Friday, May 27, 2011

The Good, the Bad, the Baffling

Marc and I spent all day Tuesday in used bookstores.  It was an absolute treasure trove.  I got 23 books for under $70.  (Much better than the $100 I spent on 6 books at a first run bookstore).  Going to a bookstore with another book geek is the BEST.  We spent over an hour in each store, going through shelves systematically, pointing things out to each other, arguing over who would get a few volumes.  It’s good to be with someone else who is prone to sit cross-legged in front of a stack of books. 

(The two books, sideways, on top are for Nicola.)

While in one of these bookstores, I found several (over a dozen)copies of the journal Revista Juridico-Literaria from the early 20th century…which has some great essays on BOTH indigenous AND gender issues in the liberal period.  What a bargain.  I didn’t buy them, but I think I’ll be heading back for them soon.

In a momentary lapse of vigilance at lunch on Wednesday, my bag got stolen…and my camera was in it.  Yeah, the camera that I use for the blog.  More importantly, the camera that I use to take images of documents.  So, I now have a new, not as good, camera.  Keep your fingers crossed for me that it works out okay in the archives. 

Really, I am usually more careful.  And I was smart enough not to have anything even more valuable in there.  And lucky that it was a simple sneak theft. 

I also have a terrible head cold.  That stinks. 

THE GOOD WITHIN THE BAD: That Marc was a complete mensch and helped me out with every aspect of the theft (including getting said replacement camera) for the rest of the day.  Thanks yet again, Marc!

How to deal with protocol in Ecuador.  Marc and I visited a private-ish archive (in someone’s home) and, after a lovely chat, were told to call about coming back later.  We got in for a few hours two days later...but aren't sure how much work we'll be able to do there, or how to discuss it.  Navigating these things is beyond my abilities, but try I must, because this set of documents could be amazing for my new work.

What baffles you? 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Here I am

On Sunday morning, these were my views:

On Monday morning, these were my views:

(Sadly, I do not have the best views of the mountains--those are from the back of the apartment building.)

I am in Quito.  It was a long, long day of traveling, and a difficult weekend of saying goodbye to the kids.  However, there were no major glitches with the flights, all of my baggage arrived with me, and the apartment I am renting is well located, secure, and impeccably clean.

As always, I am in something of a state of shock upon arrival in Quito.  The altitude doesn’t help of course.  This year, arriving at 9,000 feet has given me a headache that refuses, so far, to leave.  I’m trying to take it relatively easy and drink lots of (pure or boiled) water.  Advil is also a very, very good thing.  I will eventually acclimate. 

The street I am living on is one of the major Avenues in town, and although it was quiet overnight, by 7-7:30 a.m. the street woke up and the noise began.  That doesn’t especially bother me, though.  Fortunately, I am an early riser, so even if I “sleep in” here, I’m still not going to be bothered by it.  Moreover…well, it’s one of the sounds of life out there.  Granted, we all need to be concerned with pollution, and one does need to be careful to retreat daily from the noise and bustle so as to avoid becoming stressed by it.  Still, I like urban noise, and I like walking in cities.  It’s just different from the sound of birds in the early morning at my house, or the sound of waves crashing at the ocean. 

I guess I just like knowing I’m in the midst of life.  Sound reminds me of that, as long as I stop to listen, and as long as I accept that being in the midst of life has many different sounds and meanings. 

So, I’m doing okay, despite the altitude and solitude. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Today's Inspiration

The kids and I have been reading Michael Buckley's series The Sisters Grimm.  We are now on book 2, The Unusual Suspects.  I am finding this book inspriring in two ways, and we're not even done with it yet. 

1) The line: "Of course.  The Big Bad Wolf does yoga."  (I'm thinking of putting this as one of the stamps on my email, professional repercussions be damned.)  Anya and I quote this all the time.

2) New minion idea (brought to us by the Pied Piper's son in the story): EVIL BUNNY MINIONS!!!!!!!

I mean, really: how could that go wrong?  This is the best  expression of bunny evil I've witnessed since Monty Python's "Holy Grail."

More seriously, this is a great series of books.  Clever enough to keep my 10 year-old happy, goofy enough for my 6 year-old.  And at the center of the story: girl heroes. 

What's inspiring you these days?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Olifactory Hard Wiring

On Saturday, I walked to and from the library with Anya.  On the way back, I briefly caught a whiff of something that reminded me of clay.  Not play-doh (though I like that), but the real thing—the earthy smell of the clay that I encountered in art classes when I was a kid.  I love that smell.  As I walked past it, I wondered at the fact that I hadn’t ever tried to work with clay or pottery, just to follow that smell.

That, of course, got me thinking about other smells: the smells that mark my everyday life, or lift my spirits, or bring me back to the past.  Below are just a few of them. 

Of course, since childhood I have loved the smell of musty old books, or any library book for that matter.  (See my post last November about the Benson.) 

The heady, sickly-sweet smell of lilacs always brings me back to my childhood.  This is partly b/c we had lilac bushes between our yard and one of the neighbors, but also b/c every Memorial Day, little kindergarten girls would get dressed up and walk in the town parade carrying lilacs.  (I’m the dark-haired girl with bangs.)

The smell of coffee, freshly brewed in a French press, is the smell of morning, of course. 

Then there are the food smells:
·         The smell of garlic sautéing promises savory delights.
·         Basil smells of summer and fresh, bright-tasting foods. 
·         Apples and squashes smell of fall with crisp days and cold, cozy nights.
·         I love the fact that it’s possible to tell when a cake is close to done by the way that the kitchen smells. 
The smell of the ocean almost always makes me feel at peace.  It’s a smell that feels like home.

I could go on and on.  Smells have such a strong emotional tug for us all.

What are the smells that give shape to your life?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


If you concentrate on the photo, you can almost hear her thoughts.

"Want to eat birds...want to eat birds...want to eat birds..."

Ah, the traumas of being an indoor cat.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers' Day

(Yes, I know: a photo of roses, not dandelions.  Just because I sing the praises of dandelions doesn't mean that I dislike roses--especially the less presumptuous spray roses pictured here.)

Today was a difficult day all around, particularly with the kids.  But, that's what parenting is sometimes. 

Despite this: On Mothers’ Day, I celebrate and thank the mothers who have shaped me as a person and/or helped me to be the best mother that I can be. 

First and foremost: my own mother, whose strength, bottomless love, moral compass, generosity, and humor have influenced my life in countless ways.

And, in no particular order:

Karin: who encouraged me when I struggled so as a new mother.

Ellen: who was my lifeline when I tried motherhood for the second time.

Caroline: who helps make balancing motherhood and work more tolerable.

Kate: who saw me through nursing Anya and believed in me every step of the way.

Beth: who helped me to see that I am a “good enough” mother.

Robyn: who reminded me that our children are meant to teach us lessons. 

Gabriela: who shares my humor, frustration, and commitment to finding a balance between scholarship and motherhood.

Kristina: whose joys and frustrations with her kids remind me that my kids making me crazy all the time is normal. 

Catharine G., Susan C., and Nancy T: who not only help me keep Samuel healthy, but who continually boost my confidence that I am doing a good job with him, too. 

Nancy: who knew I could do it if I found my own way to mothering. 

Jennie: whose love of mothering and reflections on life have inspired me. 

My sisters—Kaethi, Chris, and Pat: who taught me by example that good mothers are generous without having to be perfect all the time. 

To these amazing women, and to many more who have influenced and inspired me over the years: thank you.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Just Dandy

Springtime is in full swing.  There are tulips everywhere, and the tree on our corner is flowering and lovely. 

I love all that.  But what I love most of all…are the dandelions. 

They are everywhere now—blanketing lawns and pushing their way through dirt piles and sidewalks.  They are more than “just weeds.”  Dandelions are bright and tenacious and cheerful and ordinary.  They are the first “flower bouquets” that most of us bring to our mothers when we are little.  They are reliable and enduring.  They are ubiquitous. 

They are spring. 

Roses are beautiful, but they are delicate and rare and fragile.  Give me dandelions—constant reminders of spring and beauty, easy to find anywhere, even in the ugliest place or on the most difficult day. 

What ordinary beauty moves you?

At Last!!!

Remember that blog post about "one stitch" when I started Samuel's sweater way back in November with plans of finishing it by Chanukah?  Remember how at Chanukah, I hoped to have it done before the end of January?

I finished it last night.  Good thing that I made it big, so it will still fit next season.  The boy, at least, does seem to like it.

My first-ever hand-knit sweater. 

What "better late than never" accomplishment would you like to celebrate?