Thursday, December 30, 2010

Peeeeuwwwww


Depending on where you live you may or not be aware that Magnolia Meadow is in the throes of a stink bug invasion this year. We're not alone, as evidenced by the fact that it made national news and there's even a funny Facebook page for the Stinkbug Overlords.

At first it was weird. Then funny. Then annoying, and then just plain ridiculous. These bugs are everywhere. My house is full of them. And by full I mean that if I lie on my bed and just wait, I can usually see at least two crawling around my room somewhere. All the time.

I went along just killing them as I saw them at first. This required some experimentation and innovation since, when you scare or kill them, they emit a nasty odor, so you sort of have to sneak up on them and "dispose" of them without killing them. You cannot vaccuum them up live, because they stink in the vacuum bag, which, as you know gets hot, and only increases the stink factor.

I resorted to a fairly successful (though time and resource consuming) bait and switch method:

Me: Oh! Hello little bug friend, how are you?

Bug: Super, thanks, just enjoying nomming on the tip of your toothbrush here.

Me: Yes, well, that looks like fun, and I'm happy to just boil that toothbrush before I use it next, really, no problem there, but I thought you might want to join me by the pool!

Bug: Pool?

Me: Oh yes, you see, I have a little space all staked out over there by the paddling pool...there's a couple of chaise lounges by the cabana, with snacks and stuff. There's even a sexy little cabana beetle and a bunch of your friends are already there!

Bug: Well, you know I can't swim, but I could use a snack and I sure haven't seen much action around here, so it's tempting.

Me: Yeah, cool, no, I'll just plop you into a chair by the side, no worries about the water.

Bug: Oh, well, okay, maybe I'll wander over there later.

Me: Sure, you could do that, but you know what? I'm headed that way, let me just give you a lift, save you the crawling! Really, it's not trouble.

Bug: What the hell, let's go.

So, up he goes onto my soft little tissue chariot and we head for the pool all nonchalant like.

Bug: Hey, I don't see any of my friends over here, I thought you said....

All of a sudden I stumble, (or trip on a carcass or something) and Mr. Stink bug goes flying riiiiiiight into the pool.

Me: Oh NOooooo! I'm SO SORRY!

Bug (looking around at the other "swimmers" in the pool): Hey, guys! Wait, what the he.....blub blub blub......

And the rest is history. Only, here's the thing. You have to stand there and watch while the pool "drains" because I kid you not, sometimes they resurface! Too much.

I see no end in sight here and I'm just about at my wits end. I clean, I keep windows closed, I clean some more, but they just keep appearing. This morning I was brushing my teeth (I now keep my toothbrush locked away, under cover in a bug-free zone) and I looked down at the plastic handle on my sink (the one you pull up to get the water to come out) and wedged up INSIDE the faucet is a stink bug. Just sitting in there, eyeballing me, all "how YOU doin'?" As if he's just been waiting for me. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAh I'm on the verge of calling an exterminator except that two of the people I live with break out in hideous hives and spontaneous bloody noses if I so much as use Lysol on the counters, so a chemical solution to this problem is right out of the question. At least for now. Am otherwise open to suggestions here. Please.

You Near Resolution?

What is it you resolve to do in the New Year?

It's an interesting word. When you break it down, you are re - solving. No?

Which is fitting, somehow, since most of the resolutions people make are "do overs" anyway.

I'm going to lose weight! I'm going to start exercising! I'm going to quit smoking! (er....again, I mean)

Rather than attempting to re-solve something again and again, I'd really like to figure out how to SOLVE some of the problems in my life once and for good.

Therefore, my resolution is to drop the "re" and just find some true solutions this year.

Topping my list this year of things that need attention is addressing "time sucks." Examples include Facebook, where I spend way too much time, very little of which is actually productive. Primarily I've used it as a way to store photos, see other people's photos and keep tabs on my children, but there are other ways to do that instead. I'm not suggesting pulling the plug altogether on social media....after all, I spend a fair amount of time here too, and I consider this to be healthy and productive, but I'm not sure I can say the same about the Book of the Face. Another example is the shuffling I do in lieu of actually addressing all of the paperwork that surrounds my existence. I rearrange it 5 times before I actually sit down and deal with it. I have a number of practices in my life; running, meditation and writing to name a few, and they and my overall organizational well being would all benefit immensely from my getting into the zone a little more often and a little more directly.

Purging is definitely an attempt and fail cycle for me. I am paralyzed by the gross quantity of stuff I have in my life. This problem requires a two pronged solution, addressing not only the purging of what I already have that I do not need, but learning to curb the subsequent and recurrent amassing as well.

Be more present. A perennial favorite on the list this one is. I need to not only tune in more, but I need to stay there, affixed to the channel of my own existence, not constantly distracted by the lure of a better song on a different station.

All of these things hinge on one underlying solution which is my ability to push myself to do the things that need to be done. I'm great at doing the things I want to do, I ran a marathon for God sake! But I'd sure rather run another one than I would tackle the mountain of paperwork on my desk.

"I wish I had more time" and "I just can't find the time" are both code for me. What I am really saying is "I can't make myself do that" and generally I can't because I don't want to. The reasons why I don't want to are myriad, but mostly fall into the categories of "hard" or "scary." I will need to work on eliminating those expressions from my lexicon and admitting to myself what is truly standing in my way.

Resolving to do something again does not make it easier. In fact, I think it might have the opposite affect. We've already failed at it at least once, and we know how easy that was. Failing again is a piece of cake.

Heretofore, I resolve to approach my challenges differently, to demystify and re clarify why some things seem so hard and scary and further I resolve to re intensify my effort in making them less so.

Home again, home again

Lickety Split! Indeed, we managed to shave four hours off of the outgoing time on our return home last night. Much more reasonable and significantly less eventful.

Things for which I am grateful:

1. See above

2. Family harmony

3. Grace and generosity

4. Humor

5. The dog sitters who negotiated one of my pup's sneaky escape and subsequent incarceration at the SPCA.

6. The kindness of an unknown Samaritan who obviously nabbed my dog and took her to the pound.

7. Catchphrase. A game which actually engages and entertains three generations of my family.

8. Patience. Because teaching one teenager to drive is harrowing enough. Letting both of them take turns behind the wheel on the same vacation is down right terrifying.

9. That I had the foresight and wherewith all to insist that we left our home completely tidy a week ago, because it was a joy to return home to that.

10. That I was able to spend a week of what should have been brutally cold winter in shorts and a t-shirt. There's just no way around it, I AM a tropical girl at heart.

All for now. A slew of catch up posts to follow including the one in which I surrender to the stink bugs and another in which we discuss resolve.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Travel Rules # 2

Rule Number Eight

8. GPS is cute, and awesome when it works. Always have a map handy, just in case.

For example: You're in the middle of Narnia, trying to find your way back to the Wardrobe, and you discover that "Andy" (your Android GPS narrator) keeps referring to the street you're on as some name that is completely at odds with the street signs, and you and your significant other begin to "discuss" that perhaps Andy is cracked, and one of you (not you, him) should maybe have brought a map, since that's normally how you you roll, and this argument distracts you to the point where you are so frustrated you neglect to look left before turning out into the intersection in front of that mini-van...... (FYI, traffic officers do not find it amusing that you keep insisting that it is Andy who should get the ticket.)

Rule Number Nine

9. Do not feel guilty making your children put on clean clothes and forcing them to accompany you to Christmas Eve Church services.

They owe you. They will always owe you. This is reason enough. If, however, this isn't enough ammunition, remind them that you gave them life and you can damn well take it away. When all else fails, remind them that YOU ARE Santa Claus and you don't have any problem yanking every damn present from under that tree and they can just sit in their rooms on Christmas morning.

Conversation with 14 y.o. son, upon entering church and being handed the program and the candle:

Him: Candles? Are we going to get to light these?

Me: Yes, of course.

Him: Sweet! This service just got a whole lot more interesting.

Glaring, rib nudging, tuning your son out when he keeps muttering "Praise be to Cthulu" threatening, bribing, it's all worth it to look down the aisle and see the babies you gave birth to rolling their eyes on Christmas eve. That's the reason for the season, people.

Merry Almost Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Travel Rules

Because I know some of you are tracking my holiday on-line, (Cygnus Tracker!) and don't want to miss a moment of the hilarity, I will be attempting to keep a running commentary while on the road.

A few things have occured thus far that prompt me to share the first installment of what I can only assume will turn out to be a strong blog entry series of crucial Holiday Travel Rules.

Rule Number One
1. While it may seem that the $30 difference between the "basic" AAA Emergency Roadside Assistance Coverage and the "plus" coverage is significant at the point you are making your annual payment, I promise you that there will never be a garage within the "free" 8 mile towing radius that is included in the basic.

Do the math. The distance between interstate exits often far exceeds 8 miles. Plus what are the chances that within 8 short miles (that's not even a half marathon for those of you who need the perspective...) you would find a repair shop that stocks, juuuuuust for example, your ridiculuously expensive foreign car tire? I'll tell you what the chances are, they are slim to none and slim already left on vacation ahead of you.

Go for the "Plus." You'll thank me later. Which leads us to Rule Number Two.

Rule Number Two
2. You are only ever as good as your spare. When you bought your used car, i'm sure you were wowed by all the shiney things, and the smell of that fine corinthian leather, or maybe it was that suave sales guy or the size of the sales girls boobs. Whatever. I'm betting you never even looked in the trunk. Or, if you did, I bet you didn't peel back the layer and look at the spare now, didja? All cars come with dougnut spares these days. It's a pernicious plot hatched by the industry. The spare cavity, if you will, the well into which the spare is nestled, is only big enough, generally, for that mini tire, therefore, investing in a full size spare is not only costly (wait for it) but also impractical, since it takes up a lot of room in your trunk. When buying a used car, however, check the spare. Let's just say the previous owner of your car used the doughnut at some point. And then, instead of replacing it (since they have about a 30 mile lifespan) they just slapped it back in the well and forgot about it, rendering it about as useful to you in an emergency as, say, a 14 year old boy (wait for this as well). Or, maybe the spare is new, but has about 8 pounds of air pressure in it when you discover that you would like to partake of its services. Either way, you're effed. Which leads us to rule Number Three.

Rule Number Three
3. The only thing worse than blowing a tire on the interstate while passing semis as you're doing about 80 miles an hour, is turning around and immediately blowing the spare.

I'm not sure this needs any commentary, but leads us to...

Rule Number Four
4. When your drivers ed teacher (you know, Coach DeWitt in those bad stretchy coaching shorts and the whistle that he wore both on the field and off) said "It's important that you always keep both hands on the wheel...." he was referring to your strategy for surviving the scenario in Rule Number Three. He was not kidding, and if you've forgotten that advice, it is with the utmost love that I say to you "PUT DOWN YOUR GODDAMN CELL PHONE AND DRIVE WITH BOTH HANDS ON THE WHEEL."

There's a whole lot of stuff that happens after all this which was, I assure you, hilarious in an "oh my god" kind of way, but I'll leave you with the following and you can let your imaginations fill in the blanks.

Rule Number Five
5. Generally, people in the auto repair service industry, while a little grimey and offputting, are pretty nice. If, however, they seem like they are on the fence about being nice (maybe they're having a bad day, they're surrounded by idiot travelers on the road for Christmas, or maybe they just lost a family member in a hideous and tragic gasoline meets campfire incident and they're really just not feeling super festive right now), slipping a little cash their way seems to do the trick.

Rule Number Six
6. Almost anything can be overcome with a deep breath and a sense of humor.

Rule Number Seven
7. At no point during an untoward holiday travel catastrophe, should anyone ever say anything like "Wow, I don't think this could possibly get any worse!" Because trust me, my darlings, it can. Who knew they could have forest fires in Central Florida?

Stayed tuned for my next installment in what I think can now accurately be described as my holiday ADVENTURE, wherein I address some rules concerning family dynamics.

(Teaser: Rule Number One: Everyone can, indeed, all speak at once successfully, but only if everyone is using their outdoor voices while standing in the kitchen.)

xoxoxox

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Checking it twice


Gifts procured....check!
Gifts wrapped....check!
Holiday cards mailed.....(half)check! (I ran out of envelopes halfway through the alphabet, sorry M-Z, maybe next year)
Packages shipped.....check! (Shipping costs more the the gifts...wth?)
Presents exchanged with co-workers....check!
Good deed done.....check!
Keeping chair warm on last day of work before the break.....check!

I think I'm in pretty good shape. Only I've got a bit of a bone to pick with the greeting card industry.

Is it really THAT hard to print a few cards that simply say "MERRY CHRISTMAS" in them? I spent twenty minutes in WalMart this morning looking for cards for a few special people. People whose circumstances are, say, less than cheery, but to whom I wanted to wish a Merry Christmas nonetheless and provide a little financial support.

I could not, for the life of me, find the appropriate card.

Nothing says "I'm glad you're not in prison this Christmas, and I really hope you can stay clean while you're on probation, I love you and here's a little something for you (please spend it on something healthy) and p.s. I still don't want you to call me" like a singing Snoopy card. Right?

Or how about a card for "I'm sorry your house just burned to the ground, you're living in a shelter and social services is contemplating splitting up your family?" Glittery gifts under a flocked tree just, somehow, feels a little inappropriate for this situation.

It isn't all cheery and sweet for people. Sometimes it's torturous and grim. And since there doesn't seem to be a card section for "Sorry your life really sucks but I empathize and wish you all the best"......... I just did the best I could. No thanks to the industry.

Of all the things on the list, the good deeds felt the best. But then they always do.


photo courtesy of healthkicker.com

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ho ho ho and all that

Am feeling very cheery about the holidays! Gifts are wrapped, items are shipped, plans to leave town are coming along and Mother Nature appears to be cooperating (we'll see about the getting back, of course, too early to know, but the getting out appears to be in decent shape).

I've done ZERO baking this year which is very uncharacteristic, but, in reflecting on this fact perhaps it is THAT element which stresses me out each year, and in not doing, I have discovered the secret to a hysteria free holiday.

I don't have a cooking friendly kitchen. It isn't a galley, necessarily (my first home had that and it was hideous...worse than boats I've lived on, truly), but it is sort of a "nook" kitchen, with limited turnaround and counter space. Two people in there is definitely one too many and can probably be identified as the location of the beginning of a number of marital "discussions." Ahem.

I am grateful, of course, to have a home, to have a nice home, to have a kitchen and to have food to cook in it, but I do get a bit of kitchen envy when I visit the homes of a few friends....especially the one who has a brand new house, a Huh-YOU-ge kitchen with marble counter tops, two dishwashers, an island with a sink, etc. I would cook more if it weren't such a pain in the ass to do so chez moi. (Oh, and if I had more time of course)

I had an interesting conversation last week with a former colleague. She's a complete socialist (but she's my favorite socialist), and we were debating the concept of universal health care and what should be included on the list underneath the headings "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." We were talking about the incessant American need for MORE, and how contagious and pernicious it is. When exposed to things like million dollar kitchens, luxury cars, expensive leather bags, fully stocked wine cellars, vacation homes at the beach, etc. it is truly tempting to convince oneself that we want and really need to have that too. It makes us instantly ungrateful for what we have and desirous to consume. What is that? Is it the unavoidable underpinnings of a capitalistic society? Is it what drives us to innovate and improve as a society? Or is what lands a lot of Americans on anti-depressants?

My friend, who works in global health and travels to the third world a lot, pointed out that what's missing is perspective, and I would concur. When your perspective is the million dollar home, rather than the complete lack of home altogether, it misalignes one's perception about what one already has. Spending a week in a shantytown somewhere makes you not only grateful for but also guilty that you have so much in comparison.

A family of eight was displaced by a house fire here over the weekend. Apparently they'd been turning the breaker for their heat on/off to try to save energy and somehow this sparked an electrical fire that completely gutted their home and took everything, which wasn't much, that they had. They had no insurance, and clearly not much in the way of resources. When interviewed, the mother said her main and immediate goal was keeping the family together somehow.

Suddenly my little kitchen is enormous and I wish I could spend the day in it cooking for that family.

I wish you all peace, love and perspective as we go forth to celebrate our holidays.

xo

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Really?

Dear Crazy Asian Lady in the big fat Mercedes in front of me in traffic,

Just in case you are ever wondering how stereotypes got started....please look in the mirror. (Only not while you are driving, because, clearly, that already isn't working out so well for you.)

Love,

Me

P.S. Please stay off the road

Monday, December 13, 2010

Do Re ME ME ME ME ME


Dear Santa,

For Christmas, I would like some me. Yes, that's right. Just me. A whole serving of just little 'ol me, with a little bit of moi seule on the side and maybe a slice of solomente yo for dessert. And if that doesn't fill me quite up, I'll have a steaming hot cup of Я самостоятельно with a little touch of whipped me da solo topping.

Are you picking up what I'm putting down? Super.

I believe it is a dangerous slope to wish one's time away, or to wish one's life different somehow, and I try very hard to be cognizant of how fortunate I am to be surrounded ALL THE TIME by people who love and need me. I signed up for that, and I have it, and someday I won't, at which point I suspect I will miss it desperately. That being said, however, I really miss myself too! While it is tempting to pull a teenage move and scurry upstairs, close my door, turn on the music and ignore whatever else is happening in the house for, like, 12 hours, I just don't seem to be able to get away with that.

(Clearly what I really need is a heaping helping of meditation and or yoga to counter my incredible lack of grounding that's making me feel like i've just completely misplaced myself these days. What I'm doing instead is moving Mach 5 through my days and only winding down with the help of my pals Cabernet and Sauvignon. Awwww, love them. Shout out! Seriously, I've discovered 3Wishes at Whole (lot of incredibly overpriced) Foods. $3.95 a BOTTLE Peoples. HOLY LORD, at that price they're basically paying me to drink it. Well, not really, but for some reason, buying a half a case at a time (X two trips a week) seems like i'm totally getting away with something. Here's a fun little bloggy about grape juice that has similiary noted the merits of cheap wine: http://savvyindulgence.com/category/uncategorized/)

Maybe that's the real reason I got in the car to drive to work this morning in my fuzzy slippers.

Aaahhhhhhhhh!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm


Close your eyes, and be still for just a moment and listen. Do you hear it? It's a faint buzzing sound. Hear it? Yes! It could be a few things. It could be the collective masses huddled together trying to stay warm in the face of what clearly can only be construed as the dawning of a re-ice age. Or, it could be the general holiday hustle & bustle as people attempt to re purpose those prunes into sugar plums. It could also be the electrical surge emanating from the over extension of people's credit spending.

I think, however, in this case, it is yours truly emitting that noise as a result of an incredible sugar overload: egg nog latte (darn you handsome barrista), Greek (honey) yogurt, and homemade pecan rolls (darn you handsome chef). HOLY SUCROSE!

Speaking of Ice Ages, I just discovered that one of the attorneys in my office keeps not only a complete change of clothing, but also a sleeping bag and overnight accouterments in her office in case the wintry weather forces her to sleep over. That is my kind of girl! I'm certain that it was the Girl Scouts who originally taught the Boy Scouts the importance of being prepared. And, befitting most historical events of relevance, it was the boys who ended up with the credit. But I digress (see aforementioned dietary related reasons).

Anyhoo. In spite of being over sugared and over caffeinated I'm trying very hard to just relax and enjoy all of the shopping, and list making, and baking, and wrapping, and crafting and travel planning and and and and...... because I know that come 1/1/11 (is anyone else spooked by that?) that all we'll be left with is a barren, windswept, icy tundra with no hope of warmth anywhere in sight. No fa la la-ing, no nogging, no nada but woolly underwear and perhaps a woolly mammoth. I H*** WINTER.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Be strong you will

This makes everything that's wrong with the world suddenly right.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/12/09/katie.starwars.geek/index.html?hpt=C1

The Geek in me salutes the Geek in you.

Fun Things


I heard somewhere, recently, that the majority of NPR listeners actually lean to the right. And by that I don't mean their left legs are longer or anything, they just happen to err on the side of being slightly more conservative than the average bear. Not sure if this is true, or what it means, or why it would matter but for some reason I find it interesting. I like NPR for the human interest stories, and the exposure to all kinds of things, from art to music and literature.

I heard a fun piece this week on birds, and how to take care of the ones that inhabit your backyard (should you be lucky enough to have one). I loved all the tweeting and crunching in the background of Melissa Block's story. I have a little girl crush on Melissa Block because her voice is just so "isn't this cool and don't you just love this" infectious all the time.

I am getting a digital voice recorder for Christmas, which I am superdeduper excited about. One, it is going to really help me with a major writing project I'm (why do I want to insert the word "suffering" here???) working on. Also, I like doing interviews. I really do. I like the prep work, I like the actual face-to-face and then I love all the listening back, the editing, the piecing together and unraveling of something intelligible (hopefully) from the strands.

Anyhoo. In catching up on previous Melissa Block stories, I came across an interview she did with Maira Kalman, who is a blog writer for the New York Times, and who has just published a book based on her blogs about American history called "The Pursuit of Happiness."

Everything about Maira Kalman's work, from the word choice to the illustrations speaks to me really really loudly.

I am going to ask the Buddha to buy this book for me for Christmakuhakwansmas.

Here's the link to her awesome blog: http://kalman.blogs.nytimes.com/

Here is another blogger's post about her book (which is where I lifted the image above, thank you blogger): http://nonsuchbook.typepad.com/nonsuch_book/2010/11/and-the-pursuit-of-happiness-by-maira-kalman.html

Good stuff.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Birfday

My baby turned fourteen at 2:13 a.m. this morning. While rapidly approaching manhood, he still has one foot solidly planted on terra childhood. He came in to say goodnight last night, and when I told him not to stay up too late he replied "oh no, i'm going to bed right now so that it can hurry up and be my birthday." He even added a "wake me up early" to that, in spite of the fact that he's skipping school today (oh yes, I am totally that kind of mommy). He didn't want to miss a second of potential birthday enjoyment, which is totally fabulous!!! He will spend the day eating cupcakes and ruining his retinas playing a new video game. Good stuff.

I, on the other hand, trudged off to work in the sub-20 degree windchill, and I just can't help but feel like there's something wrong with this picture.

I think it's the MOMMY who should be getting the day off on a kid's birthday. After all, wasn't it MY accomplishment, originally, that created this whole situation?

I could really use a day off. I have an impressive, and as yet, unstarted, list of Christmas crafts that need, not only to be commenced and completed, but also put in the mail. Cards to address, gifts to wrap, boxes to procure, items to be swaddled in bubble wrap. You get the picture. Having dedicated the previous weekend to helping my offspring complete THEIR shopping, I did not actually manage to get to any of mine.

Yes. A day off would be just the ticket. In honor of birthdays, cupcakes, motherhood and all that is holy. Maybe I'll just leave work a liiiiiiiiitle bit early. Like, say, 12:45.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Christmas List


“So, what’s on your kid’s lists for Christmas?” Is the oft asked question this time of year, and, like previous years, it always makes me cringe.

Clearly, whipping up a shopping list complete with weblinks (which my children certainly could do, since they’re far computer savvier than I) is the total antithesis of the reason for the season. My kids are also getting to that age where they only want three things; electronics, clothes and cash and honestly, if you cancel out the first two things and multiply the third then they’re just as happy to save you the trouble of shopping and wrapping all together. The only problem is that this just feels very very wrong. Isn’t the whole point to share the love, recognize the Christliness in all that we do and let the gift part just be a symbolic token? And my kids get this, they do. I never encouraged them to create a list, because it rubs me the wrong way, and yet, when the grandparents ask, it’s better to reel off a few specifics so that the kids don’t end up with socks and underwear. (Though I’ll betcha Mary would have happily foregone the Frankincense and Myrrh in favor of a few naps and diapeys).

But thanks to where we are, culturally, there’s no denying that Christmas is all about gifting, and that fact cannot be gotten away from. So, I struggle each year to find the balance between remembering what this particular holiday means to us and demonstrating it in a meaningful way.

I’ve tried different approaches over the years. We’ve volunteered our time at the holidays to collect supplies for a food bank. We collected our spare change for a whole year, another time, and purchased livestock through the Heifer Project. We’ve picked names off of a local charity’s “Angel Tree” and we’ve selected a senior citizen in need and bestowed supplies. Somehow giving to someone I don’t know makes me feel a little better about giving to those that I do. I’m sure there’s some sort of suspect psychology to it all, but it works.

Because I have a large family (lots of nieces and nephews) we’ve gone the route of just buying for the kids, and then just having one kid buy for another kid, but in the end it just feels as if we’re all standing in a long line and handing dollar bills to the person behind us. In other years we’ve foregone presents altogether and instead gone somewhere together, like to see the Nutcracker or we’ve gone bowling. Bowling definitely beat the ballet in the guys’ eyes, plus you can drink your way through the latter which is a plus.

This year one of my sister-in-laws suggested we get together and have a homemade gift exchange. The rules are, you have to have made (or significantly altered) it on your own and you can’t have spent more than $20. All presents go on the table, and then we each pick something, to be followed by a Yankee swap wherein the gift is allowed to change hands several more times. It’s sort of like musical chairs with gifts. I love all things crafty, so I thought this was a fabulous idea, and with delusions of artistic grandeur I spent two straight days on Etsy looking for ideas, only to have my enthusiasm squelched when I unveiled the plan to my husband. “Oh, that’s just great” he muttered, “so not only will I get something I don’t want, but I’ll get to enjoy having it stolen from me several times only to end up with something else I don’t want. Can I just stay home?”

Bah humbug!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On Being


There are times when I am overwhelmed with sadness at the horrible things we humans do to one another. Primarily, I am referring to the First Commandment, and the number of violations involving children recently.

Because I do not necessarily believe that there is a "good reason" for this, it is always hard for me to reconcile.

I, therefore, go off in search of something resembling truth and beauty in order to make myself feel some sense of hope in the face of seemingly random evil.

I found this recently, and thought I'd share, in case you, too, are having a sad day.

http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2010/inner-landscape/

I love this program, and while I seem to never be able to catch it on air, I do subscribe and keep up that way. I find the depth and breadth of resources that accompany her programs to be meaningful gems, thoughtfully researched and incorporated.

It made me feel a wee bit better for which I am grateful.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sucks to be the State Department

Dear Muammar Gaddafi,

Hope this finds you well. So, I assume you've seen the news this morning, yes. Well. Unfortunately business that. When I said that your girlfriend could suck a golf ball through a garden hose I hope you know that I meant that as a compliment in the most respectful way possible. Truly. Her talents are unparalleled in my personal experience, and she makes one hell of a Mai-Tai, though I can't imagine she'll be making me any more of those any time soon.

If it is any consolation, things could be worse. You could be Iran just discovering that Jordan has designs on their real estate, or you could be Kim Jong Il who was already probably having a bad day and now finds that everyone knows it was he who brought those missiles to the party.... BYOM dudes!

Ahem.

Just wanted to say sorry and all that. No hard feelings, hopefully. I probably won't be visiting for a while though. Just in case.

Lots of Love,

X

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/28/us-embassy-cable-leak-diplomacy-crisis

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gratitude

It being that time of year and all, I find myself grateful this morning for a number of things. Lest any of you get your noses out of joint at not being mentioned personally, let me just start by saying that I am grateful for my beautiful family and amazing friends. I am cognizant that they are routinely better to me than I am to them and this continues to amaze and humble me.

Additionally, I am grateful that:

Enough people stayed home today that I was able to secure street parking and enjoyed a sun filled walk to work, past the bagel shop where I had to pick up a sandwich which was so chock full of lox and cream cheese that I finally had to eat it open faced in halves and it still took four napkins. Mmmmmmm

My current aches and pains, while tedious and annoying, are probably not fatal and occasionally I am able to grasp that reality and remember that this is just a temporary phase.

That my children have somehow managed to become increasingly more enjoyable as they age.

90% of the family is here for this holiday.

That, in spite of our current level of economic woe and political contentiousness, I live in what I consider to be the most amazing country on the planet.

That I have lived in other countries and am able to have the aforementioned perspective.

That the nice man I met at a party last week demonstrated how the GPS tracking mechanism works on his kids' phones, because I have bumped that up to the top of my "Dear Santa" list this year.

I am grateful for:

David Grey

Cashmere

Opportunity, capacity and motivation

The Dalai Lama

Pumpkin whoopie pies and salted caramel butter bars

My parents and my in-laws who are a constant source of strength, support and inspiration.


May we all eat, drink and be merry this holiday, while not losing sight of how many of our brethern cannot do any of those three things.

Peace

Friday, November 19, 2010

Recovering Yogi


I've been following a blog by a woman named Joslyn Hamilton ( http:outsideeye.onsugar.com) because she's terribly wry and clever and those are my favorite characteristics in a complete stranger, so natch...

Well, she's just created a new project called recoveringyogi.com which is also wry and clever and all about (duh!) her disenchantment with the yoga world, which, while I can't relate, because I haven't done enough down dogs to qualify for enchantment with the yoga world, I can appreciate.

She and her partner in blogging crime, Vanessa Fiola (also terribly wry and clever) were just interviewed on The Magazine of Yoga and the two part piece is amusing if you have nothing better to do this morning and appreciate the profane and sarcastic.

http://themagazineofyoga.com/blog/2010/11/16/conversation-recoveringyogi


Since I, too, have been published in The Magazine of Yoga, I'm going to spend the morning pretending that I am the long lost triplet of this wry and clever sisterhood, as opposed to obsessing about the alternative which is that The Magazine of Yoga has clearly bumped up their submission standards since my last post and I'm about to be relegated to "former contributors."

Today's Mantra

You cannot eat as if you're going to run a marathon if you aren't.

Bummmmmmmer

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A strange kind of ornithology


Working in a hospital is incredible fodder for writing, though I generally stay away from it because there's this fine line between reflecting and making fun of people that I seem to step over too easily.


However, as I walked in the building this morning I saw a woman who looked just like this penguin. She was short, and built like a penguin, and she had this EXACT hair "do" and she had on orange Crocs and the minute I saw her I just immediately thought "PENGUIN!" It was the craziest thing.


People are generally not at their best when they're in the hospital, because whatever the reason for being here, it is generally not good, and therefore stressful. But, I'm pretty sure this whole penguin situation pre-existed whatever led her to be here (visitor, patient, delivery driver, perhaps, what have you) so I just really had to wonder about that and now cannot stop wondering.


Wouldn't it be funny if she was doing it on purpose? Like, she really really loved penguins and was, somehow subconsiously, trying to emulate one?


I think she belongs in a book. Hopefully mine one day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Afterglow


So, I did it! I propelled myself for 26.2 miles and managed to stay, not only upright, but running for most of it. My knee was not happy about it and put up some significant resistance in the middle which necessitated my stopping every half mile or so to stretch, from about mile 18 to 23, which meant that it took me FOREVER to get done, but that's okay with me, because at about mile 23 I realized that I was going to finish that thing and suddenly the Ability Fairy sprinkled magic dust on me and I finished the last 3 faster than any of the previous 10. Go figure.

I finished before the blind guy, but after the juggler and the guy who jumped rope the whole way. I finished behind Tom, for whom this was his twenty third marathon in this city, but ahead of the guy from California who was logging his 756th marathon (seriously, not kidding). I finished ahead of the Garmin girl, who could not get that thing to work and spent miles stopping other runners and spectators to see if they could help her fix it. She finished crying, which probably was out of a combination of frustration and relief. Technology does have a down side occasionally. I finished behind everyone else in my training program. But, according to the guy (who has done at least one marathon in every single state and is now setting out to hit races in all the continents) I ran with along the river (miles 9-12), DFL (dead f-ing last) is a whole lot better than DNF (did not finish) which is obviously better than DNS (did not start). Amen.

I met a lot of people along the way, which was awesome. Running is a pretty social sport, for something seemingly so solitary. People were just awesome, runners and spectators alike. It was all just friendly and happy, no snarkiness anywhere. Having friends come out and cheer me on along the way was super huge. Next time I think I'll make my family come, in fact, I think I'll make them come run with me....that would have been even better. There was definitely a "wall" and it felt like something out of Dr. Zhivago....cold barren wasteland with no end in sight, only it's all clearly in your head, which is kind of a freaky thing. I did a little snivelling in there somewhere, feeling very disheartened about the pain and my inability to push through it. But again, that's okay, 'cause I kept going.

Sore muscles and achey joints notwithstanding, it was an amazing, fabulous, exhilirating experience....and I would love to do it again. (Just don't tell my family I said that!)
p.s. I beat Meredith Viera by 3 minutes, and Al Roker by about an hour. Ha! ;)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Brilliant!

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say 'I used everything you gave me.'" Erma Bombeck

That's so profound for me that I can't even think of anything clever with which to follow it up, so I'll just leave it alone.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

S*P*E*L*L*I*N*G*

I just love how no one knows how to spell anymore. Generally, it provides non stop entertainment for me (though occasionally I do get irritated...because, well, I'm kind of good at that) and let me say, that I, too, make my fair share of fautes! However, if you're going to send something out to the masses, let's at least take the time to run a little spell check action on our documents.

Sadly, in response to my frustration at my own daughter's inability to spell in middle school, I was informed by her teacher that "kids don't really need to learn to spell anymore, they'll just rely on spell check from here on out." Really? This, from an ENGLISH TEACHER? I'm pretty sure if I'd outed her on this one, the ghosts of all my former English professors would have torn her apart.

My favorite spelling mistake today (they occur frequently enough that I can distinguish them on a daily basis) came in a flyer from my neighborhood association, inviting me to attend a group activity to which we were all encouraged to bring a "dish to share" and a "non parishable food item." Heh heh heh. Because our local parishes don't want or maybe don't need the non perishable food donations? Mysterious.

Eeeeeeek!


I'm running my first marathon on Saturday. And when I say "running", I'm referring to whatever that half-limp, half-lope "thing" that Al Roker was doing as he crossed the finish line at the NYC Marathon this weekend. Limp-a-lope, let's call it. As I watched him doing that I immediately began to feel all kinds of squidgy inside. He looked like he was hurting, but he finished running, which is, in and of itself a significant accomplishment.

I think that if I'd run this race back in October, I would have been in much better shape, but the more training I've done the more I've fallen apart physically. To the point where, on a super easy 5 mile jog this weekend, I managed to get a dime-sized blister on the bottom of my fourth toe on my right foot. Really? WHAT THE HELL? It isn't bad enough that the r. knee and l. hip have a ferocious duel-to-the-death routine going on, which creates a permanent blister on the r. instep....but now I have this too? All that's missing is a stomach bug or maybe an unexpected week of heavy flow.

BRING IT ON! I say. DO YOUR WORST! I'll give that Al Roker, with those sexy ice bags taped to his knees a literal run for his money, dammit!

Hmmmm, I wonder what his time was. Maybe I'll just take a quick peek.

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/45609/

Okay. Too funny.

Vieira beat Roker with 5:59, which is around an hour and ten minutes faster than Roker.

So, I think I'll aim for giving Viera a run for her money instead. I think that's probably a little closer to my realistic finish time.

Further on in the article it mentions that Chilean runner, too:

Pena finished the marathon in under six hours and said that if he had not had knee pain, he would have ran the race faster, he told the New York Times. He ran with an injured knee.

“First of all, I want to say that I would have run faster,” he told the Times. “And I did run faster in the mine.”

Is he all that AND a bag of chips, or what??? Good stuff!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mommy!


My mommy is in town. She got here last night. She used to live here, in this town where I grew up, but she now lives far, far away. So far, in fact, that she when she does come for a visit, she usually comes for a whole month which is lovely.

I noticed a few things immediately upon seeing her. She's gone much grayer since the last time I saw her, and she really can't hear very well at all.

When people say things like "these things happen to the best of us," the "best of us" part actually refers to my mother. Truly. My mother is the kindest, most gentle, loving woman on the planet. (I suppose it is just one of life's little peccadilloes that this fact also serves as a source of frustration for me, but there it is.)

I picked her up at the airport and brought her to my home (where she is not actually staying while here) and forced her to chat with me while I ate my dinner last night. I also forced my son to make an appearance, and he sat between us at the table watching us conduct our familiar tennis match of a conversation.

At one point, he slumped forward onto the table and rolled his eyes.

"WHAT?" I asked him.

"Well, I can't get a word in edgewise here!" he said "Your conversations are airtight!"

Very funny but he was right, and so I released him to pursue entertainment elsewhere.

I'm sure this visit will provide some good blog fodder, so let this serve as fair warning.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Shalloween

I struggled, mightily, this year, to find inspiration for a Halloween costume. Several obvious things came to mind, including being a stink bug, (since, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em...my house, neighborhood, town have been overtaken this fall. I now shower, pee, sleep, etc in the ever presence of these little friends). But I just couldn't seem to get off my proverbial duff and make something happen. At the 11th hour on Sunday, I skittered over to the Halloween "Store" you know, one of those pop up jobbers that has just about everything for the month prior to the big Haunting, and, lo and behold, they were down to 50% off! Sweet. I headed in committed to making some kind of decision.

You know where this is going, right? You already know that I marched in there, open to possibility only to have my hopes dashed because I just cannot pay good money to dress like a slut. Not even 50% off kind of money.

Apparently, you cannot just dress up as a policeman or firefighter, or Dororthy from Kansas, you have to sport some sort of two bit trash whore version thereof, with your boobs pushed up and out of the front and your arse hanging out of the back. I'm sorry, but the Wizard of Oz would have taken one look at THAT Dorothy and sent her home to change into something respectable. Shiney shoes or no!

There was not a reasonable costume to be had in the entire joint. Unless I wanted to dress as a man, of course, in which case my choices were Vampire, Werewolf, or Serial Killer or some sort of variation thereof, all of which prey on sluts, so at least the industry is consistent, oddly, in its mission.

I came home, costume free and disappointed, and proceeded into the evening sporting my go-to back up ensemble...middle aged mommy. It's a real crowd pleaser, trust me.

At least, I thought to myself, my kids are immune to this nonsense. My son went as the Fonz, from Happy Days, and his biggest problem was that none of his peer group has any clue who the Fonz is, so that was disappointing. (Not unlike, for those of you who watch network TV and saw the Halloween episode from The Middle, where Brick goes as a Scottish war hero .... I think Brick and my son are twins separated at birth sometimes.) And my daughter was going as bat girl in a costume she had crafted herself, so that had to be pretty safe. I was downstairs, perched on my high horse when she appeared ready to be driven to her party. In her tulle bustier and 3 inch ankle boots.

I know they say that when you fall off a horse, you need to get right back on again to prove whose the boss, but, clearly, it's not me. I give up.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My ridiculous day

Two kvetchy posts in a row. Sorry peoples. You can see what kind of a week I'm having, though.

Yesterday was fairly ridiculous but not atypical.

Slept in (6:45 a.m.) because had been up late the night before (attending daughter's play performance) so did not run the 8 miles that I was supposed to, will do at the end of the day (spoiler alert: this doesn't happen). Got kids up and moving and drove son to his school (band practice) then daughter to her school (drama practice). Daughter had practice after school, then tickets (thanks Dad) to wildly popular band concert in town. She had been up late arranging for a ride and we went back and forth as the players changed as to who was driving which way. It was settled upon that she would attend w/group of friends, who would swing by school and pick her up after her performance and all go to concer together. A different parent would collect them and return them home.

All good.

Realized at 11 that I was supposed to have dropped over 36 individually wrapped desserts at school that morning for inclusion in drama brown bag dinners that evening. Said desserts needed to be at school prior to 5. This was not going to be possible since I didn't even arrive at work on time. Husband to the rescue with a case of moon pies.

All good.

Receive text message at 5:30 from daughter "no longer have ride to concert, can you provide?" Begrudgingly, yes.

Still pretty much all good, only now I have time to kill. Text daughter back, "really no other options?"

Mad texting ensues where daughter wishes to just be "dropped off" at concert and she will find her friends once she gets there. As if! I wait for a more reasonable solution.

Daughter responds "problem solved, have a ride, all good." It occurs to me that she will not be able to take her ginormous backpack into the arena with her. I offer to swing by school and pick it up from her on my way home. Do so.

All good.

Receive text message as I pull into driveway at home (6:15) that says "Oh no, left wallet in backpack" (you probably saw this coming...right?) I respond "You don't really need a tshirt, and you can drink water. Not turning around." She responds "Concert ticket in wallet."

No longer all good.

Go inside, change clothes so I can go to the gym and run (finally). Text daughter that I wish she wasn't going, she's exhausted, she's leaving town for theatre academy field trip (4days) the next day and she hasn't slept, packed, etc. Also text her that I'm coming to bring her the ticket anyway. She texts back that she loves me more than chocolate.

Taking a deep breath, return to okay status.

Drive to school. See friend who is giving her a ride to the concert from school already sitting in lobby waiting for her. Have the following conversation:

"Hey there, are you waiting for her?"
"Yes, they're not done yet"
"Is your ride in the parking lot?"
"I got dropped off here, she told me she could get us to the concert."
"........."

Hyperventilate

Go upstairs, with friend, to sound booth where daughter is ooozing stress because play practice not done and tyrannical director is tottering around on stage rearanging "sleeping" cast members and telling singers to "PROJECT!" Daughter is sweating, and the "clearly what we have here is a failure to communicate" conversation ensues (where she promises me both her firstborn and that she will try to be nicer to her brother) and we all arrive at the logical conclusion that yours truly, (surprise!), will be driving her and friend to the concert.

Overwhelming frustration mitigated by how grateful/excited they are as I drive them across town(at 7:45).

Get to the gym. Only have time to run 6.5 of the 8 miles.

Go home, drink several beers, wait up until daughter is safely back in the house, deliriously happy, hoarse and in posession of very cool concert t-shirt. Take opportunity to revisit her vow to be kinder to sibling (you have to take the few opportunites you get, afterall)

All better.

Of course, it started all over again this morning as I mis-set the alarm clock, we all over slept, and I realized we did not have enough cash to give daughter for her field trip and had to wait for bank to open. No, I do not have an ATM card. But I will save that story for another post.

Hope everyone else is having a great day.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Urghghhh

Sometimes I am completely overwhelmed by the "dumbness" that I see all around me. I was going to use a more harsh word, but the point of this post is to search the universe for a solution, rather than dwell, necessarily, on the problem.

What to do about it?

Some days it is utterly staggering to me how, in the space of the 20 minutes it takes me to get from my house to the office, I witness all sorts of stupidity. From people texting as they drive (NO NO NO NO NO) to boys who cannot make it across the crosswalk in front of school because their pants are riding so low on their legs they can barely walk, to the woman who pulled a U-turn, illegally, only to whip into the gas station narrowly avoiding a pedestrian (who happened to have headphones on and was also texting). Really? Ugh!

And this is not to come off as holier than though (though I will point out that I have stopped talking on my cell phone while driving, which is a very hard, but bad, habit to break)because Lord knows I do my fair share of stupid things. And perhaps this is what keeps me from completely going OFF on people all day long. My own stupidity, ironically, is the only thing saving the rest of you, at least for now.

But how to reconcile all of this? How to not let it drive me wild?

I was overcome with the desire to move to NW Canada this morning, and tough it out in the wild, off the grid, where I only have my own stupidity to contend with and not that of the collective masses as well.

I'm at a loss and open to suggestions. Sigh.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ally Week

I'm going to take the opportunity to brag about my daughter, because, afterall, this is my blog and, dammit, that's my perogative.

So, my daughter, who is straight (not that it matters, but it will become relevant shortly)is the Vice President of her school's Gay Straight Alliance. She got involved her first year in high school and has become increasingly more active since.

I had some gay friends in high school. Only, they didn't say they were gay, and we didn't talk about it, and we sure as hell didn't have a Gay Straight Alliance. It was just understood that that's what it was and they either flew under the radar or were everyone's funny super gay friend.

A lot has happened for gay rights in the 25 years since I was in highschool. I won't bore you with a timeline, you've clearly been living through it as well.

I was surprised though when I learned about this organization at the high school level and impressed that we have progressed, seemingly, as a society to this point.

Last week was Ally week, (http://www.allyweek.org/) which is an informational campaign designed to promote awarness and tolerance. It isn't about advocating for gay rights or promoting the G/L/B/T lifestyle. It is strictly about inclusion, and drawing awareness to exclusion.

Her group had set up an info table in their school each day last week, handed out pledges that people could sign regarding tolerance, they've given out reams of rainbow ribbon and purple bracelets and lots of CHOCOLATE. (I love chocolate. It is the universal harmonizer.)

Anyhoo. On the third day, just as they'd set up for the morning, a student came over to the table, paused for a moment and then swept everything they'd set up off the table and flipped the table over completely in front of them. They attempted to confront him but he ran off.

Lots of drama ensued surrounding hurt feelings, shock, damage to property and involving administrators, parents, disciplinary action and lots and lots of buzz.

While it was sad (though maybe not surprising) that this happened, it was a great opportunity for her group to bond, process, reflect and most importantly practice what they were preaching.

What to do about this boy, who, clearly, has, like many others, an issue with homosexuality? Obviously, the members of her group who are gay took the assault on their display very personally. They all met with their faculty advisor at lunch to discuss, and my daughter, bless her wise heart, pointed out to the group that it was paramount that they retaliate with kindness and tolerance and that they not engage this boy, but rather strengthen their resolve to practice what they preached and move forward in the face of this adversity. And, knowing her, she probably used most of those SAT words because that's how she rolls.

She told me that she'd been overwhelemed, emotionally, to see just how many of her peers supported their effort that week by signing pledges, taking ribbons, verbalizing their support, etc.

She feels very strongly about this group and what they are doing. "Mom," she told me "we provide more support for some of these kids, in a 30 minute lunch, than they ever get at home."

I think it is that element, the lack of parental understanding and support, which is the most challenging and motivating for her. Because she is raised in an environment of tolerance and understanding, she finds the opposite incomprehensible. She has a significant number of gay friends who are in various states and stages of being "out" who are getting various levels of feeback/pushback/support from their families. It is an ongoing theme of discourse and emotion in all of their lives.

I was listening to NPR last week, and a professor from some Ivy League school was talking about how his surveys indicate that gay kids are just as well adjusted as straight kids and really no more likely to kill themselves as a result of their "gayness" than the average teen is likely to kill themselves over other social pressure. (This was in response to a big mainstream media story about the opposite being true)

Perhaps he is right, but when you add the stress/pressure of being gay to the stress/pressure of just being a teenager in this country, I find it very hard to believe that they are ALL as equally well adjusted. Maybe it has gotten a little easier, on some levels, given the framework of support that exists in some areas, such as high school GSAs, but as evidenced by the assault, I'm afraid that some things really haven't changed that much at all.

I'm proud of my daughter and her friends for trying, one chocolate bar and ribbon at a time, to make our world a more tolerant place to live.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Trophy Wife Redux

Had lunch with my friend Jen today. Sometimes I talk and she listens, sometimes she talks, and I listen and sometimes, like today, we both talk at the same time, which seems to work for us, but probably drives people around us completely W*I*L*D. (And that's fine...go eat your tuna sald sandwich somewhere else then!)

She too, needs another wife in her life, to help her maintain the myriad commitments on her plate and that got me thinking about the whole concept of Trophy Wives. (I refer you to wikipedia if you must brush up on the term...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trophy_wife)

I'd like to refute the blonde bombshell/big boobed hanger on image of yore, however, and suggest a more relevant conceptualization.

Not to date myself, but I think that a true trophy wife brings home the bacon, fries it up in a pan and .......well, if you know the reference, then you know the rest.

For example, take my friend Jen.

Jen is smart (and not just, "let me help you with your Algebra homework, honey" smart...she is PhD, tada... your mice now have an extra chromosome and i've taught them how to knit, kind of smart) and funny (blow soda out of my nose, question my standards of continence laughing at her kind of funny) and kind (stays up til 4 a.m. crafting a homemade scooby doo cake for her 4 year old kid kind).

Moreover, she holds down a big time, stressful, required 4 years of post-bac, 7 years of training kind of a job where she saves people's lives and gets to say pithy things like "yeah, that patient was in DKA and the frigging intern had her set for discharge" that make the rest of us mortals go "oooh" and "aaaaah" and prompted me to list her as my #1 emergency contact in case I have a heart attack or get a splinter or something.

So, in addition to her crazy, time consuming, life force sucking career, she is this cuddly mommy person to her children, who buys her own groceries and washes everyone's clothes and cooks things from scratch. She squeezes in the occasional date night with her hubby, with whom she still really likes to hang out. She spends her few free weekends digging holes for new plants in her yard, and carting her kids to sporting events, or holding down the fort so that her husband can do the same.

She reads, and writes, and stays abreast of current events. She swims and she runs (not because she's being chased, but because the thought of running 26.2 again is always just slightly on the periphery of her potential radar) and she has gaggles of friends over for cookouts and girl's nights.

Is she nuts? You bet! Over committed? Duh! Does she need an au-pair or a Mary Poppins in her life? Hell yes! But she's normal, and nice, and not a bitch, and does all these things, for all these people without ever making me feel like I'm inferior. She can laugh at me and then turn around and laugh at herself in the same breath, singlehandedly validating and destroying both of our neuroses in one fell swoop.

It is THIS woman, and so many more just like her that I know, who is the TRUE trophy wife. This isn't one of those cheesy gold painted plastic tropies that ends up on a shelf. No, this is the sterling silver cup you won that ends up being your favorite Pilsner mug.

Soul Food

Early this spring I happened to be out and about on a Sunday morning and caught NPR's show Speaking of Faith by Krista Tippet and have been a fan ever since. Her program has a fabulous blog w/all episodes archived...and lots of offshoot resources. The name of the program has subsequently changed to "Being" (of which I approve).

Yesterday they streamed, live, a conversation with the Dalai Lama and some other religious bigwhigs, about Happiness (which I have capitalized on purpose, because I feel like it's a large enough spirtual concept to be worthy thereof).

It can be found on her site in a day or two (from what I'm reading)....

http://being.publicradio.org/

Am feeling compelled to add a slightly political comment about how the thing I love most about what they're doing is the encouraging of everyone to share in the conversation we all should be having about just GETTING ALONG with each other.

Really. Seems so easy, and yet.....

xoxoxoxoxoxoxox

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Magazine of Yoga New Post




http://themagazineofyoga.com/blog/2010/10/14/the-sisterhood-of-sisters/

Thanks to them!!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Help Wanted

Nice, but tired, middle-aged couple, seeks wife for assistance with projects of a disctinctly domestic nature.

Candidate should be strong, healthy and patient. Additionally, the following skills would be a plus:

Mind-reading
Plumbing and electrical, woodworking and tile know-how
Masters in Education, preferably Math/Science and/or Japanese
Commercial drivers license, P, N or S endorsement (passenger, bus, tank)
Cordon-bleue classical french cuisine training
Seamstress
Commercial cleaning license with hazmat endorsement
K-9 obedience trainer
Travel agent, meeting planner
Debate skills
MD
JD
CPA
MBA
PhD Philosphy

Applicant must not require vacations or more than 4 hours of sleep per night and should expect to be on call 24/7/365.

Room and board provided, no salary. Benefits include free use of netflix membership and (after preparing them for us) meals shared with positively delightful family.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sometimes procrastination IS the process


Which I stole from a forum post on this website for the National Novel Writing Month Project.

http://nanowrimo.org

Anyone up to the challenge of writing 50,000 words in the month of November???

It is a tad daunting, I will admit. I can always crank out 1,000 when the assignment calls for 500, but not sure about writing 50,000. And, I suppose the point is, they're supposed to all make sense, in a row, sort of like.

Hmmmmm

Anyone?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I hate it when this happens

Dear Universe,

I just noticed that I've blocked myself for two hours, during the middle of the day on Thursday, it says "ME...OUT" in the memo line in Outlook. Do you know where I'm supposed to be? Because, try as I might, I do not. Like, really, no clue.

I've searched my desk for little appointment cards (dentist, doctor, etc.) but have turned up nothing so far.

I even copied my boss on this appointment to let her know I was going to be gone, so It wasn't like this was an appointmistake, I really did this on purpose.

I'm hoping that maybe you can give me a teeeny weeeny little clue, please? I'll be very quiet and listen hard for even the faintest whisper, or change in wind direction.

Barring that, could you maybe nudge whomever it is I'm supposed to meet with to maybe send me a reminder or a confirmation, or something?

I've got a bad feeling about this........

Fun Project


Started by some friends of mine:

http://thefestivalproject.blogspot.com/

Because, clearly, they aren't already busy enough. ??!?

Slainte!




Chocolate Guinness Cake
by Nigella Lawson

(Reprinted from the New York Times via NPR: (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124611065)

This cake is magnificent in its damp blackness. I can't say that you can absolutely taste the stout in it, but there is certainly a resonant, ferrous tang which I happen to love. The best way of describing it is to say that it's like gingerbread without the spices. There is enough sugar — a certain understatement here — to counter any potential bitterness of the Guinness, and although I've eaten versions of this made up like a chocolate layer cake, stuffed and slathered in a rich chocolate frosting, I think that can take away from its dark majesty. Besides, I wanted to make a cream cheese frosting to echo the pale head that sits on top of a glass of stout. It's unconventional to add cream but it makes it frothier and lighter which I regard as aesthetically and gastronomically desirable. But it is perfectly acceptable to leave the cake un-iced: in fact, it tastes gorgeous plain.

Ingredients for the cake:

1 cup Guinness
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups superfine sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda


Ingredients for the topping:

8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

Nigella's Suggestions:


For a simpler dessert, replace the frosting with a light dusting of powered sugar.


Preheat the over to 350 F, and butter and line a 9 inch springform pan.

Pour the Guinness into a large wide saucepan, add the butter — in spoons or slices — and heat until the butter's melted, at which time you should whisk in the cocoa and sugar. Beat the sour cream with the eggs and vanilla and then pour into the brown, buttery, beery pan and finally whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Pour the cake batter into the greased and lined pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Leave to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack, as it is quite a damp cake.

When the cake's cold, sit it on a flat platter or cake stand and get on with the frosting. Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth, sift over the confectioner's sugar and then beat them both together. Or do this in a processor, putting the unsifted confectioners' sugar in first and blitz to remove lumps before adding the cheese.

Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Ice the top of the black cake so that it resembles the frothy top of the famous pint.

Makes about 12 slices

From Feast by Nigella Lawson. Photographs by James Merrell. Copyright 2004 Nigella Lawson. Photographs Copyright 2004 by James Merrell. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Musica


Things I am listening to these days (as I eat my lean cuisine lunch at my desk, sadly):

Steel Wheels
http://www.thesteelwheels.com/records/

We Are Star Children
http://wearestarchildren.bandcamp.com/

Crooked Still
http://www.crookedstill.com/

David Wax Museum
http://www.davidwaxmuseum.com/Site/Welcome.html

Enjoy!

Friday, September 24, 2010

On the radio

I wrote and recorded another essay for my local NPR station. It aired this morning. A few minutes prior I got on line to stream it so the kids could hear, but my computer was being cantankerous and would have nothing to do with this plan. Having wasted too much time wrestling with it, I ushered the kids out the door to sit in the car with me to listen instead. In various stages of readiness for school, they brought bowls of oatmeal and cups of chai (yes, I believe in establishing their caffeine addictions early)with them and we piled into my vehicle.

After establishing who was "riding" shotgun (remember, we weren't actually driving anywhere, and yet, this is a big deal chez moi...because whoever rides shotgun gets to "control" the radio...which, of course, was moot today since we were listening to my station and mine only...but irrelevant because we fight the shotgun battle now as a matter of pride and course). My son won, hopped in and immediately buckled himself in. I pointed out that unless we were about to be struck by an asteroid as we sat in the driveway the seatbelt was not going to do him any good at all, and even then, he was probably doomed. (Though mad props to him AND his mommy for establishing what is clearly an unconscious good habit!)

As we heard my voice, both children drew a collective breath and held it. They're always afraid that I'm going to MENTION THEM BY NAME somehow. To my daughter's great relief, it was my son who was the focus of today's essay. I pointed out that it was highly unlikely that any of his peer group was listening to NPR at 7:35 a.m. and if it turned out that they were, I'd be pleased to make the acquaintance of any such erudite young tweenager. Thankfully, the subject matter was acceptable to him, and we are still on speaking terms.

I appreciate their unease when they know they are routinely the sources of my musings, but hey, that's the price they pay for living with me, and eating my food etc. They don't know it yet, but the tables will turn later on, and I will be a wellspring of material for them as they begin the inevitable self-reflection that plagues us all in middle age. I'm sure they'll give as good as they got.

As I left the house later my daughter called out to me: "Hey Mom, I heard this really cool essay on the radio this morning, you should check it out!" Awwwwwww.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

This little piggy went to the market...

Occasionally I stop at Whole Foods on my way to work in the mornings. They are a convenient stop, they have good coffee and a cheap and delicious egg wrap (with spinach, feta and mushrooms) that hits the spot when my personal chef has been unavailable to me. I am usually one of the first shoppers, which affords me a view of the store that I cannot get at later times in the day when I am just one of the horde elbowing my way to the counter for tofu General Tso (or, "General Fo" as we like to call it).

This morning it was pristine, shiny, empty and absolutely beautiful. Everything lined up with army-like precision, floors spotless, glass counters sparkling, stacks and rows of products all neatly arranged and properly faced. My sense of order (can you tell I've got some serious German blood running through my veins?) sits up immediately and begins to tail wag and bark in that environment. So happy! I could have just stayed there all morning in appreciative wonderment.

I realized that I have a "thing" for grocery stores. When I travel, it is the one place I always need to stop. Especially in foreign countries. I love to wander the aisles, looking for similarities and differences, comparing and contrasting not only the different types of products, but the availability or lack thereof of certain things.

You can tell a lot about a community by sleuthing in it's markets or grocery shops.

I remember the first time I shopped in a market in France, not one of those stall markets, but an actual supermarche. I must have spent two hours picking out 20 items, only to have a stare down with the checkout girl after she was done because I didn't realize that I was responsible for bagging my own groceries and she was wondering what my problem was.

France had hypermarches (hyper-markets, which are like Sam's clubs or Costcos) long before we had them in this country and I just remember being staggered by the volume and variety.

I am drawn inevitably to the bath and beauty section. It can be a bit of a mystery, trying to figure out just what is in this tube or that. Is it toothpaste or is it hemorrhoid creme? If you don't speak the language, it can be a bit of a crap shoot (literally, I suppose), but it is always fun.

You can tell how wealthy a community is or is not by what you find in their aisles. You can tell what the cultural topography is. No Asian food in their store? No mystery there. It's an anthropological exploration that can be very entertaining.

That being said, there's a big difference between neighborhood markets like those found in Europe and the advent of the big box markets like Whole Foods. All the Whole Foods are pretty much the same, from community to community, which doesn't mean that the communities are all the same, necessarily, but I suppose their demographic, from a marketing standpoint, must be. In which case, there must be a whole platoon of middle-aged-late-to-workers who didn't have time to eat or brew coffee for themselves in this country, because we sure seem to be keeping that place in business!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

i-want

Dear Universe,

I would really like an i-pad.

I tried not to want one, I really did. I tried to avert my eyes, and I even scoffed at them for a while in (mock) disdain. Really! When will all this technology nonsense finally come to an end? i-this, i-that, Sheeeez!

But it is no use. I lurve the i-pad, with all it's handy glitz and glam and slidey screens and instant pics and website and apps. It is super sexy and I really want to be able to whip one out of my bag and exercise my creative wizardry whenever and wherever I want.

I promise to be really, really, really grateful and I won't ask for anything else. (For a little while, at least).

Love,

Me

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kumbaya

I heard this on NPR this morning and thought it was fun: "Human Connections Start With A Friendly Touch" by Michelle Trudeau

Turns out all those touchy-feely types have been right (and doing the rest of us a favor) all along!

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128795325

Group hug???

Friday, September 17, 2010

Poems my daughter wrote when she was much younger

Bats

On cool night air,
Ears go wiggy wiggle,
Wings wap wap the wind,
Blinkety blinkeyes,
To the sky they are pinned.
Feet swoosh down, onto their prey.
Folding their wings, sleeping the day.



Self-portrait

My hair is like a furnace ablaze.
My eyes are like bark on trees.
My dogs are indestructible water balloons.
My laugh is like bells, silence and then falling out of my chair.
My heart holds love for my family that is as bright as the summer sun.



Ice cream truck

I can hear it coming,
Sliding down the street.
An icky kind will make you ill,
But a nice kind is a treat.

Et tu etsy?

So, I'm a little late to this, but I LOVE Etsy. Have you been there?

http://www.etsy.com/

I could get lost in etsy and never been seen again. WOW! I love what the internet has done for creativity.

In perusing etsy today (BEFORE WORK, of course) I came across the following little project:

http://www.etsy.com/storque/craftivism/calling-etsy-crafters-to-the-pillowcase-challenge-9359/

How cool. I think a pillowcase may have been one of the very first things I ever made when I learned to sew.

Here's the link to the actual project website itself:

http://www.allpeoplequilt.com/millionpillowcases/

You can search for a store near you...I don't have one near me, but I'll figure something out!

I knew there had to be some good use for those boxes and boxes and.... of fabric in my basement!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Good Day Sunshine

Epiphany in the car driving home yesterday: All of the relevant wisdom any of us needs to get through our lives can be found in the titles of songs sung by the Beatles.

As I gnashed my teeth over suicidal pedestrians and texting drivers, the song Let It Be came on the radio and I suddenly realized that this was a command from the Universe to me, cleverly couched in a hypnotic melody and soothing lyrics, to relax and be a little more mindful as I drive my car. It does me no good to view everyone else as obstacles in my path to somewhere I want to be.

It occured to me that all i've got to do as I travel the long and winding road, is to just act naturally.

We're all so busy searching for something. Maybe we should spend a little less dwelling on how it's all too much.... and a little more time watching rainbows. I clearly needed a reminder that we're all in this together. Instead of worrying about being headed home to another hard day's night, I need to embrace the journey and remember that, for each of us, it really is a magical mystery tour,

So, all together now, let's remember that all you need is love!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I must go home now and make these....

Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Seriously?! It doesn't get much more "FALL IS HERE!!!" than that now, does it?

Behold!

Anyone interested in paying me to sit around and daydream and pontificate all day? Really! Don't be shy.

I have a lot of stuff going on at the moment...outings, projects, challenges, things bubbling in the great unknown. It feels, for the most part, like opportunities, and fun stuff, so the creative and motivational juices are flowing.

My horoscope this week, courtesy of Rob Brezsny (http://www.freewillastrology.com/), was all about possibilities, and pulling up a chair to the table to enjoy the feast.

I find myself wondering why I felt like I needed an invitation to do that in the first place.

How do we keep ourselves going, creatively and motivationally? It can be very hard at times. I'm not sure that I'd call it a cycle....that seems too prescribed or too conventional, somehow. But I am certain that the key to this is inside...and not outside. The inside opens, the outside delivers. The inside closes, well, you get the picture. The possibilities are always there, I guess I just can't always see them.

In any event, I am officially expressing gratitude for this current period of clarity and long distance vision.

Have I already shared this? If not, it's kind of fun:

http://changethis.com/manifesto/show/6.HowToBeCreative

Monday, September 13, 2010

Turn! Turn! Turn!

We are currently experiencing the kind of weather that makes me happy to be alive. (And makes me want to do just about anything OTHER than sit inside and work) Fortunately, I have a lovely window to the outside in my office and avail myself of the fresh air regularly. This past weekend the sky was full of these delicious curlique clouds against a deep blue background, and the evening skies were clear and dark and peppered with starts. Or salted with stars, perhaps, I'm not sure the difference. It is cool in the mornings and evenings, and just lovely in between. Because we've had such a stifling summer, I think this sudden juxtaposition is even more remarkable.

It is amazing what a difference a little weather can make in one's attitude, mindset, and motivation level.

With a little time on my hands I forrayed into my neighborhood Goodwill this weekend. Have I mentioned my pact w/myself to you all? Whereby I am ONLY shopping for clothes at Goodwill or Salvation Army this year? (This pact does not include underthings, or running gear, fyi, but everything else) Well, I must say, I've been very happy with the way things have shaped up thus far. And this weekend was no exception. I managed to procure a super cute little A-line cotton skirt in a pinky/peach print (that I cannot wear too much longer, but perfect for next spring and I won't even be sick of it by then), a nifty little MaxAzria dress, and two pair of corduroys....brown and light blue. All mine, for the low, low price of $18. HA!

Perhaps it is just me, but I LOVE thrifting. And not the "oh look, i found this snazzy Marc Jacobs leather jacket for only $275"...I mean "look! i found these frye boots for six bucks!" THAT'S what i'm talking about people. It is just SO satisfying to hunt, peck and uncover some amazing, gently used, gem of an ensemble and walk out the door spending less than I would on a week of lattes. (Which I don't b/c my husband happens to be the world's best barrista AND he delivers them to my bathroom counter in the mornings so that they are hot and steamingly awaiting me when I emerge! mmmmmmmmmm)

I am SO excited to wear my new cords....they are already broken in, super soft and fit like the dickens.

It can be a bit addictive, actually, thrifting, much like my obsession for agate hunting (which replaced my beach glass hunting addiction). I can spend hhhhhhhhhours hunting for things. And yet, I don't really enjoy shopping, like, not really at all. So, somehow, psychologically, I guess I don't really see thrifting (goodwilling or armying) as shopping so much, as I view it as really big (stinky and needs a good laundering) treasure hunting. Yes, that's it. And the fact that it's next-to-free, well, that's just the frosting on my cocount cake!

So, bring on the turning leaves, and the 40 degree mornings Mother dear....because I am SO ready for you!

Au cinema!

Bonjour mes amis!

I'm on a french jag at the moment, having spent the weekend watching two French films, and reading a great collection of essays about people's experiences living in Paris. The films were, "Welcome" and "The Class" (both of which had, originally, other titles in French). The first is poignant and heartbreaking in a very classic french cinema sort of way. I highly recommend it, it's about a young Iraqi man who is trying to get, illegally, from Iraq to London, via the crossing at Calais. The second is based on a novel by a young French school teacher about his experiences teaching in inner-city Paris (doesn't matter where your inner-city happens to be, clearly the issues are mostly the same). It's a thin soup, but it was interesting and gave me the opportunity to catch up on my slang. Next in the queue is The Hours, which was highly rated and is a family drama sort of thing like, perhaps Enchanted April and the like. Will keep you posted (whether you want me to or not....since it's my blog, dammit!)

As for the book, it is called Paris Was Ours and I am thoroughly enjoying and would highly recommend reading it.... though it's probably more entertaining for anyone who has also lived in Paris, and has come away with their own sense of ownership thereof as a result (which we all do, though I'm not sure what that's about...will explore another day perhaps).

Here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/Paris-Was-Ours-Penelope-Rowlands/dp/1565129539

Bon journee!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Seen this morning

On a bumper sticker on my way to work: "Organized people are just too lazy to look for their stuff." What a funny new way to look at it!

I'm driven to organize and have been since birth, not out of laziness, mind you, just the opposite, out of an obsessive need to control. However, the upside to organization, as I age, is that it has turned out to be very helpful as I succumb to increasing memory loss.

The trick now is not so much remembering where I've put something, but being able to remember for long enough what it is I am actually looking FOR.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

An open letter to the media

Dear Network News Channels,

It really looks like you guys are having a lot of fun with this Qur'an burning Pastor in Florida. I realize, weather cataclysms aside, that there isn't much going on around the planet at the moment (I mean that's sell able news, of course). Let me see if I've got this right. Some two-bit man of the cloth, with a very small following plants a few signs in the yard of his church and announces he's going to do something silly, yet potentially inflammatory and symbolically offensive to a whole sector of the planet's humanity. Newsworthy in the first place? I don't know. People do silly, offensive things all day long. However, because of the initial coverage, and the resulting input from armed service across the world, and all of the flap this has created, this man has been given an absurd amount of power.

If my neighbor (not the one who happens to be Muslim, but the one on the other side who does not) happened to walk out his front door one day, and set the Qur'an on fire in his driveway, no one would be any the wiser. Maybe the book had been sitting in a box in his basement, and had become moldy with water damage. Rather than give it away and send the mold to someone else's house, he decided he would just destroy the book. Maybe it was a whole box of religious books, maybe there was even an old bible in there, too. Or, maybe he just wasn't a big fan of Islam, and burning the book was something he felt like he needed to do. Whatever. I would take a quick peep outside to make sure no one's house was on fire, and then I wouldn't give it a second thought.

I have an idea, a way to diffuse this whole ridiculous issue, and just make this whole thing stop right now. Let's just not cover any more of this. Let's just turn off the lights. Pull the plug. Drive the trucks back to the stations. Call it a day. If he and his faithful want to start a little bonfire tomorrow, have at it. I don't care what he's burning. I do hope he singes his eyebrows in the process, however, so that he learns a lesson about playing with fire.

Some wise man said once "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." While I can apply this to Pastor Bob or whatever his name is, should there end up being global retribution for his idiocy, I hold you, the media, responsible.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Dear Friday

Dear Friday,

I love you. I love the promise your morning holds and how coffee seems to somehow brew up just a little better for you than it does the rest of the weekdays. I love the way you make me feel like a two hour lunch isn't really that inappropriate. I love how your afternoons just fly by and suddenly it's 4:34 and the end is in sight. I love how often my colleagues are gone on your day. It's calming and refreshing. I love how I feel like I can wear just about anything on your day, including a super cute little cotton dress and the aforereferenced Flinstone shoes and feel A-OK with that decision.

I really love your evenings which, for me, are usually free and clear. No events, no rush to be anywhere, nothing but a few hours of open expanse, a yummy little meal and, if i'm lucky, you've arranged for there to be a red envelope in my mailbox when I get home.

I love how plucky you are, all "C'mon, get happy!" and "Screw it....that can wait until Monday." (Poor Monday)

I really appreciate everything you do for me Friday and I just wanted to take a moment to say thanks and that I think you're REALLY swell!

xo
Me

Monday, August 30, 2010

I sit, therefore....i'm sitting.

I finally got around to actually reading my copy of Shambhala Sun, which I think, since I've been feeling very much like a complete and total failure at my meditation practice, was put off because I am feeling so guilty. There's an article by Norman Fischer where he talks about reinvesting oneself in the practice and taking it slowly by giving oneself a two week trial. He has all these USEFUL tips like getting up earlier. (Really? Never thought of that...um, hello, if I got up any earlier, i'd never be going to bed in the first place, but anyway).

And then, somewhere else in the issue there's another article where the author talks about the quality of the meditative experience. And I had an epiphany. Or rather, his wisdom became my epiphany (i'm never sure how that works). Anyhoo. I'm always waiting for something to sort of happen when I meditate (I know, I know, WRONG WRONG WRONG) but, truly, I'm sort of waiting for a "nothingness" to happen, since that's the point. Only I hardly ever get to nothingness, because I'm too busy quieting the mind. I get like a second of nothingness and then I'm back to wrestling with the walrus of worry. So, whoever it was (to whom I'm now not giving ample credit) said that just sitting IS meditating. That's it, he said, just sit there. Whatever happens while you're sitting IS your practice. That's why they call it practice. We're not supposed to get good, we're supposed to sit there and struggle and that's the point and that's just hunky dorey.

This takes all the pressure off for me. All I have to do is sit. I can sit. I'm sitting right now. I sit a lot. I can (generally) just sit still for 15 or 20 minutes. Yes! This I can do.

So, getting up this morning (earlier, sigh) to just sit, seemed, somehow, a little more do-able. I sat and I stayed awake and it was all good. Never mind that the walrus spent most of that time sharpening his tusks, there were a few good moments of just....nothing.

We're not really supposed to talk about our meditation practices. At least that's what Jon Kabat-Zinn says (and, clearly, he should know) but I'm writing about it in case anyone happens to be struggling with this pressure of expectation in their own meditations.

They say that 90% of success in life is "just showing up." I'm going to apply that to my practice and hope that 90% of success in meditation is "just sitting."

We shall see.