I was part of a movement of "dinosaur moms" when I lived in Maryland (Astrodon Johnstoni is the Maryland state dinosaur.) Which is nothing more than this -- dinosaur moms delight in the half-feral nature of the beasties they parent, even as they whisper Shakespeare and Kierkegaard in their ears at night.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
"All of my descamisados expect me to outshine the enemy, the aristocracy. I won't disappoint them." -- Eva Peron, as imagined by Andrew Lloyd Weber
I believe I've mentioned, I'm a proud Goodwill shopper, myself. So you'd think I'd be the last person to defend Palin's extreme makeover. But it's precisely because I dress like a nun from a liberal order that I defend Palin's astronomical clothing budget.
Because I don't want her job.
And a lot of the reason that I don't want her job -- and most of our nation's best and brightest don't want her job -- is because the scrutiny is way over the line. Especially for women. Especially on appearance.
I have a daughter who is smart and well-spoken and I don't tell her she could grow up to be president because I DON'T WISH THAT ON HER. No more than I would wish her to be a spokesmodel or newscaster or any other job that is contingent on remaining free of zits, panty lines or quadro-boob.
Much though I hate to admit it, I think it speaks to the sincerity of Palin's working class roots, and to the seriousness of the effort to ready her for world leadership, that she needed the Eliza Dolittle treatment. If we believe in meritocracy, if we don't want to be ruled by independently wealthy hobbyists, but by people who know what it is to live off their income, then we have to be willing to accept that the "packaging" of a candidate is a legitimate business expense.
Call her facile. Call her provincial. Call her a race-baiter. Call her a hate-monger. But don't tell me you'd like her better if, like Marge Simpson, she went home every evening and fashioned a new outfit out of the same Chanel suit.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
The other day, the very young receptionist at our office mentioned they were going bowling. "Take the skinheads bowling," I replied.
This response was greeted with a big fat nothing from the receptionist.
You don't know what I'm talking about, do you? I said. Oh, I feel so old. I'm like the guy in that song, "Hey Nineteen."
You don't know "Hey Nineteen." [Oh, the irony.]
Monday, October 06, 2008
A recent article regarding Prop 102 counters an earlier article in which certain AZ Catholic bishops come out for the amendment. Glad though I always am to see the faith community staking out a claim for the straight but not narrow, this proposition is such a tar baby that I'm glad my own congregation is out of it.
My objections to the amendment are legion, but let's start with how cynical a ploy it is. Say I'm a fatcat -- one of these silver spoon, golden parachute types who can't remember how many houses they own. You know -- who get into trouble and then call in a personal favor to get bailed out. Now, say my goal is to stock the White House and Congress with as many people as I can who are giving away corporate welfare and bailouts like candy. Well, I'll give the usual to the Republican candidates, but what else can I do?
I'll give to the right-wing religious groups who are sponsoring ballot measures. Why? Because I want the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth? Because I could care less about gay marriage? No, because I know that when the culture warriors get involved, then they can really turn out the vote for the GOP.
So, lots of well-meaning Christians -- my dear friends and neighbors -- who have swallowed the "assault on family" kool-aid, vote like lemmings for these Republicans, against their better judgement and definitely against their interests. It pains me to contemplate the strategy sessions where my community's deeply held religious convictions are pimped out for lower capital gains tax and drilling in Anwar. I was so proud of my state for being the only state to stand up to these people, the last time (Even if it was only so seniors could double their pensions).
Being myself a participant -- nay, an enthusiast -- in a heterosexual marriage, I am presumably someone who needs to be rescued from the assault. So, to quote Sarah Palin, "Thanks, but no thanks."
Y'know what's "assaulting" my family? Since you asked. That our children are going to be the first generation going way back on either side of our family tree to grow up in a house that's smaller, in a school that's more overwhelmed, in a neighborhood that's more crime-ridden, and with less prospect of getting out of college without crushing debt than the generation before them. This despite the best efforts of my husband and myself, who are working harder for less, and at the same time getting far less from our government, in terms of police, fire, education, or any of the other functions that help ensure quality of life. Not even talking about the bridges and wars that go nowhere.
I make no apologies for the fact that these issues are just a little more pressing for me than the culture wars.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Tonight, our church held an "Oscar Night." Among more sophisticated numbers, the choir did "Time Warp." A member had won the right to this command performance at the church's auction. I wanted him to get his money's worth, so I tried to rally the troops a little. And so, as always happens, I was volunteered for the lead. Volunteered, which is to say, everyone else took a step back and I was standing there. Which occasioned my buying fishnet thigh-highs at our local sex shop "for church." A great recruitment tool, that.
Girl stayed behind to help us clean up. Driving back home, I imagined other mothers recapping the night's experience for their daughters. I imagined that some of them were telling their daughters how pretty they were, how poised, how accomplished. And I told her, in my life, it is quite possible I have never been the most polished person in the room, the best dressed. I'm not saying I haven't had my moments, but I'm not beautiful. I'm not saying I don't have pipes, but I'm no musician. I'm not saying I'm not clever, but I don't have a well-honed intellect.
But what I have been, what I will own, and what I hope to pass on to her, is I have been game. Our people -- our family -- I think that's what we are. We're game.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
It has been a great contribution to our family's political perspective having belle-mere around. First of all, she watches the news. I mean, hours and hours of it. So, she's up on things.
But, more important, she's a real-life example of these boomer women everybody's been talking about. She worked for Head Start before Reagan choked it to near-death. Though a college grad, she accepted preposterous under-employment because she was on point with the kids. Even working two jobs, she never rallied financially after her divorce. She saved what she could, but she doesn't have a pension. In short, she is precisely the type of pink-collar, old-school, Great Society liberal you would think would be a PUMA, a hold-out for Hillary.
And, indeed, I think it took some doing before she was comfortable with Obama. The choice of old stand-by Biden may have been a turning point. But, the PUMA turns out to be nothin' but a HOUND dog, after all.
Here's the thing. When I hear her and her peers talk. Oh, they'll vent over how the press did Hillary wrong and they'll shake their heads at how Obama needs some more years on him. But, I don't know how the press keeps finding these weepy boomer women sitting vigil for Hillary. My experience of boomer women is they don't base their voting decisions on whether they personally feel dissed by the process. This is not their first dance and they are not looking for love. They will get on board with the Democrats, not because Obama inspires them. Not because of Obama at all. And no, not really because of Bush either. But because, duh, they've been around.
What? You think they've never seen a fat-cat Republican masquerading as a maverick cowboy before? Never seen a Democrat leading light dismissed as a pretty-boy celeb? They can't decipher the code words? Can't follow the money trail?
Watching the press scrutinize Hillary's wardrobe choices may have been condescending, but y'know what else is condescending? Tokenism. Stunt-casting a woman who was not on anyone's shortlist as your running mate? They've seen that play too. So, it should come as no surprise that early polls show them unimpressed with McCain's choice.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
At our house we are having the stuffed animal olympics, featuring events which start out recognizable, but, when modified to suit teddy bears, take on a Calvinball vibe. Tonight's event was allegedly beach volleyball. Only without the skimpy suits and with rules such as "If the ball goes out of bounds and into the kitchen, one point." After getting beaned enough times, Girl instituted the "If you get hit, that's a point for you." rule. Jones thoughtfully considered this turn of events, and then pitched the ball straight into his own head, yelling "I win!"
Saturday, August 23, 2008
While at the Con, Beloved procured for me a poster signed by Joel Hodgson. I'm a fan of his work, but that is not what made this token so dear. He had signed it "Happy Thanksgiving!" Y'see, what my dear spouse knows and perhaps did not share with Joel, is that MST3K, while a fine show, is also a reminder of my personal rock bottom.
It was Thanksgiving. My law school break was so short and I was so deep in a hole that I was staying on in Iowa City. I was boarding in the house of my college friend's mom. It was usually just us in the house. We had settled into a quiet rhythm together. I cleared out as she prepared for the onslaught of kids and grands, and sought out the other Thanksgiving refugees. There were two candidates -- both men I had some history with. One was sort of dodging me. So that left James.
James looked and acted just like Kiefer Sutherland's vampire bad-*ss in "The Lost Boys". Our relationship centered around my need to carpet the legal world with my resume and his job at Kinko's. He was ostensibly taking classes, but more notable were his achievements in horticulture -- of those plants one cultivates with a growlight in one's closet.
James and his buddies were settling in for the MST3K marathon. I thought that sounded like a kitschy way to spend Thanksgiving until I realized that that was the sum total of what we were doing that day. Not eating. Not conversing. Just sitting in rapt silence punctuated by that swallowed laugh, that "h-h-huh" characteristic of stoners. I thought I might leave this pathetic scene until it occurred to me, Where would I go?
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Now, I'm not saying we live in a police state. Mind you, I'm not saying we DON'T live in a police state. I'm just saying that the only time I hear anybody claim that we're living in a police state it's when a White guy is indignant over Homeland Security's treatment of his wife. Or his son's wife. Oh yeah, our immigration policy is all fun and games until it's your kin in the slammer with all those unclean Mexican border crossers. "Why, they're treating her like a... like a common immigrant." And then, and I am not kidding, this is what always comes next... "What about MY rights?"
Rights to what? To a foreign hottie? That must be somewhere in this penumbra I've heard so much about.
Monday, August 18, 2008
I think it is fair to say that, as a group, culturally, Arizonans don't privilege professionals. This is true across all professions. We consult osteopaths and chiropractors before we'll go to MD's; "document preparers" before lawyers; charter schools before district schools. And we all think we're landscapers and construction engineers.
This is frontier living. Don't let the smarty-pants elites come in from the coast and get rich off of making things more complicated than they need to be. Here we've gotten this far with horse sense and cash on the barrel-head.
I'm sympathetic to this mindset. On the East Coast, where I'm from, it would have been unthinkably flaky to send my children to a charter school or to an osteopath. Then again, on the East Coast, I might not have had the courage to go into business for myself.
But, as an attorney in business for myself, I also see the limits of this thinking. I can sit down with a client and explain to him the limits of his options and inevitably I'll see him later in very different straits after he's paid three times my fee to some unlicensed notario who's promised him the moon.
So I feel for Robert Pela in his confessions of a blog snob. (I like him already because he's a scholar of Baltimore native son John Waters). I feel for him, but with reservations.
As a journalist, he likened his experience of the usual blog fare to that of a chef going to a bakery and finding only "pecan sandies." That comparison is not apt. If I understand him right, I agree with his generalization that most bloggers are unschooled, unedited, and undisciplined compared to real journalists. But then the appropriate comparison is not to "pecan sandies" but to home-made brownies, no?
To further torture the analogy, I think it would be fair to say that lots of home-made brownies, like lots of blogs, are just plain bad. I would even go so ahead and say "toxic." But, ok, SOME home-made brownies, like some blogs, are quite good and, even if not so polished, maybe at least have a charm that comes of being fresh? local? authentic?
And Mr. Pela will surely concede that lots of journalism isn't exactly artisan craft either. It is carelessly re-packaged PR releases and staged puffery. And surely that's your "pecan sandies." (Not to pick on sandies. I rather like sandies.)
Mr. Pela, you are fighting the good fight over at our feisty alternative free weekly, where your investigative reporting fights for attention among the singles ads and "The Angriest Dog in the World." So I know your quarrel is not with my home-made brownies, but with the hegemony of that stale flavorless junk journalism.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
In case you're wondering what we do for amusement when my husband is on travel. Tonight I got out a bag of lentils I had bought during an ambitious run of pot-lucks and went rifling through the cookbooks trying to find some use to which they could be put. The hippie recipe for which they had been intended turned out, upon second reading, to be way too weird. Plus, it involved dates and other exotica that we don't keep in the house. I turned to a classic and they had a lentil dish served with Italian sausage that was to die.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Tonight, we had gorgonzola fondue, which I bought in bulk from the Harry & David's outlet on the way to pick up the kids from camp. Fondue seems not to have been a big seller for H & D, judging from the big tower of the stuff. More for me, then.
Friday, August 08, 2008
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift--not the archaic truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
Excerpted from The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems by Billy Collins
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Y'see, Jones used to have asthma. So we moved to the desert for the dry air. And now he has nosebleeds.
Big epic nosebleeds. Entirely my fault, really. Well, or my father's, truth be told. His father's, I shouldn't wonder. Asian nose. Teeny Asian nose. Tinse. It's exacerbated by the fact that he's not very cool about it. Despite our protests, he can't help but hork the whole nasty back up his nose until forced to sneeze a blood-booger-bomb the size of an everlasting gob-stopper onto innocent passers-by, such as, for instance, his mother.
We are comforted by the fact that, alarming as these attacks might be for the innocent passer-by, such as, for instance, his mother, there is no loss of any real volume of blood during a nosebleed. And it's just as well Jones face these inevitable occurrences with good humor.
So, apparently, he got one of these monster nosebleeds during an otherwise uneventful bath. And, being the delightful scamp that we know and love, he decided to make a, well, is there any other word for it than "bloodbath"? Oh, just when you think you have seen everything, that surely there can't be any undiscovered territory of gross and disgusting yet to be explored, "Eureka!" shouts your son.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
On July 27, 2008, during a children's musical performance, a man entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church (TVUUC) and began shooting. He was reportedly intent on killing "liberals."
He killed one TVUUC member, Greg McKendry, 60, an usher and long-time congregant who stood in front of the gunman to protect other church members. Linda Kraeger, 61, a member of Westside Unitarian Universalist Church (located in Farragut, Tennessee) who was visiting TVUUC for the performance, died in a hospital later. Six adults were also injured but no children. The gunman was tackled by congregants and eventually taken into police custody.
In the wake of this horrific event, Unitarian Universalists have rallied to offer ministry and support to the affected members of both congregations.
Our kids are making origami paper cranes in Sunday school.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
So, apparently there's a word for me and it's Comic Widow. A great moniker, that. Sounds like a bunch of hilarious women yukking it up at the wake. But no, the comic widow is merely the spouse you deposit poolside with the kids while you get your geek on at the con.
Yes, my beloved and our dear friend NiceGrl made the rounds while the kids and I took in San Diego's museums, beaches and pool.
We reconnected at dinner. They'd be all exhausted and freaky, loaded with swag, dumping all of the information from their crania at once, their eyes all bugged out with over-stimulation, and a little moony over some of the celebs. There may have been squealing.
Unclear what impression this is having on Jones, who went with them on one of the days. He likes him some comics and cartoons -- the usual super heroes and such. Beloved turned him on to Avatar, and he is frequently to be found practicing his "air bending skills". Time will tell whether he manifests into a true fanboy.
I think next year I will venture inside. I do think I'd like some of the panels. And I could be more of a helpmate, standing in for him when two events are happening at the same time, bagging more freebies, fending off wookies, or Japanese schoolgirls, as the situation demanded.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
My father's really done it. Just like he said he would. He's moved back to Jamaica.
Me, I never knew Jamaica.
Jamaica came to me in oily packages, carried in an auntie's suitcase. "Bun" an' cheese, hard dough with guava jelly,ackee and saltfish. It was in the patois that would sneak into my father's speech when talking cricket smack to his countrymen or exhorting me to "Comb your hair, you look like a rasta." In the hackneyed double entendres of his calypso records and the smell of petroleum, allspice, and clove.
Every few years, when I would visit, the nearest referent that came to my suburban mind was of Tommy and Annika accompanying Pippi Longstocking to the island where the natives have made her father a king. Later, "The Simpsons" would capture the zeitgeist completely...
What's everyone's problem? I'm glad we're stranded! It'll be just like the Swiss Family Robinson, only with more cursing! We're gonna live like kings! D*mn, h*ll, *ss kings!
[As "Under the Sea" plays, a fantasy sequence is imagined with the kids living in a wonderful tree settlement. Martin takes a shower. Wendell uses a water slide. Sherri and Terri drive a bamboo and grass car. Ralph pigs out on food and a monkey butler brings Nelson a drink. Back to reality.]
And every night the monkey butlers will regale us with jungle stories.
How many monkey butlers will there be?
One at first. But he'll train others.
[All the kids marvel at such a great future. Bart climbs down from the rock.]
Good, let's get to work! Me and Nelson will build the treehouse. Martin, draw up plans for a coconut radio, and if possible, a coconut Nintendo system...
My father was no reality check. Despite all evidence to the contrary, his persistently romanticized memories of his island in the sun wooed everyone around him, including two American wives in succession. And then alienated two wives in succession when they realized he wasn't kidding about returning.
The mania to go home again infected many in the extended family. A cousin living in the US on a green card, when his legs were injured in a car wreck, got a big fat settlement, left his wife, and built a big house in Jamaica where he lived like a damn hell ass king, tended to by a fleet of cheap labor nurses. When the cheap labor nurses stole his money and burned his big house to the ground with his paraplegic behind still in it, and he had to beg his wife to sponsor him again, we all thought that would cure my father. But no, his dream lived on.
By all accounts, they've welcomed the native son, killed the fatted calf, and so on. He might not be living like a d*mn h*ll *ss king, but he's got a manservant and a driver and belongs to the club. He'll never have to pour the condensed milk into his own tea again. Now he's on us to move there. He'll get us all cush jobs and the kids will attend the finest boarding schools. what do I know? He's probably got it right.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
It's just alarming to us because, being from Maryland, we don't know what to expect from a wildfire. Is it ok that, four days in, the thing is still billowing black smoke that can be seen in Scottsdale and "snowing" ash? Somebody's on that, right?
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
This is a picture of Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin when they first began to live in commitment with each other, though they would pass their Golden Anniversary before California would recognize their right to marry.
When putting together our wedding, lo these many years ago, I discovered this poem from Dickinson:
Of all the Souls that stand create –
I have elected — One –
When Sense from Spirit — files away –
And Subterfuge — is done –
When that which is — and that which was –
Apart — intrinsic — stand –
And this brief Drama in the flesh –
Is shifted — like a Sand –
When Figures show their royal Front –
And Mists — are carved away,
Behold the Atom — I preferred –
To all the lists of Clay!
I rejected it in favor of the better-known Browning sonnet. Little did I know that our beat poet friend Marty would render that little bow to tradition irrelevant with his offering -- a howling epic rant of love not soon to be forgotten by any who attended.
My little two cents in this discussion the nation is having about gay marriage is that the old spinster Dickinson had her finger on it. If marriage is something more than the title transfer that it was in the Old World, it is this; this most American of sentiments from this most American of poets; “Behold the Atom I preferred/ to all the lists of Clay!” The right of a person to pledge her troth to that Soul that she elects is sacred, … well, because it is. Because it is essential to her person-hood, to the living of a free life; an American life; a full and complete life. It is a right for the same reasons and in the same way that freedom of religion is a right.
Sure, there are benefits, social stability, or children that might issue from such a union, but they are beside the point. An undocumented alien can marry. A post-menopausal woman can marry. A terminally ill person can marry. A convict on death row can marry. A bankrupt debtor can marry. We feel the rightness of this. It is not for argument. It is not for pros and cons. It is simply a right.
The government might arguably have an interest in promoting or supporting marriage for these ancillary reasons (Although as a married person, I must add that I’m not feeling the love here from my government.) But these interests do not open the door for the government to judge or sanction the act of choosing itself.
My stepfather is a DJ and I used to help him sometimes. At weddings, he does this thing where he gets all the married couples out on the dance floor, and then he asks the ones who have been married less than a year to sit down; then the ones who have been married less than five; less than ten, and so on, until one or two couples remain. Then he’ll ask them to give advice to the newlyweds. Oh c’mon, it’s cute.
Anyway, at this wedding, the remaining couple were a pair of women. And the poignant thing was, there was no poignant thing. They were just the longest married couple at the party. They didn’t have any answers (Their advice, for the record, was “Fight. A lot.”). But still.
A good wedding is a meditation on marriage and this one really was.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Mom: [catching Spritle playing with his chimp in the living room] Hey, what are you two doing?
Mom: Was that the same nothing that broke my last couch?
Spritle: No, that was a totally different nothing.
Don't let her psychadelic fashion sense fool you, Mom Racer is as sensible as her pancakes. She is the PB&J that holds the Racer family together when the champaign and caviar forces of this world try to break them apart.
I thoroughly enjoyed this year's Tony's. Girl was pleased to see Daniel Radcliffe presenting. I was glad he kept his clothes on.
Congrats to Patti LuPone for her first win since "Evita". Her performance in that opera will always hold a special place in my life, as it is the longest continuous piece of music that I know by heart and so became the go-to song for getting Girl to sleep as a babe. I am curious if she went to see "Evita" now, whether she wouldn't just conk out.
Congrats also to Lin-Manuel Miranda, for "In the Heights", and most of all for delivering the acceptance speech by which all other acceptance speeches shall henceforth be measured.
Finally, kudos to host Whoopi Goldberg, for not going snarky or political -- just playing it like the campy goof mug that she is.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Once again, A Plus and I are going to have a back-and-forth discussion. When it's me, I will be brown like coffee.
I'm A Plus. I will blog in pink, my favorite color, like uh..... I don't know.
Uh, girls 'n stuff.
Today's topic is, When is it OK to cuss? Sometimes you and Jones bust me out cussing.
I don't think so, unless it's a line in a movie or play. Also, I think too many cuss words in movies and plays go UN-bleeped. There shouldn't even be one there, anyway.
Yeah, it is jarring to the ears. Plus, totally lame. You have the whole English language at your disposal. A good writer could write something interesting for the actors to say. So if you always go straight for the cuss word it's like it's too easy. It's like taking a shortcut.
It's never too easy for me. I never even feel comfortable saying or writing them. I even feel uncomfortable reading or hearing them. I think some people feel the same way. So, why even put them there?
Well, I will say that I can think of one time when I thought the cuss word really got the point across where nothing else could. Can you think of the one I mean?
uh....... no, not really. Arguments?
I'll give you a hint. It's a scene that's already upsetting because it's a battle. And the cuss word is used to show that even though the character is a very sweet and nice, she can be fierce if provoked.
who's "she"? I still don't know.
Oh dood. She's like my fave character ever, because she's this righteous mom, but when her girl is attacked....
.......She defends them. I know, it's Molly Weasley!
That was an effective use of a cuss word. I'm sure any mother would think, "Yeah, that's what I'd say in that situation."
Maybe. I wouldn't do that.
Well, I'm glad you think that way. But, on the other hand, it's just words. As you get to be a grown-up, I think I wouldn't want there to be any word that was so shocking to your system that you couldn't handle it. Like, if somebody said that word to you, you wouldn't be able to rally.
Maybe. OK, but it's not OK for kids in my opinion.
Yeah, that's fair. I can't think when it's ever OK for kids. When you're a kid, you're only doing it to look tough anyway. And then it becomes a bad habit. That's why I cuss, I'm afraid --bad habit.
So, I guess our conclusion is; Yes, if you're an adult trying to defend someone, No if you're not, and Definitely not if you're a kid. Right?
Well, I guess I'd say it more like if you're an adult then hopefully you have a healthy respect for those words and you only use them as a kind of a last resort. What if you're a kid singing a naughty song, "We all went down to Amster[bleep]..."?
Well, if it doesn't have a silent "n", then it's fine.
So, beavers are fine then?
Yes. Other than that, do you agree with my conclusion?
Yes. What do you think of spelling it if you just want to tell what somebody else said?
If it doesn't hold water back, involve animal breeding, or complete the name of a place, then it's not fine.
Dag, you're pretty absolute. Ok, I'll try to be a good example.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Sometimes after church, while we are in the area, we lunch at the Chandler Mall, which they insist on calling the Chandler Fashion Center (wha eh-vah). What, ho! What is this I see? We are getting alego store. Bless my Barraki, we're so there!
Monday, June 02, 2008
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
I am no longer the angriest dog in the world. But I do have the blues. Oh, for every reason and no reason, like that time Lisa Simpson jammed with Bleeding Gums Murphy.
I guess I'm probably where I belong -- being in business for myself, I mean. I have a little bit of a problem with authority. And the arrangement gives me the flexibility to do stuff with the kids. But business is slow. So, that's great that I can take time off every now and again, but I'm scowling and preoccupied when I do. Girl has caught me a few times having arguments under my breath with people who aren't there.
Plus, with money tight, we're looking at a backyard sprinkler summer break for the kids. In another time, this would bring out the pioneer spirit in me -- Oh good, then we'll have time to go to the program at the library and finish that latch hook! But in my present mood, it just brings into sharp relief the limitations of our transient neighborhood and the kids therein.
So it was no good my checking in on the blog of my college bud Jenn. Jenn has real problems. She'll break your heart telling you about her real problems, because, unlike me, she's a real writer. I mean it. Check out her writing. Guarantee, it will @#$%!# you up. She is, to me, the Baudelaire of the mommy blog.
Reading her, I feel like, what I'm going through -- I've been telling myself it's PMS or anger or stress -- something that resolves or diminishes -- but it's not, is it? It's the times. I mean, our generation, but also our stage of life, but also where the country is -- it's hard. I mean it may be 100 degrees on my thermometer, but I'm here to tell you, it's winter.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I am ordinarily a zen person, but have been giving in to self-doubt and self-pity lately b/c I have a client in detention with very actively involved family. They expect progress and nothing I'm doing for her is working.
So, this season of end-of-the year recitals and awards ceremonies, which should be celebratory, has felt to me only like more obligations. Oh, let these kids just finish up already.
And then there is paperwork due on the girl scout troop that I lead. Not rocket science, but I chafe at too much paperwork (I'm in the wrong field, obviously), so I am pretty much perpetually in the doghouse with these people.
So I was planning to cram together my paperwork to turn in at this meeting when my beloved took me under receivership and redirected me to the Jonathan Coulton concert at The Brickhouse. This was just what the doctor ordered. A little beer. Some nerdy, snarky goodness. Stare my husband in the face ever... It's all good.
Last Sunday, for a variety of reasons having to do with being on point and everybody being sick, I was especially raw when suiting up for battle with the beastie boys of the UU church. I've taught UU Sunday school before, and faced a lot of cheekiness. I've told myself, UU parents are anti-authoritarian, and that's a good thing. You can expect the kids to be high-spirited, but they grow into the kind of teenagers who give punk concerts to raise money for Darfur, so it all works out in the end.
Well, this day I faced outright declarations of war on me and the other substitute and I lost it, rooting the kids out of the bathroom where they were hiding out, confiscating skateboards and physically shoving them into place. I finally cracked and let them out, not because we were done but because short of actually locking them in the room I didn't think I could hold them any longer.
So then I went back over to the church to catch the tale end of the coming-of-age service, which is like UU bar mitzvah where early high schoolers develop their spiritual bearings. The one girl was up there saying that her philosophy was why be a good-goody. Why, for that matter, spend her days participating in a church program. Why think about money. After all, if you spend your time studying to be a doctor or something, you'd get to be a rich doctor but you'd have missed the best years of your life. Just have a good time. [Polite applause].
I was the angriest dog in the world. After all, the main argument for us even joining this smarty-pants church is to give the kids a respite from the nihilism that reigns in their lawless school. And then to find it rampant here. I was sputtering.
And then Jones threw up in the Sunday school room. Shoulda just. stayed. home.
Friday, May 09, 2008
It is the year 2020. Aliens have taken over. They have decided your constitution gives you too many rights. Pick five of them to keep. If you are all unanimous, then you may keep those five rights. If not, then you lose all of them. What rights do you keep?
This is the task put before Girl's 5th grade class yesterday. I was the special guest lawyer. So it was cute that "right to a lawyer" was one of the first things to go. One girl said, well, if you're guilty, you should go to jail.
So nobody goes to jail just because they're too dumb to be able to say the right thing? That never happens? (Crickets) Let me put it this way -- have you ever been in a situation where somebody could out-talk you? Like, they always win just because they're older than you and it just seems like they can always say the right thing and you're there all shy, going, "Um, shaddup."
Can you think that maybe when a regular guy is talking to a cop or to a judge that maybe that guy would feel like that?
Or what about Ernesto Miranda (Of "Miranda Rights")? He was guilty as sin, but we didn't send him to jail (Not for that particular crime anyway). Why? Because -- write this down, children -- rights are not a reward for good behavior. They're rights. We have a "right" to them. That's what makes them "rights."
Three rights were absolute no-brainers for them:
Right to bear arms
No cruel and unusual punishment
Freedom of religion
Why those three? Hot topics, I guess. Especially I can see where they would think that the one about God was the "right" answer.
They were less clear about peaceful assembly. One boy said, well, Martin Luther King already did that, so we don't need that one any more. (Excellent.)
So, it's all good now? Nobody ever abuses their power? Nobody ever needs to stand up to anybody in government now?
But of course it is difficult for kids this age to question authority. Frankly, that's probably appropriate for 5th grade, so this is where it was nice to have alien overlords to be the heavy.
Say the aliens decide that we all have to pay for the air we breathe from now on. We might want to say something about that? In a group, maybe? Should they be able to arrest us just for meeting?
They weren't hearing me about privacy, either. But again, as kids, I don't think they're really feeling the "My home is my castle" thing. With kids, it's a process of "unlearning" that respect for authority.
We had the same problem in high school when teachers would try to point out something racy in a novel. We'd spent so much time getting our minds out of the gutter, we just couldn't believe that the innuendo really was there. I distinctly remember our Great Gatsby teacher practically heaving over the desk, announcing, "Come on, guys. This is hot stuff!"
That's how I felt about our little experiment. I just wanted to shout, come on guys, our founding fathers were some radicals and heretics. Get feisty here!
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
I been tagged. I do love a meme. With this one, the idea is to:
Pick up the nearest book. [Mine is Persepolis]
Open to page 123.
Find the fifth sentence.
Post the next three sentences.
Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.
"When they let him out, my brother started going to counter-revolutionary demonstrations. He told me that the chief of the new executioners was his torturer in The Shah's prison. He saw it with his own eyes."
I tag Desert Ramblings, Nicegrl, Mamie, Librarian's Rant, and Plausible Fabulist.
What gives shape to my weeks is that Wednesday is choir practice. Because our church and my office are each prohibitively far from our house, it is also my late night at work. I work late and then I go straight there. So we're rehearsing with the other church's choir for this big cantata, and the finale is this big rap number. Our spoken word artist was not at rehearsal, so we just played through the orchestration to get the count right. Well, so naturally I burst into Hip, hop, hip, hip-a to the hip-hip- hop-a, you don't stop-a rock-a.... The uncanny thing is that my hippiechick counterpart in the other choir had exactly the same impulse at exactly the same second. So we ran through the whole lyric together. A magical moment brought to you by the Sugar Hill Gang.
Monday, May 05, 2008
Sunday, May 04, 2008
I was opining aloud to My Best Beloved that Girl was at that point where she needed a proper bra when I thought, is this one of those marital TMI moments best kept to myself?
My Darling has no dog in that fight, as the gender roles are rather rigid in this particular domain. The integrity and maintenance of Girl's business is ceded entirely to me and likewise My Sweet owns the controlling interest in Jones's.
However, if this arrangement is demure, well, that is sheer coincidence. I cannot say it is because we're so very classy. Not as much as Jones delights in working the word "booty" into every conversation. (Also, dam. He'll pretend he's a beaver so he can say he's building a dam. Or he'll sing "We all go down to Amsterdam. Amster, Amster dam-dam-dam.")
No, our arrangement owes nothing to diffidence and everything to the birth order of the parents. My Love and are both reeeaally bossy. It's just a good thing for our union that we have one of each.
So, it occurred to me that Light-of-my-life might appreciate an accounting of my stewardship, but what's the rule?
I mean, when I came of age, my mother reported the news to my father, who, being the more ceremonious parent, made several awkward gestures at celebrating the event. Y'know what? Probably doesn't need to be a beautiful bonding moment with your father, actually. (Especially as, once, when I was laid up with cramps, my sire consoled me with the wisdom that all of this could have been avoided if Eve hadn't sinned in the garden. Yeah, thanks for that.)
I think that I probably need to hold back. As much as I have to fight the tendency to treat my daughter like a girlfriend, I should probably also fight the tendency to treat my husband like a girlfriend. But, Dear Reader, I can still blab to you, can't I?
Saturday, May 03, 2008
The joke about UU's is that they are such bad singers because they are too busy reading ahead to see if they agree. Well, now we have a cantata that Jason Shelton wrote just for us.
Tomorrow we debut it with one of the two other valley UU congregations. We're doing it at theirs this Sunday and at ours on Mother's Day. The songs are different genres and different aspect of the UU experience. At our church, I have the solo on the humanist anthem, "No Other World." I love this, because it is my fave song in the program, maybe in the world right now. It just really speaks to me.
Dig these lyrics by Kendyl Gibbons:
I would live simply, and bravely, and nobly;
Let no illusion remain;
I would seek wisdom in human reality,
Even if wisdom be pain.
Sing me no pious amens and old canticles,
Let doubts and questions arise;
Tell me no providence hidden in prophecies,
But welcome the future's surprise.
The time is now, the place is here;
The good we know, the earth we share;
This day we have, this love we give;
No other truth; no other joy; no other life;
No other world.
Weave me no fairytales frosted with miracles;
Give me a light I can see;
Spin me no promise of heavens and saviors,
Teach me the truth that makes us free.
Create my salvation in earth's endless wonder;
Everything nature provides;
Let me be honest, and wise in compassion;
Make reason and conscience my guides.
The time is now, the place is here
The good we know, the earth we share;
This day we have, this love we give;
No other truth; no other joy; no other life;
No other world.
Beautiful universe, fathomless energy,
Myst'ries we struggle to know;
This is our paradise; dust is out destiny;
Cherish the years as they go.
The. time. is. now.
The place is here;
The good we know, the earth we share;
This day we have, this love we give;
No other truth; no other joy; no other life;
No other world
Friday, May 02, 2008
Last night we attended a demonstration about star-gazing and, when it was dark enough, we all went out and looked at Saturn, Mars, Sirius, and Betelgeuse through some really great wide telescopes. I am personally so blind to the distinctions among any of them thangs up thar that I can't find the big dipper without help. So, I am always amazed that anyone actually can.
The evening was sponsored by our school district's gifted program. And I am grateful for it, even while I am increasingly embarrassed that our gifted program is the worst kind of gifted program.
A "gifted" designation should be handled like a handicap, by which I mean, high IQ should be accomodated in the same quiet, mainstreamed manner as another challenge. As much as possible, there should just be a subtle shading of complexity and volume without a lot of fuss. It's not a reward. It's not an honor society.
Here's what a gifted program should not be -- a chance for elite parents to perpetuate their own privilege by gobbling up the resources of the school.
Here's what it should not be -- carte blanche for kids who aren't necessarily any better behaved than their peers.
Here's what it should not be -- a chance for parents who spend a lot of time, energy, and money giving their kids a leg up to congratulate themselves on the native intelligence of their well-coached sweeties.
It should not be fun field trips that basically send the message you're so far ahead you can afford to coast.
And it should definitely not be your career track or the pool from which you are encouraged to choose your friends.
I remember at the orientation for my step-brother's gifted program, a student asked what should I tell my friends who have not been invited to participate. The man replied, "You could say, 'You're good at other things, like sports.'" Well, now, as my step-brother was one of a handful of Black students in a really old-school burg, h*ll if we were going to turn down the chance for him to stand out in a positive way. But it sure didn't feel good to perpetuate all that rot.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I went with a neighbor to a naturalization interview today. This was a favor, as we are moms together. Her girl is in my scout troop. Girl has slept over at her house. Jones has gone to her daycare. I often sit with her at PTA and community meetings. I know her and her husband to be block-watching, whistle-blowing, field-trip-attending, cookie-baking, carpool-driving parents of the highest order.
There was an embarrasing moment when she had to answer questions about a "hit" that came up when the FBI ran her prints. Seems she was a foster parent and her ward presented with a broken bone. When she brought the child in she was questioned as a routine matter but exonerated and charges were presumably brought against the perpetrator.
The computer print-out merely says that she was released. You have to have the actual court records to see that she was exonerated and that in fact she is the one who reported the problem. There was a scramble through all the papers, but we did have the court records, so it didn't hold her up.
The interview went well and she burst into grateful tears. When she apologized for blubbering, the officer demurred. No, she said, it is gratifying to see someone take citizenship so seriously. So many people take it for granted.
I always find these scenes of gratitude a little bit uncomfortable. Because often the person has had to tolerate a lot of indifference and bureaucracy to get to this point, and the humility just emphasizes that power differential.
I was still dwelling on the FBI "hit". Why is the burden on her? How begrudging, how indifferent, how bureaucratic was the investigating officer not to simply make a note in her computer file that she is the good guy here? She is the person whose impulse to mother, to volunteer, to speak up, to advocate for a child brought the abuse out in the open and the perverse result is that she gets stuck with a "child endangerment" label for the rest of her life?
It makes me think back to all of the times that as an involved mother I have had to agree to a background check -- volunteering at the school, as a girl scout leader, as a camp chaperone. I fully support the background checks, of course, but how awful would it be to have to explain the alarming note on my file every single time?
My hope for her, as for many of my naturalization clients, now that they are citizens, is that they prove their American-ness by getting a little more uppity.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Being an immigration lawyer, I work all day with people for whom absolutely everything is alien, and so it is no surprise that they do not suffer from (don't have the luxury of)the insecurity (complacency) that I see so often in the native-born. They are some opinionated (decisive) folks.
I'm not going to say that this is always good news. Life in the US is super super complicated and expert advice is often necessary, else my job wouldn't exist. But I have a healthy respect for the Shoot-first-ask-questions-later school of decision-making, especially when compared to the decision-making paralysis that I often hear from my neighbors.
I especially loathe when somebody armed with a handful of soundbites and statistics can just shut up a whole room of smart people. This just slays me. Americans are supposed to be so feisty, so revolutionary, and we are so easily intimidated by even the intimation of authority.
It makes me glad that, as a lawyer, sometimes I get to counter authority with authority. I have a friend who is clergy and we have the same speak-softly-carry-a-big-stick orientation toward our respective titles. I won't strike first, but I will whip out the law degree if provoked.
When I was at college I studied under (crushed on) a wunderkind bioethicist whose one-word name Magnus could not help but command attention. It seemed then that he was always off picking fights with creationist school boards, which is how I got started thiking about these things. Well, that and I think every public policy type secretly wishes she'd gone into lab science.
Creationists, sick of looking like know-nothing yahoos, are organized now. They are often armed with zingers -- questions that take the discussion out of the shallow waters of don't you think monkeys kinda do look like us straight into the depths that give even the practicing biologists pause. Most people are so ill-educated on the matter that they will bare their neck to the alpha dog who whips out a couple of these.
One that used to absolutely shut my mouth is that for evolution to happen there would have to be a change not just in the quality of DNA but the quantity. I have to admit that my primitive monkey brain had no answer to that objection.
But now that there are science blogs in the world, there can be such glories as this accessible explanation of how chromosome numbers can change. Oh brave new blogosphere, that has
PZ Myers in't.
Stepmother's coffee bean of the day puts me in mind of the wisdom of this furry zen master to his mouse student.
Bear: Well you're tired
You're feelin' kinda low
Put down the cheese
You don't have far to go
It's time for some quiet time
Tutter: But time is exactly what I haven't
got - Bear
I'm busy, busy, busy
Can't stop to chat!
I gotta push this cheese
Across my welcome mat
Bear: Just take some quiet time
Tutter: But Bear
Bear: Time for some quiet time
Tutter: Now how can I possibly take
Bear: I can see you're out of breath
You barely drag yourself along
Tutter: But I'm not even tired, Bear!
Bear: If you just take
some quiet time
I know you'll soon be feelin'
Tutter: Now that you mention, Bear
I think that I'll just rest my head
here for a little while
And take some quiet time
Bear: Quiet time
Tutter: Time for some quiet time
Bear: Quiet time
Tutter: Time for some...snores
Bear: Quiet time (Shhh!)
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Well, I hope that I read everyone else right, but I think the circle supper was a success after all. Americans spend so much of their time breaking into age-appropriate groups that there isn't hardly ever any real inter-generational give-and-take. And it's too bad, because I do think that something is lost.
I think the retirees got something out of having the kids around. They were mostly well-behaved, although Jones spilled some sauce on the carpet. I really got a lot out of seeing people enjoying their well-planned active retirement. For me, where I am in life, I need to feel that there is a pay-off.
I feel like this was a milestone for Girl because she really held her own in the grown-up conversation, piping up at more-or-less appropriate lulls in the conversation and inserting more-or-less relevant tidbits. She doesn't completely have the feel for it, but the crowd was an awkward mix anyway, so there wasn't really an established rhythm for her to throw off.
Beloved and I pride ourselves on our timing. We hardly ever make the rookie parenting mistake of if the party's fun now, it'll be even more fun in an hour. But we did miss the witching hour by about fifteen minutes, staying for coffee when we should have bolted after the cake. Still, I think we escaped any major bad behavior. We made to leave and he said, "Finally," but I don't think anybody heard.
Friday, April 25, 2008
I had the girl scouts over tonight making fake sushi out of pound cake cut in circles, iced, with flaked coconut for rice, green fruit roll-ups for seaweed, and swedish fish. Sour starburst microwaved for ten seconds and pressed with thumbs were our wasabi and pickled ginger. They turned out really darling. Will post photo when it's e-mailed to me.
Beloved fled to Sonic to procure burgs and Route44-sized beverages for all.
Munching a tot, Jones queried "Why does that say Happy Whore?"
"Um, what?" choking on a fry. "Where?"
"There," he said, pointing to Beloved's cup.
"Happy Hour, son. That says happy hour."
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Today I was explaining to an ICE officer some aspects of my client's case that were not very flattering to myself and he praised my honesty. I am often praised for my honesty, which to me is a little like praising a recovering alcoholic for being abstemious.
Because the thing is I'm a pathetic liar. By which I mean, both, my lying makes me pathetic and also I'm pathetic at the business of lying. Bathetic. I've had some experiences in my life where I've panicked and lied and the lie grew into something hideous and destructive. There was wailing, lamentations...
So recently I have been trying really hard not to lie. Like not even little white lies. Not the mere abstinence, but really trying to be aware of when I'm saying something just out of momentum or going with the crowd or because I feel the need to explain myself. To keep me on the straight and narrow, sure, but also out of pride. I fancy myself a wordsmith. As such, I feel that even the most quotidian contents of my cranium, if I can just transmit them unadulterated straight into my listener's head, are worthy.
This battle rages in my head alone. I am aware that the nuances I obsess over are completely trivial to everyone else. To give an example of my struggle, at the church they're doing this "visioning the future" thing that involves a lot of making lists on giant pads of sticky paper and putting colored dots on them. I hate that stuff. Hate. that. stuff. And a bunch of different people approached me about it, like, hey, I know you'll be there. Nope, sorry, says I. I have this thing.
And I did have a thing. But I still came away cursing what would it hurt for me to say Nah, can't stand that stuff. Hit me up for the pledge drive or something. So, after a couple of encounters like this I was really annoyed at myself and this brutal truth resolution was much on my mind. So, of course I was brutally honest the next chance I got, with repercussions most Seinfeldian.
See, the church puts together these "circle suppers" which are groups of members who take turns hosting that month's potluck. This ends up being more complicated than you'd think, because for some unfathomable reason, it's not the same people. The people rotate. Somebody's got the master list. Seems like chaos to me, but we haven't minded because whether through chance or orchestration we've always ended up with out favorite couple, Linda and Ann.
There are many other wonderful people -- don't get me wrong. But if it were just them and us in the kitchen, that would already be a party. The rest is gravy. Anyway...
So this month's there were going to be slim pickin's because everyone was going to this retreat. So they just sent this e-solicitation around asking did maybe just one person want to host the stragglers. This lovely woman L stepped up and we were all to send our names to her. I put Beloved's and my name in to her, thinking, if I thought about it at all, that the kids were implied. Well, come time to firm up plans and and she said oh, she wasn't really planning on children, which is of course perfectly reasonable. So I said oh, then thanks very much for the offer, but I think we won't come after all. I mean, I could have said "can't come," and that would have felt different, maybe, but I deliberately said won't, on account of my resolution.
Not said, though. E-mailed. Which is where the problem started. When I dashed off the e-mail, it sounded like the perfect balance of gracious but mercifully final. Like, so great of you to offer, but don't mind us. We're good. But in e-form I think it just came off terse.
So then L e-mailed back how did she, who had, after all, been a school teacher, end up sounding like a Sun City resident, and, really, the kids are welcome some other time. Well then I wrote back something about how I don't question her kid cred, and sure, that would be nice, but don't go to any bother. Then she, no really, and I, no really. Thus ensued a whole back-and-forth of proposals and counter-proposals, which sort of fizzled out.
Lots of people aren't set up to host kids. It's all good. Meanwhile, we made plans with Linda and Ann for that night.
Well, she's had a cancellation, so she came up to me after choir and asked in a most solemn voice, if we would please do her the honor of coming after all. Well, what am I going to say? She is such a lovely person and this is such unfinished business. Yes, of course, we'd love to. So then, sorry, Linda and Ann, how about Sunday?
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Saturday, April 19, 2008
It seems that in Phoenix large stretches of road are closed more frequently and abruptly than anywhere else. And, as I am relatively new to the area and to city driving generally, this usually throws me for a loop. Just today I was taking a carload of kids to a museum when I was re-routed out of my depth. I managed to right my ship, but still had to call My Beloved for back-up, just to be sure.
In our house, this is called monkeypennying, so-called for MonkeyPenny, the voice of reason down at HQ for Spy Fox, the kid-friendly, all-animal send-up of "Get Smart".
It is one of the great perks of married life to have my own personal MonkeyPenny.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Of course, then Jones reminded me of this primer on Kenya, which we used to play all the time. Slightly less charming, I'm afraid. I swear, they're going to stop inviting me to chaperone these trips.
I am an enormous fan of all things humongous and wish there were more brainy, clever, games like those. On a field trip to wildlife world, I had the whole bus singing this nifty tune from Putt Putt. Wipe off your windows so you can see, the elephant, the monkey, and the chimpanzee...