Saturday, June 30, 2007

The unmade bed

There's something really appealing to me about our unmade bed.

Craig got in the habit of making our bed every morning around the time we had our first house on the market. We had showings all the time, for nine months, and we did a good job keeping the house neat and clean that whole time. That habit got pretty deeply ingrained in both of us and, as a result, our house is mostly guest-ready at any time.

Every once in a while, however, the bed doesn't get made. That is most likely to happen when Craig gets up before I do. Like today.

I look at our bedroom and see the unmade bed and it makes me smile a little. The bed is rumpled, showing how, and where, each of us slept. It reminds me of the deep intimacy of sharing sleep. It reminds me of the other reasons we share a bed, too.

A few days ago, I called my dad to ask him to build a new headboard for our bed. I'm lucky to have a father who builds stuff and fixes stuff, and does it willingly and even happily. In the conversation we had, I asked him if he remembered what my bedroom looked like. He admitted that he didn't.

It makes sense, really. He's spent only a few days, total, in this house. I'm sure he can describe my kitchen, my living room, my dining room, the guest room, even my bathroom. But the master bedroom in his daughter's home? Not exactly the prime hanging-out spot.

What a change from childhood, from the teen years, even from early marriage. Until I moved into my second apartment (my first was a studio, so it didn't have a separate bedroom), my bedroom was my world. It was the only part of the house that I controlled (and, even then, I didn't have sole control; my parents had veto power). The posters on the wall, the arrangement of the furniture, the way I shelved my books on my bookcases, those were means of self-expression.

Now I have the luxury of imposing my taste on an entire house, the house we custom built. Our builder had an interior designer who worked with his clients, and she and I met several times to make sure the colors and finishes expressed our family's aesthetics and sensibilities as much as possible. She and I selected dramatic colors for the most public spaces of the house, the living room, dining room, and kitchen (my original choices were less-dramatic, but she suggested that the artwork we owned would be better displayed against a more intense background; she was right).

Our bedroom, on the other hand, is less playful. The colors are more muted. The textures are more sensuous. The artwork celebrates romance, the physical, our marriage. It's the most grown-up room I've ever had a role in designing.

Our designer's work was a success. Our house, now a home, expresses our family so well. The capriciousness of candy-pink in the living room. The drama of chocolate brown and hot pink in the kitchen, set off with pale wood floors and cabinets. The light, bright green and pink bedroom my daughter loves. My son's room, with retro fabrics and maps.

And that unmade bed, beckoning me today, telling me it's okay to take a day away from work and accomplishment.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Neighborhood

I haven't blogged about the neighborhood lately, probably because there hasn't been much going on, but CHBM's carnival this week has the prompt, "My neighbors are...."

My neighbors are friends. With each other more than with us, but that's okay. They're also younger than us, mostly single, and mostly childless. We're not peers. Last year we neighbors spent much more time together, sitting on Jenn's patio until it was way past bedtime for a weeknight, drinking, chatting, and having a good time. We ran over to the neighborhood bar to play trivia (and never won, despite our best efforts).

This year something's different. Most of us have been in our houses about two years now, so the honeymoon is over. A couple of people have decided to move away, so we see "For Sale" signs cropping up. Circumstances have changed: last year's engaged couple has become this year's "gonna have a baby any day" couple.

My next door neighbors' house (well, yard, really) has changed a lot, too. A year ago, right after they had moved in, the back yard was unfenced. Grass barely grew there. The lot has an older oak tree that, sadly, was obviously damaged when the development was excavated, the slums torn down, and new houses built. The tree is half-dead.

These neighbors got married last summer. They were fresh-faced college graduates, newlyweds, and new home owners. When I say they're young, I'm saying this: the young woman next door is the same number of years older than my daughter as younger than me. They're young.

That being said, their back yard is coming around. The husband has diligently mowed and watered the grass. They built a fence (they have a big dog who needed space for running around), and just completed a deck. They're a nice couple.

Youth abounds in our neighborhood. At 36 and 38, we're the old people. We're not the only old people, but we're much older than most of our neighbors, who are primarily in their mid-to-late twenties. A few have passed thirty, but they are newlyweds and childless (or at least, for the next few of the couples' baby is due, um, tomorrow). So our lives are different. While Craig and I get to be spontaneous for a few weeks each year, most of our neighbors come and go with nothing to hold them back.

I sound more envious than I am. Because even though two of them just got back from a great trip to Colorado, just the girls, driving a Jeep all over the place, I know that my life is right for me. Married at 21, a mom at 26, I never lived the single life. I never traveled with girlfriends. But I had a different experience, the experience I wanted. I chose to marry young, to have kids young. And, honestly, no regrets.

There's a newish family at church who moved to Memphis from New York last fall. Our sons are the same age, and we adults have found that we enjoy each other's company. The woman works where I work, and we often eat lunch together and she sometimes stops by the house on her way home from work. I've been trying to convince them to buy a house in our neighborhood, mainly for selfish reasons. It would be nice to have some genuine peers whose lifestyle is similar to ours. It would be nice for my son to have a boy his age to play with. But they're already in a different house in a different area, and they don't want their son to have to change schools. And that's just it: if they were single, if they didn't have a child, they could just pick up and go. But the kids, they change everything. And it's nice to have people in my life who get that, even if they're not my neighbors.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

More about SGRRC

Stacey, who volunteered at the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp, wrote (and photographed) a great blog entry about the showcase, and the 'zine she helped the girls create.

Go look!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Pam hit me with five questions. After reading her articulate responses to her five questions, I'm a bit concerned. But I'll give it a go.

1. What is the biggest parenting "mistake" you have ever made and how did you handle it after you realized it was a mistake?

Nice way to start off easy.

Upon pondering this question for the last three hours, I'm still at a loss. There are many little mistakes we make all the time. And some miscalculations wind up working out well. My biggest frustration is the television/computer/video game thing. We never set limits on their "screen" time when they were younger, and now it seems like it's too late to make stricter rules. I haven't figured out the right answer yet, but am very open to suggestions.

The other issue that I'm not sure how to resolve is my son's dependence on his sister. He's incredibly socially dependent on her. She's his best friend. He mopes when she's not around. And he has difficulty making and maintaining his own friendships. Honestly, he'd rather hang out with her (and her friends) than anyone else. This worked out great when the kids were preschoolers, but it's not working so well anymore, and it's likely to get ugly soon. She's becoming a full-on tween, and her little brother isn't completing her world by any means. Again, I'd love some help with this.

2. How did having children change your marriage? How do you and your husband deal with the stresses of everyday life with kids?

It cemented it. Without kids, we could have split up if the going got tough. Because there wouldn't have been major consequences. But now we have much more at stake, so we're both ready, willing, and able to do what it takes to make our marriage work.

Coping with stress? Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha. Hmmm. I don't suppose that "drinking" is a good answer, right? We both exercise at least half an hour a day, and I don't hesitate to grab the dogs and their leashes and head outside if I need a break (from him OR from the kids). And I also clean the kitchen when I'm stressed. (I had a therapist recommend that one; it's much safer and healthier than throwing chairs.)

I wish I could say we have weekly date nights, but we don't. We get several weeks in the summer, however, and that sure helps. We get to act young and carefree. But we both really like the kids as much as we love them, and that makes life so much more pleasant.

3. Through the miracle of science, you can pick ONE attribute (kindness, toughness, pity, etc), and forever embed that attribute in your children. Please explain why they would be best served with this attribute all of their live vs all others.

Resourcefulness. It's so much more useful to be able to find/get/create what you need than to know everything. I'd rather have the skill of being able to locate useful information than a talent like a great memory or incredible intelligence. Because who cares if you remember the directions to some remote town in Alabama if you can just look it up online anyway?

4. You seem to be a very self-assured person. What childhood event(s) helped shape who you are today? Who was/were your role model(s)?

Moving around so much (Seven states, one other country, never staying somewhere more than 3 years) shaped who I am more than anything. I learned, quickly, how to size up a situation and see how I could fit. As a result, I have an easy time merging into groups. The downside is that I didn't get much practice in making relationships (friendships, especially) last more than a few years. I'm fortunate that I sorted it out, and I have a couple of good, long-term friends who mean the world to me. All that moving had another result: I committed myself to Memphis when I moved here, and I shall not be moved. I've lived here more than half my life and honestly cannot imagine living anywhere else. Despite its problems (and there are many), Memphis offers a quality of life that I really enjoy. Just enough cultural events, loads of diverse people, plenty of great food, and easy-to-navigate. Perfect.

Role models? My mom is an obvious one. While my lifestyle is quite different from hers when she was in the same stage of parenting, her values and mine are very similar. She sowed seeds of peacemaking and strong family loyalty, which I try to bring to fruit in my own family.

But there were other important adults. A few teachers stand out as being influential. A few of my parents' friends. People from church. And I keep meeting more.

5. If you could sit across from G.W. Bush and have a "conversation" with him, what would you say? How do you think he would respond?

I doubt I could say anything that would make sense to him. But if I could give him a magic pill that would open (and strengthen) his mind sufficiently to comprehend my point of view, I'd tell him what I most firmly believe: all our policy, all our actions, all we do, must pass the test. "Will it help the children of our world, or will it hurt them?" I daresay that much of the current administration's "accomplishments" would not pass that test. And his response? Have you read The Bush Dyslexicon? 'Nuff said.

Do YOU want to be interviewed?

Interview rules:

1. Leave me a comment saying "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with a post containing your the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's almost that time

My parents, whom I adore, and would continue to adore even if they weren't about to do this, are taking my children from me next week. They'll have the kids until the end of July. (If you're not keeping up with the math, that means the kids will be out of our house for 3 1/2 weeks.)

We've been doing this for a couple of years, now, but this is definitely the longest they've been gone.

In 2004, my in-laws kept the kids for four days when I was quarantined after taking the thyroid-killing dose of radioactive iodine.

In 2005, we sold and bought a house, but there was a three-week fly in the vaseline. The buyer of the old house wanted to take possession on May 31, but the new house wouldn't be ready until late June. Fortunately, a friend of mine was moving out of his apartment a month before his lease was up, and he really loved the idea of splitting the rent. The only imperfect thing about that plan was that his apartment was a small one-bedroom. With almost all our earthly possessions in storage, we moved in, creating a kids' paradise of wall-to-wall bed (one queen next to one double) in the bedroom. My mom quickly ascertained that this was not going to end well, and, with the desire to keep her daughter's sanity and felony-conviction-free status intact, as well as the desire to protect her grandchildren from being slain by stressed-out parents, she offered to pick them up and play with them for a few weeks.

By 2006, Craig and I had gotten used to this break in our summer. A time to watch whatever we wanted on TV at any time, the freedom to go to the movies and see anything that wasn't rated G, the flexibility to eat dinner at 10 p.m. if we wanted or to run to the neighborhood bar to play trivia (on a school night!). My parents offered an increase to 2 1/2 weeks and upped the ante, adding a few days of church camp to the deal. LANYARDS! Sweet! My in-laws got into the fun last year, too, taking the kids for a week. So yeah, that's 3 1/2 weeks of kid-free living.

So it's getting to be that time again. This year, the kids will have the BEST! SUMMER! EVER! which, thus far, is slated to include the following attractions:

  • wedding in West Virginia (the kids' second cousin, whom they've never met)
  • trip to Colonial Jamestown
  • trip to Busch Gardens
  • hanging out with my parents (which, in my opinion, is a great way to spend time)
  • a full week of camp
  • more hanging out with the folks
  • traveling to Chicago, where I'll attend BlogHer and then...
  • trip to Six Flags
  • train ride home
I'm taking bets on how fast they'll say, "I'm bored" after returning home.

Thank goodness school starts in mid-August. That only leaves them two weeks after their trip ends.

Sunday, June 24, 2007 was great!

Last night I took Alex, Susie, and one of her friends to see the girls perform after completing their week of Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp.

It would be easy, and accurate, to cut this entry short and just tell the internet that it was awesome.

But that would be too easy.

Instead, I need to say how happy it made my heart to see, and hear, these girls. On the stage, ranging in age from ten to seventeen (although I really think there were a few girls younger than ten), dressed like rock stars, slinging full-size guitars and basses, playing keyboards, banging on drums, and singing into microphones. These girls exuced confidence. They were having a great time.

And the kids in the crowd were loving them. Loving the scene. Loving getting their hands stamped as they walked in the door. Loving moving closer, closer, closer to the stage. Wedged between the stage and the speakers was the final spot my kids chose, and it made my heart sing to see them loving the live show.

The performers were divided into eight bands, with three to six members in each band.

The first group, Squirrel vs. Ferret, had some of the eldest girls there. They seemed to have more than a week's experience with their instruments, and their song, "Frozen Sorrows," was original and witty, with a chorus about eating a pint of ice cream to soothe the disasters that plague a teenage girl's life (bad hair on school picture day, etc.) Taking the stage next was the youngest group, The Country Gals and their original song, "Daddy I Want a Walking Horse" was a full-on DIY punk style song, complete with lead singer doing the pogo while yelling the chorus ("Daddy I Want A Walking Horse....Daddy I Want A Walking Horse....Daddy I Want A Walking Horse.....Daddy I Want A Walking Horse). The crowd went wild, pogoing right along with her. The applause thundered.

Loveless, the third group, was the eldest, with some amazing vocals. Their song, "Broken Prince Charming," featured lyrics that reminded me so strongly of the "teen angst poetry" phase so many of us went through. Fourth on stage was my kids' favorite, Forgotten Blue. They were made up of tweens, and their song "Rock & Roll Girls" could easily become an anthem for empowered tween rock chicks. We didn't realize until intermission that Forgotten Blue's keyboard player is a girl we know, the sister of one of Alex's preschool buddies. We saw her parents at intermission, and the pride was so clear on each of their faces.

The Klazzicz took the stage next, with vintage outfits (even go-go boots), beehive hairdos, and an original song that sounded like it came right out of the sixties. The girls were channeling Mama Cass (and, since the camp had featured sessions on "Herstory of Rock," they probably knew who that was).

During intermission each of us bought a raffle ticket. Susie and her friend both dropped their tickets in the bucket to win the Luna guitar. Alex was hoping for the snare drum. My aspirations were modest, just a memorabilia package, with t-shirt, zine, and other materials from the camp. Sadly, none of us won.

After the intermission, there were a few more bands on stage. First we were treated to a mellower sound from the Songwriter's class. Very good stuff. Surprisingly good, knowing that it was written in just a week. By teenagers. Then three covers: a very avant-garde version of "Help" by the Beatles (performed by Killer Cuties), then Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends", performed by The Shadez, which was fraught with technical difficulties but extremely well-played nonetheless. The final act, The Ravad 74, performed "Unsinkable" by Audra Brown.

The kids and I walked back to our car, exhilerated by the performance. The kids were a bit disappointed that they hadn't won the raffle items, but they still enthused about how much fun they'd had. They were singing some of the songs to themselves on the way home (we're still singing about that dancing horse a day later).

Plenty of adults showed up for the concert, and a surprising number of them were just there to support the cause, rather than in support of a particular performer. (I saw two moms there, with their kids, who don't even have daughters.) (But I also heard them asking each other if they were going to try for a girl after the evening's awesomeness.) (Neither plans to do so.) (Even though I highly recommend it.) (Because daughters are so awesome.)

It's hard to sum up the experience we had last night. I was thrilled to see the number of young adults who organized and ran this camp. These young women (and men) aren't doing this because they want something for their kids to do. They're much younger than that. They seemed to just love hanging out with these girls, teaching them about what they love to do. The energy in the room reminded me of some of the really great Girl Scout events I've attended. The girls were safe; they were supported. Only a couple of girls looked nervous on stage, and none were so nervous that they couldn't go on and play anyway. No performance was perfect, but all were enjoyed by an enthusiastic and supportive crowd. One mom couldn't hold back her delight to see her daughter on the stage, yelling, "That's my girl!" until her daughter said into the mic, like a seasoned professional, "Hey, I don't know who that lady is over there. How are y'all doing tonight?"

I can't wait until next summer. Because I'll be so much louder than that mom. Watch out, baby girl.

::edited to add...Susie blogged about it too, right here::

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Greek birthday party

Last night we joined our Greek friends to celebrate their son's birthday. Without saying much, I can say that their son is closely associated with where I work. And he's doing very, very well. Well enough that it's easy to forget what brings them to Memphis.

His mother and I have become buddies, originally linked because our daughters became fast friends in school. Masha has made numerous friends in the Greek community in her two years here, but I seem to have become her official "American" friend. Which means that when my family visits their house for a celebration, we're the people in the room who don't speak Greek.

And when I say we don't speak Greek, I'm saying that I have no ear for it at all. Spanish, French, German, even Italian, I can comprehend a little. If I overhear a conversation in one of those languages, I can probably tell you what is being discussed. If it's the right topic, I might even be able to tell you more. Heck, I can even pick out a little Japanese here and there. But Greek? Nope. None. Embarassingly, I can't even keep names. Especially of one person, this sweet Greek man who has lived here for years. And I told him yesterday that I've renamed him Gus. He laughed and didn't get mad at all, and then he taught me to say "I love you very much" and "You're a big dummy" in Greek. I'd completely forgotten both phrases by the time we had gotten home, a seven-block drive.

I like hanging out with European people. And I'm lucky to be able to do so frequently, due to my primary job and my very-part-time employment as a Local Care Coordinator for a large Au Pair placement agency. The perspective, of this family and of the group of au pairs I work with, is different; their experience is different. It's easy, as an American, to think that our culture is the "normal" culture in the world. Our language is almost universally spoken (at least a little); we've exported enough of our culture that most major cities have at least a few American things that add a sense of familiarity.

But spending some time talking to someone from another country, like Greece (or Bulgaria or Poland or Romania or anywhere else, really), gives me the opportunity to hear a different viewpoint on the war, on our government, on politics, on race relations, on recent history. In particular, spending time with this Greek family, who enjoy the privileges of class and wealth (the dad is a celebrity in his country, and is also an elected official there), gives me a different vantage point in looking at our world.

I try hard to avoid looking like an ignorant, "ugly American." That being said, I don't follow current events very closely. My commute is not spent listening to NPR; it's spent listening to music on my MP3 player. I rarely watch the news, other than "The Daily Show." I don't read much beyond Gourmet magazine and Tony Bourdain. So I don't have a hell of a lot to add to a discussion of today's political scene, the upcoming presidential election, or similar topics. But last night? I held my own, and even did America proud by (accurately, in context) quoting Karl Marx (woot!) and mentioning that Al Gore's post-political career reminds me of Jimmy Carter's. (I know, great analogy, right?)

Not surprisingly, I learned more than I contributed. I learned how hard it is, as a foreigner, to endure what happens upon entry into the country these days. "Humiliation" was a word I heard a few times last night. "I'm just a damn foreigner," was said with a rueful smile. American citizen "Gus" told of being treated very differently in airports because of his accent and Mediterranean complexion, despite his American passport.

And I know, with a little bit of shame, that the same thing would not happen to me if I were to visit their country. I would be treated well. I would have no problem finding people who speak my language, who understand my culture. And not just because I'll have well-connected friends when I visit. But because my skin is white and my birthplace is America and my speech is unaccented. edited to add: I'm talking about how I'd be treated coming INTO America, dealing with customs. Not being overseas.

But I also learned that the American life, despite its commercialism and materialism and relative lack of cultural history, is good. Masha and her kids love their lives here, no matter the circumstances that brought them to Memphis. Gus's daughter, who is in her early 20's and as American as I, confided in me that she thinks the kids will have a hard time adjusting to life when they return to their country. Masha has told me the same thing, months ago. I suspect they're correct.

I did, however, see the gleam in her daughter's eye when she told me on Thursday that she'd be flying to Greece in three days. She hasn't been home in two years, and she can't wait. I know she's not had an easy time: two years ago she spoke no English and had become a great reader in Greek; changing to an American school with English textbooks and English-speaking kids must have been enormously difficult.

Gus's daughter and I had a nice chat; she's a lovely young woman who is just beginning her adult life. She's visited Greece many times (her father still owns a home there) and cannot comprehend why some of her friends are resistant to visiting. She also told me that knowing this family has made visiting Greece even better, since they are so well-connected. I had already suspected as much, and have begun planning a trip to Greece, once their son is well enough to go home. Given what I heard last night, I have a feeling I may not want to come back.

Friday, June 22, 2007

How did I miss this?

When I opened Google Reader this morning, I read, with interest, about local blogger Stacey's involvement in what might be the most awesome thing this summer.

Rock & Roll camp for girls (ages 10-17). Stacey, a 'zine publisher and enthusiast, shared her mad zine-making skillz with the girls all week, and it looked like everyone had a great time. If my daughter and her friend are cooperative tomorrow night, we'll find out just how much fun the girls had, when they have a concert on the rooftop of the Gibson Guitar building.

I can't begin to tell you how envious I am of the girls who got to participate in this camp. When I was that age, I wasn't athletic, and our family moved so much (four states, six schools, from 10-17) that my involvement in school activities was somewhat limited. It's impossible to be in the audition-only choir, for instance, if one did not attend school in order to audition the year before.

Music was so very important to me in my teen years. The music I listened to (and continue to listen to) defined who I was in many ways. My parents never had much appreciation for rock music of any type, My teen angst was salved, or sometimes fueled, by my ever-present life soundrack of Depeche Mode, The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, The Smiths, Siouxsie & Banshees. As my relationship with that music, the new wave/post punk that thrived in the 1980's, grew, so did my sense of who I was and how I wanted to be perceived. I didn't want to be like the preppy kids, like the popular kids. I wanted to be different. I wore black on the outside, as Morrissey said, because black was how I felt on the inside.

And, looking back, I see that the music did have an influence. The lyrics of these semi-alternative bands were often razor-sharp in their criticism of the mainstream. They decried the cruelty of indifference, of cookie-cutter life. These British musicians (there were a few Americans thrown in, but the vast majority of my adolescent record collection hailed from the import bin) advocated a life lived genuinely. They told their listeners to question authority, to question the dominant paradigm, to question what we were being sold. Some were more overt than others (Public Image Limited's John Lydon was anything but subtle in his criticism of mainstream culture, government, and values, while Howard Jones was sweet and positive and encouraged his listeners to see the beauty and goodness in the world).

Those messages mixed into a gumbo in my mind. The politics of justice from U2, a bit of hedonism and fantasy from Echo and the Bunnymen, the dark satire of the Smiths, the emotional evocativeness of New Order, and the lush, angry sensuality of the Cure. They all shaped my life and my memories of my teen years are soundtracked by them.

But, with very few exceptions, these musicians are men. I didn't discover female alternative acts until years later. In the mid-1980's, pop radio had no lack of female singers, but their music was throwaway, bubblegum, shallow. (In retrospect, some of it was better than I gave credit, but I was an adolescent who saw the world in black and white.) My canon of musicians didn't include women.

I'm trying to present a more gender-balanced picture of rock music to my children. My daughter has stolen all my Shonen Knife CDs, and I'm letting her keep them. And when she gets older, there will be plenty more awesome, strong female artists to share with her. I hope she'll catch the bug.

So yeah, next year I hope my daughter goes to rock and roll camp. And maybe I can live vicariously through her just a little.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

I am a working mom, after all

One of my co-workers has resigned and tomorrow is her last day of work. In all honesty, she was never a great fit for her position, or even for our department, and I'm not surprised she's leaving.

The timing, however, couldn't be worse. See, my position serves as the "cover" for her position (when she's on vacation, etc.). And I've got a few days of vacation scheduled for next month, which means another person will have to cover my position (which means covering the vacant position and leaving my work undone).

And, if that weren't enough, we also have two major (computer-related) initiatives going live on July 1. Well, that's not quite true anymore. On a conference call yesterday, we (very intelligently) pushed back one of the projects to go live on July 16.

The project that still goes live on July 1 is my baby. Mine, and mine alone. Eventually I'll share the wealth with other people in our department, but the consensus is that I need to master it before we expect anyone else to be able to work with it. And so far, in the last few weeks of non-live practice, I'm loving it. I've built some databases and populated some data fields and I declare it to be Better than what we did before.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. I sound like such a huge geek!! Must. Stop.

What I'm really trying to say, and somehow it took several paragraphs to do it, is that work has me busy these days. And the work that's keeping me busy is pretty engaging and I'm liking it.

In other work-ish news, the Corporation has rolled out a new wellness program that includes deeply discounted memberships to a few area gyms. Craig has been pushing for years to join the YMCA (which is conveniently located across the street from the kids' school and has a swimming pool), but when I did the math, we determined that WellWorx is a better value for our dollar, has a location downtown, and has a pool at another location that's only 15 minutes away. Plus, personal trainers.

Given that the kids will be in another state in two weeks (!!!!!!!!!), and given that Craig's evening class for July just "made" its required attendance (!!!!!1!!!!!!!!!eleven!!!!!!!1!!!!!!!), I'm looking at some extra evening free time in July. And with BlogHer's beautiful head looming closer and closer, working out wouldn't be such a bad idea.

So, working hard, working out, and going out of town. That's my upcoming month.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Blog-on-Blog Action....gettin' meta

Since I really, honestly can't think of anything to write about, I surfed over to BlogRhet and tagged myself to play along with their thinky meme.

Your mission: Give one or more these questions a stab in a post (or series of posts), and then tag three more writers. If you don't mind, please link back to this original entry—we'd LOVE to track the progress of this meme with trackbacks.

1. Go back to first or early post. How would you describe your voice back in those early days?Who were you writing to? What was your sense of audience (if any) back then?

Y'know, I think I had some unrealistic expectations about this whole blogging thing, which stem from my lack of understanding of how internet traffic works. Truly, I figured many, many people would almost immediately find my blog and would be reading it from day one. The reality check came quickly.

2. Do you remember when you received your first comment? What was it like?

I just went back and looked. The first comment was on a dumb quiz that I posted my results, and the commenter is nobody I knew. I'm sure I was excited to know that someone had found my blog, though.

3. Can you point to a stage where you began to feel that your blog might be part of a conversation? Where you might be part of a larger community of interacting writers?

Joining up with other Unitarian Universalist bloggers (via uupdates) definitely hit that point home. Many of the bloggers in that network toss topics around, sometimes "officially" in a carnival, but sometimes unofficially as well. Unlike some of the other carnivals I've participated in, the UU bloggers seem to be responding to each other's posts and building from each other's ideas. The first time I played along was in a conversation about pop culture and UU, which have a tense, at best relationship at times. It was refreshing to learn that as a person who loves to wallow in the muck of reality TV, I'm not even close to alone in the intellectual, high-thinking world of UU.

Another time that made me feel like part of a greater writing community was when Melissa Summers of Suburban Bliss was on the Today Show and had the rug pulled out from under her. The "mommyblogger" community rallied to her side, and even my mom had an opinion!

4. Do you think that this sense of audience or community might have affected the way you began to write?

Not so much. I've tried to be conversational and authentic in my writing from the beginning. My best friend since high school reads, as well as my mother, and they agree that I'm not putting on a show.

However, what I write may have been affected. Because much as my mom and my friend may think what I had for lunch is fascinating, I know that the intarweb is not so interested in minutiae. Or at least not that kind of minutiae. I've tried to write about small moments that mattered. And a few big moments as well.

I've covered a few basic "themes" in my blog, which is rapidly approaching its first birthday. I've written, at length, about important friendships in my life. I detailed each of my children's birth stories. I've talked about career highs and lows, about health problems and money.

But my favorite posts are the ones that seem to come out of nowhere. When I'm writing only because I promised myself to write everyday (with weekends off, if I choose), and nothing seems to be coming, and then it all bubbles forth. When the subject veers to a new path and gets to a point of clarity, of reflection. I wish I could say that my writing is like that every time, but it often isn't. It's sometimes forced. And I usually just post a meme if I'm really stuck.

Which is why I started this. But the bubbles broke forth a bit. Hopefully they'll keep fizzing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It's a dog's life

Finally. Someone in my family manages to score a first place win. You may recall that my family (and by "my family" I mean "me") has been plagued by second-place (i.e., first loser) finishes lately.

Saturday ended the trend.

Because my dog, my sweet little Gravy, won his division in the neighborhood dog show.

We won't discuss how the judges are friends of mine. Nor will we discuss how they suggested I enter him in the "medium" category instead of "small" because there was no competition in that category. Because those things might be facts. That we're not talking about.

We will, however, discuss that, while he won his category (medium) (did I mention that he weighs about 16 pounds and is 9 inches tall?) (or that he's a pomeranian/papillion mix) (which probably means he's small, not medium) (oh, and he's deaf and half his face is paralyzed, too), he did not win "best in show".

Because a chicken won that. Literally.

And we live in Downtown Memphis.

'Nuff said.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm a Darn Good Mommy Blogger

The ladies at Crazy Hip Blog Mamas want us all to come out and play. And since my weekend was only marginally of interest, I could use the prompt.

Why am I a good mommy blogger?

That presumes something....that I am a mommy blogger. Given that I write not only about my life as a mother, but also as an employee, a wife, a sister, a friend, a pet-owner, a cook, a church leader, and a musician, that's a big assumption.

Or is it?

Something my mom did very well when I was growing up was having a life outside her children. She didn't re-enter the paid workforce until I was in high school, but she definitely did not spend her days eating bon-bons and watching soap operas. Instead, she was president of the arts council, an active volunteer at the Arkansas Arts Center, took tennis lessons (that one, I think, didn't last long, but kudos for trying, anyway), taught herself word processing (in the early 1980's, when computers weren't ubiquitous), wrote and self-published a cookbook, and was an elder in her church, no matter where the church was. And, in her retirement, she remains busy and active, engaged in her community and trying to make the world a better place.

So, that's my primary female role model. And when I had kids, I had already learned something about myself. I like to behave similarly. Before kids, I sometimes worked two jobs, or, if I just had one job, I volunteered on weekends for the Humane Society and went back to school. Like nature, my calendar abhorred a vacuum.

And as a mom (and as a mommy blogger), I demonstrate that the daily life of a mother need not be a bon-bon eating, housecleaning life of frumpery.

When I was a co-leader for the Attachment Parenting of Memphis chapter, we talked about the various tenets of attachment parenting. Beyond the basics (breastfeeding, baby-wearing, co-sleeping, gentle discipline) was the principle that kept it all in perspective: balance in family life. Every person's load is different, and how each person balances that load is an individual art. When you add a few more people who share the bonds of family into the mix, balance becomes trickier, especially when some of the people are small, lack self-control and empathy, and can't take care of themselves at all. Finding balance with small children is difficult.

I imagine that much of my readership (beyond my family and friends...hi Mom!) includes mothers with children younger than mine. Many of the mommy bloggers I read have little kids. I often find myself smiling as I read about the difficulties and joys of raising little ones. Why am I smiling? Because that chapter of my life is over.

Bedtime. I remember how hard it used to be. And when I join open threads at MamaPop Talk, that's frequently the first conversation: it's so hard to get my four-year-old to go to sleep. And I smile and remember and feel so very pleased that we're past that stage. And I tell those moms that there's hope. It gets better. Honest!

And that's what makes me a good mommy blogger. I'm past pregnancy, past the diapers, past breastfeeding, past the toddler years, past preschool, past potty-training, past monsters under the bed, bast bedtime difficulties. But I remember those times. I remember them well. I remember the roller coaster time it was. And I'm more than happy to share the light at the end of the tunnel that is parenting middle-childhood kids. Not to gloat (look what great kids I have! your kids won't go to bed and mine will! and they're smart too! and they are out of diapers!), but to show the moms of younger kids that, even though it's hard and it seems like it lasts forever, those days are short, and it gets easier.

(And I totally know that I'll be eating these words in just a couple of years, when the girl is in eighth grade and the boy becomes a stinky, awful growing thing that won't stop eating. I'm not stupid. I know it's coming.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Film reviews

Craig went to the video store yesterday and brought back a mixed bag of delights.

In the order we watched them....

1. Notes on a Scandal - this one is a serious, and seriously great, movie. Riveting story, brilliant performances. It's great when it's hard to pick which of the lead actresses did a better job. Judi Densch gave an astonishing portrayal of a lonely, obsessive, kind of creepy spinster schoolteacher, while Cate Blanchett played a vague, directionless art teacher whose privileged upbringing did her few favors in terms of developing character or depth. She's sort of stuck and floating, neither happy nor unhappy. Watching these two women's relationship develop, and how the title's "scandal" impacts that relationship, is really, really great. I don't want to give too much away. I recommend it. So does Craig. See it.

2. Crank - non-stop action. Imagine you wake up feeling pretty crappy. You can't see so great, and you can tell that something is not right. You stumble into the living room and see a DVD propped up, with the words "F___ You" written on it. You put the DVD into the player, press "play" and see your nemesis standing over your passed-out body, injecting poison into you. He tells you what the poison is and that you'll be dead in an hour. Oh, I suppose I should tell you that you're a hit man and that everyone is pretty angry at the hit you just made on some Chinese guy. This movie is fantastic - violent, hysterically funny, great music, and some really fun characters. If you don't want to see someone's fingers shot off his hand, however, stay away. But I thoroughly recommend it for a fun action romp.

3. The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai. It was late by the time we put this one on, and I was too tired. Best I can figure is that it's pretty soft-core Japanese sex stuff, with an odd variation, in that Sachiko, a sex worker, happens to witness a shooting and gets shot, right in the head, but it's not a mortal wound, and when she wakes up the next day she's smart as hell, and apparently still pretty horny. The case mentioned that she only gets aroused by the words of Noam Chomsky, but we didn't get that far, apparently. We may try to watch the rest today, but the first 45 minutes were not at all action packed and the sex wasn't stimulating or even interesting. And the subtitles are almost impossible to read. So, meh. The lead actress is pretty. That's about the best thing I can say about it.

Two out of three, though, not bad.


Friday, June 15, 2007


My friend Laura tagged me for a meme, and I'd actually been hoping to be tagged for this one.

The rules:
1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

So, eight things about me. I presume the intent is for me to share things that you don't already know. Well, you might not already know.

1. At one point, for a few months, I had eight cats. Craig had happened upon a litter of kittens that had been abandoned and were too young to go it alone, so he rescued them and we found homes for all but one of them (eventually). The one we kept was the worst cat ever - just stupid as a post, and never quite sorted out the whole doing one's business in the litter box. That was many years ago, and all those cats have died (well, there's one that we lost tabs maybe it's alive). I named all the kittens after 20th century painters...Jasper, Jackson, and Georgia are the ones I remember.

2. I seem to get my way more often than not, even in situations in which I don't have much control over the outcome. Like wanting my kids spaced just under two years apart, with a girl then a boy. Seriously. I don't know how or why, but things mostly work out pretty well the way I want them to. When I got downsized from the bank, we had just signed the contract on our new house. I needed to find a job, and I decided to try to get hired by the large non-profit which is two blocks from the new house. Usually, it takes ages to get a job there, with background checks and such. I interviewed two weeks after my last day of work at the bank, got a contingent offer the same day, a firm offer ten days later, and started working ten days after that (and a pretty healthy raise from what I had made at the bank). Less than a month of being unemployed, still getting paid by the bank through my severance package. And working 2 blocks from my new house. My mom remains astonished at how well that worked out. And if things don't just fall into place, I'm pretty persuasive and have talked my way into several things that I wanted to happen.

3. I used to be a slob. In around 2001 I discovered, and it really, truly, without a doubt changed my life. Like, 1000%. Since then, it's a rare day that my bed is unmade (although I can't take credit, as Craig is still asleep when I leave the house), and our laundry never gets nasty from being forgotten in the washer. A lot of other good things happened as a result of that. Because being messy with your stuff often results in being messy with your finances, your health, and more. Now that we've got an organized (mostly) house, I feel lighter, and approach the rest of my life with more clarity. I also get so much more done in an average day than I did before. If you're wanting to change your messy ways, give Flylady a try.

4. I'm often surprised when I look in the mirror. I don't know exactly what it is that I'm expecting to see, but my mental image of what I look like is very different from the reality. I think part of it is that I feel much taller than 5'2". The course of high-dose prednisone I took in 2004 changed some things, permanently (so it seems) about my appearance. That may be a part of it. My face is rounder, and my body proportions have changed. And I already told you about my hair. It's strange.

5. I use humor as a defense mechanism. When my brother and I were little, we learned quickly that we could get out of trouble if we made our mom laugh. And we did. I remember we had been just awful at the grocery store when I was about 4 or 5. I remember knowing how horribly I was behaving while it was happening, but feeling unable to stop (I don't remember what we were doing, but I still can feel that "out of control" feeling I had more than 30 years later). On the way home, in the car, I just knew we were going to be in so much trouble. Mom spanked rarely, but I knew we were going to get a spanking. So as soon as we got home, she sent us to our rooms. I loaded up the bum of my pants with books, and my brother used pillows. She cracked up and we were off the hook. And now, when things get tense and I feel like I'm "in trouble" I often crack jokes. Not necessarily an appropriate response in all situations.

6. I'm a very, very fast reader. I took a speed reading class in high school. But I don't read much these days, just because I don't have much interest. When I do read, however, it's obsessive and I generally finish a book in a day.

7. Red is most certainly not my natural hair color. I assume my hair is dark blond or light brown naturally, but I've not seen that in a long time.

8. According to the Myers-Briggs temperament sorter, I'm an ENTJ. Which surprises people a lot of the time, because I seem like an "F". Except if you're my husband and we're arguing. I become a lot like Spock when I'm in a disagreement.

So now I have to tag people. I hate this part. So I'm going to break the rules. If you want to play, you're tagged. If you don't, that's cool.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Evidence of something wonderful

I'm still pretty ambivalent as to believing in God, but this is pretty good evidence for the existence of some kind of divine something.

If you haven't seen this yet, get ready for awesomeness.

The people inside my computer

My husband and I had a disagreement yesterday. Nothing ugly or heated, just a difference of opinion.

I bought a present for one of the people inside my computer. Nothing huge or extravagant, but she's in a rough patch and I wanted to cheer her up. This is, to me, no big deal. If she were my neighbor, I'd have taken her out or brought her dinner or just sat in the yard talking to her. But I can't do those things, so I did what I could.

When I mentioned what was going on and what I did, he thought I was completely bananas. "You don't even know this person! She's not your friend!" was his reaction.

Sure she is. Or is she?

Did you ever have a pen pal? I didn't, but I wanted to have one when I was a kid. I remember writing to kids who had little classified ads in some gifted education journal that my parents read (Pen pal wanted, girl, age 10, interested in ponies and chess). And nobody ever wrote back. I guess someone else had already gotten the "job" or was a better fit, or whatever. I remember feeling disappointed when, day after day, the mailbox contained no letter from Betsy, or Lisa, or Allie. Why didn't they write back?

Blogging's not like that. You don't pick just one blogger. (Well, I guess there are people on earth who would pick just one, but go with me anyway.) Blogging, unlike so many other things, is not exclusive.

Sure, it can be cliquish. I see it. I'm a little nervous about going to BlogHer for that reason. But there seem to be enough women who aren't busy being cool and high and mighty and unapproachable because their blogs have readership that exceeds mine by a factor of ten. There seem to be enough women who are yearning for that human connection. That connection is approached on the internet, in our blogs and open threads and emails, but is made real with face-to-face meetings.

And maybe, just maybe, that's where my husband and I can agree. Sure, the people inside my computer are real. They're human, flesh and blood, with lives behind those blogs. But perhaps I'm a bit too eager to call them friends. Perhaps he'll be more agreeable to the use of the word "friend" after I've met some of these people in Chicago.

I can't wait to meet these people that I already feel like I know well. What will that be like? Will we feel like strangers, or will we feel like old friends? Will I recognize them from their blogs? Will they recognize me?

And there it is. The people inside my computer see what I want them to see. They don't have access to all the memories, all the days I've had horrible hair or dorky clothes or whatever else. They don't have access to anything that I didn't say about myself. And in my blog, I have the opportunity to share what I want the world to see of me. True enough, most of my readers know me personally and so far nobody's confronted me and told me that I'm completely full of shit. So I guess it's fair to assume that the picture I paint of myself is a pretty accurate, if incomplete and sometimes slightly distorted, portrait.

My guess is that most blogs, or at least blogs I read, are pretty much the same that way. Mostly accurate, sometimes exaggerated, sometimes incomplete, portraits of real lives. Written by real people (and, as far as blogs I read, a vast majority are written by women who are mothers) who crave human connection.

A few months ago, I saw many comments on another blog that, when distilled, went something like this.

We (the readers of this blog, and writers of our own blogs) were similar kinds of girls when we were younger. We were smart and awkward and adolescence was hard. We weren't homecoming queens or cheerleaders but maybe we were in band or drama or debate club. We watched the popular kids with a combination of awe and disdain, both jealous of their social success and sneering at how superficial and false they were. Too bad we didn't all have the internet then; we could have supported each other through those years. It was hard, feeling so alone and different.

With the perspective of age (I've been old enough to vote longer than I haven't, at this point), I realize that it wasn't easy for the popular kids either. And adulthood is a great equalizer in so many ways. But no matter how they came to be, those teenage wounds leave scars, and I think many "mommybloggers" have similar scars. And we recognize each other as kindred spirits. As having had common experiences, even in different regions and different years.

So we're both right, my husband and I. These women, these people inside the computer, feel like friends. Yet they're strangers, really. There is a physical intimacy with friends that is unique to friendship. An easiness of sitting together. The sense memory of how that person hugs. What they smell like. And there is a wealth of detail that forms friendships. Knowing that my friend Kaki hates orange tea. Knowing that Jennifer loves lemon. The shared memories that can be invoked with a word or a phrase. "Remember that day when we got pedicures?" brings us to another time, another life. And those people inside my computer don't have those details, those shared memories.

But that doesn't mean we don't have anything. There seems to me a need for a new word, a new concept of friendship. Because "my internet friends" doesn't quite do the trick. It sounds downright creepy to some people (even to myself, really, if I think about it). But we're building a new world here, people. And we're redefining a lot about human interaction in general, friendship in particular.

And for a bunch of women who used to be bookish, awkward girls, the freedom to find friends who "get" us is awfully powerful. Maybe even empowering.

This post was written in response to the writing prompt at Mommy Blogs Toronto. You can do it, too!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Betcha it won't last 24 hours

But it's hot, no?
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Web Junk

Not junk at all, really. I opened my mail after work yesterday and found something wonderful: a $50 American Express Gift Card. I knew it was on the way, as I had won a contest on Maya's Mom. And that's awesome, because I rarely win stuff.

I dig Maya's Mom for a few reasons. It sort of reminds me of MySpace, without the obnoxiousness. It also reminds me of Moms Online, back in the day ("the day" being ten years ago, on AOL). It's a nifty way to get to know other moms (and some dads), check out their blogs, and hang out. If you're looking for a way to spend a pleasant hour on the internet, go there.

And I've already plugged MamaPop and its new baby sister, MamaPopTalk. But I'm plugging them again, because they crack me up more frequently than anything else. So much, that if you scroll down below my posts, you'll see a nifty new widget. Yes, Another Working Mom is here to share the celebrity gossip. 'Cause I'm a giver.

In other news, I witnessed one of the most admirable displays of generosity yesterday. I'm not that nice, nor am I that committed to anything. But I think if I give up too much information, somebody might be uncomfortable. So let's just say, wow. And if you're dying of curiosity, comment or email and I'll spill. Maybe.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Vacations and best friends

My dear, dear friend Kaki visited yesterday from Montana. She and I became friends when our firstborn were infants. And yesterday's landmark birthday forced us to own up that we don't get to say we're "new" friends anymore. It's been ten years!

When the kids were little (still in diapers, little) we had discussed and even started planning to take a vacation together - both families. That plan wound up not happening due to other things needing to happen at the same time, and we never managed to work out our schedules to try it again.

But yesterday, perhaps inspired by the rosy glow induced by takeout Indian food, birthday cake, and wine, as well as a conversation in the car this weekend, we talked about a joint vacation next summer.

My vision is to do really wacky stuff: see the largest ball of twine, things like that. I love the campy and crazy things that our country has to offer, and I'd like to take that kind of trip while the kids are still young enough to enjoy it. Because the sullen, it is coming. I remember it. We have little time before it is upon us.

We talked about the Corn Palace. We talked about Devil's Tower (not so much campy, but definitely strange). But then Kaki was truly inspired: Florida. There's so much wacky and campy in Florida, and her dad has a house with a guest house there. And there's the beach.

So maybe that's the plan.

But the midwest/near west still seems like a good plan, too. Because the largest ball of twine? Is still growing.

Monday, June 11, 2007


My baby girl turns ten today.


The obvious question - how did that happen - has an obvious answer. Gradually. Over ten years. In bursts and stretches. Like watching a garden, but not quite so fast. We were out of town last week for just two days - really, only about 50 hours - and I could see changes in my tomato plants when we returned.

My daughter, the light of my life, the most beautiful girl I've ever seen, my moral superior. She's so much more than I ever expected her to be. I expected smart. I expected tall. I expected quirky. But I had no idea that we'd get the most amazing laugh, the smile that lights up the room, the eyes that make us melt into puddles of butter, the wicked sense of humor. I didn't expect her seamless social skills. I didn't expect her confidence. I didn't expect her pragmatism. That phrase, you know the one. It's not ordinarily used to describe people, but it sums her up so well: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Because she has so much of me, so much of Craig, but so much more that we can't claim or assign responsibility.

She was a perfect baby. I can say that now, because we're so far past that phase that it can't really make anyone want to throw tomatoes at me. She barely cried. She was so, so, so adorable. Made her milestones just a little early, which is such a relief for new parents. Nursed like a champ, made the move to solid foods with gusto, smiled a lot, slept well.

Her transition from baby girl to big sister came at an early age, but she handled it beautifully, with grace. Like being a big sister was her true calling. And she's been the best big sister I've ever seen, with a little brother who loves her deeply and truly. Their sense of family and belongingness is heartwarming and assures me that they'll be okay once Craig and I are gone.

When she started preschool, her teachers were astonished that she'd never been in any type of day care or preschool before. Only Sunday school. She fit in with ease, adjusting to the routines and the various children and making friends. She soon wrote her letters, then her name, and learned her phone number and address and all kinds of other great things.

The transition to public school from private preschool could have been horrible, but again, she managed change easily, taking the new demographic group in stride. She made friends, charmed teachers, and aced the academics. When we moved to our new house, the folks at her old school were devastated to see her (and her brother) leave.

And she wrapped the new school around her little finger, too. And the neighborhood. And the church. It would only be a slight exaggeration to say that flowers bloom in her wake.

The best part is that I'm the one who still tucks her in at night. I'm the last person to kiss her before she goes to sleep. I'm the one she confides in. I'm the one who can look at her beautiful face, her strong body, and say, "I made that."

Happy birthday, you beautiful, wonderful girl. It's been a great decade. Let's make the next one even better.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Not joking

Every once in a while, I feel "called" to do something different with my life. Lately I've been feeling a tug. Not a big, thunderclap-dramatic tug, but a little one. And it's becoming more and more insistent.

Some historic perspective: in high school, I felt called to the ministry. Really, I did, to the point that I was looking at seminaries. Until the second half of my senior year, I wanted to be a missionary. Years later, I heard that call a few other times. But these days, I'm pretty certain that I wouldn't be a good minister. Well, maybe I would. That doesn't matter; I don't want that job. I love being active in my church, and I've had the experience of going from church member to church employee, and it was not easy and it didn't end well. So no more of that.

This weekend I heard a call again. And this one, like the call to the ministry, has been brewing for a few years.

As I mentioned last week, my husband's aunt died last week; Friday was her funeral. And you know those funerals? The ones where the minister obviously didn't know the deceased and it feels very much like his words are from a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet? And maybe he got a couple of the names mixed up in the blanks? And it doesn't feel right, or that the person's individuality was even remotely honored by the words? Unfortunately, this was one of those funerals. The only part that "felt" right was when her sons and her husband spoke. They remained composed and spoke from the heart, sharing a few stories, a few memories, and a true glimpse of this person we had gathered to remember.

After the service, my brother-in-law and I were chasing children through the cemetary while the rest of the family gathered for the graveside portion of the service. (He is married to my husband's sister, so he and I were the natural choices to chase kids.) We were talking about how services like this felt so cold and impersonal and dreary, and that it's a shame that there aren't better options out there. We even talked about what those options could be, what they'd look like, feel like.

This is where that calling got loud. Because seriously, this has been simmering for years. I've thought for quite a while that it would be a really interesting job, running a funeral home. Yes, really. Not so much the mortuary part, but the dealing with grieving families, planning memorial services, all that part. And maybe there's a new market opening up, of unchurched people who don't want the canned music and fill-in-the-blanks services. Hipster funerals. That could be my great contribution to the world.

So how do I proceed? I'm going to do some research. How much of an investment is a funeral home? What kind of hours, what kind of commitment, what kind of lifestyle would I be embracing were I to answer this call? Is this something I really want to do? Or did I just like the show Six Feet Under a little too much? Is there a market for the services I'm wanting to offer? Or do the Fords have the funeral industry in Memphis so locked up that I'd go broke in a year?

Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


I've been a bit busier than usual the past few days. We had a two-day training class at work. Can I bore you a bit? We're implementing a new software package that will have a huge, positive impact on our daily operations in my department. To say more would give more information about my work than I think I should divulge here, but I really like the software and I enjoy learning how to use it.

See? That, there? Proof that I'm a complete, incurable GEEK!

Okay, next topic.

We're hitting the road today for Des Moines, as Craig's aunt died. It will be a short trip; we return on Saturday. So I expect to have little to no computer time.

And that's all. I have nothing else to tell you.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Best birthday gift ever

Late, but true:

Monday, June 04, 2007

New kids on the block

With as little fanfare as possible, I am delighted to announce that there are some new bloggers in the world. And I made them.

Update your bookmarks, and please comment. Because the writers? Are impossibly cute. I may have to run back upstairs and snurfle their bellies one more time before they go to sleep.

What I don't like about summer

This year marks a drastic break in tradition. Because Susie's birthday, the 11th, has almost always been cooler than normal, ever since she was born. The weekend of her first birthday brought record lows. Two, three, and four were all lovely days. Her fifth birthday was one of the prettiest days I've ever seen, and we were lucky to be spending it outside, as we had an outdoor birthday party. Six was a rainy day. Seven was nice, eight was another quite cool day, and nine was unremarkable but not hot.

Looks like ten might be the hottest yet. The ten-day forecast has those high temperatures going on and on and on and on.

I'm so glad we live in our house, with its modern central air conditioning (our old house just had window units) and energy-efficiency. I'm so glad to have a job inside, with air conditioning.

But please remind me to be grateful when I'm walking home from work at the hottest time of the day. Please remind me to be grateful when I'm watering the yard because we're about 11 inches behind our average rainfall for the year. Please remind me to be grateful when I open my light, gas, and water bill.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Apropos of nothing

I've noticed something strange for the last couple of months. Nothing earth-shattering. Nothing worthy of calling the doctor. But strange, nonetheless.

For those of you who've been pregnant, remember how, during pregnancy your nails and hair grew faster than normal? And your hair just changed? I remember it clearly. My hair had been mostly straight, a little wavy, before pregnancy. It got curlier and curlier during my pregnancy, then mellowed a bit.

In 2004, when I underwent radioactive iodine treatment for my thyroid gland, my hair changed again. I don't know if it was the radiation or the very-high-dose-for-many-months prednisone course, but my hair got curly. And it stayed curly through 2005, but then I cut it off. It's longer again, just covering my ears, and if I don't wrestle with blow drier and then straightening iron, it's not wavy; it's curly. This week I decided to quit fighting with it and play up the curls. But I'm still completely baffled by this development.

Someone I know at work is a chemist. When we talked about this odd situation, he told me that it definitely was not caused by the radiation. Instead, he theorizes, the course of steroids activated a dormant gene. That's the only explanation for my hair remaining curly for more than two years after the steroids should have cleared my system. And he talked to another chemist and they both think that's the explanation. Since I have no idea of the chemistry of hair curling (but they do), I've decided to believe them.

But it's not just hair that's different. My nails are growing so fast these days that I have to cut them weekly (in my line of work, long nails are not okay). My nails used to break off and grow very, very slowly. And, TMI alert, I've also gone up almost three bra sizes but haven't gained weight. It's a lot like being pregnant without morning sickness or a baby at the end. So I'm not complaining, just baffled.

So? Perimenopause? I've got a few "official" symptoms of that, and I fit the age group. Anyone else experienced (experiencing) this?

Friday, June 01, 2007

She forgot again

I have a co-worker whom I just adore.

On the corporate "food chain" she's very much lower than I am, but as a human being, she's got me beat. She's a single mom of three big kids (one in college, one about to be in college, and one in high school). She had four children, but one died in infancy in a house fire. So it's reasonable to say she's not had an easy life. She has a low-paying job at which she excels, very promising leadership qualities (she's been offered a promotion and turned it down because of the hours), and a beautiful smile and friendly nature that has earned her more than two official corporate recognition awards. Her confidence and obvious affection for people (all people) shines through all she does.

We already know that I'm by far and away a racial minority at my job, right? And that has become less and less noticed as the years have come and gone.

So yes, my co-worker is black.

But what's awesome is that she often forgets that I'm not. The two of us often discuss issues within our department and I've had to remind her, more than once, that I'm white. Each time this happens, she cracks up and tells me that she forgot.

She did it again recently. We were chatting about our kids and I mentioned that my kids were going swimming. She asked if I'd bought them swim caps, and I told her I hadn't. She looked a bit taken aback, and asked if I was worried that the kids' hair would fall out. Then she remembered: my kids are white, and they have "white" (she used the term "good") hair. We discussed the differences in our hair types for a minute (hers is very fragile and breaks just from being combed; mine is thick and lately very curly) and that was that.

There's a controversy (a tempest in a teakettle, if you ask me) in the Unitarian Universalist blogging community right now (click here for a good summary of what's going on). The issue is that at Starr King (one of two UU seminaries in the country), there was a decision to stop using the phrase "brown bag lunch" because it could be construed as racially oppressive.

I think the other bloggers have flogged this one sufficiently. I have little to add, and even less that hasn't already been said very articulately.

But really? If the worst, most oppressive thing going on at Starr King is the use of a potentially-but-not-really racist term, it must be serious Pollyannaland over there. Which is pretty awesome.

Because in the real world, or at least my real world of downtown Memphis, I see real oppression and racism that would probably make these folks' heads spin. And I've learned that censoring my language does nothing to fix things. It's actions. It's attitudes. And sometimes, yes, it's not about using "politically correct" language. Because life is often not politically correct. (And please don't think that I'm somehow condoning the use of the N word or anything like that. But I also don't use the phrase "African-American" very often, because the people I know who fit into that category don't use it.)

So instead of banning phrases that really don't mean anything bad (The paper bag is brown. People sometimes carry lunches from home in such bags. That's all. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Oops, maybe that would be offensive to Cubans. Sorry, Cubans.), maybe these well-intentioned seminarians could do something. Like this one seems to have already done.

Because getting to a point, on an interpersonal level, where color is honestly forgotten, if only for moments, is my aim. I want to forget that I'm white. I want to forget that most of my co-workers are black. Because it really doesn't matter anyway.