Sunday, February 28, 2010

My daughter scares me

Last week Jim taught Anna, our 7-year-old daughter, how to play chess. He did this by sitting with her while they watched a tutorial on his computer. He then played some games with her. The next night she asked if she could watch some more tutorials. Every night when he came home she asked if they could play chess.

On Saturday morning she got up and came downstairs and started playing chess on the computer against rated opponents. She did this for five hours. Today she played Jim and beat him.

I'm scared.

* * * * * * *

February stats:

Posts: 19
New flag: 10
Hot new blog headers: hoo ya
Contests won: 0
Contests entered: 0
What the fuck did I expect: I don't know
Luge accidents: 0
Months trifled away: 1

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A few more thoughts on cancer and then I'm done

I want to thank everyone who responded to my cancer post. So many emails and comments and hallway conversations. It seems everyone has a story to tell. Cancer has not left many lives untouched. I am reminded once again that behind every door in every neighborhood in every town lies a bed of tender wounds. So easy to forget.

One theme that kept arising out of these conversations was that the emotional fallout around the loss of a loved one is rarely tidy. Many people said that they still felt angry or guilty or what have you.

I had just started college when my mom was diagnosed. I was falling in love with this new world of art and literature and academia and wanted only to immerse myself in it. I felt resentful that I was being pulled away by the need to care for my mother. At the time I thought, naively, that her illness would last years and this weighed on me. Selfish? Perhaps, but it's where I was at. And then when she died so quickly I felt angry and abandoned and terribly, profoundly guilty.

I remember wheeling her into the hospital once, she was in and out all the time, and I was standing in a hallway while they were preparing a room for her and she was doubled over in pain. A nurse came over and tried to comfort her and I realized with a start that I should have been doing that, comforting her. I was just so numb to it all it hadn't even occurred to me. It turns out she never did leave the hospital. After she fell unconscious I was sitting by her bed and I remembered that incident in the hallway, how I had failed to comfort her, and I just started sobbing.  And I was so wracked with sobs that my mother actually started to rouse and become agitated and they took me from the room.  So there we were, each distraught because we could not comfort the other.

When I look back on this now I think that it was perfectly normal. Our relationships with our mothers and grandmothers and husbands are complex and it only makes sense that the breadth of emotions surrounding their death reflect that complexity. It would be so easy if we only ever felt gracious and selfless. But none of us are so one-dimensional, and thank god. How boring would we be?

So if you're still wound up about what you didn't do or say to someone you've lost, I hope you can cut yourself a little slack. Perfection is a tall order. The world doesn't need more saints, in my opinion. Perhaps just a little more compassion (including for ourselves).

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fuck cancer. That is all.

Alice’s mom died in November, a week before Thanksgiving and two weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her liver. Though I was 1,500 miles away, I knew about this because she sent me updates every few days. She was upbeat, Alice, my dear friend of twenty-two years. Her emails were positive and filled with hope, though of course I could read fear between the lines. I knew her hope and I knew her fear because I’d ridden that very ride. We’ve been around the block a few times before, cancer and I.

Two months later I wrote her to tell her I was coming for a visit. I had wanted to come out for the funeral, but couldn't swing it. I thought it better to wait anyway, because when all the well-wishers and there-therers are gone, the pain hasn't left. If anything, it's only grown keener because the shock has worn off and cold reality settled in. This was on the same day I watched Pat Robertson declare Haitians deserving of the disaster that destroyed their island. He sat there moralizing in his 87-year-old perfect health and I was struck by the injustice of this. Cancer is indiscriminate like that. Taking from us our mothers and best friends, rolling through our lives like some cooly objective wheel-of-fortune, picking off its marks without attention to cause nor merit. Impartial to the end.

When I was ten my dad was diagnosed with a cancer that originated in his lower abdomen and metastasized throughout his body, growing on the outside of his organs. He was given chemotherapy more as an experimental treatment than anything else and was not expected to survive, though to everyone’s surprise, it responded and went into remission. Though he didn’t live long enough to see my children, it granted him many more good years. When I was a freshman in college my mom was diagnosed with liver cancer. By the time it was discovered, her tumor was so large it was inoperable. She died five months later.

It’s come for me twice, cancer. Once when Daniel was a newborn and again two years later, and I kicked it to the ground.

We tend to do cancer young in our family. Face it when we’re in our prime. Conquer it or not. Other, more distant relatives have succumbed to it as well. Breast, brain, throat.

My mom would have loved my children. She had a child's heart and sense of curiosity. When we were young she would take us to the beach and we would melt wax in coffee cans, dig holes in the sand and pour it in to make sand candles. She would lie stretched out on the sand with us, chins cupped in fascination as the wax hardened into awkward shapes. When we got home she would light them at the dinner table like they were something special.

When I was 21 I fell in love with an older man and he moved in with me. We got engaged. I brought him home to meet my mom. She was cooly gracious. Later, when I was visiting alone, I asked what she thought of him. She was slicing vegetables. He's not good enough for you, she said. And of course she was right.

I'm told my two cancers, the first a rare soft tissue sarcoma and the second papillary thyroid, were unrelated. A coincidence. Whether they were related to my mom's I don't know. I don't know where her's originated and I haven't been able to get access to her medical records. HIPPA has thwarted me at every turn, protecting her cold, dead privacy from the people she loved most in the world and who are her genetic benefactors. I haven't given up.

I don’t much go in for cancer awareness campaigns or fundraisers. I don’t buy pink or wear ribbons. I don’t hate cancer enough to rail at it and I can’t muster the enthusiasm to put together a team to walk for the cure. If you want me to sponsor you maybe I will. Mostly I’m just weary of it. When I catch its scent I don't run or even bristle, I just turn and look it square in the face and tell it go fuck itself.

It's whittled my family down to a nub. It's robbed my children of knowing their grandmother and my mother of knowing her daughter as a grown woman. It's sent me under anesthesia on three separate occasions and taken tissues and organs from my body. It's broken the hearts of people I love and sent them to bed at night in a deep pool of sorrow. And me too.

When I was out in California last April I saw Alice's mom. She was sick then, had been sick for a long time. We sat in the living room and talked while Alice sorted out something about a broken toilet handle with her father. She wanted to show me her garden, she was very proud of her garden. We got up and walked through the kitchen towards the back yard and she stopped to point out pictures of her daughters and grandchildren, and one had just had a birthday. She walked slowly and held onto counters and the backs of chairs. When we got to the yard she pointed out each tree and flowering bush and named it and I nodded and told her they were beautiful, because they were, and she told me they weren't really, because she couldn't take care of them properly anymore, this one really needed to be cut back, look at how it was growing up and over the fence, but what could you do?

What indeed.

The other day I came across an essay from one of my writing classes at KU, written in the wake of my mother's death. It was about her death, yes, but mostly it was about her life and reading it made me smile. Maybe I'll share it here later. My mom had been so full to the brim of life, so brilliantly energetic and alive and impossibly youthful that her illness and death came as a shock to all of us. Cancer didn't happen to people like her, we told ourselves. But it does, and it did. I realized too as I was reading the essay that it was February 6. How serendipitous. Seventeen years to the day that she died.

This morning I awoke and my daughter was curled up on the floor beside my bed. She does this sometimes when she has a bad dream or when she wakes before everyone else or sometimes just because. I opened a sliver of an eye and saw her ducked down, watching me from where she imagined she was safely hidden from my range of vision. Children are terrible judges of their parents' range of vision. I smiled and she crawled up beside me and twined a hand in mine. I had a bad dream, she said. I pulled her closer. Does your head hurt, she asked? A little, I said, and swept a stray hair from her eyes. She handed me a chocolate.

Nancy Brumm Fite 1940 - 1993


I don't remember when

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Letting it all hang out

I received a beautiful award from Marcella at Belly Up, a Hanging Out the Wash Award. Marcella equates good writing with vulnerability and “letting it all hang out” and created this award to honor bloggers who were not afraid to put it out on the line. So thanks Marcella – I'm honored.

I met Marcella over at Writers Rising, where I'm now contributing periodically. There are a variety of writers who post there and whose pieces tend to be inspirational, reflective or spiritual in nature. And then there's me.

Marcella's latest post, Internal Bikini, talks about the tenuous hope we women of a certain age harbor each Spring that maybe this year, just maybe, will be our year to don a bikini again. But who are we kidding? Is it really worth the herculean effort necessary to whip a perimenopausal, non-gravity-defying, closed-for-child-bearing body into that kind of shape? Not really. Instead, she suggests we call upon the years spent building our confidence, acquiring the love of hearts small and vast and generally honing our spirits, turn our insides out and don our internal bikinis. Not a bad idea.

Speaking of turning things inside out, I'm changing my site. Again. So if you click over here tomorrow and all looks different you haven't landed on the wrong blog. It's still me. New pages may continue to appear as well as I'm intrigued by the idea of hiding things in spots where people may not think to look. Nothing earth-shattering, just random drivel. By the way, I've told Badger to find me a new word as I've overused drivel to the point that it's gone beyond tiresome and now feels oppressive. Am waiting.

When I was looking through my cell phone for my ice driving fence slam picture I came across one I had forgotten about. I don't use my cell phone camera often. Don't use the phone itself hardly ever, in fact. Phones are evil.

Anyway, before my trip to Australia it dawned on me I needed a new bathing suit. Obviously. So I told Jim I was going out to try to find one that was moderately flattering from certain angles on a moonlit beach and probably sighed a little to indicate what a chore this would be, because this was six months ago and I hadn't read Marcella's internal bikini post, and Jim responded with something man-like such as “you should let me be the judge of that.”

I went to Dillard's and they had a bewildering array of suits that spanned half a mile-ish of floor space and it was here that I discovered fashion designers had created something called the tankini, which is a fuller-coverage compromise between a one- and two-piece suit. And I liked it. So I scooped up an assortment of makes and models in various colors and dangly-bead embellished doo-dadiness and headed to the fitting room.

I tried on one and had the bright idea that I should take a picture with my cell phone and send it to Jim, since he wanted to be the judge after all, ha ha, not that it's easy to take a picture of oneself in a bathing suit holding a cell phone at arm's length. You have to settle on one half or the other and you can guess which half I chose.

Do you have any idea how bloody loud the click-swoosh noise is on a cell phone camera?  I didn't.

The soft murmurs in the adjoining fitting rooms grew stone quiet.

The picture was terrible, all fuzzy and grainy, but fuck me I was not taking another. I quickly sent it to Jim and set my phone to silent so that when the response came back, enthusiastic or otherwise, no one else would be alerted, and slipped the phone in my purse. I tried on the rest of the suits then sat in the room for a good ten minutes until I was reasonably sure the other clothes-changers had cleared out.

I walked out, handed my suits minus the two I was buying to the attendant, who eyed me curiously, and made my purchases.

Anyway, I thought I'd share this little gem because it was so funny I'd hate for my stats to go down over the weekend.

What do you think Statcounter, does this make me look fat?

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Team USA! Team US... Oh. Shiznit.

There was a 40 car pileup just north of us here on Sunday. Remarkably, there were no fatalities, though I’m sure it fubared the rest of the day for all involved.

This was a major disappointment for all of us watching the news at home. It had been looking good going into the finishing stretch. The yellow bug from Bonner Springs performed flawlessly, gliding in and out of tight openings in the traffic. The tan Bronco was driven by a couple from Canada and viewers had mixed feelings about the ethics of this, drivers switching countries at the 11th hour, presumably thinking they would fare better here due to the heavy ice driving competition at home. The quick-thinking silver minivan pulled off a glorious combination Y-spin / axle pivot and narrowly avoided the bug, only to be smacked by a Ford Escort botching a poorly-rendered double lutz.

In the end though, they all just royally fucked the landing.

Little known fact. I competed in singles ice driving last winter. While heading northbound on I-35 I hit a patch of black ice and executed a flawless triple salchow off the interstate and down an embankment. Though I stumbled a bit on the landing I came to rest against a K-DOT fence near the adjoining access road, sustaining only minor body damage. The judges at GMAC insurance gave me top scores for not-costing-them-much-money. Jim, however, after receiving our rate increase, has refused to sponsor me again this year. Spoil sport.

Speaking of ice driving, if you want to add a seriously enjoyable few minutes to your day, click here and read this post by Katie. I guarantee it will have you fist pumping on your drive home and shouting “grass mow” at every chaw-chewing redneck with a confederate flag slapped on the bumper of his F-150. Considering where I live, I was hoarse by the time I got home. Don’t ask. Just read.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Don't buy this book -- a review

I was reading the other day somewhere, I don't know where, about a new book called Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. It's written by a woman who was bright and successful and dated a lot of men she wasn't crazy about so she held out for someone who really made her heart sing, but woke up one day and realized she was forty and not married and had a big old insecurity seizure. She decided the solution to her loneliness problem was to write a book exhorting other women to shelve their dreams of emotional and intellectual companionship and hook up with someone, anyone, because fuck it, what good are dreams anyway. At least I think that's what the book's about. I haven't actually read it. I wouldn't waste my time on that drivel.

Books like this (think The Rules or any of the why-oh-why-am-I-still-single genre) make me batty. They feed right into the psychic vortex of sexual insecurity that our gender seems to possess that tells us we're not complete unless we've glommed onto the right man, or any man. And who better to wax forth on relationships that me, considering my breadth of experience (four engagements and two marriages, thank you very much).

If I had the audacity to tell other people how to live, I would say this: the hell with good enough. Give yourself more credit than that. Ignore the voices all around you shouting about doom and gloom and scarcity and time running out. Let them settle for each other while you listen to your own voice and find your own way in the world. Water has a way of seeking its own level.

So no, I can't recommend Marry Him. It's the worst book I've never read. If you're going to spend your hard-earned money on a book, buy mine. Don't let the fact that it hasn't yet been published stop you.*

* or, for that matter, written.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Do I get free shipping?

I made a couple of small changes to my blog tonight.  I cleaned up my sidebar a bit.  Also, there are two new tabs up at the top.  One says About Me and the other says Best of.  I bet you can guess what's in them (you're brilliant that way).  But go ahead and look anyway.  If none of the rambling in the About Me tab makes sense, know that the operative paragraph is the one about ordering a new head from Amazon.

I spent the day lying flat on my back in a semi-vomitous state making calls to my neurologist's answering machine to let him know, first politely, then with increasing desperation, that my Vicodin had run out and he needed to take a moment to call the pharmacy on my behalf.  So boo to him for not checking his messages and yay to Jim for leaving work early to drive by his office and scare up a response.  And then stopping to get me french fries on the way home.  That's love.

Now that I've discovered I can create pages on my blog, new tabs may continue to appear.  Be ever vigilant.

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Monday, February 15, 2010

I am luge

The other evening after the kids went to bed I logged onto Twitter and all the Australians were online and had had their six cups of morning coffee and were waxing epic about the Olympics. So I turned to Jim and asked, “Is this an Olympics year?” and he, as usual when it comes to anything sports-related, was no help at all*, just shrugged. But if it was I knew it had to be winter Olympics, based on the amount of snow outside my window, and this meant one thing: LUGE.

However when I turned on the TV it was only to see a demonic fiddler in a flying canoe, surrounded by gyrating tartans. Canada, you seriously need to think about detox. The flying fiddler was followed by a flying boy who periodically landed on a giant iPad followed by a Bic lighter concert moment followed by a bunch of tedious speeches I didn’t listen to because I had gone to bed because I had determined it was going to be another four days before they got around to any actual sporting events I wanted to watch, i.e., luge.

The luge originated in Switzerland in the late 1800’s when British vacationers at resort spas would get sloshed and steal sleds from delivery boys and take off down alleys and roads, picking off pedestrians en route. It’s only gotten better since.

The luge is dangerous, as was evidenced last week when Georgian athlete Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a practice run after losing control of his sled while traveling in excess of 90 mph. Imagine jumping out of a car that’s traveling 90 mph. Yeah.

The Olympics then (over)reacted to this sad event by shortening the luge runs, so that the athletes who had spent their entire lives training to race on a 1,400 meter course could now race the race of their lives on a 1,200 meter course.

There are two types of luge. One uses an artificial track and has specially built banked curves and walled-in straights. Lugers (they’re really called that) steer their sleds by shifting their body weight and applying pressure on the sled with their feet. This is what you see in the Olympics. The other is called natural track luge and utilizes existing mountain roads and paths. Lugers steer by dragging their hands on the ice and brake with the help of spiked shoes.

Artificial track luge is to natural track luge what American football is to rugby. American footballers wear lots of padding and take copious breaks from the football action. Rugby players play nonstop and wear no padding, just uniforms sporting a combination of blood, grass and semen stains, depending on their country’s chosen colors. In other words, artificial track lugers are a bit precious.

I came home tonight and turned on the Olympics because women's luge was starting at 7:00. Except it wasn't on. NBC couldn't be bothered. Instead, they were showing downhill skiers with crooked poles, who rarely break 75 mph. They also showed snowboarding. Snowboarding. What's next Olympics, hacky sack? Foosball?

So far, Germany has been rocking the medals, taking a gold and silver in men’s singles precious-track luge. Tune in tomorrow to see who wins women's (if NBC can break away from competitive snowfort building long enough to tell us).

If I were a sport, I would be luge.

Pardon me, which way to the luge?

*The following conversation took place in our home on Super Bowl Sunday.

Me:  What time is the Super Bowl?
Jim:  No idea. Do you know who’s playing?
Me:  No. Maybe the Saints? Seems I’ve heard talk of saints recently.
Jim:  The Broncos?
Anna, age 7, from kitchen:  Saints and Colts.  (This was probably followed by an eye roll, I don’t know, I was doing the NYT crossword. It was Sunday, after all.)
Jim:  So.  Are you going to revoke my man card?

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lost in Kansas, planet earth

I live in Olathe, Kansas. Before that, I lived in Lawrence, Kansas. Before that, I lived a hundred other places, or so it seems. I moved here after I married and we needed to find a place closer to Kansas City, where Jim worked. Olathe was a compromise, a suburb that was a close enough commute yet not quite a suburb in the traditional sense, a farming town swallowed up by the spread of construction flowing out from the population core. Some of my friends make fun of Olathe. They wouldn't live here because it doesn't have a Whole Foods or a Williams-Sonoma or a number of other upscale money-siphons. Our local grocery store is flanked by Brown Bag Liquor and Tina's massage parlor.

Then again, I chose it precisely because I couldn't live in one of those other suburbs, which I consider special versions of hell, not the brilliant hellscapes as painted by Bosch or Delacroix, but rather hell as depicted by a mediocre no-name artist churning out canvases for mid-grade motel rooms.

I don't particularly like Olathe, don't feel at home here, it's full of milo farmers and churchgoers and kids who drop out of high school and women who knit and vote Republican. But if you looked at an aerial view of Kansas City, Google maps maybe, you would see that Olathe is teetering on the edge of civilization, flanked on one side by farmland and wheat fields and acres of wide open nothing. And this is why I live here, because when I am too full of the world I can drive a mile or two out of town and breathe in the life-giving air of the almost wild.

Anna was four months old when we moved here. I thought I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. After I tried it for a while, I grew depressed and bored beyond belief. This had nothing to do with my love for my daughter, which is so keen it knocks me double sometimes, only with the activities that filled a typical day.

Though I had doubts I would find my niche in Olathe, in the beginning I made a concerted effort to get out and meet other women. I introduced myself to the other stay-at-home moms in my subdivision. I joined the YMCA and subsequently, their book club. They read books like “Let's Roll”, which was written by a 9/11 widow and as far as I could tell was a paean to the Bush administration and Christianity, I really don't know because I ended up throwing it across the room before I ever finished it, or maybe into the fireplace, I don't remember. I quit after a short time. So that left me to the neighborhood moms. Sometimes we would chat on the sidewalk while our children played. Sometimes we would go so far as to meet for coffee.

Our conversations were mostly benign. We would talk of the weather, decorating schemes, what we were planting in the garden, was so-and-so’s gazebo allowed under association rules and of course, our children. Endless, endless talk of children until I thought my head would explode. We avoided any mention of the delicious underbelly of life, the raw and the dangerous. Our social antennae steered us clear of potentially charged topics the way air traffic controllers guided jets in along separate trajectories to avoid collision.

Sometimes, over coffee, I would break custom and venture deeper. We would first get the children settled with toys or cartoons or what have you and then we, this other mother and I, would begin a process of trying to find something in common. She might talk about the croup, which they just finished with, and did Anna get the croup? We both liked to cook, yes, though finding time was a challenge. Haven’t quilted in ages, no. I did enjoy plays. She happened to have extra tickets to Peter and the Wolf and would Anna and I like to join them? How kind of her! Was I a reader? I was! But no, didn’t care for Mitch Albom, read mostly literary fiction. Her handbag? Well, it was lovely. No, I hadn’t heard of Coach. Wasn’t really much of a shopper. Bought my purses at Target (ha ha).

She says something about carrying her breast pump in there, in her Coach purse, and I think, aha! And I tell her about how I tried to breast feed and how Anna wasn't growing and my pediatrician told me I needed to put her on formula, failure to thrive they called it, and I sat in her office and cried inconsolably, and she put a hand on my knee and told me this, she told me it was not God's will that I breastfeed. My doctor! Can you believe that? As if God looked down upon my child and said thou shalt have Enfamil. Of all the things. And then she actually quoted something from Paul's epistle to someone-or-other and while I'm not Christian I can appreciate a lot of the New Testament, especially some of the gospels, but I always thought Paul a bit of a noob, thought he missed the point entirely, but I realize she was just trying to comfort me and people so often fall back on religion to do this. In fact, wasn’t that what they were getting at in Life of Pi, at the end when he was rescued and you realized the whole fantastical story was one he had made up to maintain his sanity and keep himself from being consumed by the grief of losing his family and that really, really, he was talking about religion, and wasn’t religion truly just a bunch of fantastical stories we tell ourselves to maintain our sanity and settle our souls? And I don’t say that to belittle religion, though I often do belittle religion, but in this regard I think it serves a rather beautiful purpose, which is to help salve the human heart. Not mine specifically, but I'm talking about humankind in general. However the whole irony of religion, in my opinion, is that to benefit from it you have to be deeply engaged with humanity and I've always just felt like a tourist here myself, does that make any sense at all?

And here this other mother looked at me like a deer in the fucking headlights and I realized I had lost her at Coach and Anna and I were never going to see Peter and the Wolf.

After two years I went back to work. I got a job as Executive Director for a small nonprofit. I worked ridiculously long hours for ridiculously low pay until I realized someone would pay me more money to do less work, and I opted for that. Now I work with spreadsheets and it's better, okay. I started out there three days a week, so I could write on my off days, but there was too much work, so I moved to four days and then to five, and the days bleed into weeks into years.

Sometimes in the summer, it's still light when I get home from work and I drive past the turnoff to our subdivision. I keep driving out past town and into the farmland. I roll down my windows and breathe in the scent of young wheat green after a fresh rain and let the wind play through my hair and turn up the music until I feel it in my arms and my throat and the corners of my eyes and let it all take me away, far away, somewhere, I don't know where.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Seder in Bhutan or Amy's sex life -- where are we headed here?

I've decided that I like Facebook again. For now.

The split personality thing is working out splendidly. Fun facebook me is probing the details of Amy Leigh's sex life and becoming a fan of PETA (People for the Eating of Tasty Animals). Meanwhile, professional me is friending board members and fanning civic organizations and commenting on Rabbi Kula's work with the Dalai Lama on compassionate leadership. It's a beautiful un-mixed up, un-muddled up, un-shook up world.

See you at Monday's board meeting!

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that Celeste is glad she split up her Facebook personas too. She posted the Rabbi Kula comment on both of her accounts, where the threads took off in radically different directions.

Finally, in forehead-slapping coincidence news, the other day I got an email from John, who regularly reads my blog and lives outside Sydney. He had read my Big Australian Crush post and sent me some photos from an Australia Day celebration, including one of a woman wearing the Australian flag (clever girl). I noticed that in one of the photos was a truck with City of Ingleburn written on the side. Well, during my six-month stint in Australia, way back when, I lived in Ingleburn, which is an outer southwest suburb of Sydney. So I wrote him back and asked if he lived there and whether he knew a particular family on Kings Rd, which is the family I stayed with for three of those six months. He wrote back and told me he used to live on Kings Rd back in the 70's! So blogging, my friends, can be a very small world.

Furthermore, he now lives in Cambelltown. I used to waitress at a steak house there called the Barn and he told me it just shut down and sent me some pictures he took of the building the other day, and recalled that he had eaten there in the past. So for you John, I'm attaching this picture taken on Christmas day, many, many years ago. It's me and my friend Rebecca from London, taken after the Christmas day run when we were all gathered in the front room having a drink. It had been been a long day of hard work, which is why my face is so shiny.  I can't explain the hair.  Cheers!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Loose ends (mine) and loose lips (hers)

All Star Sports: They emailed me and admitted they had made an accounting error. They agreed to give Daniel four free weeks of lessons if we came back. We came back.

Outlook good.

(Note: I bought Anna a pink Magic 8 Ball for Valentine’s Day. Don’t tell.)

Jealous? You can play with your own here

Speeding Ticket: It occurred to me today, out of the blue, that I never paid my speeding ticket. I had decided just to pay it in advance of my trial date and be done with it, that I would abandon the had-to-pee defense out of sheer embarrassment. It also occurred to me that my trial date was Feb. 10th. Today was Feb. 10th. *%$#!@.

I ran out to my car and dug through some papers in my glove compartment until I found the notice with my trial information. The trial was at 1:00 p.m. It was 11:48. *%$#!@.

I finished up my work and drove down to the courthouse. I sat and waited for them to call my name. I was un-dressed-up. The prosecutor asked if anyone wanted to talk to him before court convened. I raised my hand. He called me to the bench.

Him:  ??
Me:  Can I just pay this and not go through the whole court thing?
Him:  Yes. But. If you’d like to pay double the fine we can remove it from your record.
Me:  ??
Him:  What would you like to do?
Me:  What would you do?
Him:  I can’t advise you. Exactly.
Me:  If it goes on my record, will my insurance rates go up?
Him:  They could.
Me:  If I pay double, can I at least put it on my VISA and get rewards points?
Him:  Yes.
Me:  So. If you could advise me, what would you do?
Him:  If you were my daughter, I’d tell you to take the latter option.*
Me:  *%$#!@.

Facebook: I just went through the most liberating Facebook purge. Following Celeste’s lead, I created a second account and migrated all my work connections over to my new work-me account. I then unfriended them from the fun-me account. Because my boss and a number of my colleagues were on Facebook and it was beginning to feel cozy in a very awkwardly suffocating sort of way and I ended up hiding all my posts from them, so what was the point? So if you’re looking for me on Facebook, make sure you find the fun me (hint: fun me wears blue, not black). And to my work friends who may be reading this, please know that I still love you in that financial, me-in-black sort of way.

Twitter: Veronica thinks that the solution to my twitter problem is that I need to move to Australia. This is because almost all my twitter friends, including Veronica, are in Australia, which means that when they are up tweeting, I’m sleeping. And when I’m up and ready to tweet, they're all asleep. Which makes for lousy conversation. However, William in France read my post and took pity on me and is now my twitter friend. And Barbara and Marylin in the UK are my twitter friends. And while they are also in different time zones, they are not quite as radically different as Australia.

However, just to be cover my bases I asked the Magic 8 Ball if I would be moving to Australia. Do you know what it told me?

Without a doubt.


Sarah Palin’s other hand:

*Hat’s off to prosecutor guy for flattering me that I’m young enough to be his daughter. It was almost worth the double fine.


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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Facebook, I'm getting a restraining order

Listen to this. Celeste is my Facebook friend. But the other day she created a second, work-related Facebook account because she administers our organization's Facebook page. And then her new work account suddenly received three new friend requests, one of which was from me. Another of which was from the other Celeste. Except that neither of us sent these friend requests. So I just thought you might want to know that Facebook has now taken it upon itself to send out friend requests on your behalf.

How. Utterly. Thoughtful.

Thanks Facebook. I wonder who else I've friended without knowing about it. And worse, I wonder who, of those people, has rejected the friend request I didn't send and I never even knew about it?

Celeste and I have both had our fill of Facebook. If there was a better social networking site out there we would have dumped it long ago. But there's not. Facebook is like that guy you dated in college that you really weren't that into but you had to have someone to go to the big party with and you didn't have any other viable options. He had about a million friends but when his car broke down on the interstate no one showed up to give him a ride. He wasn't capable of thinking for himself. He wouldn't call you for a week and then one day you would check your voicemail and there would be 26 messages from him. He wanted his friends to be your friends. You didn't. You hid from them.  If he poked you one more time my god you were going to numchuck him.

I joined Twitter about a week ago. Though the jury is still out I'm not sure I understand the purpose. Twitter is like a lot of people standing in a crowded room talking out loud, but not to each other. The interaction, if you can call it that, feels very disjointed. Several people have said they really like it so I'm going to hang in there for a bit and give it a chance. The human equivalent of Twitter would be someone with nonstop verbal diarrhea. If Twitter were a man, I would never, never have dated him, regardless of how hard up I was. Would have, in fact, taken out a gun and shot him. True.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Meetings schmeetings

I was having lunch with a friend today and we were talking about how much we hate meetings. Does anyone like meetings? No. Nobody does, right? So we just endure them because they're a necessary evil. But then, are they really even necessary most of the time? I'm thinking not.

She was telling me about this meeting she went to with representatives from several organizations to discuss a meeting-management software system they all used which was not working very effectively. She pointed out several flaws with the system that resulted in rooms being double-booked, catering getting messed up and users not being able to use the system to see what rooms were actually in use. It had caused her no end of headaches. Her complaints were met first with silence and then, one by one, the people in the room started saying things like this: Well, I know that I only get coffee delivered half the time I request it, but I really appreciate it when I do get it. Yes, me too! And while the system may not work well, I know you all worked very hard at getting it set up. Perhaps we're requesting too many rooms? When she asked the person in charge of the system if users could get reports showing which rooms their organizations had booked he said he didn't know how to do that. When she suggested the software company could probably instruct him in how to do that, he said sorry, he just wasn't comfortable with computers. The others in the room said they could appreciate that.

Face. Meet palm.

I was sitting in a management team meeting the other day and these are always desperately tedious but this one was outperforming itself and at one point I had to get up to do something, I'm not sure what, use the ladies or pop a No-doz or put a vise over my head to keep my brain from exploding from sheer boredom, and as I was walking down the hall I had this rare moment of clarity. It occurred to me that I was spending several hours in this meeting and that I did this every week, week after week, that really I spent huge chunks of my life doing things that were not meaningful to me.  And the things that I loved, that I was passionate about, I had to squeeze into the corners of my life and they had to fight for space with so many, many other things and that often, so often, they lost. And was this really how I wanted my life to be, this inverted pyramid of priorities? And as suddenly as that clarity came, I found myself sinking back down into the fog of everyday life and I went to the ladies or took my No-doz or averted the brain explosion and returned to the meeting.

Afterwards, as we were walking out one of my colleagues, Richard, turned to me and said, “I hope that when I die I do so in a meeting. That way the transition from life to death with be imperceptible.” And while I get what he means, I think I would like to die elsewhere. Like in a quiet stretch of desert in Australia, while having great sex and just having published a bestselling novel. That'll do.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

I'm over being over the snow

If you get tired of watching the puppy bowl today, here are some pretty snow pictures taken in our back yard.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

God hates donuts - the outtakes



Thank you to everyone who tweeted, stumbled, linked and otherwise shared the God hates donuts post.  What a great message to spread.

Thanks to Celeste for bringing this story to my attention.  You excel at inspiring blog fodder.

Thanks to Jim, Anna and Daniel for humoring me in this and all my blog photo requests.  It's nice to know you can be bribed with pop tarts and ice cream (kids) and other things (Jim).

And special thanks to EDW Lynch for helping to organize and document the counter protest, and the splendid people of San Francisco for having the maturity to respond to hate with absurdity.  You are the true saints in this crazy world.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

God hates donuts

Fred Phelps and his gaggle of sign-wielding wing-nuts from the Westboro Baptist Church showed up in front of Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco last week to protest, um, something and were met with lots and lots of other signs. For the first time in their long and ridiculous history of protesting all things offensive to them, these other signs made about as much sense as the baseless arguments used to justify Westboro's hateful philosophy.

The Phelps' small crowd was outnumbered by a much larger crowd of friendly counter-protesters who held up signs with random messages, yelled nonsensical directives and blared Lady Gaga from the stereo. Passersby and press alike stopped to take pictures and cheer on the counter-protesters while pretty much ignoring the Westboro group. The full story and the pictures I've posted can be found here.

If you've just awakened from a 20-year coma and haven't heard of Fred Phelps, he's basically a nut case whose only followers are people who happen to be related to him and they picket any event that they think will be incendiary and bring them media attention, up to and including picketing the funerals of soldiers who were killed in the Iraq war. His pet cause is gays, and he's best known for carrying “God hates fags” signs, but he also hates Jews, Obama, the military and now, apparently, Twitter. Since I live a stone's throw from Topeka, where his church is based, and have worked for nonprofits associated with both AIDS and the Jewish community, I'm well acquainted with his special brand of venom.

No, I won't link to his site, you can google it yourself if you must. However, I will warn you of one thing. There is a strong correlation, and Badger can attest to this, between religious extremists and piss poor web design skills. So if, unlike me, you are someone who can look at these sites with amusement, rather than anger, you will still have to wade through amateurish use of bolding and highlights and annoying animation that takes away from, rather than advances the central theme, etc.

Here in the States we recently celebrated Martin Luther King Day and I love many of his quotes, but a long favorite is this:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. The chain reaction of evil--hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”

When we look at someone like Fred Phelps it is so easy to get worked up and that is exactly the response he wants from us. He thrives on it, in fact. But there is already so much darkness in this world, why give our energy to something that advances nothing, helps no one and only drains us? I'd rather save mine and spend it on something that is meaningful to me.

And this is why I loved San Francisco's response to Fred Phelps. Because it was ingeniously absurd and simple and completely free of hate. They refused to take the bait and return his malice with more of the same. They stopped the chain reaction and chose, instead, to respond with humor and lightness. The joke was on Fred, which is exactly where it belonged.

Nonsensical signs.  How perfectly brilliant.

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