31 May 2008

Moments of pleasure

I had a great month.

I ran off all month, but I wasn't running from. I was running to. I liked that. I saw stuff, good stuff. I went to five concerts. My eldest was named valedictorian and successfully navigated the school musical as assistant director; my youngest sailed triumphantly through State Fair and a day's worth of being a colonial lass.

I had a birthday. Birthdays at this point are more about birthday cake than anything else--otherwise, it's just about the wrinkles--and I got two cakes, even though I was the prodigal and ran off for my birthday.

It wasn't a big birthday or a really significant birthday; I just had somewhere to run to. That was great fun.

Right now, there is a sign on the front door, one I put there at 2 am yesterday. It says, in huge green letters: CUPCAKES. I was so tired and so distracted with all that needed to be done yesterday, that I was terrified I would forget to take the cupcakes with me in the morning.

The sign is still on the door. I didn't forget the cupcakes, but the hysteria in the scrawled letters makes me laugh every time I see it.

CUPCAKES. That was my month. Small moments of intense sweetness, enough to remind that I have such a good life, filled with good people and good music and good times.

CUPCAKES. I had to plan every moment of this month down to the nth degree, to the point of putting up a sign, but I got through it and so did everyone else, all of us happy, all of us content.

CUPCAKES! The Angels just beat Toronto despite a really poor call in the 9th. That one had extra frosting.

CUPCAKES. The things I make. I make things. I forget that part sometimes, that I do give to my family, to my community, to the world around me. I'm so grateful for all that's been given to me that I never feel I can repay it adequately. My family and my friends tell me don't be so hard on yourself, but I don't know how to let up. I will always be in arrears, no matter how much I give. So I forget that I do make things, I do give things, even if it's cupcakes, even if it's a spontaneous smile that's the only way I can say, "You're making me so happy," the only way I can say, "Thank you."

Cupcakes. It's the small things. And I want to do bigger things, but the small things are a start.

Go listen to some good music: "Moments of Pleasure" from the album The Red Shoes by Kate Bush.

30 May 2008

Five miles out

The son found out today during class announcements that he had been named valedictorian. I think he's thrilled, though he's having a little trouble admitting it.

(In some ways, I wish he wasn't so like me).

It was a slightly sad footnote, though, that when I went to pick him up, everyone was congratulating me, and adding as a second thought, "oh, and congratulations to K., too!"

"This is his accomplishment," I told everyone, gently. "He's worked very hard and this is his reward."

I guess it's a symptom of what parents see as their investment in their children, but I'm not taking any credit here. Yes, I did raise him to work hard; yes, he is a reflection of his parents; yes, I gave him a million pep talks (periodically sprinkled with "and if you don't, you'll lose your Xbox time for the rest of your life!"), but it's been his choice to approach his work and his projects and his extracurricular activities with the tenacity and dedication that he has.

And I'm incredibly proud of the amazing boy he is.

But he earned the honor of being valedictorian, not me. This is his. 100%.

Now, that said, when the kids have huge projects, we do lend a helping hand, though generally not much of one.

State Fair, in which the daughter is involved, is a huge project, that culminates in the child generating a carnival style booth representing a state, complete with carnival style game. The carnival is tomorrow (of course!).

And you bet it's a nightmare.

The daughter has written the 10-page paper, and she drew up the specifications for her booth. Other than buying what she needed, and helping her to set it up and tear it down tomorrow, my involvement has been limited to one thing.

Painting the peach tree for her game today.

















(and only because I was the papier mache queen for the hoodoos we made for the son's game, three years ago).

I cannot draw or paint to save my life, but this is recognizably a tree. I'm a little thrilled.

Then, of course, there is the matter of the four dozen cupcakes I produced today.
















No pretensions to Madame Stewart; just good honest cupcakes.

And then there's...

Not to mention...

In addition to...

And all that.

Go listen to some good music: "Five Miles Out" from the album Five Miles Out by Mike Oldfield.

29 May 2008

Layla

running and hiding much too long

It's no secret that I've not been in the world's best mood the last few days.

Plowing through the business that I've talked about as well as the business I don't talk about. Making lists. Making plans. Making chicken tikka masala, pulao rice and sauteed spinach for dinner, because there's nothing quite like making a huge mess in the kitchen when I'm stretched to the point of breaking.

When I redid this side of the house a few years ago, I set it up so that my office space is in the kitchen. Makes great sense as it's very open floor plan, and it works with the flow of the way we entertain, as well as the fact that I tend to be stewing something and writing a report on some toxic chemical and helping with homework simultaneously. I have the master iTunes account on my computer, so I've usually got music playing in the background.

While I was making curry sauce yesterday afternoon, "Layla" randomly popped on.

Goosebumps.

I've never been a huge Clapton fan, but I've always liked that song. It had already long since acquired classic rock status by the time I heard it in high school, but it was the ultimate anthem of unrequited love, the musical definition of teen angst, years of warm spring nights spent pining for a beautiful, unattainable boy (the irony there, of course, is that it turned out that boy was just as interested, but while pursuing quantum physics and chaos theory and English logic, I'd missed the class in the laws of human attraction). "Layla" gave me the same goosebumps every time it came on the radio, hitting every confused nerve in my body. The first three minutes is all furious yearning passion, the last four pure romance.

turned my whole world upside down

Ah, spring. Watching the son and daughter navigate the uncertain rivers of young attraction is poignant, but also a little funny. From their point of view, of course, it's all very serious: the giggling girls calling the son for homework help; the daughter and her longtime school buddy being chosen to be "married" in a colonial reenactment--I've never seen an 11-year-old boy and girl with such red faces. I tell them I understand, explain why I understand. The son, of course, simply refuses to believe that my serious, strict maternal heart did ever, could ever, might still entertain the same tumultuous feelings his does.

The daughter, who is worried to the point of despair that she might not survive her crush on the middle school teacher who will be her history teacher next year (quelle horreur!), seems just a bit pleased by the idea that I might actually have a heart, mainly because it gives her room to tease me.

"Mommy and..." she sings the old playground song off-key.

"Quiet, you!" I order, though I'm more than amused.

Before I finally go insane

Yes, before I finally go insane, baking cupcakes for tomorrow, helping the daughter finish her State Fair display for tomorrow, getting the son ready for the first performance of the school musical tonight. Before I finally go insane attending to all the other business that requires my attention.

Right, cupcakes. That's actually the easy part.

Go listen to some good music: "Layla" from the album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos.

28 May 2008

There's a moon in the sky (called the moon)

It's official.

I have to stop complaining about the son's graduation (and group wedding).

He's been named valedictorian of his class.

Good on ya', kid!


(and, boy, you just thank the deity of your choice that you didn't get saddled with the "honor" I did in 8th grade. Mamma mia...if I ever needed a reason to misbehave, they handed it to me gift wrapped with that one.)

Go listen to some good music: "There's a Moon in the Sky (Called the Moon)" from the album The B-52's by The B-52's.

27 May 2008

Resistance

lie inside
the ache in resistance


So many expectations are leveled at me right now. Yesterday was a miserably long slog; today, I'm glaring at what is piled up around me. Flurries of panicked emails are stuffing my inbox. In this little universe, everyone believes they are meant to be the most important ONE. I don't understand this mentality, this need to overschedule our children with endless projects, endless parties, endless homework, endless productions; this desire to impinge on what little time the rest of us have; these endless demands for time, money, cookies.

I caught myself last night, plotting my own early release. Duct tape be damned. Last week, I really liked my life.

It's always a matter of trying to find a balance. Sometimes it's a good balance, sometimes a little precarious. That I can live with. This nonsense I cannot live with.

So I did what I do best when I'm in a state of intense frustration: out the door, iPod on my arm, armed with Kleenex and my delightful hacking cough.

Cool and breezy, planes overhead, clouds and haze struggling with blue sky.

Everything hurt. My legs felt heavy and clumsy. Hard to catch my breath, my heart thudding uncomfortably in my chest, the mechanical entity of flesh and valves boxing with the metaphysical entity that is suddenly demanding to be let out, a state of affairs that is just adding to the general noise and confusion.

No, I told the latter last night, you are not what is next.

You sure about that? it countered slyly.

The truth is that I'm not sure about anything at the moment.

Well, I sure don't want to be baking muffins for some school event (ok, I did volunteer for that one, out of a sense of supreme guilt for saying 'no' to everything else).

*wonders why she has to be so damned honest when she's striving for righteous indignation*

I stalked grimly up to the channel, ponderous rage bubbling around in my soul.

Then suddenly that song came on, and I was right back to last Tuesday, and while waiting for the light to change, I was bouncing up and down on my toes on the curb. As I crossed the street, I ducked my head, hoping the brim of my cap would hide the sudden irrepressible smile on my face. And then it got to that part, and I was laughing (or coughing. The two are presently indistinguishable), and the pair of elderly women approaching me on the trail looked at me like I was probably mad, and I ducked my head again, but I know my shaking shoulders gave me away.

Possessed.

And I played it again because it made the world a little brighter. Right now, I'll take what I can get.

Go listen to some good music: "Resistance" from the album ...undone by The Lucy Show.

26 May 2008

22,000 days

Okay, so we've covered the sweet moment and the maddening moment; let's have the fun stuff. Or at least some of it.

(I'm a little less loopy today. Yeah, I feel like a 3-year-old with a runny nose, and yeah, at the moment, I've got the temper of a 3-year-old with a runny nose. And yeah, we're dealing with the fact that my mother's house was hit by a tornado Tuesday night, but everything ended up being pretty minor--damage, yes, but she and her husband still have a house and weren't injured--for which we're all enormously grateful. I can only hope that all the others who have suffered similarly today and in recent weeks are able to get their lives back on track quickly).

So.

I was reading a review this morning in my ongoing Nyquil and I-haven't-slept-much-in-the-last-two-months stupor and the reviewer said something about a lack of "untethered passion."

Really?

I thought, did you watch the same bunch of guys I've been watching?

Because if what I saw Tuesday in Moline wasn't untethered passion, particularly those rhythmic fireworks during "Digital Man," I'm not sure what it was. If what I heard Thursday in St. Paul wasn't untethered passion, particularly the moments of call and response in "Dreamline," I'm not sure what it was.

Precision I appreciate, most assuredly, but I don't think precise musicianship and passionate performance are mutually exclusive. I love watching the performance, I truly enjoy watching the band play, but I think that on some level, it's the passion that keeps bringing me back. I saw a lot of passion Tuesday in Moline and Thursday in St. Paul; I saw a lot of musical pyrotechnics. Booming bass, thundering percussion, a second heartbeat in my own chest. I saw feet dancing behind the drumkit and feet dancing on pedals. My own feet never stop moving. Probably the rest of me doesn't either, and that's passion, too (poor security man, I still feel badly about clobbering you).

I guess everyone goes to concerts for his or her own reasons. There are those who just want to hear the radio hits or the songs they remember from their youth. One reason I'm still listening is because all these years later, this band continues to make new music that's relevant to me and the place I'm at in my life. And it's passionate.

Each concert is a moment in time as well as a moment out of time, discrete, mine alone as well as the province of everyone else in attendance. I see a lot of fervor in that audience.

For now, I've had my fun, recharged my own enthusiasm, and it's time to set my sights elsewhere. Life and responsibility are calling me back; I can't evade what needs to be accomplished in the next several weeks, starting immediately, continuing on Tuesday, and into Wednesday, and if I keep thinking along these lines, I will dive under my desk and refuse to come out until the end of June. Which would not be very...fruitful.

It feels a bit like a prison sentence after all this running around and flying around and unbridled freedom, which I know sounds very negative. In reality, though, it's not. What it means is I've built up some forward momentum; stasis, stagnance, they're not the way I work, not what I want. This is good. And I've got memories, precious little moments in time and out of time, reminders of what made me laugh, what made me stop and think, what made my heart pound a little harder.

And my own passion for precision, for doing things well, for approaching difficulty with grace (would that I always prevailed there), for dealing with aggravation with patience, is where I need to direct my attention. I actually don't mind behaving, don't mind tending my responsibilities, don't mind getting down to the business of getting things done.

It's just there's a big world out there. It needs to be seen. Sometimes it needs to be barked at.

(And anyway, my family has begun threatening me with duct tape...again. Gray is not my color).

And it's only until July.

Which isn't that far away.

And who knows...?

Maybe I'll get time off for good behaviour.

Yeah. Duct tape.

Go listen to some good music: "22,000 Days" from the album Long Distance Voyager by The Moody Blues.

24 May 2008

Cantus inaequalis

So, I wrote about the sweetest moment of my recent travels. The most maddening?

Coming down with something horrid and grossly viral sometime between Wednesday and Thursday. And true to typical cold viruses, I felt rotten on Thursday, awful on Friday, and I feel like death on toast today.

(It's got to be bad if I can't even remember how to sign in to Blogger.)

I knew something was up when, after a half day of wandering around St. Paul on Wednesday, I fell asleep at 5pm, and slept almost non-stop until the following morning, and at 9am, still didn't want to get out of bed. But I did and visited St. Paul some more.

(I liked St. Paul. I wish I'd made it into Minneapolis proper; there is a bookstore I'd hoped to visit, and I had the idea of going to a ball game. A number of the Twins players live in our area during the off-season, so it would sort of be like going to see the neighbors play. This is a place I'll have to revisit with a bit more time to spare because there is a great deal of natural beauty and some cool glacial features, not to mention an unexpected richness in architectural interest. I spent some time wandering along the river in both Moline and St. Paul. Next time, I'm renting a bike so I can cover more ground!)

Anyway, then I went back to sleep.

I thought it was just allergies and took an antihistamine. St. Paul was in full and lovely bloom ("You got here just in time to see the crab apple flowering," an elderly docent at the science museum told me. One forgets that it isn't perpetual non-weather in the rest of the world, that there are seasons elsewhere), and there were little white fluffs floating merrily in the air, everywhere.

Came time to go to the concert. The show was so completely entertaining that I felt better for awhile.

Then I had to get packed up and ready to vacate the hotel at 4:30 am for a very early flight home. It was about then that I realized I wasn't fevered from all the fire on the stage, I actually had a fever.

I slept on the plane--inconceivable!

I'm just grateful it's a cold and not stomach-related. I'll take the date with the bottle of Nyquil over the other any day of the week.

Go listen to some music: "Cantus Inaequalis" from the album Songs of Sanctuary by Adiemus.

23 May 2008

Runnin' down a dream

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, indeed.

While I haven't quite escaped the clutches of difficult, things mostly went according to plan and on May 20, I had a Very Good Day.

I haven't had computer access since Monday, so there's some catching up to do.

(The tractor semi-non-sequitur was courtesy of Blogger allowing me to schedule posts days beforehand, which I thought was rather clever.)

I'll start with the sweetest moment of my time away.

Very last minute, someone contacted me about a front row ticket to the show in Moline, IL, on Tuesday. After running around and changing plans and negotiating and all that, I got on a plane at 6:45 am, Tuesday morning and flew to Chicago and then flew to Moline in a teeny tiny jet.

(Remember I hate being off the ground. I don't even like Ferris wheels. But this is my birthday week, and I'd already decided that the show last night, which *was* my birthday, was my gift for this year. So I just made it a really good gift).

Anyway.

Everything ran late, and I was nothing short of ebullient when I finally got to Moline.

[Insert massive rave about show. They're always great, but this was one of those truly amazing performances. I can talk about that later, though.]

Just before the last song of the encore, I felt a little tap on my arm. There was a little boy, maybe eight years old, standing at my elbow, asking if he could stand in front of me at the rail. I smiled and nodded emphatically. He was having so much fun; it was great to watch. At the end of the show, he received a guitar pick, which he bore back to his father triumphantly.

I said goodbye to the friends I'd seen at the show, and apologized once more to the security guard I'd elbowed in the head during "Digital Man," a huge bear of a man, who was very nice to us the whole show (and he was fan!). As I turned to leave, I saw the little boy, looking fairly overwhelmed, and his father, and I said, "Hey, kiddo, how about a high five, 'cause that was pretty cool!" and held my hand out to him. He gave me a high five, and thanked me for letting him stand there, and his father thanked me, too, effusively. I was a little embarrassed because to me it was a no-brainer, such a small thing, and the boy was very polite and sweet, and I'm a mom, for Pete's sake. Then the little guy came over and hugged me, saying again, "Thank you SO much."

I almost cried.

With the exception of holding my own 10-year-old daughter on my hip last July while she swayed to the music, that was the best concert moment to date.

What I did was nothing; what that little boy gave to me in his hug was everything.

Go listen to some good music: "Runnin' Down a Dream" from the album Greatest Hits by Tom Petty.

21 May 2008

John Deere tractor

The son: "Where are you going?"

Me: "I take the fifth."

The daughter, severely: "Mommy!"

The son: "If you don't tell me where you're going, I'll tell everyone what you're doing."

Me: "You don't know what I'm doing."

Momentary silence.

The daughter: "Well, what are you doing?"

Me: "I'm going to the tractor museum."

The son: "WHAT?"

The daughter: "WHY?"

Me, shrugging: "Why not? It's there; it should be visited. I'll bring you back a t-shirt."

The daughter, indignantly: "I don't want a t-shirt! I want a tractor!"

Go listen to some music: "John Deere Tractor" from the album The Judds: Greatest Hits, v. 2 by The Judds.

20 May 2008

A million miles away

I am hoping that the very difficult weekend was truly the end to the very difficult week. Hilariously (and I don't know how I found any hilarity in the last several days), my horoscope popped up on the browser, and basically said, "Surrender, Dorothy. You can't do anything about what's going on. It can only get better." Even the spouse couldn't help but laugh at that.

So:

Wherein we hope that all is going according to plan...

Because if it isn't, I'm having a very bad day.

Go listen to some good music: "A Million Miles Away" from the album Everywhere at Once by The Plimsouls.

17 May 2008

Livin' on the edge

A small glimpse into our weird world:

Me, noting the spouse is wearing field clothes: "You're heading down south."

The spouse: "Yeah, they chased us out of the trench yesterday because it looked like it was going to collapse."

Me, ironically: "Goody."

I spend a great deal of time not thinking about what the spouse is doing, often hundreds of feet underground.

The spouse: "I forgot to tell you that I got an email yesterday. Apparently the head honcho is over in Asia..."

Me, with a sigh: "The earthquake."

The spouse: "Yeah, and he was asking for assistance..."

Me, spluttering through a mouthful of coffee: "No. NO. NO!"

The spouse, holding up his hands in a defensive gesture: "Not to worry, I've got too much going on..."

Me: "Yeah!" and I start listing all the cases he's working on, two of which are huge, emotional, and very high profile.

The spouse: "And anyway, two other people stepped up immediately..."

Me: "Well, here's your hole card: 'Sorry, but my wife is chasing a rock band around North America and I have to stay home with the kids.'"

The spouse, brightening: "Hey, I like that."

Not that he likes my itinerary; he likes being able to blame his inability to drop everything on my antics.

The spouse: "Ok, well I'm off to go stand in my sewer trench..."

Me: "SEWER TRENCH? You didn't tell me you were in a sewer trench. You mean that stuff you put in the washing machine yesterday was in a sewer trench?"

The spouse, sheepishly: "Well...yeah. I didn't tell you? Sorry."

Me: "GAH!"

Go listen to some music: "Livin' on the Edge" from the album Big Ones by Aerosmith.

16 May 2008

Use it up

This has been one of those difficult weeks. My computer went into a tailspin, and I spent two days fixing it. The daughter is dealing with 'tween girl drama, and the absence of her much loved brother. And splattering herself on the hard top today playing, needing bandages on elbows and knees. The spouse has been out in the field, and because disaster reigns in certain parts of world right now, frantic phone calls and emails have been flying, creating huge amounts of stress.

The son is gone, and he calls me every night and says, "Oh, it was a fun day. I wish I was at home."

Not very heartening.

And some other decisions had to be made, and much discussion ensued with third parties, and choices were made and plugs were pulled. And I think everyone feels relieved, though the choices were hard and painful. I feel like I've explored enough Sturm und Drang here for one week, so if the details seem important later, maybe I'll write about it. Right now, just enough.

Then it suddenly dawned on me that my birthday is next week, and I had to wonder where did that year go? Next something nice happened, and once again, I find that I will be embarking on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, headed out for yet another adventure.

Because I am possessed.

And far too tired and just a bit sad.

But tomorrow, I chaperone a field trip! The last time I went on this field trip, there were flying earwigs. And it will be about 100F. But it was so important to the daughter because I did it for the son.

Then the son comes home, and then there is Seminar Day (the most important part of Seminar Day is the donuts--just ask Grandad--and we carefully choose the talk we attend after lunch because everyone naps) and then (maybe?) sleep. Then a new week.

Ready for adventure. And whatever comes our way.

Go listen to some good music: "Use It Up" from the album In Violet Light by The Tragically Hip.

15 May 2008

Sing me Spanish techno

Travelling at godspeed
Over the hills and trails
I have refused my call
Pushing my lazy sails
Into the blue flame
I want to crash here right now


When is it too much?

I guess I need to stop dancing around the subject; I see the threads you pick up, the threads you follow, putting the pieces together. What is it I am trying to tell you? I find it oddly touching, and a little funny because the only person who thinks it's a secret is me. Don't think I underestimate you.

("Mom," asked the son once, "who is the 'you' you're talking to?"
"The world," I told him. "The people who read it. Myself."
"When I see that 'you,'" the spouse said another time, "I feel like you've turned to look right at me."
"Perhaps I have," I told him.)

I try to tell myself that the labels others use are just that: descriptors. Like I have brown hair or green eyes or XX chromosomes, or I'm tall.

But people don't freak out when you say, "I'm the tall brunette."

People freak out if you say, "I'm profoundly gifted."

I don't know why those particular words are fighting words. I don't like to fight so I don't say them. To me, they are largely meaningless, just a measure of what people see going on in my head, no different from the numbers and other words that have been pinned to me. The world gives them weight; I don't, at least not until the weight is dropped on me.

I don't have to prove that I'm the tall brunette. If you've got eyes in your head, you can pretty much see it.

The thing is that, apparently, the moment I start talking the other becomes obvious. I don't see it, of course, because I'm just being myself, wandering off on whatever amusing tangent I've discovered, gleefully pursuing a hunch, an interesting string of words, an idea. I only have the word of those who know and love me that this is what happens.

But for some reason, everyone wants me to prove those two words.

Two words: "shelf bra," the funniest two words ever put next to one another; "potato salad," something lovely I just had for lunch; "profoundly gifted," something to prove.

Back at the office--which is the sort of operation where everyone has a Ph.D. from Berkeley or Stanford or MIT or Caltech--I was getting myself a cup of coffee in the break room when a woman I didn't know walked in. She'd been on leave for the several months I'd been working in the group. She introduced herself, and I introduced myself, and then she said,

"MD told me that you are the smartest person he's ever met."

Which skews in more or less the same direction as that guy back in Kansas City who said, "I saw you walk into the premium parking lot."

What am I supposed to say to that?

"Why, yes, I have a freakishly high IQ, and I've scored off the charts on every test I've ever taken, and I can pretty much do everything except play the banjo, and I've won this award and that award and the other award, and colleges chased me the way greyhounds chase a rabbit, and would you like to know what I've turned down because in some ways that's the more interesting story..."

Sure, I say that all the time.

What I really said? "Oh...? Would you like some coffee?"

She was clearly deflated but I don't know what she expected me to do. Make up and solve quadratic equations on the spot? Write the report I was working on in iambic pentameter? Recite a passage from The Odyssey in Greek? To be fair to her (since I found her to be a congenial person and pleasant to work with), she intended no harm with the comment, and perhaps meant it as a compliment.

What most people don't recognize is that I see myself as nothing particularly special. Yes, I am unusually tall, but that's genetic, and I also have unusually loose joints, which is bad but also genetic. Apparently what lives in my head is genetic, and you know what? I can tell you unabashedly that I love it, just the same way I love being tall. I love the way I think, I love the way I discover things, I love to know things. I love knowledge for knowledge's sake, and I love the way a little fact lights up a huge grid for me. I work hard at knowing things, and it pleases me. That's the gift.

It doesn't make me special, but it sure as hell makes me happy.

"Only connect," said E.M. Forster, and that's what I spend my day doing. Connecting the dots, often in unusual ways. Connecting with people. It is such a blast; it is my joy.

Until you run into that roadblock.

Humans seem to be programmed to hate and fear what they don't understand. Humans do things to those who are different that are inexplicable and cruel, and seem to be outside of what they might normally do. It's very hard to tell the mother of another little boy that this will always be the battle. That's the curse.

I've met very few people who are like me in this specific way, simply because there aren't that many of us. But we recognize each other very quickly when we meet. Most of them have been men, and most of them are damaged, angry, hurt people. People told them "prove it," and by God, they'll die trying, getting that fourth Ph.D., or talking, talking, talking until someone fires them again.

Or like my father, will submit to self-defeat and set a course for self-destruction.

I haven't gotten through unscathed. As a child, you can only be called a freak so many times before you start to believe it, believe that you are bad because your existence makes everyone so angry, especially when you're a girl who is building the seven wonders of the engineering world in the backyard. And reading every book in the library. And asking a million questions. And filling in the name of every European country and the capital of each like you're supposed to, but adding the GNP and major exports because you learned that, too. Because it was there. Because it was interesting.

And blowing up the science lab. Twice. Because it was fun.

Because I need to know EVERYTHING. Including how the high flame on the Bunsen burner has to be to heat the acetone sufficiently to blow spinach onto the acoustic tile ceiling.

Experiments are good. That's science.

I figured out that talking was what angered everyone. No one understood what I was saying, no one could see the tapestry of information in my head, no one recognized the connections I was making, and so they didn't want to hear about it. I stopped talking. Then everyone complained I was too quiet, but that was easier to live with. Then everyone told me I was shy, which made me laugh because I am naturally gregarious, and keeping my mouth shut can be a bit of a chore. And sometimes I AM shy. Because the first time you see me, I don't want you to see what I am. Because if you do, then I never get a chance to be just a person.

I'm a brain. A walking encyclopedia. A genius. A freak. A threat. A polymath. Whatever label you like best.

It is what I am.

But it is not me.

The son inhabits the same land. At least he knows he is safe with us, knows he can break down and get understanding, new meaning, a way to keep moving, even when he wants to reenact the Trojan War with a weapon made of broccoli, even when I don't want to talk about Star Trek again. He knows he is different and that his difference is nothing to fear, that it is simply part of who he is, just like his love of Legos. Most importantly, he knows he's not the only one out there because this place can be very lonely. He knows that I care more about the effort than the outcome, that he'll learn more from the process, that failure is a possibility, that "no" is a valid answer. I was lucky to learn most of those things on my own. It just took longer.

And I'm still learning because failure has never been an option for me, because I still hear the voice that says "prove it." For me, this is the most difficult part: the world confers that meaningless term on me, something I've never believed in, and then asks me to prove it. There is no logic in that and it creates considerable confusion. Honestly, I'd rather study Icelandic (because who doesn't need yet another language?) or reread Galsworthy or finally learn to play piano.

Those who know me best understand what it is costing me to write this, what it is costing me to even consider posting it. But those who have seen the drafts say it has value, it has meaning, that it should be read. I long ago granted myself invisibility, but in the last several years, even more in the last year, I have seen that my superpower is fading, that the world is looking back at me. Sometimes, it's even smiling.

From my own childhood and experience, I reclaimed some ground, and the son is reclaiming even more. We are sharing this knowledge with another family who is navigating the same rough waters. I understand that it is in part my responsibility to do this. The spouse is constantly telling me that I leave a tremendous wake behind me, and I believe that if I'm going to rock all those little boats, it had better be for a good reason.

One person at a time.

For some time, I've been considering what comes next in my life and I am ready for a fresh challenge, something new and exciting. It may not be something huge, just different. And I've seen that there is work leading up to change, foundations to be laid, part of which is simply what I've written here, probably the truest and most difficult thing I've ever written.

I am here. It's only me.

Go listen to some good music: "Sing Me Spanish Techno" from the album Twin Cinema by The New P***nographers.

14 May 2008

Hell, pt. 2

then get fitted for the suit of flame...

Cosmic retribution for the preceding post was swift and unrelenting.

The spouse, waving a can of black olives around: "Is this open?"

Me: "Yeah, I have to put them away."

As I'm pouring leftover olives into a container, I look up at the TV screen. The Angels are on, and after Lackey's triumphant return, Shields gave up a grand slam. Now some guy I've never seen is on the mound.

Me: "Who the heck is pitching?"

The spouse: "Dunno."

Me, squinting at the TV, forgetting that I am also pouring olives: "Arredondo? Uh-oh."

Olives are bouncing all around my feet.

Milton pounces on an olive and carefully rolls it over to his food bowl. As I'm cleaning up the mess I've made, he runs after more olives, carrying them to join the first, chewing them messily.

Me, in disbelief: "He's eating the olives!"

The spouse: "What do you expect from Mr. Brussels Sprout?"


Go listen to some good music: "Hell" from the album Hot by the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Hell

This is me counting to 1,000...



*



*



*



I've just received another email about the son's graduation (I'm still counting).



*



*



*



[cries with laughter]



*



*



*



You would think we were planning a group wedding (I'm still counting).



*



*



*



Oh my God, the next month is going to be sheer hell.


*


*


*


(Still counting)


Go listen to some good music: "Hell" from the album Hot by the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

12 May 2008

I'll sleep when I'm dead

Good morning and welcome to this week's edition of "I feel like I've been hit by a truck."

Maybe 12,000 miles and 5 concerts between April 11 and May 11 could be called overkill? Hmmm. No, probably closer to "I'll sleep when I'm dead."

Of course, I burn the candle at both ends and right straight down the middle on Expert.

I love Irvine Meadows, even when it's really cold and raining (alright, it was drizzling, which actually looked pretty cool in the lights). The spouse was very pleased with the tickets I'd gotten, especially since he wanted to sit on that side of the stage.

Forget flowers, chocolates, jewelry, brunches. This mother would much rather be at a concert.



I'd already written this and was debating whether to post it or wait until tomorrow when there's a 30% chance that I'll something closer to awake. Of course, had the music going and was playing Warren Zevon. "'I'll sleep when I'm dead!'" the daughter laughed. "Mommy! That sounds like you!"

Well, there you go.


Go listen to some good music: "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" from the album A Quiet Normal Life - The Best of Warren Zevon by Warren Zevon.

The tornado lessons

I'd already written two entries for today when the news item about the EPA testing airborne lead levels in Picher, Oklahoma, after the recent tornado caught my eye. This is the sort of really scary stuff that the public at large doesn't tend to think about, but caused me to hold my breath, literally, when the breeze started blowing dust off the tailings pile I was standing near in Butte, Montana, a few years ago. I watched in horror as children biked and ran in between those piles. I like knowing everything, but there is such a thing as knowing too much. Of course, knowing too much might be the ticket to waking everyone up about the damage that is all around them.

Go listen to some good music: "The Tornado Lessons" from the album Feel Good Ghosts (Tea-Partying Through Tornadoes) by Cloud Cult.

10 May 2008

Perilous journey

Today, we bought the son his first suit.

Something of a rite of passage, I think, because this was the real thing, not the off-the-rack navy jackets and Dockers I generally get him for formal occasions.

I took him to Nordstrom because the gentlemen who staff the men's department have always been kind and helpful when I descend upon them in that force-of-nature way the spouse described.

And true to form, the young man who helped us was extremely nice to the son, and very sensitive to the boy's discomfort with the process of trying on clothes and dealing with the tailor.

I watched my child approach the mirror, hunched in misery, walking like Lurch from the Addams Family.

"Stand up straight," I murmured. "Put your shoulders down. It's ok; we'll be done soon."

"You rock that suit," the department manager told him.

And I saw the son relax ever so slightly, hitch himself up just a little, and I caught the briefest glimpse of the man he is becoming.

The poor child is in the utterly gawky stage at the moment. His face is breaking out; his hair is always greasy; he is uncomfortable in his rapidly growing body, not quite sure what to do with his stunningly long arms and legs and broadening shoulders. His peach fuzz turned rapidly into a blonde beard, and for this reason, I'm grateful he got his father's dark blonde, rather than my own uncompromising brunette. Convincing him to shave is an uphill battle. With his glasses, his scowl, and his slumped shoulders, he looks very much the Caltech legacy that he is.

Under the teenagerness, the attitude that I recognize more and more as a front to gain my attention, there is a remarkably sweet and handsome boy, who looks like a blonde, blue-eyed Harry Potter. People have remarked on this resemblance since he was nine, and we still hear children shout, "Look! It's Harry Potter!" Despite the ennui of his age, he laughs when he hears it.

He's a hard worker, a brilliant student, and his teachers love him not only for his respectful attention, but for the fun he brings to conversation. He has a perfect sense of humor, and no qualms about sharing it. The girls in his class swoon, too, and their attentions both confuse and delight him, not that he'd ever admit to either.

Standing in front of the mirror, as the tailor marked the hem on the pants, he slipped his hands into the pockets of the trousers, and lifted his chin just a little. And there he was, my child of the future.

He has no idea how dearly I love him, how much I fear for him, how proud I am of him, how pleased I am that I like him.

Tomorrow, he flies off with his class for yet another one of these ridiculous school trips, this time to Washington, D.C. He is excited; I am not. I am annoyed that his first trip to my hometown is without me, but more to the point, I am worried that he will be so far from home, away from my watchful eyes, out of the circle of protection I try to cast around him. I try not to show the extent of my concern; he doesn't like me to worry.

I'm your mother, I tell him. It's my job.

"MOM!" he's yelling in the background. "Are we going to PACK? Like, anytime tonight?"

And it never gets any easier.

Go listen to some good music: "Perilous Journey" from the album Halo: The Soundtrack by Martin O'Donnell & Michael Salvatori.

09 May 2008

Concert hall!

So this is what happened:

Last Sunday, I started thinking...

Wow! It's been 3 days since I've seen a concert, and they're going to be playing somewhere I don't have to get on a plane.

Namely Los Angeles.

I'd decided when tickets went on sale that I was not going to Los Angeles.

Because it's LOS ANGELES.

On a school night.

(Before I got old and boring and tired and married and had children and when I actually lived in Los Angeles, I spent half the week at the Greek Theater, the Forum, the Sports Arena, Universal Amphitheater, the Palace, the Palladium, Club Lingerie, Irvine Meadows, Pacific Amphitheater. Now, however, I'm old and boring and tired and incredibly intolerant of traffic).

So I settled on tickets to Irvine, because I love Irvine Meadows and the spouse will actually go there with me.

(He's never forgiven me for dragging him to the Hollywood Bowl on a school night in 2004. And it was...quite a trip. But I think it was a wash because I also let him go to Red Rocks with me in 2004. And that was a really good trip. He still talks about it.)

Anyway, Los Angeles. School night.

So I started poking around to see what sort of tickets were available, and found a possibility.

And I said to the spouse: "Thursday?"

And he wailed: "WHERE?"

And I said: "Los Angeles."

And he said: "I wish I had your..."

And I helpfully supplied: "Tenacity?"

And he just shook his head: "You are a force of nature."

Which was not a compliment.

But I rather liked it anyway.

So, the ticket fell through, and I was annoyed, but philosophical.

Until about 1:45 yesterday afternoon. Just for the heck of it, I checked Ticketmaster.

Row QQ, House Left Center.

Um, no.

Search again.

Row 3, Pit.

Alrighty then.

(No, I was in no way that sanguine. Rather a lot of noise accompanied that find.)

Okay, I wrote all that when I got home last night, a bit after midnight, and right now, operating on only a couple hours sleep (like that's unusual), with a million other things demanding my attention, all I can say is:

DAMN! That was fun!

Go listen to some good music: "The Spirit of Radio" from the album Permanent Waves by Rush.

The hand that feeds

Hey feed readers!

I never look at the feed, and I guess I should because I just discovered that it is offering you the option to email me. Cool! I thought. And guess what?

It doesn't work.

I don't know where those emails go, but they don't come to me. So if anyone has tried using that and I haven't responded, that's why, and I do apologize. And I'll have to figure out how to remove that non-option.

It's not possible for me to open commenting via the feed (it's a Blogger issue), but if you click through to the blog, comments are open there.

I also have to apologize to those of you who get email notifications that I've updated. I've been doing some maintenance this morning (bad idea on 4 hours sleep on a day when Blogger is slow as molasses), and I guess it's saying I've updated. Which, of course, now I have.

Go listen to some good music: "The Hand That Feeds" from the album With Teeth by Nine Inch Nails.

08 May 2008

One little victory

When a door closes, go look for a window.

Off to L.A.

See what happens when you eat your vegetables?

Thank you, Ticketmaster, for one little ticket!

Go listen to some good music: "One Little Victory" from the album Vapor Trails by Rush.

E eats everything

Actually, we ended up having Brussels sprouts last night rather than asparagus. It really doesn't matter because the spouse hates them both.

(But chicken and gravy and potatoes? All over that.)

The spouse firmly believes that fish and most vegetables do not exist. They are a product of a left wing, or right wing--whichever wing is out of favor that day--conspiracy. And the fact that I make him eat them makes me part of the conspiracy.

The spouse grew up in a household with a German mother who wouldn't eat fish, and a father who wouldn't eat most things, including vegetables. His oldest brother eats anything that can't run away, his middle brother uses food as a weapon of terror, and the spouse is forced to eat anything I put in front him, or he doesn't get dessert.

Yes, this is the way I treat my Ph.D. husband. The science world may bow to his superior knowledge on all things structurally geologic, he may be internationally known in his field of study, but I make him eat broccoli. And salmon. And cauliflower. And halibut.

And Brussels sprouts.

The kids, naturally, find this hilarious. Because they eat everything except sauerkraut.

As I was orchestrating the gravy, and watching to make sure the cat didn't launch himself at the chicken, the water boiled away a little too fast in the vegetable pan. A few of the baby sprouts each ended up with a slightly browned leaf. I took most of them, but two landed on the spouse's plate.

Where they stayed.

"Eat your vegetables," I told him sternly, "or you don't get any ice cream."

"They're burned," he scowled.

"They are not."

"They are."

And the two offending little sprouts were tossed into the sink.

"Look, you," I told him. "You do not get a pass on the Brussels sprouts."

And I brandished two more from the pan.

"Noooooooo!" he wailed. "I ate a lot."

"There is no Brussels sprouts amnesty. You WILL eat your vegetables."

"Milton!" the daughter shouted.

The cat emerged from the sink with something in his mouth. Afraid it might be a chicken bone, I gave chase, and he galloped down the hall and shot under my bed. When I looked, he was licking his chops in a very self-satisfied way.

I went back out to the kitchen, where the Brussels sprouts debate was still raging, and the cat crept out behind me, on stealthy little cat feet, quietly advancing on the delectable tidbit he'd dropped on the dining room rug during his flight. Daintily holding his Brussels sprout between his paws, he delicately pulled off the leaves, eating them with every appearance of great enjoyment.

"See, Dad," the son said sardonically, "even the cat will eat Brussels sprouts."

The spouse just glared, while Milton commenced bathing himself, as any cat does after an excellent meal.

Go listen to some music: "E Eats Everything" from the album Here Come the ABCs by They Might Be Giants.

07 May 2008

Working in a coal mine

Ah, the smell of roasting chicken. Thyme and rosemary are so fragrant (especially when you're not standing in the latter). Mashed potatoes and gravy and fresh asparagus. Perfect meal for a week when we are having absolutely rotten weather.

Good afternoon, regular readers.

And hello to those of you who drop by on random searches...

So, about those random searches:

I have not yet been able to convince those looking for dessert that I don't even like fr0zen y0gurt (misspelling intentional to prevent dragging more people in here looking for *that* place in the Northwest). You lot are indefatigable! Or very hungry.

(BTW, you can have your weather back. Cold, I can live with; damp and fog I cannot abide. And dessert here tonight is Lime Coconut Cake with Lime Curd. Just in case you were wondering.)

Anyway, that search result is explainable if unfortunate (have I fessed up yet that the "M" word involved is the cat's middle name? Yes, the cat has a middle name. I borrowed it from a dentist in Tucson because the cat needed an airline ticket...)

But back to the random searches. I've got a real mystery now.

Why are so many people suddenly showing up to look at this photo? Three very large trucks dwarfing two men at twilight on the edge of an open pit coal mine. It's not a very good photo because the light was low and I took it with a fairly pedestrian point-and-shoot Canon digital camera. Even the composition is off. But for the last two weeks, people have been coming from all over the world to look at it. They're coming off Google image search. The thumbnail doesn't even show up on the first page.

What is the attraction?

It's not that I mind that people are looking at it; obviously I'm aware that blogging is a very public activity. I am just mystified and wildly curious. So, please, someone take pity on me, and if you've wandered in to have a look, would you kindly drop me a comment to tell me why this photo is so fascinating?

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Which would be me playing the live version of "Digital Man" for about the 6 millionth time.

Go listen to some good music: "Working in a Coal Mine" from the album Devo: Greatest Hits by Devo.

06 May 2008

Life in Laralay

Restless. This goes beyond spring fever.

Restive. This goes beyond a busy schedule.

I want to be in; I want to be out.

I'm worse than the cat.

And frustration. The bad foot got stomped on last week, and then I insisted on running the half-mile from Cricket to the hotel. I was happy, and my pace was light and quick.

Dumb move. You bought this pain.

The son called. He was sick at school.

Not again.

My last-minute plan for Thursday appears to have fallen through.

I don't want to admit that I'm furiously disappointed. If it works out, great, I told myself. If it doesn't, it wasn't meant to.

Sometimes, my idea of planning really isn't.

Time to go walk off some of this energy.

Go listen to some good music: "Life in Laralay" from the album Express by Love and Rockets.

05 May 2008

Hanging on the telephone

On hold.

"Your wait time will be more than five minutes! Please visit us online..."

Sorry, I need an actual human being.

Elevator music.

"Blah blah blah." An advertisement.

Elevator music.

"Blah blah blah." An advertisement.

Elevator music.

"Hello, this is L... How may I help you?"

I tell her.

"Why, let me get a transaction specialist to assist you!"

Transaction specialist?

At least she can't see me roll my eyes.

Elevator music.

"Hello, this is A... How may I assist you?"

I tell her.

"To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking today?"

Unforgivably, I laugh. Out loud. It's not going to be a pleasure much longer at this rate. I give my name.

"Let me pull up the account. Hold please."

Elevator music.

"Thank you for holding..."

Much back and forth. I gently explain higher math, carefully maintaining my pleasure-to-speak-to status, and why what I am asking her to do works.

After thinking about it, the transaction specialist agrees that I am correct.

Call the party of the second part.

Voicemail.

*sigh*

Phone rings.

"SORRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRYYYYYYY. I was on the other line....."

We all have too many lines.

I explain.

"Ok, please hold."

Elevator music.

Do these people use the same elevator music company? I swear I was just listening to this exact same bit of music.

I fall into a reverie for a moment wondering about the person who learned to play piano only to end up with his/her performance playing into the annoyed ears of people on hold...

Go listen to some good music: "Hanging on the Telephone" from the album Greatest Hits by Blondie.

03 May 2008

Someone, somewhere in summertime

At some point, when I wasn't looking, everything in the front garden yelled ONE! TWO! THREE! GO! and grew 20 ft.

So, today, lovely day that it was, was spent hacking through the jungle (and shuffling children to rehearsals and to friends' houses...the usual).

The star jasmine is just beginning to bloom (and climbing in nefarious ways into the camellias and up the side of the house). The bougainvillea has run riot again, sending huge shoots up all over (with inch-long thorns, all the better to stab you with, my dear), heavy with lilac & white blossoms. While making it presentable, I stepped into the rosemary, and reeked in a very herbal way for the remainder of the afternoon.

The lavender is attempting to take over the entire border. It is winning.

I trimmed up the butterfly bush. Black Knight. It's a difficult plant, but it attracts western swallowtails, painted ladies, and hummingbirds. I find the most interesting things in it, once a particularly beautiful spider that sadly preys on butterflies and moths, camouflaging itself in shades of white and deep purple while it waits on the flowers.

The first set of babies has hatched over the flood light. I can see three little yellow beaks, no more, and I've not gotten a good look at mom, so I don't even know what they are.

Two of the camellias, both pink japonicas, planted by a previous owner in rotten spots, had grown over the windows. I always hesitate to prune them so hard, but I do, and it never hurts them. They need to be transplanted.

The entire disastrous landscape needs to be pulled out. But I have to remodel the other half of the house first.

I'll think about that tomorrow. At the moment, I'm not in the mood for architects and contractors and permits.

Or crabgrass.

The weather in Phoenix was lovely, too, surprisingly. I almost cancelled that trip. My brother wasn't able to meet me there as we'd planned, and I was leery of going alone again. But I know that each trip has its own rewards, each show its own perfect moments and this was no exception; the perfect moments abounded, and I still smile looking back on them, grateful that I made the effort.

I'm looking at the calendar and the next six weeks are enough to induce complete panic. Random notes are scattered in the margin ("Transportation to Dover," "Hotel rooms for graduation," "Pick up mother at SNA," "Chaperone field trip"), and I keep an eye to the days where I will escape. And I continue to look ahead. By mid-August, things will have settled a bit, and I can give further consideration to the question I've been pondering, "What next?"

There's so much I've already done, so much I haven't yet done. So, what next?

Go listen to some good music: "Someone, Somewhere in Summertime" from the album Glittering Prize by Simple Minds.

02 May 2008

Arizona

You know you're in Arizona when you walk into a restaurant and see a sign that says "Firearms are Not Permitted on the Premises."

I had a lovely time last night, thank you very much, despite having to dodge the flailing arms of a enormously tall, completely inebriated man who was deeply involved in an interpretive dance routine that was equal parts alcohol, Dean Martin, air-guitaring and air-drumming.

Never a dull moment, but always an excellent show. I'm still smiling.

Go listen to some music: "Arizona" by Mark Lindsay from the album The 70s: A Decade to Remember - Chart Toppers.

01 May 2008

Hello earth

The Angels finally called up Adenhart. I'm going to miss his start. Oh well.

Travel day.

Trying to get my eyes open.

Coffee...

Go listen to some good music: "Hello Earth" from the album Hounds of Love by Kate Bush.