Thursday, December 29, 2011

End-of-year survey

What did you do in 2011 that you had never done before?
Well, for one thing, I kept a list of things I did that I'd never done before, specifically so I would know how to answer this question at the end of the year. :-) Here are the things I did: Tried Peruvian and Ecuadorean food, visited Medieval Times, saw live performances of Much Ado About Nothing and Twelfth Night, entered an original story in a writing contest, became the parent of a junior-high student, built a costume prop from scratch, and turned 40.

Did you keep all of last year's resolutions?
My only resolution was to try new things, so yes.

Have you any resolutions for next year?
Keep working on doing new things. I was thwarted in some of what I wanted to do this year because I had a lot of unexpected expenses.

What countries did you visit?
None.

What would you like to have in 2012 that you didn’t have in 2011?
Last year I said I wanted a refrigerator and an air conditioner that work, and I now have both of those things - go me! I also said I'd like to have a sense of personal fulfillment through some sort of creative endeavor, and that still applies. I'd like to get all the broken stuff around the house repaired, too.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Surviving it.

What was your biggest failure?
Not finding that creative endeavor. Although, I did verify that I still suck at art, so I can scratch that one off the list of possibilities. :-P

Did you suffer any illness or injury?
I pulled a calf muscle in July. That was really the worst of it; I had the usual allergy and migraine issues, but nothing out of the ordinary.

What was the best thing you bought?
The new refrigerator, my MacBook Pro, theatre tickets.

Where did most of your money go?
Aside from living expenses, most of it went to car repairs.

What did you get really really really excited about?
I don't think I got really really really excited about anything.

Compared to this time last year:
i. are you happier or sadder? About the same.
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter.
iii. richer or poorer? About the same.
iv older or wiser? Older. I'm pretty sure "more cynical" doesn't count as "wiser."

What do you wish you'd done more of?
Traveling, reading, anything creative.

What do you wish you’d done less of?
Procrastinating.

How will you be spending New Year's Eve?
At home with G - I tried to convince her to go to a local all-ages event, but she doesn't want to.

What was your favourite TV show?
Sherlock - it may have come out in 2010 but I didn't see it until this year.

Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
No, but my opinion of some people has gone way down.

What did you want and get?
A new laptop, a refrigerator, an air conditioner, various DVDs, theater tickets.

What did you want and not get?
Travel. We really didn't go anywhere except for a couple of short weekend trips.

What was your favourite film this year?
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

What was/were the best books you read?
To Say Nothing of the Dog, and all the Terry Pratchett books I read in the first few months of the year.

What was your greatest musical discovery?
Florence + The Machine

What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
Went out to lunch with friends from work, then G and I went to San Diego and saw Twelfth Night at the Old Globe. I was 40.

What one thing would have made your year more satisfying?
Less stress - this year was intensely stressful for a variety of reasons.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
About the same as last year. In fact, it is the same because I barely bought any new clothes all year long.

What/who kept you sane?
Who said I was sane?

Which political issue stirred you the most?
None I can think of. I try to avoid politics because they decrease my already tenuous faith in humanity.

Did you fall in love in 2011?
God, no! I'm trying to reduce the stress in my life, not add to it.

Single greatest moment of 2011
Hmm...probably G's promotion from sixth grade. She had just finished first grade when her father died, so I really got her through almost all of elementary school by myself. I may not have done everything perfectly all the time, but I did do it.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned.
I seem to keep learning again and again that it's a bad idea to rely on other people for just about anything.

Quote a song lyric that sums up your year…
I´m breaking through
I´m bending spoons
I´m keeping flowers in full bloom
I´m looking for answers from the great beyond

- R.E.M., "The Great Beyond"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Making Christmas



This year, my goal is to put some effort into Christmas again. Holidays aren't difficult for us anymore, but during the two or three years when they were, I got into the habit of doing the bare minimum, and then inertia took over and I never bothered to ramp back up.

On top of that, for a couple of years now G has been in the Preteen Killjoy phase that most of us went through at the same age, during which you don't want to do anything that might be remotely embarrassing or make you look childish. (She was mortified that her school had "Santa's Village" out in the quad last week, until I said "They don't actually think you believe in Santa, it's for fun. Remember fun? That thing you'll have again once you're old enough not to worry that someone will think you're immature?") This eliminated most of our traditional leading-up-to-Christmas activities, such as visiting Santa, riding the Polar Express train, making snowman crafts out of cotton balls, etc., and made it even harder to get in the Christmas mood--a condition that a friend of mine described last year as "lack of Christmas foreplay."

With these things in mind, this year I'm taking a combined approach of:

1. Not being a lazy slug. I put the tree and lights up in early December and have plugged them in every night; I went out and bought new ornaments to replace the ones we lost, and I'm actually sending a few cards for the first time since 2005. I also bought an additional, tiny, real tree to put on a high shelf in hopes of infusing some pine scent into the house--we can't have a full-size real tree because one of our cats likes to eat greenery--but somehow I managed to choose a totally odorless one. Oh well, it looks nice.

2. Finding acceptable Christmas activities.
In G's defense, she's right: a lot of local holiday-themed events are geared to very small children--we had the same problem at Halloween, when she would have loomed like Gulliver among the Lilliputians at the various face-painting, pumpkin-decorating, costume-parading festivals, but was too young for haunted houses aimed at teenagers--and she doesn't have younger siblings to give her a reason to attend anyway. Instead, we've been watching more grown-up Christmas movies, listening to Christmas music together at home, and drinking hot chocolate and apple cider, all of which she's enjoyed. Hopefully we'll get around to baking cookies sometime next week.

This year is also a little different from previous ones in that for once, there's no place we're required to be on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. G, whose idea of a perfect day involves pajamas, video games and not much else, is ecstatic, and I'm looking forward to spending the time quietly at home. I may be putting more into "making Christmas" this time around, but I'm still all about doing things my own way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Things to be thankful for

In honor of tomorrow's holiday, here's a short list of things I'm thankful for - in no particular order, and mixing the momentous with the mundane.

G, with all her many gifts and talents
Our pets (but not their messes)
The 12 1/2 years I got to spend with P
Having a job and a place to live
Health
That my parents brought me up to be independent
That I live in a society where women can be independent
Friends, both online and in person
Literacy
Things that are vanilla or coconut-scented
Chipotle burritos
Hot coffee and tea
My iPod (it's old, but it works) and my MacBook
Rainy days
Central air conditioning
Netflix instant streaming
The smell of coffee brewing
Air travel
Black nail polish
Mountains, oceans, forests and deserts
All the different languages in the world
Green glass bottles
Books, bookstores and libraries
Vaccinations and antibiotics
Indoor plumbing
Digital cameras, especially the one in my phone
The sound of a full orchestra...and a single instrument
Electric lights
The Arnolfini Portrait
Silly cat videos and pictures
Calvin and Hobbes
My new favorite website
The entire Internet
Poetry
Flannel PJs
Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams and Neil Gaiman
Texting and email
Loving v. Virginia
Sparkly white Christmas lights
The increasing availability of vegetarian food
Having lived in so many different places
New office supplies
Tim Burton's movies
Freedom of religion (it may not be as free as I'd like, but at least you're not going to get shot for it)
New York City
Birds in flight
Dark and milk chocolate
The smell of wet pavement
Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab perfume
Museums

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 14, 2011

40

Last Wednesday, I woke up feeling a little congested, and by late morning, I had the headachy, feverish, slightly unreal sensation that is usually the harbinger of some hideous virus o' doom. I felt so rotten that I went home after lunch, slept, woke up long enough to collect G from school and order pizza for her dinner, slept again, got up to feed the cats and make sure G went to bed properly (i.e., not with unbrushed teeth and still wearing all her clothes) and then went back to sleep.

I don't know what miracle my immune system pulled off during the night, but somehow by the time I woke up on Thursday morning, I was completely fine--every trace of whatever had been ailing me the day before was gone. Which was a good thing, because Thursday also happened to be my 40th birthday.

(!!!)

I went to work, where friends had baked homemade brownies for me and turned my cube into a mystical black-draped tent lit inside by battery-powered tealights, and then after being taken out to lunch, I left early (again) so I could pick G up immediately after her last class. We had tickets to see Twelfth Night at the Old Globe in San Diego's Balboa Park, and it's a good thing we got on the road as early as we did, because the traffic was so heavy that it took three hours to make a trip that usually takes an hour and a half at most. Luckily, G and I are good traveling companions--we like lots of the same music and usually pass the time by singing along loudly to the favorite artist of the moment-- and we still got there in plenty of time to check into our hotel and relax a bit before heading over to the theater.

The director had decided to set the play in India during the British Raj, and it made me a little uncomfortable to see some of the cultural appropriation that involved, but the production was so good I couldn't help loving it. It was a black-box theater, and we were in the front row, so there were several occasions when the actors came right up near us or actually sat just offstage beside us to watch the action. In fact, thanks to our position, I suddenly found myself part of the show during the closing song, when the actor playing Feste zeroed in on me in the front row, climbed up on the raised area surrounding the stage, and sang this verse directly to me with a hand outstretched:

But when I came, alas! to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive
For the rain it raineth every day


This raised a roar of laughter from the audience and nearly caused G, seated to my right, to spontaneously combust with a combination of hilarity and tween-girl embarrassment. After the lights came up, I leaned over to her and said "Apparently I'm the Fool's girlfriend," and she said, still laughing, "I'm glad it was you and not me!" Hee.

The next morning, we had room-service breakfast and then hit the highway again, stopping along the way to do some shopping for G, who had earned a pair of coveted, trendy Toms shoes by doing work around the house, and also for me, because it was my birthday and I intended to indulge myself. :D We had chocolate cake at Corner Bakery (can't have a birthday without cake, right?) and finally got home in the late afternoon, tired but satisfied. All in all, a good birthday, and while it wasn't the crazy over-the-top celebration you're "supposed" to have for a milestone year, it was just right for me.

Monday, November 07, 2011

A day in pictures


It was raining when I went to the supermarket yesterday.


I got my coffee for free because I had to wait five minutes for them to finish brewing it. I didn't mind, but the guy said "This is Starbucks, we should always have coffee ready" and gave it to me on the house.


It seemed like a good day to make soup, so I did.


I had to go back out and saw these pretty sunflowers outside the natural-foods store.


G made Catherine pose for a photo.


The two of them spent the afternoon watching anime in G's room.


Meanwhile, Malcolm chose to watch the BBC's Sherlock with me.


Eventually we ate soup for dinner.

The end!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

She so did

Me: Did you eat breakfast?
G: Yeah. I didn't eat breakfast food, but I ate it at breakfast time.

(pause)

Me: You ate leftover Halloween candy, didn't you?
G: ... Maybe.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Commotion

Last night G and I watched Iron Man 2, which was quite good. It ended at about 11:30, and I sent her off to brush her teeth while I filled a glass of water in case she got thirsty in the night. When I brought it in, she was already in bed, and I could hear voices in the driveway below her window. We live in a condo complex, so imagine two rows of townhomes with attached garages facing each other and a long driveway (actually a little street with its own name) running between them and then letting out onto the main road.

As I switched off G's bedside lamp, the voices erupted into a full-blown argument:

Man (screaming): Fuck you, bitch!
Woman: [unintelligible]
Man: [unintelligible] Don't you ever [unintelligible] again!

At this point I heard the sound of several loud slaps and ran upstairs to my own bedroom to get my phone. When I came back about 30 seconds later, the argument was still raging and G said "Mom, what is it?" I said "Sshh, I'm going to call the cops" and pulled aside her curtain just in time to see the man reach through the driver's-side window of his car and shove the woman, who was standing just outside the car as if he'd thrown her out, so that she fell into the driveway with the contents of her handbag spilling around her. Then he peeled out onto the street and roared off, leaving her lying there in the dark.

I thought of going outside, but didn't want to rush out there right away in case the jackhole in the car decided to come back and perhaps beat us both up, or worse, run us over. So I opened up G's window and called down to the woman, who was starting to move around a little, feebly, "Are you okay? Do you need me to call anyone for you?"

She sat up, seeming stunned. "I think I'm all right."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah...I just need to pick up my stuff. It's okay. Thanks."

"Okay, if you're sure," I said.

I closed the window, but kept watching through a gap in the curtain while she slowly collected her fallen belongings and put them back into her bag. G said, "What happened?" and I said "That guy was an ass, he hit her and pushed her down. Never have a boyfriend like that." She said "What are you going to do now?" and I said "I'm going to wait and make sure she's really okay."

After a minute or so, the woman got all her things together, stood up and walked out into the glow of the streetlamp just outside the driveway. At this point I finally got a better look at her--she was youngish, maybe 30 or so, with dark hair, and dressed the way you would dress to go out on a Saturday night, in a black tank top and black pants, with heels. She stood there in the pool of light for a moment and then turned left and disappeared from view, digging through her bag as if she were looking for her phone.

I thought about calling the police anyway: even if the guy was long gone, they could have caught up with her easily since she was on foot, and perhaps taken a report or at least found her a ride. But it also crossed my mind that there was a small chance it could be a prostitution-related thing--I didn't think it was, but having grown up in a terrible neighborhood where prostitution was rampant, I knew it wasn't impossible either. If that had been the case, I could have caused her a lot of trouble by getting cops involved, and she was already having a hard enough night, so I let her go. I hope she got home or to a friend's house all right--our area is quite safe, so she was almost certainly in less danger walking, even alone at night, than she would have been with the guy who smacked her around.

G has an unshakable belief that I can handle just about any emergency that might arise (zombie apocalypse? no problem, Mom's got it) so she stayed calm through the whole thing and went tranquilly off to sleep afterward, but I was full of adrenaline for a long time. The most worrisome part is that not a single other person in any of the surrounding buildings so much as looked out a window to see if this poor woman was alive or dead. It wasn't even midnight yet, so I can't have been the only one awake. It's nice to know that the neighbors would be right there for me if I ever screamed in the night. Jeez.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gimme a [letter of your choice]!

G's school had tryouts for the middle-school cheer squad last week. G wanted nothing to do with them because she prides herself on being a sort of anti-cheerleader--if you remember your early adolescent stereotypes, G is the Artsy/Goth Girl, although she hasn't yet embraced the music that goes along with it--and also because, as she accurately observed, "I can't do a split to save my life." The newly anointed cheerleaders appear to include the usual complement of popular girls, with one exception: G's friend "Penny," whom I think made the cut due to sheer dance/gymnastic ability.

This fascinates me for a couple of reasons:

1. How do the cheer coaches know, six weeks into the school year with a brand-new crop of seventh graders, who is popular and who isn't? Does it show somehow, or do the popular girls just tend also to be the bouncy, outgoing type who have taken lots of dance lessons?

2. If you become a cheerleader because you have actual skillz, does this automatically make you popular too? Can you be a cheerleader and be socially shunned by the other cheerleaders? Penny is a cute, sweet little girl, but kind of like an overeager puppy who does whatever she thinks will please whomever she's with at the time, and I can imagine the cheerleading crowd dismissing her as a wannabe.

To show her total rejection of cheering and all that goes along with it, G instead used last week's club rush to join the newspaper, which is much more her sort of thing. The meetings happen during zero period, which means she'll have to be there by 6:45 a.m., but she's pretty motivated and I think she'll do fine. She's been like a different kid this year in terms of the morning routine: where last year I had to drag her out of bed and she was late a shocking number of times, this year she gets up on her own when her alarm goes off, gets dressed without being told, finds her own breakfast (not the healthful bowl of whole grains and fresh fruits I'd like her to eat, but at least she does it herself) and is usually downstairs waiting at the door to the garage while I'm still brushing my teeth. I don't know why this happened, but I'm glad it has. We had quite a few no-holds-barred cage matches over getting ready last year, and I wasn't up for another 10 months of that.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Said is NOT dead

Last night G informed me, "Mrs. M (her English teacher) told us we shouldn't use 'said' in the stories we're writing," and then showed me this handout she got in class:



ARGH.

"Well," I said, trying to be diplomatic, "I see what Mrs. M is getting at, but I don't actually agree. It's fine to throw in a different dialogue tag here and there, for variety or emphasis or color, but 'said' is really the best one to use. It's straightforward and not distracting, and if you're writing your story and your dialogue well, you won't need anything else 90 percent of the time. Also, if every other line of dialogue ends with 'he laughed' or 'she divulged' or 'he nagged' or 'she smiled*' it's going to sound awkward and overwrought. This is my professional opinion, by the way."

"Really?" she said.

"Yes," I said. "And not only mine. Here, look at this." I grabbed the nearest book and showed her that in three pages of mostly dialogue, the only attribution other than "he/she said" was one instance of "he roared," and that one was used when it was really called for. Then for good measure, I showed her places where the author had written some of the dialogue so as not to need a "he/she said" at all, and explained how that worked. I did tell her that of course her teacher is the boss in her classroom and she has to follow these instructions at least somewhat or she'll get marked down, but not to go overboard with it.

I suppose what they're trying to do is teach the kids that there are other words available if they need them, but kids are literal, even in their early teens, and most of them are probably going to take this handout to mean that "said" is evil and they should never use it. This is why so many adults are convinced that it's wrong to write in the second person and that starting a sentence with "and" or "but" is verboten--their seventh-grade English teacher said so and they've never forgotten it. As far as I'm concerned, the only thing that's really forbidden in writing is doing it badly (she pontificated), and even that isn't true if you happen to be entering the Bulwer-Lytton contest. Save the droning, drawling, giggling and stammering for then.

*I have a special hate for "smiled." I used to read a decorating magazine that used it at least twice in every article with an interview--"'We love our kitchen's new look,' smiles Susan"--and it nearly drove me around the bend. Not only does it sound smarmy, it's impossible; you can say something with a smile, but you can't smile your actual speech any more than you can hammer it or swim it. Gah!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sometimes you win

In the autumn of 1985, I was a freshman in high school and my younger brother, J, had just started kindergarten. To say it hadn't been a good year for our family would be an understatement; I've had other bad years since then, but that was my first glimpse at just how wrong things could go, and how quickly.

Now it was Halloween, and J and I both wanted to carve a jack o'lantern, the way we'd been used to doing in previous years, but our mother said, regretfully, that she didn't have any extra money to spend on a pumpkin. J was crushed as only a five-year-old can be, and I wasn't too happy myself. But I was also a stubborn kid who didn't like to be beaten at anything, and I wasn't planning to give up yet.

"Don't worry," I told J. "I'm going to fix this."

I dug through my pockets and my school bag and scraped together all the change I could find, and then I took J by his sticky little hand and marched him to the supermarket down the street. There, I read the price on every kind of squash in the produce department and weighed them until I found one I could afford--it was a yellow spaghetti squash about the size of a Nerf football, with a nice flat bottom so it could stand up--and I paid seventy-nine cents for it and walked J home again. Standing in our dingy kitchenette, I cut that spaghetti squash open, and I scraped out the seeds and pulp, and I used the point of a steak knife to carve a miniature face with triangle eyes and nose and a gap-toothed mouth, just like a jack o'lantern. Then I stuck a single skinny birthday candle inside and lit it with a match, and I said to my brother, who had been watching the whole process with ever-increasing delight, "Here you go. It's a squashkin."

In the quarter-century since then, I've carved many real jack o' lanterns, and I'm sure J has too. As adults, we don't talk much or see each other often--it's been more than five years since the last time--and I don't know if he even remembers the squashkin. But I do. I remember it, and sometimes when everything is rotten and I feel as if I can't do anything right, I think about it and smile. It may have been a tiny win, but that day I won at life.

Friday, September 16, 2011

So far so good

Here we are at the end of week 2, and school is still gliding along as smoothly as can be. G was bumped up into honors biology this week, putting her in all honors classes except for math, and we've had no issues with homework - she's been finishing most of it during her tutorial period or while she's waiting to be picked up, and what she's had to do at night has been quick and easy. It helps that the assignments she's getting are more creative than in previous years; instead of "write these 20 spelling words five times each," it's "use this list of geographical features to design and draw your own island." I know which one I'd rather do.

She also asked earlier this week if we could go to New School's football game on Thursday night, which was not a request I'd ever expected to hear from my determinedly non-sporty child. I would have taken her, even though I have zero interest in football myself, but we had tickets to see a cinema broadcast of Shakespeare's Globe's Henry VIII that same evening, and Shakespeare trumps football in our house. Now is when her father, a devoted fan of anything involving a ball, should be here; he'd not only take her to the football games, he'd be over the moon that she wanted to go, and patiently educate her in the finer points of the sport. I know I wouldn't know anything at all about football (or basketball, or baseball, or golf, or or or) if it weren't for him.

Anyway, while walking out of the theater last night, G and I agreed that we're going to try to see all of Shakespeare's plays together. We've seen this one, The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing, we have tickets to see Twelfth Night in November, and if I can swing it (tickets are expensive), we'll also see the Globe's touring production of The Comedy of Errors the same month. She wants to see A Midsummer Night's Dream after that, so I'll have to look for a production that's not too far from home. There was one at our local repertory theater back in January, but we missed it. Rats!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Time keeps on slipping

If I'd needed something to underline the fact that we've entered a new era in G's life, I got it by seven a.m. on the first day of seventh grade. At her small, familiar old school, the first day always meant a stream of parents walking hand-in-hand with little girls sporting braids and fancy barrettes, little boys in new, dark-blue jeans, and tiny kindergartners laboring under backpacks bigger than they were. At her giant new school, I drove past a crowd of unaccompanied teenagers who looked old enough to be driving themselves, stopped, and waited as G gave me a casual "see you later," hopped out of the car, slung her bag over her shoulder and walked away in a pair of my knee-high boots that she'd successfully campaigned to borrow. I'd warned her that those boots would hurt by the end of the day, but she didn't believe me. When I picked her up late that afternoon, the first words out of her mouth were "OMG, my feet are killing me. I'm never wearing these again." I suppose when it comes to some things, experience is the best teacher.

Aside from sore feet and a broken P.E. locker, her first week as a seventh-grader was supremely smooth and easy. She has six classes--biology, honors history, honors English, P.E., pre-algebra and vocal music--and already seems to have mastered traveling between them, as well as using the library and navigating the food service lines at lunch. (That said, I think I'm going back to packing a lunch for her, because on three out of four days, the only vegetarian item was pizza, and on the fourth day she had to get pasta and pick out the bits with no meat sauce.) She says her teachers are nice and is happy about all the subjects she's taking, so from her perspective, everything is roses.

For my part, there's been some emotional adjusting to do. I'm not sitting around sniffling soppily over her baby photos, mind you. If anything, I'm excited for her, because it became obvious to me last year that she'd outgrown the confines of elementary school and was ready for something new. But at the same time, this transition has really driven in the fact that she's getting older and the number of years she'll be at home with me is dwindling fast. Of course I've known ever since she was born that one day she'd get her driver's license, graduate from high school, go off to college, be grown up; but these always seemed like things that would happen far off in some hazy, half-imagined future. Now they seem like real events that are coming soon (very soon - she can get her learner's permit in less than three years) so I'd better start mentally preparing myself for them, not to mention figuring out what I want to do with myself after she flies the nest.

Of course she's only in seventh grade and it's not as if she's moving across the country tomorrow, and I don't want to spoil the next few years by constantly focusing on what's going to happen later. But time has a way of sneaking past faster than you think, and I don't want it to catch me off guard, either. Looks as if she and I both have a lot of work to do.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Daybook

Outside my window... the sunlight has made that subtle shift from summer to autumn.

I am thinking... I'll go mental if this week is as boring as last week.

I am thankful for... having the money to get my brakes fixed, even if I would much rather have spent that money on something more fun.

From the kitchen... I'm planning to make this vegetable curry for dinner tonight (for my dinner anyway; G won't want any and will probably have pasta).

I am wearing... black capri sweatpants and a navy blue tank top.

I am creating... a new look for G's bedroom. She wants all black furniture, so I've slowly been replacing the light wood stuff she's had since she was two. This weekend I bought and assembled a bookcase; now all she needs is a loft bed, which will probably be her Christmas present this year.

I am going... to see some Shakespeare later this week.

I am reading... Neverwhere

I am hoping... that G has an easy transition to junior high.

I am hearing... Ben Harper singing "Diamonds on the Inside" from my laptop.

Around the house... I think G is still sleeping (I've been in to wake her a couple of times, but she just goes right back to sleep). One of the cats is in her room and the other one is lounging on the floor of my room.

One of my favorite things... believe it or not, is cleaning the house. I don't like everyday chores like vacuuming and dishes very much, but I love when I can do the really detailed cleaning that I rarely have time for.

A few plans for the rest of the week: We have the aforementioned Shakespeare play to attend, plus an orientation and dinner for incoming seventh-graders the following day. I've been talking to P's cousin about getting together with her and her daughter on Friday - we haven't seen them in more than two years, even though they only live a 30-minute drive away - but I don't know if it will actually come to fruition.

Here is a picture for thought I am sharing...


This photo is exactly what I wish my life were like. I don't play the double bass, or any instrument, but in my fantasy world, I would, and I'd have a room just like that and sit around playing Beethoven symphonies all day long. Except between three and four o'clock every afternoon, when someone would serve me tea and cookies on the terrace that I imagine is right underneath that window. I guess in my fantasy world I would also have a maid. And a cook who knew how to bake shortbread.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vacation, all I ever wanted

A short review of the first week of my end-of-summer vacation:

Had car problems
Was without a car for 48 hours
Registered G for junior high
Paid $450 for new brakes
Had repair crew in house for an entire morning*
Did work
Found BEES IN MY HOUSE**
Watched a week's worth of groceries vanish in four days
BEES. IN MY HOUSE.
Did more work
Went nowhere except grocery store and post office
OMG BEES

* The good part of this is that our air conditioning finally, finally works. It works so well that yesterday I thought "Wow, it's nice and cool in my bedroom; I think I'll lie down and enjoy it." Next thing I knew, I opened my eyes and an hour and a half had passed. I went downstairs and G was huddled under a blanket, shivering. Do your worst, California autumn! We're ready.

The bad part is that one of the repairmen asked to use our upstairs bathroom while he was here, and let's just say it wasn't a Number One. I know when you've got to go, you've got to go, and I could hardly send the poor guy to the service station down the street, but the idea of a total stranger taking a dump in my bathroom really bothered me at a visceral level. (Yes, I know, I use public restrooms that thousands of total strangers have used before me. It's not the same.) I need to go in and sanitize now that some time has passed - I couldn't bring myself to do it earlier.

** Yesterday morning I was lying in bed, drinking my coffee and reading my email, when I heard a loud buzzing/humming noise. Investigation revealed a large bee/wasp/hornet thing bumping around the inside of my bedroom window. I managed to trap it with my empty cereal bowl and release it outside, and then I heard the same noise coming from inside the wall behind my bed, near the electrical outlet where my bedside lamp plugs in. While I was taping up the open space in the outlet so nothing winged and many-legged could squeeze its way through, G called "Mom, there's some kind of insect on the wall down here, and I don't know what it is, and I'm not going close enough to find out." I went downstairs, and sure enough, it was another flying stinger. I couldn't catch that one, so I sucked it up with the vacuum hose of doom. I haven't seen or heard any more since then (the one in the wall buzzed a bit more and then stopped) but I did find about 30 of them lying dead on the little balcony outside my bedroom. If I don't post again, it will be because a swarm carried me away in the night and made me their queen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hot air

On Monday, I telecommuted so I could be at home to deal with the air conditioning repair guys, who were supposed to arrive at 9 a.m.

At 8 a.m., I got a phone call saying that the delivery truck with the new condenser unit was delayed and wouldn't come until 11.

At 11:30, I got another call saying that it might be as late as 1 p.m.

At 1:15, the phone rang again: "They'll be there within 45 minutes."

At 1:50, two guys finally rolled up and got started.

At 3:30, they announced that they had to leave (WTF?!) but the company's owner, who'd done the initial estimate, would be there in about 15 minutes to finish the job.

At 5 p.m., the replacement guy called me outside and explained that everything was hooked up properly, but that mice had eaten all the wires and insulation that ran under the deck and connected the condenser to the furnace in the garage. He said he would have to come back with a crew and crawl underneath to fix all that and install a rodent-stopping screen before the system would work. So, to sum up, the air conditioning still doesn't function, the furnace is now disconnected as well (not that we need it at the moment, but really) and I can't have the repair guys back until next week, when I'm on vacation and have time to deal with them. Oh joy.

During the course of this long, long day, we also discovered that it's like freaking Wild Kingdom under the deck. In addition to the wire-and-insulation-loving mice, the first two repair guys found a possum skeleton; and when one of the guys stuck his hand into a hole in the wooden steps leading down from the deck to the condenser, a gray cat came shooting out and nearly scared us both to death. (Apparently it was using the hollow inside of the top step as a hideout. Sorry about that, cat.) Thanks to our own two cats, none of these creatures have ever entered the house proper--if you were a mouse, you'd need testicles like cannonballs to dare poke your nose out with that pair of bloodthirsty killers on the loose--but just the thought of them lurking around out there gives me the shivers. Ugh.

Mind you, we haven't had A/C for any of the three summers we've lived in this house (the old condenser was the original c. 1985 model and was already defunct when we moved in), so we're in no worse shape now than a week ago. It's just having the promise of cool air dangled in front of us and then yanked away that makes it seem worse somehow. A friend of mine suggested that when the system is finally working, we should crank the thermostat down to 55 degrees and have a party with parkas and hot chocolate. Sounds good to me.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Welcome home

Thirteen ways to know you're at our house:

1. The area near the front door looks like a shoe store on clearance day.

2. You can't get a hamburger for dinner, or any other type of meat.

3. Fruits Basket is probably playing on TV somewhere.

4. Cats are watching you balefully from high places.

5. The shelves are stuffed with books, and all around the house you find open, face-down books in various stages of being read.

6. You can access the Internet in at least three different ways at any given time.

7. The reading material in the bathroom is a copy of Archaeology magazine, open to a page with a photo of a hideous unwrapped mummy.

8. Black is clearly someone's favorite color.

9. Someone else is clearly in love with jewelry.

10. The kid-drawn art on the fridge is anime-style.

11. It's an all-female house, but the older family photos include a tall, dark-haired guy with a nice smile.

12. It's okay to randomly burst into song if you feel like it (and if you wait long enough, someone will).

13. Someone will probably still be awake at midnight.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Mr. Sandman

Apparently that three-hour nap I took this afternoon was a bad idea, since it's 3:41 in the morning and sleep is nowhere in sight.

I wasn't intending for the nap to stretch out that long, and indeed when G was younger she would have woken me almost as soon as my eyes closed. But now she's twelve, and twelve-year-olds are crafty enough to know that if they wake you up, you might make them stop watching TV and clean their rooms or take a shower or something equally heinous. So, if I happen to doze off, she leaves me unconscious until I wake up on my own. In fact, she has literally tried to lure me into napping in the past by covering me with a blanket when I'm lying on the sofa, which seems all sweet and solicitous until you realize it's like throwing a towel over a parrot's cage. Hey, you're annoying me. Stop squawking and go to sleep.

The worst part? It works!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Injurish

Four weeks ago upon the stair
I met a man who wasn't there
He kicked my leg from under me

...at least, that's the only explanation I've got for how I managed to pull a calf muscle, not by skiing or parachuting or zip lining, but by climbing the stairs in my own home.

I should say first that climbing stairs is hardly an uncommon activity at our house. It's a townhome with four levels connected by three flights of stairs, and you can't so much as get a glass of water without going up or down some steps. We've lived here for two and a half years and I have legs of iron. Or so I thought.

Ha ha! That'll teach me to think!

So on this night, I'd just sent G off to bed and was on my way upstairs to my own room. As I reached the third step, she called "Hey, Mom, come and look at this," and when I pivoted to go back down again, something went ping in my right calf. Imagine a big, thick elastic band breaking inside your body, and you'll have a pretty good idea of what it felt like. All at once, I couldn't put any weight on my leg, and it hurt like nineteen different flavors of hell. I said "AARRGHGHGHGH!" or something like that, and went hopping and stumbling into G's room, where I sat on her bed and tried to stretch and massage and do anything that might make the pain stop.

After a bit, it improved enough for me to hobble into the kitchen for some ice and then upstairs to lie down with my leg propped on pillows. While I was lying there, it occurred to me that if this was a really serious injury--which seemed unlikely, given how it had happened, but then there I was, immobile--I was hosed. It was after ten on a weeknight, I was home alone with a not-quite-teenage kid, and there was absolutely no one I could call to take me to the ER. The idea of teaching G to drive the car fluttered across my mind, and then I decided that since there weren't any actual splintered bone ends sticking out of my leg, I would wait overnight, and maybe my Jedi mind powers would heal me while I slept.

I wouldn't exactly say that brilliant plan worked, but I was able to get around better by the next day, though I still couldn't put my foot flat on the ground. I thought of gritting my teeth and toughing it out, but finally gave in and went to urgent care, where I saw a doctor who looked as if he'd just graduated from high school. (Does this mean I'm getting old? Probably. Dammit.) I described how I'd hurt myself and what the pain felt like, and then we had the following exchange:

Doctor: Are you a scientist by any chance?
Me: No, why do you ask?
Doctor: You're very meticulous about details.
Me: I'm an editor.
Doctor: That explains it.

He was a hilarious guy and I kind of enjoyed the appointment, even though he scolded me for not wearing proper walking shoes while injured--I had tried my best to choose a reasonable pair that morning, but was hampered by the fact that my closet is full of three-inch platforms and spike-heeled stompy boots--and suggested that I go out and buy some New Balance or Saucony trainers. Er ... no. The corporate dress code does not allow for that sort of thing. He also said that it would take four weeks for my leg to heal completely, and at the time I nodded and smiled and thought Yeah, sure. I'll be fine in a couple of days, tops. Well, he was right, because it's been four weeks today, and the last tiny lingering bit of soreness is finally leaving me. (Which probably also means I'm getting old. Dammit!)

So, to sum up what I've learned from this experience:

1. You can hurt yourself doing nothing.
2. Leg injuries take longer to heal than you think.
3. Doctors sometimes know more than you do.
4. It's bad not to know any of your neighbors when you might need a ride to the hospital.
5. I'm getting old.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Unsupervised

Seven things I did while G was at overnight camp for most of a week:

1. Spent pretty much an entire day lying on my bed and reading.

2. Took myself to see Captain America.

3. Had French bread and Salsa Verde Doritos for dinner two nights in a row.

4. Belted out "Rehab" repeatedly at the top of my lungs while cleaning the kitchen. (RIP, Amy Winehouse)

5. Borrowed one of G's shirts so I wouldn't have to do laundry.

6. Used my laptop, uninterrupted, for hours at a stretch.

7. Ate the last fudgsicle.

I know, wild and crazy, right? It's like Lord of the Flies if the protagonist were a middle-aged suburban mother!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I can't help myself

Today I went to Subway, and while I was waiting to pay for my order, I looked to my right and saw a laser-printed notice that read:

THIS LOCATION OPEN 24 HOURS
BEGINNNING JULY 15

"Do you know your sign has an extra letter?" I asked the teenage cashier.

"What?" he said.

I pointed. He started to laugh.

"Hey, [name]," he called to the manager, who was showing another employee how to clean the drink machine. "You put an extra 'n' in 'beginning.'"

"What?"

"In the sign. 'Beginning' has an extra 'n.'"

"Oh," said the manager. To me, he said, "That's been up for two weeks and no one else has noticed."

"I'm sorry," I said, starting to feel like a jerk. "I'm an editor. It's my job to notice."

"It's in all of them," giggled the cashier, who had gone to inspect the identical signs stuck in different locations around the shop.

At that point, I grabbed my sandwich and my Diet Coke and escaped, because the manager was looking a little too angry for my taste. Hey, buddy, I usually charge people money for my services. How about a free cookie or something instead of a glower?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Aging ungracefully

Shopping for a dress for G to wear to her sixth-grade promotion ceremony:

Me: You don't want that one. It's going to make you look like a 40-year-old woman.
G: You mean...like you?
Me: Yes. And I don't even want to look like a 40-year-old woman, so I'm pretty sure you don't either.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Mathletes

G: We had our math placement test for junior high today.
Me: Oh?
G: There was stuff on there I've never seen before. What are those problems with the number between two lines?
Me: I don't know, draw one for me and maybe I'll recognize it.
G: It looked like | 25 |
Me: I have no idea what that is.

(pause while both of us look at it, baffled)

Me: Maybe it means, "Twenty-five, YAY!"*

We both got a good laugh out of that. Clearly neither of us will be medaling in the Math Olympics anytime soon.

*Like this emoticon: \o/

Monday, May 09, 2011

A visit to the past

G suggested going to Medieval Times for Mothers' Day this year. As it happened, I'd never been there before, which made it an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by celebrating the holiday and adding an experience to my list of new things, so off we went.

I was secretly expecting it to be cheesy tourist crap--which is why I'd never gone, despite living in the area for 30 years--but I was wrong. IT WAS SO MUCH FUN. The idea is that you're at this tournament in medieval Spain, and the section you're seated in is represented by a particular knight, and you cheer him on in battle. It's easier to get into than you might think; even G, who is usually too full of almost-teen self-consciousness to participate in that sort of thing, was screaming and clapping and yelling "Boo!" and "Get him!" during the final epic battle between the Yellow Knight and the evil Green Knight. There are displays of dressage and falconry, and tournament games, and jousting, and hand-to-hand combat, and it's really pretty neat. (And it didn't hurt that three of the knights, including ours, were smoking hot. Wow.) Here are a few photos:

The arena before the show started. 



Dressage display.
Our knight was the Black and White Knight.
This is a flower that he kissed and then threw to us in the stands. I've never seen G come so close to swooning before.
Galloping blurrily off to the joust.
Jousting!
They have the obligatory overpriced merchandise to buy, and people wanting to take your photo and sell it to you for $10, but we ignored all that and just enjoyed the pageantry. G is already longing to go back, so I suspect we may be spending her next birthday there. Definitely a good time.

One thing that bothered me a bit about the day--and in fact has been a general annoyance lately--is that almost no one realizes I'm G's mother anymore. She looks older than she is, mostly because she's so tall, and I look younger than I am, and so strangers assume that I'm her friend or elder sister, or sometimes her aunt. When we arrived at the castle, the person checking reservations at the gate wished the women ahead of and behind me a happy Mothers' Day, but not me. Inside, they were handing out flowers to the mothers; I wasn't offered one. Obviously with my 40th birthday only a few months away, it's nice not to look old enough to be the mother of an apparent teenager, but I am a mother and proud of it, and I'd like to be recognized as one.

It does sting a little, too, to think that if P were still alive, people would probably have no trouble pegging us as the parents and G as our child; it's G and me being on our own together that throws them off. But there's not much I can do about it, short of investing in some MOTHER and DAUGHTER T-shirts or sticky labels--and embarrassing as G thinks I am at times, I'm not that over the top. Yet.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Body follies

We had an unexpectedly chilly weekend and I turned the central heat on a few times. This morning, I woke up with a split lip, a bloody nose and aching sinuses. Dry air much?

Also this morning, G had an adolescent complexion crisis. She came up to me in the kitchen, pulled her hair back and said "Look at this!"

"Hmm, looks like a breakout," I said.

"What do I do?! I don't have enough concealer to cover all that!"

"Well, there's not much you can do," I said. "You can't wear a whole face full of makeup, so you've just kind of got to deal. I'm sorry."

"Isn't there anything that can help?" she moaned.

"We can try buying some tinted moisturizer after I pick you up tonight," I offered. "That might cover it a little without looking all heavy like foundation. I know it sucks, but the reality is that for the next few years, breaking out is going to be a fact of life for you."

"I didn't know it was going to be this bad," she said as she went away to try artfully draping her hair over her forehead.

I didn't have the heart to tell her it can get a lot worse!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

After years of experience

G: Can I have a bagel?
Me: You just ate a huge dinner and dessert. You don't need a bagel.
G: I'm hungry though.
Me: Give your meal a chance to settle, and then if you're still hungry, you can have a bagel.
G: How long do I have to wait?
Me: An hour.
G: Are you going to start the hour over again every time I ask?
Me: You know me so well.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stupid trees

Or, as I have also called them over the last 48 hours, dumb trees, damn trees, rotten trees, and FUCKING TREES I HATE YOU.

Gah.

In case you hadn't guessed, I am allergic to trees, or at least to their pollen. In late March and early April, the trees pollinate like crazy, merrily propagating their DNA all over Southern California in a great big arboreal orgy, and I turn into a sneezing wheezing dripping coughing snorfling mess. Allergy medicine keeps it at least somewhat under control (when I was in college, before you could buy Claritin without a prescription, I thought I was going to get thrown out of my Asian American Lit class one spring for blowing my nose 39809849034 times in an hour) but it's still miserable.

The enemy.

 On that note, why is it that when you have a cold, you're sick, but when you have allergies, it's "just allergies?" I would much rather have a cold than a full-blown allergy attack--at least with a cold, you don't get that maddening sensation of the entire inside of your head itching, from the roof of your mouth to the space between your sinuses and your brain. Plus, with a cold you're officially allowed to eat soup and lie in bed, whereas with allergies you're supposed to jump up and run a marathon because it's "just allergies" and you're "not really sick." Only you are.

Something is wrong with this world we live in, I tell you. I can't do anything about it right now, though, because I have to blow my nose again. And then go out and kick a tree.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's not Fiction Friday, but how about a Manuscript Monday?

Just for a change of pace, I thought I'd post the story I wrote for that Writers' Digest contest back in January. Entries had to be 750 words or less and begin with the sentence It was on a bright, starry night that the traveling circus rolled into town. I gave mine a title when I entered it, but for the life of me I can't remember now what it was, so here we go:

---

It was on a bright, starry night that the traveling circus rolled into town. Lydia and I were right there to meet it, all fizzy inside with excitement. We hadn't had a circus come in at least twenty years—-maybe thirty. I guess word gets around on the entertainment circuit.

“You remember the last time, Sissy?” Lydia asked as we watched the hubbub of people and animals. Two men passed in front of us, sweating, hauling a lot of striped canvas attached to ropes. A few yards away, a lady in a red-and-white leotard bent over backward, casually, and walked a few steps on her hands.

“I remember.”

“It was fun, wasn't it?”

I nodded.

“What was your best part?”

“The acrobats,” I said, knowing that wasn't what she meant.

Lydia giggled. “Not mine. My best part was when we--”

“Hey, you kids!”

We turned around at the sound of the voice—Lydia first, then me—and found a man just behind us, looming thin and tall and straight like a pine tree, made even taller by a top hat that looked out of place with his work clothes.

“That's the ringmaster,” I whispered.

“Aren't you girls out kind of late? Your folks know where you're at?”

“Yes sir,” said Lydia, looking up at him as only Lydia could, with those big eyes of hers as sweet and melting as brown sugar. “Daddy said we could come down and watch a while. You gonna set the whole circus up tonight?”

Like most grown-ups, the ringmaster clearly thought Lydia was cute as a button. “You bet,” he said. “By the time you wake up in the morning, it'll all be ready, and tomorrow night we'll do the show.”

“And are there gonna be elephants and horses? And a tightrope walker? And a lion tamer?”

“All that and then some.”

I was imagining it—the roar of cannons, the glitter of spangled costumes, the smell of animals and popcorn and sawdust—when I realized that Lydia was giving the ringmaster that look, the one she used to get when we were perusing the candy display at the old five and dime. She drew a slow, deep breath, like the first half of a sigh, and leaned toward him with yearning written all over her sweet little pixie face. Before she could get any further than that, I stuck out one of my brand-new Sunday shoes and trod on her foot hard enough to leave a crater in the soft black dirt.

“Oww! Sissy!”

“Oops,” I said. “Sorry. We've got to get going now, mister. We'll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“I'll look for you,” said the ringmaster, and ruffled Lydia's hair. “You girls be careful on the way home. There's bad things in the dark, you know.”

“We know,” I said. “Come on, Lyds.”

“We're going to get them all after the show anyway,” Lydia whined as I dragged her through the park, past the abandoned swings with their rusted-out chains . “Mayor Gibson said so at the town meeting. What difference would it make if I have this one now?”

“Because there's no show without him, dummy! He's not just some old carny, he's the boss of the whole circus. If you hurt him—if you so much as spook him—they'll pull up and leave, and then I won't get to see it. And I been waiting too long to let that happen.”

“But Sissy—”

“But Sissy nothing.” I curled my lip and showed her the tips of my teeth, gleaming in the moonlight. “If you mess this circus up for me, Lydia Jones, I will get up early one night and hammer a two-by-four right through you, just see if I won't.”

“Honestly,” Lydia huffed. “Anyone would think you didn't want to kill them.”

“I want to kill them all right,” I said. “But after the show. Don't forget whose fault it was that I almost missed it last time.”

That shut Lydia up. We trudged on, with my legs just outpacing her shorter ones.

“The stars are real pretty, aren't they, Sissy?” Lydia offered after a while, wanting to make up already, or maybe just hoping to avoid being staked in her sleep. “So close and bright. It'll be a nice night tomorrow.”

“Yes,” I said. “It sure will.”

----

That's all for now. Hope to be back in a day or two with a post of actual substance!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

All right, I won't eat your baby, but your soul is fair game

I had forgotten tomorrow was Valentine's Day until I went to the supermarket this afternoon and saw all the massive displays of merchandise. Good thing I did, because I was able to pick up some cheap packs of Valentine-themed Skittles for G to hand out to her class. Oh, lucky teacher, locked up all day with 35 preteens who not only are under the influence of raging hormones, but also have a metric ton of pure grade-A sugar coursing through their bodies.

In other news, today we made a special trip to my office to collect unsold Girl Scout cookies so we could return them to the "cookie leader." G was extremely annoyed about having to interrupt her Sunday-afternoon schedule of sloth and indolence to go with me (I needed her to help carry boxes out to the car) until I reminded her that they were her cookies for her Girl Scout troop. I don't know if she was any happier about it after that, but at least she kept her displeasure to herself.

I'm feeling a little miffed at Girl Scouts in general after once again being the recipient of judgey looks from Girl Scout mothers when I went to pick G up at yesterday's International Fair event. I was wearing more or less what I usually wear--black velvet jeans, long-sleeved black shirt, black shoes with a skull-and-crossbones design, and black sunglasses--and all the Girl Scout mothers I passed on my way into the building stared at me as if I were going to steal their souls and eat their babies. These are clearly very sheltered women, because while I was the only person there in head-to-toe black, my clothes were still completely mainstream by almost any standards, nor did I have tattoos or piercings or a hair color not found in nature (and if I had, who cares), and yet you would have thought they'd seen Marilyn Manson stomping up the sidewalk toward the high-school gym.

I wonder what it's like to be that uptight. I also wonder what sort of reception is doled out to people who do have tattoos, piercings, etc., and daughters who are Girl Scouts. It can't be very nice.

The long road to self-sufficiency

Half an hour after lunch ...

G: I'm hungry. Feed me.
Me: Nuh-uh. You are 12 years old. You can make your own snack.
G: Feed me!
Me: Have an apple. Make yourself a sandwich. Microwave something.
G: *gets out a loaf of bread* Fine! Are you happy now?
Me: I'm delighted.
G: Elated?
Me: Ecstatic.
G: Thrilled?
Me: Over the moon.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Six things make a post

1. G has missed two days of school this week due to a sore throat, fever and general yuck. She should be going back tomorrow, as a visit to the doctor today revealed that her throat is red, but probably not strep-laden. Her consolation prize for enduring the throat culture was a chocolate strawberry cupcake at the bakery next door to the doctor's office (which I'll bet just rakes in the cash from parents offering similar bribes consolation prizes), and then I decided I needed some consoling too and got an Oreo cupcake for myself. Mmmm.

3. A friend of mine texted me to see how G was and to say that he picked up a box of Ghirardelli brownie mix for me when he went to Costco at lunch. I texted back "thx for the brownie mix" and my phone autocorrected it to "thx for the brownish lox." G and I got a good laugh out of that one.

4. Last night, we whiled away half an hour by watching a DVD of this production of The Cat in the Hat, which was marvelously inventive and looked exactly like the book come to life. We then pondered the hypothetical answer to the question "If our mother could see this, oh, what would she say?" and decided that it would probably be "YOU TWO ARE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE" and perhaps also "WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU ABOUT LETTING ANTHROPOMORPHIC ANIMALS INTO THE HOUSE?" (Although maybe not the latter since they do have a talking fish.)

5. Being at home for the last two days has motivated me to do two of my least favorite household chores: cleaning the bathrooms, and washing the cat bowls and cleaning the plastic mat that goes under them. I hate doing both of those things, but it's amazing how much better the whole place looks and feels after I do. Especially the cat area--something about spilled cat kibble on the floor creates very bad feng shui.

6. Being at home for the last two days has also apparently made me a very boring person who posts about boring things. Sorry about that. :P

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Things: Month 1

So, at the beginning of this year I set a goal to do one thing every month that I've never done before. And for January, I got off to a good start by doing two things I'd never done before.

• I entered a fiction writing contest. I didn't win it, but considering that they had more than 1,000 entries and only chose five finalists, I don't feel too bad about this.

• I tried Peruvian food for the first time. It was chimbotanos (like a spicy potato stew) with brown rice and a side of fried yucca, and it was quite good, not to mention very different than what I expected Peruvian food to be like. Here's a photo:



I'm already eying a few potential activities for February, and will report on whatever I choose at the end of that month. So far, so good!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Esta es la hora del gato

Last night G wanted me to lie down with her at bedtime. I agreed, and as I lay on her bed, half asleep in the dark, I suddenly heard a deep Spanish-sounding voice proclaim:

"This is the hour of the cat."

Needless to say, this gave me quite a start. Then I realized that it was this talking Puss in Boots, which we bought for G when she was five or six, and which she's long since outgrown and forgotten. Either Puss's batteries are finally running down after all these years, or he would like me to liberate him from the bottom of the basket of discarded stuffed animals in her closet. Maybe both.

On a side note, Puss's random speech reminded me of my mother's belief that P communicates with her through a similar battery-operated toy that she keeps in her family's car. She's been insisting for years that this thing speaks up at opportune moments and she knows, knows that P is somehow controlling it, to which I've always countered that a.) odd experiences aside (and I've had much odder ones than she has), I don't really believe that dead people can communicate with anyone;  b.) if P could communicate with anyone, it would be with me and no one else; and c.) P was a direct-verging-on-blunt man who didn't fuck around, and if he had something to say, he'd find a direct way to say it. I imagine if I told my mother about Puss, she'd tell me that P was behind that somehow too. It's a good thing she can't see me roll my eyes over the phone.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Well, when you put it that way

Me: You know, torturing Mommy is not a game we play.
G: But it is. It's exhilarating fun.

Darned smart kids and their big vocabularies!

The "torturing Mommy" conversation came about because G has lately rediscovered an interest in roughhousing with me. We used to do a lot of this when she was younger; it's something kids normally do with their dads, but because I was always the stronger parent, even when P was alive, I was the one who tossed her up in the air and wrestled with her and gave her horsey rides around the house. It was all good fun when she was little, but now she's 5'5" and weighs 125 pounds and she can just about take me down in a tussle. I've told her repeatedly that she's too big to play like that and she needs to stop before someone gets hurt, but she insists on running up from behind and tackling me, or trying to knock me down and sit on me. I'm at a disadvantage when it comes to defending myself because I don't want to hurt her by accident, so I deliberately hold back a bit. But she knows no such caution, and I usually end up yelling "I said STOP IT!" as I extract myself from a stranglehold.

It's a problem, not only because of the risk of grievous bodily injury (mine, not hers), but because it won't be long before she's bigger than I am, and I don't want her getting the idea that she can push me around physically. She's just playing now, like an overgrown puppy that doesn't know its own strength, but I can envision scenarios a few years down the road when she might not be. I guess my first step ought to be cutting her off as soon as she starts to play rough, and if that doesn't work, I'll have to think of some sort of consequence. This is certainly not an issue I expected to have when I gave birth to a little girl--though at 10 pounds, even newborn G probably could have played in the defensive line on a baby football team.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The year of many changes

In thinking about 2011, I've realized that it's going to be packed full of milestones:
  • This month, G turns 12, beginning her final official year of childhood--not that she'll suddenly be grown up when she turns 13, but a teenager is not a kid in the same way a 6- or 8- or 10-year-old is a kid. (A 12-year-old isn't really either, but you've got to draw the line somewhere.) This is her last year of day camp, afterschool care, children's tickets at the movies, and all sorts of other things that have been fixtures in our lives for a long time.
  • Speaking of which, in June, G leaves the elementary school she's attended since her first day of kindergarten.
  • Hard on the heels of that milestone, in early July, is the fifth anniversary of P's death, and then a few days later, what would have been our 15th wedding anniversary.
  • In September, G starts junior high, which I expect to usher in all sorts of lifestyle changes for both of us.
  • In November, I turn 40. The idea doesn't bother me as much as you might think, because the alternative to getting older is being dead, and I'm not up for that. But no matter how you look at it, it's a huge milestone. Maybe even a monolith.
In keeping with this theme of change, I've only made one resolution for this year, and that is to accumulate more new experiences. This came about because just after Christmas, I was filling out one of those end-of-the-year surveys that circulate on Facebook. The first question was "What did you do this year that you've never done before?" and I couldn't answer it, because I hadn't done anything new. How embarrassing!

So, anyway, I thought it might be nice to pick one new thing each month and do it, so I'd have 12 different answers to that question when the end of this year rolls around. I'm having a little trouble getting started because I can't do anything unless I take G with me, and so far she hasn't been into any of my ideas. (I thought the Moroccan restaurant with belly dancers sounded fun. Sheeesh.) But I'm determined, and sooner or later I'll come up with an activity that interests both of us. Stay tuned for updates.