Friday, February 24, 2006


You know how every once in a while you'll smell something or hear a song that reminds you of some earlier time, and it's like you're transported back there? I don't mean just being immersed in a memory, but it's like you're *there*. You feel the same, think the same, feel the same way you did then. Well Fridays are my day off, and this morning I skipped my aerobics class to stay home to do some cleaning and catching up. I decided I wanted some music, so I put on an old CD of mine that I haven't listened to in a long, long time, and was immediately transported back to my 20s. And that got me to thinking about the stages I've gone through in my life and all the different selves that I've been... And I *miss* my self from my 20s. I think if I make myself an outside observer, that Jen is the one I am most fond of. I don't think I was smartest then, or happiest then, but when I go back there, I realize I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I can only describe as anticipation. I was both old enough and young enough to be totally and completely idealistic. I felt like I was up at the peak. I was in graduate school, creating my future career. I was in the process of baking me up - of turning myself into the person I wanted to be. I was *good*. I wanted to make a difference - a real and true difference. I was realizing that my life was mine, and I loved to wax philosophical with myself. I contemplated that belly button, but realized my path needed to be more than just that.

Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road. You can stand there and agonize till your agony's your heaviest load. You'll never fly as the crow flies, get used to a country mile. When you're learning to face the path at your pace, every choice is worth your while.

Well there's always retrospect to light a clearer path. Every five years or so I look back on my life and I have a good laugh. You start at the top, go full circle round, catch a breeze, take a spill...but ending up where I started again makes me wanna stand still.

That's when I felt passionate enough about things to get out there and *do* something. I traveled to DC for a few protests, I worked Saturdays with Habitat for Humanity, I ran golf tournaments to raise money for charity. I started to realize that I could be *anything* I wanted. I was arrogant enough to think that was possible. I cried at meaningful songs, I tried backpacking on the Appalachain trail, I decided to get my PhD.

I look behind my ears for the green. Even my sweat smells clean. Glare off the white hurts my eyes. Gotta get out of bed, get a hammer and a nail, Learn how to use my hands...not just my head, I think myself into jail. Now I know a refuge never grows from a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose. Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose.

My life is part of the global life. I'd found myself becoming more immobile when I'd think a little girl in the world can't do anything. A distant nation - my community. A street person - my responsibility. If I have a care in the world I have a gift to bring.

Of course I was full of worries and agony then, too. I had no prospects for marriage at the time, which I took to mean I'd be single forever. I was silly. I was immature. But I tell you what - if I could recreate that feeling in my pit of my stomach - that drive, that excitement, I would. It's like I'd just stepped outside for the first time in spring and caught the first whiff of blossoms. POSSIBILITY, coupled with determination to make the most of it.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains, I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain. There's more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line. The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.

Now why do we lose that self when we get older? Once we realize our own mortality, it's like we settle for wherever we are and lose that drive to *be*, to change. I'm not unhappy with my life - quite the opposite. I just don't have that feeling of possibility any more. Is that something only for the very young? Maybe it has to be that way. I don't want to go back in time, but I would love to find that Jen again and bring her along with me in the here and now. I need her inspiration.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

memorial donations

Here is a picture of Gerald when he was in his early 20s and in the Navy. He lived life wild and his way, and had one of the most beautiful smiles I've seen. He was buried in a KISS t-shirt and sweats, and they played "Higher" by Creed at the service. (Link here, then click on the song "Higher" for a clip).

Several people have asked about ideas for places to send donations in honor of Gerald, so I'm posting the information here. Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive and deadly disease, largely because by the time it is large enough to be detected by conventional methods, it has progressed to the point where it is difficult or impossible to treat. About 32,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, and about an equal number die. The 5-year survival rate is about 4%.

The Nathan S. Arenson fund was set up by a family in honor of their husband/father, who died of pancreatic cancer in 1995. The fund has raised more than half a million dollars so far, with 100% of the proceeds sent on directly to fund research. The fund has been set up in support of Dr. Olivera Finn, professor and chair of the Department of Immunology at the University of Pittsburg and a researcher at the University of Pittsburg Cancer Institute. Her research is focused on using the immune system for early diagnosis of the disease, and for prevention of cancer progression.

If you would like to make a donation in the name of Gerald Ray Olson, it can be sent to this address.

Monday, February 20, 2006

ski trip

We're back from skiing! We actually had some cold weather this time, with temps on Saturday night reaching about 10 F. Here is a picture of the kids as they were about to go out on Saturday night (this is the point at which I opted to stay in by myself and drink wine and knit and watch the Olympics. It was such a cozy couch potato moment.)

So now, as related to my wonderful email list of moms, I must share the saga of the ski lift.

We got to the ski resort at dinnertime on Friday so we set out to do some night skiing. It was great - not crowded at all, and the snow was a lot better than last time. Q got tired and wanted to go in before E and I did, so DH took him inside while we girls kept skiing.

Well, E was being particularly crabby this trip. She complained to me every time we got in the lift line that Q could go up by himself but I wouldn't let her do that. I told her I wouldn't even discuss this one. Q was 9 and she was 7. No choice. So she shifted her tactic. She complained that I *always* made her go first and sit on the right side of the lift. (This is so I can make sure she's in place and ready to go when the chair gets to us). I held my stance for a while but after incessant whining, I folded and told her I'd let her sit on the other side.
(*note to self*: do not ever compromise rules again. Ever. I have them for a reason).

So it was our turn and I zipped on out to the loading spot. As the chair came up to us, I glanced over at E and saw that she was not ready, not in the right spot, and was about to be knocked flat. (and at this point, the next 20 seconds stretched out to seem like 15 or 20 minutes, I swear). DH told me later that the next time this happens (as if I'm going to let this happen again), I should push her out of the way. And that makes complete logical sense. But you know that the mommy instinct is to grab your baby, which I did. And as the chair lift started up, I was leaning over, holding E almost totally with my left arm and as it KEPT going, I realized the operator didn't notice what was going on. So I started screaming and SCREAMING for him to stop. Seems like it took forever, but in reality it was 3-5 seconds (which really is a while). So there we were, with my holding E with my weakest arm as she dangled about - (and here I really don't know what the answer is. at the time it seemed to be 20 feet. After I dropped her it seemed to be 100 feet. After she was fine, it seemed 10 feet. The next morning it was probably 8-10 feet above the ground. Ok. Probably less than 8, but you know how mommyism is.)

I saw the operator running up to grab her, but before he could get there...I dropped her. And this is just killing me. I have always felt like mommy adrenaline could accomplish anything. That in a crisis, I would always be able to overcome *anything* and become superhuman and protect my kids. But I DROPPED her. And I knew before I dropped her that it was going to happen. I don't know if I made the choice to drop her, or if my arm sent my mind a message that it was spent, but in that split second before she fell, I went through all the possible outcomes in my mind. I heard a bunch of people in line gasp when she fell (this made me feel TERRIBLE), and she landed in a heap, and I could immediately see in her little face that she was not going to let herself cry, no matter how scared or hurt she was. She had that determined look...which, I took to be a good thing because then I knew she was OK. The operator took her back to the loading spot and an extremely beautiful and wonderful 18 year old girl jumped out of line and said she'd ride up with her, and spent the next few minutes chatting and laughing with Erin and getting her to feeling good again. I have no idea who this girl was, but if karma is around, she's going to have some really good things coming her way.

So we both made it to the top, skied down and went directly inside. I had a glass of wine, and E cuddled with me and I desperately tried not to imagine the "what ifs", like, "what if the operator didn't hear us and we went a few seconds more to where we really were 15 feet or more over the ground". Geez. And then my muscles in my left arm started to ache and ACHE and I realized that I *had* held on with superhuman (for me) strength. That I had given it my all, and that my all wasn't enough. This time, it was OK, but it is just haunting me that sometimes even mommybear adrenaline isn't going to be enough.

Friday, February 17, 2006

10 reasons life is good

It's gonna be a good day.
Life is just *good*, and here are some reasons why:

1) We're going skiing today!!
2) I successfully managed to pre-make pulled barbeque chicken and manicotti stuffed with cheese and spinach for our trip. Less cooking there = more fun playing board games and sipping wine and making s'mores in the fireplace and staying out on the slopes.
3) They're predicting COLD with light snow showers in the mountains tomorrow, and COLD and clear Sunday. Perfect.
4) I woke up this morning with no sign of the sore throat and tired spirit that I had yesterday, which made me think I was going to spend our vacation inside taking tylenol and feeling miserable. But it magically disappeared last night.
5) I got to go to my survivor party last night at B and K's and we laughed over its silliness until we were hoarse.
6) I'm still chuckling over E finding a bag of lentils on the counter and popping a big handful in her mouth, thinking they were sunflower seeds. OOOOh, the spewing forth of lentils across our hardwood floor.
7) Baseball season is about to start (S.R. understands this one!). This happens every year. I'll be taking one of my kids out to a practice and as we walk up in the spring sunshine, I hear the slap of balls in gloves as the kids are throwing balls with their coaches or dads, and I tear up and think THIS IS SO GOOD.
8) I have the best parents EVER. Mom and Dad let me call them a million times a week and they always every time sound delighted to hear from me and let me talk as long as I need to. You still need your parents when you're 41.
9) Q finished his science project experiment and made his display and practiced his oral presentation last night, and can I just say that my son is SO CUTE. And incredibly smart. He was standing there all 8 feet tall of him, with his slim-sized pants almost falling off since he's so skinny, looking all earnest and proud of his work and telling what procedures and materials he used to determine which kind of bread molded the fastest, and I just wanted to jump up and squeeze him and tell him to STOP GROWING UP. No, I don't mean that. He's just getting cuter as he gets older. But he's going to make me quit hugging him in public soon.
10) Speaking of that, I did get quite a laugh out of myself on Monday. Here poor Q is, getting off the bus with all his buddies at school in the morning, when he sees his mom, who runs up to him, plants a kiss on the top of his head and hugs him and says (too loudly), "Hi sweetie!!! I forgot to give you money to buy valentines candy-grams with!!!! Do you want any?" Only after hearing a horrified "NO!!!!" while Q shrugged out of my hug and ran off did I realize that I'd turned into the MOM FROM HELL.
11) This is no longer a list, is it? I'm just inserting numbers randomly into a rambling paragraph of unrelated thoughts. But you know what? It's MY BLOG and I can do what I want!! I even put a number 11 on a list of ten. So that's another reason that life is good.

Monday, February 13, 2006

where's the snow

No, No, NO we did not get any snow. While hearing about the feet of snow falling all up and down the east coast, I watched it drizzle (rain) outside and felt my dreams of sitting by a fireplace with hot chocolate while the kids make snowmen and sled on our day off of work and school just melt away, literally. :-( Poot. It's not FAIR. Off to work and school for us in the damp cold reality of the SE US. There was a snowstorm about 13 years ago that absolutely blanketed the east coast from Georgia to Maine. I'll have to find that satellite photo because right in the middle of it, you can see a little spot that was missing any snow, and it was centered more or less on my house.

Anyway. While I was whining "It's not FAIR!", E patted me and said "Yes it is, Mom." I asked her why it was fair and she said "Because this is just the way it is."

Well ppbbhhtt.

Friday, February 10, 2006

state of fear

OK mom, you brought it up again. :-)

So why am I so torqued about a silly book? I'll try to explain...

First, for anyone who doesn't know, State of Fear is a book by Michael Crichton where he weaves a story about scientists who are involved in some terrorist plot by faking global warming. (for the sake of honesty, I must add that I haven't read the book and have no intention of doing so) But the thing is, he uses all kinds of scientific papers and references to "back up" his opinion that global warming worries are blown out of proportion, and he includes an appendix stating this and explaining (using several scientific papers as references) why we're all worrying too much about global warming and that it's essentially a non-problem.

But this is why I worry about this book, despite its being simply a work of fiction. Senator Jame Inhofe (R-OK), who is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, has recommended that people who wish to learn about the science of climate change theory read this book. So - he's recommending that folks quit listening to the scientists and instead listen to a fiction writer. By the way, there are IPCC reports out there that are meant for policymakers and the public to explain climate change. It's too bad that our government representatives choose to use a work of fiction rather than government-supported research summaries to get scientific information out to the public.

So from just that, I can't wave it off as a harmless a work of fiction. I of all people know that scientists are simply horrible at speaking to the public. Journalists must cry when they are assigned an interview with one. They're boring and essentially speak a different language. But from my experience, they are SMART. And I guarantee you that 99.7% or 99.8% of the scientists I have met really are agenda-free. There is an honest curiosity there, and even more, an honest dedication to truth. But since they're so...weird...the public doesn't have the patience to listen. And this creates the perfect opportunity for someone with a gift of communication (fiction writer) to get their opinion out there where it will have broad appeal. (And to be really cynical here, remember that Michael Crichton is selling books too - I don't even want to know how much more money he makes than a scientist's salary). And, unlike every piece of work that I publish which must go through anonymous peer review and extensive checks for accuracy before I can publish it, Michael Crichton can just put it out there his way.

I'm bothered by all the references and footnotes he uses, as well, which lends a sense of credibility to his writing. But is anyone going to go actually *read* these references and see that he has misrepresented (a few times blatently) a lot of the data? Nah - probably not.

Here's a website "RealClimate: Climate science from climate scientists" that addresses many of the inaccuracies and misinterpretations of the science in the book. If anyone has read the State of Fear and is concerned by some of the scepticism he puts out there about global warming and climate change, I hope you'll check out this site to see if these guys can clear things up. And I hope people remember that scientists really aren't stupid. Most of the controversies he brings up really have been already researched extensively by many many very intelligent people. These things have been thought about for a long time - nothing he brings out is a surprise or is new here.

The thing is, climate change is an issue that really really concerns me. I think we are irresponsible if we continue to selfishly live as we do without trying to understand the consequences of climate change on our grandchildren. There is really pretty much a consensus among scientists that human emissions of CO2 are causing the temperature of the globe to increase, and this is going to lead to some changes in our climate and impact us in ways we haven't even thought about yet. I don't know how extreme it's going to be...but particularly in today's political climate where our budget for researching the chemistry of the atmosphere is being cut, I worry about things like A State of Fear, which can impact the general public perception about research that is crucial.

So that's why I'm um...less than pleased...with the book.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

science through rose colored glasses

Crazy doesn't even begin cover it. I wrote a long post about this subject last week but never even posted it here because I was afraid I had moved beyond writing and had turned into weirded out screaming nutcase. I'm probably doing the same thing today, but maybe I just care a little less if I sound like a crazywoman.

This is a snippet from a Washington Post editorial published this morning:
Mr. Deutsch prevented reporters from interviewing James E. Hansen, the leading climate scientist at NASA, telling colleagues he was doing so because his job was to "make the president look good." Mr. Deutsch also instructed another NASA scientist to add the word "theory" after every written mention of the Big Bang, on the grounds that the accepted scientific explanation of the origins of the universe "is an opinion" and that NASA should not discount the possibility of "intelligent design by a creator."

You may want to read the whole article, which goes on to describe how the Bush administration is twisting around or silencing science coming out of other agencies as well in order to fit it to their agenda. Such a fun read.

Here's the last paragraph:
In every administration there will be spokesmen and public affairs officers who try to spin the news to make the president look good. But this administration is trying to spin scientific data and muzzle scientists toward that end. NASA's Mr. Hansen was right when he told the Times that Mr. Deutsch was only a bit player. "The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies," he said. We agree.

Oh, so the thing Dr. Hansen did was to present results at the AGU meeting in San Francisco last December that suggested in order to curb the warming trend, we need to slow down our emissions of CO2. You can imagine how I reacted to hearing he was being muzzled. I don't know Jim Hansen personally but certainly know of him and have collegues that work with him and by all accounts, he is a very reasonable guy and an excellent, top-notch scientist. So when he got fed up last week and went to the NY Times with his complaint, I had NO doubts he was telling the story accurately.
OK, are any of you astute readers (all 3 of you) thinking - "hey, YOU were at that meeting! How was his talk?" which I reply, "Uhhhhh. I was here that day. And proud of it."

Well then, let's get back to this Deutsch guy (whom I can't help but picture wearing diapers and throwing bibles at people). He's 24, a mere baby, but was selected by George W. Bush (gasp, what a surprise) to work in some top position at NASA's public affairs office. Turns out he has NO, zip, nada training in any kind of science. Nothing. He has a journalism degree from Texas A&M, and that's it. No WAIT!!!! (I get gleeful here). He doesn't really even have that! It's a lie! Seriously, he lied on his resume and never actually, uh, graduated. Here's a story of what happened from a oh, somewhat biased source.
By the way, this guy just quit his job at NASA yesterday.

Lovely. Is this giving you a nice warm fuzzy feeling about the guys who are in charge of our future yet? NASA scientists? EPA research? Don't like what you see? OK. We'll just mmmmmm, change it!!! There. Done. We're not running into ANY climate problems anymore. Pollution really isn't worse in impoverished areas. Nope. And those scientists at the Department of Human Health and Department of Agriculture that are afraid to even talk to the media because they'd be fired? Oh, they're just paranoid. Really.

OK. I'm getting a bit overly sarcastic in this post even for myself. This is a big and a serious problem though. The Union of Concerned Scientists has been harping on the lack of scientific integrity in this administration for a long time. They've got lists of examples of this that just really frighten me. And look, I know that UCS and (gasp) even me myself, we have our own biases. But I truly believe this is happening. And it is so very dangerous. Because look - global warming/climate change is happening. And it is happening because humans have emitted unprecedented amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere in such a short time that on a climate scale it's pretty much instantaneous. And CO2 absorbs radiation and warms the atmosphere. There is really not any scientific debate on those facts, despite what the Bush-puppeted media machine would have you believe. Seriously.


Is it possible that we still have another THREE YEARS of this administration?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I was tagged by a moose.

(these are not necessarily my favorites, but are the ones I can think of right now.

Seven movies I have loved:
....Pride and Prejudice (with either Colin Firth OR Matthew MacFadyen)
....When Harry Met Sally (not so much now as it was perfect for me at the time)
....Contact (always!!)
....The Princess Bride
....Indiana Jones
....A Fish Called Wanda

Seven books I love
....The Path of Minor Planets by Andrew Sean Greer
....Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
....Replay by Ken Grimwood
....Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series
....Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (can I have it on movies AND books?)
....The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
... Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquival

Seven things I say:
....You are pushing me TOO FAR! (guess who I say that to)
....SAMMY!!! (yelled in exasperation at my cat)
....Hey guys, how about TV DINNERS tonight!!??
....I'm going to exercise starting tomorrow.
....Honey, I have a meeting on (insert choice of's all of them)
....Thank you. (I have tons of opportunities for this one)
....What's a date night?

Seven things that attract me to a city
....must be small enough to run into people I know at the library.
....must be large enough to be able to shop without driving > 15 minutes.
....lots of greenspace
....close to the mountains
....good schools
....plenty of picnic spots
....a good place for outdoor dining (where in Williamsburg?? Suggestions??)

Seven things to do before I die
....visit Hawaii, Norway, New Zealand my grandchildren
....have a completely organized and clean house
....take some *real* cooking classes
....publish something fiction (I do quite enough publishing of non-fiction!!)
....get my piano tuned
....have muscular arms

Seven things I can't do
....control my temper when pushed to far (see above)
....listen to two conversations at once a pushup (possible problem to goal #7 just above)
....clean my oven
....brush my teeth without gagging
....chop wood

Seven people to tag
....Holly L.
....Steve R (not dad)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


It's been a while. And for those who don't already know, you've probably guessed that DH's brother Gerald died last week (Friday morning). The funeral was Sunday, so I flew to Atlanta on Saturday and drove back with John on Monday. We didn't take the kids with us - they stayed with our wonderful friends B and K. So needless to say, DH and I are both exhausted and emotionally wrung out. The funeral itself was even harder for both of us than we expected. On the positive side, we spent a lot of time with family, which was actually very wonderful.

There are lots of memories and stories, both about Gerald and the funeral, but they just seem too personal to share online on a blog. So I'm going to pass.

So give me a little time to rest and recover, and I'll be back to writing soon.