Blogsam and Jetsam

Flotsam is the part of the wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on the water. Jetsam is cargo or parts of a ship that are deliberately thrown overboard, as to lighten the ship in an emergency, and that subsequently either sinks or is washed ashore. This is my personal blog version of the above. Loot freely.

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Location: The Hinterlands, Upstate NY

I'm annoyed that the world is going crazier faster than it used to be. But it's interesting to watch.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

A True Story

I’m beginning to question the wisdom of reading Pigs In Heaven, which is all about mother-love, right before my own mother is due for a visit. Here’s a little something to help explain the questioning.

At the end of my residency I had to take my two-part Boards exams to be a fully qualified member of my profession. Our Boards are notoriously hard with an exceptionally high fail rate (so high the regulatory body won’t publish it.) They are a two-day test with one part each day—first day is the traditionally "easy" part and second day is the traditionally "hard" part. I was coping with a new baby, a new job and a recent move so I didn’t study nearly the way I should’ve done. I spent all my time on the "hard" part and pretty much entirely blew off the "easy" part thinking I would skate by on accumulated knowledge.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? Sure you can. I wasn’t even halfway through the "easy" day when I realized that there was just no way I was going to pass that half of the test. (I didn’t, either ; passed the re-take instead.) You know the horrible sinking feeling you get when you can’t eliminate even one of the four multiple-choice options? Imagine pages upon pages of that feeling. For hours. I walked out of that exam room feeling like I’d just had the mental equivalent of a lubeless biker gang bang in all orifices.

Biggest test of my life and I’d just failed half. It wasn’t pretty at all.

After crying in my hotel room for a while, checking with the family and crying a bit more, I called my mother. She had been quite interested in the whole Boards process and I’d promised her I would call at the end of each day and again once I flew safely back from Florida. I thought that a mother would be good for sympathy and commiseration, right?

Well, not exactly. She brushed off all my concerns and fears with "Oh you always think you didn’t do well right after a test but I’m sure you passed."

"No Arnold**, you don’t understand. I know I failed that half. I’m just worried about being able to do anything with the other half tomorrow."

"Oh I’m sure you didn’t…I’ve got a really good feeling about it."

We did about four or five variations of that same conversation during which point I watered up again at least once. Never did get her to acknowledge my position at all. Never got anything even remotely close to the comforting I needed either. Even something like "well you’re still a good person honey, and we all still love you just as much! Don’t worry; I know it seems like the end of the world right now but there really are worse things that can happen. This really is just a test and you can always take it again" would have gone a long way.

Nope, none of that.

Flash forward two days. I took the "hard" half of the test (passed that part with flying colors first time out; go figure) flew home and was taking a much-needed vacation day. The telephone rang. Turned out to be the local florist wanting to know "if someone would be home to accept a delivery from [my mother]." Yes, of course.

While waiting, Hubby and I had a conversation about the fact that my mother was being sweet and was probably trying to make up for the fact that she hadn’t been supportive on the phone in the way I’d needed at the time. We thought it was a nice gesture and were feeling all warm and friendly toward her. I recalled that when a family member had finished a degree in my childhood she’d sent a dozen yellow roses and so was half expecting the same.

I got an inkling something might not be quite right when I saw the expression on the delivery man’s face through the window. Giving people flowers is a happy job so it’s unusual for the person handing them over to look both confused and sad. I got a bigger clue when I heard the strangely flat voice in which Hubby said "Um…thanks."

My mother had sent me two dozen helium balloons….every one of them pitch black.

Yes, you read that right. Less than forty-eight hours after I’d told her through tears that I’d failed at least half of the hardest test in my life, I was the recipient of twenty-four black balloons.

The card was a "Congratulations!" card on the outside and had "congratulations on your recent accomplishments—love Arnold**" on the inside.

No wonder the delivery guy looked the way he did.

Hubby was so sweet he actually thought there must have been some sort of mix-up at the florist. He said more than once "when you call your mother she is gonna be pissed at [name of local florist!] She’s gonna chew them a new one for sure!"

I knew better.

It took me over an hour to work up the emotional energy to call her at her workplace to let her know her balloons had arrived. I doubt I would’ve called at all if Hubby hadn’t persisted with the idea that it MUST be some sort of mixup because nobody would do that on purpose. Hope does indeed spring eternal.

I decided to play it ultra-cool.

I said "I wanted to let you know your balloons came and to say ‘thank you’ so…well…THANKS!"

"Well you’re very welcome…I was worried they might not get there today but the florist [LONG too-detailed monologue about the ordering process. No mention of color/style/sentiment.]"

"well thanks again…" [I wasn’t going to mention the color if she didn't.]

We got almost completely off the phone when she finally had to throw out there "I bet you’re wondering why they’re black…."

"Well, the thought HAD crossed my mind…"

Are you ready? Here it is:

Back in ninteen sixty-three I graduated on Saturday but your father didn’t graduate till the following Monday after we got married so I got to sit in the stands and watch him and everyone else. Back then the medical school was down on that campus and not up in Indianapolis where it is now and so the new medical students were all graduating too. Well when they stood up to turn their tassels everyone in the stands released black helium balloons in the air and I was just so impressed by that over all these years that I wanted to recognize you that way too.

Yeah, I know.


I ended up popping all the balloons later that night as therapy. I had many long discussions with my mother in which she would never once budge from her "I did it to honor you" position. She further insisted that she wasn’t going to apologize because there was nothing to apologize FOR. (Yes, even after my then-six-year-old said "...but Grandma, black is the color of hate!" )

So I quit speaking to her completely.

If I’d had any sense I would have left it that way…but I didn’t. In the aftermath of The Events Of Nine-Eleven (as my then-four-year-old said, "they bombed our two cities") I ended up calling her to let her know that none of my in-laws (some of which she thought were still working in the Twin Towers) had been harmed.

And now here we are.

** yes at the time I called my mother "Arnold." It’s a long story for another day.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pictures Instead

As Juno your case worker said: Use your talents...go with what you know:

The knitting basket...two shots:

And in the words of every op note everywhere: next attention was turned toward the....

...bare-looking bulb bed where the pine trees were chopped down this spring. I pulled all the morning glory vines off a couple weeks back in preparation for this:

All those lovely bulbs shipped this week. My mother will be helping put them in the ground when she's here and believe it or not sounds excited about that fact.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Funny...the long text-only post I thought I'd be writing was going to be about the DAR.

But those women pale in comparison to the one about to visit, namely my own mother.

She's due to arrive Friday October 5 and I'm already well on my way to basket case. The words I used at the liquor store to the owner and family who know that MIL lives with us were "MY mother, bless her crazy heart [hand to chest gesture], is coming to visit."

I thought I'd blog about that...then realized it was just too big an elephant to attempt to eat in public.

Also I remembered Nick's wise words: Know thyself but please don't talk about it.

So just never mind.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Still Around...

...but real life is getting in the way of blogging.

Working on a longish text-only piece that I hope will show up someday.

Or not.

Not much knitting happening either; could measure the progress in stitches rather than rows.

Friday, September 14, 2007

As If I Didn't Know: says I'm a Cool Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!

By Request

Mitten Photos

Palm side:

Showing off the nearly-done thumb:

Extreme close-up:

in situ:

And a shot of my dying perennial garden because it was right there.

Happy Friday all...I had a Really Great Week and hope yours were all swell too.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Purple Sweater

Decided it wanted to become a raglan-sleeved cardigan.

With pockets. Careful observers will also notice a few more rounds on that mitten-thumb.

I didn't have much time for knitting this weekend though--I was in a parade playing Famous Local Physician on a then-and-now float which came in second only to the Girl Scouts who were Completely Adorable.

The Ducklings

went back to school on Wednesday:

Thursday, September 06, 2007

After A Week

Larry Craig is starting to bore me. I've heard that taped interview too damned many times and firmly believe he was lying about what-all he did and the undercover police officer was telling the truth. Also that the kind of lying ("Did our feet touch? You say they did...") was insulting in how poorly it was done; my kids aren't even legal adults and can already do better than that. Therefore my personal opinion of his sleaze is forever fixed (particularly given those "nasty boy" comments about Bill Clinton...didn't someone famous mention something once about who gets to throw stones?)

However, since I think "sting" operations of any kind are rotten business categorically and would think it interesting rather than disgusting to see people Doing It between** two bathroom stalls (they must look really silly) I'm not sure he should've been arrested in the first place. He's dumb for pleading guilty though, and a HUGE hypocrite in any case.

Watching a bold-faced liar fight the rap might be both eerily fascinating and hugely depressing: rather like The Tin Drum.

** The internet is an amazing thing. When that story broke my mental model was that after a deal had been brokered the participants shared one stall (which would explain why patrons might complain; the handicapped stall is the largest and a disabled person would be righteously indignant at having to wait for a sex act to finish.) Thanks to the power of Google I now know more about anonymous semi-public sex and "cruisy bathrooms" than a fat middle-aged mother of three has any business knowing. It's an interesting and apparently totally male-only subculture.