Monday, February 23, 2009

25 random things

In the last two days I've seen the 25 random things lists of two very different people (a fellow baby boomer poet and a 19 year old college student) which got me inspired to try. I'll bet I'd come up with 25 very different things a week from now.

25 random things about me:

  1. The best portrait I ever drew was of my best college friend’s dad, George Porter – it was a tiny sketch that looked so perfectly like him it was almost as if some outside force had worked through my hands.
  2. I hate asparagus – if I even attempt to eat them I start gagging.
  3. The most thrilling experience I ever had was riding as a passenger on pilot check rides, where the pilots did touch and go landings at Half Moon Bay airport. Once at sunset, a pilot made the sun “set” and then “rise” by swooping down and then up above the fog bank.
  4. My favorite city to visit is Boston – I love the MBTA and I always had the right change to get back off. The best hot fudge sundae I ever had was at Bailey’s in Boston (long since gone out of business).
  5. I never spent a night alone in the house I grew up in until I was 19 years old, and found I was unable to sleep listening for every little noise.
  6. My favorite book in childhood was Little Women, and my favorite character in the book was “Beth” – the one who dies before adulthood. My favorite book in adulthood is Beauty by Sherri Tepper in which she blends fantasy and science fiction in a moral tale about the destruction of beauty in the world, and really made me think about the choices we make.
  7. As long as I have a nice warm house and no place I have to drive, the best weather is what I can see out my window right now – deep fluffy snow. The world simplifies down to the stark basics of white and black.
  8. The person I enjoy talking to most in the whole world is my husband, John.
  9. I love Cinderella stories. My favorites are Eleanor Farjeon’s book The Glass Slipper and the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore, but I’m also found of the movie The Glass Slipper with Leslie Caron, the Rogers and Hammerstein television version from the 1960’s with Leslie Ann Warren (and her crooked smile), and movie musical The Slipper and the Rose from 1976 with Richard Chamberlain as the Prince. But I will read and watch any version of the story at least once.
  10. I cannot go to sleep unless I read first. My preferred bedtime reading is mysteries, especially police procedurals, detective fiction, and legal thrillers.
  11. I’m not sure I was really “in love” with my first husband, although I certainly loved him.
  12. Until I was in high school and was earning my own money, I had only three “store bought” dresses. All my clothes were hand me downs from older cousins, from rummage sales, and thrift shops or hand made by one of my aunts. I learned to sew at age 10 in self-defense and made most of the dresses I wore from fifth grade on. By the time I was in my twenties I was an excellent tailor, and made the wool suits that I did my job interviewing.
  13. I haven’t sewn a dress or skirt or blouse since 1988 when I discovered credit cards and catalogs.
  14. I never went on a date in high school. My best friend wanted me to come to the junior prom with her and her boyfriend, so she set me up with an old friend from junior high school (who went to a different school). I was so anxious about the date, that I worked myself into illness (supposedly strep throat but I don’t think that was diagnosed by a doctor) and cancelled out on the whole event. I never finished sewing the evening gown for the event.
  15. My first kiss was at 16 from a college boy who was a counselor at a day camp where I volunteered. I was so terrified by the sexual feelings that were evoked that I actually blanked out the experience completely for more than twenty years. If you’d asked me at age 20, I would have said my first kiss came in college at age 18.
  16. I hate grading essays. It’s the one thing that I really dislike about being a college professor. But nonetheless I think that students learn more from having to synthesize ideas from various sources into an essay, so I persist on assigning multiple essays in every class, every semester.
  17. The only thing that makes being “pre-diabetic” tolerable is Russell Stover sugar free mint patties in dark chocolate. The thought that I might never be able to eat another box of See’s Candies dark Bordeaux chocolates is almost unbearable.
  18. I have not made any new close friends in fifteen years – a fact that I very much regret, but don’t quite know how to over come, as everyone I know locally these days has their life sewn up with children, grandchildren and other family ties.
  19. Most of my interaction with people (other than my husband), including students is over the Internet or by long distance telephone, which I value but still miss the face-to-face connections.
  20. In the winter, I’m obsessed with looking for sycamore trees, with their white limbs standing out against the brown of the forest. In the spring, my obsession is daffodils. In college, we could buy huge bunches of daffodils for 50 cents at the local grocery store. In graduate school, unable to find any to buy I would go out at night during spring break and steal daffodils from Fraternity row.
  21. Currently my favorite color for clothing, flowers, and household stuff is yellow. But giving me a bright fire engine red car any day.
  22. I don’t know which I regret more, the things I did do that I should not have, or the things I did not do that I should have. What I do know is that I try not to spend too much time regretting either thing – it detracts from living.
  23. People’s faces I can draw with ease, but I can’t draw a cat worth a darn. Their bodies always seemed distorted and too long and narrow. I’ve never tried drawing my dog.
  24. During my senior year in high school, while working in the city library, I saw a girl I’d never seen before on the far side of the library’s main floor – more than 100 feet away, and knew instantly without a doubt that her name was the same as mine. I walked across the room, and asked her “are you Sue Greer?” and she said “yes.” So I said “hi, my name is Sue Greer, too.” She went to a different high school at the other end of the city, and was two years behind me. We were not related in any way. The only way I could have know who she was, was some form of extrasensory perception.
  25. I love television. I love sitcoms, dramas, movies, soap operas, 24 hour news channels, home improvement shows, the Weather Channel, even commercials, although I don’t watch as much as I once did. Nonetheless, my evening doesn’t seem quite complete if I don’t watch some TV.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

One Single Impression -- Twilight

Twilight Sentinel

Against a sky of palest mauve
the moon, a fine china plate
etched in delicate gray,
floats between the dark hills
edged in winter’s black lace.
The road turns,
a giant sycamore looms,
stark white arms,
a shining sentinel
in the gathering dusk.

12 September 2008
(from observation and notes 2006)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

cat physiology

As regular readers know, Nino the cat, was diagnosed with diabetes about nine months ago, and has been receiving insulin shots twice a day since that time. Seven weeks ago he had a hypoglycemic crisis, complete with convulsions and coma, which he not only survived, but has rebounded from with amazing vigor.

The most amazing thing of all -- Nino has gone into remission. As of yesterday, he no longer needs insulin at all.

I did some research this morning, and learned that Nino's diabetes was probably the result of steroid use. Nino suffers from extreme allergy to fleas, and had been receiving steroid shots three times a year for several years. Since being diagnosed with diabetes he no longer received the shots (we give him a Capstar every days to kill the fleas instead), and that allowed his pancreas to rebound. I did learn that even diabetes that is not steroid induced can also go into remission in cats, if they eat a low carbohydrate diet.

Leads me to wonder if taking steroids has a similar affect on the human pancreas -- like the steroids in my asthma medicine Advair.

incredible sky

Wednesday February 11, a powerful thunderstorm with strong winds swept through eastern Kentucky, causing numerous power outages. Immediately after our power went out, the rain ended, and clearing sky in the west, allowed the setting sun to set the retreating storm clouds ablaze. Here are a few photos taken that evening.

Looking east to the retreating storm:

Looking west, to the clearing sky:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Not ironic

Last night as the result of strong thunderstorms and winds, the electricity and the phones went out in our neighborhood. The power and phone were still out this morning. When I got to work (where there is power) I spent an hour calling first one utility, then the other. The phone company was hopeful, they said "perhaps today;" the electricity company was less positive, "by Sunday" they said. After the calls, the first e-mail I read was a message from Earth Hour, asking me to participate in Earth Hour 2009 on March 28, when everyone around the world is asked to turn off their electricity for one hour. This is the kind of coincidence that most people erroneously call "ironic" (as in the Alanis Morissette song "Isn't It Ironic"). Only problem is it isn't. It is a mildly humorous, odd juxtaposition of bad luck with another unrelated but similar event; not irony.

Irony according to Wikipedia is a
"literary or rhetorical device, in which there is an incongruity or discordance between what one says or does and what one means or what is generally understood. Irony is a mode of expression that calls attention to the character's knowledge and that of the audience.

There is some argument about what qualifies as ironic, but all senses of irony revolve around the perceived notion of an incongruity between what is said and what is meant; or between an understanding of reality, or an expectation of a reality, and what actually happens."
The Merriam-Webster On-line dictionary adds the following in addition, that irony is :
incongruity between the actual result of a sequence of events and the normal or expected result (2): an event or result marked by such incongruity b: incongruity between a situation developed in a drama and the accompanying words or actions that is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play —called also dramatic irony tragic irony."
It isn't even "situational irony" or "cosmic irony." Situational irony is when "discrepancy between the expected result and actual results when enlivened by 'perverse appropriateness'" according to Wikipedia.

Situational irony would be if something that I did to observe Earth Hour resulted in blacking out the electricity for my entire neighborhood. Or conversely, situational irony would be, if in attempting to organize a city to observe Earth Hour (to use less electricity) caused more people to come into the city, and thus use more electricity rather than less.

Cosmic irony or "'irony of fate' stems from the notion that the gods (or the Fates) are amusing themselves by toying with the minds of mortals with deliberate ironic intent. Closely connected with situational irony, it arises from sharp contrasts between reality and human ideals, or between human intentions and actual results." (Wikipedia)

Cosmic irony is the essence of my favorite TV show "LOST." All the effort that Jack puts in to getting his people off the island, only to realize that leaving the island was the worse thing he could do, and has to put in equivalent energy trying to find a way back to the island.

But my situation with the power outage and the e-mail, was an odd, interesting, coincidence that makes one want to wince a bit and say "ouch," is NOT ironic. Unfortunately, we don't have a good word to use for this type of slightly humorous, sometimes cruel, oddly timed, situations where bad luck and coincidence collide. So people misuse the word "ironic." I appeal to all you folks that love language -- can you think of a good, pithy adjective or adjectives that we can use instead of "ironic"?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Today's "free writing" exercise in Creative Writing class resulted in the following:

My love for you is a blackberry knife, sharp and sweet; juice flowing down my chin, staining my white shirt. Drop, drop, deep scarlet imprints bleeding hearts.

My love for you is a banana, just ripe, no brown spots; firm not squishy. It is self-contained, portable, needs no refrigeration. Not a high maintenance kind of love.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

stubborn winter lets go

Poet Christine at Quiet Paths had a beautiful poem this morning, that describes winter as a "a hermit hiding in remote ravines." But I think that today, winter has finally let go, at least for a while in the mountains of Kentucky. There is actual warmth in the wind.

One Single Impression -- Movement

The Willow's Dance

The willow bends before the wind,
And suddenly I am moving in the willow's dance.
Swaying, swaying, I rise and fall in time to
the song of the wind.
Waltzing through blowing grasses
I weave in and out following the intricate patterns
of the tossing branches.
The wind quickens and so does my dance.
Round, round, I whirl like a leaf on the wind.
In a wild crescendo, the wind lifts me in its arms
for one great leap,
Then drops away to a whisper, a gentle breath
that ruffles the willow's leaves and my hair.

s. greer, March 1968

wind, moving the forest,
sound of a thousand branches,
a mountainside
swaying in time;
my body has become oak,
creaking before the wind,
yearning to dance
like the willow,
turning pirouettes
in my mind.

sgreerpitt, February 8, 2009

For more poems on the theme of movement see One Single Impression.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

snow days

Several afternoons recently, I've sat in my office at work and watched the snow storms engulf the town, and listened to the emergency notification broadcast telling me that the rest of the days classes have been canceled.

ghost mountains behind
swirling cold crystal curtains
shutting down the day.

February 5, 2009

Photo of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown on a snow day two decades ago.

birthday delights

So my birthday isn't actually until tomorrow, but the package came to day, and I'm stuck at home snowbound another day, so....

My best friend of 46 years, Betti, sent me a 40th anniversary gift set of the Sound of Music with DVD of the movie, CD of the soundtrack and coffee table book. I spent the morning listening to the sound track while reading through the book.

Betti and I spent a lot of our adolescence singing. Our favorites included many things from AM radio (Beatles, Freddie and the Dreamers, Herman's Hermits) but also musicals like Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. So memories abound as I listen to the music.

Drawing from 1968, copied from movie posters.

Monday, February 2, 2009

One Single Impression -- Slowly


as glaciers,
inch by inch
the heart expands
then wears away;
dunes of memory
shaped by time,
discoveries accrete,
then slide away.
slow gains endure
‘till time erodes.

February 2, 2009

All I could think of all week was the line "vaster than empires, but more slow," a line from a 1671 poem "To His Coy Mistress" by Andrew Marvell, and used by Ursula LeGuin as the title for a short story nearly four decades ago.