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Explore, Armed with Needle and Twine

(Indicate the Route to My Habitual Abode)

April 1st, 2010

As of this date, I’m switching to another blog host. I’m dissatisfied with LiveJournal. Why? I don’t like the comment form here, mainly because lots of you who read this don’t have any choice but to comment anonymously. Some of my reasoning lies behind business beliefs: since LJ laid off a bunch of their employees, there’s been a lack of progress in this corner of the blogging world. An entire site that hosts lots of people’s journals should not be run by eight people alone. Also, LiveJournal doesn’t seem to be aware of the new and the improved, and they seem to cater to those who blog a little more casually than I do. LJ news consists largely of stories of their mascot, winners of a photo contest, and new virtual gifts, not progress and improvements that the site is working on.

The ads on LJ are also bugging me. Just'In logged onto LJ a few weeks ago to update and got some really nasty adware from LJ embedded into his computer's code. It crippled his computer and forced him to buy another hard drive. Plus, I opened up my Friend's Page a couple of days ago, then clicked on a friend's journal to comment and got a pop-up ad that filled the whole window. That's infuriating; the ads have bugged me for awhile, but this is intolerable.

In short, I've grown out of LiveJournal. It's been useful in teaching me the basics of blogging, but I want something a little more professional. And I don't think I should have to pay to get an ad-free site if that's what I want.

I'm moving on. This ends my account of Utah. My adventures in Oregon and our new life here will be over at Wordpress. I'll be posting there on a much more regular basis once I finish unpacking, organizing, and some neglected home improvement projects. I'm very eager to write about my new surroundings and to leave Utah behind. Please follow me here.

March 22nd, 2010

The Third Apartment

Tree Genome
Time for another apartment comparison. I made the notes for this while sitting in its empty rooms, the morning after the heft.

Our last apartment had a master bathroom, which was cool, but the bathroom sink was in the bedroom, separate from the toilet by a door. While that might be a nice arrangement when I have kids who don’t know what privacy is, during this stage in life, it was annoying; we had the baby’s crib in the bedroom with us and running water from the sink makes it hard to stay quiet. For those last few months, we used the toilet and sink in the second bathroom just beyond the bedroom. That second bathroom was also useful when the master bath toilet broke.

We originally groaned when we moved into our last apartment because we had an extra bathroom; we considered it wasted space, since we knew we’d never use the tub, and especially since it didn’t have a shower head in it. We ended up using the cupboard space for our tools and stuff like spray paint, and the medicine cabinet in the second bath was used as well. I used the tub a few times to shave my legs until I couldn’t reach them anymore, and I used it a few more times to give Toby a bath.

Having said that, I loved having a shower stall in the master bathroom. It was the first time I had a shower stall since I lived in the dorms, five or six years ago, and then, I shared it with five girls, which equals lots of hair and lots of stuff. In the dorms, our shower stall was often a wading pool, and every day, there were half-empty bottles and cups and razors as floating bath toys for my feet.

Sharing a shower stall with one other person was heavenly, especially since we, combined, had only three bottles, two razors, a mirror, and a soap dish. And nothing was stored on the floor.

I also enjoyed having a walk-in closet. I had to be really careful that the master bathroom door and the closet door didn’t scrape against each other: there was a line on one door where the previous renters had done just that. Plus, there were lots of ugly white squares on the beautiful wooden doors where previous tenants had used those detachable sticky-hooks but had mounted them incorrectly. We covered those up with clothes hanging from over-the-door hooks.

There was a hidden luxury of not having to stare at your clothes while doing other things in your bedroom like waking up or reading a book before bed. And I could dress in our walk-in closet, with the light on and the door closed, without waking anyone. It was a cool setup; I even managed to put a dresser in there, too, and still have plenty of space for both sets of clothes that were hanging up.

Along the lines of closets: We didn’t have enough storage space from the closets as we’d hoped, even when we added extra shelving. We added a shelf along the lip of the shower stall, above the level of the shower head but not on the same wall, a shelf that spanned from the top shelf one one side of the walk-in to the other, and a set of plastic shelves to the office closet.

We also converted what would be a laundry room just off the kitchen into a pantry; I was really proud of that transformation. Just’In bought four matching bookcases—three short with two inserts and one really tall one—and put them where a washer and a dryer would go. We used the shelf space for baking supplies, food storage, cookware, extra dishes, and food like cereal and chips; we had a small kitchen, though not as small as our first apartment. We also kept our folding chairs, our mop bucket, and our stepstool in that tiny room.

Enough talk of storage. I also liked the light fixtures. Modern, gender-neutral, but not utilitarian—read: masculine but not bare bulbs. The only poorly lit room was the bedroom, and we had plenty of lamps to only use that light for quick in-and-out tasks. The chandelier in the entryway (A chandelier! In an apartment!) was cool and 70s/80s without looking outdated. It was also obviously a chandelier without being too fancy and showoff-ish; it had glass panels and five lightbulbs on metal arches. I had fun with its shadows and picture frames on the nearest wall.

Four other apartment things to note:

1: We could hear the traffic of the belt route distinctly from our bedroom. With the windows closed. If I didn’t concentrate too hard, it sounds like the lull of the ocean or the roar of the wind. If I focused on it, the traffic was annoying. The lights from the traffic were mesmerizing at night.

2: There were lots of trees on the grounds, which meant lots of birds. Both were cool, visually--the path to our apartment was covered in trees and our birdfeeder got at least a dozen birds at one time--but also meant that our porch was a mess of leaves, birdseed, bird poop, and pollen.

3: We could see inside the windows of a 24-hour gym from our apartment. You’d think it’d be a boring view, since the building itself is quite drab, but it actually proved to be quite fascinating. People of all sorts of body types and lopes and rhythms on treadmills and stair-steppers, all in one room. Up at 2AM for a feeding? There’s someone on the treadmill. And the coolest part was that all the machines were faced away from us so we could stare all we wanted.

4: There were also lots of kids that lived in the complex, and the complex was huge. As a result, they were often playing, loitering, and walking to and from the school bus stop. It gave the area a warm community feeling; I would often see a kid and think, “Oh, I want one exactly like that.”

Despite the small space, we made our last apartment a home and enjoyed our time there. Now it’s time to do the same thing here; the difference is that we actually want to live in this city and this state.

February 9th, 2010

My Grandparents: A Sketch

Tree Genome
I was leisurely strolling out of a doctor's appointment with Mary. I asked Mary whether Bob found her as she waited for me in the waiting room. As we ambled in the direction of the elevators because of Mary's hip, she told me that Bob went looking for a drinking fountain.

Just as she told me this, we reached the end of the hall and we found Bob; he was sipping an iced glass of water, leaning back, relaxed as can be. He waved at us to come join him; he was sitting at a small conference table behind a fancy glass door. As we did join him, I saw the leftovers of what must have been a business luncheon on the table--the catering staff just hadn't collected the remains yet.

I started to say something like, "We should go; this food isn't ours," but Bob was pouring himself another glass from the pitcher of ice water, and Mary started picking through the salad bowl with her fingers. I sighed and sat down next to Bob as Mary asked him, "Did you pour that soup in that cup?" When he answered the negative, she said, "Well, we should take it with us. Here, Kate: have a tomato." She picked up a cherry tomato from out of the salad bowl and handed it to me, then handed one to Bob and helped herself to one, too.

She then stuck her finger into a container of what ended up being three different salad dressings. Next, she picked up an unused napkin and proceeded to pack three rolls for the road and a bunch of pre-packaged pats of butter. I watched all of this, kind of horrified, as Bob finished his glass of water with his feet propped upon another chair.

As we drove away from the hospital and I commented on their signature behavior, Bob told me, "You should have had a glass of that water, Kate." I told them, "I have my waterskin, thank you. But I am kinda hungry; can I have one of those rolls?"

February 5th, 2010

Please excuse the relative silence that has ensued here; I've dived into a frenzy of packing. With taking care of Toby and prepping to leave this apartment at the end of this month, posting here will be lighter than usual. Don't worry--I have several things I want to write about. And I'll be announcing a large switch once we move into our new place.

Where is our new place? Well, we knew in January that were either going to move to another apartment in the area or to Oregon. I packed one box per weekday in the month of January in anticipation, and I'm happy to announce that we'll soon be residents of Salem, Oregon.

While you cheer for us, I'll be continuing our day-to-day existence--dealing with colds and unnecessary runs to the doctor about ear infections. Glares and grumbles from people in my local burger place as I try to calm a crying baby and fill my empty stomach so he can have food, too. A request for you: please don't glare at mothers who have crying children in public places. We're conscious of our interruption, we're trying our best to rectify it, and we don't even mind if you pick up your food and move away from us. Or even if you comment about it. Or if you pity us. But please don't glare. It hurts.

January 13th, 2010

Kate is slightly annoyed. It seems that The Laundry Hog and Kate have both chosen the same day to clean their clothes. Who is The Laundry Hog, you say? Kate has encountered him once, when he was finishing up and exiting the premises, so she knows he is a he. This guy takes up all six washers in the laundry building at one time and then all six dryers at one time. Last time Kate encountered this guy, she did her laundry at a friend's apartment instead; her friend has her own washer and dryer.

Why doesn’t Kate have her own washer and dryer, you say? Why, because she plans on moving to another apartment, and that apartment might not have washer and dryer hook-ups like this one does. She hopes that next apartment will be in Oregon, and after that, a house in Oregon. Why not a house now? Because she doesn’t want to stay in Utah.

She and Just’In really are itching for a house; Just’In wants it because he’ll be 30 in two years and before then would be the ideal time to pick up a 30-year mortgage. Kate wants it so she doesn’t have to wait for Toby to nap to lock up the apartment and walk to and from the laundry building. She won’t have to hope that he doesn’t wake up and learn how to roll; right now, he’s okay because even when he’s mad, he stays mostly put.

Yes, Kate would like her own washer and dryer, but she asks Just’In to NOT surprise her with one, please. Back to the Laundry Hog— Kate encounter him today in the form of his stuff. Running in all six dryers, with no dryers leftover. That's okay at first, because none of the washers are being used. But when Kate comes back half an hour later and he hasn't retrieved his stuff, she has to peek at all the clothes he owns.

You see, Kate guesses, based on the amount of clothes and the frequency at which she encounters him, that he waits until everything he owns is dirty, except maybe the clothes he’s wearing, before he does laundry. She doesn't examine the contents of every dryer, but she can’t help but feel intrigued at what she does find: three dryers with only three or four pairs of jeans (or pants with some similar thickness) each, obviously separated because he has little faith in the drying capacity of each dryer. And one dryer full of girls’ clothes.

Since she only needs two dryers, she is nice and picks two of the dryers with dry pants in them. She could have picked the dryer with wet pants in it, but it wouldn’t have dried her clothes well either. Kate carefully piles the pants into two separate piles on the counter space—she could have thrown them on the floor or in the large and empty trash can—just in case both sets didn’t belong to Laundry Hog after all.

Then she applies her two now-wet loads of colors/darks and whites to the two now-empty dryers and leaves. Toby is not crying or even awake. And an hour later, Kate retrieves her two loads of mostly-dry and now-clean clothes with nary a backwards glance to the still-present piles of clean pants on the counter space.

She imagines a vicious laundry war with an unidentifiable stranger, stemmed from her annoyance: stolen clothes (her laundry basket has already been stolen once— there’s a reason they call it petty), food coloring in a washer load of whites, things slashed and ripped, nasty scents dashed and flung everywhere… But it would end in nothing but whining and misplaced anger, since neither stranger knows names, resident numbers, or faces.

She shudders as she unlocks the door. And then Kate comes back to a freshly-awake Toby and exchanges pleasant smiles with him; finally, she sits down next to him to fold laundry, happy to have such pleasant company.

January 12th, 2010

A Quick One: Collections

A blogger I read regularly asked an interesting question. I like the way my comment to her post turned out, so I thought I'd copy it here.

Her question was: what do you collect? And my answer:

Business cards. And bells. Two very small items, so even if the collection gets huge, it's still easy to display. I keep my business cards in glass jars, particular jam jars with green lids and a mug handle. The cards are vertically stacked and shown in the jar so you can see all the thin edges. And when someone asks me what souvenir they should get me from their travels, I tell them to get me a bell. I have five bells, all different sizes, colors, textures, and tones.

We have two collections as a family: we get one magnet from each of the states we've visited together, and books. We have over 2,000 books; browsing used bookstores is what we do together as a couple.

January 5th, 2010

Pretty Baby Stuff

Tree Genome
Kate"s Style, in ImagesCollapse )
These images are for lin_chan because she wants to make me a sling. I most happily oblige; I love collecting images of things I love. None of them are mine, of course, and because I smell a ripe diaper that needs attending and I'm starting to ache because I haven't eaten, I'll simply say that you can find all this stuff in my folder of links labelled Baby Clothing. These don't represent any sort of significant percentage of stuff I've got bookmarked, but it's a fair representation of Kate Stuff.

January 1st, 2010

Yesterday, on the last day of the year, I had another amazing sandwich. It featured the last of the dark meat from a Thanksgiving turkey, covered in catsup (not ketchup). With that was a slice of melted colby jack cheese; lastly, ranch dip spread on whole wheat bread that was slightly toasted. A great lunch for the last of those double-oh years.

Last week, I had an interesting Christmas: I had everything I wanted before Christmas even came and didn't even need what came on Christmas Day. Just'In called me the day before Christmas Eve from work:

"I'd like to a little shopping, and I want to take you and Toby with me. Be ready to go when I come home from work?" So we were, but I went to get the laundry when he got here, and when I walked in, he had Toby in his arms and a book in Toby's lap.

"Read me this book, mommy?" Just'In squeaks from behind Toby's back. Inside the hollow book was another hollow book. And inside that is several Best Buy gift cards. Big ones. And some little ones. I looked up to Just'In with curiosity for an explanation. Please.

And we went to Best Buy to buy the camera I've vaguely wanted for half the year; it was on sale for that day only, and Just''In called ahead to his buddy to put one on hold. A normal store purchase, and about what you'd expect for Christmas Eve Eve. I walked out into the falling, lamp-lit snow grinning, squeaking AND bouncing.

When we did a gift exchange with my family later that night on webcam, I got a cool pair of grey, striped, sparkly tights. And I didn't want anything more.

December 9th, 2009

The Pattern of Appointments

Tree Genome
I had the real post-partum check-up yesterday, which required finding someone to drive me way down the road and finding a babysitter. Wouldn’t it be easier just to take him with you everywhere you go, you say? Well, consider this: I really don’t want to have to install the carseat into every car I jump into, and I get rides from lots of different people. So the carseat stays in Just’In’s car, and I call all the women in my life who coo over him and clamor to hold him.

I first called my grandparents; they felt unnecessarily concerned, for some reason, and wanted to help with my doctor’s appointments. We’d already discussed having them come over to babysit, and my grandma volunteered my grandpa to drive me out there. I called on Sunday to confirm the date and time, and they were disappointed to remember that Grandpa had an eye doctor appointment that would conflict.

So I called my Aunt Bronwyn, whom I’ve never known very well; the last time I saw her, I was very pregnant, and we talked about childbirth, the woes of pregnancy, babies and her grown children, whom I’ve never known. She offered several times, in that long chat, to babysit our newborn, to the point that she was almost demanding. When I called, she hadn’t met Toby yet because she was sick during Thanksgiving and didn’t come to the family gathering. She was thrilled to babysit.

Her husband called me on Monday evening: Bronwyn’s got trouble with her eye, and I’m going to have to take her to the doctor tomorrow, he told me. A detached retina, which you know all about, he says. She’s really bummed that she can’t babysit. I reassure him that I still like them both and that it’s okay, even though it means I have to scramble for someone else.

So my memory combs through the crowd of women who have fawned over Toby, and I end up calling a gorgeous, short-white-hair, husky-voiced lady named Rosie. She tells me she can babysit, and that she’s penciled me into her planner. The morning of the appointment, Rosie leaves a voicemail that tells me she’ll be a tiny bit late to my apartment because she has to take her daughter somewhere. I have a phone conversation with her an hour or two later; she feels really bad, but she has to cancel because she doesn’t think she’ll get back in time from dropping off her daughter at the psychiatrist’s.

It’s been snowing all night on top of snow that’s already there, and it’s still snowing at this point. So I thank her for calling me ahead of time instead of being horrendously late. She brainstorms with me about who else I could call; together, we come up with three or four other women from our church congregation.

I called all of them. They all have kids that are grown up, and all of them are retired grandmas. I get kind and hip Chloe’s voice mailbox, and I leave a message. Quiet and craft-y Mary tells me that she hates to turn me down, but her nerves just aren’t up to it today. (Nerves. What does that translate to medically? Anxiety? Depression? Fibromyalgia?) Finally, I find Toni, two hours before I need to leave for my appointment, and she’s the one who ends up coming over at the time I need her.

The rest of the day runs smoothly. The two girls I rely on arrive on time, the babysitter and my chauffeur, so I arrive on time. Sometimes, it’s amazing how much I depend on other people to look good. The girls at the reception desk ask where the baby is, and I’m happy to see my doctor’s nurse. When I’m sitting in a second waiting room, though, Chloe calls me back. She’s just checking up on me, because she loves me so. She was busy taking a friend to her doctor’s appointment.

That’s the fifth doctor’s appointment I’ve encountered. Yesterday presented an eerie pattern. Well, at least the girl I found to drive me to my appointment was reliable. And Toni ended up putting a fussy baby to sleep and knitting in front of the TV for most of the time.

November 27th, 2009

A Newborn's Waves of Plenty

On this day after Thanksgiving, my post is not one of economic gluttony, but of a newborn's hymn of thanks. I'm told that my milk tastes like the food I just ate, like Violet's amazing piece of gum, all from one source. Thus, Toby's song sounds after the feast, when the meal is re-translated into his language and he can eat it and rejoice.

I wonder about the timing--how long it takes my body to stream the meal from my esophagus to my breasts; I wonder if he's tasted the turkey yet. But all that wonder doesn't negate feeling like a cow. Or something a little more graceful, perhaps.

(from Lotus Sculpture)

Toby recognizes my voice, and his recognition is most evident when he's hungry. He has visions of Hindu harvest goddesses when he hears my voice; many-breasted women, just dripping with food, smiling sickingly sweet, beckoning with nothing but good-will.

Still, my disgust doesn't last very long; that newborn's song is sweet. It begins with a quick tempo and continues in the zigzag line of nose and wide-open mouth on breast. It is punctuated with a thirsty gulp that is sometimes a slurp, a hum that notes how tasty this is. The lull of sound is in the wave of a small, moving chin that is also throat, that small pulse of hunger slowly satiated. Its climax is a sigh of contentment and satisfaction, the final note of a full stomach. It signals a nuzzle onto a shoulder, then the funny bump and bob that comes from a wobbly neck.

And all this happens with a minimum of mess and fuss; I often look down and see the throat moving and the chin moving, but never any proof of the liquid that passes from me. I wonder whether I really do produce anything that resembles milk and nourishment; I never see or smell it. Until I don't coax the air out of him quickly enough and it all streams out; until he starts a meal and then pauses to catch his breath, and it comes dripping or spraying out of me, this new and foreign substance that someone subsists upon.

The result of all this effort several times a day is in the chub that is found in his cheek and wrist, a chub that wasn't there weeks earlier. It's also found in a set of bright and trusting eyes that are focused and staring, in a steady head that proves, for several minutes, the lifelong skill that neck muscles need.

Could it really be possible to be so proud in someone's physical achievements, even if it's just because they reflect all the effort you've put into them?
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