Sunday, November 30, 2008

apropos of nothing

It's interesting how one's reaction to car repair costs can change in different circumstances. Ordinarily, a $175 bill for spark plugs would have me halfway to broken. But given the major things I've had to do for the car this year -- things that have forced me to sell stuff on craig's list for bucks -- I didn't even blink an eye at this. In fact, I finally began to breathe normally when I heard that it wasn't an $800 computer. Seems that I'd been forking out so much for major repairs that I forgot about the annual tuneup.


At the checkstand at Target, Obama's first book in my open handbag, title facing up. The checker sees it, and the following conversation ensues:

Her: I didn't know he'd written a book!
Me: He's written three I believe. This is the first one, before he became heavily involved in politics.
Her: Is it good?
Me: I think so; it's about his family. He's a very good writer.
Her: I have to buy that, where did you get it?
Me: Upstairs at Barnes & Noble.

Later that night I was telling the little story to rugrat, when she said:

I didn't know he'd written books!



Rugrat's boyfriend has all but moved in with us lately, and as nice as he is, it's driving me nuts. He's even here when she is at work. He stays in her room and doesn't make a nuisance of himself, but I can't really relax when he's here. I mean, I can't run around in my underwear, go to the bathroom with the door open, or feel like I can munch on junk at night in front of the telly when I know he's in the next room.

It seems that his mom had the phone, internet, and cable all shut off for nonpayment, so there's nothing to do at his place. His mother boggles my mind when it comes to finances. She takes her kids and rugrat on a caribbean cruise, while utilities are shut off. She goes down to atlantic city to gamble, while her rent goes unpaid and they get eviction notices regularly (which she then makes her son go take care of for her because she can't face them in person).

I don't get it. First, she makes more than I do, so she should be able to pay her bills. Second, I may spend a lot more than I should on luxuries, but the basic bills always get paid first. I would never risk potential homelessness like that. I simply can't imagine living in that kind of financial chaos -- I can barely handle my own car problems.


I finally received the cola that we were due a year ago, but the union and the state were hammering out details till way past the date the last contract ended. So we all got the last year's cola in one lump sum in our last paycheck. That's why I didn't blink much about the car, I suppose. The rest of the cola went to groceries and bills. And I'll buy a couple of things for toys for tots in the next week or so.


I finally got up the courage to email my MFD committee chair, who had emailed me a month ago to see where I was in the process. There's no way I can even think about it till the semester's over, but I'm going to have to put in 60 hour weeks over the break to get something worthwhile done.

That, of course, is in addition to advising students; overseeing a few students who are still in field placements and have incompletes until they finish their hours; reading the new textbook I've adopted for my policy course; and updating all my syllabi to incorporate what I've learned from various faculty development workshops.

Ummm, yeah.


I did splurge at best buy with my cola check. I picked up a few oldies but goodies from my past, mostly on sale.

the cars
edgar winter
chaka khan
cyndi lauper

Chaka Khan, I feel for you:

Saturday, November 22, 2008


She'd been having a lot of headaches the past few months. At first, they were pounding headaches at her temples and the base of her neck. Supposedly, tension headaches that are typical of menopause (oh yay!). The kind of headaches where it hurts to put on a hat, or earmuffs in the cold, or pull your hair back into a ponytail, or lay your head on the arm of the sofa. But the last few weeks they've been what she called empty-headed headaches. Like the feeling your brain gets when you've pulled an all-nighter or been up for a couple of days.

She first got those headaches over 20 years ago, when she had viral encephalitis; it was the feeling of her brain swelling inside her skull, with nowhere for the swelling to go. After she recovered, she had a tendency to get the headaches when she was horrendously over-tired; with the headaches came severe nausea. The empty-headed headaches slowly stopped coming back, until she very rarely had them anymore. But now, she'd had them for about four weeks straight, with more bad days than good ones.

She stepped off the train Thursday night with just such a headache. A very cold, clear, crisp night; windy enough for the weather reports to mention a wind chill factor. It was almost 10, and she didn't make it home earlier than 9-ish any night that week. But that night, it was cold enough that as she stepped off the train, she was greeted with the distinctive smell of a wood fire. The smoke, likely from the fireplace of someone keeping warm, carried through the village on the breeze, and woke a memory in her.

You know how it is, when a smell reminds you of something...something familiar...but you can't quite place it. You think, and think, and eventually you pull that memory from the depths of the complex brain that stores all memories. Sometimes the memory is good, and sometimes...well, not so much. You live for the good ones, though.

The memory that night was right there, tugging at her consciousness, but just out of reach. She could tell it was a good memory -- no anxiety or fear bubbled up from within. Just a sense of calm, peace. But the actual memory wouldn't come forth with casual delving into her brain, no doubt due to the headache. At first, she tried digging deeper into the recesses of her mind, but it became apparent that the digging would have to be intense to bring this memory forth.

She would have to climb the steps to the attic of her mind, chop down the closet door, pry up the wooden floor slats, drag out the big old-fashioned trunk with the brass hinges, take a hammer to the lock, and rummage through the past to find that particular memory. Or into the office, and the file cabinet, with the drawers that open like the file cabinet on bruce almighty forcing him to the opposite wall as it opened, so stuffed full it was; she'd have to find the memory among all the other fluff in that drawer filling her brain.

But she just didn't have it in her tonight. Rifling through her brain like that with the headache she had would have been excruciating. All she wanted right now was about four ibuprofens and her pillow with the soft satin case. And a darkened room, with soft music -- preferably something classical. Perhaps a cup of cocoa.

So, she accepted the anonymous memory for what it was -- something lovely from her past, something that made her feel good. And all the way home, she breathed deeply in the cold night air, filling her lungs, her body, her brain, with the smell of wood smoke -- and a memory.

cats, memory (it seemed appropriate here)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

just shoot me now

So, the car.

Sensing a theme here?

When the body shop finished all the work on the car, it suddenly stopped running. The engine would turn over, but it wouldn't come on. They determined that it was the (a) computer. A new computer would have run $700 big ones, on top of what we were already paying for our 20%. We just didn't have that kind of money laying around. But then the shop said they had found a used computer for $75.

Now computers aren't like other parts that can be replaced with something used -- the replacement computer has to have the same exact part number as the computer you are replacing. Miraculously, it did -- and they checked it carefully. We even passed state inspections three days later.

Last Saturday, after taking rugrat to the airport, the check engine light came on. It was driving alright though, at that point. I took it into my regular mechanics, and they said the TCM (computer controlling the transmission) had a P1613 code, which meant I had to take the car to the hyundai people and would probably have to replace the computer. Don't ask what that would cost.

But since we had just replaced another computer, it was also possible that the two computers simply weren't communicating with each other because of the replacement. Or that the used computer had a problem. It would be difficult to know until the dealer checked it out.

So, I took the car home on Wednesday and parked it for the rest of the week. I went out just a bit ago to do some grocery shopping, and the car started roughly, puttered, and died. And wouldn't turn on again. The engine turns over, but it doesn't start.

So here I sit, still without a car, with no money for computer replacements. No dealer open on the weekends to even call and talk to their mechanic. And I would need a tow to get there anyway.

And I'm supposed to pick up rugrat at the airport Monday morning.

There's a limit to how many things can be piled on to one person.

Sometimes it doesn't make you stronger at all, it just makes you...oh, never mind.

Excuse me while I go have a good cry.

You get no music or photos or colours on this one...I'm at the limit of my positivity.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

they only come out at night

So we got the little red car that couldn't back five weeks to the day after the accident. It looked like new (see?), and ran well.

Two days later we had to do the annual state inspection (for you non-New Yorkers, downstate inspections are quite fierce). We were nervous, but it passed, thank goodness.

Then last night, on the way home from driving rugrat and her boyfriend to the airport to board a plane to Puerto Rico for a week-long tropical cruise courtesy of the boyfriend's mother, the check engine light came on.


Work remains as crazy as usual. Still teaching 3 courses, serving on two high profile committees with a lot of responsibility, advising a student club, and participating in a faculty development training on writing across the curriculum, so that the writing intensive classes that I'm already teaching can get official WI status.

And that's not counting all the little things that come up, like student advising, student letters of recommendation, adjunct observations, etc. I love the hell out of it, but it takes a lot out of me. I leave home at 8 in the morning, and don't get home till 10 or 11 that night. I can't wait till I can move into the city and knock a good 2.5 to 3 hours off that time.

I met a fellow blogger the week before halloween, and showed her Ellen's Stardust Diner in Times Square, where the waitstaff -- budding broadway stars -- entertain the audience. We had a great time, and she told me I didn't look at all like a frumpy, middle-aged professor.

On halloween, rugrat and her bf came into the city for the parade. I met them for dinner at dallas bbq on42nd, they went to the parade, I went to a movie, and then we met up again dessert at coldstone's, followed by a packed subway ride home. I snapped some fairly good shots that night - -I hope I can post them soon.

Health-wise, I'm back on synthroid for the goiter, and hoping that will even out the hormones some. I've felt a bit wonky for a couple of months now, and I'm not sure what it is. I keep getting headaches that are strangely reminiscent of my bout with viral encephalitis 20 years ago, along with some serious physical exhaustion that has me conking out whenever I get a chance to sit for more than a few minutes. I know I'll need to tell the doc about it soon if it doesn't go away.

The pain that I've had in my knees and hips has become worse, and while we haven't done any tests yet, the doc is suggesting it is likely osteoarthritis. The most common methods of treating the symptoms? Ibuprofen and...exercise. Yes, working out through the pain. I've been walking through the pain, but I don't think I can do anything that would go too much beyond that. And I won't tell you how many bottles of ibuprofen I've been through in the last few months.

But, to use a term from the 70's, I keep on truckin'. I still have that smile on my face every day, I still love my work, and I still have hope that the health issues will work themselves out.

I miss like hell not being able to really 'write' here like I used to. Even a simple people-watching post would do me good -- I've seen so much in my daily commute. Ah, well...I imagine my personal writing will be something that happens mainly when I'm in between semesters. I'll just have to keep it all in my head until then.

muddy waters, johnny winter, et al:

and another...blues doesn't get any better than this:

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

the first vote

I got up early and voted before work this morning, since I didn't know for sure if I'd be home before 9 (last night I wasn't home till 11).

This one was special though, as rugrat voted in her first ever election. I'm kind of glad that her first election was a presidential one; I think it made her look forward to voting in a way she might not have otherwise.

I went online last night and printed out a copy of our local ballot, so I could go over the other 'electibles' for our county -- which included a state senator, a state assemblymember, a US representative, a county judge, and something called proposition 1. I wanted her to know that voting wasn't just about the president, and that local elections were just as important -- dare I say, more important? -- than the presidential election.

In NY, we still use those manual machines (in Westchester, the Sequoia ImageCast), so we pull a red-handled lever to close curtains, flick several small metal levers, and then pull that red handle once more to finalize our vote and open the curtains. I rather like those machines -- I don't think I'd like voting with computer screens at all.

The rugrat didn't want to go by herself today, and since I wouldn't have been home in time, and she works this evening, she -- the girl least likely to open her eyes to the light of day before noon -- got out of bed and went with me at the ungodly hour of 8:00 this morning. That's how excited she was to cast her vote for Obama (she said it's very sad that his grandmother didn't make it to see him elected President).

Of course, she then went straight home and straight back to bed.

Oh well...can't win them all.