Farewell, Old Van, Old Friend, Lady Penelope Reinhardt

Our van with us and namesakes
Van Lady Penelope Reinhardt pictured with me, Lee, Lady Penelope and Reinhardt. Penelope & Reinhardt from Pinterest. Family photo by kajmeister.

 

Lee was vacuuming out the van, first with the lightweight upright and then with the portable, meticulously digging into all the crevices.

“I wonder if this feels like getting a corpse ready for burial?” she said.
“Oh, surely not!” I laughed. “I would have said sprucing it up, like putting on a new suit when you go in for a job interview.”
“No, I really think it’s more like grooming a dog before it’s going to be put down.”

I sighed. It was time. It was due. It was overdue. The van was being readied to head over to the used car dealership, part of a potential exchange for a newer used car, the daughter’s first car purchase.

Van Origin Story

We bought the white Honda Odyssey in the spring of 2001, the year of 9-11, before the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, before smart phones and iPads. The kids were not yet six and not yet four, the age where we could take them on long driving vacations, up to the lake, or camping, with plenty of room for luggage, tents, pillows, and the other accoutrement you drag around with children.

When we test drove the car, we had to persuade the salesman to let us take it home to see if it would fit in the garage. This “mini-van” was the longest of its class and the heaviest, the hardest on the tires (we went through four sets in 17 years). We had measured but needed to see if you could really walk around it with the garage door closed. Just barely. The salesman seemed to find that a really odd concern, as if you would buy a car and then, if it didn’t fit, just park it on the street for the rest of its useful life. Who uses their garage to park cars in these days anyway? The answer is us and our next door neighbor, and no one else in the neighborhood. But she fit. Continue reading “Farewell, Old Van, Old Friend, Lady Penelope Reinhardt”

Last Night I Dreamed of Algebra and the Taliban

The subconsciousness is a strange device. It’s our human CPU, running subroutines in the background. When we shut down for the night, it keeps running, energetically trying to solve all the world’s problems.  How the universe was formed. Whether there is life on other planets. What x equals. Why cruelty exists.

American Conservatory Theater production
From SF American Conservatory Theater production of Khalid Hosseini’s book, photo from Playbook.

A Thousand Suns… Some Not So Splendid

Last Thursday, I sat mesmerized during San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater production of A Thousand Splendid Suns. This play, based on the best-selling novel by Khalid Hosseini, is the story of women enduring the Afghanistan Civil Wars and the rise of the Taliban in the late 1990s. I choose the word enduring carefully because it is the core verb that women in the play use to express what must be done. Afghanistan under the severity of the Taliban interpretation of Sharia Law was as perilous a place for women as any; endure is what they must.

Learn this now and learn it well, my daughter: Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam….There is only one, only one skill a woman like you and me needs in life, and they don’t teach it in school . . . Only one skill. And it’s this: tahamul. Endure . . . It’s our lot in life, Mariam. Women like us. We endure. It’s all we have.
–Nana in A Thousand Splendid Suns

I don’t know if Hosseini read his Faulkner.

DILSEY.
They endured.
–Last line of The Sound and the Fury

Continue reading “Last Night I Dreamed of Algebra and the Taliban”

Drinking from the Firehose…

…and Other True Cliches…

I shouldn’t be writing a blog today. I’m having one of those weeks.  I thought I was done with being overbooked, since I sledgehammered off the corporate shackles from my old middle-management life, but that was a silly idea. As human beings, we can never eliminate stress from our lives entirely. Besides, it’s good for me. If I can make it through the week.

the proverbal drink from firehose
From Pinterest

When I first started teaching, the temporary, part-time gig was enticing. A handful of classes, a manageable load of students, and material that I could master. Juggling a schedule with multiple classes has turned out to be less easy. Classes get cancelled; students don’t show up and then too many show up; the door is locked. Stuff happens, like in any job. Continue reading “Drinking from the Firehose…”

A Little Bit Broken

 Author’s Note: Occasionally, readers have wondered whether I might shorten my entries. You have been heard! Starting today, I will alternate my longer essays–roughly every other week–with “Micro” blogs strictly limited to 500 words or less (not counting this author’s note, of course). Usually, I don’t have time to be brief, but today I will make the time. Look for #Micro.

You can’t be a little bit pregnant or a little bit one-legged. However, you can be a little bit tipsy and your things can be a bit worse for wear. Things which become a little bit broken force a choice. Repair or Replace?

Broken china cabinet
Broken window in china cabinet? Repair! Open carefully every single time forever. Photo by kajmeister.

You have to try to repair large pieces of furniture, like china cabinets or desks, when the cracks are small. There is always a little piece of plastic which breaks, rendering all unserviceable.

Curse you, cheap plastic! A tiny drop of Super Glue–correctly applied and cured overnight–may save the day.

My spouse has been on a Not! kick lately, as in Repair, Not Replace! She gallantly spent the three-day weekend swapping out a rubber gasket on the bottom of a leaky toilet. The only plumber interested pushed for an upgraded model ($350). Instead, a $20 trip to Home Depot, an hour viewing EZ Plumbing Hacks, two messy forays underneath the tank, and hey presto! toilet repaired! She looks great in sparkly five-inch heels, too! Continue reading “A Little Bit Broken”

100 Blog Posts and Counting

Source: Pinterest

I didn’t plan to spend so much time writing in my second act.

I didn’t plan to become a weekly blogger or to write a book about the Olympics.  I also didn’t plan to spend thirty years working as a cost accountant and process designer for a single company. That wasn’t what I dreamed of as a child. I am still in shock that we’ve lived in this house for two decades and that I have apparently raised a physicist and a music teacher.

I thought I’d be going out to museums more often and watch less television. I thought I’d eat more pizza although, now that I’m older, I wish I’d eaten less pizza. Plans–life plans–are like that. They’re really more like wishes.

In the Company of Writers

I spent a lot more time in my youth thinking about writing than actually writing, although I did harbor a notion that I would become a famous writer, someday.  I blame Freddy van der Gelder, this kid in my fourth grade class. We were supposed to write a sentence that included the word “beautiful,” then pass our papers to a neighbor. I wrote “The beautiful lake was shimmering in the moonlight.” His hand shot up, he was so excited to read it out loud. That was my First Like. Continue reading “100 Blog Posts and Counting”