Moving House


Hello all!

It’s been a long time. How have you been? We should do dinner sometime; you know, catch up.

Actually, what you should do is move over to my new blog, Cracker Sisters, which my sister and I started today. The story will be continued over there for the foreseeable future.

Thank you so much for persevering with me all this time. I love you guys, and all your encouragement and comments have meant the world to me. So, know that I’m not stopping this, just moving house. And with a co-author, posts should be both more varied and interesting and also more frequent and reliable. So all that’s good!

I hope you follow me over there. I’d love to pick up where we left off and keep going in this story together. Take care and God bless!

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Lake Tahoe

How was your Memorial Day weekend? Ours was pretty good. Instead of cooking out in our (nonexistent) backyard or going to a pool party (brr!), we took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Lake Tahoe. And by spur of the moment, I mean C. made reservations for the hotel Friday night.

This is the furthest we’ve wandered within the Golden State so far. Not being fluent in CA geography yet, I thought Lake Tahoe was to the southeast of us. Apparently not. Northeast, actually, and right on the border between CA and Nevada. We see now why it’s so popular as a tourist destination – there seems to be a little something for everyone: water sports, outdoor adventures, skiing in the winter, and shopping / eating / casinos for those who are a little less nature-oriented.

The drive up and back was beautiful. We crossed a wide, open plain (or marsh, not sure which as there were cows but the road that cut through it was called “Marshview”) and drove beside mountain rivers and through forested hills. It even snowed on us a little bit.

The hotel room was nice, though it was attached to a casino, which was smoky and overstimulated and not so nice. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a casino before. I feel that I haven’t missed anything. Basically, it appears to be a really expensive arcade for grownups. (Never really got into arcades when I was a kid either. I wasn’t good enough at any of the games to make it worthwhile to spend the money on them. Why spend a quarter just to die as soon as you start the game?)

Sunday we took a walk up to a waterfall, then “hiked” (according to C.) or “rock-climbed” (according to me) up a boulder-strewn, sheer rock mountain. C. called his parents, who were in Atlanta, from half-way up. Amazing. The view at the top was incredible, just breathtaking. And it was quiet, except for the wind blowing through the valley behind us, and just to sit there and be quiet together, was a real treasure. We were up there so long, it’s no wonder we ended up sunburned.

The view from the midst of the waterfall

Monday we drove up the side of the lake and took the long way home. We stopped in Napa for an early dinner and found there wasn’t much to do. I suspect you probably need to plan your time there in order to get the most out of it. It was a pretty place, of course, although it seemed an odd mixture of rural and upscale.

We had a great time and saw plenty of beautiful scenery and enjoyed being in the out of doors, but probably the most amazing thing, at least from my perspective, is that for breakfast on Monday, before we left, I was able to purchase and consume, wonder of wonders, real biscuits and (sausage) gravy. And it was delicious.

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Civic Duty

Yesterday, I played the part of a good citizen.

For one thing, I was called for jury duty. Yes, less than a year since we moved here. This is the third time I’ve been called while C. has never been called. Figure that one out. However, I’ve never actually served. In Jacksonville, I wasn’t chosen, and yesterday the case settled before a jury was picked.

I’ve got to say that the process was much more efficient and enjoyable this time around. I don’t know if that’s because of differences between the two systems or because of the passage of time. For one thing, those of us called could check a website and therefore only come in when we had to, which meant that fewer jurors had to be processed in a rush on Monday morning. Last time I had jury duty was before 2003, so obviously things have changed. By Wednesday morning, the group of us who were there was relatively small. But the whole process seemed well organized; they supplied the waiting room with plenty of coffee (smart move); and the general attitude seemed to be one of amiability and grateful recognition of people’s presence. In other words, they made us feel appreciated, made the process easy, and gave us caffeine and sugar; so, they must be doing it right.

I also thought it was cool that I was reporting at the Hall of Justice. I was hoping to see Major Glory there at least, if not all the Justice Friends.

by AwesomenessDK at DeviantArt

When the PA voice said that the case had settled, people all cheered and smiled at each other. It was a real bonding moment. (If you hear a bit of sarcasm there, you’re not reading incorrectly.)


I also voted yesterday.

Another cool thing that may or may not exist in Florida (if it does, I’m not aware of it) is that you can sign up here to be a permanent voter-by-mail. They automatically send me a mail-in ballot, without me having to request it. They also sent along two booklets that included candidate statements, arguments for and against various ballot propositions, and general voting rules and laws, so I could easily do some self-education before voting. The primaries for some of the offices are also open, so as an Independent, I could actually vote for more than just judges and constitutional amendments, which was a nice change.

If only the rest of the state’s government worked as well as the systems I dealt with yesterday, maybe … um … cough … right, rant averted. Sorry about that. There’s a preponderance of soapboxes around here, and I do try to stay off of them, but sometimes they sneak under your feet, and you’ve got to pay attention and keep your mouth closed. The consequences could be painful and embarrassing, especially if you’re as non-limber as I am.


Civic duty done, check. I can only assume that the reward for my good behavior yesterday is that tonight C. and I get to watch three episodes of Community back to back. Yay! It’s too bad Greendale doesn’t seem to be within driving distance. I bet I could get a job there:

Whether I’d want to is entirely beside the point.

Posted in Life in San Jose | 1 Comment


Is it really already May? Huh…

So, anyway, life has not stopped here at Chez Cracker, much as the recent evidence may seem to contradict that. It has in fact, continued on its normal roller coaster path. Possibly the best approach may be a quick summary of recent happenings in order to get you caught up with us. Let’s see, the last post was on March 12, so that means that I need to start with:

1. The visit of Erin and her Munchkin. We explored some new places, including San Juan Bautista (which led to a quick look at Vertigo, because that’s where Madeleine had visited as a child and has a breakdown and runs into the church and …well. Spoilers!) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (where the jellyfish exhibit is better than a giant lava lamp for inducing a exceedingly serene state of mind, and where the sea dragons were better than the baby otter – which is hard to believe but totally true). We also drove up to Point Reyes to watch for whales.

I think the final count was six whales.

They were smaller than we were expecting.


2. After years, I finally got a piano.

It’s digital and not a baby grand, both of which make it easy to move, but less than perfect. Doesn’t really matter, though; it’s just great to have something to play on again.


3. C. and I visited San Fran again on a Saturday afternoon in late April. Ostensibly, we were going to the Earth Day festivities at Ghirardelli Square. However, we got sidetracked by Pier 39 and its mini-donuts, by Fisherman’s Wharf and its Liberty Ship and submarine, and by random boats selling cruises around the bay.

How fantastic is that? I’m fast developing a strange affection for this bridge. I think it’s the ridiculous color.

Funny story about the World War II submarine. We walked through it  – a self-guided tour – and it’s tight quarters, right? For the most part, you wandered through on your own, but there was a volunteer docent in one room (maybe the command center?). In this room, the lights were all red, like they are in the movies. And so we sort of crowded in there, and several groups came up behind us. We were all crowded in and looking around rather aimlessly, so the docent tried to get some discussion going.

“Does anyone have any questions?” Silence.

He picks a young man at random. “Where are you from?”

“Japan.” Slightly uncomfortable laughter from everyone. The older gentleman who was with this young tourist started speaking in Japanese, and his relative (grandson, I’d guess) translated. He was politely complimentary of the US submarines and the Pacific fleet in general during WWII, and he asked a few questions of the docent, ending by stating that he was glad we were all friends again. The docent concurred. Things were a bit awkward, but friendly enough. With what seemed like palpable relief after this conversation, the docent turned to the other young couple in the room and asked, “And where are you two from?”



4. Food truck rally in Pleasanton. This was a surprise for me a couple weekends ago. Late on a Saturday afternoon, we drove up I-680 to this little town close to Oakland but in a hilly area, to their fairgrounds. They were having a food truck rally, which I guess is an event that happens with some frequency around the Bay area.* It was a beautiful spring evening, there was a band playing, and lots of interesting and yummy food to taste. C. and I split Korean sliders on rice patty “buns” and “kamikaze fries” and a burrito “cone,” and of course several desserts, and we just enjoyed the great weather and good food and the dozens of little kids running around. At one point, I counted four runners trailing parents. Why is it that kids can apparently get endless satisfaction from running around in a circle until they fall over?

*For example, there was one tonight, right up the road from us.


5. Got a job interview with a community college here – actually quite close to where C. works, at a very nice campus. Although it wasn’t for a great job, I was excited about the possibility of working in my academic vocation again, and it felt great to actually have an interview after months of unsuccessful applications at nearly every college within 30 miles of here. However, the interview also was unsuccessful, which means that apparently it really isn’t God’s will for me to be in academia for the time being. I had come to that conclusion months ago, and this job was the final application I had pending. But I was hoping that I might have been wrong.

Oh, well.  I actually can tell that He’s working on me through this (which was not always the case last year during the various difficult times I had), so that’s helpful, and today I’m choosing to think of it in terms of L.M. Montgomery’s “bend in the road” from Anne of Green Gables: “[M]y future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.” Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but at bottom I believe (most of the time) that the One to whom I belong has not given me a pointless life, but a mission, a purpose, a call. Right now it’s just a matter of acting on that faith, without really seeing what’s around that bend.

Posted in Life in San Jose, Personal | 1 Comment

Thankful for

Vases of spring flowers:




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Quest of a Bibliophile

How many bookshelves do you have in your home? Two? Three? Ten? Are they half-shelves that fit under a windowsill, or do you have built-ins lining your den?

What about your books? Have you jumped on the e-reader bandwagon and now only buy digitally, or do you continue to support the paper mills by collecting physical copies? If it’s the latter, how do you arrange your books? By subject? Author? Weight and size? Color? (shudder)

I’m in the middle of a book I’ve started three times and still haven’t been able to finish: The Library at Night, by Alberto Manguel. (See this picture, and how long ago it was taken.) The history in this lengthy essay is mildly interesting, but one really reads it for the fetishistic discussions and pictures of libraries, reading, and books. They fill the same desire as that scene in Beauty and the Beast where the Beast shows Belle his library, full of thousands and thousands of books. (Ooh! Aah!)

Manguel also seems to have a fairly keen understanding of the constant conflict between library ideals and reality (although maintenance and cleaning as an issue, so far, have yet to appear in the discussion; is it cynical of me to wonder who exactly keeps his books and shelves dust-free? well, maybe he likes the dust.) – how one never has enough room for one’s books, and how any method chosen to organize the books is never quite perfect. He seems to have come down on the side of “buy the books and hang the consequences,” and the assumption is that true bibliophiles desire to be overrun with books. That the overriding impulse is toward never-ending collection. That a library must be unmanageable. I’m more optimistic, despite the state of my own library.

We have five bookshelves. There were six before the move, but one died in transit. One of the remainder is housing board games, so it doesn’t count. That leaves four solid wood bookcases to hold our library. Three in my office and one upstairs. The upstairs one is very presentable, but the downstairs ones are a bit of a madhouse. One third of these 15 shelves are double-stacked, and the genres range from artificial intelligence to Biblical commentary to knitting patterns to ancient Greek idylls. (No points for guessing whose books are whose.) And this is after years of book purchase fasting, and ruthless pruning.

Despite the obvious fact that we just don’t have enough space for all our books, I still believe in the dream of shaping our library into a well-managed, working collection.

Looking at the shelves, I’m filled with a desire for order, for the pleasure of knowing and loving each book personally. I can’t in good conscience get rid of books that might be lovable without giving them a chance to prove themselves, but on the other hand, bookshelf real estate is valuable. So I try to read an item before I get rid of it. But that sure takes a long time. (I’m a slow reader, and easily distracted.)

In the meantime, one of the best ways to create the illusion of order and control is to rearrange the books. C. rolls his eyes whenever he comes home to find me surrounded by piles of books. “Again?” he sighs. Manguel is reassuring that this is normal behavior, but my husband doesn’t see it. Right now, the books are pensively waiting on the shelves in a rather haphazard arrangement for the day that I can give them my full attention.

Heavy books are on the bottom. This is partially because it’s aesthetically pleasing, but primarily because two of the shelves are in front of mirrored closet doors, not solid walls. They also lean slightly, and the whole arrangement is rather nerve-wracking. So, the weight goes on the bottom to minimize the perils of top-heaviness.

Poetry and Greco-Roman classics are on the same shelf as each other, high on the third bookcase. Early Modern British poetry, however, sits with its contemporary prose and with literary theory in front of Christian nonfiction (and a few books of Christian fiction – except for the works of C.S. Lewis, which are upstairs). Of course, this isn’t counting the (physically) heavy books of early modern drama or poetry, like the Riverside Chaucer, Milton, and Shakespeare. I love those, but they’re bricks. They have to go on the bottom shelves. Novels sit in front of children’s literature. Except for certain novels, like those of Austen, and certain children’s literature, like that of Rowling, both of which have been given special spots upstairs. Sci fi is hiding somewhere; I haven’t seen that genre for ages.

A shelf like this makes me a little crazy:

These books need to find their proper places. The bookcases may look organized, but there’s discontent brewing in the ranks; The Portable Dorothy Parker, for example, does not like being next to Planet Narnia. It’s too earnest for her taste. If these issues aren’t addressed soon, we may have a mutiny on our hands. So, when the grumbling gets too loud to ignore, I will have to rearrange the books.


It will be a matter of home security.

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On Thursday, C. came home from work early. He had been at a conference that week up in Santa Clara, so his time was more flexible than usual, and he made it home while the sun was still up. I was talking to my sister on the phone at the time, but as soon as I hung up, he gave me a grin and said, “Dress up warmly, we’re going on an ADVENTURE.”

Well, I put on my coat, my scarf, and my jaunty red hat – the first presentable thing I ever knitted. I even grabbed my gloves. I know from experience that if C. thinks I might be cold, I almost certainly will be very cold. So we headed out the door and walked down the hill, and through the neighborhoods across the street. When we reached Capitol Expressway, the large road close to us, we turned right.

Now, we’ve taken this walk several times before. It leads to McDonald’s. They offer a chicken sandwich that is a pale imitation of Chik-fil-A, but that will hit the spot when you need it but the closest Chik-fil-A is 70 miles away. So I thought, “Adventure, hah! He just wants to dress up a visit to McDonald’s to make it sound more like a legitimate date for our date night.” In this, I humbly admit I was being totally unfair to C. But then again, he thinks it’s funny to encourage and then subvert my expectations, so you don’t have to feel too sorry for him.

The walk also leads to a light rail station, which is where we were actually headed. We had talked about using the train system before, but we had never actually done it. So, we waited for the train while the sunset colored the retreating rain clouds that had been hanging over the house all day, and when it came, we got on like old pros.

We rode the train through downtown San Jose to a stop in front of the Santa Clara convention center where, not coincidentally, C. had been for the conference. We then walked a mile past block after block of empty, or mostly empty, office buildings, which during the day house the employees of Yahoo, Avaya, Bandai Namco, and other companies I haven’t heard of.

Our destination was one of the few remaining Bennigans in the country. When C. and I were first dating, Bennigan’s was one of our main dinner places. In fact, our very first official date, in March of 1996, included dinner at Bennigan’s, and we gave them lots of business throughout our undergrad years and when we were first married. And then we thought they went out of business while we were in Gainesville, so it was a delight to be surprised with dinner there at about our 16th-year mark. A blast from the past, as they say. Of course, the menu has changed slightly in the years since we’ve been there, but they did still have a few of our favorites. So C. got major husband points for a sweet and surprising date night.

We had a bit more adventure on the way back – not so sweet but rather exciting. We headed back to the station, hopped on the light rail and were on our way home. Several stops down the line, a couple of young men hopped on the train. As it slid out of the station, one lit up a cigarette while the other shifted around restlessly. Before we got to the next station, the train slowed down and stopped, and the restless young man moved to pacing, and eventually to prying at the doors. As he kept trying to open them, his muttered expressions of frustration got louder and more agitated. The train stayed motionless, and I was thinking that the poor guy must be really claustrophobic to be so bothered by being stuck in an uncrowded train car. At this point he opened his backpack, rummaged around, and pulled out something that at first shock I thought was a knife. I glanced again and thought, “oh no, that’s just an ipod and some headphones or something. he must be looking to calm down by listening to music.” But no, I was right the first time. It was a knife. He proceeded to slide the blade between the doors and try again to force them open. The other guy crushed out his cigarette on the floor and came to help him, but it was no use, and pretty quickly they gave up, and he put his knife away. Then they moved down the car away from us and sat down. And then the train began moving again, and it was soon in the station. The doors didn’t open right away, but when they did, a policeman came in. He made a beeline for the man with the knife, cuffed him and took him off the train, sat him down outside and started asking him questions.

Now, I was impressed by how calmly the arrest, or whatever it was (he never said he was arresting him) went. The young man was quiet, the policeman was quiet, no one seemed overly anxious, everyone seemed ready to be reasonable. I also revised my ideas about why the guy might have been so nervous about being stuck. We heard something about him being pulled over in a car earlier in the evening, so maybe it wasn’t claustrophobia that had him prowling like a caged tiger, maybe he was worried about getting caught for whatever he did get caught for. At the same time that he made me a bit nervous, I also felt sorry for him because he hadn’t actually bothered anyone on the train – deliberately, I mean – so I hope he didn’t get arrested for his ill-judged, but harmless, actions while with us.

Exciting, no? After that station, everything else went smoothly, and we got home with no further adventures. The whole thing took nearly 5 hours, and we got home early enough to play a couple of board games, both of which I lost. But, as C. had planned and executed such a successful date night, I guess it’s okay that he won in the last part of it.

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Now no more the frost *

It may not officially be spring yet, but no one’s told the plant life around here:



so I guess it’s time for me to come out of hibernation.


The year started off right – with hoppin’ john –

but the following cold, gray days seemed to lend themselves to curling up in front of a fire with a hot drink, a warm blanket, and a paperback mystery or some knitting; not so much to going outside, exploring, and doing exciting and exotic things. Or, really, being very productive at all.

But now the sun’s usually out, the days are mostly warmer, and I’ve ventured further from the hearth lately.


A couple weeks ago, Aunt Pam came to visit for a few days, and she brought along a lot of laughter and chat. We baked cookies using a great-grandmother’s recipe, window shopped at the ritziest district in town, and went hiking at Henry W. Coe State Park.


Beautiful Aunt Pam

We were having a good old time, enjoying the serenity and the views of the Sierra Nevada and Diablo mountain ranges. Then I started reading about the wildlife that lives in the park. Coyotes. Rattlesnakes. Mountain lions. Suddenly the serenity seemed a little too lonely, too devoid of other people. We very bravely stayed around for awhile longer, had lunch and drove back down the mountain.

We also spent a short afternoon in Santa Cruz, where we saw kite surfers


and regular surfers, the latter of whom were shooting a movie (Of Men and Mavericks, we think). A friend told us this weekend that Santa Cruz surfers are very territorial. Apparently, a friend of his went to surf there, but they wouldn’t let him. I can just see them chasing him away like a wetsuit-clad pack of half-dogs, half-fish. Merdogs, maybe?


Then this past Saturday, C. and I drove up to Point Reyes National Seashore, which is a little over an hour north of San Francisco.

The black spots on the left are cows

Point Reyes is best known around here for dairy products, particularly very strong cheese. I guess this is where some of those “happy cows” live. They did look happy, come to think of it. So did the Tule elk who were hanging out with the cows at one of the ranches. The ranches are historic.


On Saturday, we parked at Drake’s Beach, where Sir Francis Drake had brought his ship in for repairs while exploring in the area. Then we took a bus up to the lighthouse.

It's as historic as the ranches

However, we couldn’t walk down to it because they close the stairs when the wind is above 40 mph.


Can you read that? It says the winds are up to 60 mph. It also says that three Pacific Gray whales had been seen that day. We stood for awhile, watching, but we didn’t get to see any. We did, however, see elephant seal pups, wildflowers called “footsteps of spring,” and pale sunshine silvering the turquoise sea. It was a beautiful place.


* Thomas Carew, “The Spring” (1640).

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In Memoriam



March 30, 1929 – June 15, 2011


June 18, 1916 – November 16, 2011


As I remember them... my childhood

Laughing with GeeDaddy

Dancing with Papa

Young and ...

... in love

At the beach with friends

Taking pictures in the back yard

This week is Thanksgiving, so I give thanks for my grandmothers, both amazing women who loved their families deeply and unconditionally. We will miss them terribly, but I’m also thankful for the many years I was able to know them and for their love. It’s too hard to put a nice, neat bow on this post, but there is some comfort in the belief that I’ll see them again, someday. It’s not much right now, but it helps.

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Grits & Gravy

Last Saturday, I made a tactical error. I was flipping through the channels and saw that PBS had on a show about banjos, narrated by Steve Martin. I like him, so I turned to channel 708 and found that it was about the history of the banjo and those who had made banjo music (relatively) popular in the twentieth century. Fairly interesting, especially if you’re the kind of person who always wants to learn new things.

The problem is, it made me homesick. Not terribly, gut-achingly so, just enough to make me feel unsettled, enough to remind me that my roots are in a part of the country I’m not currently in. My transplanted self has little here to hold on to as of yet.

The show, of course, didn’t mention Jacksonville once, and I don’t think Florida came up either, more generally. But it was all about the South in the last century. Hearing the bluegrass music and the Southern accents, seeing the pictures of falling-down shacks on the Blue Ridge, made California feel bland and fly-by-night. (This is ridiculous, as San Jose was founded in 1777.)

Solution: 1) listen to lots of country / bluegrass / Jimmy Buffett; 2) eat grits, and biscuits and gravy. It’s actually pretty difficult to find grits at a restaurant around here. (Funny story: C. and I went out for lunch with our pastor and his wife, and I unthinkingly ordered “half and half tea.” The waitress said, “Sure!” before she had to ask what I meant; she had no idea. I’d forgotten that sweet tea wasn’t necessarily going to be available everywhere – like at this restaurant – so they couldn’t do half-sweet and half-unsweet tea.)

Finally found them and went out this morning to get my fix. Grits, biscuits and gravy, sausage, and scrambled eggs. It seemed a little odd that they’d poured the gravy over the biscuits, the sausage and the eggs, and the gravy was distinctly chicken-flavored, but it was good enough. (I took a picture, but it looked like something threw up on an alien. Looked much better in person.) It will hold me over until I can hit up a Cracker Barrel during our Thanksgiving visit.

So, all y’all in the South, enjoy your sweet tea and your grits, your musical heritage, your friends who say, “bless your heart!” and your roots. They’re deep and strong.

Posted in Culture Shock | 4 Comments