Thursday 13: Connections


We ought to think that we are one of the leaves of a tree, and the tree is all humanity. We cannot live without the others, without the tree. ~Pablo Casals

2) The word “inkling,” which we think of as a creative spark as much as a mental hint, is supposed to come from an old word that means “utter in an undertone, hint at, hint.” I, however, prefer to connect it to the word “ingle,” which comes from an old Scottish word meaning “fire.” The hint of an idea, the spark that lights the flame.

3) While my drawing skills are poor, my closure skills are not. Games that involve pattern matching, or connecting literal or figurative dots always make me happy. (This may be why I love Seurat’s pointilistic art.)

4) For years, I’ve loved the music of both Jason Robert Brown and Georgia Stitt, because they write catchy melodies with complex lyrics that tell compelling stories. It’s only in the last year that I learned they’ve been married to each other for more than a decade.

5) Like most North American children, I grew up knowing how to play rock-paper-scissors.(Apparently kids have been playing versions of it since the dawn of time.) Similarly, I was aware of the existence of rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock before I ever started watching The Big Bang Theory. What I never really understood (mainly because I never paid attention) until recently was that there is a specific mathematical logic to the game, which requires that there always be an odd number of gestures.

6) I love fairy tales. The classic Grimm kind, you know, before Disney got their hands on them. When I was considering making folklore into a field of study (literary anthropology, anyone) I learned that some fairy tales are universal. Pretty much every culture in the world has some kind of vampire/succubus mythology. Every culture has a shape-changer (werewolves, and others.) Coastal cultures always have some kind of mermaid tale. “Jack and the Beanstalk,” however, is limited to a very small geographical area because climbing beans are not grown in very many places.

7) Fuzzy and I argued (playfully) for two weeks about whether our new puppy, Teddy, was a Theodore or an Edward. Chris, who likes animation, argued for the former, referencing a certain group of Chipmunks. I, who generally do not like animation, lobbied for the latter, because Edward is my grandfather’s name, and I’ve always liked it. We ultimately decided on “Theodore Edward Bear Bartell,” which makes me happy because “Edward Bear” is one of the many aliases for one Winnie-the-Pooh. And it makes his name a pun. Ted E. Bear. Teddy Bear. Which toys, of course, are so named after a former U.S. president of some notoriety. (I refer here to BOOK Pooh, from the classic A. A. Milne series (!) of books. Not the fluffy Disney-ified Pooh.)

8) One of Teddy’s littermates was Maddie. I don’t know if the woman who owned their mother was feeling literary, but I love the idea of Maddie referencing the French orphan Madeline (there were nine in the litter). Of course, if we’d taken home Maddie I would have been compelled to speak to her in a bad French accent.

9) In Russian, the word “chai” means “tea.” In Hebrew, the word “chai” means “life.” Coffee is my higher power, but tea is life.

10) I love science shows, and my all-time favorite is the old James Burke series, Connections, which explores things like why monks raising sheep led to the creation of computers. Here’s a link to the first episode:

11) Despite the fact that their math progressions are NOT the same, Roshambo (rock paper scissors) always reminds me of the Circle of Fifths, which, in turn, reminds me of a discussion I read about the “tempering” of musical instruments (as opposed to merely tuning them).

12) A friend recently posted a quote from A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, that made me remember why I loved that book so much (as I told this friend, this book was my gateway novel into sci-fi and fantasy when I was eight):

Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. ~Mrs. Whatsit

13) Two parables, the first, from the 500 Kindnesses community; the second, one I was reintroduced to at the UU church in Ames, IA a few years ago:

Two mice were sitting watching the snow fall and settle on the branch of a tree.

First Mouse: How much does a snowflake weigh?
Second Mouse: A little less than nothing.

They continued to watch the snow falling, eventually the snowflakes lessened and then they stopped. A final snowflake fell on to the branch of the tree. The branch creaked and snapped, and fell to the ground.

First Mouse: So a little less than nothing can make a big difference!

The lessons are clear:
Many people are doing little things.
Little things are laying the base for a big difference that is very much in the making.

Frogs lived in the ponds around a village in Africa. Frogs lived in the damp fields. Treefrogs lived in the trees. At night, the frogs croaked and peeped their mating songs—the village chief could not sleep.

In the morning, tired and irritable, the chief called all his people together. “These frogs offend me! They must die. All of you: take sticks and nets. Search everywhere. Kill those frogs!”

The villagers hastened to follow his orders, all but one — a very old woman. “Why don’t you do as you’re told?” demanded the chief.

“Everything is connected,” said the old woman. “I have lived long enough to see that you can’t make a big change in one thing, without causing changes in other things.”

“I don’t care,” said the chief. “I need my sleep! Go kill frogs.” But the old woman wouldn’t go. The chief grumbled, “She’s probably too old to be much good at frog hunting.”

That night, the pond and fields and trees were silent. Everybody slept well. But after a few nights, another sound interrupted the villagers’ sleep: ZnnnZnnnnZnnnn. Mosquitoes!

The people had no mosquito nets. They spent their nights slapping, and their days scratching. The chief was miserable. The old woman paid a visit to the chief, who was covered with welts from the mosquito bites. “You see,” she said, “everything is connected.”

~ As told by Fran Stallings

We are all connected.

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Avocado Adoration


I remember when I was around 12 I learned about the three A’s for the first time: asparagus, artichokes, and avocados. I think I tried all three for the first time in the same year, and they’ve been favorites of mine ever since.
– David Reilly

I’ve been on an Avocado kick since Sunday morning, when we went to CostCo and they were shamelessly pushing large, nearly ripe, fruit at us. There’s something so satisfying about the creamy goodness of an Avocado, whether you turn it into guacamole, slice it into a salad, add it to an omelet, or layer it on a sandwich.

So far this week, I’ve done three of those, and it’s only Tuesday.

The thing about Avocado is that when I eat them, I’m less “snacky” during the rest of the day, so yes, they’re a high-calorie fruit, but they’re still healthier than all those tasty-tasty sugary carbs that I love, but don’t love me.

On the California Avocado website, I saw mashed avocado on multi-grain toast, topped with a sunny-side-up egg.

Guess what I’m having for lunch tomorrow?

(Breakfast is a protein shake, because I don’t DO breakfast otherwise.)

Whatever Happened?

…to lazy Sundays where the most taxing thing we did was grill hamburgers outside and sit in deck chairs with gripping novels?

This weekend was a blur. A vet trip (just routine stuff), dropping the foster dog at adoptions, a trek across town to a favorite eatery, a facial, the reverse trek to fetch the unadopted foster dog (he’s such a great dog; I KNOW the right family will find him), and then barely enough time to collapse into bed after a too-hasty dinner.

Today? Rudely awakened by work, an early trip to CostCo, laundry…

I need another rest day.

Lamplight is the word of the day….


It’s time for Sunday Brunch at All Things Girl, and today I wrote about lamplight.

Here’s an excerpt:

I remain convinced that the only thing that would improve my house would not be replacing the cabinets or rebuilding the decorative lintel over the front door, but adding a lamp post in the center of my lawn. We have a corner lot, so a light at the center point would shine as a soft, comforting beacon no matter the direction of approach.

Streetlamps aside, my favorite days are what one of my aunts named for me: lamp-lit days. These are the days like this morning, where even hours after sunrise, the sky is shrouded in a cool mist that softens the light and deepens the shadows, making it absolutely necessary to interact with the world from within the protective circle of light from a lamp.

Oh, we have overhead lighting, of course, but somehow to use such glaring brightness would seem a sacrilege.

Click through for the complete post.

Thursday 13: Beau Melange

No theme, just miscellany.

1) This quotation about the recipe for coffee, according to Talleyrand, always makes me grin:

Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.

2) All day yesterday the word anamnesis was caught in my brain. It’s used liturgically to refer to a memorial act – the Holy Communion in high church. In English, we say “remembrance.” – Do this in remembrance of me – but anamnesis is a deeper memorial. Not just witnessing, but participating in the memory AND the mystery.

3) I watched MSNBC’s coverage of the introduction of the new pope yesterday. My favorite quote, from one of the commentators:

I love that he’s a Jesuit. This means he has a brain.

Sadly, I don’t remember the name of the person who said it.

4) Since the beginning of the year, I’ve reduced my coffee intake to one cup a day, but I’m spending the time to make really amazing coffee. Most recently, I’ve been using a tiny Bialetti moka pot. I love it to bits.

5) Last month, I splurged on tea from Teasim. They make an organic Earl Grey that is so fragrant, it makes me want to take a bath in it, but today I was drinking an herbal blend of peppermint, licorice root and cloves. It made my head feel better.

6) According to Henry Fielding:

Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea.

7) I haven’t been blogging a lot because I’ve been in a serious reading mood. Specifically I’ve been reading a lot of Star Trek fiction because I feel like I need to escape.

8) Fuzzy and I saw Oz the Great and Powerful last week. It was good, but I couldn’t help contrasting it with the 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland. Both fantasy lands are interesting, but I think I prefer the darker, gritter Wonderland.

9) My favorite version of Oz is the SyFy miniseries Tin Man. This has nothing whatsoever to do with my undying love for actor Neal McDonough. Or rather, for his work.

10) The rules of Rock Scissors Paper Lizard Spock, as explained by Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) on The Big Bang Theory:

1. Scissors cuts Paper

2. Paper covers Rock

3. Rock crushes Lizard

4. Lizard poisons Spock

5. Spock smashes Scissors

6. Scissors decapitates Lizard

7. Lizard eats Paper

8. Paper disproves Spock

9. Spock vaporizes Rock

10. Rock crushes Scissors

11) As I write this, at a bit after 2 in the morning, there are five dogs sleeping in my room. Dog number four is Aztec, our current foster. The most Zen chihuahua in the world.

12) Dog number five is our new puppy, Teddy (he came with the name, and we think it suits him). This is his picture:

13) A Facebook friend shared this video with me the other day. It’s called “God Made a Dog,” and it’s awesome. Enjoy:

Meet Aztec


Aztec (formerly James) is a neutered male Chihuahua mix (we think he’s part min-pin, but it’s difficult to know for sure). We’re estimating his age at around 4 years, but he could be a little bit older or younger. His ideal weight is between 12 and 15 pounds – he’s tall, but lean.

Aztec is crate trained, house trained, and learning things like “sit” and “stay.” He comes when you call him, and isn’t finicky about food, the way some small dogs are. We’ve noticed that he gets a little bit growly when other dogs approach while he’s eating (but NOT with people), so we suggest feeding him separately at least at first.

Aztec is a total cuddle bug, and adapts really quickly to new situations. He was giving us kisses within 24 hours of having met us, and asking to be petted even sooner. He loves being held, and loves having his belly rubbed.

Aztec has two health issues at present: his left eye is cloudy, and we believe there is no vision from that eye. He compensates well – getting around with the speed of any other dog, jumping over and onto objects and furniture, etc. He does not appear to be at all skittish about people approaching from his blind side.

Currently, Aztec is also heartworm positive. We are treating him with daily doses of worming medication. Please speak with a Shelter2Rescue volunteer about his ongoing treatment, and do not let this condition deter you – he’s an amazing dog, who just wants to be loved.

Like most small dogs, Aztec is happy to run around outside when given the opportunity, but is content to stay inside during the work day, as well. He is not at all yappy, but will offer a proper bark if the situation warrants it. He does like to “talk” to you while he’s being petted, however, and will make small whimpers of contentment and pleasure.

Aztec is still learning how to walk on a leash.

Aztec is an adoptable dog. For more information, please leave a comment or visit Shelter2Rescue on Facebook or Petfinder.

Mind-blowing Television

I never thought a show on the ABC family channel could blow my mind, but tonight’s episode of the teens drama Switched at Birth did just that.

From the beginning, I’ve been a fan of the show despite the fact that I’m woefully outside the target demographic. Partly it’s the engaging and talented cast that keeps me watching, and partly it’s the incorporation of not just deaf actors but Deaf culture that the show is getting better and better at as it continues to develop.

Tonight, however, I have a new appreciation for the show, and for those who are deaf and hard of hearing. Why? Because tonight was the much-hyped all-ASL episode, in which, with the exception of a brief scene in the beginning and a few words at the end, no audible spoken dialogue was used. (Obviously the hearing actors who were signing were speaking as they signed, we just weren’t given an audio track.)

So why was my mind blown? It’s not that I’m new to ASL. I mean, I don’t have a working knowledge of it beyond the alphabet and a few choice phrases, but I had high school classmates who were mainstreamed deaf students, so I’m past the gawking stage.

No, it’s because this episode – as it was intended to do – made me realize how much we (in general, and I in particular) rely on audio cues to follow conversations.

More than once, I’ve written about the fact that when I need noise while I’m working I play reruns of The West Wing because it’s both dialogue-heavy and familiar. I don’t need to see the facial expressions to know how Donna REALLY feels about Josh, for example.

But even when I’m watching television I haven’t seen before, I’m rarely giving it my full attention. I’m texting, reading, playing with the dogs, getting up to refill my drink or serve dinner (yeah, we often spend our one hour of tv a night eating dinner – we’re adults, it’s allowed). Rarely, however, do I truly focus on the show in question.

Tonight’s episode of Switched at Birth, however, required my full focus. I had no choice but to put down the phone, and JUST WATCH. And, yes, okay, there were music cues, but they just enhanced the emotional drama.

I knew I would respond favorably to the episode, because it was called “Uprising,” and I’m all about activism – I come from a long line of activists. But I wasn’t expecting to feel TIRED after the episode – because it does take a LOT of energy to focus – really focus – on a conversation where you don’t have even non-verbal noise to give you context.

But this is why I love this show, and why I hope many more people start watching it. Because it DOES make us pay attention. Sure, it’s still a teen drama underneath everything else, and true, it does have it’s soapy moments. Nevertheless, it’s innovative, interesting, truly compelling tv.

And that young Sean Berdy isn’t bad to look at either.

(Hey, he’s legal, and I’m allowed to look.)