Monday, December 22, 2008

Until 2009

Here's to a happy last week of the year for us all, and ripping that darn Santa hat off of your head at the end.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Too many days stuck in the snow in a tiny house with a two year old, his father, and a bag of red/green M&M's (they were for the cookies, see, and there were leftovers). It's all snowmen and sledding and hot chocolate and cookies and movies and naps--yum yum. Apparently, however, my brain is turning to mush. You would think I would use this down time to unleash my creative genius or something. HA!

So not that I have huge amounts of time to sit around what with all the frolicking in the snow and whatnot, but during Hugo's nap I'm on Facebook for the billionth time, because what? It's snowing! And because Jeff is a useless distraction, being on the phone with his uncle a few feet away planning how to turn a 486 computer into a ROBOTIC WOOD CUTTER or something (I think that's actually what they are doing, it's far stranger than what I could make up) on our soon-to-be-cancelled-due-to-crap-weather-if-I-have-anything-to-say-about-it trip to Jeff's ancestral lands for Christmas.

It got so ridiculous that I actually did some work, which is very unlike me, so I had one of my many-times-daily identity crises so I update my FB status to say Nora is doing WORK out of snowed-ing boredom! Someone challenge me to Scrabble or something. And it even had that stupid spelling error (snowed-ing!) --I blame it on overheated femurs and bad wrist angle from typing on my laptop in a cushy chair. But even if you could read it to say snowed-IN it shows how I get kind of needy and unconfident when I'm bored. Why couldn't I start my own Scrabble game? Back to the therapist for me!

And of my 156 Facebook friends--seriously, doesn't Facebook need some new words for friend, a la Eskimos and snow?--but I digress--of 156 friends Noelle, bless her sweet heart, challenges me to a game of Facebook Scrabble.

The thing about Noelle is that (a) she is awesome and (b) I have only met her once. We shared a great evening celebrating our gorgeous mutual friend Susanna's birthday with cupcakes and champagne. But it was a she's-my-peeps kind of thing and Susanna is a great friend-blender so practically before the champagne had worn off Noelle and I were Facebook Friends. And this is seriously my good fortune because I have discovered through the world of Facebook that she is indeed as cool as I thought. Moreso, even.

So here I am so thrilled to be in a game of Facebook Scrabble with Noelle that I immediately log in to take my first turn. And FB Scrabble has a little chat box where you can chat about the moves or whatever. I'm so tickled that I type in the chat box I love you, Nicole.

And then I play my turn (RANDY) and then I'm all holy crap her name is Noelle, it's not Nicole. Holy holy crap. So I go back in and I'm all I mean Noelle sorry sorry sorry aren't you glad we're not dating sorry sorry.

My brain, it is snowing in there. So that unwritten post about Mr Football Coach Civics Teacher from High School, God rest his recently departed soul, who called me Lori regularly (my name is NORA) so I couldn't quite get as you know INTO his passing as all my fellow alumni who were all over Facebook like nothing would ever be the same now EVER? I can't write that one now. Hello pot? It's kettle. You're black.

And the WORST part is that when I met her I had this same brain THING and I actually SAID is it Nicole or Noelle and she was all it's Noelle oh my I'm SO not a Nicole.

So, now am like Football Coach Civics Teacher man who calls people by the wrong name. Let's just be glad that I was never called the wrong name by a man I was dating or I'd be all over that story here and you'd be all too much information and never come back. I think I need some M&Ms.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snowed in

So here we are all snowed in--from a "storm" that would not have caused much fuss anywhere else, but here we are woefully unprepared for these things called "freezing temperatures." Even if we get snow it is usually melted by mid-day so why waste time and resources plowing or (heaven forbid) shoveling off your sidewalk? It makes perfect sense but this time it hasn't been above 30 in several days, and nothing is plowed, shoveled, or graveled, and another big storm is on the way. We are shut down.

The last time I can remember being so hunkered is in Pennsylvania--where a real STORM actually came and dumped a few feet (not a few inches, Seattle) on us. I was a new college graduate and house-sitting for my parents while they were flouncing around Texas taking a break from northern winters. I was eight miles from town, two from the nearest store. The snow came on Friday. Of course I was out with friends until well into the storm, staying out as long as we possibly could preparing for the hunkering.

That was a big storm for our parts, and it was four days until the plows came to the house. I was alone with my new kittens (who are now decidedly geriatric), and no computer--imagine! All I had was cable TV, books, and some cute cats to stalk. So this nice thing happened where the other inhabitants of the neighboring houses all got together and formed a rotating pot luck for a few nights.

That is when I learned how to make bread. And when I started making a quilt BY HAND (I did finish it, eventually). I read some books I'd been meaning to, I bonded with my cats. (And when I say bonded I'm pretty sure I mean I chased them under the table to make them snuggle me).

And I got together in the evenings with some people I didn't know very well, including a husband-wife team of models. Like REAL models, relaxing in their country home on hiatus from their MODELING in Manhattan. The woman had her own face-stuff commercial even--you know, prancing around and splashing water on her face real slow like. They were gorgeous. (And I'm pretty sure this makes me qualified to be a judge on America's Next Top Model, Tyra Banks) All in all it was grand and I was a little sad when it was over.

This time, it's all toddler exercise and making cookies and snowman and Thomas the Tank Engine and busy busy. And we can walk to the store to stock up on supplies, assuming there are any supplies to be had. Not as much reflection and self-improvement as last time, but thank heavens for that. Nice, and different.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The bad wife chronicles: holiday neckties

So I go against ALL my principles today and go into the MALL. The mall! In December! Why on earth would I do that? Because SOMEBODY wanted a holiday tie to wear to his festive casual holiday party tonight (again, I ask, what the hell is that?).

This isn't even ABOUT how I'm intimidated by well-dressed stay-at-home mothers traipsing around the fancy malls, three BOB strollers wide, so much so that I want to faint. Nor is it about how the crowds make me want to pastry-eat myself into numb oblivion. It's really about the stupid tie.

Aren't holiday ties like EVERYWHERE? And wouldn't you think that in Seattle, especially, where nobody wears ties, like EVER, that there would be a boom in the market for holiday-themed ties? Especially in Seattle, where all the ironic ex- and future-barista songwriters masquerading as software engineers bust out the festive casual once a year? I would have thought a nice Santa tie over a consignment-store bowling shirt at the ol' work holiday party would be all the rage. I am wrong, so wrong.

I went to the consignment shops yesterday. Not a single holiday tie to be had anywhere. Not even a candy cane. Which made me even more convinced that the fancy mall must be full of them. Holiday ties are so popular that nobody gives them away! Ha. Ha ha, Nora. Loser.

At Macy's they just looked at me like I had three heads. The temp holiday help guy (prolly a songwriter) sends me to the other guy. That guy sends me to the head lady, she wants to know if we have holiday ties. The lady is all, we really ummm don't. And then she's all (and I can tell it pained her to say it) I think you have to get those at bazzaars and Christmas fairs and things. To be nice, or possibly to humiliate me, she sends me down the hall to the "young men's" section where there is a scraggly display of ties with fire-breathing dragon designs.

Then there is a CHRISTMAS STORE. Even the Christmas store people looked at me like I had made a faux pas. The guy's all, no. That's all he said. No. Meanwhile there are women's sweaters adorned with glitter all around me. Dude.

Nordstrom is my last bet (and closest to the parking lot). Ha ha ha ha ha. I couldn't even find someone to ask. By this point a blog post is already forming in my head, so I resolve to find someone to ask just so I can tell yall what condescending thing they would say, but it was not to be. Nary an associate in sight. Also nary a (*&^ holiday tie in sight. Not even a tasteful small-business-made one with Christmas tree ornament theme.

On the way home we stopped at Walgreens. WALGREENS! And the lady is giving me my photos and trying to sell me batteries and I'm all what I really want is a stupid holiday tie. And she's all, we have some! And she takes me to the Walgreens Holiday Tie Department and I practically kiss her in gratitude and then get a stupid Charlie Brown Christmas Tree tie for $6.99.

But then it was much less fun, because I'm all my mate is going to wear a Walgreens tie with a PRESS HERE button (plays Jingle Bells) to a fifty million dollar house and our songwriter irony will be completely lost on everyone there who will be in tasteful royal purple ermine-lined festive casual robes and the word gauche will be on everyone's lips like in that Dr. Who episode when he says don't you think she looks tired and brings down the UK prime minister.

I just hope they have those little quiches tonight, that's all I have to say.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Black bean pumpkin soup

A few people asked about the black bean pumpkin soup from my last post. It is seriously good, quick, and a do-over in our house for sure (our only do-overs are things that toddlers will eat, and this is one he usually asks for a second bowl of). It also has the subtitle that all my soups do: excuse to eat bread and cheese for supper. Here it is, from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorite food porn sites EVER. She should charge for viewing those photos.

Mine usually turns out blacker than this photo. We usually skip the ham, and what the heck is a shallot? Extra onion instead. And we never garnish anything in our house, we're lucky if we sit down. But I'm sure it would be great if you garnished, and toasted pumpkin seeds on just about anything would prolly be good. Enjoy!

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
Gourmet, November 1996 (and Smitten Kitchen, 2007)

Yield: 9 cups

Three 15 1/2 ounce cans black beans (about 4 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
1 cup drained canned tomatoes, chopped
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup minced shallot
4 garlic cloves minced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
4 cups beef broth
a 16-ounce can pumpkin puree (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup dry Sherry
1/2 pound cooked ham, cut into 1/8-inch dice
3 to 4 tablespoons Sherry vinegar

Garnish: sour cream and coarsely chopped lightly toasted pumpkin seeds

In a food processor coarsely puree beans and tomatoes.

In a 6-quart heavy kettle cook onion, shallot, garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper in butter over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened and beginning to brown. Stir in bean puree. Stir in broth, pumpkin, and Sherry until combined and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Just before serving, add ham and vinegar and simmer soup, stirring, until heated through. Season soup with salt and pepper.

Serve soup garnished with sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds.

(photo from Smitten Kitchen)

Friday, December 12, 2008

The rainy yummy mommy day

I spent today with H. It was raining most of the day. Seriously raining, the kind that makes even Seattle people change their behavior. Cold, too. Not cold-cold like if we lived anywhere else, but cold for here. In the 30s, I think.

So we made cookie dough, for cookies tomorrow. We took a nap together, yum yum. Then the big adventure--we took the bus!--and this person who I birthed turns out not to be shy in the least, unlike his mother, and announced to the driver, STOP PLEASE! Whose kid is this? And then we went to Trophy Cupcakes and split a cupcake and played with the trains. While he did that I got sucked into the "fine clothing" shop and blew way too much money on a top for Jeff's work holiday party ("festive casual"? What the hell is that?) that is neither particularly festive nor casual. Some black thing called a "goddess." Oooh la la. And good thing the house we will be at is strictly no-shoes-inside so I can wear the trusty clogs and leave them at the door.

And then we walked home searching for puddles to stomp in, way cool for me because I finally bought some rain boots (with POLKA DOTS) since we do a lot of puddle hunting around these parts. And then we ate dinner--black bean pumpkin soup, oranges, plain yogurt with honey and cinnamon--and H did a grownup puzzle for the first time and told me all the P's and O's on all the things on our pantry shelf.

All in all a lurvely and most exceptional day, except for the nearly two hours it took him to get to sleep--but even that involved lots of snuggling.

And this concludes the most boring post of my entire life but hopefully balances all the BROODING I've been doing. Yawn.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My tail or arm or something (or, there she goes again with the serious)

We need a word in English for the shady past of a married woman.
See, doesn't this post just feel ILLICIT? Already?

I once claimed the role of a bad-relationship survivor. I loved someone who could neither love me back nor let me go. After several years of the two of us finding our way in a big new city together, it got really stupid as I clung tighter and he turned to liquid and disappeared. It has been so easy to tell only the end of that chapter to highlight my personal triumph and healing. It's the stuff of chick lit novels and girls' nights out--single girl loves charming guy, whole thing gets so ridiculous even lovestruck girl finally sees, girl taps strength from deep inside she didn't know she had, girl escapes, girl marries guy who appreciates her. A compelling coming-of-age story that I could construct easily without embellishing even a little--I sobbed in the bathroom at his brother's house at a family gathering. I burned the letter he sent after we split without reading it. I thought if I was interesting/charming enough he would finally claim our relationship publicly, then I looked up and years had passed. I dreamed we were in a sinking lifeboat together and when he got out of the boat it floated again and knew that I would live. I lost myself.

I'll get all woo-woo here for a moment and say that during that time I had several unlikely lizard sightings. One running into my path on a city street, a kava kava tea-induced "vision" (ha) of one crawling up my bedspread. It was all very odd. So I looked up the power animal stuff about lizards and a recurring theme was their ability to sever the tail to escape from danger. It was a powerful image that helped me cut off (get it??) the relationship with the faith that I would regrow what I left behind. And for years, YEARS if I mentioned that relationship (which I mostly felt I should not) I would say I had to practically cut my arm off to get away. But I wonder now--did I? Was it really so dramatic? It hurt like hell and it turns out the heart can break. But did I really--really, Nora--leave anything so precious behind? And if I even did, where is it now?

So the wounded heroine narrative (cookie, please, for the word narrative--I didn't even major in English) has not been fitting lately. A lot of the experiences I find myself wanting to tell on this blog and to my single dating friends (while I make them clean my house) are know...THAT time. And why not? They were adventure-filled years, and they are mine. They were fun and travel-filled, full of excitement, hope, and independence. They shaped me and gave me the peace to invest fully in family life now certain that it is my deeper, more satisfying path. But I resist telling because they are know...THAT time and it seems somehow improper.

I now suspect that my tail or my arm or whatever is not with him, where I always thought I must have left it, but in my silence and refusal to think about those years with any complexity. I'm charged with raising a boy into a man here and pondering the importance of that--OH MY GOD--it's not enough to say I'm going to raise one of the ones that's like Jeff and not one of the ones that's like the other guy. That would be stupid anyway but also hypocritical because guess what--I have loved both kinds and loved them well.

And anyway I suspect the "kinds" are not as different as I needed to fit my story with a big lioness-roar ending. To tell a more mature story I have to sit with complexity. I have to acknowledge both the lessons I am still learning with Jeff and integrate the good about the previous chapter. I have to sit with the tragedy of love lost.

Or maybe it's so complex that it's actually simple. I loved one flawed person before I was ready to start a family, and then I loved another one when I was.

I still think we need a word in English for the shady past of a married woman.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


So I run into this friend of ours. He's a master of the meaningful question, the non-small talk. And he's all I hope your holiday season isn't too hectic.

And I'm all well we keep it pretty okay, I think. And I think I should have stopped there but his piercing eyes just kind of kept looking at me. Which in retrospect was I think a meaningful moment of silent affirmation of my attempt at Christmas peace before he moved on with his day, but I tend to go a little nuts when people look at me intensely and quietly so did I shut up there? Nooooooo.

I'm all, for one thing, I refuse to Christmas shop. And he's all well I bet that helps! And I'm all, yes my family doesn't really do gifts, too many people, and Jeff's family does but I refuse to take over that job for him. I just couldn't do it. I can't compete with those women. They are really great gift givers and they give things that involve photos of cats. Which I secretly love but cannot, simply cannot compare to. So I told Jeff that he had to do all the shopping for his family. It was a little bit of a scandal at first, because they all assumed I would just take over the Jeff family gift giving. I tried when we were first married but I just gave really stupid things, or to the wrong people, so now I just stay out of it.

And he's backing away, all, scandal...

And I continue, all unable to stop myself, it kind of works out because if he gets presents they think he's all wonderful and give him lots of extra credit for being a SENSITIVE MAN, and if he doesn't give anything they don't care because he's so busy and anyway he's a MAN so I think it's a win-win for everyone but then I usually get some nice hand cream out of it because my mother-in-law gives really nice hand cream for gifts.

And he's all backing away from me, possibly bored stiff, offended, or late to whatever I had kept him from with my incessant blathering about my thinly veiled lazy sexism.

And he's all, I have a thing I have to be at...bye...

And you know I do this ALL the time. If I ever possessed any internationally interesting information--military intelligence and the like--all they would have to do was just sit there and look at me meaningfully, and I would chatter away to fill up the silence. That terrorist you're after? He's behind that curtain over there. The code? Oh! Yes! I have that! Do you want it? It's 8795! Anything else?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Holiday party etiquette for female postdocs

It's that time of year again. What do you wear/bring to a holiday pot luck at your intimidating boss's house? It depends what message you want to send, I guess. A few:

Message 1: I am working so hard for you that I didn't have time to make anything for the potluck. Are you kidding? I'm working so hard for you that I don't even know how to cook/dress myself.

Bring: Block of cheese, box of crackers straight from store.
Wear: Jeans, clogs.

Pro: Working! Hard! Also, lack of fashion sense will make you appear brilliant.
Con: May appear frazzled, unable to cope, not a team player, one-dimensional.

Message 2: I am so into working for you that I want to show my well-rounded family side at this pot luck. Please like me!

Dish: Something handmade, warm, comforting; two year old child.
Wear: Whatever. Concentrate on distracting attention away from your clothes and towards your warm casserole dish and cute child.

Pro: Warm comfort food nurtures hard-working academic types. Slight chance you may appear to be Doing It All.

Con: Risk appearing soft/distracted/probably about to go have ten more kids and leave your job behind. Childless guests may chuckle and be all what is it with the women having babies during their dissertations? Then you might have to stand there awkwardly, hoping your child knocks over a lamp or something so you can leave the conversation.

Message 3: I am confident in how hard I am working for you and am stopping in at this potluck.

Bring: Something pretty, healthy, possibly prepared by someone else; partner.
Wear: Something special occasiony.

Pro: Everyone wins when someone shows up in high heels. And pretty artisanal type food is a treat! Bring on the wheatberry! Convincingly appear to be Doing It All. Avoid appearing too needy.

Con: May trip in heels. May appear to have too much disposable income and lead others to conclude that you are secretly working for a pharmaceutical company and therefore not objective in your research. Very few cons.

It's all very complicated.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The sisterhood of the mate selection

The friend who answered my call for pre-in-law visiting house-cleaning, wine, and brie sisterhood? Boy did she! She scrubbed the floor by hand, I'm not even kidding. I love her.

She is single! So I cannot return the in-law cleaning favor. Therefore, as meager repayment for her to the sisterhood, I propose to inundate her with marriage partner choice advice. A sisterhood of the mate selection, if you will.

I was in this meeting yesterday with someone--you prolly know someone like this--who turns every silly thing into a teachable moment. She was all, just imagine you have the ENTIRE RESEARCH TEAM on your shoulders whispering in your ear and then you won't forget anything.

Well, I propose a sisterhood to sit on the shoulders of our unattached sisters as they fight off advances from eligible men. What would you whisper? I'll start.

Marry an orphan.
Make sure his parents made him do chores.

What else?

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Your mother-in-law is coming? She's staying with you? Where are you going to put her?

My neighbor asked me this. I didn't think two minutes about it but then she apologized for it the next day, and I still don't care that she said it because it's certainly a fair question. Where would we put a guest in our 650 square feet house?

Jeff and I are on the crappy-house-good-location real estate investment plan. We live in a 1926 bungalow that has not been changed by any of its owners. Historic, right? Riiiiiight. We are saving for the time when we can either remodel or move. Not bothering with small enhancements, because there are no small enhancements. Finish the basement means redoing the stairs to the basement which are too narrow to redo the way they are which means changing the size of the stairs and then we'd cut into either our already tiny bedroom or our kitchen that we use ever inch of and then boom we are into an addition off the back and if we did THAT then why don't we just make a second story because there is that great view of Lake Union from up there? See? Aren't you tired just thinking about it?

We love our house, our location, our neighbors, our neighborhood. We love living within our means, having to tame our cluttering tendencies daily, an excuse to have a family bed. We love sitting with our laptops in the evening, elbow to elbow. We love feeling like we are green, sort of, by living close in, taking the bus, and having fewer square feet to heat. But we really could use a little more space, so either a move or a remodel is in the works. Sometime. This year or next. You know, when we get around to it.

It's so interesting to watch others watch us live where we do, to watch our little cottage elicit strong reactions. A child says I could never live in a house this small, parroting his parents loud and clear. Someone else says I bet Hugo likes playing at our house because we have so much more room. And always, I thought of something you could do with your basement/kitchen/living room.

I have always believed that my lesson from our house was to figure out a decent relationship with clutter. But I think it is also partly to hunker down to carve out our spot in this world. The Thanksgiving holiday has shown me again that our families are wonderful, and that we sometimes, still, let them into places we shouldn't. I like to think that when we make our housing decision it will mean that all those voices are in the places they should be in our lives--in support of our family and our decision, but from the sidelines.

Or maybe not. This whole seeing lessons in everything can get a little out of hand, no? Maybe we are just supposed to move to Europe.

Oh, and 650 square feet can hold a lot of futons and gracious guests.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Birthday boy

I love this baby.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday

I didn't go shopping today, but then I never really go shopping on Black Friday. So my contribution to the economy through holiday shopping hasn't really changed. I'm trying to do my part, but I really cannot bear the crowds. They drain me of all my chi.

Who got up to go to the 5am sales today? I was up not much later than that, but did it enter my mind that socks were half price at Fred Meyer? Noooooo. Besides it's really a direct conflict with the directions we got from the City of Seattle to buy experiences instead of gifts this year and the whole spiritual hoo-ha not to be so consumerist at the holidays. We donated a bunch of goats from the Heifer Project in the names of Jeff's family members. We told one of his family members this so he would know he didn't have to trawl the malls looking for a gift for us--the polite yet disappointed oh okay makes me realize we will have to supplement with some cookies or a photo of Hugo or something.

Meanwhile, I'm all set to bake a GREEN CAKE for Hugo's birthday tomorrow. A special request of his--he's even practicing blowing out candles but ooops we don't have any. So I will go shopping today after all.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Nora vs the pie crust

It got a little ugly at our house this morning. I made two pie crust recipes for three pies, except one of them was crap, broke off everywhere and all, and so the pumpkin pie is ugly. But it holds the pumpkin in, so who cares! People who like pumpkin pie just sort of like it, I'm told, so they can have their ugly breaky crust. I might even try some Jedi mind trick and try to convince them that the uglier it looks the better it tastes. The mince pie--whatever. What is mincemeat, anyway? Some beef-apple-raisin concoction from the 15th century. That's for my dad, a lover of all things medieval, and he doesn't care so I dug an emergency frozen crust out of the freezer and just put some crap dough on top for pretty. Shhhh. And the batch that came out well is for the apple pie, which is for ME. Ha!

That's not very Thanksgiving-y, is it? I'm so selfish. There, you can feel better about yourself today on this special family day of sharing. At least you didn't put the good pie dough into your favorite pie and the crap dough into the pies you won't eat anyway.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's really about stuffing

Tomorrow I will be with family, participating in the usual pot luck Thanksgiving dinner. I'm making the pies, a huge shift from previous years where I made the stuffing. That's what I've done most years. Ho hum. Except for a few exceptions:

There was that year I went with my old boyfriend to Colorado (why did we do that? I can't remember). And we stayed with his..ummm...cousin? (I forget) and ate dinner with the cousin's family friends. It was several layers removed from family for me, but there was much red wine involved, and a beautiful house with a great view of the Rockies, so who's complaining? Their kids couldn't be with them that year, so it was a mutually beneficial meeting of orphans.

There was that year I lived in England for study abroad so of course there was no holiday from school or anything but some American students organized a Thanksgiving dinner. In northern England, not much light to speak of in November but we all got together in the dark and had turkey and--more importantly--stuffing, and I didn't really know anyone but they all knew about Thanksgiving so it was the perfect place to be, that night in that place.

There was that year we lived in China, and the local American officials hosted a dinner for all the Americans in town. We went, and it was wonderful, and there was stuffing, AND the turkeys were served Chinese-style--cut cross-section with a cleaver. What I think of when I think lost in translation.

There was that year when I was two days past my due date, so we didn't make plans for Thanksgiving because you know, ha ha, we might have a baby by Thanksgiving. So Jeff took me and my eight-pound baby that had yet to make his appearance but was very much THERE, to the fanciest restaurant in Seattle and we had the best turkey dinner--and by that I mean stuffing--that I've ever had.

And the year that my parents decided to follow the lead of my newly vegetarian sister and have a vegetarian Thanksgiving. I've blocked it out but I do remember that there was carrot and raisin salad, and it was COLD, and there was probably no stuffing.

Now off to try to conquer the pie crust. Give me strength.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I have no voice today. I don't even sound like Marge Simpson's sisters anymore, just kind of sick and whiny, and my voice comes and goes.

I was making cookies this morning. H was running around being loud and wanting enthusiastic feedback on everything he did, most of which involved loud announcements of "UH OH!"

And then the HR person from my new job called. I don't know why I even picked up the phone. And just as I was squeaking out that this might not be the best time to talk, the oven started going BEEP BEEP BEEP to tell me that the cookies were done.

It was not my finest moment. Surely I can only improve from here. I'm all about the low expectations.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The breathing break

It's too bad I don't vlog, because this is what I sound like tonight--remember Marge Simpson's sisters and their smoker's raspy voices? That's me. Sneezing too. I always did like the name Selma.

Which reminds me of my greatest idea EVER. Really, that other one I had? This one is better. It is for a public health campaign that will save the office workers of the world from blindness, colon cancer, blood clots, loneliness, and probably a whole bunch of other things. It all started back when I worked at the National Cancer Institute, and there was an employee SMOKING AREA. On the side of the NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE. Seriously. I wonder if it is still there. Anyway, there I was, a young eager intern whose boss never took lunch. What was a girl to do? It was rough. I would sit at my desk for hours trying to look busy. HOURS.

Meanwhile all the smokers would just hop up every couple hours, go outside to the smoking area, and come back looking all refreshed and ready to face 90 more minutes of office work.

Except smoking is bad. There are so many reasons not to smoke it's ridiculous. But I talk about all that crap for my day job and lots of people do it better than I would so that's the end of that.

So this idea came to me. What if we all acted like smokers, except WITHOUT THE SMOKING? Seriously this is the best idea I've ever had. This is as good as I get.

What if there were signs in the ladies' and beside the elevator--take a nonsmoking break!

What if your employer made you get up every 90 minutes, go outside (vitamin D), stand around for ten minutes (good for circulation), focus on something far away (good for eye health), breathe fresh air, make small talk with the other nonsmoking breakers (social support--what could be more important)? And then what if (and I realize I'm getting greedy here) you took the STAIRS back to your desk?

It's all there. It's health promotion, community building, reclaiming something familiar (smoking break) for health. I'm pretty sure this is my last shot at saving the world and making a bajillion dollars. The only thing I'm missing is a name.

And fairly sure I will need to better than a randomly generated one.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Things I love about my mother-in-law

She is a fabulous guest. She cleaned all the dishes, the whole weekend. (This is pretty much the way to my heart, in case you ever want to impress me).

She adores my husband.

She plays play dough for hours with my son.

She is kind to my parents.

She wears Dansko clogs.

She has had the courage to make an entire new life for herself in the past two years.

She drinks PG Tips tea with milk.

She likes my soup.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The father of Canada

My sixth grade social studies teacher in Pennsylvania was Mr Border. He was dashing and masculine in a rugged, mountain man way, and he was vocal about his hobbies as an outdoorsman. He was always tromping off to Canada to do something or other active-type thing. I wouldn't be at all surprised if he can shoot a moose. He was the head of the ski club, which I found completely intimidating.

He was not my favorite teacher, and I was not his favorite student. (Pretty sure he smelled my fear and lost all respect.) But he had one mission, and that was to make sure that every student who passed through his classroom learned who the father of Canada was. He pounded it into us. Every day. Samuel de Champlain. Samuel de Champlain. Samuel de Champlain. Who is the father of Canada? Who is the father of Canada? Who is the father of Canada?

Mind you, I don't remember anything ELSE about Samuel de Champlain. I don't even know what it means to be the father of a country (George Washington is the father of the US, right?). Wikipedia tells me that he was a French navigator, geographer, cartographer, draughtsman, soldier, explorer, ethnologist, diplomat, chronicler, and the founder of Quebec City on July 3, 1608, of which he was the administrator for the rest of his life. (1575-1635).

The other thing Mr Border taught us was how to fold maps. Ah-proh-poh for a Champlain junkie, I can see now. That's what cartography is, right? Maps and such. (Allow me to digress for a moment and say how unbelievably terrible I would be as a cartographer. The details! I would be all, that lake is somewhere over there. Roughly. Does that road really need to go on? Okay, I'm bored now. Send it to print.)

I'm sure Mr Border is not reading this, but I imagine he would be proud to know that many years later I still know the father of Canada. I think I may have even dropped it in conversation a few times. And I still think of that man every time I fold a %*&$ map.

These teachers and their power, no?

(And happy 400th anniversary, Quebec City!)

Friday, November 21, 2008


I'm sick, and have company. And it's Friday. So some eye candy. Be back tomorrow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Me: NOT a thinker

Who doesn't love a good self-assessment? I tried the Typealyzer today--it will analyze your blog and tell you what type it is. I think it's some kind of Myers-Briggs thing.

My results:

The analysis indicates that the author of is of the type:

ESFP - The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves.

The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.

And here, the parts of my brain that I use while writing:

That little sliver of logic and mathematics? Jeff is probably laughing all the way his meat pizza lunch lair with that one. The big chunk of order/habit/detail? It's probably lit up because I have to overuse that very, VERY small piece of my brain to prepare the house for my mother-in-law's visit. I can assure you it does not come easily.

And it appears I'm a Feeler, not a Thinker. I had thought I liked to dabble in Thinking, but how would I know? I probably just FELT like I wanted to dabble in Thinking but actually some rhythm would be enough.

See? It's no wonder I have angst. I blame my type. And I better go rest so I don't EXHAUST MYSELF.

Not bad, eh? You?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Mrs G at Derfwad Manor provides my muse for today. She describes three achingly romantic occasions that will melt your heart. She asks her readers about the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to them. I knew instantly that I would make this my post today.

Not because I have an easy answer. I don't. I have heard a lot of romantic lines, but have also let some pretty unromantic actions disguised in candlelight, flowers, and plane tickets pass right on into the inner circle, no vetting, no recognition of danger signs, nothing. What can I say, I'm easily enchanted. You are so great that you almost make me want to say I love you. But as usual Mrs G brings out the best in everyone so I'm REFLECTING, and the good things are coming up.

In high school, I had a whirlwind romance with Rami. It was an eyes-met-across-crowded-room zinger. It was just how you think it will feel when you are in high school listening to Chicago tapes, knowing just how many milliseconds to press REWIND to get you back to the beginning of You're The Inspiration. We talked about nothing, about everything, standing outside Friendly's in the bitter cold. So alive! Our friends all forever talked about the night Nora and Rami met. Alas, it was not to be--a few lurvely and starcrossed months together would be all we would have. But it was romantic. I'm sure he must have said something romantic, but I don't remember a one liner to pass along. He was very sweet and earnest, even at the end. I adored him and wept for months when we split. I think all was for the best though, as his mother's name was Nora too. Imagine how I would be getting ready for the Nora who birthed my husband to come stay in my house? Oh my heavens.

When Jeff and I were first dating, he was in Boston and I was in DC. Because you know we met at karate practice and exchanged emails and one thing was just about leading to another. I was home sick, sniffling and generally having a big pity party. You know how on 30 Rock she gets all worried about choking to death in her apartment alone and nobody noticing? I was like that, sneezing all over everything in my high-rise apartment with the doorman named Boris. The phone rang. Chinese food delivery, please buzz me up. No, I didn't order anything. Some mistake. No, this is right--your boyfriend ordered it. And up comes a big tub of Chinese chicken noodle soup that Jeff had ordered all the way from Boston. That was the first time anyone, including either of us, ever called him my boyfriend. And it was the best soup I ever had.

When I got accepted to graduate school in Seattle, Jeff and I were on the outs. We were done. Except then he dropped everything and followed me to Seattle to ask for another chance, with no promise and very little encouragement. He respected my wishes and my space, he did everything he said he would, he didn't turn away from my pain at our split. He worked at Starbucks. He came to my office one day to take me to lunch and while we were out there was a mural on the side of a building painted around a dictionary definition of the word "home." And he pointed to my heart and said that was his home. That was really cool.

Thanks, Mrs G!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cleaning--part the second

As great as the response was on the cleaning sisterhood, it may take some time to organize my sisterhood, so as a short term solution I enlisted Jeff to clean the bathroom in preparation his mother's visit this Friday. I'm all, you know your mother, you know how to clean to please her, you do it. And he's all, okay. And I'm all gearing up for the series of reminders and such that I will have to give him and then last night he just trots out from WASHING THE DISHES (the significance of which should be itself a separate post), bucket in hand, and starts scrubbing the bathroom floor on his hands and knees. Seriously, that's what he did. I love him.

And I'm sitting there, not cleaning--had done plenty that day myself--listening to him scrub. But it was seriously hard to do. Listen to someone else cleaning while trying to relax. How did the last 800 million years of men do it? Come home and relax while their women tuttled around cleaning up around them? I was UNCOMFORTABLE.

I resisted telling him that he didn't REALLY have to do it--that being willing to was enough, love you sweetie blah blah. Because it really did need it. It makes me wince just thinking about how long it had been.

Then I wanted to do parallel clean with him--you know, scrub the tub or something. I resisted!

Then I wanted to stop him and tell him he's done enough--I didn't do such a good job of resisting that because seriously he would have been up all night scrubbing the darn floor with a toothbrush. Once that man starts something, it's going to be perfect.

Anyway. I could eat off my bathroom floor today. But I still don't understand how all those generations did it. Or maybe the women just cleaned before the men got home, to spare this awkward encounter.

West Nile Virus

Back at the turn of the century, I had a major coffee habit. Periodically I would become racked with guilt about this and shamefully decide to go cold turkey, resolved to shed my dependence on the stuff once and for all. One of these deprivation cycles happened when I was on a trip to Florida for a conference. Probably I had to go without while traveling and realized what a crutch it had become and how pathetic it is to leave a perfectly nice hotel room just to feed your coffee habit with some nasty cheap hotel sludge. I came home from Florida with a new resolve to stand on my own two feet.

Checking the health news on my return, I saw that West Nile virus was discovered in some sentinel chickens in Florida (they put chickens in cages out in the swamps and such and see what they get infected with, I think). People were encouraged to look out for symptoms of headache, fatigue, disorientation. And guess what? I had all those! Oh my!

I promptly started hyperventilating, sure that I had been infected. It was the only explanation. I was on the CDC website lickety split to see what I should do to report my participation in the outbreak. I was bound to, in my dying breaths, inform the proper health officials of my participation in the outbreak.

In the midst of my alarm, a friend and coworker who knew about my recent coffee fast suggested (a little more kindly than this, but not much), "Dumb#ss! Why don't you have a cup of coffee and see if that cures your West Nile Virus?"

I did, and I was cured. Imagine! A narrow escape.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Best pillow talk ever

Back in my swingin' high school days, I had a brief tryst with a young man named...what shall we call him? Tod? And by brief I mean a few phone calls, a kiss or two, a few notes passed in the hall (remember THOSE?) and then we were both on to greener pastures.

However, during one of our phone calls--and let me say here that my sympathies go out to high school boys who have to endure the phone habits of high school girls just to get a smooch. Us girls could TALK, seriously--poor Tod was probably wishing he lived in Britain or somewhere with local toll calling.

But anyway. Despite the newness of our tryst we were not NEW to each other, had the same friends, blah blah. One day we were talking about (what? I don't remember) maybe who is most popular in our school or something. And he pauses...I sense he has an opinion about this, yet he needs to preface his comment somehow. So he's all,

You know you're not the prettiest girl in school, right?

What is there to say to that? Even at age 35 I can't think of a decent response, other than to stop the conversation immediately. I deserve better! You shmuck! Probably not a bad idea, but I had high school girl talking tendencies--talking better than not talking in almost all circumstances.

So I'm all--yes! Of course I know this! Duh! (I didn't actually know this. And I certainly didn't know the boys were RATING us.)

And he's all, good. Glad we got that cleared up. Now about the most popular girls (or whatever it was)...

Sigh. I should not have responded that way.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

The sisterhood

Don't women do this in some societies?

A bunch of women, right? Each one takes her turn. They are the Sisterhood of the Hostesses Without Housekeepers.

They have a sacred agreement--signed in merlot--that when a sister's mother-in-law is about to visit she shall wear a Tiara and be called Queen Bee. The Sisterhood descends on Queen Bee's house with buckets, mops, gloves, and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies. Queen Bee provides booze, brie, and chocolate. Maybe some pie.

Mr Bee takes child on long outdoor adventure--basking in the glow of unconditional maternal love he gets neither credit nor raised eyebrows for state of his house so is banished.

Sisterhood cleans Queen Bee's house top to bottom. Behind the clawfoot tub. The gooey stuff between the kitchen sink and the backsplash. Box from new Target lamp finally sent to recycling. Old ghetto lamp made to disappear. Bookshelf organized. Shower curtain? Into the laundry. Clean towels for all. Really a DEEP CLEAN and ORGANIZATION that Queen Bee doesn't even know how to delegate because she doesn't know how to do it. She just doesn't SEE what needs to be done.

Sisterhood share funny stories about family, the last Queen Bee's hostessing extravaganza, old boyfriends, bullets dodged. House is filled with laughter and good smells (pie). Sisterhood works together and house is clean in a jiffy. Sisters put their feet up and take pride in a job well done. Queen Bee fills them with more brie and wine, braids hair of any interested--scalp massage included. Queen Bee knows she can face any houseguest with a seriously clean toilet.

Any takers?

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Welcome to a night where I would skip the ol' blog if it weren't November and I pledged to post every day, like an idiot. Starting to feel the about some current events?

So today? Prince Charles turns 60. And the people want him to succeed and not pass it along to dashing Prince William! Which he couldn't do anyway without like a new LAW so whatever. The word is--poor Charles has spent his life waiting for the crown. It seems like he has a pretty good deal of it, from where I'm standing. Those ermine robes seem a little heavy, if you ask me. Oh, and his mother is healthy, thriving, happily married, and adored. There's that. And who would want to follow in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth anyway? Not I. She rocks. Well anyway, Happy Birthday, Your Royal Highness. Good work with the environment and all.

And today? Children are separated from their parents because of the violence in Congo. I can hardly bear it. That quote about once you are a mother you are everybody's mother? That. The truth is that I do bear it--I bear it because I can look away--take a break from the spiral into darkness that not bearing it would bring. I bear it because my own child sleeps safely ten feet away from me and so I am complacent, even as the intoxication of him makes those children's burdens both more and less real. Since I won't hop on the next plane there--and if I could I probably couldn't find their mamas for them--here.

"My mother's name is Alphonsine," the 10-year-old said softly, sucking her thumb. "She's short. She's very dark."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

If I had a bajillion dollars

I had a conversation once with someone who works for someone with a lot of money. Planning a party for the boss, blah blah. I heard some quirks about the party planning--food must be served in only one layer--no heaps. Things like this. My first reaction--ha! The rich! So ODD! But then I was all, well that's not actually that bad.

And I started thinking--what if I win the lottery? Or write the next Harry Potter and become a bajillionaire overnight? My life would instantly become a fishbowl. What would my employees say about me?

My chef: The toast. She is a nut with the toast. But for a midnight snack? Apples only. She's crazy. Orange? NO. Pear? NO. The sacred toast? NO. Always with the apples. And it's a lot because she's not exactly a SLEEPER if you know what I mean. A bit of a night wanderer, that one. And does SHE clean the counters on her little midnight applefests? Nooooooooooooooo.

My party planner: Don't even get me started. She is way overinvolved in the menu choices. She's all into this Pennsylvania Dutch lard-laden cuisine. Oh, for the love of God, do we really need to have scrapple every holiday party? Really? We can make other things, you know. It's not even that good.

My research staff: She's so NOT detail oriented! She's such an "idea" person but has no idea how to actually get anything done. Try pinning her down to an actual plan--good luck.

My financial adviser: I'm embezzling so much money from her because she can't be bothered to keep tabs on anything. She actually trusts me! Ha! Want to see my new house in the Caymans?

My nanny: This is the easiest job I have ever had! She never wants to be away from that boy for a minute. Except the playground. She hates the playground. She's terrified of the other mothers. She thinks they are all best friends except her. That's the only thing she lets me do with him.

My housekeeper: She's a nut about the cat hair. Do you have any idea how to keep cat hair off everything? With 47 cats? I have to vacuum like twice a day. I heard she did that when she was in her own apartment with wall-to-wall carpet. What a nut.

My gardener: Who wants to tell her that she doesn't actually live in an English country garden? What a poser.

My butler: You better be on time if you are going to come to her house, that's all I can say. She starts getting all nervous and edgy if people are like five minutes late. She becomes convinced that they hate her. Then she gets mad at them--a door slammer, that one--and festers about it for weeks. And I've seen her hold grudges over it too.

My car guy: This is the most boring job I have ever had. She doesn't care in the least about cars and her husband still insists on taking the bus even though they have a bajillion dollars. I quit.

My philanthropist: Yawn. There we go getting clean water and vaccinations to some more children. A little diversity, please? How about a nice art endowment? Some microfinancing? Nooo.....always with the clean water. Something about how she feels guilty studying genetics when so many people in the world still don't have clean water. Yawn.

My stylist: She is a disaster. She totally makes me do vanity sizing and won't wear dresses EVER. Put her in heels and she falls on her face. I quit.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The secret to shoo fly pie

Did you ever wonder? The secret to shoo fly pie? Or maybe you wonder what it even is?

I am a contributor at the hottest new internet spot, BeanPlate. Started and ruled by the lovely Melanie BeanPaste. She writes of her latest creation:

With food costs climbing and the stock market tumbling, BeanPlate believes that eating well on a tight budget is the order of the day. Using accessible, whole ingredients and the thrifty, tried-and-true methods of our grandmothers, we're cooking through the recession, one plate a time. So roll up your sleeves, put down that Value Meal, and get back in the kitchen with BeanPlate! Food tastes better when you're broke.

She's right, you know. It really does. Food also tastes better when it's shoo fly pie.

Now shoo on over to BeanPlate!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cashiers who know too much

The checker lady at the grocery store this morning--well I can see *you* needed a lot today!

I adore small talk with cashiers at my local enormous grocery store--is it raining out? I've been in here all day. We sure are busy today. How is your day going? My, your child is perfect. No kidding, it often makes my day. I love glimpses behind the scenes of grocery store politics--I was supposed to get my break an hour ago. They have me working four tens this week. And I ESPECIALLY love the ones who patiently listen to Hugo's earnest and heartfelt stories about trick-or-treating, garbage trucks--or most recently, things that are green and things that are NOT green--interpreted as needed by his loving mother. (Because what is the deal with this boy? He is turning out to be shockingly NOT SHY, which makes me suspect a baby switch or recessive gene at work.)

So anyway I like the talk, but I do get uncomfortable if they start commenting on my actual purchases. Some are approving--seeing this food makes me wish I was going to YOUR house tonight! Some are apparently neutral, yet not--you know, apple pie really is better with Granny Smiths. Some are directly inquiring--what are you making with all THIS? No matter what, I feel a little vulnerable and wish for the safety of my car.

I do buy some unmentionables at this store. What if they started with the comments on those? A PRICE CHECK would be horrifying enough, but what are you going to do with THIS? Feeling crampy today? Or what if someone started with recommending other brands? Or commenting at the FREQUENCY at which I was purchasing some unmentionable? I would die.

Of course, if Hugo goes into the store when he is 16 and tries to buy cigarettes or booze, I hope those cashiers shame him right on the spot and call me straight away. But that is different, okay?

Okay, someone else tell a story about a cashier who opened their mouth and spoke. I can just FEEL that there is a good one out there today.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Chivalry spotted on the Metro

When I was a single girl-about-town in DC, I was taking the Metro (subway) home one night. It was late-ish, probably I had been out and about somewhere, but not closing the bars down late. Just kinda late. I took the Metro regularly, as do many people in DC. It is for the most part clean, well-lit, and comfortable. And safe.

On this one night, in this one Metro car, there was me by myself, another single woman, and a bunch of maybe six or seven young men. They were as strapping as can be, in their mid twenties or so, and they appeared to be hearing impaired. They were all communicating in sign language, anyway.

So we are all hurtling along underground, the men chatting away silently, me and the other woman ignoring each other. At one stop a man gets on, and the whole tone of our car changes. He was drunk? Mentally ill? Just mean? Who knows. But he goes right up to the other woman and immediately begins invading her personal space. Getting right up close to her face, yelling. A nightmare of a train ride, all rules of polite society suddenly gone. She is mortified--tries to ignore him, gets up and moves her seat a little closer to mine. I see his has his eye on me, and I know that I am next.

And then the group of men get up. They fill in the aisle with their bodies, continuing their conversation as though nothing has happened. As though they just wanted to stretch their legs in a train car where there are enough empty seats for everyone to have their own row, much less their own seat. And in this graceful motion they make a wall between the man and me and the other woman.

They don't confront him, they don't even look at him. They continue their conversation, smiling and chuckling as they tell their stories. They basically ignore him. But their body language is unmistakable--the aisle is blocked, the women will not be this man's target tonight.

The man settles in by himself, grumbling at first, and eventually gets off the train. I start to breathe easier, knowing I am not alone. The other woman looks positively shaken with gratitude.

The men never look at us women, don't seem to need or want a thank you. I am in awe, not remembering when I last witnessed such graceful, swift, nonviolent intervention for the aid of strangers.

Still in awe, almost ten years later.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Random randomness

I may have mentioned that I used a random word generator to name this blog. I did! Nothing saps my creativity like a clean slate, so this handy generator was how I got past my crippling angst on the Blogger "create blog" page.

Maybe one day I'll think up a better name for my blog. In fact, I was going to write a post about all the better, non-random names I have thought of since. (Risking My Significance is the only thing I have thought up so far, but oh! So serious! And possibly plagiarizing from this great poem) I still find that thinking of my blog name is a great way to make my mind go blank.

So anyway, I regenerated some adjectives and nouns just to see WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN if the angels of randomness had been in a different mood last August. Here's what they would say today:

Some Random Adjectives

Some Random Nouns

What do you think? Unstable Personnel? Rapid Attachment? Invited Debugger? Or did I get lucky with Whopping Cornbread?

What would your blog name be if you used this method to name yours

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tired people logic--the best

Whenever I get overwhelmed with life I become convinced that if Jeff would do more household chores my life would be all better. I think it's something to do with the Five Languages of Love or something, but that was about the only decent thing I got from that particular therapist so who knows.

Last night I was SURE that if Jeff did more dishes it would all be okay--all of it! And he's all, okay, I'll do the dishes, crazy lady. Love you. And I'm all, my husband is SO KIND. I lurve him. But then he gets all worried that I'm RUNNING things or that he has overpromised--wouldn't you? Agreeing to the demands of a crazy lady? So he's all, but here's where I draw the line. Are you ready, crazy lady? And I'm all, what?

And he's all, I won't--I can't--wipe the counters when I'm done. It reminds me too much of my sainted mother who wiped the counters WAY TOO MUCH and if I wipe the counters once in my life it will be giving in to her way of cleaning. He continues all, and by the way, Nora, remember how you used to be a skanker who never cleaned her counter? THAT is why I married you, NORA. You have CHANGED.

And I'm all--no! I will not agree! Crazy man! You DID marry a skanker! Look at the rest of our house! I'm still a slob! Just like the slob you married! But the counters! They hold my baby's food and I need them clean. Remember when you LOVED me? Remember THAT?

And then we looked at each other and giggled. And he wore his new waffle shirt that I think is hot and all was well.

And I'm telling you this because he took this story to his den of male coworkers and they all had a good manly chuckle over it over pizza with several kinds of meat on it. They traded stories of their spousal cleaning habits. And I'm pretty sure that when I say spousal cleaning habits I mean crazy crazy. I'm like Nora, Jeff, and my wife is like you.

So ha! I'm posting it on the internet, since I didn't have any pizza today.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A brief history of Nora and the internet

1991: First assignment as college freshman is seminar requirement to "send an email" to the professor. You know, to show that incoming students can keep up with the latest technology.

1991-1995: Email obsessed. Black screen and green flashing cursor seem key to existence. First evidence of pre-blogging tendencies emerge as Nora spends hours crafting clever emails to random friends; waits anxiously for replies/love/adoration/laughs/really response of any kind.

1996-1998: Remain email obsessed. Death of Princess Diana prompts wandering into world of internet news.

1999-2002: Remain email obsessed. Discover "internet" as time waster: games, news, clickthroughs to wormholes to who knows where. Pre-blogging tendencies becoming stronger. So much so that Nora gets herself a job as a medical writer/editor. Discovers writing about cancer does not quite scratch pre-blogging itch. New York Times becomes personal home page. Boyfriend tells Nora about thing called "Google" which really does search better than AltaVista or Ask Jeeves. Nora is in meeting at Federal gubmint where smart contractor tells fancies to please please PLEASE consider buying "" and fancies are all, why? Who cares? What's with this "internet" thing anyway?

2003: Nora marries nerdy technology man who had three-pound laptop back before she had completed her email homework assignment and cannot live without wireless and broadband and such. Nora remains email obsessed, though less so since no longer waiting for true love to appear in inbox. Can now check email and growing list of bookmarks while on couch. Remains surprised that she is not being discovered/signed to book deal/shipped large piles of cash via her clever emails. Reverts to games.

2006: Nora has baby. Doesn't know how her foremothers survived without internet. No longer email obsessed as increasing number of emails require her response and, like, work, and stuff. Nora accepts that the email ship has sailed for her; converts internet addiction to news, parenting, baby item shopping. And games. Disovers food blogs. Likes, does not contribute.

2007: Nora discovers the mother blogging community via Amalah, whose older boy is almost one year exactly older than Hugo. Throws hat in ring with zero thought to consequences. Uses random word generator to name blog, like idiot. Blog obsession replaces online games, email.

2008: Historic election year. Nora is election-obsessed. Discovers political blogs. Discovers Facebook. Discovers blogs that are not about being a mother or politics. Is mildly surprised that these blogs exist.

2008: Doesn't know how to end this post. NaBloPoMo and election make brain fuzzy.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Our election night party

We celebrated last night with friends who have a toddler with very cool toys. We had lasagna, champagne, chocolate, and race car crackers. We cried, we cheered, we watched in silence. We called friends, mothers. Oh my gosh! Did you see? DID YOU SEE?

There were fireworks in our neighborhood, parades of beeping cars and cheering citizens.

Our friend is French and called his family in France right after PRESIDENT-ELECT OBAMA's acceptance speech, not caring if he woke them up.

And you know what? They were already up, they woke up early to watch The Speech.

The world is watching us, and today I am proud.

"To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -- I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too."

--Barack Obama, November 4, 2008

Can't talk--watching returns

(New York Times)

Did you see? The photos of all the lines at the polls? Aren't you PROUD of us? Aren't you PROUD?

Now shoo! I'm watching the election returns!

Monday, November 3, 2008


A dear friend left town on Friday with one day's planning to get-out-the-vote with the Obama campaign in Nevada. Nevada! I wonder if I would have gone with her a few years ago. Maybe not--likely I would be too shy. Never the extrovert, me. Canvassing fills me with dread and I kind of start sweating. But still. Not an option for me now even if I were up for it. But holy crap, do I admire her for going.

So here we are, my baby is sleeping in his big boy bed in the next room. I'm keeping the kettle on for my friend's return, raising the next generation of informed voters and sending money instead of knocking on doors. We are all doing our part.

This election has changed me. Maybe it would have happened anyway with my ADVANCING AGE, but I really do feel as though my voice and my vote matter now. I have never lived in a swing state--except Pennsylvania! Ha! But I left there soon after I could vote. And North Carolina! Ha! Where Jesse Helms wanted to put a fence around our liberal town--the zoo!--and charge admission. Any thought of my own vote was tempered with some nagging it-doesn't-matter business about the electoral college and the way certain states "always" vote.

One year I didn't bother to vote at all. And it didn't matter. My state went the way I hoped, the election did not. The politicians ("they") would do what they wanted anyway. Except for all the elections I've been alive for? The one where I didn't bother to vote is the one I remember.

But this year it seemed that my vote did matter, that the stakes were so high that it had to. This year one candidate gave a voice to my growing discontent and a chance to heal this disillusionment with my own government, and in the process I realized how badly I have wanted that healing. And why not? Wars have been fought, mothers have lost their children, for less.

And you know what? I believe him. I do. I also believe that if he wins, he will not be perfect. However it turns out I am now something, and I suspect so is an entire generation or three, that is here to stay. Generations of involved citizens. In that way, at least, he has--no, WE have--a great victory already.

I sent in my ballot today. Here's to voting.

And it seems Starbucks will give you free coffee if you tell them you voted.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The appendix

My oldest friend in the world, Heather, is now a pediatrician. All, like, qualified and stuff. And me? Not too shabby. But when she and I get together, every couple years or so, we fondly reminisce about our secret knowledge of the real use of the appendix.

You may have heard that it is useless? A remnant of some previous evolutionary chapter? Or the latest news that it is a "safe house" for good bacteria. (I love science journalism.) Well, I'm here to tell you that it is not that way.

Some teacher or other, in elementary school, told us that the appendix is for the things you ingest that your body can't digest. Like--are you ready?--chewed fingernails, and swallowed chewing gum. The idea was something like this: once full of gum and fingernails, your appendix would burst. Or it would just sit there for life, full of gum and fingernails. Imagine! At age 80 still carrying around an appendix full of gum from when you were 8. And if you really needed it--say, you HAD to swallow your gum for some reason, like a car crash--you would be out. Of. Luck. So the obvious preventive move was to not ever swallow your gum or gnawed-off fingernails.

I KNOW the current medical thought on the use of the appendix. I would even think that I was imagining it if Heather hadn't been carrying around the same story. We carried it separately until our mid-twenties or so before admitting to each other the unthinkable--that we both secretly still believe the story about the gum. And we think of it every time we chew gum, being careful (of course) not to swallow it.

Oh, the power teachers have.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Let the insanity begin

I have decided to take the plunge and participate in NaBloPoMo. Against my better judgment. No, really. I did it last year and it was fun. I'm proud of it still. So hold onto your hats--I'll be around every day for the month of November.

I'll start off with an easy one--Hugo as a giraffe yesterday for Halloween. Could there BE anything cuter? He took it so seriously, ringing that bell like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. Or maybe the weight of a giraffe head.

Tune in tomorrow to learn the REAL use of the appendix (the one in your gut).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama cupcakes and office antics

One reason I love my neighborhood--I can walk a few blocks and get this:

(Trophy Cupcakes)

And before you ask, they were not offering cupcakes featuring the other candidate's likeness. But then I also saw someone (not in the cupcake shop) in a shirt that says "Republicans Suck." Now, that's not really good form. This is Nora Bee and I did not approve that message. Just so you know the tone of where I live, since reading blogs around and about I am reminded that it's not like this everywhere. And that's good. We get fined for not composting here. Or something like that.

A chat with a good friend and former coworker reminded me of a story that I love to tell. And it didn't even happen to me! Getting warmed up for holiday parties where I pretend to be an EXTROVERT and sparkle to my husband's coworkers and their wives, wowing them with my intimate knowledge of eye-rolling corporate culture, waving my champagne flute (that's what they all drink) for emphasis without spilling it. They won't see me coming--I'll blind them first with my mommyness and Dansko clogs and then I'll be all let me tell you a tale of middle management gone bad. And then they'll be all wha..? You had a JOB?

So the tale goes something like this. My friend keeps a really neat desk. Plant, candy dish, and I mean a seriously clean desk. Everything is in a file, and when it's time to work on it she takes out the relevant file, works on it, and then puts it away. There are never more than ten emails in her inbox. She's awesome. And she works her tail off. So you think her manager would parade her and her--I don't know, her WORK?--around to all the visiting fancies, right? The fancies might even think that my friend had cleaned her desk for them. They would be wrong, but they might think that. And that would be cool. Because next door they would see my very unimpressive amount of work and piles of papers that might just have a grilled cheese sandwich buried in them (like I could ever leave one unfinished). But no...her manager came by her office and asked her to mess things up a little bit so she looked "busier." She was afraid that the fancies would think my friend wasn't working hard enough. Ha! Ha!

Am I ready for the sparkly holiday small talk circuit or what?

Thursday, October 23, 2008


In our house we dressed up all the time. We had access to a huge "costume box" year round, always dressing up like hobos and princesses and LAURA INGALLS WILDER (sigh, love her) and such. And a magical mother who encouraged us to do so. But when Halloween came around, I froze. Too much pressure. How could I not produce the perfect costume with all these resources at my disposal? It was unthinkable. So the pajama or whatever other homemade look at Halloween fell short of my own wild expectations, without fail. A Wonder Woman costume from the store might have solved all my angstiness. Ha! Unlikely, says my 35 year old self. No! It would have! says my 10 year old self.

And also--get this--my parents were the ones that handed out Nature Valley Granola Bars to trick-or-treaters. Did you ever trick or treat at my house? You probably didn't, because we lived way the h*ll out in the country and any trick-or-treaters would have been brought by car or else braved the no-sidewalk unpainted unlit roads. Very little return on sugar-seeking investment there. You might have done it for a full-size Snickers Bar, but not for whatever crappy un-treaty treat my parents would have dropped in your bag. Bless them and their crunchy hearts, I want to burst with pride in them right this moment.

As much as this would make a nice post about how I am transitioning these values of healthy eating and creativity to my son, not so much. Not this year anyway. Granola bars are a major treat in our house, yes. And Hugo is terrified of any masks or costume, so we have at least until next year for that. Maybe he would be interested in a Laura Ingalls Wilder getup. And someone gave him a giraffe costume because giraffes? AWESOME. He wore it once, gazed at himself in the mirror for ten minutes, and then off with it forever. Darn, he is cute.

So gearing up for another low-key Halloween this year, though you can be sure on the actual day I will be seized with regret about not alchemizing (is that a word?) the perfect costume from whatever crap is in my basement. I'm sure someone with my creative upbringing could do a lot with a drumset, Jeff's electronics collection, an old chair, and some underwear from 2002 that I might just wear again you never know. And a cat carrier. Some dryer sheets. The possibilities are endless.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The bad wife chronicles

I could start the list of things that I swore I would never do as a married person. It would be a long list. The funniest is possibly Jeff and I, young and in love, gazing deep into each others' eyes and pledging to share all household responsibilities (including income) 50/50. Right down the middle.


And then I found out that he didn't have to do chores as a child. Uh oh. So off he trundled to work.

Or how I would never pee in front of him, you know, to keep things fresh and mysterious. As my new hero Betty Draper says, if he keeps looking at me like that I feel like I'm earning my keep.


And how I swore I would never go through his stuff and get rid of it without asking him. Because I RESPECT him. I would never DO that. They are HIS things. Besides, it is irrelevant anyway because we will be sharing everything 50/50 so he will periodically go through his own stuff and flag things for the Goodwill bag OF HIS OWN ACCORD. The bag that we will carry, jointly, to the car, because you know we SHARE things. Everything.


Because there are two garbage bags of Jeff's "things" for the Goodwill in the trunk of my car right now, not a single one vetted by him. And I'm pretty certain he won't miss a single one, since they are all either unworn gifts or clothes he hasn't touched in at least a year. I have reached a new low. I'm not saying I regret it, but how much lower than my own principles can I go? It's a slippery slope, I tell you. A slippery slope.

Friday, October 17, 2008

You can't count on anything anymore

Yes, the economy. Food prices. The most important presidential election in history ever.
We're all in massive uncertainty, the world is falling apart. Yes, yes.

But let's keep things in perspective, because my world was turned upside down today. FOR REAL.

The person next to me in a meeting opened her banana from the bottom.

I couldn't stop staring, it was like a train wreck, only not as bad or gorey and no one got hurt. In fact, she seemed to enjoy her banana just fine. I swear it has never occurred to me EVER in my whole life to eat a banana any other way than from the stem down. That nice, handle-shaped piece that seems positively engineered for opening. Yet there she was, holding her banana by the stem and munching away from the bottom down to the top.

I have not been able to get this out of my mind all day. Like looking at a mirror image that is just a little off, or trying to cross your arms with the opposite arm on top than you normally do (try it--I'll wait.)

Am I crazy? (yes) Am I grasping at any small thing to help me feel in control of my circumstances? (probably) How do you eat your bananas?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nora raises eyebrows at life insurance man, changes nothing

To be fair, he bought us coffee. And we bought his product (just so you know how it ends). And he didn't wear a short sleeve oxford shirt or try to scare us with stories of orphanages or anything. Overall, he was nice. A bit young, though. Like 12.

He's all, Nora. if Jeff died today, it would cost approximately $700 bajillion to maintain your current quality of life. You can see I've graphed it here for you, the red line. Or, you could go with $600 bajillion and still have a pretty good quality of life. That's the blue line.

And then he's all, Jeff. if Nora died today YOU WOULD BE FINE FINANCIALLY. JUST FINE. But we do recommend approximately $2 in coverage so you can pay her funeral expenses without having to tap too much into your piles of cash. I've graphed that here as the yellow line to show how YOU WOULD BE JUST FINE. But you can get a little something, you know, if you want. Totally optional.

First I'm all, ok. A little high from the strange comfort of being in the presence of men who have gathered to look earnestly after my welfare. I've been a student for awhile. My job hasn't started yet. I take care of our precious baby. Then I'm all, WAIT! Jeff would be SO not able to maintain his current quality of life if I died today. And I'm not even talking about crippling grief.

Mothers would cost $134,000 a year if fathers had to pay them. I say this. And Jeff looks at me, I think he feels my eyebrows twitching. And he's all, I assume I would have to pay someone more than we pay now to take care of Hugo if you died. And I'm all ha! And the housekeeping! And the shopping! And the cleaning! Ha! Ha! Full time nanny/housekeepers cost a lot of money, you know. And you have to pay them benefits too. Put that on your yellow line, insurance man.

(I perchance overestimate my value as a housecleaner here. Whatever it is it's higher than Jeff's.)

And then I raise my eyebrow at him. A meaningless gesture on my part that carries no clout whatsoever. I'm so not one of those women who causes anything to happen, or anyone to cower, by raising an eyebrow. Where is Catherine Zeta-Jones when you need her? But I did it anyway. And I'm all, you might want to remember this conversation with your future clients, and not tell them their spouse would be just fine if they died. I think I said it out loud, anyway. I was kind of drugged by all the male protectiveness and I sort of wanted to bake them a pie.

And the insurance man is all, good point, Nora. I didn't think of that. So yes, Jeff, you could use your $2 upon Nora's death to pay a nanny. Or something. He doesn't suggest upping it to $3. But he does look a little bit contrite. Or maybe that's his job.

So I spend the rest of the meeting overcompensating for my worthlessness by over-professionalizing myself and mentioning how pretty soon I'm going to be earning my own money and I can always get another policy then and oh I'll need to see the list of things you test for with the blood sample because I'm an expert in genetic testing and other drivel.