Thursday, December 21, 2006

this is smartypants's wife

Smartypants (oh, I mean smartinof4steve) has been as busy as a bee between work, getting presents off to his family, and being very nice to me, Mrs. Smartypants. Today he has meetings from noon to five pm, and the minute he gets home, we're hopping in the pre-packed truck and heading to my family. He's blue about not seeing his family this Christmas (so please, call us at my mom's house all weekend long), but on the to-do list he emailed me this morning (such a smartypants), he said to take pictures of our Christmas tree before all the presents under it got packed.

I'm going one step farther and posting these pictures. This tree was stolen from the side of the road in the dark. It's decorated with cranberries, handstrung by moi, silver-frosted pinecones, Smartypant's gingerbread cut-outs, and candycanes. We're very proud of it.

Merry Christmas everyone! Traveling mercies and much love to all.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Our pooches have a strange fondness for stuffed animals. It was something we neglected when we first got here, but on our weekend shopping expedition, we bought them a pair of early presents. They love them.

(I stand by Gund, generally, as the only brand with decent stitching to stand up to excited gnawing. However, there was a monkey that had the perfect long, sturdy arms and legs that Shadow loves, (Dido is an ear girl), so we're giving Dezi a try.)

Tonight I was tossing Dido's stuffed bear from the couch, and watching her bound merrily across the room to retrieve it. I had a sudden recollection of sitting in the loft of John's apartment, him downstairs on the couch, and us tossing Dido's bear back and forth as she raced up and down the stairs.

Good times.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The first weekend of Christmas

What a lovely weekend.

Let's start with my dear Alexe.
Every now and again I get to fall in love with her again. Our Sunday night was spent with her sitting at the kitchen counter stringing cranberries, listening to the Christmas cds she's been on the prowl for since last week. She finally found some at the library. She started spray painting the pine cones she's been collecting, but when I kicked her project off the kitchen counter, (I was choking in the fumes) she gave that up.

I've been in the kitchen most of the evening, baking gingerbread cut-out cookies, a spice cake, and three loaves of banana bread. (Alexe hates the smell of bananas, so every time our bananas get ripe enough to smell like bananas, she tosses them in the freezer, and goes out to buy more green ones. By the time I get around to a baking mood, there are dozens of them.) I also made dinner, a chicken coconut curry dish Nicholas taught me to make, and sauteed green beans. (hey, I'm great too.)

Alexe decided this was our Christmas weekend. We went out on a mission Saturday morning to buy presents for all 20+ people on our list, and get a Christmas tree. We spent the first half of the day with me sick to my stomach as Alexe pounced on various almost-worthwhile presents; me arguing that we didn't need to wing money around just because we set an arbitrary deadline, and her losing in bits and pieces her Christmas cheer.

Then we stopped to get a tree. Alexe asked the friendly fellow how much the trees were, and he straight-facedly replied "$77". And it was my dear wife, not me, who said, "Holy crap!". He instantly dropped to $65, but Alexe pronounced she wasn't prepared to spend any more than $20, and headed back to the truck.

We went home for a snack, grabbed a saw, and with a new united front, set out to find ourselves a free tree. In case a local friend of ours is reading, we won't go into specifics, but we have a delightful little tree, christened with candy canes and the miles of strung cranberries.

But many other things have happened this weekend.

We found a new place to live, an old victorian in Water Valley, that is owned by some California transplants, (he was Frank Raines classmate at Harvard Law, all you fannie folk) who bought it for their parents, and their parents won't leave California. They're happy to rent it to us on a month to month, and they want next to nothing for it. Beautiful tall ceilings and equally tall windows, hardwood floors, character. But, the kicker: I gave them a call after Alexe found the add in the paper and pestered me all morning. As I was chatting away with the woman, she said, "Did your wife write that piece in the paper last week?"

Alexe now has a regular column in the local paper, and a reputation that precedes us into neighboring counties.

We had a relatively successful time on the shopping front, though we're a bit lop-sided in our coverage. My dearest has been in a baby-lust phase for the past, umm, long time, so Jenny's four adorable daughters will be getting all sorts of little treats.

Shadow is currently out chasing deer. She's come back every other time, so I'm not too worried.

And my foot hurts, but the swelling has gone. Less swelling, more hurting, actually. Every time Alexe sees it she tells me to send it back to the underworld where it belongs. (The x-rays said nothing was broken, all you worriers.)

I thinks that's mostly it. We have a new stack of books from the library sitting across the room that I'm looking forward to. Alexe wrapped a bunch of presents and put them under the tree, and the Christmas music is still playing gently. Dido is curled up on the couch next to me, with only the slightest hint of pig shit left from this afternoon's walk. (We found a whole hillside of white clay out in the woods on our walk, molded in the neatest run-off patterns.)

We have a place to move to in the new year that we like, and that will allow us to leave as soon as we find our farm.

And we'll have a guest room from here on out. Kay?

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

More on the Ouch.

I have injured this body of mine before. Once, the same foot I'm currently complaining about was caught by the back end of a 4 ton forklift. Those things steer from the rear, which means you need to keep your eyes open when they come whipping around a corner. It rode up my ankle and left some crazy bruises.

Come to think of it, that same foot was caught by the rear wheel of a car as I stepped out the back door a bit prematurely.

I had a nasty mountain biking incident in Alaska, which left me with more gravel and stones on my left side than skin. (One of the stones that lodged in my ribs was rude enough to go through my favorite t-shirt.)

A rollerblading incident did me the same favor, but to my legs.

I've never broken a bone.

Seems I've squeaked out of a near bone break this time also, but my goodness, it doesn't look happy.

Apologies for the visual display below, but I had to share.

Monday, December 4, 2006


I was so pleasantly thinking of telling you all about the wonderful Christmas parade we attended tonight. In this small town of 14,000, there was the most charming parade. Five full marching bands, one with 20, yes 20, tubas. Not plastic marching ones either, full ice cold brass on a very chilly Dec. evening.

Then there were the many military youth programs that went marching by. (I saw the four man Civil Air Patrol color guard and had fond memories.) The ROTC and other military branches had masses of youths marching in formation. Then there were all the cheer leading squads, each with probably 40 members, dressed in dresses that severely challenge the age of consent in these parts. (Remember, it was so cold my dear wife abandoned the parade for the warm of the bookstore, even though they were throwing more candy than I ever saw in all the Hartland, VT old home day parades combined.) There were classic cars, fire engines, tractors, and lots of floats. It just kept going and going, with the square and the streets leading in and out packed with happy people, both the parade walkers and the watchers waving back and forth to each other, shouting Merry Christmas, and scattering for candy.

I couldn't quite contain my excitement when I saw Smarties raining down on the front row, and must have yippeed or something. Of course I was mature enough not to dive to my knees and scramble for them. (I only did that for the tootsie rolls, and only after my wife had abandoned me.) But a grown teenage boy, complete with scruffy face hair and an adolescent girl to impress, handed me a handful of those Smarties. I was very touched.

And this is what I wanted to share with you all, one more joy I have discovered down here.

But then we scooted over to the First Baptist gym, where I play basketball with some fellows from work and that church on Monday nights. Alexe came this time, (her record is one show, one skip, and now one non-playing attendance) and she did some inconsistent cheering. I had a lot of fun, playing some decent games. Most of my focus is on getting up and down the court somewhere not too far behind whoever I'm guarding, and that usually provides enough amusement to keep my mind off who's winning.

Since Alexe will most definitely point this out later, she was asking to go home, and I insisted on staying for one more game. The local season is coming up, and the guys from work and I need to start playing as a team. So we set the teams up, work chaps against church chaps, and had a good game going.

Then I went up, I came down, and my ankle went POP.

Very, very loudly. And my goodness, does it hurt. I could have sworn it was broken. My first thought was, I just broke my body. I've never broken my body before. But oh, the pain. I was dragged off the court so the game could continue, (good fellas) and watched my ankle swell as a friend ran for ice. I was still marveling at the amounts of pain when a nice fellow came over to sit with me and told me about the dread of hearing the POP, of feeling it in realms where you aren't supposed to ever direct your conscious thoughts.

Turns out I most likely have a sprain. He did this last week, and was playing with us today. But his whole foot is bruised, down to the toes, and he's wearing a brace. (He put in the effort to consult a physician, so I'm not bothering with emergency rooms tonight. We'll see how the morning treats me.)

My darling wife dragged me to the curb, brought the car around, and helped me to the couch. She brought me water, I was parched from before the POP, propped my leg up, set the ice on it, and handed me my laptop so I could complain in a masculine way. Here you can't hear the whine in my voice.

Now she's waiting to help me up the stairs to bed, and she's not to pleased that we got home after 10. I'll let you know how long it is before she starts in on the "I told you we should have gone home." I won't count the one she said minutes after it happened.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Slow on the uptake.

Sadly this applies to so many things for me.

But the most recent: the internet, and this blog.

I started this blog for those of you who I contacted, in hopes of lowering the amount of time we would have to spend catching up when next we get to visit. I kept it from people who I see more regularly, and who I would rather not have to watch my thoughts around.

Think co-workers and boss.

However, I didn't put that much thought into actively maintaining anonymity. So when I tooted my own horn last week and pasted an article that included my name, as well that of my current employer, I didn't think that much about it. (Except how cool it was to have such a thing.)

Turns out the tech-savvy folk I work with have nifty google-webcrawlers that automatically notify them whenever the company is mentioned.

I don't have a propensity for slander, or even for sharing negative thoughts that might linger in my mind about my fellow creatures. I don't think. I did a quick scan of previous posts when I learned about the additional audience members, and found most things here are relatively benign. So no worries.

But I feel I've lost some freedom. Like being told that I will absolutely never be allowed to ride a giraffe. Sure, it's unlikely the desire would have come up, but now that I know I can't, I miss it for some reason.

To reclaim a semblance of control over this tiny corner of the interactive boob-tube, I'm going to take the same approach to this blogging as I do to nudity in my own house. (or rented flimsy townhouse, as it were.)

If you are looking in my windows, I'm not responsible for what you see.

No farm yet. But a television.

Yesterday Alexe and I spent the morning walking around the grounds of what could have been our dream farm down here. 30 acres, old two story farmhouse, several out buildings, and very quiet. There were lots of problems with it: for starters it wasn't for sale. We had our eye on it through the spring and summer, but our plans to move down South didn't solidify until after it had sold. So we were propositioning a gentleman who had bought it three months ago, and since had started a massive renovation. I tracked him down through the assessors office, he hadn't returned our calls. So I called a real estate agent who had been showing it over the summer and asked him to make contact. Lesson number 1: people working on commission often have too much investment in their own interests to be pleasant additions to most anything. This fellow decided to insist on a 4% cut form the current owner, which immediately made any offer we came up with less inviting. That 4% was for a phone call and a Saturday morning walk. Grr.

Anyway, we liked it, even though it was mostly gutted, had no kitchen, and there was an expansive view of the ground from the front door looking in.

We offered too much. And luckily were rejected. But there was a few hours between those two events, and my stomach churned through them all. I've discovered I have instant buyer's regret. I discover this every few years.

We did end up purchasing a new television last week. Alexe saw a sale at Sears, and we scooted over to have a look after work. We bought it, and in the time it took to get it out to the car, I was close to nauseous. So we crossed town to compare prices at a different store, and went home with 2 televisions. Set them up side by side, fiddled for a while, and returned the one we bought first.

I was still considering returning the one we kept, but this morning I mistakenly put the receipt in the collection plate. I thought it might be a sign.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Blessed am I, or less poetically, I am blessed.

My darling wife made and and delivered hot minestrone soup to me for lunch today.
On a day that was hectic, by any standard.
And in between beaming with pride and giving me kisses, (and confessing the dog beatings that were oh-so-deserved), she personally laid the cheese over my steaming bowl of soup.

I am so lucky.

Busy weekend coming up. Work and play. I might graduate to new pictures posted here, we'll see.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A good life.

Things we have done in Oxford in the past 6 weeks:

Rollerskating on a Friday night at the local rink. Watching my adorable wife cruise around in a circle surrounded by a flock of very skilled skaters half her height. We were giants in a wholesome southern version of chucky cheese, on a Friday night. We had fun, even though it was hard to shake the feeling that we were a little out of place.

A Saturday afternoon trip to find the Amish community of Mississippi. I think it'll be more interesting to go snooping on a hot Summer day.

Evening walks at Rowan Oak with our pooches. (Faulkner's house.)

Going to the movies on Sunday night for 7.50 each. (The new Bond movie was very good, even though the financing family has a foul member.)

A dinner party with my boss and some coworkers, where the CEO attended and brought his family.

Sunday afternoon volleyball with an older group of professor types at a volleyball court in the middle of nowhere. Park on the side of the road and hike in.

Monday evening basketball with a co-ed group of coworkers and their significant others.

Late night walmart crawl, without feeling skeezy.

Saturday night at the Old Truck Theater. Four hours of bands and story telling in a barn, with the performers on the back of an old flatbed truck. $5 a head.

Fender bender with a car load of locals, the driver in her ninth month, and having her taken to the hospital in what might be labor. (She's fine, didn't go into labor. I was driving.)

Meeting my wife for a leisurely lunch at the sushi place downtown, and being back to work within the hour.

Striking up a conversation with John Hodgman on a Sunday afternoon while relaxing on the balcony at Square Books.

Go for long drives in the country, (on our never ending search for a farm) just minutes from the town center.

Read my wife's writing in the local paper.

Get scrumptious BBQ from a fellow with a weekend booth at the end of our road.

Go to Pilates four days a week. (That's Alexe, but it's a hoot to have a wife who does that.)

See familiar faces everywhere, and exchange greetings on the street after only 6 weeks of living here.

Spend an afternoon playing basketball in front of the office building, getting to know my developers. Worrying about how it looks and who's watching, until I realize it's an excellent way to spend my time, and no one will question me.

Spending a Sunday afternoon (when volleyball was cancelled) lying in a field with Alexe, talking about all sorts of things, as the two pooches investigated various things. Middle of nowhere, a 10 minute drive from the house we're renting.

Not needing a jacket to go outside, even though it's almost December.

I'm sure Alexe will remind me of things I've left out.
But it's a good life.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Not as novel today

So yesterday I found there were a couple articles about me in the news, and today I have heard from some friends that there are more.

I think it's fun to have some hits on google now, beyond the excellent copy Nicholas created for me on his site a few years ago. (Those pictures are pretty fun, and still up, if you want to go looking.)

It's an odd transition, from worker bee to decision making public face of a company. Odd in a fun, fulfilling, and well paid way.

One more toot of my horn:

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday

I'm posting mostly to get the mass of head shots spaced out a bit.

Last year on this day Alexe and I woke up in the dark of the early Virginia morning to drive to the nearest Walmart to get in on a sale item we wanted to purchase for our little sisters.
At 6 am the laptops were long sold out, even in po-dunk VA, so we wandered bleary eyed around walmart marveling at the insanity that supports the capitalistic social theory, found a crock pot for 4.88, bought it, (participating, I know), and were snoozing in bed again by 7.

This year I watched from the perch of my enlightened state as the flyers and ads sailed around the internet. We are actually in the market for a television; our laptops have become a bit eye-straining as our sole method of watching movies. Last night we went to Walmart, (a surprisingly clean a pleasant walmart, in this southern town where cheap can be acceptable as long as it's done appropriately) to shop for a tv/dvd combo. There was one on sale, $129, 20", dvd and vhs built in.

We had a gentle clash of aesthetics and fiscal responsibility. The tv on sale is a standard tv size, with that monstrous butt end sticking out the back. Which means it would be a piece of furniture.

It would harm our self image to have a television that looked like a piece of furniture. That's giving it too much position in our lives and home. We are both morally oppossed to tvs, but not so much that we don't indulge, frequently, in dvds.

So we started looking at the flat tvs, the 4 inch plasma things, that cost upwards of 6 times the bulky on sale version.

And we started negotiating, balancing funds in our heads, talking about the investment, the years of service, the internal dvd that would not have any wires, but would up the investment substantially. Then the 20" version, to 26", or a compromise of 23". Then make, and 16:9 vs 4:3 aspect ratios, and hdtv ready vs actual hdtv. We left the electronics section and chatted about it over a friendly session of tossing a football a few departments over. We went back, got comfortable with the idea of spending that much money, quickly became uncomfortable again. Wandered over to check if the hams were on their post-Thanksgiving sale, and then we went home.

We might revisit the issue after Christmas.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Taj Mahal

This is a picture from our trip to India earlier this year.
Many of you have heard about this trip, but some haven't.
I'll be slowly catching up on this year's activities.
I just like this picture. The Taj was closed the day we went. This is the closest we got.


Thanksgiving day.

We're about to head over to the house of some friend's across town. I stayed up late last night making pies. We're on the hook for 7, but since the refresher course in physics last night, we've only got 6.

(Quick explanation of that. I set a hot cherry pie on a non-stick cooling rack on the counter. Turned my back. It slid off the friction-free cooling rack, hit the counter with enough momentum to carry it to the edge of the counter, and then tipped off the edge. Hot glass pie dish, full of steaming cherry pie filling, landing upside down on a tile kitchen floor, at 1 am = no cherry pie from me.)

As you all know, we recently moved South. We left the freezing temperatures of VT, (literally, end of Sept was frost-season) and arrived in Mississippi to the equivalent of late August in VT. And it hasn't really changed for 6 weeks.

Alexe is on a towel on the back deck right now sunning herself after her shower.

It's late November.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shoes, Sh*t, and some other things

With a new outlet for my random thoughts, (this blog), I've found my mind noticing things during the day and storing them for exposition here.

This nifty organizational exercise of the brain is in direct conflict with the less-than-disciplined body that is supposed to sit down and spit them out into the glowing box.

Which leaves me with multiple things to write about by the time I actually sit down to write.

For funsies, rather than listing them, I've put in a the effort to find a common theme.

So rather than shoes and sh*t, (herein spelled as shit, sorry young-uns) I'm going to write about the girls in my life.

Following the seniority of these thoughts, and having NOTHING to do with ranking of any other sort, I'm going to start with Dido, my poodle-chow bitch.

Most of you know Dido, either as a lovable fuzz ball with high energy levels and an aggressive tongue, or as the spoiled disobedient jealous bitch that will pee on your bed if you pay attention to any other female of any species.

Less of you may know about her goose shit fetish. Anywhere, anyhow, she can sniff out that rank green mess and smear it down her neck and shoulders.

While living in Annapolis we used to make it over to the beach at Quiet Waters park almost every day, and almost every day the car ride home was a noxious trial of driving stick with one hand and keeping her at bay with the other.

On a cross country drive, she would find it at rest stops. Living in DC she could sniff out the tiniest scrap, likely dropped from 100 meters up, and work it down to the skin.

Why do I mention this now, this quirk of my dear dog? Because since our move to Mississippi, something has changed. She's moved on. She's discovered pig shit.

The other bitch in my life, Shadow, has a different approach to stinky leavings of other animals. She ingests them, for short periods of time.

Alexe and I took both of these pooches on a walk not 2 miles from our rented house in Oxford. Thacker Mountain is the highest local point and has a live weekly music/talent radio show named in its honor. The town converted the old railroad tracks at the base of this mountain (term used veeery loosely here) to a wonderful, if very straight, walk through the woods.

It was here that Dido discovered the pig poo. And it was here that Shadow found her dead possibly third hand something, and swallowed it whole, not sharing her find until she could get home and deposit it, accompanying the wretched smell with an equally gut-constricting sound track, next to the umbrellas at the foot of the stairs. The size of a small rabbit, though liquified enough to be recognizeable only as some sort of rodent.

And since I'm running out of steam, I'll wrap up quickly.

My darling wife, the lady of my dreams, and the most important girl of the three mentioned here, received her new pair of sneakers in the mail yesterday.

That makes 21 pairs of shoes. That I could count in the closet last night. But come to think of it, I didn't see her ll-bean boots. 22.

My common theme?

My girls are nuts.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Trolling for comments

Thank you for pointing this out Caitlin.

(You will notice commenting is now an option. Feel free to chime in.)


Three reasons for this blog:
1) Nicholas will have to start one of his own, and I'll no longer have to wonder what's going on in his life.
2) Most of my loved ones are over a day's journey away. The time we get together is precious, and I'd like to see what it's like to not spend those visits catching up on the little things.
3) When I pester my family and friends about letting their blogs stagnate, I won't be such a hypocrite. (Or maybe more of one. We'll see.)

There's much to catch up on.

Alexe and I have been married, traveled around the globe (Italy/India), built a cabin in VT, relocated from DC to Mississippi, had many adventures on the way, all in the past 14 months.

But I don't have the time or energy to go through all that.

Today I want to talk about starch.

I have always ironed my own clothes.

Though I toppled out of college into an absurdly well-payed job, I have yet to leave behind my starving-student fiscal policies.

At first the less-wrinkled look was achieved by hanging my wet laundry in my basement apt in DC and calling the dried shirts flat enough.

When Alexe and I were married we bought an iron (we used a gift card from my coworkers), and I started pairing the Sunday evening ironing sessions with movies or Scrubs re-runs. Pleasant enough, as I only had a few shirts to smooth out.

Then my darling wife instituted clothing allowances, a compromise between her allowance-ridden childhood and my NewEngland sensibility. Suddenly my work shirt count exploded to almost 10, and the ironing task became hours of steamy wasted time.

Which led to a decision a couple weeks ago, after 4 hours of ironing on a Sunday night: I don't want to do it anymore. (If you're asking, how in the world could 10 shirts take that much time to iron, let me tell you: I have very long arms, roughly equal to my inseam, and finding shirts that reach all the way down to my wrists is not a simple task. For fear of turning these precious finds into 3/4 length fashion items, I never dry them except by slowly forcing the water out with methodical applications of a hot iron.)

If I have a job that warrants ironing, and if Alexe can go to Pilates at the swank gym four days a week, I can spend 15 bucks (13 and change, actually) every two weeks on my shirts.

So, my darling wife both dropped off my shirts and picked them up from the cleaner.

And here's the thing: they're starched.
Stiff, flat, and soooo silky smooth. Yesterday was my first day at work in a professionally laundered shirt, and it was all I could do in meetings to stop from petting myself. The cuffs are so smooth. The gig line down my front, where the button holes are, is like a friction-free bobsled track. My pocket was actually glued shut, and it was endless fun to slowly unstick the deepest corners with my capped pen.

I don't know what they're using for starch nowadays. Apparently it was once potato peels, but however they put it in those spray cans, I think it's awesome.