Roommates


So the other day Liv plopped herself down in the desk chair in my room, gazed up at the many shelves of books which decorate the walls, and told me that I should lend her some books. We’ve been talking about this since I and my library moved in, but she’s been pretty busy until recently writing her Master’s thesis. I looked around at my collection, and asked her what kind of book she would like. “I have history, sociology and biography over here. That big shelf over the dresser is all poetry. Over the desk is sexual ethics, reference books, and foreign languages. That shelf is fiction hardbacks, and the small shelves by the bed are the fiction paperbacks, except for the science fiction, which is on the bottom shelf of that book case. And those shelves over the chair are theology and philosophy.” She processed this for a few moments, and then said that she would like about half a dozen books with a mix of fun and make-her-think. So this is what I picked out:

  • Cordelia’s Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold (one of my favorite books of all time)
  • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (more pure, wonderful silliness than ought to exist in one book)
  • The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (solid entertainment all the way through)
  • The Art of Loving God by St. Francis de Sales (a book that has had a pretty big impact on my spiritual life, also easier to get through than some of the other stuff by St. Francis)
  • Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (all about the small things which change the way we live our lives)
  • The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim (another interesting book about the ways we use fairy tales to explain/understand our lives)

Liv started on Cordelia’s Honor right away, and is devouring it gleefully (“I didn’t know science fiction could be like this!”), which makes me so glad. I identify so much with that book; it would have been very hard if she didn’t like it. (I remember how anxious I was when I lent this book to Trey last spring, and how relieved and thrilled I was when he loved it.) The other books aren’t as crucial, though I would wonder what was wrong with her if Cold Comfort Farm didn’t make her laugh.

Anyway, yesterday I told my brother Larry about this, and he asked me to make a list for him of twenty or so books that he should read. It made me think of all the books I love that I wish everyone would read. Most of them aren’t the books you’d find on traditional Must Read book lists. For instance, I don’t think everyone should read War and Peace, and while Jane Austen is a supremely wonderful author, I can acknowledge that not everyone would appreciate her charms. My book would include such works as the above mentioned Cold Comfort Farm, and Gentlemen Prefer Blonds by Anita Loos, and maybe Stephen King’s Carrie.

It’s a lot to think about, and I’m not sure which books I should put on the list. Therefore, I am now officially opening the floor to suggestions. What books would you consider Must Reads, not because of some high cultural value, but simply because they make the world a better place?

So I had a birthday last week.  In the swing dancing community it’s a tradition that when a dancer has a birthday you give them a Birthday Jam.  This is a kind of exhibition dance in which the birthday girl starts out dancing with one guy in the center of a large circle of the other dancers.  As the song plays, the other guys present take turns stealing her.  If it’s a birthday boy, then the girls take turns stealing him.  I, in particular, always seem to have very interesting birthday jams.  They’re good fun, and can be the source of a lot of hilarity and/or showing off.  Showy steals, flashy moves – who knows what will show up?

This year my family showed up.  Well, half of them (I am one of eleven siblings).  It was Dad, Larry, Michelle, Heather, Lisa, and Gabe.  Liv was the Mastermind who got everyone there.  This was a big deal.  My family has never come out to see me dance.  When I was in my first competition, Liv came to cheer me on, but my family didn’t even ask me how I’d done.  Just the week before I’d been whining about this.  Trey’s family came all the way from Maine to watch him dance.  My family couldn’t go across town?

And then they showed up at the regular Wednesday night dance.  I had no idea, not the shadow of a suspicion, nothing.  I had dropped the swing club kids off early for the lesson (it was Shim Sham, which I already know how to do), and gone to chill at Barnes & Noble until the dance would start.  Of course I got caught in a book, so I was late to the dance.  I walked in, and there they were.  I was utterly flabbergasted.  It was awesome.  What made it even more awesome is that both Dad and Gabe jumped in during my birthday jam.  Gabe did a little swing dancing a few years back, so he sortof knew what he was doing, but my Dad had absolutely no clue.  He was so cute.  His idea of dancing was bouncing very energetically opposite me.  I thought, “Well, ok.” and turned it into a kicky-Charleston sort of thing.  Then he ran out of breath (my Dad bears a striking resemblance to Santa Clause, complete with white beard and rosy cheeks) and called for someone to rescue him.  It was so much fun.

With all this love, I don’t mind being another year older.

My roommate Liv is having a very, very bad day today. Like most bad days, this one actually started last night. We had a plan to meet some friends downtown for dinner, and then go to see the East Village Opera Company, a group that performs opera songs to hard rock accompaniments. As we were eating, I could tell that Liv’s legs were already hurting. She kept rubbing them, hoping that by engaging the motor-control nerves the brain would be distracted from the signals the pain nerves were sending. I saw her doing it and expressed concern, but she was doing her best The Smile On My Face Means We’re All Fine Here, Just Fine, How Are You? impression, so I left it alone.

Then we went to the concert. I was enjoying it some, partly because I love opera so I’m familiar with the music, but it wasn’t thrilling me. The way they transposed the orchestra parts for electrical guitar, etc. was cool, and they had some very nice effects. But their vocalists just weren’t up to the challenge. It was a man and a woman, fine vocalists, but much more rock singers than opera singers. And friends, opera demands some serious chops. They didn’t have them. They couldn’t stand up to the music, and they especially couldn’t stand up to their own accompaniment. They were good, almost great, but the “almost” was heartbreaking. The saddest was when they did Nessun Dorma, and turned what should be a freaking powerhouse show-stopper of a song into something merely nice. Plus, the lighting was a little annoying, all rock-concert strobey. That works great in an arena, but we were in the smaller formal theatre where they usually have ballet performances. It was a little much.

At one point I leaned over to tell Liv something about the aria. As soon as she turned to face me I knew she was not doing well, but was trying to hide it. It turns out that strobe lights, loud music, and a low, throbbing bass are a bad, bad combination with anti-convulsant medication (which Liv takes as part of her medical treatment). I wrote her a note on the program asking if she was ok and if she needed to go home. She wrote back that she did, but that if I would give her my house key (she had left her keys at home since I was with her), she would grab a bus. When Liv starts talking about buses, she was ready to leave yesterday. Thankfully the handicapped seating was at the very back of the theatre so we were able to quietly slip away. It was good that we left when we did. Liv threw up once on the way to the car (discreetly down a sewer grating), once while we were driving home (opening the door while we were at a light), and once into the yew bushes beside the porch when we finally got there. It was pretty bad.

This morning Liv was looking some better, although still far from recovered. She was leaning against the counter talking to me while I was eating breakfast and got dizzy. I suggested that perhaps she shouldn’t go in to school today, but after thinking about it a little she decided that she would anyway.

When we left the house, Liv was loaded down as usual. Imagine a small woman in a wheelchair with a very large, blue backpack jammed with anything you might possibly need for several hours studying slung on the back. Slung underneath the backpack is a gym bag, packed tight with bathing suit, towel, etc. All was well until she went to roll over the curb on her way to my car. This is usually not a problem. We have an unusually low curb, and Liv is very good at going over them. This time… no.

I heard a whump! and looked up to see Liv sprawled on her butt in the gutter, her bags magically separated from the chair supporting her back, and the chair rolling towards the center of the street. One of Liv’s shoes had come off from the impact. It seems the chair had gone off balance and started to tip over when she went over the curb. Her big bags hit first and came off. The chair slid out from under Liv and, freed from the weight, popped back upright and continued on its merry way. It was so startling and unexpected, and the picture she made was so comical. It was like something out of a movie or a cartoon – even down to the shoe coming off. Plus, it had been raining all morning, so the gutter she got dumped in was full of water.

I retrieved the chair, Liv got herself back into it, and we continued on to school. Liv did her best to dry off on the way, but was only partially successful before I dropped her off at the library with a hug. I haven’t talked to her since, so I don’t know if the badness has continued. I do hope it hasn’t. This is quite enough for one day!

So last week I started to get sick. I thought that for once I’d be good and go see the doctor right away. Usually I try to ignore it, push through, pretend that it’s just worse than usual allergies. Sometimes that works, at least for a little while. Then it backfires in a big way, I get so sick I pretty much collapse, and I have to drag myself to my Hero Doctor who makes me better. So I took a shortcut. I went to see my doctor right away, who diagnosed a sinus infection. He put me on antibiotics and decongestants. And for a while it worked.

Then it didn’t. Monday afternoon I started feeling awful. I figured it was just post-Lindy Exchange exhaustion, but that didn’t explain the sore throat that got worse and worse as the day continued. And then there were the headaches, the excess mucous, all those lovely things that shouldn’t be happening when you’re already on antibiotics. It was a little scary. Tuesday I pretty much didn’t get out of bed, and was so out of I didn’t really notice.

On Wednesday I went to the doctor again. He prescribed sulfa drugs to boost the antibiotics (which was very retro of him – Trey: “If they try to bleed you, call me.”) and even more varieties of decongestants. I came home and slept until it was time to go get my parents’ van and take the swing kids out to dancing. I taught Swing I, danced maybe a grand total of three dances, went home early, and pretty much fell over into bed. Yesterday morning I got up and felt almost normal. Well, the fact that I actually got up was pretty cool. I made tea, got dressed, and then, like a cell phone battery suddenly giving out, I was done. I was sitting on the couch about to put on my socks when I hit the wall. I just sat there for something like five minutes, my socks draped on my leg, looking at the carpet and thinking about how warm my feet would be if I ever got up the energy to put my socks on. Yeah. I took Liv to school, came home, collapsed on the couch and slept until four o’clock.

The good news is that I really am starting to get better. Yesterday evening I went to a meeting I needed to attend, and made it through basically in one piece. It used up everything I had at the time, so I wasn’t able to stay and hang out afterwards. But after a couple of hours on the couch (and after watching the first two Veronica Mars episodes with Liv, courtesy of Justin, who gave me the boxed set at the meeting) I felt well enough to actually (gasp!) do some homework. Today so far I’ve been able to make it to both class and work. Tomorrow is scheduled to be a pretty full day. We’ll see how this goes…

The good news is that when I looked out my window this morning I saw teeny tiny little new sprouts all over my vegetable patch! I planted a lot of stuff just before Easter, but it was so far past the germination dates on the seed packets that I had given up hope. I was even making plans for when I would reseed the garden patch. And then today – green! Hurrah!

I hate writer’s block.  Especially when it seems to be selective writer’s block, only specifically blocking the one thing I really, really, really need to be working on right now.  And I was on such a roll this morning before I had to stop to go to my first class.  Why can’t I get back there now?  Arrrgh!

So I’m blogging.  Because that helps with writer’s block, right?  Right?  Well, at least it’s an attempt.  It’s better than reading Veronica Mars recaps on Television Without Pity.  Not that I’m, you know, doing that at the moment or anything.  Though it would be research for when Justin trades me his DVDs of the first two Veronica Mars seasons for the Heroes Season One DVDs I just finished.  (I still like Sylar the best, except for perhaps Mr. Muggles.  Is this wrong?)

Ok, moving on… I had a good Easter break.  I dug the vegetable garden and planted sweet peas and lilies of the valley.  Hopefully the seeds haven’t frozen in the ground by now, what with all the random snowflakes flying around, but they’re cold-weather plants, so I think they can take it.  I think.  It was one of the happiest times of the last couple months digging out in the garden under the wide, open sky.  I forget, during those months when I don’t have access to the ground, how much being outside helping things grow fills me up inside.  I don’t know how people could live in urban concrete jungles with no access to growing things.  I couldn’t do it.  I think part of me would die inside.

The Easter Vigil was fun.  I wore my new peep-toe shoes (Liv: “Peep!  Peep!”), and got to sit next to Eric, who is one of my favorite relatives ever.  (No, really, ever.)  We can’t sit next to each other in church too often.  We find the same offbeat things utterly hilarious, and can’t help pointing them out to one another.  It makes for a very distracting sort of Mass.  The Easter Vigil always starts with the lighting of the new fire, followed by the candlelight procession into the church.  After the Easter proclamation, everyone blows out their candles and sits down to listen to the Bible readings.  There are a lot of them since this is the Easter Vigil.  Eric was fidgeting with his candle during the readings, peeling layers of wax off of it, then breaking it into segments and folding it into a figure 8 which then got reinserted into the paper cuff that’s supposed to catch the wax.  This meant that when the time came to relight the candles later in the Vigil, his candle had two ends we could light.  So we did, giggling silently as we watched them burn down extra quickly.  Then I had to recite him the oh, so apropos Edna St. Vincent Millay poem (“My candle burns at both ends,/ It will not last the night./ But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends,/ It gives a lovely light.”)  That was pretty funny too.

The other fun thing was that I took Liv home with me for Easter dinner.  I love watching her hang out with my family, especially the guys in my family.  The thing is that she’s really, really beautiful.  However, she doesn’t see her own beauty, particularly since she pays little to no attention to her looks whatsoever.  In her book, her blond sister is the beautiful one in the family, and Liv is the tomboy that nobody looks at twice.  Plus, she grew up rough-housing with two little brothers, so she doesn’t quite understand how the same behavior that’s really annoying in an older sister could be, well, really encouraging in a cute young woman sortof your own age.  It’s a kind of innocence.  Mikey is still young enough that they can play together without worries (plus he’s the one she trusts enough to carry her from my car into the house), but it was interesting watching Larry, my oldest brother.  He had just gotten his hair buzzed really short, so she had to rub it (she rubs her little brothers heads when they’ve just gotten a buzz cut).  It was awesome watching his brain melt and dribble out of his skull right there in my aunt’s living room.

And the other good part about Easter?  I got to talk to Joe.  When I was getting ready to leave my aunt’s house I saw that I’d missed a couple of calls, one from Ella, and one from a number I didn’t recognize.  I didn’t really think it was him, but part of me hoped (I’ve been missing him a lot, and it had been over a month since I got his last letter).  So I listened to my messages right then and there.  One of them was from him, telling me that he’s in New Orleans and giving me a number where I’ll be able to contact him from now until May.  Do you know how long it’s been since I had a phone number I could dial and connect with Joe any old time I wanted?  Years.  I mean, first he was in Afghanistan, then world traveling, then sharing a phone with the whole Jesuit novitiate.  It’s been a long time.  I got myself and Liv home as quickly as I could, went directly up to my room and called 14.  We talked a long time, the first time I think we’ve been able to talk ourselves out since he left town a year ago.  Then last night I called him again, just because I could. 

Now I’m trying to finish up school projects, clean the house to make a good impression of the potential roommate who might come visiting this weekend while I’m gone, and getting ready to leave for Boston.  Yup, friends, it’s time for the Boston Tea Party!  I’ve been waiting for this since I came home from my first Tea Party last year.  I’m so excited and nervous and stressed thinking of all the things that have to happen between now and when I fly out of Columbus on Thursday.  Thank goodness this year I have a room in the actual hotel, and if all goes well I’ll actually make it out for Thursday night instead of missing my flight like last year.  I’m also registered to compete in the West Coast Newcomers Jack & Jill.  Also, John Lindo owes me two dances.

Eeek!  Just thinking about it makes me nervous.  Breathe, Bernadette, breathe.  Ok.  I’m going to take another stab at that paper writing, and if that doesn’t work, I’m doing laundry.

Jenn just messaged me that K-Mart is selling roses for cheap!   Maybe I’ll have my rose garden after all!

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