Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween paradigm shift

So this email goes around my work, from the, you know, wellness team or whatever. The same people who put up signs about taking the stairs instead of the elevator and such. It's about HALLOWEEN CANDY. And I'm going to hell because I'm going to quote it. When I have obese children with no teeth you can REMIND me of how flip I was about this, et cetera.

It’s OK to throw out unused Halloween candy.

This is actually a decent thing for me to remember.

Recognize that the closer you or your family sit to a candy bowl, the more likely you are to eat from it.


Ha, except the frequent trips I make into the kitchen to visit the stash. That's, like, EXERCISE.

If you host trick-or-treaters, consider alternatives to candy:
· Nonfood items: Stickers, balloons, whistles, finger puppets, glow sticks, rubber balls, temporary tattoos, funky looking erasers, sports cards, rubber creepy creatures, dollar-store toys
· Sugar-free gum
· Mini-boxes of raisins, pretzels, or nuts (although remember that some people are allergic to peanuts)
· Single-serve packs of cereal.
· Dried fruit or vegetable chips (make sure they have minimal fat)
· Juice boxes with no-sugar-added juice
· Small granola bars. Granola bars can be high in fat and calories, but there are many that are about 100 calories with little fat.

OK, stickers MIXED IN WITH THE CANDY might work. I actually did throw in some cheap plastic bracelets this year, and several teenagers actually took those instead of candy (lame-ohs). But cereal? And don't get me started on the granola bars. My parents did that, and I'm still not over it. OBVIOUSLY.

Before your kids go trick-or-treating, make sure they’ve had a good meal. If they fill up on real food, they’re less likely to fill up on candy as they make their rounds.

Melanie and her mom had this one down years ago, with their bacon sandwiches on trick or treat night. That's what I'm talking about. Now, plotting how to get invited to her house next Halloween.

And then, AND THEN! Someone replies to this whole message: you know you can compost your leftover Halloween candy. You just have to take the wrappers off first.

There would be some seriously happy raccoons in my neighborhood if this happened. IF. Like a pile of unwrapped Halloween candy would make it from my house to the yard waste container. Maybe the Nestle Crunch and any candy involving coconut would make it. Otherwise, good luck.

Seriously, my hats are off to the wellness teams of the world. Thank you, for real, for the reminder that it is okay to throw away Halloween candy. And may you be blessed with granola bars and raisin boxes every Halloween until you are 150. And dollar store toys.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

To blo or not to blo?

So I'm sitting here thinking, well I can't do NaBloPoMo this year, because it's TEN O'CLOCK AT NIGHT on November 1 and I have to go to bed. There, it's a Sign. But then I look at, oh, every other clock and realize it's only NINE, that I forgot to change that one silly clock what with the daylight savings thing and all.

So maybe it's actually a sign that I AM supposed to do the blo after all. I don't know. I put on Facebook that I'm wondering if I should do it or not, and several folks weighed in.

Pat, a friend from high school, who I dare say I had a little CRUSH on there for a bit (so tall! so funny!), simply said, Do you have that much to say? Wise man, that Pat. I'm still thinking on that one, and the answer is, likely, no.

And Heidi, the best ever, said, Do you need an Idea? I think you should write about those silly work bathroom stall pointers like "If you dribble, wipe it up!" or "paper goes in the toilet not around or on!" Really?? What am I, 3?

Now this is an interesting one. Because, Heidi? I've never seen a sign like this in my life. WHAT OFFICE DO YOU WORK IN? Are there seriously signs about dribbling??? I think I need to fly to your office forthwith with my camera and take a photo. I've led a sheltered life, seriously.

Not that I am a stranger to dribbling itself. What patron of a public restroom is? In fact, the only dribbling story I have doesn't actually even belong to me. Back when I had like a real job, we worked with a PR firm who did stuff for us and every so often there were drunken nights out and such, you know, for business, and the topic of sitting versus squatting came up. One PR woman, she was gifted at her job, she told us about her idea for an anti-dribbling campaign called SIT GIRL! The idea was that if everyone sat, no one would need to squat, and there would be no dribbles and everyone is safer and happier.

She had it all planned out. Posters in the stalls with catchy signs saying, SIT, GIRL! Stickers! Postcards! Education! I adored it. And I don't even remember her name anymore but so help me every time I am in a public restroom I think of that woman and her SIT, GIRL! genius.


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A piece of public health history

So I guess I'll always remember that time that I was pregnant in the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. You know, that one that was really extra super dangerous for pregnant women. It really wasn't very good timing, as far as, you know, getting pregnant, but then, bah! There's never a good time. Maybe my grandchildren will all gather round me when I'm even more ELDERLY than I am now--they will have all NO DOUBT continued my passionate lurve for all things public health--and beg for stories of What It Was Like.

And you know what I can tell them? That it freaked me the heck out, that's what. It scared my already-falling-down pregnant pants off! Seriously, I spend a lot of my working hours thinking and writing about high risk groups and such, and all of a sudden, bam! I'm a high-risker! Quick, someone, do a focus group or something because I can tell you all about it.

And then, I'll say oh, and I remember how I fretted about the shortage of the H1N1 vaccine. The fretting! Checking my phone all the time, for The Call From The Doctor's Office saying, we have it. It's in. And how nobody seemed to get the vaccine, ever, and all the news and clinics everywhere were all hanging signs that said WE HAVE NO VACCINE and there was this general air of quiet panic. And people were getting sicker and sicker, though of course nobody I knew but STILL. And I was high risk and the things that were happening to the pregnant ladies, with the H1N1, they were terrible. Fret.

And then I'll say how one day in late October I got The Call, and how they were all speaking in hushed tones, like they didn't want the ANGRY MOB outside the clinic to hear that they had H1N1 vaccine inside. They were all, you need to come in. Tomorrow. Because we'll have it, tomorrow. And I'm all, can I come in today? Because I'm supposed to come in anyway for some blood work. Or I could come in tomorrow and do the blood thing too. I'd just like to do them both at once, if I could.

And they were all putting me on hold and hushing and whispering and what have you. Then they came back on and were all, okay. Come today. Just check in at the main desk and tell them you WANT TO SEE THE NURSE. And they will know what to do.

So I go in to the main desk and I ask to see the nurse. And the reception people were all, what for? (They never ask me that.) And I'm all, for the vaccine. And they're all--WHISPERING--which one? And I'm all, H1N1. And she all GLARES at me, like for saying it out loud.

Silence.

And they're all, did the nurse tell you to come in? And I'm like, umm, yes. And they're all, are you SURE? And I'm all, apologetic, ummmmmm, yes?

It was all very cloak and dagger, very exciting. They were all lovely and kind, once it was established that I was not dropping in off the street asking for the vaccine and that I am, in fact, a real live OB patient. It turns out I was their guinea pig (ha, ha), not for the vaccine, which you know just arrives from the sky somewhere, but for their own PROCESS. You know, with the forms where you sign that you know that they think that the risk from mercury in the vaccine far outweighs the risk of actually getting the terrible flu and have you ever had an allergic reaction to eggs, and what have you.

And then I put it on Facebook that I got the vaccine, and everyone was all, WHERE? WHERE DID YOU GET IT? Even someone on the east coast said that. And it freaked me out even more.

And hopefully, that is the end of my story of what it was like to be pregnant during H1N1 2009.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The bad wife chronicles, episode 168

There is a little battle going on in our house about what to do about the fruit flies that have TAKEN OVER EVERYTHING.

Which I can't really tell you about without a little BACKGROUND about how Jeff does the dishes, because it's HIS JOB though I'm not really sure he would agree with me on this. But anyway, he does the dishes. Except he refuses to wipe the counters or clean out the sink after he's done because something about becoming like his mother who was too clean or something, blah blah save it for the therapist did I just write that out loud? So I NORMALLY codependently follow behind him--while announcing that it is really his job--and clean the counters and sink and then I get to hate it and feel virtuous and superior. Except now I'm pregnant and I go to bed early and such and I really just can' t be bothered most of the time. So our sink is a little grody. Is that a word? Wasn't it? I think the kids like five years younger than me in high school said that for awhile.

So naturally, being a SCIENTIST, I see a huge cloud of fruit flies poofing (a CLOUD! POOFING, I tell you) out of our gross kitchen sink every morning when I wake up and every day when I get home. Thusly I develop a HYPOTHESIS that PERCHANCE the fruit flies are enjoying our warm moist food-caked kitchen sink enough to get some serious breeding done. That it may actually, what with the dropping outside temperatures, be an IDEAL environment for such reproductive fly shenanigans.

Meanwhile, five feet away across our kitchen, I am--get ready for this--housing a FRUIT BOWL. Seriously, I do this, I bring home fruit and we eat it. And I don't refrigerate all of it because I am from Pennsylvania and that's not what we do there. And this is somehow in conflict to what they do in California where apparently they ALL refrigerate ALL fruit ALL the time. Except not at his mother's house because I've been there and I've seen her fruit bowl and it is at room temperature.

And you know, OBVIOUSLY fruit flies like actual fruit. OK. But given the PAUCITY of flies crawling on the ACTUAL FRUIT, I suggest, gently (GENTLY! because that's really the only way I know how to be, in relationships, all gentle and sweet all the time), that maybe, just maybe, the fruit flies are breeding in the sink, what with the POOFY CLOUD OF FLIES and all. And that maybe, MAYBE, a cleaner sink might help to, I don't know, kill them off.

And he's all, I can outscience you, lady, and remember I went to MIT where I worked on that fly-eye simulator and therefore I understand the mating habits of fruit flies and I'm here to tell you that the flies are only feeding on the actual fruit that you insist on BUYING like a BARBARIAN and putting in the FRUIT BOWL.

And I'm all, but that fly eye thing wasn't ALIVE. It was a computer. And look at the poof. At the sink.

And he's all, the BANANAS, lady.

And I'm all, can't there be TWO causes of the problem? Like maybe it's BOTH the bananas and the rotting food in the warm, wet sink?

And he's all, no.

And I'm all, but the poof.

And that's pretty much where we are with the VERBAL part of the battle. Except he put the bananas in the fridge and I cleaned the stupid sink and now he's in there cleaning it out again. And I'm remembering that one time I took a genetics class and we did fruit fly-related lab exercises and there was this stuff called FLYNAP, seriously that's what it was called, and we put it in with the flies and they would take a nap and then we'd take out the flies and look at their red vs white eyes or kill all the virgins or whatever and then close up the thingy and the FLYNAP would wear off and the flies would wake up. And how now I'd like some FLYNAP except not the kind where they wake back up.

And I'm also remembering Florence, a coworker who refused to eat any food brought in by a cat owner, no exceptions, because YOU NEVER KNOW if the cat had climbed on the counter before the owner made that food and brought it to the office and it just CREEPED HER OUT. And now I know none of you will ever eat at my house, and that's too bad because we really are very nice--cute, even!--and I even bake.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Always time for angst



So there’s this article, The Referendum by Tim Kreider, from the New York Times. It’s about my favorite topic! Angst! He doesn’t call it that, of course. But it’s in the same general family, how we all judge each other for life choices different from ours, wonder if we’ve picked the wrong life, et cetera. The Referendum is this thing “whereby people, increasingly aware of the finiteness of their time in the world, the limitations placed on them by their choices so far, and the narrowing options remaining to them, start judging their peers’ differing choices with reactions ranging from envy to contempt.” The author is a 40-something man, single, doesn’t want any kids. He envies his friends their marriages, houses, and children (not really the children), and they envy him his free time and singlehood. Everyone wonders If They Did The Right Thing. And there are rifts, in the friendships, and there is angst.

Seriously, I do this all the time! To great angst! Utterly unsatisfying. But can I stop? No siree. Usually it’s the run of the mill stuff I bore myself with on this blog. Should I be working more? Would it be BETTER if I hadn’t gone to graduate school (the pressure!)? Heidi works full time with kids. IS SHE LIVING MY LIFE? Katie lost her job and is loving staying home. IS THAT WHAT I SHOULD DO? Does someone have The Answer and THEY DIDN’T TELL ME??

Now, oh ho HO, it’s a whole new world of social comparison. I should say, I hungered for this second baby in a seeeeeeeerious way. It was like she was already born but I couldn’t touch her. Panicked. Where is she? Almost worse than before we had Hugo, because then I didn’t know how it yummy it would actually be. Now, I knew, and I wasn’t done. So I’m finally at peace, now that he’s here (I’m just making up sex pronouns as I go here), and I feel a deep resting. Oh, there you are. You’re here. Hello. What a relief.

And also now—and it’s an AND, not a BUT here—there is more of the judging thing. We are buying a bigger house, to hold the expanding empire. Yes, yes, what a stress—I was seriously not cut out to always know where my paystubs and W2’s are. And guess who my targets are now? Baristas! THEY are the ones who have The Answer! They with their flannel shirts and thrift store Doc Martens. Their MOHAWKS. Their BANDS. They know the secret. Just live, create, keep it simple. Oh, and the unmarrieds. The free time! The work and travel! The dating! And people who don’t want children? More power to them. Think of the cash they must be amassing!

I know the answer, sort of (I’m so full of baloney). It’s something like, we really all need each other to do different things. It’s not about proof of who is Doing It Right and then us all doing that thing, but more that we are all in this together, and if we get that then we can ALL have it all. I need people who work really hard so I can work part time. My hard-working boss needs me to work on her behalf and not be after her job, like so many others. Carefree bachelors need my family for the occasional home-cooked meal and illusion of stability, a hug from a child. I need childless friends to know where the latest hot spots are, to schedule breaks from my routines, to remember a previous version of myself. My kids surely, surely, need me— to just be, feel, adore, and wipe the occasional counter. And holy crap, I don’t know what I would do if there weren’t all those women physicians and nurses out there entrusting their kids to others so they can take care of me and my family. Parents need childless people, childless people need children around sometimes. Et cetera.

I know, too, that we really have more than one life, so it’s all not that big a deal anyway. I had my single life, and now I have my family life, and one day I’ll have my empty house life, and then who knows. Maybe I’ll even have a life without angst, one day (ha! HA HA!). Just enjoy it, I want to say to the guy who wrote that Referendum thing. Enjoy what you have. Just enjoy it, and enjoy mine too. He writes about living vicariously through another as if it is some kind of proof of having taken a wrong path. No. We can borrow each other's lives, and all will benefit. But still, the judging thing, it happens. I don’t follow my own advice, hardly ever. So I'll go have some ice cream now, the end.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The expanding empire



We bought a house. We totally did. It needs a ton of work, built in the 1920s and not updated since the 1940s--when they updated it with ASBESTOS. It's also in a gorgeous location and actually has the square feet to hold four people as two of them grow big and need space and that kind of thing.

We got the keys on Thursday night, and went in on Saturday, and it sort of HIT ME. Holy crap! the work! I really do pride myself on being quite lazy. How did this happen? Everyone's all, what a good investment!--what fun!--it will be great! I felt those things too, at some point back when buying this house was just a twinkle. But this is really all feeling suspiciously GROWN UP, and I'm not sure I like it.

(It is a sweet house, though, ain't it?)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

My bionic nose




Oh hi, so I'm pregnant. How awesome is that, right? It seriously is.

I'll just come right out and say that no one is coming to our house to film a home pregnancy test commercial. There's me, completely oblivious to any possibility of pregnancy, going to my in-laws' and drinking all kinds of cocktails in the weeks after conception, because that's what they do there. When in Rome and all. Marinating the poor thing. Oh well, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger at that age, I'm told. Then there's me realizing, oh, it might actually be, you know, THAT, and there's Jeff all, my life is OVER. No one has ever had two children, EVER, except ME, and it's like really, really hard. And I'm all, pfft. Shut up dude, what you don't LOVE me? That's IT, right? Now I KNOW. I'm pretty sure I said, fine, too. And then there's how I didn't even get the first test right because I peed on it when I didn't actually have to pee and at like midnight so it was a test where the TEST WINDOW didn't light up or activate or whatever. So not only can I not manage my fertility, but I cannot pee on a stick! I am, however, a wonderful mother. Ask anyone.

And then there's the next morning where I actually got the dumb thing right, and seriously here no one would film it because it was like 6am and I hadn't slept much and looked like crap and it was dark anyway. And I'm not even sure Jeff is awake, but I get back in bed and I'm all, are you awake? and he's all, yes of course I'm awake, dumbass, and I'm all, it's positive, and then we just sort of lay there and I'm all, don't you dare freak out like you did last time, except I was really only like that in my head, what I was probably really like was like, how about some coffee, then we sort of just went to work, kind of in shock. Taking it all in and such.

But it ends okay, because, fast forward many weeks, past me procrastinating calling the doctor, because what can they do anyway? Have me pee on one of THEIR sticks? Bah. But finally I went, and there it was, all wiggly and cute and heart-beating and all, and then we grinned and held hands and thought it was really cute, more kind of like it's supposed to go when adoring, stable parents find out they miraculously get the honor of doing it again. So now I am of ADVANCED MATERNAL AGE, except apparently they don't call it that anymore, but now they call me an ELDERLY MULTIGRAVID. How times change. These crazy kids in obstetrics and their fashions, I can hardly keep up with them.

Well, so there we have it! Clean out your casserole pans for April and start the dinner train! (It's kind of pathetic how I immediately think of how everyone should jump to attention to begin taking care of me. Classic youngest child. Yawn.)

And I can smell everything anyone ever did within a mile of me. The dust, it's killing me. And Taco Bell, it's the best place EVER. And Cheerios. I'm like Sniff, in Hugo's Richard Scarry story "Sniff Catches the Robber" (Hugo is AWESOME, by the way)--

Sniff is a detective.
He helps people find things.
He helps catch bad people.
He thinks with his head.
He smells with his nose.


And holy crap, isn't this amazing? It so is. I'm over the moon.

photo credit

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Jury duty

So this woman I work with is out today for JURY DUTY, very civic of her and all. We had all the small talk about that whole thing, tell them everyone is your cousin! HA! They won't pick you for a jury. And my jury duty story that I tell at these WATER COOLER THINGS (who has water coolers any more? I need to be on Mad Men. Except they have like whiskey tables instead of water coolers) is that I've only been chosen once and it was while I was away on my study abroad in Merry Olde England, so my parents wrote a letter for me saying ha, she's away in England and all the defendants are her cousins, thank you bye, and then I left Pennsylvania. And then I moved all over the eastern seaboard--catch me, jury duty!--and then I moved to Seattle. And bought a HOUSE and such, you know it's only a matter of time. But still I was feeling IMMUNE to jury duty, like I would NEVER get picked because I'm 36 and it has never happened even though I've been in the same place for SIX YEARS now (!). And my coworker just got picked so it's like lightning striking, I figured it gave me at least another few years to play with jury-free.

But then it came today! My first real jury duty summons! The very day my coworker is at jury duty. What are the CHANCES? CONGRATULATIONS! it said. It is an HONOR and a PRIVILEGE and a DUTY and part of living in a DEMOCRACY and blah blah. I agree, of course. I'm even a little proud, being the closet patriot that I am. But anyway. Here's hoping for a good story to come out of the day that will inspire me. I think it's even in the same courthouse where I got MARRIED, going through the metal detectors in a WEDDING DRESS like a goofball, the end.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Don't mind the cat, he's weird









Summer was here tonight. It stopped in with some dusky light--what is that called? Not the gloaming, right. I think that's right after the sun sets. This is right before. Perfect for eating some currants off the plant, getting your kit off, and going for an evening drive. You know. Those evenings.

This summer has been way too busy for me. So many trips! A class to teach at the last minute! Visitors! Bah. Not my normal, you know, PACE. But there are moments. There are mudpies. And sandcastles. And scooters. Always.

And don't worry, my sweet boy, this cat has been looking at me like that for 14 years.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Prom dress



A friend from my current life discovered this photo of me in the "Photos of Nora" section of my Facebook page. Graciously scanned, uploaded, and tagged by someone from high school with nary a thought to my consent. "I'll never forget Nora's dress!!!!!" it says.

So my friend's all, NORA. TELL ME ABOUT THAT DRESS.

I'm all, what? I made it.

She's all, you have to blog about it.

And I'm all, bah, I had a bad day. No chance.

She's all no, you really have to blog about it.

And I'm all, what? I made it. It was 1991. What else is there?

And then, THEN, she gave me quite possibly the best compliment of my entire life, itself worthy of a blog post. And I quote:

It's like 1991 synthesized into ONE SINGLE DRESS.
It looks like opening credits to Saved By the Bell AS A DRESS.
It's like the L'Oreal spray gel bottle AS A DRESS.

So, okay. Give me a compliment and I'm anyone's, that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. So here is the nonstory. I was all into sewing there for a bit. And I was all into being, you know, weird. Never one for pastels, more for either browns or brights, I wanted to branch out a bit from the gowns that were in fashion then. Some girl in my school had made her prom dress several years earlier out of camouflage material and looked pretty awesome--but I was never much into the camouflage or the hunting (this was rural Pennsylvania, where the first day of hunting season is practically a state holiday). To outdo the camo chick I deemed it not enough to make my own dress out of some fabric from the store, so I decided to make my own. Not with a loom and all, that would be a bit beyond my crafty capabilities. So somehow, in the half-assed way that I do, I sort of came up with this idea standing in the fabric store, why don't I make some sort of patchwork thingy, and then sew the dress out of THAT. Then lickety split before you know it I bought several colors, hoping it was enough to make a dress, and went to town. I had committed. It was, like my life, disorganized and chaotic but came together somehow.

It was sort of fun, patchworking the fabric together and then making a dress. It was sort of dumb, too. I had many, many moments of regret about not just buying a pink tulle thingy like everybody else. I actually look nice in pink, as it turns out. I don't know where my family was, letting me make that thing without telling me I was an idiot. They probably thought I was being creative or something. A dangerous thing for high school, for sure. Don't they know that blending in is way better?

(I had also, the year before, made a sweet orange and black polka dot number for the junior prom--asymmetrical hem, naturally. But I don't have a picture of that, and thank heavens no one has put one on Facebook.)

My date? We had broken up a few weeks before, but decided to go anyway. Awkward. (His mother's name was Nora, hmm). But I made him a stupid cummerbund anway. The theme? Remember how every prom had a THEME? It was something about the first Gulf War, not very romantic. And my hair? Wasn't it cute?

Oh, and the fabric? Velvet.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

I can see why health care is such a mess

Jeff and I have something of a situation around the kitchen (how awesome is the word situation, by the way? I love it.). It's really unnecessarily complicated, but there you have it.

See, I refuse to empty the dishwasher. I refuse. It's the only way I can avoid feeling like a martyr. I can wash dishes, and actually find it kind of soothing. But to load and unload the dishwasher all day, I feel like a scullery maid. If he does some part of it then I feel like I have a PARTNER. Codependent! So at some point I just refused to do the emptying part, and much to my surprise, it worked, and Jeff always empties it.

But then, see, I also refuse to put plastic in the dishwasher. Which means we always have a pile of plastic stuff drying in the strainer beside the sink. Jeff does most of the dishes but has responded to my refusal to empty the dishwasher with a COPYCAT refusal to empty the sink-top strainer. A small protest because he thinks I am a little crazy with my no-plastic-in-dishwasher thing. (Which he calls COMPLICATED.)

So see? Now our incentives are all messed up. I have an incentive to get as much stuff as possible into the dishwasher (not plastic!), and he has an incentive to get as much stuff as possible into the sink thingy. Ceramics and cutlery and whatnot--things that could quite easily go into the dishwasher. That Jeff, he thinks I don't see his little GAME. So every day I empty the stupid sink thingy of dishwasher-approved items. And then when I do the dishes I load it up with knives full of peanut butter and such, knowing that once it's in the dishwasher, it is OUT OF MY HANDS. That someone else is going to DEAL with it. But what I think really ends up happening is that we both do way too many dishes, we plot and scheme way too much, and it's really not that EFFICIENT.

I had a thought that this is like our health care mess, sort of, the thing with the incentives being all off and otherwise normal people acting like idiots. But oh my heavens, this is boring, and I think I'm getting sick--who gets sick in JUNE, anyway? Bah. The end.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The clothesline of life


I'm generally something of a sun hater. I'm all, oh! Where's my hat! And no, I do not wish to have an outside table, thank you. I even have a touch of the reverse seasonal affective thingy, getting all anxious-like with all that DAYLIGHT and outdoor activities I'm not doing and such.

But laundry! I do love hanging up some clean laundry in the sun. Wet clothes and sun are a match made in heaven. It somehow makes the world spin at all the same speed, or something. It sloooows me down inside. Seeing it hang there in the breeze. It seems that's how life is supposed to go, all the time. That all is right with the world.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wardrobe



Inspired by this post shared with me by the lovely Noelle, I have been thinking about wardrobe. Michelle writes about her adjustment to DC work fashion codes after living in fleecy-chic Seattle. I know this shock well, though I made the opposite move and largely made it happily. I went from suits and work shoes with, like, HEELS every day to jeans, Danskos, and vests. And hats. My dainty eyes have never gotten used to the bright Northern sun, and then there's the famous rain, the years writing a dissertation on melanoma prevention, and marrying and birthing pale, freckly types. I need hats here.

I have the odd moment of missing that put-together, confident HILLARY-like feeling that a good pantsuit and three-inch heels can provide, but mostly I have never looked back. Just like I can never pack very well for a trip to a different climate (it's not REALLY 85 degrees in North Carolina, is it?), I sort of know that there is a whole coast of people over the Rockies dressing up every day. But I have also forgotten it. I see visiting speakers from the east coast, and they are so...busy. So..ironed. Bah. I'm sure I'll adjust if I ever move back there, and forget that fleece and Merrells (or Doc Martens, depending where you hang out) are the order of the day in Seattle.

That said--having made the east-west transition awhile ago, I have maintained this outdoorsy ironic image of myself, but then I took Hugo to the zoo on Friday (to meet Melanie Beanpaste! How lucky am I??). As we were walking out the door, I realized in horror that my outfit was a little...mommish. Is that a word? I'm not all into clothes or anything, but I was shocking even to myself. There I was, running shoes, jeans rolled up, polo shirt (I swear I was wearing a polo shirt), hoodie zippy waffly thingy. Hair in a pony tail, and a baseball cap. I nearly fainted.

The thing was, it was all so functional. I needed good shoes for a day of walking, I needed sun protection, I needed an extra layer for the moments in the shade. But still, it was a bit of a shock. I looked just like the moms that I had seen right through on the street for so many years.

But enough about me! What about you? Tell me a story of what your work uniform is--whatever you wear to labor and toil in. Does it fit how you would LIKE to dress for work?

(More to the point, am I the only one who has an identity crisis over clothes?)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Nora seeks good grades and peace



So I'm looking for a therapist. I am! I KNOW. Hello, FUTURE EMPLOYER!

I called a bunch, talked to a few. A therapist friend recommended a guy who does shamanic work along with therapy--how cool is that? But, his voice was a little drippy and anyway none of these people take my EXTREMELY COMMON health insurance, and I am in post-job-quitting personal poverty, so bah! One lady--how cool she sounded. Sharp, edgy. A little sparkly, maybe. Like she would challenge me. And her practice is right next door to my office. I was in therapy lurve. But bah! No insurance.

So I, being very smart, take the alternate route of looking in my health insurance provider directory to see who DOES take my insurance, and start calling away. One lady, she seems cool enough. The location works. She assures me that she adores working on MY KIND OF ISSUES--overprivilege-induced restlessness--and directs me to her website, to the FORMS. Imagine my delight when I see a SIX PAGE questionnaire! About me! Asking about what I like most about myself--about my birth order--about what is going on with me, right now. Again, therapy lurve came knocking. I am pretty sure I've found The One. I can hardly wait until our first meeting.

I lovingly fill out my FORMS. We MEET. She reads through the forms. Hmmm, she's all. Mmm hmmm. She asks me a few questions. I answer. She writes feverishly. I'm distracted by her feverish writing. I make jokes because I'm distracted. She says something about how she knows it was a lot of work to do the forms, she appreciates it.

I'm all, ha ha, do I get an A?

And she's all, not in the least ha ha, do you NEED an A?

And I'm all, SERIOUSLY? Did you really just SAY that? (Except I was all that just in my head)

Then at the end, she's all, we're out of time. Do you have any questions? Mmm hmm? And I'm all, what do you THINK? Of all the crap I just told you for the last hour of my life?

And she goes into some THING about how maybe I am looking OUTSIDE myself, you know, instead of IN HERE between my BOOBIES, for satisfaction. Yes, yes, probably right about that. I did ask her what she thought, after all.

But then she's all, you know, like getting a PhD. And I'm all (again, in my head) whoa there, skipper! I thought I got the damn thing to get a better job! To make more money for less work! To move to the Northwest! To learn about *(&^ genetics so I could help people with *(&^ cancer? I was mistaken, it seems. I was FALSELY SEEKING SATISFACTION.

So, bah. She was professional, and writes an awesome questionnaire, but it was not a good FIT. And now I'm just going to shut up, because the more I say now the more loony I look. I'm just going to shut up and look between my boobies for some peace.

Next up is a guy who seems great, of course. Don't we all before we get to know each other? He brings his yappy dog to sessions to dialogue with clients. I have yet to dialogue with a dog of any sort, and I didn't with his in our introductory meeting, in fact it rather IGNORED me. (What does that meeeeean?) But it was cute at least, it didn't have an underbite like some of those little dogs do. If I was back on the east coast I could call my stoner therapist and that would be that--who also let his dog ignore me in all our sessions, mmm hmmmm. But noooooooooo, I had to go chasing peace to Seattle.

photo credit

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ants


Hugo and I go to visit Jeff at his office. Because I like a good dose of identity crisis to start my mornings, the wife, and because Hugo ADORES it (a fridge full of string cheese! white boards and markers! Beanbag chairs! Daddy!). As H was drawing H's on the white board at the CONFERENCE TABLE where they all eat lunch, I see it, there on the table.

When Jake left we inherited his ant farm, Jeff's all.

He continues all, they like LIVE on the sugar stuff in there. They invented that stuff in, like, space.

I'm not a vegetarian. I unceremoniously fling slugs into the street to near certain death if I find them on my flowers. Yes, I am a hypocrite. But yo, it was the most pathetic thing I ever saw. A totally enclosed lucite thingy with swimming pool blue sugar crystals. Dead ants everywhere. And a few feeble live ones climbing over the dead ones, except not, because they could hardly do anything except lift their front two legs. NOT industriously digging new paths through the sugar as you might think. It made me sad.

So I go all WEIRD on them, because this is what I DO--and I'm all, you have to free those ants! How can you sit there and eat your LUNCH watching those poor animals enslaved in that thingy? And of course--OF COURSE, because this is also what I do--it sets off this BANTER where Jeff's friend is all, they get to live in FOOD, what could be better? And I'm all, that's what the slaveowners said, that they were great providers and the people were so well taken care of.

And he's all, they get to live out their natural LIVES in there. And I'm all, but what about the QUALITY of their lives, climbing over their dead friends?

It was all just so dumb. He just got smirkier and smirkier and I got more defensive about the plight of the ants. And then I launched into the story about how I was at the Jackson Lab for a genetics course and on the last day they paraded out their knockout mice like for sale or something AT A PICNIC. These poor things are just bred to get diseases and I could hardly stand it, even though I know it's all for research and etc. And my fellow non-mouse-researcher friend who is way funnier than me and could actually stand to be inside the mouse tent goes up to one cage where there is a mouse running in circles and she's all--to be FUNNY--what is that, running-in-circles mouse? And the guy is all--NOT to be funny--yes. We giggle over that one still, a million years later.

And he's all, how are the ants different from those mice? And I promise him I'm going to go home and think up an ARGUMENT for why the ants should be freed--it's about the INTENT, isn't it? Mice are put through what they are so we can hopefully cure human disease one day, right? That the ants are there to amuse bored engineers over lunch just doesn't have the same ring to it.

But at any rate I don't compose my big argument (I get distracted by grilled cheese or something), nor do I sprint out of the building with the ant farm and smash the stupid thing on a rock. And it turns out Jeff's coworker actually thinks I am odd, and not charming and witty and sparkling with intelligence as I had imagined myself to be during our banter (sparkling! I was sure of it). And so it goes, thank heavens I never became a lawyer or an animal rights activist.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Censored



I can tell I'm in a funk when I start censoring all my own blog post ideas. That one is too bitchy. That other one--too personal. They'd never like to hear about that. Or--a big one--they will see the REAL ME if I write that, horrors. I wouldn't want that other idea all over the internet. That one has been done a million times. Another cute Hugo story? Blah blah, everybody's kids are cute. Swine flu? I'm actually qualified to talk about that one but only sort of, and public health is one of my favorite topics, but bah. And so the silence continues. I have, like, blog laryngitis.

So how about I tell you how my mother's friend was visiting, and she's a play therapist, and she thinks Hugo is the poster child for attachment parenting and asked me all kinds of questions like about how we have done it. And mostly I really don't think we have done much, but the one thing that I seriously think has made a difference is our family bed (I KNOW! Too much information! I probably just cut my blog audience from 4 to 2, like when Oprah endorsed Obama and her audience shrank from 10 gajillion to 5 gajillion). And she was all, you have to blog about that. People need to know. And I was all, ha ha, no. Bor-ing. And then another friend emailed asking about our experiences and her relief nearly dripped out of my computer because she finally felt validated about cosleeping with her infant and she didn't know anyone else who admits to it except me. And even then, I'm all, no, I won't write about that.

So how about this? THIS made me feel like a good mother, today. I made a KALE SMOOTHIE and he loved it. Oh Lord, that sounds annoying. How can you stand me? I want to go for a cheeseburger or something just to counteract the kale thing. But it sure was cute.

And that concludes this episode of The Anxious Liberal Mother Chronicles. Oh my heavens.



Sunday, May 3, 2009

Competitor meets hepcat


The emotionally elusive barista from my workplace coffee stand, remember him? His job was outsourced and he will probably quit rather than join the new vendor. It's terrible, it really is. He made a special effort to tell the guy in front of me in line how much he will miss him. I may not be around here much longer, and I want you know that your grumpy mug always cheered up my morning, man. I get kind of excited, naturally approaching my turn with great anticipation, sure that the crisis had opened the emotional floodgates and that I would finally get the connection I had so craved from him. Finally, I would have my MOMENT of RECOGNITION. I'll really miss you, Nora, he would say. You have brightened many of my days these six long years. But? Nothing. Just the coffee. So of course I get all needy because that's what I do and all I'm really going to miss you guys, it really sucks, I'm sorry, you are a big part of my day. He kind of just looked at me funny, pretty sure he rolled his eyes at his colleague, and I slinked away with my coffee and felt more terrible.

Bah! Bah for the recession! Bah for outsourcing! Bah for the barista-shaped hole in my soul!

And now for a completely different coffee shop--then Jeff comes home from a cafe near our house, (Fuel Coffee, yum yum, where I wrote most of my dissertation, yet where I am not a regular and know no one) whose owner has published a book! About coffee culture in Seattle! I thought you would probably like it, he's all. It's called Tall Skinny Bitter: Notes from the Center of Coffee Culture. It seems great, a piece of history, seriously. I feel cool just owning it. But right there in the first few pages, there I see it--and my heart starts to race. "Who's Who in the Coffee Shop: Customers." Have they found me out? Am I IN THE COFFEE BOOK?

The answer is yes, of course. Alongside the "regular," the "customer who used to be or thinks he or she is a barista," and the "name-dropper,"--and my favorite, "tall nonfat vanillas: admit it, you can spot these folks a mile away"--there I am! THE COMPETITOR, it says. Vies for being the most regular--and wants recognition for it.

I start to flush, feel a bit warm. There I am, right there in the coffee book. But there's more. On the same page I see "Who's Who in the Coffee Shop: Baristas"! Alongside "morning person" and "passionate about coffee" and "I have a degree and can't find a job," there I see him. HEPCAT, it says. Classic barista, probably a musician/singer/artist, sometimes filled with charming angst. Of course.

At least I'm not with the tall nonfat vanillas--my drink (Americano) was deemed the THIRD most "serious," after only the doppio and the cappucino. And I drink NO-ROOM Americano, yo. So I have at least some of the recognition I need, for today. I am whole.

Completely unrelated to my disturbing customer behavior, apparently there is a THING about macchiato. You should never, ever order a macchiato when what you really want is a caramel latte, because then it means that you have been to Starbucks who took the name macchiato, which is supposed to be "two shots of espresso marked with steamed milk" and plopped it onto their caramel latte (and they don't even use caramel SAUCE with that, just caramel syrup ick). The end.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

There she goes again with the work thing


I am reflecting about gender and work. Partly because of my own career angst (it is starting to bore even me, by the way) and partly because of the very cool series of interviews at Motherscribe, in which I participated and then read everyone else's answers to the ones I was too chicken to answer, like about sex and stuff. I know. But it's very cool, these interviews that JCK is doing. Thought provoking.

I'm remembering how I heard on some radio thingy how when men negotiate for jobs they demand more money, and country club memberships and season tickets and such, but women negotiate for like laptops and home internet so they can actually work more.

And then there was my friend's boyfriend (now husband) who was laid off and would only apply for jobs that would be a promotion from the last one. This guy was not someone who I would think would be Mr. Hardball Negotiator, but guess what? It worked! He was unemployed for almost a year and then got a job as a director of a whole thingy. He just thought that's what he deserved--imagine!

And then there are my graduate school friends who are off doing Big Fancy Jobs now, and here's me turning down all kinds of things like that, well not really, just sort of not pursuing things at that level. The "all kinds of things" that I am turning down are things for which I am overqualified, things that I'm offered mostly because I'm selling myself at bargain basement prices. Because of that silly invisibility thing I have--you know, work makes me visible and real and is therefore a privilege and bah bah we don't talk about pay here. It is rather silly.

And then I'm thinking about what it would be like if I was a man negotiating for a few years or more of part time work so I could be with my family. And how probably no one would blink if I demanded a huge increase in my base salary so I could do less work for almost the same money--and how everyone might think it was SO SWEET and STRONG and such a SUPPORTIVE spouse instead of thinking I had fallen off the career wagon or gone SOFT you know the HORMONES. (I have no evidence that anyone actually thinks this about me, I should say, but in my HEAD there is SOMEONE who does.) And of course--this is the Big Thing--no one would doubt I would be able to easily return to full time work when the time was right. No one would say things like you are making some REALLY IMPORTANT choices here, Nora. You are at a real FORK IN THE ROAD.

That's pretty much it. That's what I'm thinking about tonight. There you have it, my thinly disguised sexism is now out in the open.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Who knew?

Seriously, you'd think I don't ever talk to anyone except in the grocery store. My life--charmingly real or hopelessly loser-ish? You decide. No, I will. But I digress.

So yet another post that begins, so I'm talking to the cashier in the grocery store. She's one of my FAVORITES. She is always excited to see Hugo, though I'm pretty sure she doesn't remember his name because she always says, hi, guy! And that's totally cool with me because she is great. Anyway, she was all, he's gotten so big! And he's all, I'm TWO! I'm going to the BEACH! And she's all, this is my fifth year here and I never knew that part of my job would be watching kids grow up. And I'm all, yes, I remember you from when I was big and pregnant. She totally didn't, but she was polite. And I'm all, I was sort of a pain at the end there, I always asked for help out to the car with my groceries.

And then I see the guy that used to help me out to the car. You know, the ones that bring in the carts and help pregnant ladies with their bags? Wearing a reflecty neon vest for the whole shift because they spend so much time in the parking lot? And I'm all, ha ha me and that guy were buddies there for awhile. And she's all, oh him? Did you know he's a multi-millionaire?

So apparently this guy made a ton of money in manufacturing or some such, and then he retired, and then was widowed, so came to work taking groceries out. He even tried to quit for awhile and go be a man of leisure in the southwest with the golfing and whatnot but that didn't last long, and now he's back. He takes good care of us, she's all. We need him and he needs us.

I'm just so in love with this story. This is, like, a STORY, you know? Someone should write about it. Maybe I should have been a reporter, the end.

Monday, April 13, 2009

MWF, 35, seeks local friend



I've had this post brewing for weeks, months even. But it's not gelling so I'll just say what it was going to be and be done with it. The idea was to put a personals-like ad up for a friend. Isn't that clever? I was going to be all, I'm so friendable and such but now I work mostly from home and take care of my baby and my really good friends are all far away and I need a new one bah. Bah. Bah. But it was a trick to appear like good friend material without appearing NEEDY. Or like a LOSER.

And then I was all, what do I want in a friend? Who would I even advertise for? Someone who lives nearby, yes, that would be great. That is The Thing, really. Someone with children, maybe--just for scheduling ease and general life-phase sharing. But then she would be all distracted and my gorgeous son might not be the center of her world. Imagine! Someone whose partner works late like mine does, who can share the deceptively slow 4-8pm window. Communal toddler-friendly dinner once a week? Someone whose partner is into hanging out with my nerdy husband once in awhile (did I mention he's building a robot in the basement? And that he's a musician?).

Someone who can somehow not make my parenting angst worse. Someone who can walk onto the playground with me and help me not feel like I'm back in middle school with a piece of toilet paper hanging off my shoe. Someone who can help with the thoughts of school creeping slowly, unwelcome, into my head--either shared denial or telling me what to do could work. See? My new friend might take many forms.

In my head, my new friend and I discuss all the things I talk about over phone, email or chat with my friends who are far away or busy. Except this would be in person, see. We will talk about the cruel joke that is work/life balance--always a favorite. Extra points for a shady past! Cooking, the more legumes the better. (Also the more cheese the better.) The things that don't make it into how-have-you-been-things-are-fine-here catchups with my faraway friends. We played scooters on the sidewalk yesterday. Time to go to Target. I hate Target. And there's the house-cleaning thing. We OF COURSE will clean each others' houses. We will meet periodically for happy hour. We will gasp, oh my god, this is my life, and we will both know what that means. We will just, you know, BE there. In person. That's what we will do.

So okay, I think Oprah said that thing about throwing it out there and then it comes back, like a boomerang or something. So now I'm done with this silly thing and now a nice new friend will come out of the woodwork. Shazam!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Put a watch on 24

So I go to a new dentist today. The disclaimer here is that I have VERY NICE TEETH. Everyone says so. And that I am a reasonably responsible user of oral care. First cleaning in a year, no cavities in about ten. My old dentist, he was fine, a Dr. Welby type. Small operation, lots of small talk, easy breezy. Sort of like a midwife of oral care, my teeth were doing just fine but he would be there if something went wrong. I can see the hollyhocks growing out the exam window. They're putting up a Starbucks next door. Are you from the east coast? I can tell by your teeth. It's the water. How is your son?

Then my insurance changed. Ha.

The new dentist is really more like a dental EXPERIENCE. Multiple receptionists and free herbal tea and such. Possibly the prettiest person I have ever seen ushers me in to the second room on the left. Takes a zillion x-rays. I kind of can't stop looking at her because she is so pretty. I read People magazine while waiting for the doctor to come in to do my exam (Poor Rihanna!). After which he will leave and I will go to the first door on the left to get an actual cleaning, by another person who is neither the doctor nor the pretty one. It's all very complicated. All blinding in their white coats and such.

So the doctor comes in--hello, I'm Doctor P. And I should have known right there I was in for it. Do you have any CONCERNS today? No, just cleaning, please. And he's all, well, let me EXAMINE you. And that was the end of that.

He interacted mostly with the pretty one then. I can't say I blame him, she was stunning. Three, three, two. Canine. Three, two, two, four. Then to me: you've never HAD one of these pokey thingies where I poke this INSTRUMENT at your gums and then say a bunch of numbers that the pretty one writes down?

And I'm all, no.

And he's all, are you happy with the way your teeth look?

And I'm all, ummm, yes?

And he's all (to pretty) has she had ortho?

And she doesn't know. So to me: Have you had braces? And I'm all, yes.

And he's all, do you still wear your retainers? And I'm all, no. Are you kidding? Since 1991? And he's all, did they tell you it was a LIFETIME DEAL to wear your retainers? And I'm all, no. And pretty one is all, My ortho never told me that either. Except she is perfect so clearly her ORTHO was better than my ORTHO who I thought was just fine until TODAY.

And he's all, you might be a candidate for the invisible braces. Because it looks like there is some slippage here.

And I'm all, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (except I'm just like that in my head)

And he's all, to pretty one, put a watch on 24.

And he's all, OK, you are what we call MODERATE TO HIGH RISK. You have TWO cavities. It is either snacking or you are drinking too much soda. Or you might just be one of those people who gets cavities. And anyway you are AT THAT AGE when these problems start. But other than that, NOT BAD!

And then he's gone, leaving me with my botched ORTHO job and my deplorable eating habits and I haven't even had my damn cleaning yet and I've been there an hour already.

And then I meet Sadie the cleaning specialist, it even says it on her white coat, RCS or something, I don't know. I'm making that up but it did have some letters. And she's all nice and stuff, really, until she gets out her instruments of SCRAPY CARNAGE and starts talking about the DEBRIS in my mouth. Seriously, she said that. DEBRIS. You'll want to take an ibuprofen later, she's all. I keep thinking I GOT IT ALL and then I go in and there's MORE!

So I am deflated. I miss Dr. Welby, except he never screened me for TMJ or gum disease and he quite possibly missed my budding cavities. On the other hand, he also did not put watches on my gorgeous teeth or try to get me into BRACES or accuse me of (horrors!) snacking. And my teeth hurt. Now where's the Easter candy? The end.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday indulgence


Hugo and I are leaving the Asian market and this guy comes up and he's all, I need money for some food. Let me write a poem about your son's name. Let me earn it. From his clothes and his smell I think maybe he is homeless.

I try not to slow down, the words no thanks forming somewhere--maybe they make it out loud, maybe not. But he walks with me.

He's all, I'm from Haiti, and ever since I was a boy I have loved writing, and writing poems. You'll see. There is energy in between the letters of our names. You'll see.

And Hugo's all, to the guy, I have an owie!

So I relent. He's all, don't give me money until you see it. What's your son's name?

And I'm all, Hugo.

And the guy is all, NO. Hugo? Like Victor Hugo? And he bows to me in respect, low like a Victorian gentleman asking me to dance. I love his work, he says.

And to Hugo, he's all, you have a big name, young man. You have a big name.

And Hugo's all, I'm TWO! I saw a dragon!

And then he writes. He draws HUGO down the side of his paper and writes a line after each letter.

And then he's done. He reads it to me.

Healing hand of a sweet relief
Under the sky of all souls, in a
Gorgeous cosmic dress of truth
On the bed of a successful journey.

I take it, compliment him. He says, I'm trying to get to Philadelphia to change my situation. I have family there.

I give him a few dollars, offer him the hot food I was going to bring home to Jeff. He takes it, seems genuinely grateful. I wish him luck. We leave.

I feel terrible, nervous and sick, stingy and duped all at the same time. I don't feel like I've done the right thing OR the wrong thing. I normally refuse direct solicitations for help, mostly for my own safety but also because--because why? I don't know. They will probably just go buy booze with it. I give to charity. She probably has to give it all to some guy anyway. If I gave to every person that asked for it... These things we tell ourselves, excuses we give ourselves to judge.

In the Cider House Rules the doctor who performs abortions is drug-addicted and miserable in his own life. But he performs this then-illegal service for women, refusing to get into the right and wrong of it. Just give them what they want, he says. Just give them what they want. I can't remember if it was the voice of a wise man or of one who has given up. But it comes to me often, that phrase.

So for today, I allowed myself that greatest indulgence of believing in a stranger, in taking him at his word. It didn't feel good. In fact, it felt terrible. Someone's son out there in the cold writing poetry for food. And me, stingy in my mistrust. Both of us undeserving.

In the car on the way home Hugo asked over and over for "the Twinkle Twinkle song." And then for it again, and again. Here is the second verse:

When the traveler in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark
He'd not know which way to go
If you did not twinkle so
Twinkle twinkle little star...

I hope that man finds his star to follow. I hope he has already.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The human Kevin


So I have this cat. Actually I have two cats. But the one, there is a story about his name. I got him when he was 8 weeks old. I had just graduated college (1995!) and I was back home for the summer, hanging out with my favorite peeps from high school, Jeremy and Michele. We were reminiscing about our friend Kevin, who (whom?) we had lost touch with after high school. We couldn't find him anywhere, that being pre-Google and all. His parents were not around either, so he really was kind of gone. We had all had some great times together. School plays, late nights in Pennsylvania Dutch diners with bad (and by bad I mean awesome) coffee, pie, that kind of thing. I had it good in high school, I did.

So we were missing our friend Kevin. And I had this gorgeous young kitten who didn't have a name. And so I just decided, right there, that I would name him Kevin, to forever commemorate our lost friend Kevin.

And no, my cat does not die in this episode.

So I have had this cat for almost fourteen years, and umpteen people have asked me the story of his name. The judging--who names a cat Kevin? To the impressed--you must be very cool if you named your cat Kevin. (I don't think anyone has ever actually said this, except me, to myself, in my head). And Kevin is a great cat. He has character. He is a PRESENCE, all seventeen delicious pounds of him. Except now he is getting old and is down to thirteen pounds which means CLEARLY that he is going to live to be 150.

Anyway, the lost HUMAN Kevin found me on Facebook recently. What a treat it was to hear from him, for real. It seems like he is doing great. So what do I do? I do that thing I do, get a little over-excited about these things, like with the barista. So before I let the poor man even breathe, I send him this big stupid message about how I named my CAT after him because we all missed him SO MUCH and I LOVE my cat and I'm SO happy to be back in touch with him and GUSH GUSH. Lots of exclamation points (!!!!!!!!!).

And human Kevin sends me a nice, kind, non-gushy message back, I'm honored that you would name your beloved pet after me. Your son is adorable. Not a single exclamation point in his whole message. A classy guy, this Kevin. He's probably just waiting a socially acceptable amount of time before he un-friends me.

But now--wait for it--the angst! I'm all thinking, what would I do if someone emailed me after 18 years and said they were really hoping we would get back in touch because they had named their cat Nora? It struck me as very odd, my behavior for the last fourteen years. The end.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

There's never nothing, part 2


So, okay, more about my stoner therapist. He was cool.

After three years or so with Brian it was getting ridiculous. Looking back, I think I knew I had to find a way to break free and that I couldn't do it without some help and some major shaking up of things. So first--though I never articulated this at the time, it was more there's this great job etc etc-- I moved away to another state. That didn't do much for the whole breaking free thing. Meanwhile I was having such anxiety and misery that I figured maybe I would get some therapy. I figured it was a nice way to do some self-care. So I called around.

And who knows how to interview a therapist? I sure don't. I just tried to get them talking to see if I, you know, liked them. And this guy, he was all, I'm sort of a hippie. I'm from the sixties. And then he was all, and none of this fifty minutes crap. My sessions are a full hour. And it seemed like I might sort of like him, so that was pretty much that.

His office was in his house, an old Victorian with a leather couch, fireplace, and African masks on the wall from all his life's adventures. It was like stepping into my mind's eye of the perfect therapy office. For some of the darkest times that winter, that full hour was the highlight of my week.

We mostly just had conversations. There was no talking to chairs, talking about my mother, etc. Eventually we got around to Brian, and I started to see how my thinking in that relationship had gotten so distorted. He set me straight on a few things (like there is never nothing). One time he told me my thinking was just wrong, bless him. He suggested I smoke pot to relax one time. He told me some tidbits from his own shady past, his years traveling the world before settling in to graduate school. Not inappropriately like therapists I hear about who talk about themselves all the time (I had a piano teacher who did that), but enough so I came to trust his experience.

Once he was worried I wasn't taking good care of myself--he was right--so he told me to eat steel-cut oatmeal and fresh squeezed orange juice and called me on the weekend to make sure I was alright. He said he would. He put it in his calendar. He did. I think he was modeling appropriate behavior since my ideas of that were so off.

We talked about looking homeless people in the eye, how a conversation with the person who bags your groceries can make a day acceptable, how everyone has worth. I had been trying for so long to be perfect in my relationship that his words I could never love a woman without a good chunk of depression in her seemed revolutionary, a peek into a whole nother world that I vaguely knew existed (and suspected I could manage in) but had completely forgotten about.

The thing with Brian got crazier and crazier. We would split, come back together like magnets VOOM, split again. The tension, always high, was building. The one time in my life I had to call for an emergency therapy appointment, my therapist calmly made time for me. I showed up after work and flopped onto the wonderful couch, seriously so CRUSHED that I could not sit up by the realization I had just had. I had reached the tipping point. I knew--finally really KNEW--that though I had been operating under the not incorrect assumption for YEARS that leaving Brian would be the WORST THING EVER, staying with him would be even harder. I was completely paralyzed by my realization. There was no way that I was going to avoid doing something really, really hard, and I felt completely unequipped to do either thing. And my therapist was just as cool and respectful as ever. I don't remember what he said that day, but I suspect he was proud of me. I suspect he knew then that I would be just fine.

Of course it was a month or two before the break finally happened. But when it did, I made it final. I stuck to my guns, and severed all contact with Brian. After a couple months of terrible, terrible, terribleness, a big fat letter from him showed up in my mailbox. Oh no. I could feel the magnet buzzing VOOM VOOM VOOM. I gave it to my roommate, and she hid it so I wouldn't be tempted to open it. Because make no mistake, if I had opened it we would have been right back where we started, no matter what it said. It was a FORK IN THE ROAD. After a couple weeks, I took the letter to my therapy session and I burned it--UNOPENED--in the fireplace. No ceremony, no wise words. He just sort of WITNESSED it. And then, somehow, I was free.

Within a few months I moved on. We stayed in touch for awhile, had coffee once. And that was that. I still think of his relaxed wisdom, years and years later. I still remember him saying, there is so much to experience in this life, Nora. There is music, dance, art, literature, people, language. There is so much to explore.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

There's never nothing


So I'm in the ladies' today at work, this endless job that I quit and then agreed to stay for weeks and weeks longer. No, this is actually relevant now that I think of it. I agreed to stay because even though I really want to be at home with Hugo every possible minute and really put very little energy into career cultivating, I'm scared to death of DISAPPEARING from the professional world, but only during the moments that I'm IN it. So I take on all this extra crap, and have a plan B and C and Q. Just so I maybe will still be able to work with THIS person later, if I want to, if they'll have me. And cultivate this relationship, over here, so they'll remember me when they have something, etc etc. It's ridiculous, and I watch myself do it and I cringe. It's not ME. I'm so not a networker. I'm a sit-in-the-pub-and-people-watch-er, a have-you-over-for-tea-er. I am an in-tro-VERT.

Anyway, the ladies'. And I have this LIGHTNING bolt of a revelation, it HITS me just like that. You know Harry Potter? And the invisibility cloak? (I know! So 2005! But I didn't like Twilight, so there. More proof that I am behind the times). And how he is always choosing his moments to put the cloak on? To slink around and defeat the forces of evil? It hit me--just like that--that I'm the OPPOSITE of that. It's like THIS--unlike Harry, *I* prefer to wear my invisibility cloak at ALL TIMES, and take it off only when I choose, to control the moments I reveal myself.

And I rushed back to my desk--it seemed HUGE. I wrote a note to myself so I wouldn't FORGET it. It was BIG. There would be a whole big POST about it later. A really good one. Thought provoking. It would help you GET me and everyone like me.

But now that I'm here, I think..umm..that's really kind of it. I have ANGST because my comfort with invisibility is playing a big old game of war with my fear of it. I want to step back but not disappear. I have a (most likely unfounded) impression that I am more VISIBLE than usual now because of my job-quitting shenanigans, and I do not like it. Because for me, being visible is like being naked. Or something. Yawn.

As my great stoner therapist (I should write about him more) once said in response to my anxious handwringing that it would all just BE BAD and there would be NOTHING if I took X, Y, or Z dumb twentysomething risk, Nora, there's never NOTHING. And then he told me to smoke pot to chill out and I did not. Of course there is never nothing! But it was quite profound for me, at the time. There's never nothing. And I should chill out. I do, most of the time.

I never know how to close these posts. I really haven't learned anything except maybe to stop trying to be all Ms. Dr. Shmoozy O'Shmoozer which I sort of knew anyway but that stupid invisibility cloak will be in my head for a while, I suspect, the end. It was quite an image.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Nora gives her power away in the *(&^ grocery store

Do you ever do this? I'm in the grocery store and up ahead of me I see someone I know from work. Not that I DISLIKE her--I dislike very few people for real life. But not someone I want to spend my precious Saturday chitchatting in the grocery store with. And she, I suspect, would tend to chitchat in the store for way longer than I would.

Maybe it was her bright green pants (color changed to protect the innocent) that made me do it. Or maybe it was the death rattle of my own almost-not-quite-yet peace with stepping away from the power career track for now. But at any rate, I saw the pants and thought, that looks like whatshername, no, it is her. It IS. And I darted down the first aisle I could. Narrowly avoiding a surprise meeting.

And don't you know, that lands me right in the beer/nut/popcorn/snack aisle. So I buy some pretzels, because I'm from Pennsylvania and that's what we do. I look in my cart--organic eggs, asparagus, fruit, oh and the PRETZELS and I figure my cart is respectable enough for her in case I did have to talk with her. Thank heavens my house is full of Girl Scout Cookies so I can look all virtuous and self-controlled. Except oh! My cat food is not organic or expensive. Crap! Oh well. I dither around for a minute in the beer and then I resume my trolling around the store--aren't we all so obedient that we all take the same route through the store? Just as I'm SURE that I'm in the clear, I see her up ahead AGAIN! Perusing the cheese.

Here a grownup person might have just said hello and got it the hell over with, but NO. I dash away AGAIN. This time to the far end of the store (toys!) and pick out a toy loader for Hugo, because there sure aren't enough damn loaders in our house. It's now the BAD FRIEND LOADER, that's what it is.

Meanwhile I have tramped all over the stupid store OUT OF ORDER, buying things I don't need, handing over the whole place to this perfectly nice person for her shopping pleasure, wasting my precious time slinking around in the back aisles.

And then the guilt starts. What if I could have made her day by just saying hello? What if she SAW me dodging her? What if--OH MY GOODNESS--she was avoiding ME? And then who else has avoided me in the grocery store? WHO? Am I a pariah? Is that why I don't see people I know in the grocery store very often? They are all fleeing?

New proof that I am a bad person, the end.

Monday, March 9, 2009

That time of year

It's that time of year, when the fall apples are all crappy and old, the winter oranges have gone all dry, and the spring berries aren't quite here yet, unless you count the ones from Chile or wherever, which I do, kind of, and then I go all la la la la sorry global warming but these Chilean berries are on SALE, oh warming planet of mine, SOMEONE has to buy them and I think that I read somewhere that it is actually less crappy for the environment to fly in Chilean blueberries than to try to grow them up here in our hemisphere all year round. Then I go to the farmer's market in my head and wonder if that counts, if I just go in my head. And then I realize that it probably does not count AT ALL, just like it doesn't count if someone offers me a job in their head. And then the worry, the worry, all because of the berries.

Which reminds me of how my college boyfriend went to work at JP Morgan after college and I went to the Christmas party with him and it was in some shmancy hotel in Manhattan and I was shamefully underdressed and there were fresh raspberries by the BUCKET, seriously they were everywhere, mostly at the bottom of people's champagne glasses all fancy like, and then look at Wall Street now, I sure hope they didn't have a fancy December raspberry party THIS year. And did you know that JP Morgan had something wrong, seriously wrong, with his nose? That's why there are no pictures of him. And then I also went up in the World Trade Center several times and now I'm afraid of heights and that's the end of the Wall Street chapter of my life, the end.

But I digress, because what I REALLY wanted to say was that it's the down-time of the year, produce wise. So time to break out the frozen fruit smoothies here at the Bee's, because Jeff is from California and that is what they do there, just make smoothies all the damn time. Except that I'm NOT from California, I'm from Pennsylvania where we eat cured meats and things that contain lard, so it's a culture clash.

But I digress again, because what I REALLY wanted to do was show you how sweet my boy is when he eats frozen blueberries so I am thankful for this time of year because look how cute? I love him.









Thursday, March 5, 2009

Jeff is from Mars, Nora is perfect

So at 4am I wake Jeff up and I'm all, I'm NERVOUS. I'm ANXIOUS.

And he's all, can I sleep some more?

And then at 8 he is awake and he's all, now what was the problem?

And I'm all, I'm NERVOUS about quitting my JOB. What if it is the wrong thing to DO? What if I never get a job again and I disappear from the world entirely? If I become INVISIBLE?

And he's all, I think you should email your new part-time boss lady and talk about getting started.

And I'm all, noooooo! I don't want ACTION STEPS! I just want you to BE there for me while I talk about how I'm FEELING!

And he's all, but why don't you email her?

And I'm all, so you don't LOVE me?

And he's all, I don't see why you won't just email her.

And I'm all, I DID. At 5am after you wouldn't WAKE UP to TALK to me about my FEELINGS.

And he's all, umm, email her?

And I'm all, FINE! Now I have to worry about being UNEMPLOYED, being UNLOVED, and being STUPID. I'm taking a SHOWER.

And then he comes in to the bathroom and is all, you're doing a good job. It will all work out okay.

And I'm all exhaling and calming down and I'm all, thanks.

And then I drove him to work because he missed every bus there was telling me to email her, the end.

Monday, March 2, 2009

"In a relationship"


My friend Susanna has changed her Facebook profile to "In a relationship." She joked that it was the equivalent of "getting pinned." Which I don't remember and no one in my world ever did , but I do remember reading novels from the 1950s when I was young where the "pin" and the letter sweater were the keys to female acceptance.

I'm not THAT old, but I'm old enough to have finished up dating before I knew anything about Facebook. In high school, some of the girls wore their boyfriends' class rings, all wrapped up in yarn so it wouldn't fall off their finger. That wasn't really ME, not least because I would hardly have needed any yarn to keep most rings on my mannish fingers but also because I don't think any of the people I dated (and when I say dated I mean kissed) were class-ring-wearing types. I mostly passed notes in the hall, and then in college there was (wait for it) email. But those weren't for public declarations of any sort. Come to think of it, I don't think I had one of those until I got married.

Most of the guys I dated, there was a runner and a chaser. I would have either vanished into thin air if someone had Facebook-relationshipped me--like that Irish exchange student who I met in a bar and told me outside the bar that something had really happened for him that night--I bet he would have FR-ed me right as the thing was happening and I would have been out of there like a shot. Then Brian--ha! I would have obsessed about it, OBSESSED, waiting for him to publicly acknowledge our relationship of many, many years. And he never would have, that tomato seed. And I would have FR-ed him in like a minute and then kept obsessing and then the anxiety would have driven me insane. Jeff? He's still not on Facebook, that late adopter. He wouldn't have been then either and would generally have been in a cloud of glorious nerdiness all, what's the big deal?

No, it's all good and appropriate that I was in the sandwich generation, in between the letter sweaters and the Facebook heart icon. It was a crazy time full of secrets and undeclared things, but it was okay.