Friday, August 29, 2008

The garbage truck vs. the fire truck

Nora: I have the coolest idea for a blog post! I'm brilliant!

Jeff: What is it?

Nora: Should I even tell you? Because I think I'm really going to make it big with this one. Maybe you should just wait to read it.

Jeff: OK. Whatever you want.

Nora: No, I want to tell you. It's BRILLIANT.

Jeff: OK.

Nora: See, I'm going to open up saying how our son Hugo's first love was the garbage truck. And how we searched far and wide for garbage truck toys and books and found like two. And then how he was seduced by the fire truck--the shiny red engine, the woo-woo-woo. And then I'm going to say how it's so much easier to find fire truck crap--plates, rain boots, books, rain coats, you name it, you can get it with a firetruck on it.

Jeff: But who would want to eat off a plate with a garbage truck on it? That's gross.

Nora: Wait, you haven't let me finish. I'm not to THE POINT yet.

Jeff: Sorry.

Nora: And besides, who would want to eat off a fire truck plate anyway? Look! Burning building! People getting hurt! Let's have some spaghetti!

Nora: The point is, see, that the garbage truck represents public health, sanitation, infrastructure. The garbage truck keeps people healthy. Imagine if there were no garbage collection? Imagine the disease, the filth. The water supply! Can you imagine? IMAGINE!

Jeff: (silence)

Nora: But the fire truck, getting people out of buildings, cats out of trees, now that gets all the glory. It's great and all but the role of the garbage truck completely gets overlooked because it's PREVENTION, not TREATMENT. There could be garbage man raincoats and rain boots, but is there? No!

Jeff: (silence)

Nora: So remember when I was agonizing about whether to go into public health or medicine, and I really liked public health but was drawn by the glory and prestige of medicine?

Jeff: No. That was before we met.

Nora: Whatever. But see, it's the SAME THING. Public health is the garbage truck, medicine is the fire truck.

Jeff: Also the garbage truck comes more often than the fire truck.

Nora (to self): ?

Nora: So that's my idea. I'm just waiting for the inspiration to turn it into a really top-notch blog post.

Jeff: OK. Love you.

Nora: What's for dinner?

Artwork by Nora

Monday, August 25, 2008

The anthropology of email

So I'm selling some baby things on Craig's List, and I'm not kidding when I say that 75% of the responses I have gotten are from family email addresses. nickandjessica, cornbreadfamily, barack.n.michelle*, thebubbas, you get the idea. I realize that there is some selection bias at work since I am selling baby things, but still, it was a little overwhelming. And you know how easily I get overwhelmed.

It has never even occurred to us to have a family email address. First of all, who would be responsible for checking said family email? Me, that's who! Let's not kid ourselves. Second of all--well, there is no second of all. Wait, there is! Assuming there are no secrets in families, blah blah, or that most people with secrets would get their own email address (which is not to imply that all people with their own email have secrets)--how do you know who is reading your email TO the family address? What if it's not to the whole family but just to one of them, and then the other one reads it and marks it as "read" and the true recipient never reads it? Or what if you just want to plan a surprise party for your spouse? Do you send an evite from the family email?

So tell me, am I behind the times? Do you have a family email? Why did you get it? How does it work? Do you use it for all your personal email? What are the benefits? If you don't have one, what do you think of them? Tell me, I'm curious and I want to be cool so bad I can taste it.

*Barack and Michelle aren't really trying to buy my used cloth diapers. I made that up.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

There's something for everyone in The Stranger

I am always fascinated at glimpses at lifestyles that are happening close by and parallel to mine yet completely invisible to me. Today I had an hour to kill with no computer or books handy (imagine!). So me and my americano sat down with The Stranger, the weekly rag available free on just about every street corner here. And hoo-boy did I get a glimpse! What a treat.

How could I not be drawn in? A promise of culinary dignity!

And the promise of this story...go on, you would have read it too.

The culinary dignity promised on the cover was indeed delivered--

I'm all, cool! Cheap eats! And there's no way I'm not the targeted demographic for THIS ad, what with having contributed significantly to the owner's purchase of a new car this year. I'm still thanking my lucky stars I didn't know about this place when I was pregnant...

A nice bookstore review...

My horoscope...this is my kind of paper, no?

But then we have the darker side...we don't make cancer jokes in my world, I'm afraid. I'm getting a little out of my league here.

OK, ok, still there. I do have a tattoo, you know. I'm cool.

Then the bands. Don't get me started on the bands. (These are bands, right?). I wasn't even cool enough to know THE SCENE even back when I left the house after 9pm. (I used to GET READY to go out while ER was on at 10pm, okay? Like in 1994.)

Wait, a band called The Cupcakes! (That's a band, right?). I like them already.

Ah, the classifieds. This is always nice, because who knows? I might find a nanny, or a research study to participate in, or an egg donor...

...or a job...

And then the personal ads. I swear the last time I read The Stranger, the personals were at least a LITTLE bit above the belt. Long walks on the beach and such. This week? Not so much. This is one of the more vanilla ones--I blushed at this page, I don't mind telling you. (Oh, you know you would have read it too).


And yet--and yet! Once you have that data entry job (or the full belly from the payment-in-food at Whitney's party) you can roll around in your gold coins and then go buy some bling (this is bling, right)?

Or a nice couch.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Press release: Nora experiences angst; wrings hands

SEATTLE--Nora Bee, recent graduate of the University of Washington and author of the virtually unknown blog Whopping Cornbread, is surprised both that she is actually scheduled to start working soon and that she has not really stopped working on her last bunch of stuff yet.

"I arranged to have the summer off. But I'm learning that in academics that just means that I've had the luxury of not starting anything new," said Nora recently from her Seattle home. "Just writing a dissertation wasn't really enough. I also have to publish it, which happens on my own time. Like my adviser said, 'nobody reads dissertations.'"

Nora's baby's day care was also against her taking the summer off. They were concerned about her baby's "readjustment" re-entering after a long time off, so encouraged her to bring him in at least for a few hours here and there. So Nora has used those few hours here and there to attempt to publish her dissertation papers.

Nora's husband was supportive of her taking the summer off, but sort of forgot about it and figured she could manage her own time.

Nora has had difficulty adjusting to life after her recent graduation. "It is a total shock to the system. I thought getting this degree would give me more choices, more flexibility. And though the work is more interesting than if I didn't have the degree, there are far fewer jobs now that I have it and there is also an expectation that I move away from Seattle to follow a job." Nora and her family have already decided not to move away from Seattle for the next several years.

Nora is scheduled to return to part-time paid employment in September. She will then begin a full-time postdoctoral fellowship in January 2009. As the primary care giver of her 20-month-old son, she is reluctant at the prospect of full-time employment. "It sort of makes me want to throw up," she said. Her fellowship is scheduled to last two years.

Nora counts herself very lucky to have several female mentors with grown children who assure her that her postdoc will entail a lot of "freedom." She also negotiated for being able to "work from home" when she needs to. However, she is suspicious that the level of responsibility she will soon assume will take her away from her home, family, and slacking off time more than she can handle. "I'm scared that flexible is going to mean any 80 hours a week I want," she fretted.

"People always think that I am a hard worker and really motivated," she said. "Especially now. One friend said recently that she is sure that I am the type of person who hates being bored. Truth is, I'm really quite lazy. I do well with short spurts of work but I think I would do just fine without the stimulation of a high-powered career. I would cook, raise babies, write, read. Learn some photography. Be a good friend. Renew my campaign to marry into the British Royal Family."

Nora also reported that she is very excited that there is a transgender contestant on the upcoming season of her favorite TV show, America's Next Top Model.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A quote

It's a disgusting mess we come through to be born, the sticky-wet of blood and afterbirth, mother wailing, child crying..the helpless soft spot at the top of its head waiting to be kissed. Our parents and teachers say it's a miracle, but it's not. It's going to happen no matter what, there's no choice in the matter. To my mind, a miracle is something that could go one way or another. The fact that something happens, when by all rights it shouldn't, is what makes us take notice, what saints are made of, it takes the breath away. How a mother comes to love her child, her caring at all for this thing that's made her heavy, lopsided and slow, this thing that made her wish she were dead...that's the miracle.

-The Birth House, Ami McKay

Monday, August 11, 2008

A funny thing happened on 47th street

There is (or was--in my happy place in my head nothing actually changes unless I am there to witness it) a fortune teller on 47th Street in Manhattan. She has a neon sign in the front window of a brownstone in an otherwise residential block. You walk up the steps and ring the buzzer, and maybe she answers and maybe she doesn't--I know because I went back a second time a few years later and no answer.

In 2003 I was having a bit of a rough weekend--Jeff and I had split up, and all signs pointed to Nora Kissed Another Frog Funny How She's Smart And All But With Her Taste In Men You'd Never Know It. I was living out my familiar role as the one whose love life makes you feel superior and that you'd dodged a bullet yourself. Can you imagine? So public. I think I would DIE. Poor Nora. I don't know how she does it.

I was in Manhattan with my family for a restorative weekend of plays and restaurants and such. On the way back from one of them, my dad and sister and I passed the brownstone on 47th street. On a whim we rang the buzzer. I think there's something to some of these fortune tellers, you know, said my dad. She let us into her impossibly small studio--the size of the bay window in the front room curtained off to hold a tiny table and two chairs.

She was a vision of only-in-New York. A diner mug of coffee with cream with a lipstick ring, clearly not the first cup of the day, a cigarette nearby. Her accent was mostly New York (new yawk) with just a hint of something else--European, maybe? She named her price and looked me square in the eye and said you won't be disappointed, I have a gift. My father forked over the cash and she invited me to sit down.

Before I was fully seated she reached out and took my hand. I thought it was a handshake situation, sealing the money exchange that had just taken place. But the moment our hands touched she started talking, and didn't stop for quite awhile. Like us touching gave her the connection she needed.

She knew about Jeff. She knew his name. She said all he needs is time, he really loves you. She said I should not consult my friends about what to do, I should act first and talk later because I have friends close to me whom I cannot trust. She said I would be a student soon and that I would have surprise trips to California and Florida.

The thing about Jeff, about me being a student, and about the trips, those all came true. I'm sure my face that day made her job easy--it wouldn't have taken much to see I was going through something of a time. But she could not have known that I had just been accepted to graduate school. She could not have known about Jeff, about what we had been through. She could not have known that I did need a little coaching in listening to my own still small voice--that in spite of my past blunders and his recent ones I knew he was The Real Deal, that he was Worth It. And that a gentle whisper inside was still saying so even as the voices around me were warning me away.

She said a few other things that I will wait to see if they come true. Who knows? Some will, I imagine. Some I don't see any path to from where I am now. She probably doesn't know that her raspy fortune-telling brought me great peace and strength. She might have been the first person to tell me in words that made any kind of sense that my opinion about my own life was more valuable than anyone else's.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Now I know my ABC's

I am really not much of a singer. I can hardly carry a tune. There's the lack of talent, the lack of practice, and the self-consciousness. Somewhere around my 40th hour of labor the self-conscious thing flew out the 6th floor delivery room window, so that was out of the way. Then, there was a delicious baby needing entertainment, so I'm getting a lot more practice. There's the lack of talent part, kind of stuck with that, but who cares? Really? See above re: 40th hour of labor.

One of the nice side effects of parenthood is how much I sing now. I'm all Wheels on the Bus in the middle of the grocery store (imagine!), all If You're Happy and You Know It walking around the neighborhood. Every night Jeff and I sing the ABC song to Bubba while we brush his delicious little baby teeth. My reedy untrained alto squeaks out the melody, and Jeff's trained, strong, healthy, bassy voice makes magic harmony. Sometimes he makes it sound jazzy, others like chamber music. Sometimes oompa loompa-y, sometimes like a hymn. Sometimes we make it fast, sometimes we drag it out. If Bubba resists, we stop until he is ready again...Q, R, S, T--stop--okay, Q, R, S...We always sing it at least twice, and Bubba is transfixed the whole time and always makes the sign for "more" when we finish.

It is often the most magical part of my day. We are squarely a team during those moments. We need each other, we help each other. We bring out the best in each other. We make something better than either one of us could make alone. We make each other stronger. We make our son happy. We make brushing teeth something to look forward to. Just for those moments, we rock.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

What's the deal with Facebook?

I have recently joined Facebook. A-whole-nother world it is, eh? (and who besides me thinks that a-whole-nother should be a word?). I've been feeling old enough lately what with being called ma'am and having a wrinkly forehead and reading a piece about how the young people are breaking up with each other through blogs and text messages and such. (Back in my day we just had our friends do it or made out with the new person in front of the old person. What about the time honored "I'll call you" lie? Hello? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, hear me? And then we walked home in four feet of snow with no shoes, okay?)

Speaking of high school--and Facebook--it seems my high school has quite the Facebook presence. Lest you think I am popular or anything, well..just don't. I went to a great high school. Nice bunch of folks, great school spirit, great parents who always had purses full of bandaids and Tastykakes. I loved high school. I loved my friends, and the ones that I want to be in touch with, I am. Most of the rest, I wish all kinds of good things for as we go our separate paths in life. Remember the football game? The play? Remember how you broke up with me by telling my friend? Wasn't that awesome?

And now, people I never thought for a minute I would keep in touch with, I know that they are excited for so-and-so's wedding right this minute or are hungover 11 hours ago or whatever. Not that I don't appreciate all my new Facebook Friends, but (don't ever say but! It cancels out the words before it!) I'm still adjusting to re-entering all this adolescent love.

I'm especially perplexed about what to do about friend requests from people who I didn't know well at all even then. Do I accept for the sake of the whole group? Ignore and appear unFriendly? I'm regressing. Obsessing. Kind of fun, if I'm honest. I'm about ready to write some notes, fold them in vintage 1986 paper-football style, and go hang out in study hall.