Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Three pages? Really?

From my mother, contemplating her future:

Here is a draft of my obituary. When the time comes you can rewrite it in any way you want, but just don't say that I spent 10 years in jail! Tell me what you think of it. Mom

Ummm. OK. Wonder what prompted this?

So I open the attached document to find a lengthy obituary. Wait. This is really long.

Three pages? Who gets a three-page single-spaced obit?

I settle in to read. She starts off in a regular tone, where she was born, where she lived, who was related to her. Then on to education. (You're listing your elementary? Hmm.) And slowly we start sliding into the beginnings of manic phase:

...where she majored in classical Greek, (graduating as Durant Scholar), and she received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature in 1969 (the literature of the Classics and the Renaissance) from Harvard University. She was awarded her J.D. from Boston University in 1976. Her Harvard dissertation was published in book form by Garland Press Rutgers University in 1979: “Theatrum Mundi, the history of an idea. Which I've actually read. But it's not a notable best-seller. She also published two scholarly articles on Erasmus in 1971. Only two? She taught Church History (the Reformation) briefly at Andover Newton Theology School and at Boston University School of Theology. Very briefly, as in for one year. Uh oh. This doesn't mean we are going to go year by year, does it?
We now continue on through her legal career, various appointments to various legal committees, on through her retirement, and into her doll collecting career, and various hobby-related committee appointments, and here we are still going strong on page two. Now the fun begins.

Here we see the twelve organizations she volunteered for, along with pertinent dates. We continue in this vein for the rest of page two.

And the mania hits.

Right there in the fifth paragraph.

She had a life-long passion for equal rights for all people, and to that end, generously supported the work of Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty, International., OXFAM, and the ACLU, where she served ... a three-year term as vice-president of the Massachusetts Civil Liberties Union. She also supported the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Wait. Did she just list her charitable contributions in her obit? Why are you hiding the ACLU presidency in THAT paragraph?

It gets better. Now we move on to her season tickets.

She always gave generously to the arts. She served for several years as an Overseer for the Handel and Hayden Society of Boston, and she also supported the Huntington Theatre, Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Baroque, and Boston Ballet, all of whose programs she subscribed to each year. She also supported the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Science in Boston, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
"Support"? "Subscribe"? You're talking about museum memberships. In your obit. Uh huh.

During the 1990's she ... wrote many poems.


We're not close to being done with page three. On we go through her travel experiences and knowledge of secondary languages, to close with:

Above all, she valued the many friendships she made through her involvement with professional, community, and hobby societies, as well as clubs, commissions, and professional and philanthropic organizations She always enjoyed reaching out to help others, and, in return, her friends reached out to her.
OK, then. Good to know.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


It's hot. I have no air conditioning. I'm not a happy camper.

Over the last few days we built the floor of the coop and put up two walls in the blistering heat with very little fighting. I do however have a scorching sunburn on my shoulder. Yes. I know. Wear sunscreen, but geeez once you've gone too long and the burn is there, it's no fun to heal through the pain.

We started work on the third wall and had something of a construction/marital breakdown. I apparently can't explain plans easily to my husband, yet I was sure that he was about to cut the framing timbers for the shed roof at the wrong angle, so I wouldn't let him cut anything and then tried once again to explain where I was sure the angle was wrong with no success. Finally, at the end of the day, we decided to just slap the third wall up there and see how it fit. Yeah, Ok. It doesn't fit. Sigh. It fits lengthwise no problem, but the angle at the top is wrong. Great Big Sigh.

However, after sleeping off the frustration, both Dear Butcher and I looked at it and said, "Oh. Yup. That's where it doesn't fit. Right there at that angle. OK then. We'll climb up and fix it. Ha ha."

And it's been in the high 90's ever since. Not construction weather. Sorry, but I'm not interested in heat stroke on my birthday, thanks so much. We're not getting too far on fixing the mistake, but oddly enough, I'm not that worried. The mistake is totally obvious now, neither one of us is sulking or blaming, and we know we won't repeat it on the fourth wall. As soon as the mercury goes down, the coop will go up.

And to answer Cindy, the chickens are a fancy breed. They are Silver Laced Wyandottes. Standard sized birds which lay brown eggs, very laid back, with elegant feathers. When they are adults they'll look like this: (Hat tip to Mike Wing's page on keeping chickens)

Right now they just look scruffy -- one month old. Half in downy baby feathers, half in adult plumage. Sort of like acne afflicted teenagers wearing jeans which are inches too short in the leg.

At three days:

Day three

At one week:

Week One

At one month:


The one with all the white on her head who always stares down the camera is "Sequoia". They are all named for trees: Sequoia, Cedar, Sakura, Maple and Willow. I got three thinking that we really only wanted three or four. After hearing how very fragile they were and how likely it was that we were going to lose a baby I got a few extra. Nope. These girls are hardy. If a touch stupid. OK, maybe more than a touch.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

If I had a hammer

I thought my days of fence post digging were done when I left the horse farm. Apparently, not so much.

Last week I dug fence post holes into hardpan. (Without rented equipment, this entails using an ancient screwdriver as a chisel along with a sledgehammer. Fun!) Yesterday we mixed concrete and set anchors. Today we built an entire floor. And it's square. And it's level. And it's the right size.


Dear Butcher and I are building a chicken coop. Did I mention that I have chickens in my office. Why, yes I do. And they really need to be living outside.

I think we'll get there soon.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Yes, it's been a long while since I posted. Sorry about that.

Let's see, since April, what has happened? Looks like this will have to be a list and I'll blog about individual stuff later.

  • My mother is still insane. (How do I know this? She sent me a 3 page single-spaced draft obituary for herself listing every cultural institution for which she holds season tickets and every charitable donation she has ever made. Ok, then.)
  • My brother is still insane. (How do I know this? He's decided that his older son now belongs to his ex-wife. He's only going to focus on the younger son who likes him. For now.)
  • My house is still a mess.
  • My kids are doing well.
  • Neo's going to have her artwork on display at the County Fair this July. And she got three pieces in the Middle School Art Show. AND her cover was chosen for the "Spring Supplement" to the yearbook. Good job, kid.
  • School's out. Eek. This means the kids are home for months at a time. Eek.
  • We have chickens. Five pullets who are waiting for the backyard coop to finish being built.
  • With corn prices going up and flooding in the midwest, Dear Butcher's prices are going through the roof. We're hanging in there, but there's a bit of white-knuckling going on.
Saul's now in a different school environment, which is a relief to everyone. We pulled him from regular public school on April 5, but he didn't start at the new program until May 5. Gah. It's a very structured token-based behavior modification program with only ten students in his class. Do well, earn points, use points to buy rewards or gifts from the store. The better you do each day, the higher you advance in levels. With every level comes more and more rewards. Most days have been perfect days -- he rocketed up the levels through five stages in yellow, ten in green, and I believe that he's now at Red-10. (The academics aren't all that great, but for right now we're enjoying the newer stress levels.) What's amazing though is to hear him *use* his skills from school at home: "I'm too tired to do this right now. I'm going up to my room." (Watch Suisan fall on the floor.) Or, "Jacob, I'm in a bad mood right now. I'll play with you in a sec, but first I need some time to myself." (Wait, Saul. Did you really just say that?)

Not all the news is good, however. Since late April, we've had some truly violent outbursts from Saul -- in one we were about two minutes away from hospitalizing him. Violent to the point where adults ended up on top of him holding him face down to the ground. Scary shit. None of these happened at school. Two were at home, two were at his family therapist's office. Struggling through those really set me back during the month of May. Nightmares, guilt, self-doubt, every negative emotion you could think of. Come June, I think things are better. It's still a struggle though. Drudgery. Get up, get kids dressed. Plan the day. Make lunch. etc., etc., Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Most days I feel as if I'm underwater. Today I'm battling the tail end of a head cold (sinus pain) so I feel especially underwater. But the view's nice from here. Sort of blurry, but nonetheless a lovely pale turquoise.