Happy Halloween!!!!!!

St. Ambrose is DYING to wish you a good one….

Ok, at the risk of spoiling the effect, you know I HAVE to say how amazing I find this picture. As in I literally couldn’t stop chortling when I first ran across it in the files of my brother’s nonprofit. I immediately texted it off to Carl with a “happy halloween from the Catholic church” tag, and then emailed Jon to see if he would mind very much if I perhaps retained a copy of the picture for my own private… needs.

Amusement is a need, people.

Sure! He said cheerfully, It’s St. Ambrose! The man who baptized St. Augustine! He’s been continuously venerated at this church in Milan since his death.

Well, that’s kind of awesome actually.

But you know what else is awesome?

When I looked Ambrose up online to find out how he died (was thinking of making an e-card kind of deal with an outside tag and a rimshot sort of thing inside), all I could find is that he died of “undetermined causes.”

Spooky, right?

So have a happy Halloween, everybody, but do be careful about eating unwrapped candies. It’s all fun and games until you end up being eternally venerated in a crypt.


Leaves are falling

Aspens in Colorado

It’s hard to believe the colorful part of autumn is almost over, and we’re fast approaching the iron-skied chilliness of November in Michigan. Carl snapped the above picture on our trip to Colorado earlier in the month. I’d been hoping when we planned the trip for a blaze of colors, but the monochromatic gold of the aspens was spectacular in its own way.

Uncle Paul told me that aspen trees spread through their roots and huge colonies can all be connected underground, which is why you often see aspens growing in long ribbons all along the mountain sides. I just checked on wiki before I passed the info along and discovered that not only is this true, but because the root systems can survive long after an individual tree dies some colonies will go on living for many thousands of years.

The power of a good root system, right?

Speaking of root systems, I spent the first part of the morning typing out the master list for my family’s Christmas gift exchange. I’ve been listening to Christmas music while I work. Been thinking about all the baked deliciousness that’s to come.

I know it’s not even November yet, but I’m ready for the holiday season. Ready for a little glowy merriment. Ready for hot spiced cider and long lists of things to be thankful for. Ready for Handel’s Messiah and perusing family wish lists.

Part of it might be that by the time the holidays are over, I’ll only be 8 weeks away from my due date. So that’s a HUGE incentive to party hardy and try to forget that my feet hurt and every time I roll over in bed I have this squishy gross feeling that a water balloon is sloshing around in my innards.

Pregnancy is fine and all but I want my small person.

So hurry it up, holiday season. Let’s get this two month party started!



Happiness Is

… a day not overwhelmed by a stuffed up nose and headache, unaffected by house-buying stress, resolutely undeterred by the persistent lack of publication, complacent in the face of pregnancy discomfort, and genuinely cheered by the ability to sink one’s teeth into a good project or two.

Happiness is today just being today.

This was mine:

Wake from dream of puppies to gray, drizzly, sleepy sound of rain.

Breakfast: 2 units of oatmeal cookie, 1 boiled egg, 1.5 glasses milk. Pleased with fiber and protein intake. Check email and Facebook while egg boils.

Morning spent sorting pictures for nonprofit. Small break taken to facilitate the loud playing of Christmas carols in work space. Form mental note to purchase more Christmas music.

Noon telephone meeting with boss. Mutually complimentary and cordial. Even useful. Consider making sandwich, but phone rings again and it’s brother on the way to work, so flop on the couch to chat about the new season of Downton Abbey instead. Brother says that there are major surprises to come in the season—people die, people come back from the dead. Promises delicious historical soapiness. Appetite: whetted.

Lunch: reuben sandwich, heavy on swiss. 1.5 glasses water. Feel smug about the water, prefer not to think about the sandwich.

Urge to be domestic strikes. Wash sink and counterworth of dishes. Think about phoning the coffee maker company to pursue warranty re: faulty water flow. Decide against. Have ALL afternoon to make calls…

Put on increasingly snuggish exercise pants and sweatshirt and do 2 laps around the complex. 80 yr old woman chucking garbage in the dumpster as I round the second to last corner; calls “go get ’em!” in encouraging fashion as I pass. Decide that old ladies are kind of the cutest.

Home to shower and write. YES. Actually write. On my book. A book I might, conceivably, try to publish. Extra special shot of self-satisfaction. Which devolves after 1.5 hours into checking email and chatting on baby forum.


Redeem what remains of the late afternoon by making enormous pan of lasagna. Then, because time remains, make salad and garlic bread. Can’t remember the last time dinner involved more than 2 components. Am amazing; pregnancy is a breeze.

Almost fall asleep at dinner—as soon as quota of melted cheese and carbs have been consumed. Quota roughly comparable to amount eaten by entire college hockey team. Smugness dips. Lie on the couch, blinking occasionally for 45 minutes. Husband gives updates on housing situation. Attempt to retain even 30% of information received.

Weird ache in leg muscles as I drag myself to the closet for coat and shoes. Head still fuzzy. Pack bag and shuffle off with husband to coffee shop for evening work session. Fully intend to write. Fully intend to order caffeine free tea.

Order dark hot chocolate with an extra shot of mint.

But no whipped cream. Let’s not be crazy here.

Pop open lap top and think about writing. Don’t. Read more blogs. Drink hot chocolate. Feel baby rocking out courtesy sugar buzz.


Get sleepy.

Gaze across at hard-working husband with contented, bovine expression promised self would never make, but figure that one-third of self promises are silly anyway. One-third are out of date after six months. The last third are maybe worth keeping. Maybe.

Reflect on this briefly and decide it’s not nearly as good as it sounded at first.

Suddenly remember failed plan to call the coffee maker company. Too sleepy to contemplate self-loathing. Coffee maker can wait.

And keep my ambition company. Pretty sure this is the end of my productivity today. Cheers and goodnight, friends.

Where the road begins…

It’s kind of perfect: an incredibly long journey—all without leaving the comforts of home. Adventure! Peril! Courage! Pajamas!

You know I’m all over that.

Apart from a surprise attack by the bandits at our loan company, it looks like we’re going to take possession of the castle some time in November, moldy paneling, tarred windows, broken gutters, and all.

Yes, but it will be OUR castle.

Carl and I have compiled a long to do list, divided by priority and whether or not it’s something we can do ourselves or will have to hire out. I abhor speaking to people on the phone, so that means Carl gets to deal with most of that, and since I can basically clear my schedule for the two weeks after we close, I get to be the slave labor.

I’m kind of excited about that, but maybe to understand it you would also have to know that when I was little I used imaginary games to complete most of my chores. Putting away clean silverware was counting votes (one set was Republican, the others was Democrat. I’m not entirely sure I knew what either term meant, but it definitely made things more interesting). Cleaning and laundry projects involved being a maid. I used to spend a lot of time thinking about what it would feel like to be a maid. Generally in Victorian England, you know, because I don’t think I realized yet that some Americans still have servants. I’m suddenly curious whether this would have changed my interest in American literature (which I still don’t like very much), since what I really deeply truly madly love are issues of class.

ANYWAY, the house.

I took tons of pictures a couple of weeks ago to document the before stage of the project. Here’s the brief tour:

The front door and living room. Those big windows are the only original windows in the house, which means (thanks, 1957) that we probably have some lead paint issues. Otherwise this room’s in good shape. Carl’s not a fan of the, heh, FAN, but that’s a fix for another day.

The steps on the right lead upstairs to the 3 bedrooms and the full bath.

Here’s the second bedroom. Our plan is to strip it of all the pink and ghastliness, and go for a studious slate blue below the molding and a warm neutral on top. This will be the study.

Back on the main floor we have the dining area right across from…

The kitchen. Which will not be that color. We’re still crossing our fingers that we find a good stainless steel fridge and stove in our budget. With the dishwasher and vent in that nice brushed metal, it would be a shame to deviate.

Here’s where the real work comes in. This is the lowest level of the tri. The carpet is ruined, and our house inspection shows a high probability of mold behind the panelling. So basically, the whole room needs to be gutted. But it has a fireplace, and that’s cosy. And there’s also a half bath and…

A laundry/craft room with lots of storage. The non-bonus is that, of course, there is neither washer nor dryer at the moment.

Problems for another day, right?

In a similar vein, outside we have what I like to call problems for another season.

The house is a tri-level. And so is the back garden. The basement walks out onto a nice brick patio that runs into a tiny green alley.

With a lamp post! Tumnus! Do you not swoon just a little inside?

Oh, but the tangle of dead brush to the right is a large tree that fell over and totally obliterated the top level of the garden. That will take some removal work. To the left is a stone wall with a long flower bed built in. Right now it’s full of struggling peonies with a lot of Boston ivy dribbling down the wall. At the base of the stone wall on the right is another long bed, but it doesn’t get much sunlight, so I’ll have to do a little research on that.

Just beyond the lamp post is another set of stone steps.

With flower boxes on either side that leads down to a little oval grassy lawn. There was originally a round flower bed in the middle, but I think we’ll plant grass and go the croquet and picnic route.

Although since it backs onto woods, it probably gets really buggy in the summers. We’ll have to see. The nice thing is that with the garden basically lying in this scooped out hallow—invisible from the road and neighbors—there’s very little wind or noise. And it’s south-facing, so yesterday when we stopped by to bandaid one of the drain spouts, I popped back into the yard and it was like this idyllic bowl full of sunlight.

It could be something really lovely someday.

When the dead tree and the runaway squash are gone, for sure, but that qualifies as someday I think. This is the top level of the garden, and there’s a nice cement area (uneven and a bit cracked) and a door that leads into the dining/kitchen area. So the perfect spot for grilling.

The only thing I don’t like about it is the fact that there are approximately 14 different ways a child could fall and crack her head open, but we’ll… think of something. Like raising early walkers. Very careful early walkers.

One can dream.

One can and one does, and sometimes things even work out.

Adult in Training

We tour birth units in the hospital now. We go to estate planning seminars so that if we die people will know what to do with our (still very much unborn) child. We have long conversations about mortgages and home repair priorities.

It’s…. weird.

Life got busy.

We went over to the house today on Carl’s lunch break to take pictures and begin to document all the cosmetic repairs. It was both reassuring (the dining area is bigger than I remembered) and overwhelming (the back gutters are falling off? Why are there random holes in the wood floor? Was this a doorbell unit at one time, and even if it wasn’t how much is it going to cost now to patch the wall and get this box of wires removed?).

I’m not saying I would rather lie around all day reading Agatha Christie’s memoirs or rambling online about issues, but the house/baby thing can be sort of yawn-making to anyone not personally immersed in the drama. And I feel sort of too busy to have really uppercase Thoughts about anything else, you know?

I’m guessing you do.

Continuing Adventures

We have a house!

Sort of. Not really. Maybe by tonight?

I don’t know.

We first saw it a week and a half ago—this cosy brown and brick tri-level on a quiet street. Hardwood floors, 3 bedrooms, living room on the main floor and a family room with a fireplace downstairs, a laundry room, an amazing back yard, a crawl space (kidding. I mean, there is a crawl space, but that wasn’t a selling point for me. That was more of a “wow, that’s creepy” point).

Of course, it’s also a foreclosure, so that means no appliances, God only knows about the roof or furnace, the basement carpet is trashed (like lumberjacks in muddy boots frolicked around the perimeter for several hours), and the upstairs bathroom is tricked out in some pretty awful pink and tan tiles.

But we offered, they counter-offered, and if we can get 3% back in cash we said we’d take it. The realtor advised us to ask for the 3% back. I didn’t know that was a thing, but apparently it’s fairly common, especially with foreclosures where the house comes totally as-is… and 3% of the house’s value would nicely cover the appliances we need. Maybe see us on the road to a new carpet downstairs.

Though I’m still not exactly sure what we’ll do about the furnace and roof if they need immediate attention. And someday soon I’ll be itching to rip out those pink tiles. And I’m pretty sure the mere fact of July will motivate us to start saving for central air.

That’s home ownership for you. And we don’t even own it yet.

I worried it might be sort of poor timing to try to buy a house while I’m pregnant, but it actually has some surprise advantages. I tend to be an anxiety-prone planner, and all this waiting around and maybe-they-accept-maybe-they-won’t would drive me INSANE were it not for the emotional buffering of pregnancy. Maybe that isn’t normal. I hear a lot of women talk about the crazy hormonal roller coaster of pregnancy, but I think I skipped that ride somehow. I mean, I might get misty-eyed during a commercial and the physical side effects WILL occasionally lead me to cranksville, but the drama stuff is less engaging these days. I have been on fewer crusades. I can’t figure out why people don’t just make whatever choice they want to make instead of wasting time trying to justify it to the world. Certain people and certain situations still annoy me, but I’m willing to ignore them for the most part.

I would much rather press the flat of my fingers gently into my belly and feel for those little fishy movements.

Although Carl casts a dim eye on such proceedings. What are you doing? You’ll wake the baby up, he says. Don’t prod the baby.

Sometimes I stop. Mostly I just wait until he stops looking.

My OB told me yesterday that I have an anterior placenta, which means it’s lying directly across the front of my belly and muffling all the kicks and flutters most women would already be feeling at this stage. Also, if we’re going to be honest, I have an inch of fat. That doesn’t help either.

So it really is necessary to press down in order to feel anything. On Sunday the baby rolled over, and I felt the ridge of it’s back—about the size and curve of a baseball—roll past my hand like a sea monster. The day before I got a nice kick against my palm by a foot that couldn’t be more than an inch long.

Probably the first time in one’s life being kicked is cause for feelings of deep love and devotion.

This little mango-sized human being might be enveloped inside of me, but I have to tell you the fact of it’s existence is also enveloping us. When we left the OB’s office yesterday, Carl said it was funny to realize how little the house stuff mattered after getting to see our baby’s mouth making little sucking movements, practicing swallowing the amniotic fluid. The house will work out if it’s meant to be, right? In the mean time we smile at each other and the sonogram pictures and my protruding mid-section and say inane, utterly nonwitty things that make us melt.

I mean, how could you not?

We have a daughter.

Sometimes life is indescribably sweet.

Fantastic Finds

This for Carlie, who once confided that when life gets very difficult she occasionally finds comfort in a quick shot of cream from the fridge:

“When I stayed with [Nan Watts] at Abney we used to go down to the home farm and drink cream by the half-pint. We continued these drinking bouts all through our lives, and I still remember buying our cartons of cream in Sunningdale and coming up to the golf course and sitting outside the club house waiting for our respective husbands to finish their rounds of golf, each drinking our pinta cream.”

I mean, how can you not adore?

I picked up Agatha Christie’s autobiography in a junk shop in Colorado, and if you like either Christie or 1900-1950s Brit history, you probably should read this book. If you like Christie AND Brit history, there’s really no alternative but to order a used copy stat and settle in.

It’s been filling up in the gaps in my day nicely.

And definitely worth wading through the piles of creepy dolls and rusted farm equipment… despite Abbey’s pronouncement that the shop looked like the kind of place where you could wander in alone one day and the next they’d be selling your skin as vellum.

Suitably goulish, I suppose, for an author who probably killed as many characters as anyone in the business.

Then again, it’s hard to read the autobio and imagine her as anything but incredibly cheerful and warm-hearted, with a keen eye for humor.

I love the perfect happenstance of finding a book you know will be part of your library forever. Especially when it’s already shabby and broken in.