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Where Is Miles Davis?

See the beautiful cat pictured here? He ran out of the house a bit after midnight last night. He isn't back yet. I miss him. He is a little like my child. He is my favorite. He is the best cat in the world. I tried for a very long time not to cry. Finally, papertigers looked at me and said, "Honey, he's coming back." That's when I wept. I said, "Are you sure?" She promised. I know she doesn't know any more than I do, but somehow, it comforted me. I may not sleep much tonight, but at least I have someone in my corner.

Giving Thanks

We have had a quiet Thanksgiving at home - unusually quiet, since I have lost my voice completely. Laryngitis: no fun. However, we managed to cook and eat:
Cornbread stuffing
Cranberries (recipe courtesy Ed Flesh, whom I mention because he died this year and because he was a very nice man)
Macaroni and cheese (exceptionally good this year, even by papertigers's high standards)
Braised brussels sprouts and chestnuts
Sweet potato pie

When we had eaten and put away leftovers, we took a long walk through the neighboring condominium complex, which is large and borders the woods. Through the windows, we saw and heard a lot of talking, laughter, and food. Some were watching football; some were watching movies; but most of the lit windows had talking people, eating dinner - exactly what I love about Thanksgiving. A few people had gotten a start on Christmas decorations, which I also love. We even saw a few people walking around with children and elderly people, and were greeted more than once. I felt bad that my "Happy Thanksgiving" was in a hoarse whisper, barely audible to anyone standing more than a foot away.

Tomorrow, we will put up and decorate the Christmas tree and play Christmas carols. We will also go to Goodwill to give a few things away. I am very thankful that we limited the number of gifts we give and get a few years ago, and that I shop for Christmas and Yule all year long. I do not feel that I am under any obligation to go out and shop on Black Friday, as many people in reduced circumstances do (especially if they have kids). Instead, we relax at home and stay sane.

Tonight I am thankful for hot baths, cute cats, novels, tea, friends and family of all kinds, and the great privilege to live in a place with running water, electricity, and protection from the elements. I am thankful for every one of you. Happy Thanksgiving, folks - even if you are a weird Canadian who has to celebrate Thanksgiving on my birthday. ;)
I will not send this, but I kind of wish I could.

Dear ____, _____, and _______,

Nine and a half years ago, I wrote you a collective letter on the occasion of your baptism. I apologized then for writing to you as a group, but today I am not going to apologize. The letter I'm writing today is sort of a family meeting. I want to talk to you all together because today is your tenth birthday, and there are a lot of things I have to tell you that apply to each of you.

It has been fun getting to know you over these ten years. I'll always treasure memories like taking ____ on Star Tours for the first time, or listening to the three of you chatter in the back seat when we took you to see the Christmas lights on Candy Cane Lane. Your energy and enthusiasm is sometimes overwhelming, but it makes you fun to be around at any time, not just on special occasions. Like most godparents (I think), the times I've cherished most have been taking you to Communion when you were small, watching you serve at the altar, and giving your parents guidance when you and they have had spiritual questions that needed a bigger answer than any two people could give alone.

In one sense, we do not live in a church. Most of the time, you are worrying about your homework (I do not like this fourth-grade teacher, for the record), playing, sleeping, planning activities, or wandering around grocery stores getting bored. In another sense, though, these things are church, too. You are young boys. God meant for you to do (and mostly enjoy) all these things that are part of growing up.

One thing your parents and I share is a belief that every person affects the world - the universe - in large and small ways. We all do things every day that change our lives and the lives of others. Something as simple as our humming a tune can cause a stranger to remember things that we can't even imagine. You will make bad choices. Sometimes, the only choices you will have will be bad choices! We hope that the good choices you make will be stronger than the bad choices. We hope that you don't get discouraged because you can't avoid making bad choices sometimes. We hope that you are careful of yourself and others, and thoughtful, even when you make choices that we would not make or don't like. Most of all, we hope that you are brave enough to admit to yourselves, as you grow, when the choices you have made have been bad ones.

Ten years from now, you will be young adults, but I hope you have a few more years of childhood yet. Don't rush to grow up, but don't be afraid of it, either. Those of us who are grown up can tell you that it's not easy, but there are a lot of good things about being an adult. Life is exciting business. I want you to embrace it and make the most of every year and every age. Be connected to people: your family, your friends, yes, but also a lot of other people, like the people you see on the bus or who are in different classes at school. A smile given to a stranger is not wasted, even if he or she never smiles back. Being connected to people is part of the joy of life; no one can be truly happy in isolation.

Grow, give, love. Take time to do things you enjoy, away from your parents and brothers. Learn about you and what you think and like and dislike. Have fun. God likes to see you smile, and so do we.

With love from
Your godmother

I Will Never Eat Again

For your information: every country has some variation on the theme of chicken and rice. It all tastes fabulous, and it all tastes different.

There was an international potluck at my workplace today. Kabsah, the Saudi national dish, contains cardamom and goes really well with Arabic coffee, which also contains cardamom. Polish food is fabulous. Many countries make potato salad. Chileans can do anything with walnuts. My Haitian former student made three dishes. One of the students also provided a recipe so EVERYONE can make Brazilian candy. I did not eat myself sick, but I ate plenty, for sure.

In other news, my Persian student is so adorable that I would almost marry him, except he is a man and I'm already married. Yesterday, he told me how beautiful my wedding ring is. Today, he pretended he'd spoken Farsi in class (he is the only Farsi speaker in class) so that he could put money in the bottle. I make students pay 25 cents for every non-English word they speak and collect it in a bottle. The proceeds go to the Capital Area Food Bank. He emptied his pockets because he is completely awesome.


Last night, I had a very involved dream. papertigers and I were wandering around London. We decided to visit St. Paul's because I thought she'd love the architecture. Afterwards, we walked along the Thames and decided to cross it to go to Lambeth Palace. However, once we got to the other side of the river, we found ourselves lost. We were taken in by kind people who seemed to live like 19th-Century Swedish peasants (but with a TV). They took us into their house and fed us, but they were about to go to bed (at 5:30), and we couldn't figure out why. They all slept in one bed, and we soon realized that it was freezing cold out but lovely and warm in the bed. Soon, a little boy from next door was kidnapped, and our hosts ran out to help track him down. To do this, they counted on the help of friendly dogs. As it turned out, they could speak to animals, which gave them a secret edge over the kidnappers. The kidnappers had taken the boy (who was about 6) to a large assembly of children and were threatening him with a gun to make him accept a bite from a mosquito. This mosquito had software in it that would track the boy and uncover the secret (talking to animals) that his people had been hiding for thousands of years.

Then I woke up, more than ten minutes late.

When I got on the internet, I discovered that once again, without warning, facebook had changed its news feed - in a way that I find particularly unbearable. My dilemma is this: I like LJ better, actually, because I can post more interesting, involved things, and I have to think harder before I post. I can also access past posts easily and tag easily with something other than a name. However, I have people on fb whom I don't see or talk to anyplace else. One person, whom I met IRL only a few days ago (he is FABULOUS), I met on facebook. So I will still use it, but probably a lot less.

Most of my students are ill (one of them went to the hospital yesterday), so of course I'm feeling a bit peaky myself. Nothing major, just not on the ball the way I'd like to be. Ugh.

That's all for now.


Irene on the Approach

Coastal Maryland is now being evacuated. I'm very glad to live decently well inland and on a bit of a hill - near the crest, in fact. Nevertheless, I am a little worried about Hurricane Irene - more now than before, since Governor O'Malley is making a very big deal of it. They (governors) don't do that unless they really want you to leave. He asks people to move inland and stay with someone they love. With three cats, it's slightly more complicated, but I have located all the pet-friendly hotels between here and West Virginia, just in case. My dear wife has been in charge of emergency supplies. I'm going to put gas in our friend's car (she can't drive) and be on the alert for her as well. Luckily, she also lives on a hill. Unluckily, she's surrounded by trees and allergic to cats (so we can't take her in). If it turns out like Isabel, we're going to spend a week or so without electricity and mainly play games, read, and do art. Not the worse way to spend a weekend. I hope my bad leg doesn't act up (read: I hope I have enough medication and remember to take it regularly).

If you're the praying sort, send the East Coast a few prayers, and add one for my Aunt Nancy, too, since she just had surgery for breast cancer.


For those of you who knew my godfather, as well as for those who didn't, a song that always reminds me of him.

by The Call

In my memory, I can still see that face
In my memory, I can still hear the voice
I remember talking with you, the stories I could tell
In my memory, I remember you still

You gave the poet words to speak
You were the sun to warm my days
You put us in each other's hands
You gave me love before I asked

I feel my heart will surely break
I've taken all that I can take
You were the light for me to see
You were the sky that covered me

In my memory, I can still see the eyes
In my memory, I can still feel your touch
I remember talking with you, the stories I could tell
In my memory, I remember you still

Frank J. Ryan, 1957-1992
Вечная память


The most wonderful time of the year?

Coming up to the anniversary of my godfather's death, I wrote this last night:

For Frank, 19 Years Later

I thought of writing a poem for you
But what should I say?
We have long since passed beyond

Now I lie alone in my bed
Remembering, but the picture has faded
The colors are unreal now
I contemplate the life you gave me

You betrayed me with your dying
You there and I here
And I have lost the path you showed me

Yet I keep finding forgotten things in the house
Scraps of paper, songs, half-blurred
Letters in Cyrillic
My doorknob has your hands some days

And on others I call for your help
And only cicadas answer

How many more poems can I write
Before I forget you?
How many more before I understand
That you cannot be forgotten?


Presenting Olga's!

Some of you might recall this post, in which I showed off my skills at making pysanky. Well, guess what? I'm making more, this time as Christmas ornaments (yes, they make hangers for these). If anyone who lives in the local area or is planning to be in the local area would like some, I am now taking orders. I'm selling them for $15 apiece, which is truly a prix d'ami (pysanky generally run $20-75). My new business venture is, for now, called Olga's Outstanding Eggs.

Yes, there is a story behind this which I will one day tell.

At any rate, contact me if you'd like one or more ornaments. Available colors are: blue, turquoise, purple, dark red, bright red, white and brown (from the eggs), olive green, yellow, and orange. Bright green is coming soon.

I'm really excited about this!


My Grandpa Zacharias died yesterday morning at the age of 98 - except he wasn't actually my Grandpa Zacharias. Grandpa Zacharias was Mama Judy's father, and Mama Judy and Joe are my alternate parents - my parents' best friends. I grew up a very short walk away from them, went to school with their kids, spent weeks at a time at their house, had chores when I was there (as their kids did at my house, whenever they were around). I fell into the middle of the family group: number 3 of 5. I sided with Z. against the baby sister, and with the baby sister against Z. In most ways, we have been as close as family, and we still think of each other as a family.

One side of grandparents lived in the little cottage attached to the house. We all loved them, but they died almost 20 years ago. Grandma and Grandpa Zacharias lived in Merced. Grandma died more than a decade ago, but Grandpa went on, continuing to be a convivial presence at family gatherings, traveling with grandkids and great-grandkids, until Monday morning. He was 98 years old. We will all miss him very much.

Ken Zacharias, August 14, 1913 - July 18, 2011. Memory eternal.