And So It Begins

I’m furloughed, which at least coincides with the semester break at NDU. I spent the first week of Lapse-mas eating and sleeping, making merry with my kin, and replacing all the contents of my wallet, which was stolen on Christmas Eve during my final grocery outing. Mouse and I went to visit my parents in West Virginia for a couple of days. I latch-hooked half of a Christmas wreath while watching “Serenity” and “Solo” with my dad. Then we came home. I read novels with vampires and witches in them and spent three days in the house in my jammies. I subsequently worked my way into Russian New Year’s cooking, Regency romances, and even getting dressed to go outside. Ideally, I will be totally recharged by the time Congress sees fit to reopen my agency; hopefully that will coincide with the beginning of my next semester of school.

My challenge for the rest of the academic year is learning how to plan and write academic papers in an organized manner. Fall semester went pretty well, only my writing was almost entirely done in desperate overnight bursts. That wasn’t a problem when I was 18, but I found it painful as a 48 year-old. There will be more writing this semester, and I would like to suffer less. I also suspect that I might be more professionally effective in general if I could unlock the secrets of time management. Suggestions welcome.


Another Happy Holiday

It’s Easter for us Papists (and the Western-rite Orthodox, and Protestants). This year my sister and I and our families met up for a holiday lunch at Fogo de Chao downtown to celebrate. As the night deepens and the time for this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” approaches, I feel confident in declaring victory. The conditions for a successful holiday have been met. To wit:

  1. No one gambles away the grocery money.
  2. No foodstuffs are thrown.
  3. No one storms out of the house in a passion.
  4. No one visits the ER.
  5. No one makes me cry.
  6. No one calls the police to my home.

(OK, actually I can’t claim victory if I haven’t fulfilled the religious obligation of the holiday. I am really pleased about the other stuff not going wrong and with the way the rest of the weekend went – I mean, I didn’t eat any Easter candy! I exercised! I took a machine-sewing primer at Stitch Sew Shop! We had a really pleasant afternoon with extended family! But nope.)


A Few Weeks Later

Podrostok (or maybe I should start calling him Soldatik in honor of his new adult station in life) came home for the holidays. It was fun having him around and having an excuse to visit a friend of mine who lives near Soldatik‘s base during the pick-up and drop-off trips. (Always life-affirming to see people whose ambient chaos levels resemble or exceed one’s own, plus I got slept on by some dachshunds. This last fact almost makes up for the fact that he introduced the film “Love, Actually” into my life, but only almost. It’s the cinematic equivalent of eating an entire bag of Starburst jellybeans in one sitting, and it makes me regret the loss of my gag reflex in much the same manner. If I had won the Powerball last week I would have paid for a sequel in which Emma Thompson’s character teamed up with Laura Linney’s character to wreak havoc on all the smug happy people in the film. It would end with Laura Linney and Liam Neeson living happily ever after, Emma Thompson bonking the dude who plays Rick on “Walking Dead,” and the chick who seduced Alan Rickman subjugating and blackmailing Hugh Grant while performing feminist consciousness-raising intervention on his girlfriend. Colin Firth and his girl friend can stay together, though.)

No Dinosaurovs (or Protosaurs) were harmed in the making of this Christmas, for what that’s worth, nor were the police summoned to my belle-mere‘s apartment. I couldn’t summon the holiday spirit to decorate the house in earnest, but I did at least trim up a table festively and make some cookies, and my sister had a lovely Christmas dinner for the lot of us.

I went another round with the nightstand last week, but this time I pushed it out of the way as I was rolling on to the floor (diving to the floor of a metro car to avoid gun fire in my dream). Dino Spouse was startled by the noise but neither of us was wounded. I guess that means the nightstand and I are even now? I’ve gotten a referral to a neurologist and a sleep specialist.

Mouse discovered the musical “Hamilton” at some point during the holiday and it took over our brains completely. Unfortunately, anxiety and despoir also took over Mouse’s brain during the school break, with the result that my girl has attended four of the last ten days of school. We have logged a lot of quality time with mental health professionals in the past two weeks. I am grateful that I will be seeing mine on Monday, because dang.

The Virtues of Rama

Dino Spouse and I celebrated Valentine’s Day last week by going to a couple of second-hand shops and having an early dinner at a Korean restaurant. We have watched so many Korean movies thanks to Netflix that my husband was eager to try Korean cuisine, my own knowledge of which is limited to the bibimbap at the salad bar place near my office and kimchi. Given the wide availability of Korean salads in Almaty, I was surprised that he’d never tried kimchi before. But I digress.

During the shopping portion of our Valentine’s Day celebration, we visited a downright Gucci Goodwill in Annandale. I cleaned up on clothing there and found two things I really wanted to read: a 2007 novel about office life called Then We Came To The End (read it six years ago, wanted to read it again) and the Ramayana. Actually, it was an abridged prose “translation” of the great Hindu epic by an obscure American dude in the 1950’s with illustrations that would have been better suited to student copies of 1970’s album cover art. It is not the kind of literary translation I favor, but I am ignorant of Hindu epics and I have abandoned many august scholarly translations of ancient epics in my reading life. For 99 cents, I figured I could do worse.

I could definitely have done worse. Now I want to find his version of the Mahabharata. (Maybe it’s on Amazon’s loser imitation of Oyster – something’s got to be there besides vampire romantic fanfic, for the love of God. I need to remember to cancel my membership.) It was readable and it has a summary of the hero’s virtues which I love so much I am going to post the whole damned thing here.

Rama’s nature was quiet and free. He didn’t give good advice and tell others what he thought best and show them their mistakes. He knew when to save and when to spend. He could judge men finely and keep his own counsel. He could read hearts. He knew his own faults better than the failings of others. He could speak well and reason in a chain of eloquent words. Half a benefit to him was more to him than a hundred injuries. Bad accidents never happened near him. He could speak every language and was an expert archer who shot golden arrows; and he didn’t believe that what he preferred from himself was always best for everyone else.

Rama was kind and courteous and never ill. To harsh words he returned no blame. He was warmhearted and generous and a real friend to all. He tried living right and found it easier than he’d thought. He collected the King’s taxes so that over half the people didn’t really mind paying him. He was a remarkable prince and every Kosala loved him except for five or six fools. He was hospitable and spoke first to every guest in welcome words. He was a quiet strong man; he could bend iron in his hands or fix a bird’s broken wing. He would not scold the whole world not take to task the universe, and so his pleasure and his anger never went for nothing.

Rama would not work very long without a holiday; he wouldn’t walk far without stopping to greet a friend, nor speak long without smiling. His entertainments and dances were the best in the world. He loved Sita well; he lived his life for the sake of her being a part of it. He would often find a new gift for his friends. He did not fear to pass a whole day without work. Whatever he did, he ennobled it by how he did it. Rama’s way was noble.

This all sounds like a life well spent to me. At least some of these sound like virtues to which I might aspire. I even read this aloud to my children Friday morning. And then I step back and wonder whether this will have the same aftertaste as when I thought James Altucher was, like, deep. Virtues which serve a supernatural king who bests demons in combat and hangs around with talking bears and monkeys may not be of much practical use to me as a parent or a public servant. It’s probably a lot more effective to speak softly when you’re actually carrying a big stick than when you just wish you were.

Starring Shane MacGowan As The Elf On The Shelf!

Merry Christmas! It is also a holy day on the Dinosaur calendar in that it is Shane MacGowan’s birthday. So please enjoy this traditional carol …

Though lately I have this old chestnut stuck in my head …

(Not yet weighing in on the success of the holiday because I might jinx it. Heading off to my sister’s house in another hour or so for Family Christmas. Tempted to insert poll about which of the four conditions for a successful holiday is most likely to be violated this year. Wish me luck.)

Silent BRAT

Bananas. Rice. Applesauce. Toast. These (with Jello and broth) make up my major food sources. I’ve been on this fabulous diet since the week before Thanksgiving, for reasons about which you are happiest hearing little or nothing. The not-gross part is diverticular disease. While the instant weight loss accompanying this fare is welcome and becoming, I am seriously hungry. I’m also ill-tempered as hell. Throw that into the mix with my recent depression and you have a good reason for me to self-censor and stay off the blog.

I am really fortunate to have a supportive boss. I should write summat about how to handle medical misfortunes as a federal employee if you don’t. It can be complicated. Heck, I supervised a leave program and I still have to go back and ask for help now with my paperwork.

Happy Chanuka and Merry Christmas, y’all. We here in the Dinosaur Nest are all so tired and disgruntled that we’ve decided not to decorate or wrap presents this year. Nope, we’re going to order Chinese food, pull gifts out of bags and throw them at each other, and then go to Mass on Christmas eve. I can’t decide if this represents a new low or nirvana, but every single member of the household sounded relieved to hear this idea when I broached it today.

No, Thank You

It’s the eve of Thanksgiving. My kids and I, having braved the slush and fog of the Allegheny Mountains, are holed up in Morgantown, West Virginia, once again and planning to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow with my venerable Papaw, his lady friend, my parents, and my sister with her family. This year’s venue is the Thanksgiving buffet at the Lakeview Resort.

This week and next, I am on a diet of low-fiber liquid and mush to heal what seems to be a weird hole forming in my colon. Tomorrow I sup on the finest gravy and mashed potatoes! It will be a break from lactose-free rice pudding, jello, and apple sauce that make up my usual fare. I’m very grateful it isn’t worse and that I have the resources to seek medical attention.

(Other things and people in my life deserve enthusiastic and unstinting thanks. Lack of enthusiasm is another one of those things I’m glad to be getting some help with.)

Of A Sunday

First there was Easter. Easter went reasonably well. Actually, all but one of the Four Conditions For A Happy Holiday were met. Ma Protosaur, aka my mother, wound up in the ER after breaking a bone in her hand at our house in the wee hours of Good Friday. This did not prevent her or us* from traveling to West Virginia to visit my grandfather or from enjoying Easter Dinner at my sister’s house.

This week got off to a weak start. I’ve never been allergy-prone, but whatever was blooming Monday last affected me like the poppy field in “Wizard of Oz.” I think I slept for a total of 24 hours or so between mid-afternoon Monday and Wednesday morning.

Yesterday I switched out my cold-weather wardrobe for my warm-weather wardrobe and scoured the floor of our basement cold room. Our elderly housecat recently decided that certain concrete surfaces of the cold room floor are preferable to her litter box and its eco-friendly mix of pine, cedar, and corn litter. Three hours and an extra litter box with conventional litter later, she reconsidered. Thus my home looks like hell today, but it smells a lot better. Recommendations for eco-friendly litter that feels like kitty qwik-crete would be most welcome.

* One of the reasons that the Dino Marriage has survived this long (17 years in May) is the fact that we stopped undertaking long-distance family travel together in year seven or so. We do not function well in tandem when in close quarters, physical discomfort, and the presence of kids and extended family. So I travel with the Dino Kids solo, and he stays behind lest Babushka require his support.

Today I will ridding Mouse’s room of all the clothes that don’t fit her or fit her a little too well for my comfort. Oh, my blooming Mouse! She shot up two shoe sizes a week or so ago (now rocking a women’s size 10 shoe at the majestic 11 year-old height of 5’4″) and went shopping in her aunt’s closet last week with great delight. She will probably find herself with a whole bunch of new drawer space by day’s end.  I am still holding out hope that she did not inherit the giant freak feet that plague me, her uncle, and her cousin, but so far the signs are not super-encouraging.