Friday, February 27, 2009

More than the sum of the parts

This has been a tough month for bad news. There's all the economy stuff, yes. But beyond that, I've had too much news of long ago friends and acquaintances having died recently.

I'm not old enough yet to be scanning the daily obituaries for familiar names. These are people in their 40s and 50s I'm hearing about. Lives cut short by alcoholism; cancer; sudden, inexplicable heart failure; accidents.

On one hand, they are people I'd lost touch with, or didn't spend time with independently of other, closer friends, or barely knew at all except to say hey-how-ya-doin' in passing. Still, each one feels like a loss, and given the close timing of their unrelated deaths, it's been a strange and unsettling month.

I feel disoriented and inarticulate and sad.

The latest news came in today's paper: a friend of my former husband just died in a chain saw accident in a town I once lived in and loved. My ex, my former brother-in-law, and several other friends were (are) loggers as well. The possibility of that kind of accident was a constant background anxiety in my life for a long time. It was a tough headline to see. The microseconds before I got to the phrase "...and father of five" -- ruling out my former spouse -- were tense.

I am thinking of those guys now; of how, when I knew them, they'd gather in one or the other's driveway after the day's work, sometimes just to touch base, sometimes for hours-long storytelling sessions. How they'd known each other since they were boys, and had years and years of stories on hand. How you wouldn't go two continuous minutes on the road without seeing one of their trucks, and each man had his own style of offhand wave as you passed. How news of any one of them spread to the others through the package store where they all got their Budweiser. Cases, upon cases, upon cases of Bud. How there would be pissing contests -- figurative and literal. (One of the guys could pee over a Suburban, the long way. It was legendary.) How working partnerships sometimes formed between them, but always dissolved eventually. It seems that men drawn to tree work are often those who work most happily alone.

I am picturing them gathering now, and I imagine the Bud is flowing as it did in younger days.

RIP, Marc.

winter whining... almost done edition

Waiting at the bus stop to pick up the Bean after school yesterday, the Peanut and I greeted a friend as she jogged past. She said, "Well! Summer must be coming, if you're outside!"

It annoyed me then, and it's still annoying me now. Partly because, hello? We walk at least to the bus stop and back twice a day, every school day, no matter the weather or temperature. Partly because her being outside running from dawn till dusk 365 days a year doesn't mean the rest of us are plopped on the couch watching soap operas or something.

I just hate feeling so observed, and inaccurately at that.

And yes, I'm fed up of not being outside very much because it's been so goddamn cold. I've been cold inside, cold outside, cold, cold, cold. It's gotten so I especially look forward to doing errands, because at least I'll be comfortable in the car, once the heat gets going. Sometimes I do turn up the thermostat at home, but the sound of dollar bills on fire gives me agita.

I'm tired of artificial heat, and static electricity, and air so dry my nose bleeds. I'm sick to death of fleece and closed windows. I'm sick of drinking a dozen cups of tea a day (fear not, it's mostly decaf) mostly for the sake of getting my hands around a warm mug for ten seconds... until they're cold again, and so is my tea. I wear warm socks, and my feet are sweaty... but still cold.

Fed up, I tell you.

The good news is that this week has been practically balmy, and Spring is around the corner. Hopefully my mood will catch up. If we get down to n-teen degrees again, I might have to point the car south and not stop till the thermometer reads 70.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And another thing:

Obvious natural disaster irony aside, why do these asshat Republicans think scientific research is a waste of money? Scoff at the fruit fly (or whatever) all you want -- we won't trouble you with the value of all this pesky "knowledge." But hello -- laboratories employ people and buy things... and isn't that business stuff right up your alley?

Someone please to explain.

A lesson he didn't learn, I guess...

Is Governor Bobby Jindal so profoundly stupid as to preach unto us a lesson from Hurricane Katrina, then moments later in the SAME SPEECH, sneer about how the government ought not to be monitoring volcanoes?

Evidently, yes.

You don't have to be a geologist to see how dumb that is. Volcanic eruptions = natural disasters = loss of life and property = bad news.

As freaking Governor of freaking LOUISIANA, Mr. Jindal must have attended a hearing or two on disaster preparedness.

This is the GOP's rising star? Wow.

Edited to add: More at Scientific American's 60-second Science blog. Read up, Bobby.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Open to suggestion

My scalp is itchy. Why? Because I just heard that someone else has head lice.

Those emails that circulate, with heart attack and stroke symptoms described so that we can all be aware and save our own and others' lives? They give me heart attack and stroke symptoms.

I should send myself an email detailing little recognized symptoms of happiness and well-being -- conditions that I actually, for the most part, have.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A phone call I am on the verge of making

Good morning, Ashley!

I don't know... 6:30? Too early? Sorry! I'll make it quick, OK Ash?

May I call you Ash? I feel we know each other personally, if only through our several mutual acquaintances. These are recent acquaintances of mine to be sure, and some less pleasant than others, frankly. You may know this already, as they are people who have been urgently wanting to talk to you for several days now, and some of them may have succeeded. You know what they say about monkeys, typewriters, and Shakespeare...

...well nevermind, it isn't important.

Anyway, Happy Birthday! ...oh, just a hunch. Sweet Sixteen, am I right? ... no, I wasn't at your party., I am NOT your Dad's new girlfriend! What? ...fine, I won't mention it, but I don't know your Mom either, so it's not likely to come up., not your teacher, either. Patience, dear, I'm coming to it.

So how do you like the new cell phone? hmm... yes. Oh, I am glad. The shiz. Yes, they are.

Say Ash, what's your number? I know I called you, but humor me...

...right, thanks. So that number, when dialed, makes YOUR phone ring.

...what, now? No, I don't know the Beyonce tune. Mine rings like a choo choo train, but only because I haven't downloaded the Star Wars theme yet... what? Look, I don't care how lame you think it is. That's not why I called.

Why I called is because my phone number is just one wee digit different from yours. I know, right? But you can check when we hang up, just look at your received calls list.

...actually no, it's not that weird. Unfortunate, yes, but not weird. Think of it as kind of neighbor-like. And since you're the one who just moved in -- I have had this number since you were in kindergarten, Ash -- I bid you fair welcome... problem...

...and also fair warning. Because listen up, kid: I'm giving you til this weekend to give your various pals your correct number, before I start seriously fucking with their heads. OK?



Sunday, February 15, 2009

Inadvertently wrecking your holidays since 2002!

Mr. Sandy is in New Hampshire this weekend, sledding with friends. It's an annual thing they do that sometimes coincides with Valentine's Day, about which we don't much care anyhow (especially now that Russell Stover no longer makes the Elvis Presley collector's tin of chocolates).

Yes, I said sledding. I should add that they aren't sliding down little golf course hills like school kids. They take several hours to hike up a mountain, then sled down the whole thing at great speed. I went myself a couple of times, before we had children. It's really, really fun.

Anyway, I have the girls to myself this weekend, which is also fun. Yesterday they had friends over, then we chilled out and watched March of the Penguins (which, if you haven't seen, do. It's a stunning movie.)

All of a sudden it was dinnertime, and I decided on the spur of the moment to go out to eat. We opted for a local casual place we like. It was very busy, but we waited just a few minutes for a table. Getting settled, I overheard from the table behind us: "Omigod, I would NEVER bring kids. They WRECK holidays."

It took me a minute to realize what "holiday" we had wrecked by our mere appearance. I'd forgotten it was Valentine's Day. So sorry! But you know... if you want a quiet Valentine's Day dinner, maybe don't choose to go at 6:00 PM to a place with a children's menu? Just a thought.

Valentine's Day notwithstanding, there are times when I take the girls to a restaurant (and I promise you I'm not talking Le Cirque; we go to appropriate places), and I register that unmistakably dismayed eye contact between people dining at adjacent tables as we sit down.

I do understand. Lord knows I have had my fair share of meals/flights/whatever disrupted by obnoxious whining rugrats and their inept parents. But here's the thing: I have well-behaved kids. Yes, I am biased in their favor, but I also work very hard to rear children with good manners, and the consistent hard work pays off. They know what's expected of them. They say "please" and "thank you." They do not shriek in restaurants. They know that if they pull something like that, we will leave.

What often happens is that people who expected to be put out by the girls' presence end up complimenting them on their good behavior. Which is nice, but those not-so-subtly exchanged looks can be demoralizing, even if you eventually decided we didn't warrant the eye rolling after all. The benefit of the doubt would be a nice change of pace.

We're not the only ones. There are lots of well-behaved children out there, and lots of parents working hard to make it so. Our families don't deserve your preemptive scorn.

So please, fellow diners. Save your obvious displeasure for when kids actually are being brats -- at which time, I'll join you. Unless they're my kids, in which case we've already left.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What do you mean, "happier"?

At preschool, the Peanut's class will sometimes be asked an opinion question, and each child will write their name on a chart under their answer. At the beginning of the school year, they did a taste test of different kinds of apples; they each tasted three varieties, then wrote their name under the variety they preferred. The poll results make a very basic bar graph which gets discussed, and then posted for parents to see as we retrieve our offspring.

As we go through the year, it has become clear that some kids are more likely than others to stray from the pack, opinion-wise. Today's poll question: Does Smiling Make You Feel Happier? In the YES column was the name of every child in the class, except one.

I was amused to see my Peanut's name carefully printed under NO.

No, smiling does not make her feel happier. Because how could she be happier? She doesn't get it.

I'm sort of in awe of her. What a cool personality trait!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In my defense, I've never bought the parsnip chips.

So I stopped at Trader Joe's for extra virgin olive oil and inexpensive hormone-free milk today, and also picked up a bag of Savory Thin Mini crackers that I don't, strictly speaking, need, but which will come in handy.

I noticed that they still don't have soba noodles or chocolate gelato -- are these things gone forever? why? -- and that they newly don't have the fruit roll-up "ends and pieces" I had just started buying for the Bean. Sigh.

Then I came home and saw this:


Fortunately, our local Trader Joe's doesn't have that cart-stopping force field, or whatever it is (what is it, anyone know?) Unfortunately, it also doesn't have wine.

We do have more elderly ladies in bright white sneakers than beautiful Moms in yoga clothes, but that's probably a Cape Cod thing.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Why I need to be online for adult conversation every so often during the day

Peanut, drawing: Mommy, what are your favorite colors?
Me: I like purple, and green, and blue.
Peanut: NO, your FAVORITE!
Me: Purple.
Peanut: JUST purple?!?

(deep breath)

Me: I like purple, and green, and blue.

Bob & Ray would be proud.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Recently Read: The Phony Marine

This is Jim Lehrer's 16th novel. Yes, the PBS news guy. I didn't even know he wrote novels. Anyway, it is a quick, quirky little read. Our hero is the bland, middle-aged Hugo, an able suit salesman at an expensive men's clothing store in Washington, D.C.. Recently divorced, he spends his free time online. On an eBay impulse, he buys a Silver Star won by a Marine in Viet Nam. When it arrives, he goes for a walk wearing the lapel pin that accompanies the medal, and thus begins weaving his peculiar tangled web. Hugo finds out that all kinds of things are different when people think you are a Marine... but that you don't have to be a Marine to make all kinds of things different.

I think it is supposed to be funny; I know some readers thought it was a hoot. To me it read more like a basic morality tale. A little trite, but sure, something to think about.

Top this, friends.

I am recently awoken from a dream in which Owen Wilson was doing bra fittings for me and some friends of mine in my downstairs bathroom. Expertly. He was really good at it.

This was not a sexy thing. I find Owen Wilson to be very funny in his one trick pony kind of way, but I've no interest in seeing him naked.

Still, maybe the man has talents none of us ever imagined.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A bummer and a mystery, however minor.

I hate when I make myself a cup of tea, forget that I made it, and let it sit until it's no longer hot enough.

Reheated tea is never quite right.

Why is that?

Also, why is tea better when the water is boiled on the stove, than when it's boiled in the microwave?

Don't tell me it isn't.