Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It ain't all bitching and whining.

This is the Bean's Thanksgiving art project. It's a turkey, and its feathers name things she's thankful for. She ran out of room so decided to go in a complete circle.

The Peanut's is harder to photograph - it's a paper chain with something she's thankful for written on each link. She included a lot of the same stuff her sister did (they worked on these "secretly" together in the Peanut's room the day before Thanksgiving), but with the chain format's limitless space she was able to add "hospitals, books, water, a bed to sleep in, trees, a nice teacher, [eye]glasses, a nice contrey, animals, love, a nice school, hollidays, a house, my stuft animals."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Why can't people leave people alone, part the nth

I guess this is as good a place as any for my rant about how Black Friday is emblematic of everything wrong with American culture these days. It isn't enough now that stores have to open at 5:00 AM... now they start at midnight, or even the night of Thanksgiving. So people who work retail have to cut their family holiday short to accommodate our collective lust for competition to buy cheap crap. Yeah yeah, we're grateful, we gorged ourselves to prove it, now get the fuck out of our way or suffer the consequences. Pepper spray is the new elbow to the ribs.

I know that everyone who shops the day after Thanksgiving doesn't behave this way, and I guess I should be thankful that unlike last year, nobody was trampled to death. Still, the whole concept disgusts me. Pffft.

I have some shopping to do today myself, hopefully while Black Friday lovers are still sleeping it off. Not Christmas shopping, which I plan to do only very locally or online this year -- just for groceries. Yet, even with Thanksgiving still visible in the rearview mirror, I can expect to encounter the bells, the bells, the relentless bells.

So I printed out my little notes for the red kettles, politely explaining that my donations go elsewhere while the Salvation Army maintains its position that homosexual people should not only not be allowed to marry, but should be celibate

Hopefully I won't forget which pocket holds which paper.  Both my purposes will be amusingly defeated if the red kettle gets my shopping list, leaving me with a scrap of cheerfully expressed social activism to guide me through the grocery store.

a non-update

Yes, I am still here, and no, I never did figure out what that ticking was.

November has been... intense. Memorial services for two terrific, accomplished, vibrant and beautiful women. My mother's stay in the hospital for hip replacement surgery and rehab, and my father's stay with us during some of that. A four-day conference of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. Continued construction on the house. Meetings, playdates, parent/teacher conferences, basketball practices, Tuesdays in the school art room, Thursdays in the school library.


All worth writing about, but there is no uninterrupted time for that any more, unless I get up at 5:00 AM, which is how it happened today, but as great as it is to sit at my desk unobserved and undistracted, I could probably have made better use of staying asleep, which I would have if I could have.

Now I hear little feet on their way downstairs, so that's the end of unobserved and undistracted.

I hope your Thanksgivings were all lovely, or, outside the USA, that your November 24ths were just super.

I sense a nap in my near future.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The telltale... what, what, WHAT?

I was just emptying the dishwasher, while waiting for the teapot to boil. Mounted on the wall to the right of my cooktop is a spice rack Mr. Sandyshoes made for me. On hooks at the bottom of it, I hang spatulas, etc. So I'm hanging up some of these utensils. The kettle whistles, I make my tea, and continue unloading clean dishes while it steeps. At some point I notice a faint ticking sound in the vicinity of the spice rack.


What could it be? Who would care? It's barely perceptible.


But it bothers me because I don't know what is doing it. I assume it is the spoon I see rocking back and forth on its hook a bit after I hung it up, and I go to steady the spoon.


Not the spoon. The tick is coming from higher up, within the spice rack, somewhere between parsley and tarragon (yes, they're alphabetized. Yours aren't?).


Maybe the change in humidity from opening the dishwasher just after it finished running is causing the wood of the spice rack to expand against the kitchen wall?


I press on the spice rack and hold.


Hm. That did seem like kind of a stretch. I've emptied that dishwasher hundreds of times and never noticed this before.


The ticking is regular. I'm going to time it.

Tick. One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand,


Every four seconds. But what? From where?


The pepper mill? I take out the pepper mill, hold it to my ear, feeling foolish now, but something is ticking. This is a question with an answer, and I want the answer, even if it's going to make me feel like a dope.


Not the pepper mill. In the wall. I go around to the other side of the wall, which is my laundry room.


It's even less perceptible here. Definitely on the spice rack side of the wall.


Folks, I wish I had an end to this story. Something in my wall is still ticking. Every four seconds. Quietly, but distinctly, ticking.

I predict it will continue through tomorrow, and stop just as Mr. Sandyshoes gets home from his trip. There won't be any point in telling him about it, but I probably will. Uh-huh, he'll say. The spice rack is ticking. Sure thing. Don't worry baby, I'll get right on that.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

4th grade homework is impossible

The Bean's favorite subject is "science." Under that umbrella, her class spends time on various topics in turn. The current unit is about weather, the atmosphere, etc. So she brought home a study guide that has terms she wanted me to quiz her on (humidity, greenhouse effect, front, anemometer...) and questions she should be prepared to answer (what properties can be used to describe air masses? In which layer of the atmosphere does most weather occur?).

I scanned through the guide, making sure I knew everything she was supposed to learn, plus a little extra for discussions. It's cool -- I had forgotten all about the troposphere being called that. So far, so good.

The last bit of her assignment read "Please review the symbols of a weather map and [emphasis mine] be able to predict the weather." And I thought, whoa.

She didn't understand when I told her if she really mastered that last bit she could quit school. I guess some stuff's only funny to parents.

OK, maybe only to me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This one goes to '11

In amateur rock bands where individual egos trump balanced sound, often one musician will nudge up the volume on his amp, and in a few minutes another one will do it too, and not to be outdone a third pushes his over the volume of the others, leading the first one to realize he's not loudest any more and crank it up, etc., until everyone is at max volume and nobody can even stand to be in the same room anymore. You expect kids in garage bands to behave this way.

Same thing in Presidential primary elections. Florida moved up its primary more than a month, to January 31st (why?). South Carolina and Nevada had to follow suit (why?) and moved theirs to January 14. Iowa is having its caucus on January 3 (why?). New Hampshire's Secretary of State is now saying he'll move their primary into December 2011 if necessary to maintain first-in-the-nation status and comply with a NH state law that says theirs has to happen a full week before anyone else's (WHY?).

This is so flippin' stupid, and I haven't even gotten into the candidates, about whom humorist Andy Borowitz quips "there are people running for President I would not trust to park my car." Hm. Probably best I don't get into the candidates, except to say that Mitt Romney's inevitability train now appears to be leaving the station before the calendar year is even over.

This is so depressing I may forget to complain about the Christmas decorations already up in department stores.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Help! Police!

Our town has a weekly newspaper. Like many local weeklies, ours includes selections from the week's police reports. These are always worth reading. Yes, there is sometimes news of real crime (thefts from unlocked cars, mostly) and traffic accidents, but more importantly, we have gems such as these:
A resident from North Shore Boulevard called police at 9:27 PM to report a squirrel in the house.  Police contacted the animal control officer. The resident called police back an hour later to say that the squirrel was still in her home and had scratched her. Police suggested that she contact a private company specializing in ridding homes of wildlife.
A resident called police at 10:33 PM to report seeing four coyotes wearing dog tags walking in the area of Quaker Meetinghouse Road and Route 130. Police checked the area but did not see any animals. Police determined that the report was unfounded since coyotes do not wear dog tags.
Naturally, friends and family visiting from more cosmopolitan settings grab the local paper as soon as politely possible after arrival. You just never know if a "suspicious person" will turn out to be a Comcast employee, or if maybe a goose will be observed walking down Main Street at dawn, with or without dog tags.

Friday, September 30, 2011

in which kickball isn't just kickball

The Peanut's 2nd grade teacher is the same terrific person the Bean had that year. We love this teacher. One of the wonderful things she does is to have the children keep a composition notebook in which they write a letter to their parents, and the parents write back on the next page, back and forth throughout the year. I loved my letters from the Bean. They captured her personality and school day moods differently than any other way we communicated, and gave me an avenue to be playful with her, when so much school day life is sucked up by just telling kids to do things/having grown-ups tell you to do things. I've tried to continue her notebook through 3rd grade (she refused) and 4th (I get an occasional note). Maybe we'll do it in pulses, but it's a line of communication I want to keep open. Sometimes a letter does what conversation cannot.

Anyway, this is today's letter from the Peanut, for those who know her and/or would be amused:
Dear Mommy,

I dissected my paere today and it had 5 seeds inside.

We are going to the book fair next Tusday at nine therty. Thank you! Finaly! Choclit cupcakes! I love you Mommy! OK. Bad news. I got another blister on the monkey bars.
I love you!


They have been spending the week studying "seeds and how they travel"... hence the pear dissection. Walking to school, the Peanut has held a plastic bag at the ready, gathering whatever seed-related items she could find. Garden string bean, pine cone, seed pod from the iris, all went in the bag. She was so focused on seed hunting that she almost stepped in dog shit. I wish the dog owner had been carrying a plastic bag.

Y'know... occasionally, there will be some discussion on the town level about where/when dogs are allowed to be on various town-owned properties. I always feel for the many responsible dog owners who take care that nobody will likely step in their dog's poop. But all it takes is one pile of dog shit on the freakin' sidewalk to harden my heart and ensure my vote against allowing dogs anywhere. Too bad really. If we could trust people not to be assholes, what a better world this would be.

But I digress. Monkey bars! That Peanut has been a monkey bar fiend for a couple of years now. She spends every possible recess period practicing swinging from end to end and back, and frequently comes home with serious blisters on her palms. The kid won't stop until she bleeds. Then she cries, not just because it hurts, but because she has to take some days off. She has got it in her head that recess is boring, and that the only part of the playground that's any good is the monkey bars, and other than that there's just the dumb ol' field, where some kids play kickball. Why don't you play kickball, too? I asked her. She said that no girls play kickball, but she wants to, and on Monday she is going to do it!

This is brave, because earlier this week a boy asked her why she was playing a baseball-like game with the boys in gym instead of hula hooping with the girls, and she came home pretty upset. It had never even occurred to her that she was the only girl in the game, let alone that there was anything peculiar about it. I couldn't help but remember my first day of middle school, when I sat with the boys at lunchtime because that's who my friends were, and I didn't realize until it was too late what a social gaffe I'd made. Painful, painful stuff. I'm trying to remember that she is not me, now is not then, etc., etc., but I can see how she feels different, and hurts, and I understand completely. It is how I know, too, that no matter how awkward it feels not to, she will never pick up a hula hoop and join the girls just because they are girls and she is one too. She'll pick up a hula hoop when and if she feels like freakin' hula hooping and not before, and if what the boys are doing looks more fun then that's where she'll want to be.

Today, while her sister was at soccer, we took a ball of our own and practiced kickball so she will feel ready. She made me pretend all the other players were on the field with us, and shouted out what they were doing and where we had to run, and whose turn it was to kick, and whether we were tagged out or not. Needless to say I was exhausted before the first inning was up, and when older boys in baseball uniforms showed up to use the field for their practice, I was secretly relieved. (One boy threw a ball to another, overshot him by a fair bit, and my Peanut ran and got the ball. She fired it back to the nearer boy, and her throw was perfect. I couldn't believe it. Made a nice smack into the kid's glove when he caught it, too.)

I really hope her entrance onto the 2nd grade kickball scene goes well. In the meantime, I know what to write about in our letter journal this weekend.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

September, ur doin it wrong.

Yeah right. Being "present in your present" is all well and good when there's crisp, dry air, and sunshine warm enough to comfort but not so hot you're sweating before you burn your first calorie of the day. Not so easy from beneath a damp sticky air mass that hangs like a mouldering blanket over everything for days on end. Late September, and I am running air conditioners just to prevent me from pulling my remaining hair out. Who wants to buy pumpkins in this weather? I ask you.

Actually, it's getting better. I should quit my whining and focus on the fact that in a mere few months, a run of days like this will be an impossible dream. All too soon, there will be cold and damp to complain about.

So, remember Mr. Sandyshoes and I got to spend a few days in Maine at the beginning of the summer? And remember I'd said I was going to plug our hotel, etc.? Of course you don't. But we did that, and I said that. Accordingly:

We stayed at the lovely Blue Nose Inn, a pleasant stroll from central Bar Harbor, with great views of Frenchman Bay. The hotel is attractive and comfortable. There's a hot tub, steam room, and pool, which we used, and exercise equipment, which we didn't. There's a bar and a pianist playing nightly in the "Great Room," which made for an enjoyable nightcap (and when did I become someone who enjoys a "nightcap"? Is this not something one's parents used to do? Sigh.) One evening there was a wine-and-cheese reception hosted by the manager. It was interesting talking with him about the similarities and differences between the tourist-dependent, seasonal economies of Bar Harbor and Cape Cod. Don't ask me why it was interesting, because I can't remember a thing we said; I was on vacation. But I know I enjoyed the conversation, which I could not have had it been dull.

What else? We loved dinner at Cafe This Way. It's a cool setting... tables set up in a converted-garage (though it isn't, I asked) feeling space, full of books and original artwork. Hard to describe. Check their website for pictures (caution:  the font is damn near unreadable. Why do people do that?). The food was so good that we went back the next morning for an equally terrific breakfast, and will make a point to revisit it if we're ever in Bar Harbor again.  

The day before, we'd had an (eventually) delightful breakfast on the porch at the Two Cats Cafe, though it took a while to get seated, and after that a bizarrely long while before anyone took our order. We waited and waited. I was this close to leaving, but it turned out fine. I guess they were having a tough morning. A lady at the table next to us sent back her coffee because it was too hot, and her pancakes because she thought they were mushy (maybe they were, who knows. Ours were fine). Sent back coffee because it was too hot, though! Can you imagine? Steven Wright had a joke: "This pizza's too hot. I think we should send it back." Restaurant people must just shake their heads sometimes.

Something that amused us in Acadia National Park: We were parked at one of its famous natural features... Thunder Hole, I think, though the tide wasn't right for making the thundering sound it's named for... and, after climbing around on the rocks a bit, came back to the car, ready to move on.  A small group of people were gathered behind the car next to ours, pointing at something, and saying things like "ooh! Look! Right in the parking lot!" and we looked in the direction they were pointing, and there was nothing there. Unless... wait, they couldn't mean... that seagull? Ayuh, they did. A whole family of tourists was beside themselves at this incredible wildlife sighting. They all looked sane, but what the? I took a peek at their license plate: Indiana. So I assume this was the morning of the very first day of their very first Maine vacation, and that they'd arrived in darkness the night before... and that they don't have landfills where they come from.

Naturally we had way too much fun pointing out those wily, elusive seagulls to one another on the rest of the trip.  I'm told we have them here at home, too. If it's not too humid tomorrow I might try to find one.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Well shoot -- happy equinox!

I appear to have taken the summer off from blogging.  Go figure. Blogging's hard to get to with the family around all. the. time.  But now that we have settled into something of a regular schedule again (also, frankly, now that Facebook sort of sucks), I hope to be writing here a bit more.  We shall see.

So, what's been happening?  Summer happened, and I can hardly remember it already. The girls are back at school... 4th and 2nd grade are proceeding apace, and they both seem to be enjoying it.  Classmates are good, teachers are terrific, all is well. 

The Peanut did have a moment of shock and dismay this morning. She froze in the middle of clearing her breakfast dishes, and turned to me in sudden horror. "Mommy? Is childhood... is being a child just to get you to be a grownup? Because I don't want to be a grownup, ever!" Her wide blue eyes filled with tears, and she couldn't speak further. When she'd swallowed the lump in her throat she managed to get out that she never wants to have a job and have to get up in the morning and leave her home every day! So I tried to come up with a thousand cool jobs she could have. Peanut! You could have a job designing and building playgrounds! You could work at a toy company, testing toys with groups of kids! You could have a career designing dress-up costumes! You could be a singer, have concerts at night and get up late every day! You could have a job traveling to different places and writing about them! You could collect rocks and dinosaur bones! You could be an actress and pretend all the time! Jobs don't all suck. Lots of people love their jobs (humor her. Heck, humor me. I hope to love paid work someday myself. I'd say "again," but I never loved the kind I did. I really, really hope the Peanut has better luck.).

In the meantime, the Bean was rattling off a thousand reasons why she thinks being a grown-up is going to be the best thing ever.  You can drive! You can eat all the treats you want and nobody can tell you you can't! You can go wherever you want! You can read anything! You can decide everything for yourself!  And I had to agree... being a grown-up is pretty damn cool, and like her, I was eager for it even as a little girl. Maybe it's a first child thing.

One daughter can't wait for adulthood, eager for everything she'll gain; one cries at the thought of it, sad for everything she'll lose.

So, as the balance on this half of our ceaselessly spinning planet tips once again toward shorter days and longer nights, I wish for my children not to urge it on too fast, nor to mourn its progress too bitterly.  I wish it for myself as well, and for you. Be present in your present.

Happy, peaceful Autumn, everyone.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Our Independence Day came early this year... or 9 years late, maybe.

Mr. Sandyshoes and I just took a trip... on our own. Just us. No offspring. This is something we said we'd do annually, on or around our anniversary each June.  Maybe a few days, maybe just an overnight, but certainly, we said, we should get away on our own once a year, even when we have children.  We will be the kind of parents who believe our children will need time without us, as we will need time without them, we said.

(Go ahead and laugh.  It's OK.)

Well. I couldn't have left the girls with anyone, as babies. They each nursed until 16 months, for one thing, and I'd have been bereft without them, for another. It just didn't feel right until this year. Yes, our oldest is almost 9. Yes, that is a long time not to have had a few days alone with my husband. 

Over the years I'd see Facebook posts of friends with more and/or younger children than we have, heading up to Boston overnight or grabbing date time with their spouses here and there. I'd envy these friends a little. You hear all the time that it's important to do things as a couple, to jealously guard that time and MAKE IT HAPPEN or it's likely your marriage will suffer. Yeah yeah, and yeah right. How do they do it, these parents of toddlers who go away alone together?  My children were school aged before I'd ever even hired a babysitter for an evening. When the Bean was a babe and I still had a paid job, my parents filled in the child care time between Mr. Sandyshoes leaving for work late and me coming home early. It worked for a while, but when the Peanut was born, there was no way I couldn't be home with them. It was good to be at work, but it was better to be with my girls. 

Of course, one income means less money for babysitters, dates, and weekend trips... so it's sort of a reinforcing cycle.  And so here we are, with the girls 7 and 8, taking our first time together without them. I don't regret the home time one bit, but now we really should be able to do this every year. The girls are ready, we're ready, and, after all, we're the kind of parents who believe our children need time without us, just as we need time without them... right?  Right.

So, this year, Mr. Sandyshoes made the plans secretly, and on our 10th anniversary he emailed me (he was at sea) that -- surprise! -- we would be spending a few days in Maine while the girls stayed with his sister and her family, who live near Boston. Yay! This gave me some time to prepare them for Our Big Trip and Their Big Trip as separate events. They were super-excited and felt All Grown Up.

The Peanut made a brief mention of possibly missing us, then reminded herself she knew our phone numbers, so she'd be OK.

The Bean started making a packing list.  I told her I'd made one for them that she was welcome to, and she said no, thanks, she'd do it.  Ten minutes later she came to ask for it.  Ten minutes after that she said she was going to use my list, because "it looks like you spent a lot of time thinking about it" and it didn't seem to her that I'd forgotten anything. Hee! Oh Bean, after a few hundred trips, you'll get packing lists down to a science as well. I'm actually pleased to have her approval though, she's tough.

Last week we dropped them off and hit the road. Our lucky girls have the best aunt and grown-up cousins ever, and they had the time of their lives playing games and watching movies and doing the swan boats and the Museum of Science and Quincy Market and scootering through Boston Common, and they can blog about that their own selves whenever they want to, but this is MY blog, damnit and WE went to Mount Desert Island, Maine, which was just perfect.  In my next post I will plug our hotel and some of the restaurants we went to and share a couple of pictures from Acadia National Park.

In the meantime, happy Independence Day!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Fathers' Day

For making sure I saw all the Marx Brothers movies; for introducing the concept of taxation while sorting through our Halloween candy; for giving me first crack at the New York Times crossword puzzle all those Sundays; for a bone dry sense of humor that can still stand to be silly; for not letting blindness, illness or infirmity get the best of you; for the gold spray painted coat hanger halo on my angel costume that one year; for all the bad puns (is that redundant?); for the custard-colored 1980 Chrysler LeBaron I drove to California and back; for "giving me away" twice, but never acting like you owned me in the first place; for being my biggest fan, thank you, Dad.  Happy Father's Day, and here's to many more.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

How's 2012 -- is 2012 good for you?

We're building an addition on our little Cape Cod house. Contractors will do the things that licenses are required to do, but Mr. Sandyshoes is doing most of the rest himself. You may remember he has a full time job as an oceanographer at a university. Yes, he's on sabbatical this year; but that relieves him of teaching and faculty meetings, not of his research, which continues at a greater pace, if anything. He's actually at sea for a month-ish, as I type.

Getting a building permit was a long, complicated, expensive process, riddled with really, really boring conversations, even though it's my house and I'm supposed to be fascinated (support beams! rebar! sub-slab plumbing! Honestly, all I can manage is a Beavis-like snicker whenever anyone says "double hung.")  Eventually the permit was granted and work began.  Astute readers may remember my account of the Bean's 8th birthday festivities amid the chaos of a new septic system installation and destruction of our deck and alcove, just days before I left for our short-term move across the country. Good times.

Since then, various, usually pleasant representatives of the Board of Assessors like to come visit. "Hello," I tell them. "It's not done yet." "Oh, OK," they say, "can you give me some idea of your timetable?" I explain about Mr. Sandyshoes and the full time job, and they say gotcha, and everything seems cool. Lather, rinse, repeat.

By the way, there is nothing against the rules about taking a long time to do a permitted project, as long as work is ongoing, which, as the pit o'dirt in front of my soon-to-be-demolished garage makes manifest, it is.

When the most recent emissary came up the driveway this week, clipboard in hand, I came out to greet him as usual. "Hello," I said, cheerfully. "It's not done yet." For some reason, this one seemed kind of annoyed. "Well," he said, gesturing at our foundation, then back at his clipboard, "this doesn't look like an 'addition.' It says here, 'addition.' This just looks like a garage."

Actually, what it looks like is a garage foundation around a pit o'dirt in front of an existing garage, but let's not quibble.  What you see there, is what we've got so far. The plans for what it will become are at the Building Department. It's an addition.

I explained about the parts that, looking only at the foundation, you can't deduce will be built. I confirmed his information about our existing house.

After a short, inconclusive silence, he said, "you know, when this is all done, we're going to have to come in and look at your whole house." At which my inner Beavis struck again, but I managed to keep it at "yes, I know."

It's still not done yet. 

And, y'know, I'm sorry about that. We are not on a mission to dupe or inconvenience the Board of Assessors. It's just not finished. Believe me, nobody would be happier than I if it were. Summer's going to bring banging of hammers, screeching of power saws, and a spike in ibuprofen consumption. Also, that pit o'dirt isn't nearly as charming as it sounds.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

So, you're now reading the blog of an elected official!

(Whaddya mean, "whose"?  Why I oughtta...)

And... that and $2 will get you a medium coffee. But yes! I did win a seat on my local School Committee, and am now getting into the work of being on the local School Committee, about which, as promised, I will not write in specific terms here.

Campaigning, though. That was something.  Longtime readers, you know me; you know that ordinarily, I am a bit of a loner, with a self-deprecating sense of humor and quiet, non-confrontational hobbies.  I'm just not used to talking so damn much, not to mention being interviewed and photographed and quoted and being in the newspaper and on television (just local cable, but still). For a few weeks, among the other candidates' signs, there were white-on-purple signs with my name on them all over town. People gave up their Saturday mornings to hold these signs and wave to voters. Amazing.

I spoke to everyone: Town Republicans, Town Democrats, the local fish and game club (at which "where's the rest of this moose?" went over like a lead balloon... sigh), gatherings of retirees, gatherings of parents, gatherings of first graders, gatherings of puppies. Everyone. I walked around town knocking on people's doors to talk to them. I talked in coffee shops and grocery stores, playgrounds and parking lots. Wherever a registered voter, or anyone, really, would listen to me, I talked.  More importantly, wherever anyone would talk to me, I listened. 

I got very tired sometimes, and quite sick of my own voice, and my mouth felt dry a lot. I'm sort of a worrier about health-related things; Mr. Sandyshoes and I joke about that, because it is silly. One night during all this madness I said to him, "what kind of cancer does it mean you have if your mouth is dry all the time?" and he said, basically, "the kind that comes from talking constantly for weeks on end. Now shut up."

If only.

I became necessarily, utterly, reluctantly self-absorbed. At some point during the campaign I was pulling into the grocery store parking lot, and a white-on purple sign caught my eye, and for a split second I thought, "COOL! Who got one of my signs in such an awesome location?!" Then I read the sign, which said "Please return shopping carts here," and I thought, now I have lost my mind.

It became important to get out of town for a couple hours every few days just to clear my head.

At one point Mr. Sandyshoes and the girls decided to take me out to dinner to give me a break from campaigning and talking about the election. We went to a local restaurant and were seated in a booth near the door... and proceeded to campaign and talk about the election with a steady stream of well-wishers who paused to say hello on their way out.  It was really lovely. But it was not a break.

How do you feel, people would say -- how do you think it's going? And I felt good, I really did. I was a bit concerned about being in an echo chamber of sorts; the people I spoke to almost always responded positively, but surely somewhere people were responding just as positively to a candidate with a different message, and I had no idea how many. Voters really did seem to want a change on our school board, though, and that's what panned out.

It's now time to get to the real work ahead, which feels just fine to me... and also to get back to writing here, which feels pretty good as well.  Thanks for waiting out the hiatus! 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

a wee bulletin

Folks, it seems I am running for public office. Not the U.S. Senate or anything, just my town school committee. Hoping to improve my little corner of my little corner of the world.

I mention it because this blog is only semi-anonymous, and it is certainly possible that hoards (humor me) of potential voters would come across and scour it for evidence of my suitability for election. However, I'm going to keep school committee issues out of it. I won't campaign here, and if I'm elected, this site will not be a source of news or information about school committee goings-on. It may have a piece about how it feels to me to run for office (hint: buy stock in Rolaids, friends), but it won't be anything specific. Noted and Blogged will continue to consist of reflections on family life, the news of the day, and whatever else comes along that I feel like writing, such as reviews of movies you've already seen.

We now return to your regularly scheduled program, already in progress.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

It's International Women's Day

Are we equals?

Have I mentioned recently how much I love Daniel Craig? Or, as one of my friends put it on Facebook, "someone needs to send this to Sean Connery."

The video was produced by the Equals coalition, brainchild of Annie Lennox.

What a great thing it will be when those statistics are history.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Local politics: in which we prune a new library branch before it buds (or something)

Our town's week-to-week governing body, the Board of Selectmen, consists of seven elected volunteers with various, largely non-governmental backgrounds. The ultimate, twice-a-year governing body is Town Meeting, which potentially consists of all registered voters in town.  It is cumbersome, unwieldy, and sometimes frustrating, but it's pure democracy. You're a registered voter + you show up = you get to vote on the warrant articles at Town Meeting. Your vote will be disproportionately powerful, too, because not all eligible citizens are registered voters, and further, only a small subset of registered voters actually attend.

It has been amusing to see, over the years, how many candidates for public office have had virtually no history of attending Town Meeting or voting in town elections. I think that takes a special kind of arrogance. But I digress.

Like everywhere else, our town has no extra money these days. Budgets are being cut, cut, cut. It appears we can't afford to maintain, let alone construct, the buildings we need. (Actually, we can't afford not to maintain them, but that ship appears to have sailed. After all, it's so much easier not to spend money, look like a hero, and let the folks elected after you inherit a bigger problem. Anyone who served on previous boards and running for election again now should maybe be asked about this strategy.) 

Yet... yet. Sometimes opportunity knocks.  There is grant money available from the state to fund part of the construction cost of a new library in our town. The Library Trustees have been working on the plan for quite some time. They have the land. They have the architect.  They have the plans. They have this grant opportunity. To be eligible for the grant, they need a vote by Town Meeting to agree to accept the money, should it be offered. To get a Town Meeting vote, the issue has to be on the Town Meeting warrant.  To get on the warrant, they had to go through the Board of Selectmen.

And that's where the project died last night. Our Board of Selectmen voted not to allow the presentation of the library idea to Town Meeting, saying a new library is not a priority, and we can't afford one, and the proposed building is "over the top" in any case.

All that may be true. I just don't get why we couldn't have voted on it at Town Meeting, where the idea would pass or fail on its merits after having been considered by more of us who'd be paying for it if it went forward.

Frankly, it would have been a hard sell. Town Meeting is chock full of naysayers to expenditures of any kind. I have serious questions about the project myself, and I consider a robust public library to be a primary indicator of a healthy community. Clearly the Library Trustees faced an uphill battle to get their building project approved by the voters. Why not let them fight it? Why do the proponents not get a say in front of us all? The Selectmen wouldn't have been endorsing the project by allowing that much, and could in fact have spoken against it as private citizens, if they wanted to. They said that it would send the wrong message to approve the Trustees' request for a Town Meeting vote, but what 's wrong with the message, "let the voters choose"? 

Thursday, March 03, 2011

You're OK... and nobody's going to arrest Mommy.

Our Peanut had an upsetting Wednesday this week.

At dismissal time, her teacher reminds kids who are in chess club to go to that, while everyone else gets lined up for buses or to be signed out by their grown-up.  Yesterday the class had a substitute teacher who didn't mention chess club. The Peanut being the Peanut, and also being 6, forgot that it was Wednesday, and got on the bus to go home. Settling into their seats, another kid asked her, "Hey, where's the Bean?" The Peanut suddenly remembered she was supposed to be at chess club with her sister, got off the bus and came back inside, very upset at almost having let the bus take her away. The Bean found her crying in the hallway, and they both came to the library, where, by happy coincidence, I volunteer on Wednesday afternoons.  ("Do you have any books on cobras/war/knock-knock jokes/Yoda/President Taft?" Yes. Yes, we do.) 

Once the sobbing calmed down some (you're OK, you're OK...) we went over what to do if she hadn't realized her mistake until the bus had left school. We practiced some what-ifs and recited all the phone numbers she needs to know, and the places she knows she will be safe, and that if she ever finds herself somewhere that I don't think she is, she is to call me right away, etc. Phew.

Later, the Bean and I are making dinner and suddenly the Peanut is in the kitchen in tears again:  "Another thing? That happened at school? is that I told Avery that you let me have a sip of your wine! and he said you could be ARRESTED FOR THAT!" Poor kid clung to me as if the cops were at the door.

It's true -- the other day I'd poured myself a glass of wine, and, feeling intensely observed by two pairs of little-girl eyes, offered the offspring a sip.  Bean declined -- she'd tasted wine before and didn't care to again (it didn't seem to matter that what she'd tried was a Cabernet and this was a Zinfandel).  The Peanut accepted, took a wee sip, and rejected it as "too spicy."  That was that, and dinner continued.    

Evidently she mentioned it at school the next day and her classmate was horrified. Fortunately he's mistaken.  Sure it's against the law to buy alcohol for kids or sell it to them, but a parent is allowed to give her Peanut the occasional sip of a full-bodied red so she can see what it is. 

We got into a discussion of why there are laws about alcoholic drinks, what "drunk" means, and that they are never, ever to drive if they've been drinking or to go in a car with anyone who has.  No matter where they are, when it is, or if they've been doing something they know was wrong, we will come and get them, and we'll (try to) postpone expressing anger about any wrongdoing. 

Seems kind of silly talking to them about this when they're almost 10 years from their learner's permits, but hey.  Time goes fast, and I'll never have their ears more completely than I do now. Also there may be fewer of those years than we think.  I got loopy on beer at 14 -- a silly one-time thing that didn't become a habit, but still, it happened.  At about that same time (though not the same night), I started driving my parents' car around when they went out for the evening. Point being, parents sometimes have less time than we think to have these conversations. We will certainly be repeating a lot of them, but I think it's not too soon to start, if the subject naturally comes up - and even if the primary take-home message is that nobody is going to arrest Mommy.

In the meantime I might also explain, as long as it naturally came up, that the wine was not, in fact "spicy," but had a woodsy and pomegranate-inflected nose, balanced with traces of vanilla, complex red fruit, sandy soil, and cigar wrapper on the palate, with a trace of mineral on the elongated finish.  Or something.  See what Avery makes of that, kid.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

From the department of unfortunate street names

A man was shot to death in Hyannis on Sunday night.  This is, of course, awful, if not out-of-the-blue awful; the man had reportedly been involved in an earlier shooting of someone else, and drug trafficking is possibly involved.

(What, you thought Cape Cod was some kind of haven?  Sadly, no - though murder is pretty rare.)

In any event, for me, the shooting is made more cringe-worthy by the name of the street on which it occurred:  Fresh Holes Road.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar thoughtzzzzzzzzzzzzz. But see "Inside Job"!

So, the Oscars last night... boring, am I right?  Anne Hathaway was perky, James Franco was almost certainly wasted, and neither of them were clever or funny.  You want a younger audience, Academy?  Bring the funny.  Yeah I know, by "younger" you don't mean me, anymore.  But still -- the funny.  Bring it.  Because last night was a lengthy dispatch from Planet Meh.

I did enjoy Colin Firth's acceptance speech ("I have a feeling my career's just peaked").  Disappointed that Geoffrey Rush didn't get the Supporting Actor nod -- The King's Speech is as good as everyone says -- but since I didn't see The Fighter, for which Christian Bale won it, it's not really an informed opinion.  I kind of hate boxing, so I'm slow to get to movies about it even when they're great.  I was unimpressed by Melissa Leo's (supporting actress, also for The Fighter) potty mouth -- odd criticism coming from me, as I swear a lot more than strictly necessary myself, but geez, Ms. Leo, have some sense of context, m'kay?

Incidentally I hope Christian Bale's beard is for a role.  It's otherwise unforgivable.  He is no Jeff Bridges.  Behold:

Less incidentally, but I have to put it somewhere, Natalie Portman is all kinds of lovely but I hated her hairstyle.  I wore mine like that in 8th grade -- up on one side, hanging limply down on the other.  It was 1981, and it was terrible then, too, but it was The Thing. For my daughters' sakes, let's not make it the thing again.  Pretty earrings though:

And now The Serious:

Charles Ferguson, accepting his award for Best Documentary, began, "Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that's wrong."  His movie is Inside Job, which documents the catastrophic financial collapse of 2008.  You should see it.  Every American, at least, should see it.  It will piss you off, and if you're an Obama fan it will disappoint you (meet the new boss, same as the old boss...) but knowledge is better than ignorance.  Which is not to say I understand it all -- the vocabulary flies around pretty fast, and I wanted to say "wait, explain the part about subprime mortgages/collateralized debt obligations/credit default swaps again?" I saw it in the theater, but will watch it again at home so I can pause it when I get confused.

Yes, haha, that could be a long night... but unlike last night's Oscars, at least it won't be dull.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oh wow, cause I would never have thought to use the other side.

So I was shopping in Target the other day (which I think is now OK to do again since they apologized for giving money to homophobes, or something?) and I was browsing the bed and bath section, when a tag on a hand towel caught my eye.  It said "REVERSIBLE!" It was an ordinary hand towel, no printed design, or anything.

Do we need to be specifically told this now, about hand towels?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Right: I am back.

Everything feels better (and thanks for asking, everyone).  Normal is so sweet.

Even when healthy, I get a lot of medical attention in January/February. Annual physical, semi-annual dentist visit, annual eye exam, annual mammogram (DO THIS, LADIES), annual everything seems to fall within the first weeks of the year. Being sick added four (4) more visits to doctors' offices.

I have shelled out a whole lot of copayments lately. It is getting old fast.

The newest medical professional to join my contact list is an otolaryngologist (spell check suggests "paleontologist." Spell check obviously didn't have the month I've had). After all other symptoms had finally subsided, my right ear remained stubbornly clogged. This made me dizzy, headachey, and even more cranky than usual.  The primary care doctor tried a few things and then sent me to the ear-nose-throat guy.

This fellow looked up my nose with a flashlight and didn't say "ew." He looked in my ears, and said my right eardrum looked "dull."  Dull!  And here I thought dermatology was probably the least interesting of the medical specialties.  Evidently a not-shiny eardrum is evidence of fluid behind it and why not check my hearing, just in case. 

Turns out I can hear grass grow.  "You have ears like a teenager," said my new favorite specialist.  None of my other parts fit that description any more, so I'll take the compliments where I can.

Hey.  I heard that.

Monday, January 17, 2011

ailing again

Folks, some damn virus is kicking my ass. Again with the sore throat, and now here comes the congestion. I got two discontinuous hours of sleep Saturday night. Last night, four in a row. Progress, I suppose.

I haven't spoken a word aloud since Saturday morning. Throat hurts so much I cringe to think about using it to talk. I'd almost rather drool than swallow, even.

I've been subsisting on apple sauce, chicken soup, and tea. After this is over I will not be drinking green tea for a while. Antioxidants or no, it just doesn't taste that good.

Here's hoping the girls miss out on this one.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Is it harmless, or is it incendiary?

Reload... take aim... target. That lovely map first appeared in March 2010 -- "Don't retreat... reload!".

Gabrielle Giffords said then that this kind of rhetoric has consequences.

Yes, I know the shooter does not appear to have been a Palin fan.

Still. Does the metaphor, cheerfully thrown around by an elected official, contribute to, sanction, encourage a culture of gun violence as problem-solver?

Further - do people really need to be able to carry concealed weapons in this country?

Is it really such a freakin' big deal to wait a few weeks before you're allowed to buy a gun?

A 9 year-old girl was shot today at that Tuscon supermarket, along with the grown-ups. Her name was Christina, and she went to see the Congresswoman's event because she'd just been elected to her school council. She danced, and played baseball. Now she's dead.

A lot is going to be said about the killed and injured grown-ups. Tonight, I'm thinking about Christina and her family.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Yep, I still read.

I finally updated the "books on my nightstand" section of the right sidebar. Willard Randall Stearne's biography of George Washington, begone! I was so disappointed in it. After reading David McCullough's wonderful John Adams, I thought it would be cool to read biographies of all the Presidents (in order, natch), and somehow chose this one of Washington. That was over five years ago. It was a poor choice. I'm sure it's well and carefully researched, but it was boring. How can that be?! George Washington's life and times! But yeah. The writing bored me so much that it took half a decade to finish the book. So I should be on to Jefferson, next, but I'm reading Ron Chernow's Alexander Hamilton first. It's already promising. Lesson learned: don't buy these weighty books in a hurry. Ask for recommendations, and take longer test-drives at the bookstore.

I read a fair bit while we were out west. There were a lot of garden-variety weekdays with the girls in school, Mr. Sandy at work, and with inclement weather and/or too little time for a drive to the mountains or the coast. Some of those days, I headed to the library to read whatever caught my attention.

One strange rainy morning I read The Bell Jar -- Sylvia Plath's semi-autobiographical novel about a young woman's descent into mental illness, her suicide attempt, and her treatment -- in one sitting. Now I wouldn't say don't do that, exactly, but if you do, be sure you're in a resiliently good mood when you start. Particularly if you are a woman who (ahem) sometimes feels she doesn't quite belong where she is, who ever doubts her self-worth, and who is even somewhat prone to dark moods, or who has ever, ever thought of killing herself.
"To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.

How did I know that someday — at college, in Europe, somewhere, anywhere — the bell jar, with its stifling distortions, wouldn’t descend again?"
How, indeed. The lure of the novel is its perspective - the reader is on Esther's path with her, and when she tries to kill herself, it seems almost reasonable. Unnerving in 1963, still unnerving today.

Fear not, I also read fluff. Jennifer Weiner's novels are always fun -- quick, witty reads and good stories. I read Best Friends Forever, about a woman whose childhood pal arrives at her doorstep desperate for her help after decades of estrangement. Wacky adventures naturally ensue. It was entertaining, but to my mind, not her best. If you're new to Jennifer Weiner, start at the beginning, with Good in Bed, a very funny novel about a humiliating break-up and Our Heroine's life afterward, or Goodnight Nobody, in which a mother of toddlers doesn't fit in at all with the perfect mommies in her new town, but becomes obsessed with solving the case when one of the perfect mommies is murdered. At some point I will get Weiner's latest, Fly Away Home. It looks to be a bit different from the others, with a more mature protagonist, and possibly without the once-fat-sensible-heroine/skinny-kooky-friend motif that is becoming just a little bit tired with BFF.

There's more, but hey.  That dishwasher's not going to empty itself.  

What are you reading?

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Predictably, I have come down with some version of the illness that the girls had during their school vacation.

I know there are a lot worse things to be suffering from than a sore throat, but damn. I have the worst sore throat I can ever remember. It feels like someone's been at it with a cheese grater.

Drinking hot tea, sucking ice chips or throat drops, gargling salt water - none of it is much relief. Ibuprofen is some help, I guess, because when it wears off during the night I wake up crying. Boo-hoo, me.

More bad news: Swallowing is exceedingly painful, and I'm hungry, goddammit.

Been to the doctor, got antibiotics, so I'm hoping this starts to feel better fast. In the meantime I am canceling appointments, skipping meetings, and communicating via notepad and pencil. It is funny how people whisper or pantomime back to me, even though there's no reason for them to.

On the up side, I feel caught up on sleep.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

And -- scene.


Christmas is finally over. It was eventually lovely, and we have some cool new toys to play with. My brother came to visit and that is always a good time. The now-annual Christmas meatloaf (I know, but it's kind of a fancy meatloaf, with sun-dried tomatoes, basil, and provolone cheese, and everyone loves it) was delicious. My cheesecake crust was too thick but nobody complained except me.

May I take a moment for shameless bragging about my daughters? They waited an extra week for our Christmas this year, and even then they didn't wake us up early, and even then they waited patiently to begin opening presents until midday when my parents joined us. They are so good, and I am so appreciative and proud, and I hope they're really listening when I tell them how awesome they are.

I can't remember the last time I got to bed before 2:00 AM. In the two weeks since we got home from the West coast, we've had two major snowstorms and two feverish girls, leaving me two days to do all the gift and food shopping after Mr. Sandyshoes got home. Pre-holiday stress brought to you by the number two. Then we had one Christmas celebration, and, just as I thought I could sleep the sleep of the righteous: one 3:00 AM emergency room visit that same night. It was nothing too awful, and all is now well, just very bad timing for a simple thing to need checking out. This left us one day to recover, and tomorrow: back to school.

I will be busy with a ton of stuff. There are piles of laundry to do, books to shelve, wrapping paper to put away, boxes to flatten, outgrown clothes and toys to donate, papers to file. There are thank-yous to be written and phone calls to be made. There is the 2011 dump (does anyone call it the "transfer station," really?) sticker to be bought and the recycling to be brought there. The calendar is beginning to fill with appointments and meetings and the running "TO DO" list needs updating. I do love an updated TO DO list.

At some point I plan to make a big cup of tea, head down to Sandy Neck, breathe deeply, and watch the waves roll in. Have I mentioned it is good to be home?

Happy New Year, all.