In Which Our Heroine Returns, Passing Many "CHEESE" Signs En Route

31 December 2003

Well, dear hearts, I was without access to my mail in Milwaukee, and then I could get at it but couldn't send stuff out until someone in Palo Alto kicks a particular machine. But now it's fixed. This happened around last New Year's, I recall. Ah well. About seven messages went out in a bunch this morning, and I have more to write, to be sure.

We had a nice time with Mark's family in Milwaukee. When we first got there, everyone was there (well, theoretically -- Mark's brothers were out Christmas shopping at the exact moment of our arrival), and we got to do dinner and presents and playing around with all Mark's sibs and his lone sib-in-law. (God bless Jeff. Now there are two people in that house at holidays who don't sound exactly like other people in the house. There were a few times when I got pretty spooked watching one Gritter male head into one room in front of me and then hearing his voice at my shoulder.) Jeff and Sarah left Sunday morning, and we went to church with the rest of Mark's immediate family, and then I did nothing but read. Well, not entirely nothing; I scribbled a bit, and I babbled a bit, and I ate some things, and also helped to clear the table and do the dishes a few times. And really, that was it. Reading, and then also reading. I really loved Robin McKinley's Spindle's End, and it's going on my list of books Mom should read. (Also possibly on the list The Michelle should read, but since other grad school type people also keep such a list for her, I'm trying to be more selective about that. Whereas if my mom ends up with a backlog of fun, what harm?) I also enjoyed Madeleine L'Engle's Bright Evening Star, which was a gift from Sarah (and Jeff, I suppose, but he was not emotionally involved as much with the L'Engliness of it), Louise Marley's The Glass Harmonica, and Robin Hobb's Golden Fool, although that one suffered from middle book-itis and didn't have a genuine ending all its own, and the last book in that trilogy isn't out yet. Bah. I also read a couple of meh books, Andrew Greeley's The Bishop and the Three Kings and Nancy Garden's Annie On My Mind. And I did not like Sherwood Smith's Journey to Otherwhere in the Voyage of the Basset series. It was preachy preachy preachy. It's too bad, too, since I've enjoyed Smith on other stuff. But this book was Just Not It for me. Message on every page.

Right now I'm reading Endre Bojtár's Foreword to the Past: A Cultural History of the Baltic People, which is the Christmas present from my folks that made me say, "Ooooooh, oh, it's the, it's the, it's the!" in a most intelligent way. Except it's only about Latvians and Lithuanians and East Prussians, because the focus is on Baltic as a language group. I was hoping for at least Estonians. Also, apparently "cultural" means "philological," because it's really heavily focused on philology. And I'm happy enough reading about Latvian philology -- and incidentally, when did I become the person who could write that sentence? -- but I did wish it had been Estonian culture instead. But still, it's good stuff, and I'm laughing at bits of it. This book is translated from the Hungarian, so I'm sure there are a few phrasing issues that come from that. My favorite is, "'For there is a story current among the Scythians [he's quoting Herodotus] and the Greeks in Scythia that once a year every Neurian turns into a wolf for a few days, and then turns back into a man again,'" and then there's a footnote, and the footnote says, "On the basis of this, O. Trubachev considers them Celts." I laughed and laughed. There was then a bit of philological explanation about how the word for some Celtic tribes came close to the word for wolves in Scythian dialects, but still; they turned into a wolf for a few days out of the year, and therefore they must have been Celts. I also was amused at "There are a number of references from the Middle Ages, accordingly I shall discuss this ethnonym later with the Prussians and the Jatvingians." And I'm sure the Prussians and the Jatvingians enjoyed discussing it with him, but I do wish they'd taken the time to have their little chat before the book went to press.

Perhaps I'm only amusing to myself. Who knows. Anyway, I'm almost done with the last section of the Bojtár, and I have lots of library books and Christmas books to read after that. And I'll read one of the mythology volumes for a group that actually has a known mythology. Most of this section has been Bojtár yelling at people who are making up Baltic gods because they assume everybody had to have them. (Gods, I mean, not Baltic ones.) Some of the assumptions were just ridiculous. It's pretty sad, though, to be reading a section on mythology that keeps having to say, "so really, we think this one was made up in the 19th century by people who thought Lönnrot was really neat." Sigh.

Anyway, we're heading down to Heathah's tonight for New Year's Eve and new baby sightings. (There should be at least two there. I don't know about any others, but I don't know the guest list, or whether there is a guest list...Heathah couldn't get a requested arrival time out of Dave, who is planning the whole thing. She put Dave on the line, and he said, "Hey, M'ris, so, yeah, just come when you want to. If you're here for dinner, y'know, we'll figure something out to feed you and otherwise...not." So I'm thinking this is not perhaps the most formal affair of the season.) If it wasn't Heathah's house and at least a fair number of people we know, I probably would want to huddle at home and get stuff done. But it won't be one of those Social Persona situations, no one to impress or charm. It'll be good if Tony's wife and the new babies all like me,'s not the sort of thing I'm stressing about too much.

I'll get pictures from my Christmas up when I can, probably with more pictures from New Year's and the like in the mix. And house pictures, maybe. Now that we're settled in a bit more. It's on the list. Of course, so is every other task in the western hemisphere, down to scrubbing your kitchen sink for you. (Why? Because everything else was on the list, and it was feeling left out as the only task in the western hemisphere I didn't intend to do in the next fortnight.) However, we had a series of holiday Post-Its stuck on the back of the office door, with two days for each one and the necessary tasks for each day in the appropriate space. We're down to the last one, which reads, "Wed. H party. Thurs. Breathe." It's pared the rest of the list down.

I don't do New Year's resolutions specifically; I'm constantly coming up with things I should do or should do more often or what have you. I also don't do year-end retrospectives. This year we moved home. Lots of other stuff going on, but...we moved home. I spent the time we were in Milwaukee with a very confused subconscious. It was convinced that Monday was New Year's Eve (because we've spent NYE at the Gritters' for five years running now, and that was the last night we were at the Gritters', therefore...), and it was convinced that I had to go back to California when I left Milwaukee. Silly subconscious. And yet I think it'll take a few more road trips to convince it that I really do get to come home when I come home.

But here I am. Home. And it's good.

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