Monday, January 28, 2008

Snowy Days & Butt Compresses

January 08 002
Originally uploaded by Martina
Poor Baxter had to take an emergency trip to the vet. This morning we woke up to not only trees powdered with lovely snow (like the Cosmic Baker had dusted them with a giant powdered sugar sifter!), but also a ruptured anal gland for Baxter. No elegant maladies for my dog, no siree!

Against all hope, my work is not closed due to the "inclement weather" featuring snow drifts higher than toetop in the heigher elevations, so I was forced to take half a sick day to deal with my poor dog's butt. He is again resting comfortably at home (actually, kind of playing with Lily, which is a good sign). He is looking forward two weeks worth of anitbiotics and daily warm compresses for his butt. And who said that dog ownership wasn't glamorous?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Month of Living Vegetably (and other unrelated stuff)

As January draws to a close here in Oregon, it has been cold. Local forecasts keep promising snow, then Mother Nature fails to deliver. On the other hand, she did deliver some really lovely, clear and crisp cool days last week. And, as pretty as the snow is, I find myself growing increasingly ready for spring. Bonus: All this talk of snow gives me an excuse to include my favorite Edmund Dulac illustrations in this post, which reminds me that I really should resurrect my collecting of lushly illustrated fairy tales and children's books. (For more Dulac images, see here.) But on to my mish-mash of topics to be covered in this post:

Puppy Update

It has been a busy weekend here. Yesterday Lily went to the vet for her final puppy shot and is now protected for outdoor activities, parks and meetings with other dogs. We taunt her when she is being a dirty bird by telling her that she is now adequately immunized to withstand becoming an outdoor dog, but she knows we are liars and that we will never make her move her little cat tent into the great outdoors, so our threats go mostly unacknowledged. She celebrated her new status as a disease resistant canine by accompanying my mom and me to visit some friends near Sandy. It was an exciting day. Not only did she get her first taste of a longer car ride and also the outdoors, but she also got to meet 5 chihuahuas and a cute, little mixed breed and a number of new people. All in all she did pretty well.


Since yesterday was a busy day, today has been a day of rest (and puttering around). We are having a nice dinner of chicken satay with coconut-ginger rice (I'll share the recipe, if it comes out well) and Pear Chocolate Crisp (with candied ginger - that is being candied as I type!) for dessert. If you have never candied ginger yourself, it really is worth doing. It is SO easy, far less expensive than buying it, AND you know exactly what's in it, becasue you made it! All signs point to DELICIOUS!

Even more food (but different)!

Speaking of food, I am reminded of the actual title of this post! Here's the deal: We here at the family estate in Powellhurst are considering becoming vegetarians (ovo-lacto) for the month of February. It is an idea that has intrigued me for a long time. Although I'm not going to lie and say I don't like the taste of meat, I actually do feel guilty eating it. Seeing as how I am trying to diet a bit anyway, increasing the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in my diet seems reasonable course of action. I am also looking forward to the challenging of finding and developing some tasty recipes that don't rely on flesh for flavor. I am really excited that my mom is embarking on this with me, because it gives me someone to do it with. We've already been collecting some recipes from the web and ordered a Moosewood cookbook for inspiration, but if you have any delicious dishes to share (also cookbook suggestions), they are welcome.

Anyway, I don't know if it will stick permanently. I'm not sure yet if it has to. I had a really great conversation with a representative from NW Veg not that long ago, where she made what I thought was really a good point: even just cutting down your meat consumption and being a more aware eater is a really good start. It doesn't have to be all or nothing (unless it's February, but that is my rule, not theirs!).

And, finally

As of today, this little blog has had more visitors this month than it has ever had in any month before and the month is not even over yet! It is a little dorky to get excited over, I know (where did I put my pocket protector???), but it is kinda cool. Despite having had this blog for a while now, I really do still find the whole phenomenon puzzling. It is such a cool and potentially far reaching tool, but sometimes I still wonder at the fact that I'm writing anything here, let along that other people are actually reading it! Maybe you need to get a hobby...

Friday, January 25, 2008

11 Reasons to be Happy on a Friday Night

1. It is Friday!
2. It is payday!
3. An invitation to go see The Devil and Daniel Webster next weekend
4. A new writing prompt this morning
5. My tickets to Corteo have arrived
6. My search for a road trip companion to the Oregon Shakspeare Festival may be over
7. The old lady in the car in front of me on the way home looked strikingly like Andy Warhol (this probably doesn't amuse her as much as it does me)
8. I have written something every day this month!
9. According to SiteMeter, my little blog is poised to have the most visitors EVER this month!
10. It is sunny and beautiful out!
11. Next week's State of the Union address will be the LAST one we will ever have to listen to from George W. Bush

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gratuitous Cute Tuesday Puppy Picture

January 08 017
Originally uploaded by Martina
How cute is she?

So cute that I can forgive her for deciding that our new wake up time is 4 a.m.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Playing Nice

When I was a girl, one of my favorite things to play with two of my little friends, Theresa and Heather, was Charlie's Angels . Theresa, whose grandmother lived next door, always got to be Jill, because she was oldest and biggest and could smack down anyone who might try to challenge her claim. As second oldest, I was allowed to choose between the other two angels. Because no one ever wanted the tall, boyish one with the doofy hairdo, I always picked Kelly, leaving Heather with no choice but to be Sabrina. There was no discussion, no real attempt to see if maybe Heather wanted to be someone else. It was just accepted that this hierarchy was how it ever was and how it would ever be. In retrospect, it was not a very nice way of playing.

I think about this today, because of a situation I've been experiencing with a coworker. We don't necessarily hang out after work, giggling and braiding each other's hair, but we've worked together for a few years now and generally get along well. She does wiggly butt dances for me in front of my window when she goes out to get tea; I do cheers when she successfully completes a VLOOKUP.

The thing is that she also sometimes makes little remarks to the effect that I am our bosses' favorite. And it may be true - at least in the sense that I don't get as micromanaged as the others sometimes do. These remarks seem to have increased and become more grudging recently as my coworker has sought a promotion into my old job. Usually, I just let it flow off me, because I choose to believe her words are not really so much directed at me as at her own frustration at feeling stuck. I'm working really hard on choosing to be happy, and choosing to not take affront at little things is a big part of that. Besides, I do understand that it is easy to get frustrated when we're feeling stagnant and sometimes we blame the lack of motion on someone else getting all the good stuff, instead of focusing on what we can do to foster our own success.

Anyway, on Friday, she said it one time too many, and I found myself suddenly feeling really irritated by was, from her perspective, probably just an offhand remark. Still, it was enough to push me from Zen-like peace to indignancy. While it's true that my boss does like me, it's also true that I work really hard, often going beyond what I am asked to do. In the time that I've worked at my job, I've actively taken classes and put in a lot of effort become an expert at the details of my job and used that knowledge to implement programs that have saved my company money and resources, so the implication that my success is due to some kind of nepotism rather than skill, made me pretty mad. My coworker left me feeling like she thinks I have more responsibility because my boss likes me, than that my boss likes me because I am responsible and competent.

At any rate, instead of just talking to my coworker about it, I chose the very unproductive and uncommunicative route of clamming up while my interior monologue urged me on to greater heights of irritation. When she tried to make casual conversation, I stuck to strictly business as though it would somehow make the point that I work too hard to get bogged down in idle chit-chat. Even coming back to work today, I found myself still feeling pretty cold toward her, because in stewing, I'd taken myself from an initial casual response of "Dude, that was kinda harsh!" to "I can't believe she is so jealous! I don't need this shit! If that's how she's going to be, then screw her!"

Frankly, for a lazy person like myself, it takes too much energy to be indignant for very long. By Monday, it was really bringing me down. Somewhere around mid-morning, I realized that I was being overly sensitive in allowing a few frustrated comments to stamp out a few years of good relations. In doing so, I was forcing her into a role I'd made up for her (Jealous Bearer of Ill Will). So, I listened to my inner Wayne Dyer (I cannot control what goes on outside, but I can control what goes on inside) and made a conscious decision to not be angry with her. I didn't have much to lose. After all, if it didn't work out, I could always step back into my rage cage and proceed forward with Operation Irrational Hatred.
At first, I have to admit that I had to fake a bit of friendliness that I really was not feeling. But, then, as we talked, something happened. I started to feel better, which allowed me listen to her. As I did so, it became apparent that what I was seeing as jealous crabbiness toward me was really the product of a personal situation that had nothing to do with me. I'm not saying that I am love with some of her comments about being "the pet", but I also recognize that she is struggling against some things that are way bigger and more important than work.

So, we had a good talk about her situation and now things are less tense. It's a good reminder that we don't always know as much as we think we know about people and their motivations. Sometimes the crabby muppet in the balcony has a reason to be surly and sometimes fleeting comments are just that. We all say stupid, insensitive things from time to time. That doesn't make us evil to the core; it just makes us human. So, today I've learned a bit about the merits of being understanding and that it's generally best to allow them to pick their own angels (or devils!) before we get too carried away in picking the wrong one for them.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


In doing some reasearch on the creator of the painting accompanying yesterday's post, it turns out that I am quite taken with Sofonisba Anguissola. Not only are her paintings lovely, the artist's life is also fascinating in that her talent was actually nurtured by the men around her. Unlike so many others, she had a room of her own in which to work, though I do wonder if marrying for the first time relatively late in life didn't have something to do with that. By the time she finally did wed, she had already experienced enough success to be taken seriously as an artist.

Either way, for hoards of female artists, writers and thinkers throughout history, artistic life meant battling gender stereotypes. Expressing creativity and intellectualism in a society that viewed women as capable of mimicry of the masculine intellect, but not blessed by a capacity for original creation or thought had to be frustrating (especially for those women who did feel driven to create). This is, of course, not unique to the Renaissance. It is a view that plagued women for centuries. I am reminded, for example, of a 19th century description of the muse of the German Romantic movement, Charlotte Stieglitz. While her greatest successes in life in the eyes of her poet husband and his literary circle was her peaches and cream beauty and suicide (sacrifice meant to inspire her writer hack husband to poetic heights theretofore unknown!), she is grudgingly accorded the high praise of being "almost masculine in intellect" - and that was 300 years after Sofonisba's time.

This belief that femininity somehow hampers the ability to produce anything truly worthwhile makes me wonder if Anguissola did not purposely choose to stamp out any hint of frivolity in her self-portraiture. In contrast to the idealized feminity of images of other women of her class, Anguissola depicts herself in a dark, somber pallette. Perhaps the simplicity of the image she put out into the world better allowed people to look past her femaleness to focus on her art instead of treating her as an unusually talented dilettante. Of course, it may have also been that there was no model for the female artist of the time, so she chose to follow the advice given for male artists and courtiers - wear black. Either way the sense of style and inventione that was attributed to Anguissola by her peers is significant, because people were able to look past her sex to see her art.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

After another insane week at work, I am yet again behind on my daily posting, but actually not that behind on my writing as I have found it somehow comforting to spend my lunches with a pen and pad, working on something (anything) that will take my mind away from the little fires of the workplace. As a result, I am feeling pretty good about my January project. My next step will be to actually compile a notebook of finished pieces. I am even thinking it might be fun to buy a boring 3-ring binder from an office supply sort, but then make it fabulous, personal and unique via some manner of collage, but that may be just a pipe dream as I still have better vision than follow through at this time in my life.

But on to other things:

Puppy Update
Lily is growing like a very furry weed. I cannot believe her monthaversary was last week. She has grown out of being a short-legged, roly-poly little thing and into a kind of gangly phase. Her ears now stand almost all the way up (though not completely, which makes me wonder if they ever will. If they don't, it's ok too, because I'm not one to put undue pressure on my children and just want my dog to be who she is, even if who she is is a little bat-eared shit that no puppy pen can hold. She has become emboldened enough to share her escape technique, which has allowed me to discover that she is what is known in the Canine Houdini Society as a climber.)

It is amazing to me how good it has also felt these nights when I come home late and exhausted from talking about money all day, to find my wiggly little girl waiting at the door for me with the others. I love dogs, mostly because they never accusingly ask me why their commission is not calculating correctly and they never ever tell their divisional vice presidents that they have never received a particular report from me, even though the truth is that I have run and sent it to them not once, but multiple times. In short, dogs are not asses. Anyway, the better I get to know her, the more I see why people have kept Lily's breed for so long (the above painting by Sofonisba Anguissola, 1532-1625, shows what appears to be some manner the continental toy spaniel/overstuffed sausage mix from which the papillon descends).

So, enough for now. My daily writing prompt awaits and something really must be done about my hair.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One more day...

Before even going to work today, I knew it would be a tough, so I did the sensible thing and put on my go-go dancing nun dress. As it turned out, though my skirt was short, my day was LONG (2 1/2 hours overtime so far, and I know I'll have to go in early tomorrow), but not as heinous as anticipated. Apparently it is not just my go-go dancing nun dress, but my lucky go-go dancing nun dress! The power of the groove was with me! It is always nice to know as I work my way through the day that my attire is equally appropriate for working through commissions deadlines and any spontaneous dance emergencies that might have come my way. Alas, there were none.

My work has actually been insanely busy for the past few weeks, but should hopefully winding down to a manageable level of busy, if I can just get through tomorrow. While I take an almost perverse pleasure in being pushed to my limits when it comes to work, I realized last week when I was struggling to prepare for a deadline while also filling in for my boss, who was out of town, that I was starting to remind myself of Tweek on South Park (and not only for his delightful affiliation with the underpants gnomes). It seemed like every time something new hit my desk, I had this internal "Aaagh! Way too much pressure!" reaction. I don't usually do this. I'm really good at telling myself "It's a lot, but it will get done - it always does!", because it's true. I always do manage to finish on time, but after weeks of deadline after deadline, I really am feeling burned out. Now that I'm in the final stretch, it feels like I barely have the energy to get through it, even though I know that I will and that life will go on. It is funny how we can become so freaked over something, then once it's over, it really turns out to be not such a big deal in retrospect.

So, I am counting the hours until 6 p.m. (or whatever time I finally get to go home aftr that...I know it won't be before) tomorrow, when I can pack up my things, pick up some take out, go home, put on my new pajamas, and watch my super secret shame on t.v. Having had to work through most of it tonight, I didn't get to devote my full attention to it in all of its embarassingly pointless glory.

Monday, January 14, 2008

End of the Weekend Odds and Ends


Somehow the t.v. has flipped to a channel showing Alice reruns. Ghost surfing is one of the perils of have Dish network when your neighbors do too. Watching the show reminds me that for quite some time now, I have been captivated by old school diners and burger joints. My favorite diner experience was one time when I was taking a mini road-trip across the prairie and stopped at a little restaurant in town so small you'd miss it if you blinked. It was one of those places that caters to local regulars. Conversation came to a halt when I walked in and everyone stared. Just about everyone in the place was male, wearing overalls or some manner of jeans and drinking coffee. The city I mostly grew up in is not quite as big as it sometimes thinks it is, but it's decent sized. Somehow it fascinated me to be in a place where everyone really knew each other and outsiders stuck out like a sore thumb. I only stayed long enough to eat a piece of pie, but somehow the experience has stuck with me all these years.

The prairie is actually full of great, old diners. There was one within walking distance of my apartment there that sat right on the railroad tracks. It was inexpensive and served huge portions of homey, artery clogging food, and every time a train went by, the whole building shook. For a moment, there amid the rattling of plates and cutlery, it always felt like we were in the middle of an earthquake. Beyond that, it was your pretty standard small down diner. Its proximity to the train somehow made it was awesomely quirky, giving it a real character its own. It's just the sort of place I love to find when I'm on a road trip.

It's funny, when I was younger, my road trips relied heavily on McDonald's and the #2 extra value meal. As I've grown older, however, I love the experience of trying little family owned places - especially the ones that have a bit of history to them. Some are great, some are less so, but it's always interesting to try something new, which is one of the reasons I've been intrigued by a little place called Jim Dandy's, which is here in town on Sandy Blvd. Its "Since 1937" sign beckons to me every time I go to the German bakery down the street from it.

So, the other day when I was on the way to the bakery to pick up a coffee cake and some rye rolls, I finally made a stop for a burger. Dandy's is one of those places that you just know is not going to be healthy. It has a ton of offerings on its menu, but they are all variations on the same fried theme. While not quite of Big Jim's caliber (Big Jim's in The Dalles, being the gold standard by which all burger joints are measured), the bugers weren't bad. The special sauce was good, but the cheese gave the whole affair a waxy, processed taste that knocks what was an otherwise good burger down a bit in my esteem. The french fries, however, were great - crispy on the outside and smooth and not at all mealy on the inside. Perfect! As I was eating them, I kept thinking of the chapter in Jeffrey Steingarten's The Man Who Ate Everything, where he talks about french fries that are almost "creamy" on the inside, which makes me laugh, because Jim Dandy's is so NOT the kind of place you would expect to find the food critic from Vogue, but, then again, we're talking about a man who carries emergency chocolate and has a Milky Way fixation, so who's really to say where he might show up? Meanwhile, I know that this Jim's is good, but not quite Portland's answer to the burger mecca of the eastern end of the Gorge.

Happy Pre-birthday Month to Me

In other exciting news, I have received my first birthday present (to me, from me) - tickets to see Cirque du Soleil's Corteo. I am not sure yet what I will do for my actual birthday (there's still plenty of time to decide that!), but I think a trip to see Cirque on March 1 will be a fabulous way to start the month off right! A friend took me to see Varekei for my birthday a couple years ago. Even if the rest of the show hadn't been as absolutely stunning as it was, it was worth the price of admission just for the Icharus sequence at the begining. Consider me hooked! (Not to mention that I am especially excited to see the show after listening to Cirque du Soleil: Igniting the Divine Spark on CD during my work commute for a week there back in November. (If you're looking for some creative inspiration the cd is, by the way, worthwhile. And, even if you're not, it offers and interesting behind the scenes look at Cirque's prouductions.)

Gratuitous Cute Puppy Picture (I swear, one day they will stop - I know people never find our pets or children as adorable as we do, but I'm just still so taken with her!)

Sunday, January 13, 2008


And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. - Anais Nin

A couple of weeks ago when we had one of our infamous metro area snow "storms" I noticed a little blue flower still growing, nestled up against the concrete foundation of my house. Although the winters are relatively mild in these parts, conditions have still been against what is generally considered conducive of its ability to thrive. Looking at this little plant, I think of all the ways in which we allow other people to become the inclement weather that curtails our own attempts to blossom.

Recently in corresponding with a friend of mine, she made the comment that she lists facts rather than telling stories. This is not the first time she has mentioned this. It has always puzzled me, because when I think of her, I think of the quick witted young woman I knew in grad school, who used to keep me laughing for ages with her funny stories and commentary. Being in contact with her now, I see the same person. Yet a nonsense comment made to her by an ex-boyfriend has stuck with her all this time.

I too have similar stories. My writing/creativity anxieties alone could fill pages, but the one that comes most readily to mind right now is a meeting I had with an academic advisor when I was twenty. Up to that point, I had been majoring in two of my life long passions - music and foreign languages - and getting pretty close to a 4.0 average in both. I was transferring to a new school and meeting with a geriatric male professor to go over the course requirements for my intended majors.

We met in his office. After looking over my records, he lifted his piercing stare toward my eyes and said, "Do you really intend to major in both languages and music? Some people do manage a double major, but you really have to be academically gifted to do so successfully. I would advise against it." Now, if someone were to say this to me today, I would want some explanation. At the time, I already spoke German and French and played violin and piano and was getting good grades at all of them. There was no reason to expect that I would do poorly. And, yet, my inexperience did not allow me to dare think "this guy is an asshole who has no business counseling young people on their futures if he's going to squash them like bugs on a sidewalk". Instead, I took his advice, dropped the music major, and adopted a secret worry that I was an imposter who wasn't smart enough to be there. This sense stuck with me all the way through grad school, where (despite my good grades) I wasted a lot of energy working up my nerve to actually talk in seminars, fearing that my intelligence didn't measure up to my peers and that it was only a matter of time until they found me out and realized that I didn't belong there.

The thing is that people squash each other's spirits all the time. Sometimes they do it purposely, but more often, I think, they do it inadvertently with a casual comment. Think about it: How many times in your life has someone said you were too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too loud, too soft, to shy, too gregarious to be good at activity X? And how many times have you listened? How many times have you let that color how you see yourself or, even worse, whether or not you chose to even do the thing in question? Maybe I am just a nutjob and it only happens to me, but I doubt it.

And, so, my commandment for the week is not only to take what other people say with a grain (or, if necessary, even a tablespoon) full of salt, but also to be more careful about the words I use with others.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Catch up

I have been a little remiss this week in my January post-a-day project. It's not so much that I haven't been writing posts. In many cases I've even written extra, because draft one ended up being carthartic, but not fit for public consumption. It is just an issue of time. My work is in one of those busy periods this week. Add to that that my life has become increasingly subject to the caprices of puppydom this past week and it doesn't make for a lot of internet time. So, my goal for the weekend is to actually type up the posts (backdated beneath this one for the day they were written) I missed posting and get back on track. Ultimately, I have been writing a lot and that has really been the purpose of this endeavor, so I am still pleased.

So, more later. Meanwhile, a puppy update: I think Lily may be a dog genius based on the speed at which she has learned the "come" command. It is the cutest thing ever. Now when you say "Lily, come!" she comes tearing through the house to wherever you are in search of a treat or pets.

And, finally, so it isn't all about Lily, here is a picture from our last snow day to prove how cute even our non-Lily's are:

Friday, January 11, 2008


As new years go, this one has (thusfar) been a great one for collaboration, which is something that does not always come so naturally to me. I don't know if it is my humble only child upbringing or my somewhat introverted nature, but I tend to embark on projects on my own. It's not that I don't enjoy working with other people or exchanging ideas (I do!), it's more that I'm so used to just doing something when I want to do it that I often don't think about the option of including someone else in my scheming. Those times that I do, it generally works out to be quite fun, so one of my goals on my 101 Things list is to collaborate on a project with someone.

But, then, I realized as I was writing my list that I already have started my year in a kind of informal collaboration - I have Wendy sending me writing prompts, Jen has embarked on my post-a-day project with me, and Anne has talked me into doing some joint blogging with her as we work through out respective lists. So, hooray to friends, new years, and making things!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


My Oma's hands were always moving. Even when she was idle, she had the nervous habit of running her thumb against her fingertips as though her hands were itching to be doing something. My mother is much the same way. She can't just sit still and do nothing. When you can get her to sit at all, it is not uncommon to see her busying herself with yarn and a crochet hook or knitting needles as she watches t.v. Although my restlessness is more of a mental than a physical sort, when my mind isn't adequately occupied, I too find myself compelled to do needlework, sort mail or futz around on my laptop rather than just sitting quietly with my hands at rest.

They are starting to show their age, these hands of mine. Their faint lines, scratches and scars may not be visible to anyone else, but I can see them. When I try to show my mother, she says I am crazy. I tell her I think it must run in the family. A coworker used to tell me: "When your skin starts to look like crepe paper, then come back and talk to me!" But some days my hands feel like they have seen a lot. They have raised abandoned birds, carried protest signs, turned a million pags, flown over violin strings, written letters on behalf of political prisoners and held the hand of my father as he was dying. They are unused to idleness. They want to be doing something. I want to be doing something. It might sound pollyanaish, but I think that perhaps the biggest crime one can commit against life is to not have done something (whatever it might be) to make the world a richer, better, and kinder place.

So, yes, my hands are busy. When I look at them, I can only hope that at the end of my days they will have acheived as much as those of my mother and her mother before her.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Is the world ready for two of us?

The other day I received a request on Facebook to add myself as a friend. This perplexed me at first as I didn't recall inviting myself to do anything. Immediately fearing the worst, I began to wonder if I had perhaps suffered a blackout. Maybe I was turning into that guy from Memento. If I'm going to turn into Guy Pearce, I would rather turn into the Guy Pearce of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. At least there he got to ride atop a fabulous, giant stiletto and lip synch opera while wearing silver lamé. But I digress . . .

Upon closer inspection, I realized it was not me, Martina D. "Powellhurst" of Portland but a teenaged Martina E. "Powellhurst" of Nova Scotia inviting me to be her friend. (Sanity - 1, Crazytown - least for now!) She surprises me, this me 2.0. My name (neither first nor last) is not that common, so what are the chances of someone else with my last name thinking to name their daughter Martina? In another odd twist, the "E." in the other Martina's name stands for Elizabeth, an anglicized version of my maternal grandmother's name. Crazy, huh?

Though it's actually Latin derived (there is a Saint Martina who even has a church named for her in Rome), my name was chosen because it was common in Germany (and thereby easy for my grandparents to say), but not too foreign for Americans to pronounce correctly (or as my mother so charmingly puts it, "It's not weird enough for Americans to mess up").

In Germany, Martina is a pretty common name, but once we moved back to the states, I was always the only one. Sure, there has been the odd tennis player or country singer, but they are few and far between. Even if there was a period in the 80's where I was the victim of a lot of very uncreative lesbian tennis jokes (seriously, people, did you really all think it was the first time I'd heard it?), I've always liked my name - so much so that I informed my first grade teacher one day that I would no longer be answering to "Tina", thank you very much. My dwindling family and 2-year old friend, Antonio, still call me Tina and there was one boy in High School (the only person ever got away with it) who insisted on calling me Marty, but most people know me by my full first name. My middle name is that of the Roman Goddess of the hunt. I have no idea why my parents chose it. I suppose I should ask one day, but I suspect that it is because it sounded good with Martina. It has a nice rhythm, Martina Diana "Powellhurst". It rolls off the tongue like I've known it all my life.

The truth is that that I like having a not so common name. It makes me feel unique, which has always seemed preferable to me. I've always hated doing things just because other people were doing them. I've always embraced those things that make me different. But, of course, now I know that I'm not so different after all. There is another one of us. Still, I like our name. It is one of an increasing number of things that I wouldn't change about myself - unless perhaps I married someone whose last name was just too fabulous to resist, but it would really have to be good. If it were something like Huepfengrueber, well, then just forget it! I am happy just being me!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Great Escape

Name: Liline Carmilla Papillon

Weight: 4.1 lbs.

Height: 1'3

Mission: Escape

Looking at her, you would think she is cute and innocent. That is where you would be wrong!

She is, in fact, an diabolical mastermind who has now twice escaped from maximum security prison (also known as the puppy playpen we bought to put her in when we go out). Because of her size (not to mention her penchant for harassing the cat!), I agree with the puppy books I've been reading that say it's a good idea to confine her for her own safety when we're not home to supervise. We put the playpen in the living room so she won't be lonely, but is still in a safe place. It is bigger than some NY studio apartments and has everything a puppy could want inside (dog bed, piddle pad, teddybear, a soft blanket, toys, food, water, a nice view of not only the living room, but also the kitchen and back deck), but apparently it is not up to Miss Lily's standards.

I swear the moment I leave the animals all start chanting "Attica! Attica!" to get her riled up. Then, next thing you know, Baxter cues the Mission Impossible music and the great escape to sweet freedom begins. I'm am not sure, but I suspect it may involve rope and a grappling hook, because I sure can't figure out how it is that she is getting out. I'm guessing she is a climber. Twice now we have have come home to find Lily not safely tucked away in her playpen, but happily wiggling at the door with the other dogs when we open it.

Knowing that my little puppy is somehow scaling her way to the top of the plastic fence and free falling off the top does little to instill confidence that the she is safe at home and in no danger of getting hurt, which kind of defeats the purpose of the playpen. She's great about staying in the rare times we put her in when we're home, but turn your back and she's suddenly Hairy Houdini. Clearly, my little friend has no concept of how big she is NOT.

It's not so much that I worry about the other dogs harming Lily on purpose (they are sweet and very patient with her), but they get excited sometimes and I would hate for her to get trampled if she got underfoot (paw?) while they were playing or enthusiastically barking at a squirrel outside the picture window. But, alas, Miss Lily has other ideas.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sychronious Occurences

So, I logged on today thinking about whether it would be a good idea to allow one free day a week in my project - a kind of day of rest. It doesn't necessarily mean no writing, just that if I choose to (and I'm not saying I will), I can take a break from posting or take the time to work on some other creative project. And what do I see but a comment reminding me of Paulo Coehlo's blog?

There are a number of reasons why I love Mr. Coehlo's work. The Alchemist is, as I've mentioned before, among my favorite books. Although it is technically prose, it is filled with poetry. I love that I find new things each time I read it and that it fell into my hands just when I most needed it. Moreover, it happened through a seemingly random series of occurences. The experience of that book is, for me, one of those reminders that things happen for a reason, that teachers come when students are ready, that every meeting has its purpose. If I hadn't gone on a one time lunch date with a guy I randomly met at a party in LA, I would not have made friends with the book nor would I have discovered one of my favorite authors. It is only because our meal was fraught with awkward silences that he even recommended the novel in his attempt to find something we might have in common. I'm telling you, it's almost like when Earl learns about karma from the Carson Daly Show!

And so at the encouragement of a kind reader, I wandered over to the Coehlo blog to read a bit while the back of my mind mulled over the question of breaks. And what did I find? This! I think it answers my question pretty nicely!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Today I am grateful for...

Busy day today, no time to write and too tired to undertake anything too ambitious now. I've always rather liked the idea of keeping a gratitude journal in which a few items are recorded each night before going to bed. Sometimes it is too easy to focus on the things we don't have that we forget to appreciate the ones that we do. So, tonight on a night when I am feeling worn out and ready to fall into bed, I am grateful...

. . . that I have shelter and don't have to sleep outside on a frigid night like tonight

. . . for friends who make me laugh, even while they are kicking my ass at online Scrabble (twice!) and threatening to make me call them, so they can hear me sing "You are the Champion"

. . . for Jenny and Antonio, who stayed with my mom yesterday and took her to her doctor's appointment, so I wouldn't have to take time off from work

. . . that the symptom that took her to the doctor, turned out point to only a minor, passing ailment rather than being a precursor to something more serious as I had feared

. . . for the friends who are encouraging my projects by offering prompts and even participating along with me

. . . for the awesome Multnomah County Library system, which enable me to take home an obscene number of books each visit

. . . for reconnecting this week with a high school friend I lost contact with 20 years ago (Internets, sometimes you hold some amazing surprises!)

. . . for the Season 1 DVD's of My Name is Earl - it really is a funny show!

. . . that Lily (puppy, who loves everyone and thinks everyone loves her) and Cleo (reclusive geezer feline, who only tolerates dogs), who both sleep on my bed, have negotiated via a sophisticated, 14-point "live and let live" diplomatic policy stating that Lily does indeed have the right to exist (and occasionally be sniffed while she is sleeping)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Wilkommen! Bienvenu! Welcome!

Welcome to day four of my January post-a-day expirement! Today I have a confession to make: What you are reading is not really my writing project for the day. It still sits safely in my notebook, not quite ready for public consumption. Actually, that's not true.

I have a second confession: It's not so much that the piece isn't finished, it is that I am not ready for anyone to read it. A friend has been offering me daily writing prompts (thanks, friend!), which is lovely, because I find myself writing about things I might not normally touch on here. In combination with the pressure to have something ready to post each day, I find myself become more daring in my writing. But some things are a little too daring to feel safe.

Like the others, yesterday's prompt was fabulous. Once I started writing, it all just spilled out. It wasn't what I expected when I started - it went deep. It offers a glimpse into my own private brand of crazy (just think of it as The Nutburger Monologues). Though I adore you all for reading, I'm not quite ready to have it sitting out there at the top of my blog, sticking out like a raw nerve. Maybe in a few days or a few months, I will add it somewhere in the middle of things by typing it into a new post and backdating it. Maybe I won't. It will be like game. We'll see if anyone notices.

Meanwhile, in exchange for not revealing something about myself, I will reveal something else - a list of the 60 books (mostly novels) I've read this year. They say you can tell a lot about a person from the company she keeps. I happen to think you can learn a lot about a person based on her bookshelf. I didn't even edit out some of my more questionable reading choices! So, go ahead, mock Gypsy Magic if you want, but you and I both know that somewhere in your history there is something equally mockable! And don't mock too heartily, because I TOTALLY know how to put a curse on you now (provided I can find my eye of newt)!

If I get a chance (or hit a wall one day) I will go into more detail about my favorites. For now, I've marked the ones that left the greatest impression with an asterisk (or ten).

1. Charlaine Harris, Grave Sight
2. Libba Bray, Rebel Angels
3. Sarah Vowell, Take the Cannoli
4. *Yann Martel, Life of Pi
5. Meg Cabot, Shadowlands
6. Charlaine Harris, Shakespeare's Counselor
7. David Rakoff, Don't Get too Comfortable
8. *Imaculée Ilibigiza, Left to Tell
9. Meg Cabot, The Mediator 6
10. Poppy Z. Brite, Liquor
11. Sonia Singh, Ghost, Interrupted
12. *Travis McDade, The Book Thief: TheTrue Crimes of Daniel Spiegelman
13. *Mary Stewart, Nine Coaches Waiting
14. Dark Horse Comics, Tales of the Slayer
15. *Philip DePoy, The Devil's Hearth
16. Patrinella Cooper, Gypsy Magic
17. Lynda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval, The Power of Nice
18. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales of the Slayer, Volume 1
19. Merlin Stone, When God was a Woman
20. Squire Rushnell, When God Winks at You
21. Sonia Singh, Bollywood Confidential
22. Sonia Singh, Goddess for Hire
23. *Jurek Becker, Jacob the Liar
24. *Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
25. Derek Wilson, Unquiet Spirit
26. *Sera Beak, The Red Book
27. *Philip De Poy, The Witch's Grave
28. Janice Taylor, Our Lady of Weight Loss
29. Jan Underwood, Dayshift Werewolf
30. *Colum McCann, Zoli
31. ???? [damn, you, messy handwriting!] Higgenbotham, Paganism
32. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
33. MT Anderson, Thirsty
34. Calvin Trillin, About Alice
35. CL Bevill, Bayou Moon
36. Cherie Priest, Four and Twenty Blackbirds
37. *Kurt Vonnegut, A Man without a Country
38. *Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns
39. Daniel Handler, The Basic Eight
40. Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevemer, Sorcery and Cecilia
41. *Christine Wicker, Lily Dale: The True Story of the Town that Talks to the Dead
42. Norma Seely, Secrets of Harbor House
43. *Paulo Coehlo, The Witch of Portobello
44. *Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
45. *Paulo Coehlo, The Devil and Miss Prym
46. *Tim Guest, My Life in Orange
47. *Suzanne Simanaitis, Kaleidoscope
48. Oriah Mountain Dreamer, The Call
49. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
50. *John U. Bacon, Cirque du Soleil: Igniting the Divine Spark
51. *Phillip DePoy, A Minister's Ghost
52. *Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
53. Jim Butcher, Fool Moon
54. Lucius Shepard, Soft Spoken
55. Rob Sheffield, Love is a Mix Tape
56. Karen Armstrong, Muhammad
57. Kurt Vonnegut, Cat's Cradle
58. *Jeffrey Steingarten, The Man Who Ate Everything
59. Phil Stanford, Portland Confidential
60. Carolyn & David Roe, The Complete Papillon

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My People

I was born into a family of occupiers and refugees, of natives and foreigners, of engagement and apathy, of openness and bigotry, of poetry and nascar. Growing up, I always felt like I inhabited some kind of midland that was neither German nor American, neither of my mother's people nor my father's. I suppose my sensibilities lean more toward that of my mother's people. My maternal grandmother sold her wedding ring when they were refugees during the war to buy food for her children. My paternal grandmother beat her sons with heavy duty flashlights and wooden shoes. She referred to her son's immigrant wife as "the foreigner" and told his little girl "You have eyes just like your father's [and I do!], they could stare a hole in a brick wall." If this taught me anything, it is that blood does not always bind. The family you want is not always the one you get - sometimes, but not always.

One of the greatest epiphanies of my life was that we have the power to create our own communities, that family can be intentional. As we move through life, communities change, but family (and I mean of the heart and not necessarily of the blood - though one certainly doesn't preclude the other) is always there. I really do believe that some of our relationships are not meant to last a lifetime. Sometimes we develope passing (but not necessaily insignficant) friendships with individuals who are only meant to be with us for a short while before going off on their separate paths. But, then, there are others who are meant to accompany us throughout our journey in a deeper way.

These are the people who offer to come over and clean up the detritus left behind by the paramedics when your father has a heart attack, bring soup when you're sick, and help you move. They bring your favorite mint milanos when you're having a bad day and cheer you on when you're having a good one. They encourage creativity and expression of self, and they know you'll do the same for them. They make you feel comfortable taking your crazy out from under the bushel where you normally hide it, because you know their crazy too. Intimately. In fact, your crazies have been on parade together, dancing a manic tango down Main Street. They may live close or thousands of miles away, but their mere presence in your life augments it. And even when you haven't seen them for ages, when you finally do get together, it's like you've neve been apart. Sometimes they nag, sometimes they even annoy you, but deep down they make you feel you are loved not for what you do or what you have, but simply for who you are. And I would take that over some DNA or a knock on the head with a flashlight any day!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


It has been almost two weeks now since little Liline C. Papillon came to live at Powellhurst. She has been weighed, measured and found completely adorable at 4.1 lbs. Her ears are still floppy, but my reading (in echo of her former caretaker) assures me that from one day to the next her "wings" will stand at attention. They are already a quite a bit closer to erect than they were when this picture was taken. I have a growing suspicion that she will surpass the originally estimated 5-8 lbs., but that won't make me love her any less.

The truth is that I find dog shows, perfection and pedigrees a complete bore. Flop-eared or 40 lbs, Lily is now family. Although it's been less than a fortnight, it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine the time before she was here. That is the way it is with love, whether it be of pets, friends or significant others.

It took a while to find the right name. Names are important and cannot be rushed. Before I met her, I thought Baxter was craving a girlfriend named Lola. When I saw her picture, I thought "Lily seems a better fit." Still, I wasn't sure. But then, on the way to pick her up my puppy holder (we will call her "Mom"), suggested Lily as well, deeming Lola too brassy for one so delicate. Boy, was she fooled! (The C. was a later addition - for Carmilla, a little shout out to Sheridan le Fanu. Puppy has sharp teeth and she's not afraid to use them!) Still, it seemed a good sign. And if I wasn't sure then, it only took learning that her parents are Lily and Alexander to convince me that we were on the right track with Lily.

One of the best things about living with an example of a very old breed (papillons are descended from the Continental Toy Spaniel, a breed dating back to the fourteenth century) is that the past holds a treasure trove of anecdotes and artistic repesentations about these little dogs, which were bread as companions (early on largely for the aristocracy, because who else could afford to have an animal that didn't fill some functional work role?). This allows for a marriage between my outer animal lover and my inner history geek.

My favorite story that I've found thusfar, an anecdote from Carolyn and David Roe's The Complete Papillon, is another affirmation of Lily/Liline as a noble name. As the story goes, Henri III of France, is reputed to have had (among his other eccentricities) a fondness for carrying little baskets full of dogs around with him. Among his favorites was a papillon called Liline, who was with him when a duplicitous monk called Jacques Clement requested an audience. The dog took such an intense and immediate dislike to the man that she had to be removed to another chamber. Left alone with the king, the murderous monk stabbed him in the chest. The poodle lovers at Companions to Genius like to claim that Liline was a poodle (shocking, I know - it's on poodle people!), but I like to think of my Lily as part of the family that bore such a loyal, little companion. Until I find more information to the contrary, I will stick with my new Prophets of the Papillon, the Roes.

Meanwhile, I have a sweet little dog, who is also the subject of the writing prompt kindly sent to me today by my friend Wendy, the poet. When I grow up, I would love to have the strength and sensibility of her voice. Later, (in backwards fashion) I will work on her prompt for January 1. Her own lovely response to it can be found here. For now, my response to today's prompt:

"Today, bear witness to all you senses. Write each observation as a haiku. String them together."

Wiggly puppy breath
sweetly kisses me awake.
Breaking in the dawn,

the alarm clock screams
a good morning less gentle.
A new day begins

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2008! Last year I did the experiment of doing a blog post every day for the month of January. In addition to being a little bit of a pain in the ass some days, it ultimately was a lot of fun, motivated me to start writing regularly, and taught me that my head would not explode if someone else read something of mine that was not perfect, which means that it accomplished most of the things it was meant to. I've since learned that there is a NaBloPoMo that takes place in November (probably to offer an alternative to people who aren't into participating in NaNoWriMo), but where's the fun in doing it when everyone else does? Ok, it probably is still fun, but I like having my maverick January event, especially since it can now legitimately carry the appellation of Powellhurst's Second Annual Blogstravaganza.

I guess by now you have realized that I am going to try it again. I may even try not to cheat this time! I'm still making up the rules, but perhaps I'll try to find some special assignments (poetry? writing exercises? let someone else pick my topic?) for myself just to mix it up a little and create more of a challenge for myself. It's just a fun way to start the new year and now that I have a new assistant to help with proofreading, I think it's going to be even better, so stay tuned!

[adorable photo of Lily reading the phone book to go here, once I've downloaded it from my camera]

p.s. If you would like to join me in my experiment, let me know and I will happily read along!