Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Golden Compass

This looks like it'll be a great movie! And even better - the books. (I haven't read them but I'm going to).

From the website:
Lyra's world is a world very much like ours, in a parallel universe. Much of it would be familiar to us - the continents, the oceans, Brytain, Norroway, and the North Pole...much is shockingly different. In Lyra's world, a person's soul lives on the outside of their body, in the form of a daemon - a talking animal spirit that accompanies them through life, always close to its corporeal half. A child's daemon can change shape, assuming all the forms that a child's infinite potential inspires; but as a sperson ages, their daemon gradually settles into one form, according to their character and nature.
Mine is a snow leopard.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


It is hard, very hard, to have a husband that travels so much. I thought it would be an inconvenience. I was wrong. It is way more than an inconvenience. I had no idea that there would be a need to actively work so hard at staying connected to feel a part of each others life. We haven't been doing that, but realize now that we must. Lordy.

Nice day today. Baseball was cancelled due to overnight rain. The kids played over at a friends' house so DH and I could eat lunch together. I spied a bottle of wine at the restaurant that I NEEDED to buy two of to take to friends K and M. (It was You Bet Shiraz). By the way, it was actually very decent. And while it was 14.95 to drink a bottle with dinner in the restaurant, I could take home a bottle for 6.00. Go figure.
DH and I walked in the colonial area for a while to try to reconnect. Back home, I took the wine to K&B, where we finished it up on their deck then took a walk to the park. I actually made a semi-nice dinner (which the kids didn't like, but noodles with butter and cheese sufficed). Afterwards, we played a game together then DH and I watched the Bourne Identity (I fell asleep at the end).

That is the kind of day we've been missing. We MUST make some sacrifices in other parts of our lives so we can have more of those. They are much more important than you'd think.

Here's a photo of the three amigos and their tattoos (taken at yet another wild neighborhood party on Friday night)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

midlife crisis fun

Here's what I did today with friend K and neighbor G.

And here's why I picked a cherry blossom for my tattoo:

The cherry blossom is a very delicate flower that blooms for a very short time. For the Japanese this represents the transience of life. This concept ties in very deeply with the fundamental teachings of Buddhism that state all life is suffering and transitory. The Japanese have long held strong to the Buddhist belief of the transitory nature of life and it is very noble to not get too attached to a particular outcome or not become emotional because it will all pass in time.

And I didn't cry!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

a sad week

April 19, 1993 Waco, TX
April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City, OK
April 20, 1999 Columbine, CO
April 16, 2007 Va Tech, VA

I've written and rewritten so many essays about my thoughts on the Va Tech tragedy that I've lost count. I finally deleted them all. It's not that I've stopped thinking about it, believe me. My kids' busdriver has a son who had a class in that building, on that floor, at that time and because he was tired that day, he skipped class. He came home last week and she took off to spend time with him, leaving my kids in the hands of a string of unknown substitutes. (You'd better believe I was all for that, despite my kids' complaints). I have a neighbor whose daughter's dormroom was 20 feet away from the first shooting. I've been talking to my neighbor, checking up on her daughter, and on her. I sent my kids to school wearing maroon and orange. It's in my mind.

But there is really nothing I can say that hasn't already been said (so many times). I have no new insights to add. I have no idea how to explain how something so horrible can happen, no wisdom to impart on how to prevent this in the future. We've all heard the idiots ranting about how this is the fault of immigration, how the lack of prayer in schools caused this, or how it's the fault of Korean movies. We all (I hope) have revisted our opinions on gun control and treatment of the mentally ill and wondered if maybe, just maybe there's another way - are our original opinions really the right ones? Is there some nook or cranny in our thinking that's been overlooked? Have we really been thorough in our own personal analysis? And if you're like me, you come away still confused because ultimately, differences in how we handle gun control or treatment of the mentally ill doesn't seem like it would have changed much.

In my opinion, this horrible, awful tragedy happened because we are humans. It happened because despite what we like to think and despite all of our attempts, life is ultimately uncontrollable and is completely unfair. We haven't failed ourselves as a species. We are still, on the whole, "good" (which is a very subjective term, but still). Perhaps you think I am stubborn or naive for believing so. But this is something I must hold onto. We, as humans, are not all "good" individually. But as a whole, we are an amazingly thoughtful and loving species. We don't always act in the most thoughtful way, collectively (GLOBAL WARMING) but we're a decent lot.

It sure as hell doesn't seem like it sometimes, but remember that this killer was one among billions. No one's talking on CNN about how my son's 4th grade class last year, during their mile run challenge, gathered together and ran along with one of the girls who, being overweight and out of shape, was in tears and desperately behind. They cheered her on until she FINISHED the damned thing. You won't read in the newspapers about how many people give of their spare time to fold and staple brochures for a local PTA, or how couples with houses that need to be cleaned and bills that need to be paid spend a weekend building a house for Habitat for Humanity instead. You won't hear about how countless neighbors watch pets and carry in the mail when folks go on vacation, or how teachers stay late after school to just talk...just talk... to a child that is having a difficult time.

I don't mean to distract from the prayers, good vibes, and good thoughts that are flowing to the families of the victims of last weeks' tragedy. I don't mean to minimize what happened.

I guess I'm just saying that this is one of those things we have to learn to have the wisdom to accept as a consequence of being human. It doesn't mean we should stop striving to make things better or to stop finding ways to prevent tragedies. But rather than beating ourselves up for with SHOULDOFS and COULDOFS, we sometimes have to realize that we are not in control. Whether you believe that we are not in control because god has plans that we are not capable of understanding, or whether you believe that we are just another beautiful, unique, marvelous species living in the mystery of the universe living under the edict that things are just as they are just because they are ... the ultimate truth seems to be that we aren't really much in control. Horrible things happen. We react, we adjust, we change. And still, things happen. But the thing we CAN do is to persist. Just because.

Monday, April 16, 2007

no fairytales

It's official. I was voted PTA president tonight. (please hold your applause)

I went in feeling strong, in control, and able. I came out feeling insecure, unsure, and fragile.
I'm not sure why. There were some things I wanted to talk about and asked to have put on the agenda (about 4 times) that were inadvertently left off so I felt off-balance with that, and then ending up feeling overbearing and pushy when I pushed to fit my stuff back in.

I felt alone. I felt Intimidated. (We actually had 20 people show up - a quorum!) In front of all those people I suddenly felt totally insufficient to do this. Which is dumb, I know. It's only a PTA. And I know I'm not an idiot. I have a PhD in a physical science and hold a fairly high level job at a government agency. I've made presentations to international scientists, I've had many papers published, I'm successful on paper.

But ultimately, it doesn't really matter. We're all the same, and we all are so hard on ourselves.

It's just me, again, wanting to be Dan Akroyd to someone else's John Belushi. I'm a great second-guy. I'm not very comfortable being in the front. I know that ultimately it'll all be fine. I just need people to keep telling me that.


Being from Virginia, today's news has left me pretty numb. One of my neighbors has a daughter at Virginia Tech (not to mention MANY teachers at my kids' school and MANY of my co-workers). This daughter was about E's age or younger when we first met them. We (Friend K and I) called our neighbor (the mom) and found out that while daughter is fine, her dormroom was about 20 feet away from the site of the first shooting and she was there at the time. Mom was shaken up and scared but is keeping a good attitude. Daughter is coming home tomorrow after spending the night at someone's apartment out in Blacksburg (NOT in the dorm).

What is there to say? Random senseless horror. Yet it doesn't define today's world. As tempting as it is to fall into the oh so common trap of decrying how horrible we've let thing become in this day and age, I stubbornly believe that we've got it good, relatively speaking. That doesn't mean that horrendous, unspeakable things don't still happen. They do and they always will. It's just startling when they happen so close to home. My kids could end up going there. There are no guarantees in this world. We are not guaranteed a fairytale life, even when we're sure we deserve one.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


My daughter is so very happy today. She has an autographed baseball from Mark Bellhorn sitting in her pink glove on the couch.
She got it at the AAA Tides/Bats game last night - she jumped up on the roof of the dugout and caught him as he was walking inside from infield practice. She was wearing her Red Sox Bellhorn jersey.

She is on top of the world, and so is DH. It was just the two of them. I think they had the perfect father/daughter bonding night. He let her have a fried twinkie, dippin dots, a pizza, and who knows what all else. She spent the game cheering on the Bats and was obviously paying close attention. My DH has his little baseball enthusiast after all. (Q likes to play but doesn't enjoy watching so much).

Thank you, Mark!!

Friday, April 13, 2007

I found it!

Finally!!! I've been looking for this on youtube for a while!

I love this song so much. So much, in fact, that I would ask this man to marry me if I hadn't already found DH and he wasn't already married. I love him for writing and singing it.
I could have this song played at my memorial service.
I don't mean for that to be morbid - it's just that it's one of those songs that I think define what it is that I am inside. It's ... me. It's me.
I even insisted on playing it for my YRUU teens a few weeks ago. And they didn't hate it. :-)

I'm not sure I like the video itself so much, but the song! The song!
It has:
Father/son (which is ok. Substituting mom/son or mom daughter works too)
That parent/child relationship is even more than I thought it would be.
This song agrees.
Piano. (which has been part of me since I was 4 years old)
Reference to baseball. (DH!)
This world is described as a "bouncing ball" How fun and beautiful is that?
The name of the group: Five for Fighting. It's a reference to ice hockey.
Five minute penalty for fighting. I don't know why, but I love that.
It's about searching for meaning.
It aches.
It finds hope.
It references a Dylan song (dear friends B&K!)
Beautiful melody.
"There are secrets that we still have left to find." (sigh)
"There have been mysteries since the beginning of time." (sigh)
"There are answers we're not wise enough to see." (yes!) (sigh)
It makes me feel like I'm soaring.
It's my theme...we all search, we all look, we all hope. But the answer, ultimately, is not something that we need to search so awfully hard after all ... because it is already here with us. You and I. It is simply that simple.

Click here for the video.

I felt the earth move...

I would move heaven and earth to spend a day with my DH. And I did the latter.

We have an icky drainage problem in our front yard consisting of a "bowl" just at the end of our septic pipes. Use your imagination. Enough said.

So we're regrading. We had a bet going. I said it would take 12 cubic yards. DH said it would take 4 or at most 5. The good news is that I was right (of course!). The bad news is that I was right. So after an afternoon (a very lovely afternoon, I should add) of back-destroying labor, we're about halfway through our original plan. First DH, and now I, am wondering if what we've done is good enough after all. Just now as I sit here with tingling toes (I think I threw my back out again) and shoulders that hurt when I breathe, I'm thinking it would sure be nice NOT to play Mother Nature again. Erosion, I take my hat off to you. You've got it figured out, baby.

In any case, we're having "the storm of 20 years" moving in this weekend so we'll see how the drainage works. (That, or the fruits of our labor will be washed down into M's yard.)

...and we haven't even started on the 5 cubic yards of mulch in our driveway!! You've gotta love spring!!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

if the shoe fits...

A few years ago, a friend of mine at work ("G") was telling me about one of the many ridiculous "safety warning" messages he'd received through the system. (We truly live in Dilbert-land sometimes). An "incident" was reported whereby a "foreign body" impaled itself on someone's foot, resulting in an injury. Said recipient was wearing sandles, and an offical warning was sent out to assure that all employees were wearing appropriate footwear. In the midst of feeling so warm and fuzzy that my work cares *so much* about my well being as to warn me to wear appropriate footwear to prevent the impalement of foreign bodies on my foot (VERY inconvenient, and why yes, of COURSE I am TOTALLY serious here!!!), friend "G" made it his point to inspect my shoes daily to insure that I was complient. I normally wear sandles. So therein out, it became a big joke between he and me to comment on the safety (or better, the lack of safety) of my shoes. Said joke became even more weird after a conference I attended in Atlanta whereby some professor from one of the Carolinas had an obvious women's shoe fettish and commented repeatedly on my dress shoes during our walk from the University one evening. (totally creeped me out) Obviously, my sharing that odd encounter just made "G" the "safe shoe guy" all the more giddy with the total ridiculousness of the shoe situation.

So anyway, sometime a few weeks ago, when I arrived at my office one one fine morning, I noticed the phone message light on my phone was blinking. The message was from the safety office and was there to let me know that the "safety shoes" which has been ordered for me had arrived.

I immediately forwarded the message to "G", who called me back all a-giggle and said what a funny joke that was and he only wished he'd been the one to think of it. He suggested it might have stemmed from Wonderboy instead, so I forwarded the message to him...and he promptly called me back to basically say "What in the hell kind of weird chick are you to be forwarding your strange phone messages to me?"

So despite knowing in my heart that there is a 99.98% chance that friend "G" (who has since retired but continues to work as a contractor and is in our building everyday...and continues to visit my office to chat to all of us and to check on my shoes) HAS to be behind this - well duh, he does, right? - I am still just enough puzzled by it that it is driving me absolutely NUTS.

For what it's worth, most of the winter I wore very very appropriate and safe shoes. But I am just itching to be back in my Birks as it warms up here. Will I regret foregoing the opportunity to wear safety shoes instead? Nah. If the Birks fit, then by god, wear them...

Monday, April 09, 2007

stitching again

One nice thing about our long drives to and from Augusta is that I am forced to sit quietly for about 7.5 hours each way. I usually spend my time knitting, which is something I love to do and something I have not done much of this past year. In fact, I have been working on exactly ONE project this entire last year. One. And I finished it this weekend.

And here's a closer view because by god if I'm going to spend a YEAR working on something, I'm going to show it off!

It's not my favorite among baby blankets I've done, and in reality should have been completed in a matter of weeks (maybe a month) if I'd been knitting at the pace I'd like to have been. In any case, being forced to sit and knit, and actually finishing a project has reminded me that I really need to make time for this kind of stuff. Here is a sock I started years ago for my MIL and I'm in the process of finishing up now:

I love this pattern! There's also a thermal pattern for socks that I've tried (finished one sock for DD). If you haven't noticed, I tend to abandon my sock projects after one sock. This is a habit I need to break.

In anycase, it was so very nice to do something not related to the PTA, to work, to UU... I'm penciling in a date for me and my needles every evening here on out.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

we're in a different time now

When I started in the field of atmospheric chemistry more than 20 years ago, we atmospheric scientists were a small, quiet lot, relatively speaking, at least in the view of the general public. I had to repeat my field of study to people I met. "Atmis-what?" I remember one time at some bar in Atlanta I met this guy who asked me what I did. I told him that I did modeling. He did a double-take.
"Who with?"
I told him.
He returned to silence and left me alone the rest of the night.

I remember reading a few articles as a grad student on global warming. I remember wondering how big of a deal it was going to become in my lifetime, but as a 20 year old, I was fully living in the present and the future was so far away it was in the realm of theoretical.

IPCC reports on the climate, on global warming, have come and gone several times during my career so far. There was usually a bit of worktime lunch hour buzz about the issues. I even worked on an IPCC project once - an intercomparison of chemistry used in various global models, which was of interest to me, and my co-authors and that's about it.

But surely enough, things have been changing and we are finally reaching what one of my colleagues called the "Global Warming Epiphany". Finally, the awareness of the general public is opening up to global warming and the signs that it is happening. Suddenly, this quiet little field has become a hotbed of political posturing and games. These scientists, these climate scientists, some of which are my colleagues, are suddenly finding that their work is being contested in the media, their messages are being watched (and constrained) by the government, and the eyes of the world are upon them. Despite knowing for decades that this time was coming, I think these scientists are still a little caught off guard by the heavy-handed politics

I'm glad the issue is finally getting attention. Finally, the arguments against global warming a) even happening and b) being caused by humans are slowly but surely petering away. The debate is becoming focused on what course of action we can take to minimize the impact. But the crux of that change is that we have landed squarely in the world of politics. Thus these scientists are finding their messages, their work being twisted and rephrased by government representatives. I can't imagine the frustration. Because think what you will about scientists, but I can promise you that most really are completely and totally wed to the truth. Most are not out for fame. Really. There are exceptions of course, but most are truly geeks and experience heart flutterings when the pieces finally click together...or when they neatly fall apart. It is most certainly an art.

In a very funny, sentimental, and almost embarrassing way, though, I feel like my friendly little group of scientists is being lost. No longer are we a bunch of geeks with our heads in the corner of our research world, fascinated by esoteric arguments and feeling fullfillment from our way of defining and solving problems. We're losing our naiveity. I don't mean that comment to reflect that I think the scientists I work with are anything less than the smartest people I have ever known. Most are full of common sense and awareness as well. I just mean that some of the joy of doing science for the simple experience of doing it has been replaced by a global urgency and that our scientific freedom is more difficult to retain.

The latest IPCC summary for policymakers on the impacts of global warming is out.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

rolling on the river

Wow. I just noticed that this is my 200th post...and that would be over a time span of 1 year and 9 months, which works out to 9.5 posts per month. Not so bad!

Well, with respect to my life lately, I've wallowed and cried and felt sorry for myself and I'm done now. (I'm sure you're not as happy about that as my DH and children are). I took Q and E to Busch Gardens earlier this week (it's our spring break). We were unable to get Q onto his favorite roller coaster "Alpengeist" because the sentries at the entrance would not let me take E with us in line. I can guarantee you there was NO WAY she was getting on that roller coaster, even if she'd been tall enough (she is NOT a roller coaster gal. She likes her stomach where it is). I asked them what I was supposed to do with her, and I suppose they wanted me to a) leave her with some stranger or b) um....leave her with some stranger. So we left, and Q decided that the sentries had ruined his day and he'd like to go home. I was less than a good, sensitive mom at that point and let him know that he was letting somebody else dictate to him whether he was happy or not. I told him it was all his choice - we could continue to have fun at the park or he could let something out of his control turn his fun day into a sad one. (yes, the lesson I was trying to impart was a good-mom lesson, it was my delivery that took the good-mom ribbon away).

Anyway, as I was telling him these things, I started noticing large, invisible versions of myself which were floating around me and jabbing me with long, crooked accusing fingers and looking at me with much disdain." Will you LISTEN TO YOURSELF? Oh, you're just FULL of the best advise here! Do you think that maybe, just maybe, you might need to stop being so, um - what's the word? - HYPOCRITICAL????!!!!" (I come by my lecture-delivery techniques honestly, see?)

So yes, that was one of those moments where I stepped back and thought, "huh."

If it were up to us to design these rivers we're riding on, I doubt many of us would end up with much variety. Once we find a good place in our lives, we decide it's time to put down roots and nest there. Of course! How natural it is to want to stay comfortable. There's a fine line between comfort and stagnation, though. So lucky for us, it's not even our choice. All we can do is react.

It's time to recognize how lucky I am, what a great time it was, and return to having fun. We've got our new neighbors here already, that are incredibly awesome. Time to look forward and quit the whining.
It's certainly a lot nicer to lay back on the inner tube and float with the current than to frantically swim upstream. Anyway. Enough. I promise.

We're off to Georgia this afternoon. DH's dad has tickets to the Master's and I think DH will finally get to go this year. He hasn't decided who to take with him yet. (his dad has 2 tickets and basically lets his sons duke it out over who gets them on which day). I'll take the baby blanket that I've been working on for ONE YEAR and try to finish that up while I'm down there. Maybe I'll run by the library before we leave, too, and stock up on some good books. It'll be nice to have a little break.

I have to add a postscript to my Busch Gardens story here.
I looked for those evil floating egos later to jab them back a little bit. Q, being the incredibly sweet and strong boy that he is, agreed to try to return to having fun. We therefore stood in line for the Lochness Monster only to have it break down with "minor technical difficulties" about 3 turns before we would have made it on. I snatched Q and E's arms at that point, marched them out of the park, and straight to McDonalds where I bought them the biggest chocolate shakes available. The evil floating egos did not return for me to dance around and sing "I told you so." But I didn't look for them too hard. Because they are scary, and because after all, they really were right.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I've started and then deleted several blog entries this week. I'm too emotional right now to write anything decipherable much less interesting (B&K's house went on the market). So let's see if I can come up with something trivial to blog about so you don't think I've fallen off the face of the earth.

Things I wonder:

What is the purpose of having the cashier at our local grocery store ask me if I want paper or plastic bags? WITHOUT FAIL, he or she will ask me, and I will faithfully answer. Then WITHOUT FAIL, within 5 seconds, the bagger will ask me the exact same question. Every single time. It's hard not to laugh. They need some tinkering with their systems management. The whole "cashier tells bagger what kind of bag to use" step has been deleted from their system. Or maybe they're going by the axiom that duplication eliminates error?

I wonder if the poor soul who obviously left his/her coffee mug on the roof of their car ever found it? There was an insulated coffee mug lying in the middle of the road near my house. I can only conceive of that one way that it got there.

Am I a bad mom for forgetting piano lessons this week (it's spring break)? I did get a call from their teacher about 30 minutes after we were supposed to be there so I cracked the whip, got them in the van despite having to physically extract them from Gameboys and Nintendo DS's. But then I think I am going to forgot to take them to baseball practice too tomorrow. I have hit burnout so heavily that I just cannot bear to schedule anything at all. Maybe we'll wander over to the theater to watch Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles after sleeping until 11.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Eleven is a good number

Happy Birthday Q!!!

Eleven years ago, I found myself sobbing as I gazed at the most perfect baby I'd ever seen. I sobbed because I felt sorry for him because he got stuck with me as a mother. Me!...who had no idea what do to for him.

Now it's clear why he ended up with me. It would be impossible for anyone to love him more than I. I've got that market cornered.

And because it's almost scary sometimes how fast he is growing, here's my attempt at keeping my baby small. (from birthday trip to Ripley's Believe it or Not)