Friday, August 31, 2007

Goodbye, internet!

Wow, dramatic much?

No, I'm not ending my blogging career (heh), but we're leaving tonight for an undisclosed location that does not have internet. But it does have an above-ground pool. Seriously. The reviews of this place (we were looking for the amenity list) say that owners Dick and Dottie (really!) are so very sweet, and the place is very clean. Which makes us think there's no internet there. Because I'm guessing Dick and Dottie haven't heard of it.

So, to keep score:

Pros: Clean. Sweet owners.

Cons: Above ground pool. No reason to think there's a workout room or internet.

I hope I packed enough wine.

PS: I will be reading my MamaPopTalk book club book while I'm there. If you want to join us, you've got until September 15 to acquire and read the book. It's fun.

Back sometime Monday unless we get abducted by hillbillies. Which is possible. Seriously.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sometimes it's sad

While I never name the Corporation where I work in my blog, my blog title references the fact that I am a working mom. The place I work involves children with cancer, and sometimes my job, even though it does not involve patient or family contact, makes me sad.

A couple of days ago, I had a harder day than usual. I inadvertently stepped into a conversation that was the second-worst situation one can hear around here. A mother had gotten terrible news: the doctors predicted that her child had three months to live. Nothing would help her.

Later that day, in the cafeteria, a girl of around eight or nine was crying. Not the kind of crying my children do (the silent, tearful kind). Not the manipulative crying you hear from children in the grocery store. The kind of crying when a child is truly, truly in pain. Her mother was looking for a nurse, telling anyone who would listen that it was her daughter's first day of chemotherapy, and that her head was hurting. While the mother found the phone and called for assistance, one of the cashiers took it upon herself to comfort the girl, holding her in her arms. Seeing that, the moment of tenderness from an employee who could easily have looked the other way, saying, "That's not in my job description," is what makes me proud to be here.

Being in the South and being Unitarian Universalist makes for an interesting tension in one's life. References to old-school Christianity abound in my daily life. The crying mother? Asked us all to pray for her child, and told us her name and the child's name. The cashier in the cafeteria? Told the mom to give it up to God. That's the mainstream way of thinking in my part of the world. And, even though that's truly, truly not how I believe, I'm not going to argue. I'm not going to find fault with people who simply need the comfort that comes with the belief in God and heaven.

Because life can be very scary. Seeing children with cancer, seeing families watching their children suffer, is hard. And it's easy to despair, to shake one's fist at the heavens, asking, even demanding, "Why?" "What is the reason or the justice or the mercy in allowing this to happen?"

Which, in a ridiculously simplified summary, is why I mostly choose not to partake in that belief. In my adult life, I've not found a way to wrap my head around any notion of God. The world seems too full of random misery and random joy. Without pattern. Without justice. Some suffer, some feast. And that gross injustice of the universe, pediatric cancer, is my "proof" that it's chaos which reigns, and nothing more.

That being said, I would never deny others their beliefs. While Marx scoffed that religion was the opiate of the masses, I choose to tolerate the faith that keeps some people afloat. I don't bristle when someone asks me to pray for their loved one. In fact, most of the time I do pray. (To whom? Eh, whomever might be listening, I suppose. That's the prerogative of an agnostic...I'm not at all willing to say there isn't someone listening. But I'd be hard put to tell you whom or what.) And I've even been known to tell someone to give it up to God, without irony. Because it's easier to speak to someone in language they understand, especially in the hard times.

My day was happier yesterday. I saw children who were healing, who were healed. I heard the name of my small friend who is a patient here, being summoned to a clinic for his weekly treatment. I saw his face in my mind, his happy smile that contains all the mischief you expect from a boy his age. I saw his thick hair, never lost to his treatment. Some might say that he has guardian angels looking out for him. Some might say he's lucky. Some might say that faith and prayer have saved him. I say, "Thank goodness for good medicine." The only place that I'm willing to (begrudgingly, perhaps) give credit to "someone" is in imbuing scientists and doctors and caregivers with great talent. I just hope that the little girls find some good medicine too, and quick.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Just to let you know

I'm around, but not really on the internet this week. Still working on that post from last'll probably take another week to be finished.

Really, nothing to report except my poor little dog Gravy had a very difficult time, um, "going" today, and let's just say that the reason required a bath. So he's now very clean and lovely, but I'm definitely going to have nightmares tonight.

Monday, August 27, 2007


The girl and I had a little punk-rock mother-daughter bonding. (Yes, we're mother and daughter, but no, it would be a big fat lie to say that we're at all punk rock.) (But we fake it sometimes.)

Photographic evidence that I'm a "cool mom."

Sunday, August 26, 2007

One of those days

Yesterday was a day that just worked. I had a list of things that needed to be done and they all got done. None of the items daunted me, to be fair, but it's still a good feeling to look at that list and see everything checked off.

Before noon, I had gone to the gym and burned 350 calories, traveling 3.5 miles without actually going anywhere, interviewed a new client, loaded six bags of old clothes into the van to drop off at Goodwill, and done a few loads of laundry, and the children had cleaned their rooms and the playroom. By five, the family had gone to midtown to purchase a gift, sell some books at Burke's ($30 store credit! Sweet!), picked up the Sunday School curriculum I would need to teach Sunday School the following day, purchased a few groceries for the evening's dinner with friends, bought the WD-40 I'd been meaning to buy for, um, six months, and picked up my prescription, all without whining or gnashing of teeth.

And by six, all our hinges were silent, once Susie noticed what I was doing (I only sprayed the front and side doors, which were quite noisy, but she grabbed the bull by the horns and de-squeaked every other door hinge in the house), the salad was made, bread sliced, and friends had arrived with food (he's a former chef), a board game for the adults, and their son to entertain the children.

Yes, it's nice when it all works. When the house is clean and the laundry's done and the food is good and the company is just as good, with laughter and conversation and nothing to worry about.

Today stretches ahead of me, with another list of tasks to accomplish. While the agenda doesn't include another game night with friends, I can still aim to make this another one of those days, a day in which things get done with grace and laughter. The upcoming week looms, and I want to make the weekend count.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The sensitive type

I've been clocking an uncharacteristic amount of overtime lately at work. We're short on staff right now and everyone is sharing the load, with as little grumbling as possible. Since I'm on the clock (which was a shock to my ego at first, but less so as I learned the Corporation's culture...lots of people higher on the ladder than I are also on the clock), my paychecks have increased over the past few weeks, and since I'm a true Taurus, that's enough incentive for me to grumble very little about this state of affairs.

My children, however, especially the female one who is looking puberty right in the eye, know nothing of paychecks and time-and-a-half and the cost of furniture and electricity and house payments. They are not pleased with this state of affairs. Not one little bit.

Add to two twelve-hour days (which see me return home at their bedtime) an evening meeting at church, and you've got a grouchy daughter.

Susie has always been physically affectionate, almost too much. When she was a toddler, she fell asleep in her bed with me next to her, she clutching my arm, teddy-bear style. If I tried to remove my arm from her grasp, she would say, "I want yours arm." Insistently. And I gave it back. She's a very tactile child, and still loves nothing more than rubbing the top of my arm with the back of her hand. Her pleasure is doubled if my skin is cool. Over the years, I've tried, unsuccessfully, to cure her of this habit that sometimes seems like a compulsion. We've tried silky blankets, stuffed animals, even real animals. But my arm (and her father's arm, and her brother's arm) is the most attractive thing in the world to her. When she rubs, she often sucks her tongue, which tells me that she's returning to an infant-like state of mind when she does this. (She rubbed my arm when she nursed as a baby.)

The thing with me working so much is that she's not getting the amount and type of love she needs from me. She needs at least twenty minutes a day of close physical contact. And for the past few weeks, she hasn't gotten this, at least not on a daily basis, from me.

On Wednesday morning, as I was leaving for work (I leave about half an hour before they leave for school), I reminded the kids that I was working late and would see them at bedtime. I also mentioned that I had a meeting on Thursday. The poor girl crumpled. I quickly tried to save the moment by telling her that I would be all hers on Friday evening, but that was too far away for it to be any consolation.

Much as the arm rubbing irritates me, I know that it soothes her. I know that she's riding increasingly choppy waves, physically, mentally, socially. And if a little bit of cool skin caressed by the back of her hand feels like a life raft, I need to let her have that.

And hopefully, even though I like the extra money, this stretch of overtime is finite.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Watch this space

I'm working on another post. I'm not done and I'm not ready to publish it, but it's coming. So don't feel neglected... Start a conversation in the comments and I'll probably have a really deep, thinky post for you tomorrow. Or Saturday. Or Sunday. I'm not sure where, or how deep, it's going.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Slumber party update

First of all, I apologize for the cliffhanger. I really didn't mean to leave people in the dark about the Friday night party.

The party went very, very well. Honestly, it went much better than I expected. Does that mean there was no drama? Um, nope. But it was manageable drama, and it resulted from a bad allergy attack, not conflict.

Without saying too much, the friend we were most concerned about, M_, has a few issues that she comes by pretty honestly. One of those issues is a pretty intense reaction when someone else seems ill (really, it seems to me, any symptom of illness is enough to make her upset or frightened). The apparent cause of this is not my story to tell. But I get it.

So, the party is going along great. Craig made a cake in honor of the occasion.

I picked up pizza and made lemonade. They had their plates of pizza ready in time to count down the final thirty seconds before the international premier of High School Musical 2.

They all loved the movie and sang along with the songs (don't ask me how they already knew the songs when it was the premier of the movie...I guess they're smart like that), then they went upstairs and played the High School Musical 2 board game that Craig bought.

And then one of the girls had an allergy attack, with stuffy nose and a bit of dizziness. Turns out she was sitting in the chair that my little dog uses for naps, and since she doesn't have pets, she didn't know that she just might be allergic. 800 boxes of tissues, a few tears, and a dose of Benadryl later, she was fine (and the first to fall asleep). But sensitive M_ got very worried and got weepy and scared. So at one point, Craig and I were tag-teaming, me comforting the allergy girl (who very emphatically did not want me to take her home, but was crying a bit and not feeling well) and he reassuring M_.

But really, that was just ten or fifteen minutes out of a slumber party that started right after school and ended, for some of the kids, twenty-four hours later.

So I guess we can't swear off slumber parties quite yet.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Posting something

Sorry for the blackout yesterday. I was working a 12-hour day, and I worked just about every second of it. Paycheck says "hooray" but blog feels neglected.

I also made a tactical error and ate something for lunch that has me feeling quite horrible right now. So horrible, in fact, that instead of a real post, I'm giving you something to look at.

My kids, on the first day of school.

Nice looking pair, right?

Sunday, August 19, 2007


From Craig's marvelous surfing. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Continuing Saga


Susie made her phone calls to invite friends yesterday, after I got home from work. I overheard her talking to the difficult friend, M_, and it sounded like a good, productive conversation.

After Craig got home from a meeting, the three of us talked about it, and she (distractedly - she was watching TV) told us what had happened.

M_, I know this might hurt your feelings, but I have to say this. You know how you seem to have problems when you come to sleepovers? I want you to know that G_ is probably coming, and I know you and she argue a lot. If you can't handle it, maybe you should just come for the party and not the sleepover.

I can handle it.

Okay then.

Obviously paraphrased.

The whole thing fascinates me, because while we did throw around a few ideas for how to handle this the night before, we never reached agreement as to the best way to proceed. And when we had that conversation, Susie told me that (a) she didn't think that was a conversation to have on the phone, and (b) she wanted me, and maybe M_'s mother, to be there.

Something changed overnight apparently, because she figured out how she was going to say it (I suspect she had written out some bullet points) and that it was going to be on the phone.

I'll update again, after the party, to let you know how it all works out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Email conversation with my daughter

Names have been changed to protect the innocent (or guilty...)

We're hosting a party on Friday in honor of the debut of "High School Musical 2." (If you don't have tweens in the house, you just won't understand.) Alex's friends aren't interested, and aren't coming. Fortunately he gets along well with Susie's friends, so we'll all be entertained.

So here's what went down in email between Susie and me yesterday afternoon:

Can you make sure to invite whoever you are going to invite to the party on Friday? People need to be invited TODAY. Please do this now, or it won't be much of a party.

Thanks, sweetie.

I love you.

ummm, i think I want to invite J_, is that ok? i dont want m_ to sleep over though ok? i am inviting these people if its ok

Okay, how are you going to manage having some people sleep over and not others? That could cause hurt feelings. Maybe we should just have a party, not a sleepover? What do you think?

:-( :-( :-( I just know m_ would do exactly what she did last time, keep everyone awake! And g_ and her always get in fights. mom i am serious i am going to cry if i cant have a sleepover. :-( :'-(

I understand. I just want you to figure out a way to do it and not have M_ feel left out.
can i have just 2 or 3 people sleep over like not for the party, if so they will be
maybe j_

Like I said, figure out how other people's feelings won't be hurt.

mom, it would be just to sleep over not 4 the party!!!!!!!!!!!!

I understand.
But if you went to a party and some of the kids were going to sleep over and some weren't, how would you feel if you were one of the kids who didn't get invited to spend the night?
ugh u dont understand, if u want me to be grumpy that morning then i will let m_ sleepover but i like being happy and i like sleep

The gist of this is: if you only have boys and that makes you sad and you think you want girls, read this post again and again. The drama. Ugh.

But, seriously, Susie's right. This girl, M_, has a history of being, erm, difficult, especially at slumber parties. She doesn't do well in groups of girls: she's a possessive friend who hates sharing Susie's attention. She and G_ are an especially volatile combination.

It gets sticky, though, because I really like M_'s mom (and the rest of the family, actually). (And I'm confident that they don't read my blog.)

So, do I talk to the mom about this? Do I trust Susie to talk to M_ about it? Do I let her spend the night and then bust it up if she causes problems? HALP!

A prize fit for a King

I've got the perfect prize. A pound of my friend Julie's only-offered-two-times-a-year-locally-roasted-coffee, aptly named "Elvis's Last Jelly Donut". I've had this coffee several times (but only in August and January, the two "Holy Months" of Elvis) and it really smells like a jelly donut. And it's delicious.

So I have to come up with a contest. And I suppose, since it's Elvis week and I'm in Memphis and the prize is all about Elvis, that the contest, too, should involve Elvis.

Thinking cap, thinking cap...there it is!

Okay, my two favorite Elvis songs have been featured in movies in the last ten years. One of them was also in an early Elvis movie. The other was not featured in any of Elvis's movies. The non-soundtrack song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame within the last ten years.

The first person to name the two songs will receive a pound of "Elvis's Last Jelly Donut" coffee. If you correctly name the three movies, I'll throw in a tacky Graceland souvenir. Or two. Or three.

The King is dead, y'all. Please, let's observe a moment of silence.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Getting things done

In a recent post I linked to a site that could, quite possibly, create the greatest timesuck ever in my life.

My name is Kaleigh, and I'm addicted to making lists.

The odd bit of double-helix that causes my daughter to obsess about office supplies almost certainly comes from me, as I can spend hours (hours!) poring over planner refills. I have about five calendars that serve different purposes, as well as color-coded files.

At work, my love of organization serves me well, and intimidates the hell out of student interns. They see how I organize the financial files and tremble. Occasionally I'll catch a gleam in a student's eye and sense that I'm with a kindred spirit. A person who separates the big paper clips from the small ones. A person who prefers a specific type of pen (me? I like gel pens best, medium point, black ink).

But the lists are my favorite.

They serve a practical function most of the time. When I'm really slammed at work, I've found that I'm 100% more effective if I stop for a few minutes, list the tasks that must be accomplished and their deadlines, and write a prioritized list. Sometimes the list is just for the day, and sometimes it's a week or more. And since I write down every single thing that needs to be done (even the stuff that doesn't bear mentioning, the daily routine things), the list is long. But including items that I'm going to do, period, gives me the opportunity to cross something off the list, which provides reinforcement, giving me a sense of accomplishment.

When we were about to put our old house on the market, I was taking a large dose of prednisone that kept me awake most of the night. Since I was also very fidgety, reading didn't help much, and I didn't allow myself to watch television all night. Instead, I made lists. Lists of things we needed to do to get the house ready to sell. Lists of things to pack. Lists of things for the new house. Lists of all the things I hated about prednisone. And, in my sleepless state, I was able to cross things off those lists.

I won't even describe some of the spreadsheets I made on excel at that time. It's scary.

But with various projects going on at the house, I found myself needing a way to wrap my head around it. And started making a list. The beauty of making that list on the computer, however, is that tasks can be moved around, reprioritized, refined, without getting a new sheet of paper.

This week's list is pretty easy. I think I'll get something checked off after work today. Because I can.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Read this

I can't say it better or add anything of note. Just read this.

I'm proud to say I've had a (brief, admittedly) conversation with the fantastic woman who wrote it. Are you still here? GO!

Day One

I took pictures but haven't uploaded them yet; it's the first day of school for Susie and Alex.

My observations:

  • We had to park three blocks away.
  • The school was a madhouse.
  • Alex got really stressed as we approached the school (probably because of the madhouse...he doesn't like chaos).
  • The boy who was socially challenging is NOT in Alex's class this year (hooray!).
  • Alex's teacher seems very sweet and kind and seemed to genuinely be glad that Alex is in her class (she should be...he's at his best at school).
  • Susie's past teachers barely let her through the halls. Lots of hugs and "I want you in my room again."
  • One of Susie's best friends grew about 6 inches taller, and developed breasts, over the summer.
  • Susie was absolutely comfortable sitting at a desk grouping of mostly boys.
  • Her teacher seemed very no-nonsense.
  • Third grade supplies are heavier than fifth grade supplies.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Six Flags

Not a real post, but such a great picture (courtesy of my parents) that I had to share. We're in the back row, all the way to the left. Having a blast. Amusement parks are so much more fun when the kids are big enough to ride the rides.
When the ride flipped over (which it did, numerous times), we saw nothing but blue sky. Well, everyone else except me. Because I kept looking at my kids, wanting to make sure (a) they were having fun and (b) they were still in the ride. Fortunately both conditions were met.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Living in the projects

I don't know if the heat has gotten to my brain or if it's just a typical cyclical thing that I do, but I've gotten really sick of my house.

Don't get me wrong: I love the house. I love everything about the house. It's my "small-d" dream house, the attainable dream house, and it has lived up to or exceeded expectations in every way. When we decided to build this house, I imagined a lifestyle change. I imagined our family becoming even more tightly-knit, with happy memories being built every day.

And honestly, the dreams have come true.

But on a practical level, I've come to the cold, hard realization that even a dream house has its problems.

In our old house, a 1930's Craftsman bungalow, the constant problem was how to arrange the furniture. With radiator heat and the open floor plan characteristic of that style of house, our options were severely limited. And it was frustrating, all the time, but we came up with some arrangements that worked in the living room (I move furniture a couple times a year because I get bored easily). The bungalow had fewer rooms than our new house, but the individual rooms were bigger. When we moved, we gained 250 square feet, but we went from 3 bedrooms, 1 bath to 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, with real closets in every room. And a laundry room. We lost the basement and a little room off the kitchen, a mere 5' x 10' alcove that housed our old computer desk and my sewing cabinet, as well as "my" books in a built-in bookcase, and a hinged built-in bench housed miscellaneous items, mainly sewing/craft type things that were hard to store.

I feel the loss of that little room more than I could have imagined. So keenly, in fact, that I want to knock out some drywall under the staircase and build in a computer alcove off the kitchen. But that project can wait. Our house has other problems that bother me more.

The primary problem is that the pieces of furniture that my father made (with his hands!) for the old house really don't fit in the new one. Or at least not in the living room. They are crafted of beautiful, red oak, Mission-style, and they looked perfect in a Craftsman bungalow with earth-toned plaster walls and aged oak floors. But in a contemporary, "New Urbanist" house with unstained maple floors and brightly painted walls, they don't quite fit. Our recent purchase of a mid-century Eames coffee table accentuates that feeling of "something doesn't work." The corner entertainment center that he custom-built to fit a particular corner in the old house looks out-of-place on a straight wall, as well as consuming more space than is necessary.

Inspiration struck recently, as I was bemoaning the mis-matched furniture in the upstairs bedroom that serves as kids' media room and occasional guest bedroom. The bookshelf that houses Craig's library of film books is falling apart, dangerously leaning askew. Over 16 years old (and purchased for about $30), it's served us well. But it needs to go. The entertainment center we bought to fit that corner at the old house, but it really didn't fit, the computer desk that my friend James didn't want and that we needed at the time, my sewing cabinet that goes with nothing, as well as a second-hand couch and an ancient futon and a multi-purpose game table and a CD/DVD tower all clutter the room, making it look more like a dumping ground for old furniture than a room in our dream house. Stacks of unshelved books and Rubbermaid bins of fabric round out the tag-sale atmosphere.

I realized that I could fix both my problems at once. If I moved the lovely oak furniture upstairs and got rid of the mismatched mess, I could make a room that made sense, a guest room that would be welcoming and gracious. All I needed to do was find an entertainment center and some bookshelves for the living room.

Enter my parents, who live near an IKEA store and are coming to visit in October. Until the new furniture arrives (and is assembled), I'll live with things as they are. I can prepare for rearranging the space, but I can't do it yet. I can plan how I'll hang family pictures in the guest room (thanks, Dooce, for the inspiration!) and I can draw out furniture arrangements on our floor plans. I can select blinds, touch up the paint and make new covers for throw pillows. But until I actually get the furniture into the space, get the books into the shelves, hang the blinds, and get the old things out of the house, I'll remain a bit of a malcontent. In fact, by preparing for the furniture shift, I'll probably make things worse for a while, boxing items up, removing art from the walls, and making a general nuisance of myself.

On top of the furniture swap between those rooms, I've found that my new bedroom doesn't hold quite as much furniture as my old one did. Again, this is a result of the smaller room sizes in the new house. I inherited my grandparents' bedroom suite when my grandmother moved in with my parents in 2002, and I love that furniture almost unnaturally. But a bed, two dressers (one that is not part of the set), a vanity table and bench, a cedar chest, and a small bookshelf (also not part of the set) crowd the room.

Dad comes to the rescue again, with plans to build a headboard with built-in cubbyholes to hold books, Craig's CPAP machine, a small stereo, and other bedside necessities, as well as built-in reading lights. This will eliminate the need for the small bookcase, and careful organization can also empty the dresser that's not part of the family bedroom suite.

Again, this is a project for which I can prepare in advance, but, just like the other furniture project, most of it can't happen until my parents visit in October.

So, until then, I keep adding tasks to my list.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Taking its toll

I wrote a new post that wound up being so food-centric that I posted it on my other blog. If you feel like reading about how sometimes even those of us who love cooking get out of the habit, come visit!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Exposing the generation gap

I have a feeling that if you're older than I am, you won't get why this is awesome. But it is. And it serves as sufficient explanation as to why I love skateboarders even at the ripe old age of 36.

Books, books, books

I used to read all the time. In the back seat of my parents' car, even driving through mountain ranges. In the bathtub. In bed. On a towel, sunbathing. Didn't really matter when. I loved reading.

As a newlywed, with a husband who frequently worked until close to midnight, I continued my love affair with books. I would get stuck on an author and read everything he or she wrote, and then feel a little let down when I realized that there were no more books. I'd find another author and the cycle would begin again.

There was a slight change, however, in my reading habits in 1996. That was the year we decided it was time to have a baby. Suddenly the novels were replaced by books about pregnancy, about infancy, about raising children. Looking back at my life eleven years ago, I quickly see that I was a one-trick pony. I ate, slept, breathed, and read nothing but procreation. Friends and family, I apologize. It must have been so tiresome!

After the baby was born, I continued to read nothing but books from the "Parenting" section, occasionally peppered with books about children's spiritual and moral development (I did, after all, work at a church). It just got worse during my second pregnancy, the culmination of which was intended to be my triumphant VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean). The pregnancy and birth books were more strident, with a strong and deep message of feminism. The birth didn't work out the way I'd planned and hoped, but those books still helped me. I knew I had done all I could to control the outcome (which, in all honesty, is very little). I had not failed.

Balancing two children under two, however, meant that I needed to give something up. I don't remember it being a conscious choice, but I stopped reading. Mostly. With a few notable exceptions, like when I read three "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" novels in a day (the kids were sick and sleeping). When the Harry Potter bug finally bit, I was hooked, but would binge on those books, reading them ferociously until I was finished, then going weeks or months before picking up another book.

I joined Goodreads last week, and it's been interesting to think about those books. To consider my "leave of absence" from the reading community, as well as my underwhelming return. To look at my purchasing history and seeing very clearly what, and when, I was reading. It's a bit of a map of my intellectual life in the past few years. And it's definitely got a slant: most of the books are about food, cooking, chefs, or all of the above.

This summer, I've re-entered the world of novels. Fueled by my excitement over the final Harry Potter book's release, I've picked up a few other books (mostly to bide my time as I awaited HP, but then also to fill up time since I finished HP faster than I expected to), none of which are about food. Okay, the first is not a novel, and it's somewhat about food. But it's not about cooking, and it is more of a memoir than a foodie book. One was a book club pick, a book I never would have read on my own. Another was picked up at a book warehouse outlet store; I soldiered through it but it had rewarding moments. I just started this one, which I think is going to be lots of fun, a good summer read. My mom also sent a book by an author I like in the kids' suitcase. And the online book club is trying to decide what to read next.

Which means I've got August covered. I'm looking forward to what I find in September. So, be my friend on Goodreads. And tell me what you read this summer.

Monday, August 06, 2007

She's got my DNA, after all

My daughter loves visiting office supply stores. If you need to buy her a present, a gift card to Office Depot or Office Max would please her to no end. She loves office supplies.

That love is dear and honest and raw, and this weekend is the weekend she looks forward to all year.

School starts on August 12, and this weekend was a sales-tax-free weekend in Tennessee, with school supplies, computers, and clothing being exempt from sales tax. (In Memphis, that's a considerable savings, with our sales tax rate among the highest in the nation at 9.25%.)

Since the kids don't care a whit about selecting their own school uniforms (there are a few options), I got the basic, unisex white polo shirts, while they were at a birthday party on Saturday. And I stocked up on bleach. Whoever devised the school uniform policy obviously never had children or owned stock in Clorox: white shirts? Genius.

I knew better, however, to even look in the direction of the school supplies. Because Susie would have known that I saw pencils. She can sense it. And school supply shopping is her domain.

After being too busy Saturday to commit the time and energy into a proper trip to the office supply store, we decided to go, just the two of us, while the males of the house played racquetball at the gym (which is an adventure worthy of its own post). We dropped the boys at the gym and went to the shopping megalopolis that is the corner of Germantown and Stage.

Susie had requested a particular store (seriously), and we found a great parking space. The store was not terribly crowded, and we found all the items on her list in just a few minutes. As we checked the list over again, she looked crushed. I looked at her and asked what was wrong.

"It didn't take long enough," she complained. "I'm not ready to be done." She looked forlorn.

I wasn't quite sure what to say. Fortunately, I didn't need to.

"Can we just walk around and look at stuff for a few minutes?" she pleaded.

And we did. We wandered the aisles, glancing through the clearance area (um, anyone need a 2007 calendar? They're really cheap....), testing desk chairs, looking at the cute (expensive) notebooks with puppies and kitties and horses. I might have even bought her one, just because she asked so nicely. After we'd looped the store twice, I looked at her. She still didn't look very happy, but she conceded that it was time to leave. I promised a return trip soon (we really are in the market for a new desk chair, and the nearest IKEA is nowhere close).

I wonder if this love of office supplies is telling or predictive in any way. I joke that she'll grow up to own a chain of office supply stores. Or she'll be a teacher. But honestly, I get it. I like that stuff, too. And in August, with the promise of a new year, new teachers, new friends, having those nice clean tablets and pencils and folders is a bit of a thrill.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Last night, as my family sat on the lawn of the Pink Palace museum, watching Napoleon Dynamite on a really cool screen with awesome sound, surrounded by other Memphians who wanted to enjoy a nice evening's free entertainment, it came to me.

If you haven't seen the movie, you still may know the scene. Near the end of the movie, Napoleon's big dance (which, by the way, I have every intention of learning so I can join in every time the movie is on). Remember (if you've seen it) how the audience of high schoolers is silent for a moment, then erupts into thunderous applause? Applauding this sort of bizarre but also triumphant moment of total spazziness from this really awkward but dear adolescent boy?

That's how BlogHer felt.

As I've gotten sucked into the whole blogging thing, I've occasionally read posts that really resonated with me. Posts from all kinds of women with all kinds of writing talent, sharing tales of woe (of varying degrees) during high school. Of feeling excluded. Of being marginalized. Of watching, wistfully or sneeringly, those seemingly-well-adjusted popular kids who made being a teenager look easy.

And as we who were registered for BlogHer got more and more excited (and anxious) about the big event, more confessions of social anxiety, shyness, fear of not being accepted were sent out into the blogosphere. I read them and felt relief.

Each of those posts felt like Napoleon's dance. Put out there with a courageous spirit, beyond caring what anyone thought, just doing it for himself and the good of Pedro.

And the crowd went wild.


Maybe because that willingness to be a dork, to be a spaz, resonates with most people. Maybe most people felt the same way in high school: uncomfortable, misunderstood, awkward. Those who were viewed as popular, like the film's Trisha and Summer, still have moments of self-consciousness. But the lucky ones had friends like Pedro and Deb. Quirky, yes, but true and kind.

Blogging is like Napoleon dancing. I put words onto a screen and hit "publish," not knowing who's going to read those words. I don't know if the audience will applaud. And while the applause is great, it's not why I'm writing. I don't know that I'm writing for any "Pedro" in particular, or if it's more about stretching my proverbial limbs and moving with the music.

And at BlogHer we got to applaud each other, vote for Pedro, and dance together.

I emailed the following to a fellow Memphis blogger, the factual story of my BlogHer experience.

I arrived in Chicago Friday morning, via Amtrak. My brother met me at the station and whisked me onto a bus that took us to Navy Pier, and he walked me to the Grand Ballroom. I was a few minutes late and had missed the breakfast but was registered quickly enough to make it to most of the "Speed Dating for Bloggers" session. About 750 women (and a few men) were in two big circles, talking one-on-one for about a minute, then one of the circles would move. Business cards were exchanged, commonalities were noted, and online friends were recognized. I met Kvetch and Dirt to Dish and A Baby Boomer and a bunch more ladies whose faces have mostly turned into a blur of pretty. To my amazement, local blogger Lizarita was immediately to my right (she immediately recognized me from my pictures...her name tag threw me off as I thought of her as Liz but she was listed as Elizabeth). She's much prettier in real life, by the way.

Liz convinced me to attend a different session than I had intended, and I'm so glad she did. "Naked Bloggers" was not about nudity (well, a little, but not much) so much as about online identity and honesty in blogging.
Heather B. spoke eloquently and well about her blogging activities, some of which almost got her evicted from an apartment. All the sessions were participatory, which gave the participants many opportunities to put faces with online handles (Sarcastic Journalist, MochaMomma, and Sarah and the Goon Squad were some that I was delighted to see).

After the session I had a chance to chat with Sarah, with whom I've corresponded online for months. We checked out the swag in the vendor area (I had brought my backpack, and was soon burdened with about 20-30 lbs. of miscellany, including five t-shirts, a bath set, flavorings for medicine, chocolate, a laptop bag, pens, a manicure kit, and about 8000 business cards) then sat down with a bunch of mamas from
Maya's Mom for lunch. We found two seats at a table and I realized that I was sitting next to GingaJoy (and yes, as promised to my MamaPop ladies, I kissed her)!

After lunch, Sarah and I decided that the beer garden was a more appealing option than the next session. We downed a couple of beers, got to "officially" know each other, got a tourist to take our picture, and hurried back to the Grand Ballroom. Where I met
Izzy. The three of us decided to attend a techie session on building traffic. The presentations are available online and were useful and technical. But not particularly heated or all that interesting for non-techie people.

We took a bathroom break and hightailed it to the next session: "The State of the Momosphere." I wasn't at BlogHer last year, but I've gleaned from other blogs that there was some contention between the "Mommy Bloggers" and the non-mommy bloggers. That wasn't the case this year, but the politics of monetization of blogs certainly caused a heated discussion. Catherine and Lena were fantastic panelists, and I really felt for all the panelists who had to speak after Catherine, who is astonishingly articulate. There were a few discussion threads that I never managed to comment on, like this comment that was in my head for a long time: "Most mommy bloggers are mothers of small kids, generally preschoolers. Perhaps that's a function of these moms being more likely to be home with the kids. Since nobody in my house calls me "Mommy" anymore, does that make me a "Mom-blogger" instead?" It wasn't a particularly deep or interesting comment, and by the time someone brought a microphone to my side of the room, the conversation had moved on. Other bloggers have discussed this session a great deal and I have little to add at this point.

My brother met me at Navy Pier for the cocktail party on the rooftop. Since I was staying at his apartment across town, I didn't have a chance to drop off my swag bags anywhere, but he did help me consolidate them into his backpack so neither of us was carrying 80 tons of stuff. At the party I met
Lena and Mom 101 and Disorderly Conduct. And I learned this: even the highest-ranked, most-visited bloggers? They're all geeky girls, just like me. It was wonderful to be surrounded by brainy, witty women, even if it was just for a day (I only attended the first day of the conference). I can't wait until next year.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Much better thank you

After a bad Tuesday, I had a much better Wednesday, despite working 12 hours. Work was good, even kind of fun at times (I really do like my colleagues so much). We had a thunderstorm appear out of nowhere about an hour before closing time, and three different people offered to drive me home, knowing that I walk to work. Fortunately, the storm was over by the time I left, so I got my walk.

Since Craig and the kids were seeing a movie, I had the house, the tv, and the computer to myself. I made my triumphant return to MamaPopTalk for the open threads on So You Think You Can Dance AND Top Chef. The snark was succulent last night, and just what I needed after a long day.

On tap today: our department's turn to be audited, which is my specialty. I actually like the Corporation's auditors and have a good working relationship with them. And then a trip to the gym, and the outdoor showing of Napoleon Dynamite. Somehow I've got to fit a trip to Costco in there somehow, since my dogs are out of dog food and ate Milk Bones for breakfast (I don't think they minded a bit).

A BlogHer recap is coming, I promise. It's just hard to put it all in words.