Monthly Archives: June 2006

My daily commute

I walk to and from work every day. It’s approximately 10 blocks, or about a 12-15 minute walk depending on traffic lights. This morning I was musing about the street on which I walk to work and the variety of buildings I pass every day.

In addition to the given brick apartment buildings and condos, every morning I see:

Planned Parenthood
a middle school
a not-a-park (a bit of urban land on which there are a few benches and trees but no grass)
a halfway house
an Episcopalian cathedral
HQ for the Salvation Army in this area
a credit union for state employees
a Christian Scientist church (complete with Christian Science Reading Room)
a Scottish Rite Masonic Temple

and this all before reaching the state Capitol building.

My afternoon commute varies depending on if I’m coming home from work or from the gym (if it’s the gym, I walk up a different street and pass a variety of state buildings, a Lutheran church, a big crazy old German dance hall called the Denver Turnverein, the youth hostel, a synagogue, and a great big liquor store, among other things). It’s amazing how many churches, temples, and synagogues there are all right around our immediate neighborhood – walking east on the same street we pass 6 or so other churches and cathedrals. On Sunday mornings we hear bells from about 8 AM to 11 AM in all different directions. And we eat our breakfasts and announce “time for church!” and continue to be heathens.

I love my crazy mixed-use neighborhood.

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Tuesday kid lit

Note: though my bachelor’s thesis was about children’s literature, my major was actually human development with an emphasis on brain and language development.

Anyhow, I’ve loved children’s and young adult literature since I started reading at about age 3. The story goes that I taught myself to read with simple picture books that had “listen along and when the chime rings, turn the page” cassettes to go with them. I know I had Lady and the Tramp, Pinocchio, and Bambi, and may have had some others as well. I still remember the theme music for the Lady and the Tramp and Bambi taped stories (it’s my useless superpower, remembering tunes and jingles and commercials from childhood). I started reading chapter books at about age 4 or 5 and was reading adult stuff by 8 or 9.

But I loved kids’ books meant for a variety of ages. I still do, and have quite a substantial collection of YA, picture books, and anthologies of Dr. Seuss, Beatrix Potter, and Mother Goose. Every time we go into a used bookstore I check out their kids’ section and sometimes find things that I loved as a kid. I’ve always been one to reread books I liked and read over and over books I loved, and have enjoyed the ability to get YA and teen lit at the library, which can be difficult to find in the used bookstore near our house. That way I can reread stuff I remember liking and decide if I like it enough (still) to buy it if I find it.

Three suggestions for YA/teen lit for the 3 of you that read my blog and don’t live with me follow. These are three of my favorites and I’ve just reread two of them within the last couple of weeks.

1. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher. Published when I was in high school (1993), I found it at my local library my freshman year and just loved it to pieces. So many books written for teen/YA have a female protagonist (“because boys don’t read!”) that this brought a fresh and interesting perspective. I loved the relationship between the main characters and the dialogue was realistic for the ages of the characters. I always wished my high school had offered the kind of class the characters in this book get to take, a current events/issues/debate type class where we all got to talk about the issues about which we felt strongly. This book also rides on the tail end of the “issues” trend in kid/YA lit that began in the ’70s, as it brings up things that happen in real families (abuse, divorce, image issues (the two main characters are badly scarred and overweight, respectively)etc.) without treating them as though they are the End of the World (as was big in the ’70s).

2. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I’ve read this book at least 5 times now (and now I own it, yay!) and the funny bits are still funny, the characters are still interesting, and the puzzle/mystery is still well-crafted. It was one of my most favorite books when I was 10ish and remains in my top 10 for YA lit. I love reading books in which the authors respect the intelligence of the reader, particularly when the book is aimed at a young audience. You know it’s a good book when an adult can enjoy it as much as a kid.

3. Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. I just found this at the library on Sunday. Published in 1996, I read it some time in college when my mom recommended it to me (she teaches 8th grade English). I’d only read it the once and couldn’t really remember much of the plot, so reading it this weekend was like reading it for the first time. And it was good! Funny, believable (though a little dated with the references – who was still into Mudhoney in 1996, dude?), respectful of the intelligence of the reader – everything I like about a YA/teen lit novel. Every teenaged protagonist has problems – but then every teenager has problems, because isn’t that what being a teenager is kind of about? Anyhow, two thumbs up.

And that’s my Tuesday YA Lit recommendations. I’m looking forward to getting the second book in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series once the library calls me to tell me it’s in. Maybe I’ll review that series next week.

Virtual MLE

Since everyone’s doing it, here’s the virtual me. Except my feet are WAAAY bigger than the feet in this picture. And, I have a nose. I couldn’t find a picture of two kitties that looked like Loki and Petra, so here’s a very fat version of Loki. He’s much leaner than this, but this is his coloring.

Oh, and I wanted cargo pants in a khaki green color (my China pants!) but that wasn’t an option. I have no idea why I’m forced to make a thumbs up if I want Loki in the picture.

You can make your own here.

Tales from the Road

I guess that because I didn’t drive for nearly 10 years that I could have been driving that the universe has decided to make it up to me by putting me in all kinds of stressful driving situations that most people get to have all spread out. Last fall I had to drive over Vail Pass in a blizzard in a honda civic hybrid with no snow tires. Two weeks ago I got rear-ended. Yesterday I had to drive down to the economically depressed hot flat plains southeast part of the state (3.5 hours each way. Woo.) and on my way home I got stuck in the worst weather I’ve ever even been in a car for, let alone driven in – super high winds, lightning, thunder, sideways giant rain, hail, the Little Prius getting blown around and my visibility at about 4-5 feet. I was driving in a 65 zone on a two-lane highway (one lane in each direction, divided by the dashed white line) and going 25-30 and navigating by watching the white line at the side of the road.

It took 45 minutes to go 19 miles because of the standing water, hydroplaning, low visibility, getting blown around, etc. I thought I was going to die. Then, 10 minutes after I got out of the worst of it, I heard on the radio “Oh, this just in. Severe weather warning for xyz county and these areas” and I was like “It would have been NICE TO HEAR ABOUT IT BEFORE I DROVE THROUGH IT, YOU POO HEADS.”

I thought one near-death experience should have been enough for one day (on the way there, I almost got forced off the road by a semi that unexpectedly swerved into my lane – and who would have won THAT pissing contest? not the Little Prius, that’s for sure). I guess I should just count on having every other possible stressful situation happen in the next year or two, since I’m obviously making up for lost time.

On the way back after I could see again I stopped for gas and found this new product that I now lurve and cannot eat because it has way too many calories (York peppermint patty cookies!) and I sped up the back way home. It’s a little lonely out on the eastern prairie but it’s pretty after a rainstorm and you sure can drive fast when there’s no other cars for 30 minutes at a stretch. Next time I’ll make sure they give me a car that has a CD player because, as Hulk posted about recently, the radio sux.

a good excuse to eat cookies

You know that I am nuts when the most exciting thing that happens to me recently is that at my chiropractor appointment on Friday I get the go-ahead to work out (on the elliptical, low resistance, take it easy!) and I skip gleefully into the gym on Monday, grin the entire 35 minutes, and wish I could do more.

(The botanical gardens, btw, were beautiful, and I think I got some really good pictures. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get them online. Dan’s computer is too old/slow and the wireless card doesn’t work, and my work computer (on which we do our at-home internetting, as it’s a laptop and I bring it home most nights) is firewalled up the wazoo and won’t accept any new software installation (that’s needed for the pictures to get transferred onto my computer). We’re still working on a solution.)

Today I got up from my dark grey cube in the dungeon and walked out to see whether the outside world still exists (it does) when I noticed that there was a blood drive going on. An hour, several personal but necessary questions, and a great phlebotomist later, I have 9 of the normal 10 pints of blood, and I was given juice and cookies. I thought I’d be going to the gym today but decided that giving blood was more important – and the one question I had (can I donate since I went to China?) was answered (yes, because I didn’t go out into the sticks). I also found out that I might have issues donating after we go to Guatemala/Costa Rica this winter (malaria!). It’s been three years since I donated, mostly because there was never a convenient blood drive to work (I guess this particular blood center will be coming on a regular basis now), and I feel much better about myself. My health (and therefore blood) is good, I’m A positive (most common blood type, very useful), and someone in a hospital somewhere maybe won’t die because the phlebotomist sucked 1/10 of my blood out of me today.

And I don’t feel a bit guilty about eating a cookie and not going to the gym.

With Silver Bells and Cockle Shells


“Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?”
“With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row.”

Yes, in case you’re wondering, I am feeling better. I got to the chiropractor on Friday, and apart from him being a) cute, in a “10 years or more older than I am, married, with kids” kind of way, and b) extraordinarily knowledgable and willing to inform about the musculoskeletal system, he was also a very good chiropractor. He had the right kind of hands. I go back on Monday, since I’ve been prescribed 6 visits, and he said that for whiplash I got off pretty easy. This I knew. I felt sore after the visit (but I knew I would, since I always do after an adjustment), but felt much more mobile. I was very careful not to lift anything heavy or do anything hardcore to pull my spine back out of alignment last night while finally planting our awesome garden out front.

That’s right! We have a garden! It has flowers and plants and bushes and rocks. (The bushes are still very small, of course) It looks kind of naked, because the plants are smallish, but they will get bigger with time, and meanwhile we filled in some of the space with rocks that our landlords brought down from their cabin.

The fun part about planting the garden was deciding where everything was going to go. A lot of it is experimental, since we have no idea what will live through the winter (despite all of the plants being a) perennials, and b) supposedly frost-hardy). Some of the plants are groundcovers that we are hoping will spread and grow between the other plants. There are a couple of ornamental sages and some blanket flowers (see above) and some coreopsis:

So now we have a pretty garden out front between the sidewalk and the street, and we have a veggie garden with tomatoes, marigolds, peppers and herbs (basil, thyme, mint, oregano), and a zuchini plant in a space all its own. And then this morning I planted the annuals in our old window planters and assorted pots (coleus, impatiens, a fern that likes shade) and put the begonias in pretty pots (one is a peach color, and one is scarlet, because if I’m going to have a begonia I must have a scarlet one)

My rosemary is in a big pot; the yard looks so much better, and I can actually move. Life is good.

Many Happy Returns

To QIR, aka MG,

Hippo Bird Day!

Love and *assgrabs*,
mle