Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Although this is no longer one of my favorite holidays, back when the kids were little and when Mom ("Omi") made their costumes I absolutely loved Halloween!
That's Kat and Aleks as Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. I get all "mushy-mommy" just looking at this photo! (They were obviously so ready for a nap!)
I just don't know where the time went. This photo, with Elisabeth and Peter, was taken 18 years ago today, shortly before the twins were born (11/9/89). My friends begged me to paint my belly orange and put a jack-o-lantern face on it, but I was just so sick of being so huge and uncomfortable that I absolutely refused. Now I wish I'd done it!
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I can only think of a few heart-pounding adventures that should rightly take place before 7:00 AM, and cat-and-raccoon (or was it a coyote?) tug-of-war isn't one of them.
Just like every other day, I let the cats out first thing in the morning. While it's bright and sunny first thing in the morning in July, it's dark and cold at the same hour in October, so lately I've been a bit nervous letting them out, but I knew it would get light soon, so I let them out. Usually they frolic immediately into the woods, but this morning they sat still on the deck for a few moments and then moved pensively onto the lawn. I didn't give it a second thought.
I sat down sleepily at my laptop, beginning to delve into a few e-mails when -- CRASH! Bailey came careening onto the deck with such force that she crashed into two recycle bins and almost went straight over the railing! She was absolutely terrified, her tail about 3 inches wide and completely puffy, her back arched, and her eyes bugged practically out of her head. I was able to grab Bailey and bring her in the house, but Boo was still outside.
Let me just say, as if it weren't already obvious, that I am a "cat lady" in the most pathetic sense of the word. I adore my kitties and find amazing comfort in their presence, especially these days. I consider them to be a critical component of my sanity, even. (Which might, I am well aware, actually attest to my INsanity.) Plus, they're sweet and cuddly and they love me. It's a very self-centered, ego-centric love affair, but suffice it to say that I need my kitty cats. Both of them.
Seeing that something had absolutely terrified Bailey and knowing that Boo was still outside, I immediately grabbed a flashlight and went to search for... well, I was afraid I was searching for a lifeless body. Either that, or Boo would be nowhere to be found, carried off, bleeding and scared, gripped in some animal's huge teeth. My mind was reeling with horrific images of my poor kitty's death.
I called Boo repeatedly, but the forest was silent. At this point I began to cry, sure that he was gone, killing myself for letting the cats out in the first place -- even though I had let them out each morning for years. I couldn't call him if I was crying, so I put Shasta on a leash and asked her to "find the kitty."
I didn't have high hopes of finding Boo. Whatever scared Bailey so badly must have gotten Boo. Bailey was completely traumatized by, I figured, the sight of Boo being attacked. There I was, a pathetic sobbing cat lady, standing in my jammies in the freezing, dark forest, flashlight in one hand, dog leash in the other, muttering between gulps, "Boooooooo?"
Boo must have thought I was nuts as he nonchalantly rubbed against my heels. What?! Where did he come from? Wasn't he just being carried off in the jowls of a ferocious creature?
"Geeeeze, Ma, I'm right here... calm down, would'ja?" he seemed to say. I scooped Boo into my arms, juggling the flashlight, Shasta's leash and my reading glasses, and running into the house, where he jumped out of my arms. Indeed, his tail was a bit fluffy, indicating that something had scared him, too, in spite of the brave, I'm-not-scared demeanor he'd displayed outside. I can only figure that, while Bailey came running back toward the house, Boo scurried up a tree to escape whatever monster had tried to get them!
Bailey was still cowering under the bed. Whatever they had seen, it had scared Bailey more than Boo, but had obviously frightened both of them. Boo, ever the sweet daddy/brother/husband joined Bailey, licking her affectionately and settling in to comfort her.
And that's where they are now. Tomorrow morning I'm not letting these guys out until it's light... and maybe not even then. I'm a pathetic cat lady and if I lost these guys now, I have a feeling it's not all I'd lose. And I need my sanity these days!
Posted by Carol at 7:06 AM
Monday, October 29, 2007
Lara, over at Life: The Ongoing Education (isn't it, though?!) invited me to take part in an interview meme. Here (finally -- sorry, Lara!) are my answers to her questions:
1) What do you think is the scariest thing about being a "grown-up"?
The scariest (and yet the best and most rewarding) thing about being grown up is parenting! As I joke with my kids, "this is all one big experiment; I'm just crossing my fingers..." The responsibility of raising kind, thoughtful, well-mannered, involved and compassionate members of society sometimes feels daunting! Our approach has been love, trust and honesty. We figure that if we give it, chances are pretty good that it'll be returned... and so far that seems to be the case.
As Aleks and Kat are immersing themselves in college applications (the stress around that is huge!), I am beginning to immerse myself in the aspect of that process that's my responsibility -- the FAFSA (financial aid) stuff. The stress around THAT -- around finding a way to help three more kids through college -- is also huge! Oh, and did I mention that Elisabeth is going to GRAD SCHOOL next year? Yup -- we'll actually have FOUR kids in college next year! But the kids know that they're responsible for finding their own way through grad school. Fortunately, Elisabeth has all but finished paying off 35K in undergraduate college loans (paid off in ONE year!), so by the time she starts grad school she'll start with a blank loan ledger (and fill it up quickly, no doubt).
Oh yeah -- one more scary thing: finding my own job and being responsible for supporting a family. Yeah, there's that little ditty too...
2) What is your "comfort food"?
Creamy, pasta-filled casseroles. And after answering question #1, I feel like I need one!
3) If you won a free vacation to any era of history (in a time machine, of course), where - or when, rather - would you want to visit?
We were just discussing this one at dinner the other night! There has been more change and innovation in the past 50 years than any other time in history, and that's pretty exciting (and scary), so I think that right here is a pretty amazing place to be.
That said, I think I'd love to VISIT (I'd have to be able to blink myself back!) the American "covered wagon" days. I'm sure it was nowhere near as romantic as its depiction on Little House on the Prairie, but since reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, I've always thought it'd be cool to live in her young shoes for a bit.
I also think it would have been pretty dang cool to have been 0h, 19 years old... in oh, 1924... in oh, let's say high society Boston! Flapper, baby!!
4) Why do you think so many full-grown adults still laugh at fart jokes? Do you?
Nah -- but the rest of my family does. Personally, I don't get that one. But I do still laugh at a really good dirty joke. Know any?
5) What was your favorite board game as a child and why?
When I was about 10, my family was playing The Game of Life. One spin brought me TWINS! Boy/Girl twins! I was so absolutely thrilled at this that I started CRYING! Like really crying because I was so amazingly happy to have "spun twins." Little did I know then that I really WOULD "spin twins" -- boy/girl twins, even -- in real life 23 years later!
That was my best memory of a moment during a game. But my favorite game was called Trouble. I can't even remember how the game was played, except that it had this cool plastic dome called a "pop-o-matic" in the middle of the board. To roll the dice, you just pressed the pop-o-maric and the dice would be rolled under the dome!
I know... I was pretty easily pleased.
So... since the whole idea of a meme is to keep it alive, let me know if you want me to interview you (include your e-mail address) and I'll send you five questions created just for you!
Sunday, October 28, 2007
If you're not from Washington State, you're probably wondering what the hell "WAZZU and the Palouse" means.
WAZZU is an affectionate nickname for Washington State University (also known as WSU), and the Palouse is a region in Eastern Washington, characterized by expansive rolling hills of wheat that seem to go on forever. It's absolutely desolate -- and absolutely beautiful!
Peter and Danelle will be going to WSU next year, so this weekend Tom and I joined Danelle's parents and our kids and we all drove four hours east to Pullman to cheer on WAZZU in their game against UCLA -- which they won! (Tom, ever the UCLA fan, was caught secretly cheering for UCLA under his breath and appropriately scolded by Peter and Danelle...)
It was a wonderful weekend and it was great for us parents to watch Peter and Danelle's get excited about their new school, their independence -- and yes, their new apartment.
On the way home I snapped photos galore; the Palouse is just so beautiful -- in sort of a desolate, lonely sort of way. The only thing that stopped me was the sunset and loss of light!
Friday, October 26, 2007
I haven't given the idea polygamy (or, to be PC about it, "plural marriage") much thought in the past, but today's Oprah show -- and one comment in particular-- really made me ponder the issue and question my prejudices.
Valarie, who seems like a normal, articulate, family-oriented soccer mom, shares her husband with two other women. Her family seems to be filled with love, and everyone involved is very happy with the family's arrangement. Since my image of polygamy has been based on media that depicts plural marriages as oppressive, extremist, sexist, and stuck in some other century, I was quite surprised to see Valerie speak of her open, wholesome, supportive, and very contemporary family.
But it was something Valerie said that made me (and Oprah) question my own attitudes and ask whether we're a nation of double standards. As a supporter of gay marriage, I believe that any loving couple should be allowed to form a legal union and to marry if that's their desire. I had never considered whether this should or shouldn't apply to plural marriage; to tell you the truth, I just never gave it any thought. But this afternoon when I heard Valerie say, "I feel like I should have the right to live this way when this is a world of such alternative lifestyles," I stopped dead in my proverbial tracks.
She is absolutely right! If we're going to be accepting of other alternative life styles (and I think that, as long as those involved are consenting adults and no one gets hurt, we should be), then shouldn't we be just as accepting of plural marriage?
(There's a polygamist sect in Colorado City, Arizona which is oppressive, extremist and dangerous, and people are getting hurt in those situations. But those families aren't hurting because they're plural; they're hurting because of oppressive, abusive, domineering, extremist attitudes -- the same attitudes that hurt heterosexual marriages and families.)
What do you think? In a "world of such alternative lifestyles," as Valerie put it, should she and her plural family have a "right to live this way"?
And here's another interesting question to ponder: If pluralists want others to embrace their alternate lifestyle and their marriages that defy "traditional" American morals, then do they also embrace those who ask for the same tolerance regarding different alternate marriages... like gay marriage?
During the first two weeks of April in 2000, Mom had gone from excitedly packing for a trip to Germany with me to waking up in a hospital and being told that she had cancer.
It was a painful time.
The cancer was so extensive that the doctors in her small Oregon town decided that, instead of completing the surgery themselves, they would staple Mom closed and life-flight her to OHSU Medical Center in Portland, one of the best teaching hospitals in the country and a very good place to be if you have to face cancer. Mom's continued surgery there went as well as could be expected, but she awoke to a reality that was undeniable -- she was in for the fight of her life. (And it was a fight that she engaged in valiantly, eventually losing it four years -- to the day -- later.)
The day after her surgery, the team of "pain management" doctors descended upon Mom's room. One young resident, looking nervous and rather unsure of himself, stood at the foot of her bed, holding a laminated chart containing a series of line drawings -- round circle faces, with expressions from glee (a big D-shaped mouth) to boredom (a line-shaped mouth) to despair (an upside-down U-shaped mouth).
The intern cleared his throat and, without greeting my mother or introducing himself, asked, "Which of these pictures best shows what kind of pain you're feeling right now?" My mother, still groggy from the surgery, muttered "What?" The Intern took a step forward and spoke slightly louder. "Which of these faces best describes your pain, Mrs. H?"
"None of them," answered my mother, and fell back asleep.
The next day the young pain management specialist returned. "Mrs. H, which of these pictures best shows what kind of pain you're feeling right now?" he asked again, standing like a soldier at the foot of Mom's bed. This time, when he held up his cartoon chart Mom was more awake -- and more herself.
"Is this a multiple choice test?" she asked the intern.
"Well, no... not really. I guess sort of, in a way..." he stammered. "I just need to know what kind of pain you're experiencing, so we can help you."
Mom took a deep breath. I knew what was coming. Even in a hospital, even with cancer, even after surgery, you couldn't take the teacher out of my mother.
"This really shouldn't be a multiple choice question. It's not that simple." my mother exclaimed.
The internist took a step backwards and stood up straight. This was not the sleepy woman he met yesterday.
"This should actually be an essay question, don't you think?" Mom added. "Because if you really want to know about my pain, you should maybe listen to me."
She was on a roll now.
"Do you mean my physical pain, from the surgery? Do you mean the emotional pain of finding out I have cancer? Do you mean the pain of not being able to get up and close the door so I don't have to listen to the chatty nurses in the hall? What kind of pain do you want to know about?" Mom implored.
The intern lowered his chart. Mom the (impatient) patient/teacher continued. "I really think maybe your approach is flawed and I don't want to answer your question." The intern looked at the doctor who was obviously in charge, who said, "That's OK, Mrs. H. You don't have to answer our question if you don't want to. Just let us know if we can help." Mom, who wasn't usually blatantly rude but was always blatantly honest, reluctantly agreed and thanked the doctors.
The next day the pain management team returned. This time there was no chart. This time the intern stood at the side of the bed instead of at the foot of the bed. This time he asked Mom to describe her pain -- which she did. As she spoke, he scribbled notes, looking at her occasionally, but buried in his clipboard. "We just want to help you, Mrs. H," he assured her. "Let us know what we can do for you." Mom was tired and only said, "Just listen."
The next day, the pain management intern returned to see Mom for the last time. He didn't stand at the foot of the bed. He didn't stand at the side of her bed. There was no chart with cartoon faces. The internist pulled a chair close to Mom's bed and put his hand on hers. "How are you feeling today, Edith?" he asked.
And my mother, the teacher, smiled.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Some of you have asked for an update on my job situation. I've been a bit hesitant about divulging too much information on my blog because... well, because there's a certain decorum one needs for this stuff.
On the other hand, while I believe firmly in decorum, I also believe in being as transparent and forthright as possible (and as appropriate). It's how I lead both my professional and my personal life, so there's no reason why it shouldn't also apply to my blog.
So, let's go back. All the way to May. (And, if it weren't for a 6-month contract stint at Microsoft and my little adventure at the beginning of this year, we'd be going back to last May!)
That's when I applied for the Director of Product Development position at the children's advocacy non-profit. Let's call them "A." I had three interviews with them -- a one hour phone interview, a three hour in-person interview with the CEO and executive recruiter, and an all-day interview with the 7-person leadership team. End result: I am one of two finalists. The other is a friend of mine, whose position I coincidentally took when he left (and I started at) another non-profit, a health education organization. They offer him the position. He declines it to take a more stable, higher-paying job in the technical consulting industry, but they didn't then offer it to me. I inquired as to why, and they told me. As of last week, the CEO had resigned. The position is still open -- and re-defined. I am newly in touch with the executive recruiting firm, but gun-shy about the whole thing at this point.
In July, I applied for two cool positions, both at non-profits. One was for the Director of Programs with a cultural and educational exchange program for at-risk youth (let's call them "B") and one was for the Executive Director position with a childbirth education organization focusing on lower income families (we'll call them "C"). I had two interviews with B, both of which went really well. At the end of the second interview I inquired into the salary and was very sad to discover that the salary was grant-based (i.e., non negotiable), less than half what I had come from, and simply not enough to even come close to supporting the family. I was sad to let go of that job, but was asked to bid on the writing of a 2-year curriculum for the organization. I am still awaiting word on that bid, but considering the fact that my first sentence in the e-mail when I sent it was, "You might want to sit down," I have a feeling nothing will come of it. (Non-profit or not, those things are very expensive to do well, especially for a media-savvy, demanding teen market!)
In early August, I noticed that the Director of Product Development at a family game company (we'll call them "D") that I've had my eye on for years, had opened up. In my initial inquiry, I attached networking e-mail exchanges with the CEO that had gone back almost two years. I got a call 15 minutes after I sent the e-mail, was asked to call the person vacating the position that evening, and to come in the next day -- which I did. On that day, I met with the CEO and she introduced me to a bunch of the directors. A few days later I was asked to come back to meet the leadership team. After that meeting I was pretty sure an offer was coming, but instead of a job offer, I was offered a contract writing gig. I took it, of course, odd as it all seemed to me. So there I was, applying for a position at the same company for which I was doing a freelance gig! And for three (three!) weeks after that day, my status as an applicant remained up in the air while I finished, submitted, and was paid for the writing gig. By that point I had gone from sure I had clinched the Director position to wondering whether I was even in the running at all. The day before I left for Germany in September I was informed that they'd found someone else who had sourcing experience in China which I, admittedly, don't have. I thanked them, expressed my disappointment, but congratulated them on their new hire. Last week I saw a new ad for that position (Director/Sourcing Expert). I emailed them, asking whether I could be of help in the interim. Not surprisingly, I haven't heard back.
I was in weekly touch with the people from "C" (the childbirth organization) through July, and the interviews for qualified candidates were supposed to be in late August or September. I fretted, because of our trip to Germany, but amazingly enough, interviews for all final candidates were moved to a day during the week when I returned. Although the job description had asked for 5 - 10 years' Executive Director experience with a non-profit, my assumption was that, since I didn't have that experience but was being asked to continue in the process, it wasn't an absolute mandate. The interview went very well and when I was asked if I'd been an ED or served on a board of a non-profit, I could only be honest and answer that I had not, but since I was there at all, I assumed that experience wouldn't make or break my candidacy.
I got a call a few days later, saying that I'd have been a "shoo-in" if it weren't for my lack of ED experience, and inquiring about whether I'd be willing to serve on their board beginning in early 2008. Since this process had already taken over three months and was "the one I wanted" (though salary hadn't been divulged yet, and that might have been a deal-breaker), I was very, very discouraged that evening. But I decided to focus on the positive, and I'm still very excited about being a board member for this organization.
A few weeks ago I interviewed for a web-based education company (they'll be "E") and that's still up in the air, so I'll decline to add anything more here.
And last week I sent an unsolicited e-mail to an exciting start-up company ("F"?) that will be doing exactly what I love the most -- developing engaging skills development media for young children. We talked for almost three hours and definitely hit it off, but unfortunately they need to fill other, more technical positions first. They did ask me to submit a timed writing sample, which I did (and that's why yesterday's post was a "Wordless Wednesday"!). Last night I was told that, although they love my "casual and friendly" voice and style, there's no immediate work, but there should be in the next few months. Am I willing to "just keep in touch"?
Of course I am.
And now I need to quickly sign off and reply to an e-mail inquiring about my availability for some freelance consulting work. I love that the e-mail ends with this: "If you had your way, what parts of this might you want to participate in? What could your commitment level be until there’s some moolah to spread around? Dang, I wish we could just hire you right now!"
I do too, my friend. I do too!
I have a feeling that the perfect job is out there seeking me with as much fervor, dedication, commitment and hope as I am seeking my perfect job. We're both wondering why we can't find each other when we're sure -- positive -- that the other exists. But I know that we will find each other one day. And it will be a glorious union that will make us both very, very happy -- and very, very relieved!
(Note: The positions I mention above are those for which I've had at least one interview and in which I am interested. There are also quite a few jobs I've interviewed for that I'm not particularly interested in... as well as plenty of jobs I'm interested in, but couldn't secure an interview!)
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
I am savoring Eat, Pray, Love and I dread the moment when I will sadly and slowly read the final paragraph and close the book.
When Liz is in
I have taken a nightly bath since before I can remember (though I do have vague memories of the soapy smell of Johnson's Baby Shampoo and a soft "ducky" towel with a pocket in the corner which served as a cap for wet hair). And although most of my adult days consist of a flurry of activity from dawn to dusk, I have always insisted on my own nightly hedonistic escape. Even when I had four kids under the age of five demanding my constant and uninterrupted attention, I always found a way to indulge my one selfish pleasure -- my evening bath.
These days, Boo keeps me company. The moment he hears the water rushing into the tub he comes running, jumps onto the hamper (upon which I've placed his favorite soft towel), curls up and goes to sleep, his forceful purr replacing the sound of the cascading water as I turn off the faucet and settle into the smooth, silky water.
Unlike years past, when I had to steal an abbreviated moment to myself, I now settle into my bath -- and into my book -- for long periods of time, emerging shriveled, but very, very relaxed. I am reading Eat, Pray Love very slowly, savoring every one of Liz's words, admiring every paragraph she writes, and envying every experience she has -- both as a writer and as a traveler. (Today I read an entire chapter over again, just to repeat the amazingly pleasant experience of reading it.)
Oh, to be able to string words and thoughts and experiences together with such simple, pure perfection! When I read Liz Gilbert's writing, I visualize a thick, velvety smooth ribbon of perfection. Chocolate comes to mind -- dark 70% chocolate (80% if it exists) -- and I savor each drop of it as it permeates every crevasse of my mind. That's how effective her writing is! As she describes the beautiful, flowing Italian language and the simple but succulent Italian food, her words take on exactly those qualities, and I can't help but be there with her in warm, steamy relaxing, bubbly Italy.
See what I mean? I think it's time to get out of this bath.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
FreeRice.com is a fun, addictive online vocabulary game with a wonderful change-the-world twist. For each vocabulary word that you get right (and who can resist a quick and easy online word game?!), the site -- bolstered by advertisers like Macy's, Toshiba, and Liz Claiborne -- donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations to help end world hunger.
When the site launched just a few weeks ago on October 7th, 830 grains of rice were donated; yesterday, 26,881,930 grains of rice found their way to hungry mouths around the world. And for each grain of rice donated, someone's ability to speak and use English words correctly has improved.
(It seems to me that it's only a matter of time, assuming this is as wildly successful as I hope it will be, that new world languages are added to the site. How cool is that?!)
I love words (especially slutty ones), remember? So you can bet that I'll sneak onto the site repeatedly today, between reading Eat, Pray, Love (trust me, you simply must read this book!) and real-life responsibilities.
I made it to level 39 last time, missing the word "vaquero" (which is a cowboy). How did YOU do?
Monday, October 22, 2007
In 1991, my childhood home in the Berkeley hills nearly burned to the ground in this fire. (It was the proximity of our house to the Claremont Hotel, which is an historic landmark, that contributed heavily to it being spared.)
Tonight, fire is surrounding the Northern San Diego community where my kids spent their early years, and where good friends of mine still live. Hundreds of homes have already been destroyed, with more damage expected, and hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated.
Crews from the Pacific Northwest are headed southward this evening. It'll take them two days just to get there, and the prediction is that things will be even worse when they arrive.
I wish we could send some of this damp Pacific Northwest weather their way!
Sunday, October 21, 2007
On Oprah's recommendation, I bought Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert today, and after reading just three paragraphs I must bid you, dear reader, adieu until I finish this book. (You so know that isn't true, don't you? When have I ever been quiet for more than a day?)
But the point is, I'll be distracted. I'll be devouring this book page by page, paragraph by paragraph, word for word, paying rapt attention to Liz's rapture with eating, praying and loving.
So instead of staying up all night reminiscing about life in Berkeley in the 60's like I did last night, I'll stay up all night tonight reading about a woman's life-altering experiences in Italy (where she eats and nurtures her physical self) and India (where she prays and nurtures her spiritual self) and Bali (where she quite unexpectedly falls in love).
Thing is, I have an interview tomorrow -- an important interview at a company that just might be the perfect fit. I'm hesitant to say much more, except that there's no specific opening. I just found this company, guessed at their contact information, and wrote a letter. The next day the CEO called me and we chatted for an hour, at which point he asked me to come in...
So really, I must get a good night's sleep. Must, must, must. Which I promise I will do. Right after I finish this chapter.
Late last night (OK, very early this morning), I Googled the intersection where I grew up in Berkeley in the 60's. I can't even remember what prompted my search, but I found this -- a message board of people's memories of growing up in Berkeley, with posts spanning from June 28th, 2004 to just a few weeks ago! When's the last time you've been on a message board that spans more than a few days?! Needless to say, I got to bed very late last night (OK, very early this morning).
If I had been more coherent last night (slash/this morning) I would have been able to bring the flood of memories that were in my head to my fingertips and somehow record them, but I was in absorption mode more than expression mode. And the little sleep I got brought massive dreams that seemed to have stolen my memories from my consciousness. But with the help of two cups of strong morning coffee, I'll attempt to steal them back.
Memories of growing up in Berkeley in the 60's, in random order:
- We lived directly across the street from the Claremont Hotel which had fire slides that rivaled the best thrill rides at the best theme parks around. The really gutsy kids, like my brother Michael, would sneak into the hotel, climb to the top floor, and fly down the slides, whoopin' and hollerin' the whole way down. I can only figure that the hotel staff chose to ignore them -- until they didn't, at which point the gutsy hooligans (I'm just jealous) were caught.
- There was a big hole in the ground at the base of the slide with an old wooden door covering it. We lifted up the door and found kittens, lots of them, and took three home. We named them Tuna, Stars & Stripes, and Forever. I don't remember them growing up, nor do I remember taking them back. I have no idea what became of them.
- In the hills behind the Claremont Hotel and the California School for the Deaf (which is now Clark Kerr dorms where, coincidentally, Elisabeth was an RA when she was at Cal!), were huge concrete letters, "CSD." They could be seen for miles around, even, sometimes from across the bay. The top of the C was constantly covered up with dirt and grasses from the hills (probably by the same hooligans, as well as Cal students), making the letters spell out "LSD."
- A weed with tiny yellow flowers that we called "sour grass" grew all over those hills. We'd pick these by the hundreds and eat the stems.
- John Muir, our neighborhood school, had a stream that ran through a tunnel under it. One could enter the tunnel on the school grounds and walk or crawl through it, coming out behind Jackson's liquor store. The tunnel was dark and disgusting, with rats running through it, moss growing everywhere, and a smell that I can still sense when I think about it now. I was scared to death of that tunnel, but all the cool guys (and a few cool girls) had come out alive, so I tried it when I was in 6th grade. I survived, but was scared to pieces.
- I was probably so scared because my brother (yeah, Michael) had told me that pipes on the path that lead to the tunnel had tigers in them. Geeze, the pipes were too small to hold anything but the cutest little baby tiger; did I have no rational, logical thinking skills?!
- Miss Saum was the kindergarten teacher at John Muir. The ONLY kindergarten teacher at the school for, like FOREVER. She was even the kindergarten teacher of some of the parents whose kids went to kindergarten with me! I was in the morning kindergarten class and Stephan, my 10-months-older-than-me brother was in the afternoon kindergarten class. We took naps on braided, colorful rugs. The big activity of the year was making wooden pull-toy animals. You could make a duck or a rabbit. I made a duck; Stephan made a rabbit. Ask any adult today who was in Miss Saum's kindergarten class, what pull-toy they made and they will remember. I guarantee you!
- Our neighbors, the Burgers, had 10 kids (EileenMarleneBobbyDianeBitsaJoeyDannyJohnClairChristopher) and used their own actual socks as Christmas stockings. I wished our family had 10 kids ! Because we weren't allowed to watch TV at my house, I'd sneak to the Burgers and watch TV there, especially on Wednesday nights when The Monkees was on.
- The Star Grocery on Claremont was the coolest place to hang out and be seen. The big kids (like Michael and his friends) "owned the joint." I hear that it's still there.
- Next to Jackson's was Bradley's, which was sort of an old-time Rexall drug store. It had dark mahogany wood everywhere and had a very distinct smell that I can still muster. It also had an old-fashioned fountain bar with shiny, heavy, round hinged metal doors covering each ice cream pot. Under one of the doors were frozen Milkey Way bars. After school my friends and I (who weren't gutsy enough for the slides at the Claremont or cool enough for the Star Grocery) would hang out at Bradley's, gnawing on frozen Milkey Way bars. I hear that Rick and Ann's restaurant now occupies the spot where Bradley's used to be.
- There was a May Fair every May at John Muir School. This was a huge neighborhood event, probably the most important one of the year. The highlight was the May Pole dance, performed by the 6th grade girls. I was cheated because integration in Berkeley began the year I went to 6th grade, which meant I was bussed to Lincoln School in "the flats" and never got to participate in the May Pole dance. The cool (hooligan) guys (yes, including Michael) would go to the Star Grocery during the May Fair and buy shaving cream -- lost of it -- and spray it all over the school, the girls, the cakes that were won at the cake walk, etc. You'd think the people at the Star Grocery would have caught on, but nope...
- There were three playgrounds at John Muir, the upper playground for the "big kids" (grades 4 - 6), the lower playground for the "little kids" (grades 1 - 3), and the kindergarten playground, just outside Miss Saum's kindergarten classroom. The best bars to swing on were in the kindergarten playground, so sometimes we'd play there. I had blisters on my palms for 5 years straight. I could do a mean "apple turnover," which was when you'd sit on a bar, holding on with both hands, circling the bar until you had enough momentum to let go and then fly around the bar, touching it only at the knees, and then flipping dramatically off, landing (hopefully without falling) in the sawdust. If my parents had been in touch, they would have enrolled me in gymnastics.
- There was a huge tennis tournament at the Claremont Hotel every September. We'd sneak under the bleachers (that was about as gutsy as I got) and hope spectators would drop money. One year, Burt Ward, who played Batman on TV was there. I stood right in front of him and couldn't utter a word.
- Behind Jacksons and Bradleys was a gas station (I think it was a Flying Ace/Texaco?) that was the sole occupant of a weird triangular "traffic island," with traffic on all three sides of it. Sometime around 1967 (?), the gas station was replaced with a restaurant called, appropriately, The Station. They had the most incredible burgers and deep fried zucchini that was fabulous! Not sure what's there now, but I don't think it's The Station anymore.
- Once a month, I think it was the last Friday of the month, Berkeley observed the War Moratorium. No one worked, no one went to school; we all just protested the war in Vietnam. In my naivety, I believed that this was a national event.
- Every other Friday afternoon at 4:00, all the 6th grade kids in our neighborhood took ballroom dance lessons at "Dart's." This was not a dance studio, but was the stately home of an old woman in the neighborhood (named, I presume, Mrs. Dart?) who probably believed that any refined young person should know how to dance properly. (I know -- seems a bit incongruous for Berkeley -- especially when you think that the parents who were sending their kids to Dart's were also probably participating in rebellious peace marches on the weekend!) We had little booklets (called "bids book," I think) with cute little pencils hanging from tassels. (I still have them!) In each book were the numbers 1 through 9 with a line following them. Number 10 was labeled "Dinner Dance." At the beginning of class, the guys in too-new suits would cross the wooden floor to ask the girls in crispy new dresses (with slips that made a crunching noise) for a dance, and if the girl agreed, they'd exchange bids and sign their names in the agreed-upon slot. The "dinner dance" was the biggie: if a guy REALLY liked you, he'd ask you for the dinner dance. Mine was often blank, but in a few of my bid books, guys I had mad crushes on, like Bobby Burger, Stuart Todd Duncan McCoy or Andy Turner, signed my dinner dance slot. I was surely in heaven on those days! (No, Peter Jaffe didn't live in my neighborhood or go to Dart's.)
- I wanted to live on The Uplands, Parkside Drive, or Plaza Drive because all the cool kids like Jennifer McNary, Jennifer Steward, and the five Pearlstein girls (not to mention Andy and Duncan) lived there. Sometimes I'd ride my bike around that neighborhood just to pretend that I lived on a quiet, cozy street with a quiet cozy family instead of on a noisy, busy street (Tunnel Road) with a noisy, busy family.
- I first played Spin the Bottle and Truth or Dare in 6th grade at Duncan's house (which was right between Plaza Drive and Parkside Drive... how cool could you get?!) after school one day when his parents weren't home. Duncan and I "won" (or was it "lost"?) some dare that sent us into a closet to kiss for a full minute. Someone even stood outside the closet with a kitchen timer to time us! (Oh, this is so hilarious in retrospect!) I think we barely touched lips for a split-second and then stood there silently for 59 more seconds.)
- The cool thing to do in 6th grade, especially on those long bus rides, was to make gum wrapper chains. Mine was about 10 feet long. Jennifer Steward's was about 20 feet long. She was always cooler than me.
- In 1968, integration came to Berkeley. There were high hopes that within a few years Berkeley would be one harmonious, well-educated, fully diverse and integrated city. It was One Big Experiment -- one that seems to have been a huge flop because the families in the wealthier hills areas tended to put their kids in private school instead of sending them to the schools in the poorer "flats." Not my parents; they believed in the aspirations of an integrated school system. So in 6th grade, instead of walking across the street and down the path to John Muir School, I got on a 40-minute bus ride to Lincoln School on Ashby, near the Bay. Among the required reading that year was Yes I Can by Sammy Davis Junior (my only memory of the book was Sammy Davis being forced to drink pee from a soda bottle) and the language taught was Swahili. To get attention, the black and the white boys would fake fights until the principal came onto the playground, and then would laugh and hug. I took Home Ec and made a peasant skirt and shirt out of paisley material. The guys took shop and made stuff out of wood. Oh, and SLAM books! We had SLAM books that were basically a personal written record of who was popular on any given day.
- Sometimes I'd go to Suzie Lisker's house after school. Suzie lived on The Uplands, which meant that she was cool, in spite of her sparkly baby blue plastic glasses with rhinestones on the pointy corners. Suzie's mom had a very important job and was one of the few working moms then. Suzie, who had a bizarre haircut that looked normal as long as she wore her clip, but when she took out her clip, that whole strand was twice the length of the rest of her hair, would offer me Sara Lee pound cake from her freezer and I'd go hog wild because we never had American junk food at home!
- Claud Mann (who is now the chef on TBS's Dinner and a Movie!) lived next door to us and we'd play at each other's houses. (His house was pink!) One time, we ("we," meaning my brothers, Claud and I... or maybe I was more the tag-along grrrrl) strung string and cans between his house and ours, attempting to make a telephone so we could talk at night. (Use the real telephone? Well you're no fun!) Claud was as feisty and hilarious then as he is now and if I knew what was good for me then, I would have asked him and his straight bowl-cut head of hair to go steady with me. His name does grace quite a few lines of my Dart's bid book, though... because in those days, he was the nerd, nowhere near as cool as Bobby, Duncan or Andy! (Really fun addendum: in 2005, Claud was the "celebrity guest" to the national launch of my videos about youth and nutrition!)
- The People's Park riots (in which Michael was arrested... are we even surprised?!) brought the National Guard to Berkeley and seemed to both shut down and rile up the city. For days (weeks?), tear gas was everywhere. I worried constantly about Mom, who taught at Cal. I didn't like the craziness and was scared, rather than motivated by it. I think this had something to do with me becoming a very main-stream goody-goody-rah-rah and even (briefly, I promise) conservative and quite religious in my later teen years. That's how I rebelled!
- There were some great stores on College Avenue (the heart of Berkeley's Elmwood district). I wonder if any are still there:
- The toy store on the corner of College and Ashby, where I got my favorite Barbie (I still have it; it was from 1961 or so and is probably worth some bucks now!).
- The Elmwood Dime Store, where there were tables with bins on them, each filled with something that really did cost a nickel or a dime.
- Botts Ice Cream (the best!!).
- A donut store right next to the toy store, that had a swinging wood door that would slam when you let go of it, and then it would bounce a few times until it suddenly just shut. (I can still remember the exact sound sequence.) Inside they had the best donut holes in the world.
- A shoe store that carried tennis shoes (Sperry?) with the authentic white line down the heel. "The Jennifers" had these, not me. Mom bought my shoes at the cheap Kress store on Shattuck Avenue, where boxes containing plastic shoes costing about $3.00 a pair were thrown onto a table and you'd rummage through them. I so wanted shoes from a store where nice ladies would ask you to sit down and then measure your foot with a smile and then disappear behind the curtain while you chatted lovingly with your mom about what was for dinner.
- A Chinese restaurant, the only restaurant my family EVER went to, that had entrees, like won-ton soup, for $1.
- The Elmwood Theaters, where Michael and his friends would go to matinees. Once my parents had to pick him up mid-movie (I can't remember why) and I knew that he was sitting in the 7th row (I can't remember why I knew that) and Dad praised me, saying he was easy to find in the dark because I knew where he was.
- There was a city dump at the Berkeley Marina, right (I think) where the Radisson Hotel now sits (and where I'd, coincidentally, stay during my many business trips during the production of FUEL). Dad would bring us there occasionally to dump something and we'd climb the piles of trash, looking for treasures. Eeeeeeeewwwwwww!
And if you did grow up in Berkeley in the 60's, feel free to add to my memories!
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Last week Mausi posted one of her many incredible recipes, this one for Zwiebelkuchen -- literally "onion cake." If you're thinking, 'Ewwww, gross!' just go check it out. I'll bet you'll change your mind when you see her photos and read her description. I swear, she should write a cookbook.
As I read Mausi's recipe for "onion cake," it occurred to me that there are probably plenty of things that we eat in America that other cultures think are disgusting. When Laura first came to live with us, she couldn't bear to try peanut butter, but by the time she went back to Germany a year later, she was eating PB&J sandwiches regularly. (And yes, some people love peanut butter on pancakes. Me... not so much.)
I LOVE fish tacos, preferably at Taco del Mar, Rubios or Baja Fresh. (Links provided as a service to my German ex-pat friends who seem to miss Mexican food second only to missing family.) I thought fish tacos were disgusting before I had them too, but oh man, what a treat!
One of my favorite concoctions is banana-peanut-butter toast. It consists of a slice of toast with peanut butter (I like extra chunky) spread on top, bananas sliced on top of that, and cinnamon sprinkled over the whole thing. (We were running out of cinnamon, thus the sparse smattering in the photo.)
So what's your favorite s "seems-disgusting-but-actually-yummy" concoction?
Friday, October 19, 2007
Yesterday, Kat and I returned to the doctor's office to have her TB test read (it's negative). As we were leaving, we ran into Marty, who is not only our doctor (well, our PA), but has become a dear friend. Marty is like a sister, a mother and a best friend all wrapped in a white lab coat.
She took one look at me and asked if I'm feeling OK. I now realize that the days, weeks and months of wheezing, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes have been taking a toll on my otherwise ravishing good looks (pffffft!). "Eh, not really," I admitted. "But it's just these dang allergies."
"'Not really, like how not-really?'" she asked.
"Like 'can't-breathe not-really," I said. "Like scratching-my-face-off not-really. Like my-lungs-kinda-hurt not-really."
"I want you back here tomorrow," Marty demanded. "Really, really -- I'm serious." Then she turned to the appointment nurse. "Make her an appointment for tomorrow; I'll squeeze her in," she said.
"Fine! Be that way," I teased. But I knew she meant it.
I went back today. Marty listened to my chest, probed in my nose and down my throat, and poked around my sinuses. "M'dear, you're a mess," she declared. "Your sinuses are completely swollen, you're wheezing, and your airway is about this tiny," she said, wrapping her thumb around her curled forefinger to make a pea-sized opening. "How long has this been going on?"
It was a rhetorical question, since looking at my chart revealed that I'd been in twice during the past year with the same symptoms. Each time, she'd prescribed Prednisone, and antibiotic and an inhaler -- which she did again today. But this time she insisted that I see an allergist, pronto.
I've never had allergies or asthma before, so I figured that I was just going through something temporary. Yeah, temporary for a full year. Sheer denial, I know. But even if I have allergies and asthma it's no big deal, right?
Marty's insistence that prolonged compromised respiratory function can significantly shorten one's life jolted me out of my la-dee-da, I'll-just-live-with-it attitude, and I promised her that I'll make an appointment with the allergist. And I will.
Either that or an appointment with a Realtor and a reservation on an airplane. None of this bothered me in Germany... or, as Tom reminded me, in Hawaii.
I love words.
I love reading them, writing them, pondering them and speaking them. (Just ask my husband.)
I don't think the love is mutual, though. While I'm forthcoming in my affection for words, the feeling is most assuredly not mutual. Sometimes I'm sure that words hate me. I swear, they sense my neediness and are entertained by it.
Just when I need a word most, it eludes me. As I stop to claim the word, it teases me, peeking into my consciousness just long enough for me to feel its perfection and then, just as I'm about to grasp it, it retreats quickly back into the darkness, leaving just a faint hint of itself. But I know it's there; I can feel it in the same way that I can feel the presence of someone lurking in a room. Knowing that it's there but just beyond reach is infuriating, but I know that if I wait quietly it might come to me willingly. Might. I move slowly at this point, knowing that if I pounce it will disappear again, and then it'll be gone forever, punishing me for my impatience.
I admit that I am an impatient writer. I don't like it when the perfect word eludes me, so I tend to just grab one that's easy to reach -- less refined and precise perhaps, but available and willing. If I were a true literary connoisseur I'd shun those "word sluts" (they're easy and like to be used) and pursue those with more dignity and poise, the "literary ladies," so to speak. Instead of tasty, I'd use succulent. Instead of hallway, I'd use foyer (French words are always ladies) or vestibule (which sounds kinda manly, doesn't it?). Instead of chatty, I'd use verbose or bombastic or, even better, grandiloquent.
But you know, that's just not me. I guess I like the slutty, easy words. I like tasty and hallway and chatty. And I like authors who prefer to hang out with the easy (dare I now call them slutty?) words -- authors like Anne Lamott and Nora Ephron and Lolly Winston -- because they know that the best, most descriptive word is often the one hangin' out witcha ol' self anyway, not the illusive, snooty catch-me-if-you-can bee-atch.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
I can handle driving rain. I can handle white-out snow. I can even handle slick ice (if I'm home and not in the car).
But I hate, hate, hate windstorms in Seattle (like we're having now)! It's not the wind that I hate as much as the combination of wind and really tall, really big trees.
In December of 1995, right after we closed escrow on our house and moved in, and right after Tom got laid off -- suffice it to say that it wasn't a great time-- the Seattle area had a huge windstorm. (We called the storm Wind '95 because Microsoft had just released Windows '95.) That windstorm brought a HUGE tree down on our house from two properties over. The tree came down onto our room, then split and came down again INTO the boys' room (fortunately they weren't in it), then continued to crash down onto TWO cars, totalling one of them and destroying all the kids' Christmas presents that we'd hidden in the trunk of one of the cars. It took us a year and over $50,000 (thank goodness for insurance) to fix the damage.
Then there was the hot tub incident last December. And we got off lucky compared to other residents in our neighborhood that time!
So my disdain for windstorms in Seattle has a history.
I'm expecting the power to go out any second. See you on the other side.
Here are a few seconds of the fun we're having (and this isn't even one of the big gusts!):
I always hesitate to do this because it feels so... well, so self-centered and so stat-focused (which I truly try NOT to be!), but Richard's right -- sometimes we just want to know who's visiting our little corner of the blogosphere, and why.
Who are you? How did you find me? What were you looking for? Did you find it? Why do you come back (or is this your first visit)?
I had a reader yesterday from Tasmania! No kidding... the little devil! I'm wondering what brought that person here. Did s/he stay and read? Some of the searches that bring people to my blog are hilarious. "How do ladybugs drink?" "Should teens drink?" (No, only ladybugs.) "Does it rain in Seattle?" "Should I move to Seattle?" (Not if you had to ask if it rains.)
I have some faithful readers from places I don't know (Manila, Russia, Glasgow), as well as faithful readers from places I do know (the East Bay, bunches in Seattle and Germany, even West Hollywood).
Do I know you (IRL or online)? May I?
So come on out of lurk-land, just for today, and say hello! (Even anonymously, if you prefer.) Just say HI and tell me something about yourself and what brought you here.
See that link that says "comments" right down there? Click it. Type. Send. Thanks.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
When our family was young I always knew where everyone was -- and everyone was always either at home in my care or (very occasionally) away from home in the care of someone who I knew. My days consisted of mothering, nurturing and nesting from morning to night, and back then my identity was 100% "wife and mother." It was extremely rare that fewer than four kids (and often more, with neighborhood kids) were in my care, and even more rare that Tom and I had a single moment to ourselves.
Fast forward about 16 years. These days, Elisabeth lives in Seattle and travels incessantly for her job, Peter and Danelle go to school and to work, and live mostly at Danelle's (a few blocks away, but still), and Aleks' and Kat's days are filled with school, work and friends. Because the kids' schedules are so varied, I never know who will be home for dinner. Realistically, on any given night, Tom and I are often alone for dinner, and we're lucky if one kid is home to have dinner with us. And unlike our family dinners of years past, I often have no idea what we'll have for dinner until the very last minute.
Shortly after I got home from the job fair today, Aleks and Kat returned home from school. Neither of them were scheduled to work tonight, so I knew there'd be four of us for dinner. Four? No problem -- we'll heat up some pumpkin soup that Tom made a few nights ago (yum!). In a very rare move for me, I decided to take a nap, as I haven't been feeling well lately. (Hopefully it's only allergies or asthma that are making breathing so painful.)
I woke up to shreiking. "Ooooooooh, how's my dooogie, dooogie, dooogie? Yeeeees! I wuuuuv you!" Stomp, stomp, stomp up the steps. Kitchen cabinets opening and slamming. Chomp. Buuuurp. "Kiiiiity! Meooooow!"
"Moooooooom?! You heeere?"
Struggling to maintain consciousness, I whispered, "Unnnngh." I heard, "You OK, Mama?" but promptly fell back asleep.
I don't know how much time passed when I heard, "OK, Peter. Let's do this." Peter and Danelle had come home because Peter had an "appointment" with Elisabeth for some organic chemistry tutoring.
Stumbling out of bed, I did a new dinner head-count. Once Tom got home, we'd be seven. Pumpkin soup would no longer cut it -- and the last thing I felt like doing (I swear I had a fever) was cook a big dinner.
Tom arrived home and Elisabeth's cell phone rang simultaneously. "Oh, come on over, Scott! You can have dinner over here!"
Nope -- pumpkin soup definitely won't cut it.
Tom walked in the door and was thrilled to see the whole family together for...
"...dinner." I mumbled. "Could you maybe go to the store and pick something up? I can't..." So off Tom went to pick up ravioli, vodka sauce, French bread, salad and a pumpkin pecan cheese cake.
For eight. And, bless his heart, he cooked it all up within a half hour and all eight of us squeezed around the kitchen table, enjoying each others' company and laughing up a storm.
Which hurts my throat and my chest, but it's well worth it because these days are becoming fewer and further between. Why, next summer they'll all be g-...
Sigh. I really don't feel so hot.
I went to a job fair today that was sponsored by idealist.org, a site sponsored by Action Without Borders, with members who "seek to find practical solutions to social and environmental problems, in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect." The organizations at the job fair were non-profits involved in some really wonderful work -- organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters, PATH, Childhaven, and Compassion & Choices of Washington.
As I walked up and down the isles, resume in hand, "elevator speech" at the ready, I realized that my desire to do good work that matters and my need to support my family and put three more kids through college are completely at odds with each other. There are very few full-time jobs available (most were volunteer and internships) at any of these organizations, none that seemed to focus on my specialty areas of youth, media, and content development and, as far as I could tell, none that paid well enough to support a family.
So how on earth do I reconcile my desire to do good work with my need to make a decent living?
I left completely discouraged. Sure, I've worked at Microsoft and made a whoppin' salary. But I really, really don't want to go back to a job in which "killing the competition" is my expected motivation in showing up at work every morning. On the other hand, I know I'd end up hating a job that demands my passion and my expertise but can't pay me what I'm worth.
I know that there are positions out there that focus on good stuff -- and not all are non-profits. Hell, I spent two years designing games in which Blue and Magenta and Mailbox and Steve (Blue's Clues, silly!) taught pre-schoolers how to count, add, subtract, match and make patterns. That was definitely good, important work -- and really, who cares if the company was for-profit or non-profit? The product itself enhanced kids' days. I'm totally cool with doing that again... if only all the educational software companies hadn't all died dramatic, tragic deaths a few years ago!
(And who says it even has to be software?)
I'm not delusional. (Am I?) Somewhere out there is the exact job I'm waiting for. Maybe it's writing a health education text. Maybe it's designing a kids' adventure game. Maybe it's producing a curriculum for teen activism. Maybe it's...
...maybe it's working for my brother, who just called and asked if I'd like an interim job as the "Publicity, PR and Communications Director" for his company, HD Environments. My insanely creative, highly ADD, completely scatter-brainy, totally enthusiastic, slightly manic brother, who desperately needs someone to take all of his glorious, crazy, outrageous ideas, bring them down to earth and implement them realistically and systematically, making connections with people, creating branding, and implementing strategies and identifying markets for the company.
If I help my brother with his business and his product (which really IS cool), can that be considered "work that matters"?
Keep in mind that this is the older brother who loogied on me and told me that tigers lived in the pipes! If I know what's good for me, I'd take it, huh?
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Kat, who is planning a career as a Physician's Assistant (PA), is enrolled in a health occupations program at school this year. This is a hands-on program that includes an internship that will bring students into local hospitals and trauma centers during the second semester.
In preparation for that part of the program, Kat has been required to get a whole bunch of immunizations. Today she got FOUR shots and she's scheduled for quite a few more. (The wonderful nurse didn't want to be in the photo -- evidence of pain-infliction, perhaps?!)
She did great and was glad that none of the shots today hurt as much as the Gardasil series she's in the midst of getting (ouch!). But the silly girl apparently chose not to eat lunch today, and shortly after the second picture was taken she said, "Um... I'm getting a little light-headed."
She laid right back and fortunately didn't pass out completely. (I should have known by the glazed look...)
In addition to pretty Band-Aids (which are always a plus) Kat even got lunch out of the traumatic experience, since as soon as the nurse found out she hadn't eaten, she disappeared and quickly returned with two bagels, some apple juice and a bottle of water.
Question: What's wrong with these pictures?
Answer: They depict brothers, but NO SISTERS!
(1961-ish: Left to right Betsy, the dog; me, 5; Stephan, 6; Michael, 10 and Christopher, 2 and 2007: Christopher, me, Michael and Stephan. Notice the Bavarian loden coats?!)
I don't remember when Chris was born, but I have a feeling that I was really disappointed that he was a baby brother instead of a baby sister. Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted -- no, yearned for) a sister. And that feeling has never gone away. I still wish I had one as much as I ever did.
I love my brothers, really I do. They taught me all kinds of things that I probably would never have learned from a sister. They taught me all about rope swings (let go right at the apex of the arc) and blue belly lizards (they go to sleep if you rub their blue bellies), about de-shelling snails (we won't even go there) and even about sex (I first overheard the term '69' when my older brothers, hiding and whispering in a playground tunnel, discussed it like big-shots, pretending they knew what it was).
And because I had three brothers, guys never intimidated or mystified me, and in high school I was more comfortable around a bunch of goofy guys than around a bunch of giggly girls. (Still am... and so are my daughters.)
But as cool as Michael, Stephan and Chris were (and are), they're brothers. In triplicate. One or two would have sufficed just fine, but no -- I had to have three.
Michael was the ring leader, not just of my brothers, but of the whole neighborhood. When he told my other brothers to straddle me and loogey on me (or, perhaps worse, loogey almost on me), they obeyed him blindly. When he told me in front of other neighborhood boys that ferocious tigers lived in the large, dark, ivy-covered pipes next to the path by our home, the kids nodded in agreement and I almost wet my pants with fear (from that day on, I never walked down that path; I only ran).
Stephan, who is only 10 months older than me (something about a very Catholic doctor, telling Mom they'd discuss birth control at the next postpartum visit) was completely different than Michael -- painfully shy and socially awkward. In high school, when I desperately wanted to be a popular cheerleader, I suggested (no, pleaded) that Stephan go to the alternative high school, just so he wouldn't embarrass me with his Bill-Gates-meets-Woody-Allen personality. Now, when I watch Aleks and Kat as best friends and each others' most fervent supporters, I feel badly about my rejection of Stephan when we were younger.
Chris was just a pesky baby brother when I was little, the one who "stole" my baby sister from me. I don't think I ever really forgave him, and even when he had his third daughter, I caught myself thinking 'See, even your kids got to have sisters!' He and I both had the same major in college (developmental psych and education) and for years into adulthood we had vicious arguments about the best way to teach -- and to raise -- kids. He's a wonderful teacher and a fabulous daddy; I guess I taught him a thing or two after all! (I wish!)
All three of my brothers live in the Bay Area, but the only time they ever see each other is when I come visit and organize a get-together. You know why? Because they're guys! But if I had a sister -- especially now -- we'd surely be neighbors and best friends, right?
My sister would have been my maid of honor at my wedding. Right?
My sister would have been with me when I birthed my children. Right?
My sister would have come right over whenever I needed a womanly sympathetic ear and a sisterly hug as a grown-up. Right?
My sister would have been right in my head, understanding the profound impact of Mom's death. Right?
Which makes me wonder.... would Mom maybe have liked her better? And... would she have been Daddy's girl instead of me? Would she have been smarter... and prettier than me? Would she have been athletic and long-legged, like Mom was? And would boys in high school have had a crush on the cuter, more athletic sister?
Did I ever tell you how amazingly cool my brothers are?
Hello faithful fellow bloggers! I have a techie question for you (because you know how much I love all things techie...):
How do you -- or DO you even -- save your blog posts to your local machine? I now have 548 posts, written over a span of about 15 months. That's an average of one post a day and, although I am well aware that many of my posts are inane yawners, some are actually worth holding onto, if for nothing else, then for my kids to appreciate (ha!) someday.
I figure that my blog is in some (very small) way a little like my grandmother's diary from Germany , written during the first four decades of the last century, which my aunt has been faithfully translating for the past few years. It might be what's left of me someday.
So how do I save the whole dang thing to my hard drive? Do I have to cut and paste each one of the 548 posts onto a Word doc? (I'd like to include the whole thing, photos and all.) I know I can also do a "save page as," but that also has to be done per individual post. As far as I can tell from the little research I've done so far, those are my only options. Or are they? Anyone know?
Thanks in advance!
Monday, October 15, 2007
With no interviews on the horizon and my vast network of connections all but exhausted, I woke up this morning at a loss.
Over the past six (gulp!) months I have made sure that I do something (or usually a whole bunch of somethings) every single day to further my quest for a job. With resumes and cover letters at the ready, requiring only employer-specific tweaks, and with memberships to all the requisite free job sites (and thus e-mail from "job agents" in my in-box every morning), it's been pretty easy to make a routine of searching for potential jobs and taking action on them.
But today I felt like I was spinning my wheels. Maybe it's discouragement or maybe there just aren't as many potential jobs for me out there, but I felt lost when I sat down at my laptop this morning (at 4:45 AM, dammit!), preparing to...
I'm not one to meditate, really, but I think that's what I did as I sat staring at my laptop very early this morning. It was either meditation or falling almost back asleep, but either way it culminated with me suddenly deciding that I would make a damn good elementary school teacher (second or third grade, or maybe fifth?) or a good seventh grade English teacher, and I was suddenly energized, looking up everything I could find on what it would take for me to obtain a Washington State teaching credential.
Energized, and then deflated.
It turns out that, even though I already have a masters in education, it would still take me a year and a half to two years to get a credential -- and once I started teaching I'd begin at maybe (if I'm lucky) half my customary salary. That might be fine if our kids were completely on their own, but we still have three more to put through college... simultaneously! So unfortunately getting a credential and teaching just isn't an option at this point.
By late afternoon I'd traveled completely to the other end of the spectrum, signing up for a membership with TheLadders.com, a recruitment and career site that focuses on executive, managerial and other professional career positions that pay quite handsomely.
So where will I end up? I can confidently say that by Thanksgiving I will be working at some job that I SOOO hope is meaningful, challenging and... can I even wish for creative?!
Last August our washing machine broke down. It sputtered when it should have spun and it clanked when it should have cleaned, so off we went to shop for a new washer.
I was perfectly satisfied to get another middle-of-the-line (well, lower middle-of-the-line) washer, but we'd heard so much hype about the new electronic, energy-saving front-loaders that we decided we just had to take a look. The more people (OK, sales people) we talked to, the more appealing the front-loaders seemed. They were definitely cute, with all their buttons and gizmos up front. And the energy-saving benefits couldn't be disputed. But were they good washers... and was this particular Kenmore machine (model #47512) a good washer?
"Weeelll," said Pam, the Very Sweet Sears Sales Woman, "Keep in mind that it is electronic, so when it breaks you can't just fix the mechanics. And because it's electronic, chances are it won't last as long as the mechanical washers. Which means, of course, that you'll want to get the extended warranty because electronic repairs are expensive."
What I should have said was "No thank you." But instead I begged, "Oooooh, tell me more!"
So she did.
"Weeell," said Pam, the Very Sweet Sears Sales Woman, "This machine has so many options! You can select a temperature and a wash cycle and you can even clean it by pressing this button."
I thought, 'Hmmmm... I can select a wash cycle and temperature with my old, cheap, mechanical washing machine, and why would a washing machine need to be cleaned???!"
What I should have said was "No thank you." But instead I begged, "Oooooh, tell me more!"
So she did.
"Within the first 5 minutes of beginning your load, you can add a garment by pressing this little red button. And if you want to spin a garment dry, just select rinse and spin. The number of available features is just astounding!"
I thought, 'Hmmmm... With my old cheap, mechanical washing machine I could add a garment any time during the wash cycle before the dirty water got sucked down the drain, and why would I want to get a garment wet again, rinsing it, in order to spin it dry?'
What I should have said was "No thank you." But instead I insisted, "Oooooh, say no more. We'll take it!"
Big mistake! For close to $1000 I got a washer that had all kinds of bells and whistles and buttons and gizmos, but wouldn't allow me to add a garment in the middle of the wash cycle and wouldn't just rinse... or just spin... or just frikkin' act like a basic simple ol' washing machine.
And the clincher? Hair and gunk gathered on the rubber boot just inside the door so that when I took out the wet laundry, it collected all the gunk again that had just been washed out!
On Saturday I went to Sears and found the Very Sweet Sears Sales Woman and told her that I wanted to like my new, expensive, electronic washing machine. Really I did. But I hated it and I wanted an normal ol' cheap mechanic washer that allowed me to add a garment, to just rinse or to just spin.
The Very Sweet Sears Sales Woman stayed sweet, insisting "Hon, you should be happy with your washing machine! Really, is there anything worse than a washing machine that makes you miserable?" ("Yes hon, there actually is..." I wanted to say. But instead I agreed, "Noooo! Really, it's just so saaaaaad!")
"You just go ahead a pick what you want," she said, "and we'll take care of it for you. Of course, I should mention that there will be a 15% re-stocking fee, another delivery fee..."
So here is my new cheap mechanical washer... and my cheap basic dryer! I got both for just $100 more than I spent on that fancy electronic front-loading energy (except emotional, of course)-saver gizmo!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Why I love my husband:
Because when I'm weeding with my iPod blasting in my ears and I see a shadow and look up and see him standing over me and I remove my earphones and he says, "Did you hear anything that I just said?" and I say "No"..... he says, "I was just talking all about our relationship and my deepest, innermost emotions and all the things I want for our future and how much I adore you... but alas, you missed it," and then he walks away.
(He most assuredly was NOT talking about any such thing. He was probably talking about the square footage coverage of the Weed n Feed he was spreading, or sumpin' like that... but that's so not the point.)
Although I've visited Germany quite a few times, I have never actually lived there. And although my heritage is 100% German, with parents who immigrated to America after they married and after my oldest brother was born, I am pretty much an American girl through-and-through.
Except that I never had a taco (or any Mexican food) until I was in college. My parents didn't hold to the immerse-yourself-in-your-new-culture-and-try-new-things philosophy. Instead they were somewhat skeptical of all things American and didn't expose us to traditions and experiences that felt particularly foreign to them.
Except that we never celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day. By the time all my friends were opening presents, I already had all mine. Although I loved this because I got presents early, I also hated it because I was different. We never listened to or learned American Christmas carols at home, but rather we listened only to German Christmas carols and Bavarian Christmas music. Although this was embarrassing to me as a child, I fully appreciate it now, as German Christmas music is much more beautiful! (I have a very scratchy cassette tape of Bavarian canons and church choirs recorded live near Ruhpolding that Mom made me years ago, and it -- like quite a few other pieces, as you've surely come to realize by now -- always brings me to tears.)
Except that I never learned some words in English because my parents only used the German words for them. I never learned "trivet"; it was always an "untersetzer." I never learned "backpack"; it was always a "rucksack." I never even learned "dammit" (or worse), since my mother's preferred word of exasperation and anger was "scheibenkleister." I could only imagine what it meant -- considering the way it was uttered, it must be something horrible! Only as a teenager did I learn that it meant "window putty." Oh, window putty! (And when my mother didn't know the English word for something, she'd just make up a word: the sleeve-like potholder that slips over the long handle of a pot was, according to Mom, a "penis warmer"!)
Except that there was no context, understanding, memory, or appreciation of American pop culture or American traditional events. The only music in our household was classical music, primarily by German composers (which, actually, I loved). My parents would have never taken us to a country fair or a football game (which were deemed "too military). And, hardest on me as I approached adolescence, my parents had no clue what it was like to be an American high schooler. Football, cheerleading, homecoming, and prom? They held absolutely no meaning for my parents, and because of that they were ignored (at best), trivialized, or even ridiculed. Is it any wonder that, as an act of teen rebellion, I became a varsity cheerleader and went out with the captain of the football team? (And still today I react to this by being very involved in my kids' high school experiences, often talking about and comparing them to my own.)
Except that some American holidays -- the most American of the holidays -- held little importance in our household. Independence Day, for example, was simply the holiday in July, and Thanksgiving was celebrated with family as a day to have a great meal (but no football... heaven forbid!), but with no historical or personal significance.
Except that I couldn't boast my father's heroic military dedication as my friends could boast theirs'. Their fathers flew the planes that bombed Germany, while my parents lost parents to those bombs. In their ignorance, my friends called my parents Nazis; if only they understood that my parents came to America precisely because of my father's experience as a half-Jew in Germany.
Except that organizations which my friends' parents respected and aspired to for their children were virtually shunned by my parents. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and even the school crossing guards were regarded by my parents as too much like the Hitler Youth, too militaristic, and too assimilating. Although they didn't forbid us to join these organizations, they were decidedly unenthusiastic about them, certainly never offering to be any part of them themselves. (Again, my response in adulthood was to volunteer to be my daughters' Brownie leader and my sons' Tiger Cubs leader.)
Except that American network TV held no importance to my parents. Where other families watched Gunsmoke or Bonanza or Bewitched together, my parents had no clue what these shows were. When we did have a TV it wasn't placed in the living room or family room, but was instead in some out-of-the-way corner of the house (like next to the laundry chute). Oddly enough, there was one show that my parents did like and watched religiously: Laugh-In! To this day, I can't figure that one out, as that show was intentionally inane, very American, and downright silly, without any of the "redeeming value" that my parents insisted on!
Except that while my friends spoke of their trips to Maine or Nebraska or Florida to visit aunts and uncles and cousins, I could only speak of extended family (most of whom I'd never met) who lived far away across the ocean in a different country. And once I was old enough to travel, my parents sent me to Germany to meet those relatives and explore the land of my heritage. Thus, even to this day, I haven't really explored America. My next trip really should be to Washington DC, to New England , or to the southwest. I'm 50 and an American; I really should know more about my own country's history and geography.
I'm an all-American girl, never having lived in any other country. But another country lives in me, still influencing me in so many ways. And now, as a first-generation American with kids who know nothing but being American, I'm finding that I'm attempting to instill in them exactly what I rejected in my own youth -- an appreciation for and familiarity with their heritage. By the time my kids have their own children, the German influence will probably be only in stories passed on through the generations instead of in personal experiences and memories.
And actually, there's something kind of sad about that.