Yesterday morning I sat on the bus in a window seat. It was quite cool and not light yet, with headlights, house lights and street lamps popping out of the dark. I felt very awake — oddly, for me, at 6:45 AM — and, as is often the case when it’s cool and dark, I felt energetic and full of purpose.

I reflected that it’s a shame I feel that way so infrequently except at times I can’t act on it. I felt like I could have made five quarts of jam, spun a bobbin of yarn, knit five inches on a scarf, knocked ten things off my house to-do list, and written a chapter of a novel. But I was on my way to work.

When I get home I’m completely drained of energy and enthusiasm. I have dinner, do a few chores (maybe), read, have a bath, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. Weekends, my body lunges at the opportunity to sleep until waking up is no longer painful. But then it’s noon — so much precious free time just gone. At which point I have chores, grocery shopping, and other errands to do.

I honestly have no clue how the child-full manage, if they also have full-time jobs. I know at some point you eventually have someone to whom you can say, “Here, take this downstairs” or “please empty the dishwasher.” But it’s not even close to an even tradeoff in terms of effort expended/effort saved. My own mom did not work and didn’t really have hobbies or interests other than reading and TV, so there wasn’t an example close at hand.

And it’s one thing to throw in a load of laundry when you’re bleary-eyed and your ass is dragging. How do you knit something and not screw up? Write something intelligible? Take a class and both stay awake and learn something?

I hope to put some things on an autopilot sort of schedule once I’m settled and things like running toilets and aggressive picture frames are sorted out. Exercise, too, while eating up free time, would help too (maybe using a stationary bike while listening to a podcast?). Still, I wish I could do with a lot less sleep!

(And yeah, I’ve chewed over things like this before.)


And I Thought It Was Going So Well

In the continuing saga of my first-world problems, today:

  • my handyman came to fix the running toilet in the bathroom off the kitchen and
  • Michaels called — my framed prints were ready. Hello, end of bare white kitchen wall!

Except the toilet is still doing its gurling-then-whooshing stuff, now with added water on the floor, and  I do not know what the hell was going on with Michaels’ framing staff, but every one of the metal frames has non-flush edges at the corners. One of them sliced my index finger.

I texted my handyman, who is beyond awesome and I know will get this sorted (even if I need to buy a new commode — I like the new one in the master bath, with the two-setting push button on the top). He also runs a karate studio and I think he probably was teaching tonight because he didn’t respond, but I expect one before I’m entirely awake tomorrow.

And then I have to call Michaels in the morning and tell them their framing tried to attack me and they need to fix it.

I am not the sort who likes to ask for things like this — I’m like my dad in that respect. He’d grumble about food in a restaurant but never, ever send it back. My mom, on the other hand, was a past master at it. Would that I’d gotten that gene.

So this seems like a two-steps-forward-one-back sort of day. Seriously, though — I have two other bathrooms, so while this is a pain in the ass it’s hardly the end of the world. (First world. I am a single woman with three bathrooms.) And I got these five prints for ten euros (steal!) and they will eventually be non-lethal and on my wall. “Patience is a virtue,” said Dad ad nauseam. In this I am not like him!

Somehow, with all this to-ing and fro-ing, it’s gone ten-thirty. Since I need to be at the bus stop in the dark tomorrow morning, I’d better call it a night. There was more I was mulling over — not about my bathroom or my walls — but I’m losing coherence! Mañana.



I’ll admit upfront that I am generally not a movie person — certainly not a theatre-going movie person. It’s so outrageously expensive to see a movie in the theatre, and then… I have always gotta pee before it’s over, so I’m sitting through the last however much debating whether to miss a good part or just suffer. It detracts from the experience rather.

Even at home, though, I haven’t taken all that much advantage of Netflix. But because this new place is big for one person, and so quiet, I’ve taken to cuddling with the cats in the TV room (ie, the bedroom that is just off the kitchen) and turning the TV on.

Today I actually watched two movies plus the end of a third I’d started the other day. They were all in French — so I can practice comprehension and be engrossed in the physical details when I’m bored with a story or it’s too tense — and all rather different.

I finished up Hadewijc; I found it by turns frustrating, intense, interesting, and perplexing. It was another one of those “people not responding to conversational cues or in other circumstances where I think normal people would say something” films. If I’d been having conversations with the main character, I’m sure I’d have been snapping “What?!” or, er, “Quoi?!” at her a lot. Just say something, woman!

Her piety was both enviable (to feel that God is so very real, and to be truly in love with Him) and seriously unbalanced. As a devout Catholic, I think Mass and confession (especially, for her, confession!) should have been part of her life, but were never seen, and I should have thought she would have worn more traditionally modest clothing, especially when she became close to the Muslim brothers. Also, I’m not quite sure what happened in the end — did she get caught, or no?

Before finishing that one up, I watched Mademoiselle Chambon. There was even less talking in this film, if possible — but much more believable tension. It captured very well the fact that with almost no words, you can still be drawn to someone with a force that slams you together before you realize what’s going on. It was also intense in the sense that there were no good, painless choices for the characters. Bittersweet.

Over dinner I saw When the Sea Rises. Hmm. I remembered Yolande Moreau from Séraphine, and that disconcerted me a bit. Her stage act (which apparently she really performed at the beginning of her career) was creepy and stiff to me, but perhaps that’s a cultural thing. And her leading man did not grab me at all at first. Eventually, though, I was on his side. And again, bittersweet.

Yesterday I saw Special Treatment, which I really enjoyed — it was interesting to see a no-nonsense businesswoman whose business was sex; the sets were awesome; the story quite good. I was struck again, refreshingly, by the realization that sometimes, being extremely thin — while one has a lovely shape — can make one’s face look drawn, haggard, and older. (The one thing I like about being Not Thin is that I look at least ten years younger than I am, long may it continue.) Yet, of course, having that French insouciance and wardrobe offsets a good portion of the haggard. It, thankfully, did not have a bittersweet ending!

Actually, there was one bittersweet thing about the film — bittersweet for me, not for the characters. I was wistfully jealous of the close friendship, camaraderie, and fellowship between Alice and her best friend, also a prostitute. I have never had a friend like that and I don’t expect I will.

Meanwhile, in real life, I sent a couple of packages to friends in France, recycled some boxes and paper at the old place (dumpsters!), and took delivery of the chair-and-a-half that turns into a twin bed and lives in the guest room/office. Now I just need to sort the rest of that room out! Also, the wifi doesn’t really reach there, so I need to have a word with AT&T. I just hope it isn’t going to be an expensive proposition!

Made in America

I’ve been thinking for a couple of days how I drive  a Korean car built in Alabama of North American parts and how that sort of sums up my feeling about “made in America.”

On the one hand,  I sought out and bought a set of stainless flatware made in New York, in the former Oneida plant. On the other, I like my Dijon mustard to be made in France, and though I live in California I often enjoy French, Spanish, Italian, South American or Australian wine. I’m not against international trade! I’m not against people in China trying to make a living, either — since that’s where much of the ire is directed.

I’m not saying one should be a jingoistic, flag-waving xenophobe and swear off anything foreign — are you kidding? Me?

But the glut of cheap, flimsy crap from abroad, much of which is in fact, sadly, Chinese, does get me down. I know sometimes all one can afford is the cheap stuff and I am hardly one to raise an eyebrow about that, since that’s been me at most points of my life. But I do think that paying more for quality, when and how you can, is a good thing. Being willing to pay more for things made in one’s own country, supporting one’s own countrymen, is a good thing, if you can afford it and the goods are quality. I don’t always do it, nor do I think one must or should always do it. For instance, I just don’t like American cars and I’ve never owned one. But my Hyundai and my last few Toyotas were made here, at least, which salves my guilty union conscience.

I am conflicted in some ways, because of my preference for some foreign-made things — though, really, the only Asian products I prefer are cars; anything else foreign that I markedly prefer is likely to be European, and less common. But I’m trying to strike a balance in my buying.

Hey, it’s not just Americans! (Though why this sign is in English, je ne sais pas.) Not sure you can read it well, but it’s touting the Toyota Yaris, which is made in France. Everyone likes their Toyotas to be made at home!

At the Gare du Nord, Paris, in October 2011


Well, That Was a Long Break

I haven’t written since November!

Of course, I bought a house and moved, so I suppose it’s not shocking. Even with having the movers pack things, moving was still a major pain. They packed up on December 28 (including the clothes I was going to wear the next day, my clock radio, and all my chargers… there was some flailing and unpacking on my part) and then schlepped over the whole load on December 29.

Even with Mayflower packing, and even though I moved further and into a house with 3.5 stories, it only cost about $250 more than having Starving Students simply move my self-packed boxes 1 mile in 2011. Kudos to them! Even with packing my clock radio.

On New Year’s Eve I got a 24-hour stomach flu that sent me home from work early (I would rather do anything than throw up, but it was beyond my control and I just prayed I’d make it back home before it happened again). I went to bed at 2:15 and got up around 10 the next morning. I felt hungover, but so much better. Not really a fab way to start the New Year, but alas.

My sister and I went out that day and took advantage of the last day of a sale to buy my dining room table, which should be here in a few weeks. I am dismayed at the amount of money I’ve poured forth in the house experience, beyond the down payment. I really need to build my savings back up! That regime starts with the first payday in March. Right now I still have the pay the rest of the guest room chair-and-a-half that becomes a twin bed, and the new cooktop (it’s got a chunk missing from next to the right front burner).

Oh, and I need a pot stand. Yeah, I know. But I have several large pieces of enamelled cast iron that are taking up a huge amount of cupboard space, because I don’t have a place for the baker’s rack they used to sit on. Also, they’re pretty, and there’s a perfect corner in the dining room for a stand. But those things aren’t cheap.

On the other hand, I don’t intend to ever buy another dining room table, cooktop, or, indeed, pot stand.

Yesterday a friend came for tea and snacks, which was lovely — the more people who come hang out here, the homier it feels to me. It’s so quiet in this neighborhood, apart from the white noise of the nearby freeway (we have double-paned windows so it’s just a whirring hum), and this place is much bigger than anywhere else I’ve lived, that it really took a little getting-used to. As much as I love quiet, that combined with the for-us-very-cold weather made things seem rather less than cozy.

But now it’s warming up a bit, I’ve watched a movie every night for the last few nights, I’ve cooked (made leek and potato soup for Saturday dinner, and cookies for yesterday), and my furnace is working! So things seem more normal.

Now to tackle my to-do list (need to get a bunch of stuff from the dining room staging area to the way-downstairs room, which is going to be the longer-term staging area, plus put some more things on the walls, and rearrange where closet items go) and also go run errands. Thank God for having MLK day off!

I know I won’t be able to travel in 2013, due to using up vacation days and not wanting to wipe out what’s left of the travel account, which is a bit of a bummer and I might cheat a bit and go to Portland for my birthday. I just ordered hard copies of my 2012 travel pictures so I can put them in an album and share with my aunt, and I’m all wistful for going away. 2014!