Saturday, January 31, 2009

This is what being an adult means to my generation.

Every day when I drive to work, the last thing I hear is NPR's financial report: how Wall Street is doing, how many jobs are being lost, which companies are failing or succeeding. It's not easy to listen to, and sometimes I just have to switch it off. I see the headlines reflected in my own life: colleagues, friends and family struggling with money matters. But more than that, struggling to gain acceptance of what is happening to our world, trying to get ahead, trying to get a piece of the American dream.

My generation--by that I mean we in our mid- to late-twenties--fall in between Generation X and Generation E. The grunge generation and the wired generation. We grew up with babysitters who wore bright colors and legwarmers, and we got the internet when we were in high school. Our world was surrounded by economic prosperity. Cocooned by it, you could almost say. Buffered by security and having enough. Not so much that extravagant lifestyles were within reach, but enough. Your parents didn't fight and worry about money or lose their jobs. If your boss didn't give you a weekend off from your gig at McDonald's, you could just quit and get another part-time job across town. There was enough.

All that has changed, and suddenly money is tight, tighter than we've ever seen. For the first time, we've had to make tough decisions about our lifestyles. I've heard it so much lately: when does this get easier? Sure, your first job out of college might not pay much, but surely by my mid-twenties I'll be getting a promotion, buying a proper car, contemplating a house...banking on the future. At twenty-two, twenty-three, you're not thinking about security, you're barely an adult, for heaven's sake. But now we're ready to be adults, we're ready for those grown-up responsibilities. Houses, cars, families. Instead we're worrying about finding jobs to pay off student loans, living with roommates, still existing on our college diets of ramen and Campbell's. We're so consumed with trying to make ends meet that there's no time, no money to save. A downpayment on a house? Try deciding between birth control and gas money.

I'm not sure why it's so hard. Is it because we were raised with that comfortable feeling of security, never had to scrimp to achieve what we wanted? Is it because we bought into the idea that life had a predictable cycle, that even those of us who are the most free spirited suddenly feel the urge to nest--but we cannot? When does it get easier? If we could only say: one more year, and then we'll have money in the bank, we can buy decent furniture, eat non-generic food, take that trip. But there's no end in sight. When does it get easier? When do we get to grow up? To feel like we've successfully completed that transition?

I worry that the current economic crisis will mark my generation, make us cautious and sensitive, in much the same way that the Greatest Generation emerged from the Depression with the urge to save and conserve as much as possible. Will this be a bad thing? Not necessarily. But it may retard my generation's full potential: instead of changing the world, we may be the generation who sires it, warning our children of the dangers of extravagance. Husband your resources, we will tell them, be creative and clever, but don't forget that it could all change in a minute. We might grow bitter and jaded, unable to optimistic about the future, unable to commit to anything long term, convinced that a thirty-year mortgage is just an invitation for disaster.

These feelings have probably always existed in new adults. When does it get easier? I'm sure everyone's asked them self that question. It's only magnified by the current economic meltdown. The truth is, it feels like it may never get easier, and that is terrifying to contemplate. We may miss out--that is what is scary. The cycles of life could pass us by as we worry about our day to day existence. When is it our turn? Where are our families, our houses, our American Dreams? When do we get to become adults? When do we get to stop worrying and start living? When will it get easier?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Road to Monticello

Part of the reason I've been trying to get my Tomtom to work is because we were going to Monticello on Saturday. Monticello is, of course, Thomas Jefferson's plantation home, over 600 acres near Charlottesville. The main house, famously built and remodeled over fifty years, sits high on a mountain, surrounded by the ranges of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We drove for about two hours west to get there, arriving about eleven-thirty. The sky was grey, and the grounds were fairly quiet. I figured it was just the off-season. A CW pass got us in for free, and a shuttle took us up to the top of the mountain.

As the house came into view, I snapped this picture, thinking how nice it was that the trees were bare of leaves so I could get a picture of the whole front of the house. It was only when I uploaded it I realised it looked like an abandoned, spooky building. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however--Monticello was sold after Jefferson's death, but three years after that it was bought by Uriah Levy, a Naval captain who was determined to keep the building as a monument to Jefferson. Subsequent owners had similar intentions, and when the house was taken over in 1923, a lot of the original furnishings, dishes, clocks, etc, came back to it. Items that had been sold in 1826, passed down through families and then given back to the estate. Very cool.

Right inside the front door Jefferson had a museum of American artifacts--Native American art, fossils, and things that Lewis and Clark had brought back from their expedition. The coolest thing, however, had to be a clock over the door. The inside told the time, but it also had a pulley with cannonballs hanging off of it near the wall, to tell what time of the day it was. While we were there it struck noon, but since the gong had been disconnected, it was only a wheezy sound.

Our next stop was the office where JEfferson's daughter ran the household. Then into the library, where I was forced to stuff my hands under my armpits to stop myself from touching everything. It was such a lovely, cozy room filled to the brim with books and comfy chairs, connected to Jefferson's study by a little hallway that led into a greenhouse which featured cherry tomatoes, hibiscus and lemon trees. Jefferson's study was interesting too: all the desks and tables were carefully strewn with books, instruments and papers, making it look like the great man had just gotten up and gone for a stretch. Or possibly he was in his privy closet--one of the first indoor loos in America. Jefferson loved France and classical architecture, and it shows in his bedroom. His bed was tucked in an alcove between the study and bedroom, which had twenty foot ceilings, topped with a classical frieze. The space over his bed was his closet. Did you know Jefferson introduced hangers to America?

The next room was the parlor, and here Erin left us. She had filleted her thumb the day before, and was suffering from light-headedness due to blood loss. Thought briefly about following her, but the Monticello people were so nice I figured they could take care of her. Jefferson's parlor had a high ceiling as well, with windows looking out on a spacious lawn, the walls covered in paintings. Some of them were classical, copies of paintings in the Louvre, some of them were portaits of friends. I proved myself a smartie when I correctly identified Lafayette and Adams, and then went on to ask if that was a bust of Napoleon (it was). The next room was the dining room and tea room, an echo of the greenhouse with floor to ceiling windows. Busts of Washington, Franklin, Lafayette and John Paul Jones stared down at guests. The sides of the fireplace cleverly opened to reveal a wine-dumbwaiter which could bring up fine vintages from the cellar below.

The last stop on our tour was two of the guest bedrooms. More alcove beds, heavily draped in damask silk. Well, at least they'd be cozy in winter. But I was really struck by how small the individual rooms were. Very boxy and small to modern eyes used to open floor spaces, with tiny twisting staircases and hallways. We speculated on how Jefferson got his furniture upstairs, figuring he probably just ordered a window or two taken out. We didn't get to go upstairs, alas, but they have special "architectural" tours, so maybe we'll go back.

It was nearly one at this point, so we decamped back down the mountain for some lunch. Erin was feeling better, but still not one hundred percent, and we were all hungry. Monticello has a new visitor center which complements the mountainside beautifully--and it's far enough down that it doesn't interfere with the classical, historical layout of the plantation. And they have absolutely AWESOME turkey-apple-brie paninis. AND Sprecher root beer!!!

After lunch we headed up to see the grounds and gardens. This is the view most people know of Monticello: it's actually the back porch, looking out over the lawn, and two long porches called the north and south pavilions. Underneath are the kitchens, store rooms, smokehouse, icehouse and some housing for slaves. It was still chilly up on the mountain, but the sun had come out, and there were more people, so the atmosphere was more enjoyable.

Self-portrait! Nicole, Emily, Erin and I pause to record our trip. Don't we look like Mount Rushmore?

Jefferson's "garden" is a five-hundred foot plot that was carved into the mountain. It lies directly behind Mulberry Row, which is a road that goes next to the house. It is where most of the slave cabins were, as well as cabins for trades, like joinery, blacksmithing, etc. Jefferson built himself a little pavilion on the edge of his garden so he could have a place to read or play the violin at the end of the day, enjoying the best view of the place. I can't imagine what it must have felt like to be living on Mulberry Row and hearing a violin coming out of the twilight.

Finally we walked past the garden and down a short path through the forest to visit Jefferson's gravesite. He's buried next to his wife and daughters, in a graveyard that is still in use by his descendants. I had heard that it was tradition to throw nickels on his grave, and sure enough, the grass was littered with coins. We added our own, wishing that the Great American Experiment would continue uninterrupted.

And we weren't the only ones who felt that way: this card was attached to a bouquet of flowers that had been tied to the gate of the graveyard.

A short walk back to the visitor's center led us past this tree, which was being hugged to death by a parasitic vine. Isn't it beautiful though?

The trip back was two hours again...we were quieter on the way home, happily sighing at the historical overload. "It takes a special breed of geek to be a fangirl for Thomas Jefferson," I commented happily. I enjoyed getting out of Williamsburg for a day, seeing something new in Virginia and learning about our third president. I can see now why Jefferson never wanted to leave home.

Friday, January 23, 2009

driving ms crazy

YAY!!!! Friday! Can't wait to get outta here! Yay, car! Yay, driving!

Hey, the person in front of me seems really old and slow. That's cool. I'm not in a big hurry. Wow the weather is nice, maybe I'll roll down the windows---

WHOA, brakelights! *slam* Oh man, that little old lady in front of me must have seen a squirrel or something, there's...oh, wait, more brakelights. *tap* Oh...

Wait, do you think I'm tailgating you? Lady, you're barely doing twenty at this point, and I've OBVIOUSLY got plenty of room to stop, as evidenced by the fact that I am able to do so everytime you *slam* slam on your brakes.

Oh, great, now you're gesticulating angrily at me. Don't you think you should keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road? Ya know, instead of on the car behind you?

Hey, I've got time. Even driving twenty-one miles an hour I'll STILL get home in twenty minutes. Tum tum tum.

I can wave back at you. Notice how I choose not to use my middle finger.

Damnit, stop waving at me and DRIVE.


(which is twenty-five)

Fine. You know what? Fine. I'm going to put on some music and enjoy this ride.

"I need something get me through this...semi-charmed kinda life, baby, baby."

Oh man, this song takes me back. Maybe I'll sing along:

"good byeeee...good byeee...good BYEEEEE! do do do, do do do do..."

What, you think I'm going to crash into you because I'm singing along with the radio? At least I'm not slamming on my brakes and waving my hands in the air all the while watching my rearview mirror.


Go home and tell your children about the psycho who tailgated you all the way home.

I've got some blogging to do.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


The best part about having a car is learning fun new things. Like where to put in the windshield wiper fluid! And how to get gum out of the carpets! Tonight takes the cake though. I got a Tomtom--a GPS locater for Christmas--but I've only been able to use it once in my actual car because the cigarette lighter doesn't work. Hence, I can't charge the Tomtom, so no tomtomming around town. Luckily I have a friend, Erin, who lives with three nuclear electricians. "Could you," I asked on Monday, "ask your roommate if he could come look at my car? If he's not busy?"

Better though, the roommate explained to Erin how to figure out what was wrong. So we trooped out to my car and I meekly held the flashlight as Erin flipped through the manual, said "right," popped the hood and started jamming tools into random important looking fan-thingys. Who knew the manual was so helpful? I just thought it was there in case of emergency--you know, when your partner has gone into Seven-11 and you've got nothing to read. Seriously though, we were looking for a blown fuse. And we found it...not under the hood, but in the fusebox by the door. Well, Erin found it. I was, as I said, holding the flashlight. The fuse was very much blown, so hopped in Erin's car (with Kismet strapped in on my lap) and headed over to Wal-Mart.

I'm sure there are other places to buy car fuses at seven o'clock on a Wednesday, but neither Erin nor I know how to find these places in Wmsbrg. And I haven't been in a Wallyworld since college. Undergrad college. I was completely overawed by the sheer temple of STUFF that awaited me as we walked through the door. Overawed and yes, seduced--hey, we need tables! A pitcher! A new dog bed! A copy of "The Mask" for eight dollars?! Hell yeah--but Erin grabbed my elbow firmly and with a ferociously hissed "Focus!" steered me to Auto Parts. The fuses were bought. We returned to Erin's car and Kismet, who had displayed his displeasure at being left in her car by farting it up, and then home. Slotting a new fuse into place was almost ridiculously easy. I cheered as the green light on my Tomtom came on and silently thanked the heavens for handy friends. $2.47 for a box of five fuses versus a auto store commission and withering looks from condescending grease monkeys? Yeah, I think I can stand out in the cold holding a flashlight for half hour.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This is what history looks like

Someday I'll be able to tell my children about this day. About how excited I was, about how excited we all were, all the millions of us freezing in the mall, or gathered together in rooms around the country. The world, I will say, was going to hell. Later that day, the Dow Jones would close below 8,000 points. But for a brief half-hour, all Americans were focused and united on a new leader who had a plan and a vision for a new America, a peaceful America that used its strength to lead instead of bully. President Obama didn't make any sweeping promises about a shiny golden age, but instead asked us all to sacrifice to work together again to make this plan come true. We were built on hard work, I will tell them, and we were not afraid to get to work again.

So go do your homework and quit bitching.

As expected, the inauguration ceremony was quite moving. About ten-thirty we went over to the auditorium and watched Sesame Street until PBS switched over to inauguration coverage. It made me think of Lily, for some reason: with any luck she'll be eight when Obama gets out of office. The first eight years of her life, she'll have a black president. She won't think it's weird or odd or historical, he'll be just another fact of her little life. How marvelous. The camera couldn't seem to stop sweeping over all the different faces in the crowd--so many different colors of people, a sea of waving American flags.

When it came time for the actual oath, Senator Feinstein asked the crowd to stand up. From behind me I could hear the "thump, thump" of theatre seats swinging shut as the sitters stood. I stood up too. We were about two hundred people, silently watching as Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office, neatly stumbling over the same oath that most presidents manage to get through okay. The same oath that Washington took, on the same Bible that belonged to President Lincoln. I was bowled over by the sense of history. We Americans may not have much, timewise, but what history we do have is deep, rich, loamy, soaked in multiple layers of meaning and importance. It's impossible to do it any sort of justice any more. All we can do is stand and bear witness.

Afterward, I felt tired. All afternoon, as I stitched up torn shirts, just exhausted. More than two years watching, waiting. Same as the election: so much buildup, then the epiphanic release, only to realise the work's just begun. Things are not instantly better. I tried to carry the excitement through to the end of the day, but the financial report that was playing on NPR burst that bubble pretty quick. California Tortilla was giving away a free taco to anyone willing to do a silly dance, so I went over and got one...the counter help by that time was unimpressed with the smattering of Obama fans that were still dribbling in, jaded by our enthusiasm and our wide-eyed optimism. But the free taco tasted pretty sweet all the same.

Victory tastes pretty sweet. All the fear that I felt from the previous administration is gone. Lifted, replaced by anticipation. The apathy, the skepticism, the sheer horror, the embarassment, it's all gone. President Obama asked me to hang in there, sacrifice and work hard to make a better day for America? For him, I'll do it. I will trust that he is holding up his end of the bargain: if I can just hang in there, he will be working on his end to make a better future for us all. Maybe that's the difference between him and President Bush, I trust President Obama. It's scary times we're living in, we need someone who can lead us in the right direction. I trust that we've made the right choice.

The road goes ever onward...

Monday, January 19, 2009

come on SNOW!

My boss asked us if we knew the inclement weather number for CW today--the number you call to see if CW is closed. "Why?" I said, "are they expecting inclement weather?" Apparently, the forecast calls for between three and five inches, accumulated...which means Virginia will come to a screeching (and I do mean screeching! har!) halt. I doubt work will be cancelled--the last time CW closed it was Hurricane Isabelle--a proper hurricane that, not lame like Hurricane Hannah.

The thing I worry about though are all the people in Washington DC for the inauguration. Oh man. Who's excited?! I am so excited. SO FREAKING EXCITED I WANT TO DANCE AROUND AND SING THE HAPPY SONG. Which goes like this:

I am so happy!
happy happy happy

Repeat, etc.

People keep asking me if I'm going. Uh, no. I'm excited, not insane. It may be historical, but it's still only twenty degrees out there. People keep saying they want to BE there...well, hells, what on earth did they invent the CNN for if people were going to keep on insisting on still BEING there? I will be at home, surrounded by all the creature comforts you're not allowed to take into the security zones (lawn chairs, handguns, commemorative pictures of Sarah Palin, Fiesta Dip), happily surfing between CNN and ABC, checking Twitter occasionally to learn firsthand what it's like to Be There ("still cold. No Prez in site.") and using Kismet as a footwarmer. At least, that's what'll happen if we have a snow day. Otherwise, the costume shop will be closed down for a couple hours while we all go over to the auditorium (some of our offices used to be a high school...) and watch the inauguration. Seeing it in a group will probably be better. I'm sure I will cry, as I've been spontaneously bursting into tears from just watching inaugural commercials for the past week.

Oh, it's going to be a party. I hope everything goes okay.

And the best part? I heard today that can't-be-president-soon-enough Barack Obama has scheduled a meeting with the joint chiefs for the day after the election, to discuss a sixteen month timetable for pulling the troops out of Iraq. I'm not even saying "yay, end to war" or "while we're at it lets go after the 'leaders' who put us there," I'm just impressed with Mr. Obama's sheer ability to show up to WORK the day after the inauguration. I'm not sure if I'll be able to make it. This, more than anything else, shows me that he's serious, and that we've made the right choice. Someone who'll dive in and get right to work. So happy. SO FREAKING HAPPY!!!!!

happy happy happy

Sunday, January 18, 2009

dogpark mafia

I finally took his Kizness over to the dogpark yesterday...mostly because I was too lazy and too cold to walk his furry butt around, and I figured this way other people's dogs could wear him out for me. I sort of forgot about the part where I'd be standing around doing nothing except slowly losing feeling in my toes, but Kiz had a good time. (And, I am happy to say, it is no longer too cold to snow in Virginia, as evidenced by the brief scattering of snow we had this morning, snow that promptly melted from fear as it hit the ground) Kizzy spent the forty-five minutes we were there happily chasing after the other dogs who were chasing a ball and racing a big golden lab named Marley up and down the fence. The people who were there were all dog people, sharing ball-throwing duties in between catching up with each other about dogs, family, friends, etc. They made me feel welcome, even helpfully pointing out when Kizzy was off in a corner pooping so I could go pick it up. We had such a good time that after church today we went back. This time there were only two people and three dogs, but, like yesterday, the dogs had a fabulous time chasing each other around while the people chatted. That is, we WERE having a fabulous time until I let it slip that I hadn't registered Kizzy yet. Faces grew long and disapproving. "You might want to do that," the man said unhelpfully, "sometimes they'll come down here and CHECK." "Yeah," the woman piped in, "And sometimes other people will go and tell the ranger."

Pause. Then me, mumbling, "oh, well, we were just going to...come for a few minutes anyway, we were gonna, go for a walk...he's got all his shots, you know, he goes to playcare and everything, uh. Well, I guess...KISMET! C'MERE!" And we left, opting instead to go for a stroll by the water.

Now that we've seen the awesomeness of the dogpark, I'm more determined than ever to get his seasonal pass. But my car needs an oil change this week, so it'll have to wait for a little while still.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The spiral continues...

Our boss's boss called for a mass meeting today to talk about the current state of things. Better, I figured as we gathered, to have a big meeting rather than to be called singly into said boss's boss office, but it was still slightly nerving.

But the news wasn't stellar. Our BB has been asked to reduce her budget, and part of her solution is to cut everyone's hours by four. We'd shut down the building for a half day every week, or one day every two weeks. The other alternative, of course, is to start cutting people, but the BB would rather cut hours, because if she starts cutting positions there's no guarantee that we'd ever get them back. And we stay busy. Even during the slow season, we're busy. More building now that simply altering things which have come in from contractors, which is nice. I'm finally getting to build a pair of breeches from scratch--but I digress.

Another solution might be for some of the employees to go casual...CW lays off a part of its workforce every year and pays them unemployment instead of the regular salary, but not anyone at the shop. I, of course, am immediately attracted to the idea of having two months to go traveling--although I could hardly afford it if I wasn't working. But still. Something to think about.

If the hours do end up getting cut (and they probably will, unless the higher-ups decide to reject our BB's proposed budget), then I will probably have to find another part-time job. I've been looking for more paid writing projects, so maybe I can finally start eating my words. There's a Lane Bryant right down the road... And once the evening programs picks back up, I can go back to storytelling. But part of me is wondering if maybe this might just be a good time to bail on CW. Much as I'd hate to. I do like this company. I asked my boss's boss if she had any idea how long these short rations would last, and she just shrugged and said "'til the economy improves." Well, all right, but we know that could take years. And I've got a beagle and a Buick to feed now.

So I've been giving a lot of thought about going into teaching. Not because I want to inspire young minds--say warp rather--but because it would be a profession where there'll be some stability. By that I mean: transferable job skills. Much as I like backstitching, not really applicable to my next career move. But teaching would be steady work, summers off, benefits, and a chance to challenge myself again. It's a giant leap, and I'd rather make it from a position of choice than the last option left to me...but it's something to think about.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

God and McDonald's

Well, loyal readers, I'm not exactly sure how to blog about this, but it's what I've been thinking about the past couple of days. If my post on the Confederacy Museum seemed a little odd and weird, that's because that wasn't the whole story. Apparently someone didn't get the memo and broke the "no religion on a first date rule." This guy and I--we're friends. We chat online. We gossip about CW employees. At the Confederacy museum, we oo'd over the delicate backstitching on some of the uniforms. And afterward, we went out for Chinese food, me thinking we'd finally get it sorted whether or not we could date or just be friends.

But I don't even know if we can be friends now, because he started explaining to me his views on religion. I know, I know, many of you have advised me to not get into religion or politics, but I hope that when I do--I at least know not to attempt to convert the unconverted. Meaning, I will chat issues, but only to see what you believe, not to pick a fight and not to change your mind. Unless you're up for it. And not over Chinese food. My friend, however, carefully explained to me that to him, the Bible is the literal word of God. Literally. Handed down from the Big Guy, directly to us. All the mis-translations, all the deliberate leavings-out of certain passages and books, all the lost scrolls, all historical archaeology, part of God's plan and unassailable. To be the perfect Christian, all we need do is live by the Book.

Okay. Well, I have a different opinion. Word of God? Certainly. To be read and followed? Absolutely. Fallible? Yes. But not because God is fallible--because unfortunately the scribes are humans. Thousands of years, thousands of different men toiling in dozens of different political scenarios, each with their own aim and interpretation...well, I just believe that the message is going to get a little garbled after awhile. (Not the main points, of course. "Love one another," that's pretty clear.) Look at how many different English translations there are.

You see where the problem lies. If the Bible is open to interpretation, then all sorts of horrible liberal permissive things could occur, which is strictly forbidden when the Bible is taken literally. Society is falling apart, because the rules are not being followed. I'm trying not to be flip, just succinct. My eternal optimism that we as the human race are headed in the right direction in spite of the fact that there are fewer followers of JC, sometimes because of the fact that we as a secular nation stand up for our fellow human beings--was wrecked on the unmoveable shoals of belief that this world is going to hell because people refuse to take the Bible as the word of God. I told my friend that I certainly hoped he didn't think that my faith wasn't "good enough" because I was doing silly things like having opinions. He told me of course he didn't think less of me. But that's not how I felt.

I didn't start getting upset until later that night when I thought of all my friends who were going to hell. Including probably most of NLD readership. Including me. Upset enough, in fact that I went into my pastor's office on Sunday after the service and burst into tears, convinced that I was going to have to un-believe everything I'd ever learned and toe the line. Thank God for Pastor Marc, though...he calmed me down, assured me that I was still a child of God and that my faith and my journey was valid. He sent me a long email after I wrote him explaining the situation more fully, giving me more things to think about, as well as books to read so that I'm not hanging out on a limb by myself.

What have I learned from all this? One--that God works in mysterious ways and obviously felt that it was time to push me out of my comfort zone. Not enough, he says, to be reading the Bible every night and thinking charitable thoughts about your annoying coworkers, now you have to get out there and navigate those tough waters. Maybe it is time to humble myself and get back in line. And two--I am staying away from fundamentalists Christians. On television they're humorous and puzzling. In person, they're terrifying. My friend seemed so nice and average, until he started talking about the end of days. I'm sorry, but that's not what God is about, he is about loving your neighbor, no matter what.

I started out on Saturday excited to think that I might get to date someone at last, at least have a new friend...and I ended up scared and upset and not really wanting to see this person again. I should try to engage him in open dialogue, but how can you talk to someone who is determined to take no joy in his faith?

My journey continues. For better or for worse, I needed this push. But it's upsetting to have lost a friend in the process.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

the blue and the grey

Yesterday I went to the Museum of the Confederacy, in Richmond. The museum is located right next to the Confederate White House, and both are tucked into the courtyard of a modern hospital. The hospital positively looms over the house and the museum, making it claustrophobic, to say the least. Out front is the anchor and the propeller shaft from the CSS Virginia (aka the Merrimack).

Inside--and this sounds obvious--the entire space was entirely given over to the Confederacy. It's a museum to a country that only existed for four years. And most of the exhibits focussed on the war, of course. We moved through it pretty quickly, so after awhile they started to become a blur. General Lee's uniform was on loan, but I did get to see his campaign tent, bed, dishes and a cunning little table with a tree stump for a leg.

The Civil War is such a foreign conflict to a Yankee, I haven't learned much other than "we won." But of course, there's a large swath of this country that isn't convinced of that. The exhibits ended with Appomattox, nothing about Reconstruction. Although there was another section which dealt with Virginia's participation in the
Confederacy, and some interesting stories about the Confederacy's lingering into the twentieth century. Overall, the museum was very focused. I can't say that I learned a lot, but then again, it was probably a good place to start...if there's one thing that Virginia has a lot of, it's museums about the Confederacy.

Friday, January 09, 2009

cheer up m'lads...

Loyal readers will be excited to hear that I've not one but two dates this weekend. Stay tuned...

Never was a person more excited for the weekend than I. Walking out of the building today was glorious. The day flew by because I was assigned a beautiful wool jacket to construct, so I spent the afternoon happily basting interfacing into the body of a jacket and transferring the cutter's marks into thread lines. Then when I got home, Kismet and I took a walk in the daylight--daylight! How I've missed it! Not only because of the short days, but because it's been raining beagles and tabbies all week. But today the sky was a Turner painting, the grass was a verdant carpet, and we even saw a flock of geese take off from a retention pond. Kizzy attempted to give chase, not heeding when I pointed out he couldn't fly. He maintains this was because I refused to let him off his leash. Which is also his reason why he couldn't catch the deer we spotted, dashing away from us, tails blazing.

I wish I had more exciting things to talk about than the weather...but it really does catch me by surprise, the warmth and lack of snowage. Like the first winter I spent in London, where I spent all January and February bracing for the icy blast, only to be greeted with crocuses in March, the feeling is much the same here. Oh sure, it gets cold, just...not as cold as it might. Robins are not a sign of spring here, but of winter, since here is where they migrate to. I shall try to hurry them northward, however, to chase away the snowdrifts I hear keep piling up.

Both of my roommates are gone this weekend as well. One is still of on Christmas break, the other decided to go home for the weekend. I wish that I could jaunt home for two days. Now that the craziness has settled down, it would be nice just to drop in and visit. I don't know when I'll get home next, but hopefully in the summer this time. Warm Virginia winters are nice, but there's nothing better than Wisconsin for the summer.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009


Nicki enjoys the infatuation stage.

Nicki has had waaaay too many successful first dates that never went anyway to hope for anything better than...a successful first date.

Nicki reasons: "better to stay infatuated than get disappointed after a successful first date."

Nicki is very single.

(very single)

Nicki is slightly embarassed about this.

Also embarrassed about spending so many Saturday nights at home with the dog.

Nicki could use a good excuse to shave her legs. Has she grown lazy or is it just cold out?

Nicki finds it's easier to entertain herself than make plans with persons unknown.

Persons partially know have given Nicki their phone number.

Given her tidbits of info that have put her in that infatuation stage.

Nicki dithers.

To wit: To Call and become disappointed once again? Or to stay infatuated, at arm's length, safely behind the emails?

Nicki wonders if it's time to plunge into the sea once again.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Cookie Carnage: Pt 2

So, not only am I hopeless with the baking, I apparently can't even follow a simple box mix anymore. I'm having friends over for dinner tomorrow night, and I thought I'd bake up a box of Duncan Hines chocolate-chip cookies for dessert. So I dumped the mix into a bowl, added an egg and a tablespoon of butter, and then popped it into the microwave to melt the butter.

Totally forgetting that not only would a microwave melt butter, but also cook an egg.

So yeah. When I took the bowl out, there was a nice broiled egg sitting on top of the mix. And the chocolate chips were melty. By the time I got most of the egg out of the bowl, I had mixed the chocolate into the batter so it was a lovely even shade of brown. ARG. My roommate was generous enough to give me some more chocolate chips, but the final effect was pretty dismal. Chocolate-chocolate chip cookies sound good, until you hit a piece of cooked egg that I missed.

So, I'll probably skip dessert tomorrow...these are so gross I don't even want to eat them myself.

The good news about today is that I got switched back to the men's team. After trying out both teams, everyone was asked which one they'd like to be on, and it seems like everyone pretty much got their first pick. I'm looking forward to be back in breeches land...I only altered one silk gown, but one was enough. During the months of January and February many of the interpreters are laid off temporarily, so the shop is full of laundry pieces. Once we get through those, however, it is a very, very slow time for us. The men's team will be working on replacing the military uniforms currently out in the historical them a more uniform look that's also more period appropriate. I, of course, am very excited. Give me a good hank of wool yardage any day...something I can stitch into a uniform so crisp it'll stand on its own.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Strolling on a Saturday

It's so nice to have those few extra minutes of daylight at either end of the day. Sometimes it feels like my life revolves around wearing out the beagle so I can get other stuff done (blogging, shopping, sewing). Thursday, for New Year's Day, we drove up to Newport News and took a walk around the Noland Trail. This is a five mile hike around the lake that surrounds the Mariner's Museum...Five miles didn't sound like much, but there were a lot of hills. By the end of the day, I was feeling pretty sore, and Kizzy fell asleep in the car on the way home. But it was a good way to start the new year.

My resolutions this year include cutting down on sugar and caffeine--no easy task since I binged from Thanksgiving to Christmas. But I can tell that it's working because I've had a headache and been feeling achy for the last couple of days.

Today I took down the Christmas decorations...since it was mostly real greenery, it was just a matter of dragging everything outside and throwing it back into the copse of trees that surrounds our house. I love Virginia, but sometimes it feels like the seasons are upside down--today I saw a dandelion, and there are robins everywhere. Even though it's January, the temperatures hover in the thirties and forties. This is a good thing since I go walking every day. It's nice to be able to get out and not feel like I'm caged up all winter. That's probably another reason why I'm feeling better mentally: sunlight and exercise.