Monday, February 25, 2008

My barista is emotionally unavailable

Dear Barista at my workplace espresso bar:

I know I have had, at times, a tendency to attach myself to people before they have demonstrated that they have "earned" my trust. I know that this can appear "needy." I am working on this. Might I also point out that in some circles I might even be appreciated as "trusting" or even "sweet."

Remember that conversation we had in the beginning of our relationship? About how the iPod has made it socially acceptable to be rude to your neighbors, because your neighbor snubbed you by putting his headphones on even after you established you were both on your way to the QFC? And I said, maybe it's a west coast thing, the pioneer spirit is alive and well out here and people like to be independent, and you said yes, yes, that's it, but shouldn't we all have community too. I had such high hopes for our morning happy talk then, Barista. A good morning greeting, a little edgy banter, some espresso-laced philosophy, and on to start the day. And when you remembered my regular drink that time? And told me that the americano is a barista's drink? I was in coffee shop heaven. All my years of being a nomad up and down the eastern seaboard, I never stayed in one place long enough to have a barista remember my name or my drink. But you, you showed me that I could be a regular. A fixture, even. You showed me a glimpse of what it is to have a place where everybody knows my name.

But then it all slipped out of my grasp, like trying to pick up a tomato seed. Maybe you were scared when I squealed with excitement that you remembered my drink. Maybe I was too "needy" and you are the kind of barista that needs a lot of space.

I can give you space! I can change! We can start over, Barista. Remember the iPod? Remember my sparkly social commentary? My trenchant grasp of current events?

But, Barista, as I Give You Space, do you really need to speak to everyone in front of me and behind me in line as if they are your BEST FRIENDS? Call them by NAME? Did you have to go right over my head (an accomplishment since I am taller than you) today to ask the lady behind me where she's been for a week? Did you have to ask her if she watched Washington Week? Is it because she gets French press and I just get Americano? Because I can talk about the Democratic primary with you. I can talk about classical music enough to be worthy of conversation without disturbing your reign as opera expert and espresso overlord. I can strike the right mix of interest, knew-that-already, and concern as you loudly educate me of events in the Middle East poorly covered by the mainstream media.

Sometimes you remember my drink, and others you stare at me blankly and make me say it as if I were *gasp*a NEW CUSTOMER. But I get the SAME DRINK every time! I have for years! I ask how you are, and if, and only if, there is no one else in line we have a chat. But I want our relationship to be public! I want to be validated, recognized, appreciated as a regular. Surely I have paid for my overzealous squeal six months ago. Whatever happens, I'll always have the iPod banter.

Very truly yours,

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I took this picture this weekend on a walk in the city. I know they are not endangered anymore,
but still, what a treat. The weather too, eh? Spring may be springing.

Bub, still developing his flair for the dramatic, reacted to the majestic animal:

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Is settling the way to go?

I read this article today by Lori Gottlieb, and I'm wondering what yall think of it. It's been stuck in my head all day. The gist of it is this quote, but of course it is better to read the whole thing:

My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year. (It’s hard to maintain that level of zing when the conversation morphs into discussions about who’s changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook.)

I wonder. I got married when I was 30 and it sure felt like he was The One, which I interpreted to be so largely because he was the first person I ever wanted to have babies with. I can't deny that I had gotten "old" enough to face that I might be alone forever (honestly, the prospect was not that bad, after the initial anxiety passed) and might not have children (this was worse, but still okay). I loved some things about being single, but it sure was a club that anyone dropped out of as soon as they got the chance, and I didn't love that about it.

She's right I guess. We could approach marriage like the creation of a small corporation that provides "infrastructure" for family. We could have our parents or churches arrange it for us. And (she doesn't say this) look for passion outside the marriage or channel it into our children or work. But more of us would have babies, yall. Babies. It's what we all really want, anyway. (!)

I don't have anything intelligent to say about this, except that I feel very sad for all of us. Not lucky or superior that my situation is on the greener side of her fence. Just really? Is this really how it is?

If yall have any thoughts, you just think them out loud here. I'll go put the kettle on.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Art + technology = More art

We may be the last house in North America, but we finally got a scanner. (Jeff would cringe at my calling us late adopters, but the fact is between perfectionism and procrastination that is what we are. But in our heads? EARLY adopters, dude. Totally.)

My brain is buzzing with all the new things I can share now. 1970s baby pictures! Eighties awkward adolescent bad fashion pictures! Maybe I will even draw you a PICTURE! I can hardly stand it.

Here is the very tame, proof-of-concept warmup to the Whopping Cornbread Scanner Era. Are you ready? It's a New Yorker cartoon. Jeff is all, you have to put this on your blog. The guy? That's me (Jeff really loves me, he thinks that I am famous). The girl? That's Jeff. Or my dissertation committee.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Par-tay time

Bubba got a new outfit in the mail from his great aunt. I love how loved he is. I love it. And my world is bigger now--because this is not what I would "normally" pick out for him. And by normally I mean never. But I get to enjoy it, and now he is the best dressed person in our house. I think I'm just jealous. Because he would rock a disco hall right now and I probably wouldn't even be allowed in. And I want to dance with him, looking all dapper like that. So here, because he will probably outgrow it before we get invited to anything where he could wear it. And because it's Saturday. Party on the internet, baybee.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nursery rhymes

Bubba has a book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes, published 1968. It's a lovely book to read through, but I think it may be the most violent book in our house. Grandma reads him the rhymes with a magic ability to change the words. But when I read them, I'm shocked at how rough it used to be to be a child, if these rhymes are accurate.

Hunger, corporal punishment:

It was rough to be an animal too, by the looks of it.

And of course, training for our sons and daughters about the place of women:

This is a little more my speed.

And I like the pictures.

And some things are just timeless:

Monday, February 11, 2008

I'm the mama

Tonight I hold my baby in my arms, fearing my body heat will make his fever higher. I let him nurse for hours because it is the only thing that calms him. I know that I will probably catch what he has, and it doesn't matter. I know I will be up in the night with him again tonight, and it doesn't matter. I make him sippy cups of chamomile tea and finally exhale when he drinks. I say prayers of thanks for the pharmaceutical industry that has produced safe, over the counter fever reducers. I wonder how any mother in generations past, and still now in many places, ever survived knowing that each fever might put her child's life in danger, not just his comfort. Tonight my baby needs his mama, and that mama is me.

Oh my heavens, it's me.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Press release: Nora endorses Obama

SEATTLE: Nora Bee, author of the virtually unknown "mommy" weblog, Whopping Cornbread, announced her endorsement of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama today. She and her 14 month old son attended the political rally in support of Obama's candidacy at the Key Arena in Seattle today, which filled to its 20,000 person capacity for the event. Thousands were turned away and waited outside the stadium to listen Obama's speech in the bitter cold and rain.

Thanks to Nora's much more organized, childless friends who arrived at 8:30am to queue for the 11am rally, she joined them close to the front of the line at 10:15am, shamelessly using her baby for sympathy points. "We were all set to glare at her for cutting in line until we saw that she was carrying a baby. Then we stepped aside," said one woman nearby. "And that baby--what a cutie! I bet Senator Obama would love to plant a big smooch on that round pink cheek."

Another bystander commented, "I think she was kind of insane, bringing a baby to this event. What an idiot."

Nora, thrilled at the field of hopefuls competing for the Democratic nomination, generally felt that it was a win-win situation and that it would all just be okay. "I am in the midst of finishing my dissertation so don't have a lot of spare energy for following the political race," she said. If pressed, she would say she had been leaning toward supporting Obama but remained undecided, intending fully to leave the political process to everyone else, whom she assumes are reasonable, nice people who will do the right thing.

But with the virtual tie between Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton after "Super Tuesday," Nora decided it was time to endorse a candidate. "I can read about the candidates' positions on the Internet," said Nora. "But I wanted to be in the same room with Senator Obama to get a sense of him before making my final decision. I felt it. He is the real deal."

Nora announced her endorsement today at a press conference held at her kitchen table attended by her baby and husband. Following her endorsement, her baby threw banana slices onto the floor. Her husband asked if UPS had delivered his new printer today.

Nora left the rally before the end of Obama's speech because her baby was tired and she had run out of snacks. "I thought that if it started at 11, I would be out of there by 12:30," she said. "I didn't know that Obama wouldn't arrive until 12:45."

"That lady was kind of crazy to bring a baby to this event with no toys and not enough snacks," according to the guy staffing the entrance to the block of seats occupied by Nora and her friends. "What an idiot."

However, Nora said the enormous crowd and Obama's real-deal-ness have restored her faith in the political process. "It's like living in a real country, where people care about what happens and who they want to be their leader," she said as she chased her baby as he ran after a police dog at Key Arena.

"Obama has made it okay for me to be proud to be American again," said Nora's organized childless friend.

Senator Obama did not kiss Nora's baby.


Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cultural immersion, and no, this isn't a food blog

I asked Anne-Marie, fiber star and all around great person over at Bouclee to do a guest post. More baked goods! Yay! And if you need me to bully any of YOUR Canadian friends when they are in town, I'm cheap.

Things I learned from Nora #1:The significance of cupcakes
by Anne-Marie

When Nora asked me to write a guest blog post, she suggested I write about cupcakes. Since we became friends a few years ago, I have learned quite a few things from Nora. Most of what I learned from her may sound trivial at first, but it’s all about the things we take for granted. We all have our own ideas of how things are, often based on how things were when we were growing up. Once in a while, you realize that others actually don’t think the same way about the simplest and most mundane things (shocking, I know!). Here’s an example.

Three years ago, Nora takes me out for dinner on my birthday. We went to a brewery, and they didn’t have cake on the dessert menu. I was slightly disappointed that I would not get to have a proper piece of cake for my birthday.

The next day, the phone rings.

“I found a cupcake place nearby,” says Nora. “I thought we could go since you didn’t get to have cake yesterday.”

“Great! Let’s go,” I respond.

In the car on the way there:

“It’s very nice of you to take me to this cupcake place,” I say. “But it’s not really the same as birthday cake.”

Sound of screeching tires, as Nora looks at me wide-eyed with astonishment:

“What do you mean, not the same? Cupcakes are the ULTIMATE birthday cake!!!”

This is how I learned about the significance of cupcakes. Where I’m from (Montreal, Quebec), we didn’t eat cupcakes. Not for birthdays, not for any other occasion that I can remember. To me, they looked like frosted muffins. My impression from countless American movies and TV shows was that cupcakes were a last-minute second-rate substitute for birthday cake, to be used when you forgot about someone’s birthday but wanted to make up for it with some sort of dessert with a candle on top. Like putting a candle on a donut. For example, in The Devil Wears Prada, the main character brings her boyfriend a cupcake when she shows up hours late to his birthday dinner. In Million Dollar Baby, Morgan Freeman’s character buys Hilary Swank’s character a cupcake in a diner when she tells him it’s her birthday. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie character go out of their way to buy or bake cupcakes. I hope you can see how these depictions led me to think that cupcakes are a last minute, unplanned birthday cake substitute. Of course, now I know better…

Since Nora took me to eat that first cupcake, I have learned that cupcakes are actually individual cakes, with real cake batter and real frosting. I have learned that cupcakes bring up memories of childhood birthdays for many of my American friends… I have been told how cupcakes are perfect for kids’ birthday parties or to bring to school on your birthday, because you don’t need a knife, or even plates and forks... There’s something particularly enjoyable about eating cake with your fingers, and I can see why they’re so popular with kids. (I wonder if the fact that kids are given identical individual cakes instead of sharing a big birthday cake says something about American individualism, but I may be reading too much into it…) I have tasted classic cupcakes (white cake with chocolate frosting) and exotic ones (chai or green tea, anyone?). I now have come to appreciate cupcakes for the treat they truly are…

Since my first cupcake experience, Nora and I have taken every opportunity to taste new cupcakes, and we now have a definite favorite. If you’re in the Seattle area, try out the Triple Chocolate cupcake at Trophy Cupcakes. If you don’t trust my limited experience, believe Nora. She who always used to go for the simple and classic option (vanilla cake with chocolate frosting) now orders the triple chocolate cupcake… Just one bite and you’ll understand!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The original Super Tuesday

Yes, yes, it's the big primary/caucus extravaganza. I've been glued to the unfolding results. No joke. We have us quite a race here, eh? And yes, yes, it's also Mardi Gras. Never been, but you know we have the beads.

But really, what today REALLY is, in my little white ethnic world, is Faschnacht Day. How does this sound?

"Fasnachts, Fastnachts or Faschnachts are a fatty doughnut treat served traditionally on Fastnacht Day, the day before Lent starts. Fasnachts were produced as a way to empty the pantry of lard, sugar, fat and butter, which were forbidden during Lent. Some English-speaking Protestants tend to refer to the day as Shrove Tuesday, and many consume pancakes as an alternative." (from Wikipedia)

Not just a donut! A fatty donut! Life was good in my rural Pennsylvania Dutch elementary school, yall. Faschnachts all around! Made by someone's mother, no doubt. Not my own, she being horrified at being transplanted from the midwest to the godforsaken Pennsylvania Dutch heartland. She still won't eat scrapple. I think she is horrified that she has children who do. We don't discuss it much.

But I digress (I have always wanted to say that). Seriously, Faschnacht Day was a big party day, and we marked it every year in school with some heritage education of some sort. I don't think I remembered about the Lent thing until I looked it up just now, but there you have it, the spotty memory of a child drugged by fresh homemade donuts.

Here is a recipe, borrowed from I just like to read it through and savor the words. Not to make them, which would surely get me kicked out of Seattle and anyway what would I do with 5 dozen faschnachts? And yall, some recipes call for adding mashed potatoes to the dough.


2 c. scalded milk, cooled

1/2 c. sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 oz. yeast in cakes

2 eggs

1/4 c. butter, melted

5 to 7 c. flour

Mix ingredients with wooden spoon. Add flour to make a dough, not too stiff. Cover and let rise to double in bulk. Punch down and let rise again. Roll out to 3/4 inch. Cut to round donut (use glass or donut cutter without hole). Cover and let rise again. Fry in deep fat until golden brown, 375 degrees. Turn once. Total time about 3 minutes. Drain on brown paper and roll in granulated sugar. Makes about 5 dozen donuts.

This is an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe. Faschnacht Day is Shrove Tuesday and everyone eats Faschnachts on that day. Eat them all up as they are not as good the next day.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Friday, February 1, 2008

If I want to vent I could always become a bikini waxer

I have noticed with great respect how most writers of blogs I read don't complain about their spouses. This is very kind and ethical. The internet is so permanent and public, and for me anyway, most annoyances are so private and fleeting. Take me, for instance. If you read all my writing here about my marriage you might think I float around all day on a cloud of infatuation, blessing, and thankfulness for my perfect husband. You might think you just heard the soft flip-flap of his little angel wings, or no wait, maybe it's him sweeping the floor without being asked. It really is true in the big picture that I am overcome with gratitude to be in a strong and fun relationship, and this is worth a few permanent words on my corner of the internet. But seriously. We bug each other pretty badly sometimes. Am I the only one? (Going out on a limb here and assuming I'm not.)

Who do I tell? My fingers itch to tell yall, yall. But it just doesn't feel right. I yammered on to a friend one time (an unmarried one) and now she thinks My Marriage Is In Trouble and she talks kind of slow and gently around me. Dude. I have a couple trusted friends to occasionally share a good giggle with and those moments are magic, but there is something to anonymity in blowing off a little steam that is comforting, eh?

You know you had anonymous people to vent to? Mimi, from my days at the turn of the century as a single working girl-about-town in DC (can you imagine? me?). One of the women in our office turned us on to Mimi, who had taken her ton of experience and opened up a salon in her home in the suburbs. Her waxes were the cheapest around. They were really cheap. So we all made lunch hour pilgrimages out to Mimi's, even my boss.

She was a tiny, tiny woman with short hair and a white coat. She barked me through the waxing experience with a no-nonsense, yet maternal, yet clinical confidence that left me sure she knew what she was doing. Hugs, goodbye and hello. You know how some people can seem really nice but they say mean things? Like, she's smarter than she looks, or that dress makes you look thin? Mimi was the opposite. She said whatever came to mind, but it didn't matter because she was a kind soul. One time after a certain waxtravaganza she raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow at me and said, well that needed to happen. It just made me giggle, in a speechless kind of way.

In no time Mimi was like a member of our office. She was up on our gossip and helped pass it along. I often found out things about my coworkers from her. Once after she had heard from one of my colleagues that I had ended a relationship, she raised that eyebrow and said, now don't you go gaining weight now because you're sad, hear?

When she was doing her thing, it was her turn to talk. She brandished that spatula full of wax like she was about to ice a cake. But then half the time she would get distracted and start complaining passionately, waving said spatula for emphasis, about her husband. The remodel going so slow, and then get this he said blah blah, I can't believe he is up to that, I want to travel here and he doesn't. Just quibbles about daily living, and she did have that gleam in her eye like she really loved him. Not that I was looking deep in to her eyes to really tell--I was busy tracking that waxy spatula so I would be ready when she returned to the task at hand to continue my vain, vain torture. Sometimes she even spread the wax on and then launched into a spatula-waving husband story of indeterminate length before the big yank, which often seemed just a bit more forceful if Mr. Mimi's antics were especially infuriating. Then I really didn't even listen, I just held my breath. Please, Mr. Mimi, don't leave stacks of floor tiles for the new kitchen in the hallway for two weeks, for the love of G*d.

I have moved away from that city and Mimi. I think of her whenever I want to gossip about my man and feel just the teeniest twinge of envy that she had, probably still does, a captive audience to vent her frustrations to and then send on their way, away from her life, with a hug. I also think of her because I still use her expression sometimes, well that needed to happen.