Monday, October 16, 2017

Something to Occupy my Time

Jon's health woes continue. As soon as the fuss about the GI bleed settled down, he developed severe pain in his unbroken foot, which turned out to be gout. Caused, according to the doctor, by the GI bleed that left a lot of blood for his body to break down, and also from moving less because of the broken foot. Having just one kidney didn't help either. Let's hope this is the last thing.  At the moment things are a bit better. He got his cast off and is in a boot instead, although still on crutches and non-weight bearing, and the worst of the gout seems to have passed.

What I really want to write about is what I've been doing lately. Because the second stage of empty nesting is to take on a bunch of projects. (You'll recall that the first stage is wandering around your house like a ghost, wondering what to do with your time.)

The first project is to fix my front porch, which was truly an eyesore. It has never been particularly pleasant, and in the eighteen years we've lived here, we've gotten into the bad habit of dumping anything that's unwanted or too dirty to bring inside onto the porch. Not only that, the porch served as a workshop, so the floor, in addition to being filthy, was covered with blobs of paint, varnish, caulk, linseed oil, and other random chemicals. In our defense, our house is on a private lot, not fully visible from the street, so it was really just us who suffered from it. The thing is, when you live with something really bad, you cease to notice it after a while.

A few pictures of how horrible it was:

Weapons-grade filth

The first step was to get rid of all the crap. I put my bike away. I put the rocking chair at the curb with a "free" sign on it. It was gone within the hour. The Christmas tree stand had been living on the porch because it's such a pain to take it down to the basement. WHY, IN EIGHTEEN YEARS HAD IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME TO JUST KEEP IT IN THE COAT CLOSET WITH THE ORNAMENTS?

I'm guessing that the original porch was wood that rotted and that someone replaced it with concrete. For sure, those are not the original porch pillars, which someone replaced with wrought iron. The owners previous to us found the current posts in a barn and put them up in place of the wrought iron. The two posts that are agains the house, half embedded in stucco are the original ones. After the clearing came the scrubbing.

And the patching of the cracks. 

This crack looked a lot larger once I cleaned all the dirt out of it.

If you follow my instagram stories, where I've been documenting in real time, you may have seen where this project is heading, but I'll stop for now. There's still quite a bit to do, though in real life I'm further along than I've shown here. This project has been a lovely distraction from political and broken foot misery.

Speaking of Instagram stories, that's where I've been amusing myself lately. I love creating stories out of my days, in an ephemeral format that disappears after twenty-four hours. The stories are where I throw pictures that aren't good enough for my feed. I also love watching other people's stories. There seem to be people whose entire career and fame come from their Instagram stories. Snapchat has had the same thing for longer, but I prefer Instagram. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell

When I saw that Elizabeth Gaskell, the author of the delicious Cranford books, as well as Wives and Daughters and North and South, had written a biography of Charlotte Bronte, I knew I had to read it without delay. I was not disappointed. If you're feeling like you'd like to read a biography, any biography, or if you want to read about Charlotte Bronte specifically, I highly recommend this book.

I got my copy at UVA's Alderman Library

Probably like most of you, I had a general conception of Charlotte Bronte's life - isolated in a parsonage in Yorkshire with her siblings and strict father. This is generally accurate, but there are a lot of details I didn't know. For example, I didn't know there were two older Bronte sisters, Maria and Elizabeth who both died in childhood. Maria was the model for the Helen Burns character in Jane Eyre and like Helen, she died at school after enduring cruel treatment there. Also, Bronte did enjoy some modest financial success from her novels and got about in the literary world more than I realized, although she was painfully introverted and encounters with strangers were debilitating for her. 

Charlotte Bronte

Elizabeth Gaskell

Gaskell and Bronte were friends and this biography was published in 1857, only two years after Bronte died. Bronte's father and friends were still living and shared their letters with her. The result is as complete a picture of Charlotte Bronte as I think you'll find anywhere, written in an accessible, beautifully descriptive style. I also liked Gaskell's treatment of the famed introversion of the Bronte sisters. All three sisters were close and enjoyed each other's company, but were acutely miserable when they had to go out into the world and mix with others. Gaskell describes this as a simple fact, no more unusual than their hair color or height. It's just nice to see introversion accepted as it is, rather than presented as a disability that needs to be overcome. On a personal level, this book has inspired me to write more than anything else I've read recently. 

Monday, October 09, 2017

A GI bleed, a hurricane, and the nazis return.

It turns out we weren't quite out of the woods with Jon's foot surgery. He had been taking ibuprofen over the six days that elapsed between his foot injury and his surgery. After surgery, he was told to take an aspirin daily to prevent blood clots. And so, a week after surgery he was back in the hospital with a GI bleed, a potentially life-threatening condition.

We're lucky that the ED is almost like a second home. Ian works there now and he stayed with Jon and me while he waited to be admitted. It was like a party with staff popping in to say hi. Ian streamed The Mighty Boosh (with Greek subtitles, because internet) on the computer in the room. Then we watched Father Ted and even got our super-cute ER intern interested in it. I wouldn't dream of trying to convert someone to Catholicism, but we take every opportunity to share the Gospel of Father Ted. We were as jolly as it's possible to be when you're bleeding internally.

Jon's bleed turned out to be relatively small. It responded quickly to an esomeprazole drip and after a night in the hospital and an endoscopy he was diagnosed with an NSAID-related ulcer and sent home.

Meanwhile, Brigid, down in New Orleans, was sitting directly in the path of Hurricane Nate. Her neighborhood is very low-lying and before the storm hit, she went to stay with a friend on higher ground. Then the hurricane veered slightly east, so NOLA didn't get the worst of it after all and she weathered the storm safely.

And finally, fucking nazi terrorists invaded Charlottesville again on Saturday night. The mayor of Charlottesville tweeted that they were looking at "legal options." Cville City Council have been warned repeatedly since August 12th that the nazis had pledged to return, and when it actually happened, they were unprepared. City police meanwhile, appear to be complicit with the nazis and flat out refuse to arrest them, though they run stop signs and march around in public with burning torches. This is now the fourth Richard Spencer-initiated invasion since May and the city still can't manage to stop them. Here's the thing, Richard Spencer is a terrorist and should be investigated as such. In particular, someone needs to take a look at who is funding his group. I don't think it's a coincidence that they chant "Russia is our friend" while they wave their ridiculous torches in our city parks. Spencer has been waging a guerrilla war on Charlottesville for five months and nothing official has been done to stop him.

But meanwhile, Mike Pence spent at least $250,000 of taxpayer money to fly to Indianapolis in order to demonstrate how much he hates black people. No condemnation for what happened in Charlottesville this weekend from the president or from our puffed-up, bloviating, Trump ass-licking congressman, Tom Garrett.