This cleaning thing? Once you start with one little thing, it leads on and on and on and on... This morning I gave Andrew a haircut/trim. His hair is way down his back, nearly to his waist, and I noticed that every morning he was struggling to get through the nasty tangles at the ends. So I trimmed off several inches of brittle and split ends and he says that now it feels soft again, like it is supposed to. When we were done I got out the vacuum cleaner -- remember MFHATCBUIFOTC? -- to suck up the hair. The next thing I knew I was moving laundry baskets and vacuuming behind the dryer and scrubbing the floor under the sink. Sheesh.
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Did you ever notice how calm and peaceful the house seems when you [finally] turn off the vacuum?
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I'm reading A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka right now and finding it immensely funny and touching. Last night Smokey noticed the title and gave me a quizzical look, so I tried to explain the plot to him. "It's about an old man who came from Ukraine years ago and his wife died two years ago and now he's managed to hook himself up with a much younger Ukrainian woman who married him to get out of Ukraine and she came to England with her teenage son and both of the man's grown daughters are very much opposed to the whole thing. And everyone is Russ--, er, Ukrainian, so they are all drama queens."
I realized as I said it that I almost committed a cultural sin by confusing Russia with Ukraine, but at least I caught myself. Today I was thinking about how I so easily characterized the characters as drama queens and equated that with their heritage. My total acquaintance with Ukrainians is zilch; with Russians it is limited to reading Dostoeyevsky and seeing Ruth's Russian florist boyfriend on Six Feet Under. That lack of close personal knowledge is probably what led me to make the stereotype observation. Stereotypes are so much less useful when you actually know something about the subject.
Andrew and I both found the same thing irritating about Dostoeyevsky's characters: they love to suddenly throw themselves about in fits of unprovoked, unexplained intense emotion. Being stoic Scandinavian types ourselves (another stereotype, one that, like most, contains a tiny nugget of truth) we don't understand this and find it intensely annoying.
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Every time I think of Valentina's phrase, "Squishy squashy. Flippy floppy," it makes me laugh. I was going to tell Smokey this phrase as an example of what I was finding so delightful about the book when I remembered something I have observed during years of enduring endlessly forwarded e-mail jokes: women find this kind of joke much funnier than men do. Go figger.
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The Russian/Ukrainian drama queen thing started my psychiatric nurse husband thinking. He often has to deal with teen-aged drama queens in the hospital, and they are among his least favorite patients. Every little thing -- white bread instead of whole wheat with dinner, a lost lipstick, a denied phone call -- becomes the occasion for a patient-inspired, patient-centered, me-me-me drama, which is a waste of energy for the staff. "Drama queen as a cultural norm," he mused. "I never thought of it like that..."
That what I love about good fiction. It seems to me often to be emotionally truer than factual reading. Ideas can be presented in ways that sneak past our ideological screens and plant their seeds in our consciousness. It broadens our emotional horizons.