Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Under the wire

It's almost midnight, and I'd really rather be asleep, but I'm a bit wired from travel and from the crazy few days we've had. So here's a quick update, and then to bed.

The backstory:
A week or two before Christmas, we notice that the heat isn't really working in the car, and the defroster just fogs things up. We take the car in for service. When we get it back, it's a warm day; the defroster works fine and we figure that's that.

The story:
December 22: We drive to CT. With no heat. Yes, the fan and the defroster work, but the air that comes out is, um, not warm. Actually, it's cold, except for the sunny part of the trip.

December 23: We are in CT. We take the car to my parents' mechanic, who replaces the thermostat and tells us we need new brakes soon. We know.

Other good things happen in here, like a big family party, Christmas, a tree, roast beef, yarn, a guitar, a loom, new shoes, books, music, happiness all around. We don't really go anywhere for a few days.

December 27: We decide to go look for a yarn store. A light flashes on the dashboard, indicating something wrong with the coolant level. Indeed, there is no coolant in the car. We drive to my uncle's house--he has the same car, and extra coolant. Score! is apparent as we stand talking in the driveway that the coolant is in fact ending up on the ground after only a brief stay in the car. This is not good news. We drive our car home carefully, carrying an extra gallon of coolant.

December 28: Mariah turns 19! We borrow my mother's car and celebrate with a friend and her daughter. Afterwards, we drop the car off at the mechanic, leaving the key and a detailed note. (It says, why didn't you fix our car? Or something like that...) Later, we all pile into my mother's car and go out to dinner.

December 29: We are scheduled to leave CT, but there is still no coolant in the car. We call the mechanic. He will contact us. Soon. By late morning, he calls, and we go pick it up. Loose clamp, their fault, no charge. We are on our way, only three hours later than planned. We decide to take the "western" route--it's longer, but avoids all tolls, most of major cities, and much of the traffic. We are driving into the sun, but we are headed home.

Until another light flashes on the dashboard. A new one, indicating a problem with the electrical system. Sure enough, the power steering goes out. We drive to a service station, and then to another. The second one takes a look: a belt has fallen off its pulley. It's too late in the day for him to do the job, but if we leave the car overnight he'll check it out in the morning. We are offered a ride, directions to a motel, and the hope of a working car in the morning. We take it. Checking my email (grateful for free wifi in the room), I receive shocking, saddening news of a friend's sudden loss. Everything feels surreal.

December 30: The helpful mechanic thinks it's too big a job for him and sends us to a VW dealer 10 miles away. We get a rental car and a promise that he'll "try to work us in." We drive off to explore Old Town Bethlehem. We are alert to the irony of being homeless in Bethlehem during the Christmas season.

After lunch, we drive back to the dealer, not knowing where else to go. We settle around a TV with our books and magazines. Eventually the service manager calls my cellphone, not knowing we are there. Mark goes to talk to him.

And returns with the news that the alternator must be replaced. Tomorrow. Can't do it now--it's too big a job, he doesn't have the part, other people want their cars too. It will cost lots of money and take lots of time. I might possibly cry a little bit but he is unmoved. We grab a few more things out of our disabled car and go shopping. (Yes, we are Americans, aren't we? I actually got some fabulous boots on sale, but I don't feel good about it yet.) Eventually, we check back in to our previous night's motel (same room!) and go out to dinner.

December 31: The free breakfast tastes better today. It is snowing. Hard. We check out and head back to the dealer after picking up lunch for the road (hope springs eternal). The snow lets up. Eventually the car is fixed, we give them all our money and leave the rental car, and we drive home--uneventfully, finally. We unpack the car in record time--no one fusses about carrying too much or being too cold. Our house is warm and quiet. Noisy revelers outside cannot disturb us. We are at home.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas in the country

We're headed south today, leaving my parents' rural retreat and heading back to the city. But my Christmas column is all about the joys of the country Christmas, and of The Wind in the Willows. Enjoy!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

instead of TV

At my parents' house in northwestern Connecticut there's a big flat-screen TV at one end of the living room. There's a satellite internet connection and wifi, so my dad and I can both be online at the same time. (Too many laptops and the connection slows down, but it's early yet). There's a blanket of snow outside and before long I expect Nick will be out in it; he went out last night after dinner to start a snowman and was only barely persuaded to come back in despite the frigid temperatures and the almost impenetrable darkness.

But for now the TV sits quiet, the snow undisturbed. Nick sits in front of the sliding glass doors that lead out to the deck, entranced by the display of birds feeding at the various feeders. It's a pretty good show.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


This week's Mama, PhD blog post at Inside Higher Ed is about losing things--I hope that by writing about it I can stave it off. I'll take the next two weeks off from that blog (I know, I'm slowing down all over) but will be back in the new year. Expect an update or two here, though, when I feel like it.

Right now I'm grading and sneezing, so my capacity for updates is rather limited.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Dinner tonight...

...was courtesy of Gwyneth Paltrow, who posted this great recipe for buckwheat-banana pancakes to her site. Pancakes and veggie sausage=vegan dinner. Yum.

I find it somewhat disturbing that I spent long enough on Gwyneth Paltrow's site to find a recipe I could make. The truth is, though, it was the first thing I found.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

One Word Meme

I thought I might have done this before, but apparently not. Seen at Life in Scribbletown and Magpie Musing...

Where is your cell phone? Purse

Where is your significant other? Here

Your hair color? Brown

Your mother? Planning

Your father? Typing

Your favorite thing? Reading

Your dream last night? Anxious

Your goal? Enough

The room you’re in? Sunny

Your hobby? Knitting

Your fear? Ladders

Where do you want to be in six years? Happy

Where were you last night? Home

What you’re not? Prepared

One of your wish-list items? These

Where you grew up? Various

The last thing you did? Shop

What are you wearing? Red

Your TV? On

Your pet(s)? None

Your computer? Mac

Your mood? Antsy

Missing someone? Yes

Your car? Sensible

Something you’re not wearing? Pink

Favorite store? TYL

Your summer? Oxford

Love someone? Yes

Your favorite color? Wine

When is the last time you laughed? Today

Last time you cried? Forgotten

Tagging: You

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Lattice Work

I'm afraid of ladders. I don't climb them much myself, and I cannot be nearby when anyone I love is on one. It's a (not entirely) ridiculous fear, I guess, but it's one I somehow can't--or won't--control, so Mark does a lot less ladder work than he used to around the house. Once he was working on the parapet roof of our (three-story) house with a ladder set up on the (first story) porch roof outside our bedroom window. He asked me to brace the ladder for him and I was so overcome by anxiety that I not only couldn't hold the ladder, I actually had to leave the room--in the end, Mariah held it for him instead. I tell a much shorter version of this story in my blog post over at Inside Higher Ed today, as a way of getting at a new metaphor for career success: the lattice. I've never climbed a lattice, but I'm beginning to think I'd like to try...