between the chords were not of the same duration.  Particularly, the rest between the penultimate and ultimate chords was at the conductor’s artistic discretion and I did not bother to look up and see what he wanted.  It’s unfortunate that I decided at that moment to take to heart a comment my dad had made a day or two before, which was “We paid for a whole bow, so why do you only use six inches of it?”  So, with great strength and bravado I used my whole bow on a great crashing fortissi-issimo four-string chord . . . all by myself, into dead silence, while everyone else was still waiting for the cue.

I’ve often tried to find the perfect adjective to describe the conductor’s eyes at that moment, but although I can wield a wide variety of words I just can’t find one that really works.  He controlled his face and his body very well; he flung up his head and did a savage open mouthed grin of triumph and stretched his arms high and wide, fingers clawed and curved to pull the real final chord from the rest of the orchestra, but his eyes (oh, his eyes!) locked maniacally with mine in intense, focused hatred mixed with suspended white hot fury.  After he lowered his arms and the applause began he kept this look skewered on me until the moment he whipped around to take his bow.  It was a look that said, “Because there are people watching and I’m trying to save face, I’m pretending like this is over now, but later I’m going to find you and I’m going to kill you.”  I ran away to cry.  I had really thought that he was going to put his baton right through my head and I knew I would have deserved it.

And that is how I know what’s at stake every time a wind player takes a breath.  I know that every orchestral woodwind player sits on a trap door above a seething pit of a conductor’s fury and this trap door is secured only by his ability to count.  I respect them for their courage to sit there, but what really amazes me is how rarely they fall in.

So, as a humble peace offering, here is a list of some of my favourite music that include woodwind solos great or small:


Smetana, The Moldau.  We practiced this during the first orchestra rehearsal of my freshman year in college.  I was in awe – In AWE! – of the two flute players who had the courage and the skill to play this opening theme right there, all by themselves, with all of us listening.

Debussy, Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun

Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique (listen for the clarinet solo)

Beethoven, Symphony No. 6, Pastoral

Dvorak, Symphony No. 8 (but then be prepared to spend some time deeply regretting that you never learned to play the French Horn)

Mozart, Clarinet Concerto, especially the Adagio (second movement)

Vivaldi, the Bassoon Concertos******

Mozart, Horn Concertos  (yes, a horn is made of brass, but was implicated in the wind quintet insult so deserves some restitution here, even though all I said was that it had a warm and sunny sound)

J. S. Bach, Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, especially third movement

J. S. Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5

J.S. Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2

Mozart, D Major Flute Quartet, especially the Rondo (third movement)

Gershwin, Rhapsody in Blue

And on the way home from the Pokerface Joker run this morning I happened to hear Rossini’s Barber of Seville Overture. I don’t know if you’d find this one on a list of wind excerpts for auditions, but the winds certainly play their cheerful part and the whole thing is lots of fun to listen to.

Enjoy these selections, and be kind to wind players.

See you soon,

KK

* I know as well as you do that a flutist is really a flautist, but I think if you’re going to say ‘flautist’ instead of ‘flutist’ you have to be consistent and say ‘faggottist’ when you mean ‘bassoonist’ and I’m just not prepared to commit to remembering to do that on a regular basis.

**The conductor will look at them questioningly and they will look back at him in wide-eyed sympathy, making minimal but eloquent shrugs and wry faces that clearly say, “Don’t blame us.  You’re the one who made him principal.”  But really, that’s just violin players.  Cello players generally are too nice for this kind of behavior (they are the trombonists of the string family) and no one hears what the violas are doing anyway so they can really get by with a lot.

*** Except for flutists.  They can dip and sway, like (first) violins, and this is appropriate because flutes are the first violins of the wind family.

****Except for the horns, who look like a Mathlete team.

*****What do you want?  I’m a violinist. 

****** Concerto/Concerti — Cello/Celli — Sorry, I’m just not consistently pompous enough, although I do have my moments.

The Winter of Our Complete and Utter Despair

February 25, 2015

Disclaimer:  I don’t live in the city of Boston.  I don’t work full time and the hours I do work are completely flexible and totally at my discretion.  I don’t have to EVER leave my house if I don’t feel like it, and I have really not been inconvenienced in any way.  And yet…


This has been the kind of winter that makes grown women stand over the kitchen sink and eat Swiss Miss right out of the can, savagely crunching the tiny brittle marshmallows and gazing dully out at the snow from through drooping eyes they have not the energy to focus.  By March, you realize but do not care that your face has been dragged downward in folds and grooves and creases by the heavy gravity of February, that your features are drawn inward in a constant scowl; that all the muscles of your body are rigid against the cold even when you’re inside a warm house.  You are habitually hunched, bent forward in a posture safe for walking on ice, you are a scowling, bear shaped presence stalking menacingly about the house in the tartan flannel robe you have worn for weeks on end; it smells, and you do not care. You stop listening to music, because any kind of music, even that which you normally love, is irritating in the way that a TV blaring in the next room is irritating when you are not feeling well. It interrupts your misery and you resent it.

And when the sun comes out a little, and you think you might want to make a tiny effort to pull yourself together and so you do turn on the radio, you find that to add insult to injury WCRB has inexplicably taken to programming woodwind quintets with infuriating frequency. This may be a well-intentioned if misguided effort to cheer us all up, or they may just be deliberately tormenting us, because everyone knows that there’s only one time of year that that woodwind quintet music is tolerable and that is in the early spring time, just as you are beginning to see just a little tiny green fuzz on the branches and your heart is leaping with joy.  Perhaps it is appropriate at that time because all of nature then is a woodwind quintet — the woody sniff of earth and sap and new leaves, the chirp of birds and peep of ducklings like clarinets and oboes, the playful breezes like the trills of flutes, the froggy bassoon, the warm and sunny horn, the merry rush of meltwater like the spatter of five spit valves being blown out all at once.  Or perhaps it is that only when our hearts are already bursting with joy can we tolerate the sound of the woodwind quintet, in the way that even a screaming toddler probably wouldn’t spoil the moment when you’ve just found out you’ve won the lottery.   In any case, when you’re hunched over the wheel of a salt encrusted car, your face fixed in a menacing stare calculated to intimidate other drivers from turning into the street and blocking you, concentrating with clenched jaws on negotiating intersections rendered blind by overhanging seven foot snowbanks, this is not a good time to be presented with all that chirpiness, and so you have to swear and turn the radio off.

People whose forbears came from northern climes are at their best in winter, with their clear porcelain faces, their bright eyes, their rosy pink cheeks.  They look  happy and gorgeous, they even look beautiful shoveling snow; their eyes even brighter with exertion and their glowing cheeks so healthy and charming.  Those of us whose color indicates a Mediterranean origin fare a little differently this time of year.  The olive skin that we love so much in the summertime, that never burns, that glows without the application of makeup and that with care can even resist wrinkles, in the winter that olive skin fades to yellow tinged with grey and speckled with tiny brown spots we didn’t notice before.  Our lips turn white in the cold, and as the Vitamin D deprivation drags on and on we become foul tempered and evil spirited and we know without doubt that the whole world, especially the happy people of the world, but really just the whole world itself in general, is out to get us.

Here is an example of the spiteful hatred that the world has for me. The other day when the phone rang as I was reading I found that my glasses, which I cannot wear while reading but absolutely must wear for everything else, including walking around my own bedroom, had inexplicably disappeared even though I had not budged from my seat.  Enraged, I rose and stomped blindly around the room, tripping and groping; I picked up and flung down three pairs of the Patient Man’s reading glasses (Why does he have to have three pairs in one room?  Why?).  Then the ringing stopped.  I threw back my head to howl in fury and my glasses fell off my head and onto the floor behind me.  I jammed them onto my face and immediately jerked them off again to read the caller ID and found that I had gone to all this trouble for a telemarketer.  It’s probably as well that he had hung up by this point.  Now in summertime this would be actually kind of funny but in the grip of winter I know that it’s a sure sign that I am becoming demented and am about to die, probably in a completely stupid and infamous way like dislocating my neck by violent sneezing brought about by inhaling powdered Swiss Miss into my sinuses.

And then there’s the issue of having bulked up for winter with a protective layer of, well, you know, a protective layer, like bears do before they hibernate.  Of course bears bulk up and then don’t eat for the next six months, but whereas a lot of New Englanders, mostly those porcelain skinned chirpy ones, hear the word ‘blizzard’  and think Snowshoeing! Cross Country Skiing! Ice Skating! Winter Hiking! or at least Building Snowmen!…when I hear the word ‘blizzard’ I think Fire in the Woodstove!  Baking cookies! Eating Cookies in Front of the Fire in the Woodstove!*

So it happened that five blizzards’ worth of cookies into February I got an unexpected invitation to conduct.  What fun!  A bright spot in a gloomy season.  Mindful of the recent cookies, I went for my biggest black dress.  I shall draw a veil over what happened in the next few minutes but after that was over I went shopping.  That didn’t make it better, because in the dressing room I made a terrible discovery.  I don’t know exactly when it was that I went from an hourglass shape (albeit the shape of an hourglass well reinforced around the small part to keep it from breaking too easily) to the shape of a 55 gallon drum but I do know that it occurred since the last time I bought a dress.

I’ve known from experience since the age of 13 that savagely kicking all the dresses into the corner of the dressing room and then jumping up and down on them and then sitting down on them to weep does no good at all.  It does not summon the Size 2 Fairy (or even the Size 8 Fairy) (or even the Size 10 Fairy) who will wave a magic wand and make everything fit. I did consider punching the mirror, not out of temper but with the idea of rendering myself incapable of conducting by breaking my hand, but then in desperate rage I yanked one last dress off the hanger, a dress with such a youthful silhouette that I had decided not to bother with it, and in a furious spasm of self-punishment pulled it over my head anyway.

It fit.  It fit, and it looked good.  I practically wept.  Then I thought again.  I mean, it’s one thing to squeeze yourself into a dress and double check to be sure that the front view is nice and then take care to stand in a corner the whole time or wear a shawl or a sweater to disguise the back view.  It’s quite another thing to stand on the podium with your back to the audience and then lift your arms and wave them energetically in the air.  In that position you are kind of a focal point.  And at this juncture my very unkind former self came back to haunt me.  When I was young and perfect of shape and cruel of wit I played in a group whose director was a stocky woman — much like my present self  — who wore a shiny polyester sheath dress underlayered with various tight garments spaced in such a way that her back view reminded one of the Michelin Man dressed for a funeral. Believe me when I say that I am not making fun of this poor woman (anymore). I just have nightmares of accidentally dressing like that myself and then turning my back on an audience.

However, I couldn’t see my back view in the dressing room mirror.  I could see my side view, and I could see my mostly-back-but-craning-my-neck-to-see-over-my-shoulder view, but I needed to know that from straight on behind I wasn’t going to be distracting people from the beautiful music.  I did not feel that I could walk out into the store and ask strangers to look at my behind and tell me whether or not I looked like Michelin Man, so I decided to head over to the slimming garments section and pick up a little insurance.

Is there any feeling like that of a slimming garment under a silky, slinky dress with a gracefully small waist and an elegantly draping skirt?  You feel young, you feel fit, with tummy muscles taut and toned.  And when dressing for the concert you discover too late, having overlooked the stockings and the panel that was already built into the dress, that you are wearing not one but three slimming layers, you feel totally inflexible and also very fearful that soon you may not be able to breathe. In the car on the way to the concert, bent forcefully into the passenger seat, I summoned tiny gasps to tell The Patient Man that should I happen to pass out he should not waste money calling an ambulance but should instead just find a pair of scissors and cut through one or two $45 layers.  (I didn’t mention the price to him just then, though, because I knew that if the worst should happen he might spend valuable moments debating whether or not it was worth it, and I might actually die in the meantime.)

But all went well.  I moved with mincing steps to the podium, and knowing myself to be sleek if solid of body I raised my arms confidently, and it was only when the applause came that I realized that to turn around in a small space requires flexibility of the midsection.  I had to instead execute a series of rapid, tiny steps and thus I rotated stiffly and slowly in place to face an audience to which I then could not bow.  I nodded graciously instead.  If I could have, I would have breathed a sigh of relief.

So that has been my New England winter.

 

See you soon,

 

<KK>

**Yes, I ski.  Downhill ski, which burns about twelve calories, because you ride uphill and ski downhill.  No effort at all, at least the way I do it.

Well, At Least I Finally Have Good Ski Pants

February 11, 2015

I bought a ski pass at the beginning of this season but when late in December I tried to put on my ski pants I realized, once I finally got them zipped, that if I should happen to fall over while wearing them I would almost certainly suffer a serious internal injury. It was not even clear that I would be able to bend enough to get into the car to drive to the mountain. A possible scenario was that I would be able to put them on in the parking lot by jumping up and down while yanking on the zipper, hop over to the lift line and then shuffle forward and stand stiffly waiting for the lift, then the chair would hit me in the back of the knees and I would try to sit but my body wouldn’t bend and I would just kind of collapse backwards onto the chair, flailing, and then flip forward and slither under it; probably my helmet or jacket would get snagged on some projection under the chair as it passed over my body and I would be dragged slowly up the mountain, face down, and I did not wish this to happen, so I pretended that I didn’t want to go skiing anyway.

To be fair, these were ski bibs handed down to my son from my brother-in-law and then handed on down to me. I’m not even remotely the shape of either of these people and it’s amazing I’ve been able to wear them for as long as I have. The money I spent on the pass has been preying on my conscience, though, so I finally went to LL Bean a couple of days ago and spent a horrific amount on nicer ski pants than I even knew existed, and now I’m obligated to ski every day between now and May to justify both the price of the pass AND the price of the pants*.

So I went skiing this morning, and as usual on the way to the mountain I went over my list of fears:

  • That I will be forced onto a chair with a bunch of snowboarders who will trip me with their awkward boards as I try to get off and I will go sprawling and the lift will have to be stopped and it will look like it’s my fault.
  • That the lift operator will make me get on a chair with two young people who wanted to be by themselves and when we’re half way up someone will trip trying to get on or off (probably kicked by a snowboarder) and the lift will have to be stopped and we will be stranded mid-mountain, just the three of us, the blue sky above and the white snow below and romantic solitude everywhere and there will be several endless minutes of awkward and resentful silence before we start moving again.
  • That I will not be able to heave myself out of the chair at the top and the lift operator will not notice and I will have to ride all the way to the bottom, the upward bound skiers pointing and laughing and the lift operator at the bottom demanding to know what I think I’m doing.
  • That a snowboarder will fail to see the obvious pattern in my slow and deliberate S-turns and will crash into me from behind, killing me, and the last words ringing in my ears as I leave this world will be an outraged ‘Stupid woman was in my way!’
  • That a perfectly competent three-year old will ski past me and then for no reason suddenly stop directly in my path and I will not be able to avoid crashing into her, and this will obviously be my fault because I am the adult and I was uphill and I failed to avoid the collision, and both of her parents will shout this at me over and over as she is crying and the ski patrol is checking her for injuries and I am struggling vainly to untangle myself and get to my feet.
  • That a trail labelled “Moderate” will have a one of those very short but unavoidable connecting sections that are about four feet wide, icy, very steep, curving between trees and boulders and completely choked with packs of merciless ten year olds all trying to shove each other into the woods for fun.
  • That someone will be able to tell just by looking at me that I was the kid who went on the class ski trips but sat in the cabin reading books because I didn’t know how to ski and couldn’t afford a lift ticket but then still tried to be all cool with the rich kids when they got back from the mountain, and they will ask me what I think I’m doing pretending that I belong here.
  • That I will go into the lodge and buy coffee and sit down at an empty table to drink it and then immediately the big happy extended family whose stuff is under the table will come back and sit down all around me, except for the the person whose seat I’m in, who will stand behind me and say plaintively, “Where am I supposed to sit?”
  • And finally that late in the day I will fall over in plain view of the lift, my skis will be trapped under my body and pointing in different directions but will still not come off, I will not be able to reach my poles, no one will bother to stop, and while I am still thrashing around, struggling, pulling myself part way up only to fall over again, getting weaker and weaker each time, the mountain will close, the last skiers will swish around me, spraying me on the way by, a snowboarder will jump over me with a mocking laugh, a ski patrol will fly by shouting over his shoulder that I’d better get a move on and then the lights will go off, I will run out of energy to keep trying and I will freeze to death before morning. When they find my body they will shake their heads and say how careless and irresponsible I must have been.

But only four of these things happened today, and that was encouraging, so I’ll probably go again tomorrow. See you soon, <KK>

*and the very nice matching jacket I felt I also needed.