For those of us too young…

“I’ll Be Seeing You”
Jo McDougall
Towns Facing Railroads

World War II is slipping away, I can feel it.
Its officers are gray.
Their wives who danced at the USO
are gray, too.
Veterans forget their stories. Some lands they fought in
have new names, and Linda Venetti
who deserted the husband who raised cows
to run off with an officer
has come home to look after her mother
and work the McDonald’s morning shift.
William Holden is dead,
and my mother, who knew all the words
to “When the Lights Go On Again All over the World.”

I was in college when the 50th anniversary of D-Day happened. I remember my professor saying that this was probably the last big commemoration of World War II that we would celebrate as a country. By the time the 60th anniversary rolled around, he figured, there would not be very many veterans from that war remaining. Having lived through the 60th anniversary, I can say he was right. Both of my veteran uncles are gone, and the veterans pictured in the newspaper on major anniversaries are very, very old.

Another good poem from The Writer’s Almanac.

Books read in October

Washington In Focus.
Philip Bigler.
I really enjoyed this book. It was short enough to not be an overwhelming history and long enough to feel as if I had a basic understanding of the city. It also pointed me to a few sites I am interested in seeing such as the Zero Milestone.

The Likeness.
Tanya French.
What a fabulous book. This is the second book by French, but I read them out of order and now have the first one on hold at the library. It is a very long queue. I was so excited by the premise of this book I kept telling anyone I could engage in conversation. “I’m reading the best book!” I would begin and give a short synopsis. “Ooooooh!” was always the excited reply. This is a thick book and chores were ignored, bedtimes were missed and I thoroughly enjoyed myself while reading it. Even if you are not a huge mystery fan (I consider myself a moderate-to-cool mystery fan) this book is worth the read.

Real Food: What to Eat and Why.
Nina Planck.
A really great book that clearly makes the case for eating, as Michael Pollen would say, like our great grandmothers did. Read this and find out why you will benefit by eating full fat dairy, chicken skin and other lovely things you have been avoiding for your “health.”

Wild Fermentation (Zine).
Sandor Ellix Katz.
The hold list for Katz’s book Wild Fermentation is very long so in the meantime I read the short zine that was a precursor to the book. If you can get your hands on it, this might be a good stepping stone to the fermented foods world.

Daytrips Washington D.C.
Earl Steinbicker.
A great book with not only journeys out of town in DC, but a few walks that take you around the town. I’ve marked a few of the trips for my own trip to DC. This would be a good book for people who live in the DC area and have a lot of visitors. The book could be innocently sitting in your home, and perhaps your visitors will take themselves off on a journey and leave you to cook dinner in peace.

Started but did not finish.
Easter Rising: An Irish American Coming Up from Under.
Michael Patrick MacDonald.
I loved MacDonald’s All Souls when I read it years ago, but it had been too long and I couldn’t connect to him in this book.

Our Sometime Sister.
Norah Labiner.
I read a few pages of this book but nothing grabbed me so back it went to the library.

The Invention of Everything Else.
Samantha Hunt
This is the kind of book I usually love–historical fiction about something I know little about–but there was a vague sense of foreboding that I couldn’t shake and so this novel went back to the library.

The Structure House Weight Loss Plan.
Gerard J. Musante
Yet again I break my solemn vow to not check out any more “lose weight” books.

This book seems to have good advice. I tend to do better on three meals rather than the “many small snacks” philosophy that seems to reign right now. My “many small snacks” tend to become “many medium sized meals.” It makes sense to plan out your food day and stick to your plan, I just chafe under those requirements. Also, their “low fat” plan doesn’t jibe with my current direction of food and eating and so I ignored that part. (I know, I know, my pick and choosiness is one of the reasons I am trying not to read “lose weight” books anymore).

Amanda Goldburg & Ruthanna Khalighi Hopper
I really tried to like this book but could not. It doesn’t help that the women who wrote the book actually come from the Hollywood world they write about. The world they describe seems filled with horrible people that I would rather not spend my time with. So I closed the book and didn’t.

Did not even start.
I started everything I checked out this month.

Letters written in October

After my recommitment I did write a letter per day. Good job me. I feel much better too.

1 October. Sara
**Letter back, LEX Dorothy
**Letter back, Sara
**Letter back, LEX Diane
2 October. Sara
3 October. No one.
4 October. No one.
5 October. No one.
6 October. Sara
7 October. Sara
8 October. No one.
9 October. Laura Oppenheimer (Oregonian article about the Prefontaine run)
10 October. No one.
11 October. No one.
12 October. No one.
13 October. No one.
14 October. No one.
15 October. No one.
16 October. No one.
17 October. No one.
**Letter back (weird Halloween thing)
18 October. No one.
**2 Letters back from Sara.
19 October. Sara
20 October. Thank you to Gardner (for getting the refrigerators out of the Youth room at church)
21 October. LEX Diane (food)
22 October. Postcard to Sara
**Letter back LEX Jan
**Birthday card, Kelly
23 October. Sara, postcard
24 October. LEX Gerry McCoy
25 October. LEX Diane (movies)
26 October. LEX Diane (food)
27 October. Jan
28 October. Sara
29 October. Sara
30 October. LEX Jan
31 October. Sara postcard.

The opposite of requiem.

More than 10 years ago, I got this toaster oven for Christmas. It never worked right: it would burn the top quarter of your bread, somewhat toast the middle and not toast the bottom quarter at all. It was too complicated to return it and the toaster was not really broken so I couldn’t really justify throwing it out or getting a new one.

Sometime this fall I woke up to the fact that I’ve been making substandard toast for more than a decade. Overall in my life, a slice of badly made toast barely registers on the unpleasant scale, but when I thought of the thousands of pieces of toast I had consumed all thanks to this non-performing toaster, the “barely registers” added up to a minor injustice and I decided to stop the insanity. I requested a new toaster oven for my birthday and my mother and aunts banded together to get me an excellent toasting machine.

Goodbye toaster. I thank you for your years of service and I will overlook your deficiencies. I know that you were trying to do your best, but just didn’t have the ability to get the job done right. I wish you good luck in your next life at the Goodwill, but I won’t miss you at all.

I voted!

Though I 90% love the vote by mail system we have in Oregon, I hate it on election day when I don’t get to go to my local polling station and step into the booth, make my choices and step out to hand in my ballot and hear “Patricia Collins has voted!” a phrase that always made me feel squirmy inside, a bit of embarrassment mixed with pride. And we never get “I voted” stickers. I hate that. So this year, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Using my friend the Internet, I located a roll of my very own “I voted” stickers. They even say “I voted by mail” which is much more specific than I had in mind when I went looking for them. I am going to hand out these stickers to everyone who has voted so they can proudly wear them on election day. And since I have a roll of 1000, I can do this for every election for a long, long time.

17 ways to live happily…education and house.

Don’t spend too much on your college education or your mortgage.

One of these I did well, the other, I am still living with the consequences. When you are in college, money is so ephemeral. There are all these loans they want to give you that you can pay back later. Plus, you are in the program you are in which is going to lead you to a great job and Bill Gates isn’t handing out cash, so of course you will take the loans.

All of the above makes sense while you are in school. But when you get out and you are not working in quite the job you thought you would for quite the amount of money you projected, it is depressing to pay that student loan bill every month. Do whatever you can to find some other way to pay for your schooling. Or, radical notion, don’t attend college at all. If you are just going to go, it’s not worth it. Go get a job and work for a few years until you figure out what the heck you would be happy paying someone to teach you about.

As for a house, I pined for a mortgage of my own through the last housing bubble. I watched horrified from the sidelines while cute little houses for sale for a reasonable $135,000 shot up to above $200,000. Though people with the same income level were buying houses for this much or more, I did the figuring and knew that I could never pay that much into a mortgage every month. I wasn’t buying the argument that stretching a bit was fine because the house would only increase in value. Not only that, but how long would it take me to save the down payment when “normal” houses were upwards of $240,000.

Luckily for us, we have a great land trust organization in our town. Through Portland Community Land Trust we bought our home and today have an affordable mortgage. I’m glad we don’t have to scrimp every month to make our payment and I’m glad that we are not “upside down” on our house right now. The lesson? Do your research and see if you can find an alternative home buying program that works for you.

Slacking, and a recommitment.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a letter. Maybe since last Thursday, maybe longer. I’ve been busy, sure: work, general life maintenance, school, studying for the big math test, the *cough* blog–however little I work on it. But I’ve not been any busier than I was in April, say, and I managed to keep up with my letters well enough then.

I miss the daily writing of something. Through my teens and twenties I was a steady journal writer. My life has shifted away from needing to pour words out on pages–my current journal is one of those five year jobbers that you get four lines per day. It suits me well at the stage I’m in. But I think I enjoy writing enough that my year of letter writing has brought me great pleasure. It’s different than a journal in that I’m connecting with someone who will read what I’m writing. And it’s less formal than the blog in that I don’t have to worry too much about grammar and spelling and also I know who will be most likely reading what I write.

(Not knowing who is reading what I write is one of the weirdest things about blogging for me. Recently, I had 99 visitors in a week. Who are those people? They read a little bit, based on the average amount of time visited. But because they don’t comment, I have no way of knowing who my audience is.)

So I am recommitting to my New Year’s resolution today, October 19, 2008. I will write something (if only a postcard) every single day for the rest of the year.

Are you wishing to get a letter from me? Add a comment saying so.

ps. Next year’s resolution will not involve work on a daily basis.

Three sentence movie reviews–The Band’s Visit.

Another of those movies where the plot comes is conveyed less through dialogue and more through facial expressions. A charming, sweet, funny–Matt and I both howled with laughter during a scene–and sad movie that more people should see. Sometimes I think that movies are the only universal means of communication.

poster from:

17 ways to live happily…children

Don’t have children.

It may be too late for some of you, but if you don’t have an innate desire to have children, then don’t. I know that your parents probably want grandchildren and that there is subtle pressure to reproduce from all corners. However, raising children is hard work and if you aren’t into it, your child is the one that suffers. From a “living within your means” standpoint, the less people you have to spread your money around to, the easier it is to live within your means. Plus, you know how hard it is to resist when you yourself want “fabulous tchotka that will make your life so much better”? Imagine if it was your cute 8 year-old offspring making the argument. Based on the number of Heeleys at the school I work at, I’m guessing that saying “no” to the fruit of your loins is even harder than saying to yourself.