Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Blog

This blog was started as part of a Web 2.0 training. It couldn't have happened at a better time because I broke my arm six weeks into the program. krl2.0 gave me something to do - I passed the time with the weekly assignments (typing one-handedly) and reading other staff blogs. As a soft-core geek, I enjoyed having the time to explore the Internet. All the technology stuff helped take my mind off of my arm and my highly-annoyed ulnar nerve. Best of all, I discovered that I liked blogging. Until krl2.0, most of my writing tended toward the instructional or technical, something I do well; blogging gave me a chance to write what I felt like writing. It didn't matter if anyone read it. It was simply fun to do.

And here I am, nearly two years later.

Humor is still my blog focus because I believe laughter is a major component in maintaining emotional health. Even a small chuckle does wonderful things. As a child, I spent weeks, sometimes months in a pediatric ward due to a congenital hip defect, receiving experimental orthopedic surgery. I learned very early on that finding the humor in difficult things helped a lot. All I had to do was keep my eyes open and watch people, especially the nurses. One of the orderlies made a point of visiting me whenever he was in my area - he would come into my room and tell me a joke, and I would tell one back: What was Snow White's sister's name? Egg White. Get the yolk? Hospitals are huge when it comes to funny stories, probably because the human condition is so in-your-face there.

The best humor often comes from the collision between human nature and a challenging situation. The humor doesn't override what's happening. It just helps with perspective, sometimes long after the situation has passed. I was my mom-in-law's primary caregiver during her last months on hospice care. There were some truly wretched days as she lived with unimaginable pain from bone cancer. (Praise God for morphine pumps.) Did we laugh a lot together? Absolutely. For one thing, the morphine was good for a lot of laughs as she adjusted to the drug's effect. And she told me more about her life than I might otherwise have heard, since we had all the time in the world to sit and talk. As a retired nurse, she had a wealth of humorous reminiscences. (See "Hospitals" above.)

We watched a documentary this weekend about the Laughing Clubs in India. I would love to start one in Kitsap County. There are Laughing Clubs in Seattle but they are inconveniently located in...well, Seattle.

It's time to end this and get ready for another day at the library. May your days be sprinkled with laughter.

Overheard on Twitter: Why was the robber in the garbage? Because he was rotten! #mydaughtersfirstjoke.

Next time: GrammarGirl. Possibly. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Personal Safety Products

I'm not quite sure how I ended up reading a blogpost on KatyDidSaid. I don't remember my original search, or how many links it took to finally land on the blog. Have you read Outlander? The heroine walks into a ring of stones and (surprise!) finds herself in 18th century Scotland. That's the Internet, sometimes.

KatyDidSaid blogged about an interesting article of clothing created by a Japanese designer. I won't say anything more. If you're curious, read the post here. It even has photos.

The Japanese may be the most out-of-the-box thinkers in the world.

Overheard on Twitter: This hat would like to say hello: http://twitpic.com/j8di4

Next time: GrammarGirl. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Read any good books lately?

I have. But first, The Great Paint Project. Our home was built in 1981 as part of the Farm Home program. It's a small, plain, comfortable house. We are the third family to own it, having moved in on New Year's Day, 1992. Our friends took friendship seriously, evidenced by the fact that not only did they help us move from Seattle to Port Orchard on New Year's Day, but a day when there was a big Huskies football game scheduled. The men planned well. The first item out of the van was the television, which was promptly plugged in.

I'm getting a little off-topic here.

Our home. It was brick red with mustard-yellow trim. The roof, too, was brick red. It took us 6 months to paint the house white, using brushes. Our new neighbors were enlisted, as were visiting friends and family members. We had vertical board siding, the boards spaced 1/2" apart. We painted the flat part of the the siding first, leaving the red 1/2" grooves for last. (At one point, our house looked like a Shakey's Pizza Parlor.) It took three thick coats of white to cover the red. And that was that. No more house painting for us. Until this summer.

We re-sided the house, then waffled for weeks on what color to paint it. (You'd think we were deciding the fate of nations.) We finally decided on a soft dark gray, with light gray and white for the trim. And, once again, used brushes to paint the house. There is a special bond that develops between husband and wife when they're painting a very large object during sweltering summer days. Add a cluster of yammering chihuahuas in the adjacent yard, and...well. We're glad it's done.

My most recent Good Book was The Hypochondriac's Guide to Horrible Diseases You Probably Already Have. (I've been drawn to peculiar nonfiction these last few years.) I enjoyed this book primarily because it made me laugh. Which is awful because the diseases are real, but the author presented the information in such a wry manner that I had to laugh. The illustrations added to the humor even though they were often disturbing. This book can inspire hypochondriac tendencies if you're not careful, because some of the diseases are triggered by simple everyday things, like aspirin, which can trigger a condition wherein your skin decides to take a hike.

I've thought a lot about Good Books vs Bad Books, revisiting a recent workshop by Nancy Pearl. One of the books on my Bad Book list is The Island of the Day Before, a highly-lauded novel by Umberto Eco. I came across it in the stacks one day and thought it might be an enjoyable book, given all those glowing reviews. Besides, the cover was really cool. I am easily beguiled by cover art.

I made it less than halfway through the book.

It was all very mysterious and the character's personal history was interwoven in interesting ways, but still. It reminded me of the film The Fountain - lots of atmosphere and not much else. If you like action in your fiction, this would not be the book for you. It certainly wasn't the book for me. But, perhaps I should give it another chance. As Nancy said, a terrible book can be a terrific book if one reads it at the right time. I could revisit some of my earliest Bad Book entries, like my 1973 foray into God Is An Englishman. Hm. Maybe not.

Overheard on Twitter: When she slow dances to Al Yankovic with you, you know you've found the right one.

Next time: Japanese personal-safety products. Stay tuned.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


For the first time in a long time, I misplaced my sense of humor. It didn't last long, thanks to a lot of deep therapeutic breathing. All I will say is, Neville has been a real stinker for the last two weeks. Clearly, some major part of that nerve has come up for air.

I have a day off! Today's plans were to include blueberry picking at Tacoma City Park but that was revised when I saw the rain. Rain, on its own, would not normally be a hindrance (I am a child of the Pacific Northwest) but Neville has redeveloped a hypersensitivity to cold. I'm keeping my left hand indoors where it's nice and warm. Wrapped around a cup of tea.

We've been in Ant Mode around here, gathering the foodstuffs and putting them into the larder. I was determined to pick as many blackberries as possible, given what a wonderful year it has been for them. It looked like they might shrivel on the vine with all the heat but the recent rain has plumped all those berries quite nicely. We now have lots of jars of jam, both blackberry and mixed berry, as well as several bottles of my great-grandfather's blackberry cordial.

That cordial is a family tradition. Great-grandpa Daniel emigrated from Hammerfest, Norway in the mid-1880s and settled down in Washington, first in Spokane, then around Puget Sound - Lopez Island, Seattle (Greenlake), and Auburn. He was a confectioner in Skagit county, with a bakery and small restaurant. We have some of his recipes, which includes the cordial. The original recipe called for lingonberries but Daniel found blackberries to be a fine substitute. The cordial was medicinal. When a family member felt a cold coming on, Daniel or his wife would heat up 1/4 cup and the infected member would drink it down, just before bedtime. We still use it for that. It is, quite simply, good for what ails you. And it's pretty yummy on vanilla ice cream.

The recipe:

Boil together 1 quart blackberries with 1 cup water, until the fruit is very soft.
Strain out the seeds (a jelly bag is great for this).
To the juice, add 1 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp clove.
Bring this to a soft boil and cook, stirring, for 15-20 minutes.
Let it cool.
Now mix 2 parts juice to 1 part whiskey.
Bottle it up. Hot diggety.

My grandmother made a pretty mean raspberry cordial, too. It could take the top of your head off if you didn't just sip the stuff. It was a great mystery to me that my sturdily-Baptist grandmother made bottles of it every year. It contained vodka, for goodness sake. I finally discovered that my grandparents had been Methodists first. Alrighty then.

Overheard on Twitter: Restroom keys: the next great biological frontier.

Next time: spousal bonding through house projects. Stay tuned.