Hoping despite experience

This is round whatever with contractors. We have the worst luck in the world with hiring contractors for big house projects, but we keep hoping.

This time, we have hired people to build some new limestone retaining walls, to replace the old, rotting, too-short walls made from railroad ties. Our backyard is rather steep. It's the kind of steep that would be impossible to walk on if it weren't for the terraced areas made by the walls and this awesome set of old concrete stairs with a rickety bridge at the bottom.

The hill has been slowly eroding away from the foundation of our house for the last 25 years. The new walls should raise the level of the terraces to at least cover the bottom of the foundation, which is showing frightening gaps. If these walls aren't built, I could only assume that the house would fall down the hill at some point soon. So! More contractors! More nervous dogs barking at the strange, noisy people in the yard! More banging and yelling! More neighbors unhappy with the general state of disorganization that seems to always surround our house!

Here's hoping that this turns out better than the last few go rounds. It's sad when I find myself actually saying "but at least only one time ended in a lawsuit..."


Self knowledge

So when I think to myself "self, do you think people are inherently good or inherently bad?" I tend to answer that I think people are inherently good and honest and striving for peace and harmony. However, when I am in a situation where I have to interact with a number of random people (such as this weekend, when I participated in an all-day focus group), I usually find that at least a few of those people, if not most of them, irk me. I find them annoying and ridiculous. Within a few hours, I find myself thinking that most people in the world are annoying and ridiculous. This is quite disturbing to me. I wonder if I am a closet misanthrope and can't even admit it to myself? Or maybe I'm just an introvert who is distressed having to be with a group of strangers for eight hours.

Since I got paid money for participating in the focus group, I am going to treat myself to a pregnancy massage on Wednesday evening. Unfortunately, instead of going to the Lake Austin Spa, where B sent me one lovely Valentine's Day a few years ago, I will be patronizing the much less tony, but also much less expensive massage place in the same shopping center as the Jamba Juice near my house. Initially I thought I would splurge and take myself to Lake Austin, but then I discovered that it costs four times as much for a massage that is 10 minutes shorter! I am cautiously hopeful that this Massage Harmony place will provide a relaxing experience despite the fact that they are the Supercuts of the massage industry. There will be a full report on Thursday morning.


This is Landon, my three month old nephew. I think it's possible that he might be the cutest baby ever.


Poetry Thursday


We were fabulously lucky.
We became dandelions.
Before we were even born
We kept wishing to be dandelions.
Next we found ourselves traveling
Out of the great unknown.
We rode down in a train
Sixteen coaches long,
We sat prim and proper
In our golden yellow dresses.
Others came as black widows,
Little monkeys, and red birds,
And of course many ants,
Snuggled together and looking glum.

-Charles Simic


In my yard

So we're back to rain every day. My favorite rose bush is blooming again, and it has probably doubled it's size in the last two months. It has begun to insinuate itself in all the rosemary and ivy growing around the stairs, and I love how random canes full of blooms pop up here and there. Not to mention that the smell is lovely.

I also have a new lizard who is living around the mailbox (you might have to click on the picture to try and find him - he's shy).


The dark lord has many posessions

So in keeping with my HP obsession, B referred to the baby last week as He-who-has-not-been-named. My step-dad picked up on it immediately and started calling the baby the Dark Lord, or DL for short. Who knows, maybe it will stick? What a way to get a bad-ass reputation, huh? He will be the most feared 3 month old in day care next year.

We're getting close to being ready for DL. We've now got most of the large, expensive items, and are starting to think about getting things like bottles and burp cloths and butt goo (anyone who knows the hows and whys of baby butt products, please shoot us an email and help out, ok?).

This is the bassinet/playpen that he will sleep in for the first few months of his life. The sole purpose of this item is to ensure that we don't have to get our lazy butts out of bed every time he cries in the middle of the night. Rather, he will be right next to the bed so one of us can just grab him. As soon as he can sleep through the night, however, he's being evicted to his own room downstairs. Also, don't worry, we will be removing the creepy "I'm coming to eat you" bears before DL comes home and is scarred for life.

This is the future nursery. As of last weekend the walls are painted (thanks, Mom!) but we still need to do the baseboards, trim, and doors. The color turned out much better than I even hoped for. B claims it is the color of squashed bug, but I don't know what kind of bugs he has been squashing.

Finally, just in case anyone was worried that this kid wouldn't be spoiled enough, B went out and bought him his own iPod. We already have extra speakers and a sub woofer to hook it up to. B is, at this moment, having a wonderful time making up baby playlists full of AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. We don't believe in that Baby Mozart crap. Anyone who has known B for more than 10 minutes will not be surprised at this.


Ewww! Don't look while you're eating.

B stubbed his toe yesterday afternoon. He can still move it, so we don't think it's broken, but we think it might be fractured. I'm so fascinated by how gross it is that I thought I would share with everyone else.

Harry Potter - no spoilers

We are doing the same thing for this HP release as we have for the last two. I got the book on Saturday in the mail (I don't trust people at the bookstores not to spoil it) and read all weekend. I finished yesterday and started rereading the book out loud to B. So any discussion of details will have to wait until he is finished too.

All in all, I thought the book was great. All the loose ends were tied up very neatly in a very satisfying manner. The thing I liked best is how Rowling managed to take several of the characters that started out as black or white caricatures and flesh them out. Some of the bad guys weren't so bad and some of the good guys weren't so good. A lot of grey exists now where there was none in the earlier books.

The only thing I didn't like is the epilogue. I would prefer to use my imagination, rather than have everything so defined. I get the feeling that after Rowling ended the book, her publishers or someone else convinced her to add on the "where are they now" epilogue. Dumb.



My weekend media blackout starts now. I'll be back on Monday, after I've finished the book.

Have a happy Harry Potter weekend everyone!


Podcast goodness

I am constantly amazed at how much free, quality media is available by podcasts. I thought I would list some of my favorite podcasts just in case any of you aren't taking advantage:

The Classic Tales Podcast: short stories by Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathanial Hawthorne, etc.

Escape Pod and Escape Pod Classic: short sci-fi stories. Generally, these are stories written in the last 20 years, although one anniversary show featured Asimov. They also broadcast the Hugo short story nominees

The New Yorker Fiction: contemporary short stories

NPR Selected Shorts: contemporary short stories and poems read by famous actors

NPR Wait Wait Don't Tell Me: a hilarious, vaguely left-leaning (except for the occasional addition of P.J. O'Rourke) current events game show

NPR Most Emailed Stories: exactly what the name says

This American Life: Ira Glass' well-known show for Chicago Public Radio

The Sounds In My Head: a bi-weekly music show done by some random guy in New York. Amazingly, it sounds professionally produced even though it isn't, and the guy's quirky tastes have introduced me to lots of great new music.

All of these can be downloaded through iTunes or from the individual websites.

Poetry Thursday - Twofer!


You think I give myself to you?
Not so, my friend, you do not see
My single purpose and intent-
To make you give myself to me.

-Nora B. Cunningham

Make Believe Ballroom Time

Judging from his suit which was excessively
drab but expensive, and his speech which was
uninflected and precise, I guessed he was a
banker, perhaps a lawyer, even a professor in
one of the larger, better universities. It never
occurred to me that he might be something
else until, during a lull in our conversation,
he suddenly got up and began dancing. The
others at the party, plainly disturbed by this,
affected a more intense involvement in their
conversations than was necessary. They spoke
loudly, rapidly. But the man continued danc-
ing. And because I recognized what calling,
what distant music he obeyed, I envied him.

-Mark Strand



When I came out of the house to leave for work this morning, our courtly old neighbor, Mr. Hutchison, was leaving for his morning walk (in Bermuda shorts and knee socks, natch). He waved and said "you look quite beautiful this morning."

Beautiful is the very last thing I have been feeling lately. It made my day. Possibly my month.


After a year of working on it, I have a kitchen floor again! And instead of an ugly, bright-red wooden floor, it's a beautiful slate floor to match my back splash.

Lest you think I actually got up off my big lazy butt and did this, I have to mention that our contractor friend Mario came over and finished it yesterday for us. So in a year, B and I did about half of the work. It took Mario only a few hours to finish the rest, including all the funny shaped tiles and the grout. He is currently my hero.



I have discovered that there are three stages of a pregnancy wardrobe.

At first, you wear your normal clothes. Maybe you have to fasten your pants with a rubber band, and maybe you quit wearing some of your tighter things. You complain about getting fat, but you secretly enjoy it.

Then maternity clothes start to fit. You go out and buy all kinds of cute shirts and dresses and pants with built-in belly bands. You feel great and look great and perfect strangers will stop you in the grocery store to tell you how adorable you look.

And then there is the third stage. Everything is too small. Even maternity clothes start feeling tight. The 'adorable' maternity shirt turns out to be too short when your belly sticks out a foot past your waist. You are horrified to find that big, baggy t-shirts you used to throw on for early-morning Saturday trips to the grocery store are now uncomfortably tight around your middle. You start raiding your husband's closet for his biggest t-shirts. You no longer care about looking cute. Your only two clothing requirements are 'big' and 'cool'.

And I've got almost two months to go. I might have to start working from home just so I can live in my giant t-shirts and sweat shorts.

Good plan

I was happy to see this article. I can't blame anyone for heading to another country in order to try and have a better life. If I hadn't been lucky enough to have been born where I was, I would probably do the same. I tend to think that there's enough to go around.



I have to admit, I'm a little disappointed in my back deck rosebush. I spent two years speculating on what color the blooms would be and, since all my other roses are old fashioned bushes, imagining beautiful, huge, long-stemmed hybrid roses that I would cut for my dining room table. Instead, the flowers are kind of small and rather, um, nibbled. Not to mention that I'm not much into pink. Still, a flower is a flower and I'm happy I didn't give up on this one.


HP event #1

We went to see The Order of the Phoenix last night at Alamo. We ran late and just barely made it in before the movie started, so we weren't able to sit with the friends who had invited us, and instead had to sit way up at the front.

The movie was as good as I was expecting it to be. It was very dark, and there was only one instance of Harry ogling wide-eyed at a piece of magic, which was refreshing. The Umbridge character was excellent. She managed to catch both the ridiculousness of bureaucrats and the sadism of a true psychopath. The audience (granted it was an Alamo audience, who is usually drunk by this point in the movie) clapped wildly when she was finally dragged off into the forest. The only disappointment was, as always, all the things that had to be cut out. I realize that a movie with everything would have been four or five hours long, but I would have still gone to see it. If you liked the centaur Firenze, then too bad. If you enjoyed Harry's disastrous Valentine's date, too bad. Even the howler to Aunt Petunia is missing. Still, most of it was there. I especially loved the interior of the ministry building, with all the fireplaces for entry and the crowds of workers coming and going. And Daniel Radcliffe, although quite mature looking to play a 15 year old, does a great job of displaying adolescent angst.

Only one more week to go until book seven. I do not trust the people at the bookstores, so my book will be delivered on Saturday. Starting on Friday night, I will participate in a complete media blackout so as not to accidently find out the ending. So if you want to reach us next weekend, it will have to be by phone.


And I thought the changing table was scary...

Our house is slowly being overrun with baby paraphernalia. Next week we will paint the walls green, and then I'm afraid it will really start looking like a nursery.

Poetry Thursday

To Dorothy

You are not beautiful, exactly.
You are beautiful, inexactly.
You let a weed grow by the mulberry
And a mulberry grow by the house.
So close, in the personal quiet
Of a windy night, it brushes the wall
And sweeps away the day till we sleep.

A child said it, and it seemed true:
"Things that are lost are all equal."
But it isn't true. If I lost you,
The air wouldn't move, nor the tree grow.
Someone would pull the weed, my flower.
The quiet wouldn't be yours. If I lost you,
I'd have to ask the grass to let me sleep.

-Marvin Bell


But the flowers are still here.

Texas has lost a lot of great women recently, but this makes me the saddest.


On Being

Everyone should go watch the latest On Being video with Angel Gil-Ordonez. It might be my favorite so far. I love the comparison of life with a musical performance.

B is shuddering right now

I'm so excited! Argiopes are my favorite spider and I was very disappointed when I didn't have a single one last year. The only problem is that we will be having new retaining walls put here in a week or two, so she will have to be relocated to a safer spot. I hope I can move her without scaring her away. She is definitely a female, so I'm hoping for a couple of egg sacks to populate my backyard. The former owners of our house were of the "better living through chemicals" type, so I've had a long wait for the ecosystem around our house to start returning to normal.

I found this guy on the back porch. He looks like a wolf spider, but wolf spiders don't usually make webs, so I'm not sure what's going on. Maybe he's just a homebody who doesn't like the travelling lifestyle?
I also found a really beautiful green lynx spider yesterday, in an adorably perfect little web in one of my rosebushes, but by the time I went out this morning with my camera, he was gone.

First hint

It appears my rose is going to be very, very pink.

It will fit well with it's mandavilla neighbor.



I'm JUST SO TIRED. I can barely drag myself around to make a pretense at work and house projects lately. But I will go to the gym tonight, no matter how tired I am, because I'm starting to find my weight gain rather alarming. I know that's what is supposed to happen, but I'm starting to see numbers on the scale that I have never seen before, and I don't like it.

Anyway, on to the plants. I have two items of note.

1) This is my Mexican Bird of Paradise, finally blooming. I transplanted it from the side of the driveway a few months ago and I wasn't sure it would make it. I had cut it down to the ground, and I'm pretty sure I cut off a lot more of the roots than I should have. But this thing grows frighteningly fast. It is now taller than my mailbox and has about five of these bloom spikes.

2) I have had a rosebush on my back deck for two years now that has never bloomed. Not even once. It has always been healthy and leafy, but it just didn't make flowers. And since I bought it for $3 at HEB, I don't even know what color the blooms are supposed to be. But now there are two buds! Two! I'm so excited! It's like a Christmas present in the middle of July. I'm expecting to find out what color my rosebush is by the end of this week. I'll take a picture as soon as I can see anything.


Maybe it's a little early

But I've been waiting for a long time to start a kid's library. I've also got the set of Shel Silverstein books that B gave me for my birthday a few years ago, and I'm keeping an eye out at Craigslist for a set of Dr. Seuss. Any more suggestions?


Poetry Thursday

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

-Emma Lazarus



This nesting thing is interesting. I was expecting it, but I wasn't expecting for it to be so totally unconscious that B has to point it out to me. Somehow it seemed totally normal to me to decide to paint about 6 different rooms, along with baseboards and cabinets, and to go out and purchase about 12 gallons of paint with which to do so. It also felt perfectly normal to come home from the grocery store with several family-size packages of meat after a sale. "They're for after the baby is born," I told B. It never occurred to me that 1) two people don't need 6-packs of steaks and chicken breasts 2) we don't generally eat meat that has been frozen for three months and 3) there will still be grocery stores after the baby is born. I felt kind of silly once B pointed these things out to me.

Lately, it seems that no matter where I am or what I am doing, I am restless. Despite the panicky feelings I get when I look at baby stuff, I have been feeling the need to inventory the baby clothes over and over again (usually when B isn't around to see me - I am instinctively furtive about it). I have been resisting the urge to wash everything and start folding and organizing it. Even at work I have been compulsively deleting old files from my computer and organizing my stacks of junk.

I expect it will only get worse as we get closer. According to our pregnancy journal, there are only 78 days to go.


Oh dear

There is a changing table in my bedroom. I tried to disguise it with a stereo, but it's not working. Every time I look over, I see it and have a minor panic attack. I think "that's a dumb thing to have in our bedroom." And then I think "we're going to need that very soon." And then I think "oh shit." Because is someone really going to let us take a baby home? By ourselves? I keep remembering that time in elementary school that I got to take the library hamster home and I picked it up out of the cage by its tail and then part of its tail fell off. I had to bring it back after vacation with a big bloody scab at the end of the tail and my mom said that my sister and I were never allowed to own or even babysit for another hamster. And now someone is going to let me take care of a baby?



We had a busy weekend in Dallas with a wedding, old friends, new computers, important baby purchases, etc. While I was gone, the IT department wiped the hard-drive on my laptop and did a fresh reinstall of everything. I was the one who scheduled this, and I have no idea what I was thinking. This week is my quarter close and I should be frantically working on my spreadsheets right now. Instead, I am trying to re-customize Excel, download iTunes and Firefox, figure out where my email went, re-map some network drives, and put my desktop icons back in order among other things. So maybe the posting about our weekend will have to wait until tomorrow. Or next week (HP movie week!). Or something.

Anyway, for now here is a picture of all the GHS people at the wedding. I hadn't seen most of them for about 8 years. Between this and the mini-reunion at Tracy's wedding, I'm starting to feel old!