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).