Friday, December 10, 2010

Complaint: Homework Truly Blows.

I hate homework.

I hate supervising it, I mean.

I don't mind homework if it's mine. But watching over someone doing it? Murder.

I do not see the point of busywork after a seven and a half hour day (yes, you read that right) full of schoolwork.

Especially not in second grade.

Overseeing it is excruciating. My son wants to PLAY. He is a child. He wants to play with his sister, who is in Kindergarten, and, thank goodness, does not have homework. (When we lived in Northern California, my son had homework IN KINDERGARTEN, in keeping with the super hyper over-achieving Silicon Valley mentality. Ask me if I miss it.)

I remember working hard at homework from some point in mid-elementary school onwards, and I don't remember needing my mother or father to supervise me. So what's changed? I don't think I'm helicoptering, because I'm not helping him get the answers. I'm helping him stay focused. He would so much prefer to be playing. I would so much prefer he be playing.

Is this a product of our short-attention-span-theatre techno-crazy lifestyle?

I don't know.

Right now, I just want us to get through with this homework so my son can PLAY.

Is that too much to ask?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Comment: Girls, Girls, Girls

I've noticed that my daughter and I are having little issues over things that glitter.

Sounds ridiculous, right? What I mean is, for example, we have four different napkin rings. I selected them in terms of symbols that I thought best represented the family members. I got my husband a simple wooden one (because he likes real things and hates plastic crap); I got my son one with a maple leaf on it because he likes them (and he's Canadian); I got a fancy one with shells for my daughter because she has what in this family we call "ocean eyes"; for myself, I picked what I liked: a glittery, orange cluster of faux gems. I like me some fake bling.

Then my daughter saw it. And guess what? She wanted it. Screw the dangling pretty seashells and attendant symbolic impact. She. Wanted. It.

This was some time ago, and we'd forgotten all about it until she pulled them out again today. So who knows whose will shall prevail on this one?

But it isn't just napkin holders. When I see anything pink, or glittery, I want it just as much as my daughter does. I still like Hello Kitty. I don't care that I'm over 12. I like shiny things. They don't have to be real, or expensive, just shiny.

I think this goes back to my childhood; what doesn't, really? I had a short, bowlish hair cut and was mistaken for a boy until I was well into my teens. There are only so many times being called "son" is funny. (Answer: Zero.)

Then I went through my adolescence as an androgynous, angry punk.

So it seems fititng that now that I'm at least technically a full-fledged grown-up, it seems to have come to glitter and jewels, spangles and finery. (Hi Hayn!)

I'm finally embracing my inner girly girl. I may have short hair, but it's dyed blonde and full of "product". I may wear army boots, but they have flowers on them. I may act like a bad-ass, but I totally like tulle. And lip gloss.

This is just how it is.

I think because I was so boyish throughout my childhood (without the accompanying athletic prowesse, natch), I'm still trying to make up for it.

So in spite of the fact that gender roles have happily changed, and males can wear pink and marry each other (at least in the cool states), and women can work and wear suits and grab their crotches publicly, I still embrace my stereotypically girly exterior.

But I draw the line at matching mother-daughter outfits. We only go as far as both wearing leg warmers on the same day. Come on, I'm not nuts.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Comment: Musing on TFF

So I just got the Tears for Fears greatest hits CD, and it tells a story. My story. They started out, as some eager readers know, back in the 80s, filled with angst, angular haircuts, and sad, sad stories of loss, broken hearts, and accompanying stark videos on MTV, back when videos were shown on MTV. (When did they ban them again?)

Their name really said it all. We were all young then, and life sucked. Especially in England. I remember seeing the album with their bleak photo on the cover. A friend of my sister's who had an uncanny ability to spot the next big trend in music had "discovered" them and told us that they were going to be really popular. She was really right.

When you listen to the songs on the CD in sequence, you hear their evolution from depressed teenagers to relatively groovy and well-adjusted middle-agers. It's nice to know some bands age well.

Their sound remains more or the same throughout: heavy on the electronica, with soaring vocals and decent harmonies.

The content is what's different. Life used to really suck (Mad World, Pale Shelter, Suffer the Children) , became anthemic and a little pissed off (Shout) then started to improve (Mother's Talk), became briefly blissfully perfect (Sowing the Seeds of Love), and then, well, you just deal with it as it comes (Break it Down Again*).

Hey, they just described my college years and the ensuing staggeringly slow emergence from an arrested adolescence!

How did they know?

Sure, they're still scowling on the cover, even in their most recent picture, but I know that underneath all that angst, there just might be someone, kinda, normal.

And that's kinda nice.

*If you haven't heard this one, give it a listen. It is by far the most cheerful, dare I say, joyful, of all their songs. And has a great huge enormous multi-octave vocal leap for Kurt, or is it Roland? I never remember. But it's impressive.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Complaint: Winter.

It really blows.


No, really. It sucks, it blows, it bites, it does everything I hate.

I went for a run today and felt like I was going to pass out from the cold. Is that even possible? I say, it is. I felt SICK it was so cold. Just nauseated.

Seriously, I can't find a single redeeming feature for winter. Except this: Christmas eve, newly fallen snow, mild enough temperature that you don't feel like someone is slapping your face, pretty twinkling lights.

So okay, snow is acceptable for one night a year only.

Other than that, you can have it.

It's cold, it's about to become treacherous, it makes you sweaty and irritable and over-dressed and under-dressed and just downright fussy.

I miss the California weather. A lot.

That is all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Comment: Halleluia.

The near-impossible has happened. I finally got my teaching credential.

It arrived in the mail last week without fanfare, and might not have arrived at all had I not sent an email to my examiner/evaluator/paper pusher to inquire as to its status. She then replied that she had approved it, but had forgotten to file it.

She forgot to file it. My question is, where did she put it if she didn't file it?

This, ladies and gentlemen, is bureaucracy at work.

How long would it have taken for someone to figure out that my file wasn't sent to the right place? Would anyone have noticed? Would I have grown gray and decrepit, waiting at my mail box for the day when I would receive said papers, only to find that all teachers have been replaced by robots who teach solely by tweeting and texting? Oy.

The irony, of course, is that now that I have the damn credential, there's nary a job to be found, unless you are in special education. Those jobs are plentiful. But they aren't getting filled because generally speaking, if you go into special education, you want to work with children, not fill out forms all day. And sadly, nowadays, at least in the public schools, if you are in special ed as a teacher, you spend more time with papers, not people.

But actually, I'm not really that bummed out about the lack of jobs. I have several gigs right now that are fun, challenging, and right up my alley. So mostly at this point, that piece of paper is insurance.

It reminds me yet again that completing a goal is satisfying, but having one is even more important. That's what all of that happiness literature I read last year told me, and it's true.

So there you have it. No trumpets or party horns were blown, but I finished something I started.

That's always a nice feeling.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Random Comments

The problem with having work-related meetings in the evening is that you're all hopped up for a long time afterward. Normally, at this time of night, I'm already in bed, in my jammies, reading, or playing Boggle on my iPhone. (I'm totally addicted. It's way better than Skee Ball. Yeah, I said it.)

As you see, I lead the glamourous life.

Anyway, I'm totally hyper right now and just had one of my husband's fresh-baked rolls. Sublime.

This is one of the many reasons I love having my husband working from home. Fresh baked goods rule.

And speaking of which, in the Bed, Bath and Beyond flyer I got today, there were two cake pans designed to create two giant imitations of other sweet foodstuffs: a giant set that made an oreo-shaped cookie (you supply the frosting) and a giant donut cake pan that made, natch, a giant, yeah.

What is it with giant cake molds? Are we not gluttonous enough as a nation? Why do we have to supersize our cakes? Isn't that kind of overkill? Or is it an oxymoron? I don't want a donut, I want a CAKE-SIZED donut that doesn't taste like a donut. And I want a giant Oreo that tastes nothing like the actual cookie.

They come on the heels of the ubiquitous giant cupcake cake pans, which make far more sense because they're actually MADE OF CAKE.

Call me a purist, but that's the only oversized cake mold I'm interested in.

And I know I am not alone in this.

What's next, a cake mold shaped like a giant vat of ice cream, with a waffle cone?

Just seems like way too much trouble to go to when there's a Coldstone up the street. And the dessert would actually taste like you expected it to.

Trompe l'oeil pastry? Non merci.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Question: Brief, and to the Point

Well, I've finally emerged from beneath the rubble that was NaNoWriMo. I finished today! A day ahead of schedule. They even have a little video of a bunch of people in Viking hats (Viking hats?) clapping for you when you're done. I have written an unholy mess of a something that is long enough to be a novel and I'm putting it away for awhile and maybe I'll check back on it in a week, or a month, or, more likely, a year. It was weird and fun.

But on to today's brief post:
Why would you follow the company that makes your breakfast cereal on Twitter? What staggering breaking news could there possibly be about flax? Whose idea is it to put every possible living or non-living entity on Facebook and Twitter? What could possibly warrant a tweet from Cascadian Farms or Barbara's, or even General Mills, Post and other behemoths of their ilk? Actually, they probably need to tweet at the latter companies, since their cereals are full of high fructose corn syrup and scary food dyes that make people ill. So maybe their feeds are to remind you of the side effects of eating said cereals.

But the healthy, organic cereal companies? What have they possibly got to tweet about? Unless somebody decides that spelt is carcinogenic all of a sudden, there's not a whole lot to say.

I think we're going a little too far here, people. I'm just sayin'.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Complaint: NFW.

I was talking with two new friends today about the whole airline screening thing. You apparently either go through a screening machine that essentially gives the surrounding crowd a peep show, or you submit to a public groping, including your lady or gentleman parts. (And if you have both, everybody gets to find out!)


Of course there are complaints pouring in. Whatever happened to rights and personal privacy, not to mention human dignity? What's next, anal probing? God, I wish I was kidding. We elected Obama so this kind of thing wouldn't happen. We were supposed to take back some of our civil liberties.

Nobody wants to go through this. What about the children? How are they supposed to react to being groped or gawked at when we teach them about personal space? What about those who are older or infirm? What about those who have been abused? Does the TSA have counselors on staff to deal with people freaking out? Are they going to give us all some valium before we go through security? Because people are going to need it to go through that ordeal.

Will there be speakers blaring "We only want your safety. Safety is key. Safety at all costs." on an endless loop? That's so 1984.

Simply put, this situation is untenable. People are not going to put up with this. People will be traumatized, humiliated and inconvenienced to a massive degree, and terrorists will still come up with ways to sneak explosives on planes. But maybe there won't be anybody on the planes anymore. Maybe everybody will take a stand and just not fly anymore.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Comment: Let Art Save Your Life

I'm plowing through my NaNoWriMo writer's block. These sketches are slowly turning into characters. I just keep going out on a limb and trusting that I won't fall on my ass. It's so much fun.

And I've come to the fairly obvious conclusion that creativity makes for a happy person. I don't care what it is, but doing something creative (that isn't illegal or immoral) is a really easy way to end up having a good hour, or day, or life, for that matter.

I am never happier than when I'm doing something creative. And I know I'm not alone.

For example, at the school where I'm working with these dear little lamby children, there is a receptionist. Her name is Ruth. She probably makes okay but not great money. Her job consists of paperwork, computer work, and letting people in and out of the school. She's fairly pleasant in that she's not throwing things at people when they walk in. And I bet she is bored silly. There's just not that much for her to do, and it must get lonely and boring, because people don't come to the school receptionist to hang out with her, they come to get information, or give her a hard time because they don't have the forms she needs, by law, to have, for their child to get into the program, or to ask her to do something for them. I imagine she deals with everything from the desperate to the irate, with a lot in between.

Anyway, I was signing out of the building yesterday when she had started to show her Thanksgiving decoration pictures to this woman who turned out to be someone from the school district who needed to do an observation. The aforementioned woman politely told Ruth that she had to go upstairs and would come back down to see the picture later; who knows if she did this or not.

But the point was, Ruth REALLY wanted to show these pictures of the decorations she put together for her church to somebody. She had her camera out. And she seemed to really need me to look at them, since I was the only other person in the room. So I did. I mean, why not? And they were very festive and cheerful. And she obviously got great pleasure from my admiration of them. And clearly this was something she loved to do. Something creative.

So I gave her some positive feedback and told her what I'm saying here, in a nutshell; that everyone needs some creativity in their life and I think it's great that she does that for her church. And of course she agreed.

Bear in mind that when I first met her two weeks ago, she was brusque and monosyllabic. After five minutes looking at the fruits of her labors, our entire relationship had changed.

She lit up when I told her that I liked her pictures and that I thought it was great that she was doing something creative. (Which was the truth, of course; why would I lie to a nice lady? I'm not really much good at lying anyway.)

I left her in a happy state, and felt happy to have made a connection with another human being.

Creativity, expression, communication. Muy importante.

So please, go do something creative. It's November, it's dark and cold, and it's a time when our spirits can drop below subterranean levels. Go make a collage, write a poem, make up a stupid song you can sing to your kids or your friends, dye your hair pink, just do something.

It will make your day.




Other than various lapses in posting due to family, personal or biochemical drama, I've actually kept doing this for over two years. And, even more incredibly, you've kept reading.

Just a quick question: WHY?

No, seriously, thank you. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day and reading my ramblings. It makes me very happy to be even moderately entertaining to the strong, the few, the brave, the readers of QCC.

And now, on to a complaint. This will sound familiar to regular readers.

WHY do schools have SO MANY damn ACTIVITIES during the DAY?

As someone who finally has a job again outside the home, I'm noticing how many things happen during the day at my kids' school. In my daughter's Kindergarten class, there have been three separate parent/child events, all within the space of one week. Oy.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy seeing my child at school. It's fun to see how happy she is to have Mom or Dad visit. But Grandparents' Day? Why a separate Grandparents' Day? We had a Special Male Friends Day and a Special Female Friends Day, so doesn't that cover it?

And shortly, I'm off to the wide open spaces for Pioneer Day, which the second grade is putting on for THREE HOURS.

Don't other people have to work?

Maybe, at our school, they don't. After all, until recently, I was one of those mothers who was home all day every day. But I guess what I wonder about is, how do the children whose parents CAN'T make any of these events feel? Isn't it kind of shitty to keep hosting adult/child activities during the day when so many parents work all day? How helpful is this for the kids who have no "buddy" or whose grandparents live 300 miles away to keep having to go solo at these functions? Doesn't that kind of blow?

There's an unspoken expectation that you will drop everything for your child. In terms of health, that is absolutely 100% true. If my child needs me, I'm there. But define "need." It's nice to be at every class party, but is it really necessary? And honestly, is it really healthy? My children do better and have more fun at class parties when I'm NOT there. They're in their school mode, and seeing me throws them off. Sure, if it's a special parent event, or a performance, fine; I WANT to see that. But for a Valentine's party? Do I need to be there helping them do a damn craft while they're running around hopped up on cinnamon hearts? I guess that's just not me.

I'd rather be there for them when they get home, ready to play or snuggle or read, than be there with them at school, where they are supposed to go without us.

In times of crisis, a parent should drop everything for their children. That's really a no-brainer.

But in times of monthly celebratory sugar-fests, I think I'll pass.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Comment: In Brief

This whole working thing is fun and all, but it's taking some time to adjust to. Additionally, every project I am working on right now is new to me. My teaching gigs involve new methodologies, a variation of the population I've worked with before, and new locations in the labyrinthine and irrational streets of my fair city.

Even the volunteer work I am still waiting to get green-lit will be a new population and a variation on the subject.

And NaNoWriMo continues, in increasingly unexpected directions. I've got all these characters and some of them are pretty freaky. Who are they? What do they want? Why are they in my brain? Why am I writing about them? Does that mean I'm freaky too? Do I care?

These questions, and many more, will be answered, or not, at a later date.

Right now, I'm plum tuckered out.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Question: When Do Kids Start to Rush?

And I don't mean in the collegiate sense.

I mean, at what point do children develop a sense of urgency about time?

Because in spite of their frequently neurotic and fussy parents, my children seem relatively unphased by the passing of time. They go about their business on school day mornings as if they have three hours to get ready, and then just mosey into school when they're done counting the stairs, or writing each other notes and exchanging stuffed animals.

I love that they aren't hung up on time. And I hate that we are. I know for myself, being late is truly a nightmare event. Which is completely stupid, because in most cases, it just doesn't matter. Could it be that I am trying to learn to think about time the way my kids do, or rather, don't?

Because someone wise once told me that someone else wise once said, "The only things that must be rushed are birth and death." It might have been Lao-Tzu. Or Winnie-the-Pooh. I forget.

In the Inuit culture of Northern Canada, school starts whenever the students wake up and decide to show up. White (a.k.a. Southern) teachers would have a time of it, trying to start class on time with people who don't see time the same way. In the Inuit culture, you sleep when you're tired, you wake when you wake, and if you feel like going to school, great. If not, there's something else to do. Hunt, eat, hang out at the pool hall, go snowmobiling.

I admire my children's Inuit-like sense of time. I wonder if they could teach it to me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Complaint: Damn You, Writer's Block!

The joy and delight of "walking without a tightrope" in writing has, inevitably, landed me flat on my ass. Fortunately, the ground is soft. But still.

Come to think of it, it's actually not writer's block; more like writer's anomie. I've written myself into a wall, or a corner, or maybe more of a traffic jam, really. There are lots of characters but I'm not sure how they all fit together. I'm wondering if I should print out and read what I wrote, just to see if it makes any sense. Last year, I didn't.

But if I do print it all out, then I fear I will see how crappy the current novel-in-progress is, and that will be discouraging. And that's definitely not the point of NaNoWriMo. So I want to keep going without getting too caught up in the whole quality issue.

It's just that I'm getting kind of, I don't know, bored, of some of my characters. And if I'm bored with them, so too will anyone else brave enough to read them should any of this ever see the light of day, which is still in question.

Maybe I have too many characters. Maybe I have to figure out what's going to happen. I have a strong background in improvisation, so the idea of planning out the story doesn't totally appeal to me. And yet, when I've written other things, there has been some sort of outline or sequence, at least implied, if not stated.

So maybe I need to think a bit more about what's happening in the story, and take my monologues from there. It's just getting so damn complicated. And messy. And confusing.

Kind of like life.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Comment: Can't Talk. Busy Writing.

I'm 16,000 words into my second annual NaNoWriMo effort, and what a different experience it is this time around.

Last year, I had a clear story in mind, and I just wrote and wrote and wrote, with a very obvious throughline. I loosely based it on my life, so it was easy to follow the plot (most of the time) and by the time I had hit 50,000 words, I had barely finished doing justice to my college years. I think maybe there's a second novel in there.

But this year, I decided to just start writing. I had no goal in mind whatsoever, And it's taking me in directions I'd never thought I'd go.

I don't immediately relate to or sympathize with all of my characters. I barely know most of them! They're revealing themselves to me gradually. I sit down, pick one, and then start writing from their point of view and see where it goes. I'm sure this won't work forever, because there's the whole plot thing, but for now, it feels more like intertwining monologues that need to come out. And a story is gradually emerging. It's just not one I knew ahead of time. It's like watching those old Polaroids develop.

I'm basically walking the tightrope with no net.

And it's pretty cool.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Complaint: It's Cold.

Yeah, I know, really original.

Look, I'm using up most, if not all, of my writing mojo/moxie on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I did it last year and it was tons of fun, so I'm doing it this year as well.

Which means that it may be slim pickings around here for awhile.

But you never know: hormones or stupid situations or mild psychic irritants of one sort or another will come along and I'll probably still have enough vitriol to tap out a few sentences about them.

Peace out.

(Isn't that just so pretentious? I absolutely love saying "peace out," but only ironically and in an homage to Phineas and Ferb. WHY is there no emoticon for irony?)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Comment: Well Wishes from the University of Lameness

The University of the Rejuvenating Bird sent me an email birthday card today.

I wish I was kidding.

But yes, in addition to the indignities of being middle-aged in a youth-obsessed culture, the most over-priced and underwhelming online so-called educational institution ever is sending me glad tidings on this day.

How am I supposed to feel about that?

Their gift to me? 15% off anything at all from the University of Phoenix bookstore!


WHO buys university souvenirs for an online school?

There are no pep rallies, there are no football games, there are no clubs.

WHAT would I BUY from this store?

Oh, I know, a shirt that reads: "I paid through the nose for shitty excuse for an education and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!"


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Complaint: Why Not? Everyone Else Has One!

I did my civic duty today and voted. I'm kind of nervous about the results. If lots of tea party people get in, I will be most put out. Do they not realize the hypocrisy of their stance? Anti-government government? The Boston Tea Party, if Schoolhouse Rock is to be believed, was all about starting a GOVERNMENT. But if you're anti-government, why are you coopting a group who wanted one? Are we libertarians or are we tea party people? Big difference, no? Hullo?

That's it. That's all I've got for political rants. NPR keeps me informed, as they say, with "no slant and no rant" but frankly, all I really heard about was how much money candidates were spending on their campaigns and whether or not somebody called somebody else a synonym for prostitute and if this was considered sexist or just rude and/or stupid.

When I voted, I felt like it was just the lesser of two evils, really. The lesser of two lames. The government is broken and no amount of coopting and renaming will change that. We are a nation of over-consumers (guilty) and busybodies who don't really know what the hell we're doing. Does any country? Probably not.

But we're fat, broke, greedy and irritable. We don't trust anyone but we sure like to boss other people around. Our healthcare system blows, California is broker than broke, and we have a nation of shitty schools we can't pay for because we're all over the globe trying to give "freedom" to people who may not, in fact, want our brand of it.

We're giving the President hell in his less than two year tenure while we allowed the shit to repeatedly hit the fan for EIGHT YEARS.

Of course people are mad. They're just mad at the wrong party.

Not that I'm a big fan of any of them, as inferred above. At least in Canada you get a virtual buffet of parties. Even the penguins have a party there. (I'm kidding. But Labatts does have its own party.)

Ahhh, feh, blah, meh.

I guess I did have more to say. And fortunately, we do live in a country where that's allowed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Comment: On Distractions

I just got back from another meditation class. Last week's topic was about dealing with mental chatter" in the form of distractions. I was out of the country on good business, but man, I needed that session.

My monkey mind is major. It's macaque monkey mind. (alliteration rules!) I mean, my mind bounces around like a ball in a pinball machine.

While I was trying to feel my breath, as instructed, I could mainly feel my bladder, and my colon. Why do I have to pee every time I step into the studio? Hey, wait a minute, isn't this all eerily familiar? Didn't I just write about this two weeks ago? I did. Sorry.

It's just hilarious to me how I can feel my bodily sensations so acutely, but there's no way in hell I'm going to get up in the middle of a group meditation and go to the bathroom. I don't even know where it is! They might not even HAVE one at this yoga studio. What with all the Kegels, most students can probably hold it all day. Damn, I'm weak.

It's ironic to me how stressed I get before I go to class. I'm all hopped up about one thing or another, flapping around like a hummingbird on crack. On the way there tonight, I even cursed at Kai Ryssdall. KAI RYSSDALL, my vocal crush. I was so stressed that even he wasn't the balm that soothes.

But when I get to class and we all sit down on our cushions and our teacher starts talking us through things, ahhh. My mind still ricochets, but it ricochets less.

So I guess that's progress.

Sorry, Kai. I still heart you.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Comment: An Ever So Brief One

Another Halloween has come and gone, and once again, after carefully monitoring and limiting my children's candy intake, I've gone ahead and eaten too many Reese's pumpkins.

Ah, hypocrisy, thy name is adulthood.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Comment: Panda Hair Up the What?!


As alert readers know, I spent most of last week on a cavalcade of fun and admiration, participating in the celebration of my mom and her many achievements in northern climes.

Needless to say, when I got home, the house was a mess.


Let me say this: My husband ROCKS. He is a superhero as far as I am concerned. It is not easy to have the primary caregiver monkey travel when you have little kids, especially on weekdays, when you're supposed to be working more than full time at a demanding job, as he is.

So the fact that I could steal away for nearly four days DURING THE WEEK without repurcussions was HUGE. I just don't get away on my own that much because it's too hard to orchestrate most of the time.

Anyway, naturally, given the circumstances, I expected a mess. So I spent the past couple of days righting the house. I was in a truly workhorse frame of mind as I washed and changed all the sheets, vacuumed, tidied, cleaned, organized and washed every wooden floor and surface in the house. (Tomorrow? The only untamed realms left: The bathrooms. Quake in fear, my friends, quake in fear.)

So I've just been all business today with the housework. Woe betide anyone who gets between me and my mop, sponge or dustrag. (I just accidentally wrote "dustrage" and I think I've just coined a new phrase. Won't my friend and fellow blogger The Solipsist be pleased I have something else to repeat besides AspGap (TM)?)

DUSTRAGE=the irritability that occurs when anyone in your family, or friends, interrupts a cleaning bender

Anyway, fast forward to the evening, after a long bout in the kitchen, de-grossifying it. As my daughter waited for her turn in the bath, I noticed that her adorable bare behind looked a little, well, disturbing. Looked like somebody had trouble wiping.

Oh, how wrong I was. It wasn't poop, it was HAIR. For a split second I thought, this is one early pubescence, and a hirsute one at that! But then I realized it was...synthetic PANDA HAIR.

Yes, my daughter is going out for Halloween as a Panda, the costume having been worn more or less every waking hour since it arrived two weeks ago. And apparently this thing sheds. A lot.

Because she WAS wearing underwear, and yet, there was all this, SPH in her delicate little butt crack.

So disturbing.

Thank goodness for wet wipes.

Tomorrow, she wears shorts AND undies before donning that monstrosity.

But I'll probably still check to make sure it's all clear down there come bedtime.

Such is the glamourous world of parenting.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Question: Did I Just Lose Major Points?

I know I'm not going to get Mother of the Year this time around, but I'm having nagging doubts nonetheless.

Currently, I am a stay-at-home parent who is gradually ramping up part-time work.

Did I have to work today? No.

Was the Halloween costume parade extravaganza at my kids' school today? Yes.

Did I go? No.

I got my hair done. And went grocery shopping. And cleaned the house after a four-day absence which had left it in significant disarray.

Should I have gone?

That's up to me, right? Right?

It just stung a little when my five-year-old said, "I wish you were there, Mom."

I know the kids had a great time, and I'm going to be with them at Halloween. But I feel a teeny tiny bit of guilt that I didn't go, since I could have gone. Are you following this perverse logic?

So do I suck because I didn't seize the opportunity?


But the kids are growing up so fast, and there won't be that many more Halloweens where they will WANT me to be around.

And that stings worst of all.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Comment: Someone Worth Celebrating

Forgive the temporary silence; it was caused by neither seasonal nor hormonal change. (A first?)

I was in Canada watching my Mum win a prestigious award. My sister and I convened and flew together to see her. We cleaned up real nice and behaved ourselves (mostly) and watched her get the accolades she has long deserved.

My mom is my role model; she works in community development with people who almost instantly fall in love with her and allow her into their worlds. She is truly gifted in her ability to listen to someone's story, then write it in a way that others not from their world can understand. She has become a guru in her field. She is outstanding.

So we watched with great pride as she was feted, along with nine other good eggs, none of whom impressed me as much as my mother.

Helping people is so under-appreciated; it was a joy to see someone who truly champions the underdog get public recognition.

I could go on and on. But I think you get the point.

Yay, Mum! (Go Thew!)

I am proud to be her daughter.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Comment: Fear of a Uniformed Guard

Crossing guard, that is.

I am totally intimidated by this city's school crossing guards. I'm serious.

These are the toughest mamas in town.

They're all women, they're solid, uniformed, and they take no shit from anyone. They WILL blow their whistle at you if you're slightly over the stop line. They WILL shout at you if you drive 16mph in a school zone. They WILL wag their fingers, shake their hands, and glare at you with laser-like precision at you if you make ANY mistakes.

They are serious.

When I slowly roll up to a school crossing, I stop. I wait for an acknowledgment of my existence by said crossing guard. I sit, shoulders hunched, pulse quickened, for my instructions. She has all the power. She can stop me anytime she wants! I'm nothing to her, nothing!

I wait for explicit permission before I move an inch.

Because the crossing guard scares me.

Ar first, I thought it was just me.

But then at a gathering of friends the other night, after a couple of glasses of wine, I asked some of my dinner companions about this relatively new phobia of mine. Did they relate?

Both diners agreed that the crossing guards here kick some serious ass. You do NOT want to be on their bad side. They know you, they know approximately where you live, and they WILL find you. Both members of my informal pole were male, by the way.

I don't know what they put on the application forms for this job, but there must be something about being big, tough and scary. I'd never make it as a crossing guard. I'm plenty bossy enough, but I'm too lanky. I don't command a room. And I really don't like standing in traffic.

So all hail the great School Crossing Guards. They truly have the children's (and not your) best interest at heart.

Do NOT piss them off.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Complaint: Middle Age Blows

Are you female, attempting to be fabulous, and forty? Then welcome to Sagtown, population YOU. (The weather here sucks!)

I'm already a multi-year resident, but lately I am feeling the middle aged thing a little too acutely. My recovery time from things like an evening of mild debauchery (few and far between, natch) is getting longer and longer. I'm also more sore (sorer?) after a long run than I was at an equivalent pace as recently as earlier this year.

AND...I've recently taken an interest in my slightly disturbing hormonal fluctuations that might signal something...something CHANGING.

I find the fact that I'm now smack dab in the midst of the perimenopause eligibility period (ha!) to be disconcerting on so many levels. It's not that I mourn my decreasing fertility. It's the mood swings. I mean, it's bad enough to have PMS for thirty years, but you're saying now there's more to come? Come on, body, give a lady a break!

And things are getting, I don't, droopier, everywhere. As referenced earlier, things are just kind of, dropping. I'm seriously considering Spanx. And I really do need a bra, in spite of my petite stature in that realm. Somebody's gotta hold up these girls!

Middle age. Why does it sound worse than old age? Because there isn't the implied wisdom and reverence that, at least in some cultures, is honored. Our society ignores its elders and makes middle aged people feel like fat losers because borderline emaciation and youth rule the world.

It's a strange age to be. You have to make decisions about clothes that "too young" for you. And God forbid you wear clothes that are too OLD for you. There are very few retail outlets that cater to the middle-aged woman who doesn't like flowers or elasticized waists, but is too "mature" for a miniskirt.

Oh how I could go on. But you get my point. They talk about angry old women and angry young women. Don't forget about us angry forty-somethings. We have as much right as anybody, and we've got major hormone changes to back our shit up.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Just too tired to rant at the moment. Subbed today for fourth graders; it was amusing and not totally draining, since it was only for half a day. It reinforces my contention that I require extensive exposure to other people in a social setting, especially as the seasons change. Otherwise, no people no talking no light make Emi something something. *

I like people. I also like reading and sleep, which is where I'm headed now.

*Ten points for knowing that reference.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Complaint and Questions

There's a great song by The Cure, called Never Enough, which pretty much sums up how I'm feeling today. Well, not just today, but in this whole slow and painful re-entry into the workplace; I feel its words in a very significant way.

An excerpt:

however big i ever feel
it's never enough
whatever i do to make it real
it's never enough
in any way i try to speak
it's never enough
never enough
however much i try to speak
it's never enough

Frankly it's the story of my life.

I'm constantly feeling like I'm falling short. And in the workplace, it's all the more challenging, because I feel as though I've had so many tangentially-related jobs that I don't really have so much a career history as a pastiche of interesting and short term jobs. I've been in my marriage for well over a decade, but I've never worked in the same job for longer than three years.

So do I have commitment issues or don't I?

Anyway, we're in a recession; as a teacher, my job prospects suck. As an artist, my job prospects suck. As someone who needs a flexible enough job that I can be home at a moment's notice to care for my kids, my job prospects narrow significantly. I feel like I'm too old to be dabbling, a word I loathe, but one that lurks in my mind against my will. I'm good at more than one thing. How do you parlay that into a career? (Amazon can already hear me coming, twitching my double click "buy now" finger in anticipation.)

Should I go back to school? Again? For what, exactly? Not for more money. For a specific qualification? In what? A well-meaning relative told me I should be a speech language pathologist. I'm not so sure about that.

Do you choose what you love, or what is safe? Can you have it all? No. Can you compromise? God, I hope so. But I've been working at this balance for many years before the major childrearing era and in some ways, not much has changed.

Artists and teachers, especially those of the young, are under-valued and over-worked.

I think I need career counseling.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Comment: Pain=Gain

Have I mentioned I'm taking a meditation class for the first time in my life? Have I mentioned I really like it?

Honestly, it's such a relief to sit still. I'm a hummingbird 24/7, so it's enormously nice to sit and breathe deeply. It's very calming.

Sure, I still have major monkey mind. And for two weeks running I had to pee pretty much the whole time I was there. Tonight, for a change, I didn't have to pee, but my belly was a little more active than I'd wished. If it's not one thing, it's another.

But our teacher tells us that we should zoom in on discomfort (he's more eloquent than that, he did NOT say "zoom") and focus on it, and lo and behold, SOME of the time, it will disappear. He talks about our resistance to pain, and our resentment of pain.

And I thought, you know, when my kids are climbing on me and we bump heads or they elbow me accidentally and I'm in a good mood, I don't find the pain so bad. It's there, then it passes. But when I'm in a lousy mood and somebody marches across my stomach, the bad words and feelings emerge, and the pain lingers.

So I think we're on to something here.

I'm not saying I can control my pain or discomfort. I can't. Right now my ear hurts because I wore a dangly earring today for too long. (Vanity!) But instead of being irritated by it, I just notice that it's hurting, and then I move on.

It's also lovely to be in the presence of someone spiritual whom I do not find to be what I perceive as a whack job. Our teacher, Bhante, is a Buddhist monk who is currently working on his PhD in religious studies. He is calm, kind, and sane. Everybody in the class feels better just being near him. And he has perfect teeth. I don't think that matters in Buddhism, but when he smiles everybody feels happy. And at the end of the sessions, he sings in Pali. It's so cool. He is sensible, rational and helpful. I respect him.

You know, I haven't had a positive spiritual/psychological group experience, like, ever.

So this is very nice.

Even if my ear still does hurt right now.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Comment: Magazine Subscriptions and Dating Careers

Okay, my kids have yet another school fundraiser. Given that we pay through the nose for our children's education there already, we don't have a big problem being a seriously slacker family in the support-the-school-events realm.

Just the other night, there was a big do right down the street from us (No driving! Free booze! Well, it probably wasn't free, nothing is at these things) but we did not attend. And I did not feel guilty.

There is only so much shmoozing a person can do when they're running with a crowd they don't relate to. I'm not saying these other parents aren't nice; I'm sure some are, and some aren't. But it's a rarified kind of crowd, one I feel uncomfortable in; thus, avoidance is by far the best policy. I like a handful of people involved with the school. But I'm not a schooly-rah-rah mom.

So when my kids come home with fundraising things, I mostly ignore them. But then they found my Achilles heel: magazines. Cheap, plentiful, magazines. Magazines for the whole family. We love to read and I love to shop. Bingo. Plus the kids get rewards of some sort for selling one subscription. Now, I'm not going to subject my friends and neighbors to a door-to-door selling campaign. I wouldn't put my kids (or myself) through that. It was bad enough in Quebec in the 80s selling Florida grapefruit and oranges to belligerent or indifferent French Canadians door to door in the dead of winter.

But I did order a few magazines, giving a selling credit to each child, so that they can win their Pavlovian seller bonus prize of a bouncy ball or whatever the hell it is.

It just gets me thinking: we're all so extrinsically driven. We all want to be rewarded for our actions. And I'm the guiltiest one around these days. I shop too much because I'm bored and unfulfilled and I want to feel something. Desperate Housewives, indeed.

But I am working on moving away from this form of reward system. I will soon enough have my state teaching credential; but wherefore art the jobs? I think I have to go back to school (again) and I'm torn between doing what I think will get me a job and what I love. In fact, the two may actually overlap in some areas. I'm pretty sure they can, but I'm going to have to get creative.

Yes, I already have a couple of little teeny tiny jobs; this is great. But it's not enough. I want to be the type of person who can lead an itinerant-style career, which has in truth mostly been a matter of necessity due to frequent moves. But what I REALLY want is to settle down with something. Not settle. Settle down. I want to get married to a career, and stop dating. I want a ring, dammit! There's that materialism again. Argh.

I do want to at least get engaged to a career; I guess that's what going back to school is.

Well. That was quite the journey from magazines to career angst. But this is how the brain works. Mine, anyway.

I wasn't going to post this last night because I thought it was too self-indulgent, but then my dear and smart friend told me, "Hey, it's your blog, people don't have to scroll down if they don't want to" and so, my faithful readers, voila. Thanks, Christy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Complaint: and Questions, lots of Questions.

I've recently been working at a downtown school, and on my way there, I always have to pass near (but not in front of) anti-abortion picketers at Planned Parenthood.

It's all I can do each time I go by there not to stop and interview the picketers with some of my many questions:

1. Why are you here?
2. What do you hope to achieve?
3. Do you know anyone who's ever had an abortion? Have you ever had an abortion?
4. Do you think it's right to intimidate people who are trying to salvage their own lives? Or get condoms? Or receive low-cost health care?
5. Do you really want to talk about this, or just judge?
6. Do you think a mother should die in childbirth rather than have an abortion?
7. Do you think rape victims should not be allowed to have abortions?
8. How about victims of incest? Have you seen Precious?
9. And why do you think holding up a judgmental sign is going to dissuade someone whose life may well be in jeopardy, be it literally or figuratively, to change their course of action?
10. And do you honestly believe that shaming someone who is already in turmoil is going to make any difference at all?
11. Don't you have something better to do? Go feed the homeless or adopt a kid.

There's a time and a place, people. And picketing a Planned Parenthood is just, well, lame.

Which reminds me of a time several years ago when I was teaching high school in California, and one day there were students (not ours) picketing our high school driveway, with signs depicting graphic images of vacuumed up babies. WTF?!

I can tell you I don't remember anything else about that day except that I was furious. I suppose that makes these pathetic little sign-holders nothing to fuss about.

But still, I'm really tempted to walk over and ask them a few questions.

Because I'm really, really curious.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Comment: Men, Math and Meatloaf

No matter what kind of day you have had, nobody had a better one than the Chilean miners and their families. This is the kind of good news that makes you believe in miracles. Really fantastic. I haven't seen any footage yet, but I know if I do, I'll cry like a baby. It's just such an amazing story. I am so happy those guys got out, and I hope any damage done to their bodies or their psyches is minimal, and will fade fast. Hurrah for everyone who had any part in that incredible rescue. Like so many people around the world, I had been following it week to week, hoping that things would work out the very best. What an ordeal for the people involved.

In other, far less important good news, I completed my second math class. I got an A-! So that's one more set of hoops jumped through.

Finally, and randomly, I have discovered yet another Trader Joe's frozen dinner that ROCKS. Are you ready for this?

Meatloaf Muffins.

No, they're not muffins made out of meatloaf, that would be disgusting! (Or would it?) (Yes, yes it would.)

It's just a little patty of turkey meatloaf, with a dab of spinach on top, then a further layer of fluffy mashed potatoes. It's quite delicious. And the best part?

It's dinner in muffin form!

There you have it: three causes for (varying degrees of) celebration.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Comment: A Meditation on...

I just got back from my second ever meditation class, and boy are my chakras tired! Hyuk. Sorry. There was no mention of chakras. I don't deal in the chakra realm. Just feeling a bit punchy. I mean, honestly, it's the longest I've been still since I got a chest x-ray five and half years ago, while also simultaneously going into labor.

But I digress.

Today we did a loving-kindness meditation. (I just accidentally wrote "mediation", which is a very reasonable slip, if you ask me.) This is the point at which you're supposed to tell yourself that you love yourself as you are, in spite of your flaws, foibles, and stinky feet.

This is not as easy as it sounds.

First of all, saying you love yourself sounds dorky. Or arrogant. But if we remove our grey-colored glasses of cynicism for a minute, it's probably a good idea to be okay with yourself as you are. Not that you couldn't stand to make some improvements. But self-loathing really doesn't do anybody any good.

I found it kind of an intense experience, but not in a college Drama class, cathartic way. It was more of a slightly bittersweet, quiet experience that left me thinking, wow, I need to stop being so hard on myself.

We're all imperfect. Or, rather, as The Buddha said, we are perfect as we are. My teacher tonight told us that what's done is done, and you are living NOW, and though there may be room for improvement, you have the opportunity to do better now, not in the past. What's over is over.

I find that concept extremely challenging. But it's one I'm going to work on.

This whole mindfulness thing is pretty amazing.

Who knew that something that sounds so easy is so hard?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Comment: Happiness

I don't think there's any kind of happiness quite like the one you feel when you see your children deliriously happy themselves.

Today is a banner day. My son had a playdate with his favorite friend, and was positively buzzing with joy as we walked over to her house this morning. And my daughter got to spend a special morning with mom and dad ON HER OWN, and she got hot chocolate and wore a tutu, so she too is happy as a clam.

Before having kids, I never knew I could be so happy just watching someone else's sheer delight.

This is definitely one of the perks of parenthood.

Pinkeye gone, virus on the way out. And now? The laundry, Lord, the laundry!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Comment: Virustown

Not much on the docket this weekend. (Is that how spell docket? What's the origin of that word? I'll have to look that up, unless my friend and fellow blogger, The Solipsist, beats me to it.)

We've got about three different viruses brewing in our house at the moment, including that age-old favorite, pink-eye! Nothing like looking at a crusty and pink eye to make your own start itching like mad. Along with itchy eyes, we have a little fever, a little sluggishness, an urge to sleep, and a couple of headaches spread out over three out of four of us. Tis the season!

This is one of the challenges of both having children, and in working with even smaller children. So many hugs; so many germs.

So goodnight from Petri Dish Central.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Complaint: Damn You, Dress-Down Days!

Okay, so my kids attend a school where there is a dress code. The uniform is simple, and keeps the kids from comparing labels all day, I suppose. The best part is, a uniform cuts down on Daily Dressing Drama.

Are you familiar with this? If you have small children, you are. Actually, if you have children, you are. Actually everybody, really, knows this, from spending time watching a spouse or partner or sibling trash their room trying to find the "right" outfit for the occasion.

So we're really happy with uniforms for our kids. And my son is to the point where he even wears his uniform on the weekends. It's chinos and a polo shirt, it's comfortable, and he appears to be comforted on some level by the predictability and familiarity of said outfit, day after day.

But today there was a "Dress-Down Day". Most kids LOVE this. They can wear whatever they want. Today's theme (yes, there was one) was Denim. (FFS)

My son doesn't wear denim. Really. He has one pair of jeans that languish in his drawer because his mother thinks one day he may wear them after all, even though he hasn't worn jeans since the kind that snaps all they way around the inseam, the better to access a diaper. (Baby jeans are seriously adorable.) And come to think of it, my daughter doesn't even own any jeans. She wears dresses. And skirts. And skorts. And jumpers. And gowns.

So this morning sucked for two reasons: 1. My daughter couldn't DECIDE what to wear. 2. My son couldn't handle the fact that he could wear something different, even though he didn't want to wear it, but he kind of did, because he didn't want to stand out, and yet he didn't want to do what everybody else does. So he sat in front of his dresser for 20 minutes, literally paralyzed by indecision. The poor guy. He just doesn't cope with change of routine very well.

So his dad had to calm him down, and I had to invent the perfect outfit for my daughter, invoking the goddess of outfits to assist me in picking the right one for the day. It worked.

So I just don't like Dress-Down Days. They upset the children. And they're way too much work.

Do you think I should complain to the principal? Perhaps I'll send him a link to this post.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Complaint: More Pseudo-Literary Musing

Still smarting from that Glee episode.

And still in the throes of hormonal imbalance. I thought I was over it, but I found myself yelling at my bacon today. So, guess not.

A little book review: Douglas Coupland, all around cool author, coiner of the term (and writer of the novel) "Generation X", has a new book out called "Generation A."

Naturally, when I saw this in the library, I grabbed it. He's quirky, he's zeitgeisty, and he's Canadian, to boot. What's not to love?

It started out looking moderately interesting: five different hipster young adults in a dystopian, undefined future where bees are extinct and pollination is done by hand, get stung by, simultaneously, by bees. This causes the five protagonists to be whisked away to various places where they are probed and quizzed and drugged, in order to find out the essence, the intangible why, as to they in particular among all others in the world, were stung.

Of course I was reminded of "Super Sad True Love Story", which I mentioned awhile back (I'm too lazy to look up the date. C'mon, I'm GenX.), which was also a novel about disaffected hipsters within a dystopian future. Guess I've got a theme going.

Anyway, Coupland's book chugged along in his inimitable way, but then he had his characters all start telling stories. So he's got stories within the story, and they're violent and, for lack of a better word, dumb. To quote the southern belle who briefly dates Jerry on Seinfeld, "It's all just so much fluff."

It really feels like Coupland needed an excuse to tell these random and bizarre stories, so he plunked them into what seemed a promising sense of a plot. And they just go on. And on.

Frankly, I just got sick of reading these stories. And when I looked ahead in the book, they went on until very, very close to the end of the book.

It's disappointing when a book you really like just falls apart, and you can't even make yourself finish it.

Sorry, Doug; I liked it at first, and I wanted to love it, but I couldn't finish it.

As a typical fellow GenXer, I just couldn't be bothered.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Complaint: A Warning to my Female Readers of a Certain Age

Please Note:

Do NOT watch this week's episode of Glee if you are in the throes of premenstruality.

Unless you have lots of kleenex. Those sentimental bastards.

Now I have to go cheer up by watching What the Buck?! on YouTube.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Complaint: Medusa was Grossly Misunderstood.

You know you're in the grip of extreme PMS when you see conspiracy theories at every turn.

This is where my mood has turned.

Funny thing is, I've had a kick-ass great day. I had coffee with one of my favorite people, went to a an informational interview that got me a job and connected me with a kindred spirit, and I still wasn't late for pick-up at my kids' school.

This was a vast improvement on yesterday, when I gently, ever-so-gently, rear-ended the mom in the Odyssey in front of me at the car line pick-up at school. After apologizing profusely, I went back to my car and sobbed silently. I should have known this was the beginning of hormonal hell.

Anyway, I think you feel the highs and lows even more acutely when you're in this heightened biological state. I had such GREAT day today, and then my daughter was totally in my son's grill while he was trying to do his homework and I finally sent her to her room where she howled for an eternity, it seemed. That kind of soured me. And I just got in the grouch zone big time.

And I noticed that I was more than a little pissed at the woman whose car I bumped because she called her insurance company.

Honestly, that's it.

Of course she called her insurance company. If it was me, I would have done the same.

I guess I would have liked to have talked more to her first, but what, really, would that have achieved?

When you see it in print, it doesn't look like a big deal. She made a phone call. Then I got a phone call. And it will all work out, hopefully without too painful a bump in our premium. End of story. So I needed to drop that storyline, pronto.

Then my husband came downstairs from his office to say he was missing dinner tonight and I totally over-reacted, as if he'd said he was going away for six months on a cruise without me.

This is PMS at its rich, delightful, best.

So I think I'm going to have to really Zen it up and pause before I speak for the next five or six days. And remember that the world is not out to get me. I'm pretty good at that all by myself.

And now, I will go and celebrate the good parts of this day. Which were many.

And Medusa? PMS. Duh. And a bad hair day, but that's another story.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Comment: A Cold Mess

Winter is upon us, and with it, the chills. Not just from viruses, though we know that's coming down the pike. But just plain CHILLS from being outside.

I took a walk today sans gloves (it is, after all, only early October) and I froze my fingers off! Seriously, I feel that sentence merits an exclamation mark. That's how I feel about it, Jake Jarmel be damned!

It took me close to an hour to stop shivering. And I think we're also entering the season when it doesn't matter how your hair looks, because your head will be buried under some form of hat for the next six months, minimum. God, I miss California.

Actually, what I'm really thinking about today is a meditation class I have tonight. It's the first session, and my first ever such class. Ironically, and natch, I am nervous as a bed bug in a four star hotel.

I've been angsting all day about how it will be, who will be there, if I'll be the lamest person there, etc. Crisis of confidence? You betcha.

It seems that I can hum along fine for a period of time, but then I notice that underneath it all, like everyone else, I'm a quivering mass of insecurities. Not very attractive, but there it is.

Anyway, I was reassured today when I spoke to the director of the yoga center where the class is taking place. She said all the right things and talked me off the ledge, because I was SO ready to bail on the whole thing and get into bed and watch 30Rock on Hulu tonight instead.

These yoga people, they're so...calm. And nice. And...friendly.

Makes me feel like I might get something out of this class.

So I'm gearing up for: Neurotic meditation! Uncomfortable positions on random cushions! A sincere desire to not fall on my face! Hope for the human race!

All this, and more, in tomorrow's QCC.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Complaint: Not a Good Idea

As a treat for our brains (and a break on the wallet), my husband has subscribed to The New York Times, weekends only.

This means that Friday we get a scrawny paper, Saturday we get a slim paper, and Sunday, we get a honking enormous paper replete with flyers and little glossy magazines full of 500$ shoes and 50$ edgy cocktail napkins. (Some of the pictures are really pretty. Also, there's a whole section encouraging me to patronize Amazon and get the latest tome by the latest young literary genius.)

But today, it didn't come. It felt a bit Waiting for Godot-ish. Is it here now? Have you seen it yet? How about now? My husband even called the company, but to no avail. They said they'd send it, but they didn't. Very Becketian. (Becketish? Becketarian?)

Anyway, I was forced to hightail it to technology in order to obtain my news, in spite of the fact that I really prefer my news on paper. It seems more real, and it stays in my brain longer.

So as I went to the front page online today, the first thing I saw was about more states allowing concealed guns into bars and restaurants. Take a minute to scan the article, I'll wait.

Okay, What the WHAT?!

How is mixing alcohol and artillery even remotely a sane idea?

Sure, they say the gun-toters have to drink soda, but do you really think that's going to be verified on a regular basis? Will there be breathalyzers at each table next to the mini-jukeboxes?

And what about the waitstaff, who are slogging away for crap pay while in the line of fire of some tipsy, reactionary, paranoid gun-toter who's pissed off at the slow service or lack of maraschino cherries in his daughter's Shirley Temple?

That is, for lack of a more artful term, completely fucked up.

This is yet another reason that this country is in rapid and inexorable decline.

The other reason (though arguably somewhat less dangerous) of late is that double-chicken-double-cheese-double-bacon-no-bun atrocity at Burger King. This artery-clogger is probably even going to fool some ignorant folks into thinking it's healthy because it's all Atkinsy, what with no overt carbs. Good grief.

I'm afraid Gary Shteyngart might be right. About everything.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Comment: Verbal Diarrhea

Okay, so I really need to get out more.

I've noticed that if you give me even one glass of wine, I'm the chattiest fucking Cathy on the block.

Yes, I went out tonight, with other PEOPLE, GROWN-UP people, to be exact. And I'm reminded how arrested my development is.

I didn't do anything super stupid, but I found myself at times almost looking at myself from above, thinking, "Damn, girl, stop talking for two seconds!" Blah blah blah.

It's just that I've been quiet and child-centered for seven years, and I'm getting a glimpse of life when your children are old enough to clean, toilet and entertain themselves. And I am loving it.

Wow. People. Talking and drinking and eating independently. What a world.

I've been out of any kind of professional loop for so long that I feel like I'm really only in my mid-thirties, at least in terms of career advancement. Not to mention that I'm a really late bloomer, so really, I'm 29. Or something.

I guess I'm just crawling out from the cozy and lovely and exhausting cocoon that is stay at home motherhood.

And the light is so bright.

I think I need sunglasses.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Comment: A Book Review, of Sorts

I just finished reading Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart. It was both disturbing and excellent. I couldn't put it down.

But it kind of bummed me out.

Not having read his other books yet, (Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook), I don't know if this one is a departure from his previous stylings.

But he is one kick-ass satirist in this one. And an amazing writer. In fact, I feel like an idiot trying to even come close to reviewing, in words, something that he did, WITH words.

It's awesome. In both senses of the word. And yet, it's a downer.

You know how they say, "it's funny 'cos it's true!" about random shit? Well, this book is both terrifying and funny because it could be true in the not so distant future.

Shteyngart manages to take everything messed up about our current world (political, social, economic, cultural) and extrapolate it just far enough out there to seem only a tad far-fetched. The things he writes about really could happen. And they're scary. But predictable, given today's climate.

Basically, this is a grown-up, written version of Wall-E, with more emphasis on texting and shopping. But it's the same message. We've trashed the earth and ourselves, we're fat and shallow, and it's our fault.

So if you're looking for an amazing book and are feeling just a tad masochistic, pick it up.

If not, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan is also excellent, and not so dystopian. And it has without question the most brilliant chapter on Asperger's Syndrome, done entirely in PowerPoint. That alone makes the book worth buying.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Complaint: More of a Rebuttal, Actually

I was just reading my friend and fellow blogger, The Solipsist's, entry for Monday, and lo and behold, he spoke of something about which I know far, far too much.

He laments the lot of the poor stinkbug for its somewhat, negative, name. It must have self-esteem issues, perhaps. Fortunately for him, he's never encountered one in the flesh, because if he HAD, he would know that being called a "stinkbug" is a euphemism. They should be so lucky that's ALL we call them here in the Mid-Atlantic region, where they've decided to land, live, and procreate at massive rates.

I wasn't even going to blog about the pesky beasts, but now, to set the record straight, I fear I must.

A stinkbug buzzes. A stinkbug dive bombs you in the middle of the night. (I have heard that some even bite, though that's apparently rare.) But more than anything else, a stinkbug stinks.

Imagine rotten cilantro mixed with dusty garbage.

Yup, that about covers it.

And lest you think I'm anti-insectist, let me say this: for weeks, I kept saying I didn't think they stunk (stank?) and that I didn't understand why they were CALLED stinkbugs in the first place.

But now I know.

Because last week, in the course of thirty minutes, my husband and I spent some quality time vacuuming up about 100 of the bastards off our curtains, ceilings and windows. The inside of the see-thru (of course) canister looked like a miniature horror movie set. All you need is some sketchy, shrill music and the screams of a blonde coed and it's all there. I screamed when I saw it. And I'm part blonde.

The kicker, though, was when I went to use my vacuum this week, (emptied prior, natch) my whole foyer smelled like stinkbugs. Fragrant.

An enterprising friend told me about some non-toxic spray I could use around the windows, which seemed to help. Also, we CLOSED our windows in spite of the record-breaking heat. (We have holes in our screens. We may as well have put out a sign that said "STINKBUG PARADISE RIGHT HERE, COME ON IN!")(This is what buying an old house will get you.)

So things are under control now, but for how long?

Everyone in the family yelps a little yelp when one buzzes past, and we're all super sensitive to smells. They'll be no salsa avec cilantro for us for the indefinite future, I can tell you that much.

Stinkbugs are REAL. And they REALLY STINK.

P.S. There are no bugs in California because they can't handle the pollution. Except for the cockroaches. The wily bastards, they'll outlive us all.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Complaint: Definitely a Complaint

I was just wondering if anyone else out there wants to join my new club: It's called
Everything I Love to Do and am Good at Pays for Shit.

Why is that, exactly?

Being creative, or heaven forbid, an artist of any kind, seems to instantly mean meager job prospects, and the constant unsolicited career advice of well-meaning relatives. My brain hurts from relentless career nudges and readjustments.

And they aren't only coming from other people. They come from within, my friends. They come from within.

I find myself bemoaning the fact that my expensive education equips me to work at McDonalds or possibly to be allowed to clean up in schools or daycare centers AFTER the kids have gone home. It seems that education does not buy you any kind of guarantee.

This is why I have been struggling through these math classes and ETS bullshit tests, in order to qualify to step foot into a school as a full fledged teacher in this particular draconian state. But there aren't jobs, and even if there were, there wouldn't be many in the arts. There isn't even a designation for my field (Drama) in this state. That's how much it thinks of the arts.

I'm rambling. And it's all too familiar to alert or even only slightly alert readers. Kvetch, kvetch.

But I'm not going to be a doctor or a lawyer. Never gonna happen. I am who I am.

Guess I just have to accept that what I love to do is not highly remunerative, but the payoff can be pretty damn good.

It just annoys me that teachers and artists and social workers and non-profits and their ilk make crap money, but bring immeasurable joy and educational value to life.

Why don't we value the valuable?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Comment: Adventures in Driving

So I had a training to go to this weekend, outside of my little comfort-zone radius of 2.2 miles here in my urban paradise. This qualified as an ADVENTURE.

Naturally, I did Google maps. Then I got my two different GPSes, set them up, and was ready to go. Oh, and I had the directions that the training site (a library) told me to use, typed out for my convenience already.

Step One: Tom Tom GPS not functioning. Only showing Gray Striped Screen of Death. Remain undaunted: I've got back ups!

Step Two: Follow paper directions because it's too hard to use iPod GPS while driving stick shift in traffic.

Step Three: Miss vital turn.

Step Four: Am completely, utterly turned around. Drive for a long while hoping to be able to turn around and retrace my steps.

Step Five: Discover it is WAY too late for that. Think profane thoughts. Breathe deeply.

Step Six: Pull over. Consult functioning GPS.

Step Seven: Drive more.

Step Eight: End up at a horse stable the GPS insists is the library. Curse softly.

Repeat Steps Six and Seven.

Step Nine: Find a library. But it's the wrong one. Curse a little louder.

Repeat Steps Six and Seven.

Step Ten: Find myself in the middle of a large cemetery, proudly displaying a large billboard proclaiming "SPECIAL! Two for One Caskets PLUS FREE CRYPT!". No, I am not making this up. Attempt to curse quietly out of respect for the dead.

Step Eleven: Drive on, watching little dot on functioning GPS tell me I'm ALMOST there, but can never GET there.

Step Twelve: Find errant US Postal Worker. Ask for directions. Said Postal Worker tells me I am WAY off, points me in appropriate direction.

Step Thirteen: Arrive at training site, the right library, this time. Total travel time: 85 minutes. Find doors locked. Curse loudly. Find back door open. Enter late. Discover thirty minutes later the side zipper on my blouse is WIDE OPEN.

Conclusion: Throw myself on the mercy of the local population for handwritten directions home. Get home in 30 minutes.

Technology, ye have failed me, and I am sore afraid.

Seriously, sometimes the best GPS is a woman named Paula and a post-it note with directions you stick onto the dashboard of your car.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Complaint: MInd the Gap

DEPTH ALERT: The following post displays 88% shallowness.

Other than math, as of late, my obsession turns to boots, just as the weather cools, and I realize that pedicures will soon no longer matter. (Which is hard to believe, given today's current balmy temperature of 90.)

Anyway, I got a deal on a major sale on boots that I hope to wear to a special awards ceremony in which my mother is being honoured. Want to clean up nice for that, I tell ya.

So I got these boots and they're the funky lace up type, and all was well until I zipped them up, tightened the laces as much as I possibly could, and found: a GAP. A very big gap. My calves were swimming in these boots.

Now I didn't order wide calf boots, which, apparently, exist. My question is this: if a five foot ten runner's calves are floating in these boots, WHO ARE THEY MADE FOR? How big does a calf get? Do I have abnormally under-developed calves? Or is the expectation that all American women who have feet as LARGE as mine (very large) are also gigantic everywhere else?

I'm more the Olive Oyl with a slight muffintop type. My calves are not large. And I can't really imagine filling this massive gap that's large enough there should be a warning sign of some sort. I could lose my keys in there.

So are they going back to the store? Most likely. Unless I can figure out how to make them less gappy. Seeing as I'm pretty useless with a needle and thread, I'm not so sure much can be done.

I just don't understand who these are made for. And I'm disappointed that my big sale score is less than optimal. Such are the risks one takes with online shopping.

Math class now more than 50% done. Closer......closer....

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Comment: Hullo.

I hope you have all been well. I apologize for my extensive absence. Sometimes a lady's gotta do what a lady's gotta do.

Okay, so it's been two months. I've been a little, er, occupied. But let's not dwell on that. Let's dwell on the fact that I have shagged my ass back to the computer, and for once, it isn't to do algebra!

I survived the first math class, asinine as it was. Basically I paid a lot of money to use a relentless taskmaster of a tutorial program to get through the first math class hoop. The so-called teacher? Useless. But I'm in the dead center of the second and final class, and it isn't so bad. Yes, I really did say that. I don't loathe factoring the way I loathed the graphing in class one. This current class is really not so horrible. It's dumb. But not horrible.

Don't get me wrong, the first four and a half weeks (out of five) of the first class was a series of teeth gnashing, garment rending (not the trendy kind)(and not involving jeggings; can I just pause and say that is the DUMBEST new word I've heard in a very long time?) and wailing "I want out! I'm done! I can't do this!" and other things I don't want my children to hear me say.

But see, I don't want to be a quitter. And even though I took a two month hiatus from this blog, due, in large part, to a personal mental health challenge (and a really crappy summer job), I'm back in buffalo mode. Really, what other mode is there? If you want to get shit done, I mean. Barrel through.

Things in my home life have settled down quite nicely after extensive chaos and confusion. And with only two and half more weeks to go of this online math bullshit, I'll have more time for the blog again.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Comment: Full Speed Ahead

I'm going out on a limb as the buffalo over the next five weeks. I'm attacking what I've been putting off for months, nearly a year, really. I am required by the draconian state in which I live to take two college level math classes in order to get my credential, a fact alert readers are all too aware of at this juncture.

So, after chickening out twice, (I guess it was sort of a Buffalo wings situation) (sorry!) I am about to plow through taking an online, college level math class.

I haven't touched algebra (not intimately, anyway) in over twenty years.

But in keeping with my new zeal to be badass and tough and fierce and forge through challenges, I am doing it.

I've even got a binder ready for my (gah) homework. And I am totally buying a two dollar calculator which I may actually use. Preferably pink, with skulls on it.

Did that buffalo story say anything about having another buffalo hold your hand while you run through the storm?

I'm just asking.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Comment: Being the Buffalo

Okay, so my dear friend Christy commented on yesterday's post with the following link:

In it, you hear about exactly what I was trying to express yesterday: plowing through challenges. Apparently, according to Wilma Mankiller of the Cherokee nation, cows run AWAY from storms, which makes their suffering significant, and their eventual and heavy soaking inevitable.

Buffalo, on the other hand, charge right into the storm, and come out of it much quicker. I'm not saying they come out dry, I mean, come on, but they get through the shit faster and easier.

My co-teacher and I were working with our students on metaphors today, so I trotted out (sorry!) the BE THE BUFFALO maxim as an example. I'm not sure how much the kids really got it, but they liked the image.

And so do I.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Comment: Turning Point

I've reached a point where my fears are getting in the way of what I want.

Periodically, that happens to me.

So then I have to shift gears.

I put it in F, for Fearless. Of course, I don't feel that way. But, having trained in the fine art of theatuh, I am quite well-versed at acting that way, in spite of inner turmoil or contrary opinions.

I have to plow through the things that scare me, so I can get to the good stuff, which is often how things in this life seem to go.

So I've given myself a little pep talk. And I'm putting in the clutch.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Comment: Less Despondent

The week improved, as did my mood, after spending five days in the arts-enriched summer program with some middle schoolers who really grew on me (and, it would appear, vice-versa). I could tell that I was having some sort of generalized positive effect by being there, being enthusiastic, and attempting to distract/entertain/engage them. This is encouraging.

Tomorrow I start off from scratch again, at a new site, in another part of town, where once again the schools suck because all the rich and middle class people have abandoned them for private ones.

I hear that the head count is quite low there, so it should be interesting to meet the few kids who have decided to show up. I have more than enough planned, because that's how I roll. And of course, I'm nervous. Once I'm there, I'm fine, it's the thinking about getting there that makes me anxious.

Who said you can't have performance anxiety even when you've put aside your professional acting aspirations?

So stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Comment: Rude Awakening

I'm really questioning the path I'm on at the moment. As a middle-aged, middle class white woman, (and a Canadian, to boot) who am I to walk into an American, urban, poor, predominantly African-American classroom full of middle school students and try to teach them anything?

Who do I think I am?

The problems I see in the lives of these kids are unreal to me. They're the stuff of late night news reports and tragic newspaper articles.

What am I doing?

I guess my answer is, I'm there to attempt to give them voices that they otherwise wouldn't have, in terms of expressing themselves through the arts. It all sounds great, but the reality? I don't know if I'm making an impact. I'm an itinerant teacher who goes from school to school for a week at a time, attempting to cram theatre arts and self expression into the short hour a day that's allocated for me. I know that today, I reached a few kids, for a few minutes. I think. I hope.

I'm also there to give a shit about the kids. That's something, too, isn't it? Because I do care. I care a lot.

Maybe that's enough.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Comment: They Gave Me a Certificate

ETS. Those wily bastards.

I just received a CERTIFICATE telling me how well I did on those damn Praxis teacher tests. They didn't tell me the score, they don't DO that on paper anymore, apparently, to save trees, BUT they somehow felt the need to waste some trees on a certificate and swanky blue certificate HOLDER for my personal keepsake album of ETS successes.

So I had to go online to actually find out my scores. And yes, I did well. Alert the media.

So this is interesting to me because, although I didn't expect to fail these two tests I took, (that was alliteration, by the way) I didn't expect to ace them, either.

And here I was ready to give up on getting credentialed in this god-forsaken state because EVERY SINGLE NEW TEACHER I know does NOT HAVE A JOB.

Teaching jobs are so scarce here. Schools are closing left and right. I had kind of given up on getting credentialed here. No jobs to be had.

And then I get this fabulous certificate from those dear, thoughtful taskmasters at ETS, and now I'm just all a-flutter.

Apparently the certificate will even be MENTIONED on the score reports sent to the institutions of my choice.

Well hip, hip, hooray.

Now all I have to do is take two college level math classes and prove that my Canadian education consisted of more than igloo building and beer swilling.

Color me inspired.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Comment: It's the Little Things

Sometimes, it's something small and simple that makes your day.

Drinking straws, for example.

I just made myself an iced coffee (a definite pleasure itself) and I put a straw in the glass. I had bought them allegedly for the kids just the other day, on a whim. I know how they love them.

But honestly, so do I.

Bendy straws.

Sometimes that's all it takes to make a person happy.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Comment: Aloha, Facebook!

Here we go again: I just deactivated my Facebook account.

And not without a price. A small handful of my favorite friends from long ago and far away are on there, and now I won't be able to chat with them instantaneously. We will just have to settle for email. Because, natch, I know their email addresses. Because I am consistently keeping in touch with them. Because I like them. A lot.

But I had to leave.

I was getting life envy again. I hate that. I was looking at all the fun people I barely know or knew a long time ago but lost touch with and I was thinking, damn, I'm not going out for drinks with the girls; I'm not lying on the beach in Aruba; I'm not interested in showing off my kids to everyone on the interweb, what's wrong with me and my insignificant life?

I just like the Chat feature. That's all I like. The rest, quite frankly, annoys me. And more so than usual.

Because I've been feeling that one year lull, which is what happens after you've moved to a new place and have busted your hump for a year making friends, getting work, settling in, getting a place to live and making yourself at home in it, and so on, lather, rinse, repeat three times in the past three years. I'm right tuckered out. And thus it's so easy to hide on Facebook where I don't really live my life, I watch other people's quips and feel lonesome. It's easy to sit in the dark in front of a computer. I should be interacting with people, not avatars.

So in this lull, I don't think it's the best choice to spend too much time online when I should be living my life offline with actual people live and in person. There are some very cool people I am just getting to know here, and I want to hang out with them, not hang out online lusting after other people's lives.

That just seems like a distorted way to live. So, for me, Facebook is not a pleasure. If it were, I'd be on it. Many people love it. Fair play to them.

But I'm more interested right now in reality, sans virtual anything.

Email me or comment here if you want to talk. You know who you are.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Comment: On Groundlessness, Again

I just got back from a glorious vacation where virtually my every whim was satisfied.

No wonder I'm a little grouchy now that I'm home.

It's back the grind, so to speak.

But what if that grind is all ass-backwards?

I'm having a hard time with the concept of my working while my husband does not. There's nothing wrong with it, it's nothing to fuss over, but our whole world order is, for the very short term, reversed. And it hasn't been this way, like, ever. (Unless you count grad school, which I don't. Because that was indentured servitude. But I digress.)

I know my husband will get a big fat job soon, and will be busy and unavailable. And I'll complain here, no doubt. He will disappear and I will lament the fact. I must seize the day.

But there is a LOT to be said for routines. And when you're not working, you don't have routines. So we are kind of two amorphouse blobs, floating around the house in search of an anchor of some sort.

My very part-time job starts a teeny bit this week, but kicks in at full throttle (half-time) next week.

I have to admit to being terrified, anxious, and excited.

I haven't worked at a job where I wasn't a sub in over seven years.

I'm a little bit nervous.

But I also know that to have outside validation of my life, as opposed to the sort of default, "Mom will deal with it" kind of mode I'm in 98% of the time, will feel great.

It just feels weird to be leaving my husband at home.

I want to appreciate this time. But I feel so off kilter.

How do you lean into the awkwardness, allow yourself to feel utterly groundless?

Should I be meditating? I'm sure I should be meditating.

Or something.

Any suggestions?