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?