Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thoughts at the Winter Solstice


Today is it. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, we see less of the sun than any other day of the year. The sun has paused in its long trek toward my southern horizon and beginning tomorrow, it will begin to creep northward again. This is my favorite solstice. While I do need the change in seasons, I feel very content here in the well of winter. I love the darkness and the cold. I love the trees that have dropped their leaves and a sky that looks overcast and gray. But in reality, I think that what I really love is the contrast that I can create in the winter. I love building a fire in our fireplace and cozying up on the couch with my family when it's miserable outside. I love knitting warm hats and mittens for my children. I love making soups and hot chocolate to warm us and I love the way that the aromas of these warm foods, the pumpkin spice and roasted turkey and potatoes, hang over my house like a blanket. I know that this part of myself that loves the winter is a result of living the affluent life that I do. I am afforded the opportunity to build up an illusion of control over the natural elements. I can keep myself and my family warm and safe in our cocoon while it's freezing outside. This must be why I love winter like I do. I love feeling the cold bite of freezing rain on my nose only because I know that in a few minutes, after I open up the door that leads to the warm golden glow of my home, I will be warm. It's an illusion, I know, this control that I think I have. But for now, it's something that makes me happy.



We went to a winter solstice party last night which was very nice. They had a labyrinth set up in the back yard, made of tiny candles that outlined the path, and had someone softly playing vibraphone bells off in the distance (this family is a fairly well-know celtic rock band so they have a very nice assortment of instruments and talent. It was beautiful.) I walked the labyrinth by myself, and other than starting out the wrong direction and finding myself needing to jump around from path the path to find the correct one to lead to the middle (I wasn't the only one - I kept running across one of my past YRUU kids that was doing the same thing) it was very peaceful. I think the idea of a labyrinth is to clear your mind by the repetition of steps. Once I found the right path, I didn't need to think about where to walk next - I simply quietly and slowly strolled around within the candles with the soft bells dancing around my ears. I was able to let go of thinking about what presents I still needed to buy or what to make for the Christmas Eve party we'll be going to, or what to pack for our trip to Texas. My friends had a yule log set in the middle with a basket of branches beside it. I attached a branch to the log, looked up at the night sky, deeply breathed in the cold air and the smell of the campfire that was burning off in the distance, and put my spirit in a good place to start the new year.

Inside the house was full of food and wine and cider and friends who were sharing details of their lives and laughing and enjoying the company. I wonder why the pagan traditions have become so misunderstood and feared? There is a huge array of faiths and spirituality under the umbrella of "paganism," some of which I relate to, and some of which I absolutely don't. In my personal experience (which I freely admit is limited), I have seen those who claim paganism as their spiritual home to be deeply in love with the natural earth and committed to taking care of this, our home, I've seen their recognition of the importance of humans caring for each other, and I've seen a curiosity about and acceptance of other religions. I also feel a kinship with humans from thousands of years ago who noticed the track of the sun and, in the pagan tradition, celebrated the winter solstice as marking the return of the sun and the goodness that it brought to their lives (i.e. food). While I don't agree with every nuance of their lives or spiritual traditions (as I would say for all friends from all religious persuasions) I feel a marked gentleness and openness from my pagan friends that is often absent in some people from more modern and mainstream religions. My wish for the new year, marked by the clock of the sun which has been turning much longer than the human species has been around, is that this gentleness and openness and true compassion for our fellow humans will one day become more common than the judgmental and sanctimonious attitudes that I too often run across in everyday life.

Happy Solstice to you all.

Monday, December 17, 2007

while I was away...

Taken from where the deck will be:


...and from the backyard:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

home again home again jiggity jig

Hello!!!! I'm in the process of rejoining normal life, post-meeting.

First, the AGU (American Geophysical Union) meeting in San Francisco was OK this year. It was much too huge, which is my complaint year after year, but that's OK. There's something kind of comforting for me to be around 15,000 people just as geeky (or more so) than I am. We were all over SF this week. Made me happy. It's funny how comfortable I feel around science-types. I say "funny" because there really are several distinct science-types of people from students to academics to civil servants to managers (I feel a blog entry coming on this one day) but I can meld with most of them. Scientists are an interesting, unique breed. Overall, they're mostly innocent and quite trustworthy. Seriously. I'm trying to find the right unifying description. Passionate? That may be it. And it's not just for science. These folks are highly passionate about whatever it is that trips their trigger. Science. Politics. Hiking. Rock climbing. Music. Wine. Theater. Literature. Star Trek. Whatever it is, there is loads passion there...which is probably the key to why they have subjected their careers to the difficulties inherent in scientific research. You've GOT to be passionate about it to survive this business.

There's a general observation I'd like to make about climate change after being at the conference. There really isn't any discussion left on a scientific level about whether climate change is occurring or whether humans are the cause (that's pretty much an enormous DUH.). Those questions aren't even on the radar anymore in the scientific world for the reason that...um...We've done that one. Scientifically, it's answered. Science has moved beyond that into "what will the future look like" and "What can we do to alleviate the major problems?" sort of level. (This is a link to the Real Climate discussion of the meeting, Check out all 7 "dispatches" from AGU for a summary of some of the climate change sessions about things like geoengineering consequences and Tipping Points. PS - I didn't get to go to these sorts of sessions because I was too busy. More about that later.)

There remains some level of disconnect with the general public - the key question is what that level is and what amount of attention and worry I (we) should expend on it. Is this a very vocal, very small minority that can be safely ignored (i.e., science can move on to addressing the relevant questions and attempt to make progress?) Or is does the vocal minority have journalists and the media by the ear enough that we as scientists need to still be concerned with the level-zero issues (i.e., convincing the public that there is not a global warming conspiracy.) Is that even an issue for scientists? What level of social responsibility do scientists really have? Once the science has been investigated, does it really become the responsibility of scientists to address the politically-driven debate of today's world? Scientists aren't socially equipped to do this. But besides the obvious question of "who else?" I feel like it's our moral obligation. I just don't know the appropriate approach.

It's hard for me to definitively comment on where the public perception is in relation to the scientific one. The scientific position (on the level-zero climate change issue) is quite clear and easy to gauge, but the general public's position is very difficult for me to understand. I'm on the internet a lot which is heavily biased to extremists, so I read a lot of the vocal "deniers" arguments (which can SO totally and easily be debunked point by point - so tiresome ... check here if you don't believe it. BIG yawn.) Despite that, the fact is that there seems to be a not-insignificant number of normal folks who still think there are valid questions about whether humans are causing climate change. Am I wrong? Is my perception skewed because of where I live and from spending a lot of time on the internet?
I've had a few intelligent people articulate very wrong perceptions about climate change to me recently, and *that* scares me more than the extremists. (e.g., no it's NOT arrogant of us to think that humans could change the climate. It has nothing to do with arrogance and everything to do with understanding the facts behind what factors have contributed to the climate over the last century. And no, this current change is NOT driven by natural causes - we have , in fact, investigated all this and found those contributions to be well below what the observed temperature changes have been)

It's always strange and hard for me to move between this uncertainty in "normal life" and my scientific life, where everyone is so solidly and scientifically on the same page. Damned politics. Or whatever it is that has made "people" distrust science suddenly.

On a totally personal level, this meeting was a lot less fun than previous meetings. I *worked* 99.5% of the time. I was either trying to put together my talk or was recoding our model to constrain HONO for a student I'm helping, or was checking the NO to NO2 photochemical balances compared to measurements in response to "issues" from Harvard, etc. etc. One one hand I felt very useful. On the other, I was tired and ready to collapse.

One night (after my talk), GC and I did take a break and sat up at the lounge at the top of our hotel. I got there early enough to grab a table right by the windows overlooking the Bay Bridge and the SF Bay at sunset. Nice. We bought a $65 bottle of wine and enjoyed the view and talked and talked (about lots o' things). I needed that, and so did he, since he's going through some personal stuff that's very tough.

Oh. My presentation, you ask? There are two distinct components to it. The content was great. I got mobbed afterwards by several researchers who wanted to discuss future work we could do. There was a lot of positive interest. Made me feel great. I've got lots of stuff to think about and work on. The second component: the delivery? I get a solid D- or an F. My voice was shaky (even *I* could tell), and the little red laser pointer I used? It's only lucky that I didn't blind someone with my shaky hand. I sucked. Yes really. I did. Big time sucked. I have a phobia of public speaking. I admit it freely. Everyone in that room knows it now, too.

Don't try to make me feel better. I really did suck. As a scientist, I'm OK, or at least passable. As a public speaker I totally suck. I could HEAR it as it was happening. It's a sad, sad thing, and helpless to stop. It's like I was an observer and I could tell I was crashing but was helpless to stop it. Train wreck.

But it's OK. That's my personal little demon to learn to get along with. Plus, that nice bottle wine and the sunset over the bay helped. All in all, I'm really very glad to be home.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

movies and games

We went and saw The Golden Compass today. What a fascinating movie! And that Lyra ROCKS. She's one of the best girl characters I've seen in a long time.

I can't say that I'm surprised by the present controversy surrounding this film because of the anti-religious bent. Honestly, it doesn't come out all THAT obviously in this particular movie. I hear that most of the concern is based on the worry that children will be enticed to read more of this series, which from what I understand, is supposed to become much more blatant in its atheist themes. Worse, I have heard that it is very anti-god (which is different from being atheist. It really is.) You know, despite being an atheist myself, like Pullman, I can't stand one group of people attacking another purely from difference in spiritual beliefs (or race or sexual preference or whathaveyou), so I was all set to come out and surprise people with my support of the complaints. I, however, don't find that I can do that. I did not get the impression that this movie was attacking christian spirituality or god, but was making (strong) statements on organized religion, and more accurately - mind-controlling powerful organized religion. And that, I just have no problems with. I just don't see the concern at this point. Perhaps, though, I should read more of his books before making any strong statements. In any case, it was a nice afternoon and I enjoyed the movie. (We took five kids with us and got two huge tubs of popcorn and had a great time sprawled out on the back row, which is the best kept secret of movie theaters - LEG. ROOM.)

Now I just need to share a funny conversation we had in the van on the way home. The characters are me and DH (two adults sitting in the front two seats of the van, trying desperately to politely tolerate the ridiculous banter and loud laughter of the children behind us.) Q and E, my two darlings, and Q's friend Neal (we left the other two children we brought behind at the movie theater because they misbehaved.)
Anyway, Q and Neal were busy putting the empty popcorn bucket (lined with butter of course) on their HEADS (bleah. Showers tonight). They were giggling wildly and being nutty kids. I heard the following conversation: "Oh OWWWW! Stop laying there! That hurts!!! Oh now I really have to wee wee!!!!!!!" (laughter, laughter, laughter)
E: "Neal, do you have a wee???"
I choked and immediately said "EEEEEEEE!!!!! That is SO inappropriate! What are you thinking????" (and various other indignant disciplinary phrases). OMG. I couldn't believe my sweet 9 year old was being so raunchy!!!!

----silence-----

E: Mom, I was asking about if he had the game Wi.

Which I totally believe. It took her a while to figure out what I was ranting about. Poor girl.

Friday, December 07, 2007

progress

Sorry. I do realize that no one is as interested in this as I am, but look what I found when I got home today! Wooo hoooo! There will be another big window that size on the wall that's not up yet, and the other one (leading to the deck) will have glass french doors. Sunshine!!!!




Thursday, December 06, 2007

the wizard of something I suppose

Hello!!!

I'm coming up for air for a brief moment. Here's what's going on. As my faithful readers know, "Wonderboy", who is/was the lead of our small research group, went onward and upward to a temporary (2 year) stint as a science manager up at HQ some time ago.
======================
brief aside here!!!! During a visit from dear ex-neighbor Brad, recently, we had a big "say hello to Brad and give him lots of hugs (that last part was for me who was missing the brother I never had but ended up in fact having despite his moving halfway across the country)" party at a friend's house and Wonderboy was there. (didja get that last sentence?) Somehow, after several glasses of wine, someone mentioned that I had a blog, which was most interesting to several colleagues, including Wonderboy. In a brief instant of bad-judgement, I TOLD Wonderboy that his pseudonym was, in fact, "Wonderboy." Damned wine. He hasn't mentioned it again, so we're all just pretending it never happened.
======================
Anyway, as a result of his absence, I've had to take over the position as group "lead" and act as our liason with other groups. We're a very small group (3 people) with a smallish focus, but we're one that does extremely valuable work (in my totally unbiased opinion). As a result of being smallish and in today's climate of drastically dwindling money for atmospheric science research (yes, REALLY, you global warming skeptics!!! News Flash!! There's NO MONEY in this field anymore!), we need to be very careful to keep ourselves visible so we don't get caught in the giant "sucking into the void of no money/no viability" that smallish research groups are often finding is their fate in this science-unfriendly political climate. This, in turn, means that I have found that I must be willing to spend MUCH of my time on doing extra work (on extremely short notice) for other research groups to "prove" how valuable we are. Now these other groups are invariably very nice people, and very polite and kind, and very good scientists. I value and enjoy working with them. I enjoy chatting on the phone with guys from US coast to US coast from universities and government agencies and such. The egotistical side of myself is also loving the fact that they know who I am and know to come to me. BUT.

This ultimately means that my own research has been put on the back burner while I busy myself proving our worth to the research world.


Now I find myself 3 days from leaving for my conference and my talk for said conference is um....not well formed. More accurately, the TOPIC of my talk is not well formed. Yikes. I have officially but politely held off further requests for model runs by saying we really "MUST" talk about it in San Francisco, I have some great ideas about your work, so let's wait until then, yada yada yada. Meanwhile I am breathing into paper bags and banging my head onto each and every desk in the house and office while desperately trying to retain an air of confidence and "can-do" attitude to keep myself from dissolving into tears. I'll get about 1 hour of Wonderboy's time tomorrow while I'm putting in an extra day of work. I'm trying not to think about actually having to stand in front of my colleagues and say "Um....hi! You all are so pretty!" It'll happen. It always does. Right? I wonder what people would do if I got up there and cried? I could show pictures of my kids or talk about our latest PTA fundraiser.

So today as I was busy spending 5 hours doing what I thought would take 30 minutes, I was briefly thinking about how much I love my work. Seriously. This stuff makes me so happy. I *HEART* my work. I wonder if people know how incredibly UN-romantic science can be and if they really understand how it can be so attractive to people (like me) despite its most decidedly unromantic splendor? For example, I spent hours today looking for a bug in my code because I instinctively felt that the results didn't seem exactly right. My instincts ended up being right (*heart heart heart*), but it did result in a long several hours of meticulous and unexciting decoding. I can't explain why it makes me so happy. It's something like the satisfaction of sucking up the balls of doghair that frolick across my hardwood floors into the vacuum. I feel like I'm shaving off the rough edges and slowly but surely revealing what IS. In all seriousness - I do feel like this.

So there you are. You've been wondering why I've not been posting anything and I regale you instead with the wonder of vacuuming hairballs. It's all perfectly clear to you. Right? (Just like my talk will be to the dozens of colleagues who skip the coffee to come hear my fantabulous insights.)

Bang. Bang. Bang. Pay no attention to the individual in the corner who is banging her head against the desk. She is simply a poor pseudo-representation of the wizard of oz. There's lots of fluff. And loads of wannabe power. There's even a little bit of oomph. Be kind to her. Because she really does mean well and her heart is in the right place. Especially, be kind to her if you happen by her talk at AGU next week. Tell her she's amazing and she rocks. She will smile at you and buy you wine if you tell her that.

foundation

In the midst of my personal imploding, the construction on our new room goes on:


The foundation is done. (btw, that's not snow. It's white sand).
The cinder block portion (on the NEW foundation) is the side where the new deck will be attached. The cinder block portion on the existing house is due to us being cheap when we added that first addition and went with cinder blocks in the back of the house rather than extend the brick all the way around. I kind of regret it now, but oh well. Most of it is getting covered up with the new room anyway.

I was worried that it looked awfully small when it was just the footings, but it's looking like a nice-sized room to me now.

In other news, daughter E had a FABULOUS birthday and birthday party. More about that later. I'm off to SF in a few days. No, my talk is not even almost ready. Which is why this is going to be a very short posting. Just wanted my good friends out there to know I'm alive and barely kicking.

Happy holidays, all!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

one step at a time

We are now proud residents with a porta-potty in our front yard (BTW, dear neighbor M, I don't think you or your children should actually use it. I'm not totally convinced that it's real. Where would the, um...crap...go? Seriously? It's just sitting there on solid ground. I think this is another regulatory thing). This is courtesy of our fabulous contractor (I mean fabulous in all seriousness - he replanted one of our plants and did some fill-dirt work just to be nice). Pictures of the loverly porta potty to come soon. (And our back deck is totally gone and a bobcat is in its place.)



So what happened to the fall? I vaguely remember grousing about how the leaves hadn't changed as it neared Halloween. Then I blinked, and now it's after Thanksgiving. We're having fires in the fireplace. The leaves are glorious though they turned many weeks later than "normal." Normal is relative. The climate is changing and this is the new normal. For now. Don't get me started. (Ruthie, I KNOW I owe you some stuff about global warming and I so want to do that and will. I figure that you're so busy now anyway that you're not chomping at the bits to read it. And meanwhile I'm struggling to not burst into tears at the slightest provocation and to please train myself to stop resorting to canned ravioli and frozen dinners at night. Did I ever really have time to COOK for my family? When??)

I'm a bit busy. I have a talk to give at the AGU meeting (American Geophysical Union) in San Francisco in a week or so and I pretty much still don't know the direction it will take. I am not good with last minute stuff. So I'm panicking. And not sleeping. It's generally not pretty for those who know me. My sweet baby girl turns NINE YEARS OLD on Sunday, so we're having 6 additional little girls spend the night on Saturday. I called DH tonight as I was panicking over life in general and the fact that I had to make TWO trips to Walmart for the Brownie troop tonight for extra garland and ornaments for their cute holiday parade hats...and by the way dear neighbor M was NOT THERE to take my panicked calls, meaning I had to subject DH to the explosion of my sanity...which meant that I came home to a clean house and a fire in the fireplace and the decision that DH and E are going to totally take care of her party from the planning to the buying to the execution of it. That was a truly panicked phone call, I tell you. M, be glad you were at Kohl's. Or not. I was going to offer to buy the wine. Anyway. (I'm going to try hard to trust DH and E with the birthday party. I did have to remind them to think about buying a cake ahead of time if they want it specialized in any way. I appreciate them taking some of my load off. But this is my BABY'S BIRTHDAY!!!! Breathe, breathe)

But you know what? After the Brownie meeting tonight, E and I had to stop by the store for milk, and she picked up a Hershey's bar. As it was on the tip of my tongue to tell her "NO WAY, JOSE, you just ate a chocolate Santa at Girl Scouts!!" she said, "Mommy, I don't have any money with me, or I would buy this for you. I think you've had a hard night and you need this." (sniff) So I bought it.

At home, it was sitting on the counter. Q came in and asked me "Whose Hershey's bar is that on the counter?" Rather than sniping at him "No SIR, you may not have it!!" I simply said "mine." He said. "Oh good, Mommy. You deserve something nice like that."
Then, as I was cuddling with him on the couch, I chanted to him in my best brainwashing mode: "You will love your mommy forever and buy her lots of presents when she is old and let her play with her grandchildren whenever she wants to." Q looked at me with surprise. "Well, of COURSE I will, mommy!!!!"

O.M.G.

I have the best children and husband EVER.

If only they could finish my AGU talk up for me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

geez. What am I to think?

I got a phone call tonight from one of my wonderful PTA chairladies, Kim. "Hey J?" she asked. "Did you read the paper? Do you know the names of these kids?"

In our little local paper this weekend were a couple of stories I did indeed take note of, and no, I did not know the names of the kids. There was an 11 year old boy who had been "set on fire" by a 14 year old 'friend' due to a thrown cup of gasoline and a cigarette butt, and then a story of two 10 year old boys who had an accident on an ATV (or a motorcycle?) who were 1.5 miles from any adults, requiring the not-so-much-injured little boy to RUN for 1.5 miles to get help, with the other seriously injured boy later life-flighted to a nearby large hospital with "life-threatening injuries". My son heard the subsequent conversation I had with DH about the boy set on fire and let me know that he was, in fact, a friend of my son's. (I had NO IDEA. Apparently, Q said it was all the conversation amongst the 6th graders last week, but I hadn't heard). He got 3rd degree burns on his legs but is expected to return to school soon. No one knows yet about the second incident, but based on the location where it was reported to happen, it is most certainly a couple of 4th or 5th grade boys at our local elementary school. This comes just a few weeks after an accident where a 4th grade girl at our school BROKE HER BACK from an ATV accident. Good. God.

Kim made the comment to me, "You know what? There are are moms somewhere right now sitting at the bedside of these boys and these are THEIR SONS that we are talking about." I called my best resource for information, Paige, and she made the comment to me that, "You know what, J? Our boys are going to be in high school before we know it and we're going to start hearing about accidents even more often, when they start driving and start really being in the world."

Ya think I'm going to sleep very well tonight? Thanks, Paige! :-)

To experience life requires that you get right there into it. I totally buy the whole "sine function" argument that the magnitude of highs you experience requires that you that you are open to experience the same magnitude of lows. But isn't it a crapshoot whether you actually have to experience those ultimate lows? Ultimately, I don't know that I would be capable of surviving them. I think I would not be able to if they involved my children.

I am reminded again of that saying from Elizabeth Stone that someone shared with me when I first had children:
"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body."

Yes, Amen. That is SO what it is. The most precious and vital parts of myself do not belong to me anymore. The most important thing is not myself, anymore, and even more critical - I have very little (no) control over that "most important thing." It makes me feel joy like I've never felt and makes me see the world with new eyes. But for the flap of the wing of a butterfly, it is also what has the potential to drive me into the abyss of never ending despair.

oy. Parenthood.

Friday, November 23, 2007

my new boyfriend

I just have to post this. J has let me know that I can call Mikey Lowell my baseball boyfriend. Having nothing else to do on the day after Thanksgiving, like say, clean the house or finish the laundry, I came across this posted on youtube (just yesterday?). Awesome. Fun! He's such a classy guy, and that's why he's my new baseball boyfriend. His contribution to the team goes beyond 3B fielding or batting averages - the team wants/needs him there to keep them grounded. They were quite vocal about that too. He's a stabilizing influence - the ultimate teammate. This is a case where finding the exact right team mix includes more than simply HRs or RBIs and includes finding the chemistry that keeps them fighting on as a team.
It's a moot point, anyway because in case you haven't heard, he'll be back! Enjoy... (He's number 25)

before

I know that the "before" pictures are the most boring, so I apologize.
Here's a very poorly patched-together picture of the back of our house which is set to be overhauled beginning on Monday.


Here's where the sunroom will be. From the left, there's a double window (office) then two sets of double doors, both red. One leads to nowhere and one leads to the current deck. The sunroom will extend from just to the left of the 1st double door to just to the right of the second. The double door on the left side will be converted to a single interior door leading from the playroom to the sunroom. The other doors will be changed to interior french doors to lead from the dining area to the sunroom. There will be a deck to the right of the sunroom. You can also see the lovely silt fence that the environmental control people in our county required us to have installed, costing us an additional many many many (nearly EIGHT) hundreds of dollars.



And here's yet another requirement from the environmental people. A permanent sign, set in concrete down in our woods:

Can you see it?




And here is the reason we're getting a sunroom. This is the current view from the back of our house.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

hodgepodge

Thank you so much, J, for asking after me.

I'm fine. I've not been up to posting this past week simply because I've been so busy. It's mostly been good things (tm) that have kept me so occupied, so please interpret this as an explanation and not as a complaint. Besides, after being reminded of the schedule that one of my heroes (Ruthie) keeps, I'm hesitant to even mention my own supposed "busy-ness."

Here's one of the good things (tm) I've been busy with:


Fun stuff! Present neighbors and past neighbors with a healthy
(unhealthy?) dose of food and drink and games over a
long, long weekend.

Speaking of games, here's a fun game for you. Can you match the new tat to the face and to the body part?
(I'm so sorry J - please skip this part).




I am SO done with this portion of my mid-life crisis. It hurt WAY too much this time (I'm talking tears squeaking out of the corners of my eyes and finger imprints in the back of the chair. It was a wooden chair). I'm still having trouble making friends with this new tat because of that, in fact. I. Am. All. Done. I got the two symbols I was most interested in making a part of me for the rest of my life. All done. Besides, how can I top walking around the city with dear neighbor M (we had the two smaller tats {there's a hint for you} so we finished something like HOURS before the other two). Anyway, how can I top walking around with her through a somewhat questionable part of the city with her brandishing a package of tampons and ibuprofen and declaring that no one would DARE MESS WITH US NOW.

Work.
O.M.G.

I cried at work today. Wonderboy couldn't tell (I don't think) because we were on the phone. (Maybe he could tell because he suddenly got very quiet and nice). I am so overwhelmed and so out of my element. I did not sign up for this responsibility. I was totally happy with my peon status. Truly. But in the spirit of continuing the work we do, I had no choice but to step up to take the wheel while Wonderboy is away playing with the political types at HQ. Did you know it is impossible to do a full time job in a 24 hour week? It really is. It's official. I am not Superwoman. And the imposter police are welcome to come bludgeon my poor pathetic attempt at being a scientist.

My PTA work is going well but only because I was smart (yay me) about getting the most awesome people ever to work on the committees. So despite the fact that I have no time and I am running around blubbering over feeling inadequate at work, our PTA stuff is busy being fabulous. Is it bad for me to want to take partial credit for that when I'm really not doing very much of the work? Tough. I'm doing it anyway.

Other trivia in the spirit of catch-up?

OMG, my man Mikey Lowell will be back with the Red Sox this year.


(DH is happy too. And J sent me a WOOHOO message today. I feel like I'm a little part of the Red Sox Nation. Sniff.). We're going to try to go to Boston during the next season to attend a game with J and another family we know up there. I can't wait!!! :-) :-) :-) Happy, happy, joy, joy...

My darling sister L is having a fantabulous time in NYC!!!! I got a call from her today as she was wandering around lost in Central Park after two hours of snow falling. She was as happy as I've ever heard her and was drunk on the taste of independence. I'm thinking I may need to drive up to NYC to pry her back to her home. Maybe she'll join me as an east-coaster one of these days??? L, I couldn't be happier for you.

That's most of my catch up. Oh, I lurved hearing dear neighbor M play violin at the St. Caecilia's day music presentation at UU that my dear friend Jamie directed. Got a little tear in my eye over that, too - the pure, pure love of music that Jamie has. They played a piece that Haydn wrote while in Eisenstadt, Austria, which (along with Jamie's eloquent words beforehand) brought back lovely memories of the sunflowers and wine and happiness of Austria. Have I mentioned that I want to go back? Next winter when Jamie and co. have moved back there for a year? So we can try skiing in the Alps? Hm....going straight from east coast slush to the Alps may be a bit of a leap. We'll see.

Lots of good things on the horizon. I'm ignoring CNN and the news and horrors in Bangladesh and worries of global warming and war and stuff that gives me nightmares. For now, I'm all friends and sisters and Mikey Lowell and Austria and new sunrooms. There's a glimpse of my "busy-ness." All good things (tm).

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Goodbye to another friend


I've had Sammy longer than any other pet - he was 17.5 years old.



He was the most loving and affectionate cat I've ever known. He especially loved underarms, and he had a tendency to drool. (That combination was not a good one).

We'll miss you, Sammy!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

graduate



Here's the whole class. You know the whole "owners resemble their dogs" thing? Yep. There is one pair in particular in there that fit this adage perfectly. Sweet, sweet lady and sweet dog. And they looked very similar.





Proud trainer and graduate. Roxy was praised by the teacher for moving from REALLY out of control crazy to just kind of out of control crazy. Progress is what we're after, right?

Monday, November 05, 2007

laughter

Hungh. Yee. haw.
I made it through another PTA meeting tonight without any major mishaps. That's a good thing, in case anyone is wondering. Things are actually going very well so far with the pee-tee-aye this year - I'm just not doing a whole lot other than cheerleading and sending emails. I guess that's what I'm supposed to be doing. It just feels very weird to not be more in the trenches, you know? That's where the real work gets done. I hope people don't get bored. (Yep, I'm a freakin' worry wart). S.T.O.P.

I've been in a weird place lately - like a giant page is turning. Maybe it's just the new "autumn" hair color my hair stylist gave me last week. Or the fact that my tiny baby has been to a school dance and has acne and the beginnings of facial hair. Or that I'm mostly on my own at work now, having to argue with the Harvard folks and I'm really trying hard not to be intimidated even while I KNOW that I'm right. (Wonderboy confirmed this). I'm right.

So anyway, I promised dear neighbor M that I would share this story since it smacks of "Seems like a movie" (Mare knows of what I mean) and since I nearly peed in my pants when it happened. It was Friday last week, which means it was my day off, which means I actually walked down the street to the bus stop to meet my tiny little darling daughter E as she got off the bus because you know she is so delicate and fragile that she needs her mommy there - I just don't know how she manages the rest of the week when she is forced to walk home through bitter cold and driving rain on her lonesome. A POX POX POX on me! Her terrible momma.

Anyway.

This particular day I was the good momma and I met her up at the bus stop. As we were walking home, my favorite next-door-neighbor M's (her competition is the otherside neighbor who micromanages the care of my cat) husband came whipping around the corner whilst riding his son's scooter which was actually piloted by his crazy-ass dog on the end of a leash. E and I watched warily as cowboy neighbor D yeehawed his way down the street and down the (small) hill toward our houses. I think I may have called out in my best mommy voice that "You've forgotten your helmet!" or "Are you insane?" or something like that. In any case, we continued our stroll down the street up and over the small hill, at which some point cowboy neighbor D came into focus again. His crazy dog was nowhere in sight but he was very carefully trying to put his mailbox back into the upright position.

"D?" I called. "Is it possible that you just ran into your mailbox?"

D quickly whipped into "leaning on mailbox" position as he positioned the broken 4x4 back into the ground.

"hmm?" Bright smile because nothing (of course) has happened.

"D? Did Daisy just smash you into your mailbox, upending it and rendering it completely useless? How is Dear neighbor M supposed to get her christmas catalogues now???!!!"

Cowboy D smiled and continued to lean on the supposedly sturdy mail box, even as it wobbled precariously.

At which point I nearly peed in my pants from collapsing into laughter.

Maybe you had to be there to get the whole scene and see D's face as he leaned into the post to pretend nothing had happened.

But I know it just made my week. Because you have to laugh.

My giant page is turning and I'm hanging on to the edge of it for dear life, and it's only this laughing that reminds me that it's ok that the pages keep turning. Children are born and grow up and you argue with ivy league intellectuals and worry about what to present at the meeting, but ultimately, everyone pauses and remembers to breathe when they laugh.

Neighbor D? I think you are one of the most intelligent people I've met, and I don't mean this as anything other than a celebration of the fact that if we pay attention, we all get the chance to pee in our pants from laughing so hard. It's a good thing. And you're kind and great and all that to let me laugh at you and not hold it against me. I promise I'll make it all up to you someday.

But I've just got to say that MY mailbox is still functional. So there.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

what do gypsies do?

I've been having more and more trouble staying on task lately. I've always thought I tended a little toward ADD, but it's worse than ever lately. I've decided it is all because of my children.

Questions/Statements with which I was beset during our drive to dog obedience class tonight, within the very short span of 20 seconds:
  • "Do you know the words to 'Bet On It?'"
  • "Mom, what does a gypsy do?"
  • "Do you know how to throw a frisbee forehand?"
  • "You know, you can't ever change that you spanked Roxy."
{Roxy is our dog who was being EXTRAORDINARILY naughty tonight on the way to dog obedience, of all places, causing several bruises on my shins, a few burst eardrums and a total shattering of patience. Yes I spanked her and no, E will never forgive me.}
(Sigh.)
I am so tired.

Here is a random selection of some of the things I've been busy with recently (as a pathetic attempt at an excuse as to why I've not posted in so long).

I found out I'm funded through this.

I'm also going to San Francisco and LA in December for some meetings. I have not traveled for work in 2 years. It's not easy to try to stay up with things as a scientist when you limit travel so severely. But it's a choice I happily made in order to keep the balance I want between my career and my family. I'm ready to travel some more now though, which is a good thing since I may need to go on at least one of the aircraft deployments to the Arctic (Fairbanks?) this year.

Red Sox. I am supremely happy. So is DH (happy is somewhat of an understatement.) Man, does he love baseball. I love that he loves it, and I find I can love the game too, if he can de-intensify enough to enjoy it with me. I won't even get into the whole ordeal (yes I will) that I made him pay dearly for, when we took a family trip to see the Sox play in Baltimore this year, and I discovered once we were looking for our seats (DH bought the tickets), that we WERE NOT SITTING TOGETHER. DH simply cannot understand how anyone would not be happy to go watch the Red Sox play, whether you are sitting alone or not. Me? I fumed and sputtered and cried and tried to enjoy what I could of the game without going to find DH and clobbering him over the head. Let's just say that from now on, we will not be attending games unless the family is SITTING TOGETHER. I'm such a bitch.

Anyway.

We had so much fun watching the playoffs and the World Series. I just wish my kids could have watched more of them with us, but it was too late for them to stay up. Q just absolutely adores Jacoby Ellsbury and has been following his career for a while (Q's favorite position is center field). He's a talented, strapping young man (who is young enough to be my son, I discovered - Mare, check out his birth date. O.M.G.) who is just amazing at baseball. I saw Ellsbury announcing the lineup before one of the series games and he was so nervous that he was rocking back and forth in such a Q'esque kind of way that I nearly died laughing.

Me? I have a soft spot for Mike Lowell, the series MVP and all around amazing person and amazing ball player and...well...he's distinguished and handsome, and is a lot closer to my age. I will have a hard time forgiving the Sox if they don't re-sign him.



He's downright hot in that picture.
(from me, the baseball aficionado)

Not sure about DH. I know he's a Varitek fan, partly because we were at Ga Tech all at the same time. Sorry, I have no stories about hanging out with Jason (and Nomar) at local bars, though. DH did take me to a game or two back then, not that I had any idea. No idea that Varitek and Garciapara would end up in the majors, and no idea that I would end up marrying DH and having two children with him. I was just hanging out at the ball field and drinking a beer. (BTW, I just went to ask DH who his favorite Red Sox player was and he said historically it'd be Varitek, but he's really up on Ellsbury now).

Funny, neither DH nor Q place much importance on "being hot." Me either, really. I swear. Really. It's just a very nice sidenote. Jeez. Time to indulge my ADD and move to another subject.

We are in the process of beginning another addition to our home (will post pictures as it goes along). This room will be a full addition (foundation, heating and cooling, etc) sunroom - i.e., nice big room with as many windows that will fit, vaulted ceiling, skylights, and door leading out to a new TREX deck. Future dreams include a hot tub on the deck, and an above-ground pool with surround decking. It'll happen!!!! Party at my house in about another decade...

See you there...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

stop chicken little

May I point you to a very nice article on our reaction to global warming?
Check this out.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I am mommy, but it is my pups who roar

I am so sorry. I am about to write a blog post about my daughter again. But I'll then try to seque into a thoughtful post about religion and diversity and such, if that makes it any better. (nah, I won't really seque into that. I'm just going to brag about my wonderful daughter.in this post. Again.)

I do not believe in god. I do not, however, teach my children that they should not believe in god. I teach them that it is a personal decision, and I took them to UU (up until about 5 months ago) to introduce them to the concept of religion (including christianity) and god(s) and to the concept that spirituality is ultimately a personal decision. I'm all about imparting our values to our kids, but this is one area of values that I firmly believe that they have GOT to find their own way. I'll tell them what I believe but I will never tell them that I know anything for sure. I've encouraged them to think about things broadly and find their own way, and that I will respect whatever it is that they decide, and I expect that their own spirituality will change many, many times before they are comfortable. (And I will try SO HARD to accept their way as valid and reasonable, no matter how painful that may be. Family Ties, anyone?)

So don't hate me or judge me because my daughter currently doesn't believe in god.

My daughter is about as different from me (when I was her age) as you can get. She is one of the most self-assured people I've ever known. She's delicate (only because she's only eight), but is also so confident in herself that it puts me to shame.

She's in 3rd grade (that's very young). Her teacher stepped out of their classroom for a few minutes today. One of the kids mentioned that he was drawing god in his crayon picture because "god is everywhere". Let me mention here that I have many, MANY times tried to explain to E that religious beliefs are diverse and quite personal and that they are usually best left unspoken. (i.e., PLEASE don't go around telling everyone that you are a heathen, my dear heart, since we live on the edge of the bible belt and I really don't want you to be a walking target). So of course E pipes up that "*I* don't think that's true, Christopher, because *I* don't even believe in god!!!!". And that led, ultimately, to quite the heated little debate amongst this quiet little 3rd grade class in their few moments of no adult supervision. E tells me that she was told by many that she was going to go to hell, to which she feistily replied that since she didn't believe in hell either, she wasn't worried about that. Her best friend in the classroom is Jewish (very possibly the ONLY Jewish child in this elementary school at this point) and is very much as self-assured as E, and she stated that she didn't believe that Jesus was the son of god and that E was Unitarian and she and E proclaimed together that they were still able to be best friends despite believing different things.

At which point, apparently, all hell broke loose and manna from heaven was falling and fire was bursting forth from bushes and words were flung about.

Then the teacher returned to the classroom and announced they were going to vote for their representative to the student council.

And guess who won. My sweet little heathen, the unbeliever and the godless E.

Can I say that I am so proud I want to weep? A lot? (not about winning the silly little Student Council Rep position, though I have to admit I'm happy about that). But I am proud that there is this tiny little human here that somehow understands that there is an enormous range of spiritual understandings out there, and understands that her own beliefs are just that (her own beliefs) and she was able to stand strong in the face of a group that believed she was so wrong that she was going to hell (whatever that really means to 8 year olds), and she didn't back down...and she came from me!!!!!!

I love this child. And I created her. Applaud me.

No, sorry. Applaud her.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

parenting

Today was my daughter's Ultimate Frisbee class after school. For what it's worth, this class is EXACTLY as I'd predicted it would be when E first announced to me she wanted to take it. There are 40 kids in this class, and 38 of them are boys. About 35 of them are 4th and 5th grade boys. E is having the time of her life. (Yes, I am afraid. I am very afraid.)

Anyway, I went up to the school to pick up her hot and sweaty and smiley self. She settled down in the van and we started the 7 minute drive home.

"Mom?"

(uh oh. There is this particular tone of voice that she uses and when I hear it I know I will be amused, infinitely entertained, and ultimately left wondering how it is possible that this child came to be part of my gene pool.)

"Mom, you know when Q gets upset and cries and you get mad at him?"

"Yes." (I will not go into this particular issue here. Suffice it to say that Q continues to delight me with his intellect and leave me gray-haired and feeling totally incapable of parenting him with his inability to stifle ANY emotion that he feels at ANY particular point in time).

"Well mom. You really need to support him and let him know that you know how he feels."

(I kind of shake my head and continue driving.)

"I mean, you need to be firm and let him know what he's doing wrong, but he really knows that already so he needs you to be firm and ALSO he needs to know that you're not mad at him. I mean, it's like he needs a gentle push up up up up to help him get into control. He already feels bad and knows you'll be mad at him for crying so you need to say, 'Q, I UNDERSTAND how you feel and you're right to feel that way, but I need you to stop crying. I need you to pull yourself together.' Like that, Mom! You need to let him know that you love him at the same time that you let him know what he's doing wrong."

(I was pretty much speechless at this point.)

She continued on and on and on the rest of the way home, full of examples about what the best way to react would be under various situations, and she was so full of compassion and wisdom that it took all I had not to laugh because. GOD. She's EIGHT!!!!
It was particularly hard not to laugh when after two beats of silence she said, "Mom? If you try all of this stuff about five times or so and it doesn't work? Then just forget that we had this conversation." Actually, I did laugh at that. Pretty hard.

We drove up into the driveway, and stunned into silence, (you tell me who wouldn't be after a 7 minute long lecture on proper parenting skills by an 8 year old), I got out of the van.

"Mom?" she said. "Actually, you're doing pretty good with this."

"Go on into the house." I told her. "I need to go talk to Mary." (neighbor).

At which point I walked next door and asked Mary if the world had been overtaken by aliens.

I have NO IDEA where all that came from or why and in particular how she came up with that last little barb about "forget this conversation ever took place" which was so witty and funny and so un-like an 8 year old (who is usually a normal 8 year old twerp who won't go to bed when she's supposed to), that well. What to say?

This is why I had kids, I guess.

At least now I know how to handle Q.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

rose orthodoxy

'Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.
When I was in junior high, some of my classes were held in a "trailer".
Now, both of my kids both have had some of their classes held in "learning cottages."

When I was in junior high and kids got in trouble they were sent to "detention."
My son's middle school sends kids that misbehave to the "extended teaching room."

Our old "janitors" are now "custodians" and our old "cafeteria ladies" are now "food services personnel".

Up until last week, if I was using a copier and got the message "out of paper", I knew what to do.
Last week, when I got the message "resources required" I was stumped for a while. But I should have known.
(I'm not kidding this is really the new message that is displays when the paper is out)

Heh.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize

Congratulations to the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) and to Al Gore for winning the 2007 Nobel Peace prize.

Hear that rage? The heads of global warming denialists are exploding all over the world. But don't worry, they'll find their tongues soon enough and will resume their campaign of misinformation. (Actually, they already have. No I'm not giving any links here).

The IPCC and Al Gore are both highly deserving. From the Nobel Prize website:
In addition to humanitarian efforts and peace movements, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded for work in a wide range of fields including advocacy of human rights, mediation of international conflicts, and arms control.
Climate change is the issue that will define our generation. No other conflict or action that we as a species take during our lifetimes is going to have as much ultimate impact on the earth and on the human species as climate change will. Yes, that is simply a prediction (and my prediction at that). But after a few decades of studying and thinking about this issue, I am convinced of this truth. Despite the (99.99% unfounded) claims that the science is uncertain, the real evidence strongly supports that humans have altered the carbon balance of the earth/atmosphere system significantly and as a result have initiated a new era of human-induced climate change, and anyone who actually takes the time to review the science in an unbiased manner will agree, I am positive. Al Gore suspected the importance of this "truth" decades ago and has been a steady and stalwart voice for educating the public on climate change ever since. The US military itself has recognized the ultimate threat of climate change to global security and peace in its report on 'National Security and the threat of Climate Change." The Nobel committee awarded the prize to Gore and the IPCC because it wanted to bring into sharper focus the "increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between state" posed by climate change. Climate change is not simply about the world having warmer temperatures. It is about changes in locales of food production, water availability, and ultimately, in wealth. And this is indeed the stuff of peace and wars. That Al Gore has persevered in getting the message to the public in the face of such vicious backlash from certain sectors is a testament to his dedication to this message.

Recognition of the IPCC is a nod to the dedicated work of thousands of scientists. Here is a description of what the IPCC is and why we should pay attention to its conclusions. (and you know what? Only after I found this description of the IPCC and decided to link to it did I realize that it was written by none other than my thesis advisor when he was working at the Environmental Defense Fund. No wonder I felt so at home reading it.) And here is a good essay on the IPCC award.

In just the last week or so, I've had two people ask me about global warming. Both are people I respect a lot and consider to be highly intelligent and unbiased. But both were under the impression that the message about global warming being caused by humans was overinflated and that the current changes in climate could be explained primarily by natural causes. I hope (I think?) I explained to them how scientists know that is not the case now well enough to them to change their minds. (Look here if you're interested. Really - it's the Skeptical Science link I have under my links list. It's a great resource. I'm very impressed with this guy). I do know that I came away exceedingly depressed because the denialists are doing a bang-up job of spreading enough of the seed of doubt out there for it to take some root. Why are people so willing to dismiss decades of work by scientists as incomplete? Do they really think climate science and scientists are so soft and incompetent as to not have considered natural impacts and other such obvious possibilities? Or is it just that as Al Gore stated - that this truth is inconvenient enough to make us desperate to deny it?

In any case. Apart from my concerns about climate and the future, this prize went to a organization and to an individual who are stellar examples to us all. Thank you, Nobel Committee.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

sad

I've actually written several posts this last week, but I chose not to publicly post them for various reasons. It's been one of those weeks.

My (98 year old) grandmother had a stroke but is recovering nicely now. However, a few days ago my uncle died from a freak skill-saw accident while my aunt was visiting Mamaw in the hospital. It really knocked the breath out of me. No death, particularly of a loved one, is "easy." But this one so much came from out of the blue when we were all focused on my grandmother, and was so horrific, that I feel sucker-punched. Rodney was one of the kindest people I know, too - he was always active in his church, in his community, and was such a strong family man. I didn't necessarily have an extremely close one-on-one relationship with him, but he was part of my family and was always a stable fixture in my life. He and Lynell visited me out here when they were visiting the east coast a few years ago. I was touched that they went out of their way to see me. He was always calm and peaceful and in control, and was always smiling. He was one of the real ones - a purely kind person. This is one of those deaths where if I did believe in a god that was active in human lives, I would be irrationally (or rationally) angry at him. Because I don't, however, I don't have a place to put my anger. The fact that life is uncontrollable is crystal clear to me just now, and leaves me feeling vulnerable and fragile.

For my family, here is an obituary I found. The entries in the guest book show what kind of person people thought Rodney was.

I find myself searching for something to take from this, and end up feeling selfish. What is clear is that life is fleeting. I can let that scare me or let it spur me into enjoying every second I have with my amazingly complex and beautiful children, my stable and loving husband, my fun and always warm family and my most amazing friends.

Monday, October 01, 2007

different ways to stretch

Interesting night.

Being PTA president has given me the opportunity to work on skills that I would never have the need to work on otherwise. Mostly, (totally) I'm talking about interpersonal communication skills. At work, I need to get along well with two people (who are mostly carbon copies of my geeky little self anyway) . I've known GC for more than 20 years, so he almost counts as family, and he lets my random days of being a total bitch roll off his back and he hardly notices. Other than him and wonderboy (who I never get snippy with because I think he is the god of science and I shamelessly mollycoddle to him), the rest of my time is spent in front of my computer. I can handle that very easily.

As PTA president, I'm communicating daily with all kinds of people who are vastly different than I am. This means that I'm having to stretch. I'm having to learn to get along with people who don't think like I do and who (gasp) I may not even want to have as a friend, much less be a carbon copy of. This is all a good thing for my growth as a person. It's also very humbling.

I am a huge know-it-all, type-A, in-control little snot for anyone reading this who doesn't know me. (I know!!! I'm hearing the gasps of disbelief all the way over here on the east coast!!! Stop laughing my sisters and mom and dad and Mare.) I like that fact that I know it all. I enjoy being right.

Well.

There is a particular person on my PTA board that I have some trouble relating to. (Dear neighbor M knows EXACTLY who I'm talking about). She's my treasurer this year. I was treasurer for the last two years. So I am all thick and smug in my very vast knowledge of PTA treasurer-dom. I'm the expert, you know. I'm the darling of PTA finances at our school. So at our meeting tonight, I was horrified to discover that she'd written a check to herself to cover startup cash for the cashbox for one of our events. In all of my time spent researching this problem myself, I've never been able to find a decent solution to this issue (can't write checks out to cash, you need a receipt or invoice for all checks written, etc) so I resorted to using my own money for startup cash and reimbursed myself when the event was over. The current treasurer wasn't willing to do this. The nerve!!! I got all huffy at her insinuation that I wasn't actually the know-it-all, and I let her know the error of her ways. What was she THINKING to question my authority? I am the great know-it-all of the PTA!!!! (OK, I wasn't really all that bad. But inside I was thinking all these things).

So I came home and let myself decompress and realized that I was not learning new interpersonal relationship skills this way. I took a deep breath, wrote an email to the state PTA treasurer asking for guidance (copying her) and then sent her an apology. Almost immediately, I received an answer from the state treasurer, basically in support of her position. We are not expected to use our own cash as start-up cash, and really, that's a bad idea. Her way of handling it was the correct one.

So I let her know that. And I thanked her for keeping on me about it and I told her she was right. Ouch.

That was not all that easy for me because I am the PTA treasurer goddess with her slip showing now. Really. I'm a jerk for not opening myself up to the fact that I don't know it all. Well, I'm being awfully hard on myself. I DID, in fact, do that, but only after the fact. I'm not good at interpersonal relationship skills in the heat of the moment - only much later do I become reasonable.

I'm learning. And I'm enjoying that opportunity, really. These are the sorts of things that I never ever ever have to face at work or in other areas of my life. I surround myself with friends who are a lot like me and who think mostly like I do. This is a chance for me to grow in an area I've never stretched myself in before. It's humbling, but it feels good, in the end.

Kind of like the yoga poses we practiced during our program after the business meeting tonight.

(and yes, that was my idea!!! see why I'm such the PTA goddess???) (snort)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

food lovely food

It was a lovely day here - highs in the mid 70s and clear blue skies. I spent it with my sweet little Brownie out at a jamboree, touring colonial era houses, making tiny clay pots and tiny raffia dolls, and learning to make rope from marsh grass fibers. (Oh! The memories from girl scouts!! The egg carton fire starters and badges and cookie sales and s'mores and roasting camping food in tin foil over a fire! I'm enjoying this as much as she is).

Speaking of colonial eras, may I say here that I am so glad that my dear son was born in today's modern age and in a country full of glutton and easily-available food? After a nice baseball game, whereupon he admirably controlled his emotions and was just a perfect little example of good sportsmanship and maturity, he came home and FELL APART upon learning that none of his friends were available to come over and play with him tonight. I'm talking wailing and gnashing of teeth and sobs and sobs and sobs as he collapsed on his bed. I was in tears myself, imagining that this was the start of hormones. I was trying to think of a nice way of telling DH that the only way to save my sanity and our marriage was for me to live in another country until Q was 27. It was horrible. I'm not kidding about my tears, either.

Then it was dinner time.

After watching Q inhale half of his meatball panini before the rest of us had put fork to mouth the first time, I looked at DH and asked him "Did you feed my son today?" DH looked puzzled, then said, "Well, he had a little peanut butter sandwich before the game."

Huh.

Talk about your miraculous turnarounds. The sunny, happy version of Q is back, now that he is well fed. Holy cats. He would have been a hermit if he'd been around in food-sparse colonial times. That, or he'd have been the much feared tyrant. How many wars do you suppose have been started under the influence of low blood sugar??

heavy dose of blahs

I've been "off" for several weeks and I'm not sure why. I've not felt much like socializing or doing much of anything, really. I just want to stay home and veg. I'm not sure if I'm depressed or just borderline sick and tired. I suspect I have a lingering virus that my body is lazily (slowly) fighting off. I did make it to bed last night at 8:30, and woke up 10 hours later so maybe that will help.

My weekend plans are blissfully limited to soccer this morning and a GS event this afternoon with my daughter. Maybe I can convince M and family to come over for dinner on Sunday, but that's the extent of my energy. Perhaps I'm just getting old(er)?

Here is what I'm dreaming of now:


We've got a contractor coming over this week to talk to us about it.

Here's what I'm also dreaming of:


I love Virginia/North Carolina in the autumn.

Love.It.








Tuesday, September 25, 2007

...in which the ramblings of a mommy watching her babies turn into preteens turns into a ideological religious essay

Note: I have been writing and editing this post for 3 days now. I'm losing my mind and have absolutely no focus. Send help!

Perspective is the absolutely fascinating ingredient of understanding that creates very different interpretations from one common set of facts. For instance, having returned from my middle schooler's Back to School night, I can tell you that the way preteens relate a particular story is not necessarily the way teachers relate them. Both parties can be reporting the facts quite accurately. It's the emphasis, the subtleties, the innuendos that transform an entire storyline. For example, Q's interpretation of his mild upset at losing his science binder was interpreted as a complete meltdown by his teacher. In both cases, there were the facts of 1) a lost binder and 2) some tears. But the two interpretations as related to me, were worlds apart.

What am I talking about, really?
Dunno really. Just some observations.

One parent in the gym Tuesday night was going on and on and on (she was furious) about a particular day when her kids were 2 hours late coming home on the bus. Apparently, there were a huge number of drivers out sick that day so they had to double up the runs and didn't do a particularly good job of organizing it. She was angry enough to write an email to the school superintendent, and was furious that he forwarded it on to the transportation department rather than answer it himself. (??? I thought that was a perfectly appropriate response, in light of my newfound love of delegating, says me the PTA prez). I sat there quietly for a while (I was eavesdropping) and thought about how I would have shrugged it off as a nasty end to my kids' days and gone to buy them a milkshake. I just can't get all worked up over random uncontrollables like that. On the other hand, I went ballistic when my son lost two checks I sent in to school via him, and made him pay for his gym clothes out of his own money as a result. When I met his gym teacher on Back to School night, she looked at me in poorly masked horror when I explained why he paid for his gym clothes with (in part) 7 or 8 dollars worth of change. All parties knew all the facts in those stories. We just interpreted them differently and reacted to them differently.

One of Q's assignments in science class involves writing out very precise instructions on how to tie a shoe. He was in hysterics describing to me how his teacher would read each student's instructions and follow them very very literally and would end up with her hands tangled up in the laces. We rarely, if ever, depend purely on facts to relate a process, or to relate a story. It's very difficult to do. We depend heavily on interpretation. And that's where it all gets tricky, because unlike facts, which are concrete, interpretation is a fluid thing.

This is why I claim I have no patience for religious extremists (which run the gammut from fundamentalist christians and orthodox jews to whacky pagans and angry atheists.) Anyone who is so sure they know the "whole truth" that they have decided to condemn the rest of the world's interpretation as wrong or evil fits my definition of extremist. This is a fundamental weakness in human thought - the need to believe that our interpretations are as solid as fact. We are so uncomfortable with admitting that "We don't know," and with leaving loose ends in our understanding of the universe, that we convert our interpretations into fact to prove to ourselves we are right and make ourselves feel more comfortable. We end up hemming ourselves in with our own perceptions of "truth". In our quest to claim understanding, we refuse to acknowledge that our beliefs are not based on fact, but on only our interpretation of fact. Why is it that humans tend to gravitate toward close-mindedness naturally, and it takes work to open yourself back up again?

I don't think we should abandon our interpretations. That's what gives our lives the meaning we crave. But the close-minded approach of converting them into absolute truth shuts out the validity of all other interpretations completely and is what sparks misunderstanding, s tops communication, and ultimately leads to conflict, war, and abuse.

We would surely all do well to listen more.
We would do well to step back from our goal of being right and move on to a goal of trying to understand.
We would do well to learn to compromise.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

stripping myself bare

I went back and read some of my older posts this weekend from months and months ago and dammit, but I used to write about some interesting stuff. I really want to be there again.

I've written about global warming recently, and about my life as a scientist, and I always write about my kids. I have not, however, written about my spiritual life for a while. And that is mainly because it is currently fraught with feelings of bitterness and anger and feeling quite sorry for myself and feeling very, very disappointed with what was my chosen spiritual home. I feel comfortable as an individual, but I feel so lonely because what I thought was the right place for me ended up not being so, despite my really, really wanting it to be.

Until about 7 years ago, I had not realized there was a chance in hell for my ever feeling a connection to a spiritual home ever again, not since I realized (when I was in my mid 20s) that I could not feel honest with myself about believing in a supernatural being (i.e. "GOD"). While I felt supremely comfortable with myself in this belief, I felt very out of place in the larger societal sphere (i.e., my home within humanity). (And yes, that is important to me.) I felt uncomfortable, that is, until I found the Unitarian Universalist church. And I was very happy there for a while. In that place, you are theoretically accepted as having valid spiritual beliefs whether those beliefs encompass Jesus Christ dying on the cross to save the world, or whether you believe in the Buddhist philosophy or whether the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster serves your spiritual needs. In that place (UU), we are all theoretically accepted as valid spiritual beings and there is an environment of tolerance that I craved not only for myself but most especially for my children. I enrolled my kids there in the religious education program in order for them to learn about love and tolerance and differences and the universe. I dove into the culture there, wanting to give more than I took.

And guess what? I definitely got what I wanted. I gave more than I took. Big time.

I terminated my membership there last month. And as a result I feel very sad. But I can't see that there was another way.

For my last 1.5 years there, I sacrificed my own spiritual feeding in order to teach the high school youth there at UU. I loved those HS kids. But it took a lot out of my own life. A lot. I spent countless Saturday nights frantically trying to piece together a lesson for the next morning because I did not like the curriculum we were using, and I did so at the expense of spending time with my own two kids. Forget spontaneous camping trips to the mountains. Forget Sunday mornings sleeping until we woke up without an alarm. I gave those days away. I also spent countless Sunday mornings teaching the the YRUU's in place of attending services and being spiritually fed myself. And when I finished my term of teaching? A little more than 3 months ago? I heard nary a word, nary a thank you, nary a "we'll miss you." N.O.T.H.I.N.G. The silence from this "loving" congregation was deafening. I felt ... absolutely.nothing ... from the other members there. Nothing.

After three months of a self-imposed hiatus from church this summer, the only correspondence I actually received were two emails, both asking me to commit (again) to volunteering more of my time with the youth. (My answer was "no," to the emails but in my reality was "hell no.") No one asked me how I was or where I had been or more importantly, how my children have been. There.Was.Nothing. No one was curious as to why I was no longer attending. The only question I heard was whether I would commit to continue to "serve."

And that? That was the end of it for me. While UU is the closest "church" I've found to meshing with my personal understanding of life and the universe, I decided that it was ultimately more about creating a beautiful image of itself and was less about being interested in the real people that are looking for a community to belong to.

I did hear from the UU ministers after I terminated my financial pledge. But you know what? I (notably) still have NOT heard a thank you from anyone for the time I gave. ANY ONE. for the freakin' YEARS that I spent giving in that congregation. I am speechless. And I am mad. And I realize that the caring that is espoused there is less toward the people and more toward the philosophy. And I am so not about that. There's more, too, that has upset me but I'm not going to get into that here.

I love so many of the people that go to that church. But I don't know that this is something I can get over. I really miss the sense of belonging to a spiritual community. But I realize that in the sense that is important to me, I never belonged anyway.

Friday, September 21, 2007

It's a Lazy Friday around here

This stoopid picture had better be worth it to you because I was having the BEST dream.




Gecko sprawl.



The master of laze.



Pardon? You want me to do WHAT?


Thursday, September 20, 2007

thanks mom!

My mom just pointed me to a website for recycling household compact fluorescent bulbs. I almost hyperventilated at the first few prices I saw ($100.00 or more) but wait! Have no fear! For ordinary compact fluorescent bulbs that we use at home, you can dispose of 12 bulbs for about $15.00, just over $1.00 per bulb. That's actually do-able. You buy a "kit" which includes packaging and all postage. When you receive it, you fill the box with used bulbs (I'm figuring that's going to take a LONG time), and ship it off to be recycled when it's full.

Here's
the website.

I just ordered mine.

My mom is such a treehugger. I'd post a picture of her hugging a tree in Idaho, but I'm not sure she'd want me to. :-)

when the lights go out

Search out any list of "ways to help the environment" and I guarantee you'll find the admonition to replace your incandescent bulbs with fluorescent ones. They use something like a quarter of the electricity and as a bonus, last much longer than traditional bulbs, saving you some $$ on top of feeling good about being "green."
What's not to love?

We started that process a while ago. Long enough, actually, to have some of our fluorescent bulbs go out. And now all the helpful voices have become very quiet, and I am getting very little help in finding the right way to dispose of these things. Fluorescent bulbs contain a small amount of mercury - not enough that I'm worried about my home, but enough that if we all tossed used bulbs out with the garbage and let them break and release mercury into dumps, we'd end up contaminating our water supplies first and then watch as the mercury made its way on up the food chain. Not ideal.

So after quite a bit of googling I'm positive only that "recycle" is the proper method of disposal. The problem is that not many sites go into more detail than that.

I did, however, find this very nifty earth 911 site where you use your zip code and the type of item you would like to dispose of to find the nearest options for recycling. It looks like the nearest site for fluorescent bulbs recycling is 57 miles away from me, clear in another state. Dag-NABit Jim-Bob. I'm set for motor oil and computer recycling though, with places showing up as close as 0.0 miles from me.

Seriously, if we're going to encourage conservation, we've really got to do it intelligently. While I've found a very large number of announcements for programs giving away fluorescent bulbs and encouraging their use, I've not seen much movement afoot to take care of their disposal. Seems more than a bit shortsighted to me. We can't just jump on the bandwagon de jour and stop thinking. Life is complicated. Taking care of our planet is complicated. But both are worth the effort.

Edited to note that I was recently pointed to a website for reasonably-priced mail-in recycling for these bulbs.

lots-o-gathering

So how many parenting blogs have you read where mom is grousing about the CRAZINESSS! The INSANITY!!! of her day? ...packing lunches and making breakfast and "Oh, honey? Have you put on your deodorant? Have you brushed your teeth? Clean underwear?", signing the homework logs and cleaning up the dog barf and writing a check for band fees while trying to remember why the cat is out of food... (and that all before 7 am). Have they written about the after school juggling? The overlapping activities full across town while trying to assure all homework is done BEFORE the night's ventures, equipment makes it to the activities, all permission slips are signed, and crabby children get a quick peanut butter sandwich between soccer and baseball so they don't explode in the middle of practice? And if said mommy just happens to be a PTA president or something, she might grouse about how in the middle of girl scouts she gets the "Hey aren't you the PTA president? Find out if I can have a voter registration booth during Back to School night?" or "How do I get an article in your newsletter and get a bulletin board in the school?" which is all fine and well except that I (I mean, fictional mom) didn't have time to switch hats between "Mommy" and "PTA president" so all these bits of scattered information are flying around in an over-exhausted mind, and oh sh*t I forgot the kids are out of bread and pretzels for lunches so we have to go to the grocery store before going home and I had a long tedious day at work in front of the computer and while I'm at it in the grocery I'm SO definitely buying myself another bottle of wine.

And this is why women are mommies and men are daddies. I give myself permission to generalize in this post because I am on the brink of crying from exhaustion so I give myself permission for just about anything. Mommies are multitaskers. Mommies must be able to remember to start the washer while cleaning the hamster cage while putting dirty dishes in the dishwasher and then remember to buy the jumbo sized book cover at office depot after dog obedience class. Mommies are the gatherers and men are the hunters. Gatherers must be able to scope out the terrain and memorize the locations of the blueberry bushes, the fig leaves and the potato patch (I'm making all this up). Men are the hunters, who focus in on ONE victim. They must block out all distractions and be able to track and follow that ONE prey.
One focus. Hunter. Daddy
Broad focus. Gatherer. Mommy

So while I try to catch my breath between gulps of wine and scarfing down my favorite comfort food of spaghetti with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, onions, garlic, and spicy tomatoes, I can comfort myself by the fact that I am a damned fine example of the natural evolution of social conforms. I did a grand job of gathering today.

(And I LOVE the hunters as well. Gotta have 'em. But it'd be nice to switch for a few days. Maybe I'd better think about that before making the offer. Plus, I know some daddies who are more gatherers than hunters. There. I'm making my generalization all better now.)

P.S. - those of you with kids in school? Go hug your PTA president. It's like being a mommy of a whole organization. Tain't easy.