Saturday, November 18, 2017

Miser Family update: Othello victory version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.

Let's start with some yay-hooray-happy news:  N-son applied for a post-secondary spot at a nearby culinary institute.  (He did this through Squash Aces, a super-wonderful after-school program that combines exercise with academics, a mens sana in corpore sano kind of program that's been a huge blessing to him and to our family).  And he heard back that he got in!  He's thrilled.  He knows he has options for next year, after he graduates from high school!   And to pile icing on top of the cake, he ended the week by actually playing a few squash matches, and actually winning them both.  He turns 18 tomorrow; what an awesome way to close out his seventeenth year!

Here's some more good news (of the genre that falls into the "it could have been worse" category):  my husband continues to not need surgery.  Yay?!?   He's still very achey, but a series of MRIs and x-rays says that his bulging disk is fixable with pain meds and physical therapy.  I have to admit that every time he talks about his back and his bulging disk, I think about this poem, which I first read when I was seven years old:
Algy met a bear. 
The bear was bulgy.
The bulge was Algy. 
[From "The Moon is Shining Bright as Day".  If you only own one book of poetry, this is the book you should own.  Go buy it right now if you don't have it.   Seriously.  Then get Sing a Song of Popcorn.  And then you can go back to the rest of your life.]

Also, we got a visit from K-daughter and A-child one hectic night, and we got to eat dinner together, and give each other hasty hugs, and say "good to see you!", before we sped off in our various directions.  Three cheers for having a family who loves one another in busy times.

As for me, I think I win the MAotW (Most Adventures of the Week) Award.  Does this come with a trophy?  I don't know . . . but if I get a trophy, here's why:

  • One of my colleagues has taken the local version of the flu and done it to an extreme, winding up for almost a week in the hospital.  So I got to go visit him several times.  I'm very bad at small talk, so I took one of my favorite board games when I visited him.  I whomped his butt twice at Othello.   Later in the week, when he was strong enough to beat me, the doctors decided he was well enough to go home.  Phew!  
  • A video my college made about me came out on social media.  It's 4 minutes long (longer than most of your favorite poems, but shorter than most of your favorite short stories).  I've had lots of my former students writing to me because of this, which is really, really nice.  
  • I gave an exam, preceded by the usual massive amount of office hours, and succeeded by the usual one-on-one conferences about whether to drop the class.  I hate giving exams.  I'm glad that's behind me now.
  • I took 11 students to a local math conference today, where we got to hear a series of kick-butt math talks, including one by my favorite free-lance math writer, Evelyn Lamb. Awesome!  It's so much fun to share what I love with the next generation.
And that's the news from the Miser Family Household, which continues to be rich in adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Decluttering with Dogs

I admit that I'm a bit of a stalker when it comes to online de-cluttering forums.  I love being a voyeur of how other people decide to clean out their spaces.  I read cleaning books just for fun.  I even argue with the authors of those books, the same way Najmama (our Hungarian grandmother neighbor) used to argue with the newscasters on TV, despite knowing full well that the authors and newscasters couldn't hear us or benefit by the wisdom of our words.

So I am totally familiar with the standard questions that experts urge us to ask, when we decide whether something belongs in our home.
  • Does it spark joy?
  • Have we used it within the past year?
  • If we didn't have this object, would we want to buy it?
Well, over the past six months, I've realized there's yet another question to think about:
  • Would the dog eat it?
Maybe that's not even a question, because the answer is pretty much always "yes".  For an example of everything edible, I offer the family toilet plunger:  it doesn't spark joy, we haven't used it this year, but we'd definitely want to buy one if the dog ate it, and it is apparently delicious to a dog palate.

Her tail is blurry because she's wagging it.  Yummy toilet plunger!
Prewash isn't really as destructive as many other dogs I've had.  But maybe that's because, in owning other dogs, I've learned to hide most of the things she'd want to eat, and my family has likewise picked up the habit of picking up after themselves and before the dog strikes.

Still, who would have thought a toilet plunger was edible?

Related question: wouldn't eating a toilet plunger make you sick?

Tail still wagging.  Mmmm!
[Answer: yes, yes it would make you sick.  Prewash responds:  And your point is . . . ?]

From the point of view of humans, though, the question about "would the dog eat it?" translates to, "Do I need to have a place on a shelf or behind a door for this object, to keep it away from the dog?"  Shoes, for example, don't stay on the floor next to my bed, not even overnight.  They go back into the closet pretty much the moment they come off my feet.

And the dog-eat-it test for decluttering makes me happier and happier that my clothes closet has lots of open space for the things I love or use or merely just want to own, rather than being a purgatory for all the things that I don't want to look at right now.

 Likewise, even though there's almost nothing in the bathroom closet that sparks joy, I'm glad I've cleared out duplicates and out-of-date bottles, and that I even have room in the closet for a little trash can.   (Because used q-tips and plastic packagings and such are insanely delicious to the dog, and therefore need to be kept behind closed doors).

I should have kept the toilet plunger there, too.  Well, now I know.


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Miser Family Update: Back and forth version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Mom household.

So full.  So full.  November is a month of Many-Little-Things-And-Some-Big-Ones.

Prewash likes stretching with me.
For me, my calculus class is getting super-intense as we get closer to the second midterm, and the paperwork for my fall committee is piling up so high that I almost fear an avalanche might bury me.  It's hard to share how much fun it is to teach calculus -- We're getting to optimization!  Woo-hoo!  My students sort-of seem to get the second derivative test!  Nonetheless, even though it's hard to explain the details to others, I'm having fun teaching.

For my husband, there's the usual classes and protests, but what has loomed large in his life this past week is his most recent injuries.  The sore back turned into shooting pain in his legs, which led to his most recent MRI.  Here's the texting conversation that ensued:
MyGuy:  Good news.
MG:  Need therapy not surgery
Me: That's good for people who actually do their therapy.
MG:  LOL 😂
Me:  Is this therapy you do with a person hurting you, or by yourself?
MG:  Driving.
Okay, so once he got home and could safely talk, he told me it turns out he gets to have a professional torturer, plus he gets to try to do his exercises, all with the goal of fixing his bulging disk.  Let's cross fingers that the combination proves effective.

Meanwhile, N-son wins awards for thoughtfulness.   Here's the conversation that leads to the award, started by him on a day that was raining cats and dogs, and I was stuck in my office.  
N-son:  Would you like me to bring you your unbrella
Me:  I'm in meetings right now.  But if you wanted to bring it by at 4:30, that would be nice!  Thank you, N-son!
Me:  Actually, even better, could you pick up our CSA vegetables?
N-son: Yep
Me:  I need to double your allowance. You're awesome.
I think she's better at stretching than I am.
If you're interested in a little math problem, figure out what it means that doubling his allowance is the same as tripling it.  heh.  

N-son also took the pictures of Prewash doing these stretches with me.  And then he abandoned us to go on a church Youth Group weekend field trip.  I'm childless now, at least for the weekend.  Thank goodness I have a flexible dog to keep me company.

And that's the news from the Miser family, which continues to be rich in adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Miser Family Update: frights, fixes, and feelings version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Mom family.

Many of us celebrated halloween on the front porch of I-daughter, who (dressed as Maleficent) handed out candy to 600 (yes, six hundred) trick-or-treaters.  She lives in a hoppin' neighborhood.  K-daughter and A-child stopped by dressed as Disney princesses.  N-son dressed in his dad's old army uniform, which fits pretty well actually, and he had a very earnest drunk spend a good bit of time thanking him for his service and commend him for all that he does for our country.  N-son, to his credit, held his best at-ease army pose, nodded his head seriously, and responded, "Thank you, sir."  I dressed as a cow.  Prewash came too, dressed as herself.  We hung a sign on the porch railing above her head saying "Free Dog Kisses", and many trick-or-treaters gladly accepted them, much to her wiggly delight.

J-son had his own adventures that I don't entirely understand and that, frankly, I worry about.  One consolation is that I have a birth mother and former foster mom and a boxing coach worrying along with me, so we're forming a good worry team.  That's some comfort, at least.

K-daughter had some adventures in home care, which came with a happy ending.  The drama of her adventures goes something like this.   Act I.   In which the protagonist realizes it's a bad idea to drop the toilet paper holder into the toilet.   Act II.  In which the protagonist realizes it's an even worse idea to then flush the toilet.  Supporting characters show up on stage with plumbing snakes, but eventually leave with little progress.  Act III.  In which the protagonist uses a combination of further flushing and coat hangars to retrieve the toilet paper holder from its hiding place, leading to much relief and celebratory arias via text message.  Kudos to K-daughter.

N-son had a squash match on Saturday.  It always amazes me that anyone can hit that tiny ball.  He's also been awesome this whole week at helping with dishes, which have fallen mainly on his shoulders because . . .

. . . my husband has been off in Minnesota, volunteering at a convention, which is why he hasn't made it into any of the adventure stories above.  He had a great time helping people move lots and lots of boxes . . . until all of a sudden he realized that his back hasn't had a lot of practice moving boxes in recent years.  Plus, maybe the injury he got from his previous trip (falling off of a rock in Galveston) hadn't quite healed up.  At any rate, his back aches like crazy, bad enough that he's come home one day early and already has a doctor's appointment on Monday to check it out.  Poor guy.

In the meanwhile, I've realized about a gazillion reasons that I've missed having him around.  The least sentimental of these reasons is that it's been really nice (when he's not traveling) to come home and have him in charge of dinner and child care, and this last week has reminded me of just how much a time-suck it is to be on top of all of that.  So even though my husband is flat on his back right now, he's flat on his back at home, and I'm very glad to have him here again.

And that's the news from the Miser Family, which continues to be rich in adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Miser Family update: rich-in-family version

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family household.

The week kicked off with a particularly rich-and-full day.   On Sunday alone, I
  • went to church, where N-son did a bang-up job of playing drums, and also where we had a special fellowship time in which I dragged out my reusable cups to avoid styrofoam-cup-trash-hell;
  • brought J-son over to the home for a bit of love, and where I also filled his belly with fresh lettuce and tuna and then I loaded him down with a new bike tire and  shampoo and shaving cream and lotion and deodorant and other things that are hard to come by when you're living on your own in a room in a boxing gym;
  • walked over to my college campus where I got to go to a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Baha'i faith;
  • biked over to a pot luck dinner and plant swap with a neighborhood gardening group; 
  • gave our dog Prewash an awesome chase-the-ball workout; and
  • celebrated the silly side of life by watching This is Spinal Tap with my husband.
The view from my office window on Wednesday.  Fall is here!
And all that was just Sunday.  Life is good. 

Later in the week, the full richness (rich fullness?) continued, with a giant family dinner on Tuesday, feeding not just N-son and J-son but also K-daughter and I-daughter and my grandchild, A-child. 

View from my hotel window on Friday morning,
looking across Seattle city and water
toward Seattle trees and mountains. 



And then on Thursday, I hopped onto an airplane, flew to Seattle, gave a talk or two on Friday, and then boarded a plane bound for home.  I'm writing these words from the Chicago O'Hare airport, waiting to get on a flight that will take me home to see my husband a mere 12 hours before he gets on his own flight to go somewhere else. 



And that's the news from the Miser Family, which continues to be wealthy in adventures.  May you and yours be similarly prosperous.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Stumbling upon the simple

I don't know why I didn't think of this years ago:  I can make my own coin rolls. 

My husband piles his loose change on my dresser, and I keep the quarters and dimes for yard-sale season.  The pennies and nickels go into their own jars, and eventually we take them to the bank or put then in coin counting machines.  Or something.  Except that recently I realized I could count out the pennies and nickels --- and dimes, too, because honestly I'm not doing nearly as much yard sale-ing now that my kids are grown and the house has had 20 years of being furnished up.  And then I could use my own paper to create rolls.


To roll the coins, I folded one end of the paper up to create a kind of a base, rolled the paper just a little around this base, and tucked a few coins into the "corner" I'd made.  If you think about surfers in a wave, with one end of the wave open and the other end holding the coins, that's sort of the idea.  I kept adding coins and tightening the roll as I went along. 

I taped these rolls shut with the little extra sticky pieces that come at the edge of sheets of stamps, so I didn't even have the expense of tape.   I wrote on the outside of the roll what was inside.  And then I plopped these babies in my Tuesday Market backpack, and used them to help pay for my milk and yogurt.  I got rid of 350 pennies this past Tuesday at the dairy stand.  Woo-hoo!

Okay, this isn't exactly a huge, life style revelation.  But it cleared out a bunch of coin clutter in my drawers, and it made me feel a little sheepish that I'd never even considered putting my do-it-yourself skills to work on this task before.

Which leads me to a different kind of dough:  in particular, bread.  I've mentioned once or twice that I've been really enjoying a local gardening club that I'm getting into.  Unlike me, these people don't kill half their plants every summer, and they actually know the names of the stuff that comes out of the ground in their yards.  I come as a supplicant to worship at the altar of their horticultural knowledge, and they cheerfully tolerate me and even offer me good advice.  Last week, there was a pot luck dinner, and of course I went.  I forgot to make a dish, so at the last minute I grabbed most of a loaf of bread I'd pulled out the bread maker earlier that day, plus a jar of applesauce that I'd tossed in the fridge when it didn't seal in my recent canning session.

Hah.  I thought I'd totally wimped out, but I was the Belle of the Ball.  The other gardeners were incredulous:  You MADE your own bread?  They told stories of trying years ago and failing; the recipes were so tricky.  (You have to warm the bowl!  And the bread came out like a brick -- I discovered later I'd killed the yeast).  I could have understood their reaction if I'd been at a gathering of, say, the Mall Walkers.  But gardeners thinking of bread making as requiring advanced expertise?

Sheesh.  Here's how you make bread:  you get some water close to body temperature.  You add some yeast and flour.  You probably add some salt also, and maybe also other stuff because you're getting fancy (spices, or raisins, or even oil, sugar, or powdered milk because of the texture).  You mix it together until you get something that forms a ball and doesn't quite stick to the bowl or your hands, especially if your hands are floured.  You cover the ball with oil or a damp cloth and let the ball rise somewhere between and hour and a day.  Maybe you punch it down and let it rise again, maybe not.  And then you stick it in the oven.  That's it.  Bread.

So next month, when our Garden Club isn't having a garden meeting (because, November), I'm going to hold a bread-making session for the gardeners.  Making bread is not hard . . . unless you've never done it, in which case it seems impossible because it's so unfamiliar.  Sort of like rolling coins in your own pieces of paper.   But much, much yummier. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Miser Family Update: Health, Fall, and Food edition

Life continues to be rich and full in the Miser Family Household.

Last week, I went to give blood and nearly got turned down because my blood pressure was 101-over-49.   (For the record, that bottom number was too low by one point).  So I got myself stressed, and my blood pressure went up to 110-over-60, and then I was allowed to donate.  Score!

In the middle of this week, I had my yearly physical (aka, the Annual Celebration of Health), at which my doctor explains to me that she really ought to exercise more and lose a few pounds.  (But me, I'm fine.)  I was the only person that day who biked to the doctor's office.  Or probably the only person who biked there in the past month, or even since my husband had his own Annual Celebration.

My husband had his own doctor's visit this week, but he drove, because he was checking out the pain he's had ever since he slipped and fell off a rock last week in Galveston, TX.  The doc said he seems not to have broken anything serious, and that the pain is probably from badly bruised muscles and will get better over time.  So he winces when he gets out of a chair and when he gets on and off his bike . . . but he's still going strong in spite of the fall.

Speaking of fall, the weather is getting cold enough here that I'm flirting with the idea of turning on the heat again.  I've pulled my running gloves and my biking gloves out of storage for my early morning exercise, but so far in the house closing the windows and putting on piles of blankets at night seems to be enough.

We celebrated food and the fall harvest by taking N-son to a movie that's showing nationally, but that in our area is promoted by the homeless shelter where N-son and I have both volunteered.  N-son really loved Same Kind of Different as Me; it's a sweet, feel-good movie that ends with music by Brad Paisley (who I love).  I enjoyed the movie through N-son's eyes, but I'm getting kind of jaded, too.  Through my own eyes, I saw it as the standard trope: an earth mother who almost never gets to talk to any other women in the movie; a rich white guy who has character flaws but who eventually sees the light by doing good things for a noble (but disadvantaged) black man.  And the noble black man never gets to talk to other black men in the movie.  The movie was better than I am making it out to be; I'm not much fun to go to movies with now that I'm getting older!


N-son learned to make guacamole at school, and fortunately for us, he had homework.   It was delicious, and we all loved it.  If you wonder if dogs like guacamole, Prewash will tell you:  yes, yes, they do.

And that's the news from the Miser Family, which continues to be prosperous in adventures.  May you and yours be similarly wealthy.