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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The End, My Friend

Friends are interested in what’s in Hanford, Washington State and what it is Steve does here.  Hanford is the nuclear waste site for the approximately 100 metric tons of plutonium used in making weapons for the Cold War.  You remember the good ol’ fifties that Conservatives want to get back to.  We NEEDED that plutonium because the generals wanted to be prepared for 45 nuclear exchanges per hour.  Now, you might ask, what would be left after the first hour?  The answer is, I don’t know but not much. 

Steve works on hazard analysis at the Site.  That’s all I can tell you. I memorize one simplistic line about each project he’s worked on, and that’s it for this one.  Previous one-liners include:  measuring acid rain, working on methodology for cleaning up the Valdez oil spill, dismantling and storing material from Russian nuclear subs, securing nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union.  I know, right?  The only other thing I can tell you is that all his work happens in god-forsaken places, and here we are.   

More interesting to me is, why is Hanford called Hanford?  I’m going on a tour of the original reactor next week, so I hope I can to report the answer back to you.  (That would not be Reactor B.  Why isn’t it called Reactor A?  I don’t know that either. Was there a Reactor A, and, if so, what happened to it?)  The name makes no sense.  We’re here in the tri-cities [Richland (including West Richland), Kennewick and, across the bridge, Pasco].  None of the cities is called Hanford.  I know Hanford is the Hanford Reservation, but you’d think it would be called the Yakama Reservation because it is on, well, the Yakama Indian Reservation.  Yeah, I could Google the name, but what fun is that?

Meanwhile, I get up at 5:45 three mornings a week to take Steve to work.  Occasionally he needs the car to go to a meeting or go out to the Site, but ,otherwise, on Mondays and Wednesdays, I drop off and pick up him and his colleague, Jim.  Jim’s wife drives Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we each take our man the every other Friday that they work.  It’s taken me several weeks of this commute to notice the name of the office building they work in:  Omega Park.

I don’t know if there’s an Alpha Park; I haven’t seen it. (Maybe it went the way of Reactor A; who knows?) It would be fun, though to drive from an Alpha Park to Omega Park: from A to Z, from beginning to end. Well, all we have is Omega, the end.  We hope it’s the end as in, the Hanford Site is all safely cleaned up, and there’s no danger and no more work here; we hope it’s not the end as in, BOOM.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It's Becoming

I grew up when girls had long hair and wore dresses.  Trousers of any sort were forbidden at school except for snow pants on a winter’s day, and then they had to be removed at the classroom door.  (Anyone remember cloak rooms?)  I, however, was a tomboy.  Somehow I buffaloed my Mom, usually so conscious of social norms, into letting me lop off my hair (think a cute bob a la Rachel Maddow).  Out of school, I ran around in my brother’s old Tee shirts and jeans.  (Well, my Mom was a product of the Great Depression; hand-me-downs were a fact of a third child’s life.)  Even as a little girl, I did not like the constraints of a stereotype. 
My own daughter was a petite, slim child (read “small and skinny”) on the outside but indomitable on the inside.  The days of gender dress were over, and I have vivid memories of her racing through her aunt’s kitchen and out the door with an enormous millipede between her fingers, screaming triumphantly, “Look what I’ve got!  Look what I’ve got!” 

Then there were the hours of delightful play as she entertained her brother thinking up ways to kill the doll Billy by having him jump off the dollhouse roof, fall out the dollhouse window or slip in the dollhouse bathtub.  Sweet girl.  Her ambition was to be the person who went down in the shark cage.  She was a wonderful child and easy to raise but pink tutus and tea parties, not so much, either of us.

My Perfect Granddaughter?  That’s different story.  She chooses the pink and the frilly every time.  We laugh and say she must have gotten her girlie streak from her dad.  She knows all the Disney princesses, and the thrill of her life was getting done up at the Bippety Boppety Boutique at Disney World.  She’s nobody’s pushover, believe me, but she is all girl.  

(Alan got done up, too)

When she was misbehaving at the dinner table (both my grandchildren are Perfect, so although I can’t remember what she was doing, I’m sure she was doing it to perfection), my daughter rebuked her mildly with, “Stop it, Suzannah; that’s not becoming.”

My head swiveled, and I mouthed, “Not becoming?”

My daughter shrugged, “It works.” 

And so it did. Suzie sat up straight, smiled and became a model girl.

Don’t you wish it were always that easy?  The mean kids bully a meek one in the parking lot, so you walk over and say, “That’s not becoming.” They immediately stop and extend hands of friendship.

Secret service agents in Colombia:  “That’s not becoming,” and they zip their flies and return to the hotel, alone, and sober.

The mental cloud following you around?  Shake your fist at the sky and say firmly, “That’s not becoming,” and the universe shapes up and sends you a sunny, sunny day.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Drive a Homonym

Kia makes a little car called -- I kid you not, the Sou.  When Budget told us that’s what we’d be renting, what I heard was Sol.  You know, like the sun.  Yeah, that made sense to me; I’d be driving around in a yellow car called the Sun.  Sizzlin’!  Or maybe it would be “Sole” like a way to get around but better than on foot.  It never occurred to me that they would name a car after the spirit within. 
But, no, when I saw it, it was the Soul.  Should you miss the name in chrome on the tail of the car, you certainly cannot miss it emblazoned all over the comfortably padded seat backs:  soulsoulsoulsoul.    Sort of makes you hesitant to lean back too hard for fear of squashing.  Don’t get me wrong, though; the Soul is a good little car.  It’s a box-like vehicle that handles surprisingly well for, what seems to me its non-aerodynamic shape.  The knee to pedal ratio is really good (always an issue for me with my lanky legs), and the storage in the back is adequate.  Gas mileage isn’t bad.  Ours, ironically, is the color of gray mud.  All I have to do in parking lots is look for the mud box, and that’s us. 
I like everything about the car except its lack of rear view visibility.  The view in the rear view mirror seems pretty good, but then a car whooshes by on your right, and you had no idea it was there.  Glancing to your right rear won’t help either.  There are big, freakin’ frame spans between the back side and rear windows that obscure all attempts to see what’s there.  My husband showed me how to angle the right mirror waaaay out so that I could see into the right lane behind me.  That does the trick.  The view to the right rear is a bit better because that is the side where the driver is sitting.  Still, it’s less than optimum to be always just praying that you’re not going to ram someone as you pull over into the lane next to you.
Did you ever rant that some people were soulless?  Did you ever really think it?  (Politicians excluded -- that’s not where I’m going with this, honest.)  In my over-analytical, over-imaginative mind, I clearly see the connection between the problems of the Soul and the soul.  Many people we consider soulless or conscienceless (politicians or no) are those that never look back.  If they do look back, something in their makeup obscures what they are able to see in the past.  This means, of course, that they are not able to link what’s been done in the past to what’s going on now to what will happen in the future.  No vision of consequences means no progress for the soul. 
Now, though, if you worry that you’re not kind enough or righteous enough or spiritual enough, if you worry you don’t have a soul, you can simply buy one.  Yes, you can.  Granted, it’s a Soul you climb into instead of a soul that’s inside you, but you can go to your Kia dealer and pick one up.  Problem solved.
I think I’d prefer driving a Sol, a sparkling star, than a Soul.  I imagine myself humming along the highway, bursting with light, illuminating the landscape, being an inspiration to everyone driving by.  Oooh, you can buy a sun from Honda.  It sports a removable roof from which, I image, your soul can fly.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Yummy Yellow Jubilee

Later today, we’re heading back to Washington State.  We’ve had a wonderful time with the Perfect Grandchildren.  There was the dying of the Easter Eggs and two Easter Egg Hunts (one at their house, one at the neighbor’s).  There were the early morning snuggles and the tire swing and the games.  The activity that stands out, though, was Suzannah’s birthday dinner.  We were unable to get here in time for her actual birthday and birthday party, but her parents reserved an evening for a special birthday dinner. 
What’s your favorite meal?  Any meal you want and calories not be regarded.

Perhaps you’re a steak fan and would go for a medium rare fillet with Bearnaise sauce, fresh, crisp green beans with toasted almonds and a baked potato gobbed with butter and sour cream.

Maybe you’re more of a rack of lamb kind of person.  Maybe seeing those little paper hats popping up from plate gets your saliva dripping.  Next to them picture quinoa cooked in broth and a wooden bowl filled with Romaine lettuce and heritage tomatoes.  Shall we toss them with a nice raspberry balsamic vinaigrette?

Or do you eschew red meat in favor of a lobster tail with a pot of drawn butter, asparagus sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and a mound of fluffy jasmine rice?

How about fat scallops sauteed with mushrooms and onions and a nice sticky mound of vegetable risotto?

Wait.  Wait a minute.  You’re not an eight-year-old.  Think back to your childhood where anything complicated was unreliable and anything green entirely out of the question.  Suzannah’s Daddy promised to cook anything she wanted, and Suzie intended to take full advantage of the offer.  She danced around as she announced what I think of as The Yummy Yellow Jubilee, the entire menu being in the color of children everywhere’s favorite meals.

When the wonderful night came, we loaded our plates with macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes whipped with lots of butter and real cream, corn, and sliced my daughter’s homemade bread which waiting to be slathered with more butter.

 For dessert, we diverted from the yellow theme and scarfed down an ice cream cake made of white cake and Oreo cookie ice cream.

Given my druthers of meals, I’d go for the scallops or possibly the lamb, but given my choice of company, I’ll take the Yummy Yellow Jubilee menu with my Perfect Grandchildren.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chef Nana

I am here, my long awaited trip to babysit my Perfect Grandchildren while my daughter, accompanied by my son-in-law, attends a professional conference.  The children have been excited.  I’ve been excited!  My four-year-old grandson has talked and talked to his parents about my cooking.  Believe me, this is a surprise to us all. 
Yes, I often have a cooking activity when I’m with my grandchildren.  Once, flipping through my neighbor’s children’s cookbook (she, unlike me, gets great joy and satisfaction from cooking for and feeding people), I found a recipe for banana caterpillars.   They had a great time making them,but at the time, Alan didn’t like peanut butter, so he wouldn’t eat his.  At Christmas, we made a gingerbread house.  (I bought a kit.  On sale).  After the holiday, I put the house down on a clean tablecloth and gave them a hammer.  Bam!  Those things taste like cardboard, but there was enough sugar and candy that they scarfed it down anyway. I’ll stamp out a few cookies with them, too, and let them drizzle them over with watery powdered sugar colored with food coloring.  I can be fun, but I’m hardly the epitome of grandmotherly baking.


In any case,  when he greeted me at the airport, Alan’s first question was, was I going to cook that evening.  No, not for two more days, after his parents left.  I do not not cook when I visit.  I’m not entirely devoid of shame, I do cook when I have visitors, or I, you know, call for takeout.  Still, when we picked Alan up at daycare the next day, the daycare worker said she had heard I was going to cook.  Somehow, I’ve made an impression.

When Alan went to daycare the next day, Suzie, who was on Spring break, went to the older kids’ camp.  I checked with my daughter, "Did you tell them you and their Dad would be gone when I pick them up?"

“What was their reaction?”


So that part was okay.  I picked them up early, still puzzling over what I was going to prepare for dinner.  We played outside for a while, and I settled them in front of a cartoon while I went to work in the kitchen.  Eggs are okay for dinner, right?  Then Egg-in-a hole it is, with the heart shaped cut-outs toasted and served on the side and a few fresh strawberries on the plate.  Suzie was enthusiastic.  Alan glowed.  They ate every bite.

Chef Nana, that’s me.  I may cook with desperation, but you all know the secret ingredient: love.