Monday, December 25, 2006



I broke a tooth last night. How's that for timing? Christmas eve, just before leaving for a week-long vacation. I'll try to pop by the dentist tomorrow before our flight but I am freaking out because I've had two allergic reactions after dental anesthesia. Since I've procrastinated and haven't been to the dermotologist to find out what exactly I'm allergic to, I don't know if my dentist will be able to do anything for me or not, until I get the allergy pinned down. DH told me to suck it up and go without anesthesia. "What's the problem? You've been through childbirth."

Oh, and merry christmas!!! Kids are happy, DH is grumpy because he had to put together a race track. I got an 8-Gb Ipod Nano, so I'm really happy (other than the whole broken tooth fiasco.)

Second broken tooth in less than 6 months. Bad luck? Or nasty trend?

Smile! Smile! And pay no attention to the gaping hole in my back molar.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

rehashing seasonal issues

Q came bouncing into the kitchen a few days ago to grab a drink. "Hey mom, you know Hannukah and Kawanzaa? They aren't real holidays like Christmas is."

My heart skipped a beat and I took in a shallow breath to hold. "Ahh, ok. What makes you say that?"

He went on to tell me that Hannukah is a pretty minor Jewish holiday ("I mean, it's not like Rosh Hashanna or anything") and Kawanzaa is really based on a harvest festival. He explained that christmas was a major Christian holiday but Hannukah was really just a little celebration for Jewish people.

I could breathe again. And I was very grateful to my friend Paige, who is Jewish and is very active in our school, who was invited to talk to the students about Hannukah. She'd laid it out there for them very factually. E could even describe to me the battle that took place between the Macabee Jews and the Greeks (Syrians?) that lead to the miracle of the oil which is celebrated at Hannukah. Thank goodness my kids don't think that Hannukah is the Jewish Christmas.

The presumption by a lot of us in the U.S. that religious freedom means equal emphasis is just wrong, I think. It's not going to happen. After an extended discussion with the moms on my email list, many of which are Jews, I do not believe there IS an acceptable solution to the conundrum as to how to correctly recognize a minority religion by any given society. Some Jews were upset by the bombardment of "Merry Christmas" greetings that they receive upon every trip out into public this time of year. They are tired of Christmas music and Santa talk. And I get that. I do. It is presumptuous to assume that every person out there at the mall is celebrating Christmas. Many other well-intentioned folks get it, too. So we've ended up with displays of the menorah aside the christmas tree. Stores hang banners that proclaim "Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah!" "Seasons Greetings and Happy Holidays is used in an attempt to acknowledge there is more out there than Christmas.

But in reality, this kind of atmosphere feels so contrived. So condescending. "Yes, yes, here is our recognition to your holiday too." And it's not even a major Jewish holiday. It just happens to fall near the winter solstice, as does Christmas. "Where is the recognition for Rosh Hashanna? For Yom Kippur?" some of my Jewish friends are asking.

Well. Look. Jews make up about 1% of the U.S. population. It's quite unreasonable to expect broad public acknowledgement of each holiday of each minority religion. Minority religions are not limited to Jews. We've got Islam, Hinduism, Pagan religions, and heaven knows how many others.

The other option is to erase the widespread celebration of Christmas here and essentially spiritually santize our public selves. Whew. This kind of talk is why "PC-ness" is so despised. Not only is that not even close to practical, but I don't WANT it to happen. Look, if Jewish-owned businesses want to celebrate Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur, that's fantastic! I'll join in. I'll be happy to receive whatever religious greeting is handed to me at whatever time of year, particularly if it is one given with goodwill and peace. No way will there ever be the emphasis on these holidays as on christmas or easter, but that's just because of statistics. When more than 85% of a population is Christian, and a large number of the remaining population celebrates Christmas as a cultural holiday (which is where I fit in), it's going to stand way out. There's no fighting the numbers.

What we can strive for is an environment where all religions feel comfortable in celebrating their particular holidays. Where Christians can wish fellow shoppers "Merry Christmas" without worrying about whether they will offend the recipient. Where the recipient can smile warmly and respond "Thank you! Happy Hannukah!" or "Happy Kawanzaa!" with true goodwill and without a hint of irritation. Where businesses are flexible enough to allow days off for Jewish employees during Passover, or for Muslim employees during Ramadan, or Pagans wishing to celebrate the solstice or equinox holidays. I don't want a world sanitized of religion. I don't wish for Christians to feel they must change their greetings to "Happy Holidays" to keep from offending others. On the other hand, those who choose to offer that more general greeting also shouldn't be made to feel ostracized.
(The link is to my post from christmastime last year. Funny funny. We funny people. We rehash the same old arguments from year to year.)

I like the Alfred Tennyson quote I ended my post with last year:
"I am part of all that I have met"

Celebrating diversity means we should feel free to celebrate as we choose, and work to pass that freedom to others as well. No suppression, even for the majority.

Merry christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

head meets brick wall

Doesn't it seem like most normal people would have learned after toiling over something like my Thanksgiving cheese wreath?
Noooo. I had to go and try marshmallow-cornflake wreaths for our neighborhood christmas party tomorrow night.

Cute. But I'm not sure they're worth the effort.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

religion test

My results for which religion best fits me from SelectSmart.

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Secular Humanism (94%)
3. Theravada Buddhism (87%)
4. Liberal Quakers (82%)
5. Neo-Pagan (76%)
6. Mainline - Liberal Christian Protestants (65%)
7. Taoism (64%)
8. Non-theist (64%)
9. Mahayana Buddhism (63%)
10. New Age (63%)


Monday, December 11, 2006

obama watch

There is something about this man. He's been compared to Robert Kennedy, called a rock star, and has become a beacon of hope for thousands of Democrats looking for a new kind of candidate. I, like so many others, didn't know who he was until I heard his speech at the Democratic National convention. I was hooked and have been watching him ever since.

I worry that he'll get caught in a whirlwind of celebrity and will become a caricature. I worry that the right will find ways to spin him into doubt (his middle name is Hussein - what will they do with that??) But from what I've seen of him, he is honest and forthright and just really, really smart and should be able to handle games like that in a way to stay true.

He hasn't announced any candidacy yet (have you seen his piece on ESPN?? LOL!!!). But he did travel to New Hampshire this weekend, as reported by Perry Bacon Jr. in the Times.
"A fundraiser for the New Hampshire Democratic Party, originally intended for about 500 people, sold more than 1500 tickets to people from 13 states — and that didn't include the more than 100 reporters who showed up. Seven hundred came to another event to hear Obama speak and sign copies of his best-selling book. "It harkens back to RFK," said Lou D'Allesandro, a New Hampshire state senator, "all of the new people coming out. And this phenomenon is country-wide."

Here he is on The Daily Show last year in November. He is so awesome. I love his ease and humor and his obvious intelligence. He gets it, you know? I'd love to have dinner with him. I'm still hoping. I think he's the real deal. The next few years will be a breath of fresh air to watch.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

our weekend

I was feeling a little discombobulated this morning. My living room kept swinging between a place where I expected to see stained glass and crosses to expecting to have a concierge walk up and welcome me to Holiday Inn. Q pulled out his electric keyboard, and was alternating between setting it to pipe organ while he practiced "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" (Quite unsettling, sounded marvelous!) and then setting it to pre-fab cheesy songs like LaCookaracha. Add to that the soundtrack to High School Musical that E decided she needed to listen to, and I didn't know where my head was.

After the four-girl sleepover here on Friday, with more of the "High School Musical" songs accompanied by cartwheels done in very convoluted patterns around my smallish house,locking themselves in the bathroom while they raided my makeup, a trip to Red Lobster where every child ordered (of course) chicken fingers, and then yet more birthday cake, we're done with the birthday celebrations and have moved on to christmas. Here's our tree:
Notice the complexity of Q's tree-sawing form. And yes, those are ski goggles he's wearing pushed up on his forehead. Don't ask me. He went and found them himself when we announced we were heading out to go slaughter our christmas tree. You know. Safety first.

And afterwards we carted it home. Notice here my daughter's fabulous fashion sense. I am not allowed to help her dress. Ever. We will evolve to belly button piercings and other more inappropriate choices for attire over the next several years, I am quite certain. Stay tuned. All this projection is why I am happy to let her run around in purple and orange and black go-go boots after all.

Monday, December 04, 2006

a big ole' piece of my heart

Happy Birthday (Saturday) to an amazing, smart, sweet and adorable eight year old
who happens to be my daughter.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Here are some post-thanksgiving pictures to share. The first is a fine example of my, uh, anal tendencies when it comes to entertaining. No one expects this kind of stuff. No one wants this kind of stuff. Yet I insist. Mare called me while I was in the middle of finishing my lovely cheese wreath and she got quite a good laugh when I answered "Whacha doin?" truthfully. See what you're missing out on by living in Colorado, Jeep-girl?

Life lesson #242: Consider carefully whether it is worth the time or the effort to use cookie cutters on cheese. I have to admit that poor DH got roped into doing about half of these. He has talents I'd never dared to dream of. It is lovely, don't you think?

But look - the rest of my thanksgiving dinner
preparations were very simple, see?

The kids got the paper plates by the fireplace. I think they had the better end of the deal. Because, see, they got to eat the lovely leaf wreath too!

So on to my current obsession: christmastime fiber-optic sparkly lights:

For any of you who know Billy Jonas and his firecracker simulation: all together now. Oooooh, Aaaaaaah, Prettttty Colors!!!

DH smiled at me last night because I was just sitting and staring at my little christmas villages. If there'd been a window pane, I'd have my nose pressed against it. These things make me happy, what can I say?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving. That totally American holiday of excess and lavish extravagence. But what a nice thought - to savor a day simply for the purpose of being thankful. It's such a nice idea that I put up with the lavish extravagence and even enjoy it completely to the last grain of rice and the last piece of stuffing.

I had the day off of work today because the nor'easter hitting the US east coast flooded the area around my place of work so they closed it, affecting DH too. So I spent today buying cloth napkins and placemats, too many groceries, and watching soaps. (DH spent the day pounding away on his laptop at the kitchen table, working from home. Apparently, he is much more dedicated than I am). I made cornbread to dry overnight for the stuffing, I made brownies for the kids tomorrow, and a pumpkin pie just finished baking. Tomorrow I'll put the turkey on the smoker, finish the sausage stuffing, make my mom's broccoli/rice/cheese casserole, prepare yams with apricots, finish the pumpkin bisque, heat the rolls, and start the blueberry and peach crisp to eat with vanilla ice cream afterwards. My friends are bringing a green salad, some surprise appetizer, an apple pie and fresh cranberry sauce. The wine rack is stocked, the juice box cabinet is stocked, and DH chopped a pile of firewood. We'll have time to get up late and watch the Macy's parade, eat french toast, and clean house (bleah) before folks start to come over. Nice.

I remember Thanksgivings at my grandparents houses so clearly. I remember the grown up table and the kids' table. I remember Nanny pulling out her silverware to eat with (which is why I asked if I could have it after she died). I remember walking around the block with my grandmother, mom and aunts after dinner, and playing on the concrete walls of a nearby shop. I remember my other grandmother's chocolate pies, which she always made for me. The top of her washing machine was always loaded with pies and cakes on Thanksgiving. I remember playing with my sisters and cousins in her spare bedroom after we ate. We'd transform the bed into a magic space ship, would shrink ourselves, and would travel through some poor unsuspecting soul's body, a la some TV show with that premise (Fantiasic Voyage?). I remember finding our way to the train tracks behind their property, and wandering for hours down the tracks. I especially remember one time that a train surprised us on a particularly treacherous stretch, leaving my sisters and me splayed out against bramble bushes as the train barreled by about 3 feet from us. (No doubt, my memories are a tad exaggerated, but they are what they are).

I remember making construction paper turkeys and cornucopias at school. I remember pilgrim hats and indian feathers. These days, I get the added bonus of the most amazing colors ever all around this time of year. I have new memories of Roxy bouncing down the street as she tries to catch leaves from the air and of my kids catching leaves in the cul-de-sac as they wait for the bus every morning. I have memories of warm fires and homework and books. I wonder what memories are striking enough that my kids will keep them until they are adults? Will they remember the dried leaf wreaths we made one year? Or the time we wrote what we were thankful for on slips of paper and made a game of guessing who wrote what? Hopefully, they'll come away with memories of love that cements a life. Our life is characterized by lots of guests and friends and laughing and sharing and the idea that life is meant to be lived with arms wide open and shared. I hope they remember that we were always ready to have someone else join us at our table at thanksgiving - that our house was filled with the loud noises of children behaving somewhat naughtily, of grown ups laughing so hard they had to sit down, and of hugs and smiles. That no matter what the weather outside, our home inside was filled with warmth and comfort and the knowledge that we are not on this journey alone.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

it's all about the togetherness

OK look. In defense of what I am about to do, I started this blog to keep in touch with family and friends who live far away from me. So I put these two videos out there for them - my two sweeties at their piano recital last week. Feel free to skip over this blatent bit of mommy largess.
Q (Music Box Dancer)
E (La Cinquantaine)

Well it looks like Thanksgiving will once again be held at my house, which is great. Really. It's wonderful. It really is. Really. Except for the sinking feeling I get when I look at my very small, untidy house and especially my very small untidy kitchen. Remember, we had to add on to this house in order to allow us to expand our chests when we breathe. That, plus I am raising a couple of children that are going for the guiness book of world records for creating flooring made of unmatched socks that have been flung from their feet (sans hands - they're very talented) every time they enter the house. It's a good thing Santa keeps them well supplied with socks because I'm not gonna buy them any ever again.

But back to Thanksgiving... wait- there's more! To further strengthen that very slight sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, the number of people that will be here is unknown. Ahhh, toss a coin! Make a wild guess! Your guess is as good as mine. At the minimum, we will have 11 (including my family of 4) but that number has the potential to go up to 25. (Friends know families who know families who will be alone over the holidays so how can I NOT say absolutely invite them along!!?? Isn't that what Thanksgiving is actually for??) So any good planning on my part for the dinner itself has been...well, what planning? I got a smallish (10 pound) turkey and will add ham or roast as these additional people make their decisions. The rest will fall into place, surely. ?? And for as to how I will actually seat 25 people in my very small house? Um. This could be interesting. This is one of those times I can understand the appeal of a very large house. Must be why Thanksgiving is an American holiday. We're all about big and excess here anyway.

It's all good. This is just the obligatory freak out beforehand and then I'll get all excited about the food and cooking and wine and once I actually start to smell the turkey and ham and onions and garlic and such, I'll be in nirvana, and then when my friends get here I'll just be delirious and drunk enough on wine that I won't notice that the nice German family is having to balance their plates on their knees as they sit on the steps of the garage.

I just hope I'm better at last-minute planning of large dinner parties than I am at buying area rugs. In the midst of my pre-thanksgiving freak out, I decided the area rug in our living room was just too dirty, too old, and too "busy" to have anymore, particularly for Thanksgiving dinners, so I proclaimed to my poor DH that our house sucked and would continue to suck until I got us a new rug. So he wisely said "Yes, ok, whatever you think honey," and I rolled it up and tossed it in the garage and went to Lowe's on the spur of the moment to purchase a new rug. I found the perfect one. I searched and searched so I wouldn't feel guilty about not exploring all my options, but kept coming back to the same one because I just knew it was meant to be. I took it upon myself to snatch a large cart (after ditching the window that was on it. I swear I stood there for a good 10 minutes waiting for someone to come claim it first. It was only a very small window anyway. They could easily make do with duct tape if they needed to). I pulled the largest rug they had out of the bins (by myself) and wrestled it onto the cart by myself. I painstakingly pulled it through the store, taking out unsuspecting small children and elderly grandmothers at the knees with the over sized roll. I managed to get it into my van all by myself (customer service wasn't the best today). I note here that I was still wearing high heels from church this morning.

I got the silly thing home and unrolled it, and well. Can I say here that I doubt I could have done a worse job? It was hideous. Atrocious. Laughable. Ugly as hell. It looked like I'd pulled a quilt off of my bed and tossed it on the floor. So with all my deflated pride, I was unable to muster the strength to return it on my own so I bribed DH to help. As we were schleping the ugly-as-hell rug back up tot he store, I realized with a heavy dose of deja-vu that this is the THIRD time I have done this (buy a rug from Lowes only to return it within hours because of my horrid visualization skills). The third time. I am officially struck out. How pathetic is THAT?

So we're back to the ugly, old, dirty, "too busy" rug that will likely stay there through Thanksgiving. Oh well. My guests will be too busy trying to figure out how to step over each other on the garage steps to notice.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

the winds smell sweeter

Every day I am at work, I pop over to NASAwatch to see what's up. For the last several years, the news there has inevitably been discouraging, to say the least. Cuts to NASA science. The administration's snubs to earth science. James Hansen being told to quieten down his global warming "rhetoric." More cuts. Will field centers be closed? RIFS. (Reductions in Force, which, essentially, is civil service lay-offs.) You get the idea. We were checking it several times a day when we were in the thick of the RIF possibility. It's been nasty. Last year at the AGU (American Geophysical Union) meeting in San Francisco, we had a big meeting with the Science Directorate bigwigs to address the concerns of scientists. And scientists were CONCERNED in capital letters. There has been much tension in my work world.

So today I checked the site and the first thing I saw was an article about how Barbara Boxer is the new chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. She'll be taking the place of (shudder) James Inhofe, who is the guy who refers people to read "State of Fear" to understand climate science and who calls climate change "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." (shuddering explained) Anyway, Barbara Boxer's stated priority is going to be "a very long process of extensive hearings" on global warming. I felt a cool breeze brush my face, and it smelled so sweet.

The second article I read was how investigations have begun into whether the Bush administration has attempted to "muzzle" government scientists, and in particular, science on global warming.

I'm not so foolish as to think that this country is going to suddenly become a liberal hotbed of intelligent, long-term solutions to the complicated problems we face. But the flavor of politics is so much more bearable now. I don't feel 100% shut like like I have for the last several years. I don't feel total hostility coming from Washington toward the work I do. Finally, I'm not so afraid to hope.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

what is to be next?

Global warming has been on my mind recently, due to a confluence of things related to it in my life.

Rolling Stone has an article entitled Can Dr. Evil Save the World?, in which Lowell Wood, a protoge of Edward Teller (father of hydrogen bomb and Star Wars missle defense system) spoke up at a global warming workship to propose injecting sulfate particulates into the northern stratosphere to counteract global warming. Geoengineering. Tinkering with the planet. As one argument goes, we're already doing that. But the other side of the argument goes that heaping multiple unknowns upon each other isn't moving in the right direction. (We know particulate surface area in the stratosphere increases the rate of ozone loss. Do we want to heat up or be fried?). Additionally, if we start putting bandaids on the problem, we're not going to have the impetus to address the root of the problem which is the form of our energy use. The surprising thing to me was Paul Crutzen's comment that " is time to consider 'last resort' options" in the fight against global warming. (Paul Crutzen is one of the Nobel prize winners from the atmospheric chemistry community from several years back). That he would advocate for this at all gives me great pause. Geoengineering would certainly be a last resort. Are we really at that point? Maybe.

Today at work we saw part of the Canadian film "The Great Warming", narrated by Keanu Reeves and Alanis Morissette. The piece of it we saw seemed accurate, though maybe a tad overly dramatized. That doesn't make it inaccurate. And it's like that to get the attention of the public, which needs to happen. Our local climate expert was there to moderate discussion afterwards. Even in an auditorium full of rocket scientists, there were some basic gaps in understanding, and I'm glad Bruce was there to address them in a very reasoned and understandable manner. I think this is a good film, and I'm glad it's been released to the public. I need to go see it myself, since we only got to see the first 45 minutes.

Many years ago, when I was in 6th great - Mrs. Deutschaver's class - we had to write a story. I wrote a story about how carbon dioxide had built up in the atmosphere and warmed the earth and melted the polar caps and people were racing for the mountains in a panic. I'd read or heard just a snippet of some of the first reports of the problem and was absolutely fascinated by the idea that humans could possibly have the power to change the earth is such a significant way. (I had no idea there was such a field of study as atmospheric chemistry at the time. I find the symmetry in my career and that little girl quite comforting. I really do love my work down to my core).

What is not comforting though is that the science behind global warming was beginning to develop then - more than 30 years ago. And yet today we are still fighting to get the public to understand the need to change the way we live. Look at my own life - I am certainly well aware of global warming and the blatent signs that things are ALREADY CHANGING. Yet we live 35 miles away from our place of work. And we take separate cars to get there (because of my part time schedule). The only way we will make progress is for the governments of the world to provide plenty of financial incentives for the development of new energy sources. We are capable of it, I am sure. I am also sure that we will get to that point. But I also am sure that it is too late to totally avoid the costs global warming. The world my kids will know and my grandkids will know will be very different from the world I grew up in. Exactly what it will look like remains to be seen. That is where I have to start to fight my personal demons. Species will disappear (the polar bears seem likely to be one that will become extinct in my lifetime). Weather patterns will change. Droughts will get worse in some places. The agricultural belts will change - I have no idea how that will affect food production or the distribution of food. I feel strongly that the divide between the world's haves and the have-nots will dramatically increase. At this point I feel comforted that I live where I do, but that is immediately replaced by horror at what millions of people is developing countries will surely face. It is going to be a catastrophic, world-changing thing, this geoengineering that we've been doing throughout the industrial age. I don't know if it will mean the end to the human species - probably not. But I think it will cause a dramatic shift in the way we live on the timeline of our existance. Agriculture. Industrialization. Global warming. We need some very smart people to start finding us new ways to live.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

thank you

Thank you, voters.

There was much rejoicing in my home last night. Mostly. We still constitutionalized our bigotry here, but it's a long road. Forward, back, forward, back but we'll make it eventually.

In the meantime, this site is cracking me up. Nietzsche's Family Circus.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I remember the presidential election between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter in 1980 very clearly. I was 16 and had no clue about politics, really. I did, however, understand that I was entranced by the happening. An ENTIRE COUNTRY was focused on the common goal of electing their next leader. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to tally the returns and color in my little map with red and blue. Well, I colored it in red that year. Lots of red. I remember sitting by myself on the floor of our living room in the early morning hours, just awestruck at the whole process. (That race was never in question, so you KNOW I was all about the event rather than the outcome.)

I'm still like that (with somewhat more thought put into the actual issues). I'm no longer rooting for the guy that's already winning. I have much clearer ideas about how I want the election to turn out.

I care so much this year that I'm afraid to hope. I still remember the tears pouring down my cheeks as I drove home from work the day after elections two years ago, realizing that we had to endure four more years of our current president. When I went to vote this morning, I found that I was fighting back tears as I stood in the voting booth. I filled in the marriage amendment circle first, and thought about my many lesbian friends who are busy being model citizens and raising children and who want a happy life like most everyone else, and I swallowed back a lump in my throat. I voted against our senator and thought about the war in Iraq and tilted my head back quickly so tears wouldn't screw up the ballot (lordy, how would I explain *that* one? ( Well, sir, I was just don't know how my ballot ended up so soggy! I really don't!)

As the hour approaches that the polls are closing across the county, and results are poised to be reported back to us, I've got the state election return website bookmarked on my computer. I've got the TV set on various news channels that will be going over the returns, and going over them and over them and over them. And I'm trying to convince myself that the really big thing is that we have voted today. We have spoken. But I know deep down that if things don't change with tonight's results - if the country rubberstamps what has been going on for the last 6 years, part of that optimistic side of myself will finally shrivel up and die.


So here we go. No map to color in tonight (I gave that up after the whole Gore/Bush debacle and ended up having to recolor Florida with my son). But there is a lot at stake and I care. Very much.

election day

Why vote today?
We're voting on this day because the crops are finally harvested! (it's November, you see). We're voting today because it's the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. See, we need to travel to get to the polls, and since we can't travel on Sunday (god and all that), we must travel on Monday and vote on Tuesday. And we have to make sure we don't vote on November 1 because that would be All Saint's Day, which interferes with the Catholic faith. Plus the 1st of the month is a day for bookkeeping for shop owners. So it's today.

Why vote today?
Because from our earliest years of shouting "mommy, watch this, watch ME!!" Hey, hey, hear ME on this!", we have an inate desire to be heard, to have a voice. Because if you don't participate then you have no right to make me listen to you complain when things aren't going the way you'd like.

Why vote today?
Because we have had nearly 3000 (THREE THOUSAND) young boys and girls killed in Iraq since we invaded that country. That's more than were killed in 9/11, by the way.
Because more than 20,000 of them have been wounded. These include young people (average age of about 23) who are facing a future much different than the one of their childhood dreams. They are now going to live the rest of their lives after having been burned beyond recognition or having legs and arms blown off their bodies or after shrapnel has taken out their eyes and mangled their bodies. Here's a comment from Salon on the wounded soldiers.
So I vote today because people that we elect to represent us make the decisions that have resulted in these dead and wounded young people. Over 20,000. That is a very large number. It's a town. Think carefully about whether the purpose behind the invasion justifies these lost and changed lives. These are not invisible people. They could be my children.

Why vote today?
Because my state would like to consitutionalize bigotry. Although it is already illegal for gay or lesbian marriages here, apparently, "they" would like to change our constitution to cement our bigotry. My daughter keeps asking me why anyone else cares if two women love each other enough to get married. How does any other marriage affect my own? Why does anyone care? The only answers that make sense to me are fear and/or bigotry. So I vote today to raise my hand and cry out "Hey! Hey! Hear ME on this!!"

Friday, November 03, 2006

a sample of the colors around me

At the back of our house, looking toward DH's wood shed.

Looking across the street from our front yard.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 it goes on

Happy Halloween!!!!

Here's pic of my sweet trick or treaters:

I'm so lucky. These little tiny people make my life amazing. And Q does an awesome impression of Napoleon Dynamite. It's a little frightening.

...and another pic I got from a friend whose husband is in the military:

John Kerry - will you just please be quiet for a while? We were doing OK until you screwed up a joke that really wasn't very good in the first place. Just. - stop. OK?

So. I posted a few posts ago about change. Right? And I made the comment that change is the bane of my existance, the definition of all existance. It's all good. Right?

Gah. While at work, as WONDERBOY is kicking me and gaochen out of the research nest and is slowly forcing me to become an independent researcher without my safety net (him) firmly in grasp, my husband is out of a job as of December 1. (Company lost their contract...he'll end up being fine, I know, but it would be nice to KNOW know, ya know?) And my wonderful friends B&K, the folks down the road who are really part of my family, who are the people that we wrote into our wills as the ones we want to be guardians of our children, the ones who I have spent the last 10+ years with through infertility, through babies, through adoptions, through diapers and walking and vacations and hurricanes and thanksgivings and crying and laughing...through dinners and babysitting and phone calls and wine and margaritas made of melted lime popsicles, through birthdays and holidays and LIFE...(sigh). They're leaving. Probably this summer. And as a result, everything seems unstable right now. But CHANGE IS GOOD. Right? Isn't that the party line? *sob*

You know, change is good. I know that (theoretically). Change is newness. And as someone who came up with Nietzsches' theory of eternal return on her own during the grad-school years of exploratory thinking, I sometimes think about eternity and what that would mean for "change". It would essentially do away with it, as nothing would ever be new. After an infinite amount of time (in which, you realize every possible thing that could possibly happen will indeed happen and will in fact happen an INFINITE number of times...), the wonderful things about life - the wonder and magic and love we feel, the joy, the music, the fun...those would all be diminished by the sheer the repetitiveness. Would we still be able to feel that flicker of joy at seeing our husband walk in the door if we saw the same thing an infinite number of times? Nothing would ever be new. Would we be able to fully experience love and excitement if we'd experienced the same things an endless number of times? (sigh) Me and Nietzsche. We are brother and sister in the theory of eternal recurrence,

So. Change is good then. Change is what makes life different. Change is what keeps things new. (sniff)

Excuse me while I go drink another glass of wine and watch the stars and speak to my soul mate Nietzsche. We will wallow in despair together and then will wake up to a new day and....just move on.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

where is the soul?

The setting is in my Sienna minivan on the way home from the ballfield tonight. The hour is fairly late. The air outside is cold. The children are (for once) both in pretty good moods and have been chatting away about E's last baseball game and such.

Q: Mom, does this song have soul?

Me: Uh, it's the Village People, honey. I don't think they have soul.
(Do not judge me for listening to disco with my kids. If you must judge me, accuse me of being a bad mom because I spent 2 hours tonight sitting in the van with the heater going listening to "Shake your Groove Thing" while E was out playing baseball in the freezing cold. So I am not only a bad mother, but I listen to disco. But do not judge me for the disco!!)
Q: Why not?
Me: Honey, the Village People are singing YMCA. Do I really need to explain further?
Q: Mom what does it mean for a song to have soul?
Me: Uh. I don't know, honey. I guess it's a feeling.

*silence* (I'm thinking I'm not going to be able to get out of this line of questioning after all.)

Q: Do you mean the words and music have a lot of emotion in them?
Me: Well, I guess so. Yeah.
Q: You mean like this?

And at this point the floodlights came on and the orchestra struck up and Q and E simultaneously broke out into a rendition of Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield. My previously drab and cold and baseball centered life was suddenly transformed into the middle of a musical - I cannot tell you how incredibly odd it was. They knew every single word and nuance of the song and it was so unrehearsed yet so perfectly executed that it HAD to have been the result of living in a musical. Plus, the sudden appearance of the orchestra was disconcerting. And the floodlights were making it hard to drive. They sang it perfectly. The only reason they weren't dancing in perfect synchronicity was because they were strapped by seatbelts in the van. I do so wish I could have recorded it and put it here. Weird, weird, weird. I have no idea how they knew all the words. I was so shocked that I forgot the whole subject had been about what "soul" in music means.

Speaking of which, I still don't know how to explain what I think it means for music to have soul. I've spent the last 30 minutes surfing the internet on soul sites looking at examples of "Soul Singers." I've read the definitions and read about Blue-eyed soul and Philadelphia soul and Deep soul and Neo soul, but I still don't have the right words. I guess I don't need to anymore, since my Natasha Bedingfield-loving musical-living kids have it all figured out. I'll let you know when the tickets are on sale.

By the way, my personal musical presentation was especially poignant for me because DH has decided that song is perfect for our kids.

I am unwritten, can't read my mind, I'm undefined
I'm just beginning, the pen's in my hand, ending unplanned

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find

Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions
Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

Monday, October 23, 2006

my friend pete

For the love of Pete!! an aside, my college intramural volleyball team had a mascot named Pete, so we would always try to win for Pete's sake. Don't remember what our name was. (Mare?) In grad school (the New Jersey portion of it), my team was the Barking Geese. Didn't have a mascot, though. Certainly not Pete.

photo from here.

So again, as I was moaning, For the love of Pete!!

You know, I sometimes call myself an anal person - I'm really not, though. I'm not neat enough or orderly enough to be anal. What I really like is mostly order, and I like when things work out as expected. I like coming home to a clean house with a roast in the crock pot, and having that smell just totally suck me up into itself when I walk in. I like going to work and working my ass off all day until my shoulders ache and my eyeballs hurt and my brain is so tired that I smile. I like going to watch the kids play baseball and cheering their good plays, I like chatting with the other parents, I like bringing snacks on my assigned day and having Q tell me they were "perfect."

I like my life to move along the tracks, clickity clack, just as it should. I like working on the PTA board and helping earn money for the school and planning extra activities. I like tackling difficult tasks and working through them.

I do not, however, like stupid, petty bickering and personality clashes and misunderstandings and adults who suddenly turn from reasonable, dependable folks to sneaky, underhanded manipulators. Again, I say, For the love of Pete!!

Gah. I have worked on my school's PTA board for 4 years and never have I encountered such a nasty feeling doing so. To all of you eye-rolling judgemental people out there with nothing better to do than to complain: Those of us on PTA boards are volunteering for this stuff. That means we are not paid for the hours of work and worry. That means we are taking time away from hanging out with our precious kiddos because we believed (at some point) that this kind of work reached beyond our personal needs or the needs of our family and had an impact on a larger group of these amazing new young people we call students. In truth, most of the time we are doing these jobs because people like you didn't want to.

So I ask you to take your whining, your complaints, your pettiness, and eat them.
(stop laughing...I never claimed to be great in the insult department...give me some better ideas here.)

I am unhappy with our current PTA "ickiness (for lack of a better word)". Our president is a dear friend of mine who has taken on this most thankless task in the universe. The other board members are dear people who have also taken on thankless tasks. Instead of the smiles and the thanks yous and the flowers and champagne that should be flowing for these women, they are learning the need to put on enough emotional armor to withstand the attacks.

Absurd. You want the definition?
As a noun:
The condition or state in which humans exist in a meaningless, irrational universe wherein people's lives have no purpose or meaning. Used chiefly with the.

Gah. Yep, THE absurd. This is where I am for a little bit.

But you know what? We really are touching lives of some amazing new young people. I know that sentiment sounds like touchy-feely fluff, but it's true. So in the big scheme of things, this awesome earth keeps turning around and the universe keeps expanding, and the fall air is sweet and cold and the leaves still crunch under my feet and the moon still fills up my soul. That doesn't leave much room for the stupid stuff. So it's all ok.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

perks of autumn

It's that time of year again. And once again, the weather was on our side. It was a little cold up in the mountains, and it was quite windy, but it was FALL, and it was gorgeous. (I took this picture while standing inside the hay maze and holding the camera up over my head to snap it. Gotta love auto-focus.) The trees were full of golds and deep oranges and reds and yellow-orange pumpkins were everywhere along the roads. The browns of straw and hay were stark agains the blue sky as we drove down little roads with the quilt of colors draped over us. We drove through tiny towns full of antique shops and diners. We listened to bluegrass and listened to the shouts of the kids as they pounced on each other in the hay mountain and shrieked through the hay maze. We only lost a couple of children, and they were wet from the stream only up to their knees, so it was a good day.

The kids throwing rocks into the stream, after attempting to build a dam across the entire span of it. Didn't work.
We filled up on brunswick stew, warm cornbread smothered with fresh apple butter, applesauce, hot dogs, barbeque, peanut brittle, and caramel apples. Ah, appalachia. Survey question: do you eat CAR-mel or car-a-MEL?

Kids on the hay ride. They took the shocks out this year. Don't know how one of us didn't end up flying out into the orchards. I fear I'm getting too old for hayrides. How sad is that? But I'll keep going as long as the kiddos want to. I'm bringing a pillow next time though.

And look what I came home with!!
It was such a nice day I'm not even overwhelmed by the half-bushel of apples sitting in my front room. Well, not really. Not much.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Before I begin:
Oh the joy, the celebration...Oh the wine that floweth, the shortbread cookies that disappeareth. High is the level of joy at this household on the occasion that youth league baseball games are cancelled. The rain, it falls. The hot chocolate, it heats up. The Pokemon cartoons, they blareth forth from the TV. I am faced with an ENTIRE EVENING with no plans. I am already in my PJs with a glass of red wine and listening to itunes in front of a blog-entry-in-progress, and I think I may cry from pure joy.

The bane of my existance, the definition of my existance and all existance. Sigh.

Mom and Dad still laugh at me over the fact that when I was little, I would cry when an episode of Lassie would end. I couldn't help it. Lassie was such a nice dog (wasn't she?) and I wanted to live in her happy world. There were always had happy endings, and it would upset me to no end that her world was gone, no matter how fictional or temporary it all was. The phrase "Lassie is going off the air" became synomonous with "change" in my family.

Well. Lassie is going off the air. Again.
Please excuse the following egocentric whining, but I'm sad about the whole Lassie thing. Again.

I've spoken several times of WONDERBOY, my team leader at work, and how amazingly happy I am at my job and my little research team there. I work with two other guys who are very very smart and very funny people. We enjoy banter, we enjoy research, we share curiosity, we share life-stories, we all three went to Ga Tech. It reminds me of grad school in a way - that excitement about SCIENCE and the debates that start with science and end up at all ends of the philosophical spectrum. We all have children approximately the same ages and patiently listen to and laugh at each others' children stories and go to events featuring each others' children. We work, we enjoy work, we work, we enjoy each other. For the last 4 years, I've been at that place in my career that I have always imagined as perfection. I love going to work. I walk into my office and spontaneously smile and joke with the guys. I am excited. The three of us debate and get LOUD with each other and always understand that it is science and not personal. We get off on science. We disagree. We highly respect each other. We are clearly all out here for the science more than for ourselves. We write awesome papers. We are what I think is a very powerful team. One of us, WONDERBOY, is clearly the team leader, while the other two of us are very good at being team members. We're not necessarily followers, but with a little big-picture guidance, we take it and run. WONDERBOY has the big picture and keeps us on the right path. It's the best work situation I could have ever imagined.

The problem with being a WONDERBOY, however, is that the power-suckers from above inevitably recognize that and suck you into their world, because they enjoy intelligent and capable people as much as I do. But they've got a lot more to offer intelligent and capable people than I do. WONDERBOY is being sucked into the world of NASA Headquarters in D.C. He'll be doing a part-time detail up there as a program manager for the next couple of years, which means that several changes are forthcoming. (1) He can no longer work on the research projects with me and gao because he will be the funder and we'll be the fundees. (2) He will be in DC three days a week and back here with us 2 days a week, one of which I am not at the office. (3) he is moving to a private office because he will be having many phone calls of a private nature in his new position.

Well Crap.

I am happy for him that he is recognized for being such a WONDERBOY, and have never had doubts he will be our division chief and probably more one day. But the selfish part of me feels rather like the evil ones are stealing him away from me and gao. The two of us left are rather like a couple of baby sparrows that have suddenly found out they have been shoved out of the protected nest into the real world and papa sparrow has abandoned us. Sniff.

I'm so sad. I'll miss WONDERBOY's sarcastic and dry wit. I'll miss how nice he is - he loaned my son one of his clarinets for a month when the company I was dealing with flaked out on me and didn't send Q his clarinet when they promised. I'll miss his straightforward way of looking at science and I'll even miss that he's right 99.9% of the time. Gao and I will have lots of adjustments to make. I love gao and he loves not only me but also my husband who was his roommate at Ga Tech as a grad student and taught him what baseball was all about. (This was all before I even knew my sweet DH). I'm ecstatic to still be working with gao. But we will be missing our inspiration without WONDERBOY. :-(
What in the world are we going to do?

Dammit again.

Well I can rest assured that one day I'll be in good with my division chief or center director or whatever...right? :-) :-( I'd really rather things stay exactly like they have been.

But the tears that flow when Lassie goes off the air have a way of cleaning off the slate so the next episode is ready to go. Whether I like it or not, change is not really the bane of my existance, but is the definition of it. Dammit. :-)

For anyone who thinks I don't "get" change, even at my advanced age, I retaliate with my favorite song "We Said Hello Goodbye" by Phil Collins. If you want to know who I am, then take a listen to that. It's been my theme song since since the very first time I heard it, which was when I was making the decision whether to move to the east coast or return to Texas after I got my Master's degree. So despite the fact that I cry when Lassie goes off the air, I know it's all for the good. Life marches on. But it's ok to feel a little bit sad about it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

You like me! You really like me!

Stop bitacle org

Huh. They got my blog.

I don't understand all the talk about robots and crawlers and RSS feeds and such. But it seems this Spanish site is pulling (or scraping, as the lingo goes) entire blogs, including mine, and archiving them on their site. They then surround them by ads and make money off of other people's work. Trying to understand all this is making my head hurt, so I'll leave it to folks like Jonathan Bailey at Plagiarism Today and Lorelle at WordPress to keep a finger on the pulse of this. Click on the button at the top of this to go to a website dedicated to Bringing. Bitacle. Dooooown. If you're interested, that is.

I'm thinking "Hey! Someone's interested in my writing!" ...which I know really isn't the case since I figure they're pulling everything with RSS feed (or ATOM or whatever) off of blogspot. But I can pretend I'm important and have the right to be irate, right?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

fallish goings-on

The weather around here where I live has been remarkable for the last few days. The nights are so clear that I can see the Milky Way, with each star a perfect pinprick. It's cold enough to breathe smoke and my fingers and toes get chilly. During the day it warms up but I can still wear my favorite Big Dog fleece jacket and be comfortable. I love everything about this time of year from the colors to the holidays to the smell of fires to school rolling into full swing. It's here. I've been waiting for this feeling to come back, and despite turmoil and upset and general busy-ness, it has arrived, as it always has. No worries.

This morning I was sitting in my home office preparing for my YRUU class, and was only momentarily distracted by the rain on the roof. Eventually, though, I became aware enough to realize it was another beautiful day with brilliant blue skies, and the sound of rain just didn't quite fit. I figured it was the heater kicking on...but those vents are in the floor and not the roof. So I shrugged and let it remain a puzzle.

Later, I decided to take Roxy out for her morning elimination ritual. I choose the word ritual very deliberately. This dog is beyond weird. Peeing is not a problem. She can do that at the drop of a hat (which has been part of the whole problem with housebreaking...she can jump to retrieve a thrown toy, drop and pee and run off before you can blink twice). Pooping, however, requires a much more elaborate structure. We must (1) be at the exact correct location, which she has chosen to be at the very base of the slide on my children's swing set. (Look, I don't make these rules, I just follow them). Next, (2) she must be able to perform an elaborate set of such back-leg-kickings and jumps and sniffs as you've never seen before. This includes her kicking dirt up onto the slide which inevitably scares her (I'm thinking she inherited the lab intellect rather than that of the border collie at this point. I'm just sayin'.). This usually results a direct violation of condition number (3) which is that she requires complete and utter concentration. Any distraction at all, which includes the sound of dirt she has kicked up herself as it thunderously hits a plastic slide, takes her attention and requires that she start the entire process over again.

So we set out outdoors in the gorgeous fall morning for the quick drop and pee and headed over to the swingset for the leg-kicking, jumping, strange gyration, pooping routine. But it was not to be. The rain that I had been confused about earlier was revealed to be acorns. A very large flock of very black birds had settled into two trees just beside the house. I'm also guessing this was a group therapy session for birds with ADHD. I was getting stressed just watching them. They would sit for approximately 0.4 seconds before flying to another branch to sit 0.4 seconds and repeat. All 2000 of them. After 5 minutes or so, I realized Roxy and I had both been standing there transfixed with mouths agape, watching the rainstorm of acorns. Once they started hitting within several inches of Roxy and myself, I worried there may be the occasional non-acorn dropping, so I decided it was time to get her to do her business and get back inside. Uh - No. Condition number 3 was the issue of the morning and was clearly not going to be met so long as the blackbird ADHD convention was going on. So being the mighty human that I am, I picked up a stick and threw it up into the trees with an enormous battle cry. Which had exactly no effect at all on the birds but did make Roxy glance up at me and roll her eyes.

I was finally able to break up the meeting by slamming my shoe against the slide, but that was in such violation of rule number 3 that I gave up and went back inside.

But these are the sorts of things about fall that keep me going. Truly. What a cool world this is - with roaming packs of birds that can make acorn rain, with cold air that makes my toes tingle, with leaves that crunch as Roxy and I wander the yard. These seasons - this rhythm that covers life and death in an endless circle - this is my spiritual core.

Monday, October 09, 2006

patched up

A quick hello and a catchup...

Our computer crashed big time this weekend. Big. Time.
DH has been toiling for 3 days, trying to recover files and reinstall windows. (He's no dummy at hardware/software, so this is not a good sign). I'm currently using DH's laptop on our internet connection to satisfy my internet needs.

So as a result, I owe several of you emails, but no longer have your email addresses. So please forgive me.

Update on my MIL - as far as I know, things are much much better than we had feared. Doc didn't think the lump in her neck was cancerous after all, and spot on her lungs is probably scar tissue. More testing is going to happen, but we are cautiously optimistic now. She is still really sick though, with rheumatoid arthritis. But IMO, that is not as scary as what we had been fearing. Ah, that roller coaster we call life.

Last few days have been, oh, let's say STRESSFUL. I'm dealing with PTA drama crap out the wazoo (basically, a bunch of grown ups acting like middle schoolers). Oddly enough, I have ended up in the role of the level-headed one that everyone seems to be looking to do bring us back around in the right direction. You KNOW things are majorly screwed up if that's the case. Ack.

So this isn't much of a post, but I'm working on half a cylinder right now. (I'm also tethered at the hip to Roxy -literally- as part of my exasperation with housebreaking, but that's really doesn't have much to do with what I was writing. Just wanted to share. We are together 100% of the time that we are both awake in the house. It is driving us both crazy. But I have reached the point where I will make her become fully housebroken simply via sheer willpower. Do. Not. Cross. Me.)

More later, hopefully from my own computer. Sigh.

Friday, September 29, 2006

bad news

We're off to Georgia this weekend. DH's mom was diagnosed with cancer - probably lung cancer. I want to cry that it's not fair - that his side of the family has been through enough this last year. And no, it's not fair, but it's life. And life just happens. Good friend B's father was just dianosed with Alzheimers, friend Jamie's mom just had unplanned emergency surgery to prevent stroke.

That's just the tip of it. I was going to go on, but it's too depressing.

I've asked the question several times whether this is just a really bad patch, or if this is going to be how life is, now that I'm getting older. I've gotten conflicting answers.

I think I have to go with that it's an especially rough patch. Yes, death is a part of the life cycle, but there sure is an awful lot of bad diagnoses in my circle of friends.

I'm hanging in there though, and am going to stay strong for DH. This is going to be very very hard on him. He is especially close to his mom.

And I am making a promise that I'm going to get back in the habit of trying to WRITE in this blog. I've been simply reporting things, like a journal, and it's getting a bit dull and kind of depressing. So I'm off to Ga for a long weekend and then will be back to plunge into autumn.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


This i-tunes thing is becoming a problem, mainly because I now clearly need an i-pod to keep all this music on. So.

Tonight I've been downloading... I've bought the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me", "Rock the Casbah" by the Clash, "Take on Me" by A-Ha, "Don't You Want Me" by the Human League, and "Too Shy" by Kajagoogoo. Ya think I'm going through an 80s thing here? You think? (Mare, I miss you!!!)

I can't help it. Despite the identical forward driving beats, the synthesizers and the inane lyrics, they are making me happy. I'm right back there in our little apartment with the fake fireplace made of construction paper bricks scotch-taped to the wall and the mound of smelly old tennis shoes on our porch, conveniently there so we could shoe they guys next door. See, we were too impatient to use phones so when we needed our guys, we'd grab a shoe, aim at their door, and KA-BLAM, fling away. The pile of shoes migrated quite efficiently between our porches and the phrase "Shoe the guys and see if they're ready to go" was actually quite understandable and meaningful.

One night we grabbed some beer and were all sitting out at a nearby park just hanging out. The stars were out and it must have been this time of year - a very slight chill of fall was in the air. Mark made the comment that we should all get back together again in 20 years and come back to this same park. The movie "The Big Chill" had just come out so we laughed and agreed, but the idea of twenty years down the road was unfathomable to us, mainly because that was longer than most of us had been alive at the time.

That took place more than 20 years ago. Gulp.

We never did all get back together - at least not all at the same time. Mare and I have had an ongoing argument over whether that conversation at the park actually ever took place or if I just dreamed it. I figure it's unquestionably real since my memory doesn't include Mark professing his undying love for me, and if it'd been a dream I'm positive that part would have been in there somewhere. Look, he and I both liked Shakespeare!! I had no choice but to have a crush on him, despite the fact that it bordered on incestuous.

Anyway, the thing is, I don't feel so far away from the person I was then. I am totally different in many ways (in so many MANY ways), but the way I feel inside: the insecurities, the excitement in the pit of my stomach, the yearning for ... *something*, the absolute joy at laughing - that's all still there. And this music...this silly music puts me right back there instantly. I've got to say that it's the closest thing to magic or a miracle that I've run across so far.

(Mare, I just downloaded that song just for you. You know - ooh, that song we like? Who sings it?) :-)

God, friends are fun!!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

B-flat happiness

So can anyone tell me why this news story isn't getting more press than it is? If I could have things my way, it'd be on the front page of every paper and headlining every news show.
Torturing innocent people - um. NOT. OK. And initiated by the U.S.? Something I'd think was unbelievable, before about 4 or 5 years ago, I cannot understand why I saw it on page 5 of my local paper and not at all on the TV news. Have we gone nuts over here in the U.S.? Or are we just in a massive collective denial? And what's the difference between the two? I want to grab the shoulders of the U.S. and give them a mighty shake and shout at them to pay attention. I feel like I'm in the midst of a history book, and see the students of the future shaking their heads in amazement at the way we were too stupid to see what was happening. How do you wake up an entire country?

So on that lovely starting note, here's my happy story. I played the clarinet today!! The one I bought for Q still has not arrived (nor has it been SHIPPED yet, but that's a rant for another day). My officemate WONDERBOY loaned Q one of his in the interim, so I rushed home to try it out before the bus arrived. (!!!!) It felt like going home after 20 years. I remembered everything about it from the smell of the case when I opened it to the way the pieces felt as I put them together to the weight on my thumb to the march I memorized for HS band. I sounded, oh, a BIT worse than I did in HS, and my lip lasted about 5 minutes before giving out, but I was able to stumble my way through one of the Etudes that I played for state try-outs. I taught Q how to put it together and what a rudimentary embrasure looked like and he played a few notes. Fun! But O.M.G., it's going to be a loud, squeaky several years in a very very small house.

Here's another happy story: the high temperature today was somewhere in the low 70s. I'm smelling fall and the eminence of ski season.

The kids both had baseball games last night at the same time, at two adjacent fields, so I stood on the hill between the two with Roxy on her leash, able to watch either of my offspring with just a turn of my head. (By the way, E won the game ball for catching a pop fly and zipping the ball to 1st base to start a double play). I was at the highest point in the park, so I could look down and see the playground, and all of the ball fields with the lights just coming on, and the kids who were all colorful in their uniform shirts and white pants, and I could hear the crack of the bats and the shouts from the spectators and smell the air...I looked out at the horizon, which was blue, turning dark as the sun set, and saw rows of clouds off in the distance and listened to the laughter and shouts of all the children playing, and thought: Wow. This is so good. And it was.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

love the one you're with

So tell me, how cool is this?

Q's band director used to be a drummer for the Isley Brothers.

We had the big beginner band meeting tonight at the gym of a nearby elementary school, and the band director for Q's school got up to tell his story. He was a 4th grader on the track to nowhere, but ended up finding music (drummer) through the band program and found his niche and became a leader, and then he went on to tell how he ended up going through college on a music scholarship and how he got to see the world with the Isley Brothers as a drummer. I decided at that point he was either a complete nutcase or was this really amazingly cool guy. Being the trusting soul that I am, I rushed home to check up on his story with google, which proved that, huh, he was right. He really did play with the Isley Brothers for a while. So the dude really is a very cool. :-)


I just got off the phone with Mare talking about beginner band and what we remember and how weird it is that one of my offspring is starting off on the bandkid path. I didn't remember how arbitrary the choosing of an instrument was. I mean, there are clarinet players, there are trumpet players, there are drummers. It's like choosing your name or choosing the shape of your nose. I mean, this is serious stuff. For a bandkid, it's the all-defining factor, and it's chosen on such a whim. Huh. Who knew, at the time. Now, Q has said he's wanted to play the clarinet for several years, so his whim has been pretty well hashed out. (I swear I had nothing to do with his choice. I was pulling for drums or the trumpet or another "cool" instrument). His good buddy Morgan, however, switched from clarinet to trombone pretty much on the day they signed up. That's a big switch. Q's best friend Robert is signed up for clarinet, too, though his parents would have preferred the strings program for him. It's ok though. Q and I will work full time to make him into a stellar bandkid.

I remember my decision to play be a clarinet player was easy. Being the daughter of the banddirector, the girls in the band loved to entertain me, and I absolutely adored Margaret Rush, the first chair clarinet player. I picked that instrument in my attempt to be her. I didn't up being her, but I loved the clarinet and I loved band, and now I get to watch Q start out on his trip. Good lord, but this is fun. I was scoping out the kids at the meeting, wondering who'd end up being the all-state player or the al-most-state player (like Mare and I were), and who'd be the band president. I'll be working the concession stands at football games in a few years. Q (and E, in a few years) will be trying out for district and region band and will be going on spring band trips. BIG SIGH. Fun!!!!

Oh, and totally unrelated, but I have to throw this in, with the whole Isley Brother tie-in. Apparently, I am surrounded by celebrities. Neighbor M told me that she met the guy down the street (who I don't know but recognize as the guy who walks around with his shirt off and is in the running for Mr. Redneck.). She said he ambled down the street this weekend, and responded to her introduction by a grasp of his cut-offs and throwing his head back and telling her "Hi there, m'aam. My name is Earl." I kid you not.

Monday, September 18, 2006

stream o' consciousness rambling/IOW, no coherent subject to this post

Well duh.

I drove down to work this morning, which, you may or may not know, is not an insubstantial distance for me. About, oh, 2 miles from the front gate, I realized that I'd left my laptop at home. So I went into my office to inform WONDERBOY and Gaochen that I was a complete doofus. But such is the beauty of telecommuting. I drove home and put in my hours here in my cozy office, with Roxy sleeping at my feet. I can't do it all the time because I am entirely too social, but this flexibility is DA BOMB!!!! YAY for family-friendly, employee-friendly trends.

I bought a clarinet for my firstborn this weekend!!! After about 5 panicked calls to my poor dad the retired banddirector, I've ordered him a Buffet student clarinet. I had absolutely no idea I was going to be this worked up or excited about Q starting band. Is this why children are so fun? You get to relive parts of your childhood, and then some? Plus, I'm all giddy about Q being the next in the gene pool to be a musician. These gene pools are amazing, magical things.

There's no reason for me to post this picture other than I love my mom and dad like crazy. This was taken this spring over Mother's Day weekend and I forgot to send it to mom. (Sorry!)

Seems my melancholy is beginning to disappear. You know what caused it? (Time for feeling naked now). I got sloppy taking my antidepressants. Yes, I am a member of the masses of folks taking antianxiety/antidepressant medication. I fought it for years. I thought it was a fad and was the realm of yuppie fast-solution laziness (other than those who really needed it, of course). Certainly, I wasn't someone who *really* needed it, was I?

Sometime after 9/11, sometime after living through having cancer (hernia) and M.S. (pinched nerve), I realized that I could continue to deny I had a problem with anxiety or see if medication might help. It's been pretty damned obvious to me in the aftermath. If I needed any confirmation that it helps make my life better, it's these last months when I got sloppy with keeping up with my dosage and ended up in the middle of a multi-month long bought of melancholy.

Modern medicine is amazing stuff.

So now I am excited about the fall. Send along the smell of fires, the leaves being thrown around by the wind, the colors of orange and brown, the anticipation of winter snow. Bring on football and sweaters and pumpkin pie and chili. I'm ready for you now. :-)

Oh, and if you didn't notice in my side bar, my alter-ego Mare has a blog now too. :-)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

hillary would like it here

This "neighborhood village" thing around here is growing and it's just so awesome! My kids and the new neighbor kids next door have audibly "clicked" and are roaming around together like they've been this band of friends forever. ...Only problem is that they tend to migrate to one house or the other without always letting the appropriate parents know where everyone is. All is good - we just like to keep tabs on them. We're so demanding.

Today, the middle-school aged girl, G, came over with 10 year old brother J.
"Do your mom and dad know where you are?" I asked very directly. G said yes, but something about the way she said it made me wonder. I asked her if she knew their new phone number so I could call and check in with her mom but she didn't remember it. So I let it go. (Parenting rule #4. Always trust what your gut tells you.)

Well sure enough, about half an hour later, the dad came over searching for his two lost children. I, being the mature adult that I am, pointed my finger at young G and said "I asked her!! She said! She said you knew where they were!"

I have fallen in G's eyes, I think. I am the ratting-out next door neighber old lady instead of the cool "Miss Jennifer" that she was chatting with and helping to chop carrots with for dinner. Dang. There went my moment of (pre)teen coolness.

Seriously, it's so much fun. On the weekends, kids are coming in and out of my house, wandering to and from the cul-de-sac, eating snacks at various houses, eating dinners at various is becoming a village indeed.

There's resistance from many of the moms. The idea of letting kids wander down the street and over play with friends without the helipcopter parent there is disconcerting. Do you take the 5 year old neighbor home when they show up in the cul-de-sac when the noise from the rest of the gang beckons? Do you follow the 8 year old home and make sure they really go straight there? We (being adults) did this kind of wandering when we were little. Why are today's parents so easily freaked out?

Trust. As the little kids around here begin to grow older, we helicopter moms are having to learn to trust our children and trust the other families. I'm ready for this. I think it's a huge amount of fun. I'm watching my kids build their community and I like what I see. I like having a revolving door and I like needing to have a stash of ice cream and juice in stock for impromptu gatherings. You've always got to have makings for spaghetti and salad in case the so-and-sos from down the street want to stay for dinner. I like my calendar being full of mark-ups to pick up the kids down the street from the bus on Tuesday and let the so-and-sos pick up my kids on Thursday.

Don't know how you do this parenting thing, this life thing, without a village...

Friday, September 15, 2006

totally sucky day


Today was just as horrible as I thought it must be.

The worst was when I was setting up the food at their house for the reception after the funeral, and everything there, EVERYTHING, was a reminder that an 8 year old used to live there. The fridge was full of back-to-school reminders. The pantry was full of kids' lunch snacks. They'd just installed an above-ground pool. Toys and such were scattered over the backyard and throughout the house. The calendar still had entries on it like "John's surgery". There was a picture of the family taken at Busch Gardens a few weeks before, that the mom had put on the counter. How can you know what the future will bring? What things in my life that seem trivial now will hold such emotion tomorrow? What pictures from today that are an afterthought will bring tears to a stranger tomorrow?

Kath and I went to the funeral, then did what we could to help at the house, then left and gorged on Sonic cheeseburgers and wine. I even ordered onion rings.
There is nothing about this that is really OK.

But because we seem to need them, here are some things that can be perceived as good that come from this:

All of the moms that were touched by this are totally into hugging their kids and remembering how blessed we are right now. Other than the perspective of my children who are wondering why I can't leave them alone, this is a good thing.

When I asked myself why I was putting myself through this horror, particularly since I didn't know the family personally that well, really, the answer came amazingly easily.
I am a mother.

There is a connection between mothers and the love that we have for our children that is more powerful than words can describe. When I see another mother hurt, I hurt. I needed to be there to let her know that I understood her pain.

Another good thing: His teachers from grades K-this year were all there for his family. His first grade teacher wrote an eloquent letter to his family which they asked her to read. My children are in an amazingly loving and caring environment that is filled with the most amazing teachers in the universe. I love our school.

It takes a village.

And when a dependent of that village is lost, the entire village loses.

John Phillip Luna - you were a part of my community, and you will be missed.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


This is good!

We had a new family move in just next door. They have three children, one of which is a 10 year old boy (connection 1). There's also a 12 year old girl and a 5 year old girl. They're here after living for 5 years in Germany, so there is connection (2). Connection (3) is that they are musicians! The mom "M" has taught violin and asked me for names of local piano teachers for her kids. THEN (connection 4) I found out that they have been looking for a Unitarian Universalist church to join. Good heavens. I had them over for dinner tonight because both of the husbands/fathers in our lives are on business travel and we had an awesome time. Oh, and M also loves red wine (connection 5). Amazing. I opened my last bottle of Blaufrankish from Austria for her tonight, as an indication of my joy at their moving in. Q and their son Jack get along like crazy - they are both intense, sensitive, smart boys, and E and their middle school aged daughter get along so well (E gravitated toward the older girl - why does that not surprise me??) This is all a very good thing. is what it is. This is what DH has been trying to teach me for years, and is something of good value to learn.

Oh, and "new next door neighbors" adore the Counting Crows (connection 6). How fun is this???!!!

Monday, September 11, 2006


I was hoping to have some awesome thing or some incredibly funny thing happen in my life for me to write about in this blog to move out of my current funk. But it's not happening.

My kids' school has lost another child; a third grader. I don't know all the details, but he had some minor outpatient surgery last week, went home, things went downhill rapidly, and now I am going to a memorial service for an 8 year old on Friday. There's nothing that makes this ok. Nothing. My kids didn't know him well - they recognized his picture but didn't know him. Kath's daughter L was in his class 2 years ago, and was a friend. That there is this life here, that we live - that requires that death be here in order for life to continue, I know that. But nothing makes it okay for an 8 year old boy to die.

So I watch my beloved children play baseball and create music and learn, I dance the dance of friendships, I live through the angst of politics and religion and weave my life tapestry and transform my life into my own piece of art by constructing my family, by creating science, by writing papers and building my marriage and building relationships, and ultimately? It is all so out of my control. Children should not die, but they do. If I were really as powerful as I like to think I am, that would never happen.

So when it does, the realness of my powerlessness chokes me.

My life is so good right now - it is. These things remind me of how fragile that is, though. In the blink of an eye, that carefeully created masterpiece, that art, that family, can be crushed, just because. It's essential that we know that, I suppose. But also essential that we don't let it destroy the goodness that is here.

Cripes. I'm down in a 3-sigma section. I'm ready to move back to median conditions, world, okay?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

all choked up

Three events today that have made grown, mature women burst into tears:
Friend Kath's youngest child gets onto the school bus for his first day as a kindergartener. He runs up the steps to the bus, superhero backpack almost bigger than he is, beams at his dad for a picture at the top of the steps, then with a smile that lights up the cul-de-sac, races for his seat on the bus. It's just a blink since I met them at the airport on their trip back from Vietnam to see them coming down the escalator with that tiny, adorable baby with the hair that was forever standing on end. He's their zen-baby. Always happy to go with the flow, and always smiling. I look over at dear friend Kath, who has collapsed onto her husband's shoulder, sobbing, and see that every other mom in the cul-de-sac has teary eyes as a result. (let's all sing and sob together: where are you going, my little one? little one?)
My pre-teen son with the lanky legs and floppy hair and heart as pure and good and loving as I've ever ever ever known sits down at the piano to play "Send in the clowns." So maybe it's all musak and stuff when you hear it on the radio, but when the little love of my life plays it, its beautiful haunting melody drifts through the house and I feel like I'm in a movie. I wash dishes and sniffle and think about when *he* was that kindergartener getting onto the bus and realize that next year he'll be going to middle school.
Then there was the race to the dinner table when I stubbed my toe on the TV tray holder, though those tears were accompanied by a string of curses.


Obviously, I have still not beat this bought of melancholy. The Counting Crows didn't do the trick. Adam D. was in a somber, somewhat pissy mood so all their songs were slow and sad. I still loved the concert, but it wasn't exactly a pick-me-up.

I'm going through the motions and kind of having fun, but it's been a long time since I've spontaneously sung out loud in the van or danced in the living room. I'm just tired and achy and feel old.

Any suggestions for remedies are welcome. I'm living on the edges instead of jumping right in and that's not my normal M.O. and I'm getting tired of it.

Marsha, marsha, marsha!!!!
Bob and wendy whiner...


Monday, September 04, 2006

silver anniversary

Yikes, I've found a new toy that could become dangerous.

My friends celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary yesterday and I wanted to make them a CD filled with music from 1981. So I finally caved and joined itunes, as Mare has been encouraging me to do for a while. Oooooh - what fun!! And so easy to download songs with just a click for "only" 0.99 each. Click click click clickity click.

DH was kind enough to point out that it probably won't reach the proportions of my infamous on-line donation to John Kerry. I don't think I had this blog going when that happened. Let's just say that wine, credit cards, and the internet do not mix well. (It was JUST one extra zero)

Twenty five years of marriage.

I wrote up a little speech for them, relating things that happened in 1981. For example, stamps went from 16 cents to 18 cents. Charles and Diana got married. AIDS was not yet named and was only beginning to be discovered. The internet did not exist. Justin Timberlake was born. We went from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan (aagghh!!!) Blondie was big on the music scene and "Ordinary People" was a hit movie.

That's a long time to be married. And I tried to look at them and figure out what it is that makes a marriage successful. There's patience and commitment and balance, of course, blah blah blah. But what I think is also necessary is a sense of humor and the ability to have FUN. You've got to keep laughing. And that's not limited to marriages. I think that's the key to living well in general. That sense of humor, it's right up there isn't it?

P.S., Speaking of laughing, and to complete my wine/credit-card/internet/John-Kerry-donation story, I was able to speak to a woman at John Kerry's campaign headquarters about my erroneous largess. She removed the extra zero but only after laughing with/at me for a bit.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

glub glub

Well, Ernesto was more than I'd anticipated. We're back from the land of the electrically-challenged, after spending more than 24 hours there. Luckily, no trees moved themselves onto our house or even around our yard, though there were a few down in my neighborhood, and good friends David and Deborah had the top of one tree impale itself onto their home.

Even after the infamous Christmas Eve ice storm of 1998 (14 days without power and a tree on the deck and a two-week old baby in the house) and after Isabel (10 days without power and several trees down without touching the house and a week of constant margarita-drinking with friend Kath), I figured this one - oh, it couldn't be all that much.

Heh heh.

I even took my sweet E out on Friday morning for her hearing test (perfect hearing - yay!! Once we cleared up her congestion, she could hear just fine. She just TALKS VERY LOUDLY). Yes, the van was swerving erratically down the interstate. "It's just a little wind," says I to the the kids. We even went to rent some DVDs, being the optimistic sort that I am.

Two minutes into the DVD the lights went off and so they did stay during the WIND and the torrential rain (something like 10 inches in about 5 hours??) and the WIND and the WIND and the WIND. And I had not checked that we had batteries. I had not shopped for extra water and canned foods and ice. I did, essentially, nothing to prepare. But we were just fine this time. Visions of Katrina did keep running through my head, lest anyone think I may have actually learned not to worry.

So as I now sip the Zwiegelt (Austrian red wine) that my dear husband found for me, in the air-conditioned comfort of my daughter's room (dear son has hijacked my computer in the office), I will relate an interesting conversation I had with son Q last night in the pitch blackness of night after he wandered into my bedroom around 4 am.

Q: "Mommy, I really really want us to have electricity again."
Me: "I know, sweetie. But you know, we think this is so hard and there are so many people in Africa and other places that *never* have electricity. We are really very spoiled.
Q: "But Mom, those people never have had electricity. We miss it because we know what it's like to have it."
Me: "Well yes. That's true. But think of how spoiled we are! We have it all the time and we expect it.
Q: "I don't think we're spoiled, Mommy. I think we're just lucky."

Huh. Take that, you bleeding heart, I-must-place-myself-at-fault-for-the-suffering-of-the-world liberal. He's right, isn't he? The world really doesn't need me to put myself as responsible for everyone's suffering. We are very, very lucky. And I think I am one of the luckiest of all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

daisies are not roses

A rose is a rose is a rose unless I look at it and see a daisy. Then it is a me. It may still be a rose to you.

What is truth, anyway?
Truth: Conformity to fact or actuality
Some truths are testable. Gravity. If I drop an apple, it will accelerate toward the center of mass of the earth. It's happened every time I've done it (absent external forces, silly people. I hear you!).
Truth: a statement proven to be or accepted as true.
But most of the time, our truths are really intertwined with perception. That which we perceive to be true is what we accept to be true.

The traffic around here is getting worse every day!!
Mrs. Soandso is the BEST 3rd grade teacher in the school!

These truths aren't testable. They are perceptions.

The majority of Muslims hate the US and wish to see us destroyed.
People of Islam hate us because we are free.

Extremist Muslims are so inhumane that they would kill their own babies simply to attack the western world.

I have an acquaintance through an email list who is an orthodox jew. Her view of the world today (and in particular her view of Arabs) and my view of the world are so different that it is striking that two women who probably have more similarities than differences (though the differences in our respective religions are about as different as you can get) can view the same world with such opposing perceptions. It is this sort of opposition that distresses me maybe even more than the general state of the world. Just because you are thoughtful, just because you are intelligent, there is no guarantee that everyone else who is thoughtful or intelligent will recognize your spade as a spade. Or as a rose. Or as a daisy. And in this case, I do not believe that diversity of beliefs is a good thing. In this case, I stand firmly by my daisy and proclaim to you that it is a DAISY!

We recently dissolved into a public (in the cyber world) spat over the portrayal of Muslims after the announcement that British authorities had stopped a terrorist plot to blow up several planes over the Atlantic using liquid explosives.
As a total aside, the liquid explosive thing seems rather like a red herring to me. It seems extremely unlikely that it could be successful on any planned scale.
In any case, through her eyes, she sees Islam as having a center of gravity that leans way over into the realm of extremism. Many of our mutual friends have told me privately that they do not share or support her views, but have remarked to me that coming from the place she does (orthodox judiasm), it is understandable that she would have these views. Me? I do not accept that as an excuse. Bigotry is bigotry is a daisy, no matter what your heritage may be. No excuse is acceptable for bigotry or racism. Because that's what I see it as. That is my perceived truth. And this point is where I run into the brick wall. There is nowhere to go from here. It would be much easier for me if I were dealing with a stranger. Human faces put onto "issues" have a way of muddling things up, don't they, and making you want to connect and understand. But my damned brick wall doesn't seem to want to budge on this issue.

Today, she forwarded me an email with pictures of radical Islamists protesting in England, with various placards slamming the rest of the world and spouting hateful messages. "Why should anyone think we should be at war with such nice peaceful Moslems?," it said at the bottom, sarcasm just spewing forth (not her words - these were on the forwarded email). The message was clear. Muslims are the enemy and we are at war. She sent me the email to let me know where she's coming from.

I looked at the pictures. I checked out the email through my trusty friend (an excellent place to get information on email rumors, etc. before forwarding them on to people). The pictures are real enough. They are undoctored as far as I can tell. But they were taken during a protest after the whole cartoon debacle, back in February. There were five hundred British Muslims in that protest, and their sentiments were very disturbing.

But in my truth, there is more to the story. What I also see are things like this story.
Because you see, after that radical protest over the cartoons, about FIVE THOUSAND mainstream Muslims showed up in Britain to protest not only the cartoons, but also the portrayal of Islam as extremist. Their goal was to dissociate themselves from the radical extremists. Their goal was to protest what they saw as a wrong, but do it in a civilized manner and to let the world know that Islam is not extremist Islam. We're talking something like an order of magnitude for comparison of numbers in these two protests. And I can guarantee you that extremist whackos are always going to be more likely to show up for protests. I can't begin to put a number on the numbers of moderate, mainstream Muslims who didn't show up. Islam is not equivalent to the whacko extremists.

Truth. Perception.
Partial truths are more dangerous than lies.

I didn't share this with her or respond to her email. There's as much chance of me changing her view of the world as there was of her email changing mine. And yes, I feel uncomfortable writing about this whole incident here because she is a member of my cyber community, many of which read my blog. She is a real person, one who has invited me to her home and one I have shared joys and worries with for the past decade. I wish her no ill. But for me, she has come to symbolize the deep and disturbing divide between Israel and the Arab world. I have been doing some deep thinking over when it is best to remain silent and when it is best to speak out against something you see as an injustice. This blog is my world. It is my place to think things through out loud and get feedback. So in this world, I speak out.

My acquaintance is certainly not alone in her views. I'm saddened that such large divisions between subsets of our world community exist. I'm saddened that so many of us see world events through glasses colored by our own perceptions, to the point that our truths or half-truths are so incompatible. I'm saddened that for many, our perception-colored truths stand in the way of communication and understanding. If, for instance, you truly believe the majority of Islamic people are so angry that they they have lost any semblence of humanity, well then, you've just shut off any hope of resolution.

As long as we are unwilling to open ourselves up to understanding those who are different than we are, those differences will continue to spark hate, to spark division, to spark violence. Maybe it is inevitable. Maybe the world is so full of roses and daisies that the distinctions loom larger than the similarities. In the meantime, I reserve my right to remain deeply saddened by not only the realization that this acquaintence and I will probably never see eye to eye, but that entire civilizations of people will never see eye to eye. Is it that we need to learn to live with conflict rather than hope to stem it? I hope not, but who am I to call a rose a daisy anything at all?