Saturday, July 4, 2015

Almost Independent

Thoughts on Independence Day

Yesterday, my son and I drove to Collegetown to deliver some furniture and household stuff to Older Daughter. It has been an unsettling summer for her, so I am relieved on her behalf that she has found a nice apartment not far from campus for her final year on the path toward getting her master’s degree.   

Futon bed within and bicycle outside
the trusty delivery vehicle

Look at those gorgeous floors!  And it helps
to have a roommate with nice furniture.

I was so impressed with how she has learned her way around Collegetown, and with her can-do attitude in the face of adversity and some difficult decisions.  I was also relieved that she wanted to take some of her Grandma’s dishes which have been languishing uselessly in our basement. 

She is Almost Independent!

Older Daughter needed a dresser.  She knew that
 she could find some inexpensive
serviceable furniture at the Salvation Army store,
AND she knew where the store was!
Helpful Common Household Son in the photo.
I could not have delivered the furniture without my son.  To him has fallen the lot of being the person in the family who can carry heavy objects, fix broken things, reach high shelves, drive places, and tutor his younger sister.  He also constructed a delightful treasure hunt for his sister’s birthday.  He’s working five days a week this summer, and has gotten himself a job for the fall semester doing tutoring on campus. It will only be a few years before he is Almost Independent.

That younger sister is also headed that direction.  She has started driving lessons, and has actually used the accelerator!  When she questioned the need for her to learn how to drive, I told her that a driver’s license means freedom, for her and for me.  Soon she goes off to camp for two solid weeks.  She claims she will be fine, and therefore I believe it.

But still, I am the one who knows how to find things in the refrigerator.  We still pay for visits to the dentist.  And, criminy, we own the cars.  Do not forget that, children o’ mine.

Despite being Almost Independent, some people still
like to play with their food.
As these children of mine gain their independence, I hope that our family will continue, in all the right and healthy ways, to be dependent on each other, and that we will remember that the same is true of our whole society.  We just can’t make it through adversity or furniture delivery without each other.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Road Trip!

Map of Canada, drawn my nephew, probably
when he was about 10 years old

Eight days ago I got on a plane and flew to Boston, Mass.  There I joined my younger brother and his daughter (my niece), my older brother and his wife (my sister-in-law) and we got in a smallish car and headed northeast.  To New Brunswick or bust!

Before I left home, I had this conversation with my son:
Son: So, you’re going to Canada today!

Me: Yes, I am going to Canada.  You know what this means….

Son:  Free health care!

Me:  No, it means whatever dishes you put in that sink in the morning will still be there when you get back in the evening.

Son:  As a parting gift to us, can you do the dishes one more time?

(The only parting gift I gave for that comment was a motherly glare.  But I am pleased to say that when I got home, there was not a single dish in the sink.  Well done!)

I was nervous before the trip.  This was my first trip outside the country in ten years, an embarrassment for the world traveler I once was.  As my husband drove me to the airport, I bemoaned the fact that I had not looked up the driving directions.  It just bothers me to not know what roads we are going to take.

I did not need to worry.  Once I got to Boston, my brother went to his Chart Room.  
This box full of maps is what my brother refers to as his Chart Room.

Paper maps - how quaint!
If you were looking for Waldo, try looking in Maine.

He consulted map after map (all on paper, none interwebby), throwing aside the “bike routes of Northern Maine” map and the “hikes in New Hampshire” map until he found road maps for Maine and New Brunswick. 

Bright and early the next morning, we set out for Maine. Our first stop – a town near Portland, for a wonderful but all-too-brief breakfast visit to my cousin and his family.  Then on to Saint John, New Brunswick, to visit my uncle, aunt, and another cousin.  
A more modern map.  Click to embiggen.
Here are a few of the signs we saw during our trip.

That top sign denotes that you will likely see
bicyclists riding on top of a tunnel harboring
 pregnant university graduates. That's the
best I could make of it.

We thought this might be a sign showing the way East
for those without a compass app.  But someone
told us it was the town’s evacuation route.

All road signs in New Brunswick are in French and English.

Political sign in someone's front yard.

Be sure to notice dogs doing their business.
By the way, that's the US on the other side of
the water.

Vroom Lane, in St Stephen, NB

Back in New Hampshire, the Interstate highway
 rest stop consists of a giant liquor store.
No mixed messages there, eh?

Restaurant wisdom.  My brother said this just about
summed up the history of thought in Western Civilization.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Power of the Printed Word

From Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo
Book V Chapter 2 This Will Kill That
Our readers must excuse us if we stop a moment to investigate the enigmatic words of the archdeacon: “This will kill that.  The book will kill the edifice.”  (p 174)
... How precarious is the immortality of the manuscript!  How far more solid, lasting, and resistant is the edifice, the book in stone!  To destroy the written word, you need only a torch and a Turk.  To demolish the constructed word, you need a social revolution or an earthquake. Barbarism swept over the Colosseum; a deluge, perhaps, over the pyramids.

In the fifteenth century everything changed.

Human intelligence discovered a way of perpetuating itself, one not only more durable and more resistant than architecture, but also simpler and easier.  Architecture was dethroned.  The stone letters of Orpheus gave way to the lead letters of Gutenberg.

The book will kill the edifice.

The invention of printing was the greatest event in history.  It was the parent revolution; it was the fundamental change in mankind’s mode of expression, it was human thought doffing one garment to clothe itself in another; it was the complete and definitive sloughing off of the skin of a serpent, which, since the time of Adam, has symbolized intelligence.

When put into print, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, intangible, indestructible; it mingles with the air.  (p 182)

Translated by Walter Cobb

                                                        Will the internet kill the book?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Update from the Reluctant Gardener

While we are rushing around doing birthday celebrations and such, God is blessing the Common Household vegetable garden, which consists of six plants in pots on the deck.  What a pleasant surprise to see flowers on the tomato plants! 
Promise of future cherry tomatoes
For several years we have planted peppers plants but not once have I seen a pepper grow.  This year I’m trying jalapenos.  So far, no evidence of pepper progeny.

Alas, the marigolds met an untimely death, due to neglect.

The miracle is this lettuce plant.  At the farmer’s market, I bought what I thought was a head of red-leaf lettuce.  But it turned out to be in a little pot, actually still growing in actual dirt.  This was the best thing ever – whenever I wanted to make a salad (which I do almost every day) I just pulled off a few leaves from my lettuce plant.   I used up one plant in one week, which meant it was time to go back to the farmer’s market to buy another one. 
New tasty lettuce leaves are growing!
Now the trick is to make sure the attack rabbits don't
come up onto the deck and steal them.

Here’s the miracle.  My friend (who is knowledgeable about many things, especially plants) said, “Just put last week’s lettuce plant outside.  If you left the root in the soil, it will probably grow more lettuce leaves.”  Now “just put it outside” is a gardening instruction that I can follow.  I practically threw that pot with the spent lettuce out on the deck.   And it is indeed growing new leaves! 

In the front yard, tragedy struck.  Someone, probably a lyme-disease-tick-carrying ungulate, ate all the buds off one of my balloon flower plants.  In retaliation, paying no heed to the fact our neighbor was having a huge party, I went out yesterday and stunk up the whole neighborhood by liberally spraying Liquid Fence, which smells like rotten eggs + wolf urine. 

Applying Liquid Fence has become trickier than it used to be.  The spray nozzle got a strategically placed hole in it, which means that some of the Liquid Fence comes out sideways, rather than straightforward.  I have to be very careful to stand to the left of the bottle when I spray, or no one will ever want to sit next to me in the movie theater ever again.   Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I couldn’t get anyone in the family to go see “Far From the Madding Crowd” with me.