29 February 2008

I've got a little list

First order of business:


People of Seattle and Washington state in general: I don't even know what Mooberry Yogurt is. But I will tell you honestly and wholeheartedly: there isn't any here. Update 3/1/08: Thanks to our anonymous commenter, we now know that Mooberry Yogurt is in Ballard. That's about 1000 miles from here, so I probably won't visiting any time soon.

And I don't know where you can buy Branston Pickle in Tulsa. Sorry!

(I do love the interesting searches that bring people here. My all time favorite must be "guerrilla pie-making," not that I've even figured out what that means. Do you just sort of throw things in a pie plate and hope for the best?)

NaBloPoMo has gone monthly starting in March (that would be tomorrow, for those of you who, like me, are frequently confused about the date, month, and occasionally, year), with a theme each month. For reasons I can't explain (make it easy on yourself. Just think "she was possessed." It's my fallback position for most things.), I signed up for it, and will be posting a list every day. Maybe other things, too. But definitely a list. Probably. I know that you can't wait to read about what I buy at the grocery store, the rainbow in my underwear drawer, the brands and colors of my eyeshadow, the names of the weeds growing in my vegetable garden, why I abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent although I haven't been a practicing Catholic in...oh...a bazillion years (come to think of it, that won't be a list because even I can't explain it).

Okay, so far, I've completely overused both colons and parentheses. What's that about? Lack of sleep, probably.

Today was refrigerator data crunching day. The son has been demonstrating a high level of hysteria--a 14-year-old boy in hysterics is just not a pretty sight--so it's not been a fun day. Let me just tell you that there is absolutely no correlation between people's self-perceived abilities to find things and their actual ability to find things. In case you were wondering (and I know you're not. You're looking for Mooberry Yogurt).

On this final day of February, a leap day at that, I will leave you with this thought: the readers have spoken, and by dint of access, you have voted this your favorite post of the last 30 days. I have no idea why. Was it me happily pointing out to the poor sheriff that he was as clueless about the street sweeping schedule as I was? Was it the not-terribly-random list of cities? I have lots of sheriff and police stories. LOTS. And if it's cities you want, how about...Nuuk, Amsterdam, Oslo, Edinburgh, Reykjavik? Not that I'm offering any more explanation than I did with the first set.

To be fair, this post has been running a close second. That one at least makes a little sense to me.

Now I have to go think of lists...

Why I don't want to go to my father-in-law's birthday party on Sunday...just the name's of the spouse's brother's family is enough for that. They put me in such an evil frame of mind because they are such nasty people. Which is why I avoid them. Like the plague.

Plagues...Biblical and otherwise...

Go listen to some good music: "I've Got a Little List" from the album The Mikado (Original Cast - English National Opera) by Gilbert & Sullivan.

28 February 2008

Northern lights

Remote Canada town a hub for Northern Lights seekers.

If I weren't spending the next several months running all over creation, I'd visit Yellowknife as soon as possible. Perhaps next winter.

I've seen the aurora borealis once, from an airplane en route to Frankfurt. It is the most phenomenal sight, a curtain of light rippling in the sky. Words can in no way do it justice, nor do photos capture what it really looks like. It is eerie; it is magnificent.

It's something I'd really love to see again, just to sit and watch for a time.

Go listen to some good music: "Northern Lights" from the album Tales of 1001 Nights by Renaissance.

27 February 2008

Secrets of astrology

You need to promote yourself and to let others know of your
potential talents. Playing the modest type today won't do you
any favours. People need to know straight up front who you are and
what you bring to the table. Take this as both financial and romantic advice.


My horoscope pops up on my browser in the morning to amuse me. Often it says very specific and uninteresting things like "this would be a good day to pay the bills," or "your phone isn't going to work and you'll miss a phone call you want." Some days it's very pointed: "don't be so hard on yourself," and I'm compelled to ask the spouse if he wrote it.

I admit I usually just laugh, although it's not a bad thing to remind myself occasionally, that yes, paying the bills is good advice.

But I have to say that today's horoscope provoked a certain annoyance. I feel like I've been invited on some cosmic job interview. Well, cosmos, here it is:

I consider myself pretty WYSIWYG--what you see is what you get--although the truth is you'd probably have to actually talk to me for a few minutes to see exactly what you're getting. The package the brain comes wrapped in doesn't quite tell the whole story. I've often been assured, however, that once I open my mouth, it's all over.

To that end, I am sadly transparent (see above: what you see is what you get), and I look guilty when I am, and I turn violent shades of red when I'm embarrassed, and if I'm having fun, it's quite evident.

I don't play at being a type. I am very much what I am. Immodest or otherwise, I am extremely good at doing my job, but I won't pretend to be able to do things I can't to make an employer happy. Or anyone else, for that matter. Frequently, being me doesn't do me any favors. My tendencies to be blunt and highly focused are off-putting to some people.

I have a talent for trouble, but I mean that in a good way, mostly. I am not afraid of trouble, and will stir it up for a good cause. I fix things, take on big stinking problems, including the human ones. I can't tell you how many memos have started with the words "she opened another can of worms." But I don't just open them; I sort them out; clean them up; turn them into history.

Treat me with respect and fairness, and I'm as loyal as they come. I will fight for you, any battle. Treat me poorly, be dishonest with me, and I'm out the door, without regret.

Personal blind spots, I can get them for you wholesale. I am often short-tempered and frequently impatient, and I have zero ability to see the impact that I have on those around me, whether that impact is positive or negative. I was raised as a Catholic, so I know that whatever goes wrong, it is my fault, my fault, my personal and most grievous fault. I get bored and can get bored rather quickly, and when I get bored, everyone is in trouble.

Delight my mind, and you're well on your way to winning my heart.

Any questions?

Go listen to some music: "Secrets of Astrology" from the album Secrets of Astrology by Lana Lane. Horoscope courtesy of cafeastrology.com.

26 February 2008

Beautiful day

Breezy today, the dry winds from the back side of the heavy weather we saw at the end of last week. Not so vicious as the standard Santa Ana, simply soft, warm breezes, something more than a zephyr, but less than wind.

The leaves tend to sparkle in this weather, cleaned of their burden of particulates, and the sky is a very crisp blue. It won't last, this time of year, nor should it.

But the day offered a sense of possibility. It smells of pink jasmine, the earliest citrus, and hope, all of which can be easily quashed with a late season frost. For today, however, it was beautiful. Out walking at noon, hitting the summit from which I can sometimes catch a glimpse of Catalina, I found I was smiling at the sky.

I have two pictures, taken a long ago February Sunday at the park. L. and I had gotten bored, and ran off to see if there was any amusement to be found. Mall ratting wasn't a big draw, and the day was beautiful. We wandered from end to end of the park, skirting the ponds that were stocked with fish in the summer, arriving at the rose garden and bandstand. The roses were even blooming, and the smell was heady and sweet. We were approached by a guy, rather older than we were, who asked if we wanted to get high, and we laughed at him and ran back toward the waterfalls where families tended to congregate and picnic. There we were approached by the Scientologists who wanted to analyze our personalities...for free. We filled out their questionnaires, and ran off laughing once more.

L. was moving away at the end of the year, going back to New Hampshire, so we wanted pictures for remembrance. We'd spent two years getting up to fairly innocent no-good, but we'd also been given opportunities that few girls our age had in a small desert town. Her mother worked for the local PBS affiliate, and the two of us had gotten plenty of camera time during the station's fundraising drives. It was always fun to try to keep a straight face when a crank called in, and the producer always seemed to manage to get me on camera just when I had a nut on the phone. Our English teacher would call in, our classmates would call in to bother us, others would call in to harangue about programming issues. I spent some time working as a production assistant for a local news program the station was putting together, and discovered the joy of looking up statistics. We ran around town like we owned the place, took dance classes together, and rode over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter.

In the photo I took of her that day at the park, she is giving a sidelong glance, barely smiling, full of mischief, full of schemes that we had yet to even consider, schemes that might have included German chocolate cake or splitting a pair of earrings so each of us could wear one. The photo she took of me was full face, the look in my eye one of both challenge and hilarity, the smile huge and happy. There are people, even this many years later, who would recognize that gleam in my eye, who would know that smile.

Go listen to some good music: "Beautiful Day" from the album All That You Can't Leave Behind by U2.

25 February 2008

Fixing a hole

The spouse and I watched Michael Clayton tonight. Not a perfect movie, but an elegant movie, and ultimately, a satisfying movie.

There were moments, though, when we were both helpless with laughter, not because the story was funny, but because we've lived some of those scenes, with people just like the ones depicted. For me, in particular, there was a certain deja vu after doing two years of litigation support for toxic exposure cases.


Go listen to some music: "Fixing a Hole" from the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles.

23 February 2008

Rock you like a hurricane

Even the Weather Channel guy commented on how much this looked like a hurricane.

We're supposed to get about 1.5" of rain in the next 18 hours or so. I actually had 1/2 a day of sunshine, so the spouse mowed the lawn and I hung out some laundry, which I had to promptly bring back in when it started raining.

The upside is that all this rain is washing away the ash from the October fires (not to mention we could just really use the rain). Hopefully, it won't wash away the burn areas, too.

Do I even have to say that this is something the spouse loaded onto my computer?: "Rock You Like a Hurricane" from the album 20th Century Masters: The Millenium Collection by The Scorpions.

22 February 2008

When you were young

And sometimes you close your eyes
and see the place where you used to live
When you were young

It is rodeo season again in the place where I used to live. I never went to the rodeo, but as I wrote last year, I used to take my younger sisters to the parade. I remember getting downtown at pretty nearly the crack of dawn, and finding a good place on the curb from which to watch, probably around Church and Alameda. What constituted a skyline kept the sun from reaching us for quite some time, and that was nothing to cheer about. February at 2800 ft. above sea level can be significantly chilly, and the parade horses' breath steamed in the cold morning air.

On some level, it amazes me that my parents would entrust a 5-year-old and an 8-year-old to the care of a 13-year-old for several hours, including a bus ride home. But the world was a different place, as was the place where I used to live. We were given common sense instructions like "don't get into cars with strangers" and "stay out of the tunnel under Fifth Street," but the only time our activities were restricted was when murderer Charles Schmid escaped from prison. I wasn't allowed to walk three houses down the street alone until he'd been recaptured, our mothers were that petrified we'd be snatched off the street.

Few of the houses in our area had fences or walls, which allowed us plenty of room to roam during play time. Houses were small, yards were enormous, and there were plenty of vacant lots about. Unpaved roads and alleys were the highways we kids traveled in packs, en route to the park or Circle K. There were salt cedars and mesquite trees to climb, rocks to investigate. Electrical crews had little care for what they tossed away, and we found plenty of old glass insulators that had been left on the ground that we incorporated into the forts we built with old scrap wood. We avoided the greasewood bushes, which really did leave a horrible waxy residue on everything, and the cactus. All other activities would be suspended if someone proposed a game of kickball in the alley.

I felt tremendous nostalgia when I found the book Roxaboxen for my children: even decades after the events in that story, an open expanse of dirt and desert glass and rocks made a fine playground for my friends and me in the cool morning of a torrid desert summer. Once in awhile, we even found a sizeable hunk of copper ore, pretty, but not so unusual in an area where copper mining was a way of life.

The place we tended to avoid was the dry arroyo a couple of blocks down the street. There was something utterly creepy about it, a sense of loneliness and menace, and it frequently figured in my nightmares when I was a child. These washes served to channel the runoff of the sudden and violent rainstorms to which the desert is subject, and all of us knew someone who'd drowned in a flash flood. The arroyo that bisected our street was bounded by a church parking lot, a pretty house with a pomegranate tree (from which we periodically stole the fruit), a vacant lot, and a tiny house sitting far from the street shrouded in trees. Legend had it that place was haunted.

(Years later when I was back there visiting, I happened to fall into conversation with a man whose parents owned that house. "They never could figure out why kids didn't stop to trick-or-treat," he told me.)

It was years before my brother and I were allowed to have bicycles. Our father was the identification photographer for the police department for several years, and he'd seen one too many bike/car entanglements. But once I did get a bike, there was no stopping me. I was everywhere, a lunch and bottle of water packed in my basket. Sheer boredom would drive my brother and me up the road into the mountains, and lightning from a monsoon storm roaring over the same mountains would drive us home again.

The best and worst thing that ever happened was when I was given a free bus pass my senior year of high school because I was taking classes at two different high schools: only one had the AP class I wanted, and so I left my home school at 10 am for a 12:30 class at the school near downtown, and invariably ended up at the university or the artsy 4th Avenue district. I would stop into the art museum, the library, or the cathedral, or walk past the old convent where I'd gone to kindergarten. Once I ended up far enough west to hit the banks of the Santa Cruz river, a dry channel long since capped, and the wishing shrine that sat quietly, candles burning in all weather, all the time. There were no fences, no boundaries, no bit of barbed wire I wouldn't climb over to reach my objective. And when the time came to go to college, I realized the same held true: nothing could stop me from leaving a small desert town. I knew how to read a timetable, how to negotiate an airport, a train station, a subway. I had to wait a year from the moment I understood I could go until the time came that I was able to leave, and throughout that year, I climbed on the roof at night and watched the stars trace their path through the sky, each change in their position bringing me closer to that final fence.

I left a long time ago, and the place where I used to live changed. So did I. Overcrowded and overurbanized, it is now a monument to poor planning and that catchphrase of the 1970s, urban sprawl. My own planning isn't always perfect and my territory grows continuously as I travel my own road, off to see what I need to see, to do what I want to do, driven by a need to move that even I have difficulty understanding.

I return to the place where I used to live rarely now, usually only when the tug of nostalgia becomes unbearable, or I need to visit family. Sometimes, I just long to sit in the warm rain of summer or the cool and ancient dust of the mission. The mountains I remember in such sharp relief to an unbearably crystalline sky are more often shrouded in murk now, and the traffic crawls like the millipedes that used to slink up from the dirt after a storm. In so many ways, I am more grounded now than I ever was at 2800 feet above sea level, and it's not a sensation with which I am easy. The air was thinner there, but easier to breathe, the sky more wide open, and once I'd made good my escape, I recognized just what I'd left behind. I regret the loss of what I treasured there, but the journey continues to be more than worthwhile.

Go listen to some good music: "When You Were Young" from the album Sam's Town by The Killers.

21 February 2008

Carve away the stone

It was inevitable (one of my favorite words these days, it seems) that with stuff and stuff and more stuff to do that I would forget some stuff. And I did.

So tonight, I get to design the son's yearbook tribute. "oh son, we are so proud of you, despite the fact that you are a total goofball...we are so happy you are graduating despite the fact that you've barely even started school..."


Ok, I need to stifle myself here before I launch into a tirade that is less me causing trouble, and more me getting myself into trouble.


It occurred to me that concert season is starting early this year. As in seven weeks from now. And I'm really looking forward to it. REALLY looking forward it.

And it's raining. All weekend, apparently. So I won't have to mow the lawn.

That's ok, too.

Go listen to some good music: "Carve Away the Stone" from the album Test for Echo by Rush.

20 February 2008

Your song

Eleven years ago, your father and I drove to Burbank airport to pick up your grandmother, my mother, so she could watch your brother when I entered the hospital the following morning to have you. I picked your birthday, in theory, which I always felt was a bit of a cheat. The OB wanted to induce you on the 19th, but I said, no, I wasn't available that day (can you believe that? What else is a woman who is ready to pop going to be doing?), so she said, ok, the 20th.

I wanted you to be born on an even-numbered day. I am weird that way.

Grandma M. wasn't supposed to visit until you were born. But in the same way your brother's birth was heralded by the Northridge Earthquake, you were borne upon a windstorm...JPL clocked gusts of 120 mph for that January storm. Our community lost 300 trees, and we lost our power for four days. Grandma B. fell and broke her wrist trying to open her garage door, and we decided she wasn't up to watching a rambunctious 3-year-old, so we called in the cavalry.

We happened to walk into the airport at the same time as two police officers. The male officer said to me, "Hey! I'm certified to deliver babies, so feel free to go ahead and have it right now if you want to!" His female partner smacked him on the arm, but I laughed, and said, no, I didn't actually want you until the following morning.

You screamed bloody murder upon your entrance to the world, and you didn't stop screaming until we left the hospital 4 days later. I could hear your shrieks and whoops all the way from the nursing station. But you must have gotten whatever was bugging you out of your system because you've been a remarkably quiet child ever since. Unless, of course, I tried to put a dress on you. I'm fairly certain the neighbors believed I was in the process of murdering you when you were 18 months old and ran out the front door screaming and tearing at your clothes. Because I'd put a dress on you.

I didn't feel the same rush of possessiveness when I held you the first time, but then I'd been possessive of you from the moment I first saw your fierce little heart beating on the ultrasound at 8 weeks, as I lay there alone in that cold, awful room, so sure I was going to lose you. However, I did feel something equally strong when you were put in my arms, and that was a sense of completion. Your birth made us a whole family.

Your brother came to see you for the first time in the hospital. While he didn't like the idea of you, he was charmed by the reality of you. And you gave him Edward, the engine he'd coveted from the Thomas the Tank Engine set, so you were possibly rather cool. All was well, and your father and I feel exceptionally fortunate that, normal sibling squabbling aside, you and your brother seem to genuinely like each other.

You came running out of your bedroom this morning after we'd already gathered in the kitchen, and you threw yourself at your father when you saw the REI bag sitting at your place. Rope, a first aid kit, a compass, a tiny camera, an American Girl t-shirt, though no Swiss Army knife (the complexity of your desires--a girly t-shirt and a Swiss Army knife--bemuses me, little survivalist. But as we noted earlier this week, not so different from your mommy who buys a constellation of eye shadow and five minutes later, a lawnmower).

I tease you about it, but I am happy that you still want to sit on my lap in the morning, warm and sleepy from your bed. Eleven years has passed too quickly, and I know that you are mine only for a limited time.

Go listen to some good music: "Your Song" from the album Elton John by Elton John.

19 February 2008

Message in a bottle

I have a whopper of a case of writer's block today. Usually, I walk around with a surplus of little ideas, and have several half-written posts roaming around my desktop, but I can't seem to get anywhere with any of them.

When I woke up this morning, my brain was running about like a panicked animal; there's stuff and stuff and more stuff that I need to get done. Usually it's a good bet that my body will follow suit when my brain flies off the handle like this, but I started moving through the ballet that precedes lifting weights, and everything sort of settled a bit. I went for a quick walk, and the sun broke through for the only time during this rather dreary day, and I got home, and I felt happy, and I sat down...

and nothing.

This is why I like trading in facts. There is nothing amorphous in writing about...aspergillus. It's a fungus. Nothing changes that. You can speculate about why a hillside fell down or how a building collapsed or how H5N1 might travel across the world, but there are certain facts upon which you hinge your argument.

Then there's life. Life is messy and filled with intangibles. Life is filled with grocery shopping, and the screech of tires, and a cat who is trying to eat the salmon you are serving for dinner before you get it to the table. Life is filled with three different neighbors who decided there will be jackhammers this week. There are the aging parents who are still vital people, but who have issues that must be addressed. There are the cupcakes that need to go to school tomorrow, even if I did mess them up and forgot to cream the butter before I added the sugar and applesauce. They still smell good and will taste fine. But I don't like screwing up.

Life is filled with stories, but somedays the stories just don't want to be told. How very aggravating of them. How very aggravating of me that I can't find the words to tell them anyway, or even figure out which story is worth relating.

Go listen to some good music: "Message in a Bottle" from the album Regatta de Blanc by the Police.

18 February 2008

Mirror people

The daughter presented me with her birthday wishlist.

Her wishes include (but are not limited to):

A rope
A first aid kit
A knitting class
A Swiss Army knife (just a small one).

My near 11-year-old, the survivalist.

This is the same child who would have given her right arm for a Barbie birthday cake when she was 4. She rapidly morphed into the girl who asked me for a chainsaw when she was about 6. We were wandering through the hardware store one morning, and I saw her little blue eyes gleam with preternatural interest as we got into the heavy machinery.

"Can I have one?" she asked.


"For my birthday?"


"For Christmas?"

"What are you going to do with a chainsaw?"

"I don't know. But I like them."

The truth is that the daughter has never been much of one for toys, conventional or otherwise. She would smile charmingly at the lovely little dolls her grandmother handed her, and then set them aside to get into the really interesting stuff: art supplies, writing materials, paper. Several years ago, at a total loss for a birthday gift, I offered her a shopping spree at Office Depot. I came home with pens, crayons, scissors, glue, Scotch tape, a ream of paper, and one extremely happy girl.

You would be amazed at how often GI Joe has been mummified in Scotch tape.

I'm not sure where the sudden interest in first aid kits and Swiss Army knives came from, though she may have been listening to some of the neighbors and I discussing earthquake preparedness the other night over a bottle of wine. The son got her The Daring Book for Girls for Christmas, and for all I know, she's also been reading his book on surviving the zombie apocalypse.

She isn't so very different from another girl, though, who used to hop on her bike and ride out of the desert and up into the mountains. That girl was a tree climber and knitter, too, and she would lie on her stomach in the dirt, talking to the lizards and horned toads who would watch warily from beneath a shady hedge. The daughter is a little unnerved by lizards and would rather dig for fossils beneath the spreading branches of the Italian stone pine in the backyard. We both keep an eye out for unusual birds.

And true, for Mother's Day, I ask for power tools and wheelbarrows. Back when I had to take the bus to work early in the morning and home again late at night, changing buses in downtown L.A., I carried a 16" pipe wrench in the bottom of my bag. I reasoned that I could use it as a weapon, but no one could accuse me of concealing a weapon.

Sometimes, though, it's hard to see how like me the daughter is. The son thinks precisely the same way that I do, which makes it extremely easy for us to communicate in half sentences that never need to be finished. The daughter thinks like her father, but acts like me, and this throws me off balance, to the point where I find myself spluttering, "Where do you come up with these ideas?"

For the answer, though, all I really need to do is look in the mirror.

Go listen to some good music: "Mirror People" from the album Earth Sun Moon by Love and Rockets.

15 February 2008

Don't let it show

A little background if you've only recently joined us: the son had reconstructive surgery on his knee in December. If you really want to, you can read about it here.

The son had yet another post-operative exam this morning, and the surgeon, who is thrilled with the outcome of the surgery, said that if he wanted to, the son could stop wearing the hinged brace he currently calls home.

I couldn't help but shudder at the idea of $30,000 of unprotected reconstruction. Fortunately, the son also couldn't help but shudder.

"Uh, cool!" I said, and sotto voce to the son, "You are wearing that brace to school EVERY DAY."

He nodded in full assent.

He is frightened, and with good reason. He doesn't ever want to go through this again. I am frightened, and with good reason. I don't ever want to see him in that much pain again.

Since he moved into the hinged brace a month ago, he's been relearning how to bend his knee, and the brace is reset every week with another few degrees range of motion. Getting to ninety degrees was a big deal, but I've noticed, and my neighbor who is a physical therapist noticed, that he's not bending his knee when he walks. It's not pain, either. It's fear.

As I've mentioned before, I am not squeamish--when it comes to me. I've been dealing with orthopedic injuries forever, and have still not recovered from a nasty case of peroneal tendonitis. The idea of those tendons cutting loose makes me cringe a bit, but when I think about the son's patella moving around, I'm ready to faint. He's very aware of the fear I feel, and I've realized that I'm going to have to look a lot more fearless in order to make him face what comes next: physical therapy.

This kid is 14 years old. I've had to let go of him, bit by bit, as he's grown, and every new adventure for him has been a nightmare for me. But I do let go, and I deal with it. I know I can't hold him back because of my fear as much as I may want to.

And it's not as though I haven't had good reasons to be afraid. This week, a 15-year-old boy was shot to death by a 14-year-old boy at school, in a community a couple of hours north of here. Read that again, please: shot to death at school. This is one of the many ugly realities that kids and their parents face these days.

Next year, the son is off to high school, quite a drive from here, instead of almost across the street. I signed the papers this morning, reluctantly, muttering, "I can homeschool. It would be easier and cheaper. I can homeschool."

Cheaper, admittedly. Easier on me because I know what home holds and I have no idea what might happen miles away on a high school campus. But better for him? Probably not.

Sometimes, I look into the future, and I see college, and I see him moving away, and I wonder how I can survive that. How do I go on when he is somewhere I can't see him, can't protect him?

We are always taught that when we are faced with an adversary, a fierce dog or a wild animal, we are not supposed to let our fear show, we are not to let on that we are vulnerable to attack. We are supposed to look capable, fearsome in our own right.

But no one told me that I have to look invulnerable to my loved ones as well lest my fears, well-founded and rational or not, become theirs.

Go listen to some good music: "Don't Let It Show" from the album I Robot by Alan Parsons Project.

14 February 2008

Go with the flow

A year ago yesterday, I walked out of my office for the last time.

I don't regret leaving my job. I'm so much healthier and happier, and our family life is so much less chaotic--of course, in our family, "less chaotic" is quite relative. It was good for the kids to see that yeah, Mommy is a force to be reckoned with in the real world, but they also saw what it costs. They were proud of the work I did, proud of the very overt demonstration of my mad skillz, but they didn't like getting up in the morning to find out that I'd never gone to bed because I'd spent the night rewriting a report that had to be filed in court in the morning. Though it's possible that what they disliked the most were the days I rode my bike home from work, and showed up at school in my incredibly terrifying chartreuse cycling jersey.

I miss my work, which is different from missing my job. Although I (technically) have returned to freelancing, I haven't been very proactive about pursuing jobs though I still get handed things to do: a computer model that needs rethinking, a list of tasks that has to be prioritized by the likelihood a consortium will fund them. But I miss the big projects that kept my brain fully engaged; I am happiest fully engaged, intensely focused. I miss the satisfaction of finding a critical piece of information or the error that was throwing someone's argument off. I miss the joy of taking 50 pages of illegible nonsense and turning it into something lovely and coherent, even elegant, but above all, useful.

"I think I'm getting bored," I told the spouse last night, and he looked justifiably nervous, in part because he knows I have plenty to do, and in part because boredom and I don't mix well. I tend to get up to mischief when I'm bored. Admittedly, April through August are going to be very busy months, but some of what's planned already qualifies as mischief.

I mean, let's face it: what part of riding around Iceland on horseback is NOT mischief?

Oklahoma City. That's beyond mischief.

But while I'm waiting to cause trouble, I will make the spouse one of his favorite desserts: cherry cobbler. Because it is a good day for it, and because it is the small things, done with love and affection, that touch the heart.

And in the spirit of the day, I wish each of you, my readers known and unknown, a Happy Valentine's Day.

Go listen to some music: "Go With the Flow" from the album Songs for the Deaf by Queens of the Stone Age.


When he got home tonight, the spouse handed me one of his professional publications. "Look at that!" he told me.

"Do you like science and love to write?" I read. (Notice it didn't say anything about loving science). "Cool. You guys could totally live without me for three months."

"What?" cried the spouse. "No we couldn't."

"Well, it's a 12-week internship. You'd have to."


I am so applying!

13 February 2008


I'm sitting here, lost.

I don't have to do anything today.

No one in my fridge, killin' my electric bill.

(If I'd known that posting a picture of the contents of my refrigerator would be such a HUGE draw, believe me, I'd have done it a long time ago! And you know, not one single person asked about that jar of Branston Pickle...)

With just a tiny bit of the pressure off, though, I hit the wall. I am so tired I can't see straight.

So Milton and I have spent the last several hours catching up on Project Runway.

At least, I am. Milton is asleep.

I may be asleep soon.

Go listen to some music: "Shellshock" from the album International - The Best of New Order by New Order.

12 February 2008

Refrigerator song

Can you find the carton of strawberry yogurt?

Anecdotal evidence aside, the girls really are beating the boys on this one. Sorry, guys. The son set out to prove that men could find stuff in the fridge just as fast, but you can't. Most women assured me there was no need for a scientific experiment on this. One of our female neighbors found the carton in 1.1 seconds (!) and a male neighbor suggested that if perhaps he'd been allowed to hunt the carton in the backyard with a bow and arrow, he might have found it faster.

Who knew?

I never thought I'd have actual nightmares over a kid's science project, but they've ranged from the kids in the son's class eating all the window dressing in the refrigerator (no, my fridge doesn't normally look like that. This was set up in the name of science) to me chasing off people I didn't want in my house while the son was wailing in the background that he needed more subjects.

Clearly, I am ready for this to be over.

Go listen to some music: "Refrigerator Song" from the album Night of the Corn People by The Bags.

11 February 2008

Sing, sing, sing

Last night, as I was closing up the house after the third round of inviting the world to look in my refrigerator, I heard one of my favorite male singers.

He was singing his heart out, loudly, as he is wont to do, for the girl of his dreams, and I listened intently as his voice moved up and down the scale, from low to impossibly high, as he finished one song and moved on to the next.

It seems a bit early in the year for our mockingbird to start his love songs, but we had a warm weekend--nearly 80F on Saturday--so perhaps the nice weather spurred him on to start serenading us at midnight. Some of our neighbors object strenuously to the sound of his song in the middle of the night, but I find it lovely and oddly soothing.

I've had trouble sleeping all my life, and when I was in junior high, I finally gave up trying to sleep on weekend nights, which drove my parents crazy. Of course, that was also how I found The Midnight Special and Don Kirschner's Rock Concert, which I watched with avid interest--remember, I was the kid who grew up in a place where the radio stations only played the top 20 of the Top 40, and I was passionate about music, so I watched and learned what else was out there. Around the same time, I discovered what happened with radio waves at night, and when the atmospherics were right, I could find radio stations hundreds of miles away in Mexico and Oklahoma City. I would sit for hours with my ear pressed against the speaker grille of the behemoth stereo (vacuum tubes, I kid you not), slowly turning the dial, looking for communication from anywhere outside the far unlight unknown, the vast desert in which I lived.

On nights when the atmospherics weren't cooperating, and I'd finished attending to the tiny orchid plants that my chess-playing cousin F. had brought me, I'd sit, still wakeful at 2 a.m., by the dining room window, listening to the mockingbird in the large, spreading mesquite tree in the backyard. He would trill and sing, playing the scales with his voice. "I am beautiful," he told the world with complete confidence,"you will love me, and we will have pretty children. I build sturdy nests, and I'll provide for you."

Then, I swear, he'd get bored, and he'd start goofing around, mimicking cats and other birds for a bit. After a little, he'd get serious again, and start up his love songs anew. Although I enjoyed my solitude on those nights--spending time alone doesn't daunt me--there was something comforting in the knowledge that there was a friendly creature yards away, also wakeful, singing happily while the rest of the world slept. A kindred spirit, really.

I probably could have learned something more meaningful from that bird's confident, happy song if I'd had a mind to pay better attention. Or if I hadn't been 13 and lost in the throes of the sort of painful world-class crush that teens seem prone to. MA was a year older than I, the most beautiful boy, and just the type of guy to which I will probably be attracted all my life: tall and slender, hazel-eyed and dark-haired. But what I felt for him frightened me and struck me dumb.

To be fair, at 13, I was only beginning to learn my own song, figuring out who I was, what I had to offer the world, where I was going. Through the years, I've added words and melody and rhythm, learning what to give up, what to fight for, where I'm willing to compromise. Sometimes, I dump the serious song, and start goofing off. The mockingbird figured out that a little levity at 2 am isn't a bad thing, and who am I to argue? I usually know when it's time to get serious again, even when I'm faced with days when I don't want to sing, and would rather hide under my bed. I suspect that I'll never be as happy and confident as that mockingbird, and there are still men who strike me dumb, but I've come to realize that I like my song. Most days I do ok when I perform it.

And when I sing at midnight, I'll try to keep it down.

Go listen to some good music: "Sing, Sing, Sing" from the album Sing, Sing, Sing by Bennie Goodman and his orchestra.

08 February 2008


I have to admit that Peggy Noonan has always irked me a bit because she was a cog in the Reagan machine (and if there's any president that I loathed more than Bill Clinton, it was Ronald Reagan), but I cannot dispute that she is a brilliant writer. This morning's opinion piece in the Wall St. Journal was spot on. Of course, the spouse brought it to my attention with glee (he is a closet Republican, after all), and wouldn't let me even get a cup of coffee before he started dancing around the kitchen, singing, "You gotta read it! You gotta read it!"

I tend not to read much in the way of political opinion because it's opinion, and I prefer to find out the facts and form my own opinion. Having said this, I do wonder if anyone has done a study on why so many women dislike Hillary Clinton? As in the article that I cited on Monday, it seems that a lot of better educated women dislike her. Is it because, like me, they recognize her as the sort of "feminist" who will stab women in the back harder to get where she wants to be?

Just a thought.

Go listen to some good music: "Politik" from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head by Coldplay.

07 February 2008

Under pressure

This is the time of year when the school suddenly ramps up the number of projects that the kids need to complete. This is also the time of year that I get so frustrated with the school that I want to pull the kids out and homeschool instead.

This year is no exception.

I'm a very hands-off parent when it comes to these sorts of things. As I've pointed out to the kids ad nauseum, I've long since graduated from elementary and middle school, and I don't need to do another project. This is their work, not mine.

Blah, blah, blah.

Anyway, now that everyone has recovered from the Noro Week Event, and the Influenza Week Event, and we're plodding through post-surgical recovery, and my ears are still ringing from the 5th & 6th grade Instrumental Concert, I've got about 200 people tromping through my house to look in my refrigerator for the Science Fair (Data Collection Section). Unfortunately, I have had no choice but to be involved in this since 200 people are tromping through my house. Looking in my refrigerator. And someone has to make sure that the interior of my refrigerator looks exactly the same each time someone looks in it.

There's more on the horizon. I can't even bear to think about it at this point, although it is all bearing down on me.

I really need to sleep.

Go listen to some good music: "Under Pressure" by Queen & David Bowie from the album Best of Bowie

06 February 2008

It's the end of the world as we know it

That's great
It starts with an earthquake

It did, too. The Northridge Earthquake, my first day of maternity leave, and the event that probably hastened your birth.

I didn't actually hold you until February 7th. I was still strapped to the operating table when they took you away 10 minutes before midnight. The nurse tried to make me kiss you before they sent me off to the recovery room, but after 40 hours of labor followed by emergency surgery, I'd lost the ability to make much sense of anything, and all I could do was stare at you. And you stared back.

I do remember two things about your birth. The doctors cut me open and I immediately heard a baby yelling. I looked over the sterile drape to see two surgeons and two nurses staring down in astonishment. My OB later told me she was afraid she'd cut you, but no, you were announcing your arrival even as you were arriving. You were being you.

The other thing I remember is the amazing sense of another person suddenly arriving in the room. I have been with those who are dying, and the sense is one of sudden absence. Your birth was exactly the opposite: the sense of sudden presence. That was when I understood what people meant when they were talking about they spoke of the miracle of birth.

When I woke up the next morning, it was to an odd sense of loneliness. You had been so much a part of me for almost nine months that it seemed strange that only I inhabited my body again. But then the nurse brought you in, this amazingly alert and strong newborn. It was like getting an incredible present, and I'd never felt such possessiveness. You were MINE, and I unwrapped you and looked you over, marvelling how yesterday, all that had been curled up in my belly.

Years now. I've never felt such love. I've never felt such aggravation. I've never felt such fear. I've never felt such hope.

This morning, you were straining to gain that last half-inch that will bring you up to my height. I pooh-poohed your silliness, and your father laughed and said, "Give it a rest; she won't admit you're taller until you're about 6'7"."

"So," I asked, "How have I done my job? Do you know your place in the world?"

"Yeah," you laughed. "I'm the minion, you're the Alpha dog."

"Good man!" I cheered and clapped you on the back. And looking at you, braced knee, amazing sense of humor, kind heart big enough to spend time with a little boy who needs an older kid's attention, I was satisfied.

The day you were born was the end of my world as I knew it.

And I feel fine.

Go listen to some good music: "It's the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine)" from the album Document by REM.

04 February 2008

Go your own way

Super Tuesday is tomorrow, and I've already cast my vote for the candidate of my choice.

I'd like to encourage you to do two things:

KNOW THE ISSUES. Though others would have you believe otherwise, this election is not about gender, not about race, not about who has the best hair. It's about who is going to take the helm at a time when this country is in crisis not only domestically but internationally. This situation has existed my entire life and I'm tired of it. Know what's at stake and vote for the candidate who's going to make the changes happen.

GO VOTE when the primaries hit your town. This is YOUR opportunity to make your voice heard, and it's you're only chance. Take it because you are so lucky to have this privilege. Make the most of it, even if you think your vote doesn't count.

And yeah, my decision not to vote for Hillary Clinton has spurred quite a bit of off line debate. Yes, I'm a wife, a mother, and a working professional woman, and someone who did part of her college degree in Women's Studies and political science. But I am not alone in believing that she cannot be trusted and doesn't have the ability to lead a country. And I don't believe that she really cares about *me* or *you* or whether any of us get adequate health care or anything else.

A Wall St. Journal article I read a few weeks back underscored this. The real crux of the matter for me, and this is apparently what bothers other professional women as well, is Clinton's perceived lack of honesty and moral fiber. According to the Journal, "in the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll [taken in November], professional women gave her lower ratings than did nonprofessional women in such categories as 'being honest and straightforward,' 'being compassionate enough to understand average people,' [and] 'having high personal standards that set the proper moral tone for the country'...."

I certainly don't see Clinton as trustworthy, and I'd certainly not trust her to act appropriately in a crunch. I'm confused by the idea that she is "experienced." Her time as First Lady qualifies her to lead a country? I don't see living with Bill in the White House for 8 years as "experience," or at least not an experience you'd want to admit to (Somalia? Elian Gonzalez? All the other things we'd rather forget about the Clinton years?). Or is there some other "experience" that I've missed? Just being a lawyer? Is her time as a senator somehow more valuable than that of other candidates? Is it just that she's old?

Clinton somehow believes that she embodies "change." While I'd be almost willing to admit that anything is better than the idiocy we've suffered under for the last two terms, I'm not quite willing to admit that a return to Clinton-style politics is anything to cheer about. So, realistically, what changes under her presidency?

Let me also clear up something that seems to be confusing people: I do not belong to a political party. ANY political party. I am not an Independent. In California, you do not have to declare affiliation with a political party in order to vote; it's called Decline to State. This does limit my ability to vote in primaries, but the Democratic Party was nice enough to make its ballots available to unaffiliated voters, so I was able to vote in this primary. And believe me, I did. And I thank the Democrats for making it easy for me to do so this go round.

One other point I need to make: No, I do not like football, and I usually don't watch it. I know more about the players than I want to because the spouse is involved in a fantasy league. However, I was pleased for the Giants. And the end of the fourth quarter was worth watching. The spouse was completely bemused that I was yelling at the television.

Tom Petty was fun, too.

Now, when we get to baseball season, I'm all over that. I've been watching baseball since I was a little tiny girl. Triple A, major league, heck, Little League. Spring training, here we come.

Go listen to some good music: "Go Your Own Way" from the album Rumours by Fleetwood Mac.

03 February 2008

Sheer heart attack

The word this week is that the Super Bowl could be a hazard to your health.

I know this for a fact now. The power in our neighborhood went out at noon, an effect of the blustery winter storm passing through, and I heard about 45 male hearts stop beating.

Not on Super Bowl Sunday!

They gathered in worried little knots on the rainy street, while preparatory activity at the party house continued.

"Don't worry," I told the spouse, who actually found the whole thing rather amusing, "you can always listen to it on the wind-up radio."

Of course, I've discovered that the state of Tom Brady's hair seems to be the best indicator of how a Pat's game is going, and without that knowledge, I wouldn't be placing any bets.

Not that I ever do.

But bless the good people at So Cal Edison. Power restored at 1:30 pm. The game will go on.

And I can go back to doing the laundry.

Go listen to some good music: "Sheer Heart Attack" from the album Night at the Opera by Queen.


And Eli Manning has very, very bad hair. Thirty-nine seconds to go.

Come on, New York!

The spouse: "I've never heard you raise your voice to the TV during football season."

Me: "Tom Brady. PUH!"

01 February 2008

Bad dog boogaloo


I enter the school lobby on a mission of mercy. I am delivering lunchtime painkillers to the son.

"Mrs. S.?" I hear from behind me.

It is Mrs. R., one of the school administrators, a very genteel and ladylike woman about 10 years my senior with whom I've become friendly during the time the children have been here. She is very precise, very proper, always impeccably groomed, and has a wicked sense of humor.

I walk to her office and say hello. We chat in general terms about the son's progress, but there are other things she wants to discuss.

"We need parents to go and talk to the kids at the Prep about careers, and well," she drops her voice, "you know everyone here is an attorney..."

I will myself to keep a straight face.

"...so I thought I'd give them the spouse's name because he has such an interesting background, and does such interesting things."

"Oh certainly, he'd love to talk to the students," I tell her warmly, knowing full well that he will talk, but not necessarily willingly. Still, I can't be the only one to carry the parental burden around here.

"Well," she continues, "I wanted to give them your name, too, because you also have an unusual background, and do many interesting things. But...I didn't know what to call you. You know, your job title."

"Troublemaker," I tell her unhelpfully.

Mrs. R. lets out the tiniest of ladylike snorts.

The son, arriving in her office and overhearing this exchange, says, "Dad just calls her a Bad Dog*."

I shrug and nod. "There you have it."

Mrs. R. guffaws.

*Bad Dog was originally the appellation of Mitzi, our late American Eskimo. Eskies are a working breed, and the baddest damn dog ever, not to mention the worst damn dog ever (and I say that only slightly tongue-in-cheek). Highly intelligent, highly motivated, full of fun, very loving, practically untrainable unless you sit on them until they recognize your Alpha status (that is, if you have Alpha status). Bad Dogs herd, they are not herded. Bad Dogs obey the letter of the law, though not necessarily the spirit. Bad Dogs roll in the new mown grass until they are green because it is FUN. Bad Dogs are highly responsible, but they need to escape once in awhile and have adventures. Because there is a big world out there. It needs to be seen. It needs to be tended to. It needs to be barked at.

With apologies to Mr. Starr, go listen to some good music: "Back Off Boogaloo" from the album Blast From Your Past by Ringo Starr.