Monthly Archives: April 2011

Parking Space Wars

Many of the homes on my quiet, narrow, suburban street have no driveway or garage (including ours) which means that cars are always parked along both sides of the street. Some of the homes have several drivers and often each driver has his or her own car and understandably everyone wants to park as close to their front door as possible.

Our across the street neighbor, when we first moved in, once knocked on our door in the middle of a party we were having to complain that someone had parked in front of her house. We had the offending car moved and made sure to never park in front of her house again.

A few years ago, after a teenager on the street got his license and a car to go with it, a parking space battle broke out. Sometimes one of the three cars from the home with the teenager would park a little over the next door neighbor’s property line and the neighbor would complain to whomever would listen about their parking spaces being infringed upon. The teenager or one of his parents would then park elsewhere on the street and another neighbor would complain. Finally they began parking on a side street and walked the half block to their own house in order to make peace with the neighborhood.

Because we live on a corner, our parking space is even more limited than other neighbors’ because one is not supposed to park within 16 feet of an intersection (which we discovered when we got a ticket for parking too close to the stop sign). We have three cars, but park at least one of them on a side street in order to not annoy our neighbors (although Andrew parks in front of a neighbors house all the time — they have a large parking area and have said they don’t mind him parking there).

The latest of the parking space battles is the silliest, I think, but then I’ve never been one for appearances. A neighbor who moved into a McMansion about a year ago apparently doesn’t appreciate another neighbor parking her old Cadillac in front of their house. About a month ago a large pile of branches found its way into the street in front of the new neighbor’s house. It is possible that the neighbors, being new, didn’t know that the county didn’t pick up branches over 4 feet long. it has been speculated that the neighbor put them there to prevent the old Cadillac from being parked in front of their home. I walked by the other day and was somewhat amused to see that the Cadillac was there, but behind the pile of branches.

Today I saw the branches were gone but the Cadillac has not been moved. The new neighbors do have a driveway and a garage, so their parking is taken care of. I doubt the Cadillac owner is parking in front of the McMansion out of spite — I just think it is easy for her do do so. I’m not well acquainted with either of these neighbors, but hope their battle, if indeed it is a battle, works itself out.

We’re not the only street with this problem in the area. My son once parked in another Bethesda neighborhood to help a friend’s family move furniture from a flooded basement to higher ground. When he returned to his car he found a nastily worded note on his windshield complaining about his parking in front of someone’s house.

My advice? Chill people. Life is too short for such pettiness.

Smithville, MS

Piggly Wiggly
Piggly Wiggly (photo courtesy of Corey Smith of Smithville)
Hardware Store
Hardware store hit twice in less than two weeks time. (photo courtesy of Corey Smith of Smithville)

My Aunt Ginny and Uncle Jack live a quiet existence in a town in Northeastern Mississippi. Their days usually consist of watching game shows, talk shows and the hunting channel on television, watching barges going up and down the Tenn-Tom Waterway outside their window or cooking healthy meals. Every few days they take a ride either North or South on Highway 25 for groceries, appointments or other errands.

The town of Fulton is to the North of their house — whose high school is most recently known for canceling prom before letting a lesbian attend with her girlfriend then staging a fake prom to humiliate her.

To their south is a town they like to visit called Amory. In between their house and Amory is a tiny town called Smithville (but pronounced “Smithvul” “Smifful” [thanks Kelli]), which, as Dean noted last week when we visited Aunt Ginny and Uncle Jack, has little to offer than a Dollar Store. Uncle Jack pointed out the post office when we drove past and we also noticed a Piggly Wiggly.

Last week a strong storm — possibly a tornado — went through Smithville and Uncle Jack took us for a ride to see the damage. We saw several trees down and the local hardware store’s metal roof had been blown off and was lying on the ground next to the building.

Yesterday afternoon a massive tornado hit the town and finished off the hardware store, destroyed the post office and heavily damaged both the Dollar Store and the Piggly Wiggly. Aunt Ginny said she saw it going up the waterway and thought it was headed towards her house so she and Uncle Jack took shelter.

While Smithville is nowhere near Bethesda — this is the closest I’ve come to this kind of destruction, having seen the town intact a little over a week ago. My heart goes out to the residents of the town and all other towns affected by the storms yesterday.

Dollar Store
Dollar Store in Smithville, MS (photo courtesy of Corey Smith of Smithville)
Post office
Post office in Smithville, MS (photo courtesy of Corey Smith of Smithville)

Dona and the Three Books

When last you heard from me I was lamenting my inability to finish a book. Good news! I finished 3 books since last Saturday. I finished 3 books in less than a week. I don’t remember the last time I did something like that — perhaps elementary school.

Please note, I did not begin and finish the three books in less than a week. I just finished them although I did start and finish one within 36 or so hours.

[openbook booknumber=”9781400052189″ templatenumber=”2″]The book that pulled me out of my slump was The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I wasn’t excited about reading it — it was for my women-only book group. Someone suggested it a few months ago and the next month the host chose it for book group however it hadn’t been published in paperback at that time so we held off reading it until it was in paperback. I saw it at Costco and reluctantly picked it up.

The first couple of dozen pages did not leave me wanting more, but I persevered and after a while really began enjoying the book which goes back and forth between an in-depth discussion of cellular biology and a story about the family of the woman whose cells, taken and used for research without her informed consent, have led to many medical breakthroughs including the polio vaccine and the discovery that some strains of HPV is directly responsible for cervical cancer.

I preferred the science part of the book, which is unusual for me because I normally don’t like non-fiction. I had a difficult time relating to the family in the book. The author was brutally honest in her depiction of them — something she’d promised the daughter of Henrietta Lacks. I became weary of the daughter and her histrionics wore me out just reading about it.

I learned a lot about patient rights from this book — some things I’d never even thought about. I’m looking forward to our book group discussion of this one.

Directly after finishing Henrietta Lacks, I began reading Room by Emma Donoghue which arrived on my doorstep Saturday afternoon. Room was another book I was not looking forward to reading — I don’t like books written in a child’s voice. I didn’t want to read about a child and mother locked away in a room for years and years. I didn’t want to buy a hard cover book. I bit the bullet, however, and ordered it from Amazon (along with a cookbook I didn’t need). Truth be told — I did vote for Room when asked to choose my top three books out of a list of books I’d either read before and didn’t want to re-read or books I had no desire to read in the first place.

It took me from Saturday afternoon through Sunday night to finish Room and not because I loved it. It was compelling — I’ll say that about it. And I liked it more than I thought I would. I’ll not say any more about it in case you’re planning on reading it. I never got used to the child’s strange speech pattern and I felt it was unbelievable in parts.

After finishing Room I felt free to go back to Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson, which I did love. It is a sweet quirky romantic book with a couple of great characters. The fact that the author’s kids go to my son’s school is only a small reason I chose to read the book in the first place — I’d seen it on my “recommendations” page on Amazon and sitting in a friend’s living room. I suggested it for book group and no one was in the least interested. Ah well, I suppose it is a light read — not a lot of controversy really. It will make a pleasant movie — I’m hoping that the author gets her wish and Major Pettigrew is played by John Cleese.

So now I’m bookless — Fingersmith may be my next book, but I am listening to another Sarah Waters book at the moment and don’t want to confuse myself. I think I’ll read Susan Coll’s* Beach Week — to prepare myself for what to expect when my son leaves for his trip when school is out for Seniors.

*another (former) Whitman parent/author

I’m delighted that I am out of my reading slump. I feel back to myself again.

So many books…

I feel like I’ve written this post before. I have a lot of books — books cause only mild guilt when I purchase them. When I can purchase them for a discount, for instance at Costco, all the better. Add that to being in two book groups and the long wait-time for popular books at the local library. Nearly every room in this house has a book or two (or a dozen) waiting to be read.

Besides the bookshelf filled with double-shelved books in my bedroom, most of which I want to read, I’ve got Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand sitting on my (bookshelf) headboard, face-down, open to the page I stopped reading a couple of nights ago. On my dresser is Let the Great World Spin, the book both book groups read and discussed that I got halfway through and found too boring to finish. (I don’t like books that are made up of short stories, even if they are connected by something). On Dean’s side of the headboard of the bed is The Siege of Krishnapur, another bookgroup read that I got partway through. I do plan to read all of these books.

In the living room I have more bookshelves filled with mostly read, but some unread books. On the table next to the couch are two more books. One is a bookgroup book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and a book I bought to read for fun, Fingersmith. I’m on page 23 of Henrietta Lacks and find it, okay but not exciting. I really want to read Fingersmith. but don’t feel right starting it with so many other books partway read.

The family room holds more bookshelves with double-shelved books as does Clare’s room. My office has work-related books I should read, especially since I’m planning on going back to work full-time in the fall.

It is not that I don’t have time to read — I have oodles of free-time, but I spend it on the Internet or watching television. Is it possible that I don’t like to read anymore? Has the Internet or aging changed my love of the written word?

I blame part of it on belonging to book groups — I don’t read non-book group books when I have a book group book to read out of guilt but don’t like the assigned books so don’t read at all.

I’d quit one or both book groups but they are pretty much the extent of my non-family related social life. Without them I’d be even more of a hermit.

This is an ongoing question, and a real problem for me — not the number of books in the house, but the number of books I want/need to read. Something needs to change and I don’t know what it will be.

Update: I read more of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks last night (about 1/3 of it) and am out of my reading slump. I’m really enjoying it now. Let’s hope it lasts!