Saturday, December 24, 2005

it takes a village to make a life

It's christmas eve morning, and the house is relatively peaceful so I feel like I should spend some time composing an incredibly beautiful and thoughtful post to send out to my world of people - something to just blow you all away with its wisdom and caring and such, but those brain juices are having problems turning on, you know? I'll simply say that I am thinking of you all this christmas, and am ... thankful. Your individual marks on me make my life what it is. You're my peeps, I love you, and you rock my world.

I thought this "merry christmas" versus "happy holiday" thing was mildly funny. But now it's bumming me out. It's bringing out much ugliness. Maybe I'm naive, but I like to imagine that at holiday time, at least, the best of people filters up. I'm not ready for a giant group hug, but smiles and gentle spirits and good wishes are part of this time of year, for me. I was in line at Farm Fresh and the cashier wished the lady in line in front of me a merry christmas. "Yes...YES!!!!" the lady spurted out. "Thank you! I am REFUSING to say anything else. M.E.R.R.Y. C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.!!!!!" (which spewed forth from her mouth coated in venom and judgement and hatefulness). I breathed in deeply and rolled my eyes, which the cashier happened to see. So when it was my turn, she eyed me with distrust, and as she handed me my receipt, she said "MERRY CHRISTMAS" quite deliberately. I said "Thank you," I smiled, and left.

So by opening up my arms wide to embrace the religious celebrations of christmas, hanukkah, winter solstice, and the secular celebrations centered around the new year and all the good feelings and hopes for peace and kindness in the world, by wishing the world a happy holiday season, I have become offensive. It's not even an argument of "You're not recognizing my religious beliefs", but one of "You're not respecting my religious beliefs because you recognize there are others as well." Can you BE more intolerant? I am not offended if people wish me a Merry Christmas...nor a Happy Solstice, or a Happy Hanakkah. I don't understand the vitriol in all this. "Take my religion - take it IN YOUR FACE - there you are, you have a MERRY CHRISTMAS so there." Thank you.

It can just make me sad, which is why I surround myself this time of year with people I understand and love and I pretend that my world is all that there is. My kids are singing in the choir this afternoon at the christmas eve services at UU. After that, a great big bunch of us will be be communing together over at David and Deborah's house. It's become our tradition to do this every year (thanks to Deborah and David for opening up their house!). We'll celebrate with delicious hors d'overs and wine, and the children will run wild in their playroom while we adults talk and talk and talk and talk and talk. Tomorrow afternoon, we'll walk down to B and K's house for another great big huge christmas day dinner, again with a big bunch of friends (many of the same ones) and tons of food and drink, and we'll celebrate together again. And then the next day we fly out to Texas to spend the week with my family.

In the words of Alfred Tennyson: "I am part of all that I have met"
So in my world, it's all good.

Brief administrative comment - I've turned on the word verification option for comments to keep out some of the spam comments I occasionally have to go in and delete. PLEASE don't let it keep you from commenting! I love love love hearing from anyone (who is not trying to sell something) on this blog.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

well that helped.

I found some good therapy for my mopey feelings. It required only a track from my Earth Wind and Fire CD (September), a CD player with big speakers, a big open room, and my two most wonderful beautiful good-hearted fun-loving mommy-loving children and we danced with ABANDON.

Ooooh - I can tell!! You're kind of singin' now, aren't you!? See, I'm not the only sad sad sometimes-throwback from the 70s.

It's only a brief snippet, but Click on the track you want to hear:

Monday, December 19, 2005


I'm having a terribly difficult time getting into the christmas spirit (or holiday spirit, for those of us who can't let go of being politically correct). I've been wondering this: As I get older, is it just that I know more people and have experienced more time so the odds of seeing sadness in the lives of those I love is greater? Or is it that when you're younger, you are just so focused on the clean, new lines of the innocence of a hopeful future that you skip right on over any cracks or stains - that you just don't notice reality? Have I selectively forgotten? This doesn't seem so likely - I think I just never noticed, or never chose to notice in the first place.

DH's brother is not doing well. There is no official diagnosis in yet, but I don't have much hope that anything other than aggressive pancreatic cancer is going to be in our vocabulary for the next few years. I've been focused on the fact that he has no insurance, so I've been researching ways for him to find a way to healthcare as a way of not having to think about the fact that he has a very bad kind of cancer and it is possible/likely that he is going to die in the next few years. There are so many of my loved ones who are going through their individual hells right now - if you read this and think I'm talking about you, I probably am, but along with about ten others, and I'm not exaggerating on the numbers. There is so much sadness and despair out there in the lives of people I love right now.

I'm hoping this is a fluke and a phase, and that the sine curve will turn back up soon. I hope this isn't a preamble to what it's going to be like to be middle-aged. I'm not sad in a teary, sniffing way - I'm just tired, and I don't want to stay like this.

I crawled into bed beside Q a little bit ago, to just hold onto him and feel his strong little body and feel his warmth. It's a good thing that he sleeps like a log - poor kid. I'd snuggle up next to my E too, but her bed is so littered with books and magazines and stuffed animals that it would be painful for me. DH fell asleep on the little couch and I don't want to wake him, so I suppose I'll let him spend the night cramped up and make the crick in his neck even worse. Me, I think it's time to go lay on my big bed and force my mind into dreams and daydreams of love and happy endings.

There are some good, fun things coming up for me so hopefully I won't be in such a funk for long. I have a date with my friend Deborah for wine at a fancy smanshy place on Wednesday, we're caroling in the neighborhood on Friday, and Saturday will be christmas eve with a service at UU where my kids will perform in the choir, and a get-together with wonderful friends at David and Deborah's house afterwards. Santa will be making an appearance too. Surely all this will lift my spirits, right?

Sunday, December 18, 2005

see? *told* ya...

...that Bruce Hornsby is one of my buds. I just saw him at the Fresh Market. He came in with one of his sons while we were leaving. In fact, Q was running through the in and out doors in a circle while we were paying, and nearly ran Bruce into the wall.

Obviously, he's following me.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

it could be worse

I begin this post with a warning. This is a completely selfish sort of whine-fest, so unless you're bored totally out of your mind or you have some kind of stalker interest in me, you may want to breeze right on past this one.

We've got an infestation of praying mantids (apparently, that is the correct form for the plural of mantis) in our living room. Our christmas tree came with some egg sacs attached as an added bonus, and once inside in the balmy temperatures of our living room, they decided it was spring and crept out to begin life...all several hundred of them. At least they're not black widows, as we had a nest of in the corner of our living room several years ago. That was makings for a horror movie. This is just a little bit annoying.

I called mom on my way home the other day because I was about to burst into tears whilst driving 65 down the interstate (I never go over the speed limit, you know. Nope, never. Uh-uh.) I can't explain it other than I was just feeling so SAD. My friend Jamie had a very similar experience, though she ended up sobbing in her kitchen over some unidentified reason and the makings of supper, completely baffling her husband. Jamie attributes hers to adrenalein let-down. She's a college music professor and just finished the year's busiest month of concert after concert, on top of the normal bustle for families this time of year. When you're going so fast with life getting crazier and crazier and then stop on a dime, that throws your system all out of whack. Well, that explains her breakdown, maybe, but not mine. I'm still going pell-mell, just on the verge of out of control. Guess what I've done this holiday season? I am proud. I sent in two boxes of storebought holiday cookies, with the price tags still attached, no less, for Q's school party rather than slave over making some only equally delicious homemade ones. I have given up on giving E's teacher a handknit holiday gift and bought her a ready-to-go gift card to a bookstore. I turned Jamie's lovely hand-knit scarf from a birthday present (December 12) to a christmas present, or maybe a New Year's presnt. I let the kids put up ALL the holiday decorations, including the mantle, which has always been my domain. I'm going to totally wing the YRUU (Unitarian Universalist Youth Group) class I'm teaching tomorrow - NO idea what I'll talk about (I'm not so proud of this one and am starting to worry). I'm letting some things go, see?

On a totally different topic, but still in the whine-fest mode, I am officially renaming today, December 17, "bad customer service day." The firewood guy never showed up or called back, so we have only a minimal stack of firewood to face this horrific SE US winter. This could end up a serious hardship, you know. We tried to eat at Chili's tonight after driving through the lights in the park. The hostess, started out looking like she was surely of at least average intelligence but ended up not knowing the difference in a 10 minute wait and a 20-25+ minute wait. As we had three children with us who were hungry and on the verge of breaking down, we walked out and went to Sonic...which left a diet coke and a plain double cheesburger out of our order, which in turn meant we had to wait for the missing burger to be cooked.


But yes I know it sure could be a lot worse. I've got my tummy full now and my wine glass full, er, nearly empty, and I've got my cozy living room full of tired children watching TV and praying mantids. What more!!??

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

don't let me slip - I'm up on my soapbox

A friend sent me an email today - one of those "Hurry, send to everyone you know" emails that was a story about Jesus being all sad and upset because he thought everyone was celebrating his birthday around this time of year, but people keep forgetting to invite him to the party.


I don't know if I can roll my eyes with enough exaggeration to express my feelings about this - and I'm guessing anyone reading this who knows me can indeed guess my feelings about this.

Anyone care for a brief history lesson? (yes I had to do some internet snooping, er, research, to find details of this stuff. No way can I keep all this stuff in my already muddled mind, though I retain the generalities).

Let's visit Ancient Babylon - Feast of the Son of Isis (Horus) on December 25. 'kay - we're talking about a thousand years or so before the birth of Jesus. So, Horus is the son of the "queen of heaven", Isis. Coincidentally, she is also described as a virgin mother. Celebration of the birth of this son of the virgin mother includes "Raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving..."

Breeze on over to the Romans, who were celebrating Saturnalia, a holiday for Saturn, the god of agriculture. They celebrated this each year beginning December 17, and ran it for 7 days until December 25, and their celebrations were marked by "postponing all business and warfare, exchanging gifts, and temporarily freeing their slaves". Lessee, this is going on maybe a bit before and just after 0 B.C.

Mithras - an religious cult of ancient Rome (several thousand years BC) sounds just crazily the same as christianity. He was the son of the Sun God and a virgin mother, born on December 25, and was born to save the world from its "sin". Shepherds attended his birth. Nuts! Nuts, I tell you!

And the celtic religions - based on the circles of nature and the universe. They noticed the solstice occuring in late December every year (or whatever related time their calendars said). These celebrations honored the shortest day of the year - the rebirth of the son. *Thousands* of years B.C. I can only imagine how ancient we are talking here.

I could go on but won't. There are countless examples of ancient traditions centered on or around this time of year we now call December 21-25. The tilt of the earth's axis, the angle to the sun, the length of the days, these all these make it noteworthy, so it's no surprise that so many ancient celebrations occured this time of year. It's a noteworthy mark in our natural seasons that has been celebrated, presumably as long as humans have noted that cycle.

As the Imperial Romans tried to spread Christianity, they made it more palatable to the masses by merging their celebrations to those pagan holidays already loved and celebrated. Jesus of the bible wasn't born in December - best guesses have it placed in mid- to late summer, so don't try to tell me this is really the day that scholars think Jesus was born.

So those of you who would complain to me of highjacking "your" holiday, give me a break. I'm celebrating it in love and with hopes of peace. I'm imagining wonderful things happening for humankind - for our planet - for the universe. Hopefully you're celebrating it with as much spirituality and goodwill as that, and not wasting your time trying to prove to the world that you are holier than others who are not like you.

I like my friend. I'm not going to share all this with her. I'm going to wish her a merry christmas (rather than "happy holidays") and am glad for her that she's celebrating it in her individually chosen spiritual way. I'm going to assume she wasn't thinking about the fact that I am an atheist when she included me on her "send" list.

But I'm not going to stop wishing that everyone, and particularly those fundamentalist christians who have conveniently forgotten history, would open their minds enough to realize that people who do not believe like them are not new, and are not evil. You know?

This time of year is magical to me and to many people for a wide diversity of reasons. Let's find the common ground - the wishes for peace and the joy in being with family and loved ones, and celebrate those, eh? This is my wish for the new year.
Fat chance, huh? Or maybe not. I will be hopeful until I take my last breath.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

city mouse/country mouse

When the lights - go down - in the city
and the sun shines on the bay
oh I want to be there, in my city
oooh - oooh - ohohoh

Many thanks to Carolyn for reminding me of this song as we cut out of the AGU meeting last Tuesday and drove out to Point Reyes. I tried to counter her curse by chiming in "Do you know the way to San Jose" but it backfired and I ended up with BOTH of those silly songs running through my head all week.

And just to prove I was there, here I am. You can't tell from the picture because I'm wearing a jacket, but I ate so much this last week in San Francisco that I gained 50 pounds. It's mostly because of Gao. He took us out several times for Chinese food and would order for us all (in Chinese). I'm not 100% positive what I ate, but it was good - even the Chicken tongue (that's a joke).

Can I just say - I love San Francisco? If I could go back in time and relive some of my younger (i.e. pre-children) days, I would live there in downtown SF. Or New York. I'm a dichotomy, I know - on one hand loving the natural environment and the peace of the country or coastlines like California or Maine, but on the other hand, there is something about a big city downtown that resonates with me. I'd love to walk down to get some Chaz's coffee on the corner every morning, and pick up some flowers from the vendor on the way. Or pop over to Chinatown for lunch on a whim.

Speaking of which - here are J., Gao and Chieko from last night (?...I haven't slept since then so it feels off to say that) when we popped over to Chinatown for dinner before our flights out. We crazy NASA scientists. (heh)

I haven't seen my sweeties yet. They are all down the peninsula - the two small ones at a science camp and the larger one putting in some extra hours at work. They'll all be back home in a few hours. This is when I should be trying to get some sleep, but I can never sleep during the day. I am going with DH to his office christmas party tonight, so I know I will be miserably tired. Ah well.

One more picture before I go. This is where we had lunch on Tuesday.
(and I did go to the meeting a little bit this week - really, I did)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

me and bruce

Yowza. Life's been on overdrive for the last week.

E's birthday has come and gone. Her sleepover party started with 5 guests and ended with 1 remaining the next morning. The others left under various states of duress throughout the night. That's about what I expected for a 5/6/7 year old sleepover. E's 7 and happy now, so it was a success.

I leave for San Francisco tomorrow - anyone reading send good vibes for my husband and children to survive without me. I know, of course, that they'll be fine but I like to think it'll be a struggle without me.

And hey - I have a new buddy now. Me and Bruce Hornsby - we're like *this*, you know. For the uninitiated, Bruce is a local around here in the Burg - it's not weird to see him just about anywhere around town. I've seen him at Target once, in fact. Well, he's a part owner in the newest radio station here in town (which, by the way, FINALLY gives us some good music to listen to). For publicity, he's giving a holiday concert here at the college the main Hall, which, coincidentally, is where my kids take gymnastics. As I was watching them do their cartwheels and pullups ands roundoffs today, I kept hearing very wonderful music wafting through the air. I finally realized they were rehearsing for the concert tonight (actually, John had to tell me what was going on). I wandered up the stairs to the gymnasium and came out about 50 feet away from the MAN himself. The crew was busy playing basketball in the corner so no one looked at me and I made myself comfortable and watched them jam and improvise and joke around for about an hour. How cool is that? I tried to call Marion ASAP so she could enjoy it with me but my cell phone wouldn't work in there.

So Bruce and I, we're good buddies now. We had a meaningful moment when our eyes met , and I could tell he was either thinking "Who in the h*ll is that?" or "Wow, she is so gorgeous and fun-looking and hip and cool that I cannot sleep well again until I can call her my friend." I prefer to believe the latter of course. And I gave him a little wink (which may have been actually a twitch) and a smile to let him know I could indeed read his thoughts and I was open to hanging out with him at Aromas anytime for a coffee.

By the way, I am not *at* the concert tonight because B and K asked me, like about 2 months ago, to babysit for them tonight so they could go. Being the wonderful friend that I am, I happily agreed. I was not so happy after watching the rehearsal today, and briefly thought about several creative ways to weasel out of our agreement, but nah. Bruce and I are good buddies, but I have some pretty great other friends too.

Monday, November 28, 2005

mr. darcy

I saw two versions of Pride and Prejudice this weekend. Oh, for the love of Mr. Darcy!! (sigh, sigh, sigh) I feel like I'm in high school again. HOW did I not read this book in High School? As soon as Erin is able, she's going to know all of Jane Austen's novels.

But to serious business:
Tell me, which Mr. Darcy is the best, the truest?

Mr. Darcy number one (Colin Firth)

or Mr. Darcy number 2
(Matthew Macfadyen)

I thought no one would ever be able to play Darcy again because Colin Firth *became* Darcy, but Matthew Macfadyen has the whole blue eyes and tousled hair thing going for him. I was impressed that he can even try in my mind. He wasn't bad at all.

Now back to my 21st century, middle class, regular life.

....(adding this later)....
Here's the first vote: E came in and saw my blog. I told her the story of P&P in a couple of sentences, and she pointed straight at Colin Firth (Mr. Darcy number 1), no hesitation whatsoever.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

fifteen wonderful years

Bye bye to my first baby Callias. It was definitely time to say goodbye, and though all of our hearts are aching at my house right now, we've got lots of memories of a good, faithful, and eternally happy puppy to keep us warm.

Love you, Callias.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

one holiday down

Done. Did the big dinner party and no one went home with food poisoning.
Here is my restaurant-looking, candle-laden house for about 2 seconds before the ambiance was altered (altered, not destroyed):

And here is some of our food spread, sans the appetizers and desserts.

B asked me if I was going to give a Unitarian Universalist blessing, at which I responded "Sure - everyone recite their own personal passage of thanks - ready, set go!" LOL. I'm not sure the non-UU's (or UU's) understood. Oh well. I thought it was funny.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


It's the day before Thanksgiving, and I am IN MY ELEMENT. In any case, I'm happy. I love the fall. I love Thanksgiving. I love to plan big dinner parties - from putting together the menu, to planning the shopping, and planning out the timing of the big day. I love that my hands smell like garlic right now and that the fridge and pantry are stuffed to overflowing. (oh isn't this the ultimate spoiled american holiday, where the point is EXCESS. In most cases I would despise this, but it's Thanksgiving, and I think of family and friends and food and drink and happiness and laughter, so I make an exception in this case and just enjoy the feast).

I don't love trying to get or keep the house clean,though, and I especially don't love that Callias continues to poop and pee on our carpets every time I leave the house. Literally - I simply walk out of the door and she races to go poop on the carpet. Oh, I was in tears and on a rampage a few days ago when she did it the VERY day after I'd rented a steam carpet cleaner. It must have been quite the rant because though the haze of my rage, I realized that E and Q had immediately gone to straighten their rooms, and DH had started vacuuming cobwebs off the ceiling and doghair tumbleweeds out of the corners. As far as the house goes, I just need to Impossible? Woo. We'll see. I've so far rearranged the living room completely, to make room for the folding dinner tables, and I've banished the pooped and peed upon rug to the garage, leaving my living room looking pretty much like a gym, with a large expanse of hardwood floor -which, I shall add - is irresistable to 6 and 9 year old children who MUST (and I repeat MUST) run upon it and jump up on it and do the splits upon it and attempt handstands upon it, amen.

My plans? My Preparations? you ask? Well thank you for asking!
I made the cornbread today so it can sit out all night and dry out nicely for the stuffing. (Anyone want to place bets on how whether Callias finds a way to get to it?) I'm marinating bits of mozarella in olive oil, spices, and garlic. Yum. John has been called and given his list of last minute items that I could not find at Farm Fresh. OK - You tell me. How many *good* grocery stores do you think would be out of frozen pearl onions on the day before Thanksgiving? And (gasp) CHESTNUTS!! I am stoked to try two different dressings this year - my every-year sausage dressing, and a new recipe I want to try with roasted chestnuts and cranberries. John had to make a special trip to several grocery stores to find said chestnuts. It'd better be worth it.
The turkey continues to defrost (tick tick tick - tune in bright and early tomorrow to see if it will be ice-free by sunrise, when we will need to start smoking it)
The poinsettia has been bought and placed in the pine cone pot. The bathroom has been cleaned. Extra toys have been tossed into the craft room and office (which, by the way I must now negotiate through to get to my computer, so the fact that I am here again illustrates that I am truly truly addicted to the internet.) The wine rack is full, and the wood pile is stacked (it's going to be cold tomorrow - wee!! We get to have a fire!).

For the curious or the bored, here is Our menu (where "our" means the 4 families here that regularly get together for holidays)
...and I know this is dull to most of you, but this blog is for me too, and I want to have this kind of stuff down somewhere so I can reread it one day. It means something to *me*.

Appetizers will be
Baked Brie with brown sugar and pecans
and Marinated mozarella bits with water crackers
Carrots and Peppers with hummus
Homemade sushi (thank you Chieko)

will be:
Hickory Smoked Turkey (started in smoker at sunrise with applejuice)
Baked Ham
Fresh cranberry sauce
(not canned)
Sausage stuffing
Chestnut and cranberry stuffing (My new recipe to try this year)
Turkey gravy (from a JAR - I caved)
Creamed onions
Twice baked potatoes
Roasted Sweet potatoes (for John)
Teriyaki Green beans
Spinach/Cheese pie with philo dough

Fresh breads

Desserts will be
Cherry pie
Pumpkin dump cake
Coconut cream pie

And I must add that most of this is not going to be my responsibility. I take the turkey and dressings, the coconut cream pie and the pumpkin dump cake, the creamed onions, and the appetizers, but my wonderful friends, who make my life as rich and fun as it is, are doing the rest. Come on parades, come on cold weather, come on toasts and wine and music and sweet food and savory delicacies. You think I like this holiday? Oh yeah. I do.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

a blog worth bookmarking

I saw Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention on T.V. I remember it clearly. We were in a hotel room (we were in Baltimore to see the Red Sox play the Orioles at Camden Yards) and fell asleep with the TV turned on to the convention. I woke up just as Barack Obama was beginning to speak and was absolutely electrified. (If the link works for you, try to *listen* to his speech - it's so much richer to hear him than to read it, though the words do speak volumes alone). I, like the most of the rest of the country, had no idea who this guy was, but I watched and listened to every word. His honesty, his style of speech, his youthfulness, his apparent integrity, and his intelligence, his love for this country shone out of that TV. He didn't come out with all the usual political phrases and partisan sniping. He spoke about *people*. I didn't know, the next morning, if his speech was as good as I remembered, but after taking a look in the papers and watching him soar to near celebrity staus after that night, I guess he really was that good. Things seem so freaking dark and corrupt in DC. He's like a beacon to me - "the audacity of hope" indeed. I suppose there's a danger in counting so much on someone, but I'm counting on you, Barack Obama, to take us back to a better place.

And to top it off, he even has a blog. ;-)

Take us there, Barack...I'm behind you.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

fainting goats

You think you've seen it all? But wait...there's more.
Fainting goats, of course. Mare, this made me immediately think of you, my bizarro buddy.

OK, look - evolution, creationism (bleah, personal interjection there), god, nature, whatever...I think a sense of humor is an intrinsic part of life, no??

Friday, November 18, 2005

picture day

Here is Q's 4th grade picture. I love this one - it's *him*. Makes me want to wrap it up in my big mommy arms and give him a huge cuddle. I see the "growing up him" in it, but I see traces of the little one, too. (see below)

E hasn't had hers sent home yet. Her teacher is wonderful but not the most organized woman I've seen. I'll pick them up when I go up to the school this morning to volunteer.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

there are all kinds of folks out there... so beware

Before I picked the kids up from chess club this afternoon, I swung by the grocery store to pick up some medicine for Callias.

-> aside -> I feel so weird getting her phenobarbital at the people pharmacy..."Name please?"..."Uh - Callias.". At first, I tried explaining that it was my dog, but that ended up being even weirder than having people think I'd named my child Callias.

-> back to the story ->
Anyway, while there, I also picked up a bottle of wine, some bocca burgers, and some whole wheat buns for dinner.

-> aside -> I am still trying to make my kids eat healthy, you see (BTW, the wine was for me, not the kids). I need to add the footnote that they both tried the veggie burgers, DESPISED them, and I ended up popping a couple of TV dinners I found in the freezer into the microwave. So much for their health.

-> back to the story ->
So I was in the quick check out line when one of the tallest men I've ever seen got in line behind me. He was young, twenty-ish looking, long-haired, kind of cool looking (at first glance). "Huh huh huh..." he laughed (nix the fleeting cool-looking thought...bleah). "You're having hamburgers and WINE for dinner?"

I laughed politely and made some inane comment, meant to close the conversation.

"Well you KNOW..." he insisted on continuing, "those police breath-eh-lizer tests won't pick up on wine. They can tell if you've been drinkin' beer, OH yeah. But not wine. You can be falling down DRUNK..." (and of course had to demonstrate) "...and they'll never KNOW!!!! Cause it just don't pick up on WINE. Heh, heh, heh."
And at this point the young HS guy working the cash register says, "Oh, I KNOW!"

Dilemma. Do I tell these two morons that they are, in fact, full of shit?"

But tall moron continues. "It's GREAT - unless of course you're so drunk you drive to the police station and crash into one of their cars in the parking lot. Heh heh heh. Or you know - if you drive there stinkin' drunk and ask them to use their breath-eh-lizer test to see if you're drunk. You know - that really happens. LIke, ALL THE TIME!"

I paid the guy and decided to let them learn for themselves that police breathalizer tests can, in fact, detect when you've consumed too much wine. Then it occured to me that these two are, in fact, driving around on the roads when I am out there.

Well then. Sleep well tonight!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

calling from...

So I was on the phone with Jim yesterday, from Antarctica... Really. How cool is that? I'll throw it into casual conversation again - I was talking to Jim yesterday when he called me from Antarctica...

Anyway, it was a less-than-wonderful workday; one of those days that I go home feeling like I have skipped back to student status. EARLY student status. I got an email from a coworker at Penn State who was asking me if I'd like to work with him on a quick paper to look at sunrise/sunset flight data on HOx chemistry (I promise I'm not going lapse into a boring technical description of my work). He gave me his reasons and wants to do a short, focused modeling study.

OK. So I am 1) flattered that he wrote me 2) wondering why he didn't cc Jim, as usually happens since he's my fearless leader. Sounds good to me - but I'm not sure what he wants from me, blah blah blah.


I'm on the phone with Jim FROM ANTARCTICA (did I mention that yet?) and I commented on the email. Silence. "What do you think about it, Jennifer?" he asks. I blather on... Silence. "Well," he says, sounding tired, "in the paper you're publishing now, we pretty much put that to rest don't we? That there's nothing more we can do modeling wise.... (and at this point I will skip the technical details for you)."

I don't know. Sometimes I wonder why I do this stuff. I love it, I love it, and I GET things while I'm doing them. But I have no retention. I mean, I can keep my kids' schedules straight and remember what's in the pantry and when I need to have cookies made and when to take the PTA cashbox up to the school. Why can't I keep work business in my head? And not just minor things, but things that I conclude in MY OWN PAPERS. Idiot.

I've got a bunch of excuses ready to cite....but really, I think I bounce against my capability wall sometimes. I am very good at finding immediate solutions at work to coding problems, and at looking at details. But sometimes the big picture just eludes me.

Bah. I just hate feeling dumb.

Did I mention that at the conference with Q's teacher on Monday, she told us that he has extreme perfectionist tendencies (especially for an elementary aged kid) that his teacher would like us all to work on helping him to control? Hehm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

some filler

I saw this on Betsy's blog and also from my friend Holly J, though not from her blog. I don't think there's anything remotely scientific about it or that doctors have "concluded" anything, but it's fun. It took me 40 or 45 seconds.

Find the man in the coffee beans.

Doctors have concluded that, if you find the man in 3 seconds, then the right half of your brain is better developed than most people.

If you find the man between 3 seconds and one minute, then your right half of the brain is developed normally.

If you find the man between one minute and 3 minutes, then the right half of your brain is functioning slowly and you need to eat more protein. (LMAO!!)

If you have not found the man after 3 minutes, the right half of your brain is a mess, and the only advice is to look for more of these types of exercises to make that part of the brain stronger.

The man is really there. Keep looking!

Monday, November 14, 2005

PTA mom gone contumacious

Thesaurusi are wonderful. Contumacious is the word of the week. Look it up. ;-)

I spent this last weekend in Tyson's Corner, VA for the Virginia state PTA convention. It was actually an O.K. weekend, given that it was a *PTA convention*, for goodness sake (soccer mom convention is next weekend). There were some interesting dynamics between me and the other three women from our school who went - all is good in the end. They're all very nice women, though very different from me in some ways. They're all conservative Republicans, and mostly very religious. At one point during our sleepover-like talk around midnight (we all four shared one hotel room to save PTA money), I was asked about my church. When I told them I went to the Unitarian Universalists and was atheist, their faces absolutely FROZE in shock. It would have been funny if these weren't three ladies that I really like. But you know, these were three authentic people, so I felt it was appropriate to be authentic back, which is my preference anyway. They were mostly curious about me and my religious choices, but there is an obvious disconnect there now. Oh well.

I also confirmed that my children have made me a better person. On our way there, we went through a toll booth, and the driver was slightly confused (about the direction, how much for the toll, whatever...not relevent). The toll booth attendent was of middle eastern descent, a woman with the religious headdress. After we drove off, our driver, who was slightly askew from being confused, started getting silly and making racist comments like "Quit looking at me like that and go back to earning your minimum wage...and take that ridiculous towel off of your head!" Our van of women burst out with laughter and I silently stared out the window in shock. What to do? At the next toll booth, the comment was something like "At least this one is American.". I'm not sure anyone heard me but I said "I imagine the last one was American, too."

At this point, I started thinking a lot. I am raising my kids to be aware and tolerant and true to themselves and courageous. I would never wish for them to put up with such racisist comments. You know, on paper, and in thought, it's all so easy. But when you are faced with it in real life situations that surprise you, the lines are not as clear. I felt terrible about the whole thing and really terrible that I'd not said anything.

The next night we were driving to find a restaurant for dinner, and ended up holding up the traffic so we could throw some coins into a can for cancer something or another that was being carried up and down the lanes by some group. The people in the car behind us got (understandably) upset because we made them miss the light (this is DC remember - not Williamsburg), and they drove up beside us in the turn lane, making angry faces. They were Indian. The same woman started making comments like "You should understand this money thing - you're used to begging aren't you?" OK. (deep breath so I don't scream). I told her that was totally unfair and that I was offended. She tried to defend herself but I stuck my ground and made it CLEAR why I found her comments offensive.

It's a small thing, really. But this is how I want my children to be. This particular woman is actually a very nice woman and very tolerant on paper. I think both times she was trying to be funny and make us laugh. But the more we accept racism as anything but plain and simple racism, the more we give it the opportunity to stay. Racism is not a joke. This woman felt very bad afterward and apologized and spent the rest of the weekend double checking all her comments to make sure she wasn't leaving the impression of racism or intolerance. I honestly feel she is a good person, but it is easy to get into habits that we don't always realize are so damaging.

Anyway, apart from all the political and religious undertones, we took some interesting classes. One of my favorites was on feeding your family healthy foods. As you might expect, I went shopping when I got home and restocked my fridge and pantry. For breakfast, my two sweeties got whole wheat bagels with cream cheese or oatmeal with honey and cinnamon (no complaints). For lunch, however, when I served them lean turkey and mozarella in whole wheat tortillas, with cantelope and pear slices and carrots and avacadoes with hummus and ranch dressing dip, you should have seen their faces. "MOOOOOOMMMM!!! I don't LIKE healthy food!!!!" To be honest, Q devoured it. E was the one with the complaints. I served a healthy dinner, too, with fewer complaints (pork roast with fennel seasoning, potatoes, sauted asparagus and garlic, and sun dried tomatoe couscous.) I am going to conviently forget to tell you about the few handfuls of cheetoes and Diet Dr. Pepper I had for breakfast or the M&M cookie ice cream sandwiches my two kiddos had for a snack, so thank you for not asking about that.

Oy. Lots of confusing stuff going on. DH's brother Gerald is not doing real well health-wise. He's having some tests run tomorrow to look for cancer, so any good vibes or prayers or meditations out there would be appreciated.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

revelations of inadequacy

A new look! I like the colors but don't liked the squashed size as much. Since I'm an amateur, I'm limited at this point to the pre-fab templates at blogger.

...So we were working away this afternoon - Jim and Gao were busy with a telecon on their side of the office and I was modeling away on my side, when BAM. The electricity disappeared. The curses I heard shouted out from one end of our hallway to the other were amusing. Jim and Gao were, of course, only mouthing them since they were on the telephone. I, being the good officemate that I am, exclaimed a few curses in a little tiny voice, so as not to disturb their telecon.

A bunch of geeks without computers is akin to a pack of armadillos without armor (I just made that up - how do you like the Texas reference? And do armadillos really move in packs?). We reverted to aimless wanderings through the darkened hallways, occasionally picking up pieces of paper, but were unsure what to do with them. Wasn't there once a way to place marks on these sheets without the use of a printer? Even the journal articles that I needed to catch up on were online. We found some flashlights and made a few jokes about them, but those can only carry you so far, really. Coffee makers don't work without electricity either. It was a pathetic sight all in all, yes it was.

My life's work would be rendered completely useless in the case of an apocalypse. Put me at the back of the line for those you want as a citizen in your post-apocalyptic village. Oh wait - I can knit! There's a useful skill that I have. Maybe you should move me to somewhere in the middle of the line instead.

In all seriousness, it's a little frightening to realize how dependent we are. I mean, we all know we are, but to really think about it makes you nod your head and purse your lips in concern. Try it.

In any case, I don't think it's the apocalypse now. I think someone backed into a transformer and knocked out electricity to NASA and the adjacent Air Force Base for a few hours. All will be well again tomorrow, I'm sure. The geeks will be back typing away at their computers, the coffee makers will be dripping, and the air conditioner will be humming, despite it being November. But that's for another post.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

a break from the rat race

Today was election day. I would normally insert something like a sunny "I'm crossing my fingers!" or "I feel like this is our year!", but things have been so bleak for even moderate liberals that I simply don't have the energy. No energy for hope? What would Barrack Obama say?! In any case, the kids had the day off from school, meaning I had the day off from work.

We ran a few errands in the morning, including stopping by the polls. The afternoon was blissfully spent doing NOTHING but playing and walking out at a local park, Little Creek Reservoir, with neighborhood friends and the Jamies' kids. The new play area for this park has been under construction for, oh, more than a year and is actually still closed to the public. But since it's all in who you know, one of my neighbors is the acting director of the county's rec department, so when neighbor Greg called (yes, this is the Greg that darling E flipped off), Seth told us to just park on the road and hike in to the brand new playground, regardless of the "Closed" signs. This also meant we had the park to ourselves all afternoon. And what a glorious afternoon it was. Yowza. It got up to about 75, brilliant blue skies, and the trees are at their peak. Imagine a picture perfect autumn day, and there you have it. We hiked down to the reservoir, and the kids played with cattails from the lake's edge, hiked through the leaves, played frisbee and freeze tag at the playground, and just hung out all day. Here are a few pictures. (Just click on them to get a bigger version):

Beautiful red colors at the entrance. I'm not completly sure, but I think the brilliant reds are dogwood and maybe some oak.

Did I say I wasn't going to talk about the election? Well I lied. I found that going into the school today to vote, doing all the familiar things associated with that, brought out a wave of sadness like I wasn't expecting. Truly. I think many people believe that when people like me go on and on about depression and despondancy after last year's elections, that we're overdramatizing things, perhaps for a laugh. But no. Nope. I remember sobbing and sobbing while driving home last November, big fat tears like I haven't cried in some time. For about a month after the election, my friends and I would greet each other with long, heartfelt hugs. No words were necessary. The sadness among us was ubiquitous. Several of my friends couldn't go to work the next day. (seriously). Last year was beyond lunchroom discussions and esoteric kinds of political talk. Last year hurt like hell. I felt sucker punched and couldn't understand how so many people could be so ignorant. [Yah, OK, so I'm falling over into deep biases here, but this is how I feel.] I knew it hurt, but until I voted again today, I didn't realize how much my hopes had been pummeled.

Here is my sweetie during our walk. He and Robert spent hours balancing cattails on their fingers, noses, chests, ears, shoulders... They tried doing handstands and balancing them on their feet, but neither was tall enough to reach the other's feet whilst in a handstand. Funny boys. I think I can see a glimpse of teenaged Quinton peeking out at me from this picture.

This year, our governor is up for election. The current governor, Mark Warner is a Democrat and has ended up an extremely popular guy. He took the financial mess that our last Republican governor left the state in, and cleaned it up. Yes, I know that general economics has a lot to do with that, but he was able to work with a very conservative house and pull consensus decisions out of a hat. Don't know why we limit our governers to only 1 four year term around here. But we do. So now we've got another race to vote in. It's been ugly, too. The GOP candidate is just absolutely nasty, and I'm hearing that from all sides of the political spectrum. Yuck. Again, though, I have not much energy for hope. I think we fat and spoiled Americans have forgotten how to think, and are willing to be led around by our noses by corporations.

So all in all, I spent today in the most perfect way. We played and walked and talked and laughed and I didn't think again about the elections until we got home. I have faith that the pendulum continues to swing and that one day things will get better. I think. In the meantime, it sucks to be living through this mess. But it doesn't suck to be living.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

the end of the human race and other fun topics

We had an interesting discussion this morning at youth group at the Unitarian Universalists. Because of Rosa Parks' death last week, we thought it'd be good to discuss the civil rights movement with them (I'm one of the advisors for the high school youth group, aka YRUUs). I introduced them to Claudette Colvin. "Who," you ask, "is Claudette Colvin?" Ah - good question. She was a 15 year old black girl in Montgomery Alabama who, in a fashion identical to Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat to white people in 1955. She was only 15, and she did this before Rosa Parks did, and is mostly unknown. The trouble was, she was too black, too young, too emotional and prone to cursing and outbursts, and too pregnant as an unmarried teenager, for the NAACP to use her as their person to rally 'round. She wasn't the right kind of icon. So here's someone with the same internal fortitude and the same strength as Rosa Parks, who decided she'd had enough of being pushed around, and stood up to a bus driver and while policemen (who had handcuffed her and were dragging her kicking and screaming out of the bus), and she was only fifteen, for crying out loud. Good for HER. And while I understand that the NAACP needed to be careful in the implementation of their boycott and they couldn't afford mistakes, I can't help but be bothered at the orchestration, you know? Was her protest any less signficant than Rosa Parks? Was the discrimination she faced any less? Anyway, the kids had some interesting discussion. We ended up off on tangents about anarchy and violent oppression of hate groups, but it was all fun. What an intelligent and angry and great group of kids.

I've been a little sad lately - no obvious reason why. It probably has something to do with reading some of Daniel Quinn's Beyond Civilization and thinking about a sustainable world and how far away we are from that. Nothing like a sprinking of global warming, dwindling energy resources, toxic soil and groundwater, and nonbiodegradable waste dumps to brighten your day, eh? Ah well...I go through these periods occasionally. I have to just let myself be sad for a while. And in a way, it's not *that* sad. I really don't think the human species is going to last forever - it can't. I hate to think that we could/will probably be the authors of our extinction, though. How embarrassing. But really, what does it matter? We can't destroy the earth and we can't destroy life. Life will continue to evolve with or without us. We'll be a distinct, but probably unimportant dot in the continuous evolution of species on earth. We're part of the cycle, and will have a beginning and an end. Just leave any pain and suffering on the part of my precious children OUT of the equation, thankyouverymuch. Other than that, gaia earth and Master Universe have my permission to do as they will.

Wouldn't I be a fun dinner date tonight?
Oh come on. We all have periods of doom and gloom. Best to make the most of them, right? WALLOW in that bleakness.

E is a chess-playing maniac these days. She wants to enter an amateur chess tournament in a couple of weeks. Why not? Could be fun. Q is a book-reading maniac. He's joined the school's Battle of the Books and has read something like 6 novels in about a week and a half. Is anyone out there surprised at all that DH and I have totally nerdy children?

Hey, get out and VOTE on Tuesday. After last year's debacle (tears, knashing of teeth, pulling of hair, crying on shoulders of friends, wakes with plenty of alcohol to stave off the depression), I'm having a hard time mustering enthusiasm, but I still think voting is better than not voting. I feel like I'm a quiet voice in a sea of lemmings around here, but lord knows I'm going to make my voice count. As one vote. Against about half a million. But it'll be there. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

neighborly waves

Let me tell you about my daughter. For anyone that knew me as a child, my E is not at all like I was. I was shy, afraid to color outside the lines, and perfectly comfortable to let life happen to me. As an illustration, there was one time I was driving up to church for a youth group meeting, down one of Santa Fe's little country roads. I noticed a car up on the right that was beginning to back down their driveway. Fast. And they weren't slowing down. Being the observant teen that I was, I slammed on the brakes, but as the car ahead swung out of the driveway, they obviously still did not see me. I put my car in reverse and backed away while tapping the horn. The driveway car still managed to back into my car (my parent's car). So what happened next? The other drived chewed me out, took down my driver's license information and humiliated me for getting in a wreck while driving my "daddy's car." What did I do? Apologized profusely and felt guilty. That was me, ever trying to stay gray, stay out of sight, and never ever cause any ripple in the calm sea that I thought life should be.

E? She runs that motorboat slicing through through the water and screams with delight as she is bounced clear out of the boat.

Last week, though she was dressed in little girl pink and butterflies, hair shining and face washed, she was having a bit of a rough morning. At the bus stop one past ours, neighbor Greg put his kindergartener Zoe on the bus and waved cheerily at the little girls and made funny faces. E shot him the finger. Neighbor Greg called me.

I had the talk with her after school and made her call Greg to apologize. But part of me is relieved that she feels OK about flipping off someone who irritates her. I'd like her to learn a *little* social restraint, but it's better for her to be working from that end than to have to learn from the bottom up how to remember that you are valid.

In case anyone wonders, I did find my spunk, somewhere between Atlanta and New Jersey. I will yell at policemen who do not let me drive my son to gymnastics because of college football parking, and I will hula hoop in a cul de sac for jello shooters. I may even shoot the finger at someone who bothers me, though it would probably be out of sight to the rest of the world since well, we all know about the whackos out there. And while I am busy teaching my daughter about the world and how to tie her shoes, she's busy teaching me that it's perfectly OK to think you are right and the rest of the world may occasionally deserve to be flipped off.

Monday, October 31, 2005


Just had to share... :-)

Sunday, October 30, 2005


As we come upon Samhain, here are my two sweeties, working on our jack o' lanterns...

I love the spiritual side of this pagan holiday. I see it as a time to think deeply of those whom I have loved who are now on "the other side of the veil" - a time to think about life and death not as two separate entities or two states of being, but as a continuous journey. Those who have passed on certainly continue to live within me every day. I feel their influence, I feel their love. Here is a website that talks some about the pagan Samhain, and some of the misconceptions.

And the holiday Halloween, which is certainly modeled after Samhain, is just fun. What better way to face that which we fear than by making fun of it?

I'll be the first to admit that I really don't know many details about the pagan religion. But I do know that I feel I have much more in common with the pagan beliefs I've been exposed to at UU than I do with the christian tenets. Pagans revere the earth, revere nature, and so many of their holidays are centered around the cycles of the earth (seasons) and the cycles of life (birth, death). I love the connectedness there is with all of nature, all of the universe.

In any case, Happy Halloween, Happy Samhain, Happy living... Enjoy the candy and let yourself get good and scared. Boo.


Fall Ball is over!!! Hallelujah.
We are indeed a baseball family and my kids love the game (not to mention my husband who lives for baseball for most of the year). As a result, I do have a certain fondness for the game, but that doesn't stop me from celebrating the fact that I can now have a big portion of my life least until March, when the spring season starts.

Fall is all over me now. The leaves started turning for real, and it's finally cold. We've had a few fires in the fireplace. I love the way my kids take off their shirts and sit with their backs to the fire reading books for ages, while their backs warm up. Last night we crashed another subdivision's halloween party. *They* do it up right, with hot dogs, tons of food, adult and kid versions of cider, and a hay ride. My friend Terri took her three boys, my two kids, and the Jamies' two kids trick or treating, brave woman that she is. We ended up at the Jamies' house in front of their wood stove with a few glasses of sour cherry schnapps straight from Austria while the kids did their trading and sorting of candy. (By the way, my Erin traded off several kit-kats for bags of pretzels. What is up with THAT?)

The trouble is, we will do trick or treating again on Monday night in our neighborhood. I am beginning to dream of mountains of candy smothering my children. I usually end up tossing out halloween candy after a few weeks, but my kids are beginning to catch on. Bleah. It's fun to be a kid on Halloween. E is Hermoine from Harry Potter, and she's a perfect one. Not only does her hair look right, but she's got that know it all attitude down pat. Q is an accident victim, which is rather perfect for a 9 year old boy. He covers himself with fake scar stickers, has a totally ripped up shirt, and DH colors bruises all over his face and neck with face paint. Last night was really cold, but real Halloween should be perfect - in the 60s or so.

We're skipping UU this morning. I need a day off badly. My life has run away from me. Any mom knows this feeling I'm sure. I keep finding myself at the end of the day collapsed in front of the TV wondering what was really accomplished. Yet, at the same time, I feel totally fulfilled. Odd combination, and I'm not sure I'm explaining it right. As an example, here was my weekend. Friday morning, after racing and yelling to get my kids dressed, fed, armed with lunches and signed planners with homework in the appropriate folders, I ran back home from the bus stop to dry my hair, throw on work-out clothes, pack up a change of clothes, oh yes, remember to grab the gift books I bought at the book fair for teachers and a sweatshirt for E...(deep breath in the middle of this never-ending sentence), and sped off the the rec center for my aerobics class. Left aerobics 5 minutes early to throw on good clothes and speed over to the school to chaperone E's field trip to the pumpkin patch. (and by the way, hats off to E's teacher who is apparently very good with um... high energy and spirited kids because the principal FILLED her class with them. O. M. G. I was exhausted). After field trip (which, by the way I went lunchless on, as I forgot to pack my own lunch with the kids), I raced off to the Outlet Mall and the evil WalMart (which I normally boycott but some days it's just too damned convenient) to buy gifts for a baby shower and leotards for E for her gymnastics class. Rushed home to count 4K in money from the PTA fundraiser, grabbed the kids off the bus at the bus stop, threw Q into his baseball uniform, and grabbed hamburgers from Sonic on the way to Q's next-to-last baseball game. After the game, came home, threw the kids into baths and bed, and fell asleep on the couch in front of some weird movie called "The Spring". And Friday is my day off. I won't go into the timeline, but Saturday included a baby shower, another baseball game with end-of-season pizza party, gymnastics for two, and the crashing of Riverview's Halloween party, described earlier.

So hell yes, I'm skipping church today.

Mare, I will include a description of my darling daughter's interaction with Greg the neighbor at the bus stop in my next post.

As for now, I've got my coffee, John is reading the paper, the kids are quiet doing something (I'm trying not to worry), and I am going to WALK SLOWLY throughout the house and not run, speed, dash, or throw anything.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

graves mountain

What a nice day. Truly.

We made our annual trek up to the Apple Harvest Festival, in the Blue Ridge today, near Syria - which is in Madsion County, but not the same Madison County as the Bridges Of... fame. This is rapidly becoming my favorite fall tradition. We end up with nice weather every year, with blue blue blue skies and cool temperatures. It's up on a mountainside, where we munch on Brunswick stew, apple butter and cornbread, served with live Bluegrass music, all under the shade of trees by a happy stream where the kids love to skip stones. There are Pony rides for the kids, a hay ride, an awesome and confusing hay maze, and a mountain of hay to jump in, all of which leave the kids totally filthy dusty with hay, and totally exhausted. I bought a half bushel of apples - all kinds, and we bought our nice fat Halloween pumpkins on the roadside on the way home. Here are some pictures:

This is Q on the hay mountain. He was good at finding the best places to jump, and was a pro at spectacular falls.

E on her horse "Willy." It's a pretty lame ride, twice around a corral, but the kids EAT IT UP.

Happy children on the hayride, which takes us up on the mountainside through the apple orchards.

The kids in the newest gap ad.

It's also been a rough weekend. Callias had more seizures on Friday. I took her to the vet Friday afternoon and begged him to put her back on steroids, but permanently. Luckily, I had the "good" vet, and he listened and agreed. Honestly, why is the evil vet so concerned about long term side effects when she's a 15 year old dog? She has no long term left. It makes no sense. But anyway, she started steroids again Friday. They hadn't kicked in Friday night, however, and she had another major seizure at 1 am. Horrible. Awful. If you've never seen a dog having a seizure, don't wish it on yourself. I won't describe it. She spent the rest of the night stumbling through the house (her back legs weren't working well), tracing out a path. I think her eyesight left her, because it was like she was memorizing steps. She'd get off track every few laps, and I'd have to rescue her from being stuck from under furniture or in toyboxes. The steroids seemed to kick in Saturday afternoon, though, and she's mostly back to normal. From what I read, most of these tumors occur in a place that affects the sense of smell, and I see that with Callias. She's always been a scavenger, but now, she's almost unbearable. She walks around with her nose in EVERYTHING, under my feet, in the kids faces, everywhere. Snuffle snuffle snuffle, chomp chomp chomp.
I've told her goodbye 3 times now. This is indeed a rollercoaster. Bleah. And since she's permanently on steroids, this is probably the last round. Once the tumor overcomes the help from the predisone, that's likely going to be it. But hey, she's back with me for another round.
Here's a picture of my #1 baby:

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

little tiny world

I went out to dinner tonight with a mom's group. I really only know one of the moms well, but it's fun to meet new people and enjoy a nice meal. Dinner was at a local grill on a reservoir - a little restaurant out on the banks of a river in rural SE US. So there I am enjoying my Merlot and Veal Monte Carlo and chatting with the ladies about racism. "Well..." I say, interjecting myself..."I grew up in a little town in southeast Texas that was all white, with a little town just down the road all black, and the KKK would hold meetings at our county park." "Oh", says a lady down the table. "I lived in a little town like that in Texas where the KKK was active! It was a whole 'nother world. It was called Santa Fe". (Which, as those who know me, is indeed my hometown.) We lived there at different times, but we chatted about the Busy Bee and Red Cap and such. How odd to find someone sitting at my table, who lived in Santa Fe.

A couple of comments about Santa Fe and racism and the article I'm linking to. I love Santa Fe because it is my hometown. I love the people I knew there - my family, my friends, my teachers... When I call it racist, I of course am speaking of it as its own entity, which is not necessarily the same as the individual parts. I never personally saw direct racism there, at least not that I can remember. But it is very insular, very homogeneous, and I was only exposed to the inner safe haven there, you know? That's the *point* of separate yourselves. Looking back now, I understand that it's not by chance that the town had like one black family living there, while Hitchcock, a couple of miles down Highway 6 was the racial mirror image (duh). Those things don't accidentally happen. A large part of racism is unspoken. But the individuals I knew then, and know now, are really good people. It's uncomfortable for me to look back at the culture of Santa Fe and see it in the daylight and know this is my heritage. I'm enjoying this thought progression and will have to devote an entry to it one day soon. But in the meantime...

...I digress. That's not the end of my story. To recap, I am in a little tiny restaurant out here in SE US and meet someone who lived in the same town I did in Texas, about 1500 miles away. And then...

The conversation continued and the lady next to me said "Well my parents just bought a place in Texas to retire to near Lake Livingston." My ears perk up, since, well, that's where my parents bought a lot to retire to, and currently live. "Wow," I say. "My parents live up there in Trinity". She looks at me strangely - "Yeah, that's it...Wildwood something?" "Westwood Shores?" I ask. "Yes," she says.

So what are the odds of all *that*?

It's a big world out there, and when it shrinks around you like that, it's kind of freaky but kind of comforting. These threads of commonality - of shared interests and backgrounds are just floating all around us, mostly unseen. It's good to know they're there.

welcome rain

It's been raining here for the last several days and it's like a reprieve for me. The kids' baseball games are cancelled on those days so suddenly, we have evenings at home to ourselves again. Apart from that, I have always loved rainy days. I like the darkened skies, cooler temperatures, and the drumming of the raindrops on the roof. It's a reminder to myself to s.l.o.w. d.o.w.n. and just ... be. I remember when I was a kid, my absolute favorite weather was just before a storm came. It gets ominously dark, the wind picks up, and there's just something in the air that promises you something big is coming.

Anyway, weather is on my mind in many ways. I promised Q's teacher that I'd teach a lesson to the 4th graders on weather, so now I'm regretting that. What to say? What to do? I have my trusty video tape of a year's worth of satellite photos of cloud patterns. In a loop, it's amazing to watch. But I've used that one before with some of the kids. I'd love to do a nifty experiment with them, but my fear is it would totally flop. Look at me...all worked up over talking in front of a bunch of 9 and 10 year olds. How pathetic.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

my beautiful rut

I woke up this morning and couldn't remember where or who I was. Really. You know the fog that sometimes covers your brain when you're fresh awake? Normally it only takes a second or two to burn off, but this morning I swear I sat there for a full minute trying to remember the last several decades of my life. Imagine my surprise (and disappointment?) when I realized I'm so horribly normal, so average, so married with 2.5 (ok, honestly, it's just 2) children, a dog, a cat, an upper-middle income, a house, a position with the PTA and stuff I do at my church. Two TVs, a minivan, kids that play baseball and chess... I'm quite happy. I really am. But - BOR-RING. Uninteresting. Pasta without peppers. Zestless.

Anyway, heavy stuff to wake up to on a Sunday morning.

I haven't written in a while... Rita has come and gone since then. My dad's hometown (Kirbyville - 30 miles north of Beaumont, TX) and, more significantly, my grandmother and several aunts, uncles and cousins, were all directly affected. The storm leveled the town and took out all the bountiful east Texas trees around there. All people are fine and houses are fine, though. My grandmother is living with mom and dad until the town is back operational. So then, a friend in southern California evacuated her home because of the out-of-control fires, and yesterday in Pakistan, something like what - 20 thousand people died in the earthquake? I think the soul of Gaia earth is angry. She deserves to be, since we are essentially raping her.

On a more local level, I helped with our school's fall carnival on Friday. Good lord. I have never been so tired in my entire life, and that includes the double all-nighter I had to pull in college during my PhD qualifiers. This area has suffered a drought, for something like all summer, and it picked the day of our fall carnival to rain. (Gaia earth is mad, I told you). So we moved the whole thing inside, which was fine other than the noise and heat and the noise and heat and the noise. The kids had a blast. We made lots of money that we can feed right back into the school. But I killed my feet - I think I gave myself shin splints from running around for 12 hours in my cute little boots. I looked good, yeah hey, but now I'm hobbling around in constant pain.

I also got sick, finally. I knew it was only a matter of time since I've gone nuts with trying to prove I'm superhuman and can do it all. I actually didn't feel all that bad at first, but I totally lost my voice for two days. Now that's something fun. It's comical how so many people whisper back to you when you whisper at them. And Q was so sweet. He was very worried about me and kept patting me on the back and asking if I was OK.

So in my blog-absence, my life has continued along happily through the well-worn rut. I will give myself this, though. I am enjoying my rut. I occasionally stop and watch my children in all their innocence and with all their potential, I see my rock of a husband, I look up at the stars and try to see their color, and I try to let the fall season really seep in through my pores. I remember to try to get high on air and sun. So though my rut is a rut, it is well-loved.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

on being old

On my email list of moms with 9 year-olds, we recently had an exercise where we listed five random facts about ourselves. I was stuck on coming up with a fifth one for myself and finally put in "I am afraid of being old." Not of *getting* old, mind you, which is pretty much the definition of life, but of *being* old. And here, my definition of old is not strictly chronological, but physical.

My dog Callias is old. Her body is failing her. Last June I went through the trauma of being convinced that after a series of cluster seizures caused by a brain tumor, it was time to tell her goodbye. The vet tried steroids at the last minute and I learned why they are called miracle drugs. She's been more or less her normal annoying and loving self for the last four months. She's very stiff in her back end, but still puts on a burst of speed every once in a while when she feels frisky.

This morning, however, she woke us up around 5 am because she was fumbling and falling in the hallway, her toenails frantically clawing at the hardwood floors. She'd lost much of her ability to control her back legs, and had that horrid glazed look in her eyes. I sat with her, without bothering to clean up the poop and pee on the living room rug, while she tried desperately to get her legs to work, panting heavily the whole time. I'm certain the phenobarbital dose she's on kept her from having a full blown seizure. The glazed look went away, and she recognized me, but for an hour, she stumbled around the house, running into walls, getting stuck in corners, and walking over our cat, Sammy, who had no idea what was going on and got himself thrown out of the house because he was hissing and striking at her. She tried to drink water, but kept falling into the dish and spilling it all over herself and the kitchen. Now she's fallen into a deep and exhausted sleep. And this is what I mean when I say I am afraid of being old. This really sucks.

Here's another random fact about myself: I think I may have broken my foot yesterday by tripping on the driveway. I know this won't surprise Marion, who has always marveled at my ability to be clumsy in the best of conditions. I've been through the physics of it over and over in my head, but I can't figure out how I could (possibly) break the side of my foot by falling on a flat surface, albeit covered with small driveway rocks. It was dark when I fell, and from the pain, I assumed I was gushing blood. I hobbled into the house, prepared to totally gross out my kids, but saw not a thing, nary a scratch. I sat there staring at it, more than a little perplexed, until I noticed the tiniest prick of a purple bruise on the side of my foot. It's grown overnight to cover about a quarter of the top of my foot, and is slightly swollen and very tender. I don't know if I've really broken it after all, but it certainly makes a better story if it is.

So I plan to spend the day at home, nursing my elderly dog and my ailing foot. I will probably get all philosophical about this, thinking of life and the universe and how we are integrated into nature - how we *are* nature. ...and how in death while our conscious self is quieted, our physical self, our molecules, stay integrated into the universe. It will give me some peace, but I'll let a little bit of sadness remain. Because that's a natural part of our lives, too.

Friday, September 16, 2005

in the words of Dorie...

There were two articles in the newspaper this morning. Actually there were considerably more than two, but I am just going to mention two. One discussed the increasing number of teenage boys and girls that practice oral sex (about half of them by the time they're 16 or so). The other article mentioned that the middle school here was in lock-down mode for 3 hours yesterday while police and dogs searched for a gun that a student had supposedly taken into the school (none was found).

I'm just sayin'.

This parenting thing wasn't supposed to cause my stomach to knot up until I need to vomit, or for me to curl into a fetal position at night was it? For now, my two are talking about baseball and pokemon and I am so happy with that. I suppose I don't *really* want them to stay small. But I would appreciate it if time would move just a tad bit more slowly. Maybe I'll start a commune with my closest friends who have wonderful children and we can seal ourselves off from the rest of the world until the kids are 27 or so. But then they'd be nut cases, wouldn't they?


Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A rough day for some of us

My poor husband has had a rough day. First, he was cut-off on the way to work by some guy who was lost and weaving from lane to lane, resulting in DH having to slam on the breaks, resulting in the crockpot of meatballs and sauce he was taking to a work party spilling all over the car. :-O It's not really "new" anymore since it's a year old but there was still a hint of newcar smell to it. Nevermore I fear. I guess we'll have eau de'meatsauce now - or worse, eau de'meatsauce-left-in-a-hot-car. Gag. DH says he cleaned it up but I've been afraid to even go look.

Then tonight while making spaghetti for us (to go with the leftover meatballs and sauce that survived the car incident) he learned why all good chefs break raw spaghetti such that the broken section is on a trajectory AWAY from your face. He ended up with a piece of raw spaghetti in his eye. And I swear I was really trying hard not to laugh. In particular, I stopped laughing and yelled at him in horror when he went to the bathroom and grabbed some tweezers to try to get the piece out. I was able to convince him to first try the oh, somewhat less invasive method of running water over his eye before resorting to plucking it out with tweezers (and he has the shakiest hands I've ever seen, too...horrors). Yes, the water worked.

It's much calmer here now. DH is listening to some baseball game on xm radio, so he's pretty much back to normal. I'm about to go clean out the rest of those meatballs because my word, they are tasty. Picturing them scattered over the floorboard of my car just brings me to tears. Sigh.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

ends and beginnings

I was most distressed to learn of the permanent closing of Mission Falls. It's been a staple of my yarn stash, and I particularly love their colors, which are rather muted and earth-toned, and blend together so nicely. So in my mourning, look what I collected on Friday, much to the detriment of my checking account:

This is something like 20 skeins of the superwash wool, at 30% off. My friends and family are likely to be receiving a plentiful number of hats and mittens this Christmas. (sniff). I am still sad that they have closed. I especially liked their pattern books. :-(

And on a completely different topic, I share the official photo of the 2005/06 bus stop gang simply because it is so darned cute, especially as it grows in number each year.

I particularly love Dylan's expression (the preschooler). He's one bad dude, he is.

sensory experience

I must have been Italian in a past life. Truly. Or maybe I should just chuck it in and move over there now.

We had our lovely friends Jamie and Jamie over this weekend for dinner - an Italian dinner. I made bruschetta with fresh tomatoes, soft mozzarella, red onion, olive oil and balsamic vinegar on toasted slices of bread. We started with the famous lentil soup with toasted fennel and andouille sausage from the recipe from our local Italian restaurant, Guiseppe's. (check out the pictures of Guiseppe's - it's so cool.) The entree was spinach and cheese calzone from the Moosewood cookbook. The salad was baby spinach and mixed greens with baby peas, sprinkled with lemon and olive oil. It was heaven, if I do say so myself. But I believe I enjoy the preparation even more than eating it.

I was in the kitchen, with onion and garlic sauteing on the stove, mincing fresh spinach leaves and basil, with the calzone dough rising in a bowl by the stove, and I stopped to just take in every single sense. Smell was easy - especially the freshly cut basil and the simmering onion and garlic. Sight was lovely - a countertop cluttered with fresh greens, a block of cheese on the cutting board, and a bowl of red tomatoes and purple onion. Sound was nice - the sizzling of the onions, and a good CD playing in the background. Touch was also easy - the feel of a heavy knife in one hand, and the cool spinach in the other. Taste would have been perfect if I'd had my normal glass of red wine whilst cooking, but I was holding back so I could have a glass (or two) with dinner. Ahhh. I tell you, I do think I am Italian somewhere in my past.

I am re-reading "Under the Tuscan Sun" and it's wonderful. I can feel the hot Tuscan sun, taste the fresh fruits and vegetables, see the huge old house with the long table outside under the trees filled with food and wine. I go there every time I open the book, and I can only read it in little chunks. Too much is like gorging on a good dinner.

I would have been a great chef...or at least a very happy one.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

nutritious day

Today was a "good mommy" food day. For breakfast, my kids got hot oatmeal (well OK, it was the pre-packaged quick cinnamon-bun flavored variety but still...) and a bagel with cream cheese, and orange juice or milk. For their lunches (first packed lunch of the school year!) they received mini-pitas, which are very cute, by the way, stuffed with pastromi and cheddar, carrot and celery sticks and cherry tomatoes with ranch dressing, red grapes, 2 cookies and water. Their snacks were pop-corn, cheese sticks and yogurt, and for dinner I am making them pork chops with broccoli couscous and buttered broccoli. Aren't I good? It's quite the change from the end of last school year when I was throwing in chips and sweets and juice into their lunches after the sugar-laden popular cereals in the morning and hot dogs or Sonic hamburgers for supper.

Monday, September 05, 2005

normalcy in the midst of tragedy

School starts tomorrow. I spent the last two days frantically plowing through Q and E's rooms - picture a comic strip with a blur of rotating arms throwing piles of trash and outgrown clothes and toys into various piles, all amidst a flurry of dust. That was pretty much the picture. Now the kids both have tidy rooms and desks with (gasp) enough space to do homework on. They both have clothes to wear until winter, at which point we'll go shopping again. They both have their school supplies either stored away at school in their cubbies or in their packs to take tomorrow. I have lunch supplies stocked in the pantry and fridge. They have their piles of forms filled out and signed (DH's contribution). Do you know he actually made Q read the use of computer rules? He's got to be the only 4th grader in the state who has made his way through that legalese. Me: "Hey sweetie, how's it going with that?" Q: "My head hurts!!! This doesn't make much sense!!" Ha. No kidding.

And the whole time I'm walking around with a pit in my stomach that is New Orleans. I want to throw up. I want to go to sleep and pretend it's not true. Nope. Not possible. You cannot wipe out an entire city of the U.S. in a matter of a day. It cannot be possible that my fellow citizens have been living in a cesspool of toxic, foul water, surrounded by feces and decaying dead bodies. Not possible. Not here. Not today. Not possible that although we have known for years and years that this would happen that we were so surprised by it that recovery efforts were for the most part non-existant for several days. (Several days that meant death for a lot of those folks). We're not this stupid really, are we?

And then we get into the whole blue/red, Republican/Democrat, you/me, finger pointing, it's your fault thing. I'm mad - just like everyone else with any compassion at all. I'm mad and lashing out and because I'm a raving liberal, it's easy for me to find things that the reviled Bush administration has done wrong. I will spout off about it to just about anyone because I am SO MAD. But what makes me even more mad (or maybe just sad is the more appropriate word) is the lack of communication - the failure to find any common ground...the missed opportunity to focus on what is wrong and fix it. No one will TALK to me about this!! I want to know why this isn't the fault of the federal government. TELL ME why this should have been the domain of local and state governments, where they failed. Stop telling me that I'm a typical blue dot in a red state with a big chip on my shoulder. TELL ME who could have done what better. I'm not pretending to understand all this. I actually really care that so many people have died a horrific death because of this hurricane, and I honestly want to know who screwed up. It's not like this scenario was a surprise. National Geographic wrote a story a year ago that eerily describes what happened. WHO WASN'T READY???!!

I belong to a 10 year old parenting email list that is somewhat diverse politically and religiously and even we can't talk about this. We have dissolved into name-calling and nah-nah's and "I'm not going to talk to you anymore" before any real communication has taken place. Before telling me I am wrong, tell me *why* I am wrong. I desperately want someone to look me in the eye and say calmly, "but have you thought about why..." When did we become so divided here in America that communication has stopped? Why are we "us" and "them"? I despise Bush and his energy-loving, money-loving cronies, make no mistake about that. But even more than that, I despise that we have forgotten that the goal is to make things work. We've made the goal to win. And even in the face of this horrific tragedy, we are tallying up who has won more points.

Has it always been this way? When did the media finally succeeded in making our lives here a big made-for-TV movie, a big superbowl game? Do you think the rescue helicopters are going to start showing up with corporate logos blazened across them?

I don't know what's going to happen, but it's going to be ugly ugly ugly. America is feeling very generous and loving right now. But what about...oh say, 2 years from now when a lot of these 100,000+ families STILL do not have permanent housing. Will we be as generous then, or will they become welfare cases and an ugly thorn in our sides? You know, Hurricane Isabel hit this area 2 years ago and a few families are still trying to rebuild now. That was such a tiny disaster compared to Katrina. The recovery from Katrina will be going on for a very long time and will likely outlast the compassion of most people. What an ugly blot this is already becoming on our history.

And yet, life goes on. I throw open my windows at night and turn off the air-conditioning to let in the cool newly-coming fall nighttime air and the sounds of crickets. I poor a glass of red wine and sip it while splayed out on my couch watching a movie. I throw out piles of left over dinner that my kids didn't eat. They each take baths in tubs full of good, clean water, and come out smelling sweet and clean and are comfy in their t-shirts and slicked back freshly-shampooed hair. I get hugs goodnight and kisses and then clean the dinner dishes and plan for my errands tomorrow. And all the time, the pit in my stomach reminds me that not all that far away, about half a million of my neighbors are feeling lucky to be alive, are wondering where their sisters are, and are starting to realize that despite the utter exhaustion and the feeling that this can't be real life, they are going to have to start over tomorrow and figure out their lives all over again. Everything they have ever known is gone. Gone. And meanwhile the country is busy name-calling and watching hour-long TV specials that ask why black people are described as looting while whites are described as finding food. We are a mess. I thought we had come farther than this., Tragedies like this have a way of exposing your unhealed scars, don't they?

Monday, August 29, 2005

moving on

Last night, after the kids had baths and brushed teeth, Q and I were cuddled up together on the couch watching some silly show on TV. His head was on a pillow on my chest so I could smell his freshly washed hair, and as we were just there being mom and son, I had the thought: "I'm halfway done with him." He's 9, and in 9 more years, he'll be on his way to college and a legal adult (well - able to vote and join the military but not drink which is a whole 'nother rant). I was lying there and nuzzling his little boy tousled hair thinking that right now, I am his everything. I am the center of his world. He is old enough to be a unique, thinking, intelligent person with wonderful thoughts of his own, and I am still his world. He loves me beyond reason right now, this amazing person. And my job for the next half of my time with him is to make it OK for him to stop. From here on out, I will become less and less of his world. My job is to make sure that I start to disappear. He is supposed to start needing me less and needing others more. The times when I am the first person he wants to share his joys with, and when I am the one he needs and calls for when he is scared - these times are almost done. When he doesn't need me like this anymore, I will know I have done my job well. This job is the most heart wrenching and most wonderful job I have ever known. When he is grown and a man with his own family and life and ambitions, I will be so proud and happy, though a part of me will mourn the loss of the baby/child that orbits me now. But I suspect we are wired such that the bigger part of me will know that the moving on is natural and right and good. It's all OK. Isn't it?

Monday, August 15, 2005

evidence of autumn

I've figured out why I'm having such a hard time with the heat this August (other than the obvious reason which is that we're having a very HOT August). I am already in school mode. I had a meeting tonight with last year's treasurer of the PTA because I was kind enough to volunteer to do it this year. We've already had one PTA board meeting and will have another on Wednesday this week. So I'm already in the mode of thinking back-to-school night, fall carnival, and fundraisers. Similarly, we're moving into fall-mode with my religious education committee at UU. I finish up my summertime curriculum of Harry Potter in 2 weeks so we're starting to plan the fall ice cream social and the autumn curriculum. In several areas of my life, I've moved into autumn, yet it's still 97 degrees outside. Thus, my objection.

The weekends filled up this summer. I couldn't tell you with what, but they did. I didn't get to do my tour of the state with the kids like I'd planned. I didn't restart my reading binge or start my exercise binge.

But all is well. The kids swam and went to Busch Gardens and the beach, and we had lots of cookouts and visited with grandparents and cousins. So I'd say it was a success overall.
And see? Here I go again, acting as if it's over with a somewhat wistful review of the season. We still have 3 weeks until school starts. It's not too late to pull out those Pilates or Yoga tapes after all! Yeehah.