Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

A quick post before festivities get underway, to wish one and all a happy, healthy 2009.

Thanks for reading :).

(Festivities = watching The Dark Knight! Woo hoo!)

Monday, December 29, 2008


So we got the family a digital piano this Christmas. We'd been thinking about a piano for a while... at least one of the girls shows strong signs of musical inclination ("talent" might be a bit braggy, but she floors me sometimes).

This morning the Peanut sat down on the bench with a flourish, in her deep rose velvet dress and matching cape, and I said "and now she's going to play you a little something she wrote herself." We went back to what we'd been doing while the Peanut noodled around on the keyboard, playing about six minutes of not-unpleasant nonsense. After she'd finished, she turned to the family and said "that was called Runaway Snail."

I think she's a genius.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yep, this thing's still on.

On the off chance I still have readers, I thought I'd check in:

Hi there.

Things are OK. Looking up a bit, even. I always get in a foul mood before Christmas, and it always lifts eventually. Knowing it goes away doesn't stop it from coming, though. I still think that someday I'd like for my very own Christmas tradition to consist of getting the hell out of town about 15 December, and returning after the New Year. It would be nice to have this few weeks surgically removed from Real Life.

In the meantime, here I am. The Card is sent. We don't subject our loved ones to a dressed-up list of everything we've bought and accomplished over the year (honestly, I'm glad you love your new car or whatever, but doesn't a Christmas letter strike you as a peculiar place for that sort of news?), but we do subject them to a picture of the girls. As luck would have it, most of the people we love in this world live hundreds of miles away, and still more are headed that way. We don't see some of them even annually. Hence, The Christmas Picture of The Offspring. I've taken some great ones over the years, so the bar's set pretty high. And of course the photo card places keep discontinuing the template I like best, resulting in an hours-long online research project involving multiple, overlapping and largely forgotten usernames and passwords (about which rant forthcoming, if I have the energy, which is to say insert your own rant here because I'm probably not going to bother, except to say that I have HAD IT with having to have usernames and passwords for every damn thing I do). It can add up to an ordeal, albeit self-imposed and potentially bizarre to outside observers (thank you Catherine, it did help). This year Mr. S. figured out a very simple (now that it's set up) way to get it done precisely how we like it to be. He's good at that sort of thing. I think I'll keep him. Why he'd keep me, who the hell knows.

I digress.

In the other room, the Peanut is singing, to the tune of Mary Had a Little Lamb:

I'm grateful for my family, family, famILY
I'm grateful for my family
And for my friends at school.

Must be a preschool Thanksgiving song. Works for me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm trying, really I am.

Another heavy gray day -- basically dark by 4:00 PM, again.

There are so many stupid little things I have to get done; even with no paying day job, I have not much opportunity (or motivation, frankly) to do them.

My calendar is full of one obligatory event after another. Not that any one of these is unpleasant... actually, they're mostly all fun... but they are obligatory, and they are one after another after another.

Sort of a manic treadmill o'fun. Which, you know, isn't.

Christmas cards are rolling in, and instead of delight at the greetings they represent, I feel the weight of obligation to take the Christmas photo and get my own cards ordered, written, addressed, sent.

Merry, merry, fa la la...

... this really, really isn't my favorite time of year.

I'm trying hard not to say out loud that I hate it... but I do.

(Yes, I know the real Meaning of Christmas isn't about any of the stuff that I hate. But since it seems Jesus was actually born in June, I'd happily dump all the crap that has to happen in December.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oooh, look!

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day is especially gorgeous. I'm not posting it directly because it's not a NASA picture, so the copyright is private. Go see! Of course, that link will be to a different picture tomorrow, so if for some VERY odd reason you don't check this blog daily, go find the APOD for December 12 2008.

Nice, hm?

Tonight's full moon will be lovely too, if we can see it, which seems unlikely because it's been overcast and raining for about six months now. OK, a few days. But still.

The good ole days weren't always good, and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems...

Recently I went to my ophthalmologist for a regular exam. It's a large, busy office, with a dozen different doctors providing everything from basic services like my contact lens prescriptions to LASIK and other surgical procedures. I go there because it's in town, I like the doctor I've been seeing, and, above all, they take my insurance.

Looking around for a place to sit in the expansive but full waiting room, I realized with sudden minor anxiety that I hadn't brought a book. I hate having nothing to read. In the same moment I remembered that though I like this doctor, it's always at least 45 minutes' wait to see him. With a book, the built in reading time is actually a bonus. Without, it can be a frustrating waste of time.

As you'd expect, ophthalmology practices are particularly busy with elderly patients. Every table in the place had multiple copies of the AARP magazine ("world's largest circulation." Really? wow) and precious little else. Sitting at one end of an empty couch, I scanned the room to see what people had in hand. I would've circled a People magazine like a buzzard, but didn’t see one. A gentleman across the room perused something I didn't recognize. I squinted (note to self: mention to eye doc that I am unable to read titles of other people's magazines from across a large waiting room). Aha! Wait that can't be right. Reminisce magazine -- really? Is that a spoof thing -- The Onion for octagenarians? Well no, actually. It's the real deal.

It’s real, and it isn't even one of a kind. The magazine I eventually got my hands on is called Good Old Days ("featuring stories, photos, illustrations of the happy days gone by"). Between its covers lies more sap than I've ever seen in a publication aimed at people over, say, 6. It is childhood tale after childhood tale, black-and-white photographs and deeply rose-colored memories. Pictures and stories of kids sledding on streets ("before 'global warming,' some of those streets stayed snow-covered for days...") and of couples embracing, reunited after World War II. Lots of wistful statements about how much simpler, happier, more loving and better tasting things were, back in the 30s and 40s. All this between advertisements with aggressive taglines such as “HAVING TROUBLE WIPING?”. I'd never seen anything like it, and for a good while, I was hooked. “Every night when Sis and I walked into our bedroom, there it was – a lid of melted skunk grease on top of that old heating stove.” Fascinating.

Eventually a woman and her elderly mother sat down with me. The mother was there for eyelid surgery. She wasn't looking forward to it, she said, but planned to have a nice big muffin in the car on the way home. I told her that sounded delicious, and that I hoped everything would go very well. She said she had some good music to listen to while recovering, and I told her about some books on tape she might like. All very pleasant. Then she leaned in and whispered "my doctor is Japanese, but really she's very good."

Now, this lady was clearly in her 80s, about to undergo surgery and anxious about it, so it wasn't the time or place for "Um, why would being Japanese interfere with her being a very good doctor?" I just agreed that it's great to have a doctor you trust. Then my name was called, and we said good-byes.

The magazine and the conversation both left me with mixed feelings.

Some of the stories in Good Old Days, including a woman’s account of visiting her old childhood home, long abandoned and about to be demolished to make way for a new subdivision, were really touching. Most of them, though, were pure deluded saccharine.

Then here’s this nice lady, bearing up for something scary, then assuming total sympathy in revealing her Good Old Days era prejudice to another white person. It would be less dispiriting if I didn’t hear versions of the same statement so often -- "s/he's [race/ethnicity], but [positive attribute]" -- from people I know much too well to make excuses for.

Good Old Days has a website. On it, a letter from the editor:

The era of the Great Depression and the war years could really teach life lessons to younger folks in these tough economic times of the 21st century. I call it the lesson of Daddy's Belt.

I'm not talking about the times Daddy's belt was applied amply to my well-deserving posterior. I assure you that I learned plenty of life lessons from that use of Daddy's belt, but I'm talking about a more abstract application...

Ah, yes. Beating children was so simple then.

Subdivisions notwithstanding, I think we've come a long way since the good old days, thank you very much.

We have Japanese eye surgeons right here on Cape Cod, for one thing.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

How Dangerous a Driver Are You?

I guess the premise is that you can't be a totally safe driver, but you can be less dangerous than everyone else.

How dangerous of a driver are you?

Created by The Car Connection

I think I scored "above average" instead of "excellent" because I answered honestly the "have you ever driven under the influence" question. Not in the last 20 years or so, but....ever? I'd have to guess, if I'm perfectly honest, that there was one time in my very early 20s when I maybe shouldn't have driven home.

As to speeding... not so much anymore. Before marriage and kids and the overall transformation to Boring Middle-aged Person, I did like to drive pretty fast. Even then, though, I didn't tailgate or weave in and out of lanes or pass people on the right without giving them ample opportunity to move over first. Tailgaters all suck, and the tailgaters who come up close behind you and flash their lights when it's perfectly clear to anyone paying attention that there is absolutely no opportunity to move out of their way -- they suck most of all.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

It's Thursday. What Day Is It? I don't know. (!!!)

This afternoon my four year-old Peanut was sitting in the next room drawing a picture for her daddy and singing "I'm a teeenaaaaager in love." She gets it from Connie Stevens singing "Why Must I Be A Teenager In Love" on The Muppet Show, but she hasn't seen that in a long while, so the tune was coming out rather differently. Better, I think.

She really is unbearably cute sometimes.

Earlier today, I was beyond angry with her, over something really, really dumb: She knows the days of the week. She knows which of the days are her preschool days. This morning I asked her, what day is it? Dunno, she said. I told her: it's Thursday. What days do you have school? Dunno, she said. I reminded her: Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

So, do you have preschool today?


What day is today?


I tell her, again.

What days do you have preschool?

Monday, Tuesday...

Wait, do you remember what we just said?


Repeat, repeat, repeat, and despite an inner voice that said let it go, leave her alone, for whatever reason she can't handle this simple thing right now, I just could not. A louder voice said what the FUCK, she KNOWS this, and even if she didn't, I just TOLD HER, and she needs to PAY ATTENTION! And I got really angry. I don't know why this simple, inconsequential thing just set me off. I tell her something, and then two seconds later she's incapable of repeating it back to me? I am probably not getting across how infuriating it was in the moment, but even if I could get it across, there is no reason it should make sense. There's no getting around that my feelings were out of proportion to this stupid interaction we were having.

When I got back from bringing Bean to the bus, Peanut was happily reciting the days of the week with her Daddy, and I apologized for being too mad at her, and we forgot about it. That is, she forgot about it. I'm blogging about it. In any case, all is well.

I take small consolation from the fact that I'm still a better mommy than the one I saw dragging her little girl into the liquor store tonight (wine is 20% off on the first Thursday of the month, dontcha know) so she could get a bottle of vodka. It was 8:30; both of them were in pajamas. I guess there's fucking up, and Fucking Up.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Words and Phrases Forbidden for 2009

In the forehead-slapping, how-could-I-forget department:

6. "maverick"
Never again. Unless in "team of mavericks," used in context of faux nostalgia.

7. "Drill, baby, drill."
It was dumb, baby, dumb, and now it can be done, baby, done.


Words and Phrases Forbidden for 2009

I'm going to think of more, but it's not too soon to get started. What words or phrases should we ditch with the year 2008?

(Granted, some of these should've been banned in 2008 or earlier, but have stuck around like Owen Wilson in You, Me and Dupree.)

1. "threw up in my mouth a little"
or any of its revolting equivalents

2. "baby bump"
This has caused me to bring back the phrase "gag me," which was originally and righteously banned sometime in the late 1980s.

3. "[media, Hollywood, anything] elites"
Oh, please.

4. "purity ball"
Let's ban the phrase, the events, the pretext... the whole creepy concept, shall we?

5. "beeyotch," "biaaatch," &c.
Quit it. Just... quit it.

OK, that's my first five. More to come. Add your own!