Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Parable for my Husband

Note: My husband and I have already had this conversation and if he actually reads this he’ll be all *sad face* “But we talked about this already and I understood the point you were trying to make.”  And I’ll be all *does-it-look-like-I-give-a-shit face* and say “And you’d do well to remember the moral of this story, then, asshole.”

Ah love.

Once upon a time there was a little old man and a little old woman who lived in a little old house on the edge of the woods.  One day the little old woman gave the little old man a basket with five eggs in it. 

“I want you to go into town and sell these five eggs for five crowns,” the little old woman said to her husband of many a year, “so that I may buy meat from the butcher for our supper.”

So the little old man took the basket and began to walk to town.  Just on the other side of the woods, he met a man with a rooster.

“Say, friend,” said the man with the rooster, “where are you going with those eggs?”

“My wife told me to take them to town to sell them so that she may buy meat from the butcher for our supper,” he answered.

“What a coincidence!” cried the man with the rooster.  “My wife told me to sell this rooster at the market so she could buy some eggs.  I don’t suppose you’d want to swap the eggs for this rooster?”

The little old man was surprised and delighted.  The rooster was easily worth ten crowns!  His wife would be so pleased with him.  “Yes,” he answered.  And they swapped.

The little old man continued to walk to town.  At the crossroads he met a man with a suckling pig.

“Say, friend,” said the man with the sucking pig, “where are you going with that rooster?”

“I’m going to town to sell it so that my wife may buy meat from the butcher for our supper,” he answered.

“What a coincidence!” cried the man with the suckling pig.  “My wife told me to sell this pig at the market so she could buy a rooster.  I don’t suppose you’d want to swap the rooster for this pig?”

The little old man was surprised and delighted.  The pig was easily worth fifteen crowns!  His wife would be so pleased with him.  “Yes,” he answered.  And they swapped.

The little old man continued on his way.  At the outskirts of the town he met a man with a cow.

“Say, friend,” said the man with the cow, “where are you going with that suckling pig?”

“I’m going to sell it at the market so that my wife may buy some meat for our supper,” he answered.

“What a coincidence!” cried the man with the cow.  “My wife told me to sell this cow at the market so she could buy a pig.  I don’t suppose you would want to swap the pig for this cow?”

The little old man was surprised and delighted.  The cow was easily worth twenty crowns!  His wife would be so pleased with him.  “Yes,” he answered.  And they swapped.

The little old man continued into town.  But when he got to the market, it was closed for the day.  He’d spent too much time talking and swapping!  “Oh, no,” thought the little old man, “what will I do now?”

Then he spied a man with a horse, coming into the square.  The man with a horse smiled as he saw the little old man and his cow.

“Say, friend,” said the man with the horse, “where are you going with that cow?”

“I was going to sell it at the market,” said the little old man, “but now the market is closed!”

“What a coincidence!” cried the man with the horse.  “I was going to sell this horse at the market and buy a cow, but I was also too late and the market is closed!  I don’t suppose you would swap the cow for this horse?

The little old man was surprised and delighted.  The horse was easily worth twenty-five crowns!  His wife would be so pleased with him!  “Yes,” he answered and they swapped. 

The little old man proudly rode his horse home.

“Where have you been?” cried his wife when he got home.

“I traded the eggs for a rooster,” said the little old man.

“Ah, well, that’s okay,” said the little old woman, “I can put him with the hens and we can raise chickens to eat.”

“Ah,” said the little old man.  “But I traded the rooster for a suckling pig.”

“Eh, well, that’s okay,” said the little old woman, “we can butcher the pig and have the meat for supper."

“Eh,” said the little old man.  “But I traded the pig for a cow.”

“Oh, well, that’s okay,” said the little old woman, “we can milk the cow and sell it to buy meat for our supper.”

“Oh,” said the little old man.  “But I traded the cow for a horse.”

“Uh, what?” said his wife of many a year.

“Uh,” said the little old man.  “But it’s easily worth twenty-five crowns!”

“So what,” yelled the little old woman, “we now have no money to buy meat for our supper and now we have to buy food for the horse!  With what money, I ask you?  We have no eggs, no rooster, no pig, and no cow, just a hungry horse!”

And with that she pulled a pistol out of her pocket and shot the little old man in the head.

The moral of the story is: if we need to sell my Volvo because we need the money, then I don’t want to hear any more about trading it for another car or a trailer because it *might* be worth more or because it *might* be easier to sell - because at the end of the day, we still will not have any money and I will f*cking end you.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Motherhood is also known for it's heavy dependence on caffein

Do you ever do something so dumb that you just stand there for a minute revealing in the dumbness of it all?  I'm not talking about bungee-jumping or getting George Wendt's face tattooed on your ass, but more of an every day dumbness that is magnificent in both it's banality and stupidity.

Like dropping your socks into the toilet the day after you've decided to save water by not flushing after every pee?

Like the things immortalized in Alanis Morrisette's "Ironic" which of course weren't ironic, but instead just a lot of bad timing.

Like this morning when I discovered that I needed to refill my little sugar jar and over the course of the next hour managed to give myself type 1.3333333 diabetes (the diabetes you get by consuming waaaaaay to much sugar in waaaaaaay too short of time).

Backstory: I'm the type of person who has dreams of a tidy, ordered kitchen.  I salivate over kitchen design and have been known to stroke kitchen surfaces in kitchen design stores (just window shopping... with my hands) and in Ikea (hey, did you know that sometimes those stove tops are plugged in?  Just sayin').  So of course I have (from Ikea) multi-sized jars to hold various powders (you should see my jar of refined heroin) (OH I AM SO KIDDING, MOM!) including the sugar, which is not in powder form (and strangely enough, the powder sugar is still in a box, gotta fix that), but is in a lovely and very large jar.  This is of course completely impractical for daily use.  So I have a smaller jar that I decant the right amount of sugar to, so I have something that is small enough to put out for coffee.

Some people have those cute little sugar jars.  I have one that says "Marmalade" on the side but is instead holding a cinnamon-sugar combo used for oatmeal and risengrød (a Danish rice porridge that you eat once a year right before Christmas) because that's the way I roll.

I have my eye on a set of coffee cups, saucers, and cruet set from a particular store here on the island.  But who of you are willing to bet that I
a) never get around to buying it?
b) buy it but continue to use my little glass jar in order to save the fancy sugar jar for company?

You are probably right, no matter which option you choose.

Anyway, like I was saying, I was out of sugar in my little jar, so I began to transfer sugar from the large jar to the small jar by means of a large table spoon.

Only my coffee cup was sitting next to the small jar.

I don't know how I did it, but my hand missed the small jar completely and dumped the entire table spoon of sugar into my coffee.  My only defense is that I hadn't had any coffee yet, because there was no sugar in the little jar, so part of my brain was still working on automatic.  Sugar, said that part of my brain, goes in coffee.

Well, crap. Said the other part of my brain.  What do we do now?  And it decided that if I didn't stir it, the sugar would sit on the bottom of the cup and I could just drink the coffee.  And then we don't have to put sugar in the next cup or the next cup! Thought my brain, proceeding to use the type of logic that this part of my brain is known for. In fact, this is a brilliant idea.  I'd like to tell you that the other half of my brain chimed in here, but it was still holding the spoon and that took all of it's concentration.

Spoon goes in coffee.  No! We are done putting things in coffee!  We drink the coffee for tomorrow we die! Or something! Quick, drink the coffee!! Milk goes in coffee. Yes, okay, milk does go in the coffee.  If we throw a dab of milk in it will slowly spread through the coffee due to the process known as osmosis... or possibly one of the other mosises. I vaguely remember something about this from science in high school. Nevermind, here, milk, now drink! I have the spoon. Very good, we are all very proud of you and your spoon.

This turned out to be a spectacularly dumb idea.  The very scientific principle that allowed the milk to spread though the coffee without stirring also allowed the sugar that dissolved in the coffee to spread and although there was a considerable amount of sugar left at the bottom of the cup once I had drunk the coffee, there was also a considerable amount of sugar IN ME.

You might be thinking, hey, with all that energy, now would be a good time to get some stuff done.  Alas, I currently have the attention span of a fruit fly.  And also, some rather odd twitching in my left arm.  And some slight nausea.

Ooooo, I think I'll go eat some chili-flavored corn nuts!

Friday, February 03, 2012

What is the opposite of writer’s block?

So I finally decided to write a novel.  People have been telling me for years to do such a thing, although they have also been telling me to go into stand-up comedy and take up knitting and since the knitting project was an abysmal failure, I think I'll pass on the stand-up act.

Anyway, back when I was preggers and starting all kinds of projects, like a quilt which ONE DAY I WILL FINISH I SWEAR TO GOD, I also began a fantasy novel based on this crazy dream that I once had that ran for several months and was all kinds of interesting (no, JanetLin, it was not the one where I dreamt up the reason for Senator Palpatine to become the douche bag that he was, speaking of which, hey, Lucas, call me, we gotta talk) but never had a proper beginning until one day I was in the shower and it came to me.  Showers have long been a place of inspiration, many of the best parts of my dissertation were written in the shower.

Well, not literally written.  My computer would short out if I did that.  But you know what I mean.  So there was that novel started.  I pounded out quite a number of pages before I got stuck in the minutia of “what in god’s name is my main character’s NAME?” And then I gave birth.  Babies are so not conductive to writing novels.  Just sayin’.

That novel is currently languishing on my hard drive.  I know NaNoWriMo - that novel writing competition that several friends have enthusiastically taken part in - would be a fine time to wrap it up. Even if the rules say I must start a new novel, I could at least use the month as a challenge to just get it out on paper… er… screen… er… out.  But I swear that November is just the worst month ever for me to write.  Every time I sit down and say, right, I’ll write! I get distracted and then dismayed and then depressed.  No good. 

But then this last December (I know, you think I should write about November, since I brought it up, so maybe now you are thinking that there’s no way in hell that I should be writing a novel, my blog posts are disconcerting enough) while driving up the my MIL’s to get a car (long story, unimportant to the plot of this post, which does have a plot, maybe not much of a climax or dénouement, but it is what it is - a damn blog post) I had this mad vision.  The entire plot of a novel, not the one I had partially written, but another one, beginning, middle, and end, went BAM! in my head.

And then I had to wait five days before I could get to a computer to write it down.  I don’t know about you, but when I have a good idea in my head, it is imperative that I write it down as soon as possible before it escapes into the aether or worse, someone else’s head.  (I believe that brilliant ideas bounce from head to head until someone has the gumption to do something with it.)  It was the longest five days EVER!  And I wrote the ending first.  Because that way I could refer to it as I wrote the rest of it - that was the finishing line that I needed to reach.  Wherever the plot takes me, because it might decide to go wander off at some point, I realize that, it needs to come back and land THERE.

It’s not a fantasy, shockingly, since that’s my favorite genre to read.  It’s not a mystery novel either, sorry mom.  It’s just the tale of a small town and the people in it.  Yeah, there’s more to it than that, the characters are quirky and include a cross-dressing schizophrenic (self-diagnosed) and a scatter-brained hairdresser as well as other normal (what is normal anyway) people.

I only get to write every now and again.  I’m trying to keep the blog going and there’s the daily to-do list of things that need to be done or at least ought to be done or that have been put off for so long that really what is one more day, between friends, eh?  But when I do, the words just come flying out of me.  I can’t type fast enough and those who have seen me type know that I am rather speedy at it.  (Seriously, best skill ever.)  It’s like the exact opposite of writer’s block and I am trying to use it while I can.  I’m well aware that the dreaded block could come at any time and I’ll be stuck trying to figure out how Hank will come to be standing outside Annie/Andy’s house with a bullhorn demanding that he (or she - so maybe it is a mystery mom!) put the town limits sign back where it belongs.

Meanwhile I’m really enjoying writing for my various characters.  They are so different and it’s an interesting feeling to climb into their skins and see the plot advance through their eyes.  So much so that I was a bit uncomfortable just now as I finished a chapter about Violet.  Unfortunately for Violet, she’s in an abusive relationship and writing her excuses to herself why she stays just gives me chills all over.  Poor Violet!  I want to just grab her up and take her away and let her be free!  I’m the author, can’t I just do that?  Alas, no, she has to suffer.  She’s part of a greater story arc and she can’t be freed just yet.  After writing one of her chapters, I always find it hard to jump to someone else right away.  I need a moment to collect myself.  Especially since I need to write one from her mother’s POV and there’s a bitch on wheels if I’ve ever seen one!  The confrontation she just had with Violet left me all angry and I keep hoping that a house drops out of the sky and lands on her.  That’s not the sort of thing that happens in this town, though.  Even if Nick the journalist would love for that to happen.  He’d finally get something interesting to write about for the newspaper.

The process of novel writing is very different from dissertation writing.  I could write pages and pages of dissertation at a time.  I don’t know how I did it.  Perhaps because descriptions of objects and discussions of iconography, I think, are fairly easy and brainless to write, especially when you are simply citing all the relevant research and your original thought is relegated to one paragraph at the end of the chapter.  Which then your advisor cuts, anyway, because he says that you are wrong.

Novel writing takes longer.  Even with the words and the plot positively flowing out of me, there’s that pause as you rearrange the words to fit the character, the conversation has to be steered towards forwarding the plot or character development and be in the correct voice.  Mary, for example, would never tell Violet to leave her husband, she'd tell Violet that marriage is hard work and that if she gets hit, it's because she's not trying hard enough. 

Yes, I'm worried about Violet.

My god, isn't novel writing FUN?!!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Maybe I should tell people that I'm a convicted felon

I’ve got to stop telling people I’m an archaeologist. 

Other archaeologists will know exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s The Conversation.  You have The Conversation every time you mention what you do for a living.  Every archaeologist has had it at least once, usually when on a long plane flight somewhere, when you are stuck for several hours next to a complete stranger who is trying to make small talk.  I know archaeologists who have developed coping mechanisms for such.  Some immediately put on headphones and dive into a book hoping that this indicates that they do NOT want any small talk thankyouverymuch.  Others say “I’m an accountant” when asked what they do for a living (I suggest if you use this tactic only if you have some knowledge of accounting in case someone asks you about “this quarter” or something and you reply “well, if it’s flanged it may date to earlier than the Hellenistic period, but you should have someone look at that for you, wait, whut?”).  

This is how The Conversation goes:

Friendly Conversationalist: So what do you do for a living?
Ambushed Archaeologist: Uh, I’m an archaeologist.
FC: *suddenly very attentive* Oh really?  How interesting?  Is there any archaeology in [where you are going]? (and yes, this does include the time I was flying to Israel, which has so much archaeology that people say things like "another ossuary of Jesus? *sigh*")
AA: Yes.
What the archaeologist wants to say is “No, shockingly, despite thousands of years of habitation by humans, not a single human ever dropped, buried, or threw away anything, nor did they build anything or change the landscape AT ALL, which is why I'm going there to look for it.”

Alternatively the FC, if he wants to be funny (or she, but let’s be honest, only men think they are this funny), says: I thought you guys had found it all!
AA: No, there’s still stuff to find.
What we want to say “Nope, we found it all.  And keep it in a bunker away from dipshits like you, asshole.”

The FC will then ask the following questions:
  • Have you found any gold?
  • What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever found?
  • Do you get paid well?
  • How do you guys know where to dig?
  • And will probably have a story about some artifact they found somewhere that they took home with them.

The answers are:
  • Yes, but it was only a tiny fragment, no I didn’t keep it, it would be completely unethical to keep it so no, I wasn’t tempted.
  • Dead people buried where we did not expect to find dead people buried.  (Seriously, ain't nothing like finding dead people where and when they aren't expected.  It happens so often, I should just start expecting to find dead people every time I dig a hole.)
  • No, sometimes we don’t even get paid at all.
  • Lots of research, talking to other archaeologists, GoogleEarth and sometimes, but very rarely, an ancient map.
  • Dear God, you’ve just ruined an archaeological site please stop talking now.

Okay, we don’t say the last thing, but we are thinking it!!

What I’ve discovered, however, is that there is a far worse conversation that I’ve had many times now.  This conversation happens with people who know that I am an out-of-work archaeologist living in Denmark.  And they are trying to be helpful, I know, so I shouldn’t complain about it, but OH MY FREAKING GOD PLEASE MAKE THEM STOP TALKING!!

FC: So how’s the job hunt going?
AG: Um, I’m not hunting… there are no jobs.
FC: Oh, but you said there was archaeology on your island.
AG: Um, yes, but no money to dig it.
FC: Oh, but I’m sure if you just go into the museum, they’d be thrilled to have you!
AG: Um, no, no they would not.
FC: Have you tried?
AG: Actually, yes.
FC: Oh, but I’m sure if you try again…

Rinse, repeat.

Okay, I’m going to explain this once and only once.
1) I’m an archaeologist with experience in the Near East and an education in Roman culture.  I know jack shit about the archaeology of Denmark.  Why would someone want to hire me to dig?  (Don’t answer this, you need to read reason 2 first)
2) Local museums do not have the money to hire archaeologists, no matter what their training.

I’m so sick and tired of explaining that I am not qualified for the job that doesn’t exist.  Even if there was a job, I would be hesitant to take it because I wouldn’t know what I was looking for if I was to start digging.  Hey, look ceramics!  But is it a clay sewage pipe from 20 years ago or a storage jar from the late Iron Age I don’t know.  I actually give enough of a crap that I don’t want to ruin archaeology that we have here, so no, even if a museum wanted to hire me, unless there was going to be a supervisor or other archaeologist above me who could help me with interpretation, I wouldn’t want to do it.  Secondly, how come people will just not understand that if there is no money, there is no money?  Do people suggest to out-of-work construction workers to drop into an architect’s office and say “hey, I’m here to build houses, let’s go!”  Do people really think that by going in somewhere slightly related to what you do and saying “here I am, hire me” that suddenly a job will appear?  If that worked, I could solve the unemployment problem right now!

Please, just no more suggestions!  No more “maybe you could write articles about the archaeology and then people would be interested and give money and then you could organize an excavation and do it yourself” or “maybe if you read up on Danish archaeology, the museum would want to hire you” or “you could start up your own archaeology business!”  No more "I'm sure if you just..." and "But couldn't you try..."  

It has become the center of all the conversations I have these days.  Right after “how’s Danish?” comes the discussion of what I should be doing to get a job in archaeology.  To the point where I grab my child and say some outrageous parenting thing in order to bring the conversation around to what a horrible mother I am or what I’m doing wrong as a parent, anything to change the subject.  

No more suggestions!!  Shutupshutupshutup!