26 October 2011


The drive too and from the daughter's school is generally unspeakable. I drive the route at rush hour, which just adds to the fun, but there are railroad tracks and commuter trains, and the good people of Santa Ana who believe that darting into traffic is a great idea.

Over the last three months, I've gotten reasonably accustomed to the circus on the road, but there are still days that make me roll my eyes. One day the railroad signal was broken and the lights flashed red non-stop and the arms went up and down at random, and sometimes a train went by and sometimes it didn't. So, it took half an hour to go about 3 blocks as drivers clenched their teeth and made a dash across both the tracks and a major intersection. An excellent time was had by all.

Generally, by the time I get to the daughter's school and get parked, I need a moment to compose myself. Then, by the time I've collected her and gotten back out of downtown, I'm usually a little more relaxed.

Today, driving up the other thoroughfare toward home, I commented, "I can NOT get that song 'Paradise' out of my head."

"I've had a calliope version of 'Do Your Ears Hang Low?' stuck in my head all day," the daughter grumped. "They played it on the announcements."

"Ew," I sympathized.

And then she began to sing it. Loudly.

"Okay," I told her. "I get the picture."

And on she went.

"It was PARA! PARA! PARA-DISE!" I shrieked at the top of my lungs to counter the horrible ditty she was singing.

"Mom!" she said, recoiling a little.

"Well..." I temporized.

"RUN TO THE HILLS RUN FO-OR YOUR LIVES," she bellowed, taking advantage of the lull I'd created.

"You keep that up and I'll sing 'Small World,'" I threatened.

"Hey, I was going to sing that next," she said sulkily.

By the time we got home, the car was ringing with a mash-up of all four.

Go listen to some good music: "Paradise" from the album Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay.

25 October 2011

But you can dip your feet every once in awhile

A Very Famous Author reportedly will be visiting the daughter's school. She has been contemplating how to speak with him should the appropriate moment present itself, since the gentleman in question is very approachable and evidently enjoys talking with his fans.

"Just tell him how much you've enjoyed his books, and that one of them inspired you to go into filmmaking and to audition for the school," I advised.

"But how do I end the conversation?" she fretted.

"'Thank you for your time' works pretty well," I told her.

She looked at me doubtfully.

"Well, you could try 'will you marry me?'" I tossed over my shoulder as I left her room.

"Moooooooom-MMMMMEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" Her wail followed me down the hall.

Fourteen. It is the best age.

Go listen to some good music: "When You Were Young" from the album Sam's Town by The Killers. Granted, I've never tried that, though I've occasionally wondered what would happen if I did.

24 October 2011

Someone left a cake out in the rain

Not that it was raining. Or that I baked a cake.

But it was something of a perfect autumn day, so I did bake bread. And cookies. I needed both for lunches and didn't have time for the grocery. Bread is one of those things I can do in my sleep. And as the daughter's Health teacher is putting a huge emphasis on nutrition, she's getting increasingly picky about food stuff, so a good loaf of hearty, fiber-rich, additive-free bread seemed like a good thing. On the drive home last week, I was subjected to 20 questions about my knowledge of animal husbandry.

The daughter, outraged: "Did you know they stuff chickens in these tiny little cages and they can't move?"

Me: "Did you know they stuff your stuffed chickens with arsenic?"

The daughter: "They do? And you buy them?"

Me: "I most assuredly do not buy arsenic-laced chicken."

She also came home filled with indignation over McDonalds (I can't remember the last time we had McDonalds. About the only fast food I'll agree to is Chipotle and that happens about once every six months. Did I mention that I cook? A lot? To the tune of about 20 meals per week? Okay, occasionally I cheat and have Amy's Cheese Enchiladas for lunch because they are really close to the ones I make and I don't have to make dozens just to satisfy my enchilada craving).

The teacher talked about why corn-fed stuff isn't the best nutritional choice.

Then I explained GMO crops to her.

Nothing like throwing a little fuel on the fire.

Never have that recipe again.

Go listen to some music: "MacArthur Park" from the album The Journey: the Very Best of Donna Summer by Donna Summer. I do rather enjoy the histrionics of this version of the song. And the daughter's indignation was rather wonderful because she was so very indignant. At least she's thinking.

23 October 2011

...but I keep my mouth shut

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a party, and one of the people I was speaking with asked about the kids and where they were in school.

"The son is a senior this year," I said with a significant sigh.

"Oh, so you're going through that crap," she replied, having just sent her youngest to college.

And we are in the thick of it.

As much as I'm trying to divorce myself from the process, as much as I'm trying to keep myself out of the equation, I keep getting pulled back in. It's a bit like a horror movie where the protagonist escapes for a moment only to be grabbed by the legs and dragged into the darkness.

Less said, the better.

Go listen to some good music: "Face Up" from the album Roll the Bones by Rush. This is just where I am right now. And it means that I can't be much of anywhere else. I'm exasperated.

18 October 2011

Did you ever imagine the last thing you'd hear

D. and I are having an ongoing conversation about zombies, survival and end of the world scenarios. She's started watching The Walking Dead, which may well have been my favorite show of last season (this season's premiere was a little slow with all that traversing the woods stuff).

Zombies are my guilty pleasure, sort of. Vampires, witches...so done. Of course, it helps that both Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland were two of the funniest movies ever. The daughter watches Zombieland every chance she gets, and probably has seen it 50 times now. Shaun of the Dead is a little more disgusting, but Bill Nighy as a zombie? Priceless. And Coldplay zombies...even if we had to watch the movie's grossest scene 3 dozen times to figure out which ones they were. And I really liked 28 Days Later, which was a perfect meditation on the infectiousness of rage (honestly, the zombies surprised the hell out of me. Went into it with no idea it was a zombie movie).

(The son, who was still pretty young, desperately wanted to see 28 Days Later. So I made it a condition that he also had to watch Danny Boyle's Millions, and I turned it into a lesson on film making. He was still trying to climb into my lap by the end of 28 Days Later, but he learned an appreciation for Boyle's technique. And I'm so damn clever that now he wants to double major in theater and physics. Or something. *roll eyes*)

At the beginning of the year, when I was spending untold hours huddled in various angles of repose trying to shut my screaming nerves up, I watched a lot of movies, mostly because I was in so much discomfort that I had little ability to concentrate on anything, and if I happened to fall asleep, or my mind wandered, no loss. It turned into something of an apocalypse marathon--along with the occasional Euro-romance--in part, because that was about all that was on. The Book of Eli, The Road, zombie this that and the other thing, super bugs making crazy people, you name it. It was the end of the world as we know it, and no one was fine.

It's a sign of the times, of course. The banks and governments and corporations are the blood-suckers; consumers the fast-moving herd of zombies.

Lessons! They're everywhere!

And, of course, The Walking Dead is full of morals, too. Who, really, are the walkers? The zombies or the displaced survivors? (Or, if lessons aren't your thing, you can just take untold joy in tough guys threatening to feed a good guy to their dogs...who turn out to be fearsome little pocket puppies.) Do you stop and let go of life or keep moving, hoping for better?

My Apocalyptathon came at the time when I'd almost lost basic ambulation, and was facing the possibility of its permanence (the permanent loss--sensory and function--ultimately shook out at about 20-30%). I was dead to the world there for awhile, pretty literally, as I lost myself within myself, trying to figure out a survival strategy, or if I even wanted one. I have little memory of the first six or so months of this year, it was such a struggle. It's hard to accept that I no longer have a state that can be considered 100%--and never will again. So it goes. I'm learning to work with what I've got. It's what survivors do.

The world kicks my butt.

At least for now, I can still kick back.

Go listen to some good music: "Arriving Somewhere But Not Here" from the album Deadwing by Porcupine Tree.

15 October 2011

There's something going on that's not quite right

I stopped into the shop to pick up coffee. I chose a couple of bags, and waited behind the couple in front of me to pay.

The man behind the counter took the bags, asked me if I wanted the beans ground and when I declined, rang them up. I handed him a couple of bills from my wallet, and waited while he made change. He handed it to me, and pulled the receipt from the register, saying, "Now, if you'll just sign here for me."

I stared at him, confused. "Sign what?"

"Uh, you're supposed to sign if it's more than $25," he said, stuttering slightly.

"It was less than $25," I pointed out, "and I paid in cash."

"How about we just tear this up?" he said, slowly ripping my receipt in pieces.

I frowned at him and took my bags, shaking my head, and left.

I can't decide if he was high or if he was trying to make me accessory to some sort of fraud.

Go listen to some good music: "Strange" from the album Document by REM. Because dishonesty is generally the furthest thing from my mind, I never expect it of others, and the idea that he might have been messing with the register didn't occur to me until later.

14 October 2011

Don't say there's nothing more to say

Fridays are frenetic. Everything that didn't happen the rest of the week usually has to happen on Friday. And the daughter gets out of school early.

Given that most days I pick the daughter up during rush hour, you would think that a three-hour break would make that part of my life a little easier. Guess again. The school is at the epicenter of the county seat: the court houses, the probation offices, the public health center, the aid offices. So the main drag is a nightmare mid-afternoon.

It's a rough area. The police patrol. Young men on skateboards and bikes speed by on the sidewalk and we assess each other. Sketchy-looking people abound, talking to themselves, sleeping it off on the grass medians. I came of age in the 1980s when homelessness skyrocketed in California, and I became used to the delicate dance of negotiating with panhandlers.

"Do you have any spare change?" I would be asked. In those days, I didn't have spare anything.

"Can I buy you a meal?" I would counter, knowing full well that it was likely any money I handed over would go toward a bottle of Thunderbird or a bag of something worse, but unable to bear the thought of a hungry person.

More often than not, the questioner would accompany me to a nearby restaurant. There was a hot-dog stand in Pasadena that got a lot of business from me.

Homelessness was just rampant in those days, and daily in the newspapers, there were opinion pieces and news items. I remember reading one such piece where the author opined that it was not my right to determine how I might aid a homeless person. If they asked for money, I should give them money, not offer them food instead, regardless of how that money might be used. Coming from a home ruined by alcoholism and drug addiction, I couldn't have disagreed more, and I stuck to my guns. A meal or nothing.

The idealism of youth. I still want to save the world. Even from itself.

The rules seem different today. There is wariness, evasiveness, a delicate dance that depends upon me not acknowledging their existence and vice versa. Even more, I've long outgrown the callow girl who offered a meal. Now, authority hangs about me; I have presence.

And so today, I ventured over to pick up the daughter. It wasn't a normal sort of day. A few blocks from the school, the man who shot up a hair salon two days ago, killing eight people, was making his first court appearance. A pall has hung over the county since this murder spree occurred, with the sort of collateral damage one sees in the proximity of a blast zone. There is a heaviness in the air; people seem subdued, but on pins and needles, giving no quarter.

I was early, and I went to the place where I usually stand, a pillar that shades me from the sun. I checked email while I waited for the daughter.

As I've noted, there tends to be a cast of characters in the vicinity. There is a man who always leers at me. I stare stolidly over his head whenever I see him, and when I say over his head, I do mean over his head. I'm easily six inches taller than he is. There is a security guard I see frequently, a polite and friendly man with whom I exchange an acknowledging nod and smile when we pass. There are children at the school I've come to recognize and who I ignore as a pleasantry.

Today, the area in front of the school was empty, and as I read and deleted, I suddenly noted movement in my periphery, and glanced up to see an older man rooting through the garbage can in the breezeway. I thought he was looking for recyclables; this has become increasingly common in recent years. He'd definitely hit hard times and was dressed in stained clothing, carrying two satchels over his shoulder. He continued to rifle through the can slowly, but with purpose.

Then I saw him stuff a partially-eaten roll into his mouth, and pull out a take-out box partially filled with salad. He sat down and began to eat the salad.

I was filled with a sick sense of dread and wondered what to do. Some people look at homelessness as a political statement around here, and eating discarded food is seen as an honorable way of decrying how much food tends to get wasted. As I tried to assess his motivation--real hunger or mental illness or something else--I saw a young girl, one of the students, approach him, holding out an apple in one hand and a snack bar in the other.

My chest tightened, which means one thing in most people, but something else altogether in me. The man made a brusque gesture, brushing her off. Her shoulders fell a bit, and she turned and walked away, reentering the far building. I couldn't move fast enough to catch her, to tell her she did the right thing, not to stop doing the right thing even if her offering was rejected this time. I've been there. You don't stop.

More students were beginning to erupt from the buildings as their day ended. An official-looking person walked by about then, and caught sight of the man eating as the students massed about. He stopped, and in a polite and non-threatening way, asked the man to move on. The man gathered his belongings and slowly moved my direction. As he passed me, he made a dismissive wave in my direction, muttering under his breath.

The daughter came running up to me, breathless and happy, from the same direction. As we walked toward the car, she caught sight of the man, now sitting further down the road on a planter. Her grip on my arm tightened, and I squeezed her hand reassuringly, mentally making note of the easily transported non-perishables that can be brown-bagged and carried in my straw tote.

Go listen to some good music: "Arlandria" from the album Wasting Light by Foo Fighters. It struck me as strange that two Fridays in a row, I've been witness to things I don't necessarily want to see.

13 October 2011

You feel like you're going where you've been before

The moon was full and the garden was suffused with light.

I dreamed.

I was in a crowd. I am frequently in crowds and I am uncomfortable in crowds. It could have been any place, any large gathering: a baseball game, a concert, an arena...

("Green Monster," my every day waking brain whispered. "Whatever," I told it, even though I found myself looking around for any evidence of Red Sox paraphernalia. No, just people across the way who appeared to have been tucked into a horizontal display, like a large-scale, human-sized card rack. This didn't even make me blink.)

You were there, somewhere in the crowd. I hadn't seen you, I wasn't expecting you. I just knew. Sometimes I just know. You occupy some part of my brain, someplace I try to keep you hidden away. I bring you out when I need a boost, when I am unhappy and I need warmth and a little joy. Of course, you burst out on your own, too. Sometimes I hear you. Sometimes I think of you, a flicker across synapses, a flash of memory, when I'm busy with the business of my life. It's a reminder that you, too, are a part of my life. Often, it seems you know this better than I do.

I couldn't move--the crowd was an obstacle--but I craned around heads that seemed like immobile card cutouts, until I caught sight of you in the distance. I moved left, moved right, trying to get a better view.

("And what?" whispered my waking brain, sounding smug, jeering a little. "Shut up!" my dreaming self told it. "You make a hash of this every time you get the chance. Let me do this.")

But I lost sight of you. I moved right, moved left, unsure if you'd seen me.

I moved right...you were there, but looking elsewhere.

I dodged to the left, around the silhouetted head blocking my view.

You were there, looking at me through a break in the crowd. It was the smile, the look in your eyes. It was the reassurance that I shouldn't need anymore, but I do. I do.

I tried to push through, but you were gone, gone as fast as you'd gotten there.

I held my breath a beat, wondering if you'd return, and when you didn't, I turned and moved away through the masses that no longer held me back. I held tight to sight of your face, the happiness bright in your eyes and curving your lips. I memorized the flash of your strong teeth in that smile, how your hair fell, the pleased but slightly mischievous expression on your face.

When I woke, the moon was setting in the western sky, Jupiter sparkling above it.

Go listen to some good music: "Talk" from the album X&Y by Coldplay. Sometimes the subconscious mind is a hoot. The Boston reference has everything to do with something that's been a bit of a struggle the last few days, and has to do with baseball only in the most oblique fashion. And reassurance? Yes, I've needed some reassurance in recent days.

12 October 2011

This is not a sitcom

where everything's alright

Last night, the full moon.

I dreamed.

(But that's for later).

Today, a day of steady and exhausting activity. Muddled thoughts. Enervating heat.

I am not slowing down enough to make myself understood to those around me. I am impatient. I don't want to explain the path from A to B. I just want people to get it.

Read my mind.

This isn't fair of me. It's one of my greater failings. I frustrate those around me when I won't give them time to catch up. It's a grand frustration for me, as well.

Don't make me explain.

But my own internal, infernal machine propels me forward.

There is never enough time.


Go listen to some good music: "Stay" from the album Dead Man's Party by Oingo Boingo. There was also a terrible shooting at the beach this afternoon, and I think the entire county is reeling from the brutality of it.

11 October 2011

Where do we go now?

Tuesday, Oct 11th, 2011 -- If your enthusiasm prompted you to go too far yesterday, you might need to make an apology, pull back on the reins and reconsider your next move before you make matters worse. Ironically, your optimism may not be dampened; it's just that your goals are intertwined with others and you cannot charge off on your own. There's no reason to be discouraged; regrouping before you push forward again will only increase your chances of success. - Tarot.com

It made me laugh.

But I don't think I went too far yesterday. I'm actually hearing the opposite. And I think that I made it clear that while I'm sympathetic to the plight of those who have fallen on hard times, right now, I'm not standing with anyone, particularly as the Democrats are seeking to make the Occupy movement their Tea Party.

In some regards, we are all guilty of creating the place where we find ourselves now. As much as I don't want to, I still buy things made in China, clothing made somewhere else off shore. I still use the banks that I revile and patronize the corporations that we are excoriating. Often, I feel trapped in a web that I didn't seek, didn't ask for and certainly didn't vote for. While I have too many choices in toilet paper, I have no voice in how my tax money is used.

It's going to be hard work, the sort that no one ever seems to want to do, but to get this country back on its feet, there is going to need to be an overhaul of everything: the tax code (sorry, Cain, but yours doesn't work. National sales tax? No and hell no. Let's think in terms of a national luxury tax), the educational system, treatment of illegal labor, the list is endless. If you're rich, good for you! But no special consideration, no perqs, no loopholes. And if you're not rich, well you're going to have to figure out how to earn all those nice things you want, because no more damn free ride.

I have solutions. Just ask me. But believe you me, they are the sort of solutions that the politicians fear and the populace dislikes. They are the hard solutions, the ones that require personal responsibility and a level playing field. Everybody steps up, helps out, pays their fair share. And everyone does have to stop standing on the backs of the middle class: our backs are broken. What are you going to do when you've bled us dry? You should worry about that because we're just about there.

Alright, I've had enough of this. Tomorrow is another day. Maybe even a better day.

Go listen to some good music: "Sweet Child o' Mine" from the album Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses.

10 October 2011


When the son and I left for Chicago on Thursday, the Occupy movement still seemed to be very much a creature of social media. Saturday morning, I heard reporting on it on CNN while we were waiting in the departure lounge at O'Hare, and then when I actually got home there were some articles on Yahoo News and in the local newspaper, along with some stories in larger newspapers. It's grown from there, and yesterday's New York Times included a very cogent opinion piece on the protests. Also an opinion piece on why the plutocrats are panicking. As author Margaret Atwood rightly noted on Twitter this morning, echoes of the French Revolution.

CNN seemed to go out of its way to find some of the most incoherent individuals it could to speak with. I am not surprised; I've no doubt the 1% wants to portray the protesters as crackpots to the extent possible. I've seen them referred to as "mobs" and "the great unwashed." And no doubt, some are crackpots, some are opportunists, and some are troublemakers but most are just really angry, disenfranchised citizens. In fact, some of them look a lot like me.

Everyone has a story, and while there are common threads--unemployed, under employed and uninsured--a good deal of the rage is directed at the banks and financial institutions that taxpayers were forced to bail out and that are now stealing, quite literally, the rest of our money. Plenty is aimed at the large corporations that also got bailouts at our expense.

Like so many others in this country, I was raised with the notion that if I worked hard, played fair, and saved a percentage of my salary, I would earn my way to financial stability. So I worked long hours, and saved money. I've never been afraid of hard work, and no job has ever been beneath me. I can't tell you how many children I've cared for, how many toilets I scrubbed for the privilege of higher education. And though the only toilets I presently scrub are my own, we live modestly and we've been careful with our means and our resources. In short, we've done all the right things.

At the same time, we saw our health insurance premiums skyrocket to $24,000 this year. We made the scary decision to go to a high deductible plan. We're watching our retirement plans shrinking. The banks feel that they no longer need to pay us for the privilege of using our savings. The best interest rate we see? 0.01% I am trying to teach my children the value of saving...why? Oh no, wait. I'm supposed to be teaching them to spend their money to continue shoring up the corporations I've already shored up. Buy more useless garbage. While I search for more ways to cut the weekly grocery bill that just seems to keep climbing.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I'm mad as hell.

Since I was in Chicago, after my pressing chores in the city, I decided to take a walk down to the Federal Reserve Bank there, and the Chicago Board of Trade. You can read more about that here. It was Friday afternoon, so while there were protesters about, it was all pretty quiet. But I took some photos and spoke with some of the people on the street. Some were young, some a good deal older than me. Some evinced a sense of theater, some just wanted their voices heard.

No one declined my requests for photographs.

"Why don't you get your press credentials?" the spouse asked me impatiently when I showed him the fruits of my labor after I got home.

"I'm not press," I told him. "I'm just a woman with a camera."

And for the moment, I don't want to be aligned with any group. Freelance has always suited me well, and it allows me objectivity, observer status. But I'm similarly not interested in being silent.

And I won't be silent because I'm mad as hell.

I'm mad as hell at the 1% who are destroying my life, expecting me to bail them out, expecting me to enrich their bonus packages, expecting me to keep them solvent. I'm mad as hell at the Republicans who think that I shouldn't be complaining that I'm not in the 1% because I haven't worked hard enough? That assumption is so deeply fallacious that I can't even find the appropriate words to address it. And no, I don't want your Mercedes or BMW. I could have your Mercedes or BMW, but I've got far better sense.

But there is another facet to this as well. I'm mad as hell at whatever the percentage of the 99% partied like it was 1999 on what they decided was free credit, living like they were the 1% until the bill came due and they couldn't pay it. I'm mad as hell at those who serially file bankruptcy and think it's ok. I'm mad as hell at the people who ran property values into the ground, partying like it was 1999 in mansions they couldn't begin to afford on no-down payment loans that the banks had no business giving them. I'm mad as hell at the people who used their houses as piggy banks--let the good times roll! And now they've been foreclosed, upon or are in danger of it, they, too, expect me to bail them out.

Like hell.

You see, I'm stuck in the middle. Here I am, between the devil and the deep blue sea. I've got all the liars and the cheats, the Democrats and the Republicans, the rich ones and the newly poor ones, whether they live high on the hog on Wall Street, or formerly lived high on the hog in Irvine and Newport Beach looking to me, stealing from me, the person who worked her ass off for financial stability, has always paid her bills, doesn't live above her means, has no entitlement issues.

How dare any of you--rich or the victim of your own bad decision making--think that I owe you my hard-earned money? How dare any of you think that you are entitled to anything that I have worked for?

So, no, for the moment, I align myself with no one. And yes, I feel for those who didn't bring this garbage down on their own heads, who worked hard and played fair and tried to earn their right to financial stability.

It's you that I'll fight for.

The rest of you? What are you going to do when I pick up my toys and go elsewhere? You think I can't?

Think again.

Go listen to some good music: "Uprising" from the album The Resistance by Muse.

07 October 2011

Here I hide in the heart of the city

Remember what I said about an American Autumn?

Well, the Occupy (insert major city) movement is starting to look just like that.

We had to explain to the kids exactly what's going on, but yesterday, I was at the airport, reading about Occupy (insert major city).

And, of course, the son and I are traveling.

"Hey, kid," I said to him. "Guess where we're going tomorrow."

"Oh god," he said, quietly. "You are going to get me arrested."

(This was before today's info session when he learned about two students of the institution we visited and how they got arrested...by the FBI. With job offers following.)

He shares more than just my DNA.

Go listen to some good music: "Presto" from the album Presto by Rush. I let the boy pick the title. I'm becoming increasingly protective of the son as he is in the application process, and no, I don't plan to get him arrested...

05 October 2011

How a young heart really feels

The daughter: "Mommy, can I ask you a question, even if it is after the fact?"

Me, trying to negotiate the traffic on the rain-wet streets: "Sure. What?"

The daughter: "My friend's boyfriend broke up with her."

Me: "I'm sorry to hear that."

The daughter: "Me, too. But I didn't know what to say."

Me: "'I'm sorry' always works. Then you can let her talk about how she feels and be sympathetic."

The daughter: "Well, that's what I did. And my other friend and I held her hand while she cried and we hugged her."

Me: "Sounds like you did the right thing."

The daughter: "They were together for eight months."

Me: "Then she's probably feeling pretty sad."

The daughter: "Yeah. I'm glad I don't have to deal with that. Well, sometimes I wish I had a boyfriend, but...ugh."

Me: "Well, right now, probably the most important thing is to learn how to be friends. If someone can't be a good friend, they probably won't be a good boyfriend or girlfriend. And even if you love someone, it's important to be friends, too."

The daughter: "There's a boy. I think he likes me. He talks to me all the time and says nice things. I mean he talks to me all the time."

She giggles.

Me, with mock severity: "So, a few weeks ago, all you can do is complain that no one talks to you, and now you complain because they are talking to you?"

The daughter: "Mommmmmy! I'm not complaining."

Me: "You're complaining. Unbelievable."

The daughter: "And there's this other boy...he shook my hand for no reason."

Me, laughing: "Oh this. THIS. Sounds like high school. And he likes you."

The daughter: "But, Mommy..."

Me: "Ah. And he's that boy."

The daughter: "What do you mean?"

Me: "Hair kind of hangs, wears glasses, and a flannel shirt open over a t-shirt."

The daughter: "Yeah! And he's really tall, and he's got this neck..."

Me: "He'll grow into the neck eventually."

The daughter: "How do you know all this?"

Me, smiling at the stop light: "High school. Been there."

Go listen to some music: "Puppy Love" by Donny Osmond. I'm just grateful that my daughter actually talks to me.

04 October 2011

And the sky is grey

The son: "It's raining."

Me: "No way."

The son: "Yeah, it's coming down pretty hard."

Me: "No way. It's not even supposed to rain until tomorrow."

I peer out the kitchen window and in the pre-dawn gloom, ascertain that it is, indeed, pouring.

Me, sighing: "Alright. We'll need to leave five minutes early."

The son, hopefully: "We could walk."

Me: "You'll get soaked."

The son: "We have umbrellas."

Me: "Dude! The skies have opened."

The son: "I don't mind."

Me: "Your hair."

The son: "I'll be ready to go five minutes early..."

Go listen to some good music: "California Dreamin'" from the album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears by The Mamas & The Papas. Winter has arrived for the moment. What's wild is that it will be considerably warmer in Chicago than it will be here.

01 October 2011

Oh my my

This week, I've been all over the map (figuratively this time, not literally), devoting time to causes, back-to-school nights, and finding a new primary physician because mine announced she was moving an hour away, and I am not driving an hour to go to the doctor (who has apparently forgotten that I was having a little issue with paralysis earlier this year... I wasn't doing too well driving three blocks). And if the kids have to do a lot of paperwork for college applications, I'm not sure it's anything compared to what the parents have to fill out. Digital signatures, for crying out loud. Not that that is everything, of course, but that was making me crazy enough last night.

It's October. October. I feel like I missed half of this year.

Then again, I did, rather.

It's going to be a busy week. It's going to be a rather chaotic month.

Tonight, I got an email from the son who was forwarding me a College Board come on: Take the SATII Language with Listening! Earn college credit!

Errr, I wrote back to him, you already scored over 700 on a language SATII, earned an AP 5 and an IB 7. You think you still have something to prove?

I could hear him laughing from his room.

This is what is pushed. More tests! More tests! Create a nation of test-takers! Teach them to memorize, not to apply, and god forbid, not to think!

I tell my kids, "You want to be culturally literate? You have to watch this movie. You have to visit this country. You have to read this book. You have to try this food. Everything is interwoven. Understand history and your friends and your enemies through their words, your eyes, your ears, your stomach."

People stare at me when I suggest this, the same people who can't believe that my kids bring tandoori in their lunch one day, kalbi the next and boeuf bourguignon another day, with a generous dollop of vegan whatever I happened to make the night before. My kids read Swift and Orwell and Atwood on their own, for fun. They've seen the Hermitage, camped out in bear country, ridden on horseback through lava fields, watched ballet, heard Beethoven's 9th performed with a full orchestra and chorus, traced the path of the Milky Way in midwinter. They've done charitable work on a large scale, but also gotten a can off the shelf for the elderly person who couldn't reach it. You can memorize all you want, but you won't know the facts until you live them. You make the most of the opportunities that are handed to you, and create the opportunities that you can. Fortunately for me, my children get that.

I suppose that's what matters.

This then, is a taste of October.

Go listen to some good music: "Oh My My" from the album Blast From Your Past by Ringo Starr. It's been a wild week, promises to be another, and yes, my passion meter is on overload at the moment. I've seen a lot of hysteria (about various things) of late, and never underestimate the power of hysteria as a contagion.