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.