Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Ah, but I was premature in writing the post titled "The Blahs", for there is another item to add to that list: My grandma died.

She's had Alzheimer's, and several illnesses in the past few years. My mom and she had a terrible relationship over the years. I was sort of close to her when I was young, but this eroded or was never quite, and we weren't close in recent years. She never met OC.

There's a long story here, of course, but I don't think I'm ready to tell it.

I have been feeling okay; have been thinking about what I want to do and then doing those things. Now, I'm feeling tired. I've been a trooper, and I need a break.

I need comfort, support, to not have to be strong, just for a little while...

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Blahs

How was your weekend? Mine was blah.

Went yarn shopping, hooray! Spent much money at yarn store, blah. Then there was blah blah cleaning, blah blah laundry, blah blah bringing in firewood, blah blah my dad had a stroke and is in the hospital. And, my uncle is having health problems, resisting going to the doctor, for further blahs.

My biological father had a blockage of his right carotid artery, and he had a stroke which has paralyzed his left side. How permanently he is paralyzed, I don't know. There is talk of performing surgery to remove the blockage, and of physical therapy. There is a danger, however, of the blockage becoming dislodged which would kill him instantly.

My uncle has heart problems, and had a heart attack in December, which I didn't know about until recently. I don't know many of the details, except that my aunt is very worried and is having a hard time because he is very resistant to going to the doctor. I haven't visited them yet. I must make a plan to do so very soon.

My biological father and I, we don't have a great relationship. Visiting a relative in the hospital with whom you have a great relationship? Awkward. Can be difficult to come up with things to talk about, mostly because of the hospital milieu. Visiting a relative in the hospital with whom your relationship is tenuous? Very, very awkward and strange and weird, which becomes more so when you run out of things to talk about.

I've had several people say that it did him a lot of good for me to visit. I know the people who said this meant well. I'm even willing to agree. My reaction, however, was that I don't want to hear this. Why? After much meditation and soul searching (which means half a second later, because it's not deep but rather, simmers on the surface) I realized it's because I don't want to be made responsible for his happiness again. I feel particularly sensitive to any suggestion to that effect, no matter how normal a thing it might be to say to someone else.

As a kid, I was made to feel responsible for his happiness and I believed it. Since my parents were divorced and I visited my dad every other weekend, and he spent a lot of time feeling depressed and telling me how depressed he felt, I, in turn, felt like a failure. This is not a feeling I want to relive, and so I'm very sensitive to it. It has taken me many many years to learn how to cope with that feeling, and to come to the realization that it was not my fault, and that it was unfair to do that to a kid, and that my feelings are perfectly normal. It's a little too soon for me to stick my toe in those old waters again, even though I have new information and coping skills.

Of course, I can see how in a given situation, a visit from a relative would do someone in the hospital a lot of good. It is a normal thing for most people, but it is not normal for me. I want very badly to implement my fabulous/crappy Avoidance Tactic. That works well, except when the people whom you are avoiding, die. Then you have lost your chance to talk to them and are then left with bad, unfinished feelings.

Honestly, who the hell am I kidding? It's a sucky tactic. I am having a hard time handling it right now.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Streetcar Named "Bite Me"

The streetcar and I don't get along. I am usually a half block away, perpendicular to the tracks with buildings in the line of sight so I don't know it's there until it lurches forward, leaving the stop I had almost reached and cheerfully blowing raspberries as it departs. There are usually 18 minutes between trains, which is too long to wait.

Lately I have walked, more often than not, the 22 blocks between OC's school and my office. That part has been good, as it gives me 30 minutes of exercise twice a day. Hey, isn't that what you're supposed to get? Anyway, my butt is grateful for it. And, for the most part, it hasn't rained during the walks so it's nice. The only thing is......what, you thought I might get through a post without complaining? Have we met? Right.

I bring my knitting with me to work on during lunch. When I can outsmart the streetcar and actually catch it, it's a great way to spend those 15 minutes of travel time. Hey, every little bit of free time in which I can do something fun, I take advantage. It's better than mindlessly flapping my gums on the phone like so many dear young things like to do at high volume while riding to wherever they go. There is nothing like looking forward to a peaceful ride to work and instead being forced to overhear conversations like, "He talked to that other girl....and oh my god can you believe it....she is really ugly......that is so boring......oh my god!" Yeah. Not fun.

I will be starting a new knitting project this weekend! That will bring my knitting project total up to two. Currently, I am working on making the scarf which was my practice piece. I also have two crochet projects going as well, in case you thought I was a slacker.

There is a local store that is well known for their sewing and quilting supplies, which I found out has just opened a knitting store. There is even a place for kids to play! Those people are geniuses. I just hope their yarn is reasonably priced, but if not, never fear! I'll use my travel Visa so that the purchase will go toward points to buy a plane ticket the next time we go on vacation (after Ireland). That just makes good sense. How frugal and thrifty is that???

Don't answer that...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I Give Up Titling Today

Since we were home on Monday, it totally ruined the cats' sleeping schedule. They tolerate our constant presence on Saturdays and Sundays because they know they have five days to make up for it. An extra day to put up with their humans proved to be taxing and tedious for their delicate, fluffy sensibilities. Poor Dakota was sacked out by Monday afternoon, completely exhausted from all the awake time.

I've got nothing interesting to report today (as opposed to what? ha.) so enjoy my daughter's five-year old witticisms:

"Mommy, it smells like Princess!"

(This was in response to smelling her new handsoap, which was decorated with a Disney princess character. What does a Princess smell like? This soap, apparently. And by the way, what isn't decorated with some kind of character anymore? Sheesh.)

* * * * * * * * * *

OC: Mommy, I'm coloring.

Me: Oh, that's good honey.

OC: I haven't colored in a long time. Not in 60 months.

(OC's favorite numbers are 1600 and 60. I have no idea why, but everything is either 1600 minutes or 60 hours/days/whatever. P.S. She is 62 months old.)

* * * * * * * * * *

This is me now:

One more thing, please take a moment to look through the links list, titled "visit these", because I updated them to include the new blogs I'm enjoying.

That's it. The only other thing I have to say is, thank goodness it's almost Friday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

We don't have cable because it is sinful. Ha ha! I'm kidding, I just wanted to freak you out.

We don't have cable because it costs $60 a month, and my husband feels (strongly) that the money would be better spent on other things. It's fine with me, because to make up for missing some of my favorite cable shows (Daily Show, Real World, Good Eats, E!True Hollywood Story, Inside the Actor's Studio, Evening at the Improv, Behind the Music, to name just a few...) he bought a roof-mounted rotating antenna. Due to its rotating capacity, we receive 16 channels.

Other than "Gilmore Girls", I don't have many (any) network shows I need to watch. (Yes, need!) None. Since we no longer have cable to love and waste valuable time with, I have had to find a new show to love, and I have. It's a little embarrassing to admit to, though. It's a reality show. See? I know. But, wait! Before you judge too harshly, let me say that you just wouldn't believe how absorbing it is until you've watched it for yourself. It's Wife Swap. In case you aren't familiar, or just aren't admitting to watching it yourself, I will explain the premise: Take two families, swap wives, watch the ensuing hilarity and strife. What a formula!

The first week, the wife lives by the house rules, but by the second week she makes her own rules to which everyone must adhere. It's high drama, let me tell you. The past shows have included a traditional southern family switching wives with a southern, yet environmentalist family. Oh yeah, talk about clash of the titans. Then there was rich Manhattan wife who switched with rural, two-job working wife; dairy farmer wife switched with southern belle, etc.

Yes, it's predictable; Yes, it's contrived; Yes, there are stereotypes galore; Yes, it's edited to within an inch of it's life to get the desired results! What do you want, it's reality tv? It's also GREAT.

Last night they aired a compact, ADD-viewer edition which summarized eight shows that had previously aired more than a year previous. There was a recap of the families, a quick summation of their experiences, and then an update on each family in the year since the swap.

What I love about the show is how these uncomfortable situations are created, and then people learn something new from it. That, and it's kind of fun to watch people squirm with irritation and for a complete lack of the ability to grasp another person's way of life.

Lessons learned are things like how to be less rigid, realizing the need to spend more time with their family, how to reduce the chaos, or whatever. Many times, the wives are thrilled just to be back with their family, and the families thrilled to have the wife back. Almost all the episodes induce some kind of trauma, and almost all are lifechanging experiences for those involve.

I just don't understand one thing: In one instance, a woman who was a cleaning fanatic was swapped into a family that had 22 pets roaming about the house at will. So there were several "accidents". But, they didn't show the accidents, they fuzzed them up. What for, I want to know? If you're talking about dog poop and then concentrate the camera on some fuzzy, dark pile on the floor, what are we supposed to do with that? We know it's dog poop. I don't think the showing of the dog poop will traumatize some poor dear thing watching the show. I mean really, it's not as if anybody's eating it. That's on that other reality show.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Happy President's Day

In the morning we:

- breakfasted
- removed the protective tarp covering the artichoke plants
- folded laundry
- watched "Monsters, Inc"

In the afternoon we:

- lunched
- pruned rosebushes
- rode a tricycle
- climbed a camellia
- brought in firewood
- made cookies
- folded laundry

There is a kind of peace in doing an activity like pruning roses. It's very zen; absorbing without being taxing; repetitive without being boring. It's a cold day, but not windy, and so being outside is pleasant as long as you are dressed warmly. The air smells of spring marching in from the distance and carrying the odor of mulch, a hint of the warmth to come, and an energetic buzzy feeling that the plant life is nearly ready to wake up from its long slumber and share all of their secrets with us.

Plus, it was a nice change of pace from the laundry.

Now, we are inside enjoying the warm fire, eating cookies, drinking tea, and enjoying the Olympics coverage. Despite all that laundry, it's been a good day. Not only because there are cookies, (although let me just say that for me, the mere presence of cookies can singlehandedly ensure a good day) but because there is calm. There is a conspicuous lack of stress, all while things are getting done. I don't feel overwhelmed, I don't feel tired. It feels great.

Meanwhile in the other room, more laundry waits to be folded.

Friday, February 17, 2006

I Used to Live in a Temperate Climate

It's a beautiful, sunny winter day. Let me tell you why I have a problem with that:

The sun + dryness + bitterly cold air + wind + static electricity + overheated office + wool sweater I wore to the overheated office = one cranky Occidental Girl.

The sun is boring its bright way deep into my brain, and is in collusion with my sinuses to produce a migraine of monstrous proportions. Meanwhile, my hair is enjoying gravity-defying states of weightlessness and spends more time floating in the air above my head and sticking to anything that comes within a half inch of it, including my scarf, gloves, and face; than sitting on my shoulders like obedient hair should.

The gorgeous, heinous sunlight coming through the window produces a greenhouse effect which necessitates shedding lovely winter sweaters indoors, during weather that would kill you to do so out of doors.

I want 45 degree, rainy days because they don't give me headaches, or make me alternately hot and then freezing. Those are the days when I only suffer the occasional flat tire.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

The Unbearable Lateness of Being Me

Yesterday I was very late getting to work. I had overslept, and woke to my alarm which had been going off for nearly an hour. The alarm is tuned to an am newsstation, and even though it’s loud it’s easier to ignore than a buzzing sound. I think I even had dreams regarding what was on the news, which was weird.

When I got to work I asked my boss if I could talk to him for a minute. We went to a small conference room and shut the door.

I told him that I have been running behind lately, for several weeks now. The past two weeks when OC was sick was really hard. It drug us all down. I probably sent her to school too much. Although she didn’t have a fever or anything, I felt bad about it. I wanted to keep her home for a week, just to rest up and get all well, but my schedule doesn’t allow for that. I have been getting to work late, which means I have to stay late to make up for it. I hate that. I told him that I wasn't trying to be a bad employee, and when there are extra things to do it means I get behind, and it's hard to catch up.

He was very nice, listened politely, and then asked what he could do for me. I wasn't sure. I just needed to talk about everything, so he knew what was going on and that it wasn't that I was trying to be flaky. He sympathized, and said he was glad I acknowledged it but that it wasn't a problem workwise to be late. He also said he thought it likely didn't help me when I had to stay late. He offered something to think about: a reduced schedule. But, he said it was something to think about and do only if really necessary. I said I was interested in thinking about it.

I am really interested in doing that. It would mean reduced money and reduced benefits, but it also means a little more free time. I crave time like I crave chocolate: way down deep in my bones and in my gut; time that is not governed or managed or accounted for I feel a visceral need for, like I need air and water.

I crave to experience feelings of satisfaction, in small, not so obvious ways. It’s a craving to know that my child has had enough sleep, that she has a good lunch, that she feels loved and secure in her relationship with me; to know that my house is in order and I can find things when I need them; that my husband and I have our workspaces, and that we can have people over without being embarrassed at the state of disarray.

There is so much to do every day. Lunches to pack, dinners to create, grocery shopping for the week, cats to cater to, and all the rest. The laundry, it mocks me; multiplying itself in great numbers while we are at work. I wash and dry many loads, and as it sits in clean piles, unfolded of course, it watches me walk by and laughs. I think I even hear it saying, “hee hee hee, you’ll never catch up with me!” I could be imagining that, but I think if it could talk, that’s what it would say.

I know my experience is not unique, that I am not special in feeling this way. Everyone feels this way at some point, to some degree, no matter how many kids they have or don’t have, if they are married or single, if they live close to work or commute, if they work or stay at home.

Yesterday I was behind a Tri Met bus that had an advertisement for their transit system, touting all the great things you can go and do by bus and MAX. This sign said, “Find Time” and pictured a tea cup in a serene little setting. I remember thinking, “Where is this time of which you speak?” Lead me to it, and I will follow.

Instead, I went to work.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Solving the World's Problems, One at a Time

I've heard several reports covering the heated debates currently taking place in different parts of the country regarding what science class curriculums may include; the choices being intelligent design, creationism, and evolution. Lawsuits against school boards have been brought, school textbooks changed again and again, disclaimers added to texts to occlude one form of thought or another, and so on. All of this hubbub brought about by passionate people who feel strongly about the topic and their own personal beliefs.

It occurs to me that maybe this is an impressive amount of energy being spent for naught. After all, we don't have any definitive answers to offer in answer to this question, do we? Creationism requires faith, and while there is some physical evidence to support this theory, it isn't conclusive. Faith requires belief even when conclusive physical evidence does not exist. Neither does conclusive evidence exist, at least not in the quantities to have widespread definitive support from the science community, to support Evolution. Intelligent Design is a sort of hybrid of the two, allowing for possibilities, but is rather nebulous for practical purposes.

There are two things that each of these ideas have in common: 1) None have been proven to the point of being universally accepted, and 2) People have strong, visceral reactions to the one they don't espouse being taught to their children.

I offer a solution. This is a debate about what to teach in science class, right? It seems to me that in science class, what should be taught is all that we know about science. It does not mean that we teach that science has all the answers, nor does it mean that we exclude other possibilities. I think we should be very frank in saying this to children. The Big Bang theory is widely accepted, but it isn't a perfect theory. That doesn’t mean that it should be ignored, nor should it exclude Creationist belief. In fact, I boldly argue that the two can stand alongside one another.

Science by its very nature has always evolved. We know more today than we did yesterday, and so on. As technology advances, theories and ideas can be proven or disproven, while adding new to the list. More people enter the field professionally each year, thereby adding their own curiosity and research to the body of knowledge already obtained. It makes sense to revise what we know to remain current with what we know to be proven. In other words, we should teach children exactly what we have discovered up to now of our scientific body of knowledge.

As for Creationism and Intelligent Design? Talk about them, too. It doesn’t mean that faith will be undermined. In fact, I think it can foster even more desire in children to espouse their faith. Besides, you can have faith in G-d and also believe in science, because the science is not conclusive. Teach what is provable. Teach what is theory. Talk about aspects of each that make sense, and where we still have questions. It is science class, after all; why wouldn't we expose children to all the reasonable knowledge and theories available? It might inspire more than one or two of them to follow a path to become a scientist or theologian, which would only add to our body of knowledge and further us down the path toward The Answer. Let it be a question for them, with many possible answers, which is the way it exists for us as adults.

Knowledge and faith are two very different belief systems we have to explain our existence. The question we share as humans tend to promote interest and curiosity in us to keep exploring and expanding what we know. We all exist in the natural world, which we can touch, feel, smell, and experience in a physical way. Many espouse spiritual beliefs as well, which are just as real, not to mention an important and mystical aspect of the human experience. Science class can be an opportunity to stop fighting over this, and simply acknowledge our attempts at reconciling the two as being unfinished.

In other words, teaching can be inclusive rather than exclusive. I think it's okay to say that we just don't know yet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

She Wants Pink, What a Surprise!

I am working on an afghan to give to some friends who are getting married in June. (Note to self: June of THIS year.) I have mentioned this, but I thought I'd say it again just in case you had forgotten. Mainly I say it again to remind myself that I have precious few months to finish, and that if I KEEP SCREWING IT UP, I’m not going to have it ready in time.

I had completed 8 rows but it still didn't look right. It wasn't because of mistakes, although I did find a few upon closer inspection. The pattern didn't look quite right, not like it did in the picture, although I was sure I followed the instructions perfectly.

Yesterday at my lunch break, I read over the instructions again. I tried an experiment, whereupon I learned that I had completed 7 rows of garbage. I had been reading the instructions incorrectly, although it turns out that it's not exactly clear, until you do the work, that they mean to alternate between working the next long double crochet into the row below with the row you're doing. Argh! I ripped it out, all the way down to the first row, which was right because it was the first row past the beginning chain and a different stitch. The good news is that since then I've been able to complete 7 rows, so I'm right back where I was. This time, it's right.

I'm glad I ripped it out, but as I looked at the huge pile of unravelled yarn at my feet, I fought the urge to cry. It was all very melodramatic, I know. I have precious few moments to myself in which to indulge in hobbies that I love, and having to start over again didn't do much for my relaxation level. I cannot tell you how often I had thought to myself, 'This pattern is so easy - crocheting is fun - such pretty yarn - I will get this done in no time - Ooooh, I'm about to change colors - la la la la la ’, and after I figured out what I was doing wrong, I felt like I had wasted so much time.

There are many generations of women in my family who crocheted, knitted, and sewed. I could feel their spirits laughing and then crying with me, sympathizing with my plight which they had experiences themselves many times. I could imagine their grandmotherly talks amongst themselves:

"Naomi, she must've learned from you! Look at how many mistakes she's made!"

"Oh, can it Maud. She liked me more than you, and you couldn't crochet a straight line to save your life!"

Or something like that. I learned to crochet from my mom when I was a kid, and she learned it from my Great Grandma Squeezie, who also sewed A LOT. I remember the huge quilt frame that she used to set up in her living room, how I could crawl underneath of it and marvel at all that fabric. I don't know if my mom's mom did much in the way of fiber arts. I associate her with high heels and nail polish, not yarn and thread. My mom still makes blankets, many of them for Project Linus, and has recently learned to knit.

I love this tradition of craft, done by my ancestors out of need. Most of them were farm wives, who made nearly all of the family's clothing and bedlinens by hand. This necessity led to an outlet of creativity and hopefully, fun, and I love that I am somehow a part of that. I like making something with my hands, and having something to show for it that will last.

I hope OC wants to learn these things, too, and I'll try not to be disappointed if she's not. She has already placed her order for things she would like me to make for her: a pink scarf, pink sweater, and a pink blanket.

Monday, February 13, 2006

In Which Evoked are Musical Reprisals from Fiddler on the Roof

Over the weekend we decided to use a gift certificate we received as a wedding present to a local restaurant. (Well duh it was local: What were we going to do, hop on our private jet and go somewhere non-local for dinner, like we were Richard Gere and Julia Roberts?)

So yeah, the restaurant was local. Now that that's cleared up, let me also say it was fabulous. I had a scallop and shrimp peanut curry, with peppers and basil; OH had a mexican shrimp thing that was spicey and creamy. We had some good cocktails, good conversation, and it was fun because we were all dressed up. We were going to try and get tickets for the Opera (which is so Pretty Woman, except for important differences like the one where I am not a prostitute), figuring that we could get some cheap balcony seats, but there weren't any double seats available. We ended up going to the symphony.

Going to the symphony for Valentine's Day has become our tradition. For our first Valentine's Day, we took a little trip. OH made the arrangements secretly so when he picked me up from work Friday afternoon I didn't know where we were going or how we were going to get there.

It turned out to be Seattle! By train! In the Billiard Room! Whoops, I got carried away there. We got delayed in Portland so we passed the time in the Union Station bar driking wine while listening to a very soulful singer. It was quite a fun way to pass the time. I think I called a few of my friends after I got drunk, too. I'm sure they appreciated that.

When we got to Seattle, we checked into a suite where OH had made sure to have a beautiful bouquet of flowers waiting. It was so romantic, I couldn't believe it.The next day we walked around downtown, and OH got to see Pike Place Market for the first time. We had lunch in a little deli, watched the fish throwing, browsed the shops including a bookstore where we planned our next vacation, and enjoyed the waterfront and views of Elliot Bay. We happened into a a jewelry store, where I received my first piece of jewelry: a blue-green opal pendant.

That night, we went out to dinner at an Italian restaurant. After dinner OH asked me to wait inside the doors while he went out to the curb around the corner. He motioned for me to join him, and waiting for us was a horse-drawn carriage to take us to the symphony. I was absolutely blown away! He had made all these arrangements ahead of time, I had no idea about any of it. It was one wonderful surprise after another.

We enjoyed a really great evening hearing an elaborate piano piece, and Brahm's 3rd symphony. The energy from all that planning really got to OH, as he dozed a bit...

All I have for photographic evidence are crappy disposable camera prints of us in the carriage. I'll have to dig them up and post them. I think I am way overdue to post pictures.

For the actual Valentine's Day that has landed on a weekday these past few years, we will be going out for pizza and beer. This is also a tradition.

Last year, we went to a restaurant without a reservation. Boy, was that dumb! We left because there was only going to be an hour and a half wait, and went to the Lucky Labrador for pizza and beer. It was a really good dinner. Now we have our traditional fancy dinner date on the weekend complete with a trip to the symphony, and our equally traditional pizza and beer date on the weekday.

Tradition! That which makes beer and pizza meaningful.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Retail Score

I purchased some very lovely goods last night at Nordstrom Rack, and I just have to tell you about it. (All four of you that read this blog!)

> One light brown washable suede jacket, regularly $128.

> One Columbia Sportswear jacket, which I plan to use as my ski jacket, regularly $50.

The total I paid for these two items: $22! I was giddy for hours afterward. Buying things at such low prices feels so good, like you've won, or something.

You may be wondering how I managed this amazing feat of consumer procurement? There were several pieces to it. First, I had two things to return: The DKNY capris that did not fit, and the sparkly blue top that I really liked, but decided that I did not love for a couple of reasons (I didn't have anything to wear under it, and it was too short; it didn't go to my waist), therefore it had to go back. That gave me a $24 credit.

The suede jacket was marked $60, but was on a rack where everything was another 25% off. The Columbia jacket was $20. I also had a coupon, so all totalled I only shelled out $22.

Which leaves money in the bank to fight again another day.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

An Original Knock Knock Joke

OC's joke, which she made up herself:

Knock Knock.

Who's There?


Stinkypants Who?

Stinkypants riding on sixteen hundred stinky skateboards!


My child is genius, yes? She thinks this joke is hilarious. It is her fallback, as well as premium, knock-knock joke.

I have to send you here to read this post about cats. Sooooo funny! And FYI, the shrimp to which she refers are her pet shrimp. They are alive, and have a lovely home in a fishbowl. They're kind of cool looking; see a previous entry on that blog for pictures.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Stacking the Odds in Favor of Herself

In the lobby of my building, we were waiting for an elevator. OC asked me, "Which one to you think will come fiwst, mama?"

There are three elevators. I pointed to the one in the middle.

"What about you, which do you think will come first?" I asked her. She thought for a minute, and then said, "All of them."

When the elevator showed up, it happened to be the middle one.

OC exclaimed, "We were both right!"

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Rote Memorization

I know my library card number by memory; all 14 digits. I have memorized my credit card number. Does this mean I am online too much, buying things and placing holds on library books? Or does everyone know these thing by heart, too?

Last night, I went to see Sarah Vowell at Borders with Vendela, her friend J, and OC. I gathered that talking to crowds wasn't Sarah's favorite thing. She seemed pretty bored. She read from one of her her op-ed pieces, which are being published just for this month in her hometown newspaper, the New York Times.

I had prepared OC for this by talking about what an author is, and how all the books she has in her room were written by people who were called authors. She was like, "Oh." When we got to the event and were waiting for it to start, Vendela mentioned the movie The Incredibles, in which Sarah did the voice of Violet Incredible. I was all Duh! I could've talked about that, not just the author thing! Thank goodness there are people who think, or OC would be doomed to my boring mommyspeak her whole life. OC recognized Sarah's voice right away as Violet Incredible. She got excited about that for about 8 seconds, then went back to being bored.

Sarah said her readers are more often than not prone to say things like, "I heard what your book was about, and I was like blech, but then I read it, and I liked it". She said that her readers were not likely to have actually read a history book for fun. I'm not sure if this was a condemnation of her readers, her writing style, or the marketing of her books. Or even if it was a condemnation at all.

I was thrilled to meet her. Being a reader of actual history books, I enjoy her books for many reasons. For one thing, they are entertaining. They immerse the reader into history in a casual way. It's history for the layman. It's like sitting and listeneing to people who were there tell the story, with the details that do not accompany actual history books, and with commentary and a perspective from the 21st century. At least, that's what her last two books were about. Take the Cannoli was a book of essays which did not necessarily have to do with history, but which I enjoyed very much.

I can understand her trepidation about gatherings like the one last night. As soon as she opened the forum for questions, the first question was from a wing nut who asked what she thought the difference was between George W, Jim Jones, and Osama. The whole room was thinking, "Duh!" And also, "Shut up, we want to talk about the book, wing nut!" She kind of faltered a bit but the guy kept talking, most of which I couldn't hear. It was such a nutty question, but then she turned it around on the guy by telling him that it sounded like he had the answer already. Next!
Sarah talked about how she liked herself much better edited than live, because she liked taking the time to refine and craft what she really means to say. I feel that way about myself, too. I am much better when edited. I am not like the Irish, who are quick with wit and one-liners. You want a cutting invective? Sure, just give me an hour. Somehow, that just isn't as effective as off-the-cuff witticism.

I was afraid of something happening, and then it did happen. During the portion of the evening known as the book signing, when I got up to the front of the line I suddenly took on the persona of the Effusive Blonde Woman. This is someone who talks without looking you in the eye, and who throws her head back to get the hair out of her face in a manner that can only be described as showy.

I can assure you I didn't mean to be showy at all, I was nervous. It didn't stop there. I was way too smiley and goofy, and did not say at all what I meant to say. What I did say was, "We're planning to visit all the state capitol buildings." To which Sarah gave me a reference to look up and read about a woman who did that, and she thought I might like it. How nice of her. I could've just said, "How nice of you." But no.

I told Sarah we had already visited a few capitols, and that our thing was to take a picture of the entrance, then go inside and take a picture of the ceiling and a picture of the floor, then a picture of the view from the entrance. I wanted to say a lot more, and to even mention that I acknowledged that she was a writer whose books I enjoyed and whatnot. But no, I talked about state capitols, effusively, while showily shaking my hair. Ick. And then Sarah said, "It's an (interesting? I forget what adjective she used) way to frame your life."

I'm still thinking about that. Did she mean, yeah it is interesting to travel with a goal in mind. Or, did she mean that it was totally lame? Maybe she saves her praise for non-effusive non-blonde women. Or maybe I read it wrong, being concerned as I was about being too showy and effusive. I don't know. Either way, I think she is a funny and interesting writer and it was great to meet her. On the way home, I got to think of all the great things I could've said, had I had the chance to edit myself, and not turned into EBW. Those things included:

  • Congratulations on your success! It's great you are able to make a living traveling and writing about things that interest you. What has always stuck with me was when you wrote about how your great-grandmother made her living by picking cotton until her fingers bled, and how you always remembered that as you sat at your computer inside your apartment with creature comforts. That is cool.

  • I enjoy your work very much. And, I do read actual history books for fun.

  • The food allergies you have? I have the same allergies. (intense bonding would ensue...)

See? I had some good stuff there, but it was lost in all the effusiveness.

And now if you'll excuse me, I have to go look through the photo gallery titled, 'Jessica & Nick: The single life' at people.com, because celebrity gossip does wonders to soothe my soul especially now, after I've acted like a jerk....again.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Welcome to Monday, Whereupon the Shit Starts All Over Again

We had a wonderful weekend at the beach. The weather was perfect, by my definition. Friday night a great storm rolled onshore. It didn't do much damage, but exhibited awesome energy and slanty rain. I love storms, especially storms while at the beach where I can sit inside cozily while watching the melee outside. The crashing waves were mesmerizing.

Saturday was still windy and rainy as we ventured out on a walk to Depoe Bay. We ate lunch, shopped for a sweatshirt for OC and jewelry for me, and were successful on both counts. Sunday was glorious: sunny, warm and windfree. February + Oregon Coast = AMAZING. We celebrated the occasion of finally seeing the sunshine with ice cream cones. We also visited a rare book shop where I found a 1902 copy of The Hounds of the Baskervilles, and then we went to the Oregon Parks-operated whale visitor's center.

Anticipating the hours of free time in which we were to behold and revel, I brought along a project: a crocheted blanket to give as a wedding gift to our friends. I spent hours counting and recounting the first chained row. I had to get the damn thing right from the beginning, and don't you know every time I counted the row I came up with a different number? It was annoying, as I had hoped to maximize my free weekend by crocheting the hell out of it and getting really far into it. But! I finally got it right, and made amazing progress Saturday and Sunday. It's a lovely, interesting interwoven ripple pattern, in shades of blue and a neutral offwhite. It is quite easy once you get the hang of it, so when I got the count right it went quickly which is good because the wedding is in June.

And now, it's Monday and I'm back in the salt mines. Tonight, however, will be fun. Sarah Vowell is going to be speaking at a bookstore, and I remembered to bring a copy of one of her books to have autographed. Which is to say, I am going out! To a literary event! Which I rarely do! I am meeting my friend (she's gorgeous and fit and supermodelish so we'll call her Vendela) and I'm bringing OC. It's time OC was introduced to an author. She's five, after all, and needs that kind of hero.

I know what I want to say to Sarah, and it's the usual claptrap about "OMG I love you! You're an excellent writer!" and the like. I also want to tell her how cool it is she gets to write about fun things, the same things that I like: historically-significant places, and national parks. I think the connection between historical events and people to our own lives is important to realize. She wrote about her Cherokee ancestors and the Trail of Tears, which makes the whole story much more interesting when your relatives are involved. If you know about the Civil War, you may only passingly acknowledge it or know vague dates or the more notable aspects but it may seem distant event. But if you know how your ancestors were involved or were affected, it's much more personal and real. It's a history that we all share, and that is why history is so cool. (You might now be thinking, "it sounds like this woman could be into geneaology..." whereby you would be right. Stick me in a library for hours at a time to do research into family backgrounds, or anything, and I am a happy girl!)

So yeah, I'm enjoying my life. I'm looking forward to tonight, as much for spending time with my good friend and my wonderful daughter, as meeting one of my favorite authors. It makes Mondays all the more bearable.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

One Chicken, Two Chickens, Three Chickens...

I may be too soon in saying this (which explains the clever "counting chickens before they hatch" reference in the title; and you thought I was mental), but I think the three of us have reached the apex of illness and are on the mend. I feel better today, and so do OH and OC. The fact that I feel better could be due to getting a solid six hours worth of sleep, as opposed to the previous nights' three hours. There is no way to feel good after only three hours of sleep. I am just not that young anymore.

It's not that I went to bed late because I was knitting or something. No, I actually went to bed at a decent hour that would have allowed for a good night's sleep. It's that my dearest husband is still sick, and has this hacking cough the poor guy. The coughing woke me up, and after many many instances of this, I just couldn't fall asleep again. My body's adrenaline system is strong. But last night? I took a melatonin and the other prescription sleepytime pills which make everything better.

This weekend we will go to the Oregon Coast to stay in our oceanfront condo. It was my family's timeshare condo, where we spent two weeks every year, one in the winter and one in the summer. My mom sold the summer week, but I've bought the February week for us to keep. At first I didn't know if I would want it at all.

The place has a lot of memories, and I wasn't sure if it would be a good experience to be there or not. Last year was the first year I stayed there alone with OC, and I was most trepidatious at the thought of sleeping in the main bedroom, the room where my parents used to sleep. I wasn't sure I could do it. I was prepared to sleep on the couch, or if need be, drive another hour south to my aunt and uncle's house for the night.

Although I avoided the bedroom as long as possible before finally going in, the time we spent there was wonderful. The memories were comforting. I remember how my dad would be in the kitchen cooking, and I can see my mom sitting in the chair and crocheting or reading in front of the big window overlooking the ocean. The basketball hoop where my sister and I played was still there. I felt familiarity surround me, somethat that had been missing from the previous year and a half after my dad died and my mom sold the house and moved away. (She did what she needed to do, and I respect her for it, it's just that at the same time I missed the connection and comfort that a familiar place brings.)

It was particularly gladdening to share the experience with OC, to be in the space that my family had so much fun when I was growing up. OC, OH and I will spend time there together now, experiencing the memories while creating new ones. When OC gets older and asks me about what we used to do, I will happily tell her those stories. She will be able to visualize them happening and feel a kind of comfort from physical proximity to the place the stories occurred. Hopefully she will feel a connection and enjoy the tradition.

Ya'll, this condo is great! It sits on a cliff overlooking Depoe Bay and the ocean. You can see the Spouting Horn, watch the boats go in and out of the harbor, and it's all within walking distance to the town. You can also go out and walk around on the rocks and see tidepools. It's a truly lovely setting.

I'm looking forward to relaxing in the quietness, enjoying the hypnotic ocean waves and smelling the salty sea air. I plan to bring a knitting project, some crocheting, and a book or two. Should be just the thing: to rest, get well, and time to enjoy doing the things we never have time to do.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Holy Shit...I Can Knit!

The above is what went through my head last night at Stitch and Sip, a get together of coworkers where we knit and crocheted. It was fun, and weird, getting together with people whom you spend most of your waking hours with to see them out of context like that. My workplace has fewer than 50 employees, so we all know each other kind of, but we don't have many social functions.

Here is a complete and unabridged list of events for which my workplace organizes a social function:

1. When someone is leaving, we go out to a restaurant/bar one weekday evening. I have gone to exactly one of these, because I have a small child and the whole weekday thing is problematic for schedules and routines and babysitters.

2. When it's December, we have a holiday party. We all get together in a conference room for a few hours, eat, exchange white elephant gifts, then we go back to work.

3. Once per month the group of five of us who do graphics and such go out to lunch.

(I should say, this year's holiday party was quite fun. The food was excellent, and the gift exchange funny. Unlike in previous years, where it was just kind of lame.)

The Stitch and Sip came about at the holiday party as a silent auction item. And now: I can knit! My patient and very knowledgable coworker taught me. Even though I kept forgetting what to do, made my stitches waaaaaay too tight, and ultimately tore out my work to begin over again, I loved it! I went home and did a little more knitting and am getting the hang of it. I tore out that work because I didn't like the yarn very well, and wouldn't use it for a knitting project. I need to go yarn shopping.

My husband is now scared, because I have a new, not altogether inexpensive hobby. And soon, my entire family and including the cats will sport lovely new sweaters. You know, after I learn how to make a straight line. And how to do other stitches. And how to read a complex pattern. And how to block. And how to attach the pieces.

So yeah, like, never; but in the meantime I'll get to go spend lots of money on yarn.