Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An experiment

Okay, another ping for scientific research (thanks to Kat for the post and link - g'wan, you guys, you know you want to do it, too):
link to this. And then you do a ping on technoratihere

There. Go forth into the ether and ping away.

In other news, I'm more or less functional again. Fingers crossed that this continues. I like being functional.

I'm not anywhere near 50K on my NaNoWriMo project, but that's fine. It's been fun anyway, particularly the "not caring about whether or not what I'm writing is total crap" part. That's probably a good rule in general, come to think of it. Inhibits the process, the worrying thing.

Sort of a blah post, but I did want to do the meme speed thing. Later, all.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy anniversary, darling.

You married me thirteen years ago today. As always, it seems like forever, and it seems like five minutes. I love you still, dearest. I strain to feel your presence somehow; what I feel is the memory of you. I see your eyes and your smile and the grace of your hands. Perhaps some day, we'll find each other again. The love is too strong to be just one life's worth.

All my love,

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Ah, beans

Them's the beans, those are. There are some in the pretty-much-ripe stage, and some that are green with little bit of red, and some that are all red but not very dark red. It's been fun watching the growth of a substance on which I rely as heavily as water or air. All hail the coffee plant, oo oo aa.

Finally found the doohickey for the camera, as you see. It was its turn to be the Lost Item of the Day, apparently, and I had failed to notice. You will also note that I have recovered my ability to write little html tags to make links. Boy, does this girl know how to party or what?

The big activity for the weekend was MIT Splash, which was pretty damn fabu as usual. I got to sneak out to the MIT Press bookstore, and I - gasp, be still my heart - scored a copy of the most fascinating and complete book on the neurology of cognition that exists anywhere , and even got to have an intelligent conversation about why I find this stuff so fascinating. The new edition has new material on neural plasticity! This is the key to everything! Oh, boy! It's edited by the guy who is basically God, for this topic, anyway.

I'm pretty excited about it. Can you tell? (Yes, this made the intro/description of my darling husband and I even funnier (and more terrifying, for some): "hello, this is S, who's a Ph.D. in astrophysics, and his wife L, an ex-actress with a hobbyist's interest in neuroscience.") (okay, we almost never did that, not unless we both wanted to have people flee.)

I'm doing okayish, still. I cried a lot while writing some thank you notes, but that's partly what they're for. We're going to my relatives for Thanksgiving, like we usually do. Little guy simply loves having bezillion relatives all over the place; the girls are not as keen. It'll be fine (or fine-ish). We called up Nana (my MIL) and sang happy birthday today. And the kids did a really full day of formal schoolwork here in homeschool land! Oldest did something silly with her math course so now she's got a huge pile of proofs to write and is putting in the time, hurray for responsible teenagerhood--and got an A- on her psychology course! whoo hoo! Middle did yeochild's work on her normal stuff plus an entire chapter of vocabulary lesson. And little guy soldiered through a big batch of math and some writing lessons and then a whole chapter of Latin, which he used to have to break into sections but now has the stamina to do all of it in one sitting. They found the time to nearly finish the Harry Potter structure, too, but we seem to have lost one teeny tiny piece, so it's taking a rest. The work so far:

I'm not sure Hagrid is supposed to have been knocked senseless, but the lego guys, they can be a rough crowd.

Peace, everybody.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Paris Couture and other art

The Museum of Fine Arts has a special exhibition of Paris couture from this year’s spring collections. I went yesterday afternoon. The show is not very large, but the garments from Dior by Galliano are couture at its best. I stood and wept, looking at them. Nothing else in the room touches the genius in these designs. They are so far beyond the edge that they’re as if they’re from another world entirely, and that, to me, is what Paris couture at its best does. Everyone else will show variations of plausible clothes that actual humans could wear, work within the restrictions natural to fashion design, NY, Milan, and then, Paris happens, and someone like Dior or YSL or someone else or all of them will do their stuff, and it’s a pure wind of absolute artistic freedom that blows everything else away. There’s no Yves Saint Laurent in this exhibition, one of the only design houses that comes near this visionary work, IMHO; no Miyake, some Chanel, some Lacroix. The exhibition catalog doesn’t have pictures of the Dior, as far as I could see, so to see it, you have to go. And it’s worth going.

The writing I’m doing is finally going in a sort of flow. I’m attempting the NaNoWriMo challenge – a 50K word novel written entirely between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30, for those who haven’t heard of this thing – and even after not doing any writing at all for far too many days, I’m at last going along and letting it happen. Unlike the other stuff I have to let happen, this is a joy, mostly. And it is also fundamentally something that I control, another big draw for the control freak, here. Er, 40% control freak, I mean. I’m using the story to work things out in my own head—kind of fantasy as therapy and discovery. I have come to hate simple subject-verb-object sentences. I write a lot of them. It occasionally drives me bonkers. There, I’m doing it again. Argh. I’ve spent so much time typing on my laptop that I have sore spots on the heels of my hands where they rest on the keyboard. I’m cranking out each thousand words with the same intensity of effort as swimming laps. I love swimming laps, on those rare occasions when I do it. I also hate it; it’s hard, and exhausting (but it’s really good, too). Erm, it has not escaped my notice that my respite from writing the novel is...writing a blog entry. Crap.

The daily exercise is still working out for me (god, sentence structure bugging me again, ack, caugh, splagg). As long as I do my situps and leg lifts, my knees don’t hurt. This is, as you might imagine, a powerful incentive. Hopefully the weight will stabilize soon. I feel fairly good physically, a bit like a sharpened knife. The strength in my legs helps.

41,420 survivors, it says, as Battlestar Galactica begins, and the music is so haunting that when that’s on the screen, I get choked up. The original show was pretty cheesy, and I still half-expect it to be the same cheesy thing it was in its previous incarnation. But this is about what happens to people in extreme situations, how they maintain a society, how they live with themselves, how they continue to find meaning in their lives. What does torture really do. What makes an election meaningful. When is it acceptable to execute people, and for what crimes. Whoo hoo, something not unbearably stupid.

No coffee plant pix today - soon, though; I'm posting remotely from MIT's graciously offered visitor wireless network, and I forgot to bring the camera doohickey.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Phew. Broken free of the vortex, folks; doing better today.

Yesterday’s mail brought two small smiles: 1) the gas bill! I’d been a little fretful, because I’ve started heating the house, and ... it wasn’t too expensive. It’s a relief. And 2) Her Majesty’s Government has sent me the forms to claim for widow’s benefit or whatever the hell it’s called, and they’re just ...sweet. Every other page has “we’re so sorry to bother you with this, we just really need the information; it may be helpful to have someone else fill this out for you.” Like so many things, the UK government just doesn’t feel like the faceless bureaucracy that the US one does. What has me giggling in disbelief is that the form is – drum roll, please – twenty four pages long. I’m not overwhelmed; at this point I have almost every conceivable piece of documentation anyone could possibly ask for. It’s just so over the top, and so apologetic, and it makes me smile. Most of the pages have one question and a box to check off: yes or no. Then you turn the page.

I’m assembling things for my secret pal, which is delightful. I was right about this: it does give me a small, simple way to get outside my own head and do something that’s just happy. Yay!

I made bacon and pancakes for breakfast today, which resulted in happy kids all around. Extremely frustrated dog, though—she can smell the bacon, she knows it’s there, but she can not have it. This has her simply frozen to the floor with longing. Poor thing.

My coffee plant has coffee beans on it, and I think they’re getting ripe. I base this notion on the brief glimpses of coffee growing in ads on tv and in the movie Out of Africa; I have no idea what these things are supposed to look like or when to pick them. It’s fun learning, though.

Thank you, everyone. This all ebbs and flows, and I’m getting used to it, I think.

I even got some work done (ha, if you can call it that) on my NaNoWriMo project. I have almost stopped being in constant instant-edit mode and am trying to just let the weirdness flow. A veritable cornucopia of weirdness. A land flowing with milk and weirdness. “Let the Weirdness Flow” sounds like a title for something, doesn’t it?

Something else is starting to peek out, very tentatively and more like a too-early crocus through the snow than anything more substantial, but it’s the faintest tendrils of hope. I’m starting to think of things that I could choose to do. Some of that comes from the water-in-the-face of doing financial planning, and it’s scary, but also...hopeful.

WIP: little guy’s gloves are progressing, this time on larger needles. We’ll see if that makes them wearable. I knit the first attempt so tightly that he really couldn’t get his fingers in. “Fits like a glove” is supposed to be a good thing.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Remembering to breathe

It’s a foggy, rainy day here. I’ve started a pair of gloves for my son – orange, as requested. And I’m mulling things to pack up for another package for my Secret Pal.

I actually got out and did a few things this week, mainly knitting-related: knit with the gals (Kathleen, the pie was great! And I saw you on Channel 7 last night!) (also hellos to Anne and Ruth and everybody, again), went to Javaroom (waves to everyone), went to check out some candles (hi, Tattoo Queen! Thanks!) and play with kitties and stuff. We now have corralled the partly-assembled legos that were all over the floor, and they’re under the couch, waiting for more fooling around. Thank you thank you thank you for those.

Today’s been surreal. Sucky. I found my beloved’s small, tidy file of papers from when he first moved to the US (of course he had them neatly filed away), so I now have his National Insurance documents for the UK. Whee. I also found a couple of old letters from women he’d been involved with before I met him. I knew in intimate detail what the significance of two were, but not quite on the third one. At any rate, this set off a huge wave of physical memory and pining for him (not to invoke the dead parrot sketch, but that’s the word for it)(isn’t language a tricky beast). I can see him in my mind’s eye, I can too-easily visualize X(s) from photos (which I insisted he destroy, years ago) and a few deeply uncomfortable social encounters. And we loved each other passionately. And I’m caught in a vortex of remembering it. I can function, but I’m doing a lot of crying today.

When it came out, we saw “The English Patient” together, several times; the Ralph Fiennes character and how he is about Katherine always reminded me powerfully and viscerally of my husband, in his intensity, a slight physical resemblance, some personality traits, and of course the brilliance. He whispered to me when we were leaving the movie theatre, about a couple sitting behind us, “she’s wondering if he’d go back to a cave for her,” and squeezed my hand. I knew he’d do anything for me, up to and including dragging himself back through a desert. I know I made him happy. I know he had a lot of complicated, miserable relationships before we met (as did I). We were deeply possessive about each other, and territorial, and loved the certainty and rightness of having each other. That’s what makes losing him so fucking impossible to absorb—I KNOW he did not want to leave me or the kids. “I want these things written on my body.”

I have calmed down a bit about his astronomy papers, but I’m still mildly freaked out about what to do about his published work. Basically I know I don’t have to do anything, but I should at least try and assemble a list of all of it, or something. Bloody astrophysics. See, this is what happens when you fall in love with a rocket scientist, there’s all this rocket science stuff in the attic.

Breathe. Just breathe. Keep on breathing. Re-knitting the glove, this time on larger needles. Keep trying until it works.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote, also other goodnesses

Yes, of course I voted. Of course I cried. Why? My darling husband's name has been taken off the rolls already, which I suppose is good, all things considered. He'd only just gotten citizenship in 2003. He really wanted to vote.

There are good things coming this night - for one thing, Rick Santorum is now the ex-senator from Pennsylvania. Steve would have liked that.

DD#2 got her yellow belt in tae kwon do tonight. He would have liked that, too.

And my secret pal sent an amazing package of wonderful things! I'm amazed. Lookie:

There's a spindle in there with the roving--A SPINDLE!!!--and not one but two instruction sets for how to spin, and there are stitch markers in that gold box, and the soap and candles smell lovely, and and and she spun the yarn. Which is so pretty. And I love all of it. Thank you so, so much, Selkie!

I spent some time this morning for the first time in too-many weeks with the gals; thank you all, for putting up with me and my little black raincloud. Hope the I-cord instruction made up for the nattering on (and on) about registering a death of a UK citizen and my insane, dysfunctional family (yes, they keep on being dysfunctional under all possible circumstances, people; be warned, and plan accordingly). Also thank you for the pie, Kathleen. YUM.

JENA is having a VERY SPECIAL EVENT in the NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE and I am so thrilled for you, kiddo, and all joy and happiness to you and the dude. Who is a dude of goodness, make no mistake. Yay! Go, you guys!

So there you have it, life going on, getting used to all the crying still and whoohoo, I'm now administratrix (doesn't that sound like a bondage thing?) of my darling husband's estate, which means the court agrees that I'm in charge. Yay. It makes a difference, actually; I am somehow not so much on tippy-toes about the house. Gulp. Still have more legal crap to come, I'm sure, and the medical bills have only just begun, but on the whole, things are okay. To quote my dear departed grandmother, who was such a hypochodriac that she took snapshots of her illnesses and rashes so that she could SHOW YOU if you happened to MISS the TERRIBLE RASH SHE GOT, "we're doing as well as can be expected considering the circumstances."

And, okay, I'm about halfway through a bottle of wine, but this is election night, and this is a big one, and I always do this on election night. I'm a little fuzzy on the "geeking out with (um, beloved) other person who is truly as concerned about McGaskill in Missouri as I am" thing, but, hey, this is really, truly approaching normal, or close as I'm likely to get.

See y'all around. Hope to hang out with the Tattoo Queen, too, and god save us, perhaps do some designing before the end of the month, wouldn't that be a kick...

Back to grouching at Wolf Blitzer, now. Hugs to all of you, especially Carole and Ruth and Jena and Lucia and Lynne and Erica. And Selkie. And Kat, and Kat with a K. And the really kind anonymous folks that stop by, too. Thank you.

Friday, November 03, 2006

7 weeks

There is some significance to the 49th day. The 7th Thursday since my beloved walked in, walked out, walked no more. Thursdays hurt. Thursdays last several days each. Sixth Thursday since we buried him.

Something that I remembered vividly (and I was unwillingly re-living over and over Tuesday), though it wasn't so charged for him: one morning in, oh, it had to be May of 1993, we were both getting dressed, and I saw a hematite ring on his dresser. I commented on it, something like, oh how pretty. He walked over, picked it up, and stared into my eyes. No words, just the intensity that he had when he looked at me. That he always had. He put the ring on one of my fingers and kissed me.

I considered myself married from then. He'd felt so sooner, but I hadn't really known it until that morning--I think I was afraid to know it. Just as I was afraid to know the "code 99, cardiac cat lab, code 99" was the last desperate try to save my husband's life. I knew. But I didn't know if I could stand to know. So I didn't really know.

What is it I fear? I feared true joy then; I managed to face down that one (oh, how brave!). Now, I think what I fear is being able to go on. The pain, I'm comfortable with, after a fashion. Pain is one of those things that it is easy to convince one's self that one deserves, somehow. And I know that I will have pain, lots of it, for a long time, so when I'm not actually suffering very much, I know it's not going to last. So I wonder, hm, is it going to start hurting unbearably how about now?

Going on without him is not something I ever wanted to do. I kick and scream a tantrum of grief. He was wiser than I, more certain. The clarity he brought to everything was where he lived, the habit of his astonishing mind, and he brought it to me, too.


Breathe again.

The days are still endless. I can not believe that Halloween was Tuesday, of *this* week--surely a different week? Or that *this* morning was when I walked two and a half miles (I checked, later) to the auto body shop to collect the good-as-new minivan--that has to have been days ago, right? No. It was a nice walk, mostly downhill, and the exercise is good for my body, at least. I cried, of course. I have taken to putting off my morning shower to try and catch myself in a state when I won't cry and thus won't jinx the day. This is not very successful.

Time to change the subject.

I do spend time doing and thinking other things. I have signed up to do National Novel Writing Month again, and both my daughters have, too. They've made significantly more progress than their mom. Fantastic kids. We've at last wrestled the MIT SPLASH website into submission long enough to register for the weekend's workshops, which the girls are hugely excited about. They're also over the moon about the MFA's special exhibit of Paris couture, which I am, too.

I'm still knitting the same damn sock. I'm mildly amazed that there's any progress on it at all. My evening routine used to include knitting, but I'm still wandering around a lot, trying to figure out what to do with myself other than watch tv and have another glass of wine. Truly, I'm so absent-minded that I'd surely be frogging most of what I knit, anyway.

The comments are heartening, you guys. Thank you. Time to go shoo someone into a bathtub.

*over the moon and sick as a parrot are the two possible states for an English footballer. Being binary and all.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

And so it goes

The kids and I carved pumpkins. Middle child and I went over to my husband's grave and carved the pumpkin there, too; it looks great.

I'm having a series of fairly crappy days. I'm getting used to the crying, and trying to work around it. I also have surrendered to the idea of always losing things, and just hope to keep it to a minimum--the item for yesterday (and today, too) is postage stamps.

The waves of insane things going wrong has subsided for now (knock wood). I can only handle so much before I just stop being able to cope, so it's good that the insurance payout is no longer in limbo.

I got a nice note from my dear's Ph.D. thesis advisor, so I wrote back. It's cathartic in a way. I finally wrote to the best man from our wedding. I would like to write thank you notes to people who sent cards and flowers and donations to the kids' education fund and all that suff, and I haven't done it yet but it doesn't feel like a stressor, it's kind of a nice thing in reserve. Something to stave off the finality. All these little busy things to do keep my attention away from the world's largest elephant in the room.

As I read this over it sounds flat; that's how I feel. The last couple of days have been so draining that I think I'm fresh out of emotional energy. I'm still not sleeping very much. I woke up before sunrise again. I've lost a little over ten pounds, which I needed to do (but some of my clothes don't fit now and I look sort of like a scarecrow but I feel like one, too). I don't recommend it as a diet plan.

The folklore about wailing figures in white around graveyards makes more sense to me. I spend a fair amount of time wailing and crying, especially when I go to my husband's grave. I wonder if the stories come from actual widows being observed and mistaken for the spirits of the dead.

This year, the idea of a graveyard or dead people being scary is just something from another planet. Dead guy rising from the grave? his ghost walking around and interacting with me in any way? Frankly, any of that would be fine with me.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos. Maybe we'll go celebrate that today.

Felices a todos, y paz.