Thursday, December 29, 2005

Making Music

Lord how I miss singing. For over twenty years I was constantly in one choir or another, frequently multiples. Those days are over for now. I haven't been in any choir for two years, and for the six years before that I wasn't in any standing choir worth the name, though I did participate in two special event choirs during that time.

It's been so bad that when I got to sing with the Cathedral Choir of St. Paul at the installation of the new Bishop of Iowa, I found I had tears streaming down my face for about half the service because it had simply been so long since I'd really been able to cut loose and SING. In my home church choir before we moved, I had to throttle way back to avoid overpowering the rest of the choir (all three of them). Also, since I was the director, I had a lot of other things going on that I needed to be doing and thinking about. Truth to tell, I don't want to do any of that stuff, or I'd be in a church choir now. Unfortunately they don't seem to work out for me. Trained singers are rare in church choirs, trained musicians who can do piano, and organ, and direct are scarce enough that no church I've started singing with has been able to just let me sing, which is all I really want to do. So I've learned to leave them alone.

But I was able to sing on Christmas, and it was wonderful.

I found a little local Episcopal church with a midnight carol service, let S watch the boys, and I went. And safely anonymous in the middle of a congregation of strangers, I sang. I did descants - Silent Night, The First Noel, Away in a Manger - it was wonderful. As far as I can tell, only one person figured out who the singer was, and she was plainly enjoying it. Even better, singing a solo descant against a full congregation I could really cut loose. My voice, a liability in a small choir, where it tends to cut through and over the other singers, does perfectly when asked to be audible against a crowd. I haven't enjoyed singing like this in two years - since our last Christmas service in Iowa, where again I did descants, and one solo piece.

Next Christmas I may find a different church and do it again.

I Look Good!

Christmas is over, though the Holidays continue (something I could never understand about the whole Happy Holidays hoop-la - doesn't Christmas plus New Year's equal two holidays, even if you're Christian?)

I got exactly what I wanted for Christmas - everyone donated to the clothing fund. Mom even took me shopping for a day. Considering that S, who ignores clothes as anything but covering to prevent arrests for indecent exposure, was complaining about the state of my clothes, I was past due for an overhaul.

So Mom and I took about six hours, hit four stores, spent about $600, and bought me a whole new wardrobe! I actually look like I'm wearing things on purpose, instead of whatever was on top of the laundry. The total haul includes one suit, two good skirts, three pair slacks, seven or eight shirts, and one pair of shoes. I could still use one or two more pairs of shoes, and a blouse to go with the suit, which is an odd shade of taupe that doesn't quite go with anything I have currently. It's also the first time I've been shopping since having a color palette done, which was interesting. I ended up with a lot of things in brown and green, neither of which are colors I've worn much before, but both of which definately look good on me.

I gave Mom a gift certificate to the local yarn store, and a promise to knit up whatever she chooses. Her first choice was a University of Chicago scarf: maroon with a white 'C' and stripe, which is about half done. She still has about 2/3 of her gift certificate to spend though.

Dad got whisky and toffee. We told him we liked him fat and drunk!

S got a load of books, which he was polite about. Only one of them was something he actually wanted. I gave him a large cutting board, which went over well, and plates, which didn't. Ah well, at least I got it half right.

The boys, as always, got a haul. I will never get over how different Christmas's are in S's family than in mine. They've been playing Pokemon XT non-stop since, with brief breaks to set up their new alarm system in new places, so they can then giggle like mad when one of the adults sets it off.

I'll post about other topics soon - but I hope everyone else is having a good season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

'Tis the Season

...for this tired gift-giver to panic. I'm really bad at choosing gifts, and I know it. Compounded with a procrastination problem, and a general aversion to spending money while we owe money, this leads inevitably to me wandering around in circles the last few days before Christmas muttering to myself and getting increasingly frantic about what I'm going to get everyone. If S weren't as good as he is at picking presents for the kids, Christmas at our house would be dire indeed.

Right now I'm trying to find a local source, any local source for 2x men's silk pajamas. Doesn't seem like a tough item does it? Right. The only store I've found so far that carries men's silk pajamas at all, doesn't carry any size above L. Not because they're out. Because they, as a matter of policy, don't stock any size above a men's L.

I'm not even going to go into the hunt for obscure geneology books.

I love Christmas - starting Christmas morning. The lead in gives me migraines.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Price of Pride pain.

I had karate class last night, and for the first time Sensei asked me to lead the exercises "with an emphasis on ab work".

The good part is that everybody got a good workout, well warmed up and stretched, and I was able to choose exercises that wouldn't irritate my already inflamed Achille's tendon. The other good part is that I was able to put together a workout that everyone could do, but that had even our senior student making faces and groaning at the last few reps.

The bad part is that I am SORE today - top to toe. I had to have my husband bring me an Aleve in bed because I couldn't sit up without whimpering. That's what I get for gearing my workout to a man who is both younger and fitter than I am.

But a little part of me is still damn proud that I could do it at all. Not bad for an overweight mama.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Well At Least the Court Was Sane

This just makes me burn. I've been there - except I was twelve, a whole year's difference I suppose. There is no way for a twelve or thirteen year old to defend herself against her own teacher. Ain't gonna happen. Firstly a student who rats out a teacher is persona non grata in many schools. Secondly, even if the student wants the relationship (I sure as heck did not), it's still the school's responsibility to protect her.

Ye Gods, what's next? Telling elementary school students that it's their responsibility to protect themselves from abusers?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Perpetual Idiot

I knew better and I went and did it anyway. I went to Vox Day's blog and had a look around.

I swear I can't figure out how the man manages to stand up and breathe, he's got such a twisted view of how the world works. Rape is the moral equivalent of consensual non-marital sex. Women can't hack high-level physics. (I'd love to show that one to my brother's girlfriend the physicist, but I'm afraid she might bust something laughing.)

I mean, if the man had the sense God gave a kumquat, he might realize that there are entire women's colleges out there with physics departments. They aren't having tea parties in the labs Vox!

I won't even go for the low blow that our dear demented one hardly writes hard SF himself. Tempting though it might be, it isn't really fair, since it is not always necessary to do something oneself to have a valid opinion. I will point out, however, that it is not required to have a Ph.D. to write hard SF. All that is really required is to have a good grasp of how science works and the current state of it, and good research and extrapolative skills. I have no idea how Vox stands on the second. I know he hasn't got diddly for the first. He may extoll science, but he certainly doesn't understand it.

The whole moral absolutism thing is a hoot, too. Moral absolutism? I've never met a pure moral absolutist in my life. Most people are situational though, and that's a good thing. Because absolutes make good principles, but they stink when it comes to real life. Thou shalt not bear false witness? Tell it to the nuns hiding Jewish children in Germany. Honor thy mother and father? Difficult when one's mother and father aren't honoring one another in the least. Or when a parent is an addict, or demented, or any of a hundred other things. Life is messy. Absolutes provide guides for navigating the morass, not rods for sticking up our asses.

Plus I've never bought that moral things are moral because God said so and for no other reason. Things that hurt other living beings are immoral. Doubly so if the living beings in question are sapient. Vox says that if God said rape were moral, than rape would be moral. I call BS. "Because I said so, and I created you, so there!" is the reasoning of an abusive parent, not a loving God. God gave me a brain, and a conscience, and I intend to use them, thank you very much.

Or to put it more bluntly - If Vox is absolutely and completely correct about God, and how God rules the universe, and you can prove it to me absolutely, then I refuse to worship God on moral grounds. He can throw me in Hell, and I will go happily, because I would rather burn than worship something that evil.

Got it? Good.

Fortunately I don't believe in an cruel, evil, and arbitrary God. If I'm wrong, so be it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Ahh Life!

Recovery is in sight. No one is throwing up any more. Q (my youngest), is no longer running a fever. Mommy is caught up on sleep - a rare and handy phenomena.

Went to my local knit group this weekend and had a great time. Worked on a blanket for a friend, and a sock for myself, having finally finished the socks for Sensei. Debating what to do for projects as these two finish up. Passed my last copy of MD to a lady in the knitgroup for critiquing. I need to get cracking on finishing TT (book#2) so I can get back to the alpha edit of MD.

One of our students in karate has a big problem, and doesn't even realize it, poor kid. He is soooo slow to learn things it just hurts to watch him. I can't tell if he's got a significant learning disability, an attention problem, or is just not all there, but it takes him 30+ repetitions to learn ANYTHING. It's actively painful to teach him because it all has to be broken down so small, and repeated so many times to get through. He's a sweet kid, and I hope he sticks with Isshin-ryu because I think it will help him in the end, but I also hope he remains oblivious to how much faster every other child in the place is progressing in comparison. I've taken the matter up with a couple of outside Sensei's I know, trying to find some ways to help him learn better. Wish me luck.

Christmas Party at my house this weekend. I need to clean! I hate to clean! Kitchen, family room, living room, dining room, basement, all need to be gone over thoroughly. The upstairs can wait just now. I should also put up some decorations, and I need to make snacks on Friday and/or Saturday. Maybe some stollen? Christmas cookies? I'm not sure. S is going to make sushi (the cooked kind), and our guests should be bringing some food as well. For drinks we'll just have mulled cider, egg nog and some sodas available.

And I should go to bed before live starts seeming too overwhelming. Night!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Greetings and Hallucinations!

This is bad. It's my third all-nighter in a row. This is a sick house this week, and while I haven't been sick myself, I've been the designated tender of all the sickees. (S has to go to work in the mornings, and driving in this state would be BAD).

I've had about eight hours of sleep in the last 72 hours. I'm pretty sure that seeing the animals on my younger son's wall move the last time I went in there, is not a good sign.

Please everyone, get well so that Mommy can get some sleep before she falls over.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Justifying My Existence

There's an old set of short stories by Isaac Asimov about a group called the Black Widowers. They're a fascinating bunch of stories, but I'm not going to talk about them. At least not in specific. However the structure of the stories is always the same. The Black Widowers have their monthly dinner and one of them brings a guest. After the meal the guest is grilled, invariably provides some sort of problem or mystery for the Widowers to solve, which after much discussion and speculation, they inevitably do.

The first question of that grilling is always "How do you justify your existence?"

I never liked the question; it always bothered me.

In the last two days there have been two sets of discussions in the feminist blogger community that have been making me feel the same way.

First was the controversy over the Linda Hirschman article declaring that more women were opting out of the workforce, especially among the more educated, prosperous women. The opting out proves to be a myth, based on Hirschman's poor choice of data collection and preconceptions. Nonetheless a whole host of discussions of the feminism or lack thereof in the choices women make about family, work, mothering, and homemaking.

The second is "Blog Against Racism Day", which is today, where a long list of worthy bloggers are covering topics relevant to racism. Check out pandagon if you want to see some good stuff.

Both of these are good topics. Both make me uncomfortable in hard to define ways. It finally occurred to me that in both discussions I feel pressured to justify myself, my choices, and even my existence whenever a real discussion gets going - but on opposite sides of the wall of priviledge depending on which debate it is.

When the topic of feminism gets going, I am a SAHM, an aspiring author, but with no paychecks to my credit yet. I am decidedly feminist by philosophy, yet in my life I seem to have made all the most traditional choices. I feel as if I have to defend both my right to be feminist, and my right to live my life as I choose every time this topic comes up. Am I being a hypocrit to stay home for seven years, rather than being out and working? Am I being feminist, or just lazy when I desire S to do more of the housework so that I can put in writing time, even though as yet I earn no money. My MIL and mother both say "Yes." I'm home, he's not, I should do the housework. My friends who write say "No.", writing is my work, and if I don't treat it as such I will never earn money at it. I feel like whichever I do, I'm going to end up having to justify my choice to everyone in sight, and it drives me crazy.

The race discussion though is almost worse, because I have to justify not my choices, but my existence. Other than being female, I am in almost every priveleged class there is. My parents are relatively wealthy, S and I are solidly in the middle to upper-middle class. I'm not just white, but very white - Anglo with ancestors who came over with the Mayflower, FFV, etc. etc. I have an education that cost more than I like to think about. Sometimes I feel like I'm offensive just by standing here breathing. I don't know what it's like to be minority or ethnic, and I likely never will. I understand that. But many of my attempts to understand or to reach across the divides are seen as condescending, and I don't know how to avoid that. Sometimes I think the ubiquitous "some of my best friends are (black/Asian/whatever)" stems from the need to prove, not that one is not racist, but that one is trying not to be racist. It's a phrase I try to avoid at all cost, but it gets hard to avoid when you enter into a discussion of race and someone tells you that you will never understand because you are white, priveleged, etc. It's true that I am all these things. It's true that I will never know what it's like to be a minority. It's equally true that I can't change these things about myself. All I can do is to try to understand as best I can, and to help change the system that makes things this way.

And then we get into "white guilt". Let's not go there.

Maybe it's my tendancy to agonize over things, but the "no right choices" aspect of both of these discussions drives me crazy. It hurts everyone involved in some way or another. Perhaps the true privileged class are those people who are so certain of their world-view that they never have to question their place and value in the world, and powerful enough that other people never make them do it. That's a luxury the world really can't afford.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Staggering over the finish line

Made it! NaNo is done. The novel is not, though it is well on it's way, but I've completed and verified my official 50,084 words for the month of November. And if more than half of them were in the last week - Shhh! I'm not telling.

I'll spend the next week or so finishing the first draft of this year's NaNo. When that's done it's off to my first edit of NaNo 2003. And yes. That means it took me two bloody years to finish the first draft of NaNo 2003 when I didn't complete the plot during NaNo. I learned my lesson, which is why I'm sticking with this one now while it's fresh.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


The sweater I started last Friday is done. It fits! It's flattering!

For the first time ever I've managed to actually make myself a sweater, rather than someone else.

Now back to NaNo. 23,000 words. Two days. Crazy time!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Play it Sam!

Call me a technical idiot - I'm still trying to figure out how to post links and trackbacks. I'll figure it out sometime soon.

In the meanwhile, Susan at Grand Mental Station just said some things about the Religious Right's take on the founding of this country far more eloquently than I am currently capable of. Read it.

Edited to add: Hah! I think I got it!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Could have been worse

Back from the tournament. I had a good time, as did most of the other people from my dojo. Results are not fantastic, but I can live with them. Second in kumite (out of two), but decision by sudden death, as we were tied 1 all at the time-limit. Last in kata, but not every judge placed me there, and all my fellow competitors looked fantastic, so I'm pretty happy with that, though obviously I would have liked to do better.

Came back home to discover that the kids were still in the same clothing they had been in when I left. S had not bothered to change them at all. Sigh. They did have a good time though. Made taffy, made fondant, went to a movie - good times.

Now back to writing like crazy.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Tournament Time!

Tonight I leave to go to Ohio for the Lennox Memorial Tournament. It should be a good time, and as S is kindly watching the kids, I'll even be able to concentrate!

I am a little nervous though. This will be the first major tournament I've gone to in over 9 years - the last time I bombed, big time. Much as I love competing, it's no fun to finish dead last in everything.

Mostly, though, I'm just looking forward to it. Also to the treat of going to an entirely Isshin-ryu tournament. The last two have been local Tae Kwon Do tournaments, and it's just not the same. I can't do weapons though, because I've only learned Tsu-yoi bo thus far, and it's not an official Isshin-ryu weapons kata.

Still to much to do, but the looming deadline is refining my priorities.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Random Tarot notes

This is embarrassing. I don't do Tarot.

However I followed a link from to a neat little site that does a quickie Tarot reading. I dithered between asking it about how to finish my NaNo, and what I should do to do well at Saturday's karate tournament. I clicked.

Man that thing was scary. My challenge was The Garden - an overabundance of birth and creativity - ok, check, in spades.

My resolution was The Canoe - focus on the path and the goal to find your way.

The outcome was Gaia - all will be well and in harmony.

I'm not particularly a believer in Tarot, so I kind of wish the darn thing weren't so dead on. I'm ALWAYS overabundant in creativity, too many things to do, too little time to do them in. At least half of my procrastination problem is that no matter what I'm doing, there's always something else I also ought to be doing. I'm persistantly niggled by the idea that if I could just find my point of focus it would all settle into something more coherent. Hasn't happened yet, but I keep plugging.

Life as a procrastinator

Once again I've gotten myself in trouble with procrastinating. It happens every time I turn around, and I've never successfully battled the tendancy for more than a few days. I'm behind on my NaNo (though slowly catching up), the house is a wreck and needs to be straightened before S gets home tonight. By my count, right now I should be: cleaning, writing, doing laundry, doing dishes, doing the bills, helping #1 with homework, practicing my kata, and cooking dinner.

Since this is obviously an impossible task, naturally I chose to blog instead.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Knitting a sweater - again

I was digging through moving boxes looking for my karate gear (which I found) the other day, and I ran across some perfectly beautiful yarn that I had forgotten I had. It matched gauge with a very nice sweater that happened to be in the newest issue of Cast On - which is miraculous, as I only liked three things out of twenty-two. Something clicked, and Ah-ha! I am knitting a sweater for the holidays.

The yarn is a lovely soft black with a silver metallic thread running through, dressy enough without being flashy. The sweater is a wrap style, which should be pretty flattering on me. We'll see though, since I so far have a 0 for 3 record in knitting myself sweaters. My first one went to my roommate, my second to my mother, and my third to my neice. All were perfectly nice sweaters, but either didn't fit, or didn't flatter. So I try again.

I must be nuts to do this right now, though. I have a tournament in two days, and I'm 10k words behind on NaNo. Oh well, at least my fingers have something to do while I'm staring helplessly at the screen waiting for my muse to show some signs of life.

Musings on Bullies

I was recently reading "Please Stop Laughing at Me" by Jodee Blanco. While it was not the best written book in the world, I did find it very moving reading. I related strongly to her tales of being so despised at her school that not even the outcasts would deal with her.

But this post isn't about the book. It's about what I saw when I looked the book up on Amazon. You see, I love discussing books and getting other people's opinions on books. So it's common for me to run over to Amazon or some other site that reviews them and read other people's thoughts about something I just read.

This time the comments were deeply disturbing. People either loved or hated the book, I've never seen so many one and five star ratings in my life. Virtually nothing in the middle. The really disturbing part, though, was the tone of the one star ratings. "I actually found myself rooting for the bullies by the end of the book." "Why does she hang with the mentals?" "...I decided I would probably have bullied Jodee myself."

What is it that makes people decide that other human beings are worth denigrating, bullying, putting down, or any of the other multitude of ways we have of causing others pain, simply because they're different? I was so-so on the book. I don't think Jodee is someone I would particularly like, but rooting for the bullies? If all it takes is for someone we don't care for to publish a book about how horrible their school years were to make people say publicly that they deserve what they got, what on earth makes us expect better behavior from our children? The worst thing about school bullying is how pernicious it is. Simply put, many kids feel they have the right, or even the need, to put down anyone they don't like. They don't even see it as bullying, just interaction as usual. Frankly I doubt that many, if any, of the kids who bullied me paid enough attention to even remember all this time later. And that's what needs to change.

Beginning - again

As seems to happen frequently in my life, I'm trying something new. I've been reading others blogs and commenting for some time now, and keep thinking "Gee, I want to write more about that!" So I decided to. Whether anybody ever reads is an entirely different matter, and one I'm not going to concern myself too much about right now.

Plus it's one more way to procrastinate as I slog through my second NaNoWriMo - National Novel writer's month. Something to do while my hindbrain works out what my characters are supposed to do next.

Welcome one and all. Insults, trolls, and flames will be cheerfully deleted.